.jump-link{ display:none }

Sunday, 17 March 2019

The 12 Children of Robert Rawcliffe: 52 Ancestors - Wk.12

"12" is appropriately the prompt for week 12 of the "52 Ancestors" Challenge and I am writing about my great great grandfather Robert Rawcliffe of Hambleton, near Fleetwood, Lancashire. 

Family knowledge about the Rawcliffe line  was vague.  My mother knew little apart from the fact "granny" (Maria Rawcliffe) came from "over Wyre" i.e.north of the River Wyre - a network of small villages, but where exactly was not known, plus the fact she had two sisters, Anne who married a farmer and Jane who married a Fleetwood man named Riley. There was also an intriguing anecdote about Granny had a step-brother Jo Brekall.  So not a lot to  go on. 

Research through the  standard sources of certificates, census returns, Ancestry Family Search  and Lancashire Parochial Records Online  revealed  it to be a story of eight daughters, the early death of their mother;   a step mother  and four half-brothers and sisters - twelve children in all. They  illustrated the vicissitudes of Victorian life,  with infant deaths, illegitimacy, early widowhood, remarriages,  and the discovery  of my first emigrant ancestor seeking a new life in the  USA.

My great great grandfather  Robert Rawcliffe lived 1821-1904, dying at the age of 84. He married Jane Carr in 1846, with the following children born to the marriage.


1.  Anne (1847-1928) - was  the  first first of eight daughter. named after her paternal grandmother.  In the 1861 census  she was living   away from home as a 13 year old servant.   Aged about 25 she had an illegitimate daughter  Jane Alice,  and a year later married  gamekeeper Robert Roskell.  One of her three daughters was named Maria,   after her youngest (surviving ) sister, my great grandmother (I liked that link). But burial records revealed deaths in the family - infant twin son Matthew died at three weeks old in 1882 and eldest daughter Jane died in 1887, aged only fourteen;   with husband  Robert dying in 1894 at the young age of 42. 
By the time of  the 1901 Census, Anne, a grocer/shopkeeper  had  moved from a small rural village to the town of Fleetwood,  where she married her second husband John Jenkinson. She died   4 April 1928 and was buried, not in Fleetwood, but beside her first husband and young children at St. Anne's Church, Singleton.  Her age on her gravestone was given as 79. 

2.  Jane (1850-1926) - was the second daughter, named after her mother and paternal grandmother.  She married Thomas Riley in 1873.  The photograph below came from an internet contact descendant and shows four generations of their  family. 

 Jane Riley, nee Rawcliffe with her son George (left) grandson (Jack) and Jack's baby son George Robert who did not survive infancy. 

3.  Margaret (1852-1852)  -  third daughter was born 11th November 1852, but only lived for  three weeks, buried 4th December 1882.  

4. Alice (1853-1930)  - the fourth daughter was christened Alice Margaret, perhaps   in remembrance of the baby sister who had died a year earlier. In the 1871 census she was a domestic servant, and two years later married John Mason, a general labourer. Six children were born and then In 1886-87 the they  took the momentous decision to leave the fishing port of Fleetwood for the teeming tenements of Brooklyn, New York. where they had a further five children.  Alice is my blog success story, as my third cousin, a descendant of Alice's youngest daughter Florence, found my blog and gave me a wo.dnerful connection of stories and photographs.  
Alice Mason, nee Rawcliffe with her husband and  three of their eleven children

5. Jennet (1856-1902) - In 1873, 18 year old Jennet was a witness a the marriage of her sister Jane toThomas Riley, with the other witness Thomas's brother Richard.  Five years later Jennet and Richard married.  but happiness was short lived for Richard died in 1891 aged just 33. Jennet remarried a seaman, Edward Alexander Braham.  but again their marriage was cut short, with the death of Jennet in 1902 - the first of the five surviving  Rawcliffe sisters to die. 

6.  Maria (1859-1919) - my great grandmother is at the heart of my family history research and writing, featuring regularly on my blog. She married James Danson at the age of eighteen and ironically, as one of many sisters, went on to have ten sons (eight surviving infancy), and o.ne daughter Jennie. 

