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!


  1. Roslyn, I wanted to find your blog and thank you for your very insightful comment on my post. You have so many I wasn't sure which one to follow, but this one looks good since I'm very interested in genealogy and family history.


  2. KarenG,How nice of you to visit and even nicer for me to find your blog. One cannot have too many Followers so thanks for joining.