Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Victorian Birth, Death and Marriage indexes

For those of you who (like me) missed the news, the Index to Victorian births, deaths and marriages has been updated at the start of the year and you can now search for marriages up to 1950. That’s 8 years of additional marriages.  Births have also been extended by a year.
The Index to Victorian births, deaths and marriages now covers:
  • births in Victoria from 1853 to 1917
  • marriages in Victoria from 1853 to 1950
  • deaths in Victoria from 1853 to 1988
  • church baptisms, marriages and burials in Victoria from 1836 to 1853
Each entry includes the:
  • name of the person or people the entry relates to
  • type of event (such as birth, marriage or death)
  • registration year
  • registration number
  • other information relevant to the type of event.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Week 7 - Valentine - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

The prompt for Week 7 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is Valentine.  As I have decided my family is not particularly romantic, I have decided instead to look at the history of Valentine’s Day – when it originated and how it became so popular.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. 

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

Lupercalia was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year after the estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ash Wednesday 35 Years On

It is 35 years ago that Victoria and South Australia were devastated by the Ash Wednesday bushfires.  At the time I was 12 years old and living in Moama, New South Wales, a small town on the Murray River almost directly north of Melbourne.  The Age has republished on its website their report from February 17th 1983.
My home was well away from the fire area, but I can vividly remember watching the news on television and my whole family worrying about relatives living in the danger zone.  I can remember the red sunrises and sunsets, and a kind of half-dark during the day as the smoke shadowed the sun, even though we were over 100km away from the fires themselves.  My family had an old chest freezer on the covered back verandah of our house, and my sister and I drew pictures in the layer of ash and soot that covered it.
Map of the Ash Wednesday Fires in Victoria
At the time it was the third worst fire toll in Australian history, after the 1939 Victorian bushfires which killed 71 people and the 1967 Tasmanian bushfires killed 62.  Highways were cut, thousands were evacuated, hundreds of homes and businesses burned.  Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser declared a state of emergency.  Over 4000 firefighters, many of them volunteers, were deployed and in South Australia over 600 army personnel were mobilized to help.  In a country so prone to devastating bushfires, Ash Wednesday stands out for the devastation it caused.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Week 6 - Favourite Name - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week 6 of #52ancestors has prompted my to look back through my family tree and make notes of some of the more unusual names, and also those that seem to crop up fairly regularly.  There are a number of given names that occur again and again through the generations, and even within one family.  In my Green family a few generations back I have three Isaacs in one generation - the first two died young and the name was reused for the next son each time.  Eventually persistence paid off and the third Isaac Green in that family lived well into his 90's.  His father was named Isaac as well, and the name crops up in several other generations.  In my mother's Pummeroy family William and Alfred are popular, and recur several time across the generations.  This can create an additional challenge in making sure any information I find is linked to the correct person - I have a newspaper article from Trove that mentions William Pummeroy - and I have four of them alive at the time that the article refers to!
The Pummeroy surname itself is quite unusual, especially our Australian spelling which occurs nowhere else.  I have spoken to other Pomeroy / Pomroy families that link to ours back in England (there is also a One Name Study group for the Pomeroy name) but our spelling seems to be unique!  So any other Pummeroys out there - please contact me.
Among female ancestors, besides the ubiquitous Elizabeths, Marys and Janes, Susannah is a name which crops up fairly regularly in the Green family tree, running through several generations.  Another habit I have noticed appear regularly is that of using the surname of a parent or grandparent as the middle name of a child - such as Emma Noble Argent (1849-1935) whose parents were John Thompson Argent and Emma Noble.
My favourite name, possibly because as a first name I have never encountered it anywhere else, is Golding Boggis.  Golding was a farmer born in 1787 in Bures, Suffolk, England, where he lived his entire life.  He married Sarah Prentice 11th July 1823, and died 20 January 1857.  The couple had 6 children :
  • Simeon Golding Boggis (1823-1914)
  • Elizabeth Boggis (1826-1876)
  • Charles Boggis (1827-1891)
  • Emma Boggis (1829-1892)
  • Mary Ann Boggis (1830-1915)
  • William Boggis (1833-1907)
Mary Ann married William Green in 1856, and the surname appears again as the middle name of their granddaughter, my great-aunt Constance Boggis Green.
I will be interested to see which Favourite Name others following the 52 Ancestors challenge choose to highlight!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Week 5 - In the Census - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

It is time to think about Week 5 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, and the prompt is 'In the Census'.  I love census records, and it is a constant disappointment that so few census records in Australia have survived.
For several branches of my family, the English census has been invaluable, but my favourite is the story of the Hines family.  James Hines was born 12th March 1807 in Aldham, Suffolk.  He marries Susannah Woollard (born 1812 in Aldham) on 1st June 1830.  Their children are Susannah (1832), John (1834), Samuel (1836), Albert (1838) and Hannah (1840).  The family appears together in the 1841 census, which shows them living in Quentin Street, with James working as a carpenter.  Eldest daughter Susannah is not home on the night on the census.
Hines family 1841 census
Sadly, James Hines dies shortly after on 20th June 1841, followed by his wife Susannah (nee Woollard) just before the next census on 13th March 1851.  Tracing each of the 5 children through the census records tells quite a tale.
The two eldest children, Susannah and John, are 19 and 17 years old at the time of the 1851 census.  I eventually found them, living with their mother's parents John and Susan Woollard, where they are listed as servants.
Susannah and John Hines, 1851 census
Middle child Samuel Hines, age 15, is living as a lodger in the household of James Prentice, a labourer.  After a bit of research I found that James Prentice married Mary, one of the Woollard sisters, and was Samuel's great uncle.  And the two youngest children, Albert, age 13 and Hannah, age 11?  Eventually I found them together, paupers in the Cosford Union Workhouse.

