Friday, 2 February 2018

The Diary Part 3

I have written about my ancestor James Jesse Blake before.  When he was about 70 (c. 1920), James wrote his life story for his children.  In the family this story is known as “The Diary”.  In The diary, James noted that his Blake grandmother “died at a very advanced age”.  She was about 78 years old.  I am not sure that people would consider that an advanced age now but I remember my Blake grandfather talking about living on borrowed time because he had passed his allotted “three score and ten” years.  James Jesse Blake lived to be 81, even older than his grandmother.  Having read James’ life story, I have noted numerous events in his life that make his advanced age seem like quite an achievement.

James Jesse Blake was born on 1 June 1848, in Aldgate, London.  In the 1851 England Census, a nearly 3 year old James was living with his grandmother, Elizabeth Gilbert (formerly Blake and possibly nee Flower), in Limehouse.  This may have been because his parents, who lived nearby, were busy with a one year old daughter, Catherine, with another sister, Eliza, about to arrive.

Not long after that, James Jesse Blake had a severe childhood illness and the doctor didn’t expect him to survive.  Two sisters, Eliza and Sarah, who are not mentioned in the diary, sadly died in the summer of 1855 and I wonder if all three children had the same illness. James survived his illness and soon started school.

James went to a Grammar school that he described as being on the cutside of Regents Canal near a lock.  One day, while “helping” the lock keeper, he was struck by part of the lock and knocked into the canal.  Word quickly went around the school that “Blake had drowned”, however he was hauled out of the water and was fine, if wet.

At the time of the 1861 census, the student James Jesse Blake was living with his parents and siblings, in Park Street, Limehouse.

Having survived his schooling, James became an apprentice carpenter on the docks.  While walking along a gangway at London Docks in a thick London fog, he missed his footing and fell into the Thames.  He called for help and was rescued by a Swedish sailor who got him dry clothes, returned James to his parents and almost convinced him to migrate to Australia.  James was keen but his mother was not.

James’ apprenticeship continued.  He moved out of home until he fell ill and had to move back.

It might not be a surprise to find out that not too many years later, while rowing with friends on the Lea River at Hackney, James fell in the river.  He had to swim for shore and then walk 3 miles home in his wet clothes.

James then managed to have several years without a memorable accident or illness.  Around 1870, James moved north to Newcastle-upon-Tyne for work.  Curiously, he is listed in the 1871 census living there as James Gilbert.  I know it is the right person because the Diary records the family James boarded with in Newcastle and all the other information fits.

After a few years, James moved back to London to marry Eliza Todd in 1874.  They soon had several children.  In the 1881 census, the young family were living in Bromley St Leonard, London.

As for the next serious incident, at some time in the early or mid-1880s, James caught small pox.  He was temporarily blinded by the disease and was sick and unable to work for three months.  I have another ancestor, Mary Anne Simmons, who caught small pox around the same time and died from it.

A few years later, one January night, James was working late at the docks and managed to fall out of a boat he was trying to row against the Thames tide.  He managed to scramble back into the boat and get back to his colleagues to dry himself out.  James didn’t tell his wife what happened as the family were going through a difficult time (the chronology in this section of “the Diary” is confused).  Eliza, however, found out about the accident because James took his water logged watched to a watchmaker to get it repaired and the story leaked out.

Another work related injury was accidentally running a piece of iron into his foot.  James was also hit by a bike, injuring his knee cap, which left him laid up for several weeks.

James wife, Eliza, died in February 1890 (although he records the year as 1891).  James continued to live in the East End of London for several years with different combinations of his children with him, as I discovered in the 1891 and 1901 censuses.  Two of his children, Elizabeth and Edward, were born deaf, which was an extra challenge to deal with.

Around 1906, James fell ill and a cold climate was recommended.  His children were all grown up and independent by this time, so he decided to move to Canada.  James notes in “The Diary” that he had good health while he lived in Canada and was only sick twice, once when falling down some stairs and the other time he was injured getting out of an electric car, injuring his arm and shoulder.  The electric car jerked as he was stepping out of it.  As the driver was at fault, James received a small amount of compensation.

