The Mystery Woman Annie Canning


Today for your delectation I am posting two pieces of flash fiction.  They are about Annie Canning my great -great grandmother and are basically about the same thing. There are presented in two different ways.

Silently, her small hands trembling Annie stands beside the tall blonde man.  The bright wildflower posy tumbles from her fingers landing upside down on St Killians’ slate floor. Shuffling, Johan glances at the fragile figure beside him. The full skirts of Annie’s best grey bombazine brush against his leg.  A typical Irish colleen, her black curls tumble from under the brim of her bonnet, and the green silk trimmings highlight her blue eyes. The priest’s slurred voice declares on this day of grace in 1866, they are man and wife. Annie Canning is now Mrs Johan Skram.

Without hesitation, Annie picks up the pen and boldly writes “spinster” in a strong hand on the marriage licence. The minister is asking if she has any issue, in a firm voice she replies no. Looking at her he shakes his head and writes nil in the space provided.  Turning she smiles at Fred Lennon her husband to be, he squeezes her hand in encouragement.  Annie stands tall and proud beside Fred, thinking how different it feels this time. The minister declares on this day of grace in 1896, they are man and wife. Annie Canning is now Mrs Fred Lennon.

Weeping Fred picks up the pen. His tears blot the paper causing the ink to run. Slowly he completes the notice of death for Annie Lennon, formally Annie Skram, was born Annie Canning of County Waterford. Children are Margarethe, William, and Letitia Skram. Deceased aged 49, on this day of grace in 1896.

Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages

VPRO Marriage 1866    Canning/ Skram   2618/1866

VPRO Marriage 1896     Canning/ Lennon 3819/1896

VPRO Death       1896     Lennon 8636/1896



Why do I find Annie Canning so fascinating?  I have been attempting to unwrap this mystery for over thirty years.  She is different because she is my great- great- grandmother.  She has been removed from family photographs. Family legend states she left her babies, my great-grandmother and her brother, and ran off to South Africa.  Using two primary sources, a marriage certificate[1], a death certificate[2] and a secondary source a newspaper notice of insolvency[3]. I will show what can be verified. She did leave her husband and her children, however, they were not babies when she left. She was a strong woman who left an unhappy and possibly violent relationship. I tip my hat to Annie and acknowledge what I have learnt opens to the door to more questions. 

We know Annie Canning came from Country Waterford and was fifteen or sixteen when she arrived here based on information on her marriage and death certificates. Her marriage in 1866 places her in Bendigo and marrying one Johan Frederick Skram from Denmark.  A Notice of Insolvency in May 1880, indicates she is estranged and in fear of her husband from mid-1878.  Referring to her death certificate and the Notice of insolvency, the ages of her children can be determined when she left them. When she married and died in 1896 they were in their 20’s. Her death certificate records a third previously unknown child. There is no divorce certificate.  Every answer presents a new question, a puzzle waiting to be solved.


[1] VPRO  Marriage Certificate  Canning /Skram 2618/1866

[2] VPRO  Death Certificate  Lennon  8636/1896

[3] Notice of Insolvency  Ann Skram, The  Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Friday 21 May 1880 p 5



About lindandsam

Linda is a poet and writer. As a mature aged student, she completed a Bachelor of Creative Writing and is now a postgraduate student at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). Published in the USC Storyboard, 2015. Self-published ‘Where is Gedhum Choekyi Nyima?’ For the Tibetan Children’s Village, Dharamsala, 1997. She lives in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and shares her life with her partner and their four-legged fur babies Hugo and Tashi-la..

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