August is Family History Month – Reflections of a Genealogist….

Today, 1 August 2020, is the launch of Australian and New Zealand Family History Month….over the course of August, Ancestor Detective, will reflect upon her journey as a genealogist and the lessons and history she has uncovered….


When I started my genealogy journey I had no expectations or knowledge of what family history was out there and what family history stories were yet to be uncovered and written. Nor was I expecting to uncover that some of the facts and stories told to me by family members would be in fact incorrect. But that is history and what happens when stories of our ancestors are handed down to the generations. It is somewhere along the line that folklore is retold with added narrative that changes these stories, that for a genealogist adds an extra layer of facts to be explored and a layer of mystery to these ancestors and their lives.

I have previously written about some of these family stories and while I research to find out more about the folklore told to me and the generations before me. Family history month in Australia provides the opportunity for me to write about my experiences and how my research has influenced my approach to genealogy and the stories told to me growing up.

My first reflection is the story told to me about my grandfather’s grandfather, James Robinson. Growing up my family told us that James came to Australia on a migrant ship when he was a very young boy (some have said an infant). Off the coast of Australia, it was told that the ship that James was onboard became shipwrecked and he was the only survivor.

My research took me to uncover in the Biographical Index of South Australians (1836 – 1885) a record for James and his family. In that record I was able to confirm that Thomas and Ann (nee Paterson) Robinson, were the parents of James and that he was born in c1848 in Liverpool, LAN, ENG. These details were confirmed upon review of his Marriage Certificate for his first marriage to Hannah SLADE in 1873. More importantly, the record states “James was brought to SA by an aunt and uncle. His parents were drowned when the Cumberland was wrecked“. The record also states his residence in Adelaide and infers that following the ship wreck he entered Australia through South Australia.

Biographical Index of South Australians 1836 – 1885

As any genealogist or historian will tell you, the records you find are only as good as the person who has reported the details. These new findings provided additional information to explore in my quest to confirm; a) who his parents were and his birth date, b) that he was onboard a ship, possibly the “Cumberland” that wrecked off the coast of Australia, where he was the only survivor, and c) where he entered Australia as a migrant.

Up until his marriage to Hannah SLADE in 1873, I was unable to find where James lived once he entered Australia as, what has been told, as a young boy. However, after an extensive search of English records I finally came across a baptism record where he was recorded as Jacobus Robinson. The baptism record is written in Latin, with a Latin variation of his name (outlined in the source description of the record), hence Jacobus translates to James in English. and confirmed his parents to be Thomas and Ann Robinson. From that I was able to trace James with his parents in the 1851 census where he is one month old.

Liverpool, England Catholic Baptism, 20 August 1848

Finding both the baptism of James and the census recording his family in 1851, aged one month, and in 1861, aged 10 years. These records provided me with confirmation that the following in the index was correct; a) from the baptism record his parents were Thomas and Ann Robinson, and b) the baptism record shows James was born on 11 August 1848 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England.

The second time I came across a ship name was in James’s obituary from the Mildura Cultivator on 17 October 1923 following his death on 14 October 1923. The obituary reads “that he [James] came to Australia 68 years ago, having a mostly adventurous voyage out in the ship “Schomberg”, which was wrecked off Curdie’s River, near Cape Otway. He was then a boy of seven years, and was providentially saved from the wreck, the passengers being taken off by another steamer“.

While this may explain the family folklore, no passenger list of the Schomberg can be found to date, nor a passenger list of the steamer, which has been reported in the Colonial Times of 31 December 1855, as the steamer Queen. Records further state that all passengers survived.

If, as the obituary states, James died after being in Australia since he was about seven years old, this has me asking, have I got the right family now in the England census records of 1851 and 1861?


Family history is initially drawn from the family stories handed down to each generation about the lives of our ancestors. When we are young, we are left in awe when hearing of some of these stories but they are never questioned to be true or not. It is only when, like me, I start to explore my family history that I come to question folklore handed down to me because despite hours upon hours of research I am unable to find the evidence to support these stories. I like most genealogists would like to think that the folklore I heard as a young girl, and even now, is true but one must question the authenticity of some of these stories and how much was added to them as they were handed down the generations. How much is fact and how much is exaggeration? How much is told, to cover up the real truth? Without the evidence to support these stories, are we left to just assume they are correct, or do we then believe them to be fairy tales, because the facts told can not be proven with recorded evidence? As a researcher I am a critic if I am unable to find the evidence to support what has been told to me.

