For as long as I can remember I heard of West Hartlepool and St. Aidan’s Church from my grandfather, George Henry Hughes, but nothing specifically. When I began researching the West Hartlepool roots, I was somewhat limited to the few documents that were part of my grandparent’s estate. Living U.S. relations could not remember any Hartlepool stories or knew of any relatives other than those few who also immigrated to the United States.
For years I put my Hartlepool lines on the back burner and then in the summer of 2002, out of the ether, came a wonderful new friend, Heather. Not only did she live in a town near Hartlepool, but she was also willing, out of the goodness of her heart, to research my roots. After several months of Heather’s research, my lines began to come together. One day she sent me a posting on a UK surname site and lo and behold it linked me up with a genuine Hartlepool Hughes relative. Later in the summer one of my listings brought another Hughes researcher to my attention and she has also spent hours scrolling through microfilm looking for family connections.
A favorite family story involves my Grandfather Hughes (affectionately known as Pop Pop) and his last trip to Hartlepool in the 1960’s. His comment when he returned was, “Well, I went to Hartlepool and didn’t find any of my family.” To which my Dad replied, “What did you expect when you haven’t been there in over 50 years!”
It has taken almost forty more years, but the family has been found and no wonder Pop Pop was so disappointed—it is a very large family.
Before West Hartlepool was developed about 1850, there was Hartlepool, a peninsula shaped land jutting out into the North Sea and a small village of Stranton south west of Hartlepool and lots of open space. The development and spread of the town of West Hartlepool filled in the open space. Today, all the towns have been incorporated into one called Hartlepool—there is no more West Hartlepool. The peninsula area is referred to as Old Hartlepool or The Headland.
ON THE HEADLAND (or Old Hartlepool), the lines that have been traced to date go back into the 1700’s. They are old fishing families whose sole livelihood depended on the North Sea. Their surnames, POUNDER, ROBINSON and ROWNTREE, become somewhat difficult to follow as there were numerous families and many with the same first names. To date Heather has been able to trace backwards into the late 1700’s through St. Hilda’s Church records. Also on The Headland, my great great great grandparents, John and Ann Robinson STOREY who lived on Burdons Passage from the mid to late 1800’s.
IN WEST HARTLEPOOL, the other surnames begin to be a part of the record after 1860.
My sincerest appreciation is extended to my UK family and friends who have helped with the local research in Hartlepool, at libraries in surrounding towns and with personal remembrances and photographs. Thank you to Heather, Betty, Roy and Judith.
AND to my US family for all the memorabilia and remembrances.
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