Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Saturday, 15 August 2015

An insight into the gold-mining town of Chewton, Victoria, Australia in 1865

Robert Armstrong Comes

Recently I obtained the birth certificate for Robert Armstrong Comes aka Robert CUMMIS, aka Robert ARMSTRONG.

As usual, Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria sent the whole page from the Chewton records at the time.  So I get five birth registrations for the price of one.

Robert was born on 3 July 1865 at Wattle Flat in Chewton, and was present at the time of his registration in September.  His father was listed as Simes Comes (who our family usually refer to as Sims Cummis) and he was a miner aged 28.  For some reason his birth place is listed as South America but our family knows he was from South Africa.  His birth in South Africa is confirmed as per his own statement on his wedding certificate, as being born at the Cape of Good Hope.

Robert's mother (and my 3x great grandmother) is listed as Elizabeth Comes, formerly Elizabeth Armstrong, born Adelaide, South Australia, aged 23.  Robert's birth registration also states that  Elizabeth and Sims married in 1864 in Chewton, and we can confirm this from their wedding certificate that they married on 10 October 1864.

The informant was Elizabeth herself, and she dutifully made her mark on the register (see the photo), as she had also done at her wedding.  It is interesting that Elizabeth and Sims were both illiterate, and yet one of their later sons became what amounted to an unofficial journalist, commenting in the newspapers about his experiences at Gallipoli and the Western Front during the First World War.

In the Witnesses column, it states there was 'No Medical attendant', however 'Other Witnesses' names Mrs. Salter.  

Now we know who that witness is.  Mrs. Salter is Elizabeth's mother and my 4x great grandmother, Janet Row who was born in Scotland.  She travelled to Adelaide, South Australia in 1839 with her Scottish husband, who died that same year.  Janet married again, this time to Elizabeth's father, an African man called John Armstrong.  After John Armstrong died, Janet married yet again in Adelaide, South Australia to an Englishman called James Salter.  James brought the whole family to Chewton in Victoria shortly after gold was discovered, a distance of 650 km (over 400 miles).

What is interesting on this birth registration page is that Mrs. Salter is named as witness to two births.
Janet also helped deliver another boy born four days after her grandson Robert. That boy's name was William John Archer, and his father was a 32 year old baker from Liverpool, England. His mother was 22 year old Agnes Longstaff, from Brooklyn, Long Island in America.

Four out of the five births listed on the page state 'no medical attendant'. Two of the other informants have definitely signed in their own hand.  The other two listed as informants seem to be consistent with the handwriting of Registrar Hardy. So Elizabeth was the only one who 'made her mark' on the page.

I like to think Elizabeth's mother Janet helped others as a midwife in their community. Janet lived in Chewton until she died in 1896. If I'd travelled from Scotland to Australia, from Adelaide to Chewton, I would refuse to move any more too.


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