Sunday, March 25, 2018

Family records

I have been truly blessed.  Being in Tasmania and having half my heritage settle here over the centuries has meant I've been very lucky in finding records.  Particularly as many of my ancestors came out against their will!  Anyone tracing family history will know that convict records were meticulous and make tracking a family member quite easy.

Tasmanian newspapers as with most of the time seemed to print anything and everything.  If you sneezed it was reported!  This has meant that piecing stories together on ancestors has been somewhat easier too.

My paternal heritage has been a little harder at times.  My dad's heritage is Prussian/German, Scottish and English.  The info I have is patchy but for the most part I have dates and places just very few stories due to the dynamics of his family.

This year I continue my studies at UTAS and one of the units required me to research and write about a World War One soldier, preferably from my family.  The first person who came to mind was my dad's uncle Chris, who we often joked didn't see much of the war as he spent it in hospital or AWOL despite the family calling him a hero.

After weeks of research we couldn't have been further from the truth.  He was a hero and he did see too much of the war for a 15 year old.

During this time of research my dad received a random call from a cousin after decades of not hearing from him.  They got to talking and it turned out that Allen had boxes of family records in the attic.  They had been kept by his mum (Chris's sister) and her mum before that.

To cut a long story short, I now have those records and what a treasure trove!   There are well over 100 letters, mostly from Chris to his family during the war, birthday cards, postcards from Chris and from other family members travelling and his war medals.

 Sample of letters written to family during WW1

Collection of postcards sent during WW1

The dilemma of what to do with all this was discussed.  Currently I am scanning all the correspondence, postcards and other bits and pieces.  The medals have been sent to Hobart to the Foxhole Medals to be refreshed with new ribbons.   Once all records have been scanned they will be sorted.  Letters and postcards from the war  will hopefully go to the Australian War Memorial should they want them.  Local family records will be offered to the Victorian Archives as the nature of them may have historical significance.
Private Christian Henry Schultz medals WW1

Their significance to me; they confirm many things I knew, reveals other stories I didn't.  I now have an actual photo of my great grandparents which is so huge for me.  They have provided a window into my dad's family that had previously been boarded up.

Henry Christian Schultz and Susan Jane Baker (date unknown)

Now, to find that elusive photo of my dad's mum so we can know what she looked like.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ticket of Change

I never meant for life to turn out like it did.  Life was good in Bruton, hard but good.  I had Elizabeth and the girls and we got along.  Then work got harder to find as the competition increased, not just building but any work at all.  It seemed machines were taking over and men weren’t needed like they used to be.  Farm labourers were heading to the bigger cities looking for work that just didn’t exist.
When I saw the advertisement looking for carpenters in Van Diemen’s Land it seemed like a chance for a fresh start for us.  We had another baby just born and the three older girls, so it was decided for me to go out and make a start then Elizabeth and the girls would follow.  I had every intention of honouring this agreement.   I just didn’t think it would be wise to take a young family on such a long trip with no guarantees that life would be better.

Figure 1: Charles Ellen, Arrivals Record, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart, CB7/9/1/1,p.11. 

So with the ticket that would change my life and the lives of others, I left the Bristol docks aboard the Arabian on the 5th May 1841.  I have to say, I knew the trip out to Van Diemen’s Land would be rough but I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was.  The food was unacceptable, to the point that the surgeon superintendant condemned it!   We were all going to jump ship at the Cape of Good Hope until the Captain bought on more supplies but even then they only lasted three weeks and after that we had to eat rotting food again while the Captain, Gardener ate the very best.  We certainly didn’t receive the supplies we had been promised on departure in Bristol.
When we finally docked in Launceston on 24 August 1841 we were all worse in heath than when we boarded.  So much so that I and some others wrote an open letter of complaint to the paper.  We said that we thought it unacceptable and that an inquiry should be held.  Nothing really came of it of course but we did get our point across.

Figure 2: ‘Launceston’, Launceston Advertiser, 2 December 1841, p.3.

