A Mother – Sarah Rae 1870-1951

Sarah Rae was the 8th child of my great great grandparents, Thomas Rae and Ann Symington. She was born on 18 September 1870 in Sorn, Ayrshire. My great grandfather Robert Armstrong Rae was her nephew but they were raised as brother and sister.  Robert was born in 1879 and was left in the care of his grandparents after his father refused to acknowledge his existence and his mother was unable to take care of him.

Robert’s mother was Sarah’s sister, Grace Halliday Rae and you can read more about her here.

I know little about Sarah’s early life. The family remained in Ayrshire until at least 1877 when the youngest of the Rae siblings was born. The 1881 census shows Sarah in Dalserf, Lanarkshire. By 1891 Sarah had left home and was living in Stirlingshire taking care of her uncle, Robert Symington who had lost his wife earlier that year.

It may be the death of her father in 1892 that caused Sarah to return to Lanarkshire and it is there that she met her husband, Archibald Smith. The couple married in  Sarah’s home at 10 Old Row, Craigneuk on 21 December 1897.

There is no record of any children and that would really have been the story as far as records are concerned but I discovered a bit more about Sarah and Archibald.

In February 1898 my great grandmother Margaret McGarrity gave birth to an illegitimate child.  The father was my great grandfather Robert. Whether due to the shame of the illegitimacy, financial reasons or perhaps a combination of both, the couple felt unable to take care of the child.  Baby Thomas was placed in the care of the newly weds, Sarah and Archibald.  They took care of him and it was Sarah and Archibald who were with him when he died aged just six months of gastroenteritis.  In fact, it was Archibald who registered the death and provided his and Sarah’s names as being the child’s parents.  It was illegal to provide false details when registering a death however it is possible that in his grief Archibald did not consider this and in his heart he and Sarah were the poor child’s parents.

In February 1889 Sarah’s cousin, Christina Ronney gave birth to a daughter, Hebron Rae Ronney.  The child was illegitimate and there is no father listed on her birth certificate. Like Thomas, Hebron was given into the care of Sarah and Archibald and the 1901 census shows her recorded as Hebron R Smith.

Sarah’s sister, Mary also had a child who is recorded as illegitimate.  Annie Symington Rae was born at 10 Old Row on 24 September 1897.  There is no father recorded. On 19 June 1900 she had a second child under the same circumstances.

Mary married a man called John Woodlock in January 1901 and in the census of that year Mary, John and the baby, a little girl called Sarah, were living with John’s family suggesting John could have been the biological father.  Annie however was not part of the new family and she is on the census with her grandmother.

Sarah and Archibald again stepped in to take care of another child and Annie is recorded with them in the 1911 census. It is not known when she went to live with them but her grandmother was elderly and it would have been a struggle for her to look after a young child. Granny died in 1909.

The records don’t record Sarah and her husband as parents but there were three children for whom they were mum and dad. They were seen by other members of the family as a couple who would help out in time of need.

After baby Thomas died my great grandparents went on to marry and had further children.  In tribute to his aunt, their first daughter was named Sarah.  My grandfather was called Archibald Smith Rae.  Hebron also had a son she named Archibald Smith in honour of her adoptive father.

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