Tuesday, 19 September 2017

“Do something with the photos”

 I inherited a whole lot of nameless photos from my dad as you do. It's funny but a clairvoyant told me to “do something with the photos” about a month before my dad died. Yeah I asked him about them thinking they were the albums my mother had put together before she died. He replied “They are up in the wardrobe”. Being a Shorty I didn't even look for them. During the clean out I found them in more places than I thought and bundled up all the photos. Looking at them I asked myself “why didn't I talk this through with dad?” We all have this 2020 hindsight and who would've thought I'd get addicted to genealogy? To make matters worse the Scots liked to send photos to those in the Antipodes each Christmas.

So what do you do with the photos?

1. Don’t be rash and throw out a lot if you're not interested. There will be someone in your extended family who will be one day. Remember you are the custodian of a very precious family history.

2. Photocopy or scan photos for relatives and others to identify the unknown people. I sent photocopies to a friend of my father’s, second cousins and my uncle. Although memories are fading they returned the photocopies with names and comments and from there I compiled the album.

3. Think about creating an album with the most special or favourite ones including grandparents and great grandparents, auntie's, uncles, cousins especially weddings. You may be the sole custodian of many generations of family memories. Make a special album which will preserve these photos such as the one shown.

4. Consider how you will share the record with the extended families e.g. make an e-book which can be reprinted, photo story, write a blog, start a family web page, record photos on an Ancestry tree.

5. Create a photo Wall in a hallway or alcove.

6. Pass on duplicates or make copies to send to others not lucky enough to have the originals.

Take the photos out of harmful albums and splash out on one with acid free paper and photo corners

Find a space for a wall full of memories

I've got a little folder on the side for my grandparents’ friends, acquaintances and neighbours. Despite my best efforts I have not been able to identify everyone especially church friends and neighbours. However I kept them in the file and noted the ones that my uncle said were “neighbours from 35 Park Avenue Neutral Bay”. Perhaps I’m more curious about them as in my childhood I lived there as a four year old for a short period with my parents and grandfather after the death of my Nanny. I've written a previous blog about the discovery of some photos belonging to a colleague of my grandfather’s. I’d been independently been friends with the wife and child for years. See blog
I felt like I found a long lost relative .....

Anyhow one day I researched the Park Ave neighbours through the electoral rolls available on Ancestry. As I did so I’ve discovered their names and parts of their stories. Mrs. Sinclair becomes Gladys Daisy Sinclair nee Good. She's a widow living with a son Donald. Donald worked in a bank and marries Valerie Joyce who also worked in a bank.

Mrs Sinclair and Donald
 Mrs. Florence Taylor a recent widow lives down the road at no 19. Her family photo c 1940s shows Florence with son Leslie Gatten Taylor and daughters Dorothy and unknown. Mrs Taylor died in 1950.
Florence Taylor with son Leslie and daughters Florence and unknown 
Down the road Terry O’Keefe’s parents were Eirene and Edward. His dad was a fireman. She was always referred to Mrs O’Keefe. Unlike today.

There’s a wedding photo with Bruce Baker and Heather Riddle who married in 1952 and a family shot with Mrs Margaret Rowe Riddle. They’re from across the road in Ernest Street.
The Riddle family at Heather's wedding  1952

The last photo(s) to be identified was the McIlree’s from across the road at 37 Park Ave. This only came about because Mrs Alexandrina McIlree signed my grandmother’s World War II identity card in 1942. After researching them through the electoral rolls I also checked if there were any trees on Ancestry. Her husband was a brass finisher and she was also from Scotland. I discovered her children’s’ names. Up popped a profile picture of Christina Thompson Sinclair McIlree. Eureka!  I also had that same bride in a photo. My Nanny is standing next to Christina and her husband in 1950 on her wedding day. And no doubt some of the neighbours are looking on.

