Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sepia Saturday 240: 9th August 2014



Every week I try to contribute to something called Sepia Saturday.

It's a community of bloggers who love looking closely at old sepia photos and who post at about the same time on the same meme.  This week's meme is, for want of a better descriptor, mug shots.  Alan says: If you have any criminals in your family background and have photographs of them, then you could post those.  Equally, any official photograph would fit this theme and allow you to avoid the charge of posting under false pretences. Indeed any portrait will do and, don't forget, you won't be charged with treason if you ignore the theme and post any old photograph you choose.

So I am going to blog about one of my husband's ancestors.  The one that has given us most trouble.  Our brickwall.  Because he has simply vanished and I would love to find out what happened to him, though I suspect we never will find out.

Here's the one and only photo I have of him.


Robert James Daw 1873 - ? - I'm not sure when this photo was taken.  He looks awfully young to me.  Shall we say 1893?

Robert James Daw was born Thursday 17 July 1873 at Lady Bowen Hospital Brisbane.  

The photo below from State Library of Queensland show what it looked like around that time.  At this stage the hospital was in Ann Street Brisbane but later moved to Wickham Terrace.


courtesy of State Library of Queensland


Robert's parents were Thomas Daw, labourer aged 24 and Mary Bray Ellis aged 28.  Thomas and Mary married 28 July 1872 in Devon and migrated to Queensland three months later.

I am intrigued that Robert was born in a hospital at that time.  Some of the notes from other photos in Picture Queensland give a hint of what was going on at the time: "The hospital originally opened in Leichhardt Street in December, 1864 and moved to Ann Street in 1869. It opened in Wickham Terrace in a two-storey masonry complex with fifty beds, on 28 December, 1889 and operated until 1938. The hospital provided for women who could not afford to pay for their confinement or for a private mid-wife or nursing home."

Here is an article from Trove about the AGM of the Hospital in 1874



I wonder if Mary was one of those newly-arrived immigrants sent from the Government Depot?  She and Thomas had arrived on 16 January 1873 on the Royal Dane.  On Robert's birth certificate Mrs Weldon the matron is listed as being present at the birth.  Selina Robinson of Tingalpa is listed as the informant and the employer of the child.  Selina's husband Alfred had died in 1870 and was a farmer at Tingalpa.  I assume Thomas was working as a labourer for Selina.  According to the Queensland Horse and Cattle Brands Index he registered a brand 6TD at Tingalpa in 1874.

It turned out that poor Mary had issues with childbirth and Robert James was the only child to survive.  Her gravestone at Tingalpa Cemetery shows that she is buried with nine of her children born between 1873 and 1892 when she finally died at the age of 47.  Mary suffered from what was then called "white leg" which I think we would now call Deep Vein Thrombosis.  I have only two of the 9 death certificates for the children.  They are for Elspeth Rose Daw who was born in March 1889 and died 23 April in the same year of gastro enteritis.  Today I purchased the birth and death certificates for Thomas George Daw because he was the child that seemed to live the longest of all those that died, though I may be wrong.  Thomas was born 26 April 1882 and died 27 March 1883 of diarrhoea and convulsions - the poor little thing.  


Tingalpa Cemetery and the Daw headstone

Robert was 8 years old when his brother Thomas was born.  He had already lost 2 brothers and 3 sisters: Mary Elizabeth in 1875 and Florence Eleanor in 1876 and then William Henry in 1877 and Albert Edward in 1888.  What must it have been like growing up in a household surrounded by death?  

By the time of Thomas' birth, Robert's father is listed as a butcher and seems to have made his mark on the local community.  By 1885 he has formed a partnership with Frederick Slack butcher of Albion and Lutwyche.  He is listed as a member of the Windsor Shire Council in 1889 and 1890 serving on the Improvement and Finance Committees.  

It seems Robert James may have moved out of home by 1891 as I have found him at the South Brisbane Petty Debts Court 15 May 1891 in the Courier Mail undefended against Alfred Ross for £4 10s rent.

After Mary died in 1892, Thomas Senior remarried in August to Emily Hannah Perry.  It is not altogether surprising that Robert, aged just 20, married Jane Silcock aged 25 a couple of months later.  Thomas probably wanted to make a fresh start and Robert was making his own family.  Robert is listed as a Harnessmaker on his marriage certificate.  Jane was a domestic from South Brisbane.They married at Arthur Street New Farm in the home of James Stewart, a Minister of the Presbyterian Church.  Jane gave birth to Thomas George (I think most likely named after Robert James younger brother) in March the following year.  Thomas was followed by Cuthbert John 10 June 1896 and then my husband's grandfather Robert William on 1 September 1898.  

