Friday, November 25, 2016

Jeremiah Whybrew

Oro-Medonte in Ontario, Canada
A distant relative and fellow family historian recently forwarded me a link to an old discussion post about David Whybrew's older brother, Jeremiah. I knew that Jeremiah had migrated to Canada as a young adult, and married there, but that was about it. So it was interesting to learn more about what happened to him. Since then I've done a bit more research and filled in a few gaps.

Jeremiah was David's full brother, sharing not only the same father, James Whybrew, but the same mother, Sarah Baldwin. He was born in Bures St Mary, Suffolk, in about 1830 and was baptised on 6 June 1830. On one genealogy site his name on the baptism record has been transcribed as "Jeremiah Whybread", causing confusion.

More confusion arises around his date of birth because his father James' first wife, Mary Webber, had a child named Jeremiah in 1823. This child almost certainly died in infancy. Though there is no record of his death, I suspect that a burial record for "Jemima Whybrew" aged 3 in Bures St Mary in 1826 is probably his.

The second Jeremiah appears in the 1841 UK census as an 11 year old with the rest of the family in Wormingford. In 1850, after the death of both his parents, he migrated to North America, leaving from Liverpool and arriving in New York on 21 May aboard the Forest Queen. He is described on the passenger list as a labourer. From New York he apparently moved to southern Ontario in Canada and settled in Oro, a small rural community in Simcoe County.

Also aboard the Forest Queen were two families from Essex named Leatherdale, possibly a father and his son with their respective wives and children. Whether Jeremiah knew the Leatherdales before he migrated,  or whether he met them during the journey isn't clear. His name appears directly after theirs on the passenger list, and they also settled in Oro, so perhaps he travelled with them. Whatever the case, he married one of their daughters, Hannah, in 1853.

Jeremiah found work as a carpenter in Oro. He and Hannah had several children born to them there. Their first child, Jeremiah, died in infancy. The others (James, John Thomas, Charles D, George, Mary Ann and Emily) all seem to have reached adulthood.

Some online family trees include a son named William, but the only Canadian-born William that I can find in  the records is the son of a Solomon Whybra and his wife Agnes.  In the 1891 census a William Whybrow, born in 1873, lived in Simcoe County, but he was born in England. (While researching this I discovered that the Canadian Library and Archives site has census records dating back to 1825, which are free to search and view online.)

Hannah is said to have died in 1867, the year  Emily was born. The information sent to me says that the family then broke up and was "bound out". Later records show that several of the children moved  to Michigan, which despite being in the USA, is actually just west of Oro in Canada, due to the way the border weaves through the Great Lakes.

Sadly it seems that Jeremiah may have struggled after the death of Hannah. His death on 6 January 1878 in Simcoe was said by the doctor who wrote the death certificate to be due to "prostration following drink and exposure". It would be interesting to know if Jeremiah had kept contact with any of his family in England and whether or not David or any of his sisters heard of his death.

Image source: By P199 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 16, 2016

The life of a laundress

Several years ago we visited a 'living museum', a house set up and furnished just as it would have been in the early 1900's. The couple who owned and occupied the house tried, as far as possible, to live as the occupants would have lived in that era. The one concession they had made to modern life was the washing machine sitting in a corner of the laundry. They admitted that washing their clothes and bedding the old fashioned way was just too much work, and they couldn't bear to wear their clothes over and over again, as people once did.

Their comments came to mind when I began looking at what the life of a laundress in the 19th century involved. My great great grandmother, Susan Whybrew (nee Mason) described herself as a laundress in the 1891 census, and several newspaper items about her make reference indirectly to this role.

It's likely, for instance, that the bundle Susan was carrying along the street when she slipped and sprained her ankle in 1899 was laundry being returned to a customer (The Essex County Standard West Suffolk Gazette, and Eastern Counties Advertiser (Colchester, England), Saturday, June 03, 1899; pg. 7).

When we see how much work was involved in being a laundress we can also perhaps understand why Susan thought her 20 year old daughter Harriet should have paid her for washing her collar and cuffs (Essex Standard, 20 October 1888, p 8) . Delicate lace collars and cuffs were usually made removable so that they could be washed, dried and starched separately, but this all added to the work load.

'Twas on a Monday morning...

Until the invention of the electric-powered washing machine in the early 1900's, washing clothes was a long, laborious task. Before the turn of the century many homes had no running water on tap, particularly in working class areas, so the water had first to be carried from a pump or well. This was likely to be at the bottom of a hill or down the street. A full wash required many gallons of water.

The water then had to  be heated in a copper, a large metal boiler set in a brick firebox in the corner of the kitchen or scullery, until it was hot enough to dissolve the soap and the grease on the clothes. The fire would be lit very early in the morning to have the water ready for the laundry after breakfast.

The clothes (which must often have been quite smelly) had to be sorted, soaked if necessary, treated for stains, then washed in a wooden tub or stone trough, using a bar of lye soap and a wooden 'dolly' to agitate and pound them. White clothes and sheets, as well as tougher, dirtier work clothes, were often boiled (separately) in the copper itself. After being put through a wringer, rinsed twice and starched, the wet clothes were wrung out and flattened using a mangle, and then hung to dry - outside in rural areas, but inside on racks in industrial areas where soot and other particles polluted the atmosphere.

Once the clothes were dry they were ironed using a heavy flat iron heated on the stove. Often several irons would be used, so that one could be in use while the others were re-heating. The whole process of soaking, washing, drying and ironing took several days, so the laundry was usually started on a Monday in order to have it done by Saturday afternoon.

Families saved up their laundry for as long as possible so that it could all be done at once, typically every few weeks if they had enough clothes to last that long. Nothing was put in the wash that could be spot-cleaned, and even underwear was worn several times before being washed. If they could afford to pay someone else to do their laundry, they did.

An unladylike occupation

Being a laundress, working independently or in a commercial laundry in one of the bigger cities, was one of the few occupations open to married women and widows. It could mean the difference between making ends meet and destitution for those without a husband's income or for women whose husbands had seasonal jobs, or who were poorly paid, as was the case for common soldiers such as David Whybrew.

