Sunday, 11 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 10, Strong Woman

We don’t all have a well known inspirational woman in our family trees. We can’t all lay claim to Florence Nightingale, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Marie Curie, Emmeline Pankhurst or Joan of Arc. But within all our trees there are some pretty amazing ladies, I’m sure.

Who do I choose to write about this week ?

One of my pioneer great great grandmothers who came with their husband and children to take a chance on a new life; a better life, in a country so far away from England it was hard to comprehend ? They had no idea what the land was like, whether the earth was arable and whether they would be able to grow the crops they had always grown. Many of them had not seen the sea or lived near to it; yet they were prepared to travel over it on a cramped, leaky sailing ship for about three months – and give it a go. Not like now, when we plan our holidays and escape through colour brochures and online.

Or my great great grandmother who left her apparently unhappy marriage in New Zealand and took her youngest three children to start a new life in Australia ? Not just leaving behind her husband, but ten other children, her mother, brothers and sisters. Why not just move away to another district ?

Perhaps my great grandmother’s cousin, whose family had joined the Mormon Church and emigrated from Wiltshire to Utah ? She married at eighteen to a church elder thirty five years her senior; becoming his fourth wife. Did she know that two of those wives were still alive, that one had left him, but the other was still married to him ? She stayed. When he died, and the laws of the church had changed and disinherited her for not being his legal wife, she contested his will. Argued for her share AGAINST her children – and WON.

Or my great grandmother, born in Marlborough and raised in the Horowhenua, who left school when she was about 14 to help at home with younger siblings or with her older, married sister's new families. Then married four years later and began her own family, passing on all her domestic skills to her daughters.

What about my grandmother whose childhood family life was not so dissimilar to some we see on the news today ? She still took a chance, married and made a successful family for her children with values and traditions which have been passed on to her children and grandchildren.

Then in my daughter’s paternal family; what about her 8xgreat grandmother, daughter of the Ewen (Dubh) Cameron 5th Lochiel and 17th chieftain, from his 3rd marriage. Married aged about 15 to a Campbell. The two families did not always get along. How did she feel as a pawn in her father’s powerplay ? One of her sons was Colin, the Red Fox of the Appin Murders ‘fame’.

Or her 5xgreat grandmother who came to Australia with her family as shepherds and never spoke a word of English in her life. Gaelic, through and through. She endured the dry heat of what is now the ACT and likely pined for the cooler climes of the Highlands. Who brought with her five sons and six daughters, but not one son married to carry on the name.

Or her 3x great grandmother who gave birth to twins in the workhouse when she was nineteen. Named their father on the bastardy bond and returned to work as a domestic servant until she was able to remove the surviving child from the workhouse and provide a home with her new husband five years later.

So you see, it is too hard to pick one. If not for these women though, the wives of bakers, farmers, millers, shepherds and labourers, we would not be here. 

It is time to remind women everywhere that we HAVE a voice, that we ARE strong. All of us, in our own way. That we CAN do anything.

But also, remember that not all our problems are the fault of men. There ARE good men in the world, there always have been. Men who want better for their children, who are willing to take on the child of another man and raise it as their own, who are gentle and caring. We should NOT let society and the media tell us otherwise. We should have some faith in humanity as we stand up for each other.

You don't need to be a tall poppy, and an inspiration to the whole human race, you just need to be the best YOU that you can be. Who knows, maybe someday someone will look back and say "I just want to be like her."

Here’s to STRONG women
May we KNOW them
May we BE them
May we RAISE them.

We are the grand daughters
Of all the WITCHES
You were never able to burn.

I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman.
-Helen Reddy

Sunday, 4 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 9, Where There's a Will

So, a Will, or a fiercely determined (where there is a will there’s a way) person, or just someone named William.

I have decided to go with a Will this week, and discovering it took a fair bit of determination as well.

