Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Elizabeth gives me a headache

The Trouble with Elizabeth Cumis nee Armstrong

Elizabeth's stays at Castlemaine Hospital for the years 1891 to 1896
highlighted in pink. The circle on 31 May 1896 shows when she died.
My ancestor Elizabeth gives me a headache.

She has so many spellings to her names, I've had to write a list so I remember them all. 

Elizabeth was born in Adelaide in 1842 with the surname ARMSTRONG.  That's all fine. Not many people spell Armstrong wrong.
Then her mother remarried in 1851 so she adopted her step-father's surname SALTER. That's fine as well, but I have found the name spelled SAULTER.

Then in 1864 she got married to Sims CUMIS, an african man. They were both illiterate, so we find as many spellings of their surname as there are bureaucrats that filled out their paperwork.

Since joining the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV),  I had searched CUMIS and CUMMIS in their Library.  I had found a couple of entries of Elizabeth being hospitalised at Castlemaine Mt. Alexander Hospital in the early 1890's. 

Yesterday I searched the name "Elizabeth" in conjunction with the place "Chewton", and Bingo! Eight new hospital records popped up under another spelling, COMAS.  I took a punt at another spelling, COMMAS.  Bingo! again another five hospital records. It was great.

So now we know our poor Elizabeth was in hospital for a total of 18 times over a period of six years. The names she was registered under were Elizabeth, Lizzie, Lizzy and Eliza.  Her surnames were the ones I've mentioned plus one under the name Salter.  Not to mention the couple of entries where there has been a transcription error and she is CUMINS and CUMMINS.

These are the trials of every family historian.


  1. How bureaucrats spelt names and how online databases transcribed them is an eternal challenge. Satter and Solter are other alternatives I have found. Did you search the GSV's GIN Index using the Browse Choices to the right of surname and given name? It's also a good way of picking up alternative spellings.

    1. Thanks Patsy! That was a great tip. I hadn't used Browse Choices before and it was really helpful. They also had the name Saltur and Saltier. Everyone should go to Patsy's Paddocks and have a look at Patsy's blog.