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.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The right and wrong of family stories

I have learned a valuable lesson this week; that family stories may be right and wrong at the same time, but, that invariably they have substance.
One of the first stories my aunt, Jessie Sands told me, was that her grandfather Charlie Ross had died of gangrene poisoning.
'The smell in the house was horrendous,' she had been told.
It seemed such a definite story with enough 'particulars' to ensure its truth and yet when I saw a copy of Charlie's death certificate it said he had died of 'heart problems associated with asthma over two years.'
That, I thought, was the end of the story. It seemed odd that such a graphic story could be so wrong and as I now know, the story was 'right' but told about the wrong person.
This week I received a copy of Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins death certificate and all became clear; she died of 'gangrene poisoning in the lower extremities.' The certificate stated that no definite time-frame had been given but one presumes that the process was not fast.
The wrong bit of a right story is easy to understand given that Charlie Ross died in 1907 and Elizabeth died barely six months later in 1908 ....more than a decade before Jessie Ross Sands was born. I must admit I had been curious reading Mary Ross's death notice for her mother and the reference to 'after much suffering,' and here the reason for what must have been terrible suffering is shown clearly.
Gangrene poisoning, where parts of the body die and rot,  is a slow and ghastly way to die and she must have been in agony. Hardly over the grief of burying a husband and father, Mary and her children had to tend to the awful and no doubt constant, suffering of a mother and grandmother and live in a small house consumed by the smell of rotting flesh. It was nearly winter when Elizabeth Mashford died and one can only presume that no matter how cold it may have been, that doors and windows would have been permanently open in the vain hope of releasing some of the nauseating odours.
I was also curious about the request for New Zealand papers as well as the English ones to 'carry' the notice but now that we know Jane Mashford had moved to New Zealand with her husband George O'Brien and their chidren in the 1860's, this also makes sense. Both Jane and George were dead by 1908 but there must have been contact with their children and the Mashfords in Australia.
So, as the pieces fall into place, it is also an indication that the story of illegitimacy is 'right' but perhaps the person is 'wrong.' I believe it would have to be a close family member and if it is not great-great-grandmother Elizabeth then it must be her mother or her grandmother. That mother could be Mary Cann or it could be Elizabeth Mashford.... or it could be someone else again.
For the moment I am getting some research done in Devon which may throw some more light on this particular story. Apparently parish records frequently indicated illegitimacy, even when the mother and father later married.

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.

Friday, 3 September 2010

The devil is in the detail with Devon dabblings

We have come a long way in terms of knowing more about the origins of Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins and I only hope we can do the same with Edward Atkins. But the devil is in the detail when it comes to finding information.

Of course it is wonderful when a family line can be traced back through countless generations but I am not sure it proves much. It is interesting to know the origins of one's family and names, dates and places of birth in order to have a better feel for the genetic and experiential inheritance.

But, the genetic inheritance becomes diluted over time with two becoming four and four becoming eight and eight becoming sixteen and sixteen becoming thirty-two and thirty-two becoming sixty four by the time you reach great-great-great-great grandparents or grandparents 4X removed. At this point you have 126 ancestors which makes my head spin a tad. It is impossible to trace them all conclusively.

Which is why ancestry research tends to head in a particular direction and focus on 'some' not all of one's ancestral inheritance. The goal of this research is to discover Charlie Ross's Greek origins and that is the main focus.

The detours have however been necessary so far and interesting. I knew nothing about the Mashfords except the name, the illegitimacy and the supposedly 'noble' links. The research has thrown up information we did not have and photographs we never expected to see.

While the 'finer details' can be hard to put in place, it is fascinating to explore the 'bigger picture' of the times in which my ancestors lived. If poverty sent my Mashford's to Australia I suspect it was war which sent them to Devon... although it could also have been poverty. The Mashfords are thought to belong to one original family, established in Lincolnshire, which sent off a Devonshire 'branch' sometime in the 17th  or 18th century.

I suspect the reason for that may have been the English Civil War in 1643. The citizens of Lincolnshire and Devonshire were, in the main, on the side of Parliament. Very early in the piece the Royalists took Lincolnshire and held it for the duration of the First Civil War.

Between 1642 and 1651, Lincoln was on the frontier between the Cavaliers and Parliamentary forces. The city 'changed hands' a number of times but basically the Royalists held sway. The city of Lincoln was badly damaged  and as a result, while the rest of the country prospered as the 1700's arrived, Lincoln continued to suffer.

Did our Mashford decamp south to Devonshire hoping to continue the fight against the Royalists?  Was there a difference of opinion in the Mashford family with our man siding with Parliament and his brother or father siding with the Royalists? There is no doubt that the English civil war split families as well as country.