I have found an advice in the Brisbane Courier for 17 April 1896 of a Mr. R.J. Daw travelling by mail train for Singleton.  



I haven't got a birth certificate for Cuthbert in 1896 but by 1898 Robert James was listed on Robert William's birth certificate as being a butcher.  Note to self - buy this certificate.  I can only imagine that he was going to Singleton in connection with his harness-making as Singleton is known as a horse-breeding district.  Who knows?  I will also point out that Armidale is on the way to Singleton so maybe he got off there.  There seems to be a James Dawes listed at Armidale - an Alderman who had something to do with mining and I have found a James Dawes at Tingalpa too who seemed involved with the local Methodist Church.  I'd like to prove that the two are the one and the same but I'm nowhere near that yet.  

This is where it gets interesting.  Jane died of pulmonary phthisis or TB on 7 January 1901 aged 32. Her three sons were then aged 6, 4 and 2.  

On 10 December 1901 the three boys were admitted to the Diamantina Receiving Depot at Sandgate.  


From State Library of Queensland -Situated in Brighton Terrace, Sandgate, the Brighton Hotel was first licensed under this name, ca. 1864. Between 1893 and 1910 the hotel served as a receiving depot for orphans from the Diamantina Orphange. The hotel recommenced trading in 1910.
Robert had placed the boys in the care of several people up til that point including their aunt (his sister-in-law) Mrs John Canning of Vulture Street.  He put them in care agreeing to pay maintenance .  

In 1902 Robert James was charged with neglecting to maintain his children and ordered to pay £23 1s 2d in default  - he went to jail for three months.  


courtesy of State Library of Queensland



The above photo is how I imagine he was transported to prison.

The photo below is of the Main Gates at Boggo Road Gaol where he was incarcerated.


State Library of Queensland - the main gate to the original section of the gaol erected in 1881-1887, and was first occupied on the 2nd July 1883

Robert James had a second court appearance 17 August 1903 where he was sentenced to six months jail.  He was released from prison 16 February 1904, employed at the Queensport Meatworks, where he had been previously employed.  According to a newspaper article his earnings were 15s a week of which he was expected to pay 12s and 6d a week for the care of the boys.  You do the maths.    

Here is a photo of someone doing deliveries for Baynes Limited who owned the Queensport Meatworks.


courtesy of State Library of Queensland

courtesy of State Library of Queensland - view of the meatworks from the Brisbane River circa 1896

After Robert James was released from prison he was still sought for non-payment of maintenance (letter from Department of Family Services dated 11 April 1989) Apparently there was a Police Report dated 10 May 1906 that "advice had been received from several acquaintances that he had died suddenly, but that advice could not be substantiated."  

There were reports that he had worked as a fencer on Augathella Station in 1904 and that his parents had received requests for money in 1905 with a contact address as Morven Post Office.  According to Dept Family Services his father sent money but didn't hear from him again.  The Department, after making enquiries in the District in 1908, did not make any further attempts to find him.




The Department of Family Services kindly enclosed the last correspondence from him which was from Queensport on 23 March 1903.  It says:

To Mr Clark

Sir:

I came to town on Saturday morning but was just to (sic) late to catch you and on Friday morning the man I had made arrangements to take us in to you as he had business and got the day off but as it was raining hard he said he was going to leave it til some other time so I tried my level best to get in myself on Saturday and failed.  I shall have to come myself on Wednesday or Thursday without fail as they are not to (sic) heavy shifts.  It seems any arrangement I have made have failed so I must come myself and chance what rest I get.  You may think these are excuses I am making but nothing of the kind I can assure you so I hope you will grant me this time and I can assure you it will not fail as I give you my word faithfully I shall be there.  I am making enquiries about money orders if they can be got anywhere near at hand and shall inform you of same if I cannot get any anywhere I shall have to sacrifice time to bring it myself.  This is the last time I will ask you to grant me an obligement and if you give me this time I shall feel extremely obliged to you.  i shall be there at the time stated faithfully.  i do not want to get into any trouble I can assure you. R.J. Daw.

Queensport is in what we would now call Hemmant Brisbane.


We don't know what happened to Robert James Daw.  I have been looking for him since before we were married.  

There are some rumours he ended up at Ipswich.