Family history month has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my journey as genealogist and the research I have undertaken to write my blog, Ancestor Detective, and the history I’ve written for friends. There are always challenges when delving into the depths of records that the internet now provides to us, but at the end of those challenges finding that one gem of evidence can be the biggest reward. Uncovering the histories of families left unknown to many descendants and being able to provide those histories to people, is all the reward you need at the end of a long research process. History that until now, was a gap in the family who they are descended from their ancestors many years after they paved the way for the lives we lead now.


A story must be told or there’ll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving“…..J.R.R. Tolkien


References:

Statton, Jill & South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society, (1996), Biographical Index of South Australians 1836 – 1885, Marden, S. Aust : South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society.

Registration of Marriage, James Robinson to Hannah Slade, 29 May 1873, Wentworth, NSW. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sydney, NSW. Copy in possession of author.

Liverpool, England Catholic Baptisms, 1741-1919, ROBINSON, Jacobus, 20 August 1848. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Reference Number: 282MAR/1/3.

1851 England Census, Civil Parish: Manchester; County: Lancashire, Class: RG9; Piece: 2950; Folio: 28; Page: 43; GSU roll: 543054.

Mildura Cultivator, 17 October 1923, A Pioneers Death – The Late Mr J. A Robinson of Mildura.

Colonial Times, 31 December 1855, Wreck of the Schomberg, Hobart, Tas: 1828 – 1857.

Who lived here?…Part 3 – Herman Gerhard Meier…

In the next series of “Who lived here?“, Ancestor Detective explores the lives of residents in the small rural town of Violet Town who had owned a little cottage at Lot 11, Primrose Street, Violet Town. This journey started when the current owner of the cottage became intrigued how a German family came to be not only living in her cottage but also working in such a rural and remote community in northern Victoria.

Through the Certificate of Title for the property in the first part of this series began by looking into the life of John Kelly, the Traveller’s Rest Hotel publican, and wife Mary Jane Block who bought Lot 11 for fifteen pounds in 1882. At this time, it is likely that the Primrose property featured a small shanty made from bark and wood and it wasn’t until after the property was sold that the current cottage was built. John’s life in Violet Town centered around the ownership of his pub, which was popular amongst those travelling through the small town from Sydney to Melbourne. On 1 October 1884 John Kelly sold Lot 11 Primrose Street in Violet Town to Maria Tuckett.

Part 2 of this series introduces Maria Tuckett and husband, Alfred Curtis Tuckett, both business owners of boarding houses, a colonial wine shop, small shops and the owner of the Temperance Hotel. Alfred Curtis’s property at Marraweeney hosted the first inaugural horse race for Violet Town in 1887. Despite their business ownership, the Tuckett’s were also subject to court proceedings against them and a series of fires that burnt down several businesses and their luxury boarding house were they resided. Eventually the Tuckett’s sold their property and businesses and moved to Caulfield and following Alfred Curtis’s death, Maria moved to Perth were their sons lived.

In Part 3 of “Who lived here?“, Ancestor Detective introduces you to Hermann Gerhard Meyer who purchased Lot 11, Primrose Street, Violet Town on 19 April 1905 from Maria Tuckett. Unlike the previous owners of the cottage, Hermann, was not in the local newspapers for business ownership, court proceedings or the social pages. Regardless, Hermann, was successful, along with his father Johann Christian Meyer, within the Violet Town community where he resided with his wife and children until his death on 18 October 1936.


Meyer family portrait, 1907 – 1914

Johann Christian Meier (Meyer) (abt. 1813 – 1897) was born in Hanover, Germany and immigrated to London where he arrived on 21 May 1838. Anna Margaret Henrietta Knoops (abt. 1831 – 1913) was also born in Hanover, Germany and following her immigration to England, she met and married Johann on 17 September 1854 in Middlesex, England. Herman Gerhard Meier (Meyer) was the second son to Johann and Anna and was born on 3 March 1856 in London, England to Johann and Anna.