But there are no Mashfords ....or Partridges for that matter ..... in the Zeal Monachorum Protestation Returns of 1641-2 in the early days of the war. By the end of 1640, King Charles I had become very unpopular. Parliament forced him to make changes in the Constitution which gave them a bigger say in how the country was governed. From then on, Parliament was split into two factions - Royalists (Cavaliers) who supported the King and Parliamentarians (Roundheads) who wanted political and religious reform.

On 3 May 1641, every Member of the House of Commons was ordered to make a declaration of loyalty to the king and to Parliament. This was ratified next day by the House of Lords. They called it their Protestation against 'an arbitrarie and tyrannical government' and another order was made that every Rector, Churchwarden and Overseer of the Poor had to appear in person before the JPs in their Hundred to make this Protestation Oath in person.

It was to be a declaration of their belief in the 'Protestant religion, allegiance to the King and support for the rights and privileges of Parliament.'

The war would drag on untill 1651 claiming nearly one million lives, many of those dying from disease, famine and from religious genocide.  King Charles I was beheaded on January 30, 1649 for high treason against the realm and people. His son (the future Charles II) would continue the war untill 1651 untill he was defeated at Worcester and fled to France.

In 1660 Charles II returned to London in 1660 with popular support. He was crowned in May 1661. As was the way, he sentenced to death the surviving men who had voted to execute his father.  An uneasy peace settled on the land but it marked a turning point in history - never again would a monarch confront parliament in any real sense.

No doubt some divided families made peace and others did not. Perhaps our Mashford was long settled in Devon, or perhaps not. He may well have only left Lincolnshire at the end of the 17th century or early in the 18th because times were tough in Lincolnshire?

Either explanation may be right or neither explanation may be right. However, a John Mashford was certainly living in the parish of Zeal Monachorum in 1723. Zeal Monachorum was a nearby parish to Coldridge and Mashfords were registered in both during the 1841 census.

The Devon and Exeter Oath Rolls of 1723 show that a John Mashford registered and signed his allegiance to the king. Nearly one hundred years before  the illiterate Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins was born, here is a Mashford who could sign his name. It's an indication that our Mashfords may have gradually slipped down the social ladder during the 18th century.
The oaths were sworn at The Blue Anchor, Crediton on September 23, 1723 before Bampfylde Rodd and John Gibbs esq.Along with John Mashford some twenty-five Partridges also stepped up to pledge allegiance to King George I.

These Rolls were compiled in the aftermath of the Jacobite Atterbury plot of 1720-22 and contain the names of over 25,000 Devonians, amounting to some one in five of the adult population of the time. Both men and women signed the Rolls in front of Justices of the Peace.

There is no sign of any Mashfords on the pre: 1723 rolls and no sign of any Mashfords in Winkleigh. The fact that one Mashford appears in the midst of more than two-dozen Partridges does indicate that the Mashford presence in Devon was far more recent than the Partridges. And given the preponderance of Mashfords in Lincolnshire at the time it is a very good bet that the Mashfords made their way to Devon in the early 1700's.

Whatever the reason the Mashfords, at least on our side, were showing themselves to be willing to take a risk in their bid for a better life. Although, perhaps by the time our Mashfords left for South Australia the circle was turning and the Mashfords, like so many others, were leaving the worst of poverty behind. In White's Register for Zeal Monachorum in 1850 there are no Mashford's listed.

LEFT: Village life in 19th century Devon.

While in White's 1850 register for Coldridge there is a Josiah Mashford, shoemaker and a Joseph Mashford, schoolteacher.

There's a good chance that these Mashfords form some part of the family tree and the fact that one of them is educated enough to be a schoolteacher stands in stark contrast to our illiterate lot.

A Reed and William Partridge are listed on the same register as farmers ... but not as owners. Perhaps now it was the turn of the Partridges to slip a little down the ladder. By 1893 there are no Mashfords listed in Coldridge (Coleridge) but there is one Partridge :  A Mrs Frances Partridge, farmer and miller of Park Mill.

Coldridge is a small parish situated on the River Taw, 10 miles (16 km) north-west of the ancient market town of Crediton between Brushford and Nymett Rowland.  It is situated deep in the heart of Devon, and still remains pretty much a country village. The hamlet of East Leigh which lies ½ mile (3/4 km) south of the parish is also part of Coldridge.

In 1801 the parish had 697 people; in 1851, four years after Elizabeth and her family had left, the number was down to 607 and by 1901 it was nearly half that and parish numbers wouldstill hovers around this point  today.

And one of the local Mashfords, another John Mashford, possibly our own but possibly not,  has popped up in my search as: Bigamist of Ugborough &Truro! But bigamy was not uncommon at the time given the divorce laws which made it easier to simply 'walk away' and marry again and hope that the paucity of records would keep your secret safe.

