Monday, 17 January 2011

Pondering mysteries of an Atkins kind

Photo: The Clare Valley where Edward Atkins lived and later married Elizabeth Mashford Lewis. It is now one of South Australia's premier (and prettiest) wine regions.

Luke Scane Harris has been pondering the missing daughters of Edward Atkins. The death notice revealed another three of which we knew nothing but clearly he was living with one of them at the time.

Elizabeth and Edward must have had quite a crowded house in the early years of their marriage with  Elizabeth's two sons George and John; the three daughters from who knows what marriage or relationship for Edward and the small children, Elizabeth, Mary and James from his marriage to Elizabeth.

It does not look as if these three unexpected daughters are from his marriage to Hannah McLeod as there are no birth records for them in South Australia.  But, there is always the possibility that he and Hannah returned to England and she died there and these are her daughters. There is no death notice for Hannah in South Australia which adds weight to this suspicion.

Since Edward re-appeared in South Australia, in the Clare Valley in 1849 these girls would need to have been born during a five year spectrum. Did Edward return to Australia alone leaving three small girls aged five, three and one in the care of relatives in England only to send for them later or did he return with them (and no doubt the assistance of a female relative)?

Whatever the answer it suggests that in 1857 when he married Elizabeth he had three children aged somewhere from the age of 13 to nine. There's a good chance that at some point there were eight children living in the house in Wirrabarra Forest and there seems little doubt that Mary Ross would have known her stepsisters even if she never talked of them.

But back to Luke's detective work:

'The mystery of Edward Atkins missing daughter was on my mind,' wrote Luke. 'I just could not work out where another three daughters came from. It would mean he had another marriage and no stories ever came down from the family of him having five daughters and three marriages.

My Grandmother knew Mary Ross nee Atkins very well and you would think that a story of three marriages would be passed down the family as oral history. Anyway last weekend, out of frustration, I just goggled “Edward Atkins” and “Penwortham” to see what would happen. You never know your luck.  I came across a website about the Mckinnon family tree and there was a reference to a Jane Atkins 1845-1923, Married John McKinnon 25/12/1867 at the Presbyterian Church Clare, Father Edward Atkins. That got me thinking, what are the chances of somebody getting married in Clare in 1867 with a father called Edward Atkins who is not one of our relations????

I went onto Ancestry.Com and looked up all the marriage records for people called “Edward Atkins” between the years 1843 and 1857. I decided that the years between 1843-1857 were the best because 1843 for when Hannah McLeod died (we think) and 1857 when Edward Atkins married Elizabeth Lewis, nee Mashford. I call the gap between 1843-1857 as the missing years for Edward Atkins.

I was expecting hundreds of results to show up, but surprisingly they were not that many results, only about 10 of them. I had a look at all the Counties or District of Registration of each one. There was no result for Gloucestershire. I then decided to cross reference the Counties or District of Registration of marriages for all the people called Edward Atkins and compares these Districts of Registration with records of birthplaces for the missing daughters.

The results are below.
Edward Atkins, Year of Marriage 1844, District of Registration Stourbridge, County, Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Middlands, and Worcestershire. I image that the District of Registration called “Stourbridge” covers the counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Middlands, and Worcestershire.

There were two matches for the missing daughters:
Sarah Atkins, Year of Registration of birth 1850, County Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Middlands, and Worcestershire. Edward Atkins could have conceived Sarah Atkins in 1849 and still returned to South Australia to be listed as living in the Clare Valley. This would mean Sarah Atkins did not arrive in South Australia with Edward Atkins when he returned to South Australia.

Jane Atkins, Year of Registration of birth 1845, County Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Middlands, and Worcestershire. (Perhaps our Jane Atkins who was married in Penwortham Church (see left) like her father Edward Atkins).

Margaret Atkins. There were no match with Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Middlands, and Worcestershire. However, there is a Margaret Atkins born Avon Gloucestershire in 1848. This could be a match because of the Gloucestershire connection.

As a result, I think that Edward Atkins was back in England sometime between 1843-1844 to remarry and at least two daughters may have been born at the same place he remarried at.

I looked up the 1841 and 1851 Census and there are no matches for a family unit with the name of Edward Atkins, or the 3 missing daughters. This would make sense if Edward Atkins was not in England until 1844 and missed the 1841 census, and by the 1851 Census his wife had died and Edward Atkins was back in South Australia. I have tried to look for his daughters in the 1851 Census with no result. There are just to many females with the names of Sarah, Jane, and Margaret Atkins all over England and if they were living with other family members of friends because there father was not around in 1851, it just makes it to difficult. Or his daughters may not have even been in England for the 1851 Census because they could have been on there way to South Australia or even living in South Australia in 1851. Therefore many hours of research could turn up nothing and I do not think it is worth the effort.

Edward Atkins may have come back to South Australia by himself and left his daughters in the care of his family if his wife had died. He may have then established a home for himself in the Clare Valley and then arranged for his daughters to come to South Australia.

