Ledwidge or Ledwich Family History

Eliza Ledwich born Queens Co Ireland c1842 emigrated to Victoria Australia in 1859. Her sisters Margaret and Mary came out in 1863. Eliza married James Knighton in1864 and they had three sons, only one of whom lived to adulthood. Eliza died a wealthy woman in 1911 and is buried in Boroondara Cemetery Kew Victoria Australia. Margaret married James Beamish and Mary married John Williams.

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. In the 1640 Down Survey there was a Morris Ledwich in Co Westmeath. Eliza’s brother was called Maurice.

Co Westmeath north showing Castlepollard and Collinstown

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 Co. They were married in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath on 6 March 1832. He worked as a bricklayer.

Michael Ledwich & Mary Shiel Marriage Castlepollard Co Westmeath 6 Mar 1832

These are the Baptism records of the children of Michael Ledwich and Mary Shiel:

Maurice Ledwich baptised 14 Dec 1832 in Collinstown, sponsors were Mathew Molloy and Catherine Molloy. Maurice died 21 May 1835 in Collinstown Parish Co Westmeath.

Bessie Ledwidge baptised 4 Mar 1835 in Collinstown. Sponsors were Nicholas Ledwidge and Jane Fagan   Bessie being short for Elizabeth or Eliza. I initially discounted these records as I didn’t realise that Eliza was baptised as Bessie.

Edward Ledwith baptised 9 Oct 1837 in Collinstown. Sponsor was Betty Glennon.

Margaret Ledwidge baptised 17 May 1840 in Collinstown. Sponsor was Margaret Mulrine.

Mary Ledwith baptised 11 April 1844 in Collinstown. Sponsor was Mary Casey.


Collinstown was a small village 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.

Barbavilla Manor aka Barbavilla House is one of the last country houses in Ireland built in the 17th century tradition (an old fashioned build in it’s day). It was built c.1730, by William Smyth Jr. (1692–1769) on land purchased by his father (the Rt. Rev. William Smyth, Bishop of Kilmore & Ardagh) in 1670. Smyth Jr. named the house the after his wife Barbara (daughter of Sir George Ingoldsby). This estate was previously known as Ranaghan. The Smyths of Westmeath were an important family in the northeast of this county in the 18th and 19th centuries with seats at Drumcree and at Glananea. They constructed many of the old buildings to the north of Collinstown, including the former schoolhouse. The Smyths left Barbavilla in 1955.

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.

Map of irish Counties 2
Map of the Irish Counties

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:

Dirigo Arrives 1859-1
Migrants on Board The Dirigo 1859 The Argus 28 Mar
Dirigo's Voyage-1
Dirigo’s Troubled Voyage Described in The Argus 29 Mar 1859





Eliza Ledwidge Emigration Dirigo 1859_NEW
Passenger list for Eliza Ledwidge on the Dirigo 1859
Dirigo and Goldfields 29 Mar 1859-1
Dirigo brings Women Out and returns with Gold

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 Scotts’ 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

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.

Eliza Knighton nee Ledwick Death Certificate 1911.jpg cropped
Eliza Knighton nee Ledwick Death Certificate 1911

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 Eliza bequeathed a 100 pound legacy to a Maria Hendy. Maria’s mother Eliza Ross was Irish from Tannaraggan in Co Fermanagh. I have not been able to find Tannaraggan or any place like it in Co Fermanagh. The closest I have come is Tomregan Civil Parish in Grifiths Valuation. This is near Ballyconnell and bordering Co Cavan and there were some Ross folk listed there in 1862.

I am getting more convinced that Tomregan Civil parish is where Eliza Ross came from. She was illiterate so would have told a nurse or clerk this is where she came from. The record of Maris’s birth would have been copied from the patient notes and an “m” can easily be mistaken for”n n”. Looking at the Tithe Applotment entries for Ross in Tomregan the original entries have it spelt Temraggan, which supports my theory. Added to this is a Fermanagh accent and way of pronouncing different parishes and places. In 1827 William, James, John and David Ross were living in Tomregan Parish.

Eliza Ross 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. It is not sure if she was a child of James knighton or if she was adopted, Eliza Knighton having lost two babies. Recently DNA tests of a known descendant of Maria have proved she was not the child of James Knighton but would have been the adopted daughter of Eliza. Maria was born in 1869 only five years after James and Eliza were married. There is a record of an Eliza Ross aged 18 coming out from Liverpool to Melbourne aboard The Southern Empire in Jan 1866. This may have been Maria’s mother.

Maria is buried with her husband Robert Hendy in Boroondara Cemetery. Maria was buried on May 26, 1952 aged 82 and Robert buried Mar 6 1928, aged 58.

Hendy Grave Boroondara
Grave of Maria Hendy Borrondara Cemetery Kew Melbourne Australia

Eliza Knighton nee ledwich is also buried in Boroondara Cemetery Kew Melbourne.

Knighton Gravestone Boroondara Cemetery Kew
Eliza Knighton’s Gravestone Boroondara Cemetery Kew
Knighton Graves Boroondara Cemetery
Knighton Graves Boroondara Cemetery

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 Ledwidge 1867 Marriage_cropped
Marriage Certificate of Margaret Theresa Ledwidge and James Beamish 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 nee Ledwidge 1895 Death Cert cropped
Death Certificate of Margaret Beamish nee Ledwidge 1895

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.

Beamish Graves Boroondara
Beamish Family Graves Boroondara Cemetery Kew Melbourne

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 Ledgwidge 1872 Marriage_cropped
Marriage Certificate of Mary Ledwidge and John Williams Echuca Victoria 1872

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: