Family Names

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A to Z Challenge - Z is for Zero

Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.

Z is for Zero - no more 2017 A to Z Challenges left to do!

It had seemed simple enough 26 posts for the month of April 2017 with all Sundays except the last Sunday of the month off (how did I miss that?)

At the beginning of 2017, I decided to write a book about the life of Martha Sarah Ellis. Why? 
Because women’s stories are often lost or not sought after as the victors of history write their stories. 
So my quest began, to pull the data I had gathered over 25 years of research into some sort of digestible form suitable for reading.

Three months later with papers strewn all over my desk and my computer screen, I still hadn’t managed to pull together any stories suitable for publication of any sort.  Then I came across the A to Z Challenge – a way to focus my writing and research. 

And so the odyssey began the “Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.” A series of blog posts roughly charting the life and concerns of my protagonist, Martha, life.  

Still no stories but now I have a much firmer foundation to begin my storytelling as a gift to my descendants.

Blogposts During the Challenge

A is for Addresses
B is Booths Poverty maps
C is for Census
D is for Daughter
E is for Education - Updated and revised on 10 May 2017
F is for Fremantle
G is for Getting employment as a new arrival
H is for Help Required
I is for Immigration
J is for January Weddings.
K is for Kate Ellen Ellis
L is Little Lottie
M is for Mortuary Photo
N is for Names
O is for Offspring – Martha’s not Walter’s for possible Walter Offspring read the entry for Y
P is for step-Parent 
Q is for Quarrelsome
R is for the Rest, Relaxation & the Races
S is for the storm of 1909
T is for Ted otherwise known as Edward
U is for Unions and Marriages
V is for the Vicissitudes of Martha
W is for Walter Todman
X marks the spot
Y is for Y chromosome

To find find the links for the above posts scroll down to the end of this post

Blogposts involving Martha before the A to Z challenge

Blogposts involving Walter Todman Martha’s husband  before the A to Z challenge

Looking back over my blog, it seems I’ve been trying to do  a version of this since 2013 when I wrote my a first blog post entitled “Converting research into stories is it possible?” on Sunday, 20 January 2013

Well, I’m glad to say that it is possible.  Based in part on those 2013 blog posts a book has now been published Entitled “John Ebbott of Badharlick – Descendants in Australia 1852-2015”  which I am one of the three authors.
Photographer Sandra Williamson, front cover of the book, John Ebbott of Badharlick : descendants in Australia 1852-2015, compiled by William Barlow, Bob Ebbott, & Sandra Williamson published 2015. Available to read at the State Library of Victoria.

I'd also like to thank those who were so kind to drop in and leave comments, it was very encouraging and help to fuel the desire to do a bit more. 

Now to write the life story of Martha Sarah Ellis wish me luck!

To Read more about Martha's life for articles previously posted for the A to Z Challenges click the Letters below:-

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A to Z Challenge - Y is for Y chromosome

Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.

Walter Todman & Martha Sarah Ellis were married on the 16 Jan 1892 - All Saints Church, Saint Kilda, Victoria, Australia; both were living in Hawthorn at the time of the nuptials.   But there are still so many things that we don’t know?

Photographer Unknown, untitled, Source: Free Photo Puzzle Mosaic Riddle Secret Mystery Mixture - Max Pixel collection. Accessed 29 April 2017,, CC0 Public Domain. Cropped.

Mystery 1

Where did the couple meet? 

The possible locations where they met:-

  1. Western Australia - where Martha was living and working in 1891. Walter could have been following the gold rush that occurred in WA around the 1890s.  Later after marrying Sarah in 1895, he did register a patent for an improved machine for saving gold, indicating that at some stage he had been involved in the search for gold.
  2. Sydney, New South Wales - where Walter was living and working in 1891/1891.  Martha’s brother had immigrated to Sydney on the SS Orient in 1887, perhaps she had left WA after her sister Kate got married and had gone to join her brother in Sydney and while there had met Walter.[i]
  3. Around Melbourne, possibly in Hawthorn where the couple got married. – both having migrated from the states where they had previously lived to Victoria, both in search of a better future.

Mystery 2

Did Walter have a child before he met Martha? And if Walter did have a son this would mean that she had a stepson, did she know?

