Wednesday, 25 April 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 16 Prompt - 'Storms'

 Week 16 - ‘Storms’

Like all of us in this storm between birth and death, I can wreak no great changes on the world, only small changes for the better, I hope, in the lives of those I love.          Dean Koontz

I researched to find the biggest storms in the United Kingdom and came across the Night of the Big Wind, in 1839.  Wikipedia told me it was:  the most severe windstorm to hit Ireland in recent centuries, with hurricane-force winds gusting over 190 km per hour.  The European windstorm swept across Ireland killing between 250 and 300 people and rendering hundreds of thousands of homes uninhabitable and causing severe damage to properties. 
The storm developed after a period of unusual weather. Heavy snow, rare in Ireland, fell across the country on the night of 5 January, which was replaced on the morning of 6 January by an Atlantic warm front, which brought a period of complete calm with dense, motionless, cloud cover. Through the day, temperatures rose well above their seasonal average, resulting in rapid melting of the snow.

Later, on 6 January, a deep Atlantic depression began to move towards Ireland, forming a cold front when it collided with the warm air over land, bringing strong winds and heavy rain.  First reports of stormy weather came from western County Mayo around noon, and the storm moved very slowly across the island through the day, gathering strength as it moved.
By midnight the winds reached hurricane force. Contemporary accounts of damage indicate that the Night of the Big Wind was the most severe storm to affect Ireland for many centuries. Severe property damage was caused. Between a fifth and a quarter of all houses in Dublin suffered damage ranging from broken windows to complete destruction.   Much of the inland damage was caused by a storm surge that drew large quantities of seawater inland, resulting in widespread flooding 
The Night of the Big Wind became part of Irish folk tradition. Irish folklore held that Judgment Day would occur on the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January (Old Christmas day). Such a severe storm led many to believe that the end of the world was at hand. Another belief was that the storm brought the end of the ‘Fairies’ as they were also blown away and not heard singing again.

The Old-Age Pensions Act 1908 introduced pensions for over-70s, but many Irish Catholics prior to the Registration of Births and Deaths (Ireland) Act, 1863 had no birth registration. One of the questions used to establish proof of age was whether the applicant remembered the Night of the Big Wind.
A popular story holds that the storm inspired the Director of Armagh Observatory, the Reverend Romney Robinson, to develop the cup-anemometer, which remains the commonly used wind measuring device today.

Okay so I had found my big storm – now I needed to relate it to my ancestors.  I researched further looking for any comment on its effect in Poyntzpass, County Down in the North of Ireland, where my Gt Gt Grandmother lived with her parents and siblings at the time. 

Sure enough, there was an article The Night of the Big Wind written by Frank Watters.  He claimed that by all accounts it was the most extreme storm in the last 500 years.  The storm became a landmark in time from which other events were dated.  People would say that ‘such and such’ happened before or after ‘The Big Wind’ commonly pronounced ‘Wine’.
The population of Ireland would have been about 8 million then, with most people living in the country.  Their farmhouses were scattered through fields all over the countryside. The houses were mud-walled and thatched with straw or rushes tied down with hand twisted straw ropes.  Many lived in constant poverty with a state of near-famine being the norm.
The Big Wind tore off slate roofing, chimneys, church spires, and thatched rooves fell in. This started fires in nearly every town and village as the main means of fuel was turf and tallow candles and rushlights.  Whole rows of thatched houses burnt down.  Hay, flax, and corn stacks and even some hens were blown away.  People lost their savings and valuables as well as any weapons they had hidden in their thatched rooves.
Ships were driven onto the land and dead bodies floated in with the tide. Large trees of up to 200years old were torn out of the ground.
People sought shelter in sheughs (ditches) and behind banks.  Reference:

Then I remembered another possible relevant source - an ancestor’s diary.  So I checked again and -
Yes, there was mention of the storm on 06 January 1839.  The family seems to have fared okay apart from the farm and some buildings.
Copy of Excerpt from the diary of John Shanks, my 3rdgreat grandfather’s brother.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 15 'Taxes'

Week 15 Prompt:  Taxes

This is more of an American prompt - so I will be creative and write about an ancestor who has been particularly ‘taxing’ to me.

I had an ‘Uncle Dudley’ when I was young, I remembered that I met him once when I was 12 years old. He was captain of an oil liner LOF ‘London Resolution’ that was visiting Port Melbourne, docking at the Shell Refinery in 1958.
The Pearce families went down from country Victoria to meet with him on the ship. My sister and I thought he was just wonderful - such a good looking young man with a wonderful accent. He showed us all over the ship and the sailors were saluting him and smiling at us. I have a blurry photo of him taken on my box Brownie camera coming down the gangway and being blown in the wind.

