Sunday, 27 November 2011

An Uncommon Ancestor : Frederick Ward

Yesterday I picked up a copy of 'Growing Your Family Tree' by Cherry Gilchrist and, while I have only read a small portion, it inspired me to write this next blog. I have been waiting for something to come along since my last blog on Remembrance Day.

In the first chapter Cherry sets the scene at the Powys Record Office, eavesdropping on a conversation between a visitor and an archivist. The visitor is looking for information on his grandmother and, with help from the archivist, discovers something about her that shocks him. Unexpectedly he finds out that his ancestors ran pubs, and his family are teetotallers. This little snippet got me thinking about my own ancestry, and the many little 'shocks' that I have experienced since researching my family history in earnest.
I have my own teetotal story - my great-grandfather converted to the Methodist faith after growing up with an alcoholic father. Another great-grandfather survived a torpedo attack off the North Sea during World War One. My dear 3 x great-grandfather went mad and smashed windows, convinced that somebody was out to murder him and his wife. My 3 x great-grandmother sent her children to an Industrial School and she later died in a Workhouse. Then there was the uncovering of a Convict!
My visits to my local genealogical society over the years has seen many interactions with Australians who rather proudly announce that they each have at least one Convict ancestor in their family tree. Many boast that without them they wouldn't be here today. White Australian settlement history rests largely on the shoulders of those Convicts who sailed on Convict ships, from as early as 1788 through to the mid 1840s when criminal transportation was put to an end. The last of those Convicts were known as 'Exiles' because, basically, they were not  really wanted anywhere. There was no room for them in England. Its prisons were fit to bursting, and many were placed on Prison Hulks off the coast until there was a place for them somewhere or a final decision from officials could be arrived at.
Frederick Ward, my third great-grand uncle, was one of those 'exiles'. In December 1844 he was sentenced, at the Beccles Quarter Sessions, to be transported for 7 years, for stealing three stones weight of cows flesh from James Skippon of Bungay. Unfortunately, this was not Fred's only crime. He had been convicted on two previous occasions; in 1843 and 1844, both on accounts of larceny, and was sent to Beccles Gaol.

In December 1844 Fred Ward was sent to Millbank Prison in London. Millbank was intended to house up to 1000 transportation prisoners at any one time. The average stay was for around three months, during which time prisoners would be assessed for future placement. By the early 1840s transportation sentences were ceased but there were still many prisoners who faced the possibility of being sent away. In 1843 Millbank was converted to house general prisoners and transportation prisoners, including Fred Ward, were moved to Prison Hulks.
Finally in January 1847 Fred Ward was placed on the 'Thomas Arbuthnot' with around 288 male prisoners from Millbank, Pentonville & Parkhurst Prisons and sailed from Spithead to Port Philip Settlement (Melbourne), arriving in May 1847. The 621 ton ship began her voyage at Portsmouth, then travelled to the Isle of Wight where she took on 90 Parkhurst boys. The Times newspaper had this to report:

"The Thomas Arthbuthnot convict ship, Captain Therason, sailed from Spithead this morning for Port Philip with a superior class of delinquents, officially called "exiles". These are the first "exiles" sent to the above settlement, which the inhabitants of that respectable place are very wroth at, and have memorialised the Government on the subject..."

Little is known about Fred Ward after his arrival to Port Philip. This is still a work in progress. What is known is that people such as Richard Deeks spent his precious time researching and transcribing all transportee records of Suffolk and turned it into a book. It was this invaluable book, held at the Suffolk Record Office, which helped me to locate and further research Fred Ward. This from a book review:

'Transportees from Suffolk to Australia 1787-1867' lists everyone who was transported from Suffolk to Australia, and gives quite a lot of detail about them, where such detail is available. It was published by Seven Sparrows Publishing in 2000 by Garry Deeks, Richard Deeks' son. The address of Severn Sparrows Publishing is given as 'Seven Sparrows Publishing The Old Manse, Laxfield Road, Fressingfield, Eye, Suffolk IP91 5PX' When it originally came out it cost £7.99. It is now out of print. It is really indespensible for anyone doing research on Suffolk Transportees. It was a colossal piece of work which took Richard Deeks a huge effort to compile..."

While I won't deny that Fred Ward was unfortunate in his life, he was my very own unexpected 'shock' story that I like to regale people with. Nobody in my family even knew we even had a convict for an ancestor, and when I revealed all, they were equally surprised. When I told my Australian friends, they just nodded their heads or shrugged their shoulders and beamed, "We all have one. You're not unique". I have to admit though that I was not expecting one - not a Ward.
When I began to research the siblings of my 3 x great-grandfather, Henry Ward, I couldn't locate one of his brothers (Fred Ward) after the 1841 census. So began a lengthy detective-style manhunt. When I stumbled across a convict record on Ancestry, initially I denied with every fibre of my being that it was him. My belief was that there was no possible likelihood of a Ward ancestor who was so..."fractious", so "unorthodox"! So unexpected.

