10 July 2014

Finding Thomas J Thompson

Thomas J Thompson was married to Mary Ann Wilkey, the sister of my great grandfather, James Arthur Wilkey. Mary Ann was born in 1864 in Canterbury, married Thomas in Burrowa (Boorowa) in 1885, and died on 29 April 1937 in Bankstown. They had seven children (I think), and lived in Railway Parade, Thornleigh in 1906 when their eldest daughter Ada died, aged 20 (SMH, 23 July 1906).

Apart from knowing where he was married, and where they lived when Ada died, I could find nothing on Mary Ann Wilkey's husband Thomas J Thompson. Nothing on his birth, no date of death, nor where he was buried - he wasn't buried with Mary Ann, who was buried at Rookwood Cemetery with her parents, John and Mary Ann Wilkey. I suspected from family death/funeral notices, including his own wife's, that he had died before her, but had no actual proof.

I searched and searched. I didn't know what he did for work, so that didn't help. Days later, it suddenly occurred to me that I knew that Thomas and Mary Ann's daughter Ada was buried in Rookwood as well - perhaps if he wasn't buried with his wife then maybe he was buried with his daughter. BINGO!

Thomas John Thompson was buried in the Methodist section of Rookwood Cemetery, with his daughter Ada May. He was interred on 1 July 1911, and the record notes he was 49 years old. From his date of interment I could look more accurately for a death record, and from his age at death I knew he was born in about 1862. I was completely unprepared for what I found in Trove (Barrier Miner, 1 July 1911):

An utter tragedy, compounded by the fact that Mary Ann's own father, John Wilkey, had died earlier that year (15 Jan 1911), and one of her brothers, James Arthur Wilkey, had been killed in another freak accident four years earlier. I can imagine Mary Ann at home, getting dinner ready, waiting for Thomas to get home from work, the time getting later and later, until there was a knock at the door...

However, putting aside the awful story of Thomas' death, I also learnt that Thomas was born in Victoria and was a bricklayer. I don't know if he was a bricklayer all his life, or just did different labouring jobs over the years. I've had a brief look at the Victorian BDM, but there's a few candidates that could be Thomas' birth (though only as Thomas Thompson - there's no Thomas J or Thomas John Thompson in the right range of years). I'm too cheap to go looking through them all, and I'm not sure I'd be able to work out which one he was anyway.

So that's a little about Thomas John Thompson. Not much, but more than I knew before.

29 June 2014

A trip to Mt Kosciuszko

Way back in 1936, when Mt Kosciuszko - Australia's tallest mountain, at 2228m/7310ft - was still spelt Kosciusko (it was changed by the Geographical Names Board of NSW in 1997 to reflect the correct Polish spelling, named after General Tadeusz Kosciuszko), Uncle Les and Auntie Gen took a trip there with Auntie Gen's uncle and aunt, Norman and Mary Macindoe.

They travelled in a 1920s soft top Austin tourer (I think) and they must have been freezing!

They stayed at Hotel Kosciusko. Below is a photo of Uncle Norman and Aunt Mary in front of the hotel (though I actually think this may be the back of the hotel).

They spent a day walking to the summit of the mountain, and although Auntie Gen looks well rugged up, I love that her Uncle Norman is in a three piece suit and tie! The one shown in the photo below is the original cairn, which has since been rebuilt.

Despite the fact that they have rebuilt the cairn at the summit of Kosciuszko, the Seaman's Hut is still standing (here's a link to a recent photo), and looks like it hasn't aged since the following photo was taken. I still can't work out what a seaman would be doing up there on the mountain though!

28 June 2014

Uncle Les and the YMCA

I've written a little about my great uncle Les Davis before, here and here.

Leslie Alfred Davis (1903-1977) was married to my grandfather's sister Gen, both pictured in the photo above. Family legend has it that he entertained the troops during World War II. I had assumed that this meant he was enlisted in the Imperial Forces (which he didn't), and research shows that he never travelled overseas with the armed forces. However he did spend time at Evans Head, NSW, during the war. Careful examination of photos of Uncle Les in uniform at the time show it was a YMCA uniform.

Searching the internet for information on the YMCA in Evans Head during World War II has been rather fruitless, and contacting the YMCA brought no help at all - perhaps they don't actually have an archivist? Going through Uncle Les' photo album this morning, it suddenly occurred to me to look up Trove - I'm not sure why I didn't think of this before! I found a number of useful articles:


GUESTS AT the Civic Hotel in-
clude Mr. and Mrs. Les Davis, of
Sydney, who are spending holidays
here. Mr. Davis was formerly at-
tached to Evans Head R.A.A.F.
Station as Y.M.C.A. Welfare Officer,
and will be remembered here as a
compere of concerts.
Northern Star, 17 Feb 1945 Northern Star, 26 Apr 1945 Northern Star, 29 Jan 1947

So this shows what Uncle Les was doing in Evans Head during World War II - he was the YMCA Welfare Officer attached to the RAAF base there. From what I can tell, as a YMCA Welfare Officer he supported service personnel stationed in Evans Head, presumably through the provision of recreational facilities and other services to assist in maintaining morale. The photos below show Uncle Les in his office, and also in the YMCA Recreation Room at Evans Head, with some RAAF airmen.

25 April 2014

ANZAC Day 2014

Today is ANZAC Day, a day observed in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate all those who served (or are still serving) and died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. ANZAC is an acronym that stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Naturally, on a day like today my thoughts turn to my great great uncle Allan Wickham, who was killed in action at the second battle of Bullecourt, France on 3 May 1917. Although I don't like war, I am proud to honour him and all those like him who made the ultimate sacrifice in war, by fighting and dying for their country.

The photo above is of my son, a member of the Australian Air League, laying a wreath at the local ANZAC Day Parade two weekends ago. I was proud that he marched in honour of those who fought and lost their lives for their country, and doubly proud that he was chosen to lay a wreath.

21 April 2014

The Smiths

I've recently been working on some Smiths. I've done some research on Smiths before, but they were on the maternal side of my family. These Smiths are on the paternal side - Susanna(h) Smith married James Ball at Hoxton St John, Hackney on 16 April 1835.

The surname of Smith can be an appallingly difficult one to research, especially if you have a John Smith and a Mary Smith in the mix, which happen to be the names of Susannah's parents. Helpfully, Susannah's parents made my research slightly easier because they were apparently great fans of alliteration and gave all their children names beginning with 'S' - Susannah, Samuel, Shadrach and Sarah, and possibly also Seth and Salina. I don't remember where I found the names of Seth and Salina, but I'm leaving them here as possible children because their names do start with S, but do be aware that they may not be correct. I have not been able to find any concrete evidence for their existence.

This Smith family seems to be from around the Bedford/Bletchley/Leighton Buzzard area. I have not actually been able to find any birth/baptism records for them. According to the records I have found, Samuel was the eldest child, born in about 1802 in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire (from the 1851 English census). Next was Sarah, born in about 1808, in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire (according to the 1851 and 1861 censuses). Shadrach was born in about 1811 in Bletchley (1851 census). And according to her immigration records (upon immigration to Australia in 1857) and the 1851 census, Susannah was born in Bedford, Bedfordshire in 1815.

John Smith was noted as a linen weaver from Leighton Buzzard on the birth record of his grandson James William Ball, (son of James and Susannah Ball née Smith). The record does not state whether John Smith was actually still living at the time of the birth in 1837. Certainly John and Mary are both recorded as dead when Susannah immigrated to Australia in 1857.

One of the reasons why it has been difficult to find information on the family is because at least all the children in the family were non-conformist in their religion - I don't know if their parents were. Although some of James and Susannah Ball's own children were baptised in the Church of England, some were not - James William Ball's birth is found on a non-conformist register. Immigration records list the denomination of the Ball family as "Independent", which is also known as "Congregationalist".

Susannah's unmarried brother Samuel was living at 16 Beaumont Square, Mile End Old Town in the 1851 English census and his occupation was "Minister of Religion (Independent) and Lecturer".

Shadrach lived with his wife Elizabeth just down the road from Samuel at 2 Beaumont Square. As far as I can tell, they had no children. Shadrach was a printer according to the 1841 and 1851 censuses, but he did much more than that according to the death notice his sister Susannah placed in the Sydney Morning Herald on 31 Aug 1860:

I don't know this for sure because I haven't yet managed to access any Congregationalist ministers records, but I am guessing Samuel may well have worked at the same church that Shadrach attended - the Mile End Congregational Church.

Sarah was a governess who married later in life, aged 40, to a twice-widowed man, William Griffith Marsh - I'm guessing she was governess to his children. I have not been able to find a record for their marriage apart from in the civil records, and it is my hunch that they married in a Congregationalist church and their marriage is buried amongst the non-conformist records. I have not found any records for Sarah having any children.

Susannah Ball née Smith (1815-23 Oct 1871) is buried in Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney, NSW. Sarah Marsh née Smith (c1808-Mar 1864) is buried in Abney Park Cemetery, a non-conformist cemetery in Hackney, in the same plot as her brother Shadrach (c1811-31 May 1860), and his wife Elizabeth. I've not yet been able to work out when Samuel died, but it was before Shadrach, and he is not buried in Abney Park Cemetery.

