Sunday, May 20, 2018

Jane and Bridget Mason - still elusive

Adelaide Railway Station in 1878
Back in February 2013 I wrote a post titled "What happened to Jane and Bridget Mason?" about the two youngest of John and Catherine Mason's nine daughters. When John died in Adelaide in 1857, leaving Catherine destitute, Jane was 4 and Bridget 2 years old.

At the time of writing I said that I hadn't been able to find out anything about these two girls, and speculated that perhaps they'd been fostered out, with a subsequent change of name. Since then I've found a few tantalising snippets of information, though I still know very little about them compared to Susan Mason and her other sisters.

Jane (born 1852)

Recently I came across the birth of a Naomi Mason, whose mother's name was Jane Mason. No father's name was recorded. Both mother and baby were admitted to the Destitute Asylum in Adelaide on 12 August 1881, just two hours after the baby's birth, which took place in the Adelaide Railway Station. In the Destitute Asylum records the mother was reported to have another illegitimate child, aged two and a half, but I haven't been able to find any admission record for this child, or a birth record.

The mother Jane was said to be 20 years old. If this is correct, she would be quite a bit younger than the Jane I'm looking for. But two clues make me think that this might still be her. Firstly, her address is given as Alberton, in Port Adelaide, which is where Jane's sister Catherine Davis was living when her son Thomas Davis was born in 1882. Secondly, Catherine named one of her daughters Nahommi, which though spelled differently, is a very similar sounding and unusual name.

The birth of a baby in the railway station would seem newsworthy enough to warrant a newspaper mention, but so far I haven't found one. At the moment I'm waiting for a transcription of the details on the birth registrations for Naomi Mason and Thomas Davis, to see if they offer any further clues.*

Ward in Adelaide Hospital c 1890
A young single woman named Jane Mason was admitted to the Adelaide Hospital in June 1884. She was said to be 25 years old, born in Adelaide, Roman Catholic and living in Currie Street. Although her age is a problem, the other details would all fit with John and Catherine's daughter Jane. (The Mason family lived in Currie Street.)

Less than two years later, on 14 February 1886,  a woman named Jane Mason died in Adelaide, from cirrhosis of the liver. She was said to be 28 years old. This would make her 6 years younger than the Jane Mason I'm looking for. The death registration doesn't mention any family members, and I haven't found a funeral notice in the papers. But her address was recorded as Currie Street, which again offers the possibility that it might be the right person.

There were several young women named Jane Mason living in Adelaide in this era, so none of these "sightings" are conclusive. If this is not the Jane I'm looking for, it still seems quite likely that these three records all belong to the same woman. What a short and tragic life she lived.

Bridget (born 1854)

Adelaide Hospital, from North Terrace, c 1870
Bridget's name appears in the Adelaide Hospital admissions index as a patient on 6 January 1867. She's listed as a 13 year old, Roman Catholic, born in Adelaide and living there. The entry says nothing about what was wrong with her, or what happened to her.

And that's the only mention I can find of her. There's no entry in the Births, Deaths and Marriages indexes of her marriage or death in South Australia. The hospital record at least tells me that she hadn't changed her name, so that's a small advance on what I knew in 2013.

After finding the possible record of Jane giving birth to a daughter, I looked to see if Bridget's name appeared in the same way, as a mother. But it doesn't. Perhaps she moved interstate, but again, I've found no records that I can definitely link to her. Maybe in another five years time I'll be able to say more about Jane and Bridget, but for now they remain elusive.

*UPDATE: the birth registration for Naomi Mason doesn't include an address for her mother, so that line of investigation has reached a dead end.

Adelaide Railway Station from Wikimedia
Adelaide Hospital 1870 from State Library of South Australia
Adelaide Hospital c 1890 from State Library of South Australia


  1. Tantalising snippets. It is hard with relatively common names and you may still be correct that they were fostered out and their name change. It may be that DNA matches provide a clue if they had children who survived.

    1. Thanks Anne. The worst thing about the name Mason is that searching for it on Trove or google brings up lots of stone masons and freemasons, unless I limit the search very carefully. It's the same with another name in my family, Ward, which results in election results and hospital admissions! I must admit I haven't got into DNA as a research tool yet. Maybe it's worth looking into.

  2. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thanks, Chris
    Stella, maybe try the google tip I mention in this post in Friday Fossicking. It gave me some great results I hadn't come across before.