|Ray Jerrems, Our Genealogist, Historian||
This is the first article of a series on the theme of "Family Fables".
Most families have a collection of "family fables" which have been passed down through the generations. The problem is that they are often modified and simplified during their progress, so that nobody is quite sure what is fact and what is fiction. To make it even more difficult, most of the stories are impossible for us to verify. Here is a story revolving around a Jerrems family member, Susannah Jerrems.
Who was Susannah?
Whenever I hear the name "Susannah" I think of the song which has the lines "Oh Susannah, oh don't you cry for me, I've come from Alabama, with my banjo on my knee".
On a more serious note, Susannah was my great grandmother, the wife of Charles Jerrems (Charles was one of the Gainsborough family that migrated to Melbourne in the 1850s).
The 1905 photo of Susannah was taken when she was aged about sixty. She seems to be quite small and has a somewhat formidable look about her. Not the sort of person who you would attempt to interrogate about her ancestry!
I had heard interesting stories about Susannah from one of her granddaughters, my late Aunty Vi. Aunty Vi was about 8 years old when Susannah died in 1917, so she remembered Susannah quite well. The only problem is that Aunty Vi did not like her grandmother, so (as you will see) some of the information given to me was not flattering.
Aunty Vi's impression was that Susannah had been a school teacher, however Susannah had some airs and graces which made her the butt of family jokes. A popular story was that one of her close relatives was a Lady Ogilvy, Lady-In-Waiting to Queen Victoria. In view of Susannah's airs and graces it seemed possible that this was true, but my reaction was that it was probably pure folk law with no foundation. That is, until recently, when I came across a family tree containing references to Susannah's forbears. But first I will remind you of another story about Susannah.
In the July 2006 edition of the Journal I related the following typical story about Susannah and her maid:
"Susannah always had a maid, whose sole responsibility was to look after her mistress. With typical Victorian modesty Susannah used to take her bath with the bathroom door locked from the inside, the maid and children being left on the outside. One day the key jammed in the lock on the inside, so the maid called out to a workman or neighbour to assist. The man used a ladder to climb in the bathroom window and fix the lock, to the discomfiture of a scantily-clad Susannah."
According to Aunty Vi the duties of the maid were solely to look after Susannah, she did not carry out any of the usual domestic duties of a maid, like helping with the cooking or housekeeping.
My great grandfather Charles settled in Sydney in the late 1860s, where he married Susannah Druery in 1871. They had 4 children in Surry Hills, close to the city: Charles Albert Druery born in 1872, Edwin Lewis ("Ted") born in 1874, Isabel ("Belle") born in 1876 and my grandfather Ernest Alfred ("Alf") born in 1878. Sadly the next 2 babies died in infancy and Octavius died at the age of 5. However the last baby, Richmond ("Dick"), born in 1886, survived.
Charles Jnr was Laurel's grandfather and Alf was my grandfather. Who was "Lady Ogilvy"?
Initially I thought that a good start would be to google "Lady Ogilvy", in case that gave me an easy answer. Unfortunately for me, Princess Alexandria married an Ogilvy, who in due course inherited his father's title as a baronet. This made Princess Alexandria "Lady Ogilvy", the title she prefers. She does an enormous amount of charity work and dominated my Google search with hundreds of frustrating references.
Persevering, my googling revealed an earlier famous Lady Ogilvy who was the very popular Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary before the First World War. Born in 1866 she was the widow of David Ogilvy, the 11th Earl of Airlie and was styled as Lady Ogilvy of Airlie. She was appointed Lady-in-Waiting to the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary) in 1902.
Susannah was born in 1845, and her mother was born in 1804, so this Lady Ogilvy (born in 1866) was born much later than the one I was looking for. I could not find any other references to a Lady Ogilvy who had been a Lady in Waiting.
To confuse matters, over the centuries there have been several Ogilvy lines with titles giving the title holders the right to call themselves "Sir" and "Lady". A Lady Margaret Ogilvy who has gained fame in folklore by escaping from prison in August, 1746. She was a prisoner under sentence of death, in Edinburgh Castle, on the charge of having levied war on King George II by helping her husband to escape to France after the famous Battle of Culloden. She escaped from the prison by impersonating an old woman who brought to the prison her clean linen once or twice a week. Obviously this Lady Ogilvy was born far too early, and with her track record was hardly likely to become a Lady in Waiting!
Isabella in India
|Donald Jerrems, Publisher, Editor||
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