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.


  1. Just discovered you blog, great read, love you sense of humour! Looking forward to reading more.

  2. What a lovely thing to say! Thanks, Diane. Hope you'll stick around.