Beryl Reading – A Baby on a Postcard

#52Ancestors Week 3 – Favourite Photo

(Beryl Reading aged 3 months)

It was something they used to do in our state in the first half of the twentieth century- take a photo and turn it into a postcard that you could stick a stamp onto and send through the mail.

We have very few surviving photographs in our family. This is my grandmother Beryl, born January 1918 in Kempton, Tasmania. My grandmother handed it to me one day when I was visiting and said “Can you guess who this is?”

I couldn’t. I’ve never been good at recognising people.

She then let me turn it over to read the back, and said I could keep it if I wanted it.

Of course I did!

Message on back of the postcard

On the back it says:

“Dear Sarah

Beryl when she was 3 months old we could not get her to look up. I remain

E Reading”

It’s a true blast from the past because that’s exactly how they all talked, everyone around me. Running sentences together, switching where the pauses go. And the valediction also, which doesn’t make much sense alone but they were taught to say it at school. Not the whole “I remain your [servant, friend etc]. Just ‘I remain’.

This is my great grandmother’s handwriting. Esther was Beryl’s mother. Esther had a younger sister named Sarah, I’m guessing she was the recipient of the postcard. And at some point down the track the postcard was returned to Esther and passed on to Beryl, who then passed it on to me. I notice there’s no stamp, it may have been placed in a parcel with other items.

Beryl was the seventh child in her family. It’s lovely to see them still taking pleasure in a new addition, enough to have her dressed up in a clean frock and lacy bib. They were a very poor family, they all lived in a two bedroomed house with the males in one room, the females in the other. Beryl’s father was a share farmer, mostly of pigs, and they had some very tough years. Through it all they were united and loving.

Beryl grew up in the now vanished town of Apsley in Central Tasmania and went to the very small Apsley school. Her father died unexpectedly on 27th December 1931. The following year was her final at school.


She met her future husband when he came through her town as a laborer working on a new rail line. They were married in the registry office in Hobart in 1939.

It’s a shame she didn’t get a proper wedding, but the war was on and nobody had money. Plus, he came from Cygnet in the southern Huon Valley, a place of hills and dense forests and treacherous winding roads, while she was miles away in Central Tasmania. How could they ask their families to travel all that way? By modern standards the journey is manageable and Hobart was halfway between the two, but it was far slower in those days.

All the same, I think she’d have liked it: the gathering of family, and of feeling beautiful in a pretty dress. But she never said anything about that.

And speaking of weddings, here is Beryl and I at my wedding. I’ve cut the others out of the photo because I haven’t gained their permission to post the photo, not because there’s any kind of rift.

Beryl and myself at my wedding. She was aged about seventy at that time.

Beryl passed away in Franklin Aged Care on 9th February 2011. Due to family commitments and finances I was unable to attend her funeral which I will forever regret, but every time I visit the state of Tasmania I stop by her grave to say hello.

Beryl’s headstone, truncated to protect the privacy of living persons in the list of her children.

The photograph of Beryl as a baby now sits in a frame on my bookcase. I see it every day.

(1) “EMPIRE DAY” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 18 May 1932: 10. Web. 16 Jan 2022 <>

Where Does Anything Begin?

#52Ancestors Week One-Foundations

(Valdivia ancestor sculpture with two faces)

This year I’m participating again in Amy Johnson Crow’s ’52 Ancestors’, which means I write a blog post every week about ancestry based on a supplied topic prompt.

The prompt for week one is ‘Foundations’.

Foundations have always challenged me because there is always a ‘before’. How do you draw the line? Where do you declare something a new entity, a new beginning?

It seems easy from a distance. It’s never straightforward when you get close.

When I started my family history, I drew boundary lines because I knew what a big project it was. First up, I wanted to identify the ancestor in each line who arrived in Australia. That first pioneer on every side. How simple can you get?

My great grandmother Alice Head

My great grandmother Alice Head is an excellent example. She emigrated from England in 1896, married Herbert Dunstall in Kalgoorlie, and they lived happily ever after in Western Australia. Simple!

