Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A Sick Little Womble

I haven't been able to get a new post up for a few days because my 3 year old, The Womble, hasn't been well. Long nights without much sleep have been eating into my genealogy and blogging time. Hopefully he'll be back to his regular self in short order and life will resume. :)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Myrtle Elsie Adelaide Turner 1889-1963

Myrtle Elsie Adelaide Turner was born in 1889. The youngest of the three children of Harlettee Louisa Groombridge and William Turner, she was only 4 when her father passed away.

Undated photo of Myrtle
Though she was born in Victoria, as an adult she lived in Tasmania. She married Francis Henry Rush and they had three children - Harlettee (Margo), Ivy and Francis William.

Letters from her mother in the early 1920s mention she had unspecified health problems, and in 1932 The Mercury (Hobart) reported on an apparent suicide attempt following "a serious operation".
Mrs. Myrtle Rush, 42 years, of 175 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, was admitted to the Hobart Public Hospital about 11.30 last night, suffering from the effects of an irritant poison. She is alleged to have taken a quantity of disinfectant.  
It is stated that Mrs. Rush underwent a serious operation about four months ago. An emetic was administered, and her condition was afterwards satisfac-tory.

Her only son, Francis, was killed in the Second World War, and in 1950 she travelled to his final resting place, in Stompetoren, Holland. Shipping manifests reveal her travelling companion was I. C. Kendall - Ivy?

Myrtle's daughter Margo married a Mr Denehey and had five daughters and a son. When her marriage failed she took her son with her and moved to Alice Springs. Myrtle joined her there. Margo changed her surname and that of her son Alfred to Turner, her mother's maiden name.
Undated photo of Myrtle with her half sister, Linda

Undated photo of Linda, Myrtle and their friend Bill Nash, NSW.

Undated photo of Linda (standing) and Myrtle

Undated photo of Linda, Myrtle and Ivy

Undated photo of Ivy

Undated photo of Ivy

Myrtle in later years with friends
A letter to Linda telling her of Myrtle's failing health. 3rd of July 1963

Myrtle's grave, Alice Springs. 1963

An undated photo of some of Myrtle's descendants - Tommy, Daryl, Alf, Tracy
Many years ago I tracked down Tracey Grey, daughter of Alf. She was living in the Northern Territory. Her brother, Michael Turner, was a licenced crocodile hunter in Darwin and traded under the name The Crocodile Man. Tracey was due to visit Victoria later in the year and we made promised to catch up with each other, but we never did. Then there was a big disruption in my life and it took a back burner while I sorted everything out. Now I don't know how to reach her or where to find her. I post these photos in the hope that someone she (or someone who knows her) will stumble across my blog. I would love to rekindle contact with the NT branch of our family.

Also, Margo's daughters who remained in Tasmania must have descendants, and I would dearly love to catch up with them. I look at these photos of Linda and Myrtle together, and I know that Linda lived across the road from her brother, my great grandfather Syd, and I feel like there must have been a closeness in the family once upon a time that was lost through time and moving and divorce and death. How wonderful it would be if we could find each other again, and know each other, and share what we remember and know of those that came before us before those memories are lost forever. Tracey Grey, Michael Turner, Alf Turner, and of the Denehey girls... if you're ever reading this, please please please reach out and contact me :)

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Three Postcards

Tonight I want to talk about the Three Postcards. They came in the box of treasure from Linda Grumont that I've mentioned previously, and two of them are perfectly charming pieces of family history. The third is (EDIT: No longer) a head-scratching mystery.

The earliest of the three postcards is from 1921, and was sent from Hobart, Tasmania. Harlettee Louisa Groombridge signed the back of it, wishing her granddaughter Lottie a Happy New Year. Harlettee wouldn't actually see in the New Year, passing away in Kingston Tasmania on the 1st of October, 1921. Perhaps that is why this particular postcard was not thrown away - Lottie may not have even received it until after her Grandmother's death.

To my dear Grand Daughter Lottie wishing you and yours a happy new year from Grannie Rothery. Tasmania, 1921.

There are other letters in the box of treasure from around the same time, and they suggest there was ongoing correspondence between Harlettee and Lottie. Lottie was born Harlettee Margo Rush, daughter of Myrtle Turner and Francis Rush. She married a Mr Denehey. I believe at some point she took her son Alfred, changed their surnames to Turner, and moved to Alice Springs. I would love to hear from Alfred's descendants, or those of Lottie's 5 daughters who remained in Tasmania. Hopefully one day they may stumble across this blog.

The second ever-so-understandable postcard is a lovely thing to have. It is from Myrtle Rush (nee Turner), and she mailed it from Stompertoren, Holland, in 1950. My previous post, A Fortuitous Discovery, has the shipping record that shows her departing London on 6 September 1950 on her way home from that voyage. She had gone to see the final resting place of her only son, Francis William Rush, who was killed during the war. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record his burial at the Oterleek (Stompertoren) Churchyard cemetery. I came across this wonderful site that gives an account of Francis's final mission and has pictures of his headstone, and of the memorial plaque installed in 1994.
The card says (in grey pencil)
Dear Linda & Hughie
Holland is lovely with all its lovely windmills & waterways.
(in black pen)
Went to Amsterdam yesterday & it was lovely. We are leaving here tomorrow hope we have a good trip across & hope that you & Hughie is much better love Myrtle xxx
I wonder who she was travelling with?

The third card is another of those crazy mysteries that this family love to keep throwing at me. It is a photo of a beautiful and new looking house The postcard has been cut along the left edge, but only a small sliver seems to be missing - less than a centimetre, I'd guess.

The inscription seems to be in Harlettee's handwriting, if you compare it to the first card, and it says
To Linda from her mother.
and then in larger writing
Our new home. 
Linda Grumont has added the words "Harlette" and "Nana's mother's home in Canada".

The address is filled out in Harlettee's handwriting
Mrs Captain Collister
British Columbia 
Linda Grumont insisted that Harlettee had lived in Canada for a time with her husband, Captain Collister. That would have been a sixth husband hitherto unknown. It's possible that she married someone else overseas after William Rothery died in 1912, but she was still using the Rothery surname right up until her death in 1921.  Besides, this card looks like it was addressed to Mrs Captain Collister, Craigflower, Victoria, British Columbia - not from. As it is also addressed to "Dear Linda" from "her mother"; that would make Linda the addressee. Linda Collister? Also, is that an "s" next to Collister? Mrs Captain Collister's _what_?

Given that this postcard is in my possession, it either was never mailed to Canada, or it travelled back to Australia with its owner. Unlike the other cards, it hasn't been dated - I can only say that it must be from no later than the 1st of October, 1921, because that's when Harlettee died. Perhaps someday, someone will recognise the house, or will stumble across this entry while researching the Collisters of Craigflower, Victoria, BC, and we'll be able to compare notes to solve this little puzzle once and for all.

