The focus of the 103rd Carnival of Genealogy, hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene, is Women’s History. March 8th is International Women’s Day and the month of March is Women’s History Month in the United States. (And, in case you’re interested, Canada’s is in October!)
When I thought about what I could contribute to the Carnival, it seemed logical to try to tie it in to the work I am currently doing on my Ansted line. My ‘favourite’ ancestor – if one can have such a thing – has always been Dionysia Ansted. So, I will be contributing Dionysia’s biography to the Carnival. Dionysia has always intrigued me. At first it was primarily because of her exotic name and because of a cameo bracelet in my possession that I always believed was hers. (Though, as it turns out, that may not actually be the case and I may never know for sure.) As I have discovered more about her, her life and the challenges I suspect she may have faced interest me even more. So, without further ado, allow me to present my great-great-great grandmother: Dionysia Ansted.
Baptismal records indicate Dionysia was born on July 27, 1827 in Lambeth, Surrey, England. She was the second daughter born to John and Dionysia (Northeast) Ansted. Her mother, sadly, passed away at 31 years of age just a few days after Dionysia’s birth and was buried on August 10 of that year at St. Botolph Without Aldgate. Dionysia was baptized on August 6 the following year in the same church.
I don’t know much about Dionysia’s childhood. I assume she would have started life with a nurse or extended family member caring for her, her older brother John (born in 1821) and older sister Rebecca (born in 1823). Her father was a fruit broker and a partner in Clark, Ansted and Co., based in London. Her family had some means and with her mother gone, it seems a reasonable assumption that her father would have had someone to care for his children.
John remarried on January 15, 1829, when Dionysia was about 18 months old. The only mother she would ever know would be her step-mother Jane Ann Mary Sharpe. Jane and John Ansted went on to have four more daughters, Emily (born in 1830), Clara (1833), Alice (1837) and Isabel (1840).
I don’t know anything about Dionysia’s early childhood but like to imagine she was at home with her siblings and parents, perhaps with a governess or nurse. The next record I have for Dionysia is from the 1841 English census, when she would have been around 14. Her parents, elder brother and sister and baby Isabel were living at Portland Place on Clapham Road in Lambeth, Surrey. Dionysia and her other sisters were not recorded with the rest of the family. I found that rather curious.
It took some time, but I finally found Dionysia along with sisters Emily and Clara living with Maria Smith, school mistress, in what appeared to be a school on Union Road in Lambeth. (I am still not sure where 4-year-old Alice was at the time of the census as she is not listed in either record.)
I kept digging and finally turned up some additional information on what was in fact a Ladies’ College. The school mistress, Maria Smith, ran the school from sometime prior to 1841 until sometime after 1881, according to census records. It was known as the Woodlands:
LADIES’ COLLEGE, the Woodlands, Union-road, Clapham Rise.
The LENT TERM will COMMENCE on FRIDAY, January 27, on which day classes will be formed for French, German, Italian, History, English Literature, Drawing, Singing, Music, &c.
Tuesday, January 31, Dr. Lankester will resume his Lectures.
Thursday, February 2, Lecture will be delivered by the Rev. John Soper, A.M. “On the Age of Pericles.”
Thursday, February 9, Dr. Letheby will continue his Course of Lectures.
Ladies desirous of attending will be admitted during the first week on giving their cards.
Fourteen young ladies are received as Boarders.
The above notice appeared in The Athenaeum on January 21, 1854. That is some time after Dionysia and her sisters would have attended but it gives some impression of the sort of education young ladies of a certain class, including Dionysia, may have received in London during the 1840s and 1850s. Young ladies graduating from this school would have been quite accomplished.
The March 24, 1848 issue of the Times of London contained a notice of the marriage of Dionysia to Thomas Burton at St. Michael’s Church, Stockwell:
On the 22d inst., at St. Michael’s Church, Stockwell, by the Rev. Charles Kemble, Thomas Burton, Jun., Esq., of Thurton, Norfolk, to Dionysia, second daughter of John Ansted, Esq., of Portland-place, Clapham-road.
The 1851 census finds Dionysia and Thomas living in Thurton, Norfolk. The family is living in Thurton Hall, which is now a Grade II listed building. Dionysia (23 years old) and Thomas (34) have two children: Alice Jane (2) and Thomas Northeast (5 months). Thomas is listed as a farmer, though it would appear he is not working the 269 acres himself as he employs 10 labourers and 2 boys. The family also employs Ellen Harvey (cook), Martha Brewer (housemaid), Jemina Bedingfield (nursemaid), James Ecctertorn (groom) and William Brewer (shepherd?).
