What's in a name...

Week 6 of Amy's #52Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge is Favourite Name. William Shakespeare tells us, in the immortal words of his tragic character Juliet "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."  However, L.M. Montgomery argues through her precocious character, Anne Shirley, who does not believe "...a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk-cabbage."  

During my research, it became apparent that some families liked certain names, usually family names, so much and were so determined to use them, they would 'recycle' them if their first child didn't survive infancy. For example, my 3x great grandparents Michael and Margaret Quigley (nee Kiely) named their fifth child Thomas (after Michael's father), after their first son Thomas died 3 days after birth. 

My 3x great grandparents Patrick and Elizabeth Maguire (nee Monaghan) had 12 children, with three of their sons sharing the middle name 'David.' Funnily enough, none of the 12 children were actually called David, despite their apparent affinity for the name. They named their penultimate (second to last) child Mary Ann, after their ninth child Mary passed away in infancy in 1875.

As a genealogist this merry-go-round recycling of Christian names can be challenging to say the least! I am grateful in the case of my 2x great grandparents Thomas and Mary Shorten (nee Logan), who had somewhat more of an imagination when naming their children.

Thomas Henry Shorten and his wife Mary had 13 children between 1889 and 1910. While only eight of them would live to adulthood, they certainly had their hands full in selecting names for each of them. However they did select the most beautiful names for their seven daughters, many of which were quite popular at the time. 

Their names ranged from plain ol' Jane (born in 1891) to the complicated Myrtle Eva Letita (1889 - 1891). These included Clara Ciscellia (1893 - 1894), Alma Muriel (1897-1897), Dorothy Alice (1902-1905), and Thelma May (born in 1908). But my absolute favourite name of them all, would be their fifth child - Violet Amelia.

Violet Amelia Shorten was born in 1895 in Kensington Hill, Victoria. She was the fifth child of Thomas and Mary Shorten, and in 1917, was living with her parents and siblings, amongst them her older brother James (my great grandfather), at 69 McCracken Street in Kensington. 

69 McCracken Street, Kensington as it stands today. Source: Google Maps.

Violet continued to live with her family in McCracken Street up until the time of her marriage. She married Percy Lewis Edmonds at St. Brendan's Church in Flemington in 1921, at the age of 26 years old. After their nuptials, Percy and Violet moved to no. 8 Boundary Road, North Melbourne where they lived next door to Percy's parents. That same year Violet and Percy welcomed their first child into the world, Thelma Rose Edmonds. 

The following year, Violet's younger brother Thomas Henry Shorten Junior, married Percy's sister Amy May Lillian Edmonds.

1923 brought Violet and Percy further happiness with the arrival of their son Percival. However, it also brought a sense of trepidation with Percy being brought before the Victoria Court of Petty Sessions in Flemington on 16th October. He was charged by Senior Constable Daniel Carlin for having in his possession several pieces of timber, suspected of having been stolen. Percy pleaded not guilty and and the case was subsequently dismissed.

By 1924, the family were living at 7 Coronet Street in Newmarket where Percy was working as a plasterer. On the 10th of June that year, Percy found himself facing the Victorian Petty Session Court in Flemington once again. This time he was charged with "goods sold and delivered 18/-" with notes from the session stating an order for 18 shillings, with court costs 3/6. Unfortunately the verdict is illegible, so I'm unsure of the outcome of the case. 

7 Coronet Street, Newmarket at it stands today. Source: Google Maps.

By the end of 1924, two major things had happened in the lives of the Violet's family, other than Percy's court session. Firstly, they moved from Coronet Street to 68 Victoria Street, Flemington. And secondly, little Thelma had passed away, at the tender age of three years old. A notice of her death appeared in The Age on 17 December 1924, page 1:
"Edmonds - On the 15th December, Thelma Rose, dearly beloved daughter of Percy and Violet, and loving sister of little Percival, of No. 68 Victoria-street, Flemington, and loving granddaughter of Mr and Mrs. T Shorten, Kensington, and loving niece of Mr. and Mrs. Thos. Shorten, jun., and Mr. and Mrs. Pollock."
Perhaps a change of scenery to grieve for the loss of their daughter, or as a result in changing financial circumstances, whatever the cause Violet, Percy and little Percival moved houses again in 1925, this time to 19 Smith Street, Newmarket. 

Any reprieve this move might have brought was short lived, as by 9th February 1926 a complaint and warrant had been filed by Violet against Percy for desertion. Whether the result of Post-Traumatic Stress from his service in World War One when he was just 18 years old, the loss of his daughter, stress on his relationship with Violet after Percival's birth, or just a bad character - for a reason that we will never know, Percy up and left his family and disappeared.

Nothing would come of this warrant for another three years.

Violet and her son Percival moved a couple of times over the following years; in 1927, they were back in Victoria street - this time number 81, and in 1928 at 85 Lambeth Street in Newmarket. On the 24th July 1928, Violet faced the Victoria Court of Petty Sessions in Flemington again, this time summoning her sister-in-law, Lavinia Johns (nee Edmonds). It seems Violet lent Lavinia a sum of £1 6s which doesn't seem to have been paid back. The court ordered Lavinia to pay back £1/6 plus court fees of 6s however, the verdict seems to have been withdrawn in August. The handwriting is illegible so reading of any further motions is impossible.

By 11th June 1929,  Percy resurfaced and was brought before the Victoria Petty Court sessions in Flemington: "Defendant at Flemington on 9th February 1929 did unlawfully desert his wife." While the comment says 1929, it was actually three years earlier that the complaint and warrant were served. Percy was remanded into custody until the 18th June with bail awarded at £25. He appeared before the court the following week, where the case was subsequently dismissed. From this point Percy disappears from the record, and presumably from Violet's life thereafter.

Two years later, in 1931, Violet and little Percival were living with her father Thomas Henry Shorten senior at 85 McConnell Street in Newmarket. The following year, Violet acted as a witness to the marriage of her older brother James Goymer Shorten to Elizabeth Ellen Maguire (my great grandparents) at St. Brendan's Church in Flemington. 

1936. Another year, another address. By this time, Percival was 13 years old, and he and his mother Violet were living at 24 Normanby Street, in Moonee Ponds, with her father Thomas and her younger brother Arthur Raymond Shorten. 

By 1943, Violet was living at 221 Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and by 1949 she was living at 113 Napier Street in Fitzroy however, there is an annotation by her name in that years Electoral Roll so I believe she moved the following year.

In 1954 Violet was living at 26 Richelieu Street in Footscray North with her brother 'Jack' (John Leslie Shorten) and his wife Eileen May.

Map of Melbourne showing all of Violets addresses from 1917 to 1955. Source: Google Maps.

Violet passed away the following year, in 1955 at the age of 60 years old. She was interred in the Footscray Cemetery with her parents, Thomas and Mary Shorten (nee Logan) and her youngest brother Arthur Raymond. Her son, Percival, passed away in Ballarat in 1995. He was cremated with his ashes spread on the grounds of the Ballarat Cemetery.

Purple violets are said to symbolise thoughts filled with love, whereas the Ancient Greeks considered the violet as a symbol of love and fertility. While Violet Amelia had a very beautiful name, it sadly seemed in spite of her.

I want to thank my Nan for her information regarding Violet and Percival. Some information she provided was a bit too personal to share for this blog, so I've noted it for my own personal reference. I'd also like to thank Facebook Group, Remembering the Past Australia. I hit a brick wall in researching Percy after he vanished from the 1927 Electoral Roll. I thought he had died interstate, but they were able to locate the Petty Session documents indicating his abandonment.

My connection to Violet Amelia Edmonds (nee Shorten)


  1. hi Louise, is Bill Shorten related to someone in this list & to you..? regards..Don - Footscray Historical Society.

    1. Hi Don, no relation to Bill Shorten. I believe his family is from Ireland, whereas my Shorten's are from Suffolk, England.


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