Identifying Photos

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Mamouth Search

Back in January I contacted a lady about her family Tree. She had this on ancestry but not a great deal on it. Even though her family was not directly connected to me I had a number of family members who were.
In 1894 my Great Grandmother's brother Charles WOODHEAD m Bridget STACK in Fitzroy, Victoria. In 1912 Bridget's niece Gertrude HOWSON (nee STACK) died leaving her husband with 3 young boys to look after. My Great Grandparents Mary Ellen (nee WOODHEAD and sister of Charles) and her husband PWJ MURPHY took in the eldest of these boys and he lived on the farm at Arthurs Creek with them. He grew up to be a Jockey and my grandmother stated that he learned to ride on the farm by tying up the calves on his way to school in the morning so he could try and ride them on the way home.
PWJ found one of these calves one day, it was fretting and dehydrating because it could not get to the mother. Needless to say Bill HOWSON was not popular over that one.
Then in 1925 Les MURPHY, son of PWJ and Mary Ellen married Bill's cousin and another descendant of the STACK family.
So, although I am not a descendant, there are cousins of both my grandmother and my mother  are cousins of STACK descendants.
Last week the lady contacted me back, because of health reasons she had not been near the computer and had not seen my post. She was quite excited as she had not a lot on this side of her family.
In 1898 James STACK married Catherine Mary SCULLY.  Their Granddaughter is trying to find out where her grandmother had come from. Catherine's mother Margaret Scully had lived with them until her death. There was never a husband that Margy remembered and when her  father mentioned it was all hush, hush. There did not appear to be a birth certificate for Catherine and she had a sister Eleanor.
She also knew that her ancestors Michael and Bridget Scully came out on the "Great Britain" in 1868. She had been to see the ship with her mother once.
A search of the Victorian Pioneer Index shows nothing given the year of birth or anything close.
I then tried my favourite "Trove".
I searched for Margaret Scully. Bingo. She was in court with Joshua Cowell who was applying for insolvency. She had been implicated as all of his assets had been transferred into her name as he claimed he owed Margaret £500. There was a full story of her journey to Australia from Liverpool, how she had gone to live with Joshua as his housekeeper then eventually as his mistress. It described where she had supposedly obtained the £500 and that she had sent for her parents.
The case had been heard in court over almost 2 years and Joshua was an ex MLA, and there is mention of the case in Parliament.
Joshua spoke of his son going somewhere with him and an advertisement appeared in the paper saying that Joshua had mentioned his wife being dead these last 15 years. However the advertisement is written by a John Scully who claims Joshua as his father and says his mother is still well and truly alive and that Joshua if married to Margaret should be arrested for bigamy.
A check of the records shows that Joshua Cowell had married Louisa Saunders and for a time was living at Steigliz and Browns Diggings. He mentions his niece living in Ballarat and it appeared Joshua was moving all over Victoria.
I sent these details on to Joan Hunt as she had studied the area around Browns Diggings and Smythesdale and wondered if she had come across Joshua at all. It was her that noticed that the ages of the sons did not match up with Joshua and Louisa. But there were too many co-incidences for it not to be him.
I then sat down and went through the newspaper articles in order of date. Sure enough things started to look a bit skewed. I also found that Joshua put a notice in the paper when his wife died and then there was a notice when he died saying he was a pioneer travelling salesman.
I sent for the death certificate and suddenly all fell into place. Margaret was living with his father, of the same name. I had a death for him in England but this was obviously the wrong man.
Further research has now found that Joshua snr had moved over to New Zealand, Margaret followed him and they married and had further children. After his death Margaret came back to Victoria leaving children (grown by now) and went back to her maiden name.
Since then I have been able to find others who were researching this family and put them all in touch. There was a lot more research and some of what others had was incorrect but we have been able to put that together.
I wonder if our ancestors ever realised that those papers that usually only lasted a day or two would come back to help put stories together 100 or so later. How often have we been stuck on a family for many years but now with TROVE and Paperspast (New Zealand) these stories are becoming easier to find these stories that unlock so much for genealogists.

It has now come apparent that Margaret in fact did not come back to Australia. She passed away in New Zealand. It has now come to light that there were two Margarets.
Seems Margaret Mehan, (or variations of) had a son Robert Hutchinson Mahern, born and died in 1876. She then had a daughter Catherine about 1878. It seems she was not registered however Margaret claimed to be married to Michael Scully, the father of Margaret Scully m Joshua Cowell. To date we have not been able to find a death for Michael's wife Bridget but family believe she arranged his funeral. Margaret's baby Robert who died the same year as his birth is buried with Michael, meaning there is definitely a relationship of some kind with the family but was he the father of Catherine?
Margaret Mehan also had a daughter Eleanor about eight years after Catherine was born but this was after Michael had died so the father again is not known.
Margaret died in 1921 and her father is listed as Thomas Mahon. There is no marriage for Margaret and Michael and no death for Bridget Scully.


  1. Hi there, I am related to the Joahua Cowell that married Louisa Saunders. I have several original photos of him and his diary. Do you still have the records you found?

    1. Hi Ryan
      Sorry for not getting back sooner, I do not check my blogs as often as I should. You may be interested to know that I live on the Haddon /Smythesdale border very close to where Joshua and Louisa lived for some time. I have kept all this research as I do all. Would love to compare notes and pics. I have found that Margaret was not the correct lady we needed to follow, however it is her father who is named on the birth certificate of the Margaret we did need, in other words Margaret Cowells step mother is also Margaret. We just cannot find where Margaret Cowell's mother went? Also we found Margaret Cowell died in New Zealand. I think I need to update.

    2. Hi Ryan and Carmel
      I too am descendent from Joshua and Louise and would like to share with you. My ggrandfather wasJoshua Henry son of Joshua and Louisa born 1852,Surrey

    3. Hi
      Would like to share with you as I have also descended from Joshua Cowell and Louisa Saunders

  2. Hi Carmel and Ryan
    I too an descendant from Joshua and Louise and would like to share with you .My grandfather was Joshua Henry who was born in Surrey 1852 and came to Vic with his parents Merle

  3. Hi
    I too have descended from Joshua and Louise and would like to share with you.

  4. Hi

    Would like to share as descended from Joshua and Louise.