UPDATE! (already! it has only been 20 minutes!)
Google turned up this:
    02/08/37 Collister, Rich, m, head, m, 12 Dec 1838, 63, ENG, to Can: 1876, Meth, Steam boat inspector.
    ……Rems: HOW3, p.827: In shipbuilding in Liverpool, ENG & Brisbane, AUS, to Victoria 1875, d.Victoria, 1908.
    02/08/38 Collister, Elizabeth, f, wife, m, 12 Aug 1831, 60, ENG, to Can: 1877, CE.
    ……Rems: Age & yr. born as entered. RBCR: Collister, Elizabeth, 89 y, 26 Jan 1923 at Victoria, b.ENG. DN, Times, 27 Jan 1923, p.9: Mrs Elizabeth Collister, wid of Capt. R. Collister, former inspector of hulls, b.LAN, ENG, 12 Aug 1833, d. at res. Craigflower Rd, leaves sons: John R. Collister (d.A1, p.18, l.41), Victoria & Wm. H.R. Collister (d.17, p.6, l.44), Vancouver; daus: Mrs John Barnsley (d.18, p.10, l.11), Vancouver; Mrs N.G. Douner, Victoria & Mrs H.O. (Harry Oxenborough) Miles, Long Beach, CA, USA.
On a hunch I searched Ancestry.com for "collister" and "rothery", and lo and behold, I found this:
Rothery was the surname of Harlettee's fifth and final husband. Judging by these dates, this could well be his sister. It even says that she died at her home on Craigflower Rd (I guess "Rd" was what was written in that missing centimetre of card). Perhaps Linda Grumont was right about Harlettee going to Canada - but rather than living there, perhaps she just visited her sister in law?

This all makes sense now! Mrs Captain Collister, nee Rothery, the sister in law of Harlettee Rothery, nee Groombridge must have sent the photo of her new house to Harlettee, who then forwarded it on to her daughter Linda and wrote Mrs Collister's address on it. This must be the house in Craigflower Road, Victoria, British Columbia that Mrs Collister lived in until her death in 1923. Case: Closed!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Live Blogging An Ancestor Hunt

My fortuitous coincidence from the other day has continued paying dividends. Ancestry informed me that someone had the death certificate of my great great great grandmother, Hannah Maria Holt, saved in their private tree. I contacted them to ask if I might be able to have a copy, and it has turned out to belong to a close relative - my Dad's cousin's husband. I'm thrilled to be in touch with them again, as I last spoke to them probably 15 years ago, and wasn't sure how to find them again.

Right now I'm working through my daughter Poss's paternal ancestry. I've found a branch of her family came from Jersey, on the Channel Islands. The main family lines there are LeBoutillier and Payn(e). A quick search for Leboutillier returns this factoid about the surname:
<snip>... recorded in Jersey, Channel Islands U.K. as far back as 1205 
So there could be some lengthy links with that part of the world.

I have Eliza or Elizabeth Maria Esther Le Boutillier marrying Elias Payn or Payne in Jersey. She died in 1860, but he remarried in Surrey to Susannah Horlick and died in 1891.

I can't find any hint through Ancestry of what Eliza(beth) Maria Esther Le Boutillier's father's name was, but Trove has come up trumps again with this little gem:
Interesting that the maternal grandfather was singled out by name in this notice. Was he important?

I can't find any records in Ancestry that confirm that Elizabeth's father was George LeBoutiller, but I did find this interesting post on Rootsweb:
John married Mary Falla, His sister Elizabeth born 1816 married Elias Payn. Parents of John, Elizabeth and Phillippe were Jean Le Boutillier and Elizabeth Hacquoil. 
If that's the case, then I can easily identify Elizabeth Hacquoil (born 1797 at St Ouen, Jersey) in other Ancestry trees, and her family connection to Jersey goes back generations. The earliest Hacquoil I can find without stretching myself at all is Nicolas Hacquoil, born "Abt 1570 in Bailiwick Of Jersey, Channel Islands". The trick is going to be to find some supporting evidence to tie it all together.

I found an 1841 census entry for Jean LeBoutillier and Elizabeth Hacquoil's family that supports the Rootsweb poster's information; it shows that three of their children are John, Philip and Elizabeth, but it doesn't offer any way to confirm if that's our Elizabeth who went on to marry Elias Payn.

Further census results show Elias Payn(e) was a Master Carpenter. His marriage to Susannah Horlick gives his father's name as Philip Payne. Digging around Ancestry, I find some trees have his father recorded as "Phillippe Payne Jr" (born 24 June 1787, at St Martins, Jersey) and his mother as "Anne Le Sueur" (born circa 1790, at Trinity, Jersey).

Looks like I've got a whole new chapter of research opening before me. Lots of clues, very few sources so far.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A Fortuitous Discovery.

Well, the other half has returned from his jaunt halfway around the world and life is returning to normal here, so I've gleefully dived back into my tree.

Tonight I put some effort into researching Hannah Maria Holt, my great great great grandmother. She married Richard Smart Groombridge in 1842, and gave birth to my great great grandmother, Harlettee Louisa Groombridge in 1846. Tragically she was widowed in 1858 when Richard Groombridge suffered "a series of epileptic fits" which resulted in his death.
In 1861 she remarried to Edward Henry Palmer.

Reviewing my tree today, I saw some impossible dates on Hannah Maria Holt. Her birth was given as 1800, and her deadth as 1902. While she could have lived to 102, I doubted that she married for the first time at the age of 42, and was having children into her late 40s. I found other trees that recorded her year of birth as 1820, which sounded far more reasonable. I thought I'd try to look up her death record to see if I could find any further information, and I went to Trove because I was curious to see who might have placed a death notice for her. That was a dead end. I searched for Hannah Maria Palmer in vain.

I turned my attention elsewhere and worked through some other bits of the tree. I looked into her granddaughter, Myrtle Elsie Adelaide Turner, and found the shipping record of her departure from England after the visit in 1950 that I referred to in an earlier post. Myrtle's address in the UK was given as 6 Beckenham Road, W. Wickham, so that's another angle to pursue some day.
She left England on the Himalaya on the 6th of September, 1950.
I also took another look on Trove at the account of Myrtle's apparent suicide attempt some years prior. The Mercury reported on the 4th of January 1932:
Woman Poisoned
Mrs. Myrtle Rush, 42 years, of 175 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, was admitted to the Hobart Public Hospital about 11.30 last night, suffering from the effects of an irritant poison. She is alleged to have taken a quantity of disinfectant.
It is stated that Mrs. Rush underwent a serious operation about four months ago. An emetic was administered, and her condition was afterwards satisfactory.
My understanding is that Myrtle's marriage was not a happy one, but even her mother's letters from the early 1920s mention Myrtle suffering from health problems.

 After that, I suddenly decided to try searching for Hannah Maria Holt again, but this time I used the surname from her second marriage, Groombridge. In doing so I found her death notice. It had been listed under the name "Parmer" instead of "Palmer". I never would have found it but in a stroke of enormous good luck, George Groombridge died a couple of days later and his obituary was in the same column (good luck for me, not so good for George).

