Saturday, 4 December 2010

The almost Mashford murder story

The report on Peter Lewis's attempt to shoot George Mashford has come up on Trove. There is no doubt that Peter was a violent drunk and this gives credence to the earlier theory that Elizabeth Mashford Lewis may have left him or perhaps he left her.

It is clear there were problems from the beginning of the marriage although she did go on to have another two sons after this incident and there is no reason to believe Peter Lewis was not the father.

And it is clear that poor Elizabeth got short shrift from the judge who suggested that she find ways to 'temper' her husband's temper! These were the days when women had little in the way of rights and even less hope of making their way in the world without the support of a father, brother or husband.


POLICE COURT. Thursday. 7th December, 1848.

Peter Lewis was charged with threatening to shoot George Mashford, his brother in-law, at Kensington, on the 3d instant. '

George Mashford made a lone statement, from which it appeared that his sister (the prisoner's wife) was afraid to live with him, he having repeatedly threatened her, and even on one occasion attempted to choak her.

On last Sunday evening he came to witness's house demanding to see his wife. He then went to the Chapel looking for her, and created a disturbance there. He made use of the threats complained of on that occasion, and he had circulated the most abominable stories of witness and his sister.

Mrs Lewis stated that she feared her husband would sometimes put his threats into execution, particularly as he was in the habit of getting drunk purposely to increase his violence. She was willing to support herself and child without troubling him. The prisoner admitted having called and asked to see his child, which was denied him. He declared he had no wish to hurt his wife or her brother, but hoped his Worship would order them to let him see his child. His Worship could say nothing to that. He would require him to give bail to keep the peace for six months.

And to the wife he said she should endeavour to soothe the violence of her husband's temper. Her bargain might be a bad one, but she should make the best of it After entering into recognizances, the man again applied for an order to see his child. His Worship declined to give it, and admonished him not to resort to any violent means to effect that object.

In September of 1851, Elizabeth had other problems as well as her husband. There is another legal notice indicating that  she is sueing for unpaid rent. It was probably Josiah who  is the Mashford mentioned, who headed off to Melbourne later that year and seems to have been less reliable as a brother than George May.

But one wonders why she was doing the sueing and not Peter Lewis and if they were still living together? But clearly they were still in a relationship.Little George was three and John Mashford Lewis had been born the previous year. Henry would arrive in 1854 so clearly there was some sort of complicated 'dance' going on between the two of them. Unless of course they were 'sharing' a house but not as husband and wife and Henry was the result of violent, unwanted advances.

Given the two years between George and John and the four between John and Henry this may well have been the case.

As recorded in the South Australian Register:

September 4, 1851.
Lewis v. Mashford. Action for £9 1s. 6d., for board and lodging. Plea — That plaintiff was a married woman, and could not maintain an action; and that more money had been already paid than due.  Several witnesses were examined, and a judgment of 5s. per week for the full amount and costs given.

Elizabeth must have been feeling increasingly alone.  In March of 1848 barely a year after the family arrived in South Australia, her sisters Mary Ann and Jane had sailed for Melbourne on the steamship Juno.  Her brother John Cann Mashford had died a year later in 1849 and, the following year, on September 14, her beloved brother and protector, George May Mashford died, and eight weeks later, to the day, her mother, Mary Cann Mashford died. Barely a month after losing her mother, her remaining brother, Josiah Labbett Mashford sailed for Melbourne on the schooner Amalia.

He is listed in the CLEARED OUT section of the South Australian Register:

Friday, December 12, 1851— The schooner Amalia, 136 tons, Funch, master, for Melbourne. In ballast. Passengers — John Williams, ................... Josiah Mashford.

His departure may have had something to do with another notice in the Register where Josiah had been assaulted by a man named Mara on November 4.

From the Register: Owen Carroli and Daniel Mara— Did assault Thomas Chalk, onthe 5th November; and also, Mara did,' on the 4th November, assault Josiah Mashford.

The Shipping Intelligence as noted in the South Australian Register does show Josiah Mashford returning to Adelaide on Saturday, March 20, 1852 on the Brigantine Rattler. On this journey he was in a cabin as opposed to ballast so one presumes that he had fallen on his feet in Melbourne. He is also noted in the April of that year as secretary to The Adelaide Band of Musicians:

THE ADELAIDE BAND OF MUSICIANS under the' superintendance of Inspector Stuart pro poses to march and meet Mr. Commissioner Tolraer and tne Overland Escort at Glen Osmond. In returning thanks for the subscriptions already raised, the Adelaide Band of Musicians respectfully inform their friends, that they have no connection with Mr. George Bennett, and that sub scriptions will continue to be gratefully received on their behalf, by Mr. Peter Smith, Red Lion Inn, Rundle-street, by Mr. Clisby, Rosina-street, and by Mr. Mashford, Peacock's
Buildings. JOSIAH MASHFORD, Secretary to the Band. April 27, 1852. '

However, by June of 1853 the Adelaide Post Office was recording unclaimed letters for J. Mashford.  One wonders if he did a runner with some of the takings from the Band but I have yet to stumble upon a report in the Register. Josiah does seem to be something of a shifty character.

It would take five years for George May Mashford's estate to be finalised.

Coming Soon:
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839-1900) Monday 20 August 1855 p 1 Advertising

... Demand on the ESTATE of the late GEORGE MAY  MASHFORD, are requested to send in their respective...... 12115 words

George May got three years in the new colony of South Australia and with his death, as far as we know, Elizabeth Mashford Lewis found herself alone, without the support of family and with a violent husband.

Even more tragically, she had lost her youngest son, Henry Lewis just three months earlier at the age of fifteen months. Was this when she moved to Rocky River?   Henry Lewis died at Marryattville so Elizabeth was living in Adelaide at the time of George's death. And clearly she and Peter Lewis were still in some sort of relationship  up until the time Henry was conceived.. Henry was born at Marryattville on January 22, 1854.

Perhaps the loss of her tiny son and the brother who had clearly been a protector was more than she could bear.  With George's death there is every chance that no member of her family remained in Adelaide. Within two years she would marry Edward Atkins in Rocky River and Peter Lewis would have disappeared from her life.

There is another note which has come up on Trove and has yet to be fully uploaded, indicating that Josiah Mashford applied for a timber licence in 1849:

1. TIMBER LICENCES. Colonial Secretary's Office, August 28, 1849. [coming soon]
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839-1900) Saturday 1 September 1849 p 4 Article

..... Josiah Mashford ' 23 201. ... 1167 words

The Rocky River/Wirrabarra Forest area may well have been where his timber licence operated. If that is the case, there may have been links with people living in the area, including with Edward Atkins, where Elizabeth could take refuge from her husband and find the support she would need as a woman alone with two small sons to raise.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Edward Atkins was a Gloucestershire lad!

This week has brought important progress in terms of tracing Edward Atkins. The National Library's Trove section has recently recorded a death notice for him and it is as follows:

ATKINS.— On the 15th November, 1891 at the residence of his son-in-law, Whyte Park, 'Wirrabara, Edward Atkins, aged 84 years A colonist of over 50 years, leaving 1 son, 5 daughters, 47 grandchildren, and 3 greatgrandchildren to mourn their loss. Gloucestershire papers please copy.

And the all too obvious ommission in this is Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins, his wife, who was well and truly alive and living in Gladstone. The fact that she is not recorded at all is a good sign that they were well and truly estranged. There is no mention of another wife so perhaps Elizabeth packed up and moved to Gladstone and Edward continued to live on in Wirrabarra Forest with his daughter and her husband. And, given the fact that Elizabeth does not rate a mention I am thinking that Edward Atkins was living with one of his older daughters, presumably, although not necessarily, from his marriage to Hannah McLeod.

So he was a Gloucestershire lad and roamed the countryside (see pic above) which contains the Cotswolds... one of my favourite parts of England. Interestingly, while my research has not yet begun I have also noted a Haynes family in Gloucestershire and am hoping that particular little mystery will also be laid to rest.

If James Haynes Atkins was his only son then there is every chance that Edward Atkins' mother was a Haynes. In fact,  a Joseph Atkins married Ann Hai(y)nes in Cirencester, Gloucestershire on August 14, 1809. If Edward's birth date was correct then perhaps this was a child born to Ann before she married Joseph Atkins. Conjecture of course but something to check.

So his birthplace must be Gloucestershire which will help enormously. I am wondering if the other three daughters were from Hannah McLeod or a third marriage? And that is an enormous amount of grandchildren and even three great-grandchildren which makes me think that the three other daughters were by Hannah MacLeod because Elizabeth, Mary and James Haynes were not old enough to be grandparents.

As another 'treasure' found in the Trove indicates, Elizabeth was living in Gladstone in 1888 where she nursed her dying son, John Mashford Lewis. That is some three years before her husband's death.

February 16, 1888
LEWIS.—On the 14th January at his mother's residence, after a long and painful illness, John Mashford Lewis, the second-eldest beloved son of Elizabeth Atkins, Gladstone, aged 37 years.—"For so He giveth his beloved sleep."

