This post continues on from my last about how the figure of my 3x Great Grandmother, Christina Russell, Brookman, Strachan was starting to emerge from the dust of time due to the information I was starting to piece together about her life. I mentioned at the end of that post that finding the name of Strachan in the death index from NSW Birth Deaths & Marriages was really a key to unlocking a bit of a waterfall of information. The first wave arriving with her death certificate.
There is a lot of information there to unpack but first and foremost in the last two columns, this is the main thing I was looking for. Second last column list Christina’s marriages, two of them, the first one in Scotland and second in NSW. Her age wasn’t known for either of them and then there are the names of her Husbands. First one Samuel Brookman, second one James Strachan. Then the names of her children and their status as living or deceased matches with the information I already have in Ancestry. So that confirms it officially, this is my 3x Great Grandmother, Christina Russell.
You might recall if you read my previous post, I mentioned that Christina’s earlier life seemed very sad, look at that last column from her first marriage to Samuel they had 7 children one of them being my 2x Great Grandmother, Agnes Brookman who marries George Cox, and out of all 7 at the time of her death only one remains living. She outlives a son and 5 daughters. Then her second marriage she loses another daughter. I can only imagine the pain she must have been carrying. I know it was a different time and in general, people were much more resilient when it came to losing family members but 7 children in your lifetime? Alex and I lost our second baby, Orson to miscarriage, and I still feel his loss like the day we found out he was gone.
So the other really interesting information here apart from confirming the old reliables we already knew, Germanton, Hillside, 1912, William Russell and Rebecca Barr as her Parents, is that she was 83 years of age when she passed. Christina kicked that life expectancy of 42 years from the last post out of the park. She died of heart failure and senile decay. (I hope that it wasn’t a long time of suffering for her or her family.) That her father, my 4x Great Grandfather was a Contractor. No idea what the specifics of that relates to, will have to investigate. That she was in the Colony for 54 years, this means that she and Samuel immigrated to Australia in 1858. (With this information I have once again scoured the passenger lists for that year and nothing. I cannot match them to any vessel listed.) And finally, Christina still had three children alive at the time of her death, Jean Ross, Martha Lawson from her 2nd marriage to James Strachan and William Brookman, brother to my 2x Great Grandmother Agnes from her first marriage to Samuel Brookman.
Jean Strachan marries James Ross in 1885:
Martha Strachan marries Alexander Lawson in 1889:
Christina’s residency, Lela Villa is the venue for both weddings. I so wish there was a photo to show what it looked like but nothing has turned up on this as yet.
Kildrummie, on the other hand, the Lawson family property mentioned above is still in exsistence. The original homestead is long gone but the present one was commissioned in 1944 by the famous writer, collector and historian, Margaret Carnegie. Who also commissions Edna Walling, the infamous Australian Garden Designer to install a walled garden feature that still stands today. Margaret and her Husband, Douglas go on to establish Kildrummie as a prize winning Poll Hereford stud. (https://cdn.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/628754/Carnegie-Margaret-Frances.pdf)
I know we have strayed a little from Christina’s story here but it is interesting to suppose that she probably visited this property many times in her life. There is another family link to Kildrummie apart from Martha her daughter marrying Alexander Lawson. Christina’s great-grandson, Alexander Douglas Macvean, brother to my grandfather John Hugh Macvean marries a great-granddaughter of James Lawson, Grace Stewart. Note the incorrect name for Kildrummie in the notice below.
So, back to the information on Christina. Now that we have it confirmed that she becomes Mrs James Strachan from her death certificate I needed to find when this happened. Remember nothing came up on my online search for a marriage from 1877 onward, when Samuel Brookman dies, so I decide to just put in the search parameters from the time I now know that they arrive in Australia, 1858. Take a look below at what appeared.
1865? Now that is very interesting. Accounting for mistakes, that is years earlier than the death year of 1877 for Samuel Brookman that comes up in NSW BDM. It might be a coincidence but exactly the same name combination and in the correct district, Wagga, Wagga? Obviously I think to myself that I must have the wrong Samuel Brookman from the death index. If this is the correct record it means that Christina is marrying James Strachan 12 years before her first husband is dead. The best way to try and confirm this is to just order the certificates for Samuel’s death and James and Christina’s marriage. But bloody hell the $33 dollars for an email extract just burns.
