Following my pieces about North York Moors orphan Hannah Raw, I have been contacted by Gillian Hunt from Newcastle, who loves to study samplers and also enjoys tracing family histories. Great news for me, and for any of you who are also intrigued by this expanding tale.
If you recall, nine-year-old Hannah’s 19th century sampler is on the wall of my mum’s kitchen alongside two done by my ancestors Mary Atkinson and Jane Lacy. We didn’t know anything about Hannah or 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. We had some clues (featured in my last piece) from my distant relative Marion Atkinson, who believed that Hannah’s parents died when she was quite young.
Gillian suggests that there may be a Scottish influence in the sampler design because the peacock with the fanned tail at the lower left corner and the band of capital letters across the top are very characteristic of that region. Scottish samplers also contain a lot of red and green threads, which Hannah used, although it may be that these were all she had available. She adds that Scottish samplers often featured the initials of other family members which, if sewn in black or dark thread, meant they pre-deceased the sampler’s creator. Hannah’s sampler has two sets of initials after the date; MR, which is in pale blue, and ER, which is in dark grey.
Gillan says: “I picked up Hannah on the 1841 census, but it is of limited use to genealogists as it does not give places of birth, relationships between the members of a household, and the ages may be slightly inaccurate. On the Library edition of Ancestry.com, often more information is pulled through at the right hand side of the page if you click their name on the census list. For Hannah, it pulled up only a record of baptism: ‘Hannah Roe, baptised 23 September 1825 at Glaisdale, daughter of Matthew Roe, a labourer, and his wife, Ellis of Hartoff (Hartoft)’.”
Gillian goes on: “Hannah’s parents’ names fit the initials MR and ER on the sampler. If Hannah worked the sampler early in 1835, she would still be nine years old at the time. The fact that the name has been recorded as Roe rather than Raw is not particularly concerning – names were often misheard and misspelled, even by curates. Ellis as a female name is very unusual. It is common for a mother’s maiden name to be given to a son as a first name but I have never come across it as a daughter’s name. Is it a corruption of Alice or Elise/Elisa?”
Gillian discovered that there was a marriage recorded at Danby on 29 August 1820 of Matthew Raw to Ellis Winspear, which must be Hannah’s parents due to the unusual name of the bride. Both signed the register with their mark, which meant they could not write. She also found a record of Ellis Raw being buried at Danby on 15 February 1835. There will not be a death certificate for her as civil registration did not begin until 1837 and given that her children were born at approximately two-yearly intervals, Gillian thinks it is possible that Ellis died as a result of pregnancy or child birth. As the initials ER are in dark thread, it means Hannah completed the sampler after her mother died and sometime before 23 September 1835, as she would have turned 10 years old by that date.
“There is a burial for Matthew Raw in the Pickering registration district (which covered Hartoft) registered between April and June 1838. This fits with your information that Hannah’s parents died when she was young. I can’t find any other information about him, except for the baptisms of his children,” says Gillian.
In conclusion, Gillian writes: “Hannah was born in 1825, the third of seven children of Matthew, a farmer, and Ellis Raw of Hartoft. Her sampler was completed in 1835, prior to 23 September 1835. Both parents had died by the time Hannah was 13. This probably meant that Hannah had little choice but to go into service, living with the Adamson family in 1841. There is no trace of Hannah after 1841 although it is possible she died unmarried in the Whitby registration district between April and June 1891 aged 76.”
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This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 20th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 18th January 2023