Richard Olding Cummins | DBHome | Family History | Jessup family |
The portrait photograph of "Great Grandma Jessup", which came from my grandfather Henry Jessup's home at Scottsdale, used to hang in what in recent decades has been called Rosemerry's room at "Claremont", Derby, Tas. My sister Elaine's girls used to make a game of being frightened of her at night when they slept there on visits from Hobart. To young children I suppose she did look a bit stern, with her hair pulled back and up in a style more common today than it was when those now in their forties were young, but no doubt quite fashionable when Sarah Ann Olding Cummins, a good looking woman, married Alfred James Jessup at the Brunswick Street Methodist Church in Melbourne in 1871. Her husband Alfred called her Annie in the diary he had taken over from his father James and which recorded often in the briefest of words the development of the farm "Fern Hill" at Springfield near Scottsdale. They were among the pioneers who carved a settlement out of dense virgin forest. Alfred and his brother had begun the farm in 1868 with assistance from their father from time to time and their mother and sister who came from Melbourne at various times to keep house for them. When the new bride arrived the mother returned to Melbourne and the brother moved a short distance to start another farm at West Scottsdale; and the city girl from Melbourne who would also remember Bristol in England settled down to raise a family in the bush.
The list of passengers arriving at Melbourne on the "Morning Light" in August 1859 included "Richd Cummins" 43 and his wife Eliza 43 and six of their seven children:- Eliza 18, Richd 15, Sarah 11, Amelia 9, John 7, and Henry 5. We know from the largely autobiographical little book "Our Father's Care" by Elizabeth O. Cummins, which the eldest daughter wrote when she was living with Alfred and Sarah Ann at Springfield around 1900, that they left the eldest son, George, behind with friends in Bristol. Perhaps it was as a kind of insurance against the dangers of the journey and in case things did not work out for them in the big move to Victoria in its period of excitement and uncertainty following the gold rush. Richard had left what seems to have been a relatively prosperous business which he had built up as a tailor and draper where they lived in what appears even today when it is in a sad state of repair to have been a large and handsome house with a four window shop front on West Street, Bristol. Elizabeth tells us that her father had been advised to make the move for the good of his health for he had suffered from consumption for two years. It does appear that he had not been able to work as productively for the last two years if the record of his contributions to the Bridge Street Independent Church are a guide.
Richard would probably not have known that in that decade of the 1850s the race to establish new records for the passage from Britain to Australia was being run in ways which could have exposed him to some risk. It was the last hurrah of sailing ships, then in growing competition with steam powered vessels which would replace them for passenger traffic to Australia a few years later, after the Loch Ard disaster, not for speed but safety. The Jessup family from Norfolk including Sarah Ann's future husband Alfred arrived three years earlier on the James Baines of the Black Ball Line which then held the record. They had worked out a course to shorten the distance to Melbourne. After passing the Cape of Good Hope it took them so far south on a modified great circle route in the Indian Ocean that passengers were sometimes surprised to find they were sailing among icebergs and might spend weeks in cold damp weather and rough seas rather than the balmy South Seas they might have imagined. We cannot know now whether it was a factor in his death, but Elizabeth tells us what has also been handed on as family tradition that Richard the father of the family died as the ship was entering Port Philip Heads. Richard's name remained on the list of arriving passengers and a very inadequate entry was made in the register of deaths in Victoria, as Richard Cummings, aged 48, with no information about family or place of origin, date or cause of death.
After a while the family stayed for a short time with some distant relatives whom Elizabeth does not name and they soon began to build a new life in Melbourne: "brother, sister and self found employment". The sister was Sarah Ann who had just turned 12. For the older sister Elizabeth, "it was too much for my limited health" and so began the life of an invalid who needed constant care and except for a short period at about the age of 40 when she was again able to walk about the streets normally she spent the rest of her life on a couch; she was able to live independently attended by a female companion and money would arrive in the mail from anonymous donors. She did not see it in such commercial terms, but Elizabeth could have regarded those gifts as payment for the spiritual counselling she gave to a constant stream of people who came to share her Christian fellowship. The younger two girls married a decade or so later and had families, and the two youngest boys also settled into a normal life in Melbourne, married and had a families [* see endnote]. Life was less fortunate for the older boys. George, the eldest son, must have followed them out shortly after their arrival, but he died in Victoria in 1863, "aged 23, father Richard Olding, Mother Eliza Chaplin, birthplace Bristol"; and his younger brother Richard died in Victoria in 1865 "aged 23" with the same parents and birthplace named in the registration of death. Eliza the mother lived in Victoria for 27 years and then for 11 years in Sydney before she died at her daughter Amelia's home in 1898 almost 40 years after she had arrived at the entrance to Port Philip Bay with her dying husband.