17 April 2014

A family heirloom - a hand embroidered doily

I was given this embroidered doily after the death of my great aunt - it had been embroidered by her mother, my great grandmother, Ellen Paterson Wilkey née Macindoe (1876-20 Apr 1967). I treasure it because of my own love of embroidery, and have it framed and hanging on the wall in my bedroom. One day, when I meet her in heaven, my great grandmother may well ask me why I stuck it on the wall in a frame instead of using it!

The other day I was looking through some books on Antique Pattern Library, and was stunned when I came across the pattern! There is only one small difference that I can find in the way my great grandmother stitched it compared to the pattern and I'm quite convinced it is the pattern she followed. The pattern is from a DMC pattern book, Drawn Thread Work, edited by Thérésa de Dillmont, and was published in about 1895. This definitely fits within the time that my great grandmother might have been stitching.

Why do I think this is significant? I'd been told of my great grandmother's sewing skills, but finding the published pattern shows me that ordinary women stitched these designs - it wasn't mass produced in a factory somewhere. She was definitely talented - it's not an easy pattern!

06 April 2014

How I am related to the embroidery thread company DMC

My sister and I are accomplished embroiderers, and I have been aware for some time that there was a good chance we were related in some extremely distant way to the founders of the embroidery thread company DMC. Last night my sister and I were talking about it, and she challenged me to work out exactly how we were related. I thought it would take ages. Happily it didn't!

DMC (Dollfus Mieg and Company) is a company that was founded in Mulhouse in 1746 by Jean-Henri Dollfus, an artist, Jean-Jacques Schmalzer and Samuel Koechlin, both businessmen. When it was founded the company was known as Koechlin, Schmalzer and Company. It was run jointly by Jean-Henri and his brother Jean Dollfus, and towards the end of the century Jean's son Daniel took over running the company. Daniel Dollfus married Anne-Marie Mieg in 1800, and added his wife's surname to his own, to become Daniel Dollfus Mieg. The company was given the new trading name of Dollfus Mieg and Company - D.M.C.

So how am I related to DMC? Jean-Henri Dollfus, one of the company founders, was the great grandfather of the wife of my first cousin 5x removed. To put it in a way that is hopefully slightly easier to comprehend, Jean-Henri's great granddaughter Sophie-Louise Dollfus married Médard Baumgarten, who was the nephew of my 4x great grandfather Gaspard Weiss.

So every time I sit down to sew with some DMC threads I will now be able to bask in the glow of my familial relationship to the company that made the threads!

30 March 2014

The Baumgartens in France

The other day I discovered that the Archives Départementales du Haut Rhin has birth, death and marriage records from 1798-1892 available for viewing online, arranged by town. They are civil records, not parish records, and contain quite a lot of information, often the dates of birth of people getting married, their parents' names and occupations, names of witnesses, if and how they are related, etc. Fantastic! Although considering they are written in French perhaps I should say "Fantastique!"

I've been looking through them and have managed to increase my Weiss family tree quite a bit, but the most interesting part has been finding all the Baumgartens.

Early on in my research on the Baumgartens in Mulhouse I was warned that "Baumgartner" was the name of a longstanding bourgeois family in Mulhouse, and perhaps that's who my Baumgartens were. From my research I have found that all my family in Mulhouse were actually Baumgarten, a totally distinct family from the Baumgartners, although they were sometimes misnamed as Baumgartners.

I already knew that Marie Baumgarten had moved to Mulhouse from London (where she was born) with her Mulhousien husband Gaspard Weiss. Her sister Lucinda Worrall Baumgarten had also moved there at some stage, and married a local Paul Blech, as had their brother William (often known by the French form, Guillaume, in the French records), who had married into one of the big bourgeois families by marrying Anne Catherine Schlumberger.

Trawling through the birth, death and marriage records for Mulhouse, I found three instances of a witness to three separate marriages, one Frédéric Baumgarten. There was even a record of his son Jean marrying. Interesting. Definitely Baumgarten, not Baumgartner. He was a dessinateur - a designer. I take that to mean he was associated with the rag trade - which was huge in Mulhouse - and designed prints for fabric. There was a Frederick in the English Baumgarten family, a brother of Marie, Lucinda and William's. He was born in about 1762, and baptised at St Andrew's Holborn, Middlesex, England on 20 May 1762. According to the listed age of the Frederic Baumgarten in the Mulhouse civil records, his age matches up with a birthdate in 1762. I think it is therefore reasonable to assume that the Frederic Baumgarten in the Mulhouse records is the brother of Marie, Lucinda and William.

