# 52 Ancestors: Brother

Albert ChisholmWith the trigger word of ” brother”, it reminded me of my grandmother’s “missing” brother. I think it most likely that the connection was severed when her brother became a Baptist minister.

My grandmother, Hazel Annie Chisholm,  had separated from her husband after less than two years of marriage. She began a relationship with a Catholic who was the love of her life and my grandfather. When she sent her daughter to the local Catholic school I imagine that this would have been the final straw for Albert who had wholeheartedly become a Baptist. This would have meant strong opposition to divorce and the holding of anti-catholic/papist sentiments.

Thanks to his granddaughter, Robyn Rayner and the Chisholm family researcher, Audrey Barney, it is now possible to share his story. To read more about him click here

#52 Ancestors: Challenging

the drovers wifeToday women who take up the challenge of successfully combining home and family with a career are often labelled “superwomen”. Having attempted to do the same I greatly admire those women who from necessity or desire take this road and are able to balance their home and life without burning out. I used to think how great it would be to live in a time when men were the breadwinners and the women had only the responsibility to look after home and children.  One thing genealogy has taught me is that my female ancestors did not have an easy time, and I doubt that I could cope with the challenges they faced throughout their lives.

In tracing my ancestors, it is clear that households were a patriarchy; men controlled every aspect of the household. Women acted as subordinates to men. Men were the decision-makers usually in charge of all household finances even if their wife provided some income either through their dowry/inheritance or by selling produce that she grew or made. The man was the owner of all property of the household and women rarely spoke against or divorced their husband. Women could not vote, own land while married, go to a university, earn equal wages, enter many professions, and even report domestic abuse. Would I be willing to live without my education, my work and the recognition of my contribution to our family and the community as a whole…definitely not!

My ancestors were middle class and the women were responsible for running the household, for cooking and feeding the family, tending the garden and animals, raising their children and of course, seeing their husband’s needs were met. While I nod my head thinking I could probably do that then I remember not only the labour-saving devices we have today but also that simplest of “luxuries”; running water at the turn of a tap, sewerage whisked away unseen, light and heating at the touch of a button So no thanks, I will forgo that challenge as well.

My 2x great grandmother, Margaret Henderson (nee Crosby), gave birth to eleven children between 1838 and 1858, or the average of one child every two years. All except one infant survived to adulthood. Women assumed that after marriage children would follow promptly and regularly and that is certainly the case with nearly all my married female ancestors who had at least six children unless they died in childbirth. With no birth control, the prevailing sense was that children just ‘came’ and that there was little to be done about it, besides it was also regarded as a married woman’s duty.  Babies were born at home, usually with the assistance of family or a “midwife” with no formal training. With no anaesthetics or antisepsis, childbirth was both dangerous and painful. Married women regarded it as their place to endure this suffering. Given most of my ancestors abided strictly by their religious beliefs I am sure the woman in labour was reminded of the quote from Genesis (3:16) while they were in labour “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain, you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” So no thanks to that challenge as well!

My maternal ancestors were amazing when I think of the lives they endured. Would I take on the challenge of trying to live like them? The answer would have to be a definite no… I can already hear my husband suggesting that a “scold’s bridle” would be definitely needed for such an argumentative wife.

# 52 Ancestors: Legend

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Bullock team pulling a loaded wagon along a country road, New South Wales. Fairfax archive of glass plate negatives. National Library of Australia.

My great-great granduncle,  Lynn III Shepherd, had a bullock team. Born in 1862 he had watched his father, Lynn II Shepherd, digging the goldfields, to make enough to support his family.  Lynn figured there was more gold to be made supplying the diggers rather than digging in the dirt in the hope of the big find that never happened.

A bullocky, as they were known, tramped everywhere, carting impossible loads to near impossible places, their plodding and the ruts of their wagons slowly building the paths that we travel today as roads, their camps turning into villages that became today’s country towns and regional cities. Lynn was well known in his trade as a carrier at the beginning of the twentieth century when the bullock-drawn wagons gave way to motorised vehicles. According to family history, a poem was written about him and I think that would justify calling him a legend.

When Bully Buys the Engine

Ye carriers, all list to my lay ;
We’ll shortly have to clear away,
For Bully is about, they say,

To buy a traction engine.

And he’s going to travel day and night
To drive us off the road for spite ;
We’ll have a spree, and we’ll all get tight,

When Bully buys the engine.

He’ll draw all corn, and flour, and lime,
Forty tons he’ll take each time ;
Be jabbers, boys, ’twill be sublime

When Bully buys the engine. 

All business folk he will entice
To give him their loading at his price ;
We all must keep as quiet as mice

When Bully buys the engine.

The carriers’ trade he’ll surely spoil,
Play havoc with Scotch Jock and Doyle;
But we’ll be saved a lot of toil

When Bully buys the engine.

