Moreover, my ancestors' souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house.

Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Monday, 8 July 2013

Out of the frying-pan…..

There is no evidence to support an assumption that Elizabeth’s next marriage was not a happy one. But trouble was just around the corner. Elizabeth was six months pregnant in 1876 when she married John Lewis Horne at his home in Ouse Street, Oamaru. She was 42; he was 30. She was earning a living by dressmaking – maybe -  and he was a labourer. Elizabeth claimed she was a widow, and we know that she wasn’t. Whether she did….. well, we will never know. There were some assumptions at the time that 7 years of unexplained absence allowed for the assumption of death (and therefore remarriage) – and also a journey ‘over water’ nullified a marriage bond in the original country. No idea what Elizabeth thought, but it’s fair to say that surviving in Colonial New Zealand and Australia with small children required resources and/or family support. Women often remarried for practical reasons, men too. James Ralph was long gone.

Sarah Ellen Clarkson (Lodge) 1866
Very soon John Lewis Horne was  in trouble with the law, and appeared in court in September and October 1876 charged with 4 counts of forgery, including one instance of using an accomplice  – rather elaborate, since it involved him donning a disguise of a wig and ‘black whiskers’ – not something that you would have just to hand, I would have thought. Elizabeth does a sterling job of inferring the blame was with Mr Dutton Lee but appears to stop short of giving information as to whose wig and whiskers were used. She tries a plea for sympathy saying John Horne was led astray with grog, and names goods bought with the money as items for the baby, but John Lewis Horne got three years prison. Mr Dutton Lee was released. It was not a good start to their married life.Something tells me that Elizabeth's life is not a serene depiction of motherhood as this photo of her younger sister, Sarah Ellen Clarkson with her 4th child Arthur Adam Clarkson in 1866, appears to portray.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Travels & Travails for Elizabeth 1855 - 1871

  The Victorian Goldfields: Little son William Napoleon Read (later Ralph) died by accidental drowning five days after Elizabeth had her daughter, Harriet Ann Ralph at Creswick 1855. With the household in some upheaval after the birth of a baby, it is possible to surmise that young William was able to slip away and play unsupervised, perhaps stumbling into a creek or drain.

Meanwhile, James Ralph is a miner – and in Creswick, that most likely means gold. Prior to his marriage and during the early years of it, James could have been running a transport business – possibly a horse and cart – in the area. A man of this name advertises this service. On the birth registration for his last child, James is described as a ‘Carter’. In addition (and also mentioned by another family historian researching the Ralph family) a James Ralph is connected to the finding of lignite – brown coal – at Lal Lal, near Ballarat, Victoria. There are a number of mentions to the company formed to mine it, and also some dispute over the lease, which seems to have been taken over illegally, according to the James Ralph involved, who wrote complaining letters to authorities for years. Dates, if this is our James married to Elizabeth – see him in the Buniyong; Lal Lal; Ballarat area between 1853 and 1863.  

There is another daughter, Hannah Elizabeth Ralph, whose origins are a little obscure. Apparently born in 1857, also in the goldfields, she appears connected by virtue of another record….. more about that later. Elizabeth then gives birth to a son, James Henry Ralph in 1862 in Victoria – again no birth registration, but he is later connected by several records naming him as a son of Elizabeth.

Back in New Zealand – way down south in Invercargill: Elizabeth and/or James could be avoiding registering their children because yet another child, Violet Lucy Lodge Ralph is born in 1865 and as yet, no paperwork has surfaced for her. Violet (also sometimes known as Lucy) places herself as a daughter of Elizabeth and James on her marriage registration to William Billinghurst  - and this ceremony is witnessed by her (possible) sister Harriet Ann. Violet also states she was born in Otago, New Zealand about 1865. Thank goodness James and Elizabeth register their (presumably) last child together – William Saunders Ralph in Riverton, Southland New Zealand, 17 August 1868. James is on this register as the informant - so he is there. No definitive shipping records for James Ralph anywhere, but the earliest he seems to reappear is May 1869 in Geelong, Victoria , offering tenders for brown coal at Lal Lal. It’s not proven, but a possibility is that he is back with his own family, and separated from Elizabeth. There is no death registration for James in New Zealand.

