Friday, 2 July 2010

Of names, noble lineage and bastards

The ruins of an old building in Wirrabarra Forest where Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis)Atkins raised her children as one of South Australia's first settlers.

Well, the information has been flowing in of late although we are no closer to finding out Charlie Ross's Greek name. More family stories follow the Rostopolous, Roctopolous, Rosstopholous line but in fact none of these are Greek names from what I can see.... anywhere in Greece .... let alone Ithaca. There seems to be a Rossopolous (meaning son of Rosso) but I don't think this is an Ithacan surname.

Could Auntie Jessie be wrong about Ithaca? Of course she could. But then the pronounciation of the name which has been handed down through the family is more likely to be wrong.
We have a piece of information which indicates that Charlie Ross did have a heavy accent as his grand-daughter Jessie Ross Sands claims. The name of Chrysantheous has been recorded  with the birth registrar as Cresanthous.  No doubt with Charlie's pronounciation and the anglo ear of the clerk in the Clare Registrar's Office, Chrysantheous ended up as Cresanthous. Interestingly his birth is recorded as Christie Cresanthous (Chrysantheous) while he is clearly recorded as Chrysantheous Christus when he joined the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force in World War One. It is safe to assume that the 'army got it right' and the clerk at the South Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registrar in the small town of Clare, got it 'quite wrong.'  

This is clearly a phonetic spelling of Charlie's pronounciation at the records office. Cresanthous is a good 'marker' and an important find. Chrysantheous, phonetically, is clearly Cresanthous, but it does indicate a heavy accent and perhaps an inability for Charlie to spell it in English. This also means  there is a good chance that all the names, including Roctopolous which is definitely not Greek, are misheard.

So, we are a long way it seems from knowing the correct name although I have been told on a number of occasions by various family members that the name is 'known.' I have one other lead to pursue through Louise Eldridge, another family historian and the wife of Flora Ross Swincer's grandson, Brett.

And there is possibly some insight into another family story that Mary (Polly) Atkins Ross's mother, Elizabeth Mashford was connected to a noble English family. This was a story my father told and it is a story which was apparently also told by the Atkins family. I am now in touch with Patricia Atkins Harris, the niece of Mary Ross and Patricia's son Luke, who has been researching the family history for some time.

We were told that Mary's mother was actually a 'lady' and while there is no evidence for this, the Atkin's family story is that Elizabeth Mashford was the illegitimate daughter of an English nobleman and was 'sent out to the colonies' to hide the evidence of his shame.Whether this is true or not the fact is that Elizabeth was around the age of twenty when she came to Australia so he had a couple of decades to 'face his shame.' Not that I expect the aristocracy were ever shamed by illegitimate children. They either ignored them completely or partially and paid something for their upkeep.

What is interesting is that this story should come down through two sides of the Atkins family. Where there is smoke there is fire as they say. Or in this case, bastards. As I wrote earlier, we seem to have a history of step-children in the family and now I have uncovered another one, courtesy of Luke Scane-Harris. It seems Charlie Ross had a stepson but we are not sure if he lived with Mary and her new family. There is evidence that : an Edward Atkins, was born of Mary Atkins and Edward Welsh at Gladstone on  November 14, 1877 . Mary would have been 18 years of age when she had her first child and Edward Welsh Atkins would have been 11 when Mary married Charlie Ross.

Edward Welsh Atkins went on to marry a Mrs Wise who already had four children .... so more stepchildren ... and then the couple had two of their own. It seems that illegitimate Edward adopted his mother's name just as Mary's illegitimate mother Elizabeth, adopted her mother's name of Mashford.

The interesting part of this puzzle is that Elizabeth listed her father's name as John Mashford on her marriage certificate to Edward Atkins. She then went on to name her first-born son James Haynes Atkins and he went on to name his first-born son Haynes Mashford Atkins. It is the name Haynes which is unusual. This is more commonly a surname. What is interesting about it is that the name originates in Lincolnshire and is connected with a family of ancient and noble lineage... dating back to before the Norman Conquest. This is relevant because it seems there are two branches of the Mashford family - one in Devon and one in Lincolnshire - although they are probably related.

At this stage I do not know from which branch Elizabeth comes but, the name Haynes, being significant enough to give to a first-born son and then to a first-born grandson is a sign that it meant something important to either Elizabeth or her husband Edward. The Lincolnshire Haynes-Mashford connection suggests that it meant something to Elizabeth and that her branch of the Mashfords came from here.

It's a guess, but a good one, that the father of Elizabeth Mashford was a Haynes. And, given the noble connections of the Haynes family it 'fits' with the family story that Elizabeth Mashford Atkins was, or should have been, a Lady by birth. However, noble and even royal bastards were a dime a dozen in 19th century England and earlier so her situation, or plight, was hardly unusual.


  1. Hi
    My husbands GGG Grandmother was Elizabeth Mashford. She married a Peter Lewis in 1847, and had a son, George Lewis in 1848, all in the Laura/Gladstone area in South Australia. I have just had contact from Luke Harris saying that he is related to her via Edward Atkins. I believed him immediately because in our family bible we have a photo of Mrs E Atkins and son. It's about the size of a matchbox but still a photo. If you think this is the same woman contact me on noddynt @
    Cheers Kylie

  2. Hi Kylie,

    I am sorry it took me so long to see your comment on the Finding Charlie Ross blog. How fantastic to find you. Yes, we are talking about the same Elizabeth Mashford and I would love to see the photo. Can you scan it and send a copy?

    Luke has just found an article in The Advertiser, Thursday, June 18, 1908 about Elizabeth's death. It was put in by her daughter Mary and it says she was 'late of Devon,' so we are closer to tracing the Mashford link in England.

    Elizabeth Mashford was my great-great grandmother and George Lewis signed as witness when my great-granfather Charlie Ross married Mary Atkins.

    Ros Ross