He may have only been ill twice in Canada, but James had another near death experience while living there.  When working in a Manitoba winter, he got lost in one night the snow.  Fortunately, he relocated the markers he was told to follow fairly quickly after losing sight of them.  His 1.5 mile walk through the snow took 8 hours; he got home at 3am.

Also, while living in Canada, his lodging burned down.  James lost everything other than the clothes he was wearing and was not insured.  He somehow sorted himself out in spite of having no family or close friends in the country.

James lived in Canada until early 1925.  I have found him in the 1921 Canada census, living in Vancouver.  In 1925, he returned to England and lived here for the last 5 years of his life, dying in 1930 from senile decay.

James Jesse Blake’s life seems to have been full of incidents and disasters.  I would guess that most people of advanced age would have had similarly eventful lives, but most of the time the memories die with them and there is no record left for their ancestors to appreciate the luck or effort it took to grow old. If life had only gone a little differently for James, he might not have survived to tell his story.

This post was written in response to two recent prompts from 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – “Longevity” and “In the Census”.  As I mention at least four ancestors in this post, I figure it is Okay to use multiple prompts for it.

Notes on Lineage: Me > Dad > John Edward Blake > James William Blake > James Jesse Blake

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My First Ancestor

This is the story of how I got started in family history research, as well as another ancestor’s tale.
About 30 years ago, at a family dinner, my mother and uncle were trying to remember stories they had been told about various ancestors, to help with a family tree school assignment for my brother.  Two names stood out: Henry Sparrow Briggs and Captain Thomas Rowley.  Not long after this dinner, my mother and I were at the local public library and decided to check out the reference section for any early Australian history that might mention either man.  We found a series of books* with family record sheets for the first people who came to Australia from England.  On one sheet, we found both Thomas Rowley and his son-in-law Henry Sparrow Briggs.

The family record sheet listed Thomas Rowley’s spouse as Elizabeth Selwyn**.  The initials “GS” following her name discretely indicated that she was a “government servant”, which my mother knew was a euphemism for “Convict”.   At least one convict in an Australian family tree is almost to be expected.  So, Elizabeth Selwyn was the first ancestor I discovered; the start of my family history research and I had immediately discovered something much more intriguing than dates and places.  I also have a soft spot for Elizabeth because she managed to die a respectable widow although she never married.

According to Gloucestershire Prison Calendars, at the lent assizes in 1791, Elizabeth Selwyn received a sentence of 7 years transportation for stealing a cotton gown and several other items of clothing from the dwelling of a James Brown.  She had an alleged partner in crime, Elizabeth Evans, who I have found no further record of, not even the outcome of her trial.  At the time of Elizabeth Selwyn’s arrest in December 1790, she was said to have been 18 years old, a servant and of the parish of Cherington, Gloucestershire.

Two years earlier, in July 1788, an Elizabeth Selwyn aged 19, was charged have a number of items of clothing in her possession that had been stolen from the house of one Priscilla Dangerfield.  I have found a Priscilla Dangerfield living in Kings Stanley, not far from Cherington, in the late 1700’s.  I think it is possible that this criminal could be my Elizabeth Selwyn in spite of the older age.  In researching various convict ancestors, I have noted that most convicted of multiple crimes before being transported.

To date, I have found two possible Elizabeth Selwyn’s in Gloucester parish registers, although the dates and ages don’t quite add up.
  • The first Elizabeth Selwyn, daughter of John Selwyn and Betty Bird, was baptised 1 Jun 1766 in the parish of Kings Stanley.  She seems a bit too old but the location is good.
  • The second Elizabeth Selwyn, daughter of Jasper Selwyn and Mary Cook, was baptised 9 Jun 1771, in the parish of Westbury on Severn.  The age is better but the location is not so good.

