28 January 2011

Of cads and cannibals

One of the family mysteries was where my great great grandmother came from. Her name was Frances Merry Nandin before she married my great great grandfather. Searches turned up virtually nothing on the surname Nandin (apart from some in Dubbo, but no "Frances"). In the end I decided to get a copy of her death certificate, to see what it contained about her parents, birthplace etc. Happily, it revealed a great deal.

Frances was born in Limerick, Ireland. Unfortunately the names of her parents were listed as unknown. The big surprise was that Frances had been previously married, at the age of 17, in Cooktown, Queensland. And her previous married name had actually been "Naudin" rather than "Nandin" - clearly a transcription error. The death certificate listed her first husband as Augustus Naudin, and showed she had two children by Augustus, Louis and Charles. Then, when she was 23 years old, Frances married George Valentine Turnbull in Brisbane, and had six more children with him.

So what happened to the first husband? There was no record of his death in the Queensland Births Deaths and Marriages. Hoping there might be something in the historical newspapers, I searched Trove, and also trawled the internet for anything on Augustus Naudin. I came across a relative of his, living in France, and together we, along with another relative here in Australia, put together some semblance of a story about what happened to Frances' first husband.

Frances' husband usually used Theophile or Augustus as his first name, but also used various permutations of them both - I'll use Augustus to save confusion. He was apparently born in Paris, France, in about 1845. Somehow, at some stage, he made it to Australia. Family legend has it that he left France after fighting a duel (which was illegal). Another story is that he was studying to be a priest but published a pamplet containing some "advanced" ideas so he had to give up taking orders. Who knows if any of that is true - he certainly seems to have had a very tenuous relationship with the truth...

Augustus Naudin first turned up in Dubbo, NSW, in 1868, marrying Charlotte MacMun (sic - it's actually McMunn) and then fathering a child with her, plus three more children in later years. Then apparently, he left, while Charlotte was still pregnant with her fourth child and headed north, supposedly going on an exploration trip to New Guinea, but leaving instructions that the baby should be called Charlotte if it was a girl (it was and she was dutifully called Charlotte).

The next we hear of Augustus was in 1877 where he was in Cooktown, Qld, marrying Bridget Murry/Murray on Valentines Day. Bridget Murry is Frances Naudin - for reasons unknown she changed her name to Frances. On the marriage certificate Augustus is listed as a storekeeper (and also a "Bachelor" - though as far as can be ascertained he was still married to Charlotte), Bridget as a servant. Bridget gave birth to their first child, Louis Alexander on 9 Dec that same year. The Cooktown Courier then has a record in April 1878 of Augustus (noted as an employee of Messrs. Walsh & Co's Gympie Stores, Charlotte St, Cooktown) being on the crew of the boat "Swan" which apparently mutinied and instead of sailing to Somerset, headed for New Guinea to explore for gold. In a letter he wrote back to Australia he said he intended to stay for six months. He obviously returned at some stage for he fathered another son with Bridget, Charles Augustus Naudin, born 22 Oct 1879.

The next we hear of Augustus, he was, according to the Cooktown Herald of 16 April 1880, about to leave the next day for New Guinea on the Annie Brooks, to "procure specimens of natural history" and also to test for evidence of gold. This is the last we hear of Augustus alive.

On or about October 12, 1880, the party of naturalists from the Annie Brooks was murdered by New Guinea natives, and eaten. I hate to think how poor Frances heard the news. So there she was, widowed, with two small sons to look after. Sometime in 1881 she arrived in Sydney with her boys and there met George Turnbull, my great great grandfather. You'd count your lucky stars if you met a man who was willing to take you plus your two young sons on, and it seems that George was willing. Soon Frances was pregnant with their first child, Herbert Louis Turnbull, who was born in Sydney on 19 June 1882. Most likely George's parents were not at all happy at the birth of this illegitimate grandson (George was not actually named as the father when the birth was registered - the father was named as Guss, but Augustus had been dead for too long for it to be him), so George, Frances and the three boys left for Queensland. George and Frances were married in Brisbane on November 1, 1882. They then had five more children in Brisbane: George Valentine, Ethel Mabel, Gertrude Adeline, Frances and Norman Percy. The family came back to Sydney, in 1900 after the deaths of George's parents, and George and Frances lived in Balmain until their deaths.

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