A Christmas tale: part 1

Welcome, friends and neighbours. Take a seat near the fire. Help yourself to some punch, or tea, and of course a slice of this fine cake.

The sun’s set this Christmas Day and, as you know, in the time of our ancestors this was when people gathered round the fire to tell stories. Often ghost stories. And the Christmas tale I have to tell has many grisly moments. But it certainly is a story about a Christmas.

Picture the scene. It’s Sunday, 30 March, 1851 in a small house in Gwynn’s Place, Hackney Road, in the poor area of Bethnal Green, east London. Are we getting a whiff of Dickens?

1851 census cuThe Harrington family  is being enumerated for the new census. There are my 3x great-grandparents, Thomas, a local man, hard and muscled from his work as a dock labourer. His wife Julia, a year older, from Ireland originally but with her bloom worn off by childcare and misfortune. And their girls, Hannah, a dressmaker aged 16, schoolgirl Rebecca, 14, and little Celestina Christina, 5.

Or… that’s what you’d think, looking at some transcriptions and family trees. But look more closely.

1851 census CelestinaThat’s right, it’s not Celestina Christina, it’s Celestina Christmas. A different surname. She’s a visitor. A cousin or a friend’s little girl, perhaps. She’s too young to be 14-year-old Rebecca’s playmate.

Well, that was the end of the story of Celestina for me, for a while. I was too preoccupied with finding Gwynn’s Place (I did) and working out just when and how Rebecca, my great-grandmother, left Hackney for New South Wales (I haven’t yet).

But Celestina, as we’ll find out, may be easy to put away, but not so easy to keep hidden.

Refill your glasses, friends, and come back soon to find out just what I mean by that…


Read the rest of A Christmas tale:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

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About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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25 Responses to A Christmas tale: part 1

  1. Pingback: Celestina’s life in Millbank Prison: a Christmas tale pt 22 | A Rebel Hand

  2. Pingback: Finding my past in Ireland free: Julia Harrington | A Rebel Hand

  3. Pingback: Will Celestina hang? A Christmas tale pt 20 | A Rebel Hand

  4. Pingback: Broadside ballads about Celestina: a Christmas tale pt 19 | A Rebel Hand

  5. Pingback: Celestina’s trial – verdict and sentence: a Christmas tale pt 18 | A Rebel Hand

  6. Pingback: Celestina Sommer’s trial for murder: a Christmas tale pt 17 | A Rebel Hand

  7. Pingback: Celestina at the Old Bailey: a Christmas tale pt 16 | A Rebel Hand

  8. Pingback: Celestina in Newgate Prison: a Christmas tale pt 15 | A Rebel Hand

  9. Pingback: New evidence against Celestina: a Christmas tale pt 14 | A Rebel Hand

  10. Pingback: A mob at the inquest: a Christmas tale pt 13 | A Rebel Hand

  11. Pingback: The inquest in the pub: a Christmas tale pt 12 | A Rebel Hand

  12. Pingback: A Christmas bonus | A Rebel Hand

  13. Pingback: Another murder: a Christmas tale pt 11 | A Rebel Hand

  14. Pingback: A Christmas tale pt 2: The first Celestina | A Rebel Hand

  15. Pingback: Christmas turns to Sommer: A Christmas tale pt 5 | A Rebel Hand

  16. Pingback: A horrible and mysterious murder: a Christmas tale pt 6 | A Rebel Hand

  17. Pingback: The body in the cellar: a Christmas tale pt 7 | A Rebel Hand

  18. Pingback: Julia Harrington’s evidence: a Christmas tale pt 10 | A Rebel Hand

  19. Pingback: Who killed Celestina? A Christmas tale pt 9 | A Rebel Hand

  20. Pingback: The murder of Celestina Christmas: a Christmas tale pt 8 | A Rebel Hand

  21. Pingback: A Christmas tale pt 4 – what next for Celestina Elizabeth? | A Rebel Hand

  22. Pingback: A Christmas tale pt 3 – baby Celestina and the Harringtons | A Rebel Hand

  23. Pingback: We apologise for the delay… | A Rebel Hand

  24. Pingback: Accentuate the positive: 2014 | A Rebel Hand

  25. Pingback: A Christmas tale pt 2: The first Celestina | A Rebel Hand

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