Before tracing them back to Bristol and beyond it is worth pausing for a moment to recall a little of what the Cummins family brought with them. We do not know what they had by way of material assets. Whatever it was it was probably not of great value and the signs are that they struggled to get by in the sad circumstances in which they arrived, but Richard and Eliza through their children left a significant heritage both cultural and genetic. One must credit Eliza with half the genetic contribution and more than half what must have been passed on in the raising of the children, but Richard's early enterprise, given what I have recently discovered about the background from which he came, shows him to have been a man of creative ability and strong motivation. Let me illustrate the kind of heritage which I see as coming to us from the Cummins family. A few years ago I when I was watching the news on television one night I saw an expert being interviewed about some aspect of crime in NSW. He was Dr. Don Weatherburn, Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics. I had been told by my mother that her grandmother's sister Amelia had married a man in Sydney named Henry Weatherburn and that a son of their's became Professor of Mathematics at the University of Western Australia . I had been reminded of that one day at an ANZAAS Congress in Perth when I looked up and saw on the wall of the lecture theatre a plaque in memory of Professor Weatherburn. Along with this quantitative ability there was also a deep religious commitment in people such as my Grandfather Jessup whose certificate for 50 Years service as a Methodist Local Preacher I remember hanging in the hall of his house in Minstone Rd., Scottsdale; and of course there was the widely recognized contribution of Elizabeth O. Cummins as a spiritual guide and counsellor while living the life of an invalid, her experience of which is the principal subject of her book. I learned later that Henry Weatherburn had written in his diary,
"I left Melbourne for Sydney at the end of July 1872 having profited much spiritually by the Christian fellowship I had with Mrs Cummins' invalid daughter, Eliza, during my short stay at their house. She was one of the sweetest Christians it has been my privilege to meet."
So when I saw Don Weatherburn on TV I thought he must be a relative, given what I knew of the name and the combination of quantitative abilities with social responsibility which was suggested by his position and manner in which he spoke. I wrote to him and was soon in correspondence with his father Keith, who turned out to be one of the twin sons my mother remembered in the Professor's family, and found he already had a good deal of information on our common family history. Although it is a combination in which I feel quite at home, being an ordained minister and a retired professor who made his academic reputation largely by the application of statistical methods in psychological and educational research, that combination of quantitative or scientific abilities with spiritual or religious interests is not always easily held together. The component traits tend to come out in different ways in different people, I see different combinations for example in each of my four children. Such attributes are sometimes found together with business or management qualities and in the Jessups it was linked also with practical construction types of skills which James Jessup in particular brought with him from a long line of bricklayers in Norfolk. I was always aware in my youth of the achievements of my mother's brothers Eric and especially Ray Jessup as engineers and businessmen; and in the current generation we find Ray's two children Graeme an engineer first in his father's company and later in a government agency concerned with the environment, and Alison who works in computing; my son Robert has his own computing business after being an IT manager, while my youngest son Andrew graduated in computing but works in Amnesty International; two of my brother John's sons Geoffrey and Brian are in computing and IT engineering, while Brian is also engaged in a form of lay ministry, another, Philip, combines similar computing skills with law in a large accounting firm, and one Allan is a medical specialist; while my sister Elaine's son Peter is also a medical doctor. It would be interesting to know how widespread these abilities and achievements are among the Cummins descendants beyond our particular part of the Jessup line and the Weatherburns, but I attribute a fair part of it to the genetic and cultural assets of Richard and Eliza when they are combined with others in later generations in circumstances which facilitated their development. So to me the Cummins history is especially significant.
But if I am to attribute good things to our Cummins ancestry I should also acknowledge a particular type of weakness. Without naming names it can be said that there are several cases of Parkinson's Disease in the Jessup and Weatherburn branches, and one of motor neuron disease which has different but related genetic correlates. Then there is the unknown almost lifelong illness which Elizabeth described in her book. It probably had more than one cause but I think there was a neurological component, and that there was some genetic predisposition for neurological disorders which was inherited from the Cummins.
