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.


  1. My great great grandfather was Carl George Wandel!

    1. Wow! Hi, cousin! Thanks for letting me know you stopped by :)