The PRIEST family of Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
Who am I?
Who am I that peers out through these eyes upon substance, space and time?
Who am I that is aware of my own existence, of being in a particular place and era?
Who am I that is conscious of being unique and distinct from every other object past, present and future?
Who am I that is this mortal state defined by shape and feature with capabilities and limitations?
Who am I that with another contributes to the heritage of generations?
Who am I that is the combination and distillation of generations: the names of some I bear?
Who am I that is aware of a past that has preceded me and a future of which I shall be not be a part, save for a fragment of memory, a photo, a letter in a shoe box, an intimate artefact in a drawer?
Who am I that can imagine an existence beyond this existence?
Who am I? What is my purpose here? Is it more than to fill my belly and propagate?
What is that part of who I am that drives a curiosity to know the past and guess at the future?
Who am I?
Aspects of I.(Ira?) A. Cohen's semi-poetic reflection (possibly even an entreaty) on the nature and substance of self is in my mind a reasonable starting point to consider the question of "Who am I and where did I come from?"
Most of the questions that Cohen poses are unanswerable in an empirical sense. These questions drift towards the discipline of philosophy and perhaps even metaphysics so this is not the place to explore them. At an abstract level the best these questions can hope for is to be translated to the more tentative question of "Who do I think I am?" which relies on the internal process of thinking, the products of which may be less amenable to direct verification.
At a more tangible level "Who do I think I am?" is an apt starting point for a genealogical study so Cohen's questions that do resonate well with the study of family are those relating to the "...combination and distillation of generations: the names of some we bear" and "... with other contributes to the heritage of generations?"
Part of the answer to Cohen's question "Who am I?" can be found in the study of family and the narratives we build although applying the research and parsimony that sound study demands we proceed with caution because we did not experience their times or observed their lives directly or find the means to verify some of the official and unofficial records they left us.
Our ancestors will also have felt their uniqueness and possibly pondered the question of "Who am I?" and I'm sure our successors will do likewise. In one sense with memories, artefacts and DNA our ancestors are with us still. Their legacy lies within our cellular makeup, in the photographs they leave, the family anecdotes, official records, newspaper cuttings and so on.
On the 18 January 1943 a boy was born in a nursing home operated by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, Christchurch, New Zealand. The boy was named Phillip Alan PRIEST (Certificate of Birth issued by the Order of Sisters). His given name of Phillip was from his father Stanley Philip William PRIEST who in turn may have been named Philip after his step grandfather Philip Coffin, (ref.,"The Wake of the Steadfast", a family history volume 1981, contents organiser, Jenni Pashby). The name Alan was from his maternal uncle, Alan Mills.
Departing for awhile from a straight genealogical account I pondered the birth that placed this boy within a particular family, at this time and in that place. I found it interesting to consider the series of "accidents" which gave rise to this boy in a certain family line and vaguely considered the statistical probabilities associated with these accidents which I am unable to calculate except to say that they would be infinitesimal. To put it another way the challenges to viability starting at the cellular level on the way to birth and life as a separate and distinct being named "Phillip" would compare with the world's largest lotteries.
Consider that each of us exists, biologically speaking, as the result of an amazing and magnificent "lottery" where a couple of people meet at random and one gamete from a female from among thousands that she will produce in her lifetime is fertilised by a single gamete from a male from amongst millions. This meeting of gametes progresses from zygote, embryo, foetus to neonate. But this progression may not be straightforward or without mishap.
The lottery of life continues when one considers that even in the western world the viability of the organism may be challenged by agents as it develops e.g., chromosomal anomalies and the invasions that can occur within, say, the foetus's environment. The statistics regarding miscarriage may vary according to who is being cited but amazing pregnancy.com gives the following guides. "Almost 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, with the majority occurring during the first twelve weeks." These figures analysed more closely suggest that there is a 75% chance of miscarriage in the first two weeks from conception, a 10% chance in weeks three to six dropping to 5% during weeks six to twelve. After twelve weeks the chance drops to 3%. From 20 weeks onwards it is no longer considered a miscarriage but a spontaneous abortion.
The lottery doesn't stop at this point either because where you live in the world may be considered a product of chance. The fortunate few, relatively speaking, are the ones born in societies with comparative affluence, accessible sources of energy to operate appliances, accessible education to an advanced level, efficient public health measures, modern acute remedial health practices and facilities, efficient transport and communication infrastructure, the production and access to fresh produce.
The lottery continues in terms of the temporal dimension (being born in the twentieth century offers a longer life expectancy than say being born in the sixteenth century) and where we lodge in the birth order.
The final stage in this lottery are the family lines/names we assume as part of our birthright. Even then we are unique in that gamete pairings from the same sources produce different physical results. We only need to observe our siblings to ascertain this from their sex to skin and hair colouring.
So each of us is here, the outcome of an amazing lottery, having conquered enormous odds just to be born; and that one step further, within a particular family line.
In Phillip the combination and distillation of DNA and names stretch back through his paternal side from Stanley Philip William(father), Stanley Evered Priest and Selina Isabella Jarden (grandparents), William Priest and Catherine Ellen Hammond (great grandparents), Philip Coffin (step great grandfather, [Catherine married twice]), Elizabeth Anne Harris and James Hammond (great great grandparents), Robert Harris and Mary Anne [also known as Mary Elizabeth] Hall (g/g/g/grandparents).
Elizabeth Anne was the eldest child of Robert and Mary Harris.
