Fearless Females

Posted as part of Lisa Alzo’s  ‘31 Blogging Prompts to Mark Women’s History Month.’

11th March. Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?

The Richardson side of my family has three generations of mothers who died at a young age.

My 3x Great Grandmother, Hannah Richardson died in 1857, in Staithes, North Yorkshire, at the age of 33, leaving behind four illegitimate children, three of whom ended up in Guisborough Workhouse for a time.

It must have been a frightening, unsettling time for the children, although they did have contact with their maternal grandfather, John Richardson. Whilst the two boys are in the workhouse in the 1861 census, Hannah’s daughter was living with her grandfather.

Hannah’s youngest son, Robert Richardson, married Sarah Percival in 1878.  Sarah was the widow of Frederick Farnsworth, a warehouseman from Manchester.  Frederick had died of typhoid and meningitis after only three months of marriage to Sarah.  Robert & Sarah settled in Nottingham, where they had five sons.  Sarah died in 1897, aged forty.

Both Hannah and Sarah died from consumption, or T.B.  This disease was one of the largest killers of its day; spread by coughing and sneezing it was rife amongst poorer communities where large families lived in small houses in very close proximity to their neighbours.

Robert remarried quite quickly following Sarah’s death.  This wasn’t unusual; Robert had five children to look after, was running his own joinery business and had no other family in the city to lend support.

Robert and Sarah’s son, Ernest Richardson, married Alice Oldknow Oldham in 1909, in Nottingham.  Alice was one of twins, but her sister May had died at just six days of age.  I have been told that Alice & Ernest lost several babies, either soon after birth or during miscarriages, but they were fortunate with my grandfather, Fred Richardson, who arrived in 1915.  Sadly, Alice died at the age of forty, when Fred was just twelve.


Ernest remarried within two years, to Madeline Wheatley, who I remember quite well.  Unfortunately she was a woman who could be described as thrifty at best and avaricious at worst and my grandfather’s life was made difficult because of this.

It is difficult to know whether the early deaths of three generations of mothers had a long-term effect on future generations, but it certainly had a devastating one on their immediate families.

Alice O Oldham & her son Fred Richardson

© Caroline Cox and Caroline’s Chronicles. 2011 – current year

8 thoughts on “Fearless Females

  1. This is an interesting post Caroline, in that my Welsh great grandparents who came to Chesterfield for work in the late 1800's lived in pretty squalid conditions with a horde of children. I'm trying to research this section of the family so I know more of my great grandmother who, I'm led to believe stood almost 6 feet tall and was a feisty lass 🙂


  2. At times, I don’t think we appreciate how difficult life was for our ancestors. So much strife and loss. I can’t imagine what life was like for children in the workhouse.

    Liked by 1 person

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