Susanna(h) Davies was born about 1774 in or near Wellington, Shropshire, England. Her parents, Thomas and Sarah, had her baptised at All Saints, Wellington on 8 April 1774. I don’t know anything more about her until she married Thomas Hulett at the same church on 15 April 1793. Did she have siblings ? What was her father’s occupation ? Where did they live exactly ? Those are questions to solve another time.

Susanna was my 4 x great grandmother. She and her husband Thomas raised a family of seven children who were all baptised at All Saints Wellington. They may have lived all the time in Lawley, as that is the place where Susanna is recorded as living on the 1841 and 1851 UK census’. Lawley is a small village between Wellington and Malinslee, now almost on the outskirts of Telford.

Their second daughter Sarah, was my 3 x great grandmother. Until recently I had focused more on her and her descendants than on her siblings, or on discovering more about her parents.  That was until a close match popped up in my DNA results which led me back to this family and one of Susanna’s sons. That find spurred me on to find as much as I could about all of Thomas and Susanna’s children.

I have managed to track them all through census’, bdm’s and probate indexes now. Only three married and had children. In my searching though I realised when Susanna had died and purchased a pdf of her death record from in their current trial. Thomas had died before 1841 as Susanna is widowed on the 1841 census.

I had always thought of my Shropshire ancestors as Ag labs, workers – as opposed to landowners or tradespeople. Nothing wrong with that; the majority of us come from simple, hardworking beginnings. On the 1851 census though, Susanna was recorded as being the “Occupier of a farm 90 acres, employing 2 men.” So not the owner of the land it would seem, but financially able to employ people to work the land for her. When I came across a copy of her will on Ancestry and deciphered it with much help from 4th cousins and my Dad, it seemed they definitely were not “just” Ag Labs.

Susanna’s will named all her children apart from Sarah, who was already married at the time of her death in May 1856, and indeed at the time that Susanna wrote her will in December 1846. Did she feel that Sarah was already well taken care of ? Or perhaps she did not approve of Sarah’s marriage. (As an aside Sarah and her husband, an Ag Lab, had married at St Peter’s Wolverhampton in July 1836 when Sarah would have been at least 3 months pregnant, their first child was baptised in January 1837.)

This is the transcription of the will (with still a few odd words to decipher)

I Susanna Hulett being of sound state of mind do hereby ordain this to be my last will and testament renouncing and revoking all others. First I nominate and appoint as my executor and executrix my son John Hulett and my daughter Mary Ann Hulett. Secondly I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Hulett my daughters Mary Ann Elizabeth Hulett Elizabeth Hulett and Martha Hulett the whole of my property consisting of the household furniture live and the food stock on the Farm. Also my interest in One Hundred Pounds xxxx in the Long Annuities to be equally divided share and share alike after all my just debts and funeral expenses are paid. Thirdly it is my request that as my son John Hulett has received considerably more than his share of my property that he will afford every assistance in his power to my son William Hulett. This done and executed on the eleventh day of December one thousand eight hundred and forty six. In the testimony whereof? I hereby to submit my case in the presence of the following witnesses. Susanna Hulett
Witnesses – Robert Howden Heston – W Taylor

And an image of the original copy which was made when the will was proven and probate granted

The will itself follows the prescribed pattern that is still common today. Beginning by stating the place and name of the person making the will, and that they are lucid and aware of the details they are writing, or dictating to someone to write if they are unable to write themselves. After this the first action is to name the people chosen to be the executors. They are the ones who will give statements after the death to verify who they are and that they knew the person. They may have to give affidavits to the court as well.

The second action is to name the beneficiaries and the instruction. It was here where the surprise came. Susanna may have not owned the land she was farming, but she did own the livestock, bequeathing them along with all her household furniture and food which likely included crops being grown to her unmarried daughters and her son Thomas. In addition to this she directed that they share in her interest from some annuities. Now I’m not sure what those annuities were, but £100 is a fair amount of money to have in her own right in 1856, not at all what I was expecting to read.

