#52 Ancestors: Map it out

My favourite maps that I used to help work out the lives of my Shepherd ancestors is an old Southern Highlands map. The first map was created in 1830 when a plan of eight allotments were created at Bong Bong for Veterans from the battle of Waterloo. Pinpointing where they lived provided me with a major clue about their lives and the historical events that surrounded them.

bong bong 1

Veterans’ allotments at Bong Bong in 1830. State Library of NSW.

The veterans were offered an engagement in Australia for two years to help rid the countryside of bushrangers. The rates of pay were relatively generous and on discharge that received a free grant of land.  The eight allotments at Bong Bong were granted to William Chater, John Gilzan, Samuel Holmes, Enos McGarr, Christopher Rhall, Lynn Shepherd (my 3x great grandfather) and brothers Thomas and William Wood (my 4 x great grandfather).

Both my ancestors arrived with the Royal Veterans Corp within a year of each other. My 4x great grandfather, William Wood, arrived in 1825 on the ship the Catherine Stewart Forbes. He took up possession of his grant in 1839. My 3 x great grandfather, Lynn  Shepherd, arrived on board the Orpheus in 1826 and took possession of his grant in 1830.

Each allotment was of 80 acres between Eridge Park Road (then known as Old Bong Bong Road) and the Wingecarribee River. They were given rations for 12 months, and they had to remain on and cultivate the land for seven years before being granted ownership.

The next map I came across provides names on each allotment. It looks as if not all the Veteran grantees did not take up their land or found life too difficult on the harsh swampy land but both my ancestors continue to be listed as landholders.

bong bong map (2)

When I look at it against a map of today I can see why I feel so at home in this part of the world. Their allotments on what is now called Eridge Park Road are less than ten minutes walk from our back gate!

#52 Ancestors: Cousins

Once you start researching family history, cousins seem to show up in all sorts of places. One that has been interesting me lately is my 1st cousin (3 times removed) who has shown up in America and thanks to one of the Dowse descendants I am able to provide some of his history.

In 1826 my 3 x great aunt Mary Biggs (older sister to my 2 x great grandfather James Biggs) married George Dowse. Both the Biggs and Dowse family came from Potterne in Wiltshire. Their second child was a boy, Jabez Biggs Dowse, born on 20 February 1829. He was baptised in St Mary’s Wesleyan Methodist Church at Devises, Wiltshire on 16 May 1830. As devout non-conformists, they chose a biblical name for their son. The name Jabez means “he causes pain”. Possibly his birth was exceptionally painful or there may have health problems early in infancy. Whatever the reason it seems they must have had some concerns about this new addition to the family.

His mother died when he was eight years old and at the age of 12 years, he was living with his father, who was a dealer in grain (a mealman) and his younger siblings in Potterne in Wiltshire. By the 1851 census, he is no longer recorded with his family and he disappears from records. His older brother, Stephen had immigrated to America and it is likely that he had followed in his footsteps.

The next record for Jabez is in the 1860 United States Census. He is 30  years old, single and his occupation is described as a miller. In 1861 he applied for and became an American citizen. In 1864 he is shown in the US City Directory for Lockport Illinois as a grocer.

The reason for my interest in Jabez is for something entirely different. Jabez was an inventor and in 1867 he took out a patent for the “Dowse Fuze” for use in submarine mines

dowse fuze

His invention was taken up by the US Corp of Engineers and detailed in “Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army”.  So maybe our family can take a little bit of credit for some of the engineering skills and the pathway my nephew is following!

Jabez never married and died in 1878 at the age of 49. He is buried in Lockport,  Illinois.

 

 

#52 Ancestors: Tragedy

When you research family history you come across some many tragedies that have occurred over the years and wonder at the resilience of the family and their ability to keep on going. There can be no greater tragedy than the death of a child and while in years gone past it was expected that infants may not survive and illnesses such as tuberculosis and other infectious diseases preyed on the young and the frail what an awful thing it would be to lose a child through a tragic accident.

This is what happened to the Biggs family when their daughter Caroline Elizabeth Biggs who was only three years old died in 1869. The terrible pain this must have caused as they struggled to understand why, withstood the investigation and outcomes of the coroner’s inquiry and finally attempted to put into place all those things required of mourning in the Victorian era.