At any rate, he had to get out of Brisbane.




Any suggestions for further research directions are gratefully accepted.

For other misadventures go here.

P.S. I have decided to add a post-script to this as a result of further research.

Our first thoughts of course go to the poor children of Robert James Daw who were placed in an orphanage.  I have ancestors on my side of the family who were also placed in an orphanage and usually at poignant times of the calendar e.g. close to Christmas or just after Christmas. 

 "Couldn't anyone else have taken them?" we think to ourselves. 

I have answered LaNightingale's question below about Robert James Daw's sister-in-law, Ellen Canning, who had eight children herself. 

On reflection I realise that she wasn't the Mrs John Canning referred to in the letter from the Department of Family Services.  This could have been either the wife of John Harvey Canning - Robert George Canning's mother or Ellen's mother-in-law.  Or the wife of John Isaac Canning - Robert George's older brother.  Confused?  Yes, sorry, it is confusing.  

John Harvey Canning was an ex-Segeant of Police and I think a representative for Bulimba.  He and Jane had five children - John Isaac who was also employed at the Queensport meatworks; Lillie Elizabeth, Robert George, Jessie Jane and Cassandra Caroline.  On the electoral roll of 1900 he is shown as owning section 15 at Lytton.  His wife Jane died 13 April 1903.  He later died in 1909.  As a Police Sergeant he was on a pension of £66 per annum or just over a £1 per week - probably not enough to raise three boys who weren't even strictly speaking blood relations.  If he did look after them for a time I think he was probably motivated by community spirit to look after them in the first place.  He was a Justice of the Peace. But he and his wife would have been about 70 years old in 1901 so I think it's unlikely.

It's probably more likely that it was John Isaac and his wife who looked after them given that he also worked at Queensport Meatworks.  John Isaac Canning married Lavinia Smith in 1888. Lavinia was the eldest of six children and was born in 1869.  

In 1901 when Robert James Daw had their troubles, John Isaac would have been about 40 years old. Lavinia would have been in her early thirties.  They might have been expecting their first baby after over ten years of marriage.  From what I have been able to establish they had one baby - William George Harvey in 1902. But he died that year too.

Unfortunately John Isaac Canning appeared before the South Brisbane Police Court charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on Lavinia Canning on 13 October 1904 and was remanded until 20 October.  Bail was allowed, £20.  

In 1908 according to the Electoral Roll they are both living at 204 Vulture Street East Kangaroo Point.

I think Lavinia may have moved out later.  By 1912 he is living at New Farm and she is living in Bristol Street West End, then by 1919 she is living in Paris Street South Brisbane.

According to the Index to the Queensland Births Deaths and Marriages, Lavinia died in 1920.  I finally found her buried at South Brisbane Cemetery.  It was difficult to find her because whilst the Index to BDM has her listed as Lavinia Canning, the index to burials has her buried as Lavina Conning.  She was buried 2 June 1920.   

Her parents were William Henry and Jane Smyth and I have found them buried at Toowong as is her husband.  Her mother died in 1903 and her father in 1912.  

John Isaac Canning is buried with his nephew, Leonard John who died in 1930.  John Isaac died in 1927.  

So it's just as well really I think that the boys didn't stay with the Cannings.  

18 comments:

Karen S. said...

Wow, what fascinating information on your hubby's side. Robert was a handsome man, and he did appear very young there, as often was the case! I find the cemetery photo to be quite a capture, as well was your story here. So many interesting names as well, like Boggo Road and the stories behind how names of things came to be. Time for a quick Google stop!

La Nightingail said...

I'm assuming Robert's sister-in-law, Mrs. John Canning, with whom he placed his 3 children, was either his deceased wife's sister, or her husband was his wife's brother & I find it hard to imagine they would have turned the children over to an orphanage because the father couldn't or wouldn't pay for their 'maintenance'. Times may have been rough & money tight, but to turn young children - nephews - over to an orphanage? Perhaps the street on which Mrs. Canning lived was appropriate - Vulture Street.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Karen Thank you for your kind comments. Names of places are interesting aren't they? My husband thought maybe they called Tingalpa Tingalpa because they found tin there (I don't think they did find tin there by the way). When I looked it up it there are several theories as to where the name come from: the Dept of Natural Resources and Mines website suggests the following: probably comes from the Yuggera language, Yugarabul dialect, from tangul = plant for stupefying fish (Polygonum hydropiper) and ba/pa = place.

Alex Daw said...

Dear La Nightingail - I know that my husband's family is also at a loss to understand how the three boys could have been put in an orphanage too. Particularly given that Thomas Daw, their grandfather, seemed to be doing quite well for himself. As LP Hartley (author of The Go Between) is quoted to have said "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." Your observations have prompted me to do more research which is always a good thing :) When I look up the Queensland Births Deaths and Marriages Index, I see that Mrs Canning is probably Ellen, Jane's older sister. She married Robert George Canning and in 1901 they had eight children ranging in age from 14 to new born. Robert was a railway porter earning 5 shillings 6 pence per day according to this site http://fhr.slq.qld.gov.au/qldrail/names_c.htm. I'm not sure how many days a week he worked - maybe six? So say maybe 33 shillings a week. He was really no better off than poor Robert James. Robert George died in 1916 at the age of about 47. Maybe Ellen could see the writing on the wall - maybe her husband was starting to look run down and she knew her limits. The name of the street is also an indication that they weren't living in the most salubrious of circumstances. Two of the Daw boys were sickly - Cuthbert died of pulmonary phthisis in 1905. His older brother Thomas George did live to be an adult but died at the age of 35 from a lung related condition. They were tough times indeed and tough decisions had to be made. Our hearts go out to them all and I am very VERY grateful to have been born in these times with the aid of a education, contraception, social services, good medicine - the list goes on.

Alex Daw said...

Actually LaNightingail I must really thank you because you have made me think even more and I shall adjust my post accordingly!

boundforoz said...

That is a brillliant piece of research. Just a thought, following on from children placed in an orphanage. Does Queensland have Wards of State records such as Victoria does. Tne initial entry usually answers the Why question and also gives later placements of the children such as foster care which had become common with State Orphaages in Victoria. I have seen one case where it recorded a letter having been received from the father for a child.

Sherri said...

I love that you didn't included so many relevant photos in your story, even though you only have one of Robert. He was very handsome! An interesting story, indeed.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Boundforoz. Yes Queensland does have records at State Archives. I managed to find a description of his physical features in his prison record. Department of Family Services gave us quite a bit of information about who the children were fostered out too and believe it or not one of the descendants of one of the foster families is a member of the library where I work! I think Robert James didn't want to go back to jail though and stayed hidden accordingly.

Alex Daw said...

Hi Sherri - photos are thin on the ground which is really heartbreaking. I was glad to find so many through State Library of Queensland to support the story.

Alex Daw said...

I should provide a link shouldn't I to Queensland State Archives - here's a link to the guide http://archives.qld.gov.au/Researchers/CollectionsDownloads/Documents/BG28Orphanage.pdf

Mike Brubaker said...

A sad but fascinating story of hard times. Robert's photo looks like a pose for school graduation. Maybe only 17-18? I collect postcards of orphanage bands and have learned that in the past many children were not really orphans but placed there by parents (or parent) unable to care for them. For some it was only for a short term but for others, especially large families, it could be permanent. The shame and guilt of leaving a child in such a way might easily convince a parent to change their name and abandon the children. That makes a search at this distance of time very difficult.

Jo Featherston said...

Great research! I chased down a brother of an ancestor who had deserted his wife and daughters in NZ, joined the army in Australia and remarried twice more, very probably bigamously, and the descendants of those daughters had no idea about their ancestor's whereabouts or activities after he left NZ.

Little Nell said...

First Class research Alex. I had to keep re-reading bits as I kept getting mixed up with the names! How awful to be guilty of neglecting your children and for them to be placed in an orphanage. Even sadder was the first story - all those little lives lost.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Mike - orphanage bands! Who would have thunk? You have reminded me that I first heard about this sort of depositing children in orphanages for the short term in that wonderful book Oranges and Sunshine. Some parents put their children in orphanages for a short time only to come back and find out that they were no longer there and had gone half way around the world. Hearbreaking stuff.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Jo. It's worthwhile coming back to the same story and to keep chipping away at. Everytime I see something new and worth following up. On my side of the family I am pretty sure I have bigamy too. It is amazing what people will do isn't it?

Alex Daw said...

Thank you Little Nell. Yes I think I should do a family tree chart or two to help people understand who is who in the zoo. Can you imagine being poor Mary Bray Ellis? That woman deserves to be sainted.

Caminante said...

Some people just seem to be ill-starred from birth. I wonder how he viewed his life when looking back?

Alex Daw said...

Yes Caminante - me too!