#52 Ancestors: Comedy

dorothea maunsellTo find something suitable for this trigger word I have had to resort to my husband’s family tree and the Maunsell family. Dorothea Maunsell, John’s 5 x great aunt, was born to Thomas Maunsell and his wife, Dorothea (nee Waller) about 1750.

Dorothea’s father was a wealthy Dublin barrister, king’s counsellor in the court of the exchequer and MP for Kilmallock, co Limerick. His wife was descended from the landed Irish gentry and grew up in Castle Waller in Kilnareth. As would be expected during this period in history, as the family patriarch, Thomas had selected a suitable husband for his daughter by the time that she had entered her early teenage years.

Around this time the famous Italian castrato, Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci, was successfully appearing in operas and concerts in the British Isles. He was both good looking, personable and at the height of his operatic powers. Lured by high fees to Dublin in 1765, the castrato became a guest and music teacher in the house of Thomas Maunsell. The stage was now set for what I can only describe as a grand operatic farce.

Dorothea was not happy with father’s choice for her husband and she rejected his attempts at matchmaking. In her book The Castrato and His Wife, Berry described the relationship between Dorothea and her music teacher as “a crush” on the part of the young women and that Tenducci had developed a genuine attachment to her. To me, Dorothea appears to be a calculating young minx manipulating Tenducci to escape an unwanted marriage. The pair eloped and were married by a bedridden Catholic priest in the parlour of a private house in Cork. As she was underage and Catholic marriages were not valid in Protestant England they would both have been aware that the marriage was not legal.

Attempts to stand their ground against the fury of the Maunsell family and the extensive newspaper coverage that gripped the imagination of the lascivious public were useless. Dorothea even published her own account of the marriage A True and Genuine Narrative of Mr and Mrs Tenducci, representing herself as the victim of parental cruelty and judicial intransigence.

In 1768, Dorothea gave birth to a son, whom Tenducci claimed as his own.  Dorothea, bored with the novelty of her marriage, had started an affair with a rich, young man, William Long Kingsman. Once again Dorothea took action to remove herself from the life she did not want and again eloped, this time with Kingsman, her lover, who was the child’s real father. Another clandestine wedding took place, now with her father’s full consent, returning to England where the union with Tenducci was annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.

Tenducci, though apparently devastated by the loss of his wife, returned to London, where he remained a favourite with concert audiences. A final brush with the bankruptcy courts in 1788 sent him back to Italy for good, and two years later he died in Genoa of an apoplectic fit.

Dorothea does not appear to have paid a high price for her manipulation or wicked behaviour. She went on to have four children to William Kingman and remained married to him until his death in 1793 when she was in her early forties. She did not remarry and died in 1814 in London.

Now, all it needs for this comic opera to be complete is some musical genius to transport it to the stage, and hopefully, they will not portray Dorothea with too much sympathy!

# 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: Easy

FT
My early attempts to trace my ancestors was a pen and paper effort, not only was it difficult but also frustrating. Today it is so much easier with the internet. So many records and documents are easily accessible especially those related to Australia.

Searching for family history has become big business but for all that, some may complain about the cost of Ancestry or similar genealogical sites, it has really revolutionised the process of maintaining a tree and searching records and connections.

It’s great to have so many tools available at my fingertips – but I also relish the times when I leave the screen and keyboard behind. There is nothing like a trip to an old cemetery, or browsing through the original records at the State Archives but best of all are the opportunities to meet up with a newly discovered relation to share information. Easiest of all is when one of them has already done loads of research, like Audrey Barney, my New Zealand Chisholm cousin, who has researched and published a book on this line of the family.

For me, it is a perfect retirement hobby and the use of technology has made it so much more accessible. There is one glitch though. Secrets about the past are an emotional and psychological inheritance, passed on across the generations, and I can feel the effects of it even in my own life. I am also aware that some of my ancestors would be turning in their graves to think that all of the family secrets are now available for anyone to see. What was once a family secret and kept hidden for years if not centuries is now regarded as an incredible find and celebrated!  Times have certainly changed.

#52 Ancestors: Independence

I have wondered what made my great grandfather, Alfred Wilson Chisholm, leave home and family in New Zealand and strike out on his own in Australia. I can only think that it was his bid for independence.

He was one of eleven children being raised in a strict Methodist family. His father was a lay preacher and all of the children were expected to attend Sunday School and Bible studies as well as sing in the church choir. The Methodist religion frowned on gambling and the drinking of alcohol both habits that Alfred took up during his life in Australia.

Although he had a good position in a printer’s firm and was learning the trade it appears that he wanted adventure and freedom especially from the rules and responsibilities of being in a family setting.  By moving to Australia he had a chance to go out and conquer the world and as far as records show he never returned to his family in New Zealand. To read more about his life click here

#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.

Knitting

With winter well and truly here, the urge to knit has taken over. It is a very soothing and satisfying way to spend a cold winter’s day. As I was knitting, I remembered that the needles I was using belonged to my Mum and while they have little dollar value I do treasure them.

knitting mum

It would have been a rare thing for any family to purchase a knitted garment in the 1950s. My Mum knitted for the entire family, everything from baby jackets, school jumpers to thick pullovers for the outdoors, her hands always busy with her knitting needles. Everything was knitted with love, and that seemed to make anything she made extra cuddly and warm.

Mum knitting_2 copy

Even when Mum was in her nineties, she still continued to knit, and many of the family received her lovely coathangers. She also made a special one for her oldest granddaughter Jeanine to hang her wedding dress on.

coat hanger

As for Mum’s needles, I have been remiss in failing to teach my daughter how to knit, so I am not too sure who will end up being the keeper of the knitting needles. I do know that my sister in law is wonderful at crocheting and I will have to pass on Mum’s crochet needles to her. Like my Mum, every stitch Michelle does is made with love, and I have been fortunate to be a recipient of one of the beautiful crocheted blankets, so I know that she will carry on the tradition.

knitting

#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