Sylvania – a suburb in the Sutherland Shire, South of Sydney – in 1954 was, to a child with any perception, an idyllic place to grow up. Betty and Joe, my parents, had bought a huge half-acre property for £100 around the start of 1950.
Before proceeding with the building of the house – said building to be done mainly by my father – they built a garage. It would eventually house a car, but for beginnings was to house them, and the newly born me.
I was, from the time if my birth, fairly good – at leadt as good as a baby can be. I spent most of my dats asleep, making appearances when visitors arrived by climbing up on my cot and perring at guests through the curtain that divided the garage in half.
Mum was a Presbyterian, though denying any belief, and dad was, by hus own reckoning, a lapsed Catholic. This could have caused consternation as to which religion I was to be raised in, especially with the Catholic side of the family still being fairly devout.
But dad’s parents were pretty well out of the picture by this stage either having died, or been consigned to a sanatorium, so there was only mum’s family left to be appeased.
To save trouble, I was Christened in the Presbyterian church,min Gmarion Street, Leichhardt, though that was not to be the church I followed or worshipped in until 12 years of age.
The Sylvania milk run was owned and operated by Eadie and Burt Samways, one of the areas more affluent families, who resided directly across the road from our slowly evolving home.
The Samways lived in a 2-storey abode, with stables for the horses that drew the milk wagons at the rear, and a large semi-circular drive that centred on their front door.
The front gardens were full of Gardenia’s, and one of my most eagerly recalled recollections of growing up in Sylvania was the perfume of Gardenia’s and Jasmine filling the air in the spring, and summer heat.
The dirt road threw dust up into the air as the occasional car sped along it, and it was the duty if my beloved and devoted dog Trixie to ensure my safe crossing of it, to visit the Samways, who were my Godparents.
Sylvania was home to 2 churches. There was the obligatory Catholic – though if anyone living here was a member of it, they never admitted to it – and the Sylvanua Heights Congregational Church, of which the Samways were highly regarded members. It is to their honoured memory that they were not pious biddies, just honest, hard working people who believed you were judged by example, not by belief.
Winters in this idyllic suburb were crisp and cold. The frost underfoot leoft playoful footprints as of ghosts – created by walking backwards in ones own footprints, so that they seemed to disappear into mowhere – and the open fireplace in the lounge room was warm and welcoming, inviting one to cook toast or heat marshmallows in its glow.
It was an invitation to family love and warmth that was to only last a short while. The wireless (valve radio) was the centre of our household, until television took its rapacious hold in the early 60s. It sprouted serials in the morning to get mum’s day started, and a deranged sparrow – Sammy, by name – and a Jiminy-styled grasshopper – called Gerald – saw me off to school in the mornings.
Summers were hot, and I roamed the streets shoeless and shirtless, being tanned the colour if dark brown leather. Trixie roamed the streets with me, and to see either one of us was to see both, as we were, from the very geginning, inseparable.
The local store, or general grocer as they would now be called, was a recyclers paradise of smells and tastes. Armed with the families shopping list, and a commodious trolley, I would venture there to shop for mum. Old jars were returned, to be refilled with peanut butter, Vegemite, honey or jam. Egg cartons were refilled, and basic commodities such as sugar, flour and tea were weighed out into plastic bags. Cheese and cold meats were cut to order, and for a mere sixpence a young boy could buy a bag of sweets that could put a smile on the face of any dentist.
Saturday was baking day, and I, along with all the other young rogues in the street, went from house to house, tasting each cooks soecialties. Banana pikelets, pumpkin scones, iced cup cakes, Cornflake and Anzac biscuits, lamingtons, jam tarts, vanilla slices, neenish tarts and butterfly cakes were all sampled along the way. On this day, mum would bake pies for the coming week, sometimes steak pue if meat was affordable, but always apple, or apple and rhubarb to go with the Sunday roast. Mum’s father loved coconut tarts, so uf a visit to nana and pop was on the cards, a batch of yhese could be smelt baking in the oven.
Of dad’s family, very little was known. The family roots would eventually be traced back to the 1500s, hrough Yorkshire and Lancashire (mum’s family through Cornwall), with my Great Grandfather Frederick William Pickhills, my Great Grand Uncle George Rickinson Swan, and my Great Grand Aunt Clara all arriving here from the 1860s on.
Life in “Chiswick”, in Sydney’s northern suburb of Chatswood, was strict, and dad, though opposed to war, took advantage of the call-up to escape the family squabbles and bitching. He fought in Borneo and New Guinea, though in the mechanic’s corp, not as a soldier.He earned himself the two service medals, and managed to depart from the army with an Honourable Dischsrge. He left the world of war behind him, attended TAFE (then known as a trchnical vollege, or atech, for short) to become a carpenter, then proceeded to spend most if the restIf his life as a grease monkey.
Mum’s family were later traced, with no thanks to her, as she had no intetest in her families roots. William and Mary Barron lived in the inner-city suburb of Leichhardt. Theybwere a kindly, grandparenty couple, who doted on their grandchildren. Pop’s mother – Emily Rule – was still alive when I was a kid, and my recollections of her are of standing by her bed in a nursing home, and receiving handfuls of tiny shells, pennies and half-pennies from this old, wrinkled woman. The shells were used to add weight to the milk jug covers she crocheted, and were stitched around the edges of the completed items. Mum had ine sister – Gwen, and two brothers – Les, and Gordon.
Where my parents met, and the general course of their romance that eventually led to marriage is a story that was never related to me. The only photographs of them show a happy, smiling couple either in the backyard of mum’s home, or on the steps of the church where they were wed. If they were ever in love, which it is supposed they were, it was never particularly obvious to me as I grew up.
Affection was not easily given by either parent, and the words “I love you!” Cannot be recollected at all. However, it was a reasonably happy childhood, spent in a happy place. That problems existed was vaguely unsettling to me, for as little as mum and dad realised it, they had given life to a sensitive, intelligent child. Being aware of the workd around me, and geing aware of my capabilities, and the potential life held for me was no eady matter. Neither parent encouraged the artistic side of my nature, that was evident from a very young age. In fact, dad seemed in fear of it! This fear and chaining of his own hature wss to have far-reaching effects on my life ss I developed.
My grandparents owned what was referred to as “the weekender”, at Mortisett, on Lake Macquarie. It was in this quiet,nremote retreat that I found the most happiness, and a side to my nature that was to have a blossoming later in my life. The old weatherboard house had no running water, no electricity or gas, no sewerage. For a child growing up with such modern conveniences always to hand, this was a world of wonder. Water was collected in a huge, corrugated iron rainwater tank, with a layer of kerosene floating on its surface to prevent an explosion of mosquito’s. Lighting came from methylated spirit hurricane lamps, the refrigerator ran on kerosene, and cooking was done on a huge cast-iron fuel stove,mornon a Primus. The stove never went out, and if you wished to gathe, water was boiled in a huge copper vat in the backyard, and carted inside to fill the bath. Bathing was in order of age, from oldest to youngest. The toilet was outdoors, at the end of a fairly long path. You had to take a lantern with you at night, and ieep an eye out for red-back spiders. Simpler nightly ablutions were attended to by using a chamber-pot, kept under the bed.
Dad and pop would go out fishing in the early hours of the morning, and often returned with catches if flathead, bream or leatherjacket, lobsters, mud crabs or prawns. Nights were spent around the lino-clad kitchen table, playing endless games of dominies or cards, and swatting mosquitoes. These were Elysian days, the memories of them always returning yo me when I was in need of a happy childhood memory.
As I’ve noted before, it is difficult to piece together the everyday lives of people from 150 years ago, using a disjointed set of records that covers just sporadic moments in their lives. And so it is with my Great Great Grandparents – Rickinson Pickhills and Elizabeth Appleyard – though what we do have provides an interesting, insightful, and poignant story. The question that I asked myself as I collated the records and miscellany of their lives is – did Elizabeth realise just what was ahead for her when she married Rickinson?
