06 December 2011

The importance of reading handwriting correctly

I have previously written about the Wickham family and the sheet of paper, written by an unknown hand, which records dates of birth for the family members, and also other important dates.

One of the most mysterious pieces of information on that sheet of paper regards an apparent stay in Mackay by Thomas Wickham (patriarch of the Australian branch of family, not Thomas Wickham the policeman, who was his grandson). Here's an excerpt:

"Married Dec 7th 1835, sailed for Sydney Dec 20th 1852, arrived at Sydney April 29th 1853, left for Mackay Jun 29th 1867, returned to Sydney July 1878. Died at Summer Hill 13th Sept 1897."

I had no idea why Thomas went to Mackay, and could only assume that Rachel, his wife, went with him. I searched and searched for indications of why he was there - for 11 years no less - but to no avail. I contacted the Mackay Family History Society and they (for a small fee) checked everything - electoral rolls, post office directories, the local paper in case it mentioned his leaving in 1878 (unfortunately they didn't have the relevant issue of the paper), and histories of the local churches but there was no mention of him in any of them.

So that mystery remained unsolved.

And then I showed the piece of paper to my mum and she took one look and said "Macleay". Oops. Yes, it did look like "Mackay" but it also looked like "Macleay" - the Macleay River region, up near Kempsey. I looked at Thomas and Rachel's kids and yes, some of them lived in the Macleay River area - Kempsey, Macksville...

So that solves that mystery. [Feeling a little bit sheepish here].

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