Devon, or Devonshire is bounded on the north by Briston Channel; on the north-east by Somerset; on the east by Dorset; on the south-east and south by the English Channel and on the West by Cornwall. The only English counties which are larger in size are Yorkshire and Lincoln.

ABOVE: Clay mining was a part of life in 19th century Devon.

The landscape is varied from mountainous in the east, to rocky along the coast and lush, green rolling hills and valleys across the centre. It is a land of rivers, springs and brooks ... very different to northern South Australia where Elizabeth would make her home. But, like South Australia, Devon was also a place of mines; tin, copper, lead, iron ore, silver, gold, cobalt, manganese and coal.

And, like much of South Australia Devon is a place of clay soils ranging in colour from yellow to pure white and from heavy to light with areas of rich loam. It was the rich loam which made Devon a land of rich produce and an agricultural 'basket' for England.

LEFT: Fishing off the Devon coast.

In the 18th and 19th centuries it was agricultural in the main with good fishing along the coast. Just like South Australia when Elizabeth and her family arrived.

Living in Wirrabarra Forest it was highly unlikely that the Atkins family spent much time fishing.

Daughter Mary Atkins would of course marry a fishmonger but living in Gladstone, so far from the coast, they would not have gone fishing either. Or perhaps she accompanied Charlie Ross when he went to buy his fish to sell and they sat on the docks at Port Pirie, casting a line, while waiting for their goods to be sorted and loaded.

Perhaps Elizabeth went with them to care for the children while Charlie and Mary loaded the fish which would be taken back to Gladstone to sell. Did the sight of the port bring back good memories or bad? It is impossible to know. I like to think that she was content with her life and her family in South Australia. Her children and grandchildren seemed to grow up as reasonably sensible people and that's always a sign of reasonable parenting which as often as not results from a reasonable level of contentment.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Perhaps the family story has a little more fact than fantasy!

LEFT: A church in Colebrooke.

There's a reason why family stories remain alive and often it is because there is some substance to them.

The story of Elizabeth Mashford's 'noble' connections has been in the family now for nearly two hundred years, spanning some six generations.

But, there was no way of finding any evidence for the story until we discovered that Elizaberth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins had been born in Devon. From that point we had a place to search which narrowed the field considerably.

Finding a birth record for 1819, Winkleigh, Devon for an Elizabeth Mashford born to Elizabeth Mashford, father Partridg(e) and finding family members living in a nearby village, whom we know travelled to Australia with Elizabeth on the Princess Royal in 1847, gave greater credence to the 'find.'

All we needed was a Partridge family in the area and that was easy. There were a lot of them. All we then needed was an Elizabeth Partridge, about the right age, who could be the 'Lady Elizabeth' who was 'responsible' for sending our Elizabeth out to the colonies.

And that was the hard part. Not only could I not find any 'noble' Partridges, I could not find an Elizabeth Partridge let alone a Lady Elizabeth Partridge who could fit the time-frame.

Until today. As part of my research I got in touch with some descendants of the Devon Partridges whose ancestors also emigrated and who are living in Canada. Donald Partridge wrote back to say he knew nothing about any illegitimate daughters... but then of course I had not expected any Partridge would ... and he put me in touch with his cousin, Pam Vaughn who wrote:

'Donald’s and my Partridges were mostly around Colebrooke and Coleford (adjoining villages.) The family legend that came down through several branches was that the patriarch was an Earl. This part was interesting which is one of the reasons I set out on the quest to learn more. Indeed Thomas was of the gentry, but of the lowest strata. More like a country squire. He was listed as “gentleman” in the census. This meant that he hired all labor to be done. A few of his sons were later listed as “yeomen” which meant they hired laborers but also worked in the fields, too.

Thomas (the gentlemen) and his wife, Elizabeth, have a tomb in a prominent location in the Colebrooke churchyard.'

LEFT: a Church gate, common in Devon churchyards.

Colebrooke and Coleford are similar distances away from Winkleigh to that of Coldridge where so many Mashfords were recorded in the 1841 census and then later identified as accompanying our Elizabeth on her journey to Australia.

So, not only do we have a Partridg(e) in the area, we have a 'noble' connection and we have a 'Lady' Elizabeth! She may well have only been the wife of a country squire but have ranked highest in the little village and held the title of Lady in either an official or unofficial sense.

Then again, just as our 'family story' looks like having some substance, so too may the 'story' handed down through the Partridge families of an ancestor being an Earl. Such stories usually endure because they have some substance in fact and that makes them worth remembering. It seems to be human nature to remember both the 'best' and the 'worst.'

