My dad’s brother has long been interested in genealogy, the tracing of our family history. I recently found, in the Snubian archives, copies of some notes and papers detailing part of my distant ancestry. It makes for interesting reading.
My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Brazel, pronounced to rhyme with hazel. If you trace the Brazel line (or Brazil, or Brasell, or a variety of other spellings) back three further generations you meet her great-grandfather, Michael Brazil.
Michael Brazil was born in Manchester, England, around 1814. He was a petty criminal who had already served a short stint in prison before he was sentenced to seven years for housebreaking and transported to Australia in 1833. As a convict he was assigned to a Mr Henry Baldwin at Windsor, north-west of Sydney. He received his ticket of leave in 1839, and his full freedom in 1841, at which time he took a lease on some land at Brookfield, in the Upper Hunter Valley north of Newcastle. This is where the story gets interesting.
Michael, now in his late twenties, married seventeen year old Rebecca Hampton, one of three daughters from a local farming family. She bore him three children before she died on Christmas Day, 1848. A coroner’s inquest was held as it appears the circumstances of the death were suspicious. The coroner eventually ruled that her death was from natural causes, Rebecca having been struck by lightning while ironing!
With three small children, the eldest having been crippled in an accident, it was necessary for Michael to re-marry, and quickly. The obvious choice was the late Rebecca’s sister, Diana. They were married in April 1849, when Diana was just fifteen years of age. Diana bore two more children to Michael, a daughter and a son, Alfred, who is my great-great-grandfather. Diana died tragically in childbirth, along with her baby Dinah, in 1855. She was twenty-one.
By this time Michael was around forty years old and had five children aged from two to fourteen. As a working farmer, for him to look after his family on his own would have been almost impossible. The records are ambiguous here, but there is evidence that Michael did marry again, this time to Mary Ann Hampton, sister of Rebecca and Diana and the sole surviving daughter in the family. Although there can surely be few men who have married three sisters, in the context of this story it makes perfect sense!
Michael and Mary – now in her late twenties – had no more children together, although there is a record of Mary giving birth to a child way back in 1845, with Michael listed as father. In 1845 Mary was just sixteen and Michael was married to his first wife, Mary’s sister Rebecca! I think Michael might’ve received a visit from Mary’s four brothers around that time too.
Michael died in 1885 and is buried in Coolongolook cemetery. Mary lived to see in the new century, passing away in 1900 in the town of Dungog.
As I said, it makes for interesting reading. There must be a novel in there somewhere!