Later in November I was approached by the Committee for Immigration, they wanted to know what I thought of their bounty scheme.  Well, I let them know what I thought and told them that I found it very disappointing, wages were low and cost of living too high.    I told them it was highly unlikely I would send for my family when I would have been better off staying in England.  A sad state of affairs this was and I was angry and feeling very hard done by at the time.  
Things seem to go from bad to worse. In October I was sent by Mr Ritchie to do some work for Mr Heaney in the Perth town ship.  Billy Gould and Will Hill were there too and we got to drinking.  I didn’t know where the grog had come from but it turns out the boys had ‘borrowed’ it from the inn at the front of the house.  Mr Heaney’s daughter, Charlotte called the constable in and reported the theft.  I was in no state to argue as I had endeavoured to forget my sorrows that night and barely remembered my name let alone the events of the evening.
Why am I such a strong advocate of the Temperance movement, well I have to say that no good comes of the drink and if you drink to forget as I did then it will see you on the wrong path.  As a consequence I ended up at New Town Bay for two years hard labour.  And hard it was, I have the scars on my ankles to prove it and my back has never been the same.  Building roads is hard enough but being part of a chain gang triples the punishment.  I don’t like to dwell on those two years, but I accept that I did wrong and I wore the sentence.
I hadn’t heard anything from Elizabeth and had pretty much accepted that she had moved on and made a new life for herself and the girls.  I daren’t think the worse and could only hope she had found herself a new man to care for them.  The lack of response to letters I sent seemed to indicate that I would not see her or the girls again. It was time for me to forge a new life.
At the end of my sentence my first thought was to find work.  I took board in Hobart thinking to set myself up there but after asking about, several people suggested heading back north to Oatlands.  This was a farming and timber community with a fast growing township and I heard, plenty of work for a builder like myself.   Having very little money I set off on foot to Oatlands and a new start.
I worked hard, there was plenty of work to be had and I became good friends with George Aitchison who saw me right for work.  He was a stone mason so we worked well together, me with wood and him with brick.  The house I now live in on the High Street was built by us and it was a proud moment when I was able to buy it off George for Betsy and our family.

Figure 4: Kelli Schultz, Sketch of Charles Ellen’s High Street Cottage, 2018, digital image.

Who is Betsy I hear you ask.  Well, like I said a new start I was to have and I met Betsy and married her in 1848.  We have been together more than forty years and had eight children, six who are still with us.  I have been truly blessed in my new life, I do think back to England and mourn the loss but my life has been good. Who would have thought that just one ticket could be such a life changer.

Charles Ellen

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Charles Ellen, The Bigamist Builder

Having a convict in the family isn’t the skeleton in the closet it used to be, it is a badge of honour nowadays.  I wonder what an ancestor, who migrated under the bounty scheme to Van Diemen’s Land, spent time as a convict and was a bigamist, would earn me.  This describes my great, great grandfather, Charles Ellen.  Charles was born in Bruton, Somerset on the 12 April 1810 to George and Alice Ellen, nee Moss.[1] The lack of records for them would indicate they were a run of the mill working class family who didn’t attract attention to themselves by means of crime or notoriety.  However, Charles was to prove himself different from his family.  He was a vocal and somewhat colourful character who made himself well and truly heard in the township of Oatlands.  He was a builder, although no apprenticeship papers can be found but this occupation is listed in his immigration papers and he was a successful builder in Van Diemen’s Land, passing the trade down to his son and heirs, my grandfather and uncle also being builders.[2]
Although Charles did not come to Van Diemen’s Land as a convict he did have a prior conviction.  In the 1833 Easter sessions at Illchester Charles was sentenced to seven weeks imprisonment at Shepton Mallet for stealing some brass wire from Thomas Higgins a farm labourer.[3]  He served his sentence and was out just in time to marry Elizabeth White on 23 June 1833 at Penselwood, Somerset.[4] Charles and Elizabeth were together for almost eight years and had four daughters; Sarah, Mary Jane, Ann and Emma.[5][6][7][8]
Despite already being employed as a builder, Charles decided to apply through the Bounty Immigration Scheme for a position in Van Diemen’s Land, on the belief that conditions were better than those in England.   
In a transcript of an interview in Hobart in November 1841 by the Immigration Council, Charles mentions his wife and children and also his disappointment at conditions and wages in Van Diemen's Land.  He was appointed for a three year term but states he should have come as a free settler and bought his family.  He advises against people coming out under 'engagement' and didn’t feel he would be able to bring his family out as he would not be able to support them. However, evidence shows that wages in Van Diemen’s Land at this time were increasing as convict labour had begun to drastically decline post 1839, so his timing was advantageous.  [9]Thus, Elizabeth and the girls were left in England, with Elizabeth dying in 1886.[10][11]   Whether Charles continued to support them will remain a mystery and census records found so far show Elizabeth as not remarrying.[12]
Charles arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 27 Aug 1841 aboard The Arabian, and was contracted for three years to Thomas Ritchie who inherited the property, Scone at Perth from his brother Captain John Ritchie.[13][14]