One Partridge family history states that there were four families of this name which probably had their origins in the Norman conquest and which settled in the areas of Medfield, Duxbury, Hadley and Salibury between 1630 and 1650 and in time found their way across the length and breadth of England.

When William, Duke of Normandy, defeated Harold, the King of England in 1066 he seized the land and estates of the British nobles and handed them over to his faithful Norman gentry. As one does. One of those to be so fortunate was 'Partridge the Norman.' He is said to have migrated during the reign of Stephen, 1135-1154 and in recognition of military services, to have been given estates in Essex by Henry II, 1154-1189.

In 1254 a Richard de Pertriche (the French spelling of Partridge), is recorded as the family head with manors in the county of Gloucester.

The English surnames Patriche, Patridge and Partridge derive from the Old French Word, 'perdriz' which in turn came from the Latin, 'perdix, perdicis,' and no doubt found its way to Gaul (France) with the Romans. Yet more invaders in that ever-present way of history.

It could have started as a nickname - someone looking a bit like a partridge, which seems odd - or it could have been related to occupation - someone who caught partridges or hunted them - or it could have been taken from the name of a village where partridges were in plentiful supply.

The first record of the name was in 1176, in the Pipe Rolls of Devonshire, during the reign of King Henry II - an Ailward Pertriz no less and perhaps an ancestor for our Devon Partridges... or even all Partridges including the John Perdrich found in Staffordshire in 1244; the Philip Partrich found in Cheshire in 1260; the Sibil Partryge found in Staffordshire in 1332 or the John Pattridge found in Suffolk in 1622.

Interestingly, the Mashford name is believed to have also originated in France. Although this is hardly unusual given the French invasion which engulfed England after the Battle of Hastings. But one story has it that the Mashfords were latecomers to England having arrived around the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Two families with the same name Mache, arrived on English soil and one of them changed their name to Mashford because they marched over a ford.

I think this story is a bit of a stretch given that 'mache' in French means 'chewed.' How on earth would you get a surname like 'chewed'? Did they make 'papier mache' and hence were landed with the nickname which became the surname? No wonder they changed it to something sensible like Mashford as soon as they arrived in the incredibly sensible country of England.

We seem to have stumbled into 'silly surname' territory with this search. Although not as silly as the name of one famous Partridge seat - Wisbanger. Now there's a name.! Wisbanger,which came into the hands of the Partridge family in 1557 may well have been as 'whizz-bang' as the name suggests.

As the records state:
'The manor house itself is very quaint and picturesque, as may be seen from the cut herewith presented. It was rebuilt and a porch added in 1578 by Robert Partridge, then head of the house, and the impaled coat of arms of Robert and his wife Anne may still be seen, carved in stone over the front entrance. [See Burke's "Landed Gentry," Vol. ii, pp. 1056-57.]

John Partridge, of Wisbanger, seems to be the one to whom this estate was originally granted. He was succeeded by his son William, who was member of parliament for Rochester in the fourteenth year of Elizabeth (1572). (I suspect William of Wisbanger had quite a time of it as a kid.)

Miles Partridge, brother of William, was a man of note, and one who played a prominent part in the history of those troublesome times.

He was High Sheriff of Gloucestershire during the last years of the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547), and received from that monarch a grant of the manor of Almondsbury (Amesbury). He was a friend and comrade of the unfortunate Duke of Somerset, whom he accompanied in his Scottish expedition, and was knighted for conspicuous bravery on the battlefield of Pinkie (September 10, 1547)'.

Sir Miles Partridge also lost his head on February 26, 1552 having fallen foul of Henry VIII along with the Duke of Somerset and sundry others. However, clearly there were plenty of Partridges to make up the loss of one and perhaps there were others who had also risen to noble rank. Given the longevity of the Partridge family, the 'story' may well be sourced in an ancient truth. A truth which is interesting rather than important.

Colebrooke, by the way, is the birthplace of the famous English wrestler, Abraham Cann .... perhaps a relation on the Cann side of the family if we can ascertain that Mary Mashford, whom I think was Elizabeth's 'aunt' or step-grandmother, gave her son John the middle name of Cann because it was her maiden name.

But, back to Elizabeth and the family story of her ancestry. While the evidence is circumstantial, it is weighty all the same. We have place, birth records and dates which fit the family story. There's not much 'noble' in the connection, at least by today's standards, but enough to justify the story Elizabeth's mother and family told to her and which she in turn told her children and they handed down through the generations until my father and other's of his generation, told their children.

Times have changed and it's not a story I would consider important enough to tell my children and perhaps that is why now is the right time to finally lay it to rest in some 'bed of truth.'
There is more checking to be done but it looks like we may well have brought a modicum of 'justice' to our bastard Elizabeth nearly two centuries after her birth. I like to think so anyway.