GROOMBRIDGE. - On Tuesday, December 16, 1902, at his late residence, 11 Cross-street, Battery Point, George, the beloved husband of Margaret Groombridge, in the 58th year of his age.
PARMER - On December 10, at her son's residence, Kingston, Hannah Maria Parmer, aged 82. 
No information on who placed the notice, but I have something I didn't have before: an exact date of death.

Friday, 16 May 2014

I Aint'nt Dead

In the immortal words of Granny Weatherwax, I aint'nt dead. I'm just taking a few days off while the other half is away on a business trip. My kids, Poss (aged 6 years) and The Womble (3 years) keep me on pretty tight schedule of fetching drinks, cooking meals, adjudicating arguments, assisting with bodily functions, watching this, cleaning up that... You know, Mum stuff. With Himself away, it's the same as usual but a little bit moreso. I will resume posting just as soon as I can.

Take care!
-- Carol

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Ladies in the Photos

I wish I knew more about this photo!

It came from Linda Grumont and she's the one who has written (and scribbled out) names on it. Eventually she settled on the left one being Auntie Annie (Marianne Smith, who married Thomas Talbot), and the right one being Auntie Ettie (Henrietta Smith, who married William Gavin). I don't put a lot of stock in that because one of the names she initially wrote (and crossed out) is Auntie Clara. That would be Clarabell Turner, who died at the age of 3, and is therefore absolutely not the subject of the photos.

Someone once told me the outfits are not inconsistent with the 1880s. Ettie died at the age of 20 in that decade, so this wouldn't rule her out.

I think the photos may both be of the same woman, although it could be sisters with a very strong resemblance. It could be one (or two) of Linda Grumont's grandmother's sisters (another daughter of Harlettee Groombridge), as she said, but I don't see how we'll ever know.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Day My Tree Went Off The British Isles And Wound Up In Prussia

My most unfortunately named ancestor is Fanny Leak.

No, no, don't laugh. The woman actually existed. Want proof?
And she wasn't alone. She came from a long line of Fannys...

Ok, if you're going to be like that, we should probably talk about something else.

Unusually named ancestors are my favourite. They stick out like sore... thumbs. After years and years of searching, many of my ancestors shared a few predictable names:
The surnames were hardly better. What I kept finding was that my ancestry was exclusively limited to the British Isles. I can't say I longed for something "exotic", but I definitely found the lack of diversity a little uninspiring.

Then it happened. While pouring over old marriage certificates, I found something I wasn't expecting. I was looking at the marriage of my mother's grandparents, Thomas Wilton and Gertrude Battersby (an exception to the Jane/Sarah/Ann(e)/Mary rule herself) and her mother's name leapt off the page at me.

Arnstina Paulina Wandel.

That's not English! Or Irish, or Scottish. That's another flavour altogether! And I still remember that moment, staring at that name. It was a first for me.

As it happens, her ancestors were from Prussia. They originated in Ransen, Silesia - it's now called Ręszów and is now in Poland. Her father was Carl Georg Wandel and her mother was Franziska Louisa Pech, daughter of Wanzy and Meliza. Carl Georg Wandel's father had been a windmill keeper in Prussia, and after the father's death, his mother, Anna Suzanna Dorothea Hahn, remarried to a Georg Zobel, and the family emigrated to Australia. They settled in South Australia and to this day have many descendants and relatives in that area.

Arnstina Paulina Wandel's name is rendered different ways in different documents. The order of the names is altered, and sometimes Arnstina is rendered as Ernestina. I know from speaking to my great aunt Pauline that she was known as Lena. At some point I settled on recording her name primarily as Ernestina Paulina, but I didn't leave notes to myself explaining why, so I hope it is based on something factual like how she signed it herself, or the most commonly used variant, but perhaps I just drew it out of a hat. Anyway, Lena married Frank Battersby and had seven children.

Incidentally, as a teenager, I once encountered a fellow descendant of the Battersby family in the Traralgon Genealogy Library on Kosciuszko Street, but I didn't get his name and I never saw him again. I think he was descended from one of Frank's siblings. If he ever reads this, then hi! Please comment and make yourself known. I've been kicking myself for 20 years that I didn't talk to you more that day to figure out our connection.

Going back to Ernestina Paulina Wandel... I found myself in touch with a man named Hedley Wandel, who has put together a painstaking list of the descendants of the Wandel family, and who provided invaluable information to pad out that side of my tree. He sent me two folders of information, including detailed descendant charts and factual information about the area the family emigrated from, maps, shipping manifests. Every time I set out to write a post for this blog, I realise there is someone who has been an enormous help to me and I really need to thank them. Thank you, Hedley! You really are so very generous about sharing your data, and you've worked so hard to put it together.

Hedley's outstanding work has filled in a gap in our oral history. How sad that somehow that information was lost; Lena's descendants at some point didn't know their family was from that part of the world, and (in our branch at least) they haven't held on to any traditions that her family must have brought over with them. At least we can acknowledge it now, and make sure that link is not easily forgotten again.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Letter From 1920

The Turner/Groombridge line was tricky to get anywhere with, and I felt that finding out more about the daughter who was born Melinda Elvina Smith would help me get further with it. I began looking into her descendants.

I found her granddaughter, Linda Ettie Walsh, in the Digger birth records in 1999, and I put out feelers on the internet, hoping to track her down. Of course I got no response.

My message searching for her is still viewable online.

Linda Ettie Walsh was born in 1916, so of course I was looking for a very old woman, if she was even still alive. I had nothing further to go on, no married name, or any idea where she would have ended up living after being born in Carlton. I shelved that idea.

I looked up Melinda Elvina Smith's death and discovered that she was known as Linda Stapleton Simmons by that point in her life. She died in 1970, so I visited the State Library in Melbourne and went through old newspapers there.

In the death notices, I found one that was signed The Grumont Family, and was clearly placed by close relatives. I took note of their name because it was an unusual surname that I hadn't seen before. A quick look at the phone directory, and I realise there were only about a dozen families in Melbourne by that surname so I took a punt and dialed a number at random. The lady I spoke to told me she had no clue about family history, but that her grandmother knew everything and I should try her instead. I dialled the number she gave me... and Linda Ettie Walsh answered the phone.

Of course, I didn't know that immediately, but as we talked it became evident that she was the lady I'd hoped to find and given up on as dead, untraceable or both. She was a very animated soul, and she loved to talk family history. I was invited to visit.

She lived in an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne, so I made my way there just as soon as I could. My, what a character! She was a vibrant, sharp 84 year old, living with her husband Frank. They were quite a pair! I remember her ordering him out to make tea with the "dingle dangles" - she seemed to have her own language for everything. I think computers were click-clacks. She made me laugh.

Linda gave me the box of treasure I talked about in this post, and I posted images of some of the certificates it contained in this post. There were certificates, photos, letters, postcards... an unimaginable resource to have. Linda said she didn't have another member in her family interested in the family's history so she asked me to take it and look after it. I think it's too precious to keep entirely boxed up, so I want to share some of it here.

I've picked this letter to share today because it talks about the Groombridge family history. It appears to be directed to Doris, her granddaughter, by Harlettee Louisa Groombridge.

