28 April 2011

Charles and Benigna Weiss

I've written before about my great great grandfather Frederick Weiss, and some of his relatives, including his sister Caroline. I've mentioned that Frederick and his siblings were orphaned while the family was in India, but haven't really explained that yet. There isn't a whole lot of information available on Frederick's parents, Charles and Benigna Weiss, but the following is what I do know:

Charles Nicholas Weiss was believed to have been born in Prussia, in an area which is now in Poland, in about 1795. Nothing is known of his parents. At some stage he made his way to England, and there we have the first concrete evidence of him - marrying Benigna Catharina Von Holst at St Pancras Church, London, on 9th September 1928. They were both of that parish, neither had been previously married, and the witnesses were either members of the Von Holst family or not Weiss'. If Charles had come to England with members of his family certainly none of them were official witnesses at his wedding.

Exactly a year after they were married Charles and Benigna's first child was born - Adelaide Catherine Gustavia Martha Weiss. She was baptised at St Pancras Church on 1st October 1929, and Charles' occupation was listed as Professor of Music. After this five more children were born, but so far no baptism records have come to light for three of them: Benigna, Caroline or Derby.

According to family information, Charles enlisted in the British Army on 22nd October 1840 as a Private (Band flautist) in the 17th Foot Regiment (also known as the Leicestershire Regiment), and was promoted to Sergeant the very next day. The 17th Foot Regiment was posted in India and Charles is believed to have arrived in Bombay from England to join the regiment on 30th November 1840. The Regiment was then later stationed at Poona, and later moved to the British colony of Aden (now part of Yemen).

At some stage the family joined Charles where he was stationed, some time after the 1841 England Census taken on 6th June 1841, as most of the family were recorded on that day living at 4 Acre Place, St Pancras, London. During the time he was stationed in Aden, Charles and Benigna's youngest boys, Egmont and Frederick, were baptised by the Assistant Chaplain Reverend G. Morison. The parish baptism records list Charles as Band Master for the 17th Regiment.

No further information has come to light about Charles, until his death. He died from unknown causes on 14th June 1845, aged 50 years. Charles' funeral was held in St Thomas' Cathedral Bombay (Mumbai) and he was buried in Back Bay cemetery by William Dinan on 15th June 1845. Back Bay cemetery has since been cleared and made into a park.

Benigna Catharina Weiss (nee Von Holst) was born about 1801, somewhere in Europe, to Matthias and Katharina Holst (nee Rogge). The 1841 England Census has her birthplace as "Foreign Parts" so she certainly wasn't born in England. Her father had fled from Riga because of unpopular political views, and according to the biography of the composer Gustav Holst, who was Benigna's great nephew, "by the beginning of the nineteenth century he had to escape from Riga with his Russian wife and small son Gustavus Valentine". Perhaps Benigna was born along the way, before they reached England. Benigna's next-born sibling, Constantia, was born in England.

Benigna is listed in the 1841 England Census with four of her six children - Adelaide, Derby, Egmont and "Fritz" (Frederick). Her daughter Caroline was still alive so must have been elsewhere on the night of the Census (though I cannot find any reference), and I believe Benigna, Charles and Benigna's second child, may have died in childhood. In the Census Benigna (the mother) is listed as of "Independent Means". What this means I cannot be sure - perhaps it means she was living off Charles' army income, or perhaps she had income from her own family, the Von Holsts, who seemed to portray themselves as reasonably well-off.

As mentioned earlier, Benigna and the children followed Charles to India sometime after June 1841, and the children were orphaned after Benigna died. She died just a few months after her husband, in Bombay, of a fever on 26th October 1845. She was buried in the cemetery at Colaba, Bombay, on 28th October by Chaplain George Pigott. The burial register for Colabah (sic) lists her age as 40 years, but this is likely to be incorrect - see year of birth discussion above. Her "Quality, Trade or Profession" is listed as "Widow of the Late Band Master Weiss H.M. 17th Regt". Colaba cemetery is long since gone.

26 April 2011

Nell Brell's cookies

According to my mother, my Great Nanna, Emily Turnbull nee Wickham (Mum's nanna) loved to cook. Great Nanna's cousin on her mother's side was Alice (Nellie) Stilling. Nellie married Joseph Brell in 1923, and shared one of her biscuit recipes with Great Nanna. Great Nanna passed the recipe on to my mother, and as little kids we often had Nell Brell's cookies.

Nell Brell's cookies

  • 250g margarine/butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar 2 eggs
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 1 cup fruit (sultanas etc)
  • ½ cup dessicated coconut
  • crushed cornflakes

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, then fruit, coconut and lastly flour, stirring to combine.

Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls and then roll them in crushed cornflakes. Place balls on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, leaving space between them for spreading.

Bake at 200°C for about 12 mins or until golden. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet.

20 April 2011

Why visiting graves can be extremely illuminating

I went to Rookwood Cemetery this morning. My main objective was to find the grave of Adam Beringer, which I did, after an hour and a half of searching in the unmapped Catholic cemetery. Unfortunately his second wife Elizabeth clearly wasn't willing to spring for a gravestone, so it was unmarked. I did know that it was grave 2600 though, and discovered some graves had the number engraved in the sandstone at the base, and I was able to count back to find the right grave.

So after that little let down (the grave being unmarked) I thought I'd head to the Anglican cemetery and search for a grave in Section A (the Anglican cemetery also is not mapped at this stage) that I was interested in. I arrived in Section A to discover little white pegs at the end of the rows, announcing what grave number was next to them. You beauty! According to the numbers, the grave I was looking for shouldn't have been too difficult to find. I stumbled across the grave, expecting to find a Samuel Merrick buried there - one whom I wasn't totally sure I was related to but I thought it might be helpful to find it nonetheless. However, I was delighted to find other people buried in the grave, killing three birds with one stone (pardon the pun).

