22 Apr 2015
April 22, 2015

Annie Kane

Anastasia Maher

Is Annie Kane and Anastasia Maher the same woman? When to admit your line of inquiry might be incorrect.

Sometimes in your research you find information about your ancestors that is so compelling and intriguing that you run with it no matter how loosely it is verified or how circumstantial it is. When you analyse the information as a whole you may find bits and pieces that don’t quite add up. When your search for details is met with a suite of scandalous reports it is easy to explain away the anomalies that threaten to debunk the legitimacy of the link to your ancestor. To be an authentic family historian you can’t ignore or dismiss the anomalies that don’t support your line of inquiry. Evidence from one sentence may be all it takes to prove that you are incorrect in assuming that  all those reports relate to “your” ancestor. But, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If you are writing your family history it  just may be enough to mention the anomalies and to propose an alternate interpretation that they afford, rather than to exclude  the possibility that you are correct. This is what I am pondering this morning after reading a few lines in an article on Trove this morning.

My great great grandmother Anastasia Maher, as a teenager was brutally assaulted by a 60 year old man Samuel Wright. He hit her over the head with a pick and when she was rescued by another man Arthur Hagan he smashed his skull with the pick also. I’m not going in to the details here but Samuel Wright was hanged for attempted murder over these assaults. This occurred in 1872. Rumor had it that Anastasia was a prostitute. I was willing to accept this notion but not without evidence. I searched but found nothing that linked Anastasia Maher to prostitution. Out of the blue one day I tried searching for “Annie Kane”. Kane was her mother’s maiden name and is also a name that was used by her children on their wedding certificates in reference to their mother. I found were numerous newspaper articles on Trove detailing charges of assault and prostitution laid against Annie Kane in Bendigo. The dates seemed to fit in with her life so I was convinced that this must be my Anastasia Maher who was known by her alias “Annie Kane”. There are a few anomalies though. In the early 1880’s when theses charges were laid against Anastasia there is no mention of the children that she had or that she was pregnant at the time of the assaults and during her time in prison. The papers usually like to mention this kind of scandalous detail. One of the assaults she perpetrated was in 1878. When she was brought before the courts the magistrate demonstrated leniency because of her youth. In 1878 Anastasia was 22 years old and would not have been considered a girl. The first mention of Annie Kane in the Bendigo Advertiser during this period was in 1877 when she was charged with vagrancy and not having a lawful means of support. Her mother was in the court because of Annie’s young age, 15 I think and her mother’s name was Catherine. My Anastasia would have been 21 at the time and her mother was Mary although she had a sister Catherine. At this point I concede that this “Annie Kane” is not my great great grandmother. However, could there have been another Annie Kane working the streets of Bendigo in the early 1880’s that was in fact my Anastasia Maher?


2 Responses to Annie Kane
  1. What a fascinating story! It’s also hard when we try and reconcile a paper trail with an ancestor’s life that we can’t take for granted that what’s on paper is necessarily the truth. I have many name switches, age differences etc from people who I KNOW are the same people!
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Thank-you Sue, I’m undecided if Anastasia Maher and Annie Kane is the same woman. Such is the lot of the family historian.


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