First page
October 31st '20

My Dear Granddaughter,

With pleasure I am answering your welcome letter, and thanks for the photos. She is like your mother when she was her age, but not a bit like my little Rosebud. I will be thankful if you can get me a Card of the Cottage in the Village of Groombridge, Kent. That is where my Father was born at a place named East (or West) Farleigh, and the village was named after the family.
Your G Great Grandfather was a Giant in Strength and your Great Grandfather Richard Smart Groombridge, my father, was a very strong man and was born in 1805, and died in 1858, so he has departed 62 years.
They were a well respected family. Till lately, my Father's offspring were the only Groombridges in the Colonies, and I was the only Miss Groombridge till my Brother John Smart G. married and now there are dozens of them but all have sprung from my Father, your G G.father.

Second Page
I believe there was not a poor Groombridge in Kent. My Grandmother was a Jewess. Her name was Rachael Stephens before she married and had five sons and two daughters. The sons were named:
Richard Smart, my father who named his sons after his brothers
All Blacksmiths
Daughters Amy and Henrietta married two Brothers named Adams.
I believe William went to America.

Well, dear Lottie, I am returning your Card of Cottages and would be pleased if you could get your friend if he ever goes to Kent to make Enquiries of any of the old Groombridges concerning our family. Kent is not far from London. I had a letter from Sydney telling me he had a very bad poisend (?) hand, and have answered it. Poor fellow. I am very sorry for him. I hope he has work by this for I know what it means to be out of work in Melbourne with a family dependant on one's earnings.

Third page (not pictured)
Myrtle has not been well lately. The Doctor ordered her away to the Country and she stopped a month. The Baby boy got Bronchitis and Hooping (sic) Cough but is better now. He is a fine little chap. He weighed 17 1/2 pounds when he was two months old and is so good, in fact he has not cried since he was born. He is over three months now and just like his mother. Lottie is a nice girl and will be 13 years on the 24 of Dec and Ivy is over 10 years. They have opened a Beautiful shop at 337 Elizabeth Street N. Hobart everything up to date and it takes all her time to mind the shop and the Baby while Frank serves his Customers. Outside school (ex?)cluded, his is the best Ice Cream in Tas. and that is saying something. He makes all his own Icecream and Cordials of all sorts, and keeps Fruit & Confectionary of the best. Well dearie I will close this scribble with best love to all from your loving Grandmother

H. L. Rothery.

What has been the matter with your mother is she well again, don't be long in replying. All revvir x

Fourth page (not pictured)
Dear Lottie

I wish you very many happy returns of your Birthday and am pleased to hear that you are getting on so well. From your Grandma Rothery.

Love to little Linda. I may (obscured) some day but am getting to (sic) old to (obscured) much now. I will be 74 yrs on the 24th of November.

There is a lot of information about the Groombridges relayed in this letter, but it is hard to know what is accurate. "Rachael Stephens" the Jewish grandmother referred to seems to have actually been named Sarah Stephens, however it could be that her name was Sarah Rachael Stephens, or Rachael Sarah... or perhaps a good 62 years after the death of her father, Harlettee's memories of what he told her about a grandmother she never met had faded a little. There is a village named Groombridge in Kent, not far from her father's birthplace of West Farleigh, but it seems more likely that the family took the name of the village for their surname than the other way around. The names of the brothers and sisters is correct, and Amy and Henrietta did both marry men with the surname Adams, but I can't confirm if they were brothers yet. They were not the only Groombridges in the Colonies, and others by the surname Groombridge arrived from early the previous century but she may not have known about them.

How I wish she had known this letter would survive nearly 100 years, and that she could have written more about her memories of what her father told her about Kent, and his family, and her ancestry! But at least I have this, and others, that give some insight into her personality and snippets about the family.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Got You On My Tree, Neighbour

Who's that? Oh, just a cousin of mine.

Ok, not quite.

The story goes like this:
Eliza Clapton is my Great Great Grandmother. She married Nathaniel Higginbottom, their daughter Jessie Higginbottom married John Hanniver, and my grandmother Rose was a product of that marriage.

Whenever we spoke about the Clapton branch of the family, my cousin Don would ask "Are we related to Eric Clapton?". One day, with time on my hands, I set out to prove that we weren't. I failed.

Eric Clapton's Ancestry

Eric Clapton is not a stage name. He was born Eric Patrick Clapton, the son of Patricia Molly Clapton and a father who was absent from his life from the beginning. He was raised by his maternal grandmother, Rose nee Mitchell, and her second husband, Jack Clapp, in Surrey. Reginald Cecil Clapton was Rose's first husband, and was the father of Patricia (and grandfather of Eric).

Reginald Cecil Clapton was born in Madras, India, in 1900. He was the son of Augustus Oliver Clapton and Marie M. Haire. He died in 1933.

Augustus Oliver Clapton was born in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire in 1867. He was the son of James Clapton and Melina Wilkins.

James Clapton was born in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire in 1833. He was the son of John Clapton and Dinah Skinner.

John Clapton was born in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire in 1802. I have not uncovered any information about his parents, so the line stops there. 

Eliza Clapton's Ancestry

Eliza Ann Clapton was born in Avoca, Victoria in 1856. Her parents were Charles Clapton and Sarah Barratt.

Charles Clapton was born in Oxfordshire, England in 1818, the son of Thomas Clapton and Mary Morris. He married his first wife, Sarah Painting, at Shipton-Under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, and his second wife Sarah Barratt at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.

Thomas Clapton was born in Oxfordshire circa 1790. He married Mary Morris at Guiting Power, Gloucestershire, and resided at Lyneham, Oxford at the time of the 1841 and 1851 censuses.

So What's It All Mean?

It means that, around the beginning of the 19th century, Eric Clapton's ancestors lived in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, and my Clapton ancestors lived in the Guiting Power, Oxfordshire area. Distance: 5.7 miles.

I can't conclusively rule out (distant, very very distant) cousinship. At the very least, they were close enough to be called neighbours.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Family Legends, Mythology and Tall Tales, and Princess Alice of Gloucester.

Over the years I've learned to take family legends with a grain of salt. Someone will swear black and blue that the family are descended from the Duke of Suchnsuch, or that the famous artist Whosit Whatsisface is a cousin, and so on. I love these stories because they give you something to work towards - it's easier to find a connection if you know to look for it - and they may turn out to be true... but often, they are not.

A branch of my family was said to be related to a famous sporting personality, but I've been unable to find a connection between the two families. My gut feeling is that his unusual surname has made someone in my family say "We must be cousin", and that's been repeated on down the line as "We are cousins" until little ol' party pooper me came along and got facts all over the story.

My Great Great Great Grandmother Howard is, according to some members of the family, descended from THE Howard family - the Howards that produced Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard (the two Queens of Henry VIII who exited the marriage shorter than they entered it). That's a really interesting family to be related to, but I have my doubts. One relative told me they thought perhaps our ancestry included someone who worked for the noble Howard family and took their surname when one was needed, which would fit in with what we know of our ancestors being of substantially more humble origin than THE Howards. That's the theory I subscribe to: some long forgotten ancestor of mine was the Howard's washerwoman.

