Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The facts so far on Charlie Ross

The ancestry research to find Charlie Ross has not gotten far at all but the Greek side of things was always going to be difficult.

We have come a long way in tracing his wife, Mary (Polly) Atkins Ross's family, but the absolute facts about Charlie Ross are still few.

1. He was born in Greece in 1849. He went to sea as a young man or boy,  sometime between the ages of 11 and 23. The earliest date would be 1860 as young boys often did join ships, or were commandeered to do so.

2. He became a sailor and spent some years at sea 'roving' and having adventures - minimum of five, maximum of twelve.

3. He settled in Port Pirie after arriving in Australia. The earliest date would be 1871 and the latest, circa: 1877, for enough years to be 'remembered.' 

4. He moved to Gladstone circa. 1886 and worked there as a fishmonger as he had in Port Pirie.

5. He married Mary Atkins in 1888. He gave his father's name as Christie on the marriage certificate. This is most likely Christos or Chrysantheus.

6. He had five children to each of whom he gave at least one Greek name.

7. He anglicised his Greek name or adopted an English name after arriving in Australia or the Port Pirie report would have included another name for 'old Pirieans to recognise.

8. The Greek names he chose for his children, Constantinus, Anastasia, Vangelios, Chrysantheous, Christus and Spiro are likely to have family connections.

9. He died in 1907 and was buried in an Anglican cemetery.

10. His grand-daughter Flora RossSwincer was said to be the spitting image of him.

11. He had a very strong accent given the poor phonetic spelling of some of his children's names on birth records.

12. He was obviously an amiable and personable character, as stated in his obituary, given the fact that the death notice was reprinted in the Port Pirie newspaper more than twenty years after he had left the town, for the benefit of those who had known and remembered him fondly.

13. There is no record of him ever taking up citizenship. (Perhaps evidence that he did jump ship.)

Photo: Charles Vangelios Ross, Charlie's second son, in his First World War uniform. Charles looks to be a mix of both parents with the 'shape' from the Atkins side and other features from his father, if his daughter Flora was truly the 'spitting image' of her Greek grandfather and we have no reason to believe she was not.

Other possible facts drawn from family history are:

1. He was born on Ithaca, one of the Ionian Islands.
2. He 'jumped ship' at Port Germein and so entered Australia illegally.
3. He came out on his 'uncle's ship.'
4. He spoke a number of languages.

Photo: Charles Vangelios Ross in his fifties looking more like the Greek side of the family but with the Atkins shape face from his grandfather, Edward. Elizabeth Mashford also had a 'long' face.

So the questions which still need to be answered are:

1. What was his Greek Christian name and surname?
2. Was he born on Ithaca? If so where?
3. Is his English name an anglicisation of his Greek name or something he adopted?
4. On what date and just how did he arrive in Australia.

The answers are still out there and may remain so but efforts will continue to find what we can.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Bigamists and Paupers - some more thoughts on Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins.

Image: Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins and her son by Edward Atkins, James Haynes Atkins. 

Ancestry research involves bringing together the threads and knots of information and conjecture in an attempt to stitch together a full picture. Sometimes it just leads to more tangles and holes in the story.

What is heartening is how often we have been staring into such a 'hole' and then, later, find the information which fills it in.  The plan now is to see if we can get some additional information from a professional researcher in Gloucestershire.

In the meantime, researcher, Luke Harris has some more thoughts on Elizabeth Mashford, and I post information as it comes to hand so that others might access it, even if we have not confirmed points made in the discussion:

"As for bigamy, I have looked into the laws at the time. There would have been enough evidence for the Police to investigate the matter, and for all we know if they saw the notice they may have questioned both Elizabeth and Edward. 

However, if the Police laid a charged of bigamy the Courts more than likely may have found her not guilty. It all depends on what defence Elizabeth Atkins had. She could honestly claim she believed her husband was dead or believed he was dead because they had been no contact at all.

It happened a lot of time to many women in the 1800's, because even though divorce was available it was only on every narrows grounds and they was no legal aid and the cost of lawyers forced many men just to leave their wives especially during the gold rush era. As a result, the police were exposed to lots of cases of deserted wives.

