Family History Notebook
26th August 2007

The following notes were written by my grandmother, Cissie Rattray (ne Franceska Mary Eleanor Mhler) to one of my cousins about 1950.

Family Stories

Greatgrandmother, born a Jewess, married an Irishman, - Keogh, and a Roman Catholic; she also became a Catholic. Bore eighteen children, five of them died young. Mr Keogh had by a first marriage six children - I don't know what happened to them but my grandmother used to visit a nun who was her half-sister. I saw my great-grand only once - a tiny wrinkled old lady, still active. Mr Keogh was manager of a mine (don't know but think it was gold) in the interior of Brazil. So GG took her thirteen children, ages 2 to eighteen, by sailing vessel, a voyage lasting five months, to Rio. I asked my granny once, what did you do for washing?". She told me - used sailors' gunnybags with long ropes, and dangled them over the side of the ship till the clothes were clean! Reaching Rio, they had a three-week journey to the mine, the older children riding on mules, GG and babies carried on a litter.

How long they stayed on the mine I do not know, but they came back to Rio and must have lived pretty comfortably. My aunt had a water-colour picture of two young ladies in crinolines, walking in a garden, each with a little black slave carrying a parasol over them.

There was an Emporer [sic] of Brazil in those days. My granny told an amusing tale about that life. Fashions changed, and small crinolines were worn at the back. There was to be a Royal Court ball and all the ladies sent to England for a bustle! Grannie's did not arrive!!! She tied all her undies over a tape, put on her ball dress, made it look as much like the others as she could. But disaster followed: the tape broke and down came the undies, while they were dancing the minuet! Granny at once ,,fainted" on top. Gentlemen rushed to carry her out; she whispered to them to put their arms well under her, closed her eyes and was borne away - - -

Granny married an engineer, and her twin sister a doctor. The Crimean war was on, and the doctor and Aunty Fanny went to it. Florence Nightingale attended Aunt Fanny when her first baby was born. She lived to 101, her sight bad, but her mind still clear. Granny and her husband prepared to go out to the war, bought fur and warm clothes for that climate, but the Danube froze, the ship could not move, so they never went.

I don't know much about their lives till three of the sisters and the youngest brother all lived in London. I went to my first ball at Aunt Fanny's.

There was only one other story about Granny. She and another sister when quite small - - Granny had a cutting from a newspaper advertising their loss, but she cut out all the ages so that we would not know how old she was -- were kidnapped. No word about how they were found.

Your mother says you have the family tree, so my tale ends here.Keogh lost notice

The lost notice is dated Saturday, May 24th and so must have been 1828 or 1834. At this time Fanny and Mary were three and a half years old. Another version of the story says that they met their husbands on the trip to the mine (when they were 18). The Crimean War broke out in 1854. This implies that they were born in 1830 and the trip to Brazil was 1848 or 1849. The Brazilian Empire lasted from 1822 to 1889. Slavery was not finally abolished until 1888.

Notes

1    Another version of this story has also been passed down.

2    'Great-Grandmother' was Catherine Lewis who married George Drew Keogh who was the manager ('Superintendent') of the Morro Velho gold mine in Brazil from 1846 to 1853. Mary (Minnie) Keogh married (William) Henry Richards  and Frances (Fanny Keogh) married Dr Hugh Birt.

3    The trip to Brazil would have been about 1848.