Unfolding History: One Story at a Time

As many of you know, family history is a big part of my life and influences me in many ways each and every day. I have photos of my ancestors all over The Castle in Kenwood and at the Ledson Hotel in Sonoma. Over the years, for some reason, I’ve always been the one who family members come to for family history. It feels like a gift, the way these tales stay with me.  I play them back in my mind and learn from them and get inspired to create more of my own family memories.

And sometimes, our family history is revealed to me in the most unexpected ways and I discover the most interesting things.

Years ago, my dad gave me a cane that his father had given to him. It’s a distinctive and handsome cane, with carvings and a beautiful piece of silver on the bottom. I love the cane, and it’s been sitting in my safe for a long time.

One day I was in Canada visiting George Ledson, Sr., one of my cousins. We were enjoying a glass of wine and sharing family stories when I got up and went down the hallway toward the restroom. A photo on the wall caught my attention. It was an old picture of a guy in a chair. When I asked George who it was, he said, “A relative. I’m not sure if he’s from the Ledson side or from my mother’s side. He might be a grandfather or maybe a great grandfather.”

I asked him to give me a copy. I remember noticing that the man in the picture had a cane, and it was interesting, but it took a couple of years for it to dawn on me that that might be the same cane I had in my safe. I had the photo blown up and brought the cane out.

I called George and said, “I have that cane, the one in the photo. It’s been in my safe for years!” He asked me to send him a photo of the cane, which I did, and he called back. “That’s the cane all right. It must not be from my mother’s side, because your dad wouldn’t have had anything to do with her side of the family. So this guy must be a Ledson.”

I figured the man with the cane might be George Ledson, my great grandfather. I even went so far as to engrave a plaque with George’s name on it, and hung the photo at the winery!

Not long after that, I received an email out of the blue from a woman also by the name of Ledson. She wrote that she had reason to believe that she’s related to me through someone named Joseph Ambrose Ledson. She explained that she had traced the family tree and that Joseph had a son named George Ledson, and then she saw that George had sons, and one was Barker Ledson. “I see that Barker was your grandfather,” she wrote.

I asked her to send me any photos she had of George or Joseph. You can imagine my surprise and excitement when I opened the mail, and there was the same picture of the man with the cane! She sent some articles, as well. It turns out the man in the photo is not George Ledson, after all, but Joseph Ambrose Ledson, George’s father and my great-great grandfather!

Through some of the articles she sent, I learned that Joseph Ambrose Ledson’s great grandfather, Daniel Ledson (my great-great-great-great grandfather), fell into a brewer’s vat in 1764 and drowned. I’ve heard that he owned the brewery, though I haven’t been able to confirm it.

But that’s a story for another day.


6 thoughts on “Unfolding History: One Story at a Time

  1. Interested to read your article Steve. Was it the original painting you saw at your cousin’s house or a photo? My husband, Keith, has the same photo of the original painting which is believed to have been taken to America. It is of your ggg grandfather (who you share with my husband). His name, though, was just JOSEPH LEDSON (no Ambrose) but he did marry Cecelia Ambrose.. They had 12? children including George , your gg grandfather, who then I believe married Ellen Bootle and had 8?children, amongst them your grandfather Barker. One of his brothers was Joseph Ambrose Ledson so maybe this is who the lady you mention is related to.
    Daniel Ledson your gggg grandfather according to records was a brewer and did fall into a vat of brewers wort and was scalded to death, aged 44 yrs.
    His son, also Daniel, your ggg grandfather also came to a sad end. This notice was in the
    Liverpool Mercury 4 August 1826 page 39 Under a column headed “DIED”
    “On Sunday last, at Melling, Mr Daniel Ledson, farmer, aged 65 years, deeply regretted. He has left a wife and thirteen children to lament his death, which arose from an attack of a bull. Of him it may be truly said, that he was a strictly honest and industrious man.”
    And the rest is history………

    • Ann,
      Thanks so much for giving me this information. I read that Daniel Ledson was actually gored by the horn of a bull. Also, I thought I read somewhere that Joseph Ledson’s middle name was Ambrose, but I could be wrong. If you have copies of any of these articles or others, I would certainly love to see them! And I really hope to get to England one of these days to meet you and everyone there. I’ll let you know when I’m able to plan a trip! Thanks again for the thoughtful post.
      Best, Steve

  2. Great story of our relatives. My Grandfather was George Ledson, son of Joseph Ambrose Ledson and I would love to visit you in England as well Ann! I think things get confusing as there are too many Joseph and George Ledson’s through the generations. Who were Keith’s grandparent’s?
    Great Blog Steve!

    • Hi Norma. My great grandfather was George Ledson, the youngest son of Joseph Ambrose Ledson. You’re right – so many Joseph and George Ledsons! But if you or Ann and Keith have family trees, I would love to see them and compare them to mine, so we can put all the pieces together. I really love family history.

  3. Hi Steve
    I’ve just come across your blog and read the reply from Ann. Her husband,Keith is my cousin and Joseph Ledson (no middle name) is my gggrandfather. My Mum was Amy Ledson the daughter of Joseph James Ledson, son of Thomas one of Josephs 16. I also have a copy of the photo of Joseph taken from an oil painting. The painting hung in my gandfathers house along side the painting of josephs wife Cicely Both paintings were taken to America – Connecticut but I don’t know where they are now. I live very close to Melling where the Ledsons come from. Many roads are named after the family and it’s a well known name in the area. One day we may have a family reunion – you never know.

    • Hi Steve and all with a message here.
      Your reunion might be taking place on this page Lesley.

      I am to of the Ledson family. My first connection comes through Ann Ledson (b.1842) who married James Anderson (b.1825).

      I also live very close to Melling in a town called Wigan. It is just a 20 minute drive away. I have been to the cemetery many times and drive through the area from time to time when taking my wife to work in Southport.

      If anyone has anyold phtots to our many Great Grandparents i would love to see them. I have a few from the cemetery and plan to search out these news articles about there lives and deaths. I am assuming they are held in Preston so will start there some time soon and will pass on anything I find to whom is interested.

      If anyone wants to get back to me and discusse our family history please do.

      James Marsh of Wigan (England)

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