When my 2nd Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Maud Holt, left England in 1877 at the tender age of 15, she may have expected to never see or hear from her siblings again. Bound for Western Australia, losing contact would hardly seem surprising when considering the vast distance between the two countries. As it turns out, she didn’t completely lose contact after all. While I am unsure whether she kept in touch with all her family, a connection with her sister, Eleanor, was maintained and ended up lasting throughout generations.
Eleanor Louise Holt married Harry Ashford in New Forest, England in 1890. The couple set up their home in Lyndhust and on 12 May 1891 their first child, Harry Charles Algernon Ashford, was born. A year later, on 26 April 1892 (also in Lyndhurst) their second child and only daughter, Emily Louise Ashford, came into the world.
Emily became known to everyone as Emmie. She grew up with her parents and elder brother, Harry, until a younger brother, Albert Edward Nathaniel Ashford, was born in 1899. At six years of age, perhaps Emmie doted on her new baby brother.
On 31 March 1901 the English Census was taken and Emmie was recorded as living in Bank (a small hamlet southwest of Lyndhurst) with her Dad, Mum and brothers. She was eight years old.
As she grew she would’ve had some schooling but it’s likely it would’ve ended as she reached her teenage years. Being the only daughter in the household, her place may have been within the home, helping her Mum with the housework.
Ten years later Emmie was 19 when the next Census (1911) document was completed. The household (apart from an increase in ages) remained unchanged. The family was living in a house named ‘The Beeches’ in Bank near Lyndhurst. It was a relatively large house as it was noted that there were eight rooms (not including the scullery, landing, lobby, closet or bathroom). Like her mother, no occupation was listed next to Emmie’s name. It can be assumed that she was helping with home duties.
By 1914, everything changed. WWI began on 28 July 1914 and Emmie’s older brother, Harry, enrolled in the Royal Army Service Corps. Perhaps Emmie also tried to help the soldiers in some way from home.
While I am not certain whether Eleanor (Emmie’s Mum) was corresponding with her sister, Elizabeth, in Western Australia at this point in time, it would appear there was a strong chance that they were. Despite the distance, the families had managed to keep in touch. Emmie had many Australian cousins (the Flynns) and one, Ernest (Ernie) Holt Flynn, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on 5 September 1914.
He was present at the Gallipoli Campaign and spent several years fighting in France. On 5 January 1918, Ernie left France and travelled to England for training. He took advantage of his time in England and paid a visit to his relatives from the Holt side, the Ashfords. Both aged in their mid-twenties, it was the first time the cousins met and it would seem Emmie and Ernie got along fairly well.
Ernie eventually went back to France to fight but was soon discharged on 8 October 1918. While he returned to Western Australia, Emmie and her family remained in England.
Emmie never married but throughout the years she continued to maintain friendships and close relationships with her family. They remained living in Lyndhurst and sometime after the war her parents bought the house ‘Park View’.
Her brother, Harry, married Hilda Blunden in 1927 and their daughter, Mary (born in 1930) was probably a source of great joy for the family. She was the first grandchild for Harry Snr and Eleanor and was also Emmie’s first niece. It would appear that Emmie doted on her.
Two years later it would’ve been quite a blow to the Ashfords when, on 7 February 1932, their father passed away and then 16 days later, on 23 February 1932, their mother passed away.
After the death of her parents, Emmie remained living in Lyndhurst. Her younger brother Albert married Bessie Stiggers in 1935 and the birth of two more nieces, Margaret in 1935 (to Harry and Hilda) and Elizabeth in 1937 (to Albert and Bessie) would’ve been welcome happy news for the Ashford family.
By 1939, at age 47, Emmie was recorded in the 1939 Register as still living in ‘Park View’ with her sister-in-law, Hilda and her two nieces, Mary and Margaret. Her brother, Harry, was recorded as living elsewhere and the reason for this, so far, is unknown. Perhaps he was simply absent from the home when the Register was recorded.
Many years passed and it would seem that Emmie was still in touch with her Western Australian cousins. Perhaps after her mother’s death she continued corresponding with her Aunt Elizabeth who was still alive. It also seems she reconnected with her cousin Ernie. Since that first time she saw him in England as a young man, he’d married Grace Wallace (in 1920) and subsequently had five children.
