Sunday, 29 January 2017

'Will You Miss England?' - FICTION based on GENEALOGICAL FACT. Private Life, Public Record. A narrative about a moment in the life of my ancestor Eleanor Wells.

“You ask me: How do I feel leaving my home country of England?

“Well, I have many feelings and concerns.  Firstly I have to leave three of my children behind.  The three we’ve buried.  I shan’t be able to visit them anymore.  The grief of them dying was hard, but now … to sail the seas so far away … is even harder.

“I wish my husband understood how deep my grief is.  He is so excited about starting a new life in a new land he won’t talk about our loss. 

“Of the four children with us Eleanor, my namesake, is just like me.  We understand each other.  At thirteen she misses her older sister the most.  We always visited the graves together.   On our walk we collected flowers along the way to spread on their beds.

“I am so worried for our other children that they may become unwell on the trip and not survive.  I have heard that there are often deaths on board.

“Thomas my husband is a gardener just like his father was.  But will there be work for him in this foreign land?  I can always do housework or serve in tea-rooms but will there be gardens for Thomas to tend?

“I miss my family already, standing here on the wharf.  My mother loved to help me with the children but she will not be here in the future.  I will not be able to walk down the road to see her, to share tea and chat together.

“I answer you – Yes I will miss England and I am just so anxious about the whole trip.”


PROV:  Index to Assisted British Immigrants 1839-1871.Book 10, p 7. Ann Milne, Jan 1853.

Friday, 20 January 2017

'Quay Moment' - FICTION based on GENEALOGICAL FACT. Point of No Return - A narrative based on a key moment when an ancestor departed from a place

Well, I’ve done it. After hanging around the docks for the past week I’ve finally plucked up the courage to sign on as a deckhand. 
I’m on board the ‘Thetis of Dundee” and looking up at the square rigging.
It looks a whole lot scarier to climb than the trees back home in Gippsland.

That seems a long time ago now. After Mum died, and with Dad gone most of the time training horses, us kids were all sent to different family homes.   

Being eighteen they put me in a bakery as an apprentice, but I hated it. I wanted to travel and see the world.  So I took off here to Sydney and I’ve been watching the ships ever since.  When I heard this one needed crew I jumped at the chance to get away from Australia.

Jim, who I’ve been sleeping rough with on the docks, reckons I’m mad.  He says the boat’s sure to go to South Africa with the Boer War raging.
I asked the ‘mate’ would that happen and he said: “No chance - not with all this wheat on board”.

I feel such a coward – first time on salt water and I’m shivering in my boots.
What will it be like when we get out to sea?  The mate says he’ll whip me if I don’t go aloft. Have I done the wrong thing?

The tug is alongside getting us ready to sail.  It won’t be long now and we’ll be outward bound for Valparaiso, Chile in South America.

Reference:   Personal Collection.  Family Correspondence from Claude Palmer

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Jane's New Home and 'Business' - FICTION based on GENEALOGICAL FACT, “There’s No Place Like Home” - Understanding our characters through the places they lived

In the centre of England there was a little old house tucked away in a yard in Red Cross Street Leicester.  In 1846 the owner Mr Wright allowed Mrs Jane Castings to live there. Jane set about quietly establishing her own business. Thus she supported her sick husband and four young children who lived on the outskirts of town.

Being a native of Leicester Jane knew the city inside out.  This was to her advantage in recent hard times.  She harboured young juveniles and taught them to steal.  A petty theft business whereby she paid so much for their “jobs” like any other tradeswoman.

The house was well positioned right in the middle of town, near the noisy market place, the shops of Red Cross, Regent and Welford Streets and Mr Christian the pawnbroker.

It was a dark building with a large coal-place to the side of the door providing a good hiding spot for the lads to offload stolen baskets. The safest place to conceal things, if anyone was about, was in the ‘pipkin’ (earthenware pot) behind the rainwater tub.

The small kitchen held a pantry, fireplace, table and chairs.  The boys crowded in after a successful evening’s work and enjoyed a mouth-watering bacon ‘frizzle’ (fry-up) with their boss.  They slept upstairs - Jane in her bed and the boys on the floor.  The pawnbroker’s duplicates were kept in a pepper pot under the bed with other stolen merchandise.  Needles and a ball of blue worsted were stored ready to monogram linen and clothing with a large ‘C'.

Jane had settled comfortably in her new home and trade was going well.



TAHO, CON15/1/3, Image 314, Indent Register, Jane Castings Sea Queen 1846

Find My Past, England Wales & Scotland Census 1841 Transcription, HO107, Piece no 604, Bk 13, Folio 30, p 3, Navigation St, St Margaret, Leicester, Leicestershire, England: Henry Castings

The Record Office for Leicestershire, England. Parish Records, Baptisms: Parish of Burbage & Burback, Co of Leicester, 18 April 1813, Reg No: 11, Jane, daughter of Charles (labourer) and Sophia Pratt, Burbage.

Leicester Journal, Friday 27 February 1846, page 1; 
British Newspaper Archive (

Leicester Chronicle, Saturday 28 February 1846, page 3;  
British Newspaper Archive (

Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday 28 February 1846, page 1;  

British Newspaper Archive (