My research journey from Bloomsbury to Ballarat was sparked by a rough sea voyage.
I wrote this article, while battling seasickness, on a large ferry bound for Denmark from Iceland. Of course, there are pills to ameliorate the worst effects and the ship was very stable but it had me thinking about the life of my ancestor, Jane Carroll (1804-1879), who with her husband Henry, voyaged from England to Australia, arriving in December 1852.
It must have been a very challenging journey, especially for Jane, an older mother with an infant on the breast and a five-year-old. A journal, kept by one Alfred Dowling* of his experience on the Blackwall two years after Jane and her family boarded, gave me an idea of the routines on this clipper and the dangers involved. It included sketches of the crew and a register of deaths on board. It told me that Jane would have had many challenging months at sea. Why did she and Henry make this journey? Answers unfold slowly sometimes, as readers of this magazine know, but in this case a few minor details from a handful of documents gave me the idea of imagining Jane’s situation.
Jane’s death certificate listed Westminster as her birthplace and I discovered that she was baptised at St Margaret’s. Jane was a Guillod; her father, Thomas, and mother, Anne Chambers, lived and worked in Westminster, London. I found her father’s will. Thomas’ death from tuberculosis, when Jane was aged 11, must have been difficult. She had two other sisters and a brother, all younger than she.
Thomas Guillod (1772-1815) was buried in St George’s in Bloomsbury and details of his business life and residences were recorded as part of an archaeological study undertaken when the much-loved church was renovated at the beginning of the 21st century. Incidentally, when I was in London, the opportunity presented itself to explore Thomas’s patch. The act of walking Westminster and Bloomsbury made him very real to me. I discovered who he voted for in local elections, that he was a victualler, and had troubles with bankruptcy. It made me sad that after his remains at St George’s were excavated, he was then reburied in section CH13 of Pancras Cemetery ‘with other remains unrelated to him and there are no markers or headstone to indicate the exact position.’
But back to Jane and some more exciting finds. On discovering that her maternal grandfather, Harry Chambers, was a surgeon (and the executor of Thomas’s will) it became evident that she was cared for either on a family farm in Wiston, or perhaps in a residence in nearby Seaford, Sussex where her mother Anne grew up. A treasure trove of documents in the Wiston Archives (held in the West Sussex Record Office) containing wills and hand-drawn family trees, dating back to 1740, provided a treat that allowed me to understand many family connections.
Surprisingly, no marriage certificate has yet been found for Jane and Henry (I suspect she was married twice) but some unexpected information was that her daughter, Julia Guillod, was born at St Helier’s, Jersey. I am yet to uncover why Henry and Jane travelled to Jersey with their five-year-old son (born at Brighton). However, Julia’s baptism on the island was attended by Jane’s brother, Thomas Walker Guillod a portrait painter and non-conformist minister, and her sister, Juliana. This suggests a family who had stayed close after the death of her father, with the support of their grandfather, Harry.
To the other end of the world
Why did Jane end up in Victoria so quickly after her daughter’s birth? After re-reading all the relevant documents I suddenly realised it could have been about making money on the Australian goldfields. A census taken when they lived on St Helier’s lists Henry as a victualler – the same profession as her father Thomas, a ‘brandy merchant’. Gold mining is thirsty work and St Arnaud, where the family located, was a boomtown on the route between Ballarat and Mildura. Tragically, just months after disembarking the clipper in Victoria, Jane’s husband and son died. Once again Jane had to make her way in the world, this time with only her infant daughter. One wonders what the next 20 years brought? Jane died in 1879 and was buried at St Arnaud in Victoria, Australia, as was her daughter Julia, just two years later.
I would love to know the truth behind many unanswered questions about Jane and the life of her family. I will keep digging.
* Alfred Dowling’s Journal of the proceedings on board the ship Blackwall, from the Port of London to Melbourne, commanded by Captain J McKerlie, commencing August 1 , ending January 26 .
Here is another of my articles published in that magazine.