I am struck by the connection with John and Mashford and early deaths. John Mashford was 39 when he died and his son, John Cann Mashford died  at the age of 26 and then his grandson, John Mashford Lewis died at 37.

And on its way is another interesting 'jewel' from the National Library of Australia's Trove collection:

1. LAW AND POLICE COURTS. POLICE COURT. Thursday, 7th December [coming soon]
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839-1900) Saturday 9 December 1848 p 4 Article

... LAW AND POLICE COURTS. POLICE COURT. Thursday, 7th December, Peter Lewis was charged with threatening to shoot George Mashford, his brother in-law, at Kensington, on the 3d instant. George Georee Mashford made a long statement, from which it appeared that his sister (the prisoner's wife) was ... 842 words

Our Elizabeth will speak!! Well, about her husband trying to kill her brother but at least we will have some 'words' from our great-great-grandmother!

The other newspaper report I found on Trove concerned James Haynes Atkins in a fracas with the Chinese cook at a hotel in Gladstone where Annie Clavin, who later became his wife worked as a waitress. Interestingly at the end of it all the cook got off with a mild sentence, due no doubt, to the sensitivity of the judge who felt that he, like many Chinese, had been 'driven' to the attack on Atkins.

Fascinating stuff. Luke, who is descended from James Haynes said he knew of this story. He went on to add that Annie Clavin and James Haynes lived on Booyoolie Station , just outside of Gladstone, where James worked as a horse breaker and that Annie continued to live there after James died.

But here is the report from the South Australian Register:

GLADSTONE, October 11, 1885.

Some excitement was occasioned last night at the Commercial Hotel by the report that a man named James Atkins, employed at the Booyoolee Station bad been stabbed by a Chinaman named Ah Chuck, a cook at the hotel. It appears that some days since the cook threatened Atkins that if he caught him in the kitchen he would scald him with water; Atkins went in on Saturday night, and the Chinaman threw lukewarm water over him. The Chinaman raised ' a row, and Atkins followed him outside, where a blow was struck.

The Chinaman then used a butcher's knife, which he had previously sharpened, causing a wound at the elbow joint. The wound is a very nasty gash. Dr. Hamilton stiched up the arm, and Atkins is getting along well. Although today his arm is much swollen. Chuck was arrested by the police while in bed, and Yook his blanket with him under his arm. He was surprised to find at the station that he was not allowed the use of the blanket. He will very likely be tried to-morrow. STABBING CASE.

At the Gladstone Police Court on Monday last, before Mr. O. Homer, J.P., Joe Yook, a celestial, was charged on the information of James Atkins, of Booyoolie station, laborer, with unlawfully and maliciously wounding him with a knife. Mr. Bonoaut appeared for the prisoner. James Atkins said on the previous Saturday night he went to Mullers hotel kitchen. Heard prisoner order the servant girl out, to which she replied that she had as much right in there as Yook bad. She refused to go out.

Heard prisoner say he would scald her, and then ordered me out, to which I replied that I would go when Mr. Muller ordered me to do so. Prisoner threw a dipper of water on me and ran away, when I followed. He went to the passage door, when I caught him, and be tried to hit me with the dipper. Put up my arm and received a blow on the elbow. Yook then ran back again into the kitchen, where he remained for about ten minutes before coming out the second time. Then he came to the door, and said—" You b… I will kill you." Was standing at the passage door at the time. During the time the prisoner was in the kitchen I heard him sharpening something on the steel, but could not say whether it was a knife. When he said he would kill me told him to come down to the back.

Was walking close ahead of him when he made a run at me. I turned round as he did so and hit him. He then struck me; the blow was like a sledge hammer. Lost all power of my arm, and felt a sore feeling through it. The coat (produced) I had on at the time, and also my white shirt and undershirt were all marked with blood. Alter the blow I went out the back and to the front of the hotel. Accused the prisoner of stabbing me and he replied "Ah .

Went to the doctor and had the wound stitched. By Mr. Boucaot —Will not swear that I did not say I had no desire to bring' the case in. Told the Chinaman in the court that I did not wish it. Prisoner told me once to go out of the kitchen. Mr Muller never did tell me, nor did prisoner say he wanted to go on with his work. Prisoner may have been speaking to both the girl and I when he ordered her out of the kitchen. Bid not stake him. Think I laid hold of him by the coat. When prisoner struck me I called out, " You have stabbed me."

Annie Clavin, waitress at the Commercial Hotel, said she went into the kitchen on Saturday night to get a candle, when prisoner ordered her out and threatened to scald her. He threw water at Mr. Atkins and some fell on my arm. Yook ran out, and Atkins caught him at the kitchen door. Heard prisoner call Mr. Muller, but he did not answer.

Left the kitchen and went into the passage, and returned, but did not see prisoner. Miss Muller enquired what the row was about, and I said. "Cook and Jim were having some words." Saw prisoner with a butcher's knife which had a black handle, bat could not swear that the knif e produced was the one. Subsequently was standing in the passage, and thought everything was over, when I heard prisoner sharpening a knife.

Prisoner went to the kitchen door and said to Atkins "I will kill you," and Atkins replied, "If you want to fight come to the back." Atkins took the lead and prisoner followed. Prisoner made a leap at him when his back was turned, but could not say whether they struck one another. Saw Atkins's arm drop down by bis side, and afterwards saw his coat cut and blood on the arm of his shirt. By Mr. Boucaut—Was always friendly with the cook till lately, when he threatened to stab me with a fork.

 He has previously told both of us to go out of the kitchen. Cant say whether there were any fowls to kill that night. They are generally killed before dinner by the ostler and never at night. Dr. Hamilton said Atkins had an incised wound about an inch and a half long on the outside of the right arm, which looked as if it bad been inflicted wtth a sharp instrument. The knife produced would have caused the wound, which I stitched up. It was not dangerous.

P.C. Harris gave evidence as to the arrest. Searched the kitchen for the butcher's knife, but could not find it, and afterwards discovered it in prisoner's bedroom underneath some clothes in the corner. Prisoner said —** I could not help it, Mr. Harry; he struck me first" Red spots were on the knife, which had been newly sharpened, judging from the keen edge.

Compared the size of the holes in the coat and shirt, and Mr. Boucaut asked for a dismissal on the ground that the information was bad. Defendant should have been charged with a common assault only. They all knew how Chinamen were kicked and cuffed about, but they were as much entitled to protection as any English subject.

LEFT: Booyoolie-Gladstone area.

The case was a trivial one, in which he should use his discretion, and deal with rather than send it on. The Crown Solicitor had fully explained only a few days ago how the law was administered by justices, and this was a case in point. The Chinaman was justified in self-defence in going to extremes, and if Atkins struck against the knife it served him right.

 He would point out that the wounding was neither wilful nor malicious. The court declined to accede to the request Adolph Welch said he was ostler at the hotel. He ought to have killed some poultry during the day, but did not do it. Prisoner asked me to help to kill some at night when he was finished in the kitchen.

By the Police—Saw the prisoner playing cards from 9pm. Don’t know why the fowls were not killed before . There was no poultry killed that night! Mr. Homer having intimated that he would send the case on, Mr. Boucaut declined to call the prisoner to give evidence, and applied for bail. Committed for trial at the next sittings of the Glad- Stone Circuit Court, bail allowed, prisoner in £50, and two sureties of 50 pounds each.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

It's just a story but a mystery I want to solve!

I am not sure why it matters that I find some sort of substance for the Elizabeth Mashford 'illegitimate story but it does. Stubborness perhaps or the fact that my ancestry research so far, both on the maternal and paternal line, has always come up with a 'source' for a particular story.

Except this one. On the basis of intuition, logic and common sense I know this story has some substance... I just don't know what it is or where to find it.

I don't actually care what the answer is, I would just like to know the source of the story. I am curious as to why something like this would be handed down through the generations and yet have no substance in any kind of fact. Of course people have made up stories and it could simply be that this is a made up story but there are specifics which have been retained and the story has had enough power to be handed on by sons and daughters alike.

I thought we might have had an 'answer' the other day when Luke Scane Harris said he thought that Jane Mashford was illegitimate because she was born after John Mashford was dead. It sounded great and had a reasonable 'ring' to it because Jane went on to marry the Irish artist, George O'Brien who could trace his lineage back to the Irish kings. Nobility and illegitimacy entwined in Elizabeth's sister... an easy mixup.

Except it wasn't that easy. I wondered why I had not noticed before the birth discrepancy and the reason was, as Kylie Nott pointed out, there wasn't one. Luke has gotten the wrong message from a typo which had her birth in 1843 instead of 1833. Back to square one.

Kylie has a theory that the story had filtered across from one of the Lewis-Nott ancestors but Granny Nott, who came to Australia in the 1920's and who was illegitimate is unlikely to be the source in my book because my father never mentioned any Lewis's let alone any Notts. From what I could see there was no connection between Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins sons by Peter Lewis and her children by Edward Atkins.