I realized a few years ago that I had never come across him in my genealogical studies.
So the chase was on.

I don’t know why but I had the thought that he came from the West coast of Scotland somewhere - I think from something Aunty Tib said ( My Aunty TIb is in the previous blog - 'The Maiden Aunt'.)  So much time has gone that Uncle Dudley would be pretty old now – getting on for 90’s maybe.

I contacted other Pearce relatives in Australia, England, and Scotland. After a few months, I had some replies. But they were few and far between. One from the UK said: Sorry I can't help you with Dudley it's not a common first name in Scotland but might have been passed down from the families’ English roots. A couple of others in Australia remembered him and that they had also gone to Melbourne for the visit. One gave me his surname: Hepworth. As soon as I read it I remembered - ‘yes, of course that was his name’.

So now I had something to work with.
I searched online for oil liners and found shipping lists with the ships he was on and the crew names. I saw how he worked his way up the ladder. From being a cadet aged 19 in October 1942 to being a 2nd Officer as late as 1950 and then "Master" of "London Pride" in Jan 1961. I discovered a website for the shipping line’s past crews (L O F News) I heard back after a year or so from 1 ex-sailor who remembered Dudley as a great Captain but hadn’t seen him for a long long time.

In the meanwhile, I found a Captain William Dudley Hepworth born 11 Mar 1923 in the UK, who (sadly) died in November 2000 aged 77, in Exeter, Devon, England. I felt very sad that I had missed being able to talk to him if this was our Uncle Dudley. His names are uncommon and fitted as did his date of birth.  I couldn't find any other information about him in Exeter nowadays.

I notified relatives in Australia of this new information and asked if anyone had anything to add. I had an email from a cousin’s wife who heard from my cousin Isobel. She had discovered some old letters from Dudley to my Aunty Tib and one was written from the 'London Victory' on the 14th Jan 1957 and signed with 'W.' Dudley Hepworth.

Hurrah - So a 'W' initial has appeared. That fitted with the details of the ‘William Dudley’ that I found. Another letter gave the matching birth date of Dudley as 11th March, but no year or place, unfortunately.

I sought help from a Facebook genealogy group where I have a friend in England. She was happy to help and said:
" Now, your Uncle Dudley sounds an interesting man! Yes, I can imagine the welcome he got from family whilst visiting Australia, how lovely for him and them. So, I shall put on my thinking cap and see what I come up with.
I took a quick look and could only see his death details, nothing in the births in the UK, so maybe he was born somewhere else.   I think that William was born in Scotland, possibly Glasgow, as I saw he sailed on a ship out of there as a young man aged 19.  Although ‘Scotlands People’ website has absolutely nothing on him. Of the voyages he is listed in, on Ancestry he puts his first nationality as being English but on all the other years, he says he is Scottish. It appears he was about 5ft 10 ins and weighed about 145lbs, to give you an idea of what he was like back in the 1940’s."

and later:

"There is one mention of him travelling with family back in 1933, but can we be sure it is him? He was just shown as Dudley Hepworth so I have my doubts. It shows his mother as Beatrice Hepworth born 1882 and his father as John Hepworth born 1879, a plumber. On the 1933 sailing of the 'SS Themistocles’, Beatrice is just traveling with this Dudley Hepworth, having got on the ship at Melbourne. It shows Beatrice as a housewife, who has been living in Australia but to take up residence in Scotland. Their address in Scotland is listed as Lower View, Craig Row, Edinburgh."  She then checked the Merchant Seaman's Records on the National Archives to no avail and emailed the local papers in Exeter asking the archivist librarian if they could look up any mention of his death, obituary, and marriage.

The Beatrice Lumsden's in my tree did not match the birth dates for this Beatrice.
In the meanwhile, I started trawling through those ships passenger lists, I found one where Dudley was only 2 years old sailing with parents John and Beatrice to and from South Africa. Their address last resided at was: ℅ Mr. A Lumsden, Ormiston, East Lothian, Haddingtonshire, Scotland.


A male Lumsden married a female MacIntosh in my family tree and they came from Ormiston. So now to work out where mother Beatrice fits. The records show the family left Scotland for South Africa but were returning to reside in England.

After sending this information to my historian in England she tried the Ancestry Telephone Directories and found an entry for a William Dudley Hepworth in 1984, apparently the last of the directories.

GREAT - we now had an address in Throwleigh.

