Researching family history is challenging. Certainly, it is rewarding but other times can be frustrating and then at other times downright embarrassing.
I find I have made a huge error. Backtracking through my records I realised things did not add up. Collecting birth dates for the family of James and Elizabeth Ford I ‘suddenly’ found I had three of their offspring born in Wellington, not two. I checked, and indeed James and Elizabeth raised three daughters in Wellington, New Zealand. Janet Muir Ford (1865), Mary Ford (1866), and Margaret Ford (1867). And here I was all the time thinking only two daughters were born in NZ. How could I have made such an error?
I made the error because the birth certificate of Robert Muir Ford, James and Elizabeth’s fourth child born in Ballarat, Australia, clearly indicates that only Janet and Margaret were siblings of the newly arrived Robert Muir Ford (see birth certificate below). There is no mention of Mary.
It will also be noted that the said birth certificate indicates that James and Elizabeth were married in May 1854. The correct date of their marriage is 11 May 1864.
On the other hand, how can I be sure that the James Ford born to Samuel and Margaret Ford in Millport, Scotland is the same James Ford who married Elizabeth Muir in Waikouaiti (Otago) in New Zealand? Where is the continuity in the record?
There is a record in the 1851 census of Scotland of a James Ford, aged sixteen, living at Kilmarnock and working as a wright (carpenter). Fortunately, the census record also includes his place of birth, Millport and his age, given the times, fits within an acceptable allowance of his recorded birth in Millport in the last week (27th) of December 1834.
How then to link the James Ford at Kilmarnock with the James Ford who married Elizabeth Muir in New Zealand? For one thing, there is no record I can find of James Ford in the 1861 census. He could be anywhere. Unfortunately, the New Zealand marriage certificate is no help in assisting with continuity with the past.
But we can establish continuity with James Ford and Elizabeth through the Australian birth certificate for Robert Muir Ford, their son born in Ballarat. Allowing for the errors in this particular certificate as noted above, here we find that Robert Muir Ford’s father, James Ford, aged 34, was a carpenter and born in Millport. The recorded age is within acceptable limits. It might be noted that Millport, which was in Buteshire at that time, is recorded as being in Ayrshire which perhaps more reflects local custom and acceptance. For the record, Cumbrae became part of Ayrshire in 1975.
Robert Muir Ford’s Australian birth certificate.
Elizabeth Muir is recorded as 24 years of age coming from Greenock, Scotland. Her age confirms that she was, in fact, a ‘minor’ when she married, as recorded on the New Zealand marriage certificate.
This is clear continuity with James Ford born to Samuel and Margaret Ford in Millport in 1834.
To date, I have not discovered how James arrived in New Zealand. Like his siblings who left Millport for the colonies, he probably paid for his ticket. In a time before government bureaucracies were given the task of recording the day to day activities of their citizens unless someone at sometime has kept a record of fare-paying passengers arrivals there are no other means of establishing James’ arrival in New Zealand. If he had come through as an ‘assisted passage’ there would be some government record. I can find no such record.
Similarly, I can find no record of James sailing from New Zealand to Australia. The next record we have of James is when his son Robert Muir Ford is born in Ballarat.
Copyright John Ford 2018.