Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Monday, 30 March 2015

A chook stealing John Armstrong in Adelaide in 1842

Tell me everyone, how I can identify my 4 X great grandfather John Armstrong?  With such a widespread name as Armstrong and such a common name as John, how do I separate my John Armstrong from any other?

In 1834, South Australia separated from the colony of New South Wales.  Land was being released for the first time.  Commissioners were appointed to control land sales, revenue and the flow of emigrants in 1835.  There were only 546 Europeans in the province of South Australia in 1836.  The colony was small in those days; therefore there is less chance of multiple people with the same exact name.  But with a name like John Armstrong, how can we be sure?

We know for a fact that John Armstrong married my 4 X great grandmother Janet Slone nee Row in 1842 in Adelaide. He was her second husband.  Janet (yes, the same Janet as yesterday's blog!) gave birth to my 3 X great grand mother Elizabeth Armstrong.

We know a John Armstrong was buried in West Terrace cemetery, Adelaide in an unrecorded location on 8 February 1850.  He was aged 50 when he died and lived at 50 Waymouth Street, Adelaide.  His burial was paid for by the state.  

Another search of John Armstrong turns up a newspaper article about criminal proceedings in 1841 for theft. This John Armstrong was indicted with accomplice Charles Hall for stealing four chickens.  There is an amusing account of the policeman following footprints and chook feathers back through the bush to the hut and taking the chook heads and feet back to the farmer to identify.  The policeman also mentions small children in the hut, and this information tallies with what we know of Janet's Slone family. Then again, lots of people have children.  ie. We can neither confirm nor deny.

Another time the same Charles Hall and John Armstrong get done for stealing clothes from a Mrs. Hall although the ineffectual John tried to stop Charlie, who complained bitterly at John's lack of experience and ineptitude.  The interesting thing in this case is that Charles Hall and John Armstrong are both black-skinned Africans. The records mention John lives near the Brown Hill Creek.  

It is certain that the chook stealers and the clothes stealers living in a hut in the bush are the same people.  They are black African men, it says so in the court records.  The interesting thing is that we know Janet's child Elizabeth Armstrong, my 3 X great grandmother later married a black skinned man born in Africa. Like her father?  We don't know. It is only an interesting fact because as all family historians know, patterns occur over generations.  

So we have three John Armstrongs.  Our great great great great grandfather that married Janet Slone in 1842 is definite.  The one that died 1850 buried in West Terrace is a probable because we know Janet was a widow when she remarried in 1851. And lastly, the third John Armstrong that got done for chook theft. How do you prove that he was the only John Armstrong in Adelaide in the days of less than perfect record keeping?

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

PS. I think he is all the same person; I just can't prove it.

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