Finding Hannah

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The first thing my father told me, when I asked him about his family back in 1988, was that his mother (Hannah Heath) came from Bolton, was born around 1892, that her parents had died around 1900, and that she was then brought up by his father's 'Auntie Ann' in Penketh. For more than 10 years I searched for her round Bolton, but to no avail. When she married Mark Atherton in 1914, she had said her father was Thomas Heath, plumber. Apart from that, I knew practically nothing about her.

marriage certificate
marriage certificate

I established quite early that my grandfather's 'Auntie Ann' was his father's sister Ann Atherton who had married Peter Heath in 1871 (my father gave my sister Ruth their marriage certificate). My nephew, Charlie Robb, had a copy of the Mormon CD version of the 1881 census for a while, and looked for Thomas Heath, plumber. He found one in Penketh, at 28 Ockleshaws Row, along with his wife Amelia and three young sons. Peter Heath & Ann were at 25.

I began to wonder if Hannah had perhaps been illegitimate and had 'invented' a father when she got married - and latched onto the name of a neighbour. It didn't seem likely, since her husband was a nephew of her aunt so presumably they had grown up together. Who was she trying to impress? At the same time, there had never been any word that our Hannah had any brothers - just two sisters. So this Thomas Heath had to be just a coincidence. I even bought the birth certificate of Hannah Atherton, born in Bolton, the daughter of Thomas Atherton, coal-miner. However my father said Hannah had two sisters - Lizzie and Dorothy - so until I found a family with all three daughters, I wouldn't be convinced - and Bolton had no record of Lizzie and Dorothy Atherton, daughters of the same Thomas Atherton.

I had almost given up hope of ever finding her around November 2001, but decided, as one last flourish, to buy the certificate of a Hannah Heath born in Stockport in 1891, which I had known about for years but dismissed because it was in the 'wrong' place. Guess what? Her parents were the Thomas and Amelia that Charlie had found ages before.

birth certificate of Hannah Heath

Finally, after all these years, I've found the missing quarter of my family tree. I foresee many happy hours/days/weeks of searching ahead of me!

Su Floyd
December 2001