Next time you are working on your family tree and you find an unexpected 'shock' be assured that you really are not alone. "There is one in every bunch" as my grandmother Lilian used to say. We are who we are today, because of our past: Our unique and colourful ancestry.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day 11/11/2011

Today I attended The Remembrance Day ceremony at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens:
The weather was glorious, the atmosphere subdued and contemplative, and yet there was a distinct air of mutual respect and contentment. We were all there to honour the fallen of World War One - the "so-called" war to end all wars. We were all joined in our reflection on our lives as it stands today, and how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful city and be a part of the absolute picture-perfect scenery and surroundings of Kings Park. We share in the gratitude of our freedom and we share in the pain of the past.
Apart from the constant squawking of crows and magpies, there was a mass solitude. The band began their practice, as the RSL members milled about, greeting one another and sharing a hearty laugh, finding friends and comrades, holding wreaths, and selling poppies.
The band sounds lovely as they practise their scales, so perfectly timed! A large cloud drifts over the sun, taking away its rather nasty bite. I had to re-apply my sunscreen as well, it certainly is needed today.
The Leake Memorial and The Grand Walk 1910
The Leake Memorial 2011
The crowds are thickening now, as the commencement of service draws nearer. School children, RSL members and their wives, widows, children and grandchildren, politicians and dignitaries, and the media are all out in force. Before the service I walked around to take some photographs, and then found a spot to sit for the proceedings. The sun was biting harder and a few cadets from the Catapult Party are feeling the pressure.

The State War Memorial 1929
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
visit the State War Memorial in 1954
The State War Memorial 2011
Eerie sounds of the band warming up, puts me in mind of the 'Titanic' soundtrack; the track that plays at the end, after the ship had sunk. It is very moving, very sad, and very eerie.
The service is drawing to a close and the 'National Anthem' is sung. The wreaths have all been laid, the Catapult Party has marched away, the crowd wanders around the Flame of Remembrance to say a quiet prayer, look at the wreaths and take photographs. It was a very poignant, emotional morning. One I shall remember for a very long time.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Honouring My World War One Ancestors

We are approaching that time of year where we stop to remember those who served in The Great War 1914-1918; where we honour the memory of those who died, especially our own loved ones. Our great-grandfathers, our great-uncles, our cousins. The loved ones who went to war and were killed in the name of King and Country.

Sharpest in my mind are my ancestors, none of whom I knew but who have become much more real to me since researching my family history in earnest. My local Genealogical Society advised me to visit the CWGC website for further information regarding individual tributes to all war dead. This website holds details of my military ancestors, from both World Wars. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, established by Royal Charter in 1917, pays tribute to the thousands of men and women of the Commonwealth Forces who died in the two World Wars.

The British Royal Legion held its first official Royal Legion Poppy Day in 1921. Inspired by the now world famous John McCrae poem 'In Flanders' Field' the annual Poppy Appeal is still a key event today. Here in Australia we have an annual Poppy Appeal in April to commemorate our  nation's own 'Remembrance Day' known as ANZAC Day. As we are a Commonwealth nation we also honour Armistice Day with another Poppy Appeal and various war memorial services and a two-minute silence.

Every year, whenever I see the RSL (Returned & Services League of Australia) selling poppies in the shopping centres and around the streets of Perth, a lump always catches in my throat. I have the utmost respect for all those who have served, and those who serve today, for our country. For me personally I experience a double dose of extreme emotions each year, both in April and in November, as I honour my allegiance both countries (of which my heart proudly belongs).

James Jolly was born in 1880 in Bungay, the fourth child and second son of William Jolly and Emma Clarke. It is believed that he enlisted with the Norfolk Regiment at Ditchingham from an early age, and served with the 2nd Battalion, as Private, in the 1899-1902 Second Boer War campaign. When World War One broke out, James (affectionately known as 'Jumbo') served with the 1st Battalion as Acting Lance Corporal and was sent to France. Just two short months later, James Jolly was killed in the First Battle of Ypres, in November 1914. He is buried at the Menin Gate Memorial Cemetery. He was my Great-Granduncle. Lest We Forget.

James Jolly
William Waters was born in 1889 in Beccles, the third child and second son of William Waters and Emily Gunns. William worked as a Coachman in Beccles until war broke out and he enlisted on the 9th of September. According to his Service Record he was born in 1884 and he gave his occupation as 'Chauffeur'. He was listed as having served in the Territorial Force for 5 years. By the time he enlisted to serve with the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment (at Norwich) in 1914 he was 7 years married to Elizabeth Poll, and they had five children, the fourth child being born in February 1914. William Waters was wounded in May 1917 and died 9 days later, at Huddersfield Hospital. He is buried in Beccles. He was my Great-Granduncle. Lest We Forget.

War Memorial at Beccles
Sidney Preston was born in 1889 in Holt, the sixth child and third son of Thomas Preston and Sarah England. After leaving Gresham's School in 1905, Sidney had a promising career in London as a Solicitor. Under the tutelage of his eldest brother Thomas, Sidney was sitting his Law examinations when war broke out and he felt a stronger urge to serve for his country, and enlisted with the Middlesex Regiment (but was later given a commission in the Essex Regiment). In 1916, whilst stationed at Aldershot with the Essex Regiment, Sidney married his sweetheart Mabel Gold in Kilburn, Middlesex. In November 1917 Sidney was sent to France and was killed in action in April 1918. He is buried at the Bienvillers Military Cemetery. He was my First Cousin 3 Times Removed. Lest We Forget.

Sidney Preston (1911)

They shall grow not old,
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest We Forget.