And those who families have to keep
Can get their groceries then quite cheap ;
Poor folk will have more time to sleep

When Bully buys the engine.

Though strange to some no doubt ’twill seem
To have their goods brought up by team ;
Jack Holder swears he’ll pawn his team

When Bully buys the engine.

We’ll want no Government men, nor chocks ;
There’ll bo no work for horse or ox ;
We’ll need no long wire rope nor blocks

When Bully buys the engine.

Of passengers, too, he’ll get his whack ;
There’ll be no call for Paddy and Jack ;
All hands, of course, must clear the track

When Bully buys the engine.

As a driver, too, won’t Yacka shine
There’ll be fire and smoke all down the line;
Old Sullivan vows that be’Il resign

When Bully buys the engine.

For he’ll want the road all on his own ;
He’ll shake up Pooley and Malone ;
And Tim will want more planks and stone

When Bully boys the engine.

On Jellamatong we’ll see a dredge.
And o’er the stepping stones a bridge,
And the Rover says he’ll take the pledge

When Bully buys the engine.

 

(The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal. 3 Jan 1906)

 

#52 Ancestors: The Earliest

pennies

Elizabeth Davison is the earliest of our ancestors to arrive in Australia. Elizabeth’s birth is estimated to be around 1791 based on her death certificate. It has not been possible to find a birth record or any details of her parents or early life. Even her surname is not definitely confirmed, in some records, it is written as Davis and others Davison. What is known that on 7 September 1807 when she was about 16 years old, she was convicted of the theft of goods to the value of 1 shilling or more, without any aggravating circumstances. It could have been more than a shilling, but charges were kept to this amount as anything over this could result in capital punishment. If it was just a shilling then for the twelve pence that were stolen, she could have purchased two loaves of bread.

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New South Wales Government. Musters and other papers relating to convict ships. Series CGS 1155, Reels 2417-2428. State Records Authority of New South Wales. Kingswood

She was sentenced to transportation for 7 years at the York East Riding Quarter Session under the name of Elizabeth Davison. Despite the punishment far exceeding the severity of her crime the sentence was in line with similar convictions in this period and highlights the British government’s policy of specifically targeting female convicts that were potential “breeders” for their new colony, and at sixteen years of age, she would have fitted into this category.

Elizabeth was held in the harsh conditions at Newgate prison to await transportation where, according to Mrs Fry, a prison reformer, the main amusements were swearing, fighting, singing, dancing and drinking. In an article written for the Edinburgh Review in 1808 it reported Sir Richard Phillip’s description of the appaling conditions of the prison:

There are generally in Newgate from one hundred to one hundred and thirty women. He compares … the manner in which they are disposed at night to the arrangement of a slave ship … each person has an allotted breadth of only eighteen inches. This wretched accommodation is, perhaps less to be deplored than the indiscriminate mixture, in the same room of the unconvicted with those who have been found guilty … of those accused, perhaps on slight grounds, of crimes with those against whom the charged has been established … and of the young and repentant offender, with the old and hardened in transgression.

After eight months in Newgate, Elizabeth boarded the convict ship, The Speke. Before being sent to the ship, the women were provided with one jacket or gown; one petticoat; two extra shifts; two spare handkerchiefs; two spare pair of stockings; one spare pair of shoes for their six months journey. The ship sailed from Falmouth on 18th May 1808; Elizabeth was one of the 99 female prisoners who embarked the ship for transportation to New South Wales. The Speke was part of a convoy and arrived at Rio, with the fleet on the 24th July.

By the time that the Speke arrived in Rio, Elizabeth was pregnant. At sea for months, there was no possibility of separating the female convicts from the crew. A “Selection of Reports and Papers to the House of Commons. Vol. 58” includes papers from 1811 – 12 reporting: “Improprites will be committed on board a female convict ship under the best regulations, but females who do not wish to do wrong should not be compelled against their inclinations”. For many of the prisoner, especially a 16-year-old girl like Elizabeth, I think that survival rather than inclinations would have played a part!  The father of her child was William Travers, a 20-year-old crew member.  The ship set sail again on the 11th August and arrived at the Cape the 10th of September with Government stores.

The ship sailed again for Port Jackson on the 30th September, and having an uninterrupted succession of favourable weather, reached there on 15 November 1808 after a journey of almost six months. Ninety-seven female prisoners arrived on the Speke, two having died on the passage out.

The women were all reported to be healthy on arrival – The healthy and cleanly state in which the prisoners from the Speke were landed is a strong proof of the care and humanity with which they were treated during the voyage.

While they may have been “healthy” according to government reports for Elizabeth and the other women the unfamiliar climate, plants, animals and insects, combined with a heat they weren’t used to, flies and dust, and a lack of clothing would have made them feel isolated and far from home.