However, common law expected that women should wait seven years before they decided to remarry and Elizabeth Lewis did not do this. As a result, it becomes a grey area of law and even if the police knew about the matter, they may have decided to do nothing about it.

When Josiah Mashford remarried, it was a clear-cut case because the police knew about his first wife and where she was. Nobody knew where Peter Lewis was or what happened to him, and Elizabeth Lewis was crafty because she said:
“If Peter Lewis who left his Wife and Children Destitute in Melbourne 12 years since, is still living, this is to caution him or any other person…” 
she did not say Peter Lewis who is still alive and she also threw doubt upon the matter by saying “or any other person.” I think she was trying to cover herself by careful use of words.
As for being in Melbourne -  I think the Lewis family was there for two reasons. First it was the era of the gold rush and thousands of South Australians left the state and moved to Victoria and Peter Lewis may have thought he would have a go at mining.

It may have been a case of him saying to Elizabeth, “you stay in Melbourne with the two kids and I will go to the gold fields” and he just never returned. It may have taken Elizabeth some time to work out she was a deserted wife.

Alternatively, in 1853 Jane Mashford married George O'Brien, in Melbourne and the Lewis family may have gone to Melbourne for the wedding and Peter Lewis took an opportunity to take off because The South Australian Police could not enforce any laws in Victoria. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Lewis returned to Adelaide very pregnant with Henry Lewis and without a husband.
You can go to the State Archive to see the Divorce list for the 1800's and there is no Elizabeth Lewis or Elizabeth Atkins. Divorce was not a simple matter in the 1800's and remarkably few people did it. Another reason why people did not like to get a divorce is because the Press would publish all the details and nobody wanted that.

Image: The overgrown gravesite in the Gladstone cemetery, of Elizabeth's daughter, Mary (Polly) Atkins Ross and her husband, Greek sailor, Charlie Ross.

The first piece of evidence that Elizabeth was in Gladstone was 1872 when she purchased the block of land so she did not leave him at the time of the notice, as far as we can tell. 
I think James Atkins, along with George and John Lewis, did get a block of land as well.
In addition, I have been researching Edward Atkins’ family in Gloucestershire and they seem to be in twenty-century terms “dysfunctional.”

 I use that term with a pinch of salt because they were urban working class people and victims of the Industrial Revolution, as  so many were. The social conditions in the cities for working class people were terrible and as soon as a husband died they was no income and people could not pay the rent etc etc. There was a lot of poverty 
 and Ann Atkins was on poor relief in 1861 and living as a lodger with her daughter Mary Ann Atkins.

It seems her other children were not helping her which suggests the family was not very close or the family bonds had broken down. Two sons, George and David ended up in gaol at different times. The oldest son Charles just suddenly dropped dead one day and there was a Coroner’s investigation.

However, the most interesting fact is Mary Ann Haines Atkins was committed to Gloucester County Lunatic Asylum and died there. I know you have to be careful about mental health issues and mental health hospital in the 1800's as many people were committed when they did not have a mental health problem, but two of Edward Atkins grandson ended up in Parkside hospital in Adelaide.
As for the Destitute Asylum, there were two forms of relief, Outdoor relief and Indoor relief. Elizabeth Atkins I think would have received outdoor relief, which means she would have received food etc because she had her brother’s house to live in.

However, if she had a mortgage she would still have to find the money to pay the Bank. A good book about the history of welfare in South Australia in the 1800's is called “Rations Residence Resources: A history of social welfare in South Australia since 1836” by Brian Dicky.

Another good book which has helped me is about women and the Law in South Australia in the 1800's and is called “In her Own Name Women in South Australia History” by Helen Jones. 

In terms of being sure that Henry Edwin Atkins and our Edward Atkins were one and the same, we cannot be absolutely sure, but there is strong evidence it is highly likely.