This is the ‘later’…..Now alone in Invercargill, Elizabeth and her children fall on hard times. According to the ‘Police Gazette’ for March, 1871, a certain Constable James Pierpoint of Invercargill arrests Elizabeth for ‘criminal vagrancy’, along with her children James (9), Violet (6) and William (3). Elizabeth is sentenced to one month’s labour, and James, a ‘neglected child’ gets 5 years in an Industrial School. Violet and William get 7 years each. Hannah, who is 14, and Harriet (16) come to the attention of Constable Pierpoint in July and September as a neglected child, and for vagrancy. Without organized welfare, the arresting of such ‘criminals’ was a way to identify and support women and children  in trouble and the police are just doing their duty (I looked him up – Constable Pierpoint was a respected Officer) – but it’s a sad occurrence all round. William was to spend all of his childhood in and out of the Industrial School system and boarded out to farmers, until he was 19 years of age.  From further newspaper reports of the exploits of Harriet and Violet Lucy – drunk at the races – I get the impression that Elizabeth and her children lived a somewhat hand to mouth existence from then on. But things could look up for Elizabeth......

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Adventurous Elizabeth

When I first saw the belated birth certificate of William Napoleon Read, child of Elizabeth Margaret Lodge, and born on board the 'Napoleon' I believed that Elizabeth and her husband to be, James Ralph, were running away together under an assumed name. There were the initials JR, common to both, and both were carpenters/sawyers and the ages were compatible. I thought it was possible that they tried to get married, but couldn’t because she was under-age, she became pregnant and they fled. Since the child would be noted born under the assumed name on board, Elizabeth and James Ralph felt compelled to continue the fiction when they decided to regularize their own union in Melbourne, Australia.  It all sounded plausible….but what about her claim that she was married to James Read in 1850, in Wellington, New Zealand? No marriages registered, no intentions to marry and a check of the early index, held by the NZGS revealed no marriage by Elizabeth Lodge or James Read or Reed or Reid.

 Then I saw another family tree containing James Ralph and his parents and siblings and this one had James’s birth place which was not the same as that of ‘James Read’, apparently the father of William Napoleon Read/Ralph. This detailed tree included the fact that James Ralph had traveled to Australia with his parents and siblings on the ‘Sarah’ just before Elizabeth had sailed on the ‘Napoleon’. It sounded as if Elizabeth was following him, but it could have been a coincidence. She may have been following James Read. She may have been escaping censure. She may have been looking for her parents and sisters who could have still been in Australia.

There are shipping records for these journeys. Newspaper ‘Shipping Intelligence’
notes passengers under the name of ‘Ralph’ on board the brig ‘Sarah’ to Melbourne, departing from Wellington, 5th June 1852. Passengers on the barque ‘Napoleon’ sailing 3rd July 1852 included ‘Eliz Reed’ and ‘Mary A. Jackson and child’. Mary was the witness on the birth registration.

Other newspaper references between 1850 and 1853 in the Wellington district  refer to a James Read, a carpenter, a James Reed, a landholder, and James Read aka J.E.A Ferrars who didn’t pay his lodgings in March, 1852…

Researching is not a process in a linear progression. You know this fact or make an assumption….. apply it and find out more, which leads you backwards to something else, further on for some generations, then back again. Some people emerge as complex characters that are hard to trace: prone to unconventional ways of doing things, unpredictable and disinclined to follow the herd. Elizabeth could be one of those people…

