A couple of weeks ago a book turned up that we had put away a few years back for house alterations, "Soldiers, surveyors and selectors", written by Bob Cowley, one of my wife's Australian cousins, on family history. That started me following up some minor family mysteries.
Val's great-great grandfather was Frederick Thomas Green (1829-1876), explorer, trader, elephant hunter, and general in the Herero army. He was one of 15 children of William and Margaret Green, born in Canada, came to the Cape Colony about 1846. But this story concerns his sister, Margaret Agnes Anne Green, known as Agnes.
Agnes was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was 11 when the family moved to the Cape Colony. She married young, to William Wilson, and they went to Australia (New South Wales) about 1853, where their first child, Caroline Wilson, was born in Sydney. They moved south to Kiora, where William was a storekeeper, and drowned in the Tuross River in 1856.
Agnes then married Alfred John Dawson Francis, and had four more children -- the last born about 8 months after he committed suicide in a Sydney boarding house, so it may not have been his. She went off inland to Queanbeyan (now part of Canberra) where she opened a school to earn a living, leaving her youngest child with the McLeod family at Moruya. When she set off she was pregnant with the youngest, and when the school did not provide enough to live on, she left that child with another family, and went to Sydney, where she married William Thwaites, and had four more children by him. She kept all those, but packed off her eldest, Caroline, to her brother Edward in New Zealand. After the birth of her children she married Thwaites again, in Adelaide. Turned out his first wife had been alive at the time of their first "marriage".
The mysteries, however, relate to her first two husbands. No trace has been found of the marriage to William Wilson, or why they went to Australia. Perhaps it was the gold rush, which was going on in that part of NSW at the time (the Moruya or Eurobodalla district, about 300 km south of Sydney).
Her second husband, Alfred John Dawson Francis, is more interesting, because just before this time an Alfred Francis Dawson appeared in Natal with a young wife, and two children too old to have been hers. When the young wife had children, the church register at their baptism had the name Dawson crossed out, and a note to the effect that the real name was Francis. This "Dawson" apparently got into the swing of the social life of the colony, becoming a church warden, being named as the co-resppondent in at least one divorce case, and being quite popular and prominent. Then his wife died in a boating accident, and he disappearted as mysteriously as he had arrived. A Mr Francis left on a ship with two children.
Could he have made is way to Australia and married Agnes Wilson, born Green? Well, perhaps, but the Alfred Dawson Francis in New South Wales appeared to have thought his wife's maiden name was Glasgow, and so did some others who ought to have known better -- Captain E.M. Battye, of the Braidwood Police, who adopted her (then) youngest daughter. But he had known her from childhood in Nova Scotia, and must have known the family name was Green, not Glasgow. And when the daughter grew up and married, he gave her mother's name on the marriage certificate as "Agnes Elliot". So it looks like a cover-up, but a cover up of what?
So the last couple of days I've been playing with this historical puzzle, trying to match dates and places and seeing who was where when.