Many of my past blogs have concerned my father’s maternal line of ancestors, yet I would like to speak again about this side of my family – as a few days ago, my paternal grandmother Jenny Gray (née Perkins) celebrated her 93rd birthday.
Jennie Louisa Perkins was born in Bethnal Green in 1928, to Ernest Charles and Jennie Louisa Perkins (née Lee). My Nan was the eldest of three girls. Her sister Lillian was born in 1931, and the baby of the family – Maureen – was born a few years later in 1938. Nan and Maureen both had four sons each; so when I was born in 1978, I was the first girl to be born in the family for 40 years!
Jennie Perkins grew up in a large extended family, and was extremely close to her aunts and cousins. She performed very well at school, and had dreams of becoming a Teacher. She won a scholarship to attend Park Modern High in Barking; but unfortunately, her hopes were dashed when World War II broke out, and she ended up going to the local Bifrons School.
We all know that the war turned lives upside down for many people. For Jennie Perkins, it meant that after leaving school she went to work making military uniforms in a factory called Mills Equipment, in Oxlow Lane, Dagenham. A few years later, Nan worked in an office for Perkins Dry Cleaners (later to become Dyson Cleaners). She laughs at the memory of her first day. When she reported in, stating her name, the staff thought she was a relation of the owner, so treated her VERY well. She kept quiet that they were not actually related at all! Whilst working here, Nan stayed with her aunt Lizzie. Lizzie’s husband Bert was stationed abroad with the RAF, so it was a mutual convenience, as Nan helped aunt Lizzie with the children.
Although Nan sometimes wonders how her life might have been if she had become a teacher, she doesn’t regret a single thing. She told me “I’m a great believer in fate. I think our lives are mapped out before we’re born.” I don’t know whether that’s true, but I do believe that what will be, will be. We often make our own choices in life, but sometimes there’s a bump in the road that throws us off course and down a different path to what we’d originially planned. Maybe if Nan had become a teacher, she wouldn’t have met my Grandad.
You can read more about my Nan and Grandad’s first meeting, in my blog ‘Chance Encounters of the Past Generations‘ here: https://whoamifamilytreeresearch.co.uk/2021/03/05/chance-encounters-of-the-past-generations/
You may have spotted that throughout this article, I have referred to my Nan as Jennie Louisa Perkins, yet in the first paragraph her name is written as Jenny. The reason for this is that Nan has spelled her name ‘Jenny’ for all of her life. In fact, when she married George Gray in 1950, Nan recorded her name as Jenny Dorothy Perkins (believing that Dorothy was her middle name). It wasn’t until much later in life, when she came across her birth certificate, that she realised she’d actually been registered at birth as Jennie Louisa! So for any future genealogists researching the Gray/Perkins line – YES, Jenny Dorothy Perkins and Jennie Louisa Perkins, are indeed the same person!
Happy Birthday Nan. Thank you for all you have done for me throughout my life, teaching me values of kindness and respect; but most of all, for inspiring a love of family history.