Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The painstaking process of finding the facts which fit our Edward Atkins


 PHOTO: Pioneers cemetery in Wirrabarra Forest. Is Edward Atkins buried here in an unmarked grave.

I know I have said this before but ancestry research is painfully slow most of the time when the few facts are  often buried in a growing pile of maybes, possibilities, ifs and buts!

  With recent information raising the possibility that some of the information we have gathered about Edward Atkins may not in fact be 'ours' as in, there were no doubt more than one Edward Atkins in the mid-north and Clare Valley during our time-frame and we have have gathered up some 'facts' which do not belong to our Edward. Herein begins the real work of connecting the facts so we know what is absolute and what remains as likely or merely possible.
 The facts we have are that Edward Atkins married Elizabeth Mashford Lewis in Penwortham Church, Clare Valley in 1857.  We know that Edward gave his father's name as Joseph on his marriage certificate. We know they had three children, Elizabeth, Mary and James. In fact Edward and Elizabeth are listed as living in Wirrabarra Forest and he is named as a blacksmith in historical records.
 We know when Elizabeth Mashford Atkins died in Gladstone in 1908 but we have no death certificate for Edward. In terms of absolute facts these are the only absolute facts that we have. We have no confirmed record of when Edward arrived in South Australia, where he was from, where or when he died and if he had been married before Elizabeth.
 Everything else comes into the realm of being likely or possible. In this category comes the meaning of the name Haynes - the middle name given to the first-born son of Edward and Elizabeth. This name clearly means something because James passed it on to his first-born son. The fact that Elizabeth did not give this name to any of her sons by Peter Lewis suggests that the Haynes name is connected with the Atkins family.
 Woven around these few 'facts' there are many highly likely possibilities but, for the moment, they remain only that. As a follow-on from the recent 'convict connection,' Kylie has done some more research and some more pondering and she wrote:
I have had contact with Cherrielee who did the convict record info.  I made contact through ancestry.com  after finding another tree with Robert as Edward’s father.  Cherrielee got the father Robert from the Tasmanian convict record.  I have had a really good look at that Edward and he could not be the same Edward as the one that had Emily Puddy.  He was in England during the conception of a couple of the children, and would have remained as a convict until  1856, after Emily was born in 1854.  He married in Tasmania and didn’t move to South Australia until after Elizabeth’s children were all born.
 So that doesn’t change anything for us and we are still looking for the children and grandchildren to match up.  Good luck Luke as I have failed to find any thing more to help us.
Cherrielee did raise the possibility of the two families being unrelated.  I have been exploring this.  Wirrabara is the reason we jumped on it, but by 1890 there were quite a few Atkins in the area and Edward is such a common name.  He was with Emily Puddy when he died and there is no link with our family.
What links the two families.
·         The marriage certificates of both Hannah and Elizabeth show Edward as a Blacksmith, but that was a very common occupation.
 ·          It appears the children of Hannah and Edward stopped in about 1854, leaving time for Hannah to die and Edward to remarry.
 ·         Location – we know our Edward was in the Wirrabara in the 1850’s.
 ·         The son, Joseph, is our Edward’s father’s name.  But it is a common name too and Henry was his first son, often the one named after the father.
 ·         This would often be enough proof to consider the link proved.

The against side is
 ·         There is circumstantial evidence between them but I can think of no facts to link them.
 ·         We have found no link between the children of the two families.
 ·         Year of birth from death notice is 1807, year of birth from marriage to Elizabeth is 1813.  Of course either one or both could be wrong, close enough is good enough sometimes.
 ·         Assuming Haynes is Edward’s mother’s name:  If Edward wanted to use his mother’s name, Haynes, why didn’t he, he had two chances with Henry and Joseph.  It really does look like James is his first son.  This makes more sense if there is two Edwards.
 ·         By 1891 our family was in Gladstone.
 ·         The death notice does not appear to include our family.  It is more likely that results from a different Edward than it is a family rift.
 ·         Location – the death notice gives his location as his son-in-law’s place, it in no way indicates his long term residence in Wirrabara, or that he lived there for any reason other than living with his daughter.
 ·         Despite the knowledge of a previous marriage, there was no knowledge of a bunch of children.
 The conclusion I have come to is that it is possible that we are looking at two different Edward Atkins who are in no way related.   If it is two different Edwards that means we don’t have a county for our Edward, that came from the death notice.  It also means that we can look further than 1856 for Hannah’s death.  A bit more to consider as we keep searching.  If your discovery of the Gloucestershire of the Anne Haynes and Edward Atkins matches, Ros,  it will kill any doubt, but I do think we need to keep an open mind on this for now.

PHOTO: Bullocks hauling timber in Wirrabarra Forest at the turn of the 19th century.