7.  Peggy (1861-1861)  - was the last of the Rawcliffe sisters to be traced. Her short life lasted only sixteen days. 

8. Martha (1863-1863) - the baptism entry for Martha was a puzzle, for she was given the middle name "Septima" meaning seventh daughter, - yet she was the eighth.  Also how did her parents, with Robert an agricultural labourer, and with Jane making their mark on their marriage certificate know about the Latin inspired name?  The third puzzle - why did my great grandmother Maria adopt the name Martha for many official records, including her marriage certificate?  Maria could hardly have remembered her baby sister.  

 So  Robert's wife, Jane, gave birth to eight  children in a sixteen year period   Jane was aged 44 at the birth of her youngest daughter Martha and died two years later, buried on 4th May 1865, leaving her five  young daughters motherless at the ages of 6, 8, 11, 14 and 17.  Jane and her baby daughters were all buried at the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Hambleton.  Unfortunately there are no gravestones, and no listings in monumental inscriptions for Robert Rawcliffe's  family. 


In 1875 Robert married his second wife Elizabeth Brekall, twenty years his junior and they had four children in six years:

9.  Grace (1876-?) - perhaps named after Robert's sister Grace.

10. John (1878 -?)  - perhaps named after  his maternal grandfather.

11. Robert (1879-1883) -  a record of Hambleton church recorded the burial of young 4 year  old Robert.

12.  Margaret (1881-?)

No baptism records were traced for this seocnd group of Rawcliffe children and more research  needs to be done into their lives. 

But there was a second dimension to Robert's second marriage.  For  Elizabeth Brekall came to the marriage with three children of her own - Dorothy, Mary Ellen, and Joseph (the Joe Brekall of my mother's family story).  I naturally assumed they were children of Elizabethan's first husband  - the  classic family history mistake  - do not assume!  For her wedding certificate to Robert identified Elizabeth as a spinster.  

One cannot help speculate on the circumstances that led Elizabeth tp bear three illegitimate children over a thirteen year span. The children were all baptised,  but no father named on the record. The earlier census returns showed that Elizabeth and her children were living with her parents, with her father an agricultural labourer, so times must have been hard. 

The 1881 census showed a crowded Rawcliffe household with father Robert 61, an agricultural labourer,   Elizabeth 41 and  six children, ranging from 2 months old to eleven. Ten years on it was depleted family with just Joseph and John, living at home. 

Robert,  senior was to live until the age of 83, buried at the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Hambleton 14th April 1904, twenty  one years after the burial of his young namesake son.  

 To use a term in current use, this was a  truly "blended"  family, 
of 12 half-siblings and 4 step-siblings. 


Join  Amy Johnson's Crow's Facebook Group  "Generations Cafe 
 to read posts from other bloggers taking part in
 the 2019  "52 Ancestors" Challenges

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Patrick McFarlane & his Nine Sisters: 52 Ancestors - Wk 11

“A Large Family” is the theme of week 11 in the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge.  As was the custom of the times, large families abound in our family history.   My great grandparents had eleven children - nine  surviving infancy;  my great grandfather was one of nine;  and my great great grandfather had eight daughters  by his first wife, four children by his second wife and four step children.  

But here I feature a striking picture passed to me by a friend who I was helping with her family history.

My friend's grandmother was Bridget McFarlane who was known to have Irish connections and be part of a large family of women. The certificate  (found on ScotlandsPeople) of  Bridget's marriage to Thomas Spowart  in Fife in 1894 provided the names of her parents - James McFarlane, a quarryman and Ann Lauchlin.   

Bridget’s age was given as 18, so born c. 1876.  In the 1901  census, her birthplace was given as Bannockburn, near Stirling.  These three pieces of information enabled Bridget's family to be traced in the census returns.  Parents James and Ann were both born in Ireland and they had ten children in 22 years (1876-1898)  - Bridget (the eldest), followed by Kate, Mary, Patrick, Annie, Ellen, Sarah, Jane, Maggie and Jemima - 22 years between the oldest  and youngest.   

The dark clothes and solemn expressions in this photograph indicated that the occasion was a funeral.  Could the central figure holding a bible or prayer book be Ann McFarlane, nee Lauchlin, surrounded by her nine daughters and only son Patrick?  Was the young girl carrying flowers the youngest daughter Jemima?  The style of dress and the possible age of the girl could date the photograph to the early 20th century c.1910. 
The estimated date of the photograph was confirmed by tracing father James’ death online  to October 6th 1912.   