Christina Thompson Sinclair  McIlree's wedding in 1950 Nanny on the right

The McIlrees were friends if not neighbours from about 1934. The penny had dropped. Amongst my pile was a photo of my dad as a small child sitting up with their two children-Alexander and Christina. There’s a second one with the little boy. There was a scribbled note on the back saying something about a person ready to ‘set the world on fire’ McIlree (I had thought it was McPhee.) I suspect the Sinclairs and the McIlrees might be somehow related due to the “Sinclair” in Alexandrina and Christina’s names and the fact that it’s the same address.  

Little Alfie next to Alexander McIlree c 1934

Yippee! Three more photos that I can put names to. I’m slowly ticking off the list of nameless photos. Here’s a few with the same “gang”.  Not sure who they all are.

I love this one- it’s taken as the Queen visited Australia in 1956. She passed right down Ernest Street- Nanny lived on the corner of Park Ave and Ernest. The gang was out in force complete with hats, pearls and finery.
A hanky waved as the Queen passes by the neighbourhood


Some may say I’m weird, some obsessed. I certainly have too much time on my hands in between volunteering, holidaying and grandchildren. But hey that clairvoyant did say…… “Do something with the photos”.

I’m too scared not to.

Friday, 8 September 2017

William Strelley Meets The McHardys ...It's a can of worms

I've been meaning to write about Lavinia McHardy aka Strelley (1843-1902) for some time. Last night I felt my great great grandmother niggling at me to “get on with it”. I think I first looked for her in 2011. First you’ve got to get over the variations in the spelling of Lavinia, Lavina, Livinia, Levinia and then to various spellings of McHardy and three variations of Strally, Strelley and Stralley.

Originally I was originally told her name was Robina Strelley. That could have made sense because my name is Robyn and she was my great great grandmother through the Strelley line.  First mistake -she wasn't Robina. Second mistake- it was presumed she had married William Strelley and that her son who was known as William Strelley was actually born as William Strelley jnr. The third difficulty was looking for William Strelley senior and junior ages unknown.

Let's say when I worked out my second great grandmother's name Lavinia  McHardy it was only just opening a can of worms.

Firstly it does not appear she ever married William Strelley, tanner, army pensioner, labourer-irregular marriage or otherwise. Although there is a string of evidence that he probably fathered five of her seven illegitimate children.

Lavinia McHardy was born in Edinburgh in about 1843. The 1861 census reveals a little more- Lavinia is 16 and is living with her parents, David and Elizabeth in Glasgow. He’s a cabinet maker and she a power loom weaver. Records show there are five McHardy children all up.  As its only Lavinia and her sister Elizabeth in the census it’s assumed the first and second are deceased. Elizabeth was born in 1846. A further sister, Barbara Fraser McHardy is born in 1862.        .

During the next decade Lavinia gives birth illegitimately to Janet Peoples McHardy in 1962 who died in 1863. There is a record of paternity attached to the birth record.

Then in 1867 she had baby David McHardy whose Birth Certificate is also altered to reflect the paternity of the child. From then on David is known as David Skinner.

I found Lavinia on page 2 of the record- 1871  census living with Strelley and her parents
William and Lavinia claim to be married by 1881 but not so in1871 when Lavinia and her parents were visitors to Strelley’s flat in Glasgow on the night of the 1871 census. It was a full house with David and Elizabeth McHardy, Lavinia, her children David skinner with little William and her sister Elizabeth all in the Strelley tenement. It might also have been noisy as William S McHardy is under one at this stage. Is there a relationship between Lavinia and Strelley at this stage- I think so. Little William is listed as William S McHardy. There is more in that can of worms.

William snr is shown as an army pensioner having been discharged in 1868 from the army after serving in for 20 years in India and the Crimea. He’s old enough to be her father and indeed the McHardys may well be old friends of Strelley’s from their birthplace in Edinburgh.

Ten years later when it comes to the 1881 census Lavinia and William are living together as man and wife with William now shown as son William Strelley and daughter Bertha Strelley (confirmed as Barbara Strelley McHardy- illegitimate). I just wonder why both of these children have been listed as illegitimate on their birth certificates.  
Lavinia and William "married with children" 1881 census

Today we might think that Lavinia was rorting the Centrelink system by claiming to be a single mother many times over. By now she has had four illegitimate children. She has taken the trouble to reflect the paternity of two of the children.

However I didn't know what to think when I discovered the births of not one but two more illegitimate children during the 1870s. They had subsequently died.  One is Thomas Gilchrist McHardy born 1873 (by then Elizabeth her sister had married Thomas Gilchrist). I don't really suspect surrogacy even though it appears that Thomas and Elizabeth remained childless. The second child bears the same name of my grandmother Lavinia Strelley McHardy which is a little spooky. She’s born 1875 and lives for only nine weeks after contracting whooping cough.

When 1891 comes around Lavinia and William are shown on the census as have a son Robert Strelley born 1886 entered on the census. Despite the fact that they are still maintaining they are married he is actually born Robert Strellie McHardy and is also “illegitimate”  

So only four years before the census Lavinia has had her 7th illegitimate child some bearing the Strelley name which points the finger at William. There is obviously a long-term relationship with Strelley.  They appear in two censuses together as a married couple, existing children have adopted his name in census 1881 and 1891. Lavinia at this time is about 41 and William is 63.
After the death of William and in bad health Lavinia falls on bad times

We only see Lavinia in one more census. Stating her age as 53 she is claiming to be a widow in 1901.  On this occasion she is amongst other widows plus single and married destitute women and children. She spends the night of the 1901 census as an inmate of a Night Asylum for the Homeless 69 - 73 Nth Frederick Street Blythewood.  By day she works as a charwoman.  William has died about eighteen months earlier of disease of the brain at the Old Man's Asylum in Glasgow.  It seems he’s still the committed bachelor as he’s listed as a single former labourer and army pensioner on his death certificate. Perhaps it was convenient to pretend he was single to get William treated for dementia.

Despite the fact that an irregular marriage might have been recognised and that the children would have been recognised as legitimate Lavinia appears to have never qualified as an army wife for any pension which might have come her way. Something was standing in their way. When she herself died in 1902 she is listed by her son William Strelley jnr as widow of William Strelley, tanner’s labourer. Perhaps he never knew any differently.

So Lavinia has had seven illegitimate children and the five in the course of time when she was living with William Strelley could easily have been attributed to him. They were all registered as illegitimate and subsequently the living ones adopted his name.  The first two were contested for paternity but nothing is mentioned on the later five births.

In this day and age Ancestry would make a motza on the DNA testing!  Problem solved for 5 kits at $149.

My quandary is that I descend from Lavinia and William Strelley and from William jnr. McHardy branches look a little stronger than the Stelleys. I’d really really like the Strelley ancestors to be mine as they are a good tale dating back to 1066. A genealogist will say there is a very weak link here and that I don't have the required pieces of evidence to show each step of my claim but the Strelley relatives have welcomed me and my research with open arms as have the maternal Johnstons.

"McHardy branches look a little stronger than the Stelleys. I’d really really like the Strelley ancestors to be mine as they are a good tale dating back to 1066."

No matter the outcome I'm still one of them in their books and I shudder at the thought of having to have thousands of people lopped off my tree including Princess Diana should the DNA ever prove me wrong. But records aren’t always available- pre the official registration of marriages it wasn’t necessary to marry in a church in Scotland but it was sufficient to be married in the eyes of people by “habit and repute” simply by presenting yourself in public as husband and wife. 12% of Scottish children were as a result of this kind of marriage.

Was there something preventing William and Lavinia from having a regular or irregular marriage? Was William previously married in the army? Something we may never know. William left the army after his father’s death. His father was from a fine and gentlemanly family in Derbyshire with a strong English history. Strelley, born in Edinburgh, rarely if ever visited that part of England so marrying outside the church should not be an issue.

My DNA may never be questioned as my great great grandparents Lavinia and William are likely to have given me only 12.5% of my DNA and I'm a gambling woman. It’s sad that Lavinia lost 4 of her 7 children and all so young. David jnr was fathered by Skinner. Consequently, there's not that many Strelley descendants with William jnr only having children who lived past childhood. There’s not too many around to test.

While the McHardy line is strong I need some further information.  Bother me some more Lavinia….. I might just get to the bottom of this mystery.