Until I explored her ancestry and found her great grandfather George Devon Doo. He was born in Surrey, England, in 1794, joined the navy and served for several years in India, after which he was pensioned out as an invalid. He was also addicted to strong spirits and opium.

George Devon Doo made his way to Australia in 1838. He struggled for nearly thirty years and eventually died in Yass, New South Wales, in 1865: almost thirty years before Alice made her journey out.

So in my family tree, who is the pioneering ancestor in that line? Is it Alice Head or is it George Devon Doo? There’s an excellent chance that Alice lived her entire life not knowing anything of that great grandfather or his naval career.

Another example:

William Morey 1851-1914

My great great grandfather William Morey died in Mannus near Tumbarumba, New South Wales. He’s a known pioneer of the district. For years we thought he was a pioneer to Australia.

William and his wife Fanny moved to Mannus with their nine surviving children in 1908 and built a home on one of eight share farming allotments in the new settlement. The place is full of history; every trip we made as children were full of memorials and tales of those first families. We went to see the houses they once lived in, the carefully preserved sulkies they drove, the dusty portraits on the walls of various great aunts and uncles’ homes. A glimpse into a shadowy past so distant it takes special care to preserve the memories.

1908! That’s barely the past at all!

I’ve recently written about William’s parents. They were shadowy figures who left no relics behind. They had their troubles – alcoholism, clashes with neighbours, court appearances for theft. In the end his mother even changed her name and became someone else entirely.

It’s taken a concerted effort by many descendants to locate them and put together their story, but they were in Australia too. Great great grandfather William Morey was a pioneer of Mannus (1908) with an untarnished reputation. But he was actually Australian born. His birth family was less than fifty miles away.

It was his never-referenced parents who were the pioneers – the ones who made poor choices, the ones who never found their place. The ones you couldn’t bring home to meet your new family or your neighbours.

Who founded the mighty dynasty of Morey in the Snowy Mountains district in New South Wales? Their descendants are numerous and respectable. Was it William Morey 1851-1814? Or his parents who came to Australia in 1848 but self-destructed and vanished from sight?

Of course, there’s no answer to my question.

Every generation is a rich combination of old influences and new. Nobody lives in a vaccuum. We are the sum of our experiences, our legacies, our opportunities and obstacles. All of that comes from what went before. George Devon Doo ended the way he did because of his past: his father died when he was little, his mother remarried and her new husband got him a place on a naval ship when he was just eleven years old. He was a child pushed into a savage adult world. The injured, opium-addled man we find sixty years later is the end result of that tragic beginning.

William Morey became the man he was because he married a respectable woman raised in an orphanage. She had a heart of gold but the concept of family dragging one down was alien to her. I’m quite sure she encouraged her new husband to step away from his dysfunctional origins, to look forward and do what was needed for his own children.

It was the only way. But what you’ve come from still has an impact. His past shaped his ideas, his fears. He did not travel, he encouraged all his adult children to stay nearby and live equally quiet lives, without telling them why. His views make a lot more sense when you know what went before.

Mountshannon House interior

I’ve been grappling with this issue recently because I was stuck for a Christmas present for my father. I decided the best thing I could do was write him a history of the paternal line. Nothing too complex – short chapters, each one about one ancestor. I decided to do it from earliest to latest to properly build the story.

My paternal lineage is Irish Catholic, so there are limits to how far back I can go. The earliest named ancestor is Edmond Dillane born circa 1760 in Kerry.

But there’s a bit of explanation to be done in talking about his world. DNA matches suggest that Edmond had two brothers, John and Matthew, and a sister Catherine, and they lived in the Listowel region of Kerry.

Looking at naming patterns for their children suggests that their parents were likely named John Dillane and Catherine. Y-DNA matches show several originating ancestors from Cork in the late 1600s, so it seems likely to me that our Dillanes were formerly in Cork and settled in Kerry sometime before 1750.

I’ve spent some time examining occurrences of the surname across Munster and further afield, and some time looking into the various wars of Ireland in that turbulent 17th century.