Then thirdly a separate instruction regarding to her son John. She states that since he has already received more than his share of her property that he takes care to assist William, the eldest child of the family. At this point I am still not sure why she made this instruction and did not include William with her other unmarried children. Perhaps he had a disability. In the 1841 and 1851 census’ William had been living with his mother and working on the farm. In 1861 he was working on Lawley Farm, employed as a Cow Man.
Then to close the will is signed and dated, and witnessed.

The timing of the writing of the will could be significant. 11 December 1846. John was married in January 1846 and his first child born later that year. John was a publican, he had been a butcher when he married. Perhaps his mother gave him some financial assistance to change career and secure a lease on a hotel. I have spied some documents in county archives that may help answer that question, but first I need to save some money so that I can make a trip there.

To add to this change in my understanding of Susanna’s social standing. John’s eldest daughter can be found attending a school in Shifnal on the 1861 census, where the teachers included French and German. One of his sons became a Mining & Civil Engineer. Investigating all that can wait for another time though.

Monday, 26 February 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 8, Heirloom

When I think about heirlooms, I often think we don’t really have any. But actually there are quite a few to choose from, now that I have thought about it a lot more.

Choosing one which I have a photo of, on hand, was the determining fact. So I have gone with this one. It isn’t actually MY heirloom. It is in the possession of my daughter.

This piece of furniture came from my maternal grandmother’s home. I remember it was always in the dining room, but I can’t remember where it was in her earlier home. Maybe the living room ? Although I don’t have many memories of being in that room as children. Before “Hi-Fi” and stereos many homes had a Radiogram. Nana and Grandad’s was a Bell. I’m not sure what year it was made but I would guess somewhere in the 1950s-early 1960s.

We kids only ever listened to one “record” over and over. It was a 45, in a yellow paper dust cover with a picture of a merry old soul on the front. That’s right “Old King Cole” ! and some other nursery rhymes, “Little Boy Blue”…I can’t remember the others; maybe “Mary had a little lamb” ? I still have it, but it is packed in a box with a whole lot of other 45s so I can’t check right now who sang, and who played the instruments, or what the other nursery rhymes were.

You put the record (or Nana did, I don’t remember that we were allowed) at the top of the spindle, then moved the arm across from the left and turned it on. By magic the record would drop from the top of the spindle to the turntable and rotate, the arm with the stylus would move across lower itself and begin to play. Magic.

If you zoomed in you might have noticed the speeds on the turntable – 15, 45, 33 and 78. There used to be a collection of 78s too, but they are long gone now. Some with bagpipe music, I have heard tell. My aunt also had a collection of Elvis records which Grandad used to tease her about, objecting to having THAT played on his radiogram – so I have been told.

Storage is built in; two cupboards to house all the vinyl. It has preset Australian and New Zealand radio stations for shortwave (megacycles) and AM (kilocycles) – long before transistor radios and the switch to kilohertz and way before FM.

Sadly it is not in working order right now, and some of the oak veneer on the exterior is looking a bit worse for the wear. It had been languishing in my uncle’s garage when my daughter discovered it and put in her claim. Always a lover of music and a trendsetter before her time the radiogram was the perfect heirloom for her, from her great grandmother.

The intention has always been to have it repaired, but so far it hasn’t happened. It has moved house with her every time since it came into her possession and sits in pride of place, storing her small but growing collection of vinyl as well as my own. Currently a small portable turntable sits atop the radiogram and plays music on lazy Sunday mornings. Buffalo Springfield, Bob Seger, Three Dog Night, Janis Joplin, Cream, The Eagles, BB King, Fleetwood Mac, Hello Sailor – sometimes I sneak in Linda Ronstadt, Boomtown Rats, John Hanlon.

The good news – I have just found a repairer who has been in business for a good length of time. I just need to get it there.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Weekend Wanderings

We had to go out for a bit yesterday because the estate agent has suddenly decided to market our rental home for sale a little more aggressively than they have over the past months.

Since it was a nice morning, I went for a walk around the lake and then home. It is always so busy there, dog walkers, runners, walkers, families, friends. Great to see the community out enjoying the outdoors.

I took some photos of the birds. So many swallows flitting about but all congregating in the one place. No turtles on that circuit and I didn't see the swans with their growing cygnets. The galahs and rosellas were way too fast for my reflexes, but I did spot one pelican having a great feed out in the middle. First time I have seen one there, but apparently they are regular visitors.

#52Ancestors, Week 7, Valentine

Valentine’s Day as a celebration hasn’t been a big thing in New Zealand and Australia until probably the last 30-40 years. It definitely wasn’t a “thing” when I was growing up, like it appeared to be on US television programmes we saw. A bit like Halloween, it was one of those odd American celebrations that I used to wonder at, in letters from my penfriends. It is definitely a “thing” now though – very commercial and over the top.

So, where to start for this topic? I looked in my tree for events which had occurred on February 14. There were a few, but they were all for very distant relatives, and mostly long ago.

I did come across someone for whom I don’t know a lot, and I have spent most of the day trying to discover more, to no avail.

Valentine Becker was born in Rüdesheim-am-Rhein, Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis, Hesse, Germany in 1846. He was the first child to Friedrich and Elisabetha Becker. I wonder if he was born on February 14? He soon became an older brother to Emelia and Gertrude and possibly to Friedrich who was born in October 1850. I can’t be sure though until I can locate those records as Valentine died aged 4 sometime in 1850. Two short years later his parents and siblings left their home on the banks of the Rhine and emigrated to Sydney Australia. In all my searching there doesn’t appear to be another Valentine in the tree perpetuating his memory or existence.

But here is another Valentine’s story.

My parents became engaged on Valentine’s Day 1957. My Nana, born in England where Valentine’s Day had been celebrated by the exchange of small tokens of affection or handwritten notes between friends or lovers since the mid eighteenth century, thought it was very apt they had chosen that date. Mum and Dad though were completely unaware of the significance – at the time. It is one of those little facts that is stuck in the recesses of my mind, and just happened to pop into the forefront when I was pondering what to write about this week.


Monday, 12 February 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 6, Favourite Name

So, I have said it before – I’m a bit of a name nerd. This topic “Favourite name” is hard for me. How do I choose?

Names are one of the things that attracted me to genealogy in the beginning.
Why did some families just use the same names over and over again? Why did some families give their children two names, or three names or more? Let’s face it more than three is a bit over the top, but there are some which do sound great, have a pleasing meter.

Why did some families give their children names and then call them something completely different? Why did some children get one name and others two – did the ones with only one name feel gypped? Why did some get much used names, then one sibling a really out there name?

So, which name to choose?

Alianore Mary Christina Cameron-Ramsay-Fairfax-Lucy – love the sound of that one;
Minnie Mildred – there are a bunch of girls with this moniker. But I have mentioned them before.

I am eternally grateful to my forbears that they did give some thought to the “sound” of the names they bestowed on their children and the pairing of names with each other and the surname.

Emma Louisa, my great grandmother and her siblings all had names which sounded great. My grandmother Elsie Lilian did too.

Any name that is a little different gets bonus points for me. Kerenhappuch, Roxillana, Vergetta, Zenobia, Balthasar, Julius, Mowbray, Cornelius. They make research a little easier than just searching for Ann and James. Then there are the ones with clues to the past where a surname has been added as a helpful hint for researchers.

But, the name for today is Peternell, sometimes recorded as Peternall/Peternel/ Petronel or Petronella.

Peternell Eastment was my 5xgreat grandmother. She was born in East Chinnock, Somerset about 1733. Her parents were married there, in Blessed Virgin St Mary, eleven years earlier and there are 3 daughters and 1 son appearing in the baptisms for them in the years before Peternell’s baptism on 5 November 1733.[1]

Peternell lived her whole life in East Chinnock, marrying Richard Bartlett on 7 April 1760 in the same village church.[2] She and Richard had a family of seven, all but one reaching adulthood. Two of her sons included her name in their choices for their own daughters, and at least one grandson followed suit.