Being a laundress allowed mothers to work at home and keep their children with them, though they were occupied with washing and ironing from early in the morning to late at night. The children were often used as unpaid labour to help with tasks such as carrying water, turning the mangle and hanging clothes. They also had to live with the steamy atmosphere, lines of wet washing, and the smell of damp clothes and laundry soap.

Because laundresses were often poorly educated, physically strong, independent women, who effectively ran their own businesses, they were considered 'unladylike' and lacking in social respectability. As a soldier's wife, Susan Whybrew was already pretty close to the bottom of the social heap. Being a laundress simply added another layer to her outsider status. Nevertheless, her labours helped to keep her family afloat.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Thoughts, suggestions, ideas?

It's over four years since I began this blog, back in April 2012. Since then I've written something like 120 posts. Some branches of the family, such as the Masons in Adelaide, have had more posts devoted to them than others. Generally, though, I've tried to work my way fairly systematically through the lines of my four grandparents, sharing what I've learned.

From time to time I've digressed to talk about the process of doing family history research or I've focused on a topic relevant to one family or historical period. Surprisingly, the post with most views over time has been the one on fustian cutters.

There's no end to the posts I could write. But what would you, as a reader, like to see on this blog? Are there particular individuals that you'd like to know more about? Would you like more posts on places, occupations and background history? Do you enjoy the posts on the ups and downs of genealogical research? Do you think I should give more details about my sources? Have you spotted a dead link or a terrible typo? (I find them myself quite regularly when I go back to old posts.)

Do you perhaps have a story to tell about someone that I've overlooked? Would you like to contribute by writing a post, or have a photo or other memorabilia that you'd like to share?

It would be wonderful to have some feedback. With that in mind, I've just added a Contact form to the side bar. So if you want to comment on a particular post you can still use the 'comments' box below it, but if you have ideas, suggestions or more general comments then the contact form is available. I'd love to hear from you.

I've also added an option in the sidebar to follow the blog by email. By providing an email address you will receive a notification when a new post appears.

Friday, July 29, 2016

William Whybrew - an update.

The Cemetery at Vis-en-Artois.
William Whybrew has no grave, his name is inscribed
on panel 5 of the curved memorial wall between
the two stone pillars.(image courtesy of wikimedia).
Back in March 2014 I wrote a couple of posts about the children of David and Susan Whybrew. At the time, much of what I wrote about their youngest son William (the youngest son to survive childhood at any rate) was speculative.

In the course of doing research for my book about Susan, I've been able to confirm many of the details for William and add a few new ones, though some create more mysteries than they solve. So here's an update.

William was born on 29 October 1884 while the family were living in Berry St, Sittingbourne, near Canterbury, Kent. At the time his father David was with the 3rd East Kent militia. Some time after William's birth David left the army without completing his five year contract, for reasons that are unclear, and the family moved to Colchester in Essex. Two sons, Alfred (1888) and James (1892) were born to Susan in Colchester but didn't survive infancy.

William was at home with David and Susan at the time of the 1901 census, working as an assistant gardener. In 1905, when he was 21,  he married Adelaide Williams, a woman from Ipswich, a coastal town in Suffolk, 30 km north east of Colchester.

At 38 Adelaide was considerably older than William. Their marriage certificate indicates that she was the daughter of Earle Henry Williams, deceased, a fish hawker of Ipswich. She seems to have spent some of her childhood in the Ipswich workhouse, and then disappears from the records until her marriage to William.

The couple moved to Canterbury, where William found work as a carman, driving a delivery cart for a mineral water company. They had a lodger living with them when the 1911 census was taken, an infirm elderly man named Abraham Langford, who was possibly cared for by Adelaide (or Annie as she was referred to on the census.)

In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, William enlisted in the Army Veterinary Corp, which looked after the many horses, mules, dogs and other animals used by the army. He transferred to the Yorkshire regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wale's Own) and fought in the trenches in  France and then saw action in Italy before returning to France in September 1918. I've now confirmed that William died in action in France on 29 October 1918, just a few days before his 34th birthday and only three weeks before the war ended.

The Hundred Days Offensive, August-november 1918
Battle of Courtrai.
British and Belgian wounded waiting to be taken
back by light railway. Dadezeele, 15 October 1918.
It’s likely that William was involved in the decisive “Hundred Days” battle or "Advance to Victory" in Picardy and Artois, which broke the Germans' resolve and ultimately led to the Kaiser’s abdication and the signing of the armistice on November 11. It was a massively destructive battle. William had no grave, perhaps no identifiable remains. His name is inscribed on the memorial at Vis-en-Artois amongst the 9,847 men of the Allied forces with no known burial place, who fell between August 1918 and the end of the war.

The news of his death would have been sent first to his widow Adelaide. In 1919 she applied for his medals, his belongings and the money still owed to him by the army. She was listed as the sole legatee. Later his name was inscribed on the war memorial in Ipswich, but strangely not the one in Colchester where he grew up and enlisted.

William and Adelaide had no children. However, it seems that Adelaide had either a son or a stepson by a previous relationship. A young soldier named Henry Alan Lawrence, born in 1890, joined the army in 1908 and gave a 'Mrs Whybrew' as his mother and next of kin. Her address at the time was in Colchester. He also listed two brothers, Archer and George Lawrence, whose address was in Stanstead in Essex.

At the end of WW1, in which Henry Lawrence was badly injured and became a prisoner of war, his address was the same as that of Adelaide Whybrew on William Whybrew's records - 195 Bramford Rd Ipswich.

How Henry fits into Adelaide's story is something I still haven't worked out. In the 1891 census he and his brothers  appear  to be the sons of William and Martha Lawrence of Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Martha Lawrence (nee Archer) died in 1897 and the family were scattered. There's no record of William Lawrence ever marrying Adelaide Williams. Perhaps she became an unofficial step mother to young Henry.

(I'm grateful to Andrew Beal of the Ipswich War Memorial and Cenotaph page on Facebook for some of these details.)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Certificates, transcriptions and Brexit

Well, here's some positive news at last about Brexit. As a result of events on June 23, it has become less expensive for Australians like me to purchase certificates from the UK General Registry Office (GRO). This time last year one British pound was equivalent to roughly $AUD 2.0. Now it's down to $AUD 1.70. That takes about $3 off the cost of a certificate.