My Elizabeth Selwyn was transported on the “Pitt”, which left England in June 1791 and arrived in Sydney on 14 February 1792.  The voyage was long and grim even compared to other journeys of the time.  The weather was bad; winds were unfavourable; fever on board affected the sailors, soldiers and free passengers, with nearly 30 deaths; convicts suffered from scurvy and flux, and four convicts tried to escape and probably drowned while the ship was docked at Rio De Janero.  And yes, the ships did travel across the Atlantic from England to Brazil before crossing back, going around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean to Australia.

According to some accounts I have read about the early settlement in Australia, the military officers got first pick of the female convicts on arrival.  Whatever the circumstances, Elizabeth Selwyn and Thomas Rowley were a couple by the time they got to Sydney.  Their daughter Isabella Rowley was born on 19 Nov 1792; almost exactly nine months after the Pitt reached Sydney.  Convicts had to get permission to marry and would not have been allowed to marry an officer, so Thomas, a Lieutenant in 1792 and later Captain, and Elizabeth never wed.
On 8 May 1794, Elizabeth Selwyn received an absolute pardon and so was a free woman, having served about half of her seven year sentence.  By this time, Elizabeth had been living as Thomas Rowley’s mistress and house keeper for two years and was pregnant with her second child, Thomas, so the pardon probably didn’t make much difference to her day to day life but it would have allowed her to return to England, if she had the means and desire to do so.

Over the next 12 years, Elizabeth Selwyn and Thomas Rowley had three more children:  John, Mary and Eliza (my ancestor).  The five children were all acknowledged in Thomas Rowley’s will as “begotten on the body of Elizabeth Selwyn” and they always used his surname.  It is possible that Elizabeth was pregnant when Thomas died in 1806 with another son, Henry.  There is evidence of a Henry Rowley associated with the family in early census records and government papers, but no baptism records.  Being illegitimate and not named in his father’s will, he would not have been entitled to claim a share in the inheritance.
Elizabeth Selwyn was left a stipend in Thomas Rowley’s will on the condition that she did not marry or co-habit with another man.  To date, I have no evidence to show whether or not she stuck to the co-habiting condition and she never married.

As a military officer, Thomas Rowley had received substantial land grants around what is now Sydney, so his “wife” and children became prosperous and respectable settlers, presumably hiding their illegitimacy and convict heritage.

Elizabeth Selwyn died 22 June 1843, in Sydney.  She is now buried in the Rowley/Briggs family tomb at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney, but was originally buried in a family plot on their property of Kingston (now the inner suburb of Newtown, in Sydney).  The tombstone describes her as the wife of Thomas Rowley Esq and aged 68.

Un-cropped photo saved to many trees on

I was given a scan of a photo labelled as being of Elizabeth Selwyn but a quick bit of research on the history photography suggests that this is very unlikely.  There are a number of unsubstantiated, speculative or very circumstantial stories about Elizabeth Selwyn and Thomas Rowley and their life in Australia that have been accepted as true by some researchers.  I have found it fascinating to see how speculation can become accepted “fact” over time as “possible”, “probably” and similar words are dropped.  I have become much more cautious about sharing information I am not sure about and make an effort to question why I think mine and others’ research conclusions are correct.

My “first” ancestor has helped to keep me hooked on family history research because she has proved interesting and has left some (so far) unanswered questions.

*Several volumes on First, Second, Third and Forth Fleet Families of Australia, compiled by C.J. Smee
**There are multiple spellings of Selwyn.

Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Frederick Henderson Briggs > Eliza Rowley > Elizabeth Selwyn

P.S. The idea for this blog post comes from this:, the prompt being "Start".

Friday, 24 November 2017


 James Foskett was born in the Finsbury area of London on 15 August 1768.  He was the fifth and youngest known child of Samuel Foskett and Anne Knight, although one brother, Nicholas, died before James was born.  The other siblings were Ann, Harriot and Samuel.  I don’t know what happened to Ann or Harriot.  James was baptised on 11 September 1768 at the parish church of St Bride’s Fleet Street, a beautiful church in central London, famous for its wedding cake steeple.

