52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

52 Ancestors #48 Ralph Kerr

Amy Johnson Crow introduced the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge on her No Story Too Small blog in 2014. This year she continued the challenge, but also added a weekly theme.  This week the topic was Thankful. November 26 is Thanksgiving in the U.S. Interpret the “thankful” theme however you’d like.

I couldn’t work out how to integrate the theme into a post about an ancestor, so I decided not to use the theme this week. The ancestor I have decided to write about is my ex-husband’s 3x great grandfather Ralph Kerr.

Ralph was born around 1787, and christened 11 November 1787 at Ayton, Berwickshire, Scotland.  His parents were William Kerr and Margaret Forster.  There is another christening record for a Ralph Kerr, son of William Kerr and Margaret Forster, on 11 November 1784.  Since this is the same date, just a different year, both christenings may be for the same child, so the year he was christened is not yet certain.

Ralph married Margaret Haswell on 24 May 1816 at Hutton, Berwickshire, Scotland.  Ralph and Margaret had 13 children:

  1. Elizabeth Kerr christened 24 August 1817 in Mordington, Berwickshire, Scotland.
  2. Margaret Kerr christened 6 Jun 1819 in Mordington, Berwickshire, Scotland.
  3. William Kerr christened 19 November 1820 in Mordington, Berwickshire, Scotland
  4. James Kerr christened 25 August 1822 in Mordington, Berwickshire, Scotland
  5. Adam Kerr christened 9 May 1824 in Mordington, Berwickshire, Scotland
  6. Jessie Kerr born about 1825
  7. Susan Renton Kerr born about 1830.
  8. Robert Kerr born about 1832.
  9. Patrick Kerr born about 1834.
  10. John Kerr born about 1834
  11. Isabella Kerr born about 1837.
  12. Mary Kerr born about 1838.
  13. Ralph Kerr born about 1840.

Baptism records have only been found for the first 5 children.  The names of the other children came from Margaret (nee Haswell)’s death certificate, which lists her children as: Elizabeth decd, Margaret decd, William decd, James decd, Adam 60, Jessie 57(?), Susan 56(?), Robert decd, Patrick decd, John 50, Isabella 48(?), Mary 46, and Ralph 44. Margaret died in 1884.  The area where the family lived is on the Scotland/England border, near Berwick upon Tweed.  I decided to check for son Ralph, who was born about 1840, to see if he appears on the BDM index in England, but there was no Ralph Kerr registered between Jan 1838 and December 1842.  There is a possibility that the children were born in Scotland (so they wouldn’t appear on the English bdm index), but baptised in a parish in England that isn’t available online yet.

The 1841 Scotland Census show the Ralph and Margaret were at Foulden Newton in Berwickshire.  Ralph was listed as 50 years old, and Margaret was 45.  With them was Elizabeth age 20, Adam age 17, Jessie age 15, John age 9, Isabella age 4, Mary age 3, Ralph age 1, Susan age 12, and a Margaret Kerr age 80.  This Margaret was most likely to be Ralph’s mother Margaret Kerr, nee Forster.

In 1851 the family had moved to Lowick, in Northumberland, England.  Ralph was born about 1789 in Scotland, and Margaret was born about 1796.  Also in the household was daughter Jessie born about 1818, daughter Susan born about 1831, son John born about 1833, daughter Isabella born about 1837, daughter Mary born about 1838, and son Ralph born about 1840.

In 1859, Ralph and Margaret, together with most of their children, immigrated to Australia. They sailed on the “Commodore Perry”, which sailed from Liverpool on 28th May and arrived in Melbourne on 25th August 1859.  Ralph was age 71, Margaret age 64. A child Catherine Kerr, age 7, is listed with Ralph and Margaret.  Her relationship is not yet known, although, based on her age, she was probably a granddaughter.

Ralph Kerr immigration
ancestry.com, “Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839–1923,” database and images, ancestry.com.au (http://home.ancestry.com.au/ : accessed 4 Dec 2015); Ralph Kerr, age 71; Series: VPRS 14; Series Title: Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kindom (refer to microform copy, VPRS 3502).

Ralph and Margaret’s son Adam age 34, and his wife Eleanor age 24, and son John age 27, with his wife Elizabeth age 23, appear on the same page.  The immigration lists also show that daughters Susan age 29, Isabella age 22 and Mary age 21 appear as single females, and son Ralph age 19 as a single male.  There was also a single female Christina Kerr age 19, but it is not yet known if she was related.

The Victorian death indexes show that Ralph died in 1875.  In reviewing the information for Ralph, I noticed that I didn’t have a date of death for Ralph.  Since it can become quite costly to apply for all the vital certificates, I had obtained the death certificate for his wife Margaret, but I had not yet obtained Ralph’s.

I therefore decided to see if I could find a date of death for Ralph, without getting the certificate.  The first place I tried was Trove, where I found a death notice for Ralph in the Ballarat Courier on 12 June 1875.

Ralph Kerr death notice
“Family Notices,” The Ballarat Courier, 12 Jun 1875, p. 2, col. 3; digital images, Trove Digitised Newspapers and More ( http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207639190 : accessed 4 Dec 2015).

The next thing to do was to try and find out where he was buried.  His wife had been buried at the Ballarat Cemetery.  I had already looked to see which family members had been buried at Ballarat, and didn’t have a record for Ralph there, but I decided to double check the Ballarat Cemeteries Search, in case I had missed it.  Although there are a number of people with the surname Kerr listed, including a Ralph Kerr who died in 1989, there was no entry for Ralph Kerr who died in 1875.  Since Eurambeen is not far from Beaufort, I then tried Carol’s Headstone Photographs for Beaufort.  Although there are some entries for the Kerr surname, Ralph is not among them. I then tried a google search for “Cemeteries near Eurambeen”, and found a mention of Franklinford, with a note to see Eurambeen East Cemetery. Carol’s Headstone Photographs also covers the Franklinford Cemetery, so I decided to check this list.  There were no Kerrs on the list.

The headstone photographs are only of those graves that have survived, so he may still be buried in one of these cemeteries.  I would need to contact the person in charge of these cemeteries to see if Ralph appears in their records.  It may be simpler to apply for his death certificate, to find out which cemetery he was buried at.

Another thing to try was to see if I could find a probate record for Ralph.  Although there are entries on the Probate Index for a number of people with the name Ralph Kerr, none for the year 1875.    There was also no entry found for his wife Margaret. Even after trying a number of variations in spelling, I was still unable to find a record for either of them.