By 24 February 1861, the Meyer family are found in Fryers Creek near Bendigo where Anna gives birth to a daughter, Annie Rebecca Catherine Meyer. Anna would go on to have another five children who were all born in the area of Fryers Creek. Prior to moving to Violet Town, Johann is naturalised on 6 July 1871 where he is recorded as a gold miner, however no record can be found of Anna and her two oldest sons being naturalised.

Violet Town Parish Map, 1873

Violet Town is located in 174 kilometres north east of Melbourne at the base of the Strathbogie Ranges. The town was first surveyed in 1838 when on a stop over on is Australia Felix exploration, Major Thomas Mitchell camps on the banks of a creek he named Violet Creek, later becoming Honeysuckle Creek. While settlement was slow, once the gold mines became popular and Sydney Road became a thoroughfare between Melbourne and Sydney land started to sell and the town grew. In 1873, Johann leases land four miles west of Violet Town where he builds a homestead, known as “Springfield”, where the family farm sheep and cattle.


On 3 March 1897, Herman Gerhard Meier (Meyer) married Jean McKenzie in Violet Town. Jean McKenzie was the daughter of Davidson McKenzie and Elizabeth McIntosh, also from Violet Town. Just months later, on 27 July 1897, Hermann’s father, Johann dies. With his older brother, Johann, also deceased, Herman, a wood merchant, is left the property by his father in his final will and testament and continues running the family homestead until its sale on 24 July 1939, along with the sawmill who he owns and operates in town.

Herman Meyer, 1907 – 1914

On 19 April 1905, Herman purchases Lot 11, Primrose Street, Violet Town from Maria Tuckett which is described in Herman’s will and testament as a five room weather board house valued at £720 comprising of two roods, eight perches. As a saw miller it is likely that Herman made renovations of the cottage. Following his death, the property was bequeathed to Herman’s daughter, Jessie Helena Meyer, in his will and testament, she later sold the property to Albert and Dorothy Corp on 29 November 1957.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1905, Certificate of Title

In 1936, the Meyer family faced the death of both Jean and Herman just months apart, with Jean passing away on 10 July 1936 and Herman on 18 October 1936. Folklore often says that those truly in love will die within minutes, days or just months following the death of their spouse. We don’t know the circumstances of the death of Jean and Herman, but I would like to think that their love brought them back together because they could not bare to be without one another.


References:

London, England, Surrey Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932, MEIER, Johann Christian, 17 September 1854. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970, MEIER, Hermann Gerhard, 3 March 1856. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Victoria, Australia, Index of Naturalisation Certificates, 1851-1928, MEYER, Johann Christian, 6 July 1871, 572/9, VPRS 4396, Reel 3, Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Violet Town Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1949, Violet Town Centenary Celebrations, Matthews Publishing Company, Melbourne.

Parker, Darryl, n.d, What it was like then, Parker, Darryl.

Fairfax Media, Australia, Ancestry.com, Australia, Newspaper Vital Notices, 1831 – 2001, Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1873, Violet Township Map, Parish of Shadforth.

Goulburn Valley Stock and Property Journal, 19 July 1939, Advertisement, Victoria, p. 2.

Public Record Office Victoria; North Melbourne, Victoria; Victorian Wills, Probate and Administration Records 1841-1925; MEYER, Johann Christian.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1905, Certificate of Title Lot 11 Primrose Street, Violet Town, Melbourne.

Public Record Office Victoria; North Melbourne, Victoria; Victorian Wills, Probate and Administration Records 1841-1925; MEYER, Herman Christian.

Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1936.  MEYER, Herman Gerard. Australia, Death Index 1836 – 1988.

Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1936.  MEYER, Jean. Australia, Death Index 1836 – 1988.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1957, Certificate of Title Lot 11 Primrose Street, Violet Town, Melbourne.

A journey through my DNA…..