Monday, 1 July 2013

Elizabeth's son, William Napoleon - a sad tale

Portion of the death certificate of William Napoleon Ralph
William Napoleon Ralph died on the 25th March 1855 at Creswick, a gold mining town in Victoria, Australia. According to the certificate, he was 'accidentally drowned' and an inquiry was held. This was not an inquest - nothing in the newspaper and I suspect that an 'inquiry' was held when the cause of sudden death was deemed an accident, with no suspicious circumstances. However at two years and nine months in 1855, this places William's birth prior to Elizabeth and James' marriage in 1854. Not unheard of, but the place of his birth stated on this certificate is 'at sea, between New Zealand and Victoria'. At once, my assumption that Elizabeth stayed in Australia and married James starts to have a flaw. What was she doing - travelling back and forth between New Zealand and Australia? If this little boy's birth was at sea, then the circumstances may not come to light. Although usually noted in the ship's log, births and deaths at sea are notoriously hard to trace unless there is a set of ships' papers found for the voyage or in a newspaper reference. One thing (from a research point of view) is that his name was unusual. With partial  search terms, I easily found a birth record for William Napoleon, right mother, on board the 'Napoleon' but his surname  was 'Read'. Then all of the information on this birth registration starts to look like a blend of  fact and fiction. Elizabeth claims to have married in 1850 in New Zealand, and details James Read, a carpenter, as the father. She puts her age as 20, which was incorrect  in 1852 (the child's birth) but correct at the time of this registration June 21 1854, three weeks after her marriage to James Ralph. There is a witness name, but no witness's signature. And in the same curly writing as James Ralph, informant on the death registration, is her name, 'Elizabeth Margaret Ralph, late Read' - and a squiggle which could be an abbreviated 'widow'. All this at odds with her marriage certificate only weeks before where she was a spinster. In addition, the column with the marriage date also notes 'one child living' as a children of the marriage, meaning 'how many children do you already have besides this one?' Did she have another child? No birth record if so. If this was James Ralph's biological child, he would have little reason for belatedly registering the child as another man's son after their marriage. James Read (Carpenter) and James Ralph (Sawyer). Were they the same man? More research needed

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A Colonial Childhood

Tracing Elizabeth's father, John Lodge in the Wellington area was fairly easy. There are references to him advertising himself as a builder in 1841, then keeping a public house at Kai-Warra-Warra. There is a newspaper reference to two court cases that Harriet and John were involved in, because they were witnesses as a publican and publican's wife - Harriet was serving behind the bar. So Elizabeth, along with two sisters Sarah Ellen and Lucy (born in 1844) likely grew up in a hard-working atmosphere, knowing some colourful characters! In 1845 John applied for a renewal of his publican's licence, but it was apparently not taken up and there is a note that says 'left the colony'. More newspaper references indicate that John has letters left uncollected  from 1845. The family may have moved to Australia or elsewhere in New Zealand.
This is one of several clippings kept by the family, and taken from newspapers of 1925 when Sarah Ellen Lodge sister to Elizabeth, now Sarah Ellen Clarkson, died. There are a number of inaccuracies in the reporting - birth date out by a day, the 'Maori Pa' baptism reference not verified, and she was definitely not the 'first white child' born at all. There may well be some truth that there was competition for the gift of land, though. The interesting piece of information for me was that the Lodge family apparently went to Australia when Sarah was 10 (another version says she was 9 years old). The first ships came to Lyttelton in December 1850, so if they arrived back about that time, they were in Australia for a matter of months only. Unfortunately records of shipping are not available until 1852. I have combed the newspapers but not found a reference to the Lodge family leaving or coming home in the Lady Bird. Elizabeth would have been about 15 or 16 at this time.
When I searched the Australian marriage index, I found that Elizabeth married James Ralph in Melbourne, on the 1st May, 1854. The marriage registration gave her address as 'living with friends' so she was not with her parents.  My first assumption was that Elizabeth stayed on in Australia after her parents - and presumably her two younger sisters - had left. A search of the NZ BDM indicated that John Lodge died in 1852, adding a time-frame. But another registration threw a spanner in the works - the death of a child, William Napoleon Ralph, parents James Ralph and Elizabeth,  aged 2 years and 9 months at Cresswick, Victoria.

