# 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: 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

Large family

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Wreck of the Meridian

The prompt for 52 ancestors this week is “large family”.  No problem there, most of my ancestors managed an average of 11 children. As John and I are planning our next cruise my thoughts turned to my 2x Great Grandmother Margaret Henderson (nee Crosby). Now there was a woman with some “spunk” and a lot of kids. When her husband decided that a better fortune awaited them in the colonies she agreed to pack herself and their eight children up and take a ship to Sydney. The children ranged in age from the oldest girl of 15 years to a six-week-old baby. I would not recommend a sea voyage even today for parents with those many children in that age range, you would have to be insane. The conditions onboard ship in that century were less than ideal for travel and add to the fact that eight weeks into the voyage they were shipwrecked on a deserted island. While on the island her husband was shot and Margaret would have carried the burden of care for all the children as well as an injured husband. Thankfully they did survive the experience, established themselves in Australia and have more children … just as well or I might not be here today. The story of their journey can be read by clicking here.

Reseaching the family

It is so easy to be distracted from the main family line while trying to research family history. Thought I would check on a few details about Thomas and Margaret Henderson’s children and I have become totally caught up in the life of Betsy Deane … more to come once I have put it all together

The Henderson’s Life in Australia

Well I have just finished the next section of the Henderson family saga and I would have to say thank God for the strong women in our family and especially for my great, great grandmother Margaret Henderson – undoubtedly the rock of the family through all its trials and tribulations. To find out more read about their life in Australia

St Leonard’s Shoreditch

You come across many strange thing while researching family history. I love the BBC series “Rev” about an anglican minister who moves from a rural parish to the dysfunctional inner London parish of St Saviour in the Marshes. All the church scences were filmed at St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch the parish church of my 2xgreat grandmother’s family, Margaret (nee Crosby) Henderson – so I have had both an inside an outside look at where they used to worship in the early 1800’s thanks to the BBC!

Link

As we listen to the search for the lost Malaysian airline flight MH370 in the vast Indian Ocean my thoughts turned to my ancestors who were shipwrecked in this area in 1853. Thomas Alfred Henderson and his wife Margaret along with their eight children sailed on the English Barque “The Meridian” on her voyage between Sydney and London. On the 24 August 1853 the vessel hit rocks on the south west end of Amsterdam Island and disintegrated leaving passengers and crew stranded on this isolated, desolate island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Click here to read more about their experience