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1 Jun 2011

Faith, Hope and Ancestry

I'm just so glad to have solved this puzzle, and found a title for the post which really does fit the facts, as you'll see.

I don't care if it seems I'm singing the praises of Ancestry.com. Because perhaps I am! Much as I'm annoyed with the cynical moneymakers at an extraordinary url in itself,
The proprietors of mf.com (that's Ancestry) have run a pretty effective dragnet over the 19th century. Your ancestor was living in a cave with no roads nearby to escape any entry in their database.

My three Welch sisters ran the water mill at Alhampton maybe 15miles south-west of Bath after their widowed father's death (1880), then they drop right off the radar in 1884. It was all change. Eldest girl gets married and kind of retires, dying with no clues. One girl marries (age 31) and my guess is emigrates somewhere although with the other sister.

I was beginning to wonder which uninhabited island they'd colonised when the answer came from searching All Names on Ancestry . . . New Zealand!

Middle girl Jane (thank goodness) pops up on the newly released electoral rolls down there, as, on closer inspection does her married sister Louisa Ann Smith. Yeh - I'd not have spotted her so easy.

But Louisa was my real target. Just 31 when she married there was a real hope that she might have family. Considering her backstory, I really needed her to have family.

(Her own mother, a lifelong family servant was never supposed to get married but at pushing 40 'stepped in' to help her sister's widowed husband out and ended up married, but also ostracised. Louisa the youngest was taught her letters and helped run a school in Stroud before taking on the watermill.  Atta girl.  But where were they?  Was this the end of the road)

Meanwhile in New Zealand,...
Hope arrived. What an apposite name for the Smiths's eldest child. We now see that Jane, Louisa and Mr Smith sailed almost immediately the minister closed the wedding service. Paperspast tells us they arrived in Christchurch 1884 only to jump on board another vessel going along the coast to Lyttleton. Mr Smith was I believe a grocer.

The NZ birth indexes to my joy listed Hope and Faith as the names of the first two Smith babies. Then followed Ruby and a fourth daughter - with a somewhat less exciting name, sadly.

The trail limped on (I'm not sure how) to Sydney, where I finally arrived at the door (via Facebook) of a descendant.... Huzzah.

Update: I'm meeting one in England in six weeks [August 2015], who was held as a baby by her great grandfather, the very Mr Smith who emigrated with Louisa in 1884.

Note: Ann Feltham (1810-1862) is a Cinderella story. Whilst her daughter Louisa must have had it tough losing mother age 8, going on to school in distant Stroud, and then running a watermill with her sisters, now orphans, in her 20s, she was a true Victorian - setting out for New Zealand in 1884. The story nearly never began. Ann Feltham (her mother) witnessed almost every single marriage going - cousins, aunt, younger sister. She's shown in old letters as caring for her aged uncle. But when her sister dies, suddenly in 1844 marriage comes a-knocking. She settles at Broadfield Down as a farmer's wife, where Louisa arrives in 1853. But Ann was almost certainly banned from returning to Ditcheat, where she had buried a child, and where her own mother had wobbled up the aisle just 8 days before her own birth. Visiting another big farmhouse, this time in Kent, as a guest, not as a servant, she likely had too much cream and died. Ironically it was a 15 year-old domestic servant girl who found her, the rest of the family being out.

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