Now back to the family history chase. Years ago in London I had obtained the birth certificate of my great grandmother Annie Cummins. It names her as Sarah Ann Holding Cummins, born 19th of August 1847 at 4 Sion Place, Clifton, in the Sub-District of St Philip and Jacob in the City and County of Bristol: Father Richard Cummins, Mother Eliza Cummins formerly Chaplin, Father's occupation, tailor, Informant Rd Cummins, Father, 4 Sion Place, St Philip and Jacob, registered 29th of September 1847. You will note the H on Holding which usually appears as Olding. More of this later. I thought my next step then was to find them a few years later in the 1851 census and thus learn where Richard and Eliza were born, but they were not still living at 4 Sion Place by the time of the census and I did not know where else to look because no index to the census was available then. I later learned from Keith Weatherburn that someone searching for them in Britain had found an 1851 census record in which Richard was said to have been born in Devon and Eliza in Bristol. He could not give me the address at which they lived in 1851, and I still wanted to see the record for myself in case it contained other useful information, which as it eventually turned out it did. Anyway working only with the Internet and email correspondence I was unable to locate a likely birth or baptism record for Richard in Devon. However, noting that all of his children had been given the name Olding in what looked like a double barrelled surname Olding Cummins, and that his name appears also on Eliza's death certificate in 1898 as Richard Olding Cummins, I assumed Olding must have been a surname in an earlier generation and began looking for an Olding-Cummins marriage, but without success. All I could manage was to use the distribution of the surnames Olding and Cummins across Devon to identify the area around Crediton about 10 miles to the north west of Exeter as the most likely part of the county in which to find such a marriage. It was not a very tight cluster and the relevant area could have been much wider but nevertheless this little statistical exercise later proved productive when it was possible to combine it with two pieces of historical information.
On this trip I first, while in London, found the marriage registration of "Richard Holding Cummins and Eliza Chaplin", married July 7th 1839, in the Parish Church of St Paul in the County of Bristol, both "adult" (so no help there regarding their ages and dates of birth) Bachelor and Spinster, Tailor and Straw Bonnet Maker, of Leek Lane and Cross Street, respectively, in that parish, fathers names and occupations: George Cummins, Yeoman, and Samuel Chaplin, Cordwainer. It was signed "Richard Holding Cummins" and "Eliza Chaplin", and an unknown John Davis made his X mark as a witness together with the signature of S A Maddock who appears to have been commonly around the church to sign as a witness. In regard to Eliza's date of birth we have the information in her death certificate, a copy of which I have from Keith Weatherburn, that she was aged 22 years when she married and that she was 80 when she died in January 1898. That is in addition to the ages that are given for both of them in the census of 1851 and less accurately in 1841, and upon arrival in Melbourne, so we should have a fair idea of the years in which to look for their births even if these sources are not entirely consistent, and we now their have fathers' names as well - or we might be forgiven for thinking that we did! A few weeks later when I was staying near Bristol I was able to make use of the excellent resources of the Bristol Central Library and the Bristol Records Office. Local people have put a good deal of effort into developing indexes to the censuses and the old parish records. It was also easy from there when better informed to make a trip down to Devon to search the records at Exeter for the birth and family background of Richard Olding Cummins. Before that, I had to ask, what name exactly to look for? What's in an H? Was I to look for Olding or Holding? Not that one normally takes much notice of differences in spelling before about 1850. However, I think there is a point to it in this case. Indeed, it is part of the point that by 1850 spelling was beginning to matter, and Richard had chosen to sign his name with an H on Holding/Olding.