Rickinson was born around November 8, 1811 at Bradford, in Yorkshire, and Christened on the 8th of November in St Peter’s Cathedral in Bradford, inheriting his mother’s maiden name as a Chritian name – something I am eternally thankful for, as it makes name searches easy!. His parents, Joseph Pickhills & Clara (Clarissa) Rickinson – his mother was previously married to a John Brown, with no issue – and his granmother (Margaret Moorsom) and grabddather (Roger Rickinson) were from well-established, and highly respected families from the Robin Hood’s Bay/Whitby/Fylingdales area of Yorkshire. He had one brother (Seth (1808-1859)), and one sister (Priscilla (1804-1873)). Apart from Rickinson, they were not prolific reproducers, with Seth having only one son, Alfred (who was to become a Johnsonian Baptist Minister – see his story here https://timalderman.com/2012/01/30/the-reverend-alfred-pickles/ – in Rochdale, Lancashire and Towcester in Northumberland), and Priscilla never marrying, but becoming companion and housekeeper to her nephew for many years until he married. Rickinson’s age also varies in some census: in the 1841 he is noted as 27: In the 1851 as 39; 1861 is difficult yo read but could be 50.
Elizabeth Appleyard is a harder story to follow, and research is ongoing. We have what we think is her baptism record, on 22 May, 1825 at Farnley-by-Leeds in Yorkshire, with William Appleyard and Sarah named as her parents. However, gauging from census records, we are deducing that she was born around 1822, and baptised much later – a common practise back then. We know she was underage when she married Rickinson. We certainly know her father’s name was William, from her marriage certificate, but on no actual documents is her mother named. At the moment, we are thinking it may possibly be Sarah Lamby, as the dates and places fit. The census records tell us that she was born in Bradford (1851census), though in the 1861 she gives it as Clayton. There appears to be no census records for her under the name Elizabeth Pickhills in the 1871/81/91 census, though we know she used that name up until her death. The 1901 census lists her birth town also as Clayton. As to age, it is noted as 19 in the 1841 census; on the 1851 as 28; 1861 as 37. We know that in the 1841 census (taken on 7 June) the following instruction was given “The census takers were instructed to give the exact ages of children but to round the ages of those older than 15 down to a lower multiple of 5. For example, a 59-year-old person would be listed as 55. Not all census enumerators followed these instructions. Some recorded the exact age; some even rounded the age up to the nearest multiple of 5”, though seeing as Rickinson is stated as 27, it would seem that rounding down wasn’t done on this form.
Rickinson and Elizabeth married on the 29 January, 1840 at St James Church, Halifax.
There are a couple of things of note on the marriage certificate – Rickinson is at full-age, but Elizabeth is a minor; his rank or profession is listed as a “Gentleman” from Halifax, and she is listed as being from Northowram; Joseph Pickhills (Rickinson’s father) is also listed as a “Gentleman”, while William Appleyard is listed as being a “Worsted Stuff Manufacturer”. This was considered a good profession (it is possible that William conducted his business from Old Dolphin), and really seems to indicate a marriage between two reasonably well-off families, though otherwise would seem to be the case. There are three very interesting events that indicate that all may not have been as it seems!
In 1939, their first son, George Rickinson Swan, was born (he emigrated to Australia in the 1858, and died in Bourke, New South wales, on August 13, 1912 from Senile Decay (Dementia or Alzheimer’s), and was buried in Bourke the following day. Unfortunately, all the grave markers in Bourke cemetery were destroyed in a severe bushfire, so their actual burial plots are unknown.. He lived an amazingly interesting life there, and his story is yet to be written). He married Ellen Fanning on February 18, 1862 at Port Eliot in South Australia. He was a steamer captain on the Darling River, resided in Goolwa, South Austealia, and Bourke New South Wales. They had no children.
By the time they married in January 1840, Elizabeth was 2 months pregnant with yheir second son, William Moorsom (given his second name from his great grandmother, Margaret Moorsom, he joined the Royal Navy at 14, and dird from Cholera in Bengal, India in 1866. His story is here https://timalderman.com/2016/06/26/henry-moorsom-pickhills/). Whether this caused any scandal or not, we will never know. The third interesting event for 1840 was that Rickinson declared insolvency on September 11, 1840. For what reasons, we do not know. It would appear that financial difficulties started early on in their married life.
By the time of the 1841 census, they are listed as living in the district of Fold, and George and Henry are listed with them. Rickinson appears to be given the profession of “agricultural labourer”. Also, note that in this census, the family name is spelt as “Pickles”.
We can see from all the following records that the family moved around – a lot! One assumes it was for work purposes, though it is possible that Rickinson was just an unreliable employee.
Catherine was born on January 13, 1842 in Halifax (she married Jurgen Nickolas Andreas Knoop (1840-1900) on February 16, 1864 in West Derby, Lancashire. They had one daughter, Clara Priscilla Marie (1869-1871). Catherine’s death date is unknown at this time).
Jane was born on January 1, 1844 in Northowram. She died on August 6, 1844 in Northowram from “Disease of the Liver”. Present at her death in Northowram village is John Appleyard. It is still to be ascertained if this is Elizabeth’s brother, or an uncle.
Edward was born on November 1, 1845 in Halifax. He died on April 30, 1846 in Halifax of “Pneumonia, 7 days certified”. Rickinson is listed as an “Attorney’s Clerk”, and was in attendance at the death.
On the evening of November 5, 1846 a James Greenwood broke into the “lonely house in the neighbourhood of Halifax”, belonging to Rickinson & Eluzabeth, in the absence of the family, and stole 2 pistols, 3 dresses, and other property. He was charged, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to 18 months hard labour.
Charles Edward was born in 1847, in Halifax. He died on February 15, 1869 on the Murray River, Victoria, Australia. He was visiting his brothers George Rickinson Swan, and Frederick William, when he fell overboard from the steamer “Moira”, at The Devil’s Elbow on the Murray River, and drowned. He was buried at Lake Victoria, Victoria. I am still attempting to ascertain his actual burial place.
In 1848, Rickinson again declared insolvency in Halifax. The reasons why we will,possibly never know.
Frederick William was born in 1849, in Bradford. He died on April 15, 1850 in Bradford from “Diarrhea 6 Days certified”. Rickinson was in attendance at Bridge St, Bradford, and is an Attorney’s Clerk.
This brings us to the 1851 census, held on March 30, and has been updated to include more information than the 1841. In 1851, they lived at 12 Duckworth Lane, Manningham, Bradford. Rickinson is a Solicitor’s Managing Clerk, having previously been an Articled Clerk (this is noted on the census form). Along with Elizabeth, George (11), Henry Moorsom (10), Catherine (9), and Charles Edward (4) are listed.
Priscilla (named after her aunt) was born on January 4, 1852 at Thornton. She was married twice, to William Wallace Pratt on September 20, 1869 at Liverpool, in Lancashire. They had no children. It is assumed William died around 1872/73, and she them married William Frederick Stafford (1840-) on February 20, 1873 at Kirkdale in Lancashire. They went on to have 8 children, born in Cheshire, Ireland and Scotland. We do not currently have a death date for her, though we assume in Scotland. It is interesting to note that they named their first child – a girl – Clara Priscilla Marie (a family tilt to her Great grandmother, and great grand aunt), which was the same name her sister Catherine had given to her daughter, who only lived for 18-odd months. I wonder if her sister was still alive, and the daughter was named as a tribute to her lost daughter, or as a tribute because her sister had died?
Frederick William (MY GREAT GRANDFATHER) was born on February 28, 1855 in Everton. He was Christened 30 August 1862 at St Nicholas parish, Liverpool, Lancashire. He emigrated to Australia, and arrived in Sydney in 1880. He married Ellen McConnell (1854-1935) in Sydney on February 23, 1866 before moving to Bourke, New South Wales. He was a steamer captain, and they had 3 children – George Rickinson, Elizabeth Barwon (middle name from the Barwon River, which ran near Bourke) and my GRANDFATHER Frederick George (1891-1945) – all born in Boyrke. He died on September 13, 1891 at Newtown (Royal Prince Henry Hospital) from chronic Brights Disease (kidney nephritis) and Ascites (accumulation of liquid in the abdominal cavity), and spent 10 days in hospital. He was buried in Rookwood cemetery (Anglican section) on September 16, 1891. It should be noted that the two brothers wives – Ellen Fanning, and Ellen McConnell brought some Irish blood into the family.