More to the point, Granny Nott was too late. For the story to have been re-hashed and attributed to Elizabeth Mashford wrongly it would have had to have been done by Mary Atkins Ross who was then in her sixties and my grandfather, Charles Ross, who was then in his thirties. Again it did not make sense.

This sort of story, particularly when handed down by grand-children has to be heard in childhood for it to register. Grandpa Ross wouldn't have given a toss about bastards or nobles or any such thing; certainly not enough to bother telling his three children the same story in such a way they felt compelled to tell their children.

And the same story had come down through Luke's family which was descended from James Atkin's youngest son, Ambrose Roy. But it is clear that our Elizabeth Mashford is one and the same with the Elizabeth Mashford born to John and Mary Cann Mashford in Coldridge.

Could Elizabeth have been an illegitimate child for Mary even though she was married to John? But then where would the story about the family 'sending her to Australia' come from if they waited 27 years to do it? That doesn't make sense.

Could Elizabeth have had a child to some noble father and they adopted the child, thus requiring Elizabeth and all of her family to be 'removed' to the colonies so the link could be extinguished once and for all? That could make sense.

So far, the 'ingredients' for the story are:
From Charlie Ross's children, the variations on the theme of :
a. Elizabeth Mashford being born of a noble family and 'sent' to the colonies because she had an illegitimate child to a man of lesser birth. The problem here is that she came out with five other family members.
From the youngest son of Elizabeth's son came:
b. Elizabeth Mashford was the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and forced to leave England by his wife (or his mother) Lady Elizabeth. The problem here is that it looks pretty certain that our Elizabeth Mashford had a mother, a father and a number of siblings. And if Mary Cann did get pregnant to another man why would they wait so long to 'get her out of sight?'

At this point I have sent out an email asking family members for any stories they may have or if they had no stories. It would be interesting to check with descendants of Elizabeth Atkins Cox to see if they had a variation of the story. That would mean all of Elizabeth's children by Edward Atkins had the story but her descendants from the Lewis side did not.

I have also asked the Devon researcher to check bastard births for Mary Cann and her daughter Elizabeth Mashford in relevant years.

And, at this stage of the somewhat mysterious game, if there is a slight chance that the story might be a re-hash from the Lewis-Nott side, and it is a very slight chance, then perhaps there is a better chance that the story is not about Elizabeth Mashford but her husband, Edward Atkins...about whom we know nothing!

The 'gangrene' story was right story wrong person; attributed to a male, Charlie Ross when in fact it happened to a female, Elizabeth Mashford. Edward Atkins died nearly 30 years before Elizabeth; could the story have gotten confused over that time?

It doesn't seem the sort of thing which Elizabeth would have mixed up.... the names Mashford and Atkins being quite different .... but it is possible.

Then again, in this game anything is possible; the trouble is proving it!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Cann or May we find the lost Labbets and Mashfords in the family?

ABOVE: Nymet Rowland churchyard where no doubt some ancestors are buried.

My Devon researcher finally got back to me with some information, albeit of the negative kind but it remains information as part of a process of adding or subtracting possibilities to the ancestral 'pot.'

It is only by discounting that we can create a more accurate picture of the past. Negative or positive, added or subtracted, answers are answers.

She said in her first email:

I attach copies of parish register entries. There is no entry for a death of an Elizabeth Mashford in the UK between 1837 and 1847, and the Devon Burial Index, which starts in 1813, does not have an entry for her either.

As I said there is a GRO index entry for an Elizabeth Mashford who married in 1845. I have not been able to find her on the 1851 census, using the surnames of the bridegrooms listed on the same page. She did not marry in Coldridge, Morchard Bishop or Winkleigh parishes. It would be worth obtaining the certificate in order to exclude her if possible. I have asked a colleague in North Devon to look up the bastardy returns for Winkleigh.

It does seem very coincidental that your Elizabeth Mashford asserted that she had been illegitimate, and for there to be a corresponding record of an illegitimate Elizabeth Mashford of the right age. Another possibility is that she was baptised twice, once by her newly married mother, and then again by her and her husband, perhaps in a desire to make her legitimate.

However I would think this unlikely given that there was a branch of the Mashford family in Winkleigh who had a daughter Elizabeth baptised in 1798.

It seems most likely that this is the Elizabeth who had the illegitimate daughter Elizabeth. The other possibility is that the Elizabeth Mashford emigrating to Australia was in fact married to one of the Mashford sons. However, I have done an initial exploration of this hypothesis with no result.

N.B. I corrected this because we have marriage records for Elizabeth Mashford and she was definitely not married to John, George or Josiah but, researchers whether amateur or professional need to take all possibilities into account.

A look at Mary Cann's ancestry has not been straighforward. There is a Mary Cann baptised in Coldridge in 24 September 1788 to parents John Cann and Alice Tucker (who married 3 December 1783). I notice from your blog, that you don't have a burial for her, so we don't know how old she was when she died. The above baptism seems rather early for her marriage in 1818, and her husband John Mashford would have been 9 years younger. However this kind of age disparity was not unheard of, and the fact that they married in Coldridge suggests that she was of that Parish. Their marriage certificate shows that a Stephen Cann was a witness.

I then went on to find birth records online for a Mary and Stephen Cann which look like being our two:

Stephen Cann was born to John and Mary Cann in Nymet Rowland, Devon on April 27, 1799,  a year after the birth of his sister Mary, on August 20, 1798 in the same village.

Nymet Rowland was one of the places where members of the Partridge family, mentioned earlier, also lived. This may of course mean nothing or it might mean something.

This would make Mary, twenty at the time of her marriage to John Mashford in 1818. John died in 1836 at the age of 39 so he would have been born in 1797, just one year before Elizabeth was born.

And a John Cann was christened on March 3, 1791, parents John and Mary Cann, Meeth, Devon, who might be an older brother for our Mary Cann and her brother Stephen. Or he might not. Devon is apparently crammed with Canns and John and Mary were at the time, ridiculously common names. But, it might provide a later bit of 'glue' for the Cann-Mashford-May-Labbet story.

ABOVE: The rolling farmlands of Morchard Bishop.

And in her second email a few weeks later the researcher wrote:

I have heard back from my colleague in North Devon. There is no surviving bastardy examination for Elizabeth Mashford in Winkleigh. He had a good look through the Poor Law records for the Parish, but there is no mention of any Mashford bastardy references. So we have drawn a blank here. There was certainly a Partridge family living in the hamlet of Hollacombe in Winkleigh, where Elizabeth Mashford was resident when she baptised her baby.

William Baker ordered, as putative father, to maintain Elizabeth Partridge's base daughter (born in Hollacombe)

The above record shows an Elizabeth Partridge having an illegitimate baby in Hollacombe in about 1798. And a John Partridge of Winkleigh was apprenticed in 1805 to Simon Down of Winkleigh when he was aged 8. So it seems likely that the father named Partridge would have been an agricultural labourer, and so of the same class as Elizabeth. I have received the marriage certificate for an Elizabeth Mashford marrying in 1845. She gives her father's name as Michael Mashford, and married John Manley, a labourer.

And a quick look at the records identified her as the daughter of Michael and Grace Mashford, baptised in Nymet Tracey in 1825. Michael and Grace were resident in Coldridge in 1841 and 1851, and in 1851 had their Grandson John Manley with them, confirming that this is the right family.

I do not think that there are any other documents that we can look at. It would have been more satisfying if we could have found indisputable evidence of the illegitimate Elizabeth Mashford either marrying or dying, or remaining in Devon, but she seems to disappear.
As you have mentioned, it is often the case that family stories become attached to the wrong generation. I think it more likely that your Elizabeth Mashford was the daughter of John Mashford and Mary Cann, and that possibly an illegitimate birth will show up in an earlier generation.

ABOVE: Devon winters would be something the Mashfords could only remember in the milder climate of South Australia.
So, at this stage of the game it does not look like our Elizabeth Mashford was illegitimate although there is nothing to say that her mother Mary Cann, was not pregnant when she married John Mashford and that Elizabeth, while registered as John's daughter at birth, was actually the illegitimate child of another man.
That however is something we are unlikely to ever prove. The only other thing which is worth pursueing at this stage and I have asked the researcher to do so, is to find out whether or not Mary Cann could have been illegitimate. The record is of her christening, not birth so it is possible there could be bastardy records which are worth checking. Then again, Stephen is recorded in the same way so it is a bit of a long shot.

So perhaps the illegitimacy is Mary Cann's mother and we simply do not know her maiden name at this stage. But it all seems to be going back a bit far and drifting into the 'clutching at straws' category.
I doubt we will find the truth of  the family illegitimacy but my instinct is that the story is 'true' in some sense; it is just a matter of making enough sense of it all to know who it was. Given that the 'gangrene' story related to a prior generation but to people living together, my instinct is that the illegitimacy story has to be close as well. We know it happened in England because that was a reason given for Elizabeth Mashford having to leave, which, when I think about it, makes it unlikely that it was her mother or grandmother.