St Brides Chrurch c. 1825, from The Project Gutenberg EBook
 of The Every-day Book and Table Book, v. 1 (of 3), by William Hone

I don’t know anything definite about James Foskett’s childhood, although given that his father, Samuel, was a leather dresser, a smelly manual job, and his grandfather, Nicholas Foskett, was a butcher, it is likely that he spent much time in some of the less savoury parts of London’s east and south, where such unsavoury trades tended to be consigned.

By the time James was nineteen years old, it appears that he was not a well behaved young man.  In October 1787, his Grandfather Nicholas Foskett wrote a codicil to his will, disinheriting James, who had been going to inherit a butcher’s cart.  In the codicil, Nicholas said “my grandson James Foskett… conducted himself with so much disrespect toward me that I do not consider him thereby deserving of the legacy.”  I would love to know what James did or did not do to upset his Grandfather.  The legacy instead went to Nicholas’s wife, Mary, James’s step-grandmother.  As there were no further codicils, it appears unlikely that James made up with his Grandfather before Nicholas died in 1792.

Less than a year after the codicil was written, at the age of 20, James appears to have run off to the wilds of Essex, with a much older woman, Judith Gravett, who was about 32 years old.  They married in Leyton on 29 September 1788.

In January 1789, James Foskett became a Freeman of the city of London, joining the Leather Sellers Guild by patrimony, meaning he was entitled to join because his father, Samuel, was a guild member.  However, through the 1790’s James appears to have worked as a porter.

James and Judith’s first child, Samuel James Foskett was born less than a year after they were married, on 11 July 1789.  Samuel was baptised a month later on 12 August at St Mary’s, Whitechapel, at which time the family’s place of abode was given as “Roadside”.  Roadside was an actual location and did not imply that they were homeless.

Probably around 1790, the family moved to Southwark on the other side of the Thames where many butchers and leather workers, the family occupations, plied their trades.  Of James and Judith’s other children, James (b. 1790) was baptised in St Saviour’s, Southwark in 1799 and Catherine (b. 1792, my ancestor) is recorded in the 1851 census as being born in Southwark.  Catherine was baptised in 1803 in St Leonard’s Shoreditch, so by then the family had moved back north of the river.

I don’t know of any other children but given that two children were not baptised as infants, there may have been others who were not baptised at all.  Also, Foskett is also a challenging name to research as it is often transcribed incorrectly or was originally written with an alternative spelling (or both).

James’ brother Samuel died early in 1804 and mentioned James in his will.  So by 1804, James and his two sons were the only surviving male heirs of Grandfather Nicholas Foskett that I know of.
Mary Foskett, James’ step-grandmother died later in 1804 and left a legacy to James in her will.  She describes James as a butcher from Whitechapel.  Whatever caused the rift with his grandfather must have been forgiven by his grandfather’s wife.  

The next record I have of James Foskett is in January 1824.  At that time, James had become ill and couldn’t work, so he needed support from the parish for him and his wife.  They were living in the parish of St Leonard’s Shoreditch at the time, but a Settlement Examination proved that they belonged to the parish of St Botolph without Aldgate due to having rented rooms there for more than a year nine years earlier (about 1813).  

Prior to 1948 in England, Parishes were responsible for welfare and everyone belonged to a parish either because they were born there or had other strong ties to that parish.  That parish was responsible for providing relief and if people fell on hard times after moving away, they could be returned to the parish that was responsible for their welfare.

I have no further record of James Foskett.  His wife, Judith, died in the workhouse at Cock & Hoop Yard in the parish of St Botolph’s without Aldgate in 1829.  By this time, they had at least 10 grandchildren.

A curious note: these Foskett ancestors on my mother’s side of the family were living in the same parish (St Botolph’s without Aldgate) at the same time as my paternal Blake ancestors.  Perhaps they even knew each other.

Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > John Macdonald Charley > Walter George Charley > John Joseph Charley > Catherine Thompson > Catherine Foskett > James Foskett

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A Teenage Widow

Elizabeth Austin Bell may have been a widow with an infant child by the time she was 19 years old.

According to various census records, Elizabeth Austin Bell was born about 1800 in Westminster, with the 1881 census giving a more precise location of Blackfriars.  I haven’t found a baptism record that I am confident is hers (even checking back up to 10 years).  Based on subsequent events in her life, she may have been a non-conformist or not particularly religious and so may not have been baptised as an infant in the Church of England.

Elizabeth Austin Bell married John Hart on 4 July 1816 at St Mary’s Newington, Southwark.  She was about 16 years old.  Elizabeth signed her name and her signature looked neat and well-practised, suggesting she was an educated girl.  John also signed his name.  One of the witnesses was Mary Elliston, the name of her daughter’s mother-in-law.  I wonder if it was the same person or just a co-incidence.

Elizabeth and John had a son, William James Hart, born in March 1819 (possibly the 17th but the scan of the record is not open enough to read the full date of birth) and baptised 16 May 1819 at St George the Martyr, Southwark; about a mile up the road from St Mary’s Newington.  According to the baptism record, John Hart was a tanner.  The London tanning industry was primarily based south of the river (Thames), where many smelly and unsavoury industries were relegated away from the City.  The family’s address is given as Newcastle Street Kent Street.  Kent Street (part of the Old Kent Road, the A2) is now Tabard St and I assume that Newcastle Street branched off it somewhere – names have changed and the area has been redeveloped.

I think John Hart died in June 1819, just a month after their son was baptised.  There are some other possible burials in London but this is the only one I have found in Southwark.  He was just 24 years old and Elizabeth 19.  John was buried at the Ebenezer (Independent) Chapel in Bermondsey (also south of the Thames, for those not familiar with London).  I haven’t yet been able to find out what happened to son William James Hart and whether he survived infancy.

Elizabeth Austin Hart (nee Bell) married Ethelbert John Buss on 3 July 1822 at Christ Church, Southwark.  Elizabeth and Ethelbert had at least seven children, six daughters: Letitia, Elizabeth Austin, Sarah Ann (or Ann Sarah), Elfrida Mary (my ancestor), Charlotte Mathilda and Clara Julia, and one son, Ethelbert John; all born between 1825 & 1836.  The uncommon names come from the Buss family.  It appears that most of the children were not baptised as infants and the family moved around, so there may have been other children that I don’t know about.  Those I do know about were either living with the family at the time of a census or I have found them via their father’s name on a marriage certificate – the only Ethelbert John Busses that I have ever come across are family.  All of the listed children married (at least once) and had children of their own.

In 1841, Elizabeth, Ethelbert and five of their daughters were living in Halfmoon Street, St Botolph’s Bishopsgate, with Ethelbert working as a journeyman bookbinder.  This meant his work may not have been reliable.  In 1851, the couple and some daughters were still in Bishopsgate, but had moved to Skinner Street.  Son, Ethelbert John, was living in a different apartment in the same building, living with his soon to be brother-in-law, George Elliston.

In July 1857, Ethelbert John Buss was ill with Dropsy (Edema) and was unable to work.  Ethelbert, Elizabeth and Clara (who was still living with her parents) became chargeable to the parish, that is, they needed social support.  To receive financial support, they had to prove that that they belonged to that parish via a Settlement order.  A parish didn’t want to pay money out to everyone who claimed social support and so could remove anyone who wasn’t officially settled there back to the parish where they officially belonged.  Ethelbert died a few days after the settlement investigation, leaving Elizabeth as a widow for the second time.

After being widowed again at a still relatively young 57, Elizabeth appears to have lived at different times with her various children.  In 1861, she was living with son Ethelbert John Buss and his young family in St Brides, London.  Elizabeth was working as a straw bonnet maker.  At the time of the following census in 1871, Elizabeth had moved to West Ham, Essex to live with her daughter Elifrida Mary Elliston and her family.  I think she must have then moved to live with daughter Elizabeth Austin West and family, who lived in Kensington.  By 1881, Elizabeth Austin Buss was resident in Kensington Workhouse Infirmary, perhaps too old to look after herself.  

