Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

I recently wrote the post Deciphering Clues # 1 which touched on the mystery of the Theakston/Freeman/Solly connection that was tentatively established after the discovery of two newspaper articles.

This connection has not yet been officially verified by some piece of information or document (which I’m hoping I will one day find) but I have discovered some interesting bits and pieces which curiously enough, tie the names Freeman and Solly (as well as a new name, Head) together.  The fact that these names are interconnected makes me wonder if perhaps it’s more than just a simple coincidence.

Mrs Emily Theakston’s maiden name in both her death certificate and marriage certificate was listed as Freeman.  In the marriage certificate, her father was listed as Bell Freeman while in the death certificate, her father was listed as John Freeman.  The discrepancy in the first names is definitely cause for concern.  Despite her surname being listed as Freeman in both, I never found a matching birth certificate.  The closest was an Elizabeth Emily Freeman but having found no records showing the name Elizabeth, I’m inclined to discount it.

With Bell Freeman being the more uncommon name, I headed straight to google.  My instinct was right.  I found many websites with information about Bell.  He was an early colonist of South Australia, was married several times and fathered many children to each of his wives.

One of Bell’s wives was named Eliza Matilda Head and he married her on 3 November 1853.  Eliza was the daughter of George Head and Mary Ann Walton.  She was also the sister of Ellen Head.  Ellen Head provided the Solly connection when she married a John Solly on 21 January 1863.  Now, here’s the clincher and the part that really got my attention.  Before Ellen married John, she had two illegitimate children.  One of the children was named Emily and was born in 1856, the same birth year as my Emily Theakston nee Freeman!

My initial thoughts?  Well, as you can imagine, taking into account the uncanny connection between the Heads, Sollys and Freemans it seems entirely possible that the Emily Head born out of wedlock could well be my Great x 3 Grandmother, Emily Freeman.  This assumption however raises many more questions.

  • If Emily Head and Emily Freeman are one and the same person, why did she use the surname Freeman?
  • Being born out of wedlock, could she have grown up in Bell Freeman and Eliza Matilda Head’s family and adopted the surname?
  • On the other hand, could she have been formally adopted by Bell Freeman?

In the articles she referred to the Sollys in question as her sister and niece.   This means that she knew who her family were and how they related to her.  Was Emily Solly her half sister and was Clare Solly the daughter of her half brother?  So, once again, why use the Freeman surname?

I’ve still got some more details to look up on the South Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages Register as well as perhaps ordering some certificates but until then, I’m hoping to come across something with Emily Freeman’s birth date recorded on it.  If the date I find matches with the birth date of Emily Head then I can almost certainly confirm that they are probably the same person.  After all, how many times can one claim coincidence?

22 thoughts on “Deciphering Clues # 2

  1. Richard (Rick) Freeman says:

    Hi My name is Richard Freeman, and I am a direct descendant of Bell Freeman (seven generation removed!) Having work this out in the last couple of months. I would love to find out more about the Freeman’s as a lot of this was not past down to myself and my sister by our father due to family issues.

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. 🙂

      I don’t know a lot about Bell Freeman as such. He was listed as my Great x 3 Grandmother’s father on the marriage records but as yet, I haven’t found her birth certificate confirming this. My theory is that she may have been adopted by him and used his surname.

      He certainly sounds like an intriguing character though and if you are happy for me to do so, I can pass your email address onto a contact of mine who’s also related to Bell. Our emails mostly revolve around the information in the above post and we’ve been trying to figure out the Theakston/Freeman/Solly/Head connection. It’s a bit of a mystery! He has a lot more information on Bell than I do and I’m sure would be more than happy to help you.

      Please leave a quick reply if you are happy for me to do this.

  2. Rick Freeman says:

    Hi Jess, Sorry I have not replied earlier, would love for you to pass on my email to your contact and learn more about Bell Freeman,
    Rick Freeman

    1. Jess says:

      No worries Rick. I’ll send him the email today; I’m sure he’d be happy to help. 🙂

  3. Julie Smallacombe says:

    Hello to you both
    I have just found out that my great grandfather Ambrose Head actually has Bell Freeman listed as his father on his birth certificate. He was then adopted by George and Mary Ann Head who would have been his grandparents.
    Hannah Head was the youngest daughter of George and Mary-Ann head. She was a sister to Elsa, Mary-Ann, Eliza (married to Bell Freeman), Ellen and Rachel.

    It seems Bell Freeman fathered children to 4 of the sisters.

    I’d love to know more about this if you have any other details.

    Very intriguing.


    1. Jess says:

      Hi Julie,

      It’s wonderful to hear from another descendant of the Head/Freeman family. I actually have your Great Grandfather in my notes. I was trying to get my head around the Freemans/Heads and simply could not figure it out without writing it all down!

      Yes, Bell Freeman fathered children to four of the Head sisters. My Great x 3 Grandmother has always used the surname Freeman and indicated when she married that her father was Bell Freeman but when I searched for a birth record I couldn’t find anything! It was then that I found that Ellen Head had given birth to a girl named Emily in the same year that my Emily was born. Given the newspaper articles and the tangled web between the families it is my assumption that she wasn’t the daughter of Bell after all but the daughter of Ellen and another man, William Dale.

      Like what happened to Ambrose, I believe she was adopted. Unfortunately this is still just a theory of mine and there really isn’t much physical evidence to go on.