Clara was born on April 4, 1857 in Liscard, Cheshire. She emigrated to Australia with her mother in 1871, and ended up in Goolwa, in South Australia, where her brother George resided, as also was her mother, Elizabeth – more on this further on. They returned to Launceston, had one daughter, Hilda Dulcie Elizabeth (1891-1941), and she died in Launceston on July 7, 1921. The newspapers give her age as 56, though she was, in fact, 64.
Walter was born on May 16, 1859 in Everton, Lancashire. He died on November 6, 1862 in Liverpool, Lancashire from Diptheria. He is buried in Toxteth Park cemetery – possibly with his father.
The 1861 census was held on April 7. They lived in Parkfield Road, Toxteth Park, West Derby, Lancashire. Also present were Elizabeth (37), Catherine (19), Charles (14), Priscilla (9), Frederick William (6), Clara (4), and Walter (1). Rickinson is a Solicitor’s General Clerk; Catherine is a Cigar Maker; Charles, Priscilla, Frederick William are Scholars.
Mary was born on August 16, 1861 in West Derby, Lancashire. She died on February 17, 1863 in Liverpool, Lancashire, from “Dentition Gum Disease Certified”. Henry Moorsom was present at her death. He could possibly have been on shore leave.
Rickinson died on May 12, 1862 at Toxteth Park, Lancashire. His obituary read “On the 12th instant, of disease of the heart at his office, 30 Castle St, aged 41 years, Mr Rickinson Pickhills”. According to his death certificate, his son Charles Edward was present at his death. He was buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery.
There is a possibility that Elizabeth arrived in Australia in 1871, on the “Orient”. There is a record of a KG Pickhills and daughter arriving in Sydney on the 4th January that year. So, time for a “possible scenario”! The newspapers would have printed the passenger list from a hand-written document, so mistakes are inevitable. We know Elizabeth came out here around this time, and with Clara, who would have been 14 at this time, her only surviving child at home, it is more than likely – and with 2 son’s here already – that they emigrated together. There us no independent emigration record for Clara. They would have made their way to Goolwa, where George had a home. We have records – to follow – that definitely place Elizabeth there in 1876. We know that Clara married William Francis Bomford there in 1889 – thus it is possible she met him there, and moved to Launceston after their marriage. The marriage announcement also states that the wedding was held “in the residence of the bride”, so Clara was obviously in Goolwa at that time. At this stage, I am accepting the emigration record on the “Orient” as their arrival here. PS Have just discovered a “Thank You” letter to the Captain of the “Orient”, regarding their appreciation to the ship’s doctor for his kindness and care on what appears to be a rough voyage, and published in December 1870. Two of the signatrees are Clara & Elizabeth Pickhills. My assumption was right.
The second actual record we have of her here is in 1876 – and it’s in the form of a police warrant in Goolwa, South Australia. On June 21, 1876, the following motice appeared in the South Australian Police Gazette “A warrant has been issued at Yankalilla for the apprehension of Elizabeth Pickhills, a widow, and mother of Captain Pickills, of the Goolwa, for larceny of 2lbs. of butter from Messrs. Smith & Swan, sheep farmers, Bullapabaringa. Offender is said to be living at Mr. Luffin’s, Goolwa.” . Why she would feel the need to sreal 2lb of butter is anybodies guess, and despite knowing that she is to end up with Alzheimer’s, I feel it is a bit early at this stage for that to be affecting her life or mental condition.
The following then appears in the Police Gazette to say that the original charge had been withdrawn.
We then hear nothing of Elizabeth for quite a few years. I dare say that as time went on, her mental condition would have begun to deteriorate at an ever alarming speed Then, on April 28, 1889 at Goolwa, the following incident occured: A writ appears with the Goolwa police dated 2nd May, 1889 against Elizabeth Pickhills . She appeared before a Justice of the Peace, Thomas Goode, charged with that on the 28th April 1889 she did “unlawfully use abusive words in a certain public place, to wit The Parade in North Goolwa, with intent to invoke a breach of the peace”. She had to pay a fine of £2. This incident received a mention in “A Land Abounding – A History of the Port Elliot and Goolwa Region, South Australia” by Rob Linn, chapter 5. Being a Yorkshire lass, I dare say the language would have been very colourful! November 1892 finds Elizabeth onboard the “Masilia” emigrating back to England. As with so many aspects of her life, assumptions have to be drawn about the reasons behind her actions. I feel there are two scenario’s that could have prompted her return to England: (A) She just didn’t like it here, being a bit more casual, and not as “modern” as England, with a totally different climate, the tyranny of distance, the remoteness, or (B) her dementia was becoming a problem for her son’s, and they were finding her just too difficult to handle. With Clara in Tasmania, Frederick William and Rickinson living in Bourke, Goolwa must have become a very lonely place. Anyway, whatever the reason, it was back to England she went, but not to Yorkshire nor Lancashire.
The Masilia arrived in London on November 22, 1892. We hear no more of her until the 1901 census, held on March 31 that year. Elizabeth is living in St Pancras, in a house with 4 other people, and “living on her own means”. Her age is 74. Then in 1902, she appears in the St Pancras Workhouse records “St Pancras Workhouse at 64 Belmont Street, Admitted 9-4-02, discharged 25-2-03”. This would indicate that she had fallen on hard times.
There is no more about her until her death in Tooting Bec Mental Asylum in 1906. It is a bit frightening to contemplate what the path to the asylum could have been. Elizabeth died in the asylum on February 20, 1906. Her official place of death was Wandsworth Common. She died from “Senile Decay”, which can mean dementia, or a progressive, abnormally accelerated deterioration of mental faculties and emotional stability in old age, occurring especially in Alzheimer’s disease. There appears to be no record of her burial.
Ever since I started gathering information on Elizabeth, many years ago, I have had this feeling of great sadness Regarding her life. I get the feeling that life with Rickinson may have been one of erratic employment, not to mention his two instances of insolvency, and being dragged from village to town throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire. She was literally an incubator for children…many of whom had very short lives. Of the 12 children she had over a 22-year period, 5 died in infancy. Two daughters married and moved away, 2 son’s and a daughter moved to Australia and married here, one son died when visiting here, and one son died overseas in the naval service. That is a very sad litany, and after Rivkinson’s death, life in Lancashire must have felt vety lonely indeed. Even the move to Australia, to be closer to her sons, didn’t work out well, with several public arrests, and life in Goolwa must have ended up feeling as lonely as England. A return to England, and the hmbling by life in a workhouse, and the increadingky detrimental affects of Alzheimers, leading to a sad, lonely death in a mental asylum! It just breaks your heart! Yet despite this, her children here went on to live very productive lives, and she would have been proud of them.
Below is a letter concerning senile decay in London.
My Great Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Pickhills nee Appleyard, and my Great Great Great Grandmother, Clara Pickhills nee Rickinson both have associations with the Northowram area in Yorkshire, so the below description came as quite a surprise to me. The family also has tie-ins to Halifax. My Great Geeat Grandfather, Rickinson Pickhills cannot trace back far with that surname – Hus father, Joseph Pickhills, we only know about through his marriage record to Clara Brown (Clara Rickinson was first married to John Brown). When I hired Mintwood genealogy researchers to do some tracing of the family in 2011, they could find no records for him, and thought there was a probability of him being an itinerant worker. Likewise, there are difficulties tracing Elizabeth Appleyards parentage, despite Appleyard being a common hame in the Northowram area. We only know her father’s was William (through her marriage record to Rickinson), and a possible sibling or uncle – John Appleyard – present at the Northowram death of Jane Pickhills, the daugter of Rickinson & Elizabeth. Research is ongoing, but it is possible that both families are from that area.