Death certificates on ScotlandsPeople are briliant souce material as they give more information than their English equivalent - notably the names of the deceased's  parents - provided of course that the informant knows these details.  

So I  learnt that Jame McFarlane  married to Ann Laughlan, was a railway surfaceman, aged 53 when he died of bronchitis  at 24 Campbell Street, Dunfermline, Fife  - the informant his son Patrick McFarlane of 57 Arthur Street, Cowdenbeath, Fife.  James' parents, both deceased, were named as Patrick McFarlane, a quarry labourer and Bridget McFarlane, maiden surname Phee   - though I did wonder could this have been the more usual surname of McPhee?  So James and Ann's eldest (and only)  son and eldest daughter were named after their paternal grandparents.

The challenge of researching Irish records awaits to find out more about their ancestry. Frustratingly I have been unable to trace the whereabouts of the family in the 1911 census, just a year before the death of  James McFarlane. 

But the photograph above remains a potent symbol of a large family in mourning.  

Adapted from a post first published in 2010
with grateful thanks to my friend for allowing me to feature this photograph. 

Join  Amy Johnson's Crow's Facebook Group  "Generations Cafe 
 to read posts from other bloggers taking part in
 the 2019  "52 Ancestors" Challenges

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Horrors to Happiness for my Bachelor Uncle Charles Weston

"Bachelor Uncle" is the theme of this week’s “52 Ancestors” challenge.  I have chosen to write a profile of my Uncle Charles Weston before his marriage.  It is a story that spans horror to happiness.
Charles was my father's youngest brother in a family of four children, born to Albert Ernest Weston and Mary Barbara Matthews.    On official documents I discovered that  his name was  given as Eric Charles, but he was always referred to in the family as Charles. 
Young men around town c.1936
John and Charles Weston, with my father's first car  

 A good-looking Charles 

John and Charles  were close as brothers and had these nicknames for one another  -  "Ace"  and "Mel".  Unfortunately I failed to ask my father about the origin of the names and neither my cousin nor I  have been able to find out anything.   Were Mel and Ace popular radio characters, for instance?   I would love to know, if anyone out there has any idea?  

 My  father's best man at his wedding in 1938 was of course Charles.

In the1939 Register for England and Wales, Eric C. Weston was listed with his parents, at Leicester and described as a "hosiery warehouseman".  

But then war broke out and Charles joined  the  Royal Army Ordnance Corps.  

The continuing  wartime story of Uncle Charles is told in the poignant  words of my father who wrote down his family memories for me.  

"Uncle Charles was a Japanese POW on the Bridge of the River Kwai — at least it was a bridge when the hundreds of POWs had finished it.
Conditions were dreadful, 100s died through lack of food, mostly slops, no solids. Charles had beri-beri, dysentery, ulcers and malaria. 
In 1942 Mum and Dad got a card through the Red Cross — from the War Minister which read “Regret to inform you that your son has been posted missing”. Dad packed up work and the news broke him — he was never the same again.  They never expected to see him again.

It was at Christmas 1943 that Mum got a card from the Red Cross with a few words “I am safe and well” — “Safe” yes…..”Well” -  Certainly Not.
In August 45, lists of Japanese P.O.W.s  were coming out and I was looking for Charles'  name.   After the atomic bomb fell on Japan,  the POWs on the bridge were taken to Singapore and prisoners stayed in Changhai jail until shipped home.
Then I got this telegram dated 24th September 1945."

Found among my father's papers after  his death
Dad ended "I  was so sorry for Charles, as he arrived in Liverpool with no-one able to meet him. I was in Burma and my mother could not leave my Dad.   You were just a baby and Mum could not go.  It was lonely homecoming for a POW". 

Both Ancestry and FindMyPast have records of prisoners of war in World War Two  and I was pleased to find an entry for Charles - one in Japanese with a transcription.  These confirmed that   Charles was in the  Royal Army Ordnance Corps - service no. 7648160;  was captured February 1942 and freed September 1945 - over 3 years of living a horror.

Below a letter postmarked 6th November 1945  written by Charles to my father, who was still serving in the Far East.