I have been going through my emails you sent me from a few years ago and at one stage, you hired a researcher in England, I think her name was Lynne Cleaver and she in turn, sub-hired, a person called Geoff Swinfield to look at the court case of Henry Edwin Atkins at the National Archives.

One way of proving the link between the two men would have if Geoff found any letters of support from Joseph and Ann Atkins making an appeal to have the death sentence changed to that of transportation. Geoff stated in your email that the appeal documentation was in a bad state and not good enough to transcribe.

As a result, any letter from Joseph Atkins is now impossible to prove. However, in his profession opinion he stated:

“Re Edward Atkins being one and the same are that they are indeed the same, more evidence point towards this than against.”

The other factor is all records for a Henry Edwin Atkins born 1812 Gloucestershire are lacking in England. Normally, what a person can do is find a baptism record for a person, and if there are no problems, follow that person through the English census records through from 1841, to 1851, 61, 71, 81, Census records etc until they die. There is no burial record for Henry Edwin Atkins and no census record for him. This suggests he emigrated somewhere, or some other factor, like transportation.

Your researcher made some further suggestions including a search of the Worcestershire Archives to see why Joseph Atkins moved from Gloucestershire about 1830, the same time Henry Edwin Atkins was charged. In addition, a search of the Gloucestershire Archives to look at records including the Cheltenham Poor Relief records in regards to Ann and Maryann Atkins hardship. He/She also suggested Regimental Records for Joseph Atkins at the National Archives.

As for the Gloucestershire Archives, I really do not know what a search will show. As mentioned, you can go to the Gloucestershire Archives Website and in their search field; I typed some names including Mary Ann Atkins and George Atkins. (Henry Edwin Atkins’ brother).

That is how I found out that Mary Ann Atkins was in the Asylum (and the 1871 census record) and what dates etc, and that George Atkins died as a Pauper in the Cheltenham Union Workhouse. However, the website did state that there were no other details e.g. family members etc."

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A woman of property and perhaps a bigamist.

Image: Destitute Asylum, Adelaide.

Fellow researcher, Luke, has gathered some more information on Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins, which show that she was a woman of property, following the deaths of her brother, George May Mashford and her mother, Mary Cann Mashford, in 1850, barely eight weeks apart.

She may also have married Edward Atkins without proof that her first husband, Peter Lewis was dead, and in fact, knowing he probably was still alive. Alternatively she was a little dim although there does not seem much evidence for that explanation.

And according to the notice published in 1865, within three years of the death of her much loved brother and mother, Elizabeth and her children were left destitute in Melbourne after being abandoned by Peter Lewis. Although, if Elizabeth had inherited money from her mother, since her brother's Will was not finalised until 1856, she must have had enough money to get back to South Australia with her sons.

George Lewis was born, July 8, 1848 in Kensington and so in 1865, when the notice regarding his father was published, was seventeen, and while underage in law, was not so young. Perhaps Elizabeth feared that if Peter Lewis was alive, she would be revealed as a bigamist.

But that doesn't work, given that she put the notice in the newspaper warning about contact being made with her son. Another possibility is that the notice revealed to Edward Atkins that his wife was probably a bigamist and if he had 'found' or always had religion, that marked the beginning of the end of their relationship. Although Elizabeth did not move to Gladstone until around 1878, some thirteen years away, at a time when her youngest daughter, Mary Atkins, later to be Ross, was pregnant with an illegitimate child. The theory is a little thin to say the least, but conjecture is the way of ancestry research.

John Mashford Lewis, born at Marryatville December 10, 1850, a few months after Elizabeth lost her mother and brother, was Fifteen in 1865. Henry Lewis, born January 22, 1854 died in 1855, in Adelaide.

Elizabeth made an application in Adelaide to the Destitute Board for relief, in 1853, and so it seems that when Peter Lewis deserted her, she was pregnant with her third son, and could not work. Even if she had inherited money from her mother, it may have been very little and not enough to live on while she was pregnant, and supporting a five and three-year-old.

Or indeed, if there was a legitimacy issue, she may have inherited nothing from her mother, or had been prevented by her sisters and surviving brother from claiming it, and was in dire straits until her oldest brother's Will was finalised in 1856.