We know that Walter was an inventor and tinkerer.  His first patent was registered in NSW listing his home address as 9 Bailey St, Newtown, in 1890.[ii]  In that same year, a baby was born at that address, with the name of Walter Todman[Walter2].  Walter2 was born 25 Oct 1890 in Newtown, New South Wales, Australia.  According to the birth certificate, his parents were Walter Todman, a blacksmith (aged 25 years) & Jane Levy (aged 31 years) of 9 Bailey Street, Sydney, the couple were unmarried.[iii]  The father’s address was also listed the in the local 1891 Sands Directories for Sydney.[iv] In 1891 the NSW Census, taken on 16th April 1891, 9 Bailey Street Newtown was uninhabited, indicating that both Walter and Jane had moved away, which is confirmed the following year [1892] as there is neither a Jane Levey nor a Walter Todman listed at that or any other address in Sydney.[v]

In 1892 we find that Walter Todman is getting married to a Martha Sarah Ellis in Victoria.
No further trace has yet been found of what happened to the baby Walter Todman or his mother Jane Levey.  In 1907 a Jane Todman shows up on Sand and MacDougal directory in Coburg, Victoria but only for a single year. This may only be a coincidence - but if this was Jane Levy, her son Walter would have been about to turn 18.

Did Martha ever meet Walter2 or Jane?  Did Walter ever reunite with his son?

Photographer Thierry Ehrmann, DDC6285, 3 January 2008, digital image, “Know your futur for only 999$ with DNA test” filkr Album, Accessed 29 April 2017  CC 4 

We may never know. The paper trail for both of the Walter Todmans parentage has not yet been confirmed.  Walter was certainly a mysterious man.

The first Y-DNA swab has been taken by a confirmed Todman descendant of Walter Todman & Martha Sarah Ellis in an effort to confirm the following theories:-
  1. Walter Todman was born James L.T. Willoughby on 1 Nov 1865 in Bermondsey, Surrey, England and christened on the 11 May 1870 in Greenwich, Kent, England [vi]
  2. That Walter born 25 Oct 1890 Newtown, in New South Wales, Australia is the son of the Walter Todman who married Martha Sarah Ellis.[vii] 

Now we are looking for male descendants of James L.T. Willoughby born in England and Walter Todman born 1890 in New South Wales, who would be willing to participate in our search for the story of behind both Walter Todman & his wife Martha Sarah Ellis.

And so the search continues ... so much more to learn ...

Partners and Children of Walter Todman

1. Jane Levey (Yet to be confirmed) This couple did not marry - Children:

  1. Walter Todman (Not yet confirmed) (1890- )
2. *Martha Sarah Ellis (31 Dec 1870 - 10 May 1950)
Marriage: 16 Jan 1892 - All Saints Church, Saint Kilda, Victoria, Australia
  1. Martha "Ruby" Todman (1894-1956)
  2. Ivy Florence Todman (1895-1953)
  3. Walter Victor Todman (1897-1964)
  4. Hazel May Todman (1903-1964)
  5. Lincoln James Todman (1906-1938)
  6. Charlotte Mary Todman (1908-1908)
  7. Alma Dudley Todman (1910-1970)

To Read more about Martha's life for articles previously posted for the A to Z Challenges click the Letters below:-

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 


[i] Passenger List for the Ship the Orient which sailed 23 June 1887
[ii] NAA: A4618, 2663
[iii] Birth Certificate for Walter Todman (New South Wales Registration # 26005 Year 1890). 
[iv] John Sands Ltd (Printers and Stationers), Sands Sydney, Suburban and Country Commercial Directory 1890 to 1899, 1891- part 3: 289; digital images, City of sydney accessed 10 Oct 2015
[v] John Sands Ltd (Printers and Stationers), Sands Sydney, Suburban and Country Commercial Directory 1890 to 1899, 1891- part 3: 289; digital images, City of sydney accessed 10 Oct 2015. 
[vi] England, birth certificate for James Lincoln Temple Willoughby, born 1 November 1865; citing 1d/74/275, 4th quarter 1865, Saint Mary Magdalan Bermondsey Surrey registration district, Saint James in the county of Surrey sub-district; General Register Office, Southport; Ancestry, "London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906," database and images, Ancestry ( : accessed 14 Jan 2017); Baptism of James Lincoln Temple Willoughby & Eliza Burdett Jane Willoughby, baptised  11 May 1870,  Greenwich, East Christ Church Register London page  66, entries numbers 527 & 528; citing Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906 and Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1906. London Metropolitan Archives, London.
[vii] Birth Certificate for Walter Todman (New South Wales Registration # 26005 Year 1890).  

Friday, 28 April 2017

A to Z Challenge - X marks the spot

Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.

Married in 1892 and by 1894 had moved into the South Yarra area near Chapel St, eventually moving onto Chapel St. the early years must have been difficult, as they moved around quite a bit until settling in 580 Chapel St., where they lived for the longest period during of their married life, 13 years.

