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Saturday, January 24, 2015 Anthony William Durnford m Frances Catherine (Katerine) Tranchell - Her family in Ceylon - And dispelling some of those myths

Anthony Durnford and Frances Tranchell were married on 15th September 1854 in Ceylon India.

Much has been written about Frances, none of it portraying her in a very good light.  But how much is fact and how much is conjecture, or how much has been gossip handed down through the years.

Maybe the Tranchell family descendants, are just as concerned with finding the truth as we now are.

There are reports that "she ran away with a military officer never to be seen again" that certainly does not seem to be true, especially from the census records.

 "The family blamed her for the breakup!"  "Her picture was turned against the wall", "The family brought up his daughter" Again no proof, Frances and her daughter lived together.

Why were these sorts of statements being included in almost every story written about him?  Does it help portray a person in a different light? or to maybe typecast him as a reckless villain?

After all it was Anthony's and our grandfather Col Andrew Durnford  who had two families one in England the other in West Indies and his two sons followed in his path.  His son Andrew Durnford certainly was not a person of integrity.

Then of course, "he went against Military tradition and married young", well let's consider that statement.

His g.g.g.grandfather Elias married at 18; his g.g.grandfather Col. Andrew m at 21; his grandfather Anthony partnered at 27; his father Edward m at 26.  The average age between his brothers 25, so to marry at 24, was not quite "going against tradition".  Once again another statement made without any consideration to what the facts really are.

Whoever had made these statements, didn't seem to have sufficient knowledge of ancestors of this branch of the Durnfords, and certainly didn't have the benefit of research.

Eventually though, reference was found to a person, who it was said, was Anthony's great niece. However, no-one of that name was his direct relation.

Each of his family have been researched, and their stories included in our family tree.  The closest to be found, is a lady who married into the family, whose full name included one that was the same as the reference alluded to.  But there is no proof that it was even that particular person!

Again Anthony's words, "If it is not the truth, why write it?"   


Frances Katerine Tranchell was born 5th August 1834 in Colombo in Ceylon.

Her parents were Lieutenant Colonel Gustavus Adolphus Tranchell and his wife Elizabeth Selway.

Her family

Gustavus Tranchell was the son of Johannes Tranchell  and his wife Maria Magdelena Sieverts.

Johannes was born 1754 in Vastra in Sweden.  He was the son of Per Tranchelius and Brita Maria Ring.  Maria seems to be the daughter of Pieter Sievertsz and Maria Jacoba Montannes.

He was Consul in Ceylon for King Gustavus Adolphus IV of Sweden and married in 1784, Maria.

He arrived in Ceylon on the ship "Huis Om" under Captain Willem Udemans via the Cape of Good Hope November 1779.  At the time the Dutch controlled Ceylon and his term of office was 1779 - 1805.  He was classified as a Burgher.  (ancestors of mixed race)

       when in 1796, the British defeated the Dutch many European burghers opted to leave rather than serve the Dutch. But almost all the Ceylonese Burghers who desired to make Ceylon their home were permitted to do so by the British Crown on condition of their signing an oath of allegiance to the King of England.

Founded in 1602, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) flourished and survived for two centuries. The company, a combination of commercial organisations in various cities of Holland and Zeeland, traded both in Asia and between Asia and Europe. It was the first public company to issue negotiable shares and it developed into one of the biggest and most powerful trading and shipping concerns. The VOC ran its own shipyards, the largest being in Amsterdam. This spectacular trade with Asia made the Dutch Republic the world’s key commercial hub.

It was from the islands that the VOC obtained most of its spices: salt, pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. India provided an ample supply of fabrics: silk and cotton. The finely decorated chintz (cotton) was especially popular in Europe, as was silk. 

Johannes and Maria Transchell   Their Children

1.  Carl Jonas Tranchell                                      d    8th May 1793 in Colomba
2.  Peter Cornelis Johannes Tranchell      b  1785  -April  1829  m  Anna Christina Weinberg
                                                               He was the Sitting Magistrate of Weligama in 1828

3.  Lt Col Gustavus Tranchell                 b 1787   - 1866   m  Elizabeth Selway
4. Samuel William Tranchell                  b 1789    1815  
5. Maria Wilhelmina Sophia Tranchell    b 1791     1866      d in Boulogne
6. Anna Elizabeth Tranchell                    b 1794    1872  m Capt Adam Gibbons  1809
                                                                                    Thomas Stanuell 1815

7. Cecilia Charlotte Tranchell                  b 1796  1878     m Charles Shean  d  1878  Boulogne
8. Clara Edvardina Tranchell                   b 1802  1877   d  Boulougne France 1877
9. George Tranchell                                b 1806

Thomas Gibbons was a merchant of Neill and Gibbons, there must be a relationship with his company and France, as he was born in Boulogne, and perhaps Anna inherited his property.So many of the family to have lived and died in Boulogne.

