The Quest for Hannah Hare


June 30, 2015 by auntkatefirmin

One bit of information from the 1871 census didn’t quite fit at first. At the time, Emily (Hall) Firmin was widowed and living in Islington at 5 Hartham Road with seven of her nine living children (John was in America and Emily was working as a governess). In the household – at least as transcribed in the index at ancestry – was “Hannah Hare” a deaf aunt, never married, born in Northampton[shire] and age 50. Hannah could not be found in any other records. A closer look revealed two things:  Hannah was 80 and her name was Hall.

Hannah Hare or Hannah Hall?

Hannah Hare or Hannah Hall?

It really should have been obvious to me that an unmarried aunt would have the surname Hall, Firmin, Kenning or Blackford and that Hall is the only name that could be read as Hare. At the time, not knowing that Emily’s mother’s maiden name was Blackford, I was trying to find her as Harriet Hare with a sister Hannah – to no avail.

The Halls of Northamptonshire

The Halls of Northamptonshire

Even with the correct name, Hannah has been very elusive. There are only two points in her life where I’m quite certain I’ve found a record for her. The 1871 census is the simplest, she is exactly who is stated: the unmarried (paternal) aunt of Emily (Hall) Firmin. With the correct age, 80, she fits perfectly in the the Hall family of Barby as established when looking for the connection between Emily (Hall) Firmin and her cousin William Boyes.

Hannah, the daughter of John and Ann Hall was baptized at St Mary’s in Barby on 16 Jan 1792. Hannah is the third (known) child and one of two daughters. If my suppositions are correct, Hannah’s older sister, Elizabeth, married John Boyes in 1811 and moved to nearby Braunston. Her brother John married Harriet Blackford, probably somewhere in or near London, and the fourth child, William, could be the William Hall who was buried in nearby Kilsby in 1794.

Modern view of St Mary's church in Barby. Courtesy of Dave Kelly via geograph

Modern view of St Mary’s church in Barby. Courtesy of Dave Kelly via geograph, creative commons license.

Hannah was not living with her brother Thomas, her sister Elizabeth, her brother-in-law John Boyes or her nephew William Boyes in 1841, 1851 or 1861. She’s not indexed in any census other than 1871. I think she probably was living with Emily from at least 1871 until her death, which makes the most logical death record Hannah Hall, age 82, in the first quarter of 1874 in Islington. Only the death certificate would confirm that guess.

Regardless of the exact date of her death, by 1871 Hannah had survived her siblings. I can’t prove it yet but I believe her sister Elizabeth died before the 1841 census, probably in 1840. Her brother Thomas was living with his daughter Harriet from at least 1861 until his death in 1866.

Until a bit more is discovered about any other Hall cousins of Hannah’s generation, it is difficult to speculate about whether she lived with family or spent the years after her childhood working for wages in some other location. The economy around 1810 in Barby, when she would have been a young woman, was at a very low point as industrialization and enclosure had brought very hard times to that region so it wouldn’t be surprising to find that she had to seek a way to make a living elsewhere if she was employable. If she did have to leave Barby, one question would be how did she make the connection to an employer and what skills or family obligations allowed her to access the resources/jobs she needed? A big question is was she always deaf or was her deafness age or work-related? Where did she live for those missing years?

Clearly Hannah was a survivor. She lived to be over 80 at a time when those surviving infancy more commonly lived to 50 or 60. Her appearance in the 1871 census is a little bit of evidence of the closeness of the Hall family and the importance of family connections in the Victorian era.

One thought on “The Quest for Hannah Hare

  1. Alfred J. Firmin says:

    Very nice. Thnx, Al Firmin

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