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Fanny and the Gold Snuff Box

Thomas Hardy 1773 - 1855
Thomas Hardy 1773 – 1855

theserpentResearch in 2010 revealed that both this chapter, previously In Search of Fanny and, indeed, another entitled The Gold Stuff Box, relate to a totally unconnected Hardy family tree. It is a really good example of relying on a snippet of information, passed down from a family member and going off on a wild goose chase. Sometimes following a line of investigation may rely on making a qualified assumption, but all family historians can make mistakes as in the case of the search for Fanny.

My Grandfather, Wilfrid Hardy, had always spoken of a character called Fanny, just the name, when recalling his true Hardy line, but it was many years before I thought I had discovered who Fanny really was. With an endless supply of ancestors to trace, sometimes individuals get moved onto the ‘backburner’ only to come back into focus later. Discoveries are often made, simply by taking a fresh look. This chapter is as much a lesson about making mistakes as it is about how to search for a person like Fanny. Needless to say, the Fanny I have found is not the Fanny I am looking for; she remains, waiting to be found. The incorporated stories of this Fanny Hardy and her father-in-law Thomas Hardy both need to stand because they are many other peoples’ ancestors.

Early on, I suspected that I had found Grandpa’s Fanny in the 1851 census for 14 Sunderland Street, Bishopwearmouth Sunderland in the Parish of St Thomas. The head of the household was Thomas Hardy, a 78 year old retired draper born in Durham City in 1773. The enumerator, a travelling clerk taking details for the census, had called on the night of Sunday 30th March 1851 and Fanny was listed as Thomas’s daughter in law, aged 47 and a teacher born in Bishopwearmouth Sunderland. Fanny’s husband was not shown but her children were, a 17 year old shipwright apprentice William Edward Hardy, a 16 year old shipbrokers clerk Thomas Hardy, and an 11 year old scholar Alfred Hardy, as well as a 16 year old maid servant called Ann Oliver. Also shown as visitors at the address were Henry Busby Hinde, a 39 year old shipbrokers clerk, and Eliza Hinde, a spinster aged 53, both born in nearby Monkwearmouth.

Census records, which are carried out every ten years and available since 1841, always hold such valuable information. I suspected that it was the correct household because I believed that this William Edward Hardy was in my Hardy patriline; but who was his mother Fanny?

More years of research passed and I was on the Internet late one night and looking at the great website GENUKI, which contains an invaluable collection of genealogical information pages for England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. The requirement to maintain public records for births, marriages and deaths began in 1837 and when family historians are looking for occurrences before this year local parish records are some of the best sources. The GENUKI portal contains the contributions of many family historians and I found George Bell’s transcription of Bishopwearmouth Marriages 1813 – 1837. I sat for ages scanning its 63 pages looking for a Fanny who had married a Hardy.

And, sure enough, I found one… Fanny Hind, on the occasion of her marriage to William Hutchinson Hardy on 7 July 1830 at The Anglican Church of St Michael’s Bishopwearmouth. If just to prove the case, or so I thought, when thirty years later on 8 March 1860 William Edward Hardy, then a 26yrs old clerk in a Police Office and still living at 14 Sunderland Street, married Sarah Dodds at The Parish Church in Bishopwearmouth, his father was shown as William Hutchinson Hardy, a solicitor. Sadly, William Hutchinson Hardy died on 8 Mar 1840, aged only 35 years, explaining why he had not been included on the census.

Proving links in an evidential way is very important and it was my research in 2010 that finally established that William Edward Hardy was not my ancestor. My assumption had been compounded by a combination of errors. My William Hardy had definitely been a Policeman of Sunderland and when I discovered that William Edward Hardy, a police clerk aged only 27 years, had died on 21 March 1861, a matter of just two weeks before the 1861 census on 7 April, I knew that something was wrong. In the chapter The Hardys of Easingwold I prove the links to my William Hardy who married Hannah Plummer on 26 November 1855 at Thorganby, Yorkshire. He died on 28 January 1900 at 11 Wharncliffe Street, Bishopwearmouth aged 65, an ex policeman.

The fashion of Fanny Hind’s era – 1821

And so to the story of Fanny Hind. She was born on 10 May 1801 and christened on 18 August of the same year at St Michael’s Bishopwearmouth. She was the third of nine children to Edward Hind, an attorney of Cockermouth in Cumberland, and his wife Fanny Busby of Hexham. Her siblings were Eliza born 10 April 1797, Henrietta born 19 April 1799, Caroline born 2 November 1803, and Helen born 4 Oct 1805, Edward Scurfield Hinde born 4 Feb 1809, Henry Busby Hinde born 9 Jan 1811, and lastly Ann Hind born 15 Apr 1814. It seems that a first born son may have died at or soon after birth between 1805 and 1809.