I have completed three Ancestry.com DNA tests, which involved spitting into a vial up to a line marked and adding a blue liquid to the saliva and then sending it off to Ancestry.com for testing. How hard can it be? The first two attempts returned a result of ‘failed’, meaning that the lab could not extract enough DNA to test. At this point, I was starting to think there was something wrong with me. On the third go, I tried to scrape my gums while making saliva and on Thursday my results came through, and just like receiving an A+ at school, I was super excited that I got a ‘pass’ and my DNA results were back.

My desire to test my DNA was mostly out of curiosity as an obsessed genealogist but I was hoping it would help me in breaking down a few of my genealogy brickwalls where parentage of some of my ancestors were unknown.

Based firstly on what I knew of my family and secondly, on what records of my ancestors I had found I was confident that my DNA would show that my ethnicity would be English, Scottish and Italian.

On my Mum’s side of the family, my Grandma was born to a Scottish Mother and an English Father. Records to date show that their ancestors were born to parents in these countries.

My Dad, is 100% Italian both his parents, my Nonno and Nonna, were both born in Northern Italy, in the small village of San Donato di Lamon, Belluno, Italy and as far as the family have told me and seem to know, all ancestors before them were likewise born in San Donato.

Despite it being a Thursday and I was at work, well technically at home where I have to work due to COVID-19, I dropped everything to log into Ancestry.com to look at my DNA results.

What was clearly my maternal DNA was no surprise, I was 50% English, Wales, Northeastern Europe, Scottish and Irish. However, looking at the remainder of my ethnicity had me somewhat confused as there was no estimate for Italy, according to my DNA I am not 50% Italian. The ethnicity showed that I was 26% French and 24% Germanic European.

You can imagine at this point, what was going through my brain! Maybe there was a postman out there who was half French and half German……..

To be continued.

Sarah Lo’vanberyl – A Pioneering Mother…..

As Australia moves to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May 2020, Ancestor Detective, writes about some of the Mother’s who feature in her family tree. Sarah Lo’vanberyl, an English migrant, is one such woman who gave birth to 11 children between 1844 – 1867. Left on her own, while her husband, William Slade, drove livestock, Sarah faced hardship, arson attacks on the family property, and the challenges faced by many colonists with large families and little income to support their families. However, through this adversity, Sarah showed her strength and resilience to raise a young family on her own and despite losing the family property to fire and having to sell up due to the financial strain, did raise a successful family whose children went on to be local farmers and parents of large families.


Sarah Lo’vanberyl was born in Chertsey, Surrey, England on 10 January 1825 the only daughter of John Lo’vanberyl (1800 – 1873), a chair maker, and Mary. Sarah was baptised on 11 February 1825 at St. Peter’s Church in Chertsey, Surrey. John was married three times and to confuse any genealogist, all were named Mary. Therefore, without a maiden name on any records to date, the exact name of John’s wife remains a mystery.

On 25 July 1839, John and Mary with daughter Sarah, aged 15 years, boarded the ship “Cleveland” in London, England and arrived in Port Adelaide, Australia on 15 December 1839. It was while waiting to board their ship to Australia that Sarah met her future husband, William Slade, who was boarding the ship “Rajasthan”.

Three years after the Lo’vanberyl’s settled in Little Adelaide, South Australia, Sarah married William Slade, a shepherd, on 25 August 1843 at the Church of Scotland in Pirie Street, Adelaide. A year later in Harrowgate, South Australia, Sarah gave birth to their first child, Mary on 7 November 1844. In Harrowgate, Sarah would go on to have four more children; William John (1846), Thomas (1848), Sarah (abt. 1850) and Hannah (ab. 1853).

In 1854 William purchased a land grant for 28 acres for 51 pounds (section 1795) in the parish of Kanmantoo, Harrowgate in the Adelaide Hills. Their first home was a small wattle and daub cottage built across the road from their section of land. It is here that Sarah would give birth to another six children; Jane (1855), Emma (1857), Friend Hedman Allgood (1859), George (1862), Harriet Matilda (abt. 1864) and Elizabeth (1867).