The Female Factory (prison) at Parramatta where female convicts were normally employed on weaving looms, had been partly damaged by fire the previous year and the Supervising weaver George Mealmaker died a few months before the Speke arrived, so many of the women who came on the Speke were probably mostly distributed around Sydney and Parramatta . As Elizabeth was pregnant, she would have been kept in or near one of the  “Female Factories”, doing laundering, sewing, carding and spinning.

Her son, Edward Travers, was born on 11 April 1809. Women who gave birth stayed with their infants until they were weaned; the babies were then kept in the nurseries and, if they survived, at the age of two, they went to the orphanages.  On 17 February 1811, at 20 years of age Elizabeth was buried at St Matthew’s at Windsor. There is no date or cause of death recorded, and she is buried in an unmarked and unknown site.

William Travers, the man who fathered her son, had remained at sea and as a seaman on board the Cumberland was murdered by cannibals on one of the Friendly Islands in 1814. (Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Saturday 22 October 1814, page 2). Her son was taken into care by Sarah Webb and William Mortimer until July 1818 when he was recommended for new orphan school at the age of nine years. The Mortimers had arranged his christening at St Matthews, Windsor, in 1811. He was given the name of Edward Mortimer Davis, but in life, he used the name Edward Mortimer Travers.

Elizabeth is my 4th great grandmother and is related through my father Charles Godfrey Biggs:

Elizabeth Davison (1791 – 1811)
4th great-grandmother
Edward Mortimer Davis Travers (1809 – 1876)
Son of Elizabeth Davison
John Mortimer Thomas TRAVERS (1833 – 1867)
Son of Edward Mortimer Davis Travers
Eliza Jane Travers (1860 – 1940)
Daughter of John Mortimer Thomas TRAVERS
Sarah Beatrice Shepherd (1886 – 1962)
Daughter of Eliza Jane Travers 
Charles Godfrey Biggs (1916 – 2006)
Son of Sarah Beatrice Shepherd

#52 Ancestors: Dear Diary

How wonderful it would be to come across a diary written by one of my ancestors, but no such luck.  I shouldn’t be surprised as I don’t keep a diary myself although now I think about it maybe that is the role that facebook now plays. There are lots of moments that I write about maybe only mundane things like the weather, sometimes a recipe I like or maybe photos of family gatherings or holidays that I want to remember.  Sometimes it’s even someone or something from the past that I cherish. Not everyone will be interested but in some ways, it is a chronical of my life and the people I love. So here’s to the social media version of a diary … Facebook you have your place as a recorder of history.

# 52 Ancestors: Namesake

Family history has given me an appreciation for names that are handed down from generation to generation. When my grandson, Tommy, was about to be born I had been researching my 2 x great grandfather, Thomas Alfred Henderson, and I suggested that Thomas would be a name they might like to consider for the impending new arrival.

How wonderful when they did choose Thomas and added John as well for his grandfather. I have done a little more checking on Thomas Alfred who immigrated to Australia in 1853 despite being shipwrecked on the way. The Thomas name goes back two more generations to around 1760, so Tommy will undoubtedly have something to boast about when it comes to his family history in the future.  This is how he is connected to his name

Thomas Henderson (about 1760 – unknown )
4th great-grandfather
Thomas Henderson (1786 – 1839)
Son of Thomas Henderson
Thomas Alfred Henderson (1815 – 1894)
Son of Thomas Henderson
Margaret Henderson (1839 – 1912)
Daughter of Thomas Alfred Henderson
Francis Alfred Biggs (1881 – 1959)
Son of Margaret Henderson
Charles Godfrey Biggs (1916 – 2006)
Son of Francis Alfred Biggs
Carolyn Mary Biggs
You are the daughter of Charles Godfrey Biggs
Jeanine Anne McGregor
daughter of John William McGregor and Carolyn Mary Biggs
Thomas John Potter
son of Nathan Potter and Jeanine Anne McGregor
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Thomas John Potter

# 52 Ancestors: At the Cemetery

This week’s trigger word sent me on a visit to one of the oldest churches in the Southern Highlands, All Saints Anglican Church at Sutton Forrest. It is very much a  village church built in sandstone and designed in a Norman Style. There was a church service in progress when we visited, so I didn’t go in, but according to information available about the church, the interior has remained unspoiled with old pews and painted commandments.

The cemetery has been in use since 1832 and still is today. While the cemetery grounds are tidy many of the very old headstones are worn or broken and in the case of my great-great-great-grandfather, Lyn Shepherd, there is no stone to mark his grave. His death certificate confirms that he was buried here.

His family have placed a marker in his memory as a pioneer of the district and included his wife’s name, Elizabeth (nee Mariner), as well, although she is buried at Braidwood.

