Sunday, 23 January 2011

And the mystery deepens as mysteries can

In that way of things with family research, one thing leads to another possibility. The 'clues' if you like are littered throughout the dross and dregs of history; called into place by conjecture.

I was doing a search on Edward Atkins yesterday, trying to find a marriage for him in England between 1844 and 1849 and birth records for Jane or Margaret Atkins. I had no success with the latter but I did come across a marriage for Edward Atkins and Mary Welch, July 30, Swinford, Worcester which fits with Cousin Luke's search area and birth certificates he found for a Jane and Margaret Atkins.

But more than that, the name Welch struck a chord. My great-grandmother Mary Atkins Ross had an illegitimate son in 1877 whom she named Edward Welsh (close to Welch and either could be a misprint) Atkins and whose father she gave as Edward Welsh. Co-incidence? Of course it might be but it also might be a clue as Cousin Luke suggested when I raised it with him.

Here is his theory which actually makes a lot of sense and would certainly explain the clearly massive rift between Edward Atkins and his wife, Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins and their children, Elizabeth, Mary and James and the 'blanket of silence' which was dropped over Edward's three older daughters.

 I did see the name Welch some time go, wrote Luke, and believed it may have been a match but I found the connotations disturbing. What I am beginning to think more and more, and hence why it disturbed me so much, is that Mary Ross nee Atkins was giving a clue to everybody about who the real father of her first child was. She names her first child Edward Atkins and listed the father as Edward Welsh. I have never come across the name of Edward Welsh in any of the research I have done so far. EG no birth, death, marriage, shipping record etc. Things just do not add up.

It may be the case that the real father of Mary Ross nee Atkins first child was her father Edward Atkins. This may make sense for a number of reasons.

1) Incest happens today so it certainly happened in the 1800s especially in country area

2) Mary Atkins gave birth to her first child Edward Welsh at Gladstone in 1877 and not at Wirrabara where Edward Atkins was living. Did Mary Ross nee Atkins and her mother leave Edward Atkins by 1877? If they did why?

3) John Lewis died at his mother residence at Gladstone in 1888. Thus, Elizabeth Atkins had her own home separated from her husband. It is known that in 1875 she signed over some land in Gladstone to her son George Lewis so she may have been a woman with some financial means and could have lived in her own home in Gladstone separated from her husband.

And I would add here that Edward Atkins may have signed over property and money to his wife Elizabeth in order to keep the shameful secret a secret. This could explain why he was living with one of his daughters at the time of his death.

4) When Mary Atkins married Charlie Ross in 1888 she left her father's name out of her marriage certificate. Her father was alive at the time of his daughter marriage so this could be a clear indication that Mary Ross nee Atkins had disowned her own father. Maybe Edward Atkins was the father of his own daughter’s first child and it was keep a secret between the family members and was the reason why Elizabeth Mashford left her husband.

5) It may also explain why not one of Edward Atkins’ children or his wife placed an obituary in the papers. (At least, not one that as yet been found). They disowned him and wanted nothing to do with him. Edward Atkins died at the residence of his daughter and son in law Margaret and Jasper Newbery at Whyte Park. It may be that his other daughters saw Elizabeth Mashford as the wicked step-mother and was telling lies about her husband (their father) to protect the reputation of her own daughter. This could also explain why Mary Ross nee Atkins never mentioned she had step-sister. The story of the Lewis step-brothers passed down as oral history, but never the step-sister. May be the step-sisters took their father's side and did not believe Mary Ross nee Atkins side of the story.

6) Mary Atkins named her first child “Edward” the same name of her own father and named the father’s last name as “Welsh.” “Welsh”and “Welch” are so close in terms of spelling that Mary Ross nee Atkins could have got the spelling wrong. Was she giving a clue as to who the real father was by using the maiden name of Edward Atkins’ second wife? This would also be insulting to her step-sisters and a reason as to why no story ever came down in the family oral history because the step-sisters may have had nothing to do with the children of Elizabeth Mashford.

Maybe I am wrong and Edward Atkins is no longer around to protect himself from my theory so I am some what apprehensive to mention it to you. However, if Edward Atkins did marry a “Welch” the association, at least for me, is disturbing.

What do you think?

I think Luke may definitely be on to something. If we can find the name Welch or Welsh mentioned in regard to any of his three older daughters or for a confirmed marriage for Edward Atkins, then this theory gains solid ground.

There are always reasons as to why things happen and there is enormous satisfaction in being able to understand what those reasons were. The fact that Edward and Elizabeth were clearly and irrevocably separated and that there was also a major split between him and his three children by her indicates that something major happened to bring it about.

On a Baldock family site I found details of a Jasper Newberry, born 1842  who married Margaret Atkins, born 1847 in the residence of John Pole, Booleroo Station, South Australia on December 24, 1872. They had two children, Elizabeth born November 5, 1880 in Wongyana, South Australia and Edith born October 5, 1889, in Glenorchy, near Wirrabarra, South Australia. This is of course the area where Edward Atkins lived and worked first as a blacksmith and later as a shepherd. (See photos above.)

The Newberry (Newbery) girls married the Baldock brothers and ended up in Port Pirie, a town where I lived for four years in the early seventies. I had family there and did not know it. Elizabeth married Charles (Ted) Edward Bee Baldock in 1907 and Edith married Arthur James Bee Baldock in 1913.

I have sent an email off to the descendant noted on the Baldock website and while it is slim, there's a chance he might know more about Margaret Atkins which will help us fill in the picture. But we have come a long way.

NB: Stephen Knowles replied to my email and said:
The reason I have Jasper NEWBERRY & Margaret ATKINS in my file is to illustrate the fact that their daughters Elizabeth & Edith are sisters. The brothers who Elizabeth and Edith married are my wife Kim's 2nd cousins 3 times removed.

The only extra info which I have which isn't shown online is that Margaret's father is Edward. I've noted that Jasper is also spelt Gasper, and his father is William NEWBRY (sic).

And he has promised to keep me in mind should any further information come to hand. In the meantime Luke is sending off for a birth certificate for the Sarah Atkins he found and I await death certificates for Edward Atkins (trying again with more detailed information as last time it came up with nothing) and Jane Atkins McKinnon and Margaret Atkins Newberry.

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