Politics aside, ordering copies of birth, marriage or death certificates is an expensive way to do family history research. If I can find reliable information about the people I'm researching by some other means, I'm usually content with that. But there are times when the only way to find information, or check dubious sources, is to order a copy of the certificate.

Copy of Lily Whybrew's birth certificate from the UK GRO
Lily was the youngest child of Susan and David Whybrew.
She died in infancy.
Each country has its own approach to the issuing of certificates. The UK GRO allows orders to be made online or by mail, then sends a certified copy of the original registry entry by mail. Curiously, the cost (currently £9.25 each) is the same whether you provide complete details, including a reference to the GRO index, or just a few details such as a name, place and year, requiring the GRO to do the research themselves to find an entry on the index. Even more strange, the cost is the same whether it's posted to Highgate in London or to Highgate in Perth, Australia. There's no option to have copies delivered electronically.

Despite the ready availability of family history sources online, there's still something exciting about finding a long brown envelope in your letter box marked with Her Majesty's Government seal. If family history is your 'thing', nothing beats the thrill of seeing a certificate issued a hundred years ago and finding that vital piece of information that you were looking for inscribed in handwritten scrawl. Occasionally there's the disappointment of finding the certificate belongs to someone different than you were expecting, or it contains information that blows a long-cherished theory apart.

The Irish GRO also issues certificates by mail, which can be ordered by post or electronically, for €20. Alternatively they will send a photocopy of the record by email, for a reduced price (about €4). If all you want is the information, rather than something to hang on the wall, that's a good option. For some reason, emailed photocopies can't be ordered online, but have to be ordered by fax or mail after downloading the request form and ticking the box that says 'photocopy'. Odd, but that's the way it is.
Another of Brexit's effects is the appearance on the Irish GRO site of a warning that "Due to a significant increase in orders for certificates as a result of the recent referendum in the United Kingdom (UK), the delivery time for certificates from this service will be up to thirty (30) days from the date of order." A sudden increase in interest in family history? Maybe not.

Rosina Whybrew's death in Ireland in 1874.
This is a photocopy of the original entry from the Irish GRO.

Birth, marriage and death records in Australia are kept by each State's own registry offices, and certified copies are generally very expensive. (The NSW registry charges $32 for an emailed copy of a birth entry. That's twice the price of a hard copy British certificate mailed overseas.) One way around this is to order a modified version of the certificate through a transcription agent. They will send all the information that's found on a registry entry, usually laid out on their own attractive presentation form, for about half to two thirds of the price. Transcription agents can be found by searching online.

Transcript of Mary Mason's birth in NSW,
provided by a transcription agent from the original entry.

If you have ancestors in South Australia, and live outside the state, you're in luck. The City of Unley Library has a wonderful bunch of family history volunteers who will look up births, marriages and deaths in that state free of charge. All that's required is the details of the person you're researching, mailed or emailed on one of their request forms (up to a limit of 3 requests at a time) and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Since they are volunteers, it can take several weeks to get a result, but they'll often add helpful comments to the report. A fantastic service. (I'm not aware of similar services in any other state, but if you know of one, please let us know about it in the comments box.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The missing link - William Doody

Millers Point in 1870
(Image from State Library of NSW collection)
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will be familiar with my theory that John Mason, who married Catherine Murphy in Sydney in 1841, was an Irish convict born in Limerick.  He arrived in Sydney on the Parmelia in 1834.

The problem has been that my conclusion was based on excluding all the other possible John Masons around at the time, and some circumstantial evidence. And that meant I could never be sure that I wouldn't one day come across another John Mason that I'd overlooked, who would ruin my theory. (I've mentioned before how my heart sank when I read in the Destitute Board records in Adelaide that John Mason was said to be English.)

That uncertainty has always nagged me. It meant I was constantly having to say that John Mason was "probably Irish" and "probably a convict". It's hard to build a good story on the word "probably".

So this week I started to think about what sort of evidence would I need to show that "Convict John" was the same person as "Catherine's  John". Convict John disappears from the records in 1840 after getting his certificate of freedom. What could tie him to the John who appeared on the scene to marry Catherine in 1841?

After asking that question on a genealogy forum, and tossing it around, it occurred to me that William Doody (or Dowdy or Doudey) might be a link. William was a former convict who sailed to Adelaide with the Masons in 1845. He and his wife Bridget (nee Murnane) were also the sponsors at one of the Mason's daughter's baptisms. He was obviously a friend of John and Catherine.

I found William's record on the 1837 General Muster of Convicts. It showed that he arrived on the Dunvegan Castle in 1832 and was employed by Wright and Sons in Sydney. That didn't seem very promising. I knew John Mason fom Limerick was assigned to an Alexander Fotheringham when he arrived in 1834.

Then I realised that I'd never found John Mason's name on the 1837 muster. My information about him came from his convict indent and his certificate of freedom. After some searching I found him listed as "John Wason". All the other details such as his age and his ship, the Parmelia, matched. And he was assigned to.... Wright and Sons. So he would have known William Doody in 1837, before he met Catherine. They would have worked together and probably lived in the same quarters.

I did a little dance - this was just the sort of link I needed. It's not quite proof that the two John Masons were the same man, but it makes it a lot more likely.

Since then I've done more research and found that "Wright and Son"s is probably a mis-transcription of Wright and Long, who owned a wharf and shipping business at Millers Point on Darling Harbour. Another convict assigned to them, Timothy Rourke, was a sponsor at the baptism of one of the Mason's other daughters. Two for the price of one!

More about John Mason:

John and Catherine Mason - pioneers
John Mason - where did he come from?
Two more small clues about John Mason
An interesting snippet of news about John and Catherine Mason
Discoveries in Adelaide part 1
Discoveries in Adelaide part 2
A sad tale of two Roses
The missing link - William Doody
A song of the sea

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A song of the sea

One Wednesday evening late in October 1855, the Court Perseverance of the Ancient Order of Foresters met in the Prince of Wales hotel in Adelaide for their anniversary dinner. After a meal which "for abundance and variety of delicacies, for exquisite cookery and choice wines, would bear favourable comparison with some of the crack hotels of the mother country", they got down to the important business of proposing the loyal toasts. 

