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)

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......

1 comment:

  1. From my notes on the Burnham Industrial School. Taken from Papers Past
    Parents: Harriet Ann and Albert. Hawke's Bay Herald, Volume XXII, Issue 7149, 29 April 1885, Page 2. Albert Norris, a boy 11 years and four months old, was charged under the Industrial Schools Act with being a neglected child. Constable Brosnahan stated that the father of the lad was in prison, and that his mother was leading a dissolute life in Dunedin, The boy had been adopted by a person who now seemed to be tired of him, and he appeared to be frequently beaten. Witness took charge of him after a recent beating. His Worship ordered the lad to be sent to Burnham Industrial School, to be brought up in the Anglican faith till 15 years of age. See also brother William's record

    Albert had also been placed in the Caversham Industrial School in 1884.

    Parents Harriet (nee Ralph from Victoria Australia)and Albert. Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 8196, 11 June 1892, Page 2. William Henry Norris, aged 6 was brought up under ... the lndustrial Schools Act for having been found residing in a brothel. The case was held over until the mother of the child had been given notice to appear. The mother...said she could not control the child. The child was illegitimate, and the father was dead. She was prepared to pay 2s 6d per week. The mother was ordered to pay that amount per week, and the child would be sent to Burnham. Placed out in 1905 and absconded and thus returned to the school. See also brother Albert's record. There is no record of the father's death so that could have been a lie.