Sunday, 24 April 2016

Victorian Tragedy – part 3 of 3

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

This tragic family story ends, or perhaps starts, with Jonathan Hardy, father of Rebecca Hardy and grandfather of Mary Ann Simmonds.  Strictly speaking, some of this story pre-dates the Victorian Era but it is the Victorian writers Dickens, Hardy and the Brontes who wrote such tragic stories.

Jonathan Hardy was born 8 November 1807 and baptised 24 November 1807, in Upper Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast, the son of William Hardy, a shoemaker, and Mary Chapman. Jonathan was the oldest of at least 5 children and the only son I have found.  His siblings were all baptised in Norwich and I don’t know why his parents were in Upper Sheringham in 1807.

I have not yet found a record of an apprenticeship but Jonathan Hardy was probably apprenticed to a glazier sometime around 1822, when he was fourteen.

In January 1828, Jonathan Hardy was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment larceny, having stotlen a silk scarf from a Mr Joseph Engall of St Augustine’s, Norwich.

In 1830, Jonathan’s daughter Rebecca Hardy was baptised in Norwich and the record indicates that he was a glazier. I have not yet found a record of his marriage to Mary Carr, Rebecca’s mother.  Mary and Rebecca seem to have gone to Whissonset, Norfolk, to stay with Mary’s parents (see my previous post), while Jonathan stayed in Norwich.

On 21 October 1835, Jonathan Hardy was convicted of stealing a glazier’s diamond and sentenced to 7 years transportation.  Glaziers use industrial grade diamonds to cut glass.  After spending sometime on the Leviathan docked in Portsmouth, Jonathan was transferred to the Moffat and sailed to Sydney on 5 May 1836.

Convict indents from the 1830s contain a wealth of information.  Jonathan Hardy, age 29, could read and write.  He was protestant, married with one child and a glazier and painter.  He was 5ft 4.5 inches, so not tall.  His complexion was dark ruddy, hair was dark brown, eyes dark hazel and whiskers carroty.  Perhaps this last trait was passed down the generations, as my father had ginger colouring in his beard.  Jonathan had a cocked nose and scars on the left side of his upper lip, the top of his left little finger and on his left hand.  Maybe his scars were from cuts from working with glass? The indent also mentions his previous conviction.  Interestingly, most of the convicts had past convictions, which doesn’t fit with the myth that people were transported for very petty crimes.

In 1841, Jonathan Hardy married Ellen Walsh in Sydney, NSW.  Jonathan and Ellen had at least two children, Rebecca and Elizabeth.  This is not the only example I have come across of living children’s names being re-used, particularly where one parent is different.  Presumably Rebecca was a family name or had some other special meaning to Jonathan.  Both Australian daughters married in 1859, Rebecca to Donald Starchan and Elizabeth to Michael Murray, and were living on the New South Wales Central Coast in the 1860’s.

I haven’t yet found a death record for Ellen but Jonathan married a third time, to Sarah Gafney, 9 April 1860, at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral Sydney, NSW.  Sarah was an Irish Catholic.  At the time of his marriage, Jonathan was describes and a Painter living at Millers Point.  Jonathan and Sarah had son Jonathan born in 1861. 

In 1863, Jonathan Hardy was listed in the NSW Sands Directory living in Wentworth St, possibly in Parramatta, and working as a glazier and painter.
On Saturday 8 February 1868, Jonathan, his wife Sarah and son Jonathan were visiting their Gosford relatives.  They went out shell collecting and then took a small punt out on the Brisbane Waters.  The boat capsized and all three on board drowned.  The bodies of Jonathan father and son were found the following morning and Sarah a few days later.  They were taken to the house of son-in-law Michael Murray, who lived on the shoreline.  Michael and Donald (Strachan) identified the bodies.  The inquest found that it was an accident. The incident was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers.  And so ends this three part tragedy.

Finally, it is curious that just over a hundred years later, some descendants of Jonathan Hardy migrated to Australia and settled on the NSW Central Coast.

Notes on Lineage: Me > Dad > John Edward Blake > Alice Mary Elliston > Mary Ann Simmonds (AKA Hardy) > Rebecca Hardy > Jonathan Hardy

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Victorian Tragedy – part 2 of 3

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

Researching my ancestor Rebecca Hardy has been like doing a jigsaw puzzle where, first, I had to find the pieces.  I hope I have found the right pieces and put them together correctly.