That the spelling "Olding" was considered normal in the family is shown by the fact that Holding was only found in the marriage certificate of Richard and Eliza, the birth registration of Sarah Ann, and as I was to discover later at the baptism of Sarah Ann. I did not find the baptisms of the two eldest children which could have been similar; the later children were different. The names and dates of birth of all the children are written according to Keith Weatherburn in "Amelia Cummins Bible" (which I think might have come from her mother Eliza who lived with her in her old age) as follows:- George Olding Cummins, Born May 3rd, 1840; Eliza Olding Cummins, Born May 26th 1841; Richard Olding Cummins, Born October 8th, 1843, Sarah Ann Olding Cummins, Born August 19th, 1847; Amelia Olding Cummins, Born August 1st, 1849; John Olding Cummins, Born October 30th, 1851; Henry Olding Cummins, Born May 7th, 1854. Elizabeth certainly published under the name Elizabeth O. not H. Cummins. As noted Eliza's death certificate gives her deceased husband's name as Richard Olding Cummins. Eliza herself did not take the name Olding Cummins, only Cummins. The informant was Henry Weatherburn. The first names of the children and the married names of the daughters are given there, in the death certificate, with ages which correspond exactly to those listed in the Bible. The younger sons John and Henry had the name Olding Cummins in some records in Victoria, and although I am working from memory here without recourse to my notes in Melbourne I believe that the death of Richard junior in Melbourne is also in that form. (Both the elder sons George and Richard are said in her death certificate to have died before their mother. See endnote for more details added later.) My guess is that there was a period in his life when Richard was establishing himself in more respectable society than he had come from and he did not like to be heard dropping his Hs - which my mother would never have allowed! - and which he might have thought those representing older family traditions had done. This brings up the question of how he "progressed" from a "less educated" background, which we will have to come back to when we know a little more.
The baptisms of the children are not easy to find. I searched the registers of St Paul's where they were married and St Philip and Jacob the parish where they were in 1847 and 1851, and found none of them before I remembered being told of their association with the Bridge Street Independent Church. Then in that register I found:-
Sarah Ann Holding, dau. Richard and Eliza Cummins, b. 19 August 1847 , Out Parish of J. and
St. Philip, bapt. 10 June 1849
Amelia, dau. of Richard and Eliza Cummins, b. 31 August 1849, Out Par of St Philips, bapt. 18 August 1850
John Oldin, son of Richard and Eliza Cummins, b. 30 October 1851, Out Parish of St Philip, bapt. 15 August 1851
Henry Oldin, son of Richard and Eliza Cummins, b. 7 May 1854, Out Parish of St Philip, bapt. 22 October 1854.
The first two children might have been baptized in the established church in a parish I was not able to search in the time available. It is clear from the register that it was the practice in the Independent Church to hold a special service for baptisms about once a year, so these baptisms are often up to a year after the birth. In the case of Sarah Ann it was two years. Perhaps they missed the one occasion available when she was about a year old, or perhaps they were in transition from a parish of the Church of England and not yet established in their new spiritual home. It is significant however that this change took place at about the time when Richard was establishing his trade as an independent business and they were moving into a larger house in a better neighbourhood. They could have walked to the Bridge Street Church without much difficulty from their new residence in West Street, see the census record below, but only by passing at least one and probably more parish churches. Richard rented a pew at the Independent Church for his family - another sign of increasing prosperity and social status. But least it be thought only a matter of status it should be recalled that young Elizabeth who was 18 when they left there was already showing evidence of deep spiritual maturity soon after their arrival in Melbourne so she could well have had a good grounding in the faith at the Independent Church. It stood in the area near the old Bristol Bridge where the original settlement had begun in the tenth century and only a hundred metres or so from St Mary le Port the old Saxon church that was once the only stone building in the primitive settlement which traded with the Vikings. Most of this central part of old Bristol near the Port, from which a modern statue of John Cobot looks out to the sea, was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. The tower of St Mary le Port is all that remains of it. The other church is still prominent across the grassy parkland where the old village once stood but it is a bombed out shell with two plaques on it commemorating those who were killed in the bombing.
When I found their record in the 1851 census it gave me the address of 57 West Street, in Bristol. When I went there later I found what must once have been quite a handsome three story building right on the street with large windows on the ground floor suitable for display, plenty of room at the back for workrooms and two stories of wide living space above. I should have checked in the census whether they occupied the whole building, but I did not notice any others which I often saw in census addresses I was researching. They may well have shared its use with others. Nor have I established that the building which still stands at that address today was there in 1851. I only know that it looks like others in London which date from that period. Now in a sad state of disrepair with a "For Sale" sign on it, it is in an area ripe for redevelopment. And while it must then have been a good address on a wide smart street not far from the old city centre, today it stands in a one way traffic sewer leading into Old Market Street, one of the busiest thoroughfares in Bristol; there is a fish and chip shop in part of the building next door, much of it like No. 57 and others apparently unoccupied, next a barber's shop in the corner of a building, and across the street a place selling African musical instruments and a brothel with a neon sign saying "Massage, 24 hours", and another more discretely declaring "cash machine on premises". I don't know what they would have thought of all that! In any case, whether they occupied the whole of the building or not, they were at a good address and there were quite a few of them, for besides Richard and Eliza and the five children they had by that time they also had with them Eliza's widowed sister Sarah and her son Samuel. The complete record is:-
57 West Street in the Parish of St Philip and Jacob (Out)
Richard Cummins, Head, Married, 35, Tailor, Employs 1 Apprentice, born Devonshire
Eliza Cummins, Wife, Married, 36, born Bristol
George Cummins, Son, 10, scholar, born Bristol
Eliza Cummins, Dau.r, 9, scholar, born Bristol
Richard Cummins, Son, 7, Scholar, born Bristol
Sarah Cummins, Dau.r, 3, -, born Bristol
Amelia Cummins, Dau.r, 1, -, born Bristol
Sarah White, Sister-in-law, Widow, 31, Ironer?, born Bristol
Samuel White, Nephew, 8, Scholar, born Bristol.