A New Land

This is the first portion of Harriet Lodge's letter to her mother-in-law, Anne Lodge. It contrasts sharply with her husband John's initial writing, being a moving account of the death of their son, whose name I have been unable to verify. This little boy was between 2 and 3 years of age. Harriet writes that she consented to have the surgeon (J.M.Stokes MD) perform an autopsy. He could have had any number of conditions that affect the lungs; certainly tuberculosis was rife at this time. Today we consider childhood a time of health, but Harriet and John, a couple who were relatively well educated and from solidly middle-class families in 'trade' have two children who are sickly and Harriet seems cautious as to Elizabeth's  future. Harriet was eight months pregnant with another daughter when this letter was written, so Elizabeth, about 6 years old, starts life in a new land after a grueling journey during which her baby brother dies, and with a new baby sister, Sarah Ellen.  Her mother hopes (even expects) that if she lives, she will be 'useful'.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Finding Elizabeth Lodge

My father gave me some of his own typewritten notes, letters, photos and a gedcom he had completed of the Clarkson family some time ago. Among this material were some papers he had received from a second cousin in the early 1970’s. One was a transcript of a newspaper article from 1840. It featured excerpts of ‘Immigrants Letters Home’: edited portions of two letters written by passengers on the Aurora, who sailed from Gravesend on the 18th September 1839 and landed at Petone, near today’s Wellington. One of the letters was co-written by my ancestors – my 3x great grandfather John Lodge and his wife, Harriet. John and Harriet shared the writing of their first letter ‘home’ to John’s stepmother, Anne Lodge. The letter looks forward and looks back – I will post some of it with more comments, but the item is available online at

What struck me was Harriet’s comment about her 5 or 6 year old daughter Elizabeth: ‘ if the Lord spares her I shall find her very useful’. So Elizabeth was my first research project, because beyond that comment, our family did not know what happened to her at all. The story of Sarah Ellen, her younger sister born (allegedly) on the beach at Petone on the 11th March 1840 was well documented. Elizabeth was a mystery. Being very new to genealogy, I spent some time looking for a marriage for her on the New Zealand free BDM index. Nothing. There were some possibilities for another sister as well as Sarah Ellen, but that was all. I searched on the free (and excellent) ‘Papers Past’ website for newspaper references to a marriage – nothing. No possible death either. A yellowing newspaper snippet amongst the papers from my father, no date, gave me a clue: the family had possibly gone to Australia, but returned after a few years – the account was speculative. Had Elizabeth married over there?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

I carve out rough answers as best I can - the beginning

Welcome to my Family History Blog. I have been researching my family history for two years using internet databases, paid and free, and also the resources of Genealogical Societies. I've also connected with distant family or those whose family trees coincide and we have exchanged information and solved a few riddles together. I have found this research absorbing  - at times an intellectual puzzle; at other times an emotional journey.

I started with a few quests - What was Elizabeth Lodge's life like? and I have found some answers (she kicked over the traces and led an adventurous life). How did Joseph Clarkson really come to decide to immigrate to New Zealand? (the accepted family history did not mention the debtor's prison!). Why did Joseph Stokes change his name to Stennett? (its still a mystery, and his wife was concealing something too). Some secrets - we did not know Grandma's exploits made it into the 'Truth' - a notorious but entertaining newspaper specialising in scandal. What about the hard life of James Newton, a coal miner at the age of 10, and the Redcoat who was a poet?

I intend this bog to trace my research as it unfolds, but I will go back a little at first to tell the paths I have taken so far. I hope you will find this story interesting and useful. If you, the reader, would like to comment, feel free! Collaborative work is essential in unlocking the past.