With the magic of technology, the certificate has arrived. I’m shocked, it only took 2 days to arrive in the inbox. The last time I ordered it was 3 months.
Widow? What the hell? No birthplaces, parents names or occupation and it is definitely 12 years before the 1877 death date of Samuel, if he is ours. The more I try to pin down details the more they keep pouring out at me. Just because I can, I did a bit of digging on Kyeamba and what Inn’s might have been there at the time. Kyeamba is only 30km north of Little Billabong and 46km from Germanton (Holbrook). I found this advertisement from 1866 in regards to the local Inn.
Amazing bit of luck again that James is named in the ad. Christina and James have been married nearly 9 months by this date. The Inn was built by one of the original European invaders of the traditional lands of the Wiradjuri People, John Smith who is named and obviously placing the advertisement above. Smith was an immigrant engineer who converted his home into the Inn in the late 1830s early 1840s. (Dr Sue Rosen, https://culturallandscapesandroutesnsc.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/hume-highway-northern-final.pdf)
Incredibly the inn is still standing today but is a private property again. This is where Christina and James were living out their lives from the early 1860s to the late 1870s.
I was still no closer to answering what happened to Samuel and why was Christina remarried and living in Kyeamba? My next stop was to just hit Trove and widen the search parameters again. Posted below is a screenshot of the search results from Trove with Brookman and Strachan in the mix.
Wow, just bloody wow! I know I hadn’t even opened these articles to check but in my mind they were already part of the family, a Boy Bushranger? And what are the odds, just in those couple of lines there are a few of my main details, James Strachan & Mrs. Brookman, married and Inn. I spent probably the best part of the next 48 hours going through all the information this next wave hit me with. I estimate there were 15 -20 separate articles on Christina and the Boy Bushranger. Understanding how the story is relevant and then weaving it into the family story is the tricky part especially when you are making assumptions on lots of sections of it. And as I’m sure you have already guessed, this turned out not to be a problem here. I was soon to discover that this would be the motherload in blowing some more of the dust of time off Christina’s story. (I know, cheesy, but I had to do it.)
Below is the first section of the top article in the above search results.
As if the Bushranging thing wasn’t excitement enough, sentenced to hang! What a story. Now the problem for me is how to share this story with you. As we all know we don’t live our lives in a bubble where our narrative just continues along in a linear manner. Other narratives intertwine with ours just as we intertwine with theirs. I think it might be appropriate to share with you what the outcome was from all this research and then back it up with the information rather than taking you on the journey of my discovery of it here. That journey I’m thinking really deserves its own post. Having said that the Boy Bushranger referred to is my 3x Great Uncle, William Brookman, brother to my 2x Great Grandmother, Agnes Brookman who marries George Cox.
As I was soon to discover there is much written about William and his case but probably the best piece of information for me in relation to confirming the details of Christina’s story, was this first article I stumbled upon. It is pure gold and I think I will have to retire my often-used phrase, “and you just don’t get this type of detail normally” as I seem to be stumbling on to this type of detail, all the time.
This article presents a number of pieces of correspondence penned by someone with the initials of JS who is part of the community, Kyeamba where we now know Christina and Samuel are living. I initially thought it might have been James Strachan but JS refers to James Strachan in the third person in the article and in a not very flattering light. Then it hits me, the most logical explanation is that it is John Smith the immigrant engineer who settled the area and who’s name appears in the advertisement in Figure 6a.1 above. I also just realised if you take a second look at James and Christina’s marriage certificate in Figure 6a, the top witness signature I think reads John Smith.
I am so grateful to JS for the level of detail he goes into as it just breathes life into Christina at what I can only imagine must have been a devastatingly scary time of her life.
Before I present the article with these pieces of correspondence from JS, I think it would be beneficial to read this earlier article from mid-December 1867, some six weeks before. It gives a great description of the incident as well as providing some context for the content of the correspondence.
I feel like I’m reading a movie or tv script. These words were written and describe a situation 153 years ago but I feel like I’m right there. The information it contains that helps confirm that this is Christina and her son?, the alias that William uses, William Russell. Russell is Christina’s maiden name.
