Writing my family history stories

Week 08 - Family Photo adj sr

Week 07 – Love

Week 07 – Love

Anne Reid –

  • older sister of my 2xgreat grandfather Alexander Reid1843 - 1855 SCOTT-REID - Thomas, Anne, George Pringle - Earlston Churchyard
  • Born 01 JUN 1818 (Edinburgh Midlothian Scotland)
  • Lived in Tasmania from 1823 to 1835.
  • Married Thomas Scott (35), (Assistant Surveyor-General) – 21 DEC 1835 – at just 17.
  • Returned to Scotland 02 MAR 1836, arriving Scotland on 12 JUL 1836.
  • Had three (probably four) children in the next 10 years.
  • Died 28 APR 1846 at just 28 years old.

++++++++++++++++

The following  is certainly not meant to be a serious piece!

Anne – in the style of Emma (Jane Austen)

Sitting curled up in a chair by the window, I was reading Emma once more (mama’s tutor had given it to her long ago). It was another delightfully sunny day at Richmond Hill. The gentle breeze, off the river, fluttered the curtains. Papa entered the drawing room. My feet slipped to the floor… what he said next shocked me

****

Three weeks have passed since my father told me that I was to marry Mr Scott, and I had been anything but agreeable. Mama, vexed with all the preparations for a wedding at such short notice, had been encumbered by my selfish attitude. I was preoccupied in my own melancholy. I could not conquer my distress.

My thoughts dwelt on my father, my dear papa; who had betrayed me. He had given me no choice, no consultation. I avoided any discourse with him, aloof in his presence. I was aware of my perverse heart but chose to remain selfishly indulgent.

Not even the seduction of an expedition to Longford, to have a gown fashioned, could alter my contrary disposition.1 I refused to partake in any of the preparations, except briefly, when mama looked so doleful that I relinquished my peevishness to assist. I recognised my wretched attitude but remained obstinate.

****

The day of the ceremony has come. As my mother and sisters assist me with my gown, arrange my hair, and dress me with mother’s cherished jewels, all the way from Scotland, I cannot summon one scrap of cheerfulness. Even when fully attired in my elegant creation, together with exquisite shoes – custom-made by the shoemaker in Hobart Town – and I examine my image in a looking glass, I still cannot overcome my wretchedness.2

My father takes my arm and we walk from my chamber – mine no more. It has always been irksome to share with my younger sisters. But now… how many more nights I long to listen to their childish prattle!

We cover the short distance to the drawing room. The door opens; I gasp! I have to allow that what had been a quite ordinary drawing room is transformed into a ‘Galerie des Fleurs’! An extravagance of ivy falls from the ceiling, worked with fretted roses. Large jardinière, bursting with foxgloves, Canterbury bells, hollyhocks, hydrangea and eucalyptus branches, from mama’s extraordinary garden, occupy the room. Smaller urns, filled with lavender, sweet peas and lacy ferns, on every ledge or small table, infuse the room with a wonderful perfume. Our plain drawing room has been transported into a flourishing paradise. Mama has certainly employed every one of her artful talents.

It is, in that instant, that I discern the enormity of this day, the importance of the ceremony to come. But more than that, in that moment, I recognise the devotion and certain adoration I have for my mama and, reluctantly, for my papa. More significantly, I understand how they love and support me. They have nurtured me, given me the best of educations possible, and the most splendid life. Papa has disciplined me, but always consistently and reasonably.

If my parents consider that a marriage to Mr Scott is a fitting and suitable match then who am I to disagree?

Papa gives my hand to him. Is that a tear in papa’s eye? This unknown hand envelops mine firmly, yet softly. I am filled with strength and hope. I turn towards the man I will marry, looking up to graciousness and compassion. My heart soars perceptibly.  My despairing soul is mending.

“We gather in the presence of God to give thanks for the gift of marriage … “

“I, Anne Reid, take thee, Thomas Scott …”

As I speak those words, I realise the change it means to my life. Yesterday, I was an unconcerned, single girl. Today, I am a married woman with all the responsibilities that represents.

“This ring I give thee …”

The Kiss … a raised face; fleetingly, gently, lips on my cheek. The papers are sealed.

He folds my arm through his with a masterful air and I am bewildered by his engaging smile. We walk together towards the door. I am hardly aware of anyone else in the room; although my dearest, genteel mama’s perturbed expression catches my eye.

