Family Heirloom- Edwardian Birthday Book

One of the family treasures on our children’s paternal line is a ‘Birthday Book’ that belonged to their Great-Grandmother, Fidelis Ann Finlay.

‘Fidelis’ is a Latin name and translates to ‘faithful’. In some countries it is used as a male name as well.

Fidelis Ann, was the fourth child and daughter, of Edward and Elizabeth Finlay (nee Cafe). She was born at Murrumburrah, New South Wales on 24 May 1884.

When I was growing up we knew this day as Empire Day. It was the birthday of Queen Victoria who was on the British throne from 1837 to 1901. After her death it was a designated holiday, mostly for children, throughout the British Empire from 1905 to 1958, when it was changed to Commonwealth Day.

Fidelis Finlay was known as ‘Del or Della’ by her friends and family and grew up in Murrumburrah where her father was employed as a labourer, often on the railway line built through the area.

Birthday Books were a popular gift for young ladies in the Edwardian Era. Many had a theme such as flowers. This one was on ‘Wit and Humour” with prissy quotations for each day of the year.

Mackey Archives-Family Photograph

Della Finlay Birthday Book

This book is only small, of some 85 millimetres by 105 millimetres, bound in red calf with gold embossing on the front cover and spine. On the front title page is an inscription “ To Dear Della. Wishing her a happy Birthday from JET”, and dated “24.5.1909.”

HODGETT, Fedelis Birthday Book,2016,Clarence Way,Photograph1

On the date of the 16th June is entered the birthday of “Jessie E Flower 1884”. Jessie was the second child and daughter of Thomas and Adelaide Flower, who had been married in Grafton in 1880. The family moved to Sydney in 1883, where Jessie was born. I can find no family connection to the ‘Flower’ family and believe she was probably a childhood friend. She gave Fidelis Ann Finlay this gift in 1909, the year before her marriage to Vernon Edward Hodgetts in 1910.

Among the family photographs is a photograph of a young woman with the inscription on the back “Daisy”. Using the information in the Birthday Book I believe I may have identified another of “Della” Finlays childhood friends.

Daisy Thorogood is entered with a birthday of 18 April 1885. According to the records of the Registrar of Births,Deaths and Marriages in Sydney, “Daisy F” is the daughter of William John and Annie Thorogood of Murrumburrah.

Fidelis Ann Finlay entered the birthdays of many of the family as well as close friends and it has been a great help in sorting birthdays for our family history.

My mother-in-law, Valerie Mary Mackey (nee Hodgetts) was the eldest daughter in the family and inherited the Birthday Book from her mother. She then entered the next generations of children and grandchildren. Again this was helpful in confirming dates of birth for many family connections.

This family treasure has been wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and enclosed in a small box. The story of this Birthday Book has been included, and the box deposited in our “Treasure Cabinet’ for safe keeping for the future.

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Family Heirloom-Bell Family Bible

On the death of my maternal grandmother, Harriet May Baxter (nee Bell) I was very fortunate to inherit some of the family treasures.

One such item was the ‘Bell Family Bible’. It is not a large tome with specially printed pages of ‘Family Register’, as found in many printed Victorian Bibles.

 It is a small volume of 11 X 18 mm, bound in brown cloth. It is the ‘King James’ version printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society. img_4899

 The British and Foreign Bible Society dates back to 1804 and from the early days, the Society sought to be ecumenical and non-sectarian. It’s aim has always been to translate, revise, print, and distribute affordable Bibles throughout the world. Although it began in England and Wales it soon extended its work to Australia, India, Europe and beyond.

 Baskets of Bibles and religious tracts were put on board convict and immigrant ships for ‘instruction’ and education on the voyages to Australia. Later they were also available in bookshops and other outlets in Sydney.

 In my small volume, no year or place of publication has survived as the cover has come off and the title page is missing.

On the inside of the front cover and fly-leaf are written, in possibly two hands, the names and birth dates of my Bell family:-

George Bell Senior

Sarah Bell wife of George Bellimg_4902

George Bell Junior

James Bell Junior

Thomas Bell Junior

Harriet Bell

Henry Bell Junior

John Bell

Emma Bell

Alice Bell

 There is no indication when these were written into the bible, but it must have been accurate personal knowledge as all dates can be confirmed by church infant baptism entries and birth certificates where applicable. Comparing signatures of George Bell (Senior) from land records and his Will, it would appear to be the hand of George Bell up until the entries of ‘John , Emma and Alice Bell’, which appear to be in another hand. Maybe Sarah Bell, his wife, or another altogether. I have no examples of Sarah Bell’s hand writing for comparison.

 A couple of things puzzle me, which I plan to research further. ‘George Bell Senior’ and ‘George Bell Junior’ are self- explanatory as they are ‘father’ and ‘son’. Even ‘James Bell Junior’ as he was named for his uncle ‘ James Bell’, who was George’s older brother and came out to Australia on the same ship. He and his family lived at Picton for a number of years too, so there may have been a reason to differentiate . However who were the ‘Thomas Bell Senior’ and ‘Henry Bell Senior’ who lived in the area and necessitated the designation of ‘junior’? Is this a clue that other members of the family came to Australia and lived in the area? Or were there other Bell families in the area?

Another puzzle to investigate.