I have had a look at TROVE and there is no reference of “Atkins” arriving in South Australia in 1849. However, there are references of the name “Atkins” arriving in South Australia between 1850-1860. However, the papers just states things like “Atkins (2)” or “Atkins (3)” there are no first names or sex stated so it is impossible to state that these people called Atkins were the daughters of Edward Atkins.

I just have to decide if I want to purchase the marriage and birth certificates. Edward Atkins marriage certificate will show his father name and if it has a “Joseph Atkins” listed then it will be a definite match. It will also show his wife name so I can then try to look for a death certificate. It will also pinpoint his place of residence at the time of his marriage which may give us more clues to his life. The birth certificate will also show place of residence for Edward Atkins. The problem is if I am wrong about the matches then I have wasted my money because it will coast about $50 Australian Dollars.

As a result, I have also thought about purchasing the death certificates of Jane McKinnon nee Atkins 1845-1923, and Margaret Newbery nee Atkins 1847-1911. They will be available in South Australia. Death Certificates between 1907-1937 will show Birth Places, and length of residence in Australia. This would then make it easier for me decided whether to purchase their birth certificate from England if their place of birth on their death certificate matches with County Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Middlands, and Worcestershire.'

While Luke has done a lot of work for so far, little result, the reality is that progress is slowly being made - which is the way of it with ancestry research. I have said I will get copies of the death certificates and we can go from there.

These 'extra daughters' may well enable us to trace more accurately the English origins of Edward Atkins and the best lead at this point is Jane Atkins (pictured above second from left at the back)who married John Mckinnon. According to the McKinnon family site, John married Jane Atkins, daughter of Edward Atkins and Unknown, on 25 Dec 1867 in Presbyterian Church, Clare SA. Jane was born on 9 Oct 1845 in England, died on 21 Nov 1923 in Clare SA at age 78, and was buried on 22 Nov 1923 in Clare SA.

The family records also show that she arrived on 6th December 1858 at Pt Adelaide on the boat "Melbourne", which left from Liverpool, on 4th September 1858. Master of the "Melbourne" was Captain Brodie. This was a year after Edward Atkins married Elizabeth Mashford Lewis and this Jane Atkins, yet to be established as ours but looking very likely, would have been 13.

I have been in touch with a family historian on the McKinnon website, Marcelle, and she has kindly sent me two photographs of Jane Atkins McKinnon. She has no information on her mother so I will have to continue to pursue this until we have clear links established. There is however a likeness between Edward Atkins and Jane Atkins McKinnon as the photographs demonstrate.

Left: Edward Atkins in 1860 and below, Jane Atkins McKinnon aged, from the look of it, in her thirties so circa 1870 or more.

John McKinnon was the son of Donald  and Mary McKinnon. Donald was born in Morvern, County of Argyll, Scotland. And here we have another link. My aunt Lottie, Charlotte Jean McKinnon Simper,  was a grand-daughter of Donald and Mary and therefore, Jane Atkins McKinnon would have been her aunt, just as she was my grandfather's aunt although he did not know it.

The website also states that Auntie Lottie was a major force in compiling the McKinnon family history. If only I had known when she was alive but of course I wasn't particularly interested in it at the time; we had more in common though than we knew. I did always like her. She was a no-nonsense sort of person but given her childhood that is hardly surprising. She was also a seriously devout Catholic which would no doubt have had her seriously Presbyterian grandfather turning in his grave!

Donald's father was Hugh Mackinnon and his mother Betty Cameron. Mary was born in Gorbals, county of Lanark, Scotland. Donald and wife Mary, with eldest son Archibald, left Greenock on 31st October 1839, arriving at Pt Adelaide on 11th March 1840 in the 428 tonne Barque "Tomatin". The Master of the ship was Daniel Wingate with a crew of 24. Stores they carried included 100 gallons Brandy, 300 lb Tobacco, 10 Gallons Whisky, 100 Gallons Gin and 63 tons Salt. Donald's embarkment number 3787 was issued on 22nd July 1839. Immigration numer 5545. His address at the time was Sleat, Isle of Skye. Aged 29yrs married, wife 21years.

Upon arrival in the colony Donald and Mary, solid Presbyterians, settled in South Australia, where they raised their family. They worked at Hill River Station just outside Clare. He died at 11 Wright St, (Hope Cottage) Clare. Mary died at Hill River Station. In the mid 1800's Mackinnon became McKinnon. Records from State Records Adelaide, show that he owned 110 acres in Amargh, via Clare S.A. Section 3027, 138 which had 40 acres in crop and a hut.

And one of the witnesses at the marriage of Edward Atkins to Elizabeth was from Armagh. I shall have to look more closely at the records because from memory the signature was unintelligible but there's a good chance that it may have been McKinnon, perhaps a family friend to Edward even before he brought his young daughters out from England to join him in South Australia.

