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My Great Great Grandmother

Hannah Hall (1820 - 1901)


Old family photograph

The lady sitting on the right of this image is my great great grandmother, Hannah Hall born in 1820, this image reminds us that Hannah was a real woman living in the rich complexity of self, family and community.

Hannah was the eldest daughter of a County Durham coalmining family and was born in Great Lumley, near Chester-le-Street to John William and Ann Hall (nee Winter).

She was illiterate all her life which was usual for her gender, status and generation. There was therefore no written documentation left by her on which to build her story, and very little written evidence about her.

However, I have discovered her story by bringing together information from sources such as parish registers, census enumerators records, memorial inscriptions, family photographs, oral history memories, newspaper articles and even the unwitting testimony of masculine records has helped me to bring Hannah’s story to life.

She was an ordinary working-class 19th century woman, shaped by the industrial landscape in which she lived, based around coal mining and hard work.

She engaged in at least two pre-marital sexual relationships and had an illegitimate child. Her second marriage appears to have been unsuccessful and she lived apart from her husband. By any reckoning, these facts are symptomatic of a ‘rough’ lifestyle.

Yet, she was also a stalwart of the local Methodist Church, a loving wife and mother, a fiercely independent and resourceful woman who worked tirelessly all of her life to provide for her family, including opening a shop in a small village.

She also worked hard to improve the educational and social resources of her community. These qualities and actions gave her ‘respectability’, and transformed her from a ‘rough’ to ‘respectable’ lifestyle.

By using family history methods to reconstruct Hannah’s life, I have been able to see the astonishing complexity and richness in the lives of my ancestors through paying greater attention to personal detail.

Carrying out research is often a slow process, and who knows? There may be more of Hannah’s life yet to uncover.