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Friday, 24 May 2013

Sepia Saturday - Four Faces of Feisty Females

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record and share their family history through photographs.

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.

 Click HERE to find other Sepia Saturday faces.


  1. You're so lucky to have this series of photos.

  2. A wonderful group of photos....and wonderful hairstyles on all four.

    I am afraid that I can't help you with age. My Great Grandmother looked to be in her 60s in a photo but when I turned the photo over, it showed the year and her age as 45! She lived until she was 86 but must have had a tough life and certainly dressed like an old lady even when she was 45.

  3. I enjoyed coming through the generations with these photos.

  4. Love the four generations of photos.

    I think the first photo is dated about 1905- 1910.

  5. My mother always had a different name than the one on her birth certificate. I think maybe her new name was given to her by her grandmother, or maybe it was from when she was baptized.

  6. I loved seeing all the photos with the different looks and hair styles. I think Maria looks to be in her late 30s early 40s in that photo. Your mother was really beautiful. And you a real cutie.

  7. I'd say Maria is in her 50s at the time the portrait was taken. Your mention of the Spanish Aramada had me off reading about the ships that were wrecked on the west coast of the British Isles. I wonder if there's any truth in that story about sailors on the Lancashire coast.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Brett. Re your point about Spanish Armada sailors, I cam across a small local history on Hambleton, where Maria was born and that referred to a similar incident of shipwrecked Spanish sailors settling there - but it was not from the Armada but a century later in 1660. So the jury is out!

  8. If Teresa is right, Maria was 50 in the photo. Her skin was beautiful, that's for sure. I enjoyed seeing the 4 generations too.

  9. Truly fascinating story and such fine pictures.

  10. What a great set of family photos. I find it fascianting tracing ancestry through the generations. Thans for sharing you history with us.

  11. I'm getting dizzy from running these photos up and down on my screen -- I think it's the noses that hit all four generations! Great shots!

  12. Some good looking genes washed up on the beach !

  13. You are absolutely right - this is what makes family history so interesting. And I have to say, if I was not already bit by the bug, this is just the kind of post that would want me to go off in search of my own family history.

  14. A great series to have. Jennie was born in the same year as my mother and father. Unfortunately I have never seen photos of them when they were young and only some of my mother taken in the 1970s.

  15. The photo of your mother has a very striking resemblance to Maria or Martha,,,wouldn't it be such fun to sit down with these mysterious ladies and learn the rest of the stories...you are lucky to have this great collection of photos whatever the stories become.

  16. I can see why the prompt photo led to chose Maria. I beautiful photograph and her eyes draw your attention much as the prompt. There is often at least a bit of truth to those family stories. I hope you find out more about Maria's. I love the picture of Jennie with her modern hairdo!

  17. I love your theme title: Four Faces of Feisty Females! And the pix with their informative presentations are super. Following from Great Grandmother Maria through your mother, & you, I think the eyes have it. There is a definite resemblance there. And Jenny with those crimped waves brought back memories. My Mom had a couple of crimping clips & I actually used them in the 50's for fun.

  18. Another fine medley through the generations. All great photos too.


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