Although it is technically possible that Sarah White, who was Richard's sister-in-law, could just possibly have been the former wife of a brother twice widowed, it seems almost certain that she was Eliza's sister, born Sarah Chaplin and giving her son the name of their father Samuel Chaplin. Sarah Ann the daughter of Richard and Eliza could have been named in part after her. In the 1841 census there was a household in Dale Street in the Parish of St Paul, Bristol, comprising David White, 30, a carpenter, Sarah White aged 20, and Ann Chaplin aged 50 or 60, and possibly a tailor but I could not read her age, occupation or status clearly. (In that census ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 years, and the relationships between the members of the household were not given.) This is most probably the same Sarah before her child was born and her husband died, and I had thought Ann Chaplin might well have been the mother of Sarah and Eliza, but the wife I found later for Samuel Chaplin was named Mary, and I will take up further questions in regard to that later.
At this stage of his career in 1851 Richard Cummins only employed one apprentice, so he did not have a very large business. Although he had the trade of tailor at the time of his marriage in 1839 and in the 1841 census, see below, he was not listed until 1850 in Matthew's Directory of Bristol where independent tradesmen running their own business were commonly found. At that time he was described as a tailor at 61 West Street. By 1858 and 59 and perhaps earlier he was listed as tailor and draper at 51 West Street. The addition of draper suggests he was running a shop with a range of goods as well as a tradesman's business. The addresses do not agree exactly with the census and I am not sure whether they are errors or he had rooms for his work at a different address from where he lived, but the common arrangement was for the proprietor of a business like his to live over the shop, so it was probably all at No. 57. Street numbers were often not reliable at that time. The most likely arrangement is exactly what was found in part of my wife Hazel's family for several generations when they were tailors in Cheltenham living over the shop in a building like the one in Bristol. The indications are that Richard was managing a growing business as tailor and draper at this address throughout the 1850s, but that he had started from more humble beginnings.
As for the occupation of Eliza, she was a straw bonnet maker at the time of her marriage and I suppose she was busy with her growing family and in background support for Richard's work afterwards, especially when they had established their own business. There are some interesting details in the censuses and the trade directory concerning the occupations of various Chaplins who could have been related to her and might give some further insight into her family of origin. Two entries in the directory were of particular interest. In 1831, when Eliza would have been about 15 there were Harriet Chaplin, Milliner, Dress and Straw Bonnet Maker in Nelson Place and Elizabeth Chaplin, Milliner and Dress Maker in Clifton Place. Perhaps Harriet who made a special point of including "straw bonnet maker" in her listing had something to do with Eliza learning that trade, and the Clifton address of Elizabeth as well as her name is also suggestive for Richard and Eliza were living in Clifton at 4 Sion Place when Sarah Ann was born in 1847. There were indeed several Chaplins in Clifton. Now it just so happens that another Chaplin listing which was maintained over many years was Ann Chaplin who kept a rooming house at 4 Sion Row, Clifton, from 1839 to 1858 at least. Today there is no Sion Row and I would guess that it became Sion Place although the name Sion does appear elsewhere. Is this then the Ann Chaplin who was with Sarah White in 1841 and I thought might be her and Eliza's mother, and why were Richard and Eliza living at her rooming house when Sarah Ann was born, if it was indeed the same place? We cannot answer questions like this or know what if any relationship Eliza had with Ann, Harriet or Elizabeth, or other Chaplins until we can settle the question of who her mother was. The evidence in favour of Mary Kavanah, who I believe was favoured by the researcher who reported to Keith Weatherburn, is quite good but not completely convincing.
