My first serious attempt at family history research came in the mid nineties, round about the time that I was graduating and beginning a career as a teacher. My grandmother inherited “the diamond ring” from her older sister who had recently passed away. 15 years later it is all a bit hazy, but I remember Grandma describing it as a widows ring, and that it had been passed from mother to oldest daughter to reach her. As she was the youngest of three sisters this story unravelled straightaway. However Great Auntie Kathleen didn’t have any daughters so the ring was kept on the female line.
I was determined to find out what I could about the origins to tell my Grandma. The inscription reads “Ann Dawson ob 24 feb 1755 aet 22” Which I understand means that Ann Dawson died on that date aged 22. A little research back then told me that this was a mourning ring rather than widows ring and that more than one may have been made. From what I read it was the custom to leave money and instructions in a will for the rings to be made and distributed. Ann Dawson was in good company, Shakespeare left around 26 shillings for his wife and daughter to have rings made, while Samuel Pepys bequeathed over a hundred. This ring seems to be entirely typical of its time, and the black inlay suggests that Ann Dawson was probably married.
Finding out who Ann Dawson was, proved much harder than I’d realised. I was on a steep learning curve of census returns, parish records and GRO indexes, at a time when transcriptions on the internet were still in their infancy, and I had little money for buying birth, marriage and death certificates or for travelling to archive offices. As you can see on my Tribal Pages I have found a connection to a Dawson family. Let’s work backwards, my Mum was left the ring by her Mum, my Grandma, Bessie Tomlinson, nee Wadsworth.
Grandma received it from her older sister Kathleen. It was passed to Kathleen by her mother Florence Wadsworth, nee Roberts. Now, assuming that I have the right Dawson family, Florence probably received the ring from her mother-in-law, Ann Roberts who had just one son.
Ann probably received the ring from her mother Sarah Roberts, nee Dawson. Sarah’s christening shows her parents were John and Elizabeth Dawson, and going through the baptism book in Doncaster archives I found that she was probably the eldest of 6 children. And that was where my research came to and end. Over the years I’ve looked at other lines and developed a real love of family history, but I’ve become distracted from the purpose of finding out who Ann Dawson who died aged 22 on 24th February 1755 was, and how she is connected to me. Grandma passed away in 2013 and so I’ll never be able to tell her, but hopefully one day I’ll find out enough to tell my niece when she receives the ring.
Many thanks to Vera Hopkinson for taking the pictures for me.