Site - 1  1894       Shop & Residence, 27 Arthur St, South Yarra VIC 3141, Australia.
Site - 2  1895       Shop & Residence, 5 Palermo St, South Yarra VIC 3141, Australia
Site - 2  1896       Shop & Residence, 3 Palermo St, South Yarra VIC 3141, Australia.
Site - 3  1897       Shop & Residence, 580 Chapel St, South Yarra

In 1908 and 1909 there were no entries in the “Sands & McDougall’s directory” for the Todman's.  This could have been because this could have been an oversight as Charlotte died at 5 weeks of age with Whooping cough and Lincoln was born - perhaps a busy time for everyone. 

Walter declares bankruptcy in 1910

Site - 4  1910       Shop & probably residence, 474 Chapel St, Sth Yarra
Site - 5  1912       Shop & Residence, 360 Chapel St, Sth Yarra

Photographer Unknown, 360 Chapel St., South Yarra, circa 1916, originally from Myrtle Sharp's Private Photo  Collection a digital copy held in Sandra Williamson’s Private Photo Collection[T082]
Site - 6  1921       Shop & Residence, 3 Cato St, South Yarra

1929       Walter dies and Martha moves away.

I have marked all the address for Martha’s time in South Yarra on a map see below [note the blue circles equate to the X symbol, tyr as I might I couldn't work out how to change them :-( ]:-

This map shows where Martha lived between 1894 when she moved into the South Yarra Prahran areas until 1926 when her husband Walter dies.created using Google MyMaps 2017 and can be seen at
It is interesting to ponder the map as we see the family further toward High Street the more desirable end of Chapel St.  In her book “Chapel Street Prahran, Part One 1834-1918” Betty Malone describes the vicinity as follows:-
“Not all of Chapel Street was devoted to shopping and industry in the pre-war years.  The lowly area on the south-east side of Toorak Road was not a part of which Prahran was particularly proud.  It was the home ground of many of the poorest residents of the district, of jobbing carters, whose houses, yards and stables came to the regular attention of the District Health Inspector.“ 
The area was often referred to as “Struggletown”.  It is then interesting to think of Martha in this context as the family move further away from Struggletown towards the prosperous end of Chapel St, over the years.

To Read more about Martha's life for articles previously posted for the A to Z Challenges click the Letters below:-
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 

·         Sands & McDougall's Melbourne and Suburban Directory - Todman, 1894 – 1929
·         Prahran Rates Book - City of Prahran, Sth Yarra Ward 1893 – 1921
·         Electoral Rolls 1901 – 1930
·         MALONE, B. (1983). Chapel Street Prahran, Part One 1834-1918. Prahran, Vic, Prahran Historical and Arts Society in conjunction with Prahran Mechanics' Institute.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A to Z Challenge - W is for Walter Todman

Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.

Walter Todman was Martha’s first husband (love?) they were married for 37 years. So what would it have been like for Martha to have lived so long with Walter? What was he like?

What clues have I found? Let’s have a look

He was an inventor and registered several patents that included
        1890 an improvement in the construction and working of a machine for shearing sheep.[i]
        1891 Specifications for registration of patent by Walter Todman titled - An improved automatic check for venetian blinds.[ii]
        1895 An improved machine for saving gold.[iii]

Photographer Unknown, Lincoln and Walter Todman in his workshop, circa 1920s, Myrtle Sharp's Private Photo  Collection. T080

In 1895 Martha took him to court for maintenance. He was a bit absent minded- bringing pots and pans in from the shed what could he have been thinking! Click here to read about the court case.

We know he moonlighted/worked as a waiter as it came out in the court case; it was probably to support his business, his inventing and to support his family.

He was an upright citizen

       he was involved in fundraising with the Red Cross for the war effort at the  Red Cross Carnival held in Chapel Street on the 29 June 1918. Walter’s shop and the chemist next door their combined efforts in a stall refered to as “Todman & Higginbotham” and raised a total of £101/13/2.[iv]
        He loved his cycling and sponsored a cycle race in 1921 on the Dandenong road in Oakleigh, put on by the Prahran and South Yarra cycling “ Walter Todman trophy race” a 15-miles course.[v]

Photographer Unknown, Portrait of Walter Todman, 1926, Myrtle Sharp's Private Photo  Collection currently held by  Sandra Williamson[T084]
He was an adventurer of sorts and was ready to invent himself when required, first he came to Australia and changed his name [from what we are not too sure], and then a few years we see him advertising for work and possibly getting ready to begin again by going outback before he died.[vi]

He dreamed big and thought beyond his time, as we can see below from the following newspaper clippings:-
W. Atkinson Wood M.D., 'PIONEER MOTORING.', The Argus, 14 July 1923, p. 6. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,

        & don't forget the roller skates made with bicycle wheels

Anon, 'Cycling notes.', Punch, 19 September 1901, p. 26. , viewed 26 Apr 2017, 

I think I would have liked Walter, but I’m not too sure what it would have been like to live with.  Martha must have been a very strong and self-determined woman.

