Thursday 22 April 2021

Searching for the females - AJCP

Many women were prolific letter writers and scattered throughout the AJCP collections are hundreds of letters written to those "back home." They can be found in County Record offices and archives, family papers and missionary files. 

In many of the named family files such as Hassall, Hayward or Hearnshaw to name a few from the M Series, collections of personal correspondence may include letters to and from related women and sometimes include named photos. 

British Women's Emigration Association

An excellent collection comes from The Female Middle Class Emigration Society which was established in London in 1862.

The aim of the Society was to help 'educated women of a respectable character' to find work as teachers or governesses in the colonies and help them in securing passages, purchasing cabin fittings and making loans, which were to be repaid within two years.

This guide from the British Women's Emigration Association contains two letter books in which we find correspondence from the governesses who had emigrated to the colonies through the auspices of the Society. Thanks to the authors of this guide all the names are listed so if you search for an Eliza Walpole, you would be directed to these letter books.

The meticulously kept Index provides an indication of where to find the letters within the microfilm. Under W we see that Eliza wrote 4 letters. These letters were obviously rewritten into the book as the script is the same throughout, so unfortunately no signatures of your ancestors.
page 4-5 of the index from Letter book 1862 - 1876

From the guide:
Among the subject matter of the letters were the voyage, conditions on the ships, relations with other emigrants, their first impressions on their arrival at their destination, relations with colonial clergy and other settlers, their employment as governesses and teachers, wages, the management of children, changes of employment, marriages, decisions to return to England, prospects for governesses in the colonies, wages of domestic workers, bush life, colonial society and the financial position of the colonies.

Each image is a double page spread. The title and the index are the first four images so to find Eliza's first letter on page 80, use Browse this collection to efficiently get to Set 41 - 60.

Women's work

The letters were written to the secretary, financial secretary and foreign secretary of the Women's Mission Association and are found in the records of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. 

Search by first name

Another effective method to locate women within these collections is to search by first name. A search from the portal page for Annie reveals 120 records across a wide range of collections. I used a first name search to eliminate the need for deciding whether to use a birth or marriage surname.

This strategy is not so effective for Alice, although it does find many female Alices it will also find the place name, Alice Springs.

search for Emily finds 69 records includes records about the ship 'Emily'

The Biographical / Historical details in many guides are excellent background reading. This one Mathilde Deane has a condensed biography of her life and work.

Find a female, her role was important.

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  1. So little time, so much to do.

  2. This series looks really great Carmel. Looking forward to diving into AJCP at end of AtoZ

  3. Thank you Carmel. Having ancestors who were teachers in my family this post has given me great resources to explore for background and context.


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