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30 Nov 2011

A tale of two grandmothers

I can see I will have to go to Furness, the isolated bit of Lancashire accessible only by coast, from Morecambe, and now swallowed up by Cumbria.  My grandmother worked at Bassenthwaite Hall during the War, inland, and later married at Ulverston Methodist Church, Furness.


Strangely, I do turn out to have family members in Furness, but nothing to do with this grandmother.  It was my OTHER grandmother, born at Turnpike Lane (on the Piccadilly line) in the London suburbs, who has the Lakes ancestry, although she never lived there, and rarely had the chance to visit.  She was the granddaughter of John Airey the grocer of Windermere.  Or Winandermere, to give it its full name.

It was formally known as Applethwaite, or Lower Birthwaite, but I think it had always been known locally as Windermere.  When the God-given railway arrived in the 1840s, up went the sign WINDERMERE, and in came the visitors.  Hill-walkers, Wordsworth enthusiasts, consumptives, artists laden with oils and canvas, all the wealthy from Leeds, Manchester and London, were keen to visit England's biggest inland body of water.  John had just bought a site on Victoria Street, built by an uncle, and had forty very good years in the town.  The town also became a home for Annie, whose father had been crushed to death in the North-East aged 30, John's future wife.

John Airey also had two grandmothers, and the younger of these gave me much puzzlement.  She was Betty born about 1779 in Troutbeck round the corner from Windermere, long before the tourists got in.  She had clearly married, to Joseph Barnett, and had a slew of children, and descendants, most of them in the Furness pensinsula.  There were several Bettys born about 1779 in the parish, but none of them looked very interesting.

That was until a rogue tree on Ancestry made me consider Betty might after all have been someone already on my tree!  That is: Elizabeth Airey baptised in 1780 at Troutbeck.  Timing was very very tight as a girl was supposedly born 16yrs later.  But if we ignore her, that buys us more time.  She still has to marry at 18, for the true firstborn of 1799.  The censuses scream that 1780 is just too late, but they're wrong.  Elizabeth Airey DID marry, in 25 Feb 1798 at Troutbeck, to Joseph Barnett.

We are fortunate to know so much about a 4xgreat-grandmother.  She and her sisters all survived until the time of the censuses, and various family names were passed around which may lead us yet further back.  Of course we now descend from the Aireys of Westmorland twice over, and so it's for us even more a tight-knit family, centred around the beautiful unspoilt village of Troutbeck.

28 Nov 2011

The Tuckingmill Hotel and the Return of Eliza


Eliza Hunter was one of the great unsolved threads in the tree.  Listed unhelpfully as Elizabeth Richards in 1851, seemingly her life is over at the age of 25.

We see her here stopping over with her brother who had the Tuckingmill Hotel.  This same hotel would kill the next-born Hunter children, and so the family would be off by the decade's end to Bogota to see if their luck would be farer there (ha ha).  Eliza/ Elizabeth Hunter we must leave as a forgotten petal strewn by life's roadside, along the way.

Now, among the gold mines of Bendigo, 1870, 20 years later, was a young man, John Hunter, newly finding his feet.  Having lost his father in Bogota (a trip that hadn't worked out so well), he was now doing extremely well, being part of the management of a fuse factory that made fuses for the explosions in the mines.  He'd had a certain fairy godmother help him (can you guess who?).

A young girl caught his eye: Mary Catherine Perry, another Cornishwoman.  She long sat in my tree, not really of any significance, just helping a branch get some momentum before the lower birth rates of the 1900s forced an early end to the family.  How could she suddenly become of significance?

Brett Pierce tells me the Return of Eliza, one of the 3 great Hunter women, all born in 1825, and all destined to dally with the great continent under the sea.  Eliza was the last of these and the first of in Australia.  She went out as a bride of 22 and returned a widow in 1850, losing her husband and then her son.  Briskly following her out were her two cousins, who were even baptised together: they oscillated between the southern gold fields and have over a thousand descendants today, though only one lived to enjoy them.

So, 1851 and the comings-and-goings.  What next for the Hunters and Eliza?  Eliza did not for a minute sit on her laurels and watch her brother sail for Columbia before keeping house for her elderly father.  The moment the census enumerator left the Hotel with a handkerchief over his nose, she must have made her approaches to Perry, a tin miner.  She would need to marry him immediately, give birth to several children, get back on the boat for Australia and be out of the out of the country leaving no ripples by the 1861 census.  And that's what she did.

I say no trace... but the clue had been staring at me from the page for years.  Even though Eliza was a widow, apparently barren in 1851, SHE turns out to have been the producer of Mary Catherine Perry - in readiness for the 1870 marriage, with little time to spare.  All this happens in just a few short years.  Because Mary Catherine was born in England but after the census years, it would be hard to work out who her parents were.

Eliza's later children were born in Australia, with her maiden name of Hunter clearly announced.
But what Brett in Australia didn't know, was where Eliza came from, as of course details of her first marriage never reared their head second time around. He definitely didn't know she'd come out before.

And what I didn't know in England, was that Eliza had had this second marriage at all, as guessing the name of a new man, and then further guessing that they had gone BACK to Australia, were all beyond my powers of imagination.  I was just sure she'd passed away, in England, leaving no trace, and no family.

Eliza had eleven children all told and many descendants who are just learning of her double emigration.  Her fertility is not quite in the same league as her fellower 1825 cousins, who had 95 grandchildren between them; but still very respectable.  She was now based in Victoria and it was through her brother-in-law that young orphan John Hunter got the work in Perry's Fuse Factory, Bendigo.

The main mystery left is where her mother, Mary Richards of Wendron came from.  Perhaps we can solve it.

This article appeared in November 2011.  The following month, a few weeks before his passing, my grandfather remembered something of the Tuckingmill Hotel.  This is an old man remembering a story from his grandfather, a sunny boy with many adventures in Cornwall and South America before he turned 10.  If we trust this young gallivanting boy, so full of life, unlike his siblings who died in the Hotel - it, had, newspapers, on, the, table.  That's it.  That's the extent.

Pearce sorrow

Lots has happened since the last blog.  Most of it in the last day.  Two bits of information came fluttering in from Australia, the land of surprises.  #2 first: browsing a highly unlikely tree on Ancestry with much of its information from the remarkable Australian Cemeteries Index, see the attached photo.  Piecing together the information, I found that Edward Pearce 1819-1860, farmer of Musquito Creek, Gwydir district left five children, when he died.  Did the mosquitoes have a hand in his death?  His widow remarried.  His only son was shot by Jack Brady in 1884, named Gwydir after the district.  One daughter died following the birth of twins, aged 26, another (the only one named in family wills) lived to be 54 a spinster.  That just leaves one of the twins plus her aunt Jessie Pearce to continue the line.  The tree online, the cemeteries index, the New South Wales vital records, helped make up for the usual problem: how do you find a child born AFTER the census, but before the emigration overseas?  It was this very child Jessie who is the matriarch, even when it appeared there were none left of this side.  I googled 'Musquito Creek' like crazy, but had I searched for Pearce and Gwydir, the story would have come out that much sooner.  For the boy cut down in his prime, is carved in stone: 'he cut me down in my strength and shortened my days'.  Whether this is a reference to God or to Brady depends on your reading of this piece of family sorrow.