After singing the national anthem, they toasted Her Majesty's health and then the health of Prince Albert and the rest of the Royal Family. Next they drank a toast to the Governor, and then to the Army and Navy, each toast being accompanied by a song from one of the Brothers. Someone proposed a toast to the High Court and Executive Council of the Ancient Order of Foresters. This was drunk "with the Forester's fire" (which I assume means enthusiastically.)

Then, perhaps made bolder than usual by alcohol, Brother Mason sang a song, The White Squall. After this the meeting settled to hear an account of how the Foresters had fared over the previous twelve months.

Brother Mason, I was surprised to discover, was none other than John Mason (my great great great grandfather). It's quite likely that this was the last meeting of the Court he would ever attend. Early the next year he became bed-bound and unable to work. In January 1857 he died, leaving his widow Catherine and eight children to fend for themselves.

The day after John's death, this announcement appeared in the Adelaide Times:

John's wisdom in joining the Foresters soon became apparent. The Ancient Order of Foresters was a mutual aid or Friendly Society, rather like the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) that my grandfather Albert Orton belonged to in Manchester. Members each contributed a levy, a small amount of money regularly, which was invested. If they died, the Order paid for their funeral and provided a sum of money for their widow and children.

They were not a masonic order, although they had some of their own rituals (including the making and drinking of many toasts, accompanied by song, it seems). Members came from all denominations, all social classes and levels of education. Local groups were known as Courts, each with their own fanciful name, and these belonged to larger Districts.

The Foresters would likely have paid for John's funeral from their funds and then provided Catherine with some financial support. This explains why she was able to avoid going back to the Destitute Board until several months after John's death. 

This fascinating and previously unknown detail of John's life was discovered through a 'hint' from the software I use (Roots Magic) which pointed to the funeral notice. It provoked my curiosity. What was the Ancient Order of Foresters, and what was the song that John sang at that anniversary dinner, when he and his fellow Foresters were well fed and probably already a little inebriated?

It was probably this one by George A Barker, sung here by Phillip Ritte:

The White Squall

The sea was bright and the bark rode well,
The breeze bore the tone of the vesper bell:
'Twas a gallant bark, with crew as brave,
As ever launch'd on the heaving wave.
She shone in the light of declining day,
And each sail was set and each heart was gay.

They near'd the land where in beauty smiles
The sunny shores of the Grecian isles:
All thought of home, of that welcome dear,
Which soon should greet each wand'rer's ear.
And in fancy join'd the social throng,
In the festive dance and the joyous song.

A white cloud glides thro' the azure sky,
What means that wild despairing cry?
Farewell, the vision'd scenes of home!
That cry is Help! where no help can come.
For the White Squall rides on the surging wave,
And the bark is gulph'd in an ocean grave.

A white squall is a violent windstorm that arrives without warning. The words are sadly prophetic for a man who was just beginning to get ahead in life when disaster struck him and his family.

Fix this textcomparison with ecme of the crack hotels of the mothercountry

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rosanna (Rosina)Bines

It's difficult to know what name to use for the woman who would become William Beales' mother. Her birth, late in 1846, was registered as "Rosana" Bines and that's how her name is spelled on the 1851 census. But in 1861 she was recorded as "Rosina" and in 1871 as "Rose Anna".

When she married James Beales in 1867 she was "Rosanna". The confusion is perhaps an indication that she and her family were illiterate and didn't really know how her name should be spelled. For this post, I'll refer to her as Rosanna.

Rosanna Bines was the first child of John Bines, an agricultural labourer from Little Clacton in Essex and his wife Eliza Barnes from the adjacent Great Clacton. Rosanna lived in Little Clacton until her marriage to James Beales, then spent the rest of her life in St Osyth, less than 7 kilometres (4.5 miles) away. Apart from her name appearing on the census every 10 years, and the records of her birth, marriage and death, her life went mostly unrecorded.

But not quite. Surprisingly, photographs of her still exist. The copies I have posted on this blog came from the internet some time ago, but who originally posted them and when is unknown. (If you know, let me know and I'll give them the credit.) I've also received copies of the same pictures from a cousin.

In the oldest of these, probably a wedding photo, a young Rosanna sits in a voluminous white dress besides the heavily bearded James Beales, looking a little startled by the camera. She holds a book in her hand, most likely a prayer book. James is neatly but rather shabbily dressed.

Many years later she and James have their photos taken with their grown up children, all dressed in what would surely be their Edwardian Sunday Best and wearing buttonholes. It's not clear whether the two photos - one with their daughters, the other with their sons - were taken on the same occasion. The clothes that Rosanna and James are wearing and the barn wall behind them are different in the two photos.

In these photos, Rosanna looks composed and remarkably well preserved for someone who has given birth to 15 children. Only two of her children failed to reach adulthood. Emily died in 1895 at the age of 9. The other child missing from the photo was possibly Ann*, born in 1874, who died in 1876.

None of the Beales' children seem to have been baptised as infants. Their names are absent from the on-line records of either the parish church of St Peter and St Paul or the Wesleyan Methodist church in St Osyth.  Other Beales names are recorded, presumably cousins and more distant relatives. Whether this was because the family belonged to a non-conformist church or sect, or they simply didn't have any religious affiliation before they joined the Salvation Army is another unknown.

They wouldn't have had to look far to find an alternative to the local Church of England parish. Essex seems to have attracted a number of unusual religious groups in the 19th century. St Osyth had a chapel belonging to the New Church, or Swedenborgians, based on the teachings of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

The Peculiar People, a puritan offshoot of the Wesleyans founded by Robert Banyard in 1838, was also active in east Essex at this time. They believed strongly in healing by faith and refused to allow their children to be vaccinated against smallpox or to receive medical treatment. The deaths of some of their children led to the parents being taken to court.

St Osyth is reputed to be the driest place in England. Perhaps it was the salubrious climate, her life as a farm labourers' wife or the disciplines of the Salvation Army lifestyle that preserved Rosanna's health. She lived to the venerable age of 85, dying in 1931.