I suspect this is 'one family mystery' which may not be solved.Then again, stranger things have happened. My Mashford family contact in the UK, Lesley, wrote a few weeks ago to say she now had time to look into her old family papers and would be in touch later. So, who knows what will come up?

And, even as I write, I am reminded of the story which Luke Scane-Harris wrote down in his ancestry journal which had been given to him by his mother and which had come down from Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins eldest daughter Elizabeth Atkins Cox and which was exactly the same story which my father told me and which his father had told him and which had come down from her youngest daughter, Mary Atkins Ross:

'So what can be said about Elizabeth Mashford's life? The first one is family oral history. Mrs Atkins (nee Bishop) told the author that it was a persistent rumour that Elizabeth Mashford was an illegitimate daughter to a wealthy nobleman in England. She was sent out to South Australia to stop a scandal and to stop embarrassment for the family especially 'Lady Elizabeth' the wife of Elizabeth Mashford's father[1]. There is no evidence of this and the author doubts that any evidence will ever be found. Nevertheless the rumour still persists today among Elizabeth Mashford’s descendants[2].

[1] Personal recollections of Mrs Eileen Atkins (nee Bishop)
[2] Personal recollections of  Mrs Harris (nee Atkins)

The story did not come down through Elizabeth's sons by Peter Lewis, at least not through his eldest son George. It would be interesting though to contact some descendants of Elizabeth Mashford Atkins' son, James Haynes, to see if they knew the story. James and Annie Clavin had about a dozen children but I am not sure if any of us have any contact with any of them. 

Elsa Ena Mary was born June 9, 1887, Gladstone, SA and married Cornelius Valantine Reardon, September 5, 1917, St. Peter's, Gladstone SA; 
Gladys Trueda was born December 17, 1888 (the year Mary Atkins married Charlie Ross) at Gladstone and married John Thomas Madigan, on July 5, 1921 at St. Mary's Church, Georgetown, SA;
Haynes Mashford was born July 15, 1890 at Booyoolie Est., near Gladstone and married Veronica Victoria Ivy Dugan, on August 2, 1916, All Saints Cathedral, Port Augusta, SA;
James Leslie was born April 6, 1892 at Booyoolie, near Gladstone;
John Raymond as born July 13, 1894 at Booyoolie, near Gladstone - John and James may have died young by the look of it -
Margaret Elizabeth was born July 22, 1897 at Booyoolie and married Victor Robert Robinson, on February 26, 1919 at the home of her aunt Mary Atkins Ross in Gladstone;
Francis Cyril  was born July 5, 1899, Gladstone and also may have died young since he did not marry but he had a twin,
Ella Kathleen,  who married Michael Joseph Sexton on August 28, 1928, at St. Ignatius Church, Norwood, SA;
Laurence Joseph was born February 3, 1901 at Gladstone and married Mary Immaculate (good Catholic name) Hill on December 31, 1925 at Holy Cross Church, Goodwood;
Ambrose Roy was born August 2, 1906 and although birthplace was not given, it was probably Gladstone and he married Eileen Rosamond Bishop on July 28, 1928 at St. Paul's Cathedral, Port Pirie.

Annie Clavin Atkins must have come from good stock - that's eleven children of ten pregnancies in 19 years - pretty much one every two years and by the look of it, at least nine of them grew up to marry themselves.  Ambrose may have been unexpected because he arrived five years after Laurence and was the first to break the two-year cycle. He was also probably the last to be born because his father, James Haynes Atkins was dead 13 months later. He died September 16, 1907 barely a week after Mary Atkins Ross buried her husband Charlie. 

So that means if there is any substance to the family story it should be found somewhere out there amongst the Atkins, Sextons, Robinsons, Madigans and Reardons as well as the Ross's and Cox's. There must be hundreds of them somewhere; I think I will leave that bit of research to the Fates.

We also have the opportunity to 'trace' the two other names which appear in Elizabeth Mashford's family: May and Labbett. John Mashford and Mary Cann's first son John was given her maiden name  of Cann as a middle name and second son George given the middle name of May, it suggests that 'May' might have been the maiden name of John's mother and with Josiah, the third son, given the middle name of 'Labbet' it's a guess, but a reasonable guess, that this was the maiden name of Mary Cann's mother.

Yes, it does get confusing which is why I am taking the time to write it all up as I go. Remembering dates is hard enough without retaining the multitude of 'names' which one inherits if we trace a family back far enough. 

Simply tracing surnames with no personal connection is interesting:

Cann is a name found almost exclusively in Devon with a few in East Anglia. Canne, as a surname was common in Tudor records. The nearest in 1332 appears to be Ken or Kena, probably from the place/river Ken but in 1238 there are two Cannes in South Tawton.

May  is a  southern English name with a high frequency in the South West especially Cornwall and Devon. The earliest record is from Lympstone in 1332 although the name Mei, recorded in 1238 could be May.

Labbett is probably a Hugeunot name and Mashford, as discussed earlier, was first recorded in Lincolnshire and probably also derived from the French.

  LEFT: The land around Coldridge has been farmed for centuries and looks little different today than it did when Elizabeth Mashford lived there.
I have found records online which might 'fit' our Labbett ancestors:
A Mary Labbet was christened on April 10, 1769 Morchard Bishop, Devon and her parents were recorded as Jonas and Jane Labbet. A Jonas Labbet was christined on April 20m, 1742 in Morchard Bishop and would be old enough to be Mary's father. Jonas only has his mother's name recorded as Mary Labbet .... again, another possible illegitimacy to fuel a family story.
There is also a listing for  a John Mashford, christened May 12, 1771, Coldridge Devon who is a possible contender for our John Mashford  who married Mary Cann. His parents are listed as John and Elizabeth Mashford. However, I have discovered that Devon has quite a few Mashfords although the researcher tells me the name is not as common in Devon as some others; like Cann and Labbet for instance.

But Nymet Rowland, Coldridge and Morchard Bishop are all within reasonable 18th and 19th century distances from each other.

We also have records of  an Elizabeth Mashford, apprenticed to Simon Webber in 1807 which looks like it could be our Elizabeth.

One thing which fellow family researcher Kylie came up with was a newspaper notice for Josiah Mashford giving a description of him:


Information is requested of Josiah Mahsford, last heard of about three months since in Melbourne. Description:- Age 53 years, height 5 ft, 10in., fair complexion, auburn hair, whiskers, beard, &c., grey eyes, small nose.

From South Australian Police Gazette October 15, 1884.

He was a good height and from the sound of it, looked not dissimilar to Elizabeth's second husband, Edward Atkins, who looks to be of fair complexion with auburn hair ... as much as one can guess from the photograph taken with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth.

And it is rather interesting to know he had 'grey eyes' and a 'small nose.'

But at this stage, having found the Mashfords and their place of origin there is a limit to how far it is worth chasing them. Given that I can't do much more on our Greek Charlie Ross until I get to Ithaca next year, I am going to focus on our other mystery; Edward Atkins.
I recently heard back from an Adelaide researcher who was doing some 'leg work' in South Australia which I could not do because of our move to Malawi. He was trying to find some trace of a Joseph Atkins to see if we could 'place' our Edward Atkins, but again, there was nothing much gained in the way of progress or information.
Edward is our 'shadow' figure. We have a photograph of him and we have records of his first marriage and his second to our Elizabeth Mashford but, beyond the name of his father, we have nothing.
We still know next to nothing but the research cost $36 to have done and what we 'have' is more than what we 'had' even though it does not open any doors.
ABOVE: Port Adelaide in 1848
The researcher wrote:
A search of the newspaper index of shipping arrivals held by the SA Genealogy & Heraldry Society was searched today and the following entry located:

ATKINS, Joseph, wife and 2 chn (Ref: R48/7)

R48/7 referred to a report in the Adelaide Register newspaper 25 Mar 1848.

The family arrived 23 March on the Malcolm David from London via Plymouth with 250 passengers. The passenger list does not survive.

The newspaper entry tells us nothing more than the entry above.

Our first 'record' of Edward Atkins is 1843 when he married Hannah McLeod at Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide.

The Joseph Atkins who arrived five years later might well be his father and mother and two younger siblings.

It's a guess however, but it might be worth tracing the Atkins family who arrived on the Malcolm David just in case.

It is interesting to look at the photograph we have of Edward Atkins (see left) with his daughters Mary (left) and Elizabeth, and to 'imagine' which part of England he is from.

To me he has a Yorkshire or north country look about him and he also looks to be of a reasonable height.

I am hoping that before too long we will also be able to 'place' the Atkins side of the family.

Records show the greatest number of Atkins recorded in the 1881 England and Wales Cenus lived in Yorkshire and Lancashire which is the 'look' I think Edward Atkins has. That is not to say his ancestors did not end up further South in other Atkins 'haunts' like Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire or Kent.

What is pretty certain is that the surname Atkins is English through and through in a way that Mashford is not. Although, even here the origins of the name go back a long way and to parts beyond England.

