Another quest I wonder?

The sampler made by Mary ‘Polly’ Atkinson, my mum’s mum’s mother.
Polly and her daughter Mary, my mum’s mum. It was a great source of sorrow that Polly was buried without a headstone to mark her resting place.

I’ve been bowled over by the way my recent columns about the search for descendants of Hannah Raw have resulted in a mini-band of internet sleuths forming to help me in my quest. All I had at the beginning was a sampler on a wall with her name, age (nine) and the date she made it (1835).

It was found rolled up with another sampler belonging to my great great aunt on my mother’s side, Jane Lacy, who was aged 10 at the time she created her sampler in 1837. It now hangs on our kitchen wall alongside Jane’s and another by my mum’s grandmother, Mary ‘Polly’ Lacy (nee Atkinson). As far as we know, we are not related to the Raw family, so I wondered how it came to be in our possession.

As those of you who follow this column know, since then we have managed to flesh out much of Hannah’s story, thanks to you lovely lot getting in touch. We know that she married, had two daughters, and went on to become a grandmother to eight children. She died in 1880 at the age of 64, and is buried in Glaisdale with her husband John Hall, who died 23 years later aged 87.

Well, dear readers, the story doesn’t end there. Carol McLee has been in touch, and she is the Chairman of the Cleveland, North Yorkshire and South Durham Family History Society. She revealed that her team have transcribed the headstones of hundreds of graves, including those at the Church of St Thomas in Glaisdale where Hannah is buried. All these, along with historical parish records of births, deaths and marriages are available from the society’s website.

Carol added another layer to Hannah’s ever-expanding story. Hannah’s daughter Ellis, if you recall, married a joiner named William Hodgson in 1878. The couple’s first child was a daughter, named Hannah Margaret (after ‘our’ Hannah) but, as was not unusual at the time, she only lived a very short life, dying at the age of six in February 1885. As we know, though, the couple went on to have seven more children, and I am hopeful as a result, there are living descendants out there.

We also know that ‘our’ Hannah’s other daughter, Sarah Hall, never married, but lived with her parents in a three-bedroomed house at Lealholm Bridge. She was a dressmaker and took care of her father John until his death in 1903. Thanks to Carol, we now know that Sarah died in October 1926 at the age of 77. Unfortunately, Carol was unable to find a record for the burial of Hannah’s other daughter Ellis Hodgson (occasionally spelled Ellice). Did they move away I wonder?

She did, however, reveal that Hannah’s parents-in-law were Matthew and Sarah Hall, and that Matthew owned a joinery business that was passed on to Hannah’s husband John and his younger brother Thomas Hall after Matthew’s death in 1851. My cousin, who lives in Egton, knows a few Raw’s and Hall’s, so is going to have a chat with them to see if he can dig up anything of use. I feel it in my bones that we are not far away from tracking down the elusive living descendants of Hannah Raw!

I was discussing all this with my mum, and she revealed that her maternal grandparents are buried in separate plots in the graveyard of St James’ Church, Lealholm, but at the time of their deaths, the family did not have enough money to buy headstones. It was a source of great sorrow to my nana that her parents’ graves were unmarked, and my mum does not know where in the graveyard they are. Unfortunately, her two elder brothers may have known, but they are no longer with us and without a headstone, they may be difficult to pinpoint. As you may have already worked out, one of these is the grave of the above-mentioned Mary ‘Polly’ Atkinson, who embroidered one of the three samplers on our kitchen wall, next to Hannah Raw’s.

I wonder if you are thinking what I am thinking – that this might be start of another quest? I am going to find out where the resting places of my great grandparents are, and I will go lay some flowers there on behalf of my nana and my mum. And one day, perhaps, we can give them the headstones that they deserve.

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This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 17th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 15th March 2023