In the dining room, a grand repast has been laid out. I glance toward the head of the table, my papa’s usual seat and quietly chuckle. My favourite, but formidable, old grandmama is settled there. I can hear her Scottish brogue as she converses with my Uncle Hugh and Aunt Jane; they listen. I can hardly believe they have journeyed so far from Hobart Town to be here

I hardly eat, I hardly speak. A short time passes, or so it seems.

My husband – Thomas – leans toward me and whispers, “You should say your farewells. We must quit this place forthwith. My carriage awaits.”

I rise from my seat. I must reassure and make peace with mama before I leave.

 

BACKGROUND TO THIS PIECE

I wrote this piece whilst studying Writing the Family Saga. It is a fiction-based-in-fact piece. It was quite experimental, using a mixture of tenses, plus language to suit a specific era, in this case, late-Georgian. Stylistically, I attempted to write using ‘Austenish’ language.

Because of this, I wanted my Anne to be a Jane Austen fan. It is quite possible that she was. Her mother was well-educated in Scotland by the famous Grammarian, Lindley Murray (so folklore says). 3 I’m sure he would have let his charges read the newly published works ‘By A Lady’!4 Her mother Annabella had also received a sound practical education, so a beautiful garden would not have been out of the question at Richmond Hill.5

I would dearly have loved to have placed the setting in the Sidmouth Auld Kirk (land donated and partly funded by James Reid), but it wasn’t completed till several years after Ann’s marriage.6 Her marriage to Mr Thomas Scott was an expedient match for James Reid Esq.7 Thomas was nearly twenty years older than Anne, but he was the Assistant Surveyor-General of Van Diemen’s Land so a prominent gentleman.8

 

REFERENCES

  1. ‘To The Ladies, Advertising’, Launceston Advertiser (Tas.: 1829 – 1846), 24 July, 1834, p. 2., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84776499, accessed 21 Jul 2017.
  2. ‘Matthew Muir [from Edinburgh], Boot and shoemaker, Liverpool Street, Hobart, Advertising’, Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas.: 1828 – 1857), 9 September, 1834, p. 3., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8647806, accessed 18 Jul 2017.
  3. From Edinburgh to Hobart Town – The Young and Murray Families, ‘The Murray Clan’, http://www.cocker.id.au/murray/index.php, accessed 21 Jul 2017.
  4. Austen.com, ‘The Works of Jane Austen’, http://www.austen.com/novels.htm, accessed 21 Jul, 2017.
  5. From Edinburgh to Hobart Town – The Young and Murray Families, ‘The Murray Clan’.
  6. West Tamar Presbyterian Church, ‘History of the Auld Kirk’, http://westtamarpresbyterianchurch.org.au/history , accessed 20 July 2017.
  7. Marriage certificate of Ann Reed[Reid] and Thomas Scott, married 21 December 1835, Tasmanian Marriages 1803-1899, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office RGD2988, p.109.
  8. Australian Dictionary of Biography, ‘Scott, Thomas 1800-1855’ http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/scott-thomas-2643, accessed 18 Jul 2017.

Week 06 – Surprise

This is a story full of SURPRISES!

How did the name of a respected twenty-one year old young man, son of a baron and a Roman Catholic, appear on the birth certificate of a baby girl born in the Church of England workhouse at St George, Hanover Square on 21 July 1819. Now that was a matter of conjecture and what a SURPRISE for me when I was researching my respectable Protestant line!

St George's Hanover Square Workshouse

St George’s, Hanover Square Workhouse

It intrigued me and I continued my search. Caroline Woller (or Wooler, or Wooller) was born in the workhouse of St George Hanover Square to Elizabeth, who was not quite fifteen and certainly not married. If you look at most birth records for this type of birth it is quite unusual to even have a father recorded, yet when I found Caroline’s, the name of the father jumped out from the page – Charles Clifford, Gentleman. It was a SURPRISE for me and I was immediately intrigued.

Who was Charles Clifford, Gentleman, and why had he abandoned this fourteen- year-

2017 - 06 - CLIFFORD - 8 Mansfield Street - digital image taken by James (1)

My son James outside            8 Mansfield Street,    Marylebone

old girl to have her baby in the workhouse? It did not take me very long to discover who he was. Within a mile, in the upmarket suburb of Marylebone, was the Town House of Charles Clifford, 6th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, Devon, the father of our young gentleman. So, one part of the SURPRISE had been uncovered.