Life as a shepherd’s wife was not easy for Sarah who was left to raise their large family alone while William, and eventually the older sons, would be away for days at a time droving their sheep and cattle in search of feed. It is while he and the boys were away that the family property was targeted by arsonists on a Tuesday evening. Initially fires were started in the grass and stubble south of their barn and stables, and a second in the north west of the farm. Recent rain meant that the fires did not burn freely and fortunately Sarah and her daughter, Sarah, who were home alone were able to beat the fires out with their feet.

Adelaide Observer, 14 March 1868, p. 5

On the following evening the arsonists struck again, this time their attempts to light damaging fires succeeded, with the fire engulfing the barn, stable and pigsty. This would not be the end of these attacks upon the Slade family, when on 8 March 1868, arsonists lit a fire in the thatch roof of the family home. The noises of the fire alerted the family, however their attempts to put the fire out were unsuccessful. While they were able to salvage some of the homes effects, before help arrived, the home was destroyed, leaving the large young family without shelter, while William was away droving in the Murray South.

“Mr William Slade, was one of the oldest settlers in the neighborhood, and a man who is and has been so well liked that no one would have suspected that he had an enemy in the locality; but it seems otherwise.” (Adelaide Observer, 14 March 1868)

Eventually a larger home was built on their section of land opposite the burnt ruins of their cottage and farm outbuildings. However, the large family soon found the Slade family in financial trouble and they would sell their property and relocate to section 229, Hundred of Monarto.

Adelaide Observer, 20 September 1873, p. 8

On 15 December 1880 in Wentworth, William died, aged 65 years old, from rheumatic fever. One day later William was buried in Wentworth. His grave is a reflection of the hardship that the family were enduring, having been buried in a unmarked pauper grave. Following her husbands death, Sarah, would move to Murray Bridge and reside with her son and later her daughter, up until her death 23 years after the death of William.

Headstone of Sarah Slade (nee Lo’vanberyl), Murray Bridge Cemetary

The recognition of William and Sarah’s, like many other settlers of the early 1850’s, in South Australia was done so when Emanuel Solomon held a Old Colonists Banquet on the 35th anniversary of the founding of the colony of South Australia. Each member was displayed in portraits in at least three mosaics. Initially the mosaics would only feature the male colonists, but when the females complained about not being invited to the banquet and were told it was for ‘the Male Sex’!, a companion mosaic of women was created, partly in consolation.

State Library of South Australia, The Old Colonists Banquet, 1872.

The family would also be recognised in the Biographical Index of South Australia that commemorates those living in South Australia during the first 50 years of colonisation (1836 – 1885).

Slade, William – Biographical Index of South Australia (1836 – 1888)

Despite falling on hard times, as an early colonist in Adelaide, both Sarah and William were well respected in their rural communities of Harrowgate, Nairne and Monarto. Their many children went on to be successful farmers and they to would go on to have large families.


References:

Surrey, England, Surrey Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1917, LOVENBURY, Sarah, 11 February 1825. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Cummings, Diane, (2010 – 2017), Cleveland 1839 – Passenger List, accessed 2 May 2020 at https://bound-for-south-australia.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/1839Cleveland.htm.

Cummings, Diane, (2010 – 2017), Rajasthan 1840 – Passenger List, accessed 2 May 2020 at https://bound-for-south-australia.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/1840Rajasthan-Letters.htm

Cummings, Diane, (2010 – 2017), Rajasthan 1840 – Passenger List, accessed 2 May 2020 at https://bound-for-south-australia.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/1840Rajasthan-list.htm

Marriage Index, Australia (1788 – 1950). 28 August 1843. LOVENBERYL, Sarah and SLADE, William. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Adelaide Observer (SA: 1843 – 1904), 14 March 1868, Country Letters, Harrowgate, March 9, p. 5.

Adelaide Observer (SA: 1843 – 1904), 7 March 1868, Country Letters, Harrowgate, March 3, p. 5.

Adelaide Observer (SA: 1843 – 1904), 20 September 1873, Notices, p. 8.

Death Index, Australia. 1880. SLADE, William. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985.

Registration of Death, William Slade, 15 December 1880, Wentworth, NSW. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Sydney, NSW. Copy in possession of author.

Find A Grave,(4 April 1988), William Slade, accessed 3 May 2020 at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/190159009/william-slade.

