Leek woman's search to reunite family with heirloom concludes after 34 years
29th Jan 2023 | Local News
By Kate Pounds SWNS
A Victorian ring was returned to the original owner's family after decades - following a chance encounter on Facebook.
Gemma Albrow, 41, found the silver ring 34 years ago - which she decided to keep it safe as it had a mysterious name on.
And, while scrolling social media at New Year, she noticed someone with the same surname - and decided to message.
Amazingly it was a family match - and the heirloom has now been returned.
Leek-raised mum-of-two Gemma, now of Seaford, East Sussex, said: "I'm overjoyed! I never in a million years thought I'd find them.
"It was such a shock when I saw the name on a Facebook post I was just scrolling through.
"It's incredible for me that it's going home and they will cherish it as I did."
Gemma found the ring in 1989 while searching through two tubs of scrap silver and gold at her parents' jewellery shop.
It is inscribed with the name Vincent Walter Hand, and their birth and death dates.
The dates show that Vincent sadly died just months after Walter - and aged only two.
Gemma said: "Eight-year-old me just thought it was too sad to let it be melted down - it meant something to somebody.
"It really struck me that it would have been such a heartbreak for a woman to lose a child so young.
"It's a Victorian memorial ring.
"On the outside it says, 'In memory of' - and there's a dark spot where my mum thinks there was a sapphire.
"I just felt like I was it's guardian. I always knew I'd love for it to go back.
"I always hoped to know who it belonged to.
"And I thought it was so sad that whoever she was had lost these too people so close together and one of them so young."
Gemma then forgot about the ring for decades.
But, after finding it again, she did some digging on ancestry.com in October 2022.
And she found the ring belonged to a lady called Hannah Hand.
Gemma was then scrolling through Facebook when she saw the name Hand in a Leek Facebook group.
It was by chance that she found the surname, and wouldn't have had she not previously joined the Leek Facebook group of her hometown.
She contacted the post's author, Darren Gerrard, and discovered he's married to Susan Gerrard - the great-great-granddaughter of Hannah Hand.
All parties made contact and the ring was then returned.
Gemma said: "I'm so happy I've reunited them.
"I 100% believe that these things really do happen for a reason."
Darren and Susan were posting on a local history page after finding some old family pictures.
Hannah Hand had the maiden name Charlesworth and she was from Longnor, near Leek.
She then married Walter and Clement, their youngest child, is Susan's great-grandfather.
Little Vincent was Hannah and Walter's child too and he died of TB shortly after the same illness claimed his father, Walter.
Hannah also died of TB a year later.
Susan said: "It was such a wonderful surprise when Gemma contacted us asking if the family Darren posted about was the same as those named on the ring.
"She sent it to me in a pretty little presentation box and bag with a lovely message. I didn't even know the ring existed.
"What a star Gemma is.
"She was worried that the ring would have no sentimental value to the person she returned it to but I have reassured her that as long as it is my possession it will never be sold.
"In due time I hope to pass it on to my daughter and later it will go to my granddaughter.
"I started on my family history quest about 20 years ago and it's been so much fun.
"At the time of his death Walter was a publican in Longnor.
"It's so sad that they died so close together and Vincent so young.
"Their three remaining children, including Clement, were raised by their uncle Harold Hand and grandmother on the family farm.
"I have no idea what happened to the ring before Gemma rescued it."
By Kate Pounds SWNS