Pickhills is a very old name coming from the medieval period where it was written as ‘Pighills’. I have seen the name on entries in relation to early research in the Shibden valley area. Northowram old Township was a very large area covering the village and skirting the edge of Halifax right up to the other side of Queensbury (Queenshead as it was in earlier times).
This interesting name is of early medieval English origin, and is from a topographical surname for someone who lived by a small field or paddock. The name derives from the Middle English word “pightel, pighel”, small enclosure, field, or paddock. Topographical names were among the earliest group of surnames to be created in England and other countries in Europe, as they became necessary, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided instant and easily recognisable identifying names for the inhabitants of the small communities of the Middle Ages.
The modern surname can be found as Pickles, Pickless, Pickle and Pighills, and is found recorded mainly in Yorkshire. The marriage of Thomas Pickles and Sarah Tennard was recorded in Bingley, Yorkshire, on January 28th 1649. One R. Pickles, a famine emigrant, sailed from Liverpool aboard the “New World” bound for New York on June 7th 1847. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de Righkeleys, which was dated 1379, in the “Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire”, during the reign of King Richard 11, known as “Richard of Bordeaux”, 1377 – 1399. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Despite notes on the Scaddan family tree that “Happy Jack” Scaddan was the Prime Minister of Western Australia, he was, in fact, Premier.
John Scaddan (1876-1934), miner, engine driver, premier and businessman, was born on 4 August 1876 at Moonta, South Australia, second youngest of twelve children of Richard Scaddan, hard-rock miner, and his wife Jennifer, née Smitheram, Cornish migrants. The family moved to Woodside where John attended primary school. When he was 13 the family moved to Eaglehawk, Victoria, where he worked in the mines, read widely, attended the Bendigo School of Mines part time, and gained an engine driver’s certificate. He played football and was a Methodist Sunday school superintendent.
In 1896 Scaddan went to the Western Australian goldfields and operated a stationary steam-engine at a mine. On 9 May 1900 at Boulder he married Elizabeth Fawkner, who died on 21 September 1902 of Bright’s disease. On 1 September 1904 he married Henrietta Edwards.
A member of the Goldfields Amalgamated Certificated Engine-drivers’ Union, he won Ivanhoe for Labor at the State election of 28 June 1904, when the party’s strength in the 50-man Legislative Assembly rose from 6 to 22; he had been out of work and thought he ‘might as well have a fly’. He spoke mainly on gold-mining issues, principally mine regulation and the inspection of machinery, but by 1906 began to debate more widely. In 1906-11 he was secretary of the Australian Labour Federation (Western Australian Division); in that post he helped to arrange the building of the Perth Trades Hall.
By 1909 Scaddan was one of Labor’s main parliamentary speakers, prone to make speeches of up to three hours. On 3 August 1910 he was elected party leader, succeeding Thomas Bath. His first major controversy as leader was his attack on an electoral redistribution by Frank Wilson’s Liberal government. It was alleged to be a gerrymander, but the October 1911 election was a Labor triumph.
Scaddan campaigned on a wide-ranging radical policy, largely as laid down by the 1910 State congress. His victory, by 34 seats to 16, made him the first Australian to lead a State Labor government with a substantial majority; it has never since been equalled by a Western Australian Labor premier. At 35 he was also the youngest premier the State had seen. The government’s main strength lay in the goldfields and metropolitan working-class areas. In almost five years, the eight-man cabinet saw only one change of personnel.
Scaddan was also treasurer; he led a reformist government which did much to aid the State’s economic development, while implementing policies benefiting wage-earners. It set up a Workers’ Homes Board, modified the arbitration system to help unionists and increased workers’ compensation benefits. It abolished secondary-school students’ fees, raised the land tax, and in 1912 introduced a graduated income tax, which it greatly increased on the outbreak of World War I. It also amended the laws relating to divorce, the criminal code and irrigation. Thus its relations with the rank and file were much more harmonious than in New South Wales. Scaddan’s achievements came despite opposition from the Liberal-dominated Legislative Council, which blocked or amended at least forty bills, including one to end alienation of crown land.
The government rightly saw the wheat industry’s development as the key to the State’s growth, as gold-mining declined. The area sown to wheat trebled in 1911-16, as did production.
Scaddan expanded facilities for technical advice to farmers, and greatly liberalized the lending terms of the Agricultural Bank. Railways were built at the highest rate—239 miles (385 km) a year—in the State’s history and most construction was in the wheatbelt. By 1914 Western Australia had a far higher ratio of mileage to population than any other State, but in 1914-15 the railways ran at a loss for the first time in twenty years. In the 1914 drought, which severely cut average wheat yield, Scaddan set up the Industries Assistance Board; seed-wheat, superphosphate and fodder were distributed to needy farmers. He was rewarded with a record harvest in 1915-16; however, heavy expenditure brought the government deficit to the unprecedented total of £1 million; Scaddan was dubbed ‘Gone-a-Million Jack’. He responded, ‘As if the workers hadn’t got the deficit in their pockets!’
Scaddan’s most spectacular move was to establish many state trading concerns, part of the party policy of creating ‘state socialism’. To circumvent the Opposition-dominated Legislative Council, he used executive rather than legislative methods. During the parliamentary recess of 1912 he spent £100,000 from the loan suspense account to set up these enterprises, principally the State Shipping Service with the purchase of four steamers. By the end of his term the government had also set up a brickworks, an agricultural-implement works, sawmills and a fishing business, and entered every phase of the meat industry from breeding stock to the retail trade. It had taken over Perth’s tramway and ferry system, and ran a dairy farm, abattoirs, a quarry, and hotels.
Scaddan’s was a doctrinal approach to specific problems. The shipping service was to prevent northern pastoralists exploiting southern meat consumers through a shipping ring. The sawmills supplied sleepers for the transcontinental line and developed unused forest resources. The brickworks countered a price-fixing racket and provided cheaper, better bricks for workers’ homes. The agricultural-implement works were in response to farmers’ complaints about costly machinery. Dissatisfaction with Perth’s private tramways was so great that some of Scaddan’s fiercest critics strongly supported his government’s takeover, the details of which he concluded in England in 1913. The dairy farm supplied unadulterated milk to hospitals and doctors testified that it saved lives.
The formation and early life of most of these trading concerns was surrounded by controversy; opponents objected to them on principle. Most had serious operating problems and their standing suffered because they had no proper accounting system. The State Shipping Service and the agricultural-implement works were the most plagued by inefficient management, losses and shoddy work, but the implement factory was defended because it helped farmers in 1915-16. Scaddan declared that profits were of secondary importance. Even the tramway purchase caused him trouble, as services barely improved. Some Labor men saw the enterprises as unemployment relief projects. Scaddan’s cabinet became angrily disillusioned that so many of the government’s employees were lazy and unco-operative and acted as if the business had been created for their benefit, rather than the community’s.
One of Scaddan’s last enterprises, the Wyndham meat-freezing works, helped to destroy his government. In 1914 he had accepted an offer from S. V. Nevanas, a London financier, to build the works at a price which departmental experts insisted was unrealistically low. Nevanas had to abandon the work, receiving compensation when the contract was cancelled. As Scaddan’s ineptitude was revealed, criticism abounded; this was significant as his majority had been cut to two at the October-November election, which saw the newly created Country Party win eight seats. Labor’s only wheatbelt member, Edward Johnston, led caucus criticism of Scaddan’s handling of the issue. He was also angry at Scaddan breaking an election promise to sell farm land cheaply. Scaddan survived a caucus crisis in the spring of 1915. Then he lost his majority when J. P. Gardiner, a Labor member, mysteriously disappeared from parliament; Johnston left the party and retained his seat as an Independent; and the Country Party fashioned an alliance with the Liberals. During the January-July recess of 1916 Scaddan remained in office without a parliamentary majority. When parliament resumed on 25 July he was defeated, Wilson becoming premier again.
Scaddan lost to one of Wilson’s ministers in a metropolitan seat at the consequent ministerial by-election, then resumed his goldfields seat. Although the new government retained nearly all the state enterprises, Scaddan was prominent in the dispute over legislation which introduced proper accounting methods and made the establishment of future enterprises subject to a parliamentary veto.
