Sunday, 22 April 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 15, Taxes

Well, this one has been taxing to say the least ! So much so that I am well into Week 16 and still deliberating. Should I look at people who paid land taxes or poll taxes ?

I don’t recall there being any accountants or tax collectors…maybe an excise man (but I think he was very much on the periphery of the tree), so perhaps someone who has been taxing to research ?

I’ve recently been writing about an object for one of the units in my Diploma and was reminded about tariffs on imported goods and how difficult the government made it for people as late as the 1970’s in New Zealand to import items such as cars. How ridiculous when they didn’t really have a domestic market that they were trying to protect.

Anyway, it just reminded me that this affected other imported goods too. New technology that people were wanting to purchase to be a part of the tech boom beginning to happen. One such invention was stereo players.

I don’t remember if we had a “sound system” before this one or not. Perhaps we did. My grandparents had the radiogram which I wrote about for Week 8 – Heirloom. Before stereo sound there was only mono.

Anyway, a stereo was what was wanted, but the cost to import one, or buy one from a store was pretty extravagant in late 1960’s New Zealand. So what to do ?

Build your own, of course.

Dad and some friends hatched a plan (as I recall) and would order the components required to be delivered to one anothers’ homes. Then they would get together, sometimes in the lounge room at our house, or individually and sort bits. I will probably get all the names wrong, but there were transistors, diodes, valves and others with their little wire legs to get soldered (in the correct places) onto a circuit board, to build an amplifier. The case had to be made too I think, and all the knobs and decals to be added so that you knew which was on, off, volume etc. Then start again, this time a turntable.

Then there were the speakers, they were bought too; and the speaker boxes built and assembled at home, lined with insulating batts. They were BIG speakers, plus a smaller woofer, nothing like the teeny ones in today's mini systems.

I’m not sure how long the whole process took, from inception and design to completion, but it was done. Take that Mr Tax Man !

Then came the music. Albums were often purchased by catalogue and would arrive packed in cardboard packages, delivered by the mailman. Acker Bilk, Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass, Louis Armstrong, The Seekers, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Henry Mancini, Frank Sinatra, soundtracks to Sound of Music and Oliver, Peter and the Wolf, the classics; symphonies and the like – and MOOG music !

How much simpler it is now and how much more accessible these items are to purchase. But what a sense of accomplishment to build your own.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 14, The Maiden Aunt

Tricky subject this one. I can only think of three. One who I met, but don’t know too much about, and two who I heard about; but only one who I have researched.

She was a mythical relation when we first began researching, but actually turned out to be the key to so many more discoveries. When we finally solved HER puzzle.

Elizabeth James, born 1 May 1846 at Broadward Bridge near Clungunford was the eldest child of Henry James and his wife Ann Thomas. They had married in Brimfield in 1843. Henry was a gardener or green grocer most of his life from church records and census’. Henry was born in Bucknall, Herefordshire, Ann in Wales. On the 1851 United Kingdom census, her birthplace was transcribed as “Slangyowitch” – what ? A bit of deciphering and map searching, it turns out this must have been the enumerator recording the Welsh place name LLanymynech as phonetically as he could, and the Ancestry transcriber trying to make sense of his writing. Anyway, I digress.

By the time the 1851 census came around, the small family, now including Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary, were living in Dudley, staying with a Duffill family. The significance of this family would become apparent much later.

Elizabeth was my grandmother’s grand-aunt; the sister of her grandmother. Nana didn’t share a lot about her family. Just little tidbits to keep you interested. She spoke about this Aunt (Lizzie) fondly; admiring her “pluck”. Aunt Lizzie, Nana told us, was a pretty remarkable lady. She had gone to America on her own when she was seventy years old.

Two of Nana’s uncles had gone to America too, and it appeared that Aunt Lizzie had gone to join them. But things are never quite as they seem.

After the death of her sister Mary – also known as Polly – Elizabeth and her father took in Mary’s two young children at least until their father remarried eight years later. On the census’ her occupation is recorded as Dressmaker, in later years when her niece and nephew were no longer staying with her, she was living with her father. From the way Nana spoke about Elizabeth, I always felt she had known her, and that she had left for America while Nana was young.

