21 March 2011

Another piece of the Weiss puzzle

In my last post about the Weiss's I suggested that perhaps two of the daughters of Charles and Benigna Weiss might not have actually existed as there was no definite proof of them, only family lore.

I also mentioned that I had spoken to my grandmother, grand daughter of Charles' and Benigna's youngest child, Frederick, to see what she remembered of him, and if she recalled him speaking of his siblings. She was going to ask my great uncle if he remembered anything. He didn't really, so she asked her sister as well.

My great aunt came up with a piece of gold! She pointed out the first initial of each of the children:

  • Adelaide
  • Benigna
  • Caroline
  • D
  • Egmont
  • Frederick

She says this was an intentional naming of the children - in alphabetical order. Which suggests to me two things: firstly, that Benigna and Caroline did exist, even though no concrete evidence of their existence has yet been found, and secondly, that the fourth child's name could well have been Derby, as I thought.

Grandma forgot to ask about the locket. Perhaps that will uncover some evidence too!

17 March 2011

The missing Weiss'

My great great grandfather, Frederick Adam Weiss was born in Manchester, England, on February 6th, 1839 to Charles Nicholas and Benigna Catharina Weiss (nee Von Holst). He was the youngest of (maybe) six children. It is believed that there were three girls, Adelaide, Benigna and Caroline, and three boys, Unknown, Egmont and Frederick - born supposedly in the order listed here. However, I have only managed to confirm the existence of Adelaide, Unknown (just not sure what his name was), Egmont and Frederick.

All the children seem to have been born in England. Their father, Charles, enlisted in the British Army and was sent to India with the 17th Foot Regiment, arriving in Bombay on November 30, 1840. It would appear that the family didn't join him in India straight away as his wife Benigna, aged 40, Adelaide, 11, Unknown (the name looks like "Derby" to me...), 6, Egmont, 4, and Frederick (listed as Fritz), 2, were in the 1841 English Census (which was taken on June 6th, 1841).

I don't know why Benigna and Caroline don't appear in the census with the rest of the family (apart from their father who is in India). I can't find them living anywhere else during the census either - not away at boarding school or working as servants etc anywhere. Perhaps they died young, but there seem to be no records of that either. There is a record of Adelaide being baptised, at St Pancras in 1829, and also Frederick, aged 2, at Aden, Yemen (while Charles was stationed there) in 1842. I have not located any baptism records for Unknown or Egmont, but it would be illogical to expect a family to only baptise their youngest and eldest children.

I actually have no tangible evidence of Benigna and Caroline's existence, apart from in some handwritten notes Dad gave me - and he can't remember who they came from. However, other people believe they existed too, as I can find their details amongst other people's research as well.

As well as that, the only record I have for Unknown is in the 1841 Census. It probably would help if I could decipher his name...

I rang my grandmother and asked her if she remembered her grandfather (Frederick) ever mentioning his siblings. She has no recollection of this but she freely admits that she didn't pay attention to things like that and wishes she had now. She has a vague idea that her older sister (who died two years ago) perhaps was said to look like one of Frederick's siblings, and perhaps she had a locket from them. She's going to ask my great uncle if he remembers anything. I don't expect much will come of it though - these things are most likely lost now. That's ok. I'll just have to wonder.

13 March 2011

Useful family history sites - the National Archives of Australia

One very useful website for Australian family history researchers is the National Archives of Australia. It holds records that have been collected by Australian Government agencies, mostly since 1901. Not every record is available to view online at this stage, but more are being added all the time. For a fee you can also order copies of the records. Types of records include military service, naturalization, immigration, photographs, patent applications, federal court records, etc.

I have, so far, found five records of particular interest to me. Four for the Beringer family, one for the Wickhams.

Two of the records held for the Beringer family were particularly revealing, giving me family history information I don't think I could have obtained anywhere else. These were statements made by two great uncles, Albert and Charles Beringer. Because they were working in the public service at the time of World War 1, with German surnames, they had to be able to prove that they were not enemies of the state. The records are here and here. Without those I would never have known that their stepmother threw all her stepchildren out of home once they turned 14. That the children all managed to stay in touch without their parents linking them all together is a wonder, but it's lovely to see that they did.

The other two important records for the Beringers were the naturalization papers for my great great grandfather Adam Beringer and my great grandfather Adolf George Beringer. Adam's naturalization papers were where we first found out that he came from Rauenthal in the Rhine Valley, Germany, plus found his exact birth date. Adolf's papers confirmed for us his birthplace of Frankfurt, Germany.

The record of importance for the Wickham family was the military record for my great great uncle Allan Wickham. The record has 55 pages of documentation. The third page shows that he was killed in action in France in May 1917. Often these records contain letters to and from the family if the soldier was killed. Allan Wickham's records are no exception. Pages 25 and 26 of the record have a handwritten letter from Allan's mother, requesting her son's personal effects which seem to have gone missing. She ends the letter with the poignant words "...am sorry to have given you so much trouble, but I should like to get my boy's things." It's not clear from the correspondence whether they did actually turn up. I truly hope they did.

01 March 2011

Milling in the Rhine Valley

I know that my great great grandfather Adam Beringer was born in 1856 in Rauenthal, in the Rhine Valley, Germany. I know his brother Valentine (known as John Valentine here in Australia) was born in 1858 in Wiesbaden. They are approximately 15km apart (very approximate, allowing for the fact that Wiesbaden would most likely have been much smaller then).

I also know that their father, Valentin Beringer, was a miller. Where did he work? There are mills in the Rhine area (Rheingau), but none currently exist in Rauenthal. The closest mills are in Walluf, a town on the Rhine, and they are watermills. One of these mills was owned by a Nikolaus Behringer (note different spelling of surname) but had been sold by 1818, so even if there was a family connection I can't assume Valentin worked there.

The only mills I have found information for in the Rheingau were watermills. As there is no water flowing through Rauenthal I have to assume that either Valentin worked in a different type of mill, perhaps either a windmill or horsemill, or else he travelled to a different town to work. And I haven't found any reference to mills other than watermills in the Rheingau. There is a possibility that there was a mill of some type in Rauenthal though as I have found reference to something called "Lochmühle bei Rauenthal". Mühle is the German word for mill, and although I cannot find a translation for Lochmühle perhaps this refers to some type of mill at (bei) Rauenthal.

Does anyone know any experts in the milling industry in the Rhine Valley in the early 19th Century?