Tuesday, 4 March 2014

52 Ancestors: 9 - The Mystery of Baby Martha (1863-1863)


52ancestorsAmy at No Story Too Small has come up with a new challenge for 2014 - to write a post  each week on a specific ancestor.  


Martha Rawcliffe was my great grandmother Maria's youngest sister, born 20th January 1863, died 22nd May 1863.  Yet her short life led to those perennial mysteries  that make family history. such an absorbing hobby.  

Researching the Rawcliffe family  was my first venture into family history and I was puzzled  by a number of issues. 

Mystery One
Family hearsay always gave my great grandmother's name as  Maria Rawcliffe of Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde,  Lancashire.    But there was a puzzle in that many official records, such as her 1877 marriage certificate, the 1881 census entry, burial record and my grandfather's  1907 birth certificate  gave her name as "Martha Maria".   I sent away  to the local Registrar for Maria's  birth certificate c.1859 and outlined my confusion over her Christian name.

To my great surprise the result was two certificates - for Maria, daughter of Robert Rawcliffe and Jane Carr, born 15th January 1859 and another daughter Martha, born to Robert and Jane on  20th January 1863. 

Four months later Martha died.  Maria would only have been four years old then, so could hardly have remembered  her youngest sister. So why did she adopt her name along with her own?  We shall never know.   Moreover their mother Jane died two later, so could not have kept the memory of Martha alive for very long for  her other daughters.

Mystery Two   
Early on in my ancestral trail, I turned to Family Search and was delighted to find entries for my  Rawcliffe family, including the name of "Martha Septima .  This intrigued me  - seventh daughter  after Anne, Jane,  Margaret, Alice, Jennet and Maria.  

But how did her Ag. Lab. father  and mother who only could make their  marks on their  marriage certificate in 1846, come to know this Latin tag?    On Maria's certificate of 1859 Jane again is noted only for making her mark, but there is no such indication  on  Martha's entry. 

These were the days on Family Search when the name was given of the submitter of the information  - an American address and  I suspect a descendant of Maria's sister Alice who emigrated to USA.  I did write  but the letter came back "unknown", so very frustrating.  Many years later I traced the American connection, but no-one has come up with any clue to the "Septima" name and the early Family Search entry has been the only record of it.   

The puzzle does not end there, as both the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project (OPC) and Family Search record a Peggy Rawliffe, born 1861 to Robert and Jane, which means Martha would not be the seventh  child but the eighth.   Sadly Peggy only survived 16 days.  

So baby Martha may have had only a short life, but her legacy lived on in the name of my great grandmother.  


My great grandmother, Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919)

Based on a previous posting of 2011


Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

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