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. Master of Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). Linda has also completed the Diploma of Family History Studies at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and is looking forward to further post graduate work. Published in the USC Storyboard, 2015. Self-published ‘Where is Gedhum Choekyi Nyima?’ For the Tibetan Children’s Village, Dharamsala, 1997. She now lives in Bass Coast in beautiful Wonthaggi and shares her life with her partner and their four-legged fur baby Hugo Boss

2 responses »

  1. Hi Lindandsam
    Just saw your blog as I too search for details on my 2nd great grandmother – Anne Canninb. I come from the line of her son William. I thought it interesting to note that William too has another connection to Anne as he also left his family. While he stayed connected to the older children, my mum was brought up believing he had died before her Grandmother Elizabeth Kelly. However in the past decade we found out he was alive until 1961. Mum was unsure if her mother Christina new the truth or not. Unsure when he left but rumour has it around 1919.
    Thanks for above information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellen How wonderful to hear from you. So many questions ? Do you have a tree on Ancestry? I am back in Victoria after spending many years in Queensland and now live in Wonthaggi. It rook me a long time to actually find out what happened to our Annie and the stories in my family were really weird including she ran off to South Africa with a diamond miner- which of course was not true. My mother told me that Margaret (my great grandmother) had a falling out with her brother William over Johan’s will and never spoke to him again. Mumm said she remembers William coming to visit in early 1947 just prior to Margaret’s death. Apparently she refused to see him saying I have no brother, Not sure if that is 100% true as my Mum tended to embroider the truth a little -I have a soft spot for Annie and what I have written is drawn from my immagination but based on basic truths, Would love to stay in contact I tried many many years ago to contact Williams side of the family but had no luck, My phone number is 0413009840 or email if you would like to make contact. Thanks for taking the time to contact me and I hope you enjoy the blog enteries. I have been a bit quiet of late due to an accident and resulting in a broken arm and dislocated shoulder that is not healing as well as it should : ) Happy new year to you and yours cheers Linda


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