Whether or not she and her sons lived in the Destitute Asylum, we do not know.  Although little Henry's death may well have been the result of living in the poor conditions, away from his mother, which such places demanded. After such a loss, it would be even less surprising that Elizabeth would do whatever she had to do, perhaps marry the first man who asked, knowing that her husband might still be alive, in order to provide a better life for her children.

The history of this institution has been written by Mary Geyer, Behind The Wall - The Women of the Destitute Asylum
Adelaide, 1852-1918

Image: Children of the Destitute Asylum.
It provides an insight into Adelaide's Destitute Asylum and the women who experienced life behind its walls. Until its closure in 1917 politicians and governments, Commissions and Boards of Inquiry tried to solve the problem and cost of destitution to the colony.

South Australia was a free colony, without convicts,  planned according to the Wakefield principles, where there would be no poor or destitute. According to this theory emigration of the correct proportion of capital and labour would create an ideal society free from social, economic, political or religious problems. It would be a self-sustaining society, prosperous and virtuous without the need to provide for paupers.

As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men. The reality was very different.  Almost from the start the South Australian Immigration Agent had to provide assistance to those in need.  In 1843, barely seven years after the colony was established,  the government passed its first legislation to deal with poverty. It now became law that relatives were responsible for the maintenance and relief of deserted wives and children.

And of course, Elizabeth Mashford Lewis had no relatives in Adelaide who could help her and possibly none interstate or overseas who would or could, and not only was she deserted but pregnant with two small children to feed.  With George May Mashford's Will still not finalised one presumes she could not live in his house and with no other relatives in South Australia, is most likely to have been forced to live in the Asylum. Although researcher, Luke, seems to think that she could have lived in her late brother's house. Wherever she lived, times were tough.
During 1849 the Board provided relief to 25 indoor and 114 outdoor destitute. By 1851 this had increased to 63 and 187 respectively. By 1855 it reached an all time high when it had to provide relief to more than 3,000 men women and children, one of whom was our great-great grandmother. 

This high number came about as a result of excess female immigration which resulted in lower wages being paid, a very poor harvest causing increased unemployment and the large number of wives who had been deserted by their husbands leaving for the Victorian goldfields. Deserting husbands were the chief cause of female poverty and it was suggested that these men should be flogged.

And perhaps it was to the goldfields that Peter Lewis went. Wherever he was, Elizabeth was alone.

If she was in the Asylum it was hardly a pleasant place. It was, like the Poorhouses of England, a place of last resort and nowhere that anyone would live by choice.  Men and women were segregated by a stone wall of nearly three metres. Once admitted, inmates were only allowed to leave for five or six hours once a week, although pregnant and towing a toddler and a small child, if indeed she was allowed to take them out, dressed in the Asylum uniform, one presumes Elizabeth did not take up the offer of 'time-out.'.

Each day the bell would ring five times, the fist in the morning to get out of bed, three times a day for meals and finally for lights out. Asylum women were expected to earn their keep and were involved in washing for outside customers, ironing as well as sewing hessian sacks, garment making or embroidery.

Orphans and children of destitute families were admitted but separated. Parents could visit them once a month but only for two hours. After 1867 this practice was ended when children were sent to industrial schools or boarded out to families. If Elizabeth spent time in the Asylum, she would have been separated from her small sons.

There was little compassion for destitute pregnant women although Elizabeth did have a record of her marriage and as one of the many abandoned wives due to goldfields fever, may have had an easier time. 

Elizabeth had experienced a traumatic few years, but, was resilient enough, it seems to survive and carry on. Her brother, George's Will would be finalised the following year, and within two years of losing her baby son, she would marry Edward Atkins.

For a woman, abandoned by her husband when pregnant, destitute with small children to care for, marrying Edward Atkins, even with his brood of motherless children, may have seemed an offer too good to refuse.

She was tough, but then one had to be in the 19th century, or, as my mother often said: 'It's a great life if you don't weaken, once you weaken you'r gone.' And 'gone' in those days was literally into the gutter.