Figure 1. Unknown, Perth Flour Mill, Norfolk Plains Historical Society.

Charles did not see out his three year contract at Scone. He ended up in the Launceston courts in Dec 1841for theft of alcohol and cigars from Thomas Johnson in Perth, along with a convict and another man who had earned his conditional pardon six years earlier.[15]  He was subsequently sentenced to two years hard labour at New Town Bay.  The interesting point on his prison record is that he clearly states he is married and also says he has a mother in England.[16]
By early 1848 Charles shows up living in Oatlands and in June he marries widow, Elizabeth McDonald.[17]  On the census earlier that year he states he is single, perhaps because he knew he would not see his wife in England again and he wished to remarry.[18]  He and Elizabeth married in the home of Mrs Long and again he states he is a bachelor.[19] 
Charles was a vocal resident of Oatlands and his opinions can be found in the newspapers of the day, often making comment on council proceedings via letters to the editor.    A search of newspapers show Charles as an active member of the Oatlands community; donating to fundraisers, attending community meetings, serving on jury and giving evidence at coronial enquiries.[20]  Interestingly Charles was involved with the International Order of Good Templars; a type of temperance society for men modeled on the Freemasons and he must have held a rank of some description as he is named in advertisements for the society in the newspaper.[21][22]

Charles was a busy builder and many buildings in the area were built by him.  The current Jenny Wren Cottage, which he lived in with his family and the St James Church in Jericho are two known buildings still standing.[23]

                Figure 2. Kelli Schultz, St James Church Jericho, 2011, digital image personal collection.

            Like many others Charles also tried his luck in the gold fields and traveled to Bendigo in 1852 on the Helena.[24]  A letter written by him to Elizabeth is dated September 1852 showing him still there but not doing well, he says “I am sorry I am not in a position to send you any money for our luck is very bad…”, he goes on to tell Elizabeth to get five pounds from Mr Lowe.  He must have returned by early 1853 as his next child was born in September of that year.[25]
Charles and Elizabeth spent most of their life renting at what is now 101 High Street, Oatlands and according to assessment rolls for the area by 1883 they had bought the property.[26]
            Charles did not escape tragedy and sadly lost his youngest son, William Percy at the age of 14.  William and a friend were playing football near Lake Dulverton and went in to the water to retrieve the ball, neither boy could swim and both were drowned   when the boat they were in turned over.[27] 
Charles’s died in 1892 of old age and a weakened heart, survived by Elizabeth and six of his children.[28]  He was a man with many secrets and whether Elizabeth shared them is not known, nor whether he gave thought to his daughters in England or even communicated with them. His descendents are spread throughout Australia and his blood runs through the veins of many of the residents of Oatlands today.

Figure 3. Kelli Schultz, Memorial Card for Charles Ellen, 2011, digital image personal collection.

