Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trove Tuesday: Dirty linen

In 1858 Esther Honeyman (nee Beringham) 'obtained a living by taking in washing' according to the newspaper report below. And that's not all! It appears that she was a prostitute (or a woman of low moral character as another report states, neglecting to comment of the moral status of the men who visited her). She was married to Alexander Honeyman, a great-great uncle of my husband, in 1852 in Adelaide, but at the time of this newspaper report she was living by herself at Port Elliot and said she hadn't seen her husband for seven years. Those numbers don't quite add up but it appears they separated soon after marriage.

Esther has had two children, one fathered by an 'aboriginal native' and one presumably fathered by John Dent who is objecting to being ordered to pay maintenance because he wasn't the only man who had visited Esther, hence the court case.

The Richmond River Express and Tweed Advertiser, 6 November 1858,
In November 1858,the same month as the court case, there is a report of the Destitute Board published in the paper. Esther Honeyman is granted 'relief' (presumably some sort of financial support), and the Board recommended that 'the eldest child (by an aboriginal native) should be taken off her hands'. The child was put into an Asylum. I wonder what sort of place that was and where it was.

South Australian Register, 2 Nov 1858
Four years later there is another newspaper notice about the older child. A Mrs Wauchope, of Salisbury, applied to take the Honeyman girl and 'promised to educate and prepare her for earning a respectable livelihood'. The girl would have been about six or seven years old at that time but I suspect that Mrs Wauchope would have had her working in the house and garden and at sewing from a very early age. [I believe, but haven't purchased the certificates to prove, that the girl is Esther Honeyman, born 1856 Port Elliot, who had two illegitimate children herself and died at Port Adelaide when she was 33 years old.]

Destitute Board report, South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 21 June 1862
Esther and Alexander Honeyman must have reconciled at some point because they later had two children at Port Elliot and are both buried at Nhill in Victoria where they selected land for farming. Prior to reading these newspaper reports I had entered the older child into my database as Alexander's - just goes to prove that one should never make assumptions - and didn't have a record of the second child at all.


  1. What A Sadness.So much predjuice towards both Mother & Child.

  2. There's no way you could judge any of these people. Life must have been so hard. I do hope they had some fund in their lives.

  3. I wanted to say that I hope they had some fun in their lives but my comment just won;t register !

    1. LOL:) So now you have two comments. This whole internet thing can get so frustrating! I hope they had fun too. I know quite a lot more about these families and will probably blog about them again.Here's a clue - try to get hold of a little family memoirs book called 'Mad as Rabbits' published a few decades ago.

  4. Hi, I don't have an account but just decided to type my mum's name into the internet and it came up with this?! whats so weird is that my mum(esther honeyman) had two children, me and my sister! My mum also used to live in australia with a man named alexander for a few years?! I just thought it extremely weird how similar it sounded to my family?!

  5. Hi Lorraine,
    We are related, Alexander Honeyman is my g g uncle, his sister Ann Honeyman ROY is my g g grandma :) X

    1. Hi Irene. Glad you found my blog. Your Roy history is fascinating as well. The Honeyman story is complicated and interesting. Email me at the address in 'about me' in the side panel if you want to swap info.


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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