On the birth of Fanny’s elder sister Henrietta at Monkwearmouth in 1799 we discover that their mother, Fanny Busby, was herself the daughter of the late Reverend George Busby and his wife Ann Scurfield, of Hexham Northumberland. In a book entitled ‘A History of Northumberland’ it details George Busby’s appointment as Master of the Grammar School at Hexham on 24th June 1771. It adds that he came from Gateshead and that he was appointed as a ‘perpetual curate of Hexham’.

Perhaps it was a natural consequence of circumstances that Fanny would become a teacher. At the age of 29 years she married William Hutchinson Hardy, three years her junior and a solicitor; they had three sons, William Edward, Thomas and Alfred. It must have been a great family tragedy when William, husband and father, died in March 1840 at the age of only 35. I feel certain that they would have set up house but, as we see from the 1851 census, by then Fanny was in the household of her father-in-law Thomas Hardy, a widow and a gentleman. In many ways, especially in the romantic sense, I have a picture of Fanny as being similar to the famous character Jane Eyre portrayed by the writer Charlotte Bronte in her book published during the same period. They were educated, religious and meek women striving to survive in their times, the only real difference was that Fanny had three sons to support.

Fanny lived through the latter part of one of my favourite times in English history, defined as the Georgian Period (1714 – 1830), or more specifically The Regency Period. As a long time resident of Brighton in Sussex, I always loved The Prince Regent’s opulent palace – The Royal Pavilion, possibly one of England’s most extravagant follies but the simple symmetry of the more common architecture is equally magnificent.

More important to the life and times of Fanny was the Industrial Revolution (1760 and 1840). It was said, by the ruling classes, that industry could not spare a single hour for the needs of the man who served it and education for the masses, even basic literacy, provided no advantage in entering newly emerging skilled industrial occupations. Less than 50% of working class men could even sign their name and for women it was less than a quarter. It was not until 1833 that education received any help from the public funds and whilst the 1851 census reported 2.14 million scholars, parents had to pay for education and their children averaged only four years in the classroom. Teachers taught small groups of privileged children in private schools, often funded by local benefactors, and of course, the aristocracy employed governesses.

It is rare that we can have a true image and a biographical sketch of someone from the early Nineteenth Century and I am extremely indebted to Con Culkin, the author of The Palatine Lodge No.97 website and its contents, for the portrait of Bro Thomas Hardy at the head of this chapter, which was painted by eminent artist Bro. Jefferson on 27 Dec 1820.

I have yet to discover what legacies were left to Fanny and her sons upon the death of her father-in-law Thomas Hardy, in Feb 1855, and whether she continued to reside at the Sunderland Road address. I am sure that as one of nine children herself she would have had family support, indeed we have already seen that her elder sister, the spinster Eliza, and her younger brother Henry Busby Hinde, were both shown at Fanny’s home on the night of the 1851 Census. Fanny Hardy died at Suffolk Street, Sunderland on 29 August 1874 at the age of 73, and she was buried at Bishopwearmouth Cemetery.

The greatest benefit of publishing information on the internet is that you attract descendants or other researchers looking at the same ancestry. Both Clifford Allison and his cousin Camilla Allison have found the information published here. Before I discovered the error over the identities of William Edward Hardy and William Hardy we both believed that we shared a root ancestor in Fanny Busby, the daughter of The Reverend George Busby. Henrietta HINDE, Fanny’s second daughter, married ship builder James Allison on 13 Jul 1819, and her third daughter Fanny Hind married William Hutchinson Hardy on 7 July 1830. Sharing the results of research is crucial in family history, and whilst our families have proved to be as yet unconnected we all recognise the need to get as much help as we can to discover our ancestors.

As for Grandpa Hardy’s Fanny, who knows! Another look at another time may identify her and that’s the thrill of discovery in family history.

Named in this chapter:

Fanny Hind, born 10 May 1801, died 29 August 1874 (73)

Thomas Hardy, born 1773 Durham City, died 1 Feb 1855 (83)

William Hutchinson Hardy, born 1805, died on 8 Mar 1840 (35)

William Edward Hardy, born 1834, died 21 March 1861 (27)

Thomas Hardy born 1835 Bishopwearmouth

Alfred Hardy born 1840 Bishopwearmouth

Ann Oliver born 1835, servant

Edward Hind, an attorney of Cockermouth

Fanny Busby of Hexham

Eliza Hinde born 10 April 1797

Henrietta Hinde born 19 April 1799

Caroline Hinde born 2 November 1803

Helen Hinde born 4 Oct 1805

Edward Scurfield Hinde born 4 Feb 1809

Henry Busby Hinde born 9 Jan 1811

Ann Hind born 15 Apr 1814

James Allison, Ship Builder of Sunderland

Reverend George Busby, curate of Hexham

Ann Scurfield, of Hexham Northumberland