Who Do You Think You Are?
What happened to my wife’s great grandfather, John Hannay, after he was declared bankrupt?
QMy wife’s great grandfather, John Hannay, was born in Dudley c1851. He appears to have had a successful career as a doctor and surgeon, and in 1879 married Elizabeth McEwen in Dudley. In 1880, he was a doctor at Weobley.
In 1885, John was living in Lea Cross, Shropshire, in a large country house. That year, a notice appeared in the London Gazette stating his partnership with a Mr Lawson, as Apothecaries and Surgeons, had been dissolved in 1884. Another in 1887 refers to John Hannay as being bankrupt. From 1887 to 1890, he is listed as “travelling” in the medical directory. His name was removed from the Medical Register in 1889.
In the 1891 census, his wife Elizabeth (a widow) and daughter Lilian are living with his wife’s parents in Wolverhampton. But what had happened to John? Peter Jones
AIn the 1881 census, John Hannay is a newly qualified and newly married man aged 30. However, his marriage details show a significant age difference. I found these on freereg.org.uk, worth checking first rather than paying the General Register Office (GRO). These reveal he married at St
Luke’s, Dudley, on 29 April 1879, aged 23, was a physician and son of Hugh Hannay, pawnbroker. His bride was Elizabeth McEwen, age 25, spinster, father James McEwen, an iron master.
It seems John may have been born in about 1856 rather than 1851, making previous death searches redundant. Also, we have his father’s name, which allows us to confirm this via censuses. The 1861 census identifies him aged five, and in 1871 he is a boarder in Hurstpierpoint School in Sussex as John Cocker Hannay, aged 15 years.
His wife Elizabeth doesn’t appear with their daughter Lilian at her father’s in the 1891 census, but as a (married) nurse in Southport, Lancashire, without John who presumably is still alive. In fact, she does not appear as a widow in her father’s household until the 1901 census.
So John Hannay probably died between 1891 and 1901, but where? Searches of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland registration did not locate a suitable candidate and so I made searches further afield. His entry in the Medical Register said he was “travelling”. The key to finding him was the entry I found for his erstwhile colleague, “Mr Lawson”, who turned out to be William Lawson. In William Lawson’s entry lies the clue to how their paths crossed, as they were both on the medical panel of the
Forester’s Club and both had qualified in Scotland, albeit at different universities.
In the entries was listed the Nowgong Tea Planter’s Association in India. Is this where the bankrupt and separated young doctor had headed? Lawson had spent some time there. He clearly had contacts who might help a young man whose life was in disarray. Hannay may have turned to Lawson for help, despite their past problems.
I searched the India Office family search facility of the British Library, but found no entries. However, ancestry. co.uk has indexed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ compilation of similar records for India and there I discovered the answer. In the ‘India, Select Marriages, 1792–1948’ dataset, I found a marriage on 15 July 1891 in Cawnpore, Bengal, India, between John Hannay, 35, son of Hugh Hannay, and Elizabeth Alice Ethel Noor.
In ‘India, Select Deaths and Burials, 1719–1948’ was a record of a death on 3 July 1893, with a burial the day after in Cawnpore, Bengal, India, of John Hannay, male, 38. Cawnpore, now Kanpur, is 125 miles from Nowgong.
Did he desert or divorce his wife in England? Certificates for these events should confirm whether this is the correct John Hannay and perhaps answer that question.