* Some online family trees list Anna Maria Beales as a child of James and Rosanna, but the only child I can find by that name was born in 1881, the same year as John Beales, and seems to be the child of George Beales. Possibly Ann was also known as Anna Maria. Her birth in 1874 fits in well between the births of George and Alfred, though I don't have confirmation that she was a child of Rosanna and James.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Facts can sometimes ruin a good story

Old records - where it all begins
A few months ago I started writing a book about Susan Mason and her family. In a way, I've already written most of her life story on this blog, but it's quite fragmented. I wanted to draw together all the information I've discovered about her into a continuous narrative. She's such an interesting character, and her life, while not remarkable in any historical sense, provides insights into many different situations and places. It's a great story.

I've just finished the first draft, and now I'm in the process of rewriting and editing it. But I found myself with a dilemma. Some time ago I discovered a record on that seemed to indicate that in 1876, while the family were stationed in Ireland, Susan had given birth to a child, a boy named Charles. The child wasn't David's.

The father, named on the record as Charles Newman, was a soldier from David's regiment, the 50th. The record gave the date (October 1 1876) and the place of birth, and it seemed quite feasible that it could be true. The child's birth (but not his parents names or the date) was also included on the the index to the Irish Civil register on Ancestry and the British Nationals Armed Forces Register of Births on Find My Past.

An affair with another soldier would certainly add colour to the story, but should I be revealing such details about Susan or the Newmans? (You've probably guessed by now that the reason I'm telling you this is that it isn't actually true.) And besides, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that something about the record didn't seem quite right.

Bantry, Co Cork, where David Whybrew
was stationed in 1876.

© Copyright Pam Brophy and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Susan was in the right place and could have had another child in October 1876 after giving birth to Alice late in the previous year. But the two births would be quite close together, and Rose Whybrew was born only fifteen months later. The soldier's wife, Mary Newman, on the other hand, had one child who was two years old at the time and she had another child two years later. Charles' birth would fit neatly into her family. From later censuses I knew that Charles Newman had been brought up by the Newman family in Bristol after his father left the army.

There was also no image of the actual documents available. It was just a transcript, details copied by someone at some time. Where had the information come from? The army's records? The Irish Civil Register? How reliable was it?

I posted that question on the British Genealogy forum, which is always a good place to get other opinions and advice. "Get the original documents from GRO (the General Register Office in England) and the Irish Civil Register" was the predictable response, along with some equally predictable "hmmphing" about the reliability of sites like Ancestry. Someone also provided me with helpful advice about how to go about ordering the documents for the least expense.

To be fair, sites like Ancestry and Find My Past are now providing access to more and more  images of original documents on-line and not just transcripts, as was once the case. The original hand-written census documents, army enlistment and medical records, church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, convict records and ships' passenger lists can all be seen and checked against the transcripts provided (which are occasionally quite inaccurate.) It's not Ancestry's fault if people don't check the original documents and think about the plausibility of information before adding it to their family trees.

So I sent for certified copies of the information on the registers. The Irish Registry Office hasn't replied, probably because they couldn't find any record of a birth with the details I provided. The GRO sent me full details from the Army Register of Births, Baptisms and Marriages, which show that not only was Susan Whybrew not the child's mother (Mary Newman is named as mother) but the date of birth was also different from the on-line transcription (July 1, 1876, not October 1). The father's name and regiment are the same, so it seems to be the right child.

It's possible that whoever transcribed the details of the birth from the Army Register inadvertently copied Susan's name from the previous entry. Few army wives travelled with their husbands when they went overseas, and it may well be that Alice Whybrew was the last child born to a family from the 50th regiment in Ireland prior to the one in question. Or at least her entry appeared on the same page.

I'm pleased to know that Susan didn't have a love child in Ireland, even if it does remove a potentially interesting chapter from my book. But it did serve to remind me how important it is to check facts with reliable and original sources when you're doing family history research.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Disturbing the peace - the Salvation Army

As I've mentioned before, William Beales and his family were dedicated members of the Salvation Army in Colchester. Recently I've been reading more about the history of the Salvation Army. It's not only fascinating in its own right, but also includes some intriguing links with our family history, both in Australia and England.

Catherine and William Booth
William Booth, a Methodist minister, began what was to become the Salvation Army as a mission in the slums of the east end of London in 1865. His focus was on bringing the gospel to the vast numbers of working class and underprivileged people who had no connection with the established churches. His unconventional methods, which included allowing women to preach and holding open air meetings with bands playing catchy tunes, created controversy but proved very effective.

The Christian Revival Ministry, as it was then known, soon extended its work of gospel preaching and started providing education, food relief and "penny banks" for the poor and destitute. The name was changed to the Christian Mission and then in 1878 it became known as the Salvation Army. It adopted an army-style uniform for its workers and began using military terminology for many of it's activities. Ordained ministers became "officers", it's local congregations "corps", and its buildings "citadels" or "barracks". William Booth remained the General. His wife Catherine was actively involved in both ministering and preaching.

The organisation soon spread beyond London to other parts of what William Booth referred to as "Darkest England". The first meeting in Colchester was held towards the end of 1881 in the Assembly Rooms in Queen St. When the local skating rink was put up for sale in 1882 it was purchased by an agent on behalf of General Booth and soon became the local  meeting place. General Booth himself visited Colchester and preached to large audiences on several occasions.

Initially the Salvation Army faced a lot of opposition in Colchester as elsewhere. The uneducated heckled and threw rocks and bottles, while the better educated tossed off letters to the editor such as this one to the Essex Standard in July 1882:
Sir, -- A short space in your columns, if you please, for a few valueless remarks of a simpleton.
We have in Colchester sixteen Churches, besides a Roman Catholic Chapel, and Meeting Houses, I don't know how many; and I suppose to these buildings are attached between thirty and forty Clergymen and other Gospel ministers; nor am I the one to say, or even think, that any individual member of that staff is negligent or his duties toward either God or man. Each, I hope, is serving his Master and his fellow-men to the best of his ability. So that to me it seems, there was no need whatever for a Salvation Army to march into this town with trumpet and drum, and flying colours, as if we were destitute of religious instructors, and it lead me to think, sir, that if General Booth, who I take to be commander in chief of these quasi-military forces, had ordered his obedient regiment into such as town, for instance, as Northampton, where it seems the Gospel preachers much have been utterly neglectful of their duties, where infidelity and atheism is riding paramount, they would have been doing much more real service in the great cause which they profess to support, than by disturbing the peaceable inhabitant of this town by their disorderly, and certainly most irreverent behaviour.
Perhaps the residents of Northampton had a different view. In any case, the Salvation Army's right to hold meetings both at the rink and outdoors was upheld by the local mayor and magistrates.

