According to Wikepedia “Ledwidge is a surname that originated in the hamlet of Upper Ledwyche, Shropshire England. After the Norman invsion of Ireland the family was granted extensive tracts of land by Hugh De Lacy in the counties of Meath and Westmeath. In common with other Old English families many of them took the losing side in the wars of the 17th century and were dispossessed of their lands. The name was spelt in many different ways; the historian Edward Ledwich noted the following variations: Luitwick, Luitwich, Lutwyche, Ledwith, Ledewich, and Ledwich.” Eliza used Ledwich while her two sisters’ surnames were Ledwidge.
Eliza Ledwich was born in Ireland in 1835 and was my great great grandmother. her mother was Mary Sheil from Castlepollard and her father Michael Ledwich was from Collinstown also in Westmeath county. They were married in Castlepollard Co Westmeath on 6 March 1832. He worked as a bricklayer.
Collinstown was a small vilage and the main employement may have been on the
estate of the Smythe family. Their family papers have a Michael Ledwidge as William Smyth’s general factotum (a person having many diverse skills and resposibilities) from 1730 to 1759. He played a major part in the building of Barbavilla constructed in c1730. A Mary ledwidge worked for the Smthye family as a housekeeper here at Barbavilla or Dublin.
It is possible that this Michael is Eliza’s grandfather.
Eliza’s marriage certificate has her being born in Dublin but her death certificate has her coming from Queens Co (Laois). Her Baptism record is from Collinstown in Co Westmeath 4 Mar 1835. On her Baptism record she is listed as Bessie. She had four siblings, all born here in Collinstown Co Westmeath.
Her two sisters Mary and Margaret came out later to Melbourme and were met by Eliza. The Ledwich children of Michael and Mary Shiel were born between 1832 and 1844. This means that they lived through the devastating Great Famine which lasted from 1845 to 1849. During this time a million people died of disease and hunger and a million emigrated. It is hard to know how the family fared during this time. It seems the girls moved to Dublin before emigrating.
Eliza came out to the colonies in 1859 on board the Dirigo which arrived after an eventful and long passage of 107 days. The Dirigo sailed from the Port of Liverpool in England on the 28th of November 1858. Shortly after departure it was hit by a severe storm. They put into Milford Haven on Dec 3 to repair damage and did not sail again until Jan 4, 1859. The voyage was reported in The Argus, 29 March 1859:
Eliza was twenty four, although listed as twenty, when she arrived at Port Phillip and her employer was a Sargent Ellis of Emerald Hill (later to become South Melbourne). She was a general servant and a Catholic. She could not read or write.
The majority of the passengers were single women whose fares had been paid by the government. There were 352 females and 28 males and the fare was 13 pounds 7 shillings and 2 pence. There were 5 deaths on the voyage.
Gold had been discovered in Victoria in 1851 and huge numbers of migrants had arrived in Victoria to search for gold, in 1840 the population of the colony of Victoria was 10,000. By 1854 it was 123,000. One in four had been born in Ireland. From 1851 to the late 1860’s Victoria’s population nearly tripled.
Eliza married James Knighton, a coachman, on March 1 in 1864 at Scots’ Presbyterian Church Melbourne. Knighton Family History has more pictures and information.
Her parents were listed on her marriage certificate as Michael Ledwick, a bricklayer and Mary Shiel. She did not sign her name but made her mark on the certificate. Her occupation was listed as servant and the witnesses were Thomas Reynolds and Mary Ledwidge, her sister. At the time of her marriage she was 22 and James was 26.
James Knighton & Eliza Ledwich Marriage 1864
On her marriage certificate her occupation is given as servant and her birth place as Dublin Ireland. Her death certificate however lists Queens Co as her birth place.
She had been in the colonies for 52 years. Two children were listed, William 49? and James Edward deceased.
Even though she was illiterate Eliza died a wealthy woman. She owned considerable property: Numbers 6,8 and 16 Crown St Richmond as well as 137 and 138 Burnley St in the same suburb. She also owned land at Frankston on the outskirts of Melbourne. Her estate was worth 1,140 pounds. She left 800 pounds to each of her grandchildren, Mary and James. Her son William only got to live in one of her houses rent free for his life.
In her will she bequeathed a 100 pound legacy to to a Maria Hendy. Maria’s mother Eliza Ross was Irish from Co Fermanagh and worked as a servant for the Knightons. She fell pregnant with Maria. Maria sometimes signed her name Knighton and at other times Ross. She called one of her sons Frank Knighton Hendy. She lived with the Knightons. The story has it that she was the child of James Knighton. She was born in 1869 only five years after James and Eliza were married. Maria is buried with her husband Robert Hendy in Boroondara Cemetery. Maria was buried on May 26, 1952 and Robert buried Mar 6 1928, aged 58.
Eliza is also buried in Boroondara Cemetery Kew Melbourne.
Eliza’s sisters Margaret and Mary came out on the Caduceus from Southampton England arriving August 1863 after an 88 day voyage. Margaret was 20 and Mary 17 although on another part of the passenger list Margaret’s age is given as 18. Their occupations were general servants. Both were Catholic. They went straight off the boat to Eliza Ledwidge who was working at 154 Collins St East in Melbourne for a Dr James George Beaney, a surgeon at Melbourne Hospital.
Margaret Theresa Ledwidge, Eliza’s sister, married James Beamish from Coventry England in 1867.
Margaret lived at 35 Burnett St., St Kilda. She died in St Kilda on 19 Dec 1895 and is also buried in Boroondara Cemetery Kew. Her husband James had died on 27 June 1895. They are buried in the Baptist section of this cemetery.
Margaret Beamish could sign her name unlike Eliza. She also died an extremely wealthy woman in her own right. Her estate was worth 3,539 pounds and she owned 101 and 103 Swan St Richmond and two two storey shops and a five storey brick house in Stanley St Richmond as well as a half share with sister Eliza in land at Frankston. In her will dated 1891 she left one pound a week for life to her husband and the rest of her estate was to be divided up among her six children.
It is amazing that Eliza and Margaret who were servants when they arrived in the colonies should end up so wealthy.
Mary Ledwidge married John Williams in Ulupna, Echuca in 1872. He was born in Tasmania. She was a domestic servant and aged 24. She gave her father’s name as John Ledwidge, a carpenter, and her mother’s name was Mary, surname unknown. She also signed as witness for Margaret Ledwidge at her wedding.
Mary died in Queensland in 1926 age 76 years. Both Mary and her husband are buried in Miles General Cemetery in Queensland.
This descendant report updated Jan 2018: