Monthly Archives: January 2010

Too young

>I began researching my family history as an eleven year old when an aunt showed me how to use a microfiche reader. It took a while to realise that behind those microfiche lay a wealth of knowledge in the form of the detail of Australian birth, death and marriage certificates. And so it was not until October 1985 that I ordered my first birth certificate from the New South Wales Registry Office. The paper certificate took a couple of weeks to arrive, and by coincidence it arrived while my grandparents were staying with us in Melbourne.

The certificate was the birth on 14 October 1857 of my grandfather’s grandfather, John Pywell. I’d ordered it because, being a little naive, I couldn’t make sense of the index entry. The birth certificate left blanks in the boxes for father’s name and date of parents’ marriage. Instead, it only listed the mother: Mary Ann Pywell was living at Eskdale on the Williams River in the Hunter region. She was the informant, stating that she was born at ‘Weldon, near Oundle, Northamptonshire’, and aged 14 years.

Fourteen! It was virtually inconceivable to me that a fourteen-year old could have a child, let alone in 1857. I made the first of several faux-pas in my early genealogical days by showing the certificate to my parents – and then to my grandfather. In those days, 1857 seemed unimaginably long ago, but to my grandfather, an Anglican clergyman of fairly conservative morals, it was probably fairly confronting to have evidence of his grandfather’s birth outside marriage thrust under his nose.

Now I’m less shocked by the event, and more sanguine about how John’s birth did not seem to have affected his life one way or the other in comparison, for example, to his half-brothers and sisters who were born within marriage. But this single event resonates backwards and forwards in the family history.

Mary Ann Pywell lived a remarkable life. Born in the small farming town of Weldon in 1842 (she was actually 15 at the time of her son’s birth) where her ancestors had lived since the mid-seventeenth century, she lost her mother when she was 10. Her father decided to bring his three surviving children to Australia, and so at the age of 13 she arrived in Sydney aboard the ‘Bengal’; an uncle, George Pywell, emigrated at the same time with his wife and daughter to South Australia. The family was soon split up; Mary Ann worked as a servant in the Raymond Terrace region, her father Thomas lived briefly in Adelaide, where sister Rachel eventually became a ward of the state, and her brother Thomas ended up on the Namoi River in norther New South Wales. Each of the three children did well for themselves in the circumstances, commanding a standard of living that, while not wealthy, did allow for some comforts and the luxury of an old age surrounded by children and grandchildren. Mary Ann married John Norris Campbell, dairy farmer, in 1862, and they raised a further 11 children in addition to Mary Ann’s son John Pywell. She died in 1939 at the grand age of 97 years, having outlived her husband and her first-born child, and leaving several great- and even some great-great-grandchildren.

In 1987 I searched the Newcastle church archives for record of a baptism of John Pywell. I got lucky. John was baptised on 13 June 1858 at Raymond Terrace in the Church of England – and the baptism certificate gave his father’s name as John Henry Hawley, dealer, of Raymond Terrace.

I put my newfound research skills to work and quickly discovered that Hawley was a 44-year old married man with two children of his own and three step-children at the time that John Pywell was born. His wife Sarah was probably pregnant at the same time as Mary Ann. Well, bad things happen I thought and there’s no point trying to deny that something had gone awry in the summer of 1857.

What did surprise me, however, was to discover that at the same ceremony, another ex-nuptial child was baptised. Angus Campbell was the son of another 15 year old Raymond Terrace girl, Sarah Campbell, by one Dugald McGregor. Sarah was the sister of John Norris Campbell, and would become Mary Ann Pywell’s sister in law. Angus was born just 10 days after John Pywell. Was there some kind of wild party in January 1857 in Raymond Terrace, or some horrible attack on local girls, or some other explanation?

For years I had no way of knowing, until the National Library of Australia began making vast quantities of newspaper material available online. Through this I chanced upon a case in February 1858 in which Dugald McGregor successfully appealed against a decision of the Raymond Terrace bench to charge him maintenance for Sarah Campbell’s child, on the grounds of improper legal process. I have some homework to do in following this up!

Sarah Campbell went on to marry and have five more children with Alexander Marr, while John Hawley’s marriage survived and lasted until his death in 1897.

Perhaps the most significant resonance of this event in my family was in 1908, when John Pywell’s eldest daughter Mary Ann gave birth to a child out of wedlock, raised as her youngest brother. Did the twenty-eight year old Mary Ann turn to her namesake and grandmother for advice or solace? Did she have a more difficult time, notwithstanding her age, because of the codes of respectability and appearance that had developed in white Australian society in the intervening half a century? But that’s another story.

Thomas Pywell (1815-1881)
married 1836 Sarah Barwell (1812-1852)

Mary Ann Pywell (1842-1939), married 1862 John Norris Campbell (1840-1899)
= John Henry Hawley (1812-1897)

John Pywell (1857-1922)
married 1879 Ann Way (1859-1936)

Mary Ann Pywell (1880-1965)
married 1913 John James Sherlock (1874-1930)

Charles Henry Sherlock (1918-2007)
married 1943 Emily Elizabeth Newth (1920- )

Charles Henry Sherlock
married Peta Robin Sproule

Peter David Sherlock



Filed under Family History

Chapel Street drunks

>I’ve spent most of the past decade living in South Yarra, an inner suburb of Melbourne. One of my favourite things to do on the weekend is to go to Prahran Market and do the grocery shopping, have a coffee, and after that’s done go for a wander down the south end of Chapel Street for more coffee, antique shops, op shops and second-hand shops. I’d like to live around here for the rest of my life, though we don’t get much choice about such matters.

As it happens, I’m not the first of my family to live here. In 1857 a brickmaker, Sampson Lees, arrived in Port Philip with his wife Emma and their five children aboard the ‘Castilian’ as government assisted immigrants, and settled in the area. The family hailed from Tipton, Staffordshire; Sampson was born in nearby Wednesbury in 1812, and Emma was born in the Strand, London, about 1807. This was not their first venture abroad. Sampson had travelled to the United States in 1843 in search of work, perhaps intending to bring his family out, while Emma stayed behind and earned money as a governess.

At first glance the move to Melbourne seems to have been a good one. The family eventually settled in Vine Street, Windsor: their small cottage was demolished a century later when Dandenong Road was rebuilt. The eldest daughter Emily, my great-great-great-grandmother, married Hugh Chalmers Rose, a chemist, whom I’ve blogged about elsewhere on this site. The next daughter Charlotte married David Prichard in 1864, and youngest daughter Alice (who lived with the Rose family) married Thomas John Marlow Trader in 1869 in Wagga Wagga.

But not all was well. Emma, who was midwife at the birth of her first grandchild Emily Rose in 1859, died on 1 August 1867 from phthisis (tuberculosis) after an illness lasting 7 months. She was buried at St Kilda cemetery and a fine headstone was erected, that included inscriptions for her two infant Prichard grandchildren. The headstone survives at the grave, broken off at the base.

Sampson remarried just over a year later, taking as his bride a widow, Elizabeth Cozens formerly George, a schoolmistress who was living with him at Vine Street at the time of their marriage. The marriage did not last long. Elizabeth died on 7 October 1871. The inquest recorded that she had last been seen going out for a beer around 10pm, then leaning against a fence, when a neighbour took her indoors and called the doctor. She died shortly thereafter from heart disease and apoplexy.

Three years later Sampson sold his Vine Street property, and disappears from the historical record for some years. The penultimate record of his life comes from the Victorian Prisoner Registers: he was convicted in June 1887 for being idle and disorderly and sentenced to twelve months jail, then again in January 1889 for vagrancy when he received a sixth month sentence. He had been arrested twice before in 1877 and 1883 though not tried. He was five foot three inches, of fresh complexion, and had a broken nose and a missing upper tooth. Charming. Sampson died in the Melbourne Gaol at 6am on 9 March 1889 aged about 76, having spent the whole of his time in custody in a bed in the Gaol hospital. Although there was an inquest, oddly no death certificate was lodged. Sampson’s place of burial is unknown – a far cry from his first wife’s monument.

The daughters did reasonably well for themselves, raising large families and taking a step up in the world from their parents’ circumstances. They passed on their mother’s maiden name, Ashford, to their children, but their father’s name of Sampson disappeared entirely. The Rose, Prichard and Trader families fit the would-be Australian dream of upward social mobility and improvements in health and wealth.

The sons, however, reflect their father’s fate. Frederick Lees died in the Echuca hotel in 1876 aged only 28 from diphtheria and croup, where he was working as a groom. Arthur Lees also never married and like his brother worked with horses. In 1866 he was fined £1.1s for using foul language whilst drunk in St Kilda, and again in 1867 for drunken behaviour in Prahran: the Argus recorded that: ‘Arthur Lees, a young and respectable-looking man, was brought up as having been drunk and disorderly’, during which time he’d thrown a volley of stones through someone’s window. His defence was that it was ‘a mad freak’, and he was fined 5s. plus damages and costs. Life went seriously downhill for Arthur from that time. He was repeatedly before the courts for drunkenness, threatening language and stealing money through the 1870s and 1880s, and spent several months in prison. Arthur finally died on 12 March 1913 – at the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum – aged 66 years.

Emma Ashford (c.1807-1867)
= 1836 Sampson Lees (c.1813-1889)

Emily Lees (1838-1883)
= 1858 Hugh Chalmers Rose (1835-1885)

Emily Jane Rose (1859-1932)
= 1882 Gerald Francis Goodwin (1858-1925)

Kate Gwendolyne Goodwin (1894-1981)
= 1911 Adrian Hastings Newth (1882-1971)

Emily Elizabeth Newth (1920-)
= 1943 Charles Henry Sherlock (1918-2007)

Charles Henry Sherlock
= Peta Robin Sproule

Peter David Sherlock

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Filed under Family History