There Is A Countess In the Family, But Where?
My Dad always said to me, "There Is A Countess In The Family". Then in my 50's, I started a new interest in genealogy and thought now is the time to find her. I knew she would be on my Dad's side, who came from the Liverpool area of Lancashire England. I also knew the surname she may be connected to was Denovan. So I worked back from my dad to his Grandmother, Wilhelmina Munster Denovan born 1870 in Liverpool, then looked at her father, Christian Frederick Denovan Born 1836 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ah yes, that rang a bell, Dad said she was from Scotland. So checked the parents of Christian and found them to be Frances Garden Denovan Born 1790 in Edinburgh and Wilhelmina Born 1798 in Copenhagen. Copenhagen, well that was worth researching, perhaps it was her? Sure enough, from the IGI, I found that Wilhelmina's full name was Wilhelmina Fredericka Hedwig Platen Hallermund and her father was a Count Heinrich Ludwig Joachim Platen Hallermund, born 1749 in Copenhagen, Denmark. I found her on the 1801 census in Copenhagen so at last had her parents names and those of her siblings. It appeared that her father was a ranking officer in the Danish Army. I told my father of what I had found and this jogged his memory. He said that he was told she was a lady in waiting to the Royal House of Copenhagen and the royal family there. So, I had found my Countess. I discovered that she was with child when she was just 17 and the wedding soon followed in Copenhagen to Francis Garden Denovan, who was 8 years her senior. Apparently, although not Danish royalty, Francis was a good catch as he was the British Consul to Norway and Denmark and a respected merchant in the shipping port of Leith in Edinburgh. However, on researching the Platen Hallermund family, they have an impressive family tree, which can be traced back through the Royal House of Hanover and King George I, not to mention quite a few European royal families. The next time we see Francis and Wilhelmina together is on the 1841 Scottish Census, living in Edinburgh along with 9 children, the first being born in 1816. I know that they went on to have 14 children and apparently Wilhelmina and her daughters did a lot to help the poor people of Leith. I thought that Wilhelmina may have not returned to Copenhagen in view of her forced marriage but I see that she did in fact return a few times.
I thought that Francis and Wilhelmina had a happy marriage, her name being passed down 13 times until the time when my father was born in 1927. However, a random search on the internet showed a young man with the name of William Dixon Campbell Denovan, who claimed his father was Francis Denovan from Edinburgh. He states that he was born in Edinburgh in 1829 and says that his mother's name was Margaret (possibly Dixon or Campbell?)After doing some research on this son, conceived whilst Wilhelmina was producing more children to Francis at the time, it appears that he was sent away from Edinburgh a neighbouring county in Scotland where at the age of 11 he is shown on the census as a servant to an elderly couple. Then at 18, obviously being financed by his father, he was Headmaster of his own Adventure School. William was quite an outspoken young man and spent a lot of his time speaking in public for the rights of the poor people. In 1852 he must have heard about the gold rush in Australia and set sail from Liverpool on a ship called 'The Mobile', arriving there after 6 months at sea. There he spent time in the gold fields of Victoria, finally settling in and helping start a town called Bendigo. He fought for the rights of the gold miners and became the Town Clerk and Member of Parliament. After some years there, he sent for his mother Margaret and she spent the rest of her life with him there. They are buried together at the cemetery in Bendigo and is still remembered to this day by a road named after him and also an event called 'Red Ribbon' Day. I would really like to know more about William and his early life in Scotland. He always says his father was Francis Garden Denovan in many journals about him but was his mother Margaret or Wilhelmina. I suppose at the time he never thought of the advent of the internet and that what he got up to in Australia, so far away from Scotland, would be read about there. William never got married or had children.
So, I did find my Countess but sadly, it did not have a happy end for her male children. Most of them became merchants in Leith and quite a few bad deals were done, with a lot of embezzlement and acts of theft and the family fled from the Police and moved down to Lancashire, where my part of the family tree members settled.Francis died in 1860 and Wilhelmina in 1869.
Going back to Wilhelmina's royal roots, her great grandfather was Ernest August Duke of York & Albany and half brother to King George I of England. So I got more than I bargained for in just finding a Countess, I found an association to the English royal family as well.
If anyone has more information on the Denovans or Platen Hallermunds in Copenhagen, that would be great.