Sunday, 24 April 2011

Another family mystery solved

 Above: Edward Atkins was one of South Australia's earliest settlers and would have lived in settlements like this.

Another piece of the puzzle has been put in place. There has been more progress through the efforts of fellow family researcher, Kylie Nott who has found a death record for Mary Cann Mashford.

My great-great-great grandmother died in South Australia on November 14, 1850, just eight weeks to the day after her son George May Mashford died. John Cann Mashford had died a year or so earlier so it was a difficult time for Elizabeth Mashford Lewis. Within three short years of their arrival in the colony, Elizabeth had lost two brothers and her mother.

Mary Cann Mashford’s death is recorded by Josiah Mashford so we know we have the right person.

Given the fact that 24 year old George died just two months before his mother, one wonders if both died in the all too prevalent cholera and typhoid epidemics which ravaged the colonies and the times. No doubt the death record will tell us. However, having lost 26 year old John exactly 12 months and two days before the death of George May, Mary may well have died of a broken heart. 

However, as is the way of things with ancestry research her age doesn’t fit with previous information giving her an age of 61 at the time of her death which would have her born in 1789 and the age of 29 in 1818 when she married John Mashford. The 1841 census has her listed as 48 which would have had her born in 1793, but, if the death record is correct, she was actually 52.

The curious thing about this is that her marriage certificate registers parental approval which is normally linked with being underage. I have sent a query to the Devon researcher who has been helping out to ask if there were other reasons why parental approval would be required. One thing which springs to my mind and which may be completely off the mark, is whether Mary Cann was a ward or niece who worked for the family and therefore required permission to marry.

 Above: the first settlement in South Australia was at this point on Kangaroo Island.

The age discrepancies raise important questions and given the number of Canns in Devon at the time and how common names were, particularly Mary, with a nine year difference between the age of this Mary Cann and the Nymet Rowland Mary Cann previously mentioned, born in 1798, who married John Mashford, there is a chance that we may not have the correct Mary Cann in Devon.

The other piece of information is that a birth was recorded in Adelaide, on November 17, 1843 for a Henry Atkins, mother Hannah McLeod Atkins and father, Edward Atkins. This of course puts into question a birth year of 1843 for Jane Atkins McKinnon unless they were twins although surely this would have been recorded. An earlier mention of Jane did give her birth year as 1845 and this would work with our other calculations for the children of Edward and Hannah.

We also have a record of an arrival for a Hannah McLeod on the Eliza, from London, May 14, 1840 with a Daniel McLeod. This could be a brother as usually husband and wife would be mentioned as such but there is always the possibility that Hannah and Daniel were married and that Daniel died sometime between May 1840 and 1843 when Hannah married Edward Atkins

An E. Atkins is listed on the same ship, perhaps as a member of crew and this may well be our Edward which would fit with his more than 50 years a colonist at time of death. Fifty one years to be precise.  This would also make my great-great-grandfather one of the earliest colonists in South Australia, arriving just six years after the colony was established and four years after the first settlement and the founding of Adelaide.

In 1840, the year Edward arrived,  the Adelaide to Port Adelaide road was completed and the City of Adelaide council was elected with James Hurtle Fisher as mayor. The free passage immigration scheme, on which Edward Atkins and Hannah McLeod probably came to South Australia, was terminated due to lack of funds.

At this time there was a total of 1,013 hectares of cultivated land, some 959 horses, 16,050 cattle and  166,800 sheep. The population, excluding the indigenous Aborigines, numbered some 15,485 in the January census although neither Edward nor Hannah are mentioned in it. Perhaps by 1841 Edward had gone north to the Clare Valley to seek his fortune.

In the following year the Governor George Grey arrived in the colony and Edward John Eyre crossed from Fowler's Bay to Albany in Western Australia. A silver and lead mine opened at Glen Osmond, the first Australian mine and the South Australian Savings Bank was opened. 

The Adelaide Hospital also opened its doors and records show a total of 2,720 hectares under cultivation... some of it probably in the hands of Edward Atkins.

Edward and Hannah were amongst the earliest settlers to seek their fortune in Australia but the Mashfords were not too far behind. One thing which does seem unusual is that
if Hannah and Edward travelled on the same ship,and were both single, that they waited three years before marrying.

If a death record could be found for Daniel McLeod during this time it would lend weight to the theory that Hannah and Daniel were a married couple, despite this not being mentioned in the shipping register.

Then again, there were quite a few McLeods in the colony, some arriving as early as 1836 and perhaps Hannah was to be re-united with a husband in South Australia who had only a few short years to live. Or perhaps Edward went north to make his way and Hannah waited for him in Adelaide.

All conjecture of course and none of it crucial to the research
given that Hannah McLeod is not a direct descendant and there is no shortage of relatives appearing in our search.

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