He had lost office just as the controversy over conscription for overseas military service was developing. He campaigned for conscription and his deputy Philip Collier, against. After conscription was rejected at the October plebiscite, Scaddan and Collier were confirmed as leader and deputy leader of State Labor. That party, with great common sense, tried to prevent a permanent breach between conscriptionists and anti-conscriptionists, but in the eastern States the rival factions would not compromise. When Labor’s former Federal leader W. M. Hughes and new leader Frank Tudor campaigned against each other at the Federal election of May 1917, Scaddan was forced to choose between them. He had supported Hughes’s attempts to conscript men to serve in a just war; he could not now abandon him. So he resigned from the party and Collier became leader.
Scaddan formed the National Labor Party in Western Australia, negotiated with the Liberals, and joined the National Party coalition government formed by (Sir) Henry Lefroy in June, but lost his seat in the July ministerial by-election. He was again defeated (by Labor preferences) when he stood for National Labor in Albany in the Federal election later that year but represented Albany in the Legislative Assembly in 1919-24.
Turmoil in Lefroy’s government led, on 17 May 1919, to (Sir) James Mitchell becoming premier. He chose Scaddan as a minister, but he did not re-enter parliament until 31 May, ranking fifth in the ministry. His portfolios were railways, mines, police, industries and forests. In 1920 he moved from the National Party to the Country Party, becoming its de facto parliamentary leader, although loyal to Mitchell.
Scaddan improved the means of coping with miners’ phthisis; his brother had died of it in 1915. He improved working conditions in shops, factories and mines and took steps to counter the illicit traffic in gold. One of his Acts specified rules to apply if oil was discovered. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1923.
In 1924 Scaddan rejoined the National Party and left parliament at the general election. For three years he managed Westralian Motors, Perth, and then became a stock, farm and estate agent. In 1930 he returned to parliament as representative of Maylands and in Mitchell’s 1930-33 ministry held the same five portfolios as in 1919-24. He organized Depression unemployment relief, involving sustenance payments and large camps. In 1931 when the State Savings Bank was made over to the Commonwealth Bank, anxious clients stormed the bank’s Perth office. Scaddan’s booming voice addressed them: ‘If the bank fails, you can lynch me’. They did not. He complained of the neglect of Western Australia by the Commonwealth and was on a six-man committee which prepared the case for secession. The busy minister also brought in special help to men incapacitated in the mining industry and restricted the sale of firearms.
Scaddan lost his seat at the 1933 election, partly because his party stood two other candidates against him. He now had more time for bowls, homing pigeons and watching football, as his only public office was chairman of the Perth Roads Board (1931-34). He died suddenly, of cerebral haemorrhage, on 21 November 1934 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. His wife, daughter and son survived him; his estate was valued for probate at £132.
Despite the controversies and changes of party, Scaddan was remembered as ‘Happy Jack’, a large, jovial man of great energy who wore a flowing moustache as premier, but was later bald and clean-shaven. Although he had once declared, ‘The Trades Hall is my Church and Labour is my Religion’, he kept a lifelong allegiance to the Methodist church, advocated temperance, and was a Freemason. A good family man, he said that he disagreed with equality between the sexes, not having asked his wife to chop the wood. As early as 1909 he opposed capital punishment for murderers. He opposed the employment of Asians in his State, but was not as uncompromising as some Labor men. His industrious, pragmatic, humanitarian approach suited a pioneering State in need of industry and development.
V. Courtney, All I May Tell (Lond, 1956)
G. C. Bolton, A Fine Country to Starve In (Perth, 1972)
West Australian, 22, 24 Nov 1934
J. R. Robertson, The Scaddan Government and the Conscription Crisis 1911-1917 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1958)
Richard Scaddan was born in Gwinear, Cornwall, England in c1775. He was the son of Henry Scaddan & Jane Clemens. He was baptised in Gwinear on 30 July 1775. He married Catherine Penhale, in Gwinear, in 1802. They had 4 children – Richard (1803); William (1809); Sphia (1815); and James (1817). Richard was found guilty at the Cornwall Assizes at Bodmin on 4.8.1817 of stealing “one ewe sheep of the price of twenty shillings of the goods and chattels of William Roberts”. On trial with him were John Wills and Richard Bath and the three were sentenced “to be severally hanged by the neck until they are dead” It is reported that the judges reprieved the capital offenders and sentenced them to transportation for life. The trial papers are stored at Chancery Lane, London.
Richard was received onboard the Prison Hulk “Captivity”, moored at Portsmouth, on 24 October 1817. He was sent to NSW on 26 August 1818.
The convict ship “Globe” departed Portsmouth on 9 September 1818, and arrived in Sydney on 8.1.1819 with 140 other male convicts (139 landed). The ships Master was Joseph Blyth, and ships Surgeon was George Clayton. Convict records state that he was a native of Cornwall, his trade was ship’s carpenter, sawyer and boat builder, his age was given as 42, height 5’5″, fair to sallow complexion, brown to grey hair and grey eyes
On the 3 March 1819 (Colonial Secretary’s Papers), Richard was listed as a runaway, captured near Newcastle. He was forwarded to Sydney. Then on 3 April 1819, he absconded from a dockyard in Sydney with a J. Burton. On the 10 April 1819, he eas forwarded to Sydney. On the 17 April 1819, he was sentenced to 100 lashes, and confined to the Gaol Gang in double-irons for 12 months for escaping from the Colony in an open boat, captured off Newcastle.
In the convict records for 8 September1821, he is listed as a “Shopwright, victualled HM Magazines (NSW State Archives, Reel 6016′ 4/5781 p75). In 1822 the Muster of Convicts listed Richard as a government servant appointed to William Thurston of Sydney. He appears in the 1822 NSW general convict Muster. In the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, event dated 28 April 1824, it is noted that Richard “Carpenter. On return of bonded mechanics.”. The Colonial Secretary’s Papers record an event dated 1 October 1824 “On monthly return of convict’s assigned in the counties of Northumberland & Durham, to William Evans.”.
From the Census & Population Books, noted in yhe District Constable’s Notebook, that from 1822-1824 he resided in Parramatta (Baulham Hills 1822). The 1828 Census showed that he was a government servant to William Evans at Bellevue, Pattersons Plains. His age was given as 61 and he was working as a boatbuilder. The entry in the 1828 Census is under the name of SEADON not SCADDEN but it is definitely Richard Scadden from other details given.
In the Convict Records – Assignment & Employment of Convicts – 1810-189, and dated 13 May 1830, it is noted that due to his wife now being here he is given a “Ticket of Exemption from Govt Labour 1830-1831″.”. The same exemption is granted 6 January 1831. On the 2 January 1832 he is granted a further exemption from Govt Labour from 1831-1832. On a petition to Governor Darling in 1831 it was stated that he had been in Mr Evans’ service since November, 1823. The petition was for his son Richard & Richard’s wife Grace, and their son Thomas to join the family in the colony. It is not known if Richard came to Austealia, thiugh he appears to have died in Cornwall.
His wife Catherine, son James, and daughter Soohia, came to Australia on a ship “Lady of the Lake” which left England on 12.9.1829 and arrived in Hobart on 1.11.1829. From Hobart Catherine, James and his sister Sophia travelled on the “Calista” which arrived in Sydney on 5.12.1829. Catherine had come to Australia to join her husband Richard nearly 11 years after he had arrived in Sydney as a convict.
It is sad to relate that Catherine, Richard, James & Sophia were not to be together for long as Richard is noted in the Convict Death Register for 1826-1879 as having died on 29.1.1833 at Matiland at the age of 65, buried in the Parish of Newcastle, County of Cumberland.
After her husband’s death Catherine [aged 48] remarried on 27.8.1833 to William Pregnell, a widower aged 46 in the Parish of Maitland. Catherine had been born circa 1785 and was baptised in the Parish of Gwinear, Cornwall on 22nd May, 1785 the daughter of John Penhale and his wife Eleanor Hooper who were married in Gwinear on 7th February, 1785. Eleanor had been baptised in Gwinear on 26.7.1761 the daughter of John Hooper and his wife Jane. No record has been found of Catherine’s death (up to 1905).
