Canada, 4 Jan. 2017: Photos of the mourning ring for Mary Hardy’s uncle dated 1789

A Canadian descendant of Mary Hardy’s aunt and uncle, Grace and Thomas Raven, has sent photographs of the mourning ring made for them in 1789. They lived in Horningtoft, the neighbouring village to Whissonsett, in central Norfolk, where the diarist was brought up.

Thomas Raven's commemorative ring of 1789

The back of the mourning ring to Thomas Raven, who died in 1789 aged 82 [photo Jeff Winslow 2017]

They died in 1775 and 1789 at Horningtoft Hall, the manor house (now called Church Farm) where Thomas Raven was a farmer and butcher; he was also churchwarden of the parish church.

Readers of The Diary of Mary Hardy write fairly regularly to the Diary editor Margaret Bird with feedback, giving valuable additional information or telling her what they have gained from the work.

Now a descendant has gone one better: Jeff Winslow of Peterborough, Ontario, has a piece of commemorative jewellery made for his Raven forebears and taken across the Atlantic when his branch of the family emigrated.

Jeff has sent photographs of the ring inscribed with the name of Grace Raven (born Neale, and mother of eleven sons), who died in October 1775 aged 71; her details are on the side of the circlet.

On the back of the enamelled ring the inscription reads:

“Thos Raven, Died Feb. 24 1789. Aged 82”.

Thomas-Raven-ring-Grace-1775

The side of the ring showing part of the inscription to Grace Raven, who died in 1775 aged 71 [photo Jeff Winslow 2017]

Tracing the family tree

Jeff Winslow is descended from Thomas and Grace’s son Nathaniel Raven. Like his father and some of his brothers Nathaniel was a farmer in Norfolk. He married Sarah Money of Raynham in 1774.

Jeff wrote to Margaret Bird on 4 January 2017:

“One of Nathaniel and Sarah’s children was Mary Raven, who married John Rolfe Mann. They had a daughter Mary Money Mann. She married a doctor, Edward Harrison Linnecar. They had a daughter Mary Linnecar. Mary Linnecar married William Cartwright Allen (who was from Canada), and Mary Linnecar and her mother came to Canada with William Cartwright Allen. He was my third or fourth great-grandfather . . . and eventually the ring came to me.”

Warmest thanks to Jeff for sharing these and other photos of Raven memorabilia and allowing his images to be presented here.

Another Raven descendant in Peterborough, Ontario

A direct descendant of Mary Hardy, and thus of Thomas Raven’s younger brother Robert, also lives in Peterborough. Isabel Henniger, née Pilkington, knows Mary Hardy’s home village of Letheringsett, in north Norfolk, where she wrote her diary from 1781 until her death in 1809. Isabel is the great-granddaughter of the first Lord Cozens-Hardy, Mary Hardy’s great-grandson, and visits her Norfolk cousins whenever she is in England.

Very many of Mary Hardy’s Raven and Goggs relatives emigrated during the 19th century to Canada, the United States and Australia. Their descendants, and those related to characters prominent in the Diary such as innkeepers and farm labourers, have contacted Margaret Bird to say how much the volumes have added to their knowledge of their forebears’ lives.

Postscript: contemporary vagueness over dates and ages

Everyone working on their family tree using parish registers and headstones will know how baffling it can be when dates and ages do not match. Researchers and historians have sometimes to take a deep breath and say we just do not know how old someone was at death, especially if the christening date came some time after the actual (and often undocumented) birth date.

Even Mary Hardy, a stickler for the record, can get it wrong. She wrote firmly in her diary for 24 February 1789: “Uncle Raven of Horningtoft died this night aged 85.”

However when writing a list of “Remarkable events” for 1789 at the back of her diary she made this entry: “Feb. 25: Mr Raven of Horningtoft died aged 86” — a different day, a different age.

The Whissonsett parish register records his burial there on 1 March 1789, joining his wife and lying close to the young sons who had predeceased them. It also gives us a third possibility for his age: he was 83.

Thomas had been baptised at Whissonsett on 6 August 1705,  which means that at his death he can have been no younger than 83.

The ring gives us a clear answer, the one perhaps most likely to be correct. He was 82.

If so, that indicates the baptismal entry to be incorrect.

Yet the ring is not accurate over dates. It shows Grace Raven to have died on 19 October 1775. In fact she died on 9 October, her obituary being published in the Norwich Mercury of 14 October—the day of her burial. She had borne twenty years of illness “with a becoming fortitude”.

Her husband’s fine obituary appeared in the same newspaper on 28 February 1789: “His general character was truth and honour.”