The Bristol Family History Society has developed an index of marriages in Bristol before 1837. We have the name of Eliza's father from her marriage certificate as Samuel Chaplin, a cordwainer (shoemaker), and that is supported by the name of her sister Sarah's son Samuel. The only Samuel Chaplin in that marriage index in the relevant period is in a marriage to Mary Kavanah, in St Paul's, Portland Square. The register shows that they were married there by banns 26th of February 1810. They were both of that parish. Samuel Chaplin signed his name and Mary made her mark. The witnesses were H Dimmock and John Stone. There is a possible birth for Eliza to these parents among the baptisms at St Augustine the Less, a city parish in Bristol, February 1st, 1818, dau. of Samuel and Mary Chaplin of Limekiln Lane, father a shipwright. The date 1818 is a bit late but not unusually so. The occupation of Samuel as shipwright does not go well with that of cordwainer, so there is a question about this being the same person as was named in Eliza's marriage certificate. The expected date for Eliza's birth was about 1816 and while the evidence from her age at various times later in life is not consistent none of those ages indicated a date as late as this, expect with a small margin of error the age of 80 at her death in January 1898, but then age at death is normally the least reliable. The same shipwright and his wife Mary had Cornelieus, bapt. December 11, 1814 at same church as Eliza, while I also found William, bapt.at St Andrew, Clifton, November 30, 1823 and Jane, at that church February 25, 1827, son and dau. of Samuel and Mary Chaplin, still a shipwright. I did not find Eliza's sister Sarah and would need to see her in the same family before believing that this Samuel and Mary were the parents of Eliza. However, the parishes are separately indexed and I could not get access to some of the indexes for parishes just outside the city boundary when I needed them, so she could still be there somewhere. There is certainly room in the spread-out dates of the children of this Samuel and Mary for other children to have been born in other parishes, and perhaps Samuel might have learned the trade of cordwainer later in life or returned to what he had learned earlier, and the age given for Eliza in five later documents might all have been wrong, but it does leave doubts which are reinforced by the presence of Ann Chaplin who might have been their mother in the places where Eliza and Sarah lived. In regard to the occupation of cordwainer, there was another Chaplin with that occupation in the 1841 census, William, aged 39, in the Parish of St Paul's, in Meadow St., with his wife Ann aged 40 and 6 children one of whom was named Temperance. Could they be related to Eliza and her father Samuel? There was often a tradition of following certain occupations in a family, and I have seen it elsewhere with shoemakers in particular. So I just don't know, but I am inclined to think that Ann rather than Mary was the mother of Eliza and a different Samuel was her father. Obviously more research is necessary and a different marriage of a different Samuel Chaplin outside Bristol might be found or it may be one that the compilers of the index missed.
Now back to the Cummins line and the birth of Richard in Devon. The crucial piece of evidence was found in the 1841 Census when Richard and Eliza were living in Pennywell Lane, just a few hundred metres north of their future home in West Street - that is if that Pennywell Lane is Pennywell Road today. Their household then was:-
Richard Cummins, 25 Taylor, No (ie. not born in this county of Bristol)
Eliza Cummins, 25 - Yes
George Cummins, 1 - Yes
Eliza Cummins, 1 week - Yes
Mary Olding, 25 - Yes?
Elizabeth Brain, 60 Nurse, Yes.