A note left for his children by my 3rd cousins grandfather, my grandmother’s cousin, he wrote of how his family had left England to live in America when he was seven. Where they had lived in England, relatives in England or at least his memory of where they lived; who they stayed with on arrival in Boston and how they travelled to Seattle.

A Duffill family lived in Boston. Nana’s aunt and uncles had stayed with them after arriving in Boston, before travelling to Seattle. What was the connection we wondered. It transpired that the wife of Thomas Duffill on the 1851 census, where the James family had been recorded as lodging, was actually the younger sister of Ann (nee Thomas) James. She was an aunt of THIS Elizabeth. 

So some more research was done, and the same Duffill family, or parts of it were found living in Boston on United States census’ and other records. So, we thought, Elizabeth must have kept in touch with her cousins after they emigrated and facilitated a meeting with her nephews when they emigrated. Wrong again.

My American 3rd cousin was not aware of this aunt at all, she was also not aware of the 2nd uncle travelling to America – but that is another story. We searched and searched for passenger lists for Elizabeth James aged about 70 travelling to America. A needle in a haystack.

Perseverance though, and much research in to the wee small hours came through in the end. She wasn’t Aunt Lizzie at all, she was Aunt Bessie ! Furthermore she had emigrated earlier than we had thought. 1906. Nana wasn’t even born then ! This aunt who she had spoken of with such admiration was not someone she actually knew. But wait, there’s more. Her intended address on arrival in Boston ? The home of her brother-in-law Mr Duffill. What ? How could she have a brother-in-law when her only sister had married someone else and died almost 30 years earlier.

Well, this is how. Turns out she had an older half sister who had married into the Duffill family. Not marrying a cousin though, but a half cousin. Mr Duffill senior had at least five wives and children from each marriage bar the last. More research ensued and a letter was found by a descendant in a Bible, written by Elizabeth to her sister after the death of Elizabeth’s father in May 1905. This mentioned his burial “with mother” and inferred that he had assumed the role of father to her half sister. These half relationships get a bit tricky to keep track of, so apologies if you are lost.

So, when Nana’s aunt and uncles had emigrated a year later and stayed with the Duffill family in Boston, they will have been reconnecting with Aunt Elizabeth/Lizzie/Bessie, not just with distant cousins they did not know.

The connection that Nana, her brother and sisters had with their grand aunt must only have been by post. Most likely embellished by the memories of their own mother about her, during their very early years before she was taken from them.

Elizabeth James died in 1921 in New Hampshire having spent her last years living with the family of her half sister.

One of these remarkable ladies is Elizabeth James and one her half sister Ellen, exploring the sights of New Hampshire or Massachusetts in a magnificent car

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 13, The Old Homestead

Two possible homes spring to mind as subjects for this topic.

Both of them, I feel should be heritage listed. But I think the current owners might have different ideas.

Along Northbank Road running next to the Wairau River, past Onamalutu and heading towards Tophouse and St Arnaud, on the opposite side of the braided river to State Highway 63, is Fabian’s Valley Road. It is not always open to the public and crosses private farm land. It is rough metal and at times verges on 4WD territory. Sometime before you reach Fabian’s Valley Road you will have crossed an unremarkable bridge over Bartlett’s Creek.

Still standing along Bartlett’s Road, past a small cemetery, is a cob cottage. Built, most likely in the early 1850’s. It is a survivor of large earthquakes including the Kaikoura 2016 7.8 quake and quite likely the Wairarapa 1855 8.2 quake, storms and timeworn neglect.

The first time that my parents visited was in the early 1980’s. They went with a cousin also researching the family, and met with yet more cousins still farming the land. At that time cattle called it home, and the work to try to save it was just beginning. I wish I could find those photos to include – maybe later.

In 2014, I went to see if I could find it too. It seemed much more cared for, although obviously used by locals who had left their beer cans behind. Sacrilege to us ! The cattle were still there, but kept away by a fence and the creek, which would have been their water supply was so close. I imagine at times it must have been INSIDE !