My mother has a bowl, an heirloom with a story attached. It came from her mother's family, the Robertsons. The legend is that the bowl came to Australia with the Robertson family when they first emigrated here in the 19th century. It has been handed down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter ever since. There are several things wrong with that story:
* If it is always handed on from daughter to daughter, then how is it the Robertson bowl? Surely the surname of the owner would change every generation.
* My mother's mother is the eldest daughter... of the youngest son. There are four sisters (and three brothers) ahead of him in line for the bowl. Why did they break tradition and give it to him?

So there was already a little niggle in my mind about the the bowl. I took it to a local antique dealer to ask if he could tell me anything more about it. He identified it straight away, and showed me a picture of an identical bowl in a book. The two big details about it that stood out to me:
* Made in Australia
* Between 1906 and the late 1920s.

So... the Robertson family bowl, brought over from Scotland in the 19th century and handed down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter ever since... and nothing of that can be true! It's still a family treasure, and the truth hasn't diminished it any in my eyes. It is now my go-to story for the inaccuracy of family legends.

Now... now I've acquired Dave's family tree along with him, and there's a family legend: they are the cousins of Princess Alice of Gloucester (born Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott). Like all such legends, it's vague about the connection, only calling her a "cousin" without specifying any degree of cousinship. The difference this time is that the family did move in rather more noble circles than my Howard ancestors. They were wealthy landowners in Malaysia, related to a South Australian Premier, and they were business associates and possibly family to Sir Walter Scott's close relatives. Sir Walter Scott is ultimately descended from the same family as Alice Montagu Douglas Scott, but quite distantly. If this is the connection the legend speaks of, then they had extensive knowledge of their ancestry. Why couldn't they have written it down?! The other possibility is that, if this story is true, then perhaps there's a nearer connection between the families and I haven't found it yet.

Whatever the truth, it's a better bet than finding a royal branch hiding in my tree.

Monday, 5 May 2014

I've Hit A Brick Wall(er)

Last week I posted about Elizabeth Waller, wife of Forbes Scott Brown. I quickly found she was the daughter of George Waller, early harbour master at Penang, and I found he was married to Harriet Scott. Harriet turned out to be the great granddaughter of Jean Scott, who was a first cousin of Sir Walter Scott. After that, the tree just grew rapidly. The Scotts were part of Clan Scott with links to many branches of the Scottish nobility, and eventually I traced their descent back to the royal Stewart line in Scotland, and from there to the Plantagenets and their descent from King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (my personal heroine). And then I realised that there is little likelihood that Elizabeth Waller is the daughter of Harriet Scott for a couple of reasons:
1) There is only about 13 years between them in age
2)  Harriet Scott only married George Waller two years before Elizabeth Waller married Forbes Scott Brown.

I feel quite sure that Harriet isn't Elizabeth's mother, but she could be her stepmother. My other theory is that there are two George Wallers in play. One is the father of Elizabeth, and the other is a relation - a brother, perhaps, or a cousin. I don't  know this for sure, but it is my hunch that it is unlikely that there were several unrelated Waller families in Malaysia at that time.

So what now?

I'm at a loss. I've tried to find George Waller's death record in the hopes that it will give me a lead, but I've come up blank. I've looked for Elizabeth's birth record in vain. I've searched Malaysian records, UK records, Indian records - I even searched Panama thanks to a census transcription error (the record said Penang, the transcript said Panama).

I've searched the nationalarchives.co.uk site, the Strait Times newspaper archive, Ancestry, I've tried numerous Google searches with a variety of keywords. I've looked at ThePeerage.com. Nothing useful anywhere.

I did find something on FamilySearch.org - a birth for an Elizabeth Ann Waller in 1821, to a father named George. The birth was in Newark Upon Trent, Nottingham. This George Waller and his wife,
Elizabeth, seem to have had about half a dozen children between 1813 and 1825. My next project will be to try to definitively prove or disprove a link to our Elizabeth Brown, nee Waller. If this doesn't pan out, it will be back to the drawing board and I have no idea where to go next.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Sad Demise of Maria Hanniver

Trove is the most aptly named site on the internet. Trove is the National Library of Australia's online searchable archive of newspapers, journals, pictures and photos and more, and it is a veritable treasure trove of fascinating history.

While digging around on Trove, I found two articles relating to my Great Great Great Grandmother, Maria Hanniver. Born Maria Feeny in Ireland in 1830, she was the daughter of Edward Feeny, a Farmer. On the 6th of June 1854, at St. George's Church, Dublin she married John Hanniver. His occupation was given as "Gentleman"; hers was not recorded. Jane Feeny and William Morrison were the witnesses to the marriage, and one week later they were married in the same church with Maria and John as their witnesses.

John served in the Irish Constabulary and the Holbourne Police Force. I recently discovered this newspaper article and wonder if he may have been the Head Constable John Hanniver mentioned in the London Express on October 5, 1848, giving testimony regarding the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848:

Head-constable John Hanniver sworn : I was temporarily stationed in Tipperary in the month of July last. I went to Widow M'Cormick’s house on the Monday following the shooting match. The shooting match was on Saturday. I examined the house inside and outside. I saw several marks on it outside of stones, and what appeared to be bullet marks. On  the inside partof the rear face there were also bullet marks.
-—— Cross-examined by Mr. Whiteside: I am a Dublin man. I have never been at a shooting match. I consider a shooting match to be where the peasanry and the military or constabulary come into collision and fire at each other. I suppose the pleasure of the game consists in the number shot at each side? No, sir, I don't think it's a pleasure to shoot a man.
John and Maria came out to Australia, and raised their 5 children: Marie, William, John, Sarah and Edward. By 1872 John's profession was described as "Labourer" . Then tragedy struck.

Maria intervened in a fight between two neighbour women, and was struck with a "length of stick, like the end of a clothes prop". Later she complained of feeling ill, lay down on the couch, and died. An inquest into her death found that the blow to the head had not caused her death.

The cause of death was extravasation of blood at the base of the brain. [The Coroner, Dr Youl] did not think the blow on the top of the head produced the rupture of the artery. Excitement would do it. The blow was quite recent. The jury found that the deceased died of extravasation of blood at the base of the brain.   
This article provides more details about the family and their living conditions which are quite gritty. The area is described as "wooden tenements", and says of Maria and John "The husband and wife had been in the habit of quarrelling, and were addicted to drink.". The closing paragraph of the article offers a grim insight into the night of Maria's death:

Last night the house in which the deceased had lived presented a wretched spectacle. In a dimly lighted close room was the father crying in a maudlin way, in company with the children who now and then broke into a loud moan, while a number of women of the class one sees in such back slums were wandering about the house groaning and talking in a maundering manner, looking at the body, shaking their heads, whispering, and seeming really to be enjoying the misery of the moment as something of an exciting nature. The deceased was about 42 years of age.