By 1948 many of Ernie’s children were adults, married and starting families of their own. Perhaps Emmie heard of Ernie’s continuing health problems from his wife, Grace, and wanted to make sure she saw him again before the inevitable happened. Perhaps she had a desire to visit her Aunt Elizabeth; quite possibly her mother’s last living sibling. Or, maybe she simply wanted to go on a holiday. Whatever the reason, Emmie decided she’d take a trip and would visit her Flynn cousins in Western Australia.
On 23 December 1948 she boarded the ‘Mooltan’ and departed London. Just under a month later, on 21 January 1949, she arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia. It was perfect timing. Ernie’s daughter, Audrey, had given birth to a son a few weeks earlier and Emmie would get to meet the brand new addition to the family.
In the official British Outward Passenger List, Emmie was listed as travelling in ‘Tourist’ class and gave her last known residence as ‘The Briars’, Broughton Road, Pikes Hill, Lyndhurst. She was no longer living at ‘Park View’.
Even more interesting, in the document, the country of her last permanent residence was recorded as ‘England’ but the country of intended future permanent residence was noted as being ‘Australia’. Was Emmie actually planning to make Australia her permanent home?
Like the British Outward Passenger Lists, Western Australia had its own passenger lists which recorded those who arrived. Cousin Emmie is listed at the top and while most of the data is the same, in this document, she gives her address in Australia as 39 York Street, North Perth – the home of Ernie and Grace Flynn.
It is not known what Emmie’s intentions actually were and the laws and regulations according to residency during this era are unknown to me. While on appearances it seems she was planning to live exclusively in Australia, perhaps extended holidays were classed differently back then and anything lasting over a year meant you were recorded as a resident. Indeed the document itself has a star (*) after country of intended residence and the fine print states “By Permanent Residence is to be understood residence for year or more.”
As an interesting side note, a search on Trove indicates…
Of these passengers on the Mooltan, 112 (which included Emmie) were bound for Fremantle with 30 receiving free passage and 28 receiving assisted passage. Perhaps Emmie didn’t intend to live in Western Australia but, she was nevertheless surrounded by many people who did.
She soon settled in with the Flynn family and five days after her arrival, they celebrated Australia Day by having a picnic at Perth Zoo.
Emmie stayed in Western Australia for a year and a half and she did many more ‘touristy’ things throughout that time including travelling to the east of Australia via the train. She certainly took advantage of her long holiday and made sure to see as much of the Country as she could.
She finally returned to London on the P & O Liner ‘Strathmore’ on 30 July 1950. While the country of last permanent residence was recorded as Australia, this time, the country of future intended permanent residence was marked as England.
In any case, her return home was a good idea. A year later, on 18 August 1951, her brother, Albert, passed away.
Emmie continued living at ‘The Briars’ on Broughton Road in Pikes Hill throughout the 1950s. She would’ve eventually heard from her cousins of the death of her Aunt Elizabeth on 30 May 1952 and then the death of her cousin Ernie on 3 February 1959.
Perhaps it was Ernie’s death in early 1959 that got Emmie thinking about the possibility of taking another trip. She was 67 years old and despite having a few health concerns, she was determined to see her Flynn cousins again.
On 28 November 1959 Emmie boarded Orient Line’s ship ‘Oronsay’ and said goodbye to England. This time the Outward Passenger List showed something different to the previous one. Country of citizenship, last permanent residence and future permanent residence were recorded as England. Emmie was definitely not staying for over a year this time. The WA passenger list also showed that, once again, she was staying at 39 York Street in North Perth with Grace, Ernie’s widow.
Emmie arrived in Fremantle on 20 December 1959. She was just in time for Christmas and, knowing the Flynn family, it would’ve been a big family affair. Whether she was unwell after her arrival or during the early part of her trip is not known but it’s possible that she simply felt tired. On 29 December, nine days after her arrival and four days after Christmas, Emmie woke up feeling unwell. She got up but then decided to go back to bed. Some time later Grace thought to check on her to see if she was okay and found her unresponsive. In the time that she’d gone back to bed she’d suffered either a stroke or fatal heart attack. Emmie had passed away at the Flynn family home on York Street.
It must’ve been devastating for the Flynns. And, after losing her husband earlier that year, it must’ve been devastating for Grace who appeared to have been quite close to Emmie. They most likely also had to break the news to Emmie’s remaining family back home in England. A telegram no one would want to send.
Emmie was not buried in a Western Australian cemetery. Her remains were cremated and her details recorded in the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board’s database. Her ashes were noted as being “Taken by Funeral Director at Karrakatta Cemetery” but it’s likely they were then handed over to Grace to look after.
Family oral history states that Emmie’s ashes were sent back to England to her family but I’ve often wondered whether Grace played a more personal part in having them returned.
In approximately April 1961 Grace left Western Australia and travelled to England. It was to be an extended trip (she stayed for five months) and during that time she saw a good deal of the country, visited tourist locations, and, she visited the Ashford family.
Grace returned to Western Australia on 17 September 1961 but the connection to the Ashfords didn’t end there. Harry’s daughter, Margaret, and Grace’s daughter, Audrey began writing to each other. The two (second) cousins became pen-pals which continued well up until Audrey’s death in 2008. Each year Margaret sent Audrey a calendar from the UK and each year my family would sit around the kitchen table and flick through it, looking at each month’s photo with her.
The connection began with two sisters, it continued with cousins and was strengthened by the love, kindness and friendship between the Ashfords and the Flynns. There’s no doubt that a good deal of all that came from cousin Emmie.
- England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index: 1837-1915; Name: Harry Ashford; Registration Year: 1890; Volume: 2b; Page: 1179; Registration District: New Forest.
- England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915; Name: Emily Louise Ashford; Registration Year; 1892; Registration District: New Forest; Volume: 2b; Page 68.
- 1901 England Census (online via Ancestry); Class: RG13; Piece: 1050; Folio: 11; Page: 13.
- 1911 England Census (online via Ancestry); Registration District Number: 98; Sub-registration District: Lyndhurst; ED: 4; Schedule Number: 27; Piece; 5907.
- The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls; Class: WO 329; Piece Number: 1999.
- England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916-2005; Name: Harry C A Ashford; Date of Registration; 1927; Registration District: Dorking; Inferred County; Surrey; Volume Number: 2a; Page Number: 476.
- England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916-2005; Name: Mary P Ashford; Date of Registration: 1930; Registration District: Willesden; Inferred County: Oxfordshire; Volume Number: 3a; Page Number: 571.
- England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2005; Name: Harry Ashford; Registration District: New Forest; Inferred County: Hampshire; Volume: 2b; Page: 1297.
- England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2005; Name: Eleanor L Ashford; Registration District: New Forest; Inferred County: Hampshire; Volume: 2b; Page: 1299.
- Details of the 1939 Register obtained from Findmypast (Ref: RG101/2384C/014/13 Letter Code: EEMI).
- Image of the ‘Mooltan’ courtesy of the State Library of Victoria (Accession no(s) H91.325/979). http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/29867
- Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists. BT27. Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistics Departments. Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England. [Emily Louise Ashford; Official Number: 79866].
- Ancestry.com. Fremantle, Western Australia, Passenger Lists, 1897-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and Western Australian outports, chronological series, Dec. 1897–Dec. 1978. Series K269. National Archives of Australia, Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600. [Emily Louise Ashford]
- 1949 ‘MORE BRITISH MIGRANTS ARRIVE’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 22 January, p. 12. , viewed 24 Mar 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47640052
- Images of Emmie on a picnic at Perth Zoo courtesy of Jo Flynn.
- The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1263; Item: 65.
- England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2005; Name: Albert E N Ashford; Registration District: New Forest; Inferred County; Hampshire; Volume: 6b; Page: 271.
- Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists. BT27. Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistics Departments. Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England. [Miss E L Ashford]
- National Archives of Australia; Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600.; Inward passenger manifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and Western Australian outports from 1897-1963; Series Number: K 269; Reel Number: 173
- Image of the ‘Oronsay’ courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: D134a). http://purl.slwa.wa.gov.au/slwa_b3165265_1
- Death and cremation details courtesy of the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board database (Application Number: KC00015548).