And perhaps it was because she had been abandoned by her first husband that she chose not to fully trust the second and kept knowledge of her property and wealth a secret from him - just in case. As it happened, for reasons we do not know, that second marriage also ended in separation, although, from the look of it, this time Elizabeth did the leaving when she moved from Wirrabarra Forest to Gladstone in 1872, which is when the records show her purchasing land.

Whatever the reasons for the 'ending' of her second marriage, it seems clear that Elizabeth was resolute in regards to caring for her children, no matter what, and that is a heritage which stood her in good stead and no doubt does for her descendants.

Image: Burnside/Marryatville, Council chambers, 1865.

As Luke writes: 
" I made an enquiry with Denise Schumann from the Culture Heritage Adviser: City of Norwood Payneham and Saint Peters. They hold the rates assessment books which covers Marryatville from the 1850s.

It would seem from the assessment books for the property which George May Mashford had, the owner of the property and the person paying the rates was "Mrs Lewis" This implies she must have paid her two sisters out and the house belonged to her. What is even more interesting is Elizabeth Lewis, not Elizabeth Atkins, is paying the rates up until 1877.

She may not have told Edward Atkins about the property because under the laws at this time, as her husband, he had a legal right to her property. Thus she kept paying the rates under the name of Lewis.

In the period from 1859 to 1863 Samuel Heanes, who was John Cann Mashford's brother-in-law, is recorded in the town of Kensington council rate book as an agent or representative of Elizabeth Lewis.

NB:  John Cann died in 1849, but it seems Elizabeth maintained links with his widow and her family. 

From 1878 to1879 the owner was "Emily Lewis" which is believed to be an error and is a misreading of Elizabeth. In 1880 Samuel Heanes was listed as representing the owner of 14 Burwash Road, where George May Mashford lived, until 1884.

It was not until 1882 when the property was sold by Elizabeth Atkins (not Lewis) to Alexander Kauffmann.

I think this might be able to explain how she managed to buy some land at Gladstone because as a woman in the 1800s, the banks did not have to give her a loan, however if she used her house at Marryatville as security against the loan the bank may well have given her the money she needed.

If Edward Atkins knew about this house at Marryatville or not we will never find out, but if he did and this was the cause of the break up it would give Edward Puddy every reason to cut the family out of the obituary written when Edward Atkins died. 
Furthermore, about the house and where Elizabeth Lewis got the money from. I believe the following. Elizabeth Lewis got a quarter share of her brother’s house and something from Mary Cann Mashford’s share. She was married to Peter Lewis at the time and women in the early 1800s could not get a loan from the Banks unless they had their husband’s permission. Peter Lewis may have thought it was in his best interest to give his permission for her to get a loan. Whether the loan was under both names or just her name we will never know. However, they had a mortgage just like any other couple did and had to work to pay it off like any other couple in the early 1800s. As a result, Peter Lewis would have known all about the house as he was still married to her. Also after Elizabeth Lewis paid out her two sisters they took off to Melbourne for good.
If Peter Lewis was still alive, all he had to do was to go to the Norwood and Kensington Council and make some enquiries as to who the owner was and found out where Elizabeth Atkins was living.
It is interesting that Elizabeth Atkins does not seem to have changed her surname with the Norwood and Kensington Council until after she had left Edward Atkins. As a result, if Peter Lewis was still alive, Elizabeth Lewis made it easy for him to track her down to Charlton.
Of course, there was no Post Office at Charlton. I do not know where the nearest Post Office would have been located, more than likely at Melrose, about 15kms away. 
What Edward Atkins knew about the whole situation remains unknown. However, if there were any problems in the marriage this notice would have added to it and how Elizabeth Atkins explained everything to Edward Atkins remains unknown.
In addition, it may explain how she got the blocks of Land at Gladstone. She would have had a tenant in the house, thus paying off her loan and even though it was against Bank policy to give a loan to women in the 1800's they may have turned a blind eye because she used the house as security against any loan. I also think she gave a block to George and John Lewis because there was an agreement. They would build her a house on her block for free, in return, they each would get a block.  

