It’s been years since I did any serious research on the Ratcliffe family of Cheshire and Lancashire, England. Recently, due to some new DNA matches, I started to look at my old information on the family. I saw my notes saying that “according to family, Samuel Ratcliffe supposedly drowned in the River Mersey”. That fact remains true, however, the details passed down left out some details.
Up until now, all that I had as far as documentation was his burial record in Little Leigh, Cheshire, England.
I was told that Samuel was a “waterman” and that the assumption was that he drowned while working on the river. Today I decided to search the newspaper archive on FindMyPast and see if I could find anything on his death. The absolute last article in the search results was exactly what I was hoping to find.
As you can see in this article, while he was an employee of the Bridgewater Navigation Company, Samuel’s death was the result of a bad decision made after a night of drinking. Not exactly as noble as falling off a boat while working as a waterman.
I had been in a discussion on Twitter the other day with other genealogists about “Family Lore” and stories handed down vs facts. This discovery is a prime example of how much they can differ. Family lore is always great to “clues”, but it’s always smart to try to back it up with facts.