The follow up article, reporting on the inquest, also describes Maria Hanniver as "a drunkard" and says she was drunk when she interfered in "the row between the other two woman. One was drunk, and had been beating the other's house with a stick all the afternoon to keep the other's child awake." I guess daytime TV had yet to be invented.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Bonus Post

I grabbed some images to add to my previous post and didn't use them. I thought I'd post them here so it wasn't an entirely wasted effort -grin-.

Melinda Elvina Smith, aka Linda Stapleton Smith was married three times - to William Henry Gavin, then James Patrick Walsh, and finally to Hugh Simmons. She was a half-sister to my great grandfather and lived across the road from him circa the 1930s/1940s. They died just a few weeks apart, though I don't know if they kept in touch with each other.

Linda Smith's son from her first marriage had two daughters. One died young. The other lost her mother at an early age and went to live with Linda. Her name was also Linda, and her married name was Linda Grumont. When I met her in the early 2000s she was close to 90 years old, and as sharp as a tack. She was the person who gifted me the box of letters, and a huge pile of photographs of Linda, and Linda's half sister Myrtle, and of Linda's daughter Doris. It is a treasure trove, and it almost feels bottomless.

These photos from the box are said to be of Linda Stapleton Smith. There are no notations of date or location on any of them.

A Man of Mystery

Robert David Stapleton, who were you? You are an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in incomplete and/ or inaccurate documentation.

The births of Marianne (Annie), Henrietta (Ettie or Hettie), William, Frederick (Freddie), and Melinda (Linda, or Linnie) Smith were all registered in Tasmania, and all recorded as the children of William Henry Smith and Harlettee Louisa Groombridge. When Harlettee married William Turner in 1883, she was using the surname Smith and she had recorded on the marriage certificate that she had been widowed in July 1882.

Yet somehow, in adulthood, the children of William Smith began leaving his name out and instead listing their father as Robert David Stapleton.

It hadn't started yet when Henrietta died in 1889. On the death certificate for Hettie Gavin, nee Henrietta Smith, her father's name is given as William Smith, and his profession as tailor.

It hadn't started in 1891 when Linda Smith married her first husband, William Henry Gavin. That marriage certificate records that her father was William Henry Smith.

Yet later certificates, including her death certificate, say Robert David Stapleton.

This is her second marriage certificate:

This is the certificate from Linda's third marriage, to Hugh Simmons. Father: Robert David Stapleton, Gentleman (deceased).

Two of Linda's children appear to have been named in memory of Robert Stapleton - her son's middle name was Robert, and her daughter's was Roberta.

When Marianne married Thomas Talbot in 1913, it was as Marianne Stapleton Smith. Her death certificate is another document where the elusive Mr Stapleton is named as father, after she died in Victoria in 1917.

Frederick married Jane Magner and they had a son in 1890 named Frederick Stapleton Smith, yet Fred Snr's death certificate in 1919 says his father was William Smith.

Stapleton didn't entirely appear out of the blue when his children were adults. William Smith is recorded as William Henry Smith's son, but his name in the birth records is William G. Stapleton Smith. There is also a record of the death of a 5 year old boy in Tasmania in 1877 named Robert Stapleton Smith, but no information is given about his parents and I can't find a corresponding birth record.

I was given a box of old documents, and it contains this:
It is a completed application for a birth certificate for Robert David Stapleton, dated 1950, and it has been stamped Paid. The corresponding certificate was not in the box, and I don't know if it was found or not. I can't find a birth record that matches those details in the records that available to me. The really curious thing about this is that the applicant is M. Rush. That is Myrtle Rush, daughter of Harlettee Groombridge... and William Turner. She was born in 1889, long after Harlettee's previous husband died.

Myrtle and I clearly weren't the only ones wanting to find Mr Stapleton. This was also in the box:
It's dated 1973 so it is a response to an application made after Myrtle had passed away. I think perhaps the lady who gave me the documents, Linda Grumont, had been trying to track him down. She was the granddaughter of Melinda Smith, or Linda Stapleton, or Gavin, or Walsh, or Simmons. No record of his death between 1881 and 1885 was found in the Victorian Registry Office as a result of this enquiry. I haven't found it either.

So... was Robert Stapleton a real person? Was it an alias? Was he the real father of Harlettee's children with William Smith? Was he also the father of Myrtle Rush (nee Turner), and is that why she was trying to find his birth record? Was he an invention of someone to serve some purpose? Was he the real father of all the children from Harlettee's relationship with William Turner? After all, William was a man aged in his 70s at the time of their marriage, and around 76 years of age when the youngest child, Myrtle, was born. WHO WAS ROBERT DAVID STAPLETON?

I don't think I'll ever have the answers to these questions. The people who knew have all gone on ahead, and those who are left just have these odd, elusive clues that don't add up to a whole story.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Illegitimacy, illiteracy and all that.

I had a really hard time with the Turner family tree. Turners are a dime a dozen and it's a hard to narrow down allllll the "William Turners" in the records to be certain you have the right one. You'd think my Great Great Grandmother Turner would be the antidote to that with her very uncommon name - Harlettee Louisa Groombridge. But no.

For one thing, the spelling drifted. A cousin in Tasmania had a letter written by her brother in childhood that calls her "Arlette". Various different documents call her "Harlette", "Harlettie", "Harlettee" and even "Charlotte". Some Tasmania records have her down as "Louisa". Her birth certificate was no help - Unnamed Female Groombridge. I finally eventually saw her name in her own handwriting and it said "Harlettee" so that's the spelling I have eventually adopted.

Another problem. She just kept marrying! It took me years to find the certificate of marriage for William Turner and Harlettee Groombridge, because her name was transcribed on the microfiche as "Haslette Smith". Yes, Smith was a previous husband that I hadn't know about until that point. In fact, she was Harlettee Louisa Groombridge Williams Smith Turner Haward Rothery by the end. Even then, consistency would have helped, but no. She married Smith, then Turner, so when she married Turner she was a Smith BUT she married Haward, then Rothery, but when she married Rothery she was still going by Turner. Actually, there might be a reason for that. I notice that she shaved eight years off her age and about seven children out of her history when she married Robertson and then three years later she married someone else... without apparently pausing to divorce in between. Probably best for her to not mention that marriage at all.

Somehow I eventually pinned down Haslette Smith as Harlettee Groombridge and got the certificate, and I was very pleased to have it. Up until that point I had come to suspect that Harlettee and William Turner were never legally married. I even said as much to my Grandfather one day. Well, you see, they were his father's parents. I cautiously told him one day "Grandfather, I think your father may have been illegitimate." Grandfather bristled, and snapped "He didn't go to school all that long, but he could read and write!".

Grandfather actually wasn't all that worried once I managed to clear that little misunderstanding up. It was his opinion that a man couldn't be held responsible for the circumstances of his birth. Anyway, once that marriage certificate turned up it all became a moot point. He was clearly born within the bonds of holy matrimony - fresh ones too! Barely two weeks before he was born. I guess he was a little prem.

