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.

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