The Salvation Army in South Australia 

Individual members of the Salvation Army soon began to arrive in Australia as immigrants. Two early converts, John Gore and Edward Saunders, established the first official Corp in South Australia in September 1880, leading their first meeting from the back of a cart in the Botanic Gardens. The following week they held an open air meeting in Light Square, notorious for being the gathering place of prostititutes and larrikins, and this became a regular occurrence.

Members of the Salvation Army band
in Adelaide, c 1890
When the first officers, Captain Thomas Sutherland and his wife, arrived in Adelaide in February 1881 they were met by 68 people associated with the Corp. Within 3 years there were 32 officers and 12 Corps in South Australia. Meetings were held every night in a building in Morphett Street off Light Square, attended by hundreds of people. Though most saw the benefits of the Salvation Army's methods, not all were impressed. On July 30, 1881, the South Australian Register carried this report from the City Police Court:
Thomas Sutherland, "Captain" of the Salvation Army, was charged, on the information of Denis Sullivan, Inspector of Police, that in a certain place situated in the City of Adelaide — to wit, King William street — he did unlawfully disturb the peace, contrary to the statute in such cases made and provided.
The defendant, who appeared in a species of dark uniform with a silver S on the collar, pleaded not guilty. Mr. Pater opened the case by stating that the defendant was the so-called captain of the Salvation Army, a religious body who were in the habit of parading the streets in the evening, singing, screaming, and shrieking. On the occasion in question they had seriously frightened the horses on the cabstand and in the street, besides crowding passengers off the footpath by reason of the throng... 
...John Piper, commercial traveller, of Adelaide, gave evidence as to hearing very indecent language used in the crowd with the army on the night in question, on Sunday, July 24, and that the mob nearly jostled him off his feet. The army was singing 'Will you go,' each one trying to shout louder than the other. By the defendant— Saw the leaders of the army sawing up and down in the air with their arms. Did not know they were keeping time. Considered it a disgraceful exhibition.
Sutherland was fined one shilling, which he refused on principle to pay, and he was sentenced to being imprisoned "until the rising of this court".

A "Special" reporter for The Adelaide Evening Journal provided a more sympathetic if slightly bemused description of one of the Salvation Army meetings in May 1883, too long to include here, but worth reading.

The Salvation Army in Adelaide, as elsewhere, had a strong ministry to women and girls involved in prostitution, and those at risk of falling into it. In England the Salvation Army were at the forefront of a campaign to raise the age of consent from 13 to 18. In South Australia they opened several homes for "rescued girls", providing accommodation and assisting them to return to their family where appropriate. It's not outside the realms of possibility that they had some involvement in Harriet Whybrew's return to her parents in England, though I have no evidence of this.

Meanwhile, in 1882 the newly married Captain James Barker and wife Alice left Colchester and arrived at Port Adelaide to join the work in South Australia. But due to a labour strike on the docks, they had to keep going to Melbourne. They decided on arriving and looking around that they would establish their ministry there instead. The Salvation Army expanded its work rapidly, not just in Victoria but throughout Australia, as a result of the Barkers' pioneering activities.

My grandmother, Rosina,
in her Salvation Army uniform
The Barker family eventually returned to England in 1890. Their daughter Evalina, born in Victoria in 1884, became a Captain and in 1909 she married Albert William Thomas Orsborn.  Orsborn later became the 6th General of the Salvation Army, as well as the author of many of the songs in the Salvation Army song book.

Albert and Evalina employed William and Eliza Beales' daughter Rosina as a servant at their home in Ipswich during her teens. This photograph of Rosina in her Salvation Army uniform, must have been taken about this time.

Once again I'm struck by how different her life must have been after she married and moved to Lancashire, leaving behind not just her family and Essex but the Salvation Army background of her childhood.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

William James Beales

When Eliza Whybrew married William Beales in the autumn of 1891, she was marrying a man whose childhood was distinctly different to her own. Whereas she had spent her childhood moving from place to place with her father's army regiment, Bill had always lived in the same small village where his father and his grandfather had spent their whole lives.

Bill was born and raised in St Osyth, on the coast of Essex. His father James Beales was a farm labourer and horseman, and his mother Rosina (or Rosanna, nee Bines) the daughter of another agricultural labourer from the nearby village of Little Clacton. The extended Beales family was a large one - in the 1881 census Beales was the third most common name in St Osyth. 

James and Rosina with their sons c 1900(?)
Bill is on the far right
Like Susan Whybrew, Rosina Beales gave birth fourteen times*, but all except one of her children survived childhood (Emily, born in 1886, died at the age of 9). Life in St Osyth was certainly not luxurious, but it was stable and the village was perhaps isolated from many of the epidemics that spread rapidly through larger towns.

William received a very basic education at the local school. By the age of 12 he was already employed as an agricultural labourer. The Elementary Education Act of 1880 made school compulsory until the age of 10, and the school leaving age in England was nominally raised to 13. However, if parents could produce a certificate to show that their child had reached a satisfactory level of education, they could be employed sooner than this.

The Beales girls with James and Rosina
It's difficult to find out much about the Beales family. They didn't frequent the Police Courts, and they weren't far enough up the social ladder for their social life to be of interest to anyone, so their names don't appear in the newspapers or on local directories. It seems there are no records of baptisms of their children in the parish church registers at St Osyth. Most of what is known about them comes from the census records.

By the time of the 1891 census in April, William had found work as a coal porter and had moved to Colchester, where he boarded with a young couple named Edmund and Mercy Child. There he met Eliza, and they were married in Colchester at the end of 1891.

Though Eliza and Bill were in their early twenties when they married, both had younger siblings who were still toddlers. This was not uncommon in the days when many women produced a child every two years for 30 years. James and Rosina Beales' last child, Hannah, was born in 1890, but David and Susan had another three children born after Eliza's marriage  - James, Ada and Lily - though sadly neither James nor Lily lived long.