Left: Jane Atkins McKinnon in 1920.

John McKinnon was an overseer on Fishers run at Dry Creek prior to moving to Melrose as an overseer on another run. He then moved to Clare where he carried on a chaff mill and wood merchant business until his death in 1889. He worked as a farrier and he and Jane had 11 children which would certainly help in terms of the unexpected 'grandchildren blowout' as revealed in the death notice for Edward Atkins.

In 1891 at the time of his death, Edward had 47 grandchildren. Given that Elizabeth, Mary and James were just starting their families  and probably had half a dozen between them, that's a goodly number of grandchildren to be sourced elsewhere. Jane and John McKinnon's brood would have contributed nicely. That just needs  a couple of dozen more to place.

But the family numbers keep swelling via great-great grandfather Edward Atkins and if Jane is our girl, which I think she is then the following join the ranks of 'family':

 Edward Henry McKinnon was born on 14 Oct 1868 in Hill River Station, Clare SA and died on 12 Apr 1934 in Prospect SA at age 65.

Albert George McKinnon was born on 5 Mar 1870 in Hill River Station, Clare SA, died on 20 Nov 1949 in Clare SA at age 79, and was buried on 21 Nov 1949 in Clare SA.

Jane McKinnon was born on 12 May 1872 in Hill River Station, Clare SA, died on 13 Sep 1949 in Hill River Station, Clare SA at age 77, and was buried on 15 Sep 1949 in Clare SA.

Duncan John McKinnon was born on 21 Jul 1874 in Hill River Station, Clare SA, died in Feb 1942 in Broken Hill NSW at age 67, and was buried on 4 Feb 1942 in Broken Hill NSW.
Alfred William McKinnon was born on 18 Nov 1876 in Dry Creek SA, died in Aug 1942 in Broken Hill NSW at age 65, and was buried on 4 Aug 1942 in Broken Hill NSW.

Arthur William McKinnon was born on 11 Mar 1880 in Clare SA, died on 27 Oct 1965 in Clare SA at age 85, and was buried on 29 Oct 1965 in Clare SA.

Donald Archibald McKinnon was born on 6 Sep 1881 in Clare SA, was christened on 21 Jul 1882 in Clare Presbyterian Church, Clare SA, died on 2 Aug 1950 in Broken Hill NSW at age 68, and was buried on 3 Aug 1950 in Broken Hill NSW.

Agnes McKinnon was born on 11 Dec 1883 in Clare SA, died on 12 Mar 1952 in Clare SA at age 68, and was buried on 13 Mar 1952 in Clare SA.

Clara McKinnon was born on 23 May 1886 in Clare SA, died on 2 Jul 1973 in Clare SA at age 87, and was buried in Jul 1973 in Clare SA.

Annie McKinnon was born on 14 Aug 1888 in Clare SA and died on 7 Sep 1888 in Clare District SA.

Walter Richard McKinnon was born on 14 Aug 1888 in Clare SA, died on 7 Sep 1946 in Clare SA at age 58, and was buried on 9 Sep 1946 in Clare SA.

And I suspect the reason why Luke's grandmother never heard the story of the 'extra daughters' from Mary Ross was because it is clear that at the end of his life Edward Atkins was estranged from his wife Elizabeth. She was living in Gladstone and  had certainly been there for three or more years because the death notice for her son John lists her residence as Gladstone and he was living in Wirrabarra with one of his 'mystery daughters' and his son-in-law.

There is always the chance that there was 'bad blood' because Edward handed his inheritance to one or other or all of his daughters from the earlier relationship. That would have brought down the barriers. Or perhaps the breakup of the marriage was nasty and Elizabeth's children simply would not or could not forgive their father?

Given that there was 'no mention at all' down through the family of the 'other branch' comprised of Edward's three daughters it's a pretty fair bet that neither side wanted anything to do with each other. Then again, our side of the family had never heard of the Lewis family either; the descendants of Elizabeth's oldest son by Peter Lewis. And it is not as if we are not good at handing down stories!

No doubt Elizabeth Lewis Atkins wanted to hear nothing of her stepdaughters and a great blanket of silence may have dropped over that part of the family history. After all, it was not Elizabeth's family nor that of Mary Atkins Ross. Although that does not explain the silence regarding George Lewis's family!

Was it an effort to ignore, to hide, to dismiss or was it the fact that the different branches of the family went their own separate ways and everyone was simply too busy trying to raise their families and survive to bother about the rest?

I wonder, if such a substantial piece of information can be hidden from view why is it that the story of illegitimacy was handed down so tenaciously through the generations?

1 comment:

  1. I am the great grand daughter of Jasper Newberry and Margaret Atkins Newberry.
    My grandfather was Jasper's son William,and my father in turn was one of William's sons. Would love to correspond as I have found your blog on the Atkins family fascinating and would like to help.Regards