The name is said to derive from 'Ad', a pet form of the Hebrew male given name Adam, meaning 'red earth', with reference to the substance from which the first man was formed, plus the Olde English pre 7th Century diminutive suffix '-kin. The 'd' was changed to 't' in certain areas and in some cases 's' added to indicate patronymic form - son of Atkin.

The reference to 'red' is interesting because of course this is also the origin of the name Ross and Rossolimos. Symbolically, when Mary Atkins married Charlie Ross she was bringing the same 'red' energy and ancestry to the relationship.

Adekin filius Turst appears in the 1191 Pipe Rolls of Norfolk and the surname, Atkins, was first recorded in the early half of the 14th Century when John Adekynes is noted in the Subsidy Rolls of Warwickshire (1332).

If one thing has changed over time it is spelling and it is one reason why tracing family members can be so difficult. No doubt it was a combination of illiteracy and the natural 'changes' at work in language but a letter here or there can play havoc with an ancestry search. The name evolved into a variety of spellings: Adkins, Adkinson, Atkyns, Adkisson and of course Atkins to name just a few variations on the form or the norm.

Discovering where Edward Atkins came from would be an exciting piece of information. Cousin Luke, when he has the time, plans to see what he can find in  New South Wales records in terms of the 'convict' scenario but I am beginning to wonder about that one.

Just looking at Edward, there is a resolute, stern, almost forbidding and certainly law-abiding 'look' to him that makes one feel he was a solid, respectable sort of person. Of course, that is not to say his father was not the exact opposite as often happens but instinct suggest to me he has a north-country 'farmer' look about him.

More conjecture but it's a fascinating part of the process of discovery.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Putting the record straight -hopefully

We might be a little closer to putting the record straight about Elizabeth Mashford's illegitimacy.

Given the limitations of online searches and not 'being on the ground' I have taken on the services of a Devon researcher, who, for a few hours work might be able to establish once and for all if the Elizabeth Mashford born to Mary Cann and John Mashford is my great-great grandmother; in which case she clearly would not be illegitimate.
LEFT: Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins - illegtimate or not?

The researcher sent me the following email:
Initially, I think we need to check the Parish Registers, and confirm the accuracy of the indexed data you have. Sometimes the original entries have extra information. The entry for Elizabeth Mashford's baptism in Winkleigh certainly looks like an illegitimate birth. There are bastardy returns for Winkleigh up at the North Devon Record Office in Barnstaple, so I could ask a colleague to check these.

The 1841 census has 2 Elizabeth Mashfords of the same age, one in Coldridge, and the other working as a servant in nearby Morchard Bishop. It may be that they are the same person. This did occasionally happen.

Winkleigh and Coldridge are very close to each other, and Mashford is not a common name, so I would think it likely that all the Mashfords are related.

I checked the GRO for Mashford entries, and found a marriage of an Elizabeth MASHFORD in 1845 in the Crediton District, which includes Coldridge and other nearby Parishes. Do you have a record of this marriage? I was maybe thinking that this could help us exclude one or other of the Elizabeth Mashfords!

I can take images of the records with my camera. These cost 50p each. They are taken directly of the microfiche image, which produces a much better result than a photocopy. You may also obtain your ancestor's signature, if they were literate, and signed the marriage register.

Clearly an 'on the ground' researcher who actually knows what she is doing, is more likely to come up with relevant information than I might through hours, if not days, of online searching. So, fingers crossed that we might establish the veracity of the illegitimacy story, one way or another, sooner not later.

If the story is found to be true and our Elizabeth was a relative of John Mashford then we will have another avenue to pursue.

One way or another, within the twists and turns of ancestry research, we are finding faces and names and places to put together the ancestry puzzle of so many missing pieces.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

More movement on the Mashfords

ABOVE: Eggesford House was the centre of Eggesford Parish where Mary Labbett,probably our John Mashford's mother, was born.

Family researcher, Kylie Nott is doing a sterling job tracking down the Mashford family. All to the good I say given that I am not getting very far on Greek Charlie Ross or Edward Atkins. However, ancestry research proceeds generally at tortoise pace with the odd ‘fox’ moments.

We now have records for the marriage of John Mashford and Mary Cann and burial records for John and sadly, daughter Emma, who died aged one. There is also a possibility that we have the record for the marriage of John’s parents given the link of the name Labbett which was given as a middle name to John and Mary’s son, Josiah.

A John Mashford married Mary Labbett on March 31, 1796 in Eggesford, Devon. It is possible that Mary Labbett’s mother was a May, given the middle name bestowed on their grandson, George.

Eggesford is a small parish in the rolling Devon hills about mid-way between Exmoor and Dartmoor. It was barely a village, more a collection of dwellings whose inhabitants supported the ‘big house’, Eggesford House, the residence of the Earls of Portsmouth, peers of the realm. The stately home of that time no longer exists. It was demolished in 1832 when the Hon. Newton Fellowes built the current Eggesford House, which fell into disuse in the 1920’s. While remaining a picturesque ruin for countless years, the house has now been partly restored and is lived in.'

LEFT: Eggesford House, built in the 1830's to replace the original has now been partly restored and is a private home.

Eggesford is 6km from Winkleigh; 5km from Coldridge and 11km from Zeal Monachorum: villages where our Mashfords lived.

John Mashford married Mary Cann on May 29, 1818 in Coldridge, Devon. John died some 18 years later at the age of 39 and was buried on May 5, a few weeks before their wedding anniversary, in 1836 in Coldridge, Devon in the parish of Coleridge. Within eight months their youngest child Emma would be dead. One-year-old Emma was buried on January 25, 1837 in Coldridge, Devon.

Mary Cann Mashford was a widow with six surviving children: Elizabeth, aged 16; John Cann, aged 13; George May, aged 10; Josiah Labbett, aged 8; Mary Ann, aged 5 and Jane, aged 3.

Her husband was a tailor but the 1841 census records her as a publican. Perhaps enough money had been left for her to buy the business. It would be 11 years before she and her children emigrated to South Australia.

LEFT: St. Mary's Anglican church, Coldridge, Devon. John Mashford and his small daughter, Emma, died eight months apart and may well be buried in St. Mary's churchyard.

There is no doubt we have the family; but not yet certainty about our Elizabeth. However, what we have is an important part of the process. At this stage it looks like the name Labbett came from John Mashford’s mother; the name Cann came from his wife, Mary and the middle name, May, might come from Mary Cann’s mother.

This is also suggesting that the name Haynes, as given to Edward and Elizabeth Atkin’s son and grandson is a maternal name from the Atkins family.

At this point we have no burial records for Mary Cann Mashford or her son George May Mashford. It is possible they returned to England at some point, or that they moved to Victoria with Josiah.

And, it is only a maybe, but a record has been found for the death of a Peter Lewis in Melbourne Hospital. He died on February 13, 1854 of fever with no family present. The age given is 42 although, as other records have shown, if it is our Peter Lewis, he may have dropped five years from his age when he married Elizabeth Mashford.

Perhaps he went to Melbourne to look for work, following his brother-in-law Josiah Mashford...the third son had been born in 1853 ... and never returned. Or perhaps he left Elizabeth and his children and she did not know what had happened to him. The fact that his death was not recorded in South Australia suggests he did not die there. However, the fact that Elizabeth remarried before the seven years were up for an ‘abandoned wife’ suggests she may have known of his death as opposed to knowingly committing bigamy.

The evidence for our Elizabeth is pointing strongly in the direction of the Coldridge Mashfords which suggests that, like the gangrene story, the illegitimacy story has been told about the wrong person. This means that it may be Mary Cann, Mary Labbett or even the unknown (?) May who was illegitimate. It wouldn’t fit the ‘being pushed to emigrate’ part of the story, but might better fit the ‘daughter of a noble family’ part of the story.