From this it was clear that Olding was a surname and while relationships were not given in this census it can be assumed that Mary Olding was a close relative who was there to give assistance at the time of the birth of the baby who was one week old. Presumably so was the nurse but she could expected to leave shortly and more assistance might be needed especially as the other child was only just one year old. The Yes indicating that Mary Olding was born in the same county is a bit of a puzzle and, strange as it might seem, the writing was not always clear at that point. Anyway I decided to ignore that difficulty and related the name Mary Olding to an 1851 census record from the Crediton area of Devonshire. A researcher in Devon had sent me the census record of several Olding households in that area which I had identified as most likely to combine Olding with Cummins. One of them was the household of George Olding, 60, a widower, agricultural labourer, and his widowed daughter Mary A. Gants, 35, with her son Henry Gants, 2. They were in the small parish of Colebrook 4 miles west of Crediton. It was a bit of a long shot but the best starting point I had. So I drove down to Exeter from Clevedon, arriving in the late afternoon after spending few hours at Taunton on the trail of the elusive Featherstone-Blackmore alias, and went straight out to Crediton where I found accommodation in a B&B farmhouse run by the wife of a dairy farmer looking west over the rolling hills with corn fields ripening and deep green pasture between hedgerows. I wondered whether this was the countryside in which generations of my forebears had lived. The next morning I went back into Exeter, found the County Records office and the film of the baptismal register of Colebrook around 1816 and within about a minute I was looking at May 16th, 1816, Richard son of George and Ann Olding, of Broomhill, husbandman and on the same day the baptism of Ann the daughter of the same parents. Was this our Richard with a twin sister? The surname was Olding not Cummins, but the father's first name was George as in the father's name on Richard's marriage certificate and the date was right. The occupation given here as husbandman was not quite yeoman, but near enough as a kind of farmer (especially if Richard was later rather conscious of status condiderations). Looking back a few years I found Mary Anne daughter of George Olding and his wife Anne baptized on December 9, 1811, earlier than expected but still correct for the rounding down of the age of Mary Olding to 25 at the 1841 census of the household of Richard and Eliza. We needed the Olding-Cummins marriage I had long sought to make sense of it, and when I found it I could hardly believe it: on 16 July 1811, George Olding, bachelor, of this parish married Anne Commins, spinster, of this parish, by banns, his mark and her mark, witnesses John Beer his mark and Sally Gooding.
Among all the possibilities I had considered, his mother being a Cummins was not one. So Richard had combined his parent surnames as Olding Cummins, in such a way as to give the Cummins name of his mother the greater emphasis that would pass it on to his descendants while Olding would disappear. Why would he do that? Was it intentional? Mary had not done the same, she was still Olding when he was Cummins in the 1841 census. Nor could it be that he was alienated from his family. Mary his sister was apparently still giving support in a time of need. I considered the possibility that Ann his mother might have died soon after the birth of the twins and the babies were "adopted" by relatives, Richard then being brought up in a Cummins household and known as a Cummins. That remains possible, but if Ann did die when a young woman it was not it the Colebrook parish for I did not find her burial there. Neither did I find any more children born to George and Ann, while George seems to have remained in the area and was listed as a widower in the same parish in 1851, so her death must remain a likely possibility. Sometimes also when twins were born they were separated to relieve the burden on the family and the mother in particular. We do not know for sure that the child Ann who was baptized with Richard was a twin, but it is quite possible. If his being brought up in a Cummins household was not brought about by the early death of his mother, or because he was a twin, it is still possible that he might have been placed with a better off family among his mother's relatives while he was still quite young to give him a better start in life than he would have had remaining at Colebrook. It is tiny a village, and he would not have learned tailoring there. On the other hand there is an entry in the trade directory for Bristol in 1831 for a William Cummins, draper, in Union Street, near the city centre. That was the kind of setting in which Richard would be able to learn a trade and the ways of commerce in a city and perhaps develop the motivation to improve his lot. There is also reason to believe that his mother's Cummins family could have lived in Exeter.
I have not had time to research this in the original records, but in addition to those Cummins who were born in and around Crediton the IGI does show a cluster in the parish of St Sidwell in Exeter. Ann could have come from either fairly easily to Colebrook. Ann Cummins (or Commins) who married George Olding was said in their marriage registration at Colebrook to have been of the same parish, but she was not baptised there and I did not find any Cummins births, deaths or marriages at Colebrook, so she must have come from elsewhere, perhaps long enough before her marriage to be considered part of the local community. A Cummins family from Crediton or Exeter could have moved there, but if so they left no trace that I could find. More likely perhaps, Ann could have been with a family at Colebrook as a servant. It may not be insignificant that her first child was born less than 5 months after their wedding. One possible birth for Ann, the mother of Richard, is as the illegitimate daughter of Hannah Cummins baptized at St Sidwell Exeter in 1785. Her relatives there would have included Cummins men named George, William and Richard. Whether they have links or may even be the same people as those later in Bristol with the same names is an interesting question. It may even be possible that Ann's son Richard could have been brought up in a family where the head of household was one named George Cummins, the son of another Richard. George Cummins was the name of our Richard's father as recorded in his and Eliza's marriage certificate. Perhaps it was his foster father, as well as George being the name of his natural father George Olding. These are speculations, not research findings and can only suggest future lines of inquiry.
