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)

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.