On the unreliability of printed sources – Hannah Pouncey, Deaf and Blind (ca 1832-1913)
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 31 March 2017
A while ago I came across a photograph in Ephphatha, the magazine for the missioners to the deaf, edited by W.W. Adamson, A. Macdonald Cuttell and Fred Gilby. The photograph illustrated here, is of one ‘Hannah Pountney’. I searched for Hannah high and low, thinking maybe someone had incorrectly transcribed her name in the online family history and census records. Hannah was proving impossible to track down – until I had the assistance of our top historian friend, @DeafHeritageUK, Norma McGilp. Unfortunately an error occurred when someone wrote the item that included Hannah’s name, and the fact that she was to get a pension of £10 from the British Deaf and Dumb Association. Her real name was Hannah Pouncey (ca. 1832-1913). I suppose that someone not at the B.D.D.A. meeting when the pension was approved, misread the handwriting of someone who had attended. The B.D.D.A. minutes say she was, “a deaf and dumb woman, and almost blind, aged 62, named Hannah Pouncey, and residing at Bedale for whom £8.8.0 had already been collected by her relations.”*
Hannah was born in Ripon, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and died in Crakehall, Bedale which is not too far north of there. Her parents were George (b. ca. 1802) and Mary (b. ca. 1802), both born in Ripon. George was a tailor and one of his sons, Thomas (b. ca 1835 in Leeds), was apprenticed to him. In 1851 they were living in ‘Middle Street’ which seems to have disappeared or changed name, but must be adjacent to Queen Street. By the 1871 census they had moved to ‘Fairfield Villa’ and George was described as a woollen draper. Does that mean he was going up in the world? On that census there is no mention of deafness next to Hannah’s name. That information relied on both assiduous enumerators and the co-operation of the head of the household, or whoever took their place if they were out. Hannah was, according to the 1901 census, ‘deaf and dumb from childhood.’ The 1881 census did not note any deafness – but some people would think it a stigma, so reporting of deafness in census returns is not consistent.
As far as I am aware Hannah lived an anonymous and ordinary life, dying in 1913.
As with others previously covered in this blog, I think it is important to commemorate the lives of ordinary people, as well as the clever, successful and influential. They are all part of the same picture.
*for which we are indebted again to Norma McGilp.
1851 Census – Class: HO107; Piece: 2281; Folio: 207; Page: 17; GSU roll: 87466-87467
1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 3196; Folio: 50; Page: 14; GSU roll: 543094
1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 4276; Page: 12; GSU roll: 846969
1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 4318; Folio: 24; Page: 3; GSU roll: 1342030
1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 4598; Folio: 33; Page: 7
1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 29386