Find A Grave,(4 April 1988), Sarah Slade, accessed 3 May 2020 at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/190158239/sarah-slade.

Gould Genealogy & History, (2017), Meet the Old Colonists: South Australia’s Pioneers, accessed on 2 May, 2020 at https://www.gouldgenealogy.com/2017/05/meet-old-colonists-south-australias-pioneers/ .

State Library of South Australia, (1873), The Old Colonists Banquet Group, accessed 2 May 2020 at https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+47769

Gould Genealogy & History, (2007), Biographical Index of South Australia (1836 – 1888), accessed on 2 May 2020 at https://www.gould.com.au/biographical-index-of-south-australians-1836-1885/au5044/.

Genealogy Brickwalls – Part 1: The Cramp – Freer Family

As a genealogist we all have that one elusive ancestor that along the journey of finding their ancestors the record trail runs dry and we are faced with a genealogy brickwall. Where you can’t pin point the parents, sometimes the siblings, and it appears that they landed on earth by aliens and the lives before them are just a mystery.

With ever increasing vital records and other datasets becoming available, after years of researching, wondering and frustration, you can come across that record that all of sudden puts a dint in that brickwall. We all just need to be patient, have a well documented research plan, log and paper trail of both primary and secondary (if you can find them) records to find that mystery ancestor that has been bugging you for years.

My ancestors unlike other families have presented me with several brickwalls, where it appears that they just mysteriously came to be somewhere with no record trail of where they had been prior to that first vital record being found.

Through the writing of my family history it has allowed me to review records I do have with fresh eyes. By reviewing these I have found it helps to uncover that one little clue that has the potential to break down a brickwall or at least rattle a few bricks loose.

William Cramp and Miriam Freer (Watts) were my third great grandparents in my grandfather’s maternal line. Their lives turned up not just a brickwall related to the parentage of William but also presented a multitude of inconsistencies, challenges and frustrations in the records I discovered for the couple.

In this blog, Ancestor Detective (me), will take you through the lives of William and Miriam and discusses both the challenges and how I overcome these challenges and hopefully smash down that elusive brickwall of William’s parentage. This blog will start with the records found, will present the challenges and issues with the records and then will go on to discuss how further records uncovered started to bring down that big brickwall.


I was researching my second great grandfather, Edward John Cramp, when his parentage started to appear as hints in my Ancestry.com family tree. At the time I had learnt from experience not to take hints on Ancestry on face value. Hints from other members trees were often dates of vital events (birth, deaths or marriage) occurring with no source attached and hints could often be for someone of the same name but not your ancestor.

Edward was born on the 16 January 1854 in Upper Sturt, Adelaide, South Australia William Cramp and Miriam Watts. What was rare about this record of birth was the index had recorded the actual date of birth and not just the year which was usually the case.

Australia, Birth Index, 1788 – 1922

Initially my research for the vital records of William pointed me towards a baptism of a William Cramp on 29 June 1813 in Quorndon, Leicester, England. His parents were recorded as Henry Cramp and Elizabeth (no surname provided). From other family trees on Ancestry, this seemed to be the William I was looking for.

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538 – 1975

I started building Wiliam’s family tree based on the premise that his parents were Henry Cramp and Elizabeth Fox. I found that they had quiet a few children and this was where I started to wonder if this could be my ancestor. I came to this conclusion when reviewing their dates of birth and what I reaslised was that it was impossible for William to be born into this family in 1813, with another record for their son, Charles, showing his date of birth just months after William’s birth, which unless they were twins or their mother had some kind of miracle pregnancy, it made it impossible for them both to be the sons of Henry and Elizabeth.

With many William Cramp’s in England at the time, I started researching Miriam Watts and like her husband I started to face some challenges. Based on the age of her children I through she would have been born in about 1826 but finding a vital record to confirm this was not an easy process.

I was finding it difficult to locate a registration of marriage in England for William and Miriam and with no records apart from the birth of Edward John, I refocused my research to Miriam before their marriage. I started with the England and Wales census, and it was here that I found a Miriam Watts, aged 14 years, in the 1841 census living with a John Watts, his wife Ann and a son, Pharash (record corrected to Pharoah), aged 5 years. Despite John and Ann seeming too old, at age 55 years, to be the parents of Miriam and Pharash, I assumed that this was her family.