This was the home of my great-great-great-grandparents John and Maria Bartlett. They had left their home in East Chinnock, Somerset, where their families had lived for generations working as weavers, sailmakers and glovers, and bought their young family to Nelson New Zealand in 1842. Their youngest children including my great-great-grandfather were born in Nelson, in the Matai Valley. There are Bartletts still in the area, I believe, who are connected in some way to John and Maria. Maybe they were orchardists, apple growing was a big industry in pioneer Nelson and still is. Perhaps they were farmers.

At any event, something prompted them, and other families to move over to Marlborough in the early 1850s. Was it gold ? Was it simply the availability of land ?

The cottage itself has two rooms possibly three, judging by the remnants of a partition wall, downstairs. One obviously the kitchen still with an old coal range; a staircase leads to a loft space upstairs. Timber shingles are still on the roof in places, but most have been replaced by corrugated iron.

In this home Maria raised her family. The older children were now adults, some marrying in the district within the first years of their arrival. Others like my great-great-grandfather were still very young. Someone ran a school for the local children. Whether this was in their home or at another nearby location I do not know. I don't think it was Maria, more likely a daughter or daughter in law. When she and John were married in 1825, they had both signed their names with “x” on the marriage register.

Tragedy came to the family, not long after their arrival. On 19 June 1860 John was drowned in Spring Valley Creek while crossing it on his way home from a meeting. He had safely crossed the Wairau only to come to grief in the creek not far from his home. His son Joseph and son-in-law John Ward were following and found him. Three years later on 18 December 1863 another crossing went awry, this time on the Wairau River. It claimed the lives of son Joseph and son-in-law John Ward. They are described in the newspaper report as shearers and had crossed on horseback. John Ward’s horse arrived home rider-less which alerted family members to the catastrophe.

The river, which looks shallow, gentle and mesmerisingly blue normally, can be treacherous when in flood. Life goes on though for our pioneers, both young widows married again. Maria died just three years later. Her son Thomas, who had married his brother Joseph’s widow, stayed and raised his family there. His descendants were farming there still as recently as 2016, maybe even now.

Today, the large sheep runs and sheep farming as a whole are being overtaken by grapes and more grapes. This is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc country.

Monday, 26 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 12, Misfortune

Misfortune. Lucky one week, unlucky the next ? A series of unfortunate events ?

Some years ago while doing some searching “alongside” my 4th cousin in the UK about the family line we share, and more particularly her branch of that line we came across a very sad discovery.

Two of my great grandmother’s cousins; brothers, moved their families from Wolverhampton to Glasgow around the turn of the century. The elder brother went first with his wife and young son between 1894 and 1897. About ten years later the younger brother followed with his wife and three young children.

Arthur and Martha (yes it’s true) had already lost one baby aged about eighteen months before travelling north. On the 1911 Scots census it stated that they had had eight children but only four were living. That itself was quite sad to learn. The determination to go on, to have more babies when you have lost so many in infancy, just astounds me.

From ScotlandsPeople we had built a picture of their family including the “unknown” children who had lived briefly between 1901 and 1911. Then an email arrived from my cousin to say she had been doing some more searching.

She had purchased the death certificate for Martha, who had died in February 1930. Martha it seemed came to an unfortunate end, so the search of newspapers began to see what might be uncovered. And this is where the misfortune became apparent.

The newspaper reported that Arthur had come home in the middle of the day for his dinner and discovered the grisly scene. It was reported that Martha was greatly upset about the death of her daughter Emma who had died earlier in the week and been buried the previous day. The timing of Emma’s death had brought to the surface the memory of another daughter who had died aged sixteen, just three years earlier.

What was going on here ?

But, this was a double tragedy as Martha did not just take her own life, she also had inflicted serious injury to their youngest daughter who died soon after Arthur had arrived home. Martha’s despair must have been enormous, and the guilt for Arthur; that had he been moments earlier he may have been able to avert the tragedy.

This led me to use up my credits on ScotlandsPeople and purchase more death certificates. The names of the unknown babies were discovered and the causes of death for their children.