Despite this rather sad beginning, all five children survive and marry.  John dies in 1866 in Yorkshire, age 32, but the other children all live fairly long lives - Susannah dies in 1917 age 84, Samuel dies in 1910 age 73, Albert dies in 1917 age 79, and Hannah dies in 1912 age 71.  I descend from Susannah, who marries Henry Pike in 1855 - they are my great great grandparents.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Week 4 - Invite to Dinner - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Time has flown and I am a little late with my Week 4 post - the prompt for which is 'Invite to Dinner'.  How to choose??  I'd like the chance to chat with (read - interrogate) just about every ancestor, especially ones with blank spaces in their details in my tree, along with every one I've heard an interesting story about (mainly for some verification).  So it was hard to choose one and justify that choice.
I eventually settled on my great great grandfather David Mulholland.
David Mulholland was born in Belfast, Ireland around 1930 and emigrated to Australia on the ship Phoebe Dunbar, arriving in Melbourne on 25th December 1854.  He left first wife, Mary Hides, behind in Ireland and had nothing to do with her or their children afterwards, settling with fellow Irish immigrant Eliza Jane McCrae in the country town of Eurobin, where he took up farming land.  I have never found any record of the two marrying, and family legend has it that they tried to marry bigamously but the ceremony was cancelled by the appearance of David's first wife's brother.  Their 15 children, 8 of whom died during childhood, are interchangeably named Mulholland or McCrae at various times.  They are one of those confusing families where children's names are reused after one died young, with 2 named Henry, 2 named David, 2 named Thomas and 2 named Margaret!  I would love to get the full story 'from the horse's mouth'.
My great grandmother, Pricilla Veronica Mulholland, was child number 10 born to David and Eliza, and, like all her siblings, does not appear in the Birth registry under any name.  She married James Nicholas Clark  on 3 August 1898 under the name Mulholland.
David Mulholland died in 1902, and the will he left behind was a classic example of sexism and favouritism.  There are seven children from the relationship living at the time.  Eldest son David, an engineer in nearby Talangatta, receives 50 pounds cash.  Sons Henry and James, who worked the family farm with their father, receive half the land, half the cattle and half the remaining cash (over 500 pounds).  Unmarried daughter Jane receives 20 pounds and the charity of her siblings for the rest of her life.  Daughter Priscilla (Mrs Clark) receives 10 pounds cash.  Daughters Ellen (Mrs Stoddart and Mary (Mrs Pape) receive a shilling each.  And wife Eliza Jane?  Under the terms of the will, she is allowed to dwell in the family home for the rest of her life, with an allowance of five shillings per week from each of the farming sons Henry and James.  The house is to be inherited by James after her death - she can't sell up and move into town, she owns nothing, and there is no allowance for inflation or unexpected expenses.  She may, however, do as she wishes with the furniture.
On his death record David Mulholland's parents are listed as David Mulholland and Margaret (McGee).  This family is one of my brick walls - I have never been able to trace them further back in Ireland.  A project to work on (one of many I revisit periodically) and one of the reasons I would love to be able to invite my great great grandfather David Mulholland to dinner. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Monks in Motion - Lives of the Benedictines

The project 'Monks in Motion', led by Dr James Kelly of Durham University, is shedding light on the lives of the Benedictine monks from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. This newly launched database details the membership and activities of the English and Welsh Benedictine order from the time of Mary I's reign until 1800.

Following the dissolution of the monasteries in the time of Henry VIII, the first English Benedictine monastery in exile was established in Douai in 1607. It was followed by a further three monasteries across France and Germany. Prior to these foundations, which provided a nationalized focus, some aspiring English monks joined European communities, entering religious life in Catholic countries such as Spain. Living in these exiled communities but also returning to England to serve on the Catholic mission, the English Benedictines’ mobility made them unusual amongst the Order in Catholic Europe.

The database only includes those individuals who entered the Benedictine life (for however short or long a time) after Elizabeth I came to throne in England in 1558. The monks have been recorded according to their place of entry, the majority under one of the four foreign English foundations – St Gregory’s, Douai; St Laurence’s, Dieulouard; St Edmund’s Paris; Ss Adrian and Denis, Lamspringe.  A final group of monks are recorded under ‘Elsewhere’, cataloguing all those who cannot be included under the previous groupings. It includes those Scottish monks who were aggregated to the English Benedictine Congregation.