With luck, perseverance and time we might get our answer. Meanwhile, given that 12 months ago I knew nothing more than the name Elizabeth Mashford Atkins and the story of illegitimacy, we have come a very long way indeed.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The right and wrong of family stories

I have learned a valuable lesson this week; that family stories may be right and wrong at the same time, but, that invariably they have substance.
One of the first stories my aunt, Jessie Sands told me, was that her grandfather Charlie Ross had died of gangrene poisoning.
'The smell in the house was horrendous,' she had been told.
It seemed such a definite story with enough 'particulars' to ensure its truth and yet when I saw a copy of Charlie's death certificate it said he had died of 'heart problems associated with asthma over two years.'
That, I thought, was the end of the story. It seemed odd that such a graphic story could be so wrong and as I now know, the story was 'right' but told about the wrong person.
This week I received a copy of Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins death certificate and all became clear; she died of 'gangrene poisoning in the lower extremities.' The certificate stated that no definite time-frame had been given but one presumes that the process was not fast.
The wrong bit of a right story is easy to understand given that Charlie Ross died in 1907 and Elizabeth died barely six months later in 1908 ....more than a decade before Jessie Ross Sands was born. I must admit I had been curious reading Mary Ross's death notice for her mother and the reference to 'after much suffering,' and here the reason for what must have been terrible suffering is shown clearly.
Gangrene poisoning, where parts of the body die and rot,  is a slow and ghastly way to die and she must have been in agony. Hardly over the grief of burying a husband and father, Mary and her children had to tend to the awful and no doubt constant, suffering of a mother and grandmother and live in a small house consumed by the smell of rotting flesh. It was nearly winter when Elizabeth Mashford died and one can only presume that no matter how cold it may have been, that doors and windows would have been permanently open in the vain hope of releasing some of the nauseating odours.
I was also curious about the request for New Zealand papers as well as the English ones to 'carry' the notice but now that we know Jane Mashford had moved to New Zealand with her husband George O'Brien and their chidren in the 1860's, this also makes sense. Both Jane and George were dead by 1908 but there must have been contact with their children and the Mashfords in Australia.
So, as the pieces fall into place, it is also an indication that the story of illegitimacy is 'right' but perhaps the person is 'wrong.' I believe it would have to be a close family member and if it is not great-great-grandmother Elizabeth then it must be her mother or her grandmother. That mother could be Mary Cann or it could be Elizabeth Mashford.... or it could be someone else again.
For the moment I am getting some research done in Devon which may throw some more light on this particular story. Apparently parish records frequently indicated illegitimacy, even when the mother and father later married.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Plenty of possibles; many maybes; lots of likely, and the occasional definite.

LEFT: Edward Atkins with daughters Mary and Elizabeth. He was one of the earliest settlers in South Australia and one of the first to settle the Clare Valley.

Working with so little information, as is the way with such research, there are many possibilities, quite a few maybes, some likely and a small amount of definite.

But it is important to start somewhere which is why any possibilities which morph into maybe or likely have to be explored no matter how 'long the shot' may initially appear.

My goal is to get as much information up on the blog as possible; even those possibles which may turn out to be impossible. The more information on the 'net' the greater the chance of connections being made. What aids ancestry research in this day and age is the 'information sharing' nature of the internet. Increasingly, as I search for family names I find myself pulling up this blog. That means others who are searching for the same family names will also come across it and possibly find a match.

So, I would clarify for anyone following the process that just because I am exploring Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins illegitimacy or Joseph Atkins convict record for example, it does not mean that I hold either circumstance to be absolute fact. We are dealing in the realm of conjecture much of the time and working with an organic process which throws up countless scenarios and from time to time, a few absolute facts.

The evidence to date is that the 'family story' about Elizabeth's illegitimacy and her 'noble connections' has credence. It is a story which apparently was not passed down through her sons by Peter Lewis but it was passed down through the descendants of both her daughters - Mary Atkins Ross and Elizabeth Atkins Cox.

The (Atkins) Cox and (Atkins) Ross families have had little or nothing to do with each other since our grandparents' era and yet each has pretty much the same story. To my mind, it is possible that one reason why the story did not come down through George Lewis's descendants, as fellow researcher Kylie Nott has pointed out, is because mothers are more likely to talk to their daughters than to their sons. That was even more true in the past than it is today but women are certainly more open than men and more open with each other. More to the point, in Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins day, women spent more time together. Women cleaned, cooked, sewed, birthed babies, tended the sick, sat by the side of the dying together.... and talked. Women confided in each other in a way that they did not confide in men.

One scenario which is certainly possible and is yet to be explored is that the 'illegitimate'  child was not my great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Mashford but her mother, or, possibly her grandmother. This has yet to be adequately researched but the story was so specific as told to us that I would be surprised if it is the case. However, it does 'open up' greater potential for the 'noble family link' to be present in any real sense given that 'potential' fathers to date are relatively lowly on the 'noble scale.'

In truth the 'story' of Elizabeth Mashford's birth, or that of her mother or grandmother for that matter, is not particularly important except from the perspective of substantiating a long-held 'family story.'  The veracity or lack of veracity adds little to the overall picture unless it can be shown that there was a connection to an important and extremely interesting family. That does not look likely at this point although it may be possible if the 'story' has its origins in older generations.

LEFT: Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins was born in Devon.

On the other hand, proving Joseph Atkins to be a convict would be much more interesting. But this too is conjecture at this point.... possible but not particularly likely. Because Edward Atkins cannot be traced before his marriage to Hannah McLeod in 1843, convict origins must be considered as a possible source.

In truth, many settlers came to the new colony of South Australia without being named in the registers of the ships on which they travelled. At this point, convict origins is just one of a number of 'scenarios' which may, or may not throw light on Edward Atkins.

And I was thinking that the 'lack' of a father's name on both Edward and Elizabeth's first marriage certificates might indicate 'reluctance' on their part to name their fathers. Not so. Wrong on that count. As Kylie pointed out and as I discovered when I received copies of the marriage certificates, there was no requirement or place to list the name of the father on the earlier marriage registers. John Mashford and Joseph Atkins were not listed because there was no need to list them.

Luke (Atkins) Scane-Harris has come up with a little bit more information on our Edward.  He has had a response from the Clare Regional History Group who confirmed that Edward Atkins was one of the first settlers in the Clare valley. The Clare  District Council was not formed until 1853, and any records before that date were destroyed by a fire, but Edward Atkins was listed as a settler in 1849. He was also listed as a farmer.

LEFT: The Clare Valley where Edward Atkins was one of the earliest settlers is now one of Australia's renowned wine regions.

We can now surmise that the reason he married at Penwortham, Clare Valley was probably because he had friends... or even relatives... living there. Even more interestingly this record shows him as single. So, some six years after marrying Hannah McLeod he is alone and childless. Death records for Hannah and any children might provide more information if they can be found.

There are three Atkins children buried in Adelaide's West Terrace Cemetery:  Benjamin Atkins died on December 29, 1846 aged 9 months; William Atkins died on March 16, 1840 aged 13 months and a two-week old baby girl, surname Atkins died on February 1, 1846.

The first child is more likely to be the son of a Benjamin Atkins who is listed as arriving in South Australia a few years earlier but the other two could be Edward's although the 1839 birth of William probably excludes him given that a Hannah McLeod is listed as arriving at Port Adelaide in 1840.  This may of course not be the Hannah McLeod who married Edward. If the link can be made for the little girl who died in 1846 it would mark the period at which Edward moved to the Clare Valley. Perhaps he lost his wife Hannah at the same time. The fact that the baby girl was not named could suggest that her mother was dead or dying at the time.

Edward Atkins was clearly one of South Australia's earliest settlers and therefore ranks as a 'pioneer' but he was one of the first settlers in the Clare Valley which is now one of Australia's premier wine growing regions. If he was born in Australia then his family would rank as some of the earliest settlers in the country as a whole... whether they came to the new land on the 'edge of the world' as convicts, soldiers, administrators or free settlers.

The search for Edward Atkins' origins continues as does the search for the details of the Devon Mashfords. On the latter count there is progress. Kylie Nott has come up with quite a bit more information on the family. She has found the Coldridge Mashfords in Devon parish baptism records and discovered that in all they had seven children. It seems marriage and burial records are on the way.

In the meantime, John Mashford is listed as a tailor on all of the records. Not quite the 'serf' perhaps that I had assumed. The records show Elizabeth born in 1820; John Cann in 1823; George May in 1826; Josiah Labbatt in 1828; Mary Ann in 1831; Jane in 1833 and Emma in 1835.

There is no doubt that our Elizabeth Mashford was 'related' to this family because she travelled with some of them to South Australia but there is still a question mark as to whether she is the Elizabeth born to John Mashford and his wife Mary Cann or a relation on the Mashford side.

The Cann maternal surname is now a definite because it appears on the marriage certificates of Mary Ann , Jane and Josiah. All were married in Melbourne, Victoria. Josiah married Brigid O'Neill, a farmer's daughter from Dublin, Ireland,  in St. Ignatius Church in 1885. He is listed as being widowed in 1879 and gives his profession as 'contractor' and his age as 46. He also lists two living children and his birthplace as Devonshire.

On July 14, 1855 in St Stephen's Church, Richmond,  Mary Ann Mashford married William Mollison Strachan. of Montrose, Scotland. He was a 26 year old shipping clerk and she is listed as being 'with friends' and aged 24. She lists her father's profession as shopkeeper which suggests that he had his own tailoring shop.

Jane Mashford married George O'Brien in St James's Church, Melbourne on February 23, 1853. George O'Brien was the fifth son of Admiral Robert O'Brien, born at Dromoland Castle, County Clare in 1822. He was thus the grandson of a baronet, and through him a direct descendant of a dynasty of Irish kings. Moreover he was first cousin to the thirteenth Lord Inchiquin who succeeded to that title in 1855.  O'Brien came to Australia at the age of 15 in 1837. He became a renowned painter  although died in poverty. Sometime in the 1860's he moved to New Zealand with his family and is now claimed by the Kiwis as 'their own' despite spending roughly as much time in Australia as he did in New Zealand and having been born in Ireland.