1841 England Census, Civil Parish of Barrow Upon Soar

The next census record I found for Miriam was in 1851 where she is married to William and both recorded as being 24 years old. Based on the 1841 census, 24 years would have been correct for Miriam, assuming that the enumerator had not rounded up or rounded down her age by five years, which was common practice. All of a sudden though, William was now also 24, despite the baptism record showing he was born in 1813, meaning that his age should have been 38 years old.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-8.png

Was William Cramp lying about his age so he could marry Miriam with her father’s consent? What did John and Ann think of Miriam marrying a man nearly 15 years her senior?

I wondered what Miriam’s parents thought of her marrying someone who was so much older, but recognised that during the 1800’s marriage was not always based on love but a father’s consent and in some cases, certainly who he chose his daughter to marry.

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837 – 1915

With the census in 1851 recording Miriam’s place of birth as Castle Donington, I thought this was a good place to start to find her birth record. I searched using the birth year 1826 and location Castle Donington. Several Miriam Watts were uncovered in Ancestry, but there was not match based on what I knew so far. The same results appeared in FamilySearch and Find My Past.

The other record I had was the record in the 1841 census for Pharash (Pharoah) then aged five years. I thought if I could find a record of his baptism then it might be easier to find Miriam’s, assuming they were baptised in the same church. This didn’t lead to anything helpful apart from additional census records for his household.

Why on earth was it so hard to find a baptism record for both Miriam and Parash (Pharoah)?

I had learnt from researching my second great grandfather, James Robinson, whose birth/baptism and family was also a mystery for some time. I found it useful researching James that researching from their date of death, if known, and working backwards often uncovered clues of their early life. I started this approach with both William and Miriam.

From the birth index of their son, I knew that by 1854 William and Miriam were living in South Australia. This record linked me to another for William, which was of his death in Adelaide, South Australia on 19 January 1878. The record told me he was aged 56 years old at the time of his death, with his year of birth recorded as ‘abt. 1822’. This was another year of birth for William, in addition to the baptism record saying 1813 and the 1851 census recording it as 1826. It was becoming more apparent that William may not have known his actual date of birth at all or he wasn’t a very good lier!

Australia, Death Index, 1787 – 1985

I ordered William’s registration of death, surely this would provide more details. I knew that most records of death showed birth details and the names of parents. I was soon to learn that assuming I would uncover where William was born and to whom, was not going to be as easy as reading his death certificate.

South Australian District Death Certificate Transcript

Apart from learning the William Cramp died in the Adelaide Destitute Asylum from marasmus, a severe form of malnutrition, I learnt nothing else. Details I was hoping for, like birthplace, were not recorded! It appeared I had reached another dead end in finding out more of William’s life before marrying Miriam.

What did family trees created by others listing Edward John Cramp provide any additional clues of William and Miriam?

As much as I had learnt long ago not to take other family trees as gospel, I thought I would start reviewing those trees that had William and Miriam in common.

Initially I noticed two things; other trees were adding ‘Freer’ to Miriam’s surname, William had the middle name of ‘Henry’ and they had two additional sons, Charles and Frederick. New clues for me to explore! The middle name of Henry made sense if the birth record I had found was correct and his father was in fact Henry Cramp but the name Freer was a mystery so far.

I started messaging a few members of Ancestry.com who had William or Miriam in their family trees hoping they could provide more information to the endless list of questions I had on the couple.

One member messaged me explaining her relationship to William and Miriam and we emailed back and forth discussing the conflicting information to try and find more answers. Between us we still had so many unanswered questions and it appeared other members were unable to help……

What was the relationship of ‘Freer’ to Miriam? All records to date showed her name as Miriam Watts……

I began researching the connection to ‘Freer’ and Miriam and discovered that a lot of family tress had named Miriam as Miriam Watts (Freer) or Miriam Watts Freer. I ran a search on Ancestry.com using the name Miriam Freer and came across a baptism record from 1836 in Quorndon, Leicester recording this Miriam’s father as Frederich Freer and her mother Eliza (no surname recorded).

