Family Heirloom – The Chain-mail Purse

My mother, the fifth child and fourth daughter of Arthur and Harriet May Baxter was to be named ‘Margaret Alice’ in honour of her two grandmothers. Arthur’s mother had been, ‘Margaret Jane’, born 1858 to Gilbert and Ann Kennedy, and Harriet May’s mother ‘Alice’, was born in 1854 to Robert and Margaretta Sherwood.

 However when my grandmother,Harriet May went to register the birth of her new daughter, at the Murwillumbah Court House, she gave her the name ‘Margaret Nola’.

 Having grown up with the story of how my mother was to be named for her grandmothers, but only received the name of her paternal grandmother, I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, why the change?

 She explained to me that she and Arthur had originally decided to name their fourth daughter after the grandmothers because although by this time Arthur’s mother had eight granddaughters, only one had been given the first name ‘Margaret’ and that granddaughter had died in an accident as an infant. One other had Margaret, as a second name.

 Harriet May’s mother had eleven granddaughters by this time. Only one had been given the name ‘Alice’, but it was used as a second name. The maternal grandmother wanted the ‘new’ grandchild given the name ‘Alice’ as an only name, like herself. However, my grandparents had privately decided to use it as a second name.

 My grandmother called at the Murwillumbah Court house to register her new daughter, shortly after being released from the Newbrae Private Hospital. However, when it came to the actual registration my grandmother used ‘Nola’ as the second name. My grandmother had two nieces, one on each side of the family named ‘Nola’, and she liked the name.

 I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, again, why the change?

Her reply was that she and Arthur had been engaged shortly before her seventeenth birthday, but her mother was set against the marriage and would never give her consent and blessings.

Arthur and Harriet May were married a week after ‘Harriet May’s’ twenty-first birthday.

Although her relationship with her mother was quite cordial in most ways, she could never quite forgive her for withholding consent and blessings for the marriage.

 My mother first met her grandparents in 1928 when she, her mother and baby sister, Joan, travelled by train to Sydney for Harriet May’s parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary at Thirroul, on the South Coast of New South Wales.

Afterwards they went to Picton to visit Arthur’s parents, who had also celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary earlier in the year.

fhp000333 Left: My mother ‘Margaret Nola’ (left) with her Aunt Milly and cousins Phyllis and Heather, in the front garden of her paternal grandparent’s home, at Picton, October 1928

 

It was on this visit that Arthur’s mother,’ Margaret Jane’ gave her namesake granddaughter, ‘Margaret Nola’ a gift, in honour of the name. This was a small Victorian chain-mail purse, ‘to take her pennies to church in’. It was always one of my most mother’s prized possessions, and my sisters and I, when children, were never allowed to use it to carry our pennies to Sunday School and Church.

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My mother didn’t know if her grandmother Margaret, had purchased it as a special gift, or if it had originally been her prized possession as a child. I have not been able to solve this question either.

 By the way, there are thirty grandchildren on my maternal side. Seventeen are female and not one was named ‘Margaret’ or ‘Alice’, which was most unusual for the time.

PS: The ‘sixpences’ in the above photograph were used by my family for many years as the ‘pudding’ money at Christmas. They were kept in a little cigarette tin and wrapped in the calico cloth used to make the ‘boiled’ pudding for Christmas Day.

Oh! The funny stories and laughter those coins evoke each time I look at them.

 

 

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The Kennedy Clan in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

This month I have concentrated on researching some of my ancestors from Northern Ireland. On my maternal line I am descended from the Kennedy’s of County Tyrone.

Gilbert Kennedy was born about 1827, son of Thomas and Mary Kennedy near The Rock, County Tyrone, Ireland. I have not been able to locate surviving baptism records for the parish churches, in this area of Northern Ireland. I am continuing to research the Kennedy families in this part of Ireland and found some were still there in the 1901 Census.

On 3 February 1852, Gilbert married Ann Hunter at the Artrea parish church. Ann was the daughter of Robert and Jane Hunter of Ballyneill More, in County Londonderry.

In 1854 Gilbert and Ann Kennedy had a daughter who was named Elizabeth.

In 1856, Gilbert and Ann decided to emigrate to New South Wales. They travelled to Belfast where they took a boat to Liverpool and boarded the emigrant ship Kate. The Kate left Plymouth in mid September and arrived in Sydney two days before Christmas in 1856.

Advertisements appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald later that week stating that there were a number of Agricultural Labourers who had arrived by the ‘Kate’. It is believed that Gilbert and Ann Kennedy went to the Camden area to help with the summer harvest.

The Kennedy family were at Spring Creek, near Camden two years later when a daughter Mary Jane was born on 9 March 1858. They are believed to have been renting a farm there.

In 1860, a third daughter, named Mary Ann was born. In that same year their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, died from croup.

Another daughter, Isabella was born in 1862 followed by Martha in 1864. However four year old Isabella drowned at Spring Creek in 1866. Soon afterwards the family moved to Abbottsford, Picton. A son William James Kennedy was born at Abbottsford on 7 June 1866.

It was about this time that Gilbert Kennedy’s health started to decline and in February 1870 he was admitted to the Parramatta Asylum, where he remained until his death on 1 September 1903. The admission registers for this time period have not survived, to give us the medical reason for Gilbert’s admission. Gilbert was buried at Rookwood Church of England Cemetery, but there is no headstone. He is memorialised on his wife’s headstone at St Mark’s, Picton.

Parramatta Asylum was opened in 1849 in the old Female Factory. From the outset it consisted of a free, and a criminally insane division. By 1870 there were about eight hundred patients, over seven hundred being free. Although in 1885 a new hospital wing was completed, over crowding was always a problem. Several photographs of Parramatta Asylum at the turn of the 20th Century can be viewed at the State Records website at http://www.records.nsw.gov.au . Because this Asylum was so much a part of my ancestors life, finding these photographs has been very helpful. An article in the Town and Country Journal, 12 August 1871 gave a detailed description of the establishment, which helped me put our Gilbert Kennedy life into context. The reporter mentions an inmate by the name of ‘Kennedy’, but further research showed he was a ‘William Francis Kennedy’ and not our ‘Gilbert Kennedy’. I have copies of surviving Asylum records relating to Gilbert, but they do not give a great insight into his ‘illness’.

In 1875, Mary Ann Kennedy, the second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died, of ‘disease of the throat.’ She was buried at St Mark’s, Picton aged 15 years.

Less than two years later Martha Kennedy, the fifth child and second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died of cancer. She was only 13 years of age. She is also buried at Picton.

On 23 March 1878 a joyous occasion was celebrated in the family, when ‘Margaret Jane’ the only surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy was married to James Baxter, in St Mark’s, Church of England, Picton. The following year a son was born to James and Margaret Baxter who was named ‘William James’.Nine children were born to James and Margaret Baxter over the next twenty years or more, all of whom survived. The youngest child, a son, was named ‘Ewart Gilbert’ in honour of his Grandfather Kennedy.

In 1894, William James Kennedy the only son of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy, married Florence Emily Evans. They were to have twins, Myra and William in 1896, followed by Stella in 1897 and Dorothy in 1899. This family resided at 73 Lincoln Street, Stanmore for over fifty years.

Ann Kennedy went to live with James and Margaret Baxter’s family in the late 1890’s, until her own death in 1912. She is buried in St Mark’s Picton along side her daughters Isabella, Mary Ann,and Martha. Headstones mark these graves.

James and Margaret Baxter are also buried here and a headstone marks the grave.