Many of her grandchildren left East Chinnock. Some moved to other counties in England, others emigrated to Australia and New Zealand – and quite likely to other colonies; America, Canada and South Africa. Although she did not live to see them leave, dying in March 1816, I wonder how she would have felt.[3] Would she have understood their curiosity to explore new lands and seek new opportunities far away from the only place she had ever called home?

[1] FreeReg, 'FreeReg',, Accessed 12 February 2018.
[2] FreeReg, 'FreeReg'.
[3] FreeReg, 'FreeReg'.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 5, In the Census

Searching for connections and reconnecting

Back in the early 1990’s when the 1881 UK census was the only census available freely to researchers with roots in the United Kingdom, (and only on CD or microfiche) many researchers spent hour upon hour trawling through fiche after fiche in darkened Family History Centre rooms and libraries.

We had only begun piecing together information in my maternal grandmother’s family from the little information she had given away to us over the years. My Dad and I spent hours in the evenings at the Family History Centre reading church records hoping to find something concrete. Sometimes we went alone.

We knew from Nana that her mother’s family was from the “Black Country” and that she had a brother. We also knew that Nana’s grandfather married three times and that she also had two half siblings. Her mother’s brother and a half-brother (although I don’t think that Nana referred to him as such) had emigrated to the US. We knew their names and the names of their wives. We also knew an elderly aunt had emigrated to the US.

Between 1989 and 1991 some certificates were purchased from the GRO and we discovered that my great grandmother had been born in Wolverhampton on 17 July 1878[1], and that her parents were married in Dudley in a Primitive Methodist Chapel on 23 August 1875[2] (a WHAT !!?? – researching Primitive Methodism soon became another obsession). We also learned that her mother died in Wolverhampton on 5 May 1879[3]. What became of the children ?

I remember Dad’s jubilation when he returned home one day from the library with a piece of paper detailing the residents of one household in Dudley.

Residence: Paradise, Dudley (Worcs), Staffordshire, England[4]
Henry James
Leintwardine, Herefordshire, England
Elizabeth James
Leintwardine, Herefordshire, England
Albert Kelsey
Grand Son
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Laura Kelsey
Grand Daughter
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Amnie H Richards
Mold, Flintshire, Wales

So, here she was, living with her grandfather and aunt…and a cousin ? To be fair, we didn’t make much more progress until the arrival of that wonderful phenomenon – the internet. I dabbled, I joined Ancestry in 2002.

One day (5 March 2003) while dabbling, I came across a post on a bulletin board -remember those ? Someone in the US had come across that same census entry. She was looking for more information about the Henry James family, last known living in Dudley with a daughter, niece and two grandchildren. I posted a reply, from work. Could it be ?

On returning to work the next morning there was a reply email. Needless to say, not much work was done that day. I couldn’t wait to get home. I replied, I sent the email to my Mum and Dad, I rang them to make sure they checked and read their email. I was dancing on air. The poster, was the great granddaughter of my great grandmother’s brother Albert who had emigrated to the US. We are 3rd cousins. We knew they existed somewhere in the US – they had no idea we were down here in New Zealand searching the same tree.

Since then we have filled out the family so much more, broken some brickwalls down and reconnected with other members of the extended Kelsey family all over the planet. There are still some brickwalls to smash, but to think this all began with people on opposite sides of the Pacific, reading microfiche in Family History Centres and libraries.

[1] Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth, Laura Ellen Kelsey, General Register Office, England.
[2] Certified Copy of an Entry of Marriage, Thomas Kelsey and Mary James, General Register Office, England.
[3] Certified Copy of an Entry of Death, Mary Kelsey nee James, General Register Office, England.
[4] "England and Wales Census, 1881," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 December 2017), Henry James in household of Henry James, Dudley (Worcs), Staffordshire, England; from "1881 England, Scotland and Wales Census," database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing p. 2, Piece/Folio 2881/23, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey; FHL microfilm 101,774,821., accessed 4 February 2018.