I became lost for a while in piecing together the geographical journey of our Y-DNA matches. I don’t think we’ve had the surname Dillane for very long. Sometime in the 1700s Dillane took over from Delane. That’s the spelling you find in earlier records.

I still haven’t written that history for my father. I’m now targeting his birthday. I need to draw the line somewhere and call something a beginning.

Foundations are every point really. We just have to pick the foundation for whatever story we are going to tell. Every event, every moment in time; they’re all the start of something.

I’ve used this prompt to get my head around that concept. It’s time to write.

Edward (Ned) Dillon 1878-1958 (The earliest of the Dillane paternal line for whom I have a picture).

What’s In A Name? – The Astounding Footprint of Aphra Crayford (1587-1662)

Aphra Crayford is hard to spot in a plethora of deeds, wills, land titles and political disputes, but she’s still very much in the picture.

She was married at the age of twenty two and settled with her husband in Ireland where she raised a large family. She saw the transfer of the British throne from monarch to monarch to parliament to monarch again. She saw skirmishes and outright rebellion in Ireland through all of her married life, and she witnessed – from a distance – the end of her family’s influence in Kent.

It was a time of immense change, and what a shame we don’t have it in Aphra’s own words. What were her thoughts on the annihilation of the world order as she once knew it? Did she have fears for her children’s future? Did they feel safe? Did they feel helpless?

Aphra herself – and her children – can be found scattered through the genealogical records, rarely connected together. Not much remains from that time and the families travelled extensively which doesn’t help.

This post is about what I know so far.

Aphra’s birthplace; Great Mongeham, Kent

THE CRAYFORD-HOUSE, alias STONEHALL, was a mansion situated at a small distance westward of the church … this mansion, for many descents, was the property and residence of the family of Crayford, whose estates in this neighbourhood were very considerable. In the year 1460 at the battle of Northampton, fighting on behalf of the then victorious house of York, mention is made of William Crayford, Esq. who was then made knight-banneret by King Edward IV for his eminent services performed there and at different times before … from this Sir William Crayford, knight-banneret, this seat and estate descended down to William Crayford, Esq. of Great Mongeham, who died possessed of it in Charles II.’s reign, and seems to have been the last of this family who resided here.

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 9. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

The story of Stonehall at Great Mongeham is a story of influence, power and wealth.

The house no longer exists. We don’t actually know what it looked like, but chance references imply that it was large with extensive grounds. The family played their part in the support of their King – or Queen at the time of Aphra’s birth – and were rewarded or punished accordingly, as per the times.

This was a family with a long proud history, something Aphra was no doubt taught from a very young age. At the time of that first Sir William’s conferral of honours they were already associating with Edward IV. They can trace their lineage on some sides back to the Norman conquest, a point of great pride in that time period. Not perhaps on the Crayford side, but even if it was a maternal line it still counted. They were very clearly Important.

Aphra’s parents were Sir William Crayford (a later namesake of the original) and his wife Anne Norton whose lineage was as illustrious as her husband’s. They parented nine children; four sons and five daughters. Aphra was child number eight, the youngest girl. Her brother Robert was born a year later. (NOTE: Some family trees have two more children in this family after Robert – John and Richard.)

The Early Years

Aphra’s childhood was relatively calm. Events were far away and Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, followed by James I in the year that Aphra turned sixteen. Life for Aphra was probably focused on domestic matters. The marriage of her eldest brother Edward to Anne Hayward. The marriage of her eldest sister Anne to John Warren. The birth of nephews and nieces.

In 1609, Aphra married Thomas Maunsell.

Unknown wedding couple painted 1610 – an example of fashions of the time.

Thomas was thirty two years old and like the Crayfords, he could trace his lineage back to the Norman conquest through maternal lines. His family came from Buckinghamshire where they held a respectable amount of property.

But Thomas was a younger son, so his inheritance was a small plot of land with a good house. Nothing shabby, but very obscure.

A younger son marrying a younger daughter – a good solid match, but not advantageous to either. Aphra came with a dowry, but after all she was the eighth child. She didn’t bring land or title.