James married Margaret Arnold on 3.9.1860 according to the rites of the Church of England at Grafton. No record of James’ arrival in Grafton is known and he died in Killean Street, Balmain on 19.5.1887. To date no arrival in Australia has been found of Margaret Arnold or her mother & father, William Arnold, a farmer, and his wife Jane Griffith[s.
James & Margaret had 7 children, William, Jane (Sophia Jane) Emily, Bessie Martha, Sarah & Louisa, all living when their father died in 1887. The informant on the death certificate was aged 17 and gave James’ age at death at 87 but this is not correct. James was a shipwright and boatbuilder and it is assumed he worked in Grafton at this trade. Margaret Scadden married again in Balmain in 1888 to a William Green but no death date is known. Her age in 1888 was given as 43.
Sophia Scaddan married James Moy (Convict) on 20 December 1832. They had 8 children – Henry J, Rebecca, Richard, Rebecca, Eliza Jane, Eleanor C, William E & Sophia.
I love these photo’s, taken in photo booths where space is limited, so you move in close. It captures a side of men not often seen – soft, vulnerable, loving, touching. There are no judgements or assumptions on these mens relationships to each other – some are obvious, others could be lovers, partners, brothers or close friends. Whatever they are to each other, they are beautiful.
It is no secret that my brother Kevin died a horrendous death at the hands of my father, in December 1965 (https://timalderman.com/2012/04/23/kevin-pickhills-the-unspoken-name/). It is a long time ago now, though the memories have never dimmed, and despite the sage advice that time heals all wounds, it may dull the starkness of the memory, but it never really disappears. The filing cabinet we call a brain shifts the files around, but always leaves the drawer slightly ajar.
I am not obsessed by my hrothers death, but whenever it does a flit across my mind, the questions surrounding it flit along just behind. The frustration of severed relationships is the unanswered questions! With my father long dead, my mother out of the picture at the time, and my fathers sisters all now dead, I know the questions will never be answered – ever! But that knowledge doesn’t make them go away! So, here are my demons. My reasons for listing them is purely to dump them! To many, the questions will be unfathomable without the back story. For a few, the poignancy of them will hit a feeling of deja vu in their own lives. There are many sad stories out there, and they nearly all have their unanswered questions.
Some questions are simple and straight forward – almost ruminations in their own right. Others are complex. Because questions demand answers, the fact that answers will not be forthcoming almost negates them. But they live on, and I will go to my grave knowing that only at that point do they no longer exist.
Where in the hell did Nancy Thompson come from! How did my father find her, and what possessed him to think that bringing such a hard, unfeeling woman into the house would be a good thing! I mean…she smoked, and he hated smoking! What were the conditions of her employment? She certainly had more disposable income than my mother ever had! I went clothes shopping with her, so I know! Was he seeing her before bringing her home? Was she a fling? It certainly went from plutonic to sexual very quickly – even as a 12yo I knew that! Her, and her son Stephen were such hateful, spiteful people, and I can’t believe he wasn’t aware of that. When questioned in court at the hearings into Kevin’s death, she stated that I was an effeminate child! Was that opinion voiced to my father? And after he finally got her out of the home unit in Kogarah – whatever happened to her? I pray that no other family was subjected to her! For someone who blew into our lives for such a short period of time, chaos followed in her wake! She is as much responsible for Kevin’s death as my father, yet I have little doubt that she left with a clear conscience! I hope Kharma has delivered justice!
What were my fathers thought processes on the day of Kevin’s death? It had been such an ordinary evening up until the instant he pulled up in front of our house! Was it a spontaneous action, or was it pre-meditated? At any stage, had the same course been set out for me? Frightening…but the thought remains! What was going on in his head as he drove to The Gap? Surely you can’t take your own sons life blithely, with no thought to the implications, the trauma, the horror! It’s a long drive from Sylvania. At no time did he not want to turn back! It’s not a question – it’s a nightmare!
And the most harrowing thought of all – did Kevin suffer! How quickly did he die in the cold waters of Watson’s Bay. Was he knocked out or killed on impact – I truly hope so! He trusted my father – was he aware of the betrayal? What flashes of thought as he eent over that cliff! The sheer horror wrenches at the heart!
Was my father guilty about his own survival? The actual event – threw Kevin over, or jumped over with him – has never been ascertained! It is one of the great unanswered questions. Did he invent a story to cover-up the deed? Indeed, we’ll never know!
After being released from gaol – what a joke all that was, and no justice for Kevin – did he seriously think…in typical 60s fashion…that life would just go on like nothing had happened? Did not talking about it mean it never happened? Was the thinking that the events of that time had had no affect on me whatsoever? Kevin was swept under the rug like a pile of dust! It was like he never existed! On the day he arrived home, Nancy took me to the front gate and told me to run to mert and embrace him! I didn’t even want to know of his existence! The only thing crossing my mind was – why was he back here! And did I still have to call him dad! His touch was abhorrent! For all the years up until his suicide there was no love, or respect! And I think Kevin’s death was his demon up until the day he died!
And then the great questions about Kevin and myself as siblings. What would our relationship have been like as we got oldrr? Would he have been straight or gay? If he was straight, would he have married…surely, one would think! Would he have had children? Would I be a great uncle? Would we have shared confidences? Would we be close – as when we were children – or distant?
And what is perhaps the first and greatest question – how totally different would life have been if mum never left home, for this was the catalyst for all that was to come! I like my life, and I like that for much of it I have had the freedom to live it my own way, with no questions, and few fears. Would it have panned out the same if circumstances had been different! That is a very interesting question. That I would end up gay wss inevitable…but would the process be different? I actually don’t want an answer to that one!
It is said, probably with great wisdom, that one should never question what is, try to imagine the “what ifs” of life, as that is not how it has gone. It is what it is! We all know that, but as thinking, reasoning beings it is inevitable that what could be seen as sage advice is not going to be heeded. We are curious animals, and life’s great unknowns frustrate and intrigue us! Any relationship that is abruptly terminated is always going to leave questions in its wake. The worst of it is knowing that even if my father were still alive, the questions would, in large part, still be unanswered!
Perhaps that is what destiny held in store. At least now, they have been voiced!
I have just spent a whole day sorting out a family mess. It’s not that what little information I had added to my tree was wrong – it is that the information that everybody else had copied, then incorrectly added to, then put on their tree, was wrong – compounded by everybody copying everyone else without checking the facts.
In a roundabout kind of way, Ancestry have promoted a system that actually encourages the spread of inaccurate family information. By promoting themselves, and making tracing your family tree sound simple and exotic “just enter a name and all will be revealed”, they have inadvertently unleashed a monster. People are inherently lazy, and for the majority of these new “genealogists”, if there is an easy way out, such as just taking your information from someone elses tree, that’s the road they’ll take. It’s not that collating information from other trees is wrong – it’s just that you need to double check it. In other words, there is no shortcut! You still need to research. This is how todays fiasco played out.
I have a family member on my paternal grandmothers tree named Thomas Saville. Someone related to the Saville family had contacted me regarding him, and asked meto contact her father, who was researching the same family. The initial information I had on this individual had been entered years ago, and was just sitting there waiting for me to get around to researching his family. I thought, to make matters easier, that before making the phone call, I would do some more research on him to see what I could find. My first port of call was the public family trees in Ancestry. The Saville family is large, and I found many trees with Thomas in them. The one thing they all had in common was that Ann Milligan was his wife. Okay, thinks I – I’ll check for a marriage record on one of the trees. Should be easy! Of the 20 trees I checked, NOT ONE had a document proving the marriage between Thomas and Ann Milligan. Further more, there was a discrepency with the number of children, and one tree included a second marriage. We know from records that he and his wife – and two children – arrived in Australia in 1842, and they both died here. However, a number of trees had children spanning from the early 1830s, then a huge gap of 20 years…and suddenly another batch of children appear in the 1850s!