Following on from the story of Mary Ann Simmonds* in part 1, Rebecca Hardy probably married William Simmonds in 1852, although this is one puzzle piece I haven’t found yet.  William and Rebecca had three daughters born in the Wisbech area of Cambridgeshire, Caroline, Lydia and Susannah.  In the 1861, Census Rebecca, recorded as born in Norwich age 33, and her daughters were living in the Wisbech workhouse in Cambridgeshire.  People ended up in a workhouse when they had no money and no other options.  As stated in Mary Ann’s story, life in work houses was regimented and tough by did provide food, shelter and sometimes work.  William was not living with his family in 1861 and I have yet to find where he was.

By sometime around 1862, the family were all together in Woolwich, Kent, where son Thomas was born, before they moved to Plaistow, Essex.  Rebecca hardy died 18 January 1865, in Plaistow, age 35 years old.  Her causes of death were listed as Jaundice, Partus Prematurus (sic) and Exhaustion, which sounds like complications around a premature birth. I have no record that the child survived.

One other thing to note, as per part 1, the mother’s name on Caroline and Lydia’s birth certificates was given as Rebecca Harding.

So what was Rebecca’s life before she met William Simmonds?  In the 1851 census, Rebecca, recorded as born Norwich aged 22, is listed as being a lodger and concubine living with Ann Taylor, John Briton and William Smith.  Concubine probably indicated living with a man she wasn’t married to, perfectly acceptable in the present, rather than prostitution.  Rebecca had neighbours who were listed as prostitutes in the census.  Based on the order in which her household’s names were listed, I assume she was co-habiting with William Smith, which, as explained in Mary AnnSimmonds’ story, means he is probably also my ancestor.

Anyone good at maths might have noticed that the various ages for Rebecca found in different record so far mentioned don’t all add up.  This is quite common in family history research due to a combination of ignorance (if the person didn’t know), lies and administrative errors. Norfolk Parish Registers have recently been digitised, so I searched for baptisms of Rebecca Hardy and Harding for a period between 1825 and 1835 in the vicinity of Norwich.  Luckily for me, there were very candidates and I was able to narrow it down to one possibility.  Rebecca Hardy was born 12 February 1830 and baptised 27 February 1830, in Norwich St James with Pockthorpe, the daughter of Jonathan Hardy, a glazier and Mary “late” Carr**.

The one complication was that I found a burial for a Rebecca Hardy on 30 Oct 1831, at St Miles Coslany, Norwich, infant.  However, looking at this register infant seems to indicate under one and children aged 1 or older had their age listed.

I had not been able to find my Rebecca Hardy in the 1841 census.  As I couldn’t find a marriage for her parents, I decided to look for a Rebecca Carr instead.  I found Rebecca Carr aged 9, in Whissonset, Norfolk, living with Jonathan and Mary Carr** and some other children.  Jonathan Carr was a Farmer and my guess is that the three minors in the household were all grandchildren.

Having found Rebecca, I then needed to locate Mary Carr.  As for Jonathan Hardy, his story will be told in part 3, except to say that an 1836 record indicates he was married with one child and he was no longer in a position to take care of his family.  Mary Carr, age 22, was buried 24 December 1834 in Whissonset.  I also found burials for Jonathan Carr on 20 November 1845, and Mary Carr on 7 November 1846, both in Whissonset.  This would have left Rebecca an under-aged orphan, so I thought it was likely that she would have ended up in a workhouse.

By some piece of luck, I found an index of Gressenhall Workhouse inmates on a Norfolk Museum website.  Rebecca Hardy of Whissonset was on the list as being “out” or discharged in January 1849.  It also made two references to the Guardians minute books, which happen to be available to browse on  On 28 February 1848, Rebecca was brought before the board charged with refractory behaviour, which meant insubordination or violence.
She was punished with solitary confinement and to be kept on a bread and water diet for two days the following week.  Then on 22 January 1849, Rebecca Hardy was allowed a sum of 2 pounds on going into service of Mr Stammers of Gressenhall for 12 months.  Presumably after completing her 12 months service, Rebecca made her way to King’s Lynn where she was living in 1851.

While I have found and put together some of the puzzle pieces, there is still more to find.

*I have stuck with one spelling variation for names in this story so as to not confuse the reader, however in the original records I have come across other variants of several names.

**Both Mary Carr’s are listed in some records as Mary Ann, presumably namesakes of Mary Ann Simmonds.

Notes on Lineage: Me > Dad > John Edward Blake > Alice Mary Elliston > Mary Ann Simmonds (AKA Hardy) > Rebecca Hardy