Martha Agnes
23 November 1905
Broncho-Pneumonia 28days Cardiac Asthemia 1day
13 January 1907
Premature Birth Asthemia
9 March 1909
Acute Bronchitis Convulsions
Minnie Mildred
9 February 1927
Percarditis ? Endocarditis, Cardiac Failure
Emma Elizabeth
4 February 1930
Embolism of Heart
8 February 1930
Haemorrhage, cut throat
8 February 1930
Haemorrhage , cut throat
Arthur George
9 July 1932 –
Cardiac Failure, Acute endocarditis, Mitral Stenosis

It all pointed sadly to a genetic heart defect, seemingly passed on to at least six of their children.

How difficult must it have been to live with that, and how unjust must it have seemed that you lost so many babies. In December 1906 when baby Charles was born, Arthur’s seventeen year old unmarried half sister Ellen was staying with the family and gave birth to her own daughter at their home that month.

I wonder how each mother felt, one bereft and one grateful.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 11, Lucky

I have been thinking long and hard about this one – all the way into Week 12 !

I don’t know if anyone had a dog named Lucky. I am pretty sure there is no-one called Fortuna or anything similar hiding somewhere in my tree. The only two relatively lucky people though sheer luck that I can think of, I have already written about before. My great grand uncle Walter who did pretty darned well on the Thames goldfields and then on the Coolgardie fields of Western Australia; and my daughter’s great great grand aunt Carrie who won a tiara in an Art Union raffle.

When I mentioned my dilemma to my daughter she simply said “The luck of the Irish.” Very cliché – but LUCKY she said that, and LUCKY that I asked her because suddenly there was my inspiration.

There is not a lot of Irish in my tree, but there are a lot of DNA connections it seems for that small branch. That is another topic though and I feel I need to spend a lot more time researching those families.

There is even less in my daughter’s paternal tree. Imagine my surprise when I discovered some years ago that one of her Irish families was from the same county as mine.

So where does luck come into it ? Wait and see.

Richard Gibson married Harriet Irvine in Kiama, New South Wales, Australia on 3 June 1870. She was the daughter of Irish immigrants, who had been living in Jamberoo since early 1840. Their marriage certificate gave no clues about where he was born. Much later, from his death certificate just the county Cavan was provided.

I did however come across his arrival to New South Wales in 1867 on the Light Horse. There was a lot of information on these pages including confirmation of his parent’s names and that he had a brother James in Sydney. There was also a place name – Killishandra (sic), Cavan.

So I began to see what I could find out about Killishandra, which turned out to be Killeshandra. I posted questions on RootsChat in 2009 and later on Ancestry message boards. I contacted a person through RootsChat who had access to the few surviving pieces of the 1841 Irish census – and they were for Cavan.

And here is the LUCKY bit. The parish for Killeshandra had survived and he was able to send me the information about the whole family.

The Irish census’, for anyone who has not looked at them, are a mine of information ! Remember this is 1841 too.

The family was made up of :

William, 51, farmer, head of the household, married in 1815
Sydney, 42, wife
Mary, 23, daughter
Jane, 18, daughter
Ufemy (sic), 13, daughter
Emily, 13, daughter
James, 9, son
Ephram (sic), 7, son
Richard, 4 months, son

In addition to this on another page where listed “those who have left the house or died since the 1831 census”

Hester, 21, daughter, in America, house servant
Margaret, 13, daughter, deceased, died 1838
William, 1 month, son, deceased, died 1836
George, 16, son, deceased, died 1839
Wm Henry, 1 month, son, deceased, died 1840

I’ve not been able to find too much more about them. I have emailed someone in the past who was a descendant of Mary or Jane and today while searching I rediscovered some messages to a descendant of Emily as well. I think that James was married to a sister of Richard’s wife Harriet, and that Ephraim also went to America.

Reading this back, I think it is time I made a more concerted research effort on all my Irish folk. Unfortunately changes of email provider and hardware over the years has meant that I have lost the traces of some of my earlier messages.

Maybe some of them will get their DNA tested so that I can sort that puzzle out too.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 10, Strong Woman

We don’t all have a well known inspirational woman in our family trees. We can’t all lay claim to Florence Nightingale, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Marie Curie, Emmeline Pankhurst or Joan of Arc. But within all our trees there are some pretty amazing ladies, I’m sure.

Who do I choose to write about this week ?