A Chance of Happiness  
A year after the war, it was  a happier time when Charles married Vera Botell in December 1946.
I am the shivering little bridesmaid,standing in front of my parents. 


Postcript:  Charles and Vera had a daughter, but sadly Vera died of cancer in 1961.  Charles was able to see his daughter married and the birth of a granddaughter.  He died in 1999. 


Join  Amy Johnson's Crow's Facebook Group  "Generations Cafe 
 to read posts from other bloggers taking part in
 the 2019  "52 Ancestors" Challenges

Monday, 25 February 2019

Aaron Armitage, Miner & Miscreant: 52 Ancestors - Wk 9

“In the Courthouse” is the theme of Week 9 of the "52 Ancestors”  Challenge and research into my husband's Yorkshire born great grandfather Aaron Armitage (1851-1889) revealed  frequent tussles with the law, ranging from poaching, stealing rabbits and a pig,   to obstructing a train and assault, with frequent spells of imprisonment.

The starting point to research was my husband's grandmother Alice Armitage,  whose father,  according to her marriage certificate,  was Aaron Armitage, a miner (deceased).  Basic research established that Alice was born in Silkstone, West Yorkshire in 1888, daughter of Aaron Armitage and Sarah Ann Cuthbert.  Her father had died when she was under three years old.  Her mother remarried  - George Hibbert, also a miner, and they moved from Yorkshire to the County Durham coalfields, settling in South Shields where  Alice grew up with her half siblings.   
Aaron's Daughter, Alice with her husband Matthew Iley White.
The photograph is believed to have been taken to mark their engagement.

Aaron's Early Life 
He was born in 1851, in Silkstone, West Yorkshire, the eldest son of Moses Armitage, also a miner, and Sarah Ann Galloway.  It proved to be a large family.  By 1861 it was a household of parents and six children under 12 years old - Mary Elizabeth 12, Aaron 10,   Moses, 8, William 6, lohn 3 and Ann 6 months.  The two youngest children were born in Dodworth, suggesting a move from Silkstone. around 1858.

The family were still in Dodworth in 1871, at no. 24 (Crown/Town Street ?),  with Aaron now aged 20  and four more siblings on the scene – Sarah Ann 8, Benjamin 6, Ada 5 and Albert 3; a household of eleven with eldest daughter Mary Elizabeth no longer living at home. The three eldest sons  - Aaron 20, Moses 18 and William 16 were all coal miners. 

Beyond the Basic Research Tools
With research I always like to take a look at the British Newspapers Online at FindMyPast, as you never know what you might find.  The results were revealing for both Aaron and his father Moses. 

For by 1864 Aaron had already had a brush with the law.  At the age of 13, he was charged and found guilty  of  causing an obstruction on the railway, with Leeds Assizes sentencing him  to one  month's  imprisonment and six strokes of the birch. 

Sheffield & Rotherham Independent:  16th August 1864  

His conviction was recorded in the England and Wales Criminal Register (available on Ancestry).  

This was my first discovery of Aaron's criminal past and at the time, I was sceptical about it being "my" Aaron Armitage, as the surname is quite prevalent in the north of England.  However further findings  confirmed I had the right person. 

Further court appearances followed, as reported in various newspapers in West Yorkshire - The Barnsley Chronicle, Sheffield Independent, Sheffield Daily Telega[p. Driffield Times,  Leeds Times  and Leeds Intelligence.
  • 1868  - "The Barnsley Chronicle" of 18th July reported Aaron as being charged wth the pursuit of game.  He was fined 20s plus costs or 14 days imprisonment by default.
  • 1869  - Aaron was a witness in the case of three men  charged with breach of the peace . In the witness box, Aaron admitted that " he had been charged many times with various offences". As reported in  "The Barnsley Chronicle".
  • 1869 -  In this instance Aaron was the victim of "violent intimidation" in a dispute at the coal pit, where reductions in wages resulted in many miners had gone on strike, and violence erupted between-union and non-union members.  Aaron and his brother William were attacked as they left their home at 5am to go to work. The attackers were sent to prison. ("The Sheffield Daily Telegraph"  29th July 1869.)
  • 1870  - "The Barnsley Chronicle" : 18th June 1870  reported  Aaron being charged with  trespassing a field and doing damage. 
  • 1872 - "The Sheffield Independent" of 6th January reported "Two Scrapes" involving  Aaron - for leaving his employment without giving notice and for pursuing rabbits. 