They had a bit to set them up, but they had to use it wisely.

There’s nothing to say how they made their decisions. Nothing to suggest they put their heads together and came up with a plan. But there’s plenty to suggest that Aphra was respected by her family for generations to come, so I think that’s what they did. Thomas may have suggested – and Aphra in conjunction with her father may have agreed – that Ireland was the land of opportunity.

At 32 years of age, Thomas Maunsell was retiring from a successful naval career. As his reward for services rendered he was granted the right to claim land in Ireland.

Ireland never was a truly safe place for a British settler, and in 1609 the British in charge were hard at work maintaining the tenuous law and order that they had. They were deeply suspicious of adventurers who might be there to stir up discontent, who might be spies for the wrong side – be that France or England or Scotland or the New Irish or the Old Irish.

Thomas Maunsell received letters of authorization which were copied and sent to all outposts and naval vessels. He clearly had this in his possession already at the time of marriage.

Here’s an excerpt from ‘The History of Maunsell’ by Robert George Maunsell. I’ve tidied it up for readability.

Thomas Maunsell, born 1577; matriculated. Mag. Hall, 1594, as a youth he distinguished himself against the Spanish Armada, and was subsequently a Captain in the Fleet. In the college books he is described as Thomas Maunsell, of Chicheley, Bucks, gent, late of Barnard's Inn; admitted 1599 to Gray's Inn. He retired from the naval service in 1609, and on 28th July of that year, as per order of Council, the Irish authorities received a command as follows: — 

"Whereas this gent, Captain Thomas Maunsell, is come into this Kingdom .. to take a view of the most convenient places for him to settle in .. to which end he has brought unto us letters of recommendation. These are therefore, to require every of you his Maties Officers, Mynisters, not only to permit the said Captain abovenamed with his servants peaceably and quietly to pass by you as he shall have occasion to search and enquire as aforesaid, but also to be aiding, comporting and assisting unto him with post horses and guides from place to place in his travels, and if need require, to give him the best knowledge and furtherance you may .. whereof you and every of you may not fail, as you will answer the contrary at your perils. Given at Melefont, this 28th July, 1609."

Thomas Maunsell sold the estate at Newport-Pagnell left him by his father's will, and sailing for Ireland he landed at Waterford and settled at Derryvillane in the county of Cork. 

The next stage of Aphra’s life is a matter of reading between the lines. According to the History of Maunsell, Thomas and Aphra had 23 children, of whom eleven lived to adulthood.

Burke, on the other hand, makes a very succinct reference in his Peerage books.

[The third son] Thomas, went to Ireland in 1609, and settled at Derryvolane, county Cork. He married Aphra, daughter of Sir William Crawford and dying about 1642 left, with other issue, Thomas, ancestor of the Maunsells of Limerick, and a son John.

Is one woman capable of producing 23 children, especially when she starts in her twenties? I’m guessing she didn’t.

In my own tree I have eleven named children:

And thus began the dynasty of Maunsell in Ireland. One of their sons – Thomas – is recorded as a 1649er who received extensive amounts of land after Cromwell’s victory.

To this point I’ve kept it all very simple, but anyone who has researched 17th Century Ireland knows that it isn’t. The records aren’t there. People moved all over the place. People moved away and came back ten years later. And you rarely find yourself dealing with just a nuclear family – if a family actually did build themselves a decent manor house, secured property and a steady income, all the extended family came over too.

As well as that, the kids married the neighbours. And their kids married other neighbours. It gets very messy to separate from family from another.

Plus there’s a third complication that people once didn’t understand: the various new colonies of the world were all peopled by the same important wealthy families. You have the same Warner family in Cork and Barbados, Benger and Nason in Waterford and Newfoundland and Philadelphia, French and Cole in Waterford and Maryland, Peard in Cork and Massachussetts and Newfoundland. Spotswood in Waterford and Virginia. And so on and so forth.