But what makes O'Brien interesting is that one assumes, and it is only an assumption,  given his lineage, that Jane, who died in 1879 and who bore him seven children, is more likely than not to have been literate. Jane, Mary-Ann and Joshua appear to have signed their marriage certificates although such copies are always notoriously hard to read. If our Elizabeth was a sibling, and the eldest sibling at that, why was she not also literate?  We have the Mashford family but have yet to ascertain our Elizabeth's place in it.

If our Elizabeth's age at death is accurate, and while ages seemed to change on marriage certificates, age at death is more likely to be correct - then she would have been born in 1819 not 1820. This fits with the Elizabeth Mashford born to Elizabeth Mashford and Partridg(e) in Winkleigh in that year. So the question mark still hovers on which of the Elizabeth's is the ancestor.

And, as Kylie reminded me, records found on the Latter Day Saints family research site are never as accurate as parish records. She found the birth record for our 1819 Winkleigh Elizabeth but minus a father's name. The fact that this Elizabeth took her mother's name means she was almost certainly illegitimate but the Partridge connection is questionable. As of course it always was given the lack of the 'definite' about the birth of our Elizabeth Mashford at this point. Then again, someone 'entered' the name Partridg(e) into the LDS records as the father of this Elizabeth which means that someone, somewhere, believed this to be true and the link remains possible.

Marriage records for Mary Ann and Josiah have also been found by Kylie.... including Josiah's bigamous marriage. Mary Ann lists herself as being from Coldridge, near Exeter in Devon and both list Mary Cann as their mother's name.

So, at this point the Mashfords who came out on the Princess Royal in 1857 with our Elizabeth were  probably children of John Mashford, tailor and his wife Mary Cann from Coldridge in Devon. The question mark is whether or not our Elizabeth was also a child of this couple or their grand-daughter, niece or even cousin.

Friday, 3 September 2010

The devil is in the detail with Devon dabblings

We have come a long way in terms of knowing more about the origins of Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins and I only hope we can do the same with Edward Atkins. But the devil is in the detail when it comes to finding information.

Of course it is wonderful when a family line can be traced back through countless generations but I am not sure it proves much. It is interesting to know the origins of one's family and names, dates and places of birth in order to have a better feel for the genetic and experiential inheritance.

But, the genetic inheritance becomes diluted over time with two becoming four and four becoming eight and eight becoming sixteen and sixteen becoming thirty-two and thirty-two becoming sixty four by the time you reach great-great-great-great grandparents or grandparents 4X removed. At this point you have 126 ancestors which makes my head spin a tad. It is impossible to trace them all conclusively.

Which is why ancestry research tends to head in a particular direction and focus on 'some' not all of one's ancestral inheritance. The goal of this research is to discover Charlie Ross's Greek origins and that is the main focus.

The detours have however been necessary so far and interesting. I knew nothing about the Mashfords except the name, the illegitimacy and the supposedly 'noble' links. The research has thrown up information we did not have and photographs we never expected to see.

While the 'finer details' can be hard to put in place, it is fascinating to explore the 'bigger picture' of the times in which my ancestors lived. If poverty sent my Mashford's to Australia I suspect it was war which sent them to Devon... although it could also have been poverty. The Mashfords are thought to belong to one original family, established in Lincolnshire, which sent off a Devonshire 'branch' sometime in the 17th  or 18th century.

I suspect the reason for that may have been the English Civil War in 1643. The citizens of Lincolnshire and Devonshire were, in the main, on the side of Parliament. Very early in the piece the Royalists took Lincolnshire and held it for the duration of the First Civil War.

Between 1642 and 1651, Lincoln was on the frontier between the Cavaliers and Parliamentary forces. The city 'changed hands' a number of times but basically the Royalists held sway. The city of Lincoln was badly damaged  and as a result, while the rest of the country prospered as the 1700's arrived, Lincoln continued to suffer.

Did our Mashford decamp south to Devonshire hoping to continue the fight against the Royalists?  Was there a difference of opinion in the Mashford family with our man siding with Parliament and his brother or father siding with the Royalists? There is no doubt that the English civil war split families as well as country.

But there are no Mashfords ....or Partridges for that matter ..... in the Zeal Monachorum Protestation Returns of 1641-2 in the early days of the war. By the end of 1640, King Charles I had become very unpopular. Parliament forced him to make changes in the Constitution which gave them a bigger say in how the country was governed. From then on, Parliament was split into two factions - Royalists (Cavaliers) who supported the King and Parliamentarians (Roundheads) who wanted political and religious reform.

On 3 May 1641, every Member of the House of Commons was ordered to make a declaration of loyalty to the king and to Parliament. This was ratified next day by the House of Lords. They called it their Protestation against 'an arbitrarie and tyrannical government' and another order was made that every Rector, Churchwarden and Overseer of the Poor had to appear in person before the JPs in their Hundred to make this Protestation Oath in person.

It was to be a declaration of their belief in the 'Protestant religion, allegiance to the King and support for the rights and privileges of Parliament.'

The war would drag on untill 1651 claiming nearly one million lives, many of those dying from disease, famine and from religious genocide.  King Charles I was beheaded on January 30, 1649 for high treason against the realm and people. His son (the future Charles II) would continue the war untill 1651 untill he was defeated at Worcester and fled to France.

In 1660 Charles II returned to London in 1660 with popular support. He was crowned in May 1661. As was the way, he sentenced to death the surviving men who had voted to execute his father.  An uneasy peace settled on the land but it marked a turning point in history - never again would a monarch confront parliament in any real sense.

No doubt some divided families made peace and others did not. Perhaps our Mashford was long settled in Devon, or perhaps not. He may well have only left Lincolnshire at the end of the 17th century or early in the 18th because times were tough in Lincolnshire?

Either explanation may be right or neither explanation may be right. However, a John Mashford was certainly living in the parish of Zeal Monachorum in 1723. Zeal Monachorum was a nearby parish to Coldridge and Mashfords were registered in both during the 1841 census.

The Devon and Exeter Oath Rolls of 1723 show that a John Mashford registered and signed his allegiance to the king. Nearly one hundred years before  the illiterate Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins was born, here is a Mashford who could sign his name. It's an indication that our Mashfords may have gradually slipped down the social ladder during the 18th century.
The oaths were sworn at The Blue Anchor, Crediton on September 23, 1723 before Bampfylde Rodd and John Gibbs esq.Along with John Mashford some twenty-five Partridges also stepped up to pledge allegiance to King George I.

These Rolls were compiled in the aftermath of the Jacobite Atterbury plot of 1720-22 and contain the names of over 25,000 Devonians, amounting to some one in five of the adult population of the time. Both men and women signed the Rolls in front of Justices of the Peace.

There is no sign of any Mashfords on the pre: 1723 rolls and no sign of any Mashfords in Winkleigh. The fact that one Mashford appears in the midst of more than two-dozen Partridges does indicate that the Mashford presence in Devon was far more recent than the Partridges. And given the preponderance of Mashfords in Lincolnshire at the time it is a very good bet that the Mashfords made their way to Devon in the early 1700's.

Whatever the reason the Mashfords, at least on our side, were showing themselves to be willing to take a risk in their bid for a better life. Although, perhaps by the time our Mashfords left for South Australia the circle was turning and the Mashfords, like so many others, were leaving the worst of poverty behind. In White's Register for Zeal Monachorum in 1850 there are no Mashford's listed.

LEFT: Village life in 19th century Devon.

While in White's 1850 register for Coldridge there is a Josiah Mashford, shoemaker and a Joseph Mashford, schoolteacher.

There's a good chance that these Mashfords form some part of the family tree and the fact that one of them is educated enough to be a schoolteacher stands in stark contrast to our illiterate lot.

A Reed and William Partridge are listed on the same register as farmers ... but not as owners. Perhaps now it was the turn of the Partridges to slip a little down the ladder. By 1893 there are no Mashfords listed in Coldridge (Coleridge) but there is one Partridge :  A Mrs Frances Partridge, farmer and miller of Park Mill.

Coldridge is a small parish situated on the River Taw, 10 miles (16 km) north-west of the ancient market town of Crediton between Brushford and Nymett Rowland.  It is situated deep in the heart of Devon, and still remains pretty much a country village. The hamlet of East Leigh which lies ½ mile (3/4 km) south of the parish is also part of Coldridge.

In 1801 the parish had 697 people; in 1851, four years after Elizabeth and her family had left, the number was down to 607 and by 1901 it was nearly half that and parish numbers wouldstill hovers around this point  today.

And one of the local Mashfords, another John Mashford, possibly our own but possibly not,  has popped up in my search as: Bigamist of Ugborough &Truro! But bigamy was not uncommon at the time given the divorce laws which made it easier to simply 'walk away' and marry again and hope that the paucity of records would keep your secret safe.

Devon, or Devonshire is bounded on the north by Briston Channel; on the north-east by Somerset; on the east by Dorset; on the south-east and south by the English Channel and on the West by Cornwall. The only English counties which are larger in size are Yorkshire and Lincoln.

