Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Struck by Family Coincidences?

Have you been struck by family coincidences in the course of your research? 

Early on,  I was looking for the birth date of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe, who according to census returns was born c.1859.  I contacted the local registrar for a certificate, and was over the moon to discover she shared her birthday - 15th January - with my own daughter - Maria's great great granddaughter.  This had to mean something special!

On my husband's side, the Donaldson family of South Shields, there was a story that the family had Edinburgh connections, but the detail was vague.  So I was delighted in tracing back through South Shields census returns to discover that Robert Donaldson was born in Leith, Midlothian, Scotland.  This entry was a huge bonus  as many entries just say "Scotland" under place of birth, without specifying the parish. Even better there was the coincidence that our daughter, Robert's 4-times great granddaughter,  was then working in Leith. 

It is these little facts that make family history so fascinating.  Can you add to this? 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Maria Rawcliffe - A Spanish Look in Lancashire

My great grandmother Maria Rawliffe, with her granddaughter Annie Maria Danson, c. 1915 

The character of my great-grandmother, Maria Rawcliffe had always appealed to me.   Her name was an evocative mixture of down-to-earth Lancashire grit with echoes of a more flamboyant Latin nature. She looked a formidable lady from the one photograph I had initially of her. 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. All this captured my imagination and, as a child,  I began weaving stories about her.

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.  At 18 years old, Maria married James Danson at Singleton and went on to have ten sons,  before the birth of her only daughter Jenny in 1897.

Maria is at the core of my family history story and her name lived on in her granddaughter Annie Maria Danson, her grandson Harry Rawcliffe Danson and now my own granddaughter Niamh Maria.  

As for the Spanish Armada story, a 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 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!

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Copyright © 2010 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Danson Family - in a Shoebox

My grandfather William Danson sent this card from Flanders on 8th August 1917 to my mother  at 2 Bull Street, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.   His message read  "Dear Kathleem, I am sending you a card and hope you like it.  I am in the pink.  Look after mother and baby.  From your Dad.

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.  The one picture that attracted my best attention was a striking one of my great grandmother Maria Rawcliffe, and I soon began weaving stories around her.  (More of her later! ) 

I moved away from Poulton-le-Fylde when I was thirteen, but I had always been fascinated with history and over many years I have had such pleasure in discovering the story of my ancestors.  I look forward to sharing my experiences through this blog.