Jerrems family living in Sydney
May 2010 Jerrems Family Newsletter
We Enjoy Old Family Stories and Fables
Dear Donald,
The above photograph was taken in 1905 and shows most of the Jerrems family living in Sydney at the time, except for one "ring in". It was probably taken at the Greenwich (Sydney) house of Charles and Susannah Jerrems.

The family consisted of parents Charles and Susannah and their children Charles Jr, Edwin, Isabel, Alf and Richmond, the first two children being absent from the photo.

The people are (L to R) standing Isabel Jerrems (born 1876) and her brother Alf Jerrems (born 1878), seated Alfred Sassall, Richmond Jerrems (born 1886), and his mother Susannah Jerrems (born about 1850) and father Charles Jerrems (born 1847) seated in the far right.

The photograph first appeared in the January 2006 Jerrems Journal.

If you have an old photo with a story, send it in.

Ray Jerrems, Our Genealogist, Historian   Oh Susannah 

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.

Susannah's maid

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.

Susannah's family

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!

 Susannah's forbears

Finally I found a Family Tree registered on which showed that Susannah's parents were John Druery and Isabella Jackson. They were married in about 1839 in Hartlepool, Durham, England. The 1851 UK Census shows that they had 7 daughters. None of this looked at all promising until I looked deeper and found that Isabella's marriage to John Druery was her second marriage. Her first marriage was to David Skene Stephens (Stevens) Ogilvy in about 1829 in India. They had 2 children, including David Skene Stevens Ogilvy b: 1830 in Cape of Good Hope.

At last, I was getting somewhere. At least Isabella had a connection with a person named Ogilvy. The family tree took me back several more generations, where I found the note "Of the Airlie Linage" (sic) indicating that Isabella's first husband came from the Ogilvy/Airlie line through his father, Reverend Skene Ogilvy DD (1755-1831).

I did not attempt to work out how any "Lady Ogilvy" had been related to the Reverend Skene Ogilvy. I was deterred by the fact that (according to one source) the Airlie lineage can be traced back to 1172, when the third son of the Earl of Angus was knighted, and assumed the surname of Ogilvy. His descendant was created Lord Ogilvy of Airlie in 1491.

Isabella in India

Isabella's husband was a paymaster for the huge East India Company, which effectively ruled India in those days. The employees of the East India Company who served in India would have been well paid and would have had servants. When her first husband died Isabella would presumably have been the beneficiary of his estate and it is also possible that the company paid Isabella an allowance or gave her a lump sum.

Having servants did not carry over to her second marriage because the 1851 UK Census showed that they had 7 daughters but no servant.

In my previous article I concluded that "Also, Susannah's independent income enabled her to buy a number of houses in Greenwich. Some were rented out and some were occupied by the children when they grew up." This was based on the premise that her husband Charles, as a bookbinder and with 8 mouths to feed (including the maid and himself), would not have had much spare money. Significantly, Aunty Vi said that Susannah had an independent income.

Susannah's father died in Sydney in 1870 and her mother died in Sydney in 1882.

When Isabella died the estate would have passed to her daughters, perhaps this accounted for reports that Susannah had an independent income.

The life of David Ogilvy Jnr

The 1851 UK Census shows that David was living with the Druery family in Yorkshire, working as a plumber's assistant for his step-father John. He married Isabella Howitt (b: 21 JUL 1830 in Port Stephens,NSW) on 27 JUL 1854 in Chippendale (in Sydney), giving us the information that he migrated to Australia between 1851 and 1854.

Sadly, he died at the age of only 32 in 1863 in Nowra on the south coast of NSW. He had been a school teacher at the Nowra's National School, having lived previously at Carcoar in the mid-west of the State. He left his wife and three children.

Susannah's social standing

In the 19th Century England was very stratified socially. There was the notion of "one's station in life". Admittedly, in Jane Austen's book "Pride and Prejudice" Elizabeth, the daughter of a gentleman of reasonable means, married Darcy, who had a rather vague aristocratic connection, but this was the stuff of romantic fiction. The reality was different.

Susannah's mother had previously married an "Ogilvy", who was a paymaster with the East India Company. Admittedly this was perhaps a step up the social ladder for her, but her second husband (John Druery) was a plumber, and her father was a weaver. Hardly the basis for aristocratic claims by Susannah.

The truth behind the fable

It seems that the original facts would have been that Susannah's mother Isabella originally married an Ogilvy who reputedly had a connection with the Airlie line. Seventy years later a distant relative of her husband was Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary.

Obviously Susannah was not related to the Ogilvy line; the best that could be said was that her mother married an Ogilvy.

Where is Susannah now?

This is a particularly sad part of the story for me.

In September 2009 I visited Manly Cemetery (in Sydney) to follow up information about Susannah and Charles that I had found on the Manly Council website. The website contained a map of the grave plots showing their location, whether they were "occupied", and whether or not they had a headstone. These records showed that Susannah (misspelt "Lusannah") was interred in the cemetery in 1917 and Charles was interred in the same plot 10 years later.

The map showed that there was no headstone, as was the case with over 50% of the graves, but I hoped to at least find some traces of the grave. Instead I found straggly grass growing over what felt like an uneven layer of rubble. I felt particularly sad and annoyed that my great grandparents were buried a short distance beneath my feet but, thanks to the gross neglect of their duties by the cemetery's former trustees, there was nothing left to honour their memory.

As I stood there I could not help thinking that if I could communicate with them they could tell me lots of fascinating things, including Susannah's version of how she acquired her airs and graces. No doubt many of you have had similar forlorn thoughts when you stand at the foot of the grave of a relative.

Have you any family fables?

I would like to hear from you if you have any family fables you would like to share with us. By coincidence I do know that Sandra has a reasonably substantiated story that a relative was (wait for it!) a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, a popular occupation. I will relate the story to you in another article.

Lady Ogilvy
Princess Alexandra
Donald Jerrems, Publisher, Editor   About our Subscribers
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