      If it’s okay with you, would I be able to correspond with you via email?

      Thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂 It certainly is very intriguing!

  4. Heather says:

    I’m a descendant of Rachel Head, sister to Ellen, Elsa, Mary Ann, Eliza and Hannah. I knew Bell Freeman and Hannah Head were Ambrose George Head’s parents, and Bell was married to Hannah’s sister Eliza when this happened, but I didn’t know Bell fathered children with 4 of the Head girls! Do you have more information?
    Ellen Head had 2 daughters before she married John Solly. The first daughter was Emily Head b 1/7/1856 Dry Creek SA. Her father was William Dale. The second daughter was Laura Elizabeth Head b 4/11/1860 at Dry Creek SA. Her father was Alfred Saint.
    It seems we’ve found what became of Emily, but what happened to Laura?
    Would love to know more.

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Heather! Yay! I’m very happy to hear from another descendant of the Head family. 🙂 Ellen actually had three daughters before she married John Solly. There were the two you mentioned but she also gave birth to Alma Alice Freeman on 26 September 1862. Alma’s father was Bell Freeman.

      To me it seems like the families must’ve been fairly close. My theory is that Emily (my Great x 3 Grandmother) grew up with the Freemans and used the surname Freeman. Laura and Alma however stayed with their mother and grew up as Sollys. There is a Laura Solly who passed away on 29 January 1876 at age 16 (born around 1860) and an Alice Solly who passed away on 30 January 1876 aged 13 (born around 1863).

      I believe Laura and Alice Solly are Laura Elizabeth Head/Saint and Alma Alice Head/Freeman.

      I can contact you via email if you’re happy for me to do so. I have some notes which I’d be happy to share. 🙂

      1. Heather says:

        Thanks for the information Jess. I’d love for you to email me and then we can compare notes! Looking forward to hearing from you,

      2. Julie Smallacombe says:

        The plot thickens…I am meeting my second cousin who’s great grandfather is also Ambrose Head on the weekend. We grew up together and are very close. She has been to funerals in the last few months in SA and tells me she has more information.

        We plan to plot out what we know and then would love to share to see what other details you have.


      3. Jess says:

        How exciting Julie! 🙂 Fingers crossed you find some more info. Please keep us informed and if you like, feel free to email me (

  5. Richard Freeman says:

    Hi Jess,
    After reading over your deciphering clues 1 & 2, about Bell Freeman and other family connections. You may want to check birth, deaths and marriage dates of Bell Freeman this should reveal that there were four different Bell Freemans over the generations. Bell Freeman # 2 come out on a ship (with 199 others but number of them died at sea) to Adelaide with his first wife and children (5 listed but only 3 landed in Oz) ‘in 1839 from Suffork England and maybe a Nanny who is on the ship’s log that became wife number two after first wife died a few days after child birth of child # 6 or 7. There was a BF#3 who was son of BF#2 in this family and he also had a son BF#4. BF#2 only married twice not three times as most web information states and he father approximately 11 children from two marriages not 17 as I first thought. The six or so difference in number of children belong to BF#3 marriage.
    Check out B,D, & M’s dates they will help!l
    Also next year is 175 years since BF#2 arrived in South Australia it would be great to have a Family Reunion of all his decendants!
    Richard (Rick) Freeman #3 – Decendant of Thomas Freeman 1700s England

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Rick,

      I’ve checked through the births etc but I still stand by the original research conducted by myself and others that Bell Freeman had three wives as well as several other affairs which resulted in children. I also believe your Bell Freeman #2 [1805-1865] is the correct Bell who married Eliza Matilda Head mainly because I have that Bell Freeman # 3 died on 7 December 1856 in Dry Creek at age 27. This gives his year of birth as being 1829 which matches Bell Freeman # 3. I hope this makes sense. It’s certainly a very confusing family tree to figure out!

  6. Jane says:

    Interesting, my father’s mother was Mary Jane Head, sister to Hannah and Eliza. I will aks him if he knows much, he does recall spening time with Pater and Mater Pilkington at their home in Carlton Pde, Torrensville. Like you, I have been trying to unravel the family history. My mother has a Head family history book which I will look through, although it may not be there.

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Jane! It’s wonderful to hear from another Head relative! I’d love to know whether your Dad remembers or knows anything about the Head family. They’re certainly a confusing lot! 🙂

  7. Jane says:

    PS there’s a detailed obituary for Bell Freeman on trove but although it is quite long, it never mentions family. His detah notice also doenst mention family.

  8. Jane says:

    PSS Oops Mary Jane was a daughter of Ambrose Head.

  9. blueysquared says:

    Another direct descendant of Bell Freeman and a Head sister, here! I’ve only recently discovered my connection but I’m interested in learning more about the Head and Freeman families. Please feel free to email me.

    1. Jess says:

      It’s wonderful to hear from another descendant! The Freeman/Head families are quite a tangled web to research so it’s always nice to hear another perspective. Which Head sister do you descend from?

      1. blueysquared says:

        I have a bit of a “tangled web” myself when it comes to family history, but I believe I’m a descendant of Ambrose (and therefore his mother, Hannah Head). I figure that makes us 6th cousins!

      2. Jess says:

        I have Ambrose on my tree but not a great deal of information about him. Do you know much about the Freeman/Head family history?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: