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.

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