A lady in a bonnet (public domain).

Elizabeth died early in 1882 and was buried in Hanwell cemetery to the west of London on 6 February that year.  By that time, there were no more burials in London churchyards; instead the dead were buried in large cemeteries on the outskirts of the city.

Elizabeth Austin Buss nee Bell seems to have moved around a lot during the course of her life.  I have found similar stories with other London ancestors from the time period.  Life seems to be have been uncertain and unsettled for Elizabeth.  It can’t have been easy to have been a teen aged widow.

Notes on Lineage:  Me > Dad > John Edward Blake > Alice Mary Elliston > George Elliston > Elfrida Mary Buss > Elizabeth Austin Bell

Monday, 14 August 2017

A Kentish Family

I have had break from writing for a while due to moving house.  As I have just moved to Kent, I thought I would write a short story about an ancestor from that county.  My earliest ancestors that I know of on my maternal line are from Kent.

Alice Wilson was possibly the daughter of Edward Wilson and Joanna Kent, baptised 10 Apr 1636 in Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone in Kent, however at the time of writing this is still under investigation.  Where ever she was born, Alice’s early years would have been a tumultuous time, with England being in the middle of the Civil War.

On 1 November 1669 or 1670 (the indexes can’t agree and I haven’t seen the original record yet), Alice Wilson married Thomas Millison* in Loose, Kent.  Thomas’ residence was given as Hawkhurst, so it is likely that Alice was living in the vicinity of Loose prior to her marriage.  Loose is next to Boughton Monchelsesa.  Hawkhurst is a parish about 15 miles south on Loose, most famous for a notorious gang of smugglers in the 1700s, perhaps I am related to some of them.  Thomas Millison was married at least once and probably twice before he married Alice.

Alice and Thomas went to live in Hawkhurst.  On 31 Mar 1684, Alice and Thomas had 5 children baptised: Martha born 1662, daughter of Thomas’ first wife, Joan Spice; Alice born 28 Dec 1671 (my ancestor); Mary born 18 Mar 1674 (also my ancestor, on my maternal line); Thomas born 8 Oct 1675 and Elizabeth 18 Mar 1676/7. 

At first glance, it seems strange for one adult and four older children to be baptised on the same day.  However, the winter of 1683-4 was very harsh with a frost that lasted from December to March.  I found various articles online saying that it was the coldest winter recorded in English history (instrumental weather records started in the 1660s), with the Thames frozen for two months and a frost fair held on the river.  Because the ground was frozen through the winter, in many areas crops couldn’t be planted and there must have been famine.  People who had fallen on hard times would have had no choice but to turn to their parish church for support.  The Church of England provided what social services there were at time.  For some reason, whether because they were non-conformists or had no religion, Thomas and Alice hadn’t had their children baptised as infants, so to get support from the parish, the family had to be baptised.

Alice and Thomas stayed in Hawkhurst.  Thomas died and was buried there in 1699 and Alice in 1708.

Notes on lineages:

My maternal line: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Fanny Sarah Perigo > Sarah Elizabeth Playford > Sarah Goodsell > Sarah Luck > Sarah Susans > Mary Minnage > Mary Millison > Alice Wilson

Alternative line: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Fanny Sarah Perigo > Sarah Elizabeth Playford > Sarah Goodsell > Henry Goodsall > Elizabeth Chester > John Chester > Alice Millison > Alice Wilson

*There are lots of variations of Millison and as it is not a common name, I don’t know which spelling is the “standard” version.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Twice an Ancestor

Nathaniel Partridge is my ancestor twice over.  I am descended from two of his children – yes, there is some inbreeding in the family.