Actually, that marriage certificate may have answered one question, but it raised several others. After all, his first wife had been dead less than six months. So... shenanigans? I spoke to Grandfather's sister, my Great Aunt Joyce, a year or so back to see if she knew anything. Of course she knew very little. William Turner had been dead more than 30 years before she was even born, and by and large there doesn't seem to have been a huge amount of interest among my Grandfather's siblings in their family history. Joyce said that all she knew was that her Grandfather (William) had married his washerwoman (Harlettee) so she could get his Army pension. That's intriguing. So... are we actuallly descended from William Turner? Or was he just a kindly widower helping out his washer woman when she had gotten herself into a spot of trouble? We may never know.

Well, unless I get around to doing one of those family history DNA testing thingies that I keep seeing around the web. I find them fascinating! I would love to give it a go, and I'm sure I eventually will.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The main family lines.

The sensible thing to do would be to choose one or two main lines of the family, and invest all my efforts into researching those. Well, that's not how I've gone about my tree. I follow where it takes me, chasing the paths of least resistance first and working my way around to the more difficult stuff. I'm glad I took this approach because I've learned things along the way that have made the trickier bits come together more easily. However, rather than jump in at the deep end, I thought I'd start here with the four main lines of interest in my family tree.

My two main branches are my parents family lines, Turner and Wilton.

Turner - Yorkshire, England and Victoria, Australia

My father's great grandfather was William Turner. Born around 1813 and originally from Maltby near Rotherham, Yorkshire, he came to Australia in the Army and served in Sydney under Captain Lonsdale. After resigning his commission, reportedly in protest at the harsh sentences given for trivial offences, he settled in the fledgling colony of Melbourne. He opened the first tailors shop in Elizabeth Street, and outside his corner store a large tree grew and a creek flowed by.

William Turner married Margaret Killean and they had 10 children. They were among the earliest European settlers in what is now Melbourne's eastern suburbs, around the foothills of the Dandenongs. Their son Joshua was the first child of European descent to be born at The Basin, Victoria. William Turner is credited with founding Croydon, and has living descendants in the area to this day.

After the death of his first wife, William remarried to Harlettee Louisa Groombridge. She had been born in Tasmania, the daughter of a convict, and at 38 years of age was still 33 years William's junior. Having married approximately twice before, she had up to 10 children though many had died young. William and Harlettee had 3 children: Sydney Groombridge Turner, born 1883, Claribell Victoria Turner, born 1886 and Myrtle Elsie Adelaide Turner, born 1889. William died in 1893.

I am descended from Sydney Groombridge Turner, through his third son, Douglas, who married Jessie Rose Oborne (nee Hanniver)

Wilton - Cornwall, England and Victoria, Australia

Following the death of his first wife, Mary Best Chudleigh, Thomas Wilton emigrated from Cornwall to Australia and in 1851 he married his second wife, Maria Thomas. They had ten children and I am descended from the fourth one, William Thomas Wilton. He married Sarah Ann Constable and had seven children, and once again I am descended from the fourth child, Thomas Percival Wilton. Thomas Percival married Gertrude Frances Battersby. In the early days of their marriage they lived in St Arnaud, Victoria, but later moved to Ouyen up near the border. They had eleven children, and my Grandfather, Ellis George Wilton, was their seventh child.

Thomas Wilton and Maria Thomas were as far back as I'd traced the tree until 2000, when I stumbled across the website of a man named John C. Wilton who had recorded an enormous wealth of information on the Wiltons of Cornwall. In turn, huge portions of his data had come from Robert Wilton, a Canadian who had moved to Cornwall and conducted a one name study on the family. The Wilton family tree originates in the 1470s in Lanreath, where four sons with the surname Wilton are born to a man whose first name is unknown. Calling him "Prima", Robert Wilton charted his descendants over the next 500 plus years as they spread out across the world. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to both John C Wilton and Robert Wilton for the incredible amount of work they did, and for sharing their efforts online.

The other two main lines I'm following now are from Dave's side of the family. His parents' family names are Oxley and Steele.

Oxley - Essex, England

The Oxley tree starts with a family legend. Two Lumley sisters, Margaret and Jane, married two Oxley brothers, William and John. The Oxley boys were the sons of William Oxley and Dorcas Evered who lived in Hornchurch, Essex, but the legend says the Lumley girls were of noble blood. Letters written by Alfred Oxley in the 1880s say that he was told by an elderly aunt of his that Margaret and Jane Lumley were connected to THE Lumley family - that they were, in fact, cousins of the then-present Earl of Scarborough. The seat of the Lumley family was in Yorkshire, but the legend says that Margaret and Jane had taken a liking to the "commoner" Oxley boys and their families sent them to stay with friends in Essex to end their association. Young people in love being young people in love, William and John followed Margaret and Jane, found them and married them. The girls were disinherited, though their father and brother continued to visit them after their marriages.

I would love to prove the truth in this story and I've looked very hard for corroborating evidence, but to date I have had no success. Alfred Oxley provided pages and pages of documentation of the noble Lumley line, but did not include the link that would put Margaret and Jane into that tree. I shall continue to search!

The direct ancestors in Dave's known Oxley line include Tyler, Burge, Holmes, Starling, Mason, Lumley, and Evered in the female lines.

Steele - Donegal, Ireland

The Steeles are an Irish family but William Neville Curtis Steele was in Penang, Malaysia (or Malaya as it was at the time) when he met Iris Violet Lamb. Her family had lived there for a couple of generations - she was descended from David Brown, one of the early European settlers of Malaysia. Neville and Iris were Dave's grandparents. Neville Steele's birthplace was in Donegal, Ireland and he is a direct descendant of the Kilbride, Legge and Quadling families.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Through my fingers

I did some messy genealogy last week, and today it all unravelled on me.

It came to me suddenly last Sunday - I'd never looked into Elizabeth Waller. She was the great great great grandmother of my partner, Dave, and I'd so intently chased her husband's tree that I'd never come back to her to see if I could pad her line out any.

Google and Ancestry began paying off quickly. Elizabeth Waller and Forbes Scott Brown's marriage annoucement came up in The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and foreign India, China and Australasia:
Her father's name is given as Geo. (George) Waller, Esq, R.N. Another search took me to cousinconnect.com:

"I am looking for descendants of Forbes Scott Brown of Glugor Estate,Penang,Malaysia.He married to Elizabeth Waller,daughter of George Waller,early Penang Harbour Master.They stayed in Glugor House.Their eldest son,Alexander Murray Brown.His grandaughter,Miss Helen Margaret Brown lived on the family property at Longformacus,Duns,Scotland.P/s contact me."

(Originally posted 22-Apr-2005)

The Asiatic Journal came through again too:
At this point I got a bit excited. You see, I knew the Scotts were pioneers in the Penang settlement. I knew there were close links between the Browns and the Scotts, both in business and socially. I had read that members of the Scott and Brown family had intermarried, but this was the first time I found one of those marriages. I also knew the Scott family were closely related to Sir Walter Scott so I thought there would be some pretty good documentation of that line.

