The Middlesex Quarry, Portland, albumen print – Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery
Members of my Ratcliffe family from Cheshire, England traveled to the US in the 1880s and worked at the Portland Quarries. In the 1880 Census for Portland, Thomas Ratcliffe, my Great Great Grandfather, and his brother in law, John Lewis, were boarding in a home in Portland and working at the quarries. Shortly after that, Thomas’ wife, Jane, and his children joined him in Connecticut. The family ended up settling in Middletown, Connecticut, in about 1889, however, the Portland Quarries are a big part of my family’s history.
Connecticut History.org has a great post today about the history of the Portland Quarries and the places the infamous Connecticut Brownstone was used.
You can read the story here: Portland Puts Its Stamp on an Architectural Era
You can find more info on my Ratcliffe family here: The Ratcliffe Family of Cheshire, England. It’s not totally up to date. Contact me if you are interested in a PDF copy of my family history for the Ratcliffes.
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.