My great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Nichols, was born in Shirley, near Solihull, in around 1815. He began his working life as an agricultural labourer but later became a gardener. His wife, Emma was born in Birmingham in about 1821.

The Nichols were very poor and had at least twelve children, five of whom died in childhood.

In the 1851 census both my great, great grandmother Emma Nichols and her sister Sophia are recorded as being born in around 1843. However, I beleive Sophia was slightly the older of the two, and in later census returns Sophia's year of birth is given as 1842. Later children included Thomas, Mary Ann, Sarah, Eliza, Jane, William, Ellen, Alfred, Louisa and Martha.

At the time that Emma and Sophia were born the family were living in Kings Heath, Birmingham but they moved to Yardley some time between 1843 and 1851 and moved again to 6, Andertons Lane, Sparkbrook. In those days Andertons Lane connected Danford Lane (now called Golden Hillock Road) with the Stratford Road. Andertons Lane has since been renamed Anderton Road. By 1971 the family had moved again, this time to Stratford Road, Aston, Deritend.

The eldest of the Nichils' children, Sophia went into domestic service, firstly at 117 Stoney Lane, Yardley, the home of Mr Thomas Parker whose occupation is described in 1861 census as "gentleman" and then later in Moseley Road, Kings Norton, as housemaid at the home of an elderly widow, Harriett Cook, whose income was derived from renting property. In the summer of 1875 she married a man nine years her junior, Charles Foden. At the time of the marriage Charles worked as a "coal carter" but went on to become an agricultural labourer.  They settled in Little Heath, Castle Bromwich and had four children, Charles (born 1877), William (1878) and Florence (1881) and Emma (1844). Florence died at the age of three.

Emma Nichols went into domestic service briefly before meeting and marrying Joseph Dent. She is recorded on the birth certificate of their son Thomas Dent, as "Emily Nichols" but the birth certificate also records that she left her mark rather than her signature, so it is quite possible that she may not have been able to read or write and may have been unaware of the spelling of her name on the form. Certainly, all the census surveys in which she appears record her name as Emma, as does the record of her marriage to my great, great grandfather Joseph Dent.

Of the other Nichols' children, Thomas, their eldest son is recorded in the 1861 census as a sixteen year old working as a "metal bedstead caster", a dirty and dangerous job where workers were at much at risk from the fumes produced during the casting process as they were from the heat. However, by the time of the 1871 census Thomas is recorded as working as a "gun maker".

Thomas and Emma's fourth child, Mary Ann, never married. A domestic servant, she first went into service at the home of Mr Alfred Clifton in Yardley. She eventually became an inmate of Aston Union Workhouse in Gravelly Hill, Erdington and died a pauper.

Their fifth child Sarah became a domestic servant at the age of thirteen to George Sharland and his family in Sparkhill. Mr Sharland's occupation is listed in the 1861 census as "proprietor of houses". Later, she became a servant with the family of Mr William Batchelor, an innkeeper who ran the Warwick Tavern in Regent Street, Leamington Spa.

Eliza Nichols married Frederick Halsey, an ironmonger's porter, in 1892 and they settled at 18 Spring Street, Edgbaston. They later had a daughter, Mary, and the family moved to Spring Terrace, Gough Road, Birmingham, where at the time of the 1911 census Frederick is recorded as having the occupation "Labourer" whilst seventeen year old Mary is recorded as a "sewing machinist".

Alfred Nichols became a "letter carrier" (i.e. a postman) by trade. He settled with his wife Sarah at 21, Haden Street, Kings Norton. The 1881 census records that they had a 12 year old girl, Ada Barber, living with them and working as their domestic servant.

The other children of Thomas and Emma Nichols - Jane, William, Ellen, Louisa and Martha Nichols do not appear to have survived into adulthood.