Echo readers could hold the key to this woman's family history

A biographer is hoping Echo readers can play a key part in discovering more about her Wearside links.

Monday, 15th January 2018, 12:17 pm
Updated Monday, 15th January 2018, 12:20 pm
Jane, as a child, pictured at the front of a family photo in the 1960s.

Jane Dismore hails from the south of England but her maternal ancestry lies in the North East. She explained: “My mother’s family, the Millers, were from Sunderland since at least the 18th century.”

But one particular Sunderland building – and her Wearside ancestors linked to it – have her particular interest.

Janes great grandfather Thomas Edward Miller.

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“My great-grandfather Thomas Miller, who was born in 1866, and his brothers owned The Mission Hall in Ocean Road, Grangetown. It was Wesleyan Methodist.”

Her research showed the premises were sold in 1953 to a business which still exists today.

“I should love to know if any of your readers remember the Hall which, according to the Echo, was a busy church up to the Second World War, then continued briefly afterwards, before declining,” said Jane.

“Also it would be lovely if anyone had any pictures of it or indeed, of the Miller brothers.”

Janes great grandfather Thomas Edward Miller.

Jane has paid her own visits to the city and has childhood memories of times here.

“I was taken to Sunderland as a child in the 1960s and remember visiting the next generation of Millers in Leechmere Road, being bathed in a tin bath, eating ice cream on Roker Sands and being fascinated by Tunstall Hill,” said Jane.

But she added: “My knowledge of the Mission Hall in Ocean Road is unfortunately very limited. I thought some of your readers might remember something.

“My mother (now deceased) was born in Ocean Road in 1929, and her grandfather Thomas Miller and his three brothers who owned the Hall were also born in Ocean Road. They had lived there and in Leechmere Road for at least three generations. One of the brothers, my great-great uncle William Miller, was an Alderman of Sunderland.”

Jane sent us a photograph of her great-grandfather Thomas Miller and one of his brother Jack, who was a Pastor at the Hall with their other brother, Charles.

“My mother told my sisters and I about the family owning the Hall but on the times I have visited Sunderland I had never been able to locate it in Ocean Road.”

The family’s links to Sunderland and the North East came to an end when economic circumstances changed across the country.

Jane explained: “My mother’s father John Hunter Ewart had moved her, aged two, and her older brothers down south at the start of the Depression, so she would not have remembered her early visits to the Hall.

“I was delighted to find reference to it in the Echo which established its location: as I mentioned, JJ Toobey and Co bought it and are still there.”

Jane has some insight into her family history. Thomas Edward Miller lived until 1916 and worked in a paper mill before becoming an insurance agent and was a co-owner of the Mission Hall. In 1914 he was elected representative for Ryhope on the Sunderland Rural District Council. His wife was Margaret Ellen Miller, nee Robson, who was born in Hexham.

Jane added: “They continued to live in Ocean Road, where my grandmother Frances and, in 1929, my mother Margaret (‘Peggy’) were born.

John (Jack) Miller was a miner before buying a dairy farm with his brother Thomas. He was also a Pastor at the Mission Hall.

Jane said: “As a child I was taken to visit his daughter Nancy on the farm she owned, the Seaforth Dairy which must have been in Seaview Road, Sunderland.”

William Miller was a contractor and an Alderman of Sunderland. He was married to Isabella and they had four children and 14 grandchildren.

Jane added: “The earliest Millers in Sunderland I’ve traced so far are my great-great-great grandparents, Henry and Hannah (nee Wood, born in 1808).”

We would love to hear from anyone involved in researching their family tree, or who could help Jane further.