One of my pioneer great great grandmothers who came with their husband and children to take a chance on a new life; a better life, in a country so far away from England it was hard to comprehend ? They had no idea what the land was like, whether the earth was arable and whether they would be able to grow the crops they had always grown. Many of them had not seen the sea or lived near to it; yet they were prepared to travel over it on a cramped, leaky sailing ship for about three months – and give it a go. Not like now, when we plan our holidays and escape through colour brochures and online.

Or my great great grandmother who left her apparently unhappy marriage in New Zealand and took her youngest three children to start a new life in Australia ? Not just leaving behind her husband, but ten other children, her mother, brothers and sisters. Why not just move away to another district ?

Perhaps my great grandmother’s cousin, whose family had joined the Mormon Church and emigrated from Wiltshire to Utah ? She married at eighteen to a church elder thirty five years her senior; becoming his fourth wife. Did she know that two of those wives were still alive, that one had left him, but the other was still married to him ? She stayed. When he died, and the laws of the church had changed and disinherited her for not being his legal wife, she contested his will. Argued for her share AGAINST her children – and WON.

Or my great grandmother, born in Marlborough and raised in the Horowhenua, who left school when she was about 14 to help at home with younger siblings or with her older, married sister's new families. Then married four years later and began her own family, passing on all her domestic skills to her daughters.

What about my grandmother whose childhood family life was not so dissimilar to some we see on the news today ? She still took a chance, married and made a successful family for her children with values and traditions which have been passed on to her children and grandchildren.

Then in my daughter’s paternal family; what about her 8xgreat grandmother, daughter of the Ewen (Dubh) Cameron 5th Lochiel and 17th chieftain, from his 3rd marriage. Married aged about 15 to a Campbell. The two families did not always get along. How did she feel as a pawn in her father’s powerplay ? One of her sons was Colin, the Red Fox of the Appin Murders ‘fame’.

Or her 5xgreat grandmother who came to Australia with her family as shepherds and never spoke a word of English in her life. Gaelic, through and through. She endured the dry heat of what is now the ACT and likely pined for the cooler climes of the Highlands. Who brought with her five sons and six daughters, but not one son married to carry on the name.

Or her 3x great grandmother who gave birth to twins in the workhouse when she was nineteen. Named their father on the bastardy bond and returned to work as a domestic servant until she was able to remove the surviving child from the workhouse and provide a home with her new husband five years later.

So you see, it is too hard to pick one. If not for these women though, the wives of bakers, farmers, millers, shepherds and labourers, we would not be here. 

It is time to remind women everywhere that we HAVE a voice, that we ARE strong. All of us, in our own way. That we CAN do anything.

But also, remember that not all our problems are the fault of men. There ARE good men in the world, there always have been. Men who want better for their children, who are willing to take on the child of another man and raise it as their own, who are gentle and caring. We should NOT let society and the media tell us otherwise. We should have some faith in humanity as we stand up for each other.

You don't need to be a tall poppy, and an inspiration to the whole human race, you just need to be the best YOU that you can be. Who knows, maybe someday someone will look back and say "I just want to be like her."

Here’s to STRONG women
May we KNOW them
May we BE them
May we RAISE them.

We are the grand daughters
Of all the WITCHES
You were never able to burn.

I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman.
-Helen Reddy

Sunday, 4 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 9, Where There's a Will

So, a Will, or a fiercely determined (where there is a will there’s a way) person, or just someone named William.

I have decided to go with a Will this week, and discovering it took a fair bit of determination as well.

Susanna(h) Davies was born about 1774 in or near Wellington, Shropshire, England. Her parents, Thomas and Sarah, had her baptised at All Saints, Wellington on 8 April 1774. I don’t know anything more about her until she married Thomas Hulett at the same church on 15 April 1793. Did she have siblings ? What was her father’s occupation ? Where did they live exactly ? Those are questions to solve another time.

Susanna was my 4 x great grandmother. She and her husband Thomas raised a family of seven children who were all baptised at All Saints Wellington. They may have lived all the time in Lawley, as that is the place where Susanna is recorded as living on the 1841 and 1851 UK census’. Lawley is a small village between Wellington and Malinslee, now almost on the outskirts of Telford.

