Who Was Mary?

Anyone who has spent any time researching their family history, is bound to have a ‘Mary’ in their ancestry. Mary for obvious reasons seems to be just about the most common name for women through history. Unfortunately, they were not well documented, so distinguishing one from another, with very little to go on, can be extremely difficult.

Of course this can be true for any female ancestor, and certain names, are often common to each family, but it seems that Mary is a standard in causing difficulty in research.

My advice is – never give up (more information comes on line daily) – and use every tiny piece of information you have to try and verify your ancestors.

So this is the story of the ‘Mary’, I am seeking. After thirty years, I now have a good ‘lead’, but am still unable to be 100% sure she is the right one.

The search for her began in Sheffield Archives around 1990. We had managed to work back the THOMPSON line from my great grandmother, Nora Thompson, born 1877 in Walkley, Sheffield, who married Vincent Sanderson 1903. Her father was David Thompson born 1845, and he married Mary Anne Barker, his parents were Ralph Thompson born 1820, who married Elizabeth Priestley.

Ralph’s parents were David Thompson, and Mary, and this is the Mary, I am investigating.

According to the parish records, David and Mary baptised 7 children, and David was a scissor smith.

William born 15 May 1812, and baptised at Sheffield Cathedral (Attercliffe) 14 June 1812. He died in 1813, and was buried 16 March 1813, at Attercliffe Christ Church.

Marianne Thompson was born 5th September 1813, and baptised 7th November at Sheffield Cathedral (Attercliffe).

William Anderson Thompson was born 25th January 1815, and baptised 19th February 1815 at Sheffield Cathedral (Attercliffe). Buried 25th May 1847, at Wadsley Church, from Hill Bridge, Owlerton.

Henry Thompson was born 16th September 1816, and baptised 6th October 1816 at Sheffield Cathedral (Attercliffe).

Maria Thompson, baptised 4th October 1818 at Sheffield Cathedral (Attercliffe).

Ralph Thompson baptised 7th May 1820 Sheffield Cathedral (Attercliffe).

Ann Thompson was born 3rd January 1829 at Hill Bridge Owlerton, and baptised 10th April 1836 at Christ Church Attercliffe.

Further, but relatively easy research, using parish records and Hallamshire Cutlers records, revealed that David Thompson was born in 1788, to a further David Thompson, scissorsmith, and his mother was Elizabeth Hides. In turn he was born to another David Thompson also scissorsmith, and Mary Simmons, in 1763. Who was born in 1717 to Richard Thompson, all at Attercliffe. I have not made further attempts at tracing further back as yet.

Inspite of all this information, there was no record of a marriage of David Thompson (born 1788). It seemed odd that for generations the family had married, settled and raised families in roughly the same area of Sheffield. And that David had been born, raised his family and died in Sheffield in 1856, but there was no record of his marriage to Mary.

According the 1841 census, Mary was aged 55, ages were often rounded up or down to the closest 5 years, so she was born around 1785. It also states that she was born Scotland, Ireland or Foreign parts.

1841 1334/3 5 26a Nether Hallam Hill Bridge

Mary THOMPSON 55
David THOMPSON 50
Mary THOMPSON 25
William THOMPSON 25
Henry THOMPSON 20 Ann THOMPSON 10

And next door –

Ralph THOMPSON 20
Elizabeth THOMPSON 20
William THOMPSON 6w

So, searching for ‘Mary’, born 1785 give or take five years, in Scotland, Ireland or foreign parts, was something of a needle in a haystack.

Mary Thompson, died aged 63 at Hill Bridge, Owlerton, and was buried on May 2, 1848 in Wadsley Church Cemetery, Sheffield. This would mean she was born 1785.

I searched for all suitable marriages for David Thompson in Sheffield, but found nothing, then expanded the search, but again, found nothing suitable.

It seemed that the fact that the death of first son, William in 1813, was followed by the birth of second son William Anderson Thompson, meant that ‘Anderson’ and ‘William’ were important names in the family.

I surmised that perhaps Mary was Mary Anderson, so searched for the marriage of David Thompson to Mary Anderson, unfortunately this again, drew a blank. Trying to search for this marriage worldwide, was not practical. So the search was put on the backburner.

Then in 2019, I tried searching online again, and more records had been put online. And I miraculously appeared to hit the jackpot, when I discovered a marriage for David Thompson and Mary Henderson, on 5th August 1811, at Hamsterley, by Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham, (9 months prior to the birth of first child).

Further searches revealed a Mary Henderson born to William and Ann Henderson on 3rd April 1785 at Hamsterley. Both of these names feature in the family of David and Mary Thompson.

William Henderson married Ann Pigg 16 Nov 1779 at Hamsterley, Bishop Auckland.

Hamsterley church (Wikipedia).

It is unclear why David Thompson was in Hamsterley, but perhaps it was part of his apprenticeship, as that area, had industrial metalworking links.

Henderson, may not be ‘Anderson’, but it is very close, especially if we consider the Northern accent and drop the ‘H’.

To be continued.