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.
I am late with my prompt this week as I was dithering about who to choose as my subject. Then I remembered when researching my great grandfather Charles Alfred Shephard I came across a sad story of his younger brother Alexander Shephard. He died when he was only 19 years old and I have found very little about him except how he died. For that reason, I decided that I would try to find out a bit more and have written up his story to include in my blog. Click here if you would like to read it.
It looks like I come from “bad stock”! Or maybe I should just say I have a few convict forebears, like my 4 x great grandmother Elizabeth Brown/Browning Owen who was transported from England and imprisoned in the Female Factory in 1820. I knew I had a few of the convict class lurking in the background of my family tree and it wasn’t until I thought about this week’s prompt of “At the Courthouse” that here was the nudge I needed to write about Elizabeth. Click HERE to go to her story. For those who are interested I am related through my father, Charles Godfrey Biggs:
Daughter of Elizabeth Browning
Son of Eliza OWEN
Daughter of John Mortimer Thomas TRAVERS
Daughter of Eliza Jane Travers
Son of Sarah Beatrice Shepherd
\Daughter of Charles Godfrey Biggs
The prompt for Week 8 of 52 Ancestors is 52 weeks is Family Photo. So many photos in this category, which one did I treasure the most. My eyes turned initially to the oldest and then I thought it is easy to overlook the treasures that are being created in your own lifetime so I have chosen a family photo taken in 1957.
It was a big event to have our photo professionally taken and we were dressed in our best clothes. Colin in his school uniform and Margaret and I in our dresses beautifully and lovingly made by our mother. Don’t be fooled by that perfect looking young man in the middle, he was always full of mischief and on the go. It is a wonder that they managed to get him to sit still for the duration of the shoot or at the very least taken the photographer’s camera apart to see how it worked.
I can remember looking at the portfolio of photographs and all us kids deciding that it had to be the one with our little brother Anthony crying. As far as we were concerned that was pretty well all that he did at that stage of his life. He did prove to be worthwhile a little later in life as the perfect baby doll for Maggie and me to dress up and play with. I am sure that is how he developed his good humour and his patience and tolerance.
So good to grow up in a loving family and still all be “together” and enjoying our own families nearly 70 years later.
The prompt for 52 ancestors in 52 weeks was Love. So many ideas sprang to mind but one particularly stuck. As anyone who knows me knows I love family history. I love the quirkiness of some of my “finds” when I am researching and one of the greatest places for those sort of finds is Trove. I came across this piece written, for “The Worker” a local Wagga Wagga paper, and printed in the 2 August 1906 edition.
It set me to wondering if the basis for the story may have been my Great Uncle Frederick Biggs. Click here for a link to his story. He was a traveller, selling pianos and other musical items and it may have been possible that Wagga was part of his territory. I can’t prove it one way or the other but it did make me chuckle and wonder…
In December 2014 I sent away my DNA for testing to Family Tree DNA. Like so many others I wanted to learn a little bit more about my family background, cultural history and genetic makeup. There were lots of matches, and it helped me to track down links to my Dad’s family.
When Ancestry became a significant provider in DNA testing, I decided to send a sample off to them as well. My tree which had grown through hard research was on Ancestry, and the thought of easier matching through their site enticed me. Once again lots of matches and connections made to cousins across the world. The thing I didn’t expect was to find that despite all the well-documented research and my mother’s own oral history the information was incorrect when it came to her parentage.
My mother was born on 5 September 1914 with a loving mother, Hazel Annie Shute (nee Chisholm) and her father, John (Jack) Doherty who cherished her from the day she was born. When my mother was 24 years old her mother, Hazel Annie, died from a long and debilitating illness. Her father, Jack shared his daughter’s grief at the loss of the woman he had loved for the past 25 years.
Two years later, in 1941, before my mother’s marriage, her father sat down with her to explain that he was not her biological father. He gave her a copy of her birth certificate which stated that William Shute, the man her mother had married in 1914, was her father. My mother was heartbroken. Her response was that as far as she was concerned Jack would always be her father despite what any piece of paper said.
Despite my own sadness at finding out that my Pop was not biologically connected I continued my research and found documentation and two scandalous articles in “The Truth” that detailed my grandmother’s split from her husband and the subsequent case for support of her and her child. It is so difficult to describe the deep sorrow I felt at finding the evidence to prove Jack Doherty was not my biological grandfather. My grandmother’s story and details of the newspaper article can be found by clicking on this link.
When my Ancestry DNA results arrived, initially there were no surprises, but I did connect up with a few more cousins. It was only last year that I was stunned to discover another match and that I had a close cousin that I knew nothing about. After contact, we were able to work out that we were related through Jack Doherty and his sister Kathleen Doherty.
Like my older, brother Colin (who despite all evidence refused to believe that Jack Doherty was not his grandfather), and my sister Maggie, I cried tears of joy that not only could we claim him as our Pop because of his love for us but now we had the evidence to prove he was our biological grandfather.
Why did they not declare that my mother was his daughter? It was more than likely that this decision was taken due to the consequences of illegitimacy. My mother’s birth and the announcement that she was illegitimate would have met with a hostile reaction from relatives including her uncle who was a strict Baptist minister.
Australia followed England’s law on “bastardy” which was harsh. These laws were not changed until 1926, but that did not change attitudes even well after World War 2. An illegitimate child was literally parentless at law, and even the subsequent marriage of the parents could not legitimise the offspring. To provide her with a secure childhood and remove the stigma of illegitimacy and the social, legal and emotional consequences it would have been felt that this action outweighed any impact this may have on her later in life. I like to think that Wiliam Shute agreed to this but I will never know.
I am now waiting for results from the Shute family line to confirm that William Shute was not my grandfather. Life is strange and full of surprises.
Well here are the prompts for February and my mind is running in circles thinking about what I will write:
Week 6 (February 4-10): Surprise
Week 7 (February 11-17): Love
Week 8 (February 18-24): Family Photo
Week 9 (February 25-March 3): At the Courthouse
Now all I need to do is settle down and get myself focused, no problem there …. or maybe just a bit!