The second part of this SURPRISE took more time for me to discover. Why was young Elizabeth placed in a workhouse? The immediate reason was, of course, because she was pregnant. Yet young Charles Clifford was openly claiming to be the father, so one must presume it was his father who insisted that Elizabeth be sent away. The next question that occurred to me was, “Why so close?” Surely this would not prevent the scandal being discovered. I began to delve into the Clifford Family, a well-renowned, well-liked, prosperous family in the London community. Young Charles, his second son, was renowned as a member of the “haut-ton”.

But there was one thing that stood out – another SURPRISE – Lord Charles, a Baron, did not sit in the House of Lords. I wondered why,  then realised the obvious answer. He was a Roman Catholic. My research showed he was indeed a leading member of London Roman Catholic Society. At that time, he was not allowed to “sit” in the House of Lords, although this changed just a few years’ later in 1822. Therefore, their social circle would have mostly included the Roman Catholic Elite, so placing Elizabeth so close to home, but in a Church of England workhouse would have appeared to be quite a safe option. Again, was it on Charles Junior’s insistence that she remained close? I do not know.

Elizabeth with tag (1)The last SURPRISE is still to be found. It is a “brick wall”. I look forward to discovering when, why and how this young woman and her baby daughter left London and travelled to the other side of the world to live in Tasmania. Once in Tasmania, Elizabeth and Caroline’s lives changed for the better it would seem. They both assumed responsible roles in the household of John Bell Esquire. They both eventually married pardoned convicts. Their husbands supported them financially They both had several children who survived to adulthood. What started as somewhat a tragedy ended in triumph. That indeed would have been a SURPRISE for them, I feel.

Week 05 – At the Library

This week’s narrative does not involve an ancestor specifically. It is more a story of my relationship with each one of them. It is the history of my entanglement, preoccupation, involvement and fascination with family history and genealogy. Where did this tale begin? In a library of course!

My journey began with a random comment by my ex-mother-in-law in about 1980. We were talking about families and relations in general, one day and she said,

“There’s a street in Sydney named after my family.”

Of course, I asked. She told me it was Beehag Street in Kyeemagh, just off Botany Bay. It was where one branch of her family first settled and had market gardens. This spiked my interest and at my earliest opportunity I took myself of to the Society of Australian Genealogists library to do some research. So, my first foray into family history was into my in-laws, not my own family. From that library, I went to various local historical societies – those of you who are old enough will identify with me – hour upon hour spent crouching over the microfiche machine, hand cranking, eyes focusing on the rolling visuals until suddenly you spy the one little piece of information that you’ve spent at least two hours trying to find. Then you’d spend your hard-earned cash on a printout that, if you were fortunate, was legible. I learnt about Beehags, Stoneys, and various other interesting names including one that at the last count had seven different spellings – Weidemeier being the finally accepted one!

stcatherineshouse

St Catherine’s House in London

An overseas trip meant spending three days immersed in St Catherine’s House, chasing up the Fiander side of my husband’s family. So many large volumes to peruse and copies duly obtained. It was quite overwhelming as my expertise was severely lacking in those days. All of this was while I was still married to the in-laws and living in Sydney.

When the marriage ended in 1988, I returned to live closer to my familial support system in Burnie, Tasmania. Family history was put on the backburner for a while. But my father kept newspaper cuttings. He had been doing it for many years. Anything and everything – hatches, matches and dispatches, successes and achievements – about his family and my mother’s family was cut out of the newspaper and stored in a box. I asked my father what he was going to do with all of these, and he asked me to help him sort them. This aroused my interest in family history again, so where did I go – off to the library!

20190131_212518

Just a minute selection of the microfiche records collected

The local historical society’s library was a good starting point. I was fortunate as more than 50% of my family history is based in and around Burnie, but it was only a beginning. When I ran out of information, the beautiful old lady who managed the library sent me off to the local municipal library and from that moment on, I was hooked. I haunted that library so often that all the staff knew me, and we were on a first-name basis! These records that I acquired over the next five years were detailed and still remain as the foundation for the family tree I have created. Those microfiche records that I printed out, I then documented and even had them laminated, which was fortunate because it meant they survived a house fire I had eight years’ later.

