Family Names

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

A to Z Challenge - J is for January Weddings.

Snippets from the life of Martha Sarah Ellis.

Martha travelled to Australia on the SS Nairnshire as part of a group of servant girls such ships were often known as “Bride Ships”, with her younger sister Kate Ellen Ellis.[1]  Kate Ellen was 2 years her junior and only 17 when she left England.[2]  It would appear that Kate Ellen managed to settle much quicker in Western Australia than her elder sister Martha.  Kate Ellis married almost a year after arrival in the January 1891 in Fremantle and settled there.[3]

The two sisters:The left is a Studio portrait of  Kate Ellen Ellis possibly taken circa 1892 in WA, digital scan,  from Lurline Marshall's Private Photo  Collection [T123] and on the right is  a Studio portrait of 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] (Photographers unknown)

It is thought that Martha probably left soon after Kate’s marriage, to go to Melbourne in Victoria.  Almost a year later Martha is getting married also in January on the 16th to Walter Todman in the All Saints Church, Saint Kilda in 1892.[4]

Was Martha Kate’s protector? Martha did not leave England without her younger sister, who may not have been able to join her until she was at least 16 years of age.  As the eldest daughter in the family Martha would have understood that if she left home with her sister Kate, Kate would probably become the unpaid domestic worker for the family.  Prospects would have been no better for Kate that they were for Martha.

Kate was younger than Martha when she arrived so was perhaps better able to adapt as she may not have had so many strongly formed opinions at that age.  In contrast, Martha appears to have been a feisty and opinionated soul ready for any sort of adventure.  

It is interesting to ponder why Martha did not leave Western Australia straight away.  Perhaps she felt that she needed to be around until she knew that Kate would be taken care of.  Kate’s marriage to Thomas Wardle gave Martha the freedom to travel and leave her bad experiences behind her.

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


[1] Shipping Records for the 'Nairnshire', Page 3 Passenger listing, 8 Oct 1889; Passenger and Crew Lists (State Records Office, Western Australia. [Copy of the original record provided via email by Tom Reynolds from the State Records Office of Western Australia on 8 February 2013 Note no reference was given.  Reference  created from known sources])
[2]  England, birth certificate for Kate Ellen Ellis, born 12 June 1872; citing 1d/721/191, September quarter 1872, Camberwell registration district, St George Camberwell in the County of Surrey sub-district; General Register Office, Southport
[3] Marriage index entry for Andrew Thomas Wardle and Kate Ellen Ellis married 1891, entry number 110, Western Australia Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages, Department of the Attorney General, Western Australia [I have not see a copy of the marriage certificate of Andrew Thomas Wardle and Kate Ellen Ellis however I have assumed that the marriage was at the beginning of the year based on the number of the entry for that year.]
[4] Marriage certificate of Walter Todman and Martha Sarah Ellis married 16 Jan 1892, Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 345 (1926),


  1. I wonder why she didn't look to get married herself while in WA.

    Romance Spinners

    1. Probably being charged and convicted of assault didn't help her reputation, so making a good match might have been difficult. Moving to Victoria was probably about making a fresh start. Working as a nurse probably wasn't much fun either. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. I agree with what the gal above said - Makes me curious as to why she didn't marry. I hope one day, you find the answers.

    My A-Z post The Genealogy Search Continues:
    J is for Jewish Genealogy

    1. I don't think we'll ever really know but we can certainly make some education guesses so the more clues i can find the better.

  3. Replies
    1. Glad you found it interesting, thanks for dropping by.

  4. This post reminds me of the movie Brookyln, wherein the older sister facilitates the younger sister's emigration (although she did not go along, as Martha did here). You have made interesting observations about the two sisters and their interrelationship -- right down to both of them marrying in January. Also, thanks so much for your visits to and comments on my blog.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Molly. I enjoy my visit to your blog.

  5. I wonder if it was hard for the two sisters to end up so far apart after they married.

    Finding Eliza

    1. HI Krisin, I hadn't thought of it from that angle, I had assumed that Martha was relief that she could start again in Victoria - so you've given me something to think about. Thanks.

  6. I like that you are taking the time to get to know Martha better. Visiting from the A to Z challenge. J is for jail: Bankruptcy of William Pulteney Dana

    Anne Young

    Anne's family history

    1. Thanks Anne, originally I was going to write up her life story for my research and realized how very little I knew about her. The A to Z Challenge has helped me to focus and find out more about her life.


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