The Mysteries of Family – Day 11 NaBloPoMo 2016

Well, this isn’t what I was going to write about today at all!

Today was Remembrance Day, 98 years since the signing of the Armistice that marked the end of World War 1. This year also marked my late mother’s 100th birthday back in September (yes, I was a VERY late baby – she had me in her 40’s!) So I decided to start doing some more digging into my family tree. It’s something I do every so often and I usually lose heart when I come up against brick walls. Nevertheless, I keep chipping away!

Like most of us, there’s saints and sinners (lots of those!) in my background and there’s tales of adventure, success, travel, loss and hope that have been passed down to me. For instance, my great-grandfather Joshua Eldridge (1845-1937) was quite a complex fellow. He was the son of English immigrants and started as a brick layer and builder, but became a brick maker and at one point owned one of the biggest brick pits in Adelaide, South Australia.

Joshua’s Scottish-born wife Isabella was a mid-wife and reputedly quite a formidable woman – no surprises there I suppose 😀 From what my nan and mother told me, they had a comparatively comfortable existence in late 19th century Adelaide. My nan was the youngest of their 10 children, and I remember her telling me that their life was frugal but they always had a roof over their heads and enough food on the table, and it was her mother Isabella who held it all together. But when the children had grown and married, Isabella died in an influenza outbreak in 1911. Joshua started to drink and gamble, to the point that all he had amassed over the years literally ended up down the drain. He lost everything.

My mother recalled that as a little girl, she was walking with my grandmother (another formidably strong woman) one day and an old man was walking towards them. My grandmother grabbed my mother and rushed across the street to avoid having to even acknowledge him. It was Joshua.

I think that’s so sad. And even sadder that my mother (another strong woman) regretted never having the opportunity to know her own grandfather.

And I’d never even seen a picture of him – until last night 😀


In him I can clearly see my grandmother, and that kind of makes me sadder. The bigger mystery for me though is what motivated Joshua to behave like that? I suppose I’ll never know.

When I found the portrait of Joshua, I also came across an unexpected record. It seems my grandmother had another son, Thomas who died in infancy. All the long years I knew her she never mentioned him to me and in all the family history that my mother passed on Thomas was never spoken of.

And then there’s stories of unutterable sadness and intense mystery.

Somewhere in the records for another branch of the family, there’s a story so horrible and seemingly unjust, I’ve never had the courage to get a transcript, though I know it exists. One of my forebears came with her husband and children from Edinburgh to Adelaide as indentured servants. They had several children but for reasons that have never been made absolutely clear, her husband committed her to the Adelaide insane asylum. There, she gave birth to twin boys, who both died in the first few weeks of life – and so did she soon after.

I have heard whispers handed down that sheds some light on the mystery. Of the new master forcing himself upon her and raping her. And her husband upon finding out, had her committed. It makes me weep every time I think about her and what she must have gone through.

And the unfairness of it.

And the children she left behind.

Especially the daughter who grew up to become my great-grandmother, Jessie.

There’s a story in there.

So, in honor of all the strong women in my family, I’m going to get that transcript and write that story.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. narf7
    Nov 12, 2016 @ 06:20:40

    Every family has stories of love and of betrayal. The love tends to get woven into the fabric of the family where the betrayal is hidden behind closed doors but it’s the betrayal that families need to pull out of the closet, dust off, and deal with or sometimes it rips that tight woven familial fabric into pieces. Tell that story Debra. I doubt anyone from the past would mind you doing so. The best thing about getting older is that we can take out ancient familial shame and wave it around retrospectively in a kind of karmic post “Deal with it!”

    Liked by 1 person


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