Now, of course, my research assistant is not a library, but my computer. However, on a recent trip to Hobart from my home on the mid north coast of New South Wales, I took great delight in spending a lovely morning with my cousin and her husband who help run the Tasmanian Family History Society library at Bellerive, and two full days in the Tasmanian Archives – there’s still a certain feeling, actually being in a library!

I would love to have met my step great-grandmother, an amazing woman named Amelia Frances Byworth Atkinson. Writing about her is easy; distinguishing the fact from folklore is very difficult. I grew up with stories about this incredible woman and when I started to research my family tree, some of the stories were supported and some became exaggerated “Chinese Whispers”!

Here is the background to her story. My great-grandfather, William Henry Atkinson Snr, was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1844. In 1854, at the age of ten, with his parents, Thomas and Eliza, and four siblings, he emigrated to Tasmania. On the ship, he met his future wife, Eliza Spooner, the daughter of the ship’s mate, who was the same age – maybe childhood sweethearts! Twelve years later, they married and then had five children in the next seven years. The saddest part of this love story is that Eliza died of puerperal fever, within a month of the last child being born. William Henry was left behind with five children under seven years old, living in the bush behind Burnie.

So, this is when Amelia Frances Byworth comes into the story. The daughter of a Master Mariner, she was born at sea in 1853. According to family folklore, she was introduced to William through the friendship of her father with William. Poor Amelia had been thwarted in love and needed somewhere to hide away to nurse her wounds for a while.

wh senior and amelia

Amelia and William on their wedding day

At William’s invitation, she travelled to Burnie by ship, and landed on shore in the bosun’s chair! She became a companion for William’s mother, Eliza. I think William had a plan in mind from the beginning as he had not long lost his wife, Eliza! Just seventeen months after his wife’s death, they married. Amelia, at just twenty-one years old, took on William’s brood.

Let me describe where they lived. The Atkinson clan, who had arrived in Tasmania in 1854 had been sponsored by a Captain H. B. Stoney (his brother, the Rev, Ralph Stoney, lived in a house called “Firmount”, had baptized the Atkinson children in Ireland and had employed Thomas Atkinson!). He had acquired a large tract of land and employed Thomas to manage 640 acres on Round Hill in the Burnie area (Highest hill in linocut below from 1835). This land proved useless for farming. Thomas then acquired land from the VDL company.

20190130_114941

Linocut of Burnie from 1835,           hand-coloured in the 1890’s.

The boundaries of this land today are Mount Street, Three Mile Line, Mooreville Road and Linton Street/Malonga Drive – nearly 1800 acres (720 hectares) (Look it up on Google Maps)! It was completely bush, and the Atkinson men cleared it. They mostly ran cattle, and of course, grew potatoes, but it was still a very tough life. It still took nearly a day on a bullock dray to go down the hill to the rudimentary settlement of Emu Bay, about four kilometres away and approximately a six-minute drive now.

 

02 fairmount family - atkinson- byworth - circa 1897 adjusted

Amelia’s ten surviving children

So not only did Amelia take on William’s five children but also the harsh reality of living in a tough neighbourhood! She raised the five children as though they were her own and bore eleven more children to William, ten of whom survived till adulthood. She was renowned in the district for the care and attention she bestowed on all the fifteen children. Once a month, they would all make the journey to Burnie to get supplies and it was always noticed that every man in the family displayed starched white collars and cuffs and the women and girls always had stiffly starched white aprons. How she managed and maintained that kind of standard in the conditions in which she live is unimagineable.

Now this is where the story becomes interesting. Family folklore says that before she married William, she made him change his will to the effect that if she had any children then they would inherit any property that William acquired or already owned, thus disinheriting the first family. He agreed and that is what happened. The males in the first family toiled and created a prosperous empire but when their father died, they inherited nothing. Amelia’s ten living children, however, split the inheritance between them. Amazingly, the half siblings remained as family, such was the love and devotion she had imbued into their lives.

Even though my great-grandfather, William Henry Jnr was disinherited, he apparently never spoke ill of Amelia and only ever spoke with affection of her – a truly amazing, intuitive, practical and clever woman. I would certainly loved to have met her.

james - john james (1)John James – that’s not an unusual name. But there’s more to this story.

