Still hunting for Hannah

Mary Atkinson, left, my mum’s grandmother, standing outside her home in Lealholm on the North York Moors with my mum’s mum, also called Mary.
Mary Atkinson, my mum’s grandmother, whose sampler we have on our kitchen wall, made when she was 12.

My recent quest to find out more about a little 19th century girl from the North York Moors called Hannah Raw has borne fruit.

If you recall I wrote about some 19th century samplers on the wall of my mum’s kitchen. Two were done by ancestors, one called Mary Atkinson, who was 12 when she created hers in 1876 and was my mum’s maternal grandmother, and Jane Lacy, who was 10 in 1837 when she created her sampler, and was Mum’s great great aunt on her mother’s side. The third sampler was by Hannah Raw, who was nine in 1835, but about whom I knew nothing. We don’t know how we came to have her sampler, but for many years it was kept rolled up with Jane Lacy’s at my Nana’s home.

One reader contacted me to say his neighbour had the surname Raw and hailed from the Glaisdale/Lealholm area. I’m trying to get in touch with him to see if he can help. I was also contacted by Marion Atkinson who originates from Lealholm and she believed we were distant relatives on my mother’s side. She wrote: “My father was Dick Atkinson of Lealholm, and I knew your dad and your gran. My 4x great grandfather was John Raw of Fryup.”

She added: “Mary (Polly) Atkinson, b.1864, married Jack Lacy, a blacksmith at Lealholm. She was sister to my great grandfather, Thomas William Atkinson, b.1871.”

This Mary Atkinson that Marion mentioned is the same one whose sampler adorns our wall, and is indeed my mum’s maternal grandmother. So Marion is related (albeit at a distance) to my mum’s side of the family. But could she also be a distant relative of Hannah, via her 4x great grandfather?

She tried to find out a bit more about Hannah, and believes that her parents died when she was still young. If that is the case, in the days when social care did not exist, it is possible, that she was taken in by other nearby families to be looked after, and maybe by the Lacy family, which could explain why we have the sampler she made when she was just nine years old. By the time she was 15, according to the 1841 National Census (which anyone can view online), a Hannah Raw was living in the Whitby area in the household of James and Catharine Adamson, a couple in their 40s, alongside Ann Backer and Sarah Backer, who were 25 and 20 respectively, as well as a boy called Isaac Cacomb, aged 15. We think it is the right Hannah, but what was she doing there?

The fascinating thing about the census is that it lists the occupations alongside the names. James Adamson was a farmer and, as there is nothing listed against Catharine’s name, I am assuming she is his wife (rather than than a brother or sister). Next to the two Backer women is listed ‘Ind’, which I have discovered is the abbreviation for ‘independent’, in other words, living by their own means. This meant they did not have a profession and was applied to men, single women and widows. Young Isaac was listed as a farm labourer, presumably employed by Mr Adamson, and our Hannah had ‘F.S.’ written beside her name, which means ‘Female Servant’, and so it appears that she was employed by the Adamsons as a live-in servant.

Marion has kindly offended to try to find out more, but if you do know anything more about Hannah, please get in touch with me via this paper or on my contact page at www.countrymansdaughter.com.

I mentioned our connection to Marion to my mum, who remembered a little about Mary Atkinson, particularly the fact that people called her Polly. She didn’t get to meet her, though, as Mary died on 21st August, 1935, almost two years before my mum was born. Mum said she recalled seeing a picture of Mary, but wasn’t sure where it was. Of course, that set me off digging into the family archives, pulling out all the old photo albums hidden in various cupboards upstairs. After a good old rummage, I found said picture, and it gave me such a thrill to be able to put a face to the 200-year-old name that has hung on our wall for so many years.

I wonder if the day will come when I can do the same for Hannah?

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 30th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 28th December 2022

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