You can read more about the story of Caroline and her family by clicking here.

#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 

#52 Ancestors: Road Trip

It was not until the early 60s that my family owned a car, and the meaning of the word road trip came into existence for us. By that time there were only two little fledglings left in the nest, my 6-year-old brother, Tony, and myself a somewhat temperamental 13-year-old.  These road trips almost seemed like a rite of passage as I changed from a child to an adult wanting the security and support of my family but fighting for the need to be independent.

49 Holidays mum tony carol

Our Vanguard and Mum with a couple of swim stars

Our two-tone Vanguard built like a tank and appropriately named after a British battleship, had a spacious interior, a heater (no air conditioning in those days) and no radio (although as anyone in my family will tell you I was not averse to singing whether appreciated by the rest of the family or not). The car would be loaded the day before all ready for an early start on the big day so that we could “beat the traffic”.

nrma

An NRMA strip road map. MAAS collection 2011/73/1

My father was not a confident driver, and he took his job preparing for the trip and keeping his family safe extremely seriously. Apart from servicing and fastidiously cleaning the car including making sure the rubber strip was hanging from the bumper bar to prevent car sickness (did that really work?) he also made a trip to the NRMA to order strip maps for our specific journey. Not only did they tell you what route to take and distances between towns but also exciting places to visit. On every trip, I hoped that I would be allowed to hold the maps which were like the holy grail to me. How proud I was to be trusted with them making sure we would not get lost and telling Dad about every approaching curve in the road.

While it is almost traditional for siblings to fight when on a road trip, whether it was the roominess of the rear seat or the large difference in our ages it seemed that I grew closer to my little brother during these trips sharing the scenery as it zoomed past without having to fight for a window seat. Maybe it was because he put up with my singing and didn’t try to take possession of my road maps?

My mother’s role in all of this was to see bags were packed with appropriate clothing and most important of all the provision of refreshments for our journey. The cake tin, chock-a-block with homemade cake and biscuits, a thermos of tea, homemade sandwiches or a loaf of bread and “the makings” and cold drinks packed into the boot with instructions to make sure “it’s easy to get to”.

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Mum and Dad with Tony at Coffs Harbour Caravan Park

Arriving at our destination was only half the fun. My Dad was a cautious driver making for a slow trip with pulling over for tea and a snack and stops at places of interest. My Dad was certainly an early adopter of what we today call “slow travel” where it is not just about the destination but the journey as well. As part of that philosophy, we would naturally turn off the road to a motel or a caravan park after four or five hours driving (including stops) with the standard comment from Dad “that’s enough driving for one day”.  Instead of flying past the small towns that dotted the coast it always allowed time for us to see the “sights”, try our luck at a bit of fishing off the pier or have a dip at the local beach.

These trips created the most beautiful memories for me and are also part of our family’s story. When I think of my parents the memories of these road trips seem to bring them to life. Did they know they were creating cherished memories, that would last not only long after the end of the journey but all through my life?

 

#52 Ancestors: At Worship

St Thomas Enfield

St Thomas Anglican Church, Enfield

Down through our family history, the connection to religion and church has been strong whether they were dissidents in 18th Century England (my 4 x great grandfather James Biggs from Potterne); leading the establishment of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland (John’s 4 x great grandfather, The Rev George Maunsell from Carlow in Ireland); being an itinerant Wesleyan preacher in the untamed bush of New Zealand (my 2 x great grandfather, Joseph Wilson Chisholm); or coming as immigrants to a new country and finding a place to worship (the Henderson family).

 

After immigrating to Australia, my 2 x great grandfather Thomas Henderson, his wife Margaret and their children worshipped at the Church of St Thomas at Enfield after they established themselves on a farm at Strathfield. It is also where my great grandfather Stephen Biggs married my grandmother Margaret Henderson on 19 February 1859.

Built of sandstone in the style of a typical English Village Church it is in the grounds of St Thomas that you will find the graves and headstones of many pioneering families including the final resting place of many of the Henderson and Biggs family who were the roots of our family in Australia.

anna grave

The headstone of Stephen Biggs, his wife Margaret and their daughter Anna in the cemetery of St Thomas Church, Enfield