Now, I don’t know about you, but that would have raised alarm bells with me – in fact did! I mean – children attributed to them in England at a time when they were living here? Clang! Clang! Clang goes the bell! What is wrong here? With so many trees having dodgy information, the obvious reason that it was all so over-the-shop, with inaccurate entries, and with all missing required documentation was that – they were copying each other! 20 trees with inaccurate information is frightening – because others are going to copy them as well, so we literally have a “pyramid scheme” of inaccurate information spreading like anoxious weed through peoples family histories.
So, off to research marriages for Thomas Saville and Ann. The marriage record was there – right at the top of the search results. A marriage for Ann Milligan and…Thomas SAVEL! Okay, inaccurate spelling of surname, but clerical errors are common, especially in a time where clerks often didn’t want to display their ignorance, and instead of asking for the spelling of a name, they used phonetic spellings. So, the document for the marriage was there, and a search of census records revealed that the only census they had appeared in was the 1841. However, the marriage records also revealed a union between a Thomas Saville and an Ann Ingham. There was no connection between the two marriages, and if people had checked the census records for Thomas & Ann Saville AFTER 1941, they should have noted a Joseph Ingham Saville listed amongst the children. Considering that children were often given their mothers family names as middle names, it should have raised a flag, and sent them researching further. However, they weren’t researching, so all the children were added to Thomas Saville and Ann Milligans line, and in some cases giving Thomas a second marriage to Ann Ingham. Some future researchers are going to be very confused about their lineage!
The question one has to ask is – is Ancestry giving everyone a bum ride, by making family research sound a lot easier than it is? How many people are just looking at hints, and if the name is on their tree, they are just blithely adding the record! I did make the requested phone call, and we both verified our information. Scott’s wife is a Saville, and he is researching her line. He informed me that he even encountered people researching this branch of the family in America, thanks to some Ancestry hints that had misdirected them! I still maintain – and have seen it for myself – that if people sren’t happy with their family the way it is, but want to spice it up with some convicts, or peers of the realm, or royalty…they will go out of their way to find the usually inaccurate records to prove it! I don’t get it…but there you go. Considering that to get records without paying a fortune for them you need to subscribe to Ancestry, it’s obvious who the people making money out of this – to the detriment of accurate family trees – is Ancestry! Even watching shows on genealogy like “Who Do You Think You Are?” gives a false impression on how easy it is to gather information on ones family. People watching don’t stop to consider that there is a host of professional genealogists working behind the scenes, who have probably spent months gathering information, before the show was recorded. However, having said that, it can also be excitingly revealing. In the episode with Jacqui Weaver, she was talking about her grandfathers family, whose surname was Onions. It is a very unusual name, and I knew I had some in my tree. I recorded the show, then traced the information they had against what was in my tree. Sure enough – I am distantly related, through marriage, to Jacqui Weaver. My flatmate loves to joke now, that whenever he sees her in a show he yells out “There’s your aunt!”…a bit of an exaggeration, but funny anyway.
But the message from this is – if you take your family history seriously, and not as a trend as many do, then do your leg work. There is no short-cuts, no easy way out. With the amount of inaccurate information out there on family trees (and with many losing interest after finding it is not so easy, and deserting trees), it is very easy to gather incorrect information, and take your family to places they have never been. If you are going to retrieve information from public trees, check the accuracy, and look for documentation. If in doubt, comment or contact tree owners for more information. I had someone contact me this week regarding my relationship to their family, as I had their photos on my tree (which had appeared through Ancestry hints). As it was, it is again my paternal grandmothers tree, and the person in question was my 1st cousin x 2 removed. I noted that there was no follow-on.
We owe it to our families to ensure that information is accurate, or at least as accurate as we can get it. It is better to leave a line dangling than to enter dubious information. If you are unsure of a records accuracy, hit the “Maybe” button, and research it at a later date. The one thing that I do know is that I like my family, both close and far distant. They have created me, here and now, and I owe them the respect they deserve by accurately recording their story, warts and all!
We kniw very little about our early family histories, other than what we can glean from records. From these, we have to try to piece together some sort of story of their life. Some records are too-the-point, others sketchy – but very occasionally they can be gems that give us very intimate glimpses into who they were. My Great Grand Uncle, Henry Moorsam Pickhills, is one such. He lived for a very short 25 years, yet I feel I know him well.
Henry was born in Halifax, Yorkshire in 1840, just in time to be included in the very first census held in England. The second-born son of Rickinson Pickhills & Elizabeth Appleyard, he was given his Great Grandmothers maiden name – Moorsom – as a middle name. Apart from being included in the 1851 census, where he resided in Manningham, Yorkshire along with two additions to the family – Catherine, and Charles Edward, this is all we know of his first ten years of life.
We hear nothing more about him until 14 October, 1847, when he volunteered for service with the Admiralty. Getting Henry’s Admiralty papers was a true find for several reasons – it gives us a description of him,, tells us his ranking and ship, who the captain was – and a statutoty declaration from Rickinson & Elizabeth, written in Rickinson’s hand, giving him permission to join, Henry being only 16 years-old at the time.
We know from this record of 3 pages that he enlisted on HMS Hastings. He was born on the 19 December 1940. He was 5’43/4″ tall, with a fresh complexion, light hair, and blue eyes. He has a scar on his left temple. His ranking is Boy, 2nd Class, and he has joined for 10 years from the age of 18. The actual Boy Certificate is signed by Rickinson, Henry, the Captain and 2 medical officers.The statutory declaration gives the Captains name as Captain Mends (William Robert, as per research). It tells us, rather unnecessarily, that at that time the ship was lying at Rock Ferry near Liverpool. Rickinson had mistakenly given Henry’s birth year as 1842. Henry was born at The Fold, in Northowram (Yorkshire). Rickinson goes into quite a starement in legalese towards the end of the declaration. Was he showing off? As an Articled Clerk training to be an Attorney did he want the readers of the declaration to know that he was a learned man? The reasoning is unknown, though it seems a quite unnecessary addition to the statement.
Our next encounter with Henry is on the 19 December 1858, in the UK Royal Navy Registers of Seaman’s Service, where he is noted on the Hastings.
We next hear of Henry at the 1861 census, where he is counted amongst those “at sea”.
We finally encounter Henry on the 8th April 1866. He had died onboard the SV Aracan, from Cholera, at Calcutta, Bengal. He was buried on the 9th October 1866 in Calcutta. £3/13/1 is owing to the family. Other goods sold. He was 25 years-old.
Captain William Robert Mends GCB (27 February 1812 – 26 June 1897), was a British admiral of the Royal Navy, son of Admiral William Bowen Mends and nephew of Captain Robert Mends. William Mends was born at Plymouth into a naval family. He married Melita, daughter of Dr Joseph Stilon R.N. on 6 January 1839. From 3 April 1857 to 1 February 1860 he was captain of HMS Hastings on Coast Guard service. He moved to take command of HMS Majestic on 1 February 1860 when she replaced Hastings on coast guard service and was then appointed deputy controller general of the coast-guard in 1861. He spent May 1862 to February 1883 as Director of Transport at the Admiralty. Mends retired at the rank of rear-admiral on 1 January 1869, was promoted to vice-admiral on 1 January 1874 and then a full admiral on 15 June 1879.
HMS Hastings was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was built in Calcutta for the Honourable East India Company, but the Royal Navy purchased her in 1819. The Navy sold her in 1886. Hastings was built of the highest quality “saul”, “sissoo”, “Pegue”, and “Java” teak wood, following Sir Robert Seppings’s principles, which resulted in a vessel both longitudinal and transverse support. Her construction cost Sicca ruppees (Sa.Rs.) 8,71,406 (£108,938), which the merchants of Calcutta and other patriotic individuals subscribed via shares. The full cost of getting her ready for sea was Sa.Rs. 8,71,406 (£116,375). Captain John Hayes sailed Hastings from Calcutta on 28 March 1818. She reached Madras on 13 April, and Port Louis on 2 July. From there she reached St Helena on 15 September, and arrived at The Downs on 3 November. The Ship’s figurehead is now on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
SV Aracan; nationality: British; purpose: transport; type: fully rigged ship; propulsion: sailing ship; date built: 1854; tonnage: 864 grt; dimensions: 56.8 x 9.8 x 6.6 m; rigging: 3 masts full rigged; IMO/Off. no.: 1080; call sign: HGMW H G M W; about the loss cause lost: collision; date lost: 09/03/1874; casualties: 0; builder: Whitehaven Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Whitehaven; owner: Brocklebank T. & J. Ltd. – Thomas & John; captain: Charles Hartwood.