Now I will take you back to the first article that I mentioned above with JS’s correspondence, here is the copy of the first letter the paper reproduced:
The section missing in the top reads. “…he resisted the constables and shot one in the hand or wrist.” I can only hypothesize that it must have been mortifying for the family to have all these details published in the paper for all to see. Interesting to note the phrase, “…our little community…” and naming Christina from “…our inn…” . I think this adds weight to the fact that John Smith is the author of this correspondence.
Also the fact that JS opinions that James Strachan will do nothing to assist in getting a petition started to have the death sentence commuted. This speaks volumes about James’s temperament and the troubling nature of his relationship with William. The other detail here that wasn’t in the first article is that William was severely wounded. A bullet was fired and hit the ground and ricocheted up and struck William in the neck. Some articles state that it was the Constable who fired and others that it was the other Bushranger, John Williams who fired as he was set upon.
The second piece of correspondence the Empire printed is quite extraordinary. JS talks about Christina directly and what her state of mind must have been. He also gives the most amazing account of Christina’s and the families history which cements all of these whirling details into her story.
See what I mean? How incredible was that. The level of detail he has about Williams situation and the job situations he has been in don’t come from a casual passing. This is someone who knows of the family intimately. Of course knowing how Christina was feeling and what she was trying to do now that her son was under the death sentence is incredible but to now have that level of insight into what their history was is priceless.
Abandoned 6 years ago, means that Samuel left them sometime in 1861/62, this is only 3 or 4 years after arriving in the colony. At this stage William is 10 years of age, his sister Mary is 5, and Samuel and Christina’s 5th child, Margaret has just died, either in childbirth or before her 1st birthday sometime. Their 4th child, Christina died in 1860 before her 1st birthday. The pain must have been unbearable. The other main detail that also confirms this is my Christina, is JS revealing her marriage details to James Strachan and so specific they are too. February 1865, which of course matches with the info from the index search and certificate I purchased, copy above.
How strong Christina must have been, her story sounds so desperate. She has basically given up her 10-year-old Son to strangers in the street. Her youngest Daughter dies and she has to give up her only other Daughter so that she can go out and work. But through all of these bleak newsprint lines, what shines out at me is Christina’s love and loyalty to her family. She is obviously still in contact with both of her children, the fact that she is able to send for her daughter to live with her when she settles at the Inn and the fact that she has communicated what she wants William to do in his situation just shows the type of woman she must have been.
I was able to confirm the death of Christina and Samuel’s Daughters through Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria.
You’ll notice another surprise on the death list above. This William Brookman listed at the end is Samuel’s Brother. Agnes Montgomery and Thomas Brookman are Samuel’s parents as well, of course.
Surprisingly the daughter that Christina had to put into care in Melbourne was not my 2x Great Grandmother Agnes but rather another daughter Mary who was born in Scotland and must have made the journey out with Christina and Samuel. I have been unable to find any marriage or death records for Mary. Of course Christina’s death certificate confirms that she has died before her Mother as all 5 daughters are listed as deceased.
You will recall how I stated earlier that the more I try to confirm the details of Christina’s life the more information I seem to uncover. This has happened again in this case of trying to answer why was Agnes not with the family in Melbourne when Samuel leaves them? This will be one of the big unanswered questions in Agnes, Christina, and Samuels lives. But what I can confirm is that Agnes and her brother, Thomas who is older by 5 years were left in Scotland with Samuels mother and step-father. Yes you read that correctly, Samuels parents. I discovered these details in the Census information from 1851 and 1861.
George and Thomasina above are Samuel’s brother and sister. Their father, my 4x Great Grandfather, Thomas Brookman passed away in March of 1834, 6 months before Thomasina was born. I think it would be safe to assume that she was named for her dad. Agnes has remarried to a much younger man Thomas Jones.
I just did a quick Google search and the Canal Inn, not Carol Inn is still standing just up from Lock 16 Camelon.
The big question the census document above raises for me is, why is Thomas, who is only 2 years of age, living with his grandparents when his parents are married and still in Scotland? They don’t immigrate to Australia until 1858. I found a census listing for Samuel and Christina, the ages match and they are living at Lock 16 in the vicinity of Camelon on the opposite side of the canal to the Canal Inn.
There of course is no way to be certain this is my Christina and Samuel but the coincidences are compelling as far as I’m concerned to argue that it is.
Below is a wonderful picture of the Lock from the early 20th century. This picture matches up with Figure 6j above. The building on the right of this picture is the building on the left of 6j only 100 years apart.