 Johannes Trachnell d 1807 in Jaffna where we was Provincial Judge.   Maria died in 1819 in Trincomalee.  Her inscription is on the Burial Ground, on the Esplanade Trimcomalee

Esplanade Cemetery, Trincomalee Burial ground located on the Esplanade at Back Bay facing the sea. Contains the burial sites of numerous British army and naval personnel and their families


Lt Col Gustavus Tranchell m Elizabeth Selway on 7th October 1813 in Madras India.

Elizabeth was born December 1795 in England.
Her parents were Henry Chenen Sellway and Mary Kerhart.  (He may have been a Captain)

Their Children:

1.   Mary Eliza Louisa Tranchell                         1815   1892
2.   Selina Tranchell                                           1817   1888
3.   Sarah Elizabeth Tranchell                             1821    1893
4.   John Thomas Tranchell                                1823    1854
5.   Maj Edward Frederick Tranchell                   1825    1908
6.   George Adolphus Tranchell                          1827    1906
7.   Charles Adolphus Tranchell                         1829    1866
8.   Frances Katerine Tranchell                           1834    1888

Lt Col Augtavus Tranchell was in the Ceylon Rifles

1.  Mary Eliza Louisa Tranchell  married

a.            Andrew Hall Halliday in 1836. d 1838  He was the Staff Assistant Surgeon.
               Their son Andrew Halliday became a Captain in the Army and died at Belize in
                                                  British Honduras in 1887.
b.            George Cochrane in 1838  He was the Commanding officer of the Ceylon Rifles. d 1860
c.            Rev Samuel Owen Glenie the Archdeacon of Ceylon. m Feb 1862 The family returned to                    England when he retired in 1871.   Later she was recorded as living with her sister.

On May 3, 1837, the 'Ceylon Chronicle' newspaper was first published. The publication of newspapers independent of Government began after the arrival of Sir Robert Wilmot Horton as Governor in October 1831. Within three months of his arrival, the 'Colombo Journal' was started under the auspices of the Government. It was edited by George Lee, the Superintendent of the Government Press where it was printed.

On February 4, 1834, a group of European merchants in Colombo started 'The Observer and Commercial Advertiser' which attacked Governor Horton's government. It was to defend the administration that the 'Ceylon Chronicle' was started privately aided by the Governor and conducted by "a Committee of Gentlemen".

The newspaper was edited by Rev. Samuel Owen Glenie, the Colonial Chaplain of St Paul's, later Archdeacon of Colombo.

He retired after the Bishop objected to him being associated with the newspaper and he was succeeded by George Lee who was by then Postmaster-General, as editor. The newspaper did not last very long and folded up on September 3, 1838.

The press used by the 'Chronicle' was bought up by one Mackenzie Ross who started the 'Ceylon Herald' four days after the 'Chronicle' ceased publication. This paper also opposed the Government until in 1842 it was bought up by James Laing, the Deputy Postmaster in Kandy who supported the Government. By and large the press took the cause of the British planters and merchants and helped this class to press their claims on the Government.

While the early English newspapers did not last very long, the 'Observer' survived and remains the oldest English newspaper in the country. It is interesting to learn how the paper introduced itself to the public on February 4, 1834. "The first number is furnished gratis, inviting those who are inclined to favour a free Press to become subscribers… at 12 shillings a quarter. We appear before a public, fully aware of the difficulties we have to encounter, and from whom we hope for every indulgence, encouragement and support…

Clergyman. Assistant chaplain at St Paul's, Colombo, Ceylon, 1834; chaplain at Trincomalee, 1840; archdeacon of Kandy, 1870; retired 1871. Edited the Ceylon Chronicle, 1837–8. Collected plants for George Henry Kendrick Thwaites.

2.  Selina Tranchell   she married Rev George Algernon Hole in Columbo in 1844

                     Rev George Hole worked at the Wesleyan Mission.
                      Their daughter Katherine Charlotte Selina Hole                                                   married Edwin  Ludovici
               Their son George Adolphus Hole m Charlotte Walbehoff.
               Her grandfather was head of the Cinnamon Department                      in 1830, and lived at Temple Trees.

3.  Sarah Trachnell     Sarah did not marry and she died in Kensington in 1893

4.  John Thomas Tranchell   seems not to have married died 11 November 1854 in Jersey Channel                                                                                           Islands

5.  Edward Frederick Tranchell m  Eliza Isabella Blake. He died in Ceylon in 1908
                          In 1952 he was on Jersey Islands where their eldest daughter Cynthia was born.                                     He was appointed a Major in 1865 of Ceylon Rifle Regiment.

6.  George Adolphus Tranchell  m Amelie Catherine O'Grady.  She was born 1848 in Colombo  He                   was back in England in 1871 living at Portsea.  He was a Major in the Infantry.
                Amelie died in 1892, and he died in 1906.

7.  Charles Adolphus Tranchell  was born in England 21st June 1829.  He died in 1866 in Madras.

8.  Frances Katerine Tranchell born 1834  d 1888  m  Anthony William Durnford

The Tranchell Family had very strong links to Ceylon, and the Military.

Her brother-in-laws were in the Clergy, one had extensive knowledge of reporting and newspapers.

Two of her sisters lived in England from around 1871.  Her brother and sister in law lived in England around the same time.   Her brothers were in the Military.

With a Gov Gen
One could say she had extremely good "credentials".
1855 Gov Gen

Frances married Anthony Durnford in 1854 in Ceylon.  He was 24, she was 20.

Her life in Ceylon.

Her father was in the Ceylon Regiment, and their Barracks were on Slave Island.
Ceylon Rifle Regiment (CRR) was a regular native regiment formed by the British in Ceylon. Its history goes back to 1795 when five independent companies of Malays where transferred from Dutch to HEIC service. Since then the regiment under different names had fought for the British in the Kandyan War and the Uva Rebellion of 1818 The action the Ceylon Rifle Regiment saw was in the Matale Rebellion in 1848. Since it served no practical application and was disbanded in 1873.

The Barracks sat unused 

Refurbished with a school

The Defence Services College is a national school established in January 2007 for the children of military and police personal.

Rifle Barracks was a former military barracks situated in Slave Island, Colombo. It was built during the late nineteenth century as the regimental headquarters and barracks of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. Following the disbandment of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment, it was occupied by British Army garrison troops in Ceylon and following independence it was occupied by the newly formed Ceylon Army.

It was made up of a two storey barrack block, with wide verandas. In the 1980s and 1990s it was abandoned due to its exposed nature and fell into a state of ruin.

In 2006 it underwent heavy restoration and became home to the Defence Services School. A national school was established in January 2007 for the children of military and police personnel.

(An amazing transformation)

Slave Island is a suburb in Colombo, Sri Lanka located directly south of the Fort area of Colombo. The name Slave Island was given during the period of British occupation and administration, and refers to the situation under Portuguese and Dutch administration when slaves were held there, most of them from Africa

She was the baby of the eight children.  Her eldest sisters were 19 , 17 and 13 when she was born.
Her brothers ages ranged from 11 to 5 years.

Her mother was in England when her younger brother was born.  Was she away for some years?  Did she bring any of the other children with her?  Unanswered questions.

Frances was most probably like many thousands of other youngest family members - a little spoilt.

 While the older girls would have been expected the help with the younger ones, it was common to have an Amah to assist with the children.

In fact "The European in India - Provides a Handbook for Amahs, and the management of children"

This description of life in Ceylon in 1834, from The Monthly Review,

"Officers had to provide their own furniture but items are quite cheap.  No European servants are allowed, and for a bachelor, a head servant cost 1 pound per month, a boy for 9s.  Messing cost 2s per day.  Sherry and Madeira are popular drinks.  The Captains assist the field officers in doing the garrison duty.  The society of Colombo is composed of the families of the military and the gentlemen holding the civil situations under Government.  It is sociable and agreeable; there are numerous private parties and a public ball once a month; the messes frequently invite their friends to evening parties.  The style of living is good and combines more both of comfort and luxury than is usually found in the same class of society in Europe."

There were schools to attend, and the important lessons to be learnt as was the custom in the Victorian times.   High on her parent's agenda would be the need to find a suitable husband for their youngest daughter.

1 comment:

  1. Great Job.. Thank you l hope to do my family tree blogs like you
    Thomas Stanuell (1790 - )
    husband of great-aunt of husband of 2nd cousin 3x removed to me

    regards Laura