Interconnections are everywhere and a generation on, everyone was doing well for themself and feeling a bit of a fraud because their forebears weren’t as swanky as the people they were now mixing with. People became cagey about their genealogy. They exerted effort convincing the world that their position in society was completely legitimate.

The descendants of Thomas and Aphra Maunsell are just as hard to track as all the rest, but we’ve got an amazing advantage: Aphra’s first name.

Here are the women named Aphra in my tree so far.

It took me way too long to realise that nearly all the women named Aphra in those parts of Ireland are descendants of Aphra Crayford. They generally appear in the records in a very disembodied way.

For example, from Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland 1912:

“JOHN BROWN, of Bridgetown (Clonboy), Capt. Limerick Militia, married 1801 to Constance, 2nd daughter of Colonel William Odell, of The Grove, co. Limerick (M.P. for co. Limerick for thirty years, and a Lord of the Treasury), by Aphra his wife, daughter of John Crone, of Byblow, co. Cork.”

In the above excerpt there’s no clue that Constance’s mother Aphra Crone was a descendant of Thomas Maunsell and Aphra Crayford. It took a lot of reading and searching to track her back. To find that Aphra Crone’s paternal grandmother was Aphra Johnson, and that she in turn was the granddaughter of Aphra Maunsell, eldest daughter of Aphra Crayford. That’s a lot of generations to track through. But the connection was there.

I’ve made it my project over the last six months – track all the Aphras to see if they belong to that family.

There’s just one exception so far: Aphra Warren, the daughter of Anne Crayford and John Warren. She’s our Aphra’s niece and she was born in England.

There are also three women who I’ve not managed to trace: Aphra Benger born circa 1675, Aphra Aylmer born circa 1670, and Aphra Gaggin/Goggin/Gookin born circa 1780. But those three are in the same neighbourhood. It’s probably just a matter of time until their connection is found.

You find family names like that in genealogical research. Family names meant something. That was understood. You didn’t just pick a name for your daughter because it was pretty, not when it was a Maunsell family name and the Maunsells were moneyed and connected. It would look like you were stating a relationship, lying about a connection that didn’t exist. Some first names are as much part of the family property as the surname.

I’m speculating regarding this specific name Aphra, but people did treat names that way and it’s very clear that nobody else used it. That name wasn’t like Mary or Sarah or Elizabeth, not names from the bible that anyone might use. Aphra was very specific to that family.

And every new Aphra harkened back to the very first. Aphra Crayford, matriarch of the Maunsells, and of branches of Eatons, Naylors, Peacocks, Boles and Bowles, Downings, Hodders … and all the rest of those surnames showing in my list of women named Aphra.

Late in life, Thomas Maunsell became sick. He and Aphra returned to England where he passed away in 1646. Or 1642 by some counts. This meant that they weren’t in Ireland for the Rebellion of 1641. Either very luckily, or by design, since their sons were military men who might have realised where matters were heading.

I’ll quote ‘The History of Maunsell’ to conclude:

“Mrs. Maunsell having survived her husband returned to Ireland, and resided with her third son, Captain John Maunsell, at Ballyvoreen, near Caherconlish. She died prior to 1662, and her remains were interred in the chancel of the church at Caherconlish, where her son erected the following memorial, bearing that date: —

Here lyeth the bodye of Aphra Maunsell, my dear mother, daughter of Sir Wm. Crayford, of Kent.

She wasn’t buried alone. The memorial continues.

Here also lyeth my dear wife, Mary Maunsell, daughter of Geo. Booth, Esq., of Cheshire. And of my sister, Aphra Peacock. And of her daughter, Anne Peacock.”

Aphra Crayford was my 11th great grandmother through her son Thomas, my 12th great grandmother through her daughter Anne and also through her daughter Catherine, and my 10th great grandmother through her son Boyle.

Reference List

Burke’s Landed Families of Ireland 1826

Burke’s Genealogical History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland 1912 – Digitized copy

The History of Maunsell by Robert Maunsell, Digitized

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Edward Hasted 1797 via Google books.

Baptism records Parish of Great Mongeham

Examination of Thomas Maunsell in the 1641 Depositions