  •  1875 - Aaron Armitage was charged with assault and biting a man on the nose  at a Dodworth pub.  He was described as "a bulldog of a man".  Fined £5 which he could not pay so was sentenced to prison for two months. (Barnsley Chronicle: 3rd April 1875.)
  • 1875 Aaron Armitage "an old offender" was charged with  stealing a pig, value £2 15s.   Committed to Wakefield Prison for six months.  ( Sheffield Daily Telegraph: 9th November 1875. )


Family Life
In the 1881 census Aaron aged 30,  was living at 82 High Street, Dodworth with his brother-in- law Fergus O’Connor Sykes, his wife Mary E.  and their six children under 15 years of age. Fergus, and his eldest son Robert aged 15 were both working in the mines.  But it was the description of Arron that was most revealing with his occupation given as "Coal Miner, late Soldier".

UK Military Deserters 1812-1907
(found on Ancestry) recorded that Aaron Armitage of Barnsley and the 84th Foot Regiment, deserted at Preston 23rd December 1876. 

1884  - But on June  7th 1884, "The Barnsley Chronicle" reported  that Aaron Armitage was charged with assaulting Fergus Sykes (his brother-in-law)  and was  fined 1s plus costs - total 17s.

1884 - A month later the same newspaper on 5th July reported  that Aaron had been charged with assaulting Charlotte Lawson  and fined 10s an plus costs. 

1885 - A more serous charge was to follow in 1885  when Aaron was accused of  violently assaulting Sarah Ann Cuthbert, and his brother John for stealing a dress to pawn, the property of Sarah Ann Cuthbert - as reported in "The Leeds Times" of 6th June 1885.

Aaron was sent to Wakefield Prison,
with the description of him as 5’6” in height with brown hair and with a cut on his forehead and burn marks on his shoulders. 

"The Barnsley Chronicle" gave a particularly detailed graphic, blow by blow  account of this domestic assault.

Yet two years later, 36 year old Aaron  married the same Sarah Ann Cuthbert, (at 21 years old, fifteen years his junior) on the 16th of May, at All Saints South Kirkby - Sarah's  mother being Charlotte Lawson.

On 3rd of January 1886  Aaron's daughter Alice was born, but before she marked her third birthday, her father was dead.  

Aaron died 26th October 1889 with his certificate giving the cause of death as Fracture of the Lumbar Vertebrae, one year and eight months a Lumbar Abcess"   - which sounds a very painful condition.  Interestingly the name of the informant on his death certificate was given as his mother-in-law C. Lawson. It occurred to me had Aaron's suffered the fracture as a result of a mining accident, but have found nothing to bear this out - or had it resulted from one of his many brawls?  

Sarah, 7 months a widow, married on 25th May 1890 George Hibbert, a miner, at St. George's Church, Barnsley, with one of the witnesses Aaron's brother Moses. 

The 1891 census saw the family  at 11 Snowdrop Terrace, Doncaster Road, Barnsley.  One cannot  help thinking that the miner's cottage address would not be as spring-like as the name suggested  

By 1901 they were in South Shields, Co. Durham at 19 Trinity Street.  with 13 year old Alice's half siblings - Robert aged 6  and Violet 4.  Alice and Violet (below)  remained close all their lives.

 Alice married Matthew Iley White in 1908  and they had three daughters - Ivy (my husband's mother),   Alice  (known as Lala), Violet, and one son, also Matthew.  

Further Research
This was my first venture into researching the background of Alice's father's background. and more needs to be done. A quick glance at the newspapers online showed that Aaron's fathe,   Moses too had  frequent altercations with the law - a topic for a further blog post.

I would also like to find out more about mining in the Barnsley area in the late  19th century. - both working  and living conditions must have been harsh,  with regular press reports of  of mining accidents, brawls and breaches of the peace.

So look out  for more revelations on the Armitage family - miners and miscreants.


Join Amy Johnson's Crow's Facebook Group  "Generations Cafe." 
to read posts from other bloggers taking part in the
2019  "52 Ancestors" challenges