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)

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…


  1. I am a newbie genealogist too - and enjoyed your article! I find it fun and fascinating!

    Catherine (@OshawaJournal)

    1. Thanks Catherine, I am finding more out about my family as time goes on - and I get better at researching! The old newspapers are fantastic for backing up facts! If only I had more family letters. Don't even get me started on NAMING PHOTOS! I have an old album full of people who are not identified, and its driving me crazy!

  2. Welcome to Geneabloggers! This is a great blogging community. I was a new member about nine months ago.

    Regards, Grant

  3. I agree; it is forever a two steps forward, three steps back dance as we research our family histories.

    I found your blog through Geneabloggers and am now following you via the Feedly Reader. Have a great weekend.

  4. Thanks for that, Suzanne, I am having great fun putting my journey finding Elizabeth online. It forces me to gather all of the information and make some sort of whole of it! BTW - I am thrilled - from another source I have just found Elizabeth's baby brother's name in another account of the voyage of the Aurora. It was William (his grandfather's name). I hated having him 'unknown'.