Something I realised as I went through years of records was that some people were unable to write and just made their mark on the page. None of the families I am related to were in this category. Clearly, being from the bourgeoisie, they all could read and write. I'm not trying to claim any superiority here, just making the comment that there clearly were class differences, and my Mulhousien ancestry was quite obviously not from the lower classes.

I did discover one other intriguing thing whilst looking into Frederic Baumgarten and the Baumgartens in Mulhouse in general. I was Googling "Baumgarten" and "Mulhouse" in Google Books, and in one of the references to Lucinda Baumgarten and her husband Paul Blech (Maisons, villages et villas d'Alsace du Sud: études d'architecture et d'histoire by Louis Abel, published 1994 by the Société savante d'Alsace), it noted "Ce Paul Blech à son tour, épousa, en 1787, Lucinde Baumgarten, la fille de Frédéric." Why did it note that she was the daughter of Frederick (his full name was Samuel Christian Frederick Baumgarten)? Was he known in Alsace? Did he spend some time there? I haven't found anything else that refers to him in Mulhouse, but I wonder...

11 March 2014

Gaspard Weiss was married twice!

It had been right there under my nose (in his autobiography, though in my defence it is in German and French), but it was only the other day that I realised that my 4x great grandfather (Jean) Gaspard Weiss remarried after the death of his first wife (my 4x great grandmother) Marie Baumgarten.

On 25 November 1800, two years after the death of his first wife Marie, Gaspard Weiss married Judith Risler, daughter of Jean Risler and Marguerite Lauttenbourg, in Mulhouse. She was aged 59, he was 61. Unsurprisingly at their age, Gaspard and Judith produced no children. They were together until Gaspard's death in 1815. It's nice to think he had someone to share his life with again after the death of Marie.

Edited on 22 March 2014 to add:
I found a copy of the marriage certificate today in the Archives Départementales Du Haut-Rhin, and although it is handwritten, in French, I've worked out that his brother-in-law Paul Blech (married to his late wife Marie's sister Lucinda Worrall Baumgarten) was one of the witnesses. It would be interesting to know if other Baumgartens had attended the wedding, apart from Lucinda. Of course, I'll never know that!

The other interesting thing I noted was that Gaspard signed the marriage certificate using German script, using the German variation of his name - Caspar Weiß. I have only ever seen him sign his name as Gaspar(d) Weiss before, quite legibly in normal English-style lettering. I wonder if after Mulhouse reunited with France in 1798 whether he became "more German" and emphasised his German heritage. Below is a comparison of his signatures, the first from his marriage to Marie Baumgarten ("Gaspar Weiss", aged 36), the second on the death certificate of Marie ("Gaspard Weiss", aged 59), and the third at his marriage to Judith Risler ("Caspar Weiß", aged 61). If I didn't know it was definitely him I would dismiss the third signature as by a totally different person!

04 March 2014

A bit more information on the Beringers' mill in Rauenthal

A distant relative got in touch with me the other day, who is descended from another branch of the Beringer family. She is descended from Katharina Beringer, who is my 3x great aunt. Katharina's half-brother Adam Beringer is my 2x great grandfather, the one who emigrated to Australia in 1884, with his wife Caroline and brother John Valentine (also half-brother of Katharina).

Previously the only information I had for Katharina was that she was born in Rauenthal on 13 July 1845, and had her confirmation in Rauenthal on 23 July 1862 when she was 17 years old. Now, having contact with her descendant, I know that Katharina was married to Philipp Kneip on 13 April 1868 in Rauenthal. I also now know that what I suspected was true: Katharina (and her husband Philipp) managed the Lochmühle (a water mill) in Rauenthal after the death of Valtin Beringer, Katharina's father, in August 1867. In 1871 the Lochmühle was then passed on to Georg and Karoline Koch, as noted in this post.

Katharina and Philipp Kneip had seven children, the first two, Mathilde and Josef were born in Rauenthal (11 November 1868 and 19 March 1870 respectively), the next two, Robert and Adam, born in Schierstein (5 October 1871 and 4 Dec 1873 respectively). After that the family moved north, with quite a bit of time spent in Dillenburg apparently.

It is interesting to note that although Katharina and Philipp were married in April 1868, they were "together" before that as Mathilde was born in November of the same year. If Mathilde was carried to term, conception would have been in about February of that year. She was made legitimate by the marriage of her parents before her birth.

So the question remains: Why did the extended Beringer family give up the mill? The Kneips didn't stay long in Schierstein - Philipp's brother was apparently already running the Grorother Mühle there, but perhaps they stayed with him while they worked out their next move...

Many thanks to my relative for her assistance with the Kneip family information.