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Sunday 9 September 2012

A Very Special Ancestral Photo - 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

ANCESTOR'S PHOTOS    is the latest topic from Amy at http://wetree.blogspot.com/ in conjunction with Geneabloggers, in the series of weekly blogging prompts on the theme of 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.

For which ancestral photograph are you most grateful? Who is in the photo and how did you acquire it? Why does it  hold a special place in your heart?

There was little question which photograph I would choose to feature here - one which has been key to the enjoyment I have had from my family history.   

Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe with her granddaughter Annie Maria.

The fun I have had from Family History began at a young age. In a cupboard by the fireplace in my grandfather's house in Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool was an old shoebox full of family photographs. It was a great treat if I was allowed to look through them, particularly the First World War embroidered cards sent back by my grandfather to his family. My grandfather William Danson was one of eight surviving brothers, five of whom served in the army and formed part of this photographic collection. 
But the one picture that attracted my best attention was this  striking one of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe, and I soon wanted to find out more about her.

In my imagination, her name was an evocative mixture of down-to-earth Lancashire grit (Rawcliffe) with echoes of a more flamboyant Latin nature (Maria).  She looked a formidable lady from this photograph  To give additional colour there was a, no doubt, apocryphal story that “granny’s dark looks” came from Spanish descent, after an Armada ship had been wrecked off the Fylde coast of Lancashire.

The findings in the actual research were much more prosaic. Maria was born in Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde in 1859, the sixth of seven daughters to Robert Rawcliffe (an agricultural labourer and carter) and Jane Carr. By comparison, her sisters had much more ordinary names - Anne, Jane, Margaret, Jennet, Alice and Martha. Their mother died when Maria was only 6 years old and Robert later remarried a woman with three illegitimate children and they had four children of their own - so Maria had a large exteNDed family of half siblings and step siblings.     

At 18 years old, Maria married James Danson at Singleton and went on to have ten sons, before the birth of her only daughter Jennie in 1897.  Nine years later her husband James died, leaving her a widow with a young family. Two sons died in the First World War.  All these basic facts of an eventful life made me determined to do more research. 

Maria with her only daughter Jennie and her granddaughter Annie
c. 1909.  A photograph found in Jennie's photograph collection.
As for the Spanish Armada story, a published local history of Hambleton told of an incident in 1643 at the time of the English Civil War. A Spanish frigate, the Santa Anna ran aground in the River Wyre estuary. The crew were taken off the ship, which was set alight to prevent it falling into the hands of the Roundheads. No efforts were made to get the crew home and several married local farmer’s daughters. The dark Spanish features showed up in their children.   So maybe I do have some Spanish blood in me after all!


Maria's  life is at the heart  of my family history and it was the first I turned into a family history narrative.  She was my inspiration for my ancestral trail - and I have never stopped!  All thanks to the original photograph above.

Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. After all those boys I'll bet she appreciated her daughter and then her granddaughter.

    Did you know you have a mention on http://finding-forgotten-stories.com/2012/09/14/follow-friday-nine-eleven-remembrance-remember-our-ancestors-and-posts-to-make-you-think/


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