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Friday, 17 February 2012

Researching Rawcliffes - Surname Saturday

My  great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe (left) is at the heart of my family history story.  She married James Danson of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire and I have written extensively on my blog about the Dansons who I have traced back to 1736.  

But what about the Rawcliffe side of my family?   It proved to be a story of eight daughters, the early death of their mother,  a step mother with  three illegitimate children, and four half-brothers and sisters. Plus increasing concern that some of my early research may not be correct and needs reviewing!

  • Family knowledge was vague.  My mother knew little apart from the fact "granny" 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.  I also had my grandfather's birth certificate where his mother's name was given as Martha Maria Danson, formerly Rawcliffe - this confusion over her Christian name was to continue with other records. [See  Martha or Maria? ] So not a lot to go on. 
  • This was my first step in serious research and also the days before  computerised records, so I was governed by working from a distance with limited finances,  and limited by time when on visits to my family in Lancashire.
  • My starting point for the Rawcliffe research was the Danson Family Bible (right)  which showed that Maria married James in 1877. 
  • Tracing their Marriage  Certificate proved not as straightforward as I first thought, as there was no record in the  two most obvious places I  first tried.  However I eventually traced it to St. Anne's Church, Singleton, a small hamlet near Poulton - as I knew that James' father worked at a toll bridge there, perhaps I should have thought of this much earlier.  Obtaining their wedding certificate confirmed Maria's father's name as Robert, a farmer  and that Maria  was only 18 years old, so born c. 1858.  Her address was given only as Thistleton - another tiny hamlet, but no occupation was given.  Much much later in the  research I found out that Maria's eldest sister Anne was married to a Thistleton gamekeeper, so I presume Maria was living with her. 
  • The 1881 Census was the next source of free information, available at Blackpool Public Library.  and I found James and Maria living in Poulton-le-Fylde. This gave Maria's birthplace as Hambleton  - a big step forward to know the exact parish.
  • Armed now with strong indications of Maria's birth year,  birthplace, and father's name, I obtained her Birth Certificate -  to find she was born on 15th January 1859 - the same day as her great, great, granddaughter Gillian 114 years later - a source of great delight to me.  Her father's name was confirmed as Robert Rawcliffe, a carter and for the first time, I now had her  mother's name - Jane Carr, who made her mark.
  • 1871  Census - turning back to the Hanbleton census returns, I found Maria aged 12, living at Town Row with her father Robert, a widower at 49, sister Anne aged 23, and Jane 20 - tying in with the family recollections on the sisters.
  • Back to the 1861 Census where Robert was a farmer and carter aged 39, Jane aged 41, with "Mariagh" 2 (the enumerator's idea of spelling her name).   Eldest daughter Anne is not listed in the family home but could well be the 13 year old  house servant in the village. However of most interest was the first knowledge of two more daughters Alice aged 6 and Jennet aged 4.   
  • The IGI, the next source consulted, listed 8 daughters of Robert and Jane - Anne, Jane, Margaret, Alice, Jennet, Peggy, Maria, and  Martha.
  • Fellow Members of the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society also gave contributions and I learnt that Margaret, Peggy and Martha had not survived infancy, their mother Jane died in 1865 at the age of 46 and Robert was the son of William Rawcliffe and Anne (Nanny) Moon.  I was very grateful for this information at the time, but never thought  to double check it.
  • It was time to pay for the Marriage Certificate of parents Robert and Jane  with the date estimated as c. 1846 with the birth of their first daughter Anne in 1847.   The exact date was 14th November 1846  at Hambleton, both of full age with Robert described as a husbandman, father William, a labourer  and Jane's father also William, a labourer. So for the first time I had traced back to my great great great grandparents  on my Rawcliffe side.
  • I also acquired the Marriage Certificate  for  Robert's second marriage to Elizabeth Brekall in 1875  - to find that here Robert's father's name was given as John - the same Christian name as his wife's father.  So who was his father - William or John?
I am now increasingly wondering if my earlier conclusions  on Robert's birth were correct.  All the census returns had consistently given Robert's birthplace as Marton, Lancashire and his estimated date of birth as 1821.  But the only births I can trace online are  a Robert, born 1821 in Poulton, son of William and Anne,  and an 1820 birth in Poulton of a Robert,  son of John and Catherine.    If this latter Robert was "mine",  surely one of his many daughters would have been called Catherine after his mother? 

Was some of the information on Robert, supplied to me  in good faith, wrong?   A major mistake - I never questioned  it at the time.  Some of the infomation on the public trees on http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ adds to this confusion, regarding Robert's parents.

So watch this space, as I review the Rawcliffe  research to try and establish the facts - not helped by the popularity of the Rawclife surname in Lancashire.   I will also be exploring  the lives of Robert's  many children. 

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. I will be watching with interest as you revisit the records and (hopefully) find answers :-)


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