It was possible to document the Olding family names for another generation or two further back. The only Olding burial I found between 1816 and 1842 was George Olding, 68, of Copplestone, February 20th., 1821, perhaps the grandfather of Richard as I did find the birth of Ricahrd's father George to George and Elizabeth Olding, bapt. April 29th 1787, but when I searched for the older George between 1745 and 1761 he was not there. Around that time however there was a couple named John Oulden and his wife Mary who had a child named Mary and they would be a generation earlier than Richard's grandfather, but whether in our direct line I don't know. Again time was limited. The family of Richard's grandparents was quite clear. The marriage banns of George Olding and Elizabeth Kendle, his grandparents, were published May 13, 20 and 27, 1781, but they were apparently married in the parish which Elizabeth came from and unfortunately I could not read the name of it. Besides George, Richard's father, in 1787, they had a number of children baptized at Colebrook: John, June 27, 1784; William, November 17, 1789; Anne, May 28, 1792; Richard, February 26, 1795; Samuel, January 6, 1798. The marriages of most of these children were found still in the same parish about 20 or so years later. After the marriage of George Olding and Ann Commins in 1811, we had John Olding and Mary Lewis 15 March 1812, John Lewis and Anne Olding 13 July 1818, Samuel Olding and Susan Elizes 5 September 1819, and Richard Olding described as a Navigator sojourning in the parish was married to Mary Gurney 21 April 1822. The first children of these couples were also noted as baptized in the parish. It was a small but stable community in which they managed to find marriage partners, and work, and life went on as it had before, but one or two escaped.
When the Record Office closed I went out to Colebrook and found a cluster of a few houses and a Colebrook Farm gate in a stone wall near the church which dates from mediaeval times. Apart from the church most of the buildings appear relatively modern. There are none of the fine thatched cottages which still stand in good repair a few kilometres away at Coleford which is now bigger but was previously a minor village within the parish of Colebrook. Significantly it has a local evangelical church. I found no Olding grave stones in the church yard partly because few stones were still legible from the period I was interested in and I expect also due to the relative poverty of agricultural workers two hundred years ago. I did find the name Olding G on the honour board for the 1914-18 war, no doubt another George. The lady I spoke with in the church who was doing the flowers said she did not know of any Oldings in the community today - so perhaps they all got away eventually, but they were probably forced out by economic changes. It is still beautiful country, even if the roads are treacherously narrow. When I eventually got back on the main road I found accommodation was in scare supply as it is a popular tourist area and it was a weekend in the holiday period, so I finished up driving all the way back to Clevedon, near Bristol, in the evening, just to reinforce how close together places separated in history and culture can be in England.
DB 8 August 2004, revised 27 December 2004, 6 July 2005
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* Endnote on the grandchildren of Richard Olding Cummins. While we know from direct family contact of the Jessup and Weatherburn lines of descent from Eliza and Amelia who kept in touch with each other until at least my mother's generation, and I have since contacted the Weatherburn family in Sydney as noted above, we have no direct knowledge of the descendants of the younger sons John and Henry, but we probably have cousins still living in the Melbourne area. Australian vital records show marriages and the births of children. John married Sarah Barton in Victoria in 1871and they had children born at Emerald Hill (South Melbourne), "Ann Elizabeth Cummings" 1972, Amy Olding 1874, Ethel May 1876, Franklin Percy 1878, and Mabel Elsie 1883. Two of their children died as infants, "Eliza Annie" in 1877 aged 5 and Ethel May in the same year aged 1. Henry married Emelia Ikin in Tasmania in 1878. Their children born in Victoria, also at Emerald Hill or South Melbourne, were Beatrice Annie 1879, Harry Richard 1883, John Tasman 1884, Vera May 1886. Sarah Ann Olding Cummins married Alfred James Jessup at Fitzroy, Victoria, in 1871 and Amelia Olding Cummins married Henry Weatherburn in Victoria in 1876. The children of Amelia and Henry Weatherburn born in NSW, were, from the AVRI, Edith 1877, Martin Henry 1879, Maggie Eliza 1880, Percy 1882, and Charles 1884. The Jessup family will be documented in more detail elsewhere, but the children of Sarah Ann and Alfred James Jessup born at Springfield, Scottsdale in Tasmania were, Fanny Eliza 1872, Lilly 1874, Henry (my grandfather) 1875, Alfred Percival 1877, Charles Herbert 1878, Ella 1979, Frank Ernest 1884, Harold James 1887, Albert Victor 1889.
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