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.

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