Bill and Eliza's first child,  Alice was born early in 1893, followed by Rosina (registered as Rosanna in February 1895), William James (June 1897) and Ada Kate (late 1899). Ernest David was born at the end of 1901, after the census. He was to be the only child of theirs that didn't live to adulthood, dying at the age of five. On the census Ada is listed as 'Adam', though she is described correctly as a daughter aged 1 year old.

In 1901 the family were living in a typical Victorian terrace house ('two up, two down') in Albion Grove in Colchester, not far from Pownall Cresent where David and Susan Whybrew and their younger children lived. Bill was now working as a grocer's porter, carrying goods for the shop owner and his customers and perhaps also helping to keep the shop in good order. It would not have been a highly paid job, so it's likely that the family had to live quite simply.

 A London bread van, circa 1910
By 1911 Bill had a job as a 'carman' with the Co-op, driving a horse-drawn cart. An article written in 1903 about the carmen of London described them as being poorly paid and  working long hours. Perhaps the Co-operative Society were more generous to their employees, but again it's unlikely that Bill earned much.

With the addition of Henry (born 1904 and nicknamed 'Son') and Miriam (born 1906 and known as "Mill", ) the family expanded to 6 children. Some time before the 1911 census they moved to a six roomed house in Campion Road, an even shorter walk from Eliza's parents' home in Pownall Cresent. A young soldier and his wife boarded with the Beales, which perhaps helped to pay the rent.

William and Eliza and their family were very much involved with the Salvation Army in Colchester. Bill played the cornet and was the bandmaster for many years. Eliza was possibly an officer, though that is uncertain. Alice and Ada both married officers and were officers themselves, according to my father. (Officers in the Salvation Army are the equivalent of the ordained clergy in other churches. Both men and women can be appointed.)

Rosina, as a teenager, worked in Ipswich as a servant to Albert Orsborn, who later became the 6th General of the Salvation Army. As mentioned previously, she left the Salvation Army when she married my grandfather, Thomas Ward. William James Beales junior followed his father into the Colchester band after his military service during World War 1. His son Bernard became bandmaster at an early age.

My father tells me that Son (Henry) was seen as something of a black sheep in the family, as he smoked and liked to have an occasional drink. Soldiers of the Salvation Army are supposed to "abstain from the use of all enslaving substances." I'm not sure how long his sister Mill (Miriam) remained in the Salvation Army, but it was she who recalled that her mother was born in Australia, thus setting off my search for the Whybrew and Mason families.

Bill Beales senior retired from his post as band leader in 1938, but apparently continued to play his cornet even when he was too ill to get out of bed. He died on June 13, 1945. He was much respected and his funeral was well attended. He was buried in Colchester cemetery.

William James Beales' grave in Colchester cemetery

Colchester cemetery
(both photos from
*I've now discovered from the 1911 census that Rosanna gave birth to 15 children, of whom 13 survived.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Eliza Whybrew - a life in two armies

Eliza in her Salvation Army uniform
 In my post on David and Susan Whybrew's fourteen children I skimmed over Eliza, saying that I'd devote a whole article to her. I've just realised that two years have gone by, and I still haven't done it. So my next few posts will be about Eliza Whybrew, her husband Bill Beales and their family.

Eliza had an unsettled childhood. She was born in Adelaide, South Australia, on 10 December 1869. Soon after her birth her mother Susan (nee Mason) moved to England to be with her husband David Whybrew, a soldier in the British army. It's possible that David returned to England almost immediately after their marriage in July, having been charged with deserting his regiment and successfully arguing in court that he was only 'absent without leave'. If so, Susan would have made the long sea voyage on her own with her new baby.

Susan was apparently not 'on the strength' as an army wife, meaning that she was not eligible to live with David in the barracks and receive rations from the army. She had to find her own accommodation and support herself as best she could. It's likely that her circumstances were quite poor.

Childhood - following the British Army

When the 1871 census was taken she and Eliza (listed as 'Emily' on the census form) were in Redan Gardens, Aldershot, living with a retired couple named Hudson. Susan had work as a general servant. David was in the barracks, a thirty minute walk away.

Eliza was five years old when her two younger siblings David and Rosina died, and she and her mother moved to Ireland with her father's regiment. She would have been almost 6 years old when Alice was born in Ireland in 1875. Those deaths and the 6 year gap meant that she had no siblings close to her in age as she grew up.

Nor were there any grandparents in her life. She would have known her aunt and uncle, Eliza and Jeremiah Murphy, and their children, since Jeremiah was in the 50th regiment and they were in Ireland at the same time as David. However, they moved to Scotland in 1878. Was Eliza aware that she had an older sister, Harriet, still living in Australia? Given the attitudes to illegitimate children at the time, it's possible that it was never discussed.

After a few years of being uprooted regularly, from Dublin to Birr, from Birr to Bantry, then back to England, first to Dover then Canterbury in Kent, the family finally settled in Colchester in the mid 1880's. But even in Colchester they moved houses several times, before settling in Pownall Cresent. Along the way Susan and David added a child to their family every couple of years, though not all survived.

Harriet's arrival in Colchester sometime between 1885 and 1888 must have been a time of upheaval and adjustment for the whole family, whether or not Eliza and the other children knew of her existence. For Eliza especially it must have been strange to suddenly have this older sister in her life after she had been the eldest child in the family for so long. Harriet's experiences at the Industrial School and prison made her more street wise than Eliza, but Eliza was likely to be the more mature of the two.

The chances are that the family were living in a standard "two up, two down" house. The presence of three adult women, (Susan, Eliza and Harriet) along with two younger sisters and three young boys in such a small space must inevitably have led to tensions and disagreements, especially as Susan and Harriet seem to have shared a volatile temperament. I've described previously how this erupted on at least one occasion.

Eliza seems to have had a more peace-loving personality, observing what went on and trying to calm the situation. Harriet soon moved out, but Eliza seems to have stayed at home until she married. She was employed as a 'tailoress' when the 1891 census was taken.

