Friday, May 18, 2012

A is for Atkinson, Ahern and Andrews - Family History Through the Alphabet - Week 1

Image from Gould Genealogy & History News

I have decided to take part, when I can, in Gould Genealogy's Family History Through the Alphabet challenge. The challenge is to:
...use the current letter for the week...and connect it to someone, something, or a topic relating to your family that you’d like to write about.
This weeks letter is B, but I am running a little behind. Therefore, here is my belated A post.

A is for...Atkinson
Atkinson is the maiden surname of my Great Great Grandmother, Dorothea Ellen Fullerton.

Dorothea was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 24 March 1857, the second daughter of James Atkinson (a blacksmith) and his first wife Catherine Helen Pickis. James, Catherine and their first daughter Elizabeth had arrived in Melbourne on the ship 'Columbia' on 20 March 1857. James' and Catherine's third child, Isabella, was born in North Melbourne in 1859. 

Dorothea Ellen Fullerton (nee Atkinson)

James Atkinson married three times. 
First he married Catherine Helen Pickis on 22 July 1854 at Tynemouth, Northumberland, England. Catherine died of dysentery on 10 January 1861 at Camp Hill, Castlemaine, Victoria

James next married widow Harriet Burnside (nee Clark) on 24 August 1864 at St Luke's Church of England, White Hills, Victoria. Harriet died suddenly at Elmore, Victoria on 28 September 1872. According to her death certificate she had two children from her previous marriage to Robert Burnside (who died in 1862), Adam and William Burnside. However, further research reveals she may have also had two daughters, May and Dorothea. If you are related to the Burnside family I would love to hear from you. James Atkinson and Harriet had no children of their own.

James Atkinson's third and final marriage was to Theodosia Matilda Hooley on 7 April 1876 at St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Bendigo, Victoria. James and Theodosia had one child, Jane Hannah Atkinson, born near Elmore, Victoria on 21 June 1878. 

James Atkinson's second daughter, my Great Great Grandmother, Dorothea, went on to marry my Great Great Grandfather, Peter Fullerton, on 1 July 1876 at St Kilian's Catholic Church, Bendigo. Dorothea's sisters all married and their married names were: Elizabeth Braddy (c1855-1939), Isabella Hammond (1859-1941) and Jane Hannah Trewick (1878-1961).

James Atkinson died on 26 August 1902 at this then home in Honeysuckle Street, Bendigo. His death certificate stated that he was 70 years of age. He was actually at least 71. 
James Atkinson was baptised at Warkworth, Northumberland, England on 21 November 1830, the second son of John Atkinson (an agricultural labourer, born about 1801) and his wife Eleanor (nee Crisp, born about 1806). 
The other children in the Atkinson family were: 
  • John Atkinson. Baptised 5 July 1829, Warkworth, Northumberland. Married Margaret Laidler in 1857 at Carisbrook, Victoria, Australia. Died 18 June 1904 at Kangaroo Flat, Victoria. John and Margaret had at least 11 children.
  • Joshua Atkinson. Baptised 30 December 1832, Warkworth, Northumberland. Married Elizabeth Ann Edwards in 1865 at Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia. Died 27 March 1896 at Guildford, Victoria. Joshua and Elizabeth had at least 5 children. 
  • Elizabeth Atkinson. Baptised 5 October 1834, Warkworth, Northumberland.
  • Isabella Atkinson. Born about 1837. She is listed with the family in the 1841 Census living at Eglingham, Northumberland.
  • Jane Ann Atkinson. Baptised 5 May 1839, Warkworth, Northumberland. Married widower William Gray in 1859 at Alnwick, Northumberland. Died in 1918 at Alnwick, Northumberland. Jane and William had a least 5 children. 
  • Eleanor Atkinson. Born about 1841 at Branton, Northumberland. She is listed with the family in the 1851 Census living at Branton and the 1861 Census living at Alnmouth, Northumberland.
  • Thomas Atkinson. Born about 1844 at Branton, Northumberland. Thomas married Elizabeth (maiden name not yet known) and they had a least 6 children. 
I have not yet found John Atkinson Senior's death date or place. Ellen (Eleanor) is listed as the head of the household in the 1851 Census at  Branton, Northumberland. However, her occupation is listed as 'Ag Lab Wife' and the marriage status column appears to state 'M' for married. This suggests that John was working elsewhere at the time of the 1851 Census. The 1861 Census appears to state Eleanor's marital status as 'W' for 'widow'. So I believe John Atkinson Senior died sometime between 1851 and 1861. 

Eleanor (Ellen) Atkinson (nee Crisp) died a widow at 59 years of age on 24 Feb 1864 at  Alnmouth, Northumberland. When I received Ellen's death certificate in the mail it revealed a very tragic story. The cause of death on the certificate was given as 'drowning herself when labouring under a fit of temporary insanity.' I decided to search the British Newspapers (available through the National Library of Australia's eResources) to see if they revealed anything more about this story. The Newcastle Courant featured the following on Friday 26 February 1864. 
"MELANCHOLY SUICIDE. - On Monday, an inquest was held at the house of Mr William Gowans, Red Lion Inn, Alnmouth, before Mr. J. J. Hardy, coroner,on the body of Ellen Atkinson, widow, aged 59 years, who was found lying on the sand within tidemark at that place, on Sunday morning last. Deceased resided with a son and daughter in Alnmouth; she had also three sons in Australia, and had been much distressed at not having heard from them lately. She had fully expected a letter by a recent mail, and became much distressed in being disappointed in that expectation. On Sunday morning, about five o'clock, she rose, partially dressed herself, and left her house without saying anything to herson or daughter. About an hour afterwards she was found lying with her face on the ground upon the shore, was taken up and carried to the Watch House,where attempts were made to restore her by the use of the warm bath and other means, but all without success, as she never recovered. The jury returned the verdict that deceased had destroyed herself by drowning whilst labouring under a fit of temporary insanity."(The Newcastle Courant, Friday 26 February, 1864.)
This story was particularly distressing for me given the reference to her three sons in Australia (John, James and Joshua) and how she was waiting to hear from them. How often must mothers and fathers have worried about their sons and daughters in the far off colonies? I can imagine it must have been a very common scenario. But how tragic that the story came to this sad ending. Finding this story was also very important for me, as I have personally suffered with depression. It makes me think how different life could have been for Ellen, and for thousands of others, had the help that exists nowadays existed back then. Please, always reach out for help (see Beyond Blue for help).  

A is for... Ahern
Ahern is the maiden surname of my 4 x Great Grandmother, Bridget Colbert (nee Ahern) (c1777-1835). Bridget married Patrick Colbert (c1760-1815) on 22 July 1795 in the Catholic parish of Aghada, County Cork, Ireland. Their known children include William (my 3 x Great Grandfather), Bridget, Catherine, John, Patrick, Ann and Edmond (a surveyor, died 1885, Richmond, Victoria, Australia). 
Patrick senior, Bridget senior and Bridget junior are buried in the Bohillane Churchyard and the monumental inscription is listed on Jean Prendergast's Ballymacoda & Ladysbridge Genealogy & History web page.

A is for... Andrews
Andrews is the maiden surname of my 6 x Great Grandmother, Mary Kersey (nee Andrews) (c1731-1792). 
Mary married John Kersey (1731-1814) on 1 February 1758 at Bucknell, Oxfordshire, England. According to the marriage entry in the Bucknell parish register, Mary came from Marsh Gibbon, Buckinghamshire. Mary and John Kersey had a least 6 children: Richard (1758-1758), Richard (1760-?), Ann (1762-1824, my 5 x Great Grandmother, married James Preston), John (1764-1764), Charlotte (1765-?) and John (1768-1770). 

(Sources available on request). 

A is also for...
Android - which reminds me that I will be putting my Tech Tuesday posts aside for a little while to concentrate on other things.

A is also for...
Ancestry - where I am headed right now to work on reducing the number of items in my 'Shoebox' as part of my Goals for May 2012.

A is also for...
AghadavoyleCounty Armagh. The place of origin of my Breen/O'Brien and Finegan ancestors.

And finally, A is for..

Creative Commons License Australian Genealogy Journeys by Aillin O'Brien is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License.Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at


  1. I love your post Aillin, and there's no problem at all with it being a little late, so don't feel you have to rush. This post is so detailed, I bet you'll get a bunch reli's discover you because of this post. :) Thanks for the contribution.

    1. Thanks. I have been through all the rest of the letters now and thought of names and locations for each. A couple of the letters (X and Z) were difficult but I have thought of a way around that :) I look forward to creating more posts over the 26 weeks!

  2. Thanks Aillin, for your inspiration. Thought I'd missed the boat on this one but have decided it's never to late for anything to do with genealogy. So, have decided to start my own A-Z tips for Aussie genies at the Genies Down Under blog. Thanks again for your ideas and wonderful A post!
    -Maria from Genies Down Under

    1. Thanks Maria, I like your ideas for the A-Z posts at the Genies Down Under blog.

  3. it's easy to beat ourselves up when we're not running to time, but really it's more important that the story gets written. This was an interesting story with twists and seems we share Northumberland as well as Irish roots. Tynemouth features heavily in my Gilhespy family tree and Alnwick also gets a guernsey. What a sad story about Elizabeth being so destroyed by not hearing from her sons...I'm glad you put the link to Beyond Blue. Thanks Aillin

    1. Thanks Pauleen, Northumberland looks like an interesting place and I'd love to go there someday as well as Ireland.
      Ellen's is a very sad story, so I felt it was fairly important to mention Beyond Blue when I referred to it.

  4. Hi. It was interesting to read that many of the places coincided with my own family history but no link to names but our ancestors probably knew each other. As a side issue, in the past there was also a Whitehills near Maryborough. I had a brick wall for many years as I was looking at the wrong Whitehills but a visit to Maryborough historical society soon opened my eyes and helped knock down a brick wall!

    1. Thanks Sharon. I didn't know about Whitehills near Maryborough - I'll keep an eye out for that in my research. Being familiar with the White Hills near Bendigo I probably would have just assumed that was the White Hills referred to. Thanks for this tip.


Your comments are appreciated. Thanks.

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