I drew two conclusions from this record; if this was my Miriam her parents weren’t John and Ann Watts and this made Miriam considerably younger than William, a lot younger than the first records indicated if William was born in 1813. It would mean that Miriam would have been 10 years old when she married. Anything was possible in the 1800’s when it came to marriage but this seemed unlikely.

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538 – 1975

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch could not help with any other information on this Miriam’s baptism in 1836. However, I discovered more when I went to Find My Past and found the baptism transcription with the same baptism date and also showed no record for her year of birth. I often wonder how the same record can have so many different details between databases holding these records!

England Births & Baptisms 1538 – 1975

In the same Find My Past search I found another record for this Miriam’s baptism, not a transcription but the original baptism record from the Anglican church in Quorndon, Leicestershire. One of the first things I noticed was there were several children baptised in January and February for the Watts family, this included Parash (Phoroah). Further down the page though was a baptism for a Miriam Freer on 14 February 1836 the daughter of Frederick and Eliza Freer in Quorndon. It also showed that the parents of Pharash was not John and Ann either, but recorded as the son of Cleophas and Hannah Watts in Quorndon.

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

Was Miriam the daughter of Frederick and Eliza Freer but living with John and Ann Watts? and if this is the case, why was she and Pharash living with John and Ann Watts?

While one record of the Leicestershire Baptism record transcription recorded this Miriam’s birth year as 1836, this was not possible as the 1841 census recorded Miriam Watts as aged 14 years old, meaning she was likely born in 1826. Further searches did not turn up any records of birth for Miriam to confirm who her parents were. To verify that Miriam Freer was my Miriam Watts, I required another vital record to confirm that her parents were Frederick and Eliza.

I continued searching in Find My Past for another vital record for Miriam and discovered not just the transcript of a Leicestershire Marriage but also the original church record in the Church of Quorndon. The marriage was between William Cramp and Miriam Watts on 15 December 1846. The record showed that at the time of her marriage she was a ‘minor’, meaning she was under 21 years of age. The couple’s father’s were recorded as Frederick Freer and Edward Cramp.

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

This second vital record confirmed for me that Miriam was the daughter of Frederick Freer and not John Watts. It also showed that if Miriam was a minor at the time of her marriage then she would have been born between 1825 and 1828. This record also provided the first clue as to who William’s parents might be, showing that William’s father was Edward Cramp.


In part 2 of the breaking down the brickwall into William Cramp, Ancestor Detective, researches the new clue that recorded William’s father to be one Edward Cramp. Ancestor Detective will discuss how she eliminates several Edward Cramp’s and how she ends up identifying William’s parents and family. Every brickwall can be broken down, no matter how slowly, it just takes patience, continued review of records and looking at ways to verify or discount new records.


References:

Birth Index. Australia. Victoria. 16 January 1854.  CRAMP, Edward. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, CRAMP, William, 29 Jun 1813. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

1841 England Census, Civil Parish: Barrow Upon Soar; County: Leicestershire; Enumeration District: 4; Class: HO107; Piece: 594; Book: 8; Folio: 6; Page: 7; Line: 3; GSU roll: 438744

1851 England Census, Civil Parish: Quorndon; County: Leicestershire, Class: HO107; Piece: 2087; Folio: 230; Page: 19; GSU roll: 87714-87715

FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index 837-1915, Miriam Watts and William Cramp, 1846, 1 UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.

Death Index, Australia, South Australia. 19 Jan 1978. CRAMP, William. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985.

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, Miriam Freer. Find My Past.

Record Transcription, England, Births & Baptisms, 1538 – 1975, Miriam Freer,

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, Leicestershire Baptisms, 1836, Miriam Freer. Find My Past.

Record Transcription. Leicestershire Marriages, Miriam Watts and William Cramp, 1846. Find My Past.

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, Leicestershire Marriages, 1836, Miriam Watts and William Cramp. Find My Past.

Ancestor Detective receives such wonderful feedback, here is the feedback we received from Molly of Molly’s Canopy about out manuscript on Harold Downes an English Migrant who settled in Mildura, Victoria.