All of which provided food for thought before my response:
There may well be two Edwards but I think we always knew that was possible. Just to clarify my position. When I write up the blog I am merely recording the process of research and I don't have a fixed opinion as I do say from time to time. Our Edward is still in the realm of ifs, buts, maybes and possibilities.
I am sure there were other Edward Atkins.... I think there was one in Burra... around the same time but we do have an historical note which mentions Edward and Elizabeth and the birth of their daughters in Wirrabarra Forest. We also have a record of Edward later being a shepherd at the station where Emily Puddy was married. I think this is fairly solid as a clue that our Edward is her Edward. But of course, there could have been two in the area. Strange things happen.
 re: sons with Hannah. Since we are not sure if the birth records we have are for our Edward Atkins it is possible that he and Hannah only had daughters or that there was a son called Joseph who died. However, Edward's son by Elizabeth did not take his father's name either.... he was called James. And James did not call any of his sons Edward although one of his sons had the middle name of Joseph.
 This could indicate a falling out between James and his father and perhaps there had been a falling out with Edward and his father... such 'trails' are common in families.
 Just to go through some of your points as I think it through:
What links the two families.
 ·         The marriage certificates of both Hannah and Elizabeth show Edward as a Blacksmith, but that was a very common occupation. (Yes, but Edward working as a shepherd on Booleroo Station is a solid clue)
·          It appears the children of Hannah and Edward stopped in about 1854, leaving time for Hannah to die and Edward to remarry. (It is always possible she died in childbirth and that could have been as late as six months before Edward married Elizabeth).
·         Location – we know our Edward was in the Wirrabara in the 1850’s. (And we know he worked at Booleroo Station in the 1870's)
·         The son, Joseph, is our Edward’s father’s name.  But it is a common name too and Henry was his first son, often the one named after the father. (Except Edward and Elizabeth did not give their son the name Joseph and James Haynes Atkins did not give his first-born son the name Edward.)
·         This would often be enough proof to consider the link proved.
 The against side is
 ·         There is circumstantial evidence between them but I can think of no facts to link them.
·         We have found no link between the children of the two families.(True. The strongest link is Emily and Margaret being married at the station where Edward worked as a shepherd in later life).
·         Year of birth from death notice is 1807, year of birth from marriage to Elizabeth is 1813.  Of course either one or both could be wrong, close enough is good enough sometimes.
·         Assuming Haynes is Edward’s mother’s name:  If Edward wanted to use his mother’s name, Haynes, why didn’t he, he had two chances with Henry and Joseph.  It really does look like James is his first son.  This makes more sense if there is two Edwards. (Unless, as is often the way with this, there was a son born of whom we do not know. )
·         By 1891 our family was in Gladstone. (We know Elizabeth was. I don't think we have any evidence that Edward was.)
·         The death notice does not appear to include our family.  It is more likely that results from a different Edward than it is a family rift. (I feel it could be either. )
·         Location – the death notice gives his location as his son-in-law’s place, it in no way indicates his long term residence in Wirrabara, or that he lived there for any reason other than living with his daughter. (Quite right)
·         Despite the knowledge of a previous marriage, there was no knowledge of a bunch of children. (I don't know about Luke but my family was not aware of any previous marriage for Edward Atkins. I first heard this through Luke's research.)
The conclusion I have come to is that it is possible that we are looking at two different Edward Atkins who are in no way related.   If it is two different Edwards that means we don’t have a county for our Edward, that came from the death notice.  It also means that we can look further than 1856 for Hannah’s death.  A bit more to consider as we keep searching.  If your discovery of the Gloucestershire of the Anne Haynes and Edward Atkins matches, Ros,  it will kill any doubt, but I do think we need to keep an open mind on this for now. (I think this is a sound and sensible conclusion and yes, I think seeing what we can find about an Atkins/Haynes connection is the way to go.)
All of which took me back to some points Luke made some time ago which I think are worth reviewing at this time:
I do believe there was a break down in the marriage of Edward Atkins and Elizabeth Mashford. I cannot prove it with evidence, but I think there are enough clues to go by that leans towards a possible break down. The clues isolated by themselves do not add up to a breakdown in the marriage, but added together, I believe  add weight to the argument that there may have been a breakdown in the marriage.
     Mary Atkins gave birth to her first child Edward Atkins at Gladstone in 1877 and not at Wirrabara where Edward Atkins was living.(We think) Did Mary Atkins and her mother leave Edward Atkins by 1877?
     John Lewis died at his mother’s residence at Gladstone in 1888. Thus Elizabeth Atkins had her own home separated from her husband.[1] It is known that in 1875[2] she signed over some land in Gladstone to her son George Lewis so she may have been a woman with financial means and could have lived in her own home in Gladstone separated from her husband.
      Mary Atkins married Charlie Ross in 1888 she left her father’s name out of her marriage certificate. Her father was alive. (We think) at the time of his daughter’s marriage so this could be a clear indication that Mary Ross nee Atkins had disowned her own .
     Not one of Edward Atkins’ children from Elizabeth Mashford or his wife placed an obituary in the papers for Edward Atkins. (This is important because even if the death notice we think is for our Edward were not to be, the fact is that while Mary Atkins Ross put in a death notice for her mother, no-one seems to have done it for Edward Atkins. Even if the notice we have is our Edward, his family by Elizabeth are not involved by the look of it.)
     No story has ever passed down my family tree that Edward Atkins had any other children except Elizabeth, Mary and James. The story of Elizabeth Mashford's first marriage was passed down as family history which included George Lewis, but never any of the missing daughters. (And again, perhaps this is a clue that the Edward Atkins of the death notice and hordes of grandchildren is not our Edward. Although my family never talked about the Lewis children despite my discovering in the last two years that George Lewis was a witness at the marriage of Mary Atkins to Charlie Ross)
 So here we are, thinking we had come so far and now not sure. It may not be Gloucestershire which makes the Haynes/Atkins link in that county possibly pointless but it remains something which needs to be checked.  No wonder ancestry research takes years. I am feeling we are at a point where we need a stroke of good luck to lurch things forward. Here's hoping.

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