Monday, 25 January 2016

My first Australian

As it is Australia Day, I thought I would write about my first Australian ancestor.  Eliza Rowley was born, according to family lore, on 25 Apr 1804, although no baptism record has been found.  Her monumental inscription (see below) suggests that she was born in 1803.   According to an obituary, she was born at Kingston farm, her family’s home, in what is now Newtown in Sydney.  There is still a Kingston Road and a Rowley street there today.

Eliza’s parents were Captain Thomas Rowley, an officer in the NSW Corps, and Elizabeth Selwyn, a convict.  Although Eliza was illegitimate, her father acknowledged her and her four older siblings, Isabella, Thomas, Mary and John, in his will and they all took his name.  There may have been a sixth unacknowledged posthumous child, Henry Rowley. 

Captain Thomas Rowley died in 1806 from consumption and his estate was left in trust to his five named children, so Eliza would never really have known her father.  The estate was mismanaged, in part because the trustees returned to England while the children were still minors.  A court case in 1832 provided a final pay out to four of his children and their spouses.  Isabella died young and her husband made no claim on the estate. Here is a link to the case:

Eliza Rowley appears in various early musters and census, living with her mother. They seem to have lived in Newtown, although the family also had land in Burwood and Liverpool, where her older brothers lived.  During her childhood, Eliza would have seen Sydney grow from a garrison town into a small city.  Her family played a role in the growth of the young colony, with her brother John being part of expeditions trying to cross the Blue Mountains to the Western Plains.

On 25 Aug 1826, Eliza Rowley married Henry Sparrow Briggs, whose story was the first that I told.  They married at St John’s Parramatta.  Eliza and Henry had ten children, three of whom died in infancy.  Henry’s story covers some of the family’s experiences.

Eliza lived as a widow for 16 years after the death of her husband in 1866, dying 27 September 1882.  She was still living on the family farm in Newtown, where her son, my ancestor Frederick Henderson Briggs, was a dairyman.  According to an obituary, Eliza died sitting under a pear tree in her backyard, at the house where she was born.  Eliza’s death certificate says that she died of Syncope, which means she passed out from some unspecified cause – Wikipedia suggests a number of possibilities.


Eliza was originally buried in the family vault at Kingston, which was later moved to Waverly Cemetery, Sydney.  Her inscription says Eliza, wife of the above [Henry Sparrow Briggs], died 27 Sep 1882 aged 79 years.


Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Frederick Henderson Briggs > Eliza Rowley

Monday, 11 January 2016

An Innkeeper’s Daughter


Jane Grimshw Spedding was born 28 Feb 1789 in Batley, Yorkshire; the ninth of eleven children of Charles Spedding and Mary Ellis.  She was on the only one of the children to be given a middle name.  At the time in England, middle names were not common and in fact, based on my family history research, were not common until the mid-1800s.  My assumption is that Grimshaw is a family name and that in 1789 there was a reason to commemorate it.  I haven’t yet found definite Grimshaw ancestry but her grandmother, and mother of Mary Ellis, may have been Sarah Grimshaw.  More research is needed to be certain as Ellis is a common surname.

Jane was baptised 8 Mar 1789 in Batley parish church.  At the time, along with some other parishes in Yorkshire, that church used Dade registers.  Dade registers have the advantage of recording a lot of information that wasn’t normally recorded, such as Jane’s date of birth and the names of her grandfathers, Robert Spedding and John Ellis.  This is very useful for proving links between generations.  The short time of about a week between birth and baptism is thought to have been the norm at a time of high infant mortality.

During Jane Grimshaw Spedding’s lifetime, Batley changed from a small community of farmers and weavers into an industrial town, quadrupling in size.  Jane’s family were well off.  Her father was a butcher and innkeeper who was leader in the local community, taking on such roles as church warden and overseer of the poor.  The inn was the “Bull and Butcher” and in 1801 the family lived there.

Another sign of the status of Jane’s family was her marriage by licence on 12 Jul 1809, Batley, to John Akeroyd.  I don’t know why they got married by licence but there are a few possible reasons: John was illegitimate, so it is possible that Jane’s family didn’t approve of him; they came from different parishes, so there may have been an issue with calling banns or it may just have been a status symbol for Jane’s family.  Jane was not pregnant, another reason for a licence.  Her first child was born a respectable ten months after the wedding.  One odd thing about the licence is that Jane is sworn to be aged twenty-one and upwards but she was actually only twenty.  It is possible she didn’t know her exact age.

John Akeroyd was a farmer from Wragby and may be worthy of his own story being told at some point.  When John and Jane married, he may have been responsible for his two young and recently orphaned half-siblings, Mary and Robert Bennington.  So Jane probably became an instant mother, as well as wife.  Between 1810 and 1821, Jane and John had six children born in Ryhill, near Wragby, where John was a farmer.

The family then moved to Batley, and had four more children, including my ancestor Abraham Akeroyd, born in 1827.  The move to Batley took place a couple of years after Jane’s father Charles died in 1819.  Following the move, John took over the “Bull and Butcher”, although he also continued as a farmer.

Sadly, in 1839, John Akeroyd died of Cholera.  He left his farm to his “dear wife Jane”.  From the names listed in the will, it appears that two of his children died before it was written.

In the 1841 and 1851 censuses, Jane Akeroyd is listed as a farmer and in 1851 she had 12 acres.  I wonder whether she kept running the family farm through choice or necessity.  Jane had grown up sons in 1839 who could have joined the family business but they also had their own jobs.

Jane died in 1855 and was buried in Batley churchyard.   Abraham Akeroyd named his daughter born in 1856 Jane Grimshaw Akeroyd, in tribute to his mother.


Notes on lineage: Me > Dad > Helen Francis Ruth Akeroyd > Percy Tomlinson Akeroyd > Frederick William Akeroyd > Abraham Akeroyd > Jane Grimshaw Spedding