The 1861 census has the family living on Loddon Road. That appears to be quite close to Thurton Hall, but it would seem they may no longer be living in the Hall itself. Thomas (45) and Dionysia (33) now have seven children: Alice Jane (12), Thomas Northeast (10), Arthur Henry (8), Edith Emily (6), Clara Dionysia (4), Margaret (2) and Helen (6 months). Helen was a twin but her brother, Clement, passed away as an infant. Thomas is still a farmer with 260 acres, employing 14 men and 2 boys. Also in the family household is a visiting Emily Ansted (Dionysia’s sister). The family also employs Maria Green (governess), Maria Thurston (cook), Mary Whines (nurse), Mary Ward (housemaid), Esther Thompson (nurse) and Alfred Buckle (groom).
The family, to my eye, appears to be quite prosperous. For that reason, I am very curious about the next piece of information I have found documenting their lives – a record of their immigration to Canada in 1868.
At that time, the ship’s manifest shows the family consisting of Thomas (52), Dionysia (42) and children Alice Jane (19), Thomas (17), Edith (14), Clara (11), Margaret (10), Helen (8), Clement (6), Leonard (4), Amy (2) and Frederick (4 months). They sailed cabin class on the Thames, embarking in London on September 24, 1868. They arrived in Quebec on October 20.
The family settled in Quebec. They show up on the 1871 Canadian census in Quebec’s Jacques Cartier district, in the Montreal area. The family at that time consists of Thomas (54), Dionysia (43) and their children: Alice Jane (22), Thomas Northeast (20), Arthur Henry (18), Edith (16), Clara Dionysia (14), Margaret (12), Helen (10), Clement William (8), Leonard Decimus (6), [Amy] Ansted (4), Frederick (3) and Charles (10 months). Thomas is listed as a cultivateur (farmer). Charles is the only one of their children born in Canada, when Dionysia was 43 years old.
At the time of the 1881 census the family was living in Outremont Village (now part of Montreal). Thomas (64) and Dionysia (53) were living with those of their children still at home: Clara (24), Helen (20), Amy (15), Frederick (12), Charles (10), Edith (26), Clement (18) and Leonard (16). Thomas is listed as a Gentleman but several of the children were employed.
By the 1891 census, the family is living in Montreal Centre. Thomas (75) and Dionysia (63) were living with son Charles (21) and Amy (25). Thomas is listed as an ancien fermier (former farmer), while Charles is a plombier (plumber).
Thomas passed away on February 22, 1898 at 82 years of age and was buried 2 days later. The widowed Dionysia did not long outlive her husband. She passed away on August 10, 1898 and was buried the following day. (Her death occurred 71 years to the day of her mother’s burial.) Thomas and Dionysia are buried together in Montreal’s Mount Royal cemetery, along with their son Clement and daughter Clara.
The August 23, 1898 issue of the Times of London included Dionysia’s death notice:
BURTON – On the 10th Aug., at Montreal, Canada, DIONYSIA, widow of THOMAS BURTON, late of Thurton, Norfolk, and second daughter of John Ansted, late of 19, Clapham-road, and Mincing-lane, City, aged 71.
Dionysia intrigues me even more now that I have something more than merely birth and death dates for her. It’s not a lot of additional information, but it’s enough to paint a bit of a portrait of a life.
From an early start as a motherless child, she became a mother to 13 – twelve of whom survived to adulthood. She lost one child in infancy and survived the deaths of at least four additional children (Thomas, Edith, Margaret, and Clement). I have not found death information for two of her children so am uncertain as to when exactly they died. She gave birth every two years from when she was 21 (exactly 9 months after her marriage) until she was 43 and she lived to see her youngest child into his late 20s.
In her early 40s, with a husband in his early 50s, they made the decision to leave what appeared to be a comfortable life to come to a country that was very much in its infancy. A month long ocean crossing, where she would have had charge of 11 children including a 4 month old infant, would likely have been challenging. Even in cabin class, I can’t imagine the journey would have been easy.
The family does not appear to have been as prosperous once in Canada. The census returns no longer show servants, so I suspect Dionysia had to do more of the household work herself. While she had grown daughters able to assist her, it was probably a steep learning curve for someone who had been educated to speak several languages and appreciate art and music. Additionally, the only Thomas Burton I have found in local city directories show him employed as a gardener. While that leads me to believe it is the correct person, it certainly doesn’t suggest the same sort of social standing they likely would have commanded back in England.
I will probably never know exactly who Dionysia was – although I do hold out hope that someday I may at least find a picture of her. I believe she was, at a minimum, a strong woman. I am proud to be her descendant.
Dionysia’s grandfather: Thomas Ansted (ca1764-1846)
Dionysia’s father: John Ansted (1789-1877)
The best laid plans…: Update on the Ansteds
Australia Day 2011 – Clark & Ansted
The Ansteds of London