The copy of the 1861 Census below shows that Thomas and his sister Agnes my 2x Great Grandmother who is now born, are both living with their grandmother and step grandfather. Christina and Samuel have been gone for just on two or three years at this stage depending on when they left in 1858. From my research so far Agnes doesn’t see her father ever again and doesn’t see her mother, Christina for another 22 years when she immigrates to Australia with her husband George Cox and daughter, Christina.
Note that they are now in the Union Hotel and amazingly again, this one is still standing too.
It is believed that the Inn was built around the same time as the Union Canal was completed in 1822. It was predominately used as a trading post inn for people waiting for boats to negotiate the 11 lock ladder at Camelon. (http://portal.historicenvironment.scot/designation/LB31233)
This map shows you just how close they were. It is fascinating to think, Samuel was a shipowner employing 11 people, what happened for him to give this up and move he and Christina and some of their family to Australia?
Another mind-blowing fact for me is that 16785km’s away from Forster, NSW, (I just Googled it) two homes where my family’s lives played out over 170 years ago are still standing. I hope I never get Blaise about that fact.
So we now have a picture emerging of Christina and Samuel and their early life in Falkirk, still lots of unanswered questions but what a gift to actually see where they lived and not just have to imagine it. We have confirmed that Christina ends up destitute in Melbourne with 3 children, one child dies, one moves on to a family who can provide for him and one, Christina has to put into care so she can work. She then ends up married to James Strachan and then has to manage the whole bushranging and death sentence issue with William her son. But what of Samuel, Christina’s husband and my 4x Great Grandfather?
I know from my previous searching that the online death index for Samuel Brookman in 1877 lists the death being registered in Hay, which is on the western outskirts of the Riverina district, so still in the area of the family, just. Trove delivered, a number of variations of the same article which start to appear in late February 1877 in the area of Maude and Nap Nap. The map below gives you a bit of an idea of the area. These of course were huge distances back in the late 19th Century. Days of travel compared to the 4-hour trip now.
This article below describes a very tragic set of circumstances but is absolutely jammed packed with information.
What a story. It reads as though it has come straight from the pen of Henry Lawson or Banjo Patterson but how do I confirm that this is my 3x Great Grandfather? I’m missing that link. I decide to go through all the articles in the different publications to see if there is any additional information in some that may have been left out of this one. In my experience so far with comparing articles like this from this era, there can be lots of information condensed down or cut out completely. I notice in two of the other publications this line appears at the end of the article that doesn’t in the one I have above.
That one line, “Brookman is said to have stated that he was the father of the bushranger of that name.” What stories were told so that it reached the ear of this correspondent who then decides to mention it in the article? There is no way they could even concieve that 143 years later those few words would be so important to me.
You can just imagine Samuel laying beside a bush like this trying to take shelter from the scorching sun. I think seeing this picture just gives Samuel’s story so much more meaning for me. You can also imagine that this might have been what he and Charles Hopper set out on for really what was to become their death ride.
The final piece in this story, Samuel’s death certificate.
It confirms the details of the article and revels how nothing was known about Samuel at the time of his death. What a sad, lonely and painful way to die. But like so many other times on this journey of discovering who Christina and her family were, my family, this emailed digital certificate raises so many more questions than it answers. And we are still left pondering why did Christina and Samuel immigrate to Australia? Why did they leave two of their children behind with their Grandparents? Why did Samuel abandon Christina and his children in Melbourne? Was Christina aware that Samuel was still alive when she married James Strachan and did Samuel ever try to see William when hearing of his death sentence? I suspect the answers will remain deeply buried in the dust of time.
Now that seems like a good place to end this post, doesn’t it? But I haven’t shared what happened to Christina’s son William, the Boy Bushranger. You might have worked out that he was listed as living on Christina’s death certificate in 1912 and noted as 60 years of age, so safe to assume the death sentence was commuted. How this occured I will share in the future post I mentioned earlier about William and how I came about discovering his story.
4 thoughts on “The Dust of Time Blown Away”
Bravo what a story, look forward to the next installment – AJ
Thanks AJ, really glad you enjoyed it. You have been the inspiration for me starting this journey. Maybe see another post on your site sometime in the future. x
I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road. Cheers
Thanks George, I appreciate you taking the time to send a message. Regards John