When I saw this prompt, I knew immediately which photograph I would use - the lovely portrait below of my great grandmother Maria Danson nee Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.
Maria has been at the heart of my family history activities and even as a child her name attracted me as a mixture of down to earth Lancashire grit (Rawcliffe) and a more exotic Spanish side with her dark looks and the name Maria. There was an apocryphal family story that "granny's dark looks" came from Spanish sailers shipwrecked after the Armada on the Lancashire coast.
Maria was born in 1859 on the 15th January which 114 years later was the day my own daughter was born - a coincidence which delighted me. She was the 7th out of 8 daughters of Robert Rawcliffe and Jane Carr. She was only 18 years old when she married James Danson in 1877. They had ten sons (8 survived infancy) before their only daughter Jennie, born in 1897. Maria was widowed in 1906 and two sons died in the First World War and Mari died in 1919 at the age of 60.
How old do you think Maria is here? I find the photograph difficult to date. Is she around 40 years old? i.e. the year is 1899.
Maria's life has given me endless stories for my family history and posed lots of questions. Her name for a start seemed quite exotic compared with her sisters - Anne, Jane, Jennet, Margaret, Alice, Peggy and Martha. Father Robert Rawcliffe was an Ag. Lab. and he and his wife just "made their mark" on their wedding certificate.
Another puzzle remains over her name - Maria on her birth certificate. but in many official documents including the 1881 census, her marriage certificate and my grandfather's birth certificate it is Martha - the name of her youngest sister who died at 4 months old. Maria was only just four years old at the time, so could hardly have remembered her, so why did she choose to adopt her name? To her three granddaughters who are still alive. Granny's name was Maria. This is what makes family history so fascinating!
Maria's only daughter, my great aunt Jennie (1897-1986 ) was by all accounts, quite a feisty character. She was the only daughter and last child of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe born on 24th December 1897, after eight surviving brothers - George then aged 3, Frank 5, Albert 7, Tom 9, William 12 (my grandfather), Robert 16, John 18 and Harry 20 - a large family in a small terraced house. Her father died when was eight years old,
I love this photo below of Jennie with the "modern" hairstyle of the 1920's. She went to work in they local post office and was determined to lead her own life, much to the dismay of her five unmarried brothers who were used to her running the home after the death of their mother (Maria) in 1919.
My mother Kathleen Danson was Maria's granddaughter - and her life could be summed up as "Happiness is Stitching". She was apprenticed as a tailoress at the age of 14 and was still making her own clothes and home furnishings when she was in her 80's.
Completing the four generations - myself, Maria's great granddaughter, aged 3 years old here.
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