Their second daughter Sarah, was my 3 x great grandmother. Until recently I had focused more on her and her descendants than on her siblings, or on discovering more about her parents.  That was until a close match popped up in my DNA results which led me back to this family and one of Susanna’s sons. That find spurred me on to find as much as I could about all of Thomas and Susanna’s children.

I have managed to track them all through census’, bdm’s and probate indexes now. Only three married and had children. In my searching though I realised when Susanna had died and purchased a pdf of her death record from in their current trial. Thomas had died before 1841 as Susanna is widowed on the 1841 census.

I had always thought of my Shropshire ancestors as Ag labs, workers – as opposed to landowners or tradespeople. Nothing wrong with that; the majority of us come from simple, hardworking beginnings. On the 1851 census though, Susanna was recorded as being the “Occupier of a farm 90 acres, employing 2 men.” So not the owner of the land it would seem, but financially able to employ people to work the land for her. When I came across a copy of her will on Ancestry and deciphered it with much help from 4th cousins and my Dad, it seemed they definitely were not “just” Ag Labs.

Susanna’s will named all her children apart from Sarah, who was already married at the time of her death in May 1856, and indeed at the time that Susanna wrote her will in December 1846. Did she feel that Sarah was already well taken care of ? Or perhaps she did not approve of Sarah’s marriage. (As an aside Sarah and her husband, an Ag Lab, had married at St Peter’s Wolverhampton in July 1836 when Sarah would have been at least 3 months pregnant, their first child was baptised in January 1837.)

This is the transcription of the will (with still a few odd words to decipher)

I Susanna Hulett being of sound state of mind do hereby ordain this to be my last will and testament renouncing and revoking all others. First I nominate and appoint as my executor and executrix my son John Hulett and my daughter Mary Ann Hulett. Secondly I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Hulett my daughters Mary Ann Elizabeth Hulett Elizabeth Hulett and Martha Hulett the whole of my property consisting of the household furniture live and the food stock on the Farm. Also my interest in One Hundred Pounds xxxx in the Long Annuities to be equally divided share and share alike after all my just debts and funeral expenses are paid. Thirdly it is my request that as my son John Hulett has received considerably more than his share of my property that he will afford every assistance in his power to my son William Hulett. This done and executed on the eleventh day of December one thousand eight hundred and forty six. In the testimony whereof? I hereby to submit my case in the presence of the following witnesses. Susanna Hulett
Witnesses – Robert Howden Heston – W Taylor

And an image of the original copy which was made when the will was proven and probate granted

The will itself follows the prescribed pattern that is still common today. Beginning by stating the place and name of the person making the will, and that they are lucid and aware of the details they are writing, or dictating to someone to write if they are unable to write themselves. After this the first action is to name the people chosen to be the executors. They are the ones who will give statements after the death to verify who they are and that they knew the person. They may have to give affidavits to the court as well.

The second action is to name the beneficiaries and the instruction. It was here where the surprise came. Susanna may have not owned the land she was farming, but she did own the livestock, bequeathing them along with all her household furniture and food which likely included crops being grown to her unmarried daughters and her son Thomas. In addition to this she directed that they share in her interest from some annuities. Now I’m not sure what those annuities were, but £100 is a fair amount of money to have in her own right in 1856, not at all what I was expecting to read.

Then thirdly a separate instruction regarding to her son John. She states that since he has already received more than his share of her property that he takes care to assist William, the eldest child of the family. At this point I am still not sure why she made this instruction and did not include William with her other unmarried children. Perhaps he had a disability. In the 1841 and 1851 census’ William had been living with his mother and working on the farm. In 1861 he was working on Lawley Farm, employed as a Cow Man.
Then to close the will is signed and dated, and witnessed.

The timing of the writing of the will could be significant. 11 December 1846. John was married in January 1846 and his first child born later that year. John was a publican, he had been a butcher when he married. Perhaps his mother gave him some financial assistance to change career and secure a lease on a hotel. I have spied some documents in county archives that may help answer that question, but first I need to save some money so that I can make a trip there.

To add to this change in my understanding of Susanna’s social standing. John’s eldest daughter can be found attending a school in Shifnal on the 1861 census, where the teachers included French and German. One of his sons became a Mining & Civil Engineer. Investigating all that can wait for another time though.