Robert and Mary Harris seem to have lived in Middlesex and more specifically South Hackney. The fact that their last child born in London, Richard, was born in a workhouse indicates a family of very humble means. And typical of the times they were illiterate. The Harris family migrated to the Banks Peninsula, New Zealand in 1851 on board the "Steadfast" which anchored off Lyttleton on the 9 June,1851. Robert is buried at Governor's Bay and Mary at Little River. Both graves have been restored through family subscription.
It is interesting to note that James Hammond and Elizabeth Anne Harris had the banns of marriage published for the last time on board the "Steadfast" on the 25 May 1851. The ship's surgeon, Dr Gundry kept a journal and amongst his duties was to read the morning service in steerage at 1100 a.m. It seems that when Dr Gundry was approached about the possibility of marrying the loving couple he refused. His journal reads "... I must refuse to do so , as if I read the service it would mean no marriage in the light (author's note: could this be "sight") of God and, having no legal authority by man to do so, the marriage would itself not be legal, and would be causing two people to sin."
A steerage passenger by the name of Smith but dubbed "Commodore" and something of an eccentric, albeit an educated one, wrote the following verses which may have summed up life as experienced on the "Steadfast" at least by those who travelled in steerage:
FAREWELL TO THE STEADFAST
Farewell to the Steadfast, for ever farewell!
I leave with pleasure, that no tongue can tell;
In the new homes we seek, may we all happy be,
From malice, and slander, and misery free.
They say there is pleasure, on land and on sea,
But on sea, such has not been allotted to me,
But, the petty tyrants we've met, will soon be on shore,
Where I hope they and I, shall never meet more.
The wile of kind Providence, ordained I should roam,
In a far foreign land, to seek a new home;
With pleasure I hail it, and the truth I will tell,
Farewell to the Steadfast, for ever farewell.
It should be added that the "Commodore" often asserted that Captain Spencer was sailing in the wrong direction and made his own calculations as to their position and once was found by them to be sailing across Central Africa and at another time somewhere near the South Pole.
Know very little about William Priest at this stage but it is thought that "Whittaker" and perhaps "Leslie" were names that were passed down and it is believed, but by no means confirmed, that a Francis Whittaker Priest, mariner of Yorkshire, was an ancestor.
Researching into Phillip's paternal grandmother's line starting with Selina Isabel (as spelt in a copy of the marriage certificate, "Isobel" in the family history "The Wake of the Steadfast" and "Isabella" on a copy of her birth certificate) Jarden was the daughter of James Jarden and Catherine Elizabeth Rogers. Catherine was born in Kent, England and James in Christchurch, New Zealand.
I know little of this side of the family at present but there are some Jarden family researchers who also subscribe to Family Tree Circles and I shall be following their efforts.
A footnote is that one of the Jarden researchers cites Catherine and Isabella as names in the family tree so it could be that "Isabella" is the correct spelling of Selina's second name.
The maternal family lines of Phillip are Rita Muriel Mills (mother), Frank Henry Mills and Effie Muriel Scadden (grandparents).
Following the Mills line and their spouses from Frank Henry are George Mills and Alice Maria Smart (great grandparents), Charlie Pope (step great grandfather [Alice Maria married twice]), William Mills (born abt 26.2.1815; died 27.10.1904) and Anne Harris (born abt.8.2.1918;died 7.10.1890)(great great grandparents).
William and Anne Mills arrived at Lyttleton on the "Grasmere" in 1855 and George was born in Christchurch and Frank Henry at Styx, north of Christchurch.
Following Frank Henry's mother's line viz. the Smart line, Alice Maria was the daughter of Edmund Smart and Sarah Jane Cox (great great grandparents), Frances (Meek) Pentecost (step great great grandmother [Edmund married twice]), William Smart and Sarah Willson (g/g/g grandparents), William Smart and Sarah Page (g/g/g/g grandparents).
There is a little puzzle here as it seems that Edmund's second wife's son (a Pentecost) married a Smart, possibly one of Edmund's daughters.
William Smart (g/g/g grandparent) born about 1805 in the town of Moulton, Northamptonshire is coincidentally the county where the Hunt line of my wife's family came from, in Ashton. Moulton is on the outskirts of Northampton to the north and Ashton is a few kilometres to the south of the same city.
Following the maternal grandmother's (Effie Muriel's) line on her father's side and their spouses are George William Scadden and Phoebe Hutching (Hutchins? The spelling of the name appears to have changed over time) (great grandparents), George William Chard Scadden and Elizabeth Hodges (great great grandparents), William Warren Scadden and Elizabeth Chard (g/g/g grandparents), Robert Scadden and Sheba Warren (g/g/g/g grandparents).
George William Chard and Elizabeth landed at Wellington on the "Forfarshire" in 1873 as part of an assisted immigration scheme, moved to Masterson to live and where they are buried.
Tracing Effie Muriel's family on her mother's side is Stephen Hutching and Maria ? (parents of Phoebe) (great great grandparents), William Hutching (mispelling of Hutchins probably) and Anne Brown (g/g/g grandparents). William and Anne were illiterate and their marriage certificate is marked with crosses in place of signatures.
Phoebe and her family sailed to New Zealand on the "Helen Denny".
The above family names will appear in different family chapters but they are listed here to provide a sense of Phillip's ancestry. the rest of this chapter will focus more on the Priest, Hammond and Harris lines.
The following is Phillip, the author's, version of the family narrative.
First, the etymology of the name "Priest". The Penguin Book of Surnames...