[1] Birth of Charles Ellen, born 12 April 1810, Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records, 1538-1913; Reference Number: D\P\brut/2/1/4.
[2] Charles Ellen, Conduct Record, Male conduct registers 1812-1840, Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart, CON31/1/12,146.
[3] Ancestry, England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892, HO 27; Piece:46; Page: 148, Accessed 26 August 2017.
[4] Findmypast, Marriage Record for Charles Ellen, ‘Somerset Marriage Index, 1813-1837’, Accessed 26 August 2017.
[5] Baptism of Sarah Ellen, baptised 28 August 1833, Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records 1538-1913; Reference Number: D\P\brut/2/1/5.
[6] Findmypast, Birth Record for Mary Jane Ellen, ‘England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Accessed 28 August 2017.
[7] Ancestry, Birth date of Ann Ellen, born 1839, HO107/963/12, Shepton Mallet, Somerset Enumeration District 6/47, 15, Accessed 27 August 2017.
[8] Findmypast, Birth of Emma Ellen, born 1840, England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915, Vol.11, 161. Accessed 27 August 2017.

[9]  H.Maxwell-Stewart, ‘The End of Transportation: graph depicting Number of Male Convicts in Assignment and Mechanics Wages’, HAA105, University of Tasmania: 2017, 3 September 2017.
[10] Van Diemen's Land. Legislative Council (1841). Report of the committee of the whole Council upon immigration: presented 8th November, 1841, with minutes of evidence &c. &c. James Barnard, Govt. Printer, Van Diemen's Land.
[11] Death record for Elizabeth Ellen, England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-, V5c P349.
[12] Findmypast, Census Record for Elizabeth Ellen, 1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census, HO107/1933/560, 14, Accessed 26 August 2017.
[13] Anon., ‘Launceston’, Launceston Advertiser, 2 December 1841, p.3.
[14] Van Diemen's Land. Legislative Council (1841). Report of the committee of the whole Council upon immigration: presented 8th November, 1841, with minutes of evidence &c. &c.
[15] Anon., ‘Quarter Sessions’, Launceston Courier, 3 Jan 1842, p.3.
[16] Charles Ellen, Conduct Record.
[17] Marriage Certificate of Charles Ellen and Elizabeth McDonald, married 3 June 1848, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, RGD37/1/7, 32.
[18] Charles Ellen, Census Record, 1848, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, CEN1/1/94, 125.
[19] Marriage Certificate of Charles Ellen and Elizabeth McDonald, married 3 June 1848.
[20] The Hobart Town Daily Mercury, 21 June 1858, p.3; Launceston Examiner, 7 October 1858, p.2.; The Mercury, 30 June 1860, p.3.; The Mercury, 25 August 1864, p.2.
[21] ‘A Tea Meeting’, The Mercury, 20 December 1875, p.3.
[22] IOGT International, ‘The History’,, Accessed 27 August 2017.
[23] Southern Midlands Council, ‘Museum and Cultural Centres’,, Accessed 28 August 2017.
[24] Charles Ellen, Passenger List ‘Helena’7 June 1852, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, POL 220/1/2.
[25] Charles Ellen to Elizabeth Ellen, letter, 20 September 1852, Ellen Family Letters, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, NS449.
[26] Oatlands Rural Municipality, Assessment Roll for year 1883’, The Hobart Gazette, 13 February 1883, p.342.
[27] Charles Ellen, ‘The Oatlands Lagoon Fatal Accident’, The Mercury, 18 August 1880, p.3.
[28] Death Certificate of Charles Ellen, died 5 June 1892, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, RGD35/1/61, 520.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The hardest Goodbye

James sat by the bed in quiet contemplation.  Sarah was dying. In truth she had been dying since William was born five months ago.
She stirred and he turned, hopeful that she might wake and return to him.  Alas, this was not to be, she remained the same.  It was as if a paralysis had set in, the doctors said some form of infection after the birth had got into her blood.
He had loved Sarah from the moment he set eyes on her.  He had been working as a shoe maker in the Main Road at Oatlands, back then there wasn’t much more than a Main Road in Oatlands.  Sarah had gone into the shop to get her mistress’s shoe repaired.  He took twice as long to repair it than was necessary, while he chatted and got to know her a little better.
That was 24 years and 12 children earlier.  She made him want to be a better person.  The fact that he had come out ‘involuntary’ didn’t bother her, she herself had come out with the orphan scheme, looking for a fresh start. 