Marriage - a different army life

Eliza and Bill in later life
In late 1891 she married William (Bill) Beales, a porter from St Osyth, south east of Colchester. How they met is one of those fascinating questions that will probably never be answered. Perhaps it was through a Salvation Army street meeting. Bill Beales  and his family were dedicated members of the Salvation Army in Colchester.

Like his father, Bill played in the Salvation Army Band, and later became band master. A family member tells me that before Bill moved to Colchester, he used to walk the 12 miles (nearly 20km) along the railway line from St Osyth to Colchester to attend band practice each week. Eliza joined him in the Salvation Army, if not before they married then certainly afterwards.

It would be interesting to know what David and Susan made of their new son-in-law and this strange 'religious' army that he belonged to. Meetings of the Salvation Army, especially those held outdoors, were often interrupted by hecklers and people throwing bottles and other objects. Just the use of the word 'army' must have created some heated discussion in an army garrison town like Colchester.

Susan, still in her early forties, would have had Eliza's sister Ellen as a toddler in tow when the marriage took place. Eliza already had two children of her own (Alice and Rosina) when her youngest sister Ada was born to Susan in September 1895.

Eliza and Bill had seven children between 1893 and 1906. One child, Ernest David (born 1901), died when he was five years old, but the others all lived into adulthood. Initially they lived in Albion Grove, then later moved to Campion Street in Colchester. Eliza was said to be a firm but kind mother.

When the 1911 census was taken the family had a soldier, James Ford, and his Irish-born wife Carrie, living with them as boarders. Apparently they also cared for Eliza's niece, Emily, (daughter of John Whybrew) for a while, though she doesn't appear with them on the census.

In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, their eldest son William joined the Essex Yeomanry, then transferred to the Royal Reserve Regiment of Cavalry and then to the Machine Gun Corps. Eliza and Bill must have spent many anxious hours during the war, waiting for news of him. Eliza's brother-in-law George Howard (Ellen's husband) died in France in 1917. Her brother William Whybrew was killed in action only weeks before the end of the war. It must have been a huge relief that William Beales survived, returning home after serving in Afghanistan in 1919.

Salvation army worker writes
a letter home for a wounded US soldier*
The Salvation Army were well known for their ministry to soldiers both on and off the battle field during the war. My father tells me that Eliza and Bill used to invite soldiers who were doing their training in Colchester to afternoon tea on Sunday, particularly those who were a long way from home. That was how their daughter Rosina (my grandmother) met her future husband, Thomas Henry Ward from Lancashire.

Rosina left Colchester and the Salvation Army when she married, but at least two of Bill and Eliza's children remained in the Salvation Army as adults. Alice and Ada married Salvation Army officers and were very active themselves in the Army's work among the poor.

Some time after David Whybrew's death in 1917, Susan moved in with Eliza and Bill, and stayed there until her death from pneumonia in 1921. Presumably Eliza nursed her in her final illness. She and Bill continued to live in Colchester for the rest of their lives. Bill died just after the end of the World War II in  1945. Eliza lived into her 80th year, dying early in 1949. In more ways than one, she had come a long way from her mother's early life in Adelaide.

*Image: Salvation Army worker writing a letter to the home folks for the wounded soldier. Salvation Army. , ca. 1917 - ca. 1918
Still Picture Records LICON, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives at
College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001 
Copied from

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A sad tale of two Roses

The name Rose and its variants - Rosina, Rosanna, Roseanna - pops up quite often among the Beales and Mason families in the Ward family history. Recently I've discovered two more Roses that I didn't know about before. Unfortunately their lives were both rather brief.

The first was Rosanna Mason, born in Sydney on December 1, 1841. She was the first child of John Mason and Catherine Murphy, and she was baptised at St Mary’s Church on December 8. Her sponsors (the Catholic equivalent of god parents) were Andrew and Mary Goodwin, the same couple who had been the witnesses at John and Catherine’s wedding in February that year.

Their second child, Mary Ann, was born on October 19 the following year. Catherine may already have been pregnant again with her next child, Catherine, when little Rosanna died. Perhaps she succumbed to one of the epidemics of childhood diseases such as whooping cough and scarlet fever that swept through Sydney in the 1840’s, as families began arriving in the colony as migrants. Nearly 30% of deaths in the 1840’s were among infants*. Prior to this, when the population had been made up chiefly of adult convicts and soldiers, such illnesses had been almost unknown. Rosanna was buried in Sydney.

As was common in those days, John and Catherine used the name Rosanna again, for their fifth daughter, who was born in Adelaide in 1847. Several of the Mason’s daughters named one of their children Rose, Rosanna or Rosina. I knew already about Rose Atkin (daughter of Mary Ann), and Roseanna Murphy (daughter of Eliza Mason).

Recently I discovered another child named Rose who I think is a daughter of Susan Mason and David Whybrew. (I don't yet have certificates to prove it, but it seems likely.) If so, she would be one of the 'missing' children who doesn't appear on any census.

She was registered in Colchester in the April-June quarter of 1874 under the name “Rosina Whybruew”. The spelling suggests that it was Susan who registered her, and unlike the other children born while David was in the army, she wasn’t recorded on the British Nationals Armed Forces births register.

That may be because the family were in a state of upheaval. A two year old child named David, who was almost certainly their son, died in Colchester  in July. David’s regiment was moved to Ireland in August, arriving in Dublin on August 8. Susan and the children went with him, though they may not have sailed at the same time.

Sometime in 1874 a child less than a year old named “Rose Whybren”  died in Dublin and her death was registered there. It seems very likely that this was Susan and David’s young daughter. It must have been a terrible blow to lose a baby like that in a strange country, especially so soon after the death of another child.

Like her parents, Susan and David used the name Rose again for a later child, a daughter born in Kent in 1877. Their daughter Eliza kept the tradition going by marrying into a family with many ‘Roses’, the Beales, and naming one of her daughters Rosina.

Postscript: I now have confirmation that the child Rosina Whybrew, who died in Dublin in October 1874 was the daughter of David Whybrew, soldier in the 50th regiment. She was 4 and a half months old and cause of death was 'diarrhea'.

*Lewis, Milton James. The People’s Health: Public Health in Australia, 1788-1950. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print. Page 30-31