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I have written about Lynn some time ago but for those who haven’t read it click here.

#52 weeks: Military

RS CHISHOLMAs I go through the family tree and look at all the members of my family that fought in conflicts around the world I feel so sad for all those young men whose lives were lost or their futures irreparably damaged by war. Another family member who I have not mentioned is from my mother’s Chisholm side of the family. Robert Stanley Chisholm was one of my New Zealand first cousins and like my Uncle Roy, he joined the RAF during the Second World War and lost his life flying in a bombing raid over Europe. You can read more about him by clicking here.

# 52 Weeks: Nature

atkinson

Natural history and botanical drawings, ca. 1849-1872 / [attributed to Louisa Atkinson] ca. 1849-1872 State Library of NSW

This week’s trigger word, nature, made me question if an attachment to nature and the land was influenced by our DNA as not all humans seem to crave the peace and tranquillity that comes from living in the country and especially comes from the Australian Bush.

There is a strong link to farming on both sides of my family, not that unusual in any family tree. However, my 2 x great grandmother, Margaret Henderson had an enormously strong connection to her beloved family home of “Seven Oaks” in Kent. So much so that the farm they purchased at Homebush near Sydney was named Seven Oaks in its memory. I wondered if there was anything else in the records that points to a DNA memory of the love of the country life.

When the Henderson family immigrated to Australia they settled in Newtown, and I initially thought, here are a family who like the hustle and bustle of the city, the big smoke. That was not the case. They had moved to the country suburb of Burwood by 1858, a very different place than it is today.

Thomas Henderson’s son Charles must have enjoyed this move as he described this area in “Recollections”. Surrounding the area where they lived was Edrop’s Bush where he was captivated by the birds he saw there.

“Close to our residence was Edrop’s Bush, consisting of about fifteen acres of the original forest. Edrop’s Bush was the home of many birds. Any birds coming to the district would naturally make for so fine a shelter. Here one might see large hawks, cranes, moorporks, kookaburras and gill-birds when in season. I saw a kookaburra dart down on a snake here and carry it to the top of a tall tree, then drop it, and repeat the process. The Kingfishers had a nest here in an old leaning apple-tree. Small birds were also plentiful, yellow robins, black caps, silver eyes, yellow hummers, ring coachmen, the diamond bird, a ventriloquist and many others. Then there were Blue Mountain parrots, King parrots, parroquits and green leeks in their season, but there were no magpies that I remember except the peewhit.”

Charles Henderson “Recollections”
Source: Trove, National Library of Australia

Certainly not the Burwood we know today!

Charles also mentioned that the family were friends with Mrs Charlotte Barton and “her talented daughter, Miss Louisa Atkinson, a great botanist”.  Well of ahead of her time, by the 1860s Atkinson was aware of the impact of European agriculture on native flora. She wrote about this on several occasions, making such statements as “It needs no fertile imagination to foresee that in, say, half-a-century’s time, tracts of hundreds of miles will be treeless”. What an amazing woman to have a connection with through family.

You can read more about her on this National Library site: https://www.nla.gov.au/blogs/behind-the-scenes/2015/05/20/the-road-to-louisa-atkinsons-nature-notes.

One other passage from her writings still remains very true today:

In these busy times, and in the universal pursuit of wealth which characterizes the universal state of things among us, the beauties of nature are in danger of being overlooked. We believe that there are many old inhabitants … who know little of the natural history of this great continent. Confined to the town, and engrossed by its pursuits, as they are, the thousand wonders of the creation vainly invite their attention. Perhaps a few remarks on our natural history, in a simple and popular style, may be acceptable.

#52 Ancestors: Nurture

The trigger word for this week was Nurture and it seemed appropriate with Mother’s Day almost here. Instead of a mother though, I have examined the life of one of my “maiden” grand aunts, Emily Biggs.

It is so easy to overlook the lives of these unmarried women when doing family history as they had no descendants, but it is often the case, that these women who were regarded by society as unfulfilled spinsters held the family together in tough social and economic times and that is certainly true in the case of my unmarried grand aunts.

Emily and her older sister Alice, raised my father and his younger brother after their mother was admitted to Callan Park. When their youngest brother, Francis turned to them for support they continued a family role of being capable, responsible and loving carers to his sons as well as a major source of support to their brother during a terrible situation.

Alice Mary Biggs

Alice Biggs c 1912. Photo in Biggs family collection

Emily Biggs

Emily Biggs c 1912. Photo in Biggs family collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Emily and her sister Alice had a great impact on my father and his brother Fred and I think of them with kindness and thanks that due to their care and concern the two young boys grew into wonderful, loving and caring men. Thank you so much Aunty Em and Aunty Al.

To read more about Emily click here