This is the notice.I found it on TROVE. The notice really does have many ramifications because Peter Lewis could have been very much alive when Elizabeth Mashford married Edward Atkins. For somebody to write to George Lewis they had to have known the address where the Atkins family lived in 1865, how did somebody find out they were living at Charlton?"
“If Peter Lewis, who left his Wife and Children Destitute in Melbourne 12 years since, is still living, this is to caution him or any other person against sending or bringing private letters or messages to my son George Lewis, he being under age. Elizabeth Atkins (formerly Lewis), Charlton Mines, February.”

In addition, Luke has been researching the position of women in regard to taking out loans in the 19th century:


Dear Ms Allen I was wondering if you could help me with a number of questions concerning the status of married women in 19th century South Australia. I have tried to find the answers myself, but to no avail, but then I came across this website during my research.
I am researching my Great Great Grand Parents Edward Atkins and Elizabeth Mashford. Both people separated, but there was no divorce. In November 1872, Elizabeth Atkins purchased five blocks of land at Gladstone SA. On 30 August 1873, Edward Atkins placed a notice in the newspapers stating he would not be responsible for his wife’s debts. I understand that under the SA Married Women’s Property Act 1883/1884 women in SA could for the first time hold, and dispose of any real or personal property. Before this Act, a married women’s property legally belong to the husband. I also understand that married women could not enter into a legal contract without her husband’s approval. However, would I be right in saying that before 1883/1884 the husband could be responsible for his wife’s debt? Would this be the reason as to why Edward Atkins placed the notice in the newspaper? Would such a notice back in the 1800s give Edward Atkins any legal protection if his wife could not pay her debts?
Secondly, I am having real problems in finding out any information regarding the status of women and banking in South Australia in the 1800s. I am under the impression that women could not enter into a legal contract without her husband approval before 1883/1884. Am I right in my thinking? If so, how did Elizabeth Atkins a married, but separated, women buy land under her own name? because she would have to enter into a contract unless she lied. Do not be worried if you have to tell me my GGGmother was a liar because it would not surprise me. She may have married Edward Atkins while her first husband was still alive and I believe that caused the separation.
Furthermore, If she did not have the cash she would have to borrow the money from a Bank. I am under the impression because there were no anti-discrimination laws that Banks could deny married women from opening up their own accounts in the 1800s. Would my thinking be right in this regards? I am also under the impression she would have to lie to the Banks to secure any loan.
Want is interesting about the certificate of title I have in regards to the land is in 1886 she transferred a block of land to her son George Lewis and I have copies of the Gladstone council assessment rates which show her other son, John Mashford Lewis , is paying council rates for another block of land which she owned. As a result, could it be possible that she never took out a Bank loan, but instead, her two sons took out the loan and as repayment, Elizabeth Atkins transferred some of the blocks of the land?
Any suggestion you have would be most helpful. I do have a copy of Helen Jones’ book “In her own name,” and Henry Finlay book about divorce in Australia 1858-1975. However, these books do not seem to cover in any details the information I am seeking. Are you able to recommend a good book on the history of women’s right in South Australia ,or a journal article, which covers the information I am seeking.


Hi Luke,
You've been doing a lot of research there! I'm not sure about legal protection from the newspaper notice, you may need to consult a lawyer on that one, but since before the married women's property act a woman's property went to her husband it is reasonable to assume debt would as well. Your theories about the involvement of Elizabeth's sons also sounds reasonable, but without records of her bank loans and debts it's impossible to say for sure. You can search for further information on the land and title records here: https://www.sailis.sa.gov.au/home/auth/login You may also find information at State Records if you haven't already tried there: https://www.archives.sa.gov.au/content/family-history
Re. further books you might try: Elford, K, ‘Marriage and divorce’ in Eric Richards ed., The Flinders History of South Australia: Social history (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1986). Margaret Allen contributed this piece to the website but can be contacted directly at the University of Adelaide, where you will find a list of her published works. These may be of use for your further reading also - http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/margaret.allen