Baptised 18 Apr 1773 in Miserden Parish Church, Gloucestershire, Nathaniel was the fourth child of Thomas Partridge (son of John Partridge) and Margaret Arkwell.  His siblings were Joseph, John, Elizabeth and Margaret.  The family were almost landed gentry, with Nathaniel’s grandfather John Partridge having inherited the family manor house not long before Nathaniel’s birth.

In 1789, aged about 16, Nathaniel Partridge was apprenticed to Thomas Price of Duntisbourne Abbots, Gloucestershire, as a wheelwright and carpenter.

Duntisbourne Abbots is next to Miserden, in a beautiful part of the Cotswolds.  An apprenticeship typically lasted seven years.  Shortly after he must have finished his apprenticeship, on 4 Jul 1796, Nathaniel Partridge, as master, took on an apprentice, Richard Merriett.

A year later, 1797, Nathaniel had an eventful year.  On 9 February, Nathaniel married Mary Abel by licence in Duntisbourne Abbots.  Mary must have been about seven months pregnant at the time, as their son, Thomas (my ancestor) was baptised on 18 April 1797.  Presumably he was born a short time before that, perhaps around the time that his grandfather, also Thomas Partridge, died.  Thomas Partridge senior was buried 3 Apr 1797.

Over the next twenty years, Nathaniel and Mary had another six children: Mary Ann, Charlotte, Maria, Harriet, William and Margaret (my ancestor).

There are family stories that the Partridge family were Plymouth Brethren.  The movement spread through England in the 1830’s, so Nathaniel and his family may have become Plymouth Brethren at that time.  The family may have been non-conformists before that as some of Nathaniel’s children married in the parish of Hempsted after saying they lived in the extra parochial parish of Littleworth to avoid having to get a marriage licence or banns in their own parish church.  Further supporting this, several members of the extended family born in the 1840’s do not appear to have been baptised.

According to the 1841 census, Nathaniel was still living in Duntisbourne Abbots, with his wife Mary, and working as a carpenter.

During the 1840’s, Nathaniel Partridge was on the electoral roll as he owned a freehold house and garden in the village of Duntisbourne Abbots.  This meant that he was one of the more privileged members of society at the time.

In the 1851 census, Nathaniel and Mary were living with their spinster daughter, Harriet.  I wonder whether she had moved home to look after her aging parents; perhaps not, because Nathaniel was apparently still working as a carpenter.

Nathaniel died about 80, a good age, and was buried 2 Apr 1853 in Duntisbourne Abbots.  By this time, he was grandfather to about 30 grandchildren and was also a great grandfather.  The signature on his will dated 11 February 1853 looks very shaky, so perhaps he was ailing for some weeks before his death.  Nathaniel left substantial property to his wife and sons in his will, including three cottages in Duntsibourne Abbots, in addition to the one he was living in with his wife, and a timber yard.  My double ancestor seems to have lived a good life.

Notes on Lineage 1: Me > Dad > Helen Francis Ruth Akeroyd > Florence Ruth Kirby > Oscar John Kirby > Margaret Partridge > Nathaniel Partridge

Notes on Lineage 1: Me > Dad > Helen Francis Ruth Akeroyd > Florence Ruth Kirby > Harriet Partridge > Thomas Partridge > Nathaniel Partridge

Saturday, 8 April 2017

A Lady of Letters

I know quite a bit about Elizabeth Harvie McDonald* and her family because she kept many letters sent to her and her family.  I am lucky enough to have copies of these letters.
Public domain photo of some old letters.
Elizabeth Harvie McDonald was born 21 May 1825 in Tradestown in Glasgow, Scotland, the daughter of William McDonald, a cloth lapper, and Margaret Bowie.  Cloth lapping was a stage in weaving, so William would have been a mill worker.  Elizabeth was named after her grandmother, Elizabeth Harvie, who would have been about 95 when Elizabeth Harvie McDonald was born and was said to have reached 100**.  Elizabeth Harvie McDonald was baptised at Gorbals church on 5 June 1825.