Rock Ferry is an area of Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula, England. Administratively it is a ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Before local government reorganisation on 1 April 1974, it was part of the county of Cheshire. At the 2001 Census, the population of Rock Ferry was 13,676 (6,444 males, 7,232 females), increasing to 14,298 (6870 males, 7,428 females) at the Census 2011.. In the 17th century Derby House, an occasional seat of the Minshull family, covered most of the grounds covered by present-day Rock Ferry. Thomas Oakshott, Mayor of Liverpool, lived there in the 19th century. The house, located on Rock Lane West close to the New Chester Road, was demolished in the early 20th century. Residential building did not really happen until the early part of the 19th century, the rise of the ferry and the railway, and the establishment of the Royal Rock Hotel and bath house in 1836. Between then and 1870, the area received an influx of luxurious housing, the villas of Rock Park and many other large houses around the Old Chester Road making Rock Ferry one of the most desirable addresses in the North West. In the later part of the 19th century, Rock Ferry expanded due to the need to house the increasing population of workers, especially at Birkenhead’s Cammell Laird shipyard. By 1901, the population stood at 2,971. In 1910, the Olympian Gardens were opened adjacent to the Royal Rock Hotel. These pleasure gardens were considered a great attraction and customers travelled from the whole of Wirral and, using the nearby ferry terminal, from Liverpool. The gardens hosted classical piano concerts and also slapstick comedy shows, with performers including Arthur Askey and Tommy Handley. At times the gardens held a prestige similar to the more famous Vauxhall Gardens in London. Shows were held in a large tent set amongst the trees and shrubs of land owned by Charles Boult. The gardens closed in the late 1920s after Mr Boult’s death. The decline of local industries in the 1950s took its toll. Many of the splendid buildings were dilapidated and unrestored. This decline was reflected in the loss of the Royal Rock Hotel, as well as many of the shops in the Old Chester Road and Bedford Road; whereas before Bedford Road had supported a wine merchant, a jeweller, two tailors, three banks, and two bookshops, most shops stood vacant. Large-scale regeneration work in the 1990s, which involved the demolition or restoration of many such derelict properties, and the building of new housing, means that the area has improved considerably, although many buildings of considerable character have been lost.
This is a question I have been asking myself, especially in the light of a recent experience.
I had started using the app for Find-a-Grave to locate any family members listed, and to add family that I have details of. I became a member of the group, but after finding that someone had added death details and pictures of the memorial for my Pickhills grandparents, and finding I couldn’t edit it to add birth details I enquired why. These two people are, after all, my family. A reply to my enquiry informed me “Hello Tim, Thank you for contacting Find A Grave. In order to update a memorial, please go to the memorial on the website, http://www.findagrave.com Click on the edit tab located in the upper right of the memorial page. Choose an option to update the memorial. The update will be sent to the manager of the memorial page. If you are related within transfer guidelines, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=listFaqs#79 you may ask for a transfer with the edit tab under “suggest any other correction or addition”.Sincerely, (name withheld)”.
In othe words, someone who is not a member of my family, and doesn’t know them from a bar of soap, currently has the management of grave details for my family in this app/web site! Okay, I can request that management be transferred to me, but the point is…if I hadn’t wanted to edit the details, and request the teansfer as a relative of the deceased, this person would have had control of my grandparents details at this sire permanently!
These are the guidelines for requesting a teansfer “How do I get a relative’s memorial transferred to me? First, Determine if you really need the memorial transferred to you for management. Only request transferring of management if you have extensive changes to make to a memorial. You can add photos and suggest corrections without having to request management. Simply having someone in your family tree is not grounds for a management transfer request. With hundreds of thousands of contributors, we have many overlapping family trees and it would be impossible for all contributors to manage their entire tree.
Second, Transfer requests will be for direct relatives within four generations. This would be your siblings, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Third, If you have extensive additions/changes to make to a memorial, please contact the Find A Grave member who created the memorial via the “Suggest a Correction” link under the “Edit” tab on the memorial in question with your request to have the memorial management transferred to you. This will send an email request to the contributor, even if there is not an email address listed on their contributor page.
Fourth, Explain your relationship in the request! Any non-direct relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) are not required to be transferred. Keep in mind that the original contributor may also be related to the memorial and may not make the transfer. Again, always include your relationship to the memorial on a transfer request, in order for it to be considered. You may also want to include your specific interest in the memorial. Bulk surname requests must not be made. Be advised that memorials listed as famous or maintained by Find A Grave will not be transferred.
Fifth, The “Suggest a correction” feature may also be used to submit corrections, an original biography, and family links to memorials that do not fall under the above definition. (Be sure to include the memorial ID#s for the family links and how they are related, father, mother or spouse. The original contributor will make any corrections and add any additional information you have for that memorial, such as links to parents and spouses, provided the information is accurate.
Sixth, Please note that it is not appropriate to request a transfer and then, after receiving the transfer, delete that page and substitute it with a new memorial that you have created. This practice denies credit to the original contributor. Please use the original memorial page to make updates and add information.
NOTE: If you are unable to edit a memorial after it has been transferred to your account, try logging out of Find A Grave then logging back in.”
The same applies to a memorial for one of my mother’s brothers. Personally, I find this a bit distressing. I have, needless to say, requested the memorials be transferred to my name.
The second incident involved a photograph of my great grandparents headstone. Yes, I did request through Find-a-Grave that someone photograph the memorial for me – though in the future I’ll organise it myself – and a photographer snapped it for me. When checking out the shot, I noticed that to the right, and in shot, another Barron memorial. I cropped the picture, and added the edited photograph to his memorial on the site. Naturally, within the hour, the photographer contacted me, reminding me that the photo was hers, and I was in breach of the apps photographs policy. I apologised, and removed the “offending” photo’s. But then I started thinking about it. I am the first to acknowledge the intellectual property rights of artists, and perhaps that is what niggles me! It s not as though she had photographed her own families graves. Again, this was a memorial with no connection to her whatsoever, total strangers who are nothing more than hames carved into stone. In a just world, the copyright on these types of ohotographs would be turned over – lock, stock & barrel – to the family of the graves photographed. I feel it is only just to do so, instead of blithly crying thief, and grasping control of the material.
Everybody involved in the distribution of family history information and documents greedily has their hands out these days. Anything advertised as “free” will only give you the bare bones. If you want the body and soul…fork out the money, honey! Even to look and see if there is any material pertaining to your family will cop you a fee on some sites. If there are records being held, it will cost you even more. Subscriptions to genealogy sites like Ancestry don’t come cheap, and often come with a catch 22. I subscribe to record collections of Australia and United Kngdom on Ancestry. Very little of my family history resides in America, and to add America to my subscription adds a lot to its cost, with little value, in my view. So I get my records from Australa and the UK within my monthly fee, but for any of the rest of the world I pay per record – which can be anything from $1.49 to $2.49 per record. In the meantime, Ancestry has access to all the information that goes onto my tree – for which they pay…zilch!
So, it would appear that we don’t own any of our family history, except that that can be added from personal or family recollection. It would appear that our families are owned by bureaucrats, big business, ancestry sights, photographers, apps, and just about anyone else who can make a quid out of it. There are even people with family tree’s who think that those accessing information from it should pay! For the record – if you want information from mine…help yourself. If others can benefit from my research, then good!
In many respects, it us appalling that others can lay claim to our family name, our family history. It is appalling that we often have to say “no” to accessing a snippet of information, as the cost is too high. Unfortunately, we live in a greedy, grasping world. Our relatives would literally “turn in their graves” if they knew. Just as well they don’t!