John James arrived in Tasmania on the “Clyde” on 18th December 1830, as a convict. Over the next fourteen years he served out his sentence and received a Pardon in early 1844. He married Caroline Wooller soon after. When their first child arrived, he was named William FAIRCHILD James. He had a daughter than another son, who was named Charles FAIRCHILD James. Through at least three to four more generations, the FAIRCHILD name has been carried on as a second name for both male and female offspring!

When I discovered this, my interest was piqued. Where had this FAIRCHILD name come from? I attempted to find the name in John James’ background but could find no birth records in London for a John James at the appropriate time for a John James, let alone one with the name Fairchild involved. After much searching using various sites, I had hit a “brick wall”.

I set it aside for quite a while then in a ”light bulb” moment – what if my John James had been born FAIRCHILD. More searching ensued. Success – a child was born on 17th October 1813 and surrendered to the orphanage at St Pancras Church, London, to Isabella FAIRCHILD and James Tobin. The father was already dead and, one must presume, the mother died in childbirth. So, John James Fairchild Tobin was a foundling.

By the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a butcher and, as was quite often the custom for foundlings, his name was simplified to John James. I have yet to document this officially, but the thread of facts is reasonably strong, and is strengthened by the use of the name FAIRCHILD, as homage to his mother, in later years. Am I clutching at straws? I hope not!

Week 02 – Challenge

It was a cold and stormy night off the coastline of Western Australian coast in 1876 when the “Georgette” began to sink.
My 3x great-grandmother, Elizabeth (Laking) Hauxwell (41), was on board with at least four of her children Frances (8), Isabella (4) John (2) and my 2xgreat-grandmother, Annie (Hauxwell) Stammers (20) , who also had two young children with her – Mary Ann (4) and John(1). They were travelling to Adelaide where both fathers had gone to establish a building business.
There are two parts to the disaster that night. When the steamer began to take on water, the engines were flooded and stopped. It was left lifeless in the rolling waves. The captain gave the order to launch the first lifeboat with twenty women and children on board. It started to take on water very quickly then a large wave smashed it against the bow of the boat splitting it in two. All the passengers were thrown into the water. Some were pulled into another lifeboat, but two women and five children drowned. These included my 3x great-grandmother Elizabeth and her three children, Frances, Isabella and John.
All of this I know. All of this my fellow family historians agree with. My challenge is what happened to my 2x great-grandmother Annie and her two children. The passengers who were rescued into the second lifeboat drifted away from the “Georgette” and eventually landed. This is the first part.
Mary Ann (Stammers) Mitchell is my great-grandmother. As a child, my Nana Mitch told me the story of the shipwreck. She told me how she was put into the lifeboat. She told me how she was pulled back into the ship. Most importantly, she told me how the lady on the horse rescued her, her little brother and her mama, just as portrayed in the painting below.georgette-oil-painting-sr01[1]

Most of the newspaper reports that were received secondhand from either passengers or other witnesses to this disaster vary incredibly. Some record the women and children as all being on the lifeboat – that would make twenty-two plus crew. Some record the number on the lifeboat as being 17, including the crew and male passengers on board. Some reports record the names of passengers on board the lifeboat, including one Mrs Summers, who, by the way, is on none of the official passenger lists – some say this is Mrs Stammers – and this is the accepted story within the family. And, so it goes on. They are severely conflicted in their supposed facts.
The most reliable report comes from the Master himself. I choose to go with his official report. In this, it is stated that SOME of the women and children were put onto the lifeboat. It then states that SOME of the women and children were pulled back into the Steamer when the lifeboat sank. The second lifeboat with seventeen passengers onboard made landfall safely.

Then Part Two – the Georgette, still with fifty or more passengers, including six or seven women [and children] continued to take on water and drifted further south before the captain’s decision was to launch the last lifeboat. This was used to try and ferry passengers to the shore although it capsized on each occasion. Most made it to shore safely, but it was at this moment that Grace and Isaac intervened, assisting those floundering in the surf to make it to shore.

This account matches the oral story relayed to me by my great-grandmother. Now MY CHALLENGE is to convince the rest of the family!

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Decoding the Family Tree

solving family history one branch at a time.

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Helping others discover their roots

Once Upon A Lifetime

Tales & Vignettes of My Ancestors