To Read more about Martha's life for articles previously posted for the A to Z Challenges click the Letters below:-
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 


[i] NAA: A4618, 2663
[ii] NAA: A13150, 12585
[iii] NAA: A13150, 11250
[iv] Anon, 'PRAHRAN RED CROSS.', Malvern Standard, 24 August 1918, p. 5. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,
[v] Anon 'CYCLING.', The Argus, 24 October 1921, p. 5. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,
[vi] Anon, 'Advertising', The Age, 9 August 1928, p. 4. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A to Z Challenge - V is for the Vicissitudes of Martha

Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.

Martha’s life was certainly an interesting one, full of vicissitudes, to get a sense of this I have outlined some of the pivotal events of her life, highlighting her constant struggle in changing circumstances,

 Photographer unknown, Studio portrait in England of Martha Sarah Ellis, circa 1875?, Neil Carmody's Private Photo Collection [T197]
Born in 1870 into a working-class family living on the then outskirts of London in Camberwell, with the surname Ellis, she and the rest of the family were known by the name Lee.  However after her mother died in 1880, they all returned to using the surname Ellis
She leaves England in 1890 to forge a better life, perhaps grow a career or a family depending on where destiny takes her. The world is full of possibilities.

Photographer J. Latimer, Studio portrait of Martha Sarah Ellis possibly taken circa 1891 in Western Australia, digital image,  Jim Bennett's Private Photo  Collection currently held by Dorothy Bennett [T059]
She begins her working life in Australia as a domestic but finds herself entangled in a court case accused of assault involving herself and three others.  The men involved somehow avoid any penalties but the girls are not so lucky.

With a conviction against her name, she loses her position as a domestic.  We find her working at the less than salubrious Colonial Hospital where she is described as a troublemaker.  It would appear that her nursing career is shortly lived. 

Photographer unknown, Studio portrait of a young lady thought to be Martha Sarah Ellis possibly taken circa 1892 in Victoria or just before leaving WA, digital image,  Jim Bennett's Private Photo  Collection currently held by Dorothy Bennett [T065 - edited]
Wanting a fresh start she moves far away to the opposite side of Australia (but not as far as her first move from England, the opposite side of the world).  A year after arriving in Victoria she finds love and gets married in 1892.  But marriage isn’t as wonderful as she had been lead to believe and by 1895 she takes her husband to court, this time the case is found in her favour.  However, loves appears to win the day and she does not leave her husband and they go on to have more children.

Things settle down but the poverty is grinding and times are hard.  Her husband Walter appears to be successful but many sacrifices are being made behind the scenes.  The last straw, however, is when the neighbour's washing water is left to long in the copper and the unpleasant stench seeps in over the fence.  Back in court again, neighbours suing and counter-suing each other.  The case was dismissed.

Life moves on and more children are added to the brood.  Walter expands his premises and incorporates another workshop within walking distance to the one they live behind.  Tragedy strikes and they lose their 5-week old daughter, Charlotte to whooping cough, Martha is heartbroken. But life moves on and Martha goes on to have one last child Alma who becomes her rock later in life.  A year after Alma is born a terrible storm hits Melbourne and havoc reigns, they are all ok but Walter’s new workshop has a huge plate glass window blown out shattering glass everywhere and with it their future financial security.  Walter declares bankruptcy a year later in 1910.

Martha and Walter are made of tough stuff so they begin again, and in two years they are building up another workshop at 3 Cato St, Prahran.  The family and the business begin to thrive again.  Walter also buys property in the outer Melbourne suburbs as an investment to help ensure that they never fall on such hard times again.  It seems that all is going well. Then in 1925 Walter decides to retire and sell up his business he hasn’t been feeling too well, nothing too specific just worn out from the years of hard work.  He sells up the business.

The Model Studios, Studio portrait of Martha Sarah Todman nee Ellis, date 1926, Jim Bennett's Private Photo  Collection currently held by Dorothy Bennett [T034]

By 1928 he becomes bored and advertises for work in the country, it would be another new beginning for them.  Martha is both excited and terrified by the prospect.
Walter Todman, 'Advertising', The Age, 9 August 1928, p. 4. , viewed 26 Apr 2017,
 Three years later Martha and Walter are still living in Prahran but Walter has died of a sudden heart attack.

Photographer unknown, Backyard standing portrait of Martha Simpson outside, later in life,  Jim Bennett's Private Photo  Collection currently held by Dorothy Bennett

And so the story goes on ... still a work in progress but  click here to read more

To Read more about Martha's life for articles previously posted for the A to Z Challenges click the Letters below:-

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z