Sarah was a hard worker and together they built up their finances and property, working towards the day they would have their own pub.  She was the best mother a man could ask for.  What would become of their children now, how would he cope when she passed? How would any of them cope?  Tears ran down his cheeks at the very thought of being without her.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Laundress

As Elizabeth hung another shirt on the line she contemplated her life and that of her daughters.  It was no arguing that it was tough and she cursed her husband who had put her on this path.  Life in Shepton Mallet hadn’t quite turned out like she thought it would.  

After marrying her childhood sweetheart and having the four girls life was grand, yes it was tough and work was hard to find in the country for a builder but she still envisaged a peaceful life with Charles, a cottage and perhaps a bit of land.   The girls could go to school and hopefully marry a good man too.  

When work got even harder to find they had hatched a plan. After seeing the advertisements in the paper asking for builders under the Bounty Scheme they decided to apply, it seemed like an answer from heaven.

Charles left in 1841 for Van Diemen’s Land, the plan had been for him to go ahead and once settled she and the girls would follow.  She made excuses for him when the money and letters stopped a year later and resigned herself to the fact that he was dead.  In 1852 her sister in laws husband was sent out for life and wrote that he had run across Charles, with one of his sons. 

With one daughter dead, Elizabeth felt trapped, trapped in a cycle of hard work, poverty and illness all at the hand of that heartless bastard.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Miner

Charles sat out the front of his dusty tent, bone weary from another day digging and no gold. His son sat across from him and he wondered if he had done the right thing to bring him over to Bendigo away from his mother and home.

Ah home, thought Charles fondly.  He was homesick so he couldn’t begin to imagine how the boy felt.  Oatlands might not be anything flash but it was better than this godforsaken place.  What he wouldn’t do to be sitting in front of the fire with Betsy.  God, even her rabbit stew would taste good compared to the mouldy damper he’d just had.  He chuckled at the thought of this, things must be bad if he was remembering that stew fondly.  Betsy was the best wife a man could want, but as for cooking, he didn’t like to speak badly of his wife, but she wasn’t the best in the kitchen!

He closed his eyes to wander down the main street of Oatlands, to his cottage at the north end of the street then south past the mill to his friend George’s shop where they spent many hours discussing the town and beyond.

Dammit, he thought, why am I here working my guts out for nothing and getting into more debt borrowing money for Betsy to live on when I could just go home and work. And with that thought his mind was made up, it was time for him and the boy to head home.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Proposal

Elizabeth sat wringing her hands, quite obviously feeling stressed. 

“Bessie my love, it is quite simple, I love you and you love me.  Who is to say that is wrong” Charles said pleadingly.

“But Charles, we are both already married!” Elizabeth cried, before bursting into tears again.  “Just because my William ran off and your Elizabeth is still in England, doesn’t make it so we can just start afresh!”

“Ah, but that is where you are wrong, I’ve been out here seven years now and your William well, he’s dead for all we know so you are a widow and I’m a bachelor.” 

Charles now had Elizabeth’s attention.  “What is this seven year thing Charles?”

“Well, Bessie I heard talk of it when I was living down south, near Hobart.  Folk who have been out here, not voluntarily, you might say;  after seven years and with no hope of going back home can find a new wife and get on with their life.  Why should we honest folk be any different Bessie?” 
Charles went on, knowing he was near to convincing her, “I love you Bessie and want to be with you; that can only be a good thing.  As for Elizabeth, she has the girls and family back in Bruton and she probably has herself a new husband by now too!”

Elizabeth rose from her chair and moved to Charles, he embraced her tenderly “I love you too Charles and yes, you are right, we should be able to move on with our lives too.”