The research into my Rawcliffe ancestors had led me to assume that like all my mother's family, they were very firmly based in the Fylde area of Lancashire, England.
So it was a huge surprise to find, in a very casual browsing for Rawcliffes on http://www.familysearch.org/, an entry for Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe, born Hambleton 1853 and that she had died in Jamesburg, New Jersey on 24th February 1930 - the first time I was aware of any American connection. I was delighted at the discovery and keen to find out more.
Alice was the sister of my great grandmother Maria. Born 1853 at Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, she was the fourth daughter of Robert Rawliffe and Jane Carr. She married John Mason and they settled in Fleetwood where they had six children - Robert William, Jane Elizabeth, John Thomas, James Richard, Margaret Alice and George Rawliffe - all family Christian names.
The Family Search information had been supplied by a contributor. Frustratingly when I wrote to find out more, the letter was returned “not known at this address”. Further efforts to make contact with any American descendants have been slow to bring results. What had prompted the family to leave the fishing port of Fleetwood for America and the teeming tenements of New York? I shall never know.
American census returns on Ancestry.com showed that John Mason entered the USA in 1886, with Alice and their children following in 1887. The family took out American citizenship in 1895 and at some point moved from Brooklyn, New York, across the river to Jamesburg, Middlesex County, New Jersey.
I found out through pasenger lists on the Internet that Alice was 34 when she set sail from Liverpool with six children aged 1 to 13 (and two pieces of baggage) aboard the ship Auronia. Within twelve years of her arrival in Brooklyn, New York, she had a further five children - Arthur Valentine (born appropriately 14th February), Harold Arthur Victor, Lillian Eveline, Bessie Irene and Florence Adelaide. Arthur, Bessie and Lillian all died in infancy.
The photogaph above is a bit of a mystery. It was in the collection of my great aunt (Maria's daughter) but not identified and nothing to indicate where it was taken. It must surely be of one of of my great grandmother's sisters - Anne, Jane, Alice, or Jennet? The composition of the family and ages of the children ruled out Anne, Jane or Jennet. So is this Alice and James Mason? Eldest daughter Jane Elizabeth was still unmarried in the 1920 census, so she could be the woman on the back left, and is that her younger sister and brother - possibly Florence and Harold?
The mystery remains - or do you know better? If so, please do get in touch - I would love to hear from you.