01 February 2011

The Wickhams

Mum has a whole lot of original birth, death and marriage certificates that have been passed down. There was a marriage certificate for Robert Wickham, fireman, who married Ann Jane Smith, "in private life" on Oct 12, 1876, at the bride's residence. Mum was aware that Robert Wickham died in an accident on the Railways here in Sydney, so I set about looking for him. A search of the historical newspapers at Trove found a funeral notice for a Robert Wickham, Enginedriver, in the Sydney Morning Herald in June 1896. The funeral notice said he was to be buried at the Necropolis cemetery (Rookwood). I looked up the cemetery records for Rookwood and found him listed as R Wickham, buried 14 June 1896, aged 44. In the grave beside him was A Wickham, buried 16 April 1931, aged 76 - if the grave beside was Robert Wickham then this would be his wife Annie. Further searching on Robert Wickham in 1896 showed that this was indeed the Robert Wickham I was searching for:

FATAL ACCIDENT TO AN ENGINE DRIVER. HORNSBY JUNCTION, thursday A fatal accident happened at Beecroft this morning. While the down Northern express, due at Hornsby Junction at 9.44a m. was passing Beecroft, the driver, Wickham, who had been oiling his engine and was returning to the cab, slipped and fell from the engine, breaking his neck. The body was brought on to Hornsby Junction, where an inquest will be held to-morrow. Wickham was highly spoken of by the railway employees, and was generally respected. He was the driver of the train that ran through the slip points at Carlingford about four years ago. Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 12 June 1896.

So now I had the right Robert Wickham. NSW BDM revealed that his parents were named Thomas and Rachel Wickham, but had no record of his birth. So he wasn't born in NSW. The best guess was that he immigrated here, so I checked the NSW Government State Records for him. There was a convict Robert Wickham listed there, who had arrived in NSW in 1830 on the Lady Feversham. Ancestry gave me a hint of a number of family trees with parents Thomas and Rachel Wickham, but of the family trees listed, despite there being many children in the family, none of them contained a Robert Wickham. Although I had no evidence that Thomas and Rachel came out to Australia I did find a death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald for Thomas Wickham in September 1897, so cross-checked it with the Rookwood Cemetery records. There was a T Wickham buried there in September 1897 (with an E Wickham) and an R Wickham (with a D Wickham) buried in the plot beside. On a long shot I rang Rookwood and asked if it was possible to find out who owned a burial plot... depends... (presumably on privacy laws). She looked it up for me. "Those two plots were owned by a Mr Robert Wickham." Bingo! She looked up the names: Rachel (with Dorothy) and Thomas (with Emma). Double bingo! Dorothy and Emma were two of their unmarried daughters.

Robert was part of the family I had hints for on Ancestry. I still don't know why Robert wasn't listed in those family trees on Ancestry - presumably the first one missed him and everyone else copied that tree and missed him too, never bothering to check if there were any more children.

And it's still a mystery to me how the Wickhams got to Australia, so that's some research for another day.

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