ABOVE: Clay mining was a part of life in 19th century Devon.

The landscape is varied from mountainous in the east, to rocky along the coast and lush, green rolling hills and valleys across the centre. It is a land of rivers, springs and brooks ... very different to northern South Australia where Elizabeth would make her home. But, like South Australia, Devon was also a place of mines; tin, copper, lead, iron ore, silver, gold, cobalt, manganese and coal.

And, like much of South Australia Devon is a place of clay soils ranging in colour from yellow to pure white and from heavy to light with areas of rich loam. It was the rich loam which made Devon a land of rich produce and an agricultural 'basket' for England.

LEFT: Fishing off the Devon coast.

In the 18th and 19th centuries it was agricultural in the main with good fishing along the coast. Just like South Australia when Elizabeth and her family arrived.

Living in Wirrabarra Forest it was highly unlikely that the Atkins family spent much time fishing.

Daughter Mary Atkins would of course marry a fishmonger but living in Gladstone, so far from the coast, they would not have gone fishing either. Or perhaps she accompanied Charlie Ross when he went to buy his fish to sell and they sat on the docks at Port Pirie, casting a line, while waiting for their goods to be sorted and loaded.

Perhaps Elizabeth went with them to care for the children while Charlie and Mary loaded the fish which would be taken back to Gladstone to sell. Did the sight of the port bring back good memories or bad? It is impossible to know. I like to think that she was content with her life and her family in South Australia. Her children and grandchildren seemed to grow up as reasonably sensible people and that's always a sign of reasonable parenting which as often as not results from a reasonable level of contentment.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Perhaps the family story has a little more fact than fantasy!

LEFT: A church in Colebrooke.

There's a reason why family stories remain alive and often it is because there is some substance to them.

The story of Elizabeth Mashford's 'noble' connections has been in the family now for nearly two hundred years, spanning some six generations.

But, there was no way of finding any evidence for the story until we discovered that Elizaberth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins had been born in Devon. From that point we had a place to search which narrowed the field considerably.

Finding a birth record for 1819, Winkleigh, Devon for an Elizabeth Mashford born to Elizabeth Mashford, father Partridg(e) and finding family members living in a nearby village, whom we know travelled to Australia with Elizabeth on the Princess Royal in 1847, gave greater credence to the 'find.'

All we needed was a Partridge family in the area and that was easy. There were a lot of them. All we then needed was an Elizabeth Partridge, about the right age, who could be the 'Lady Elizabeth' who was 'responsible' for sending our Elizabeth out to the colonies.

And that was the hard part. Not only could I not find any 'noble' Partridges, I could not find an Elizabeth Partridge let alone a Lady Elizabeth Partridge who could fit the time-frame.

Until today. As part of my research I got in touch with some descendants of the Devon Partridges whose ancestors also emigrated and who are living in Canada. Donald Partridge wrote back to say he knew nothing about any illegitimate daughters... but then of course I had not expected any Partridge would ... and he put me in touch with his cousin, Pam Vaughn who wrote:

'Donald’s and my Partridges were mostly around Colebrooke and Coleford (adjoining villages.) The family legend that came down through several branches was that the patriarch was an Earl. This part was interesting which is one of the reasons I set out on the quest to learn more. Indeed Thomas was of the gentry, but of the lowest strata. More like a country squire. He was listed as “gentleman” in the census. This meant that he hired all labor to be done. A few of his sons were later listed as “yeomen” which meant they hired laborers but also worked in the fields, too.

Thomas (the gentlemen) and his wife, Elizabeth, have a tomb in a prominent location in the Colebrooke churchyard.'

LEFT: a Church gate, common in Devon churchyards.

Colebrooke and Coleford are similar distances away from Winkleigh to that of Coldridge where so many Mashfords were recorded in the 1841 census and then later identified as accompanying our Elizabeth on her journey to Australia.

So, not only do we have a Partridg(e) in the area, we have a 'noble' connection and we have a 'Lady' Elizabeth! She may well have only been the wife of a country squire but have ranked highest in the little village and held the title of Lady in either an official or unofficial sense.

Then again, just as our 'family story' looks like having some substance, so too may the 'story' handed down through the Partridge families of an ancestor being an Earl. Such stories usually endure because they have some substance in fact and that makes them worth remembering. It seems to be human nature to remember both the 'best' and the 'worst.'

One Partridge family history states that there were four families of this name which probably had their origins in the Norman conquest and which settled in the areas of Medfield, Duxbury, Hadley and Salibury between 1630 and 1650 and in time found their way across the length and breadth of England.

When William, Duke of Normandy, defeated Harold, the King of England in 1066 he seized the land and estates of the British nobles and handed them over to his faithful Norman gentry. As one does. One of those to be so fortunate was 'Partridge the Norman.' He is said to have migrated during the reign of Stephen, 1135-1154 and in recognition of military services, to have been given estates in Essex by Henry II, 1154-1189.

In 1254 a Richard de Pertriche (the French spelling of Partridge), is recorded as the family head with manors in the county of Gloucester.

The English surnames Patriche, Patridge and Partridge derive from the Old French Word, 'perdriz' which in turn came from the Latin, 'perdix, perdicis,' and no doubt found its way to Gaul (France) with the Romans. Yet more invaders in that ever-present way of history.

It could have started as a nickname - someone looking a bit like a partridge, which seems odd - or it could have been related to occupation - someone who caught partridges or hunted them - or it could have been taken from the name of a village where partridges were in plentiful supply.

The first record of the name was in 1176, in the Pipe Rolls of Devonshire, during the reign of King Henry II - an Ailward Pertriz no less and perhaps an ancestor for our Devon Partridges... or even all Partridges including the John Perdrich found in Staffordshire in 1244; the Philip Partrich found in Cheshire in 1260; the Sibil Partryge found in Staffordshire in 1332 or the John Pattridge found in Suffolk in 1622.

Interestingly, the Mashford name is believed to have also originated in France. Although this is hardly unusual given the French invasion which engulfed England after the Battle of Hastings. But one story has it that the Mashfords were latecomers to England having arrived around the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Two families with the same name Mache, arrived on English soil and one of them changed their name to Mashford because they marched over a ford.

I think this story is a bit of a stretch given that 'mache' in French means 'chewed.' How on earth would you get a surname like 'chewed'? Did they make 'papier mache' and hence were landed with the nickname which became the surname? No wonder they changed it to something sensible like Mashford as soon as they arrived in the incredibly sensible country of England.

We seem to have stumbled into 'silly surname' territory with this search. Although not as silly as the name of one famous Partridge seat - Wisbanger. Now there's a name.! Wisbanger,which came into the hands of the Partridge family in 1557 may well have been as 'whizz-bang' as the name suggests.

As the records state:
'The manor house itself is very quaint and picturesque, as may be seen from the cut herewith presented. It was rebuilt and a porch added in 1578 by Robert Partridge, then head of the house, and the impaled coat of arms of Robert and his wife Anne may still be seen, carved in stone over the front entrance. [See Burke's "Landed Gentry," Vol. ii, pp. 1056-57.]

John Partridge, of Wisbanger, seems to be the one to whom this estate was originally granted. He was succeeded by his son William, who was member of parliament for Rochester in the fourteenth year of Elizabeth (1572). (I suspect William of Wisbanger had quite a time of it as a kid.)

Miles Partridge, brother of William, was a man of note, and one who played a prominent part in the history of those troublesome times.

He was High Sheriff of Gloucestershire during the last years of the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547), and received from that monarch a grant of the manor of Almondsbury (Amesbury). He was a friend and comrade of the unfortunate Duke of Somerset, whom he accompanied in his Scottish expedition, and was knighted for conspicuous bravery on the battlefield of Pinkie (September 10, 1547)'.

Sir Miles Partridge also lost his head on February 26, 1552 having fallen foul of Henry VIII along with the Duke of Somerset and sundry others. However, clearly there were plenty of Partridges to make up the loss of one and perhaps there were others who had also risen to noble rank. Given the longevity of the Partridge family, the 'story' may well be sourced in an ancient truth. A truth which is interesting rather than important.

Colebrooke, by the way, is the birthplace of the famous English wrestler, Abraham Cann .... perhaps a relation on the Cann side of the family if we can ascertain that Mary Mashford, whom I think was Elizabeth's 'aunt' or step-grandmother, gave her son John the middle name of Cann because it was her maiden name.

But, back to Elizabeth and the family story of her ancestry. While the evidence is circumstantial, it is weighty all the same. We have place, birth records and dates which fit the family story. There's not much 'noble' in the connection, at least by today's standards, but enough to justify the story Elizabeth's mother and family told to her and which she in turn told her children and they handed down through the generations until my father and other's of his generation, told their children.

Times have changed and it's not a story I would consider important enough to tell my children and perhaps that is why now is the right time to finally lay it to rest in some 'bed of truth.'
There is more checking to be done but it looks like we may well have brought a modicum of 'justice' to our bastard Elizabeth nearly two centuries after her birth. I like to think so anyway.