Elizabeth Harvie McDonald was the oldest of three siblings.  Her brother was Salis Schwabe McDonald, definitely a black sheep of the family with a criminal record.  As an adult, Elizabeth seems to have lost touch with her sister Margaret McDonald, with a letter from a relative saying that they didn’t know where she was either.  The three children lost their mother, Margaret Bowie, sometime between Margaret’s birth in 1833 and 1839, when their father married his second wife, Grace Davies.  Scottish burial records are patchy and I haven’t found one for Margaret.  Elizabeth’s Bowie correspondents didn’t seem to think much of Grace but maybe that was because she replaced their sister.

I haven’t yet identified Elizabeth Harvie McDonald in the 1841 Scottish Census.  She wasn’t living with her parents and there are several possible Elizabeth McDonald’s working in the Glasgow as servants and my ancestor may have been one of them.  Even though Elizabeth had a disrupted childhood and was probably working by the time she was 15, she had somehow managed to get enough of an education to be a letter writer.

On 31 Dec 1846, Elizabeth Harvie Macdonald married Malcolm Macdonald, a shipping clerk.  Both gave their residence as Anderston, an area of Glasgow.

By the time of the 1851 Scottish Census, on 30 March that year, Elizabeth and Malcolm had two children, Malcolm Kay Macdonald and William Bowie Macdonald, plus a third, James Gordon Macdonald (my ancestor) well on the way.  James was born in May 1851.  Sadly, Malcolm Kay Macdonald died sometime in the early 1850s, probably before 1854.  Elizabeth and Malcolm did not have any more children that I know of.

By July 1854, according to a letter from her Aunt, Elizabeth and her young family were settling in Liverpool, England, which was where Malcolm’s father’s family lived.  Elizabeth and Malcolm appear to have stayed in Liverpool until 1858, when they migrated to Victoria Australia.  

The family travelled on the ship “Monsoon”, which departed London on 11 March 1858 and arrived in Hobson’s Bay, Melbourne 9 Jun 1858***; three months on a ship with two lively young boys.  They went to live in Ballarat, in the heart of the gold fields of Victoria.  A letter sent to Elizabeth in 1859 from her Aunt Elizabeth Bowie, indicates that Malcolm may have been strongly encouraged to migrate to Victoria due to some (unspecified) bad behaviour on his part.  The Aunt suggests that Elizabeth and her boys should have stayed with her in Glasgow and left Malcolm to his own devices.  I wish the Aunt has been more specific about Malcolm’s wrong doing; all I know is that an old Scottish spinster thought he was an evil doer.  Perhaps Elizabeth and Malcolm did not have a very happy marriage.

Elizabeth and Malcolm stayed in Ballarat.  Members of Malcolm’s family followed him out to Australia, including his father, also Malcolm, and his only surviving brother, Charles.  His uncle, the brother of Malcom snr, a sailor named Angus, visited Australia on at least on occasion.  So in spite of the spinster Aunt’s fears, the boys (William and James) did not grow up not knowing their family.  In addition, plenty of correspondence seems to have been exchanged with both Elizabeth’s and Malcolm’s extended families, in spite of the distance and time it took letters to travel between Britain and Australia.

Elizabeth Harvie McDonald outlived her troublesome husband by over 10 years, dying 16 Jan 1892, in Ballarat.  By this time, she had several grandchildren and hopefully this made up for having been shipped away from her family under less than ideal circumstances.  I imagine that having had to move a 3 month voyage away from her family, their letter’s must have been precious, as Elizabeth’s only connection with her now distant family and friends, and that is why she kept them, for which I am grateful.

Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > John Macdonald Charley > Constance Mary Macdonald > James Gordon Macdonald > Elizabeth Harvie Mcdonald

*There are various spellings of both Harvie and McDonald.  Harvie and Mcdonald are the spellings used in Elizabeth’s baptism record.  Macdonald is the spelling used by the living descendants of Malcolm.

**According to the book:  The Bowies and their kindred: a genealogical and biographical history, available on Google books and other archive web sites.

***The Age, 15 Jun 1858