Googling put me on this path:

I am trying to clarify the parentage of one Harry Scott who was born around 1797 in Penang which was one of the Straits settlements.  His name may have officialy been Henry.  He definitely had two sisters, Elizabeth, who married Thomas Church, and Harriet ? who married George Waller who was harbourmaster at Penang. 
His father may have been Robert Scott and his mother was described a "foreign" lady. it is possible that she was called Lugia Pieria but spellings of both Lugia and Pieria uncertain.  They may not have been formally married.  Her name sugessts that she is Portugese, or a local girl of Portugese descent, and may have been a "local wife" or his mistress.
The seem to be half a dozen possible Robert Scotts in and around Georgetown at the right time and the Scott clan practically ran the place.  Many of them married more than once because their wives died early. Those that didn't produced huge families with all the boys called Robert, Walter or William.
Harry Scott's wife is recorded as being "a Siamese lady" It is probable that she was "a local wife" and that they were not formally married. She have been named, or known as, Elizabeth. He had two children, Elizabeth Scott b.Abt. 1829, and Walter Scott b. Abt. 1826 but whether the "Siamese lady" was their mother is not clear.
Harry died, I think, 03/Jun/1830 in Singapore.
Any help with this confusing family would be much appreciated.

I had a poke around on Ancestry and found a whole bunch of trees that bore this out. My Elizabeth Waller was the daughter of George Waller, former harbour master of Penang. George Waller had married Harriet Scott, and she was the daughter of Robert Scott and Luigia Pieria. I turned up a death notice for Robert Scott in 1836:
That fit nicely because I knew his daughter married in 1838, and he was listed as "the late Robert Scott" in her marriage annoucement.

I tracked back further in Ancestry. Robert Scott's parents were listed as Walter Scott and Jean Scott. THE Walter Scott? No. But Jean's line easily yielded and she turned out to be Sir Walter's first cousin. The tree kept unfolding before me, and I was cross referencing from one source to another. Ancestry... the Peerage... Wikipedia... Google. I was hot on the trail so I added as I went, knowing I would have to come back later and clean up after myself, track down sources and remove duplicates and so forth, but it just seemed like a bottomless line. Each new ancestor I found yielded another generation before them. This is the first line in my tree that actually connects into the nobility, so I've never had an experience quite like it before. It was exhilarating!

By 3am I had amassed a wealth of information about the Scott family line and their noble connections, and the next day I picked up where I left off. The family eventually proved to be descended from the Kings of Scotland, and before that Ireland, and then it kept going back further still. The legends of the High Kings of Ireland make it difficult to separate fact from legend and I resolved to revisit at some point to work out where the verified line ended and mythology began. I left the tree sitting at the year 282AD.

Looking more closely at the post-Norman Scott family, I found several notable descendants. Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Princess Diana AND Prince Charles. I spent some time recording their descent and connecting the tree so I could show Dave and his family how they were related to these famous people.

I also read a bit more about Sir Walter Scott and discovered he'd been quite interested in his grandmother Barbara Haliburton's family so the next day I began tracking them backwards. As the generations unfolded, I started seeing surnames familiar to me from the history books... Campbell, Douglas, then Stewart, and then, there it was: James II of Scotland married Jean Beaufort. I hardly noticed the Scottish king because I saw that Jean Beaufort was going to connect the tree to the English royal line, and eventually to Eleanor of Aquitaine herself (I geeked right out because she's my favourite historical figure). I quickly put that together, and then went and connected the line down through to the present day royal family so I could show it off to the in-laws again.

Coming back to work on it in dribs and drabs today, I started back at the bottom and tried to fill in some blanks back at the bottom end, and that's when I pulled a string that has unravelled everything. I noticed that Harriet Scott's birthdate was impossibly close to her daughter, Elizabeth Waller. The more I looked, the more I realised that something is very wrong there.  

Elizabeth Waller married Forbes Scott Brown in 1840, just two years after her supposed parents were married.

So what has happened? Do I have the wrong George Waller? Do I have the right father, wrong mother? I'm quite sure Elizabeth's dates are right: born 1821, married 1840, died 1861. Harriet Scott is a bit more of a puzzler. She appears in the 1851 census as a visitor in a residence with her sister's children (among others), and her age is given as 38 which would place her year of birth as 1813 (far, far too young to be Elizabeth's mother, even if Elizabeth was illegitimate and her parents married years after her birth). I looked up Harriet's death notice:
If she was 63 in 1870, then she was born circa 1807. So, did she shave 5 years off for the census... or did someone add 5 years on to her age at death? Either way, she was between 8 and 13 years older than her "daughter", Elizabeth.

I can't find George Waller's death record as yet, and I don't really know where to go from here. It looks like the exciting Scott connection is an error after all. How frustrating! Though it really does serve me right for getting ahead of myself and chasing phantoms instead of sources.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

From Little Things, Mighty Big Things Grow

I was 12 when my Pop died and I discovered he had been one of 11 children. I was astounded. How had I not known that before? The answer probably lies in distance. Nan and Pop Wilton had moved to the other end of the state early in their marriage and so we had been raised far, far away from our extended family.

That was in 1988, which was also the year of Australia's bicentennial. As a nation we were 200 years old, and we spoke about it endlessly in school; about how all our families had come here at some time in that 200 years. Some came in chains, some were guarding the others, some just dreaming of making their fortune in the goldrush. I asked my parents the question "Where did our family come from?". My Dad shrugged.
"Dunno. England, I guess," he said. "Ask your grandparents."
So I did. They weren't really clear on it either, except for Grandfather Turner.
"The Turners are from Scotland" Grandfather said. "My Grandfather died when I was a boy, but I remember his accent." (He was wrong, by the way).

Somehow our family had forgotten their roots in under 200 years and no one knew even where we had come from, let alone why, or who, or how.

Around 1990, a relative sent us a booklet containing Pop's family tree. It started with my great grandparents, Thomas Percival Wilton and Gertrude Frances Battersby, and it showed their descendants. Ten of their eleven children had gone on to have children of their own, and there were dozens of people in this book who were first cousins to my mother who I'd never heard of - who she'd never heard of! This huge family existed, just a half a day's drive away, and we were a part of it but we didn't even know it.

The chance acquisition of a shareware genealogy package called Brother's Keeper fanned the embers of interest in family history into a blazing fire. I began just out of curiosity, laboriously entering the data from the Wilton booklet into the program, and then expanding it with what I knew of my father's family. Then I needed more. I started writing to my great aunts and uncles, and phoning ever more distant relatives. Slowly I amassed a collection of information from the people around me. By the time I was 16, the Traralgon Library and the Genealogy Library became my haunts, and patient people helped me learn where to look for the information I needed just to push my tree out a little further.

It was a hard slog, but by the time I was 20 I had about a thousand people in my tree and I was able to answer my own question: Where did our family come from? We came from England and Ireland and Scotland, and to my great surprise some of us came from Prussia.

And then I got an internet connection and it all got really huge!

When I created my first website in 1998, I called it "The Mighty Big Tree". Life has been busy and ever changing so it has been offline for many years but I have been bitten by the genealogy bug again and have started this blog so I have a place to write about my research, as well as my life, my family and whatever else takes my interest. So... Welcome back to The Mighty Big Tree: 2014 edition!