She explained:
" There is plenty of info on the village of Throwleigh, Devon online,  and the local church is called St Mary The Virgin Church.  I would not be at all surprised if William was buried there. I came upon this website that lists people buried there but I think it only goes up to 1996.  Worth a look at as there are other Hepworths buried there.
I also tried 'Google Earth' for the address but nothing.  I have come across a Church members' group based in the village where I think he lived and have emailed them to see if he was known in the village and asked if they had any information on him."

Then an extraordinary piece of luck - I received an email from England telling me that a lady from the church has contacted a daughter of Dudley's and she would email back.

WOW! So the thrill of the chase has hit.

Receiving the message here in Australia from England I quickly responded.
Then I received another surprise/shock - Dudley was the 'adopted' son of Beatrice Lumsden and John Hepworth. They had not had children and Beatrice was 56 years old when Dudley was born - although on the ship listing in 1925 it lists Beatrice as 49 yo and Wm Dudley 2yo.

My tree has Beatrice born 1866-7 (not validated) as one of the 8 daughters of my Great grandparents. If this is correct then Beatrice would be 59 yo and Wm Dudley 2 yo on the ship in 1925, which matches Dudley’s daughter's information.
Interestingly I see that Beatrice’s oldest brother Alexander born in 1858 married Jessie Burns and lived at Ormiston for a while – so I think this might be the address Beatrice and John gave as their home address In Scotland when they left for South Africa in 1925. This could be the Mr. A Lumsden of Ormiston listed on the Hepworth's passenger list.  On the return journey in 1925, they said they were going to live in England. (Maybe this time to the Hepworth families locality ?)

On looking further to find where another brick wall relative Aunty Elspeth fitted in (she lived in Sydney, Australia, and we visited her occasionally,) I came across the fact that the last born child – young brother of Beatrice - Richard McIntosh Lumsden (born 1880 died 1939) was married to Dorothy May Lambert and she had died in 2000 in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe.)


This is where William Dudley was born in 1923 (According to daughter.)   Beatrice and Isabella Pearce nee Lumsden (my Grandmother) were close sisters being born only 18 months apart in the middle of the Lumdsen siblings – This could account for another story from Dudley’s daughter - that when John Hepworth died, Beatrice and little son Dudley came to live in Australia with Grandma Isabella Pearce. She said they lived on a fruit farm. Our families were orchardists who settled in Victoria, after emigrating from Scotland. I recall no knowledge about this – but it could account for the closeness of Uncle Dudley to my father’s generation here in Australia.  Mother and son left in 1938.

I received this photo after I had done the research. 
It shows Beatrice with baby - William Dudley.  
It does look like they are seated under a gum tree - 
but as he is only a baby they would have still have been in South Africa.  

Dudley’s daughter told me that her dad was an only child. It seems that his mother Beatrice when on her deathbed, told him he was adopted.  Dudley was about 15.  From her passport etc, she was 56 when Dudley was born which could explain why I thought the two Beatrice's I found were not likely to be Dudley's mother.
The family in England do have some letters written by my Aunt Tibby and Dudley's daughter told me:

"Dad spoke fondly of her but really did not talk about his family much at all, after finding out he was adopted.  Our understanding is that Dad was born in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, that his dad died when he was 7 and that our dad (Dudley) then moved to Australia with his mother (Beatrice) to live with cousins on a fruit farm. Dad moved to Scotland as a teenager we think, to finish his schooling before going to sea.
Dad met our mother Margarita, known as Rita Shields in about 1953, they married 7 years later.  It took so long partly because of Dad's absence at sea and partly because she was a Roman Catholic and neither of them felt able to make a cross-faith marriage but their love got the better of them!  They then had us three."

SO -  This explains why we could not find a birth for Dudley Hepworth in England or Scotland - he was born in South Africa.

I sent off emails to South African Genealogy groups about Feb 2015 to see if anyone could help me with information. I explained that my Great Aunt and Uncle in Scotland adopted a baby boy in South Africa. He was born 11 Mar 1923 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. At that time there was a younger Great Uncle and wife living there. (Richard and Dorothy Lumsden previously mentioned.)    My aim was to establish if Uncle Dudley was born to relatives or born to other people living there. Maybe even a family Richard and Dorothy knew.   The replies were not successful. Apparently getting access to adoption papers especially in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe is very difficult and you have to pay a lot of money. They suggested hiring a professional Genealogist for Zimbabwe.

As Dudley is not in my direct line It doesn’t feel right following it up further, with his family alive.

However, I now know my 'Uncle' Dudley is my first cousin once removed, (by adoption.)
I find it interesting that his parents went to South Africa to adopt in their later years, and I wonder if he was born to a Lumsden family living there and could he even be a blood relative? This will probably remain an unknown. But I have found some lovely cousins overseas now, who I hope to visit in the near future.