I transcribed the headstone information as best I could:

"Sacred to the memory of Mary Ann, the beloved wife of James Merrick, who departed this life 6th January 1870, aged 24 years. "She is not dead but sleepeth." Also Eleanor Sarah, beloved infant daughter of James and Eliza Jane Merrick, who departed this life 16th March 1880, aged 10 weeks. Also Samuel Merrick, who departed this life 24th August 1913, aged 64 years. [section in italics which is completely illegible]."

I'd love to go back sometime and do a rubbing of the italics section at the bottom to see if I can decipher it.

I learnt lots of new information from that headstone. Firstly, it confirmed my guess that my ancestor James Merrick had been married to Mary Ann Cooper before he married Eliza Jane Ball.

Secondly, I discovered where James and Eliza Jane's only child who didn't make it through childhood was buried - Eleanor Sarah. This information does not seem to be noted in the Anglican cemetery online Deceased Search.

And thirdly, I could now confirm that James Merrick did have a brother called Samuel (coupled with the related death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Aug 1913), who died, aged 64 years old. With both this headstone and Samuel's death notice I now know that Samuel was born in about 1849, and that he and James had a brother, John. I don't know if the brother John emigrated as well - there is a record for a John Merrick, with parents William and Susan Jane (not Jane), dying in 1959 in Parkes. Perhaps it is him or perhaps he stayed in Ireland. I also am inferring from the headstone and from the wording of the death notice that Samuel was not married, otherwise, surely a wife would have been mentioned.

And I do not now think that my relations James and Samuel arrived in Australia on the Hotspur because the dates do not work - James was definitely older than Samuel and the brothers on the Hotspur had Samuel older. I'm not ruling out that they were related though - all bootmakers, all Anglican/Church of England, with the same surname, from the same town...

17 April 2011

A couple of Weiss things...

I mentioned in my post about Frederick Weiss' journey to England from India that he stayed at 73 Upper Norton Street when he arrived in London. I worked out last night that this was the home of some relatives. Gustavus Von Holst (uncle on Fred's mother's side and grandfather of the composer Gustav Holst) was a professor of music, and this is where he lived (and probably worked) with his wife Honoria.

And I found another piece of circumstantial evidence that Caroline J Hughes is the Caroline Weiss from my family. Caroline was the third child in the Weiss family, the eldest being Adelaide. Adelaide married James Sheldon and they had at least five children, one of whom, Adelaide M Sheldon, was born in Blackheath, Kent, England (now a part of London near Greenwich). James was a missionary with the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in India and they lived there between 1855 and 1883. During this time their daughter Adelaide was born (in about 1869), presumably when they were back in England for a visit. In about 1868 Caroline and Henry Hughes had a daughter Elizabeth, also born in Blackheath, Kent, England. The Hughes had not long been in England, and appear to have not yet settled in Bath. It is not unlikely that the two families might have spent time together (or even stayed together) during this period when both sisters were pregnant with their daughters. As I said, it's circumstantial, but another little piece of possible evidence nonetheless.

15 April 2011

What happened to Caroline Weiss

I have found out from the British Library India Office that they do not have a record of the marriage of Caroline Judith Weiss and Henry Richard Hughes. If anyone had an easily found record, they would. Considering the original information was found in the 1853 Bombay Almanac and not from marriage records held in Bombay, this information has presumably been lost along the way.

So how do I confirm it is the Caroline I'm looking for? Unless I can find a living relative of her sister Adelaide, who may or may not be able to confirm that Caroline married and returned to England, the only option I have is information from her death record. I looked up FreeBMD which gave the details of her death - "HUGHES Caroline J 72 Bath 5c 351" for the April-May-June quarter of 1905. Before going to the extent of ordering a death certificate from that record I looked up the General Register Office (GRO) information to see what details I might get on the death certificate. Unfortunately, for deaths before 1969 there is no information about the date and place of birth recorded - it only shows the age of the deceased, which in this case was 72. I hadn't noticed that before... 1905 - 72 = 1833. 1833 is the year that the Caroline I am looking for was supposedly born.

So whilst this doesn't confirm it, this adds to the circumstantial evidence I have that this is the Caroline Weiss I am looking for. And that's sufficient for me at this stage, unless further information comes to light. But I'm satisfied now with what happened to her - she was born in 1833 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, to Benigna and Charles Weiss, went with her family to India for her father's work (he was in the British Army), was orphaned in India when both her parents died in 1845, she may or may not have returned home to England for schooling, but then she married in Bombay in 1851, had a few children there in India, returned to England, had one or two more children, and settled with her husband and surviving child(ren) in Walcot, Bath. She lived there until she died in 1905, aged 72. From what I have found, only one of her children, Marion, survived her, and she possibly didn't marry, so that means it is unlikely that there are any descendants I can contact or who would be researching their family history. Which is presumably why this information has remained hidden for so long.

I am considering ordering a copy of her will though, to see what new information that holds...

11 April 2011

Have I found her?

One of the people who has most intrigued me has been Caroline Weiss (and also her sister Benigna). I know from Caroline's portrait that she reached adulthood - whereas I can't be sure of this for Benigna. So I was left wondering "Where did she go?" It was possible that one of the reasons why she couldn't be found was that her surname might have changed through marriage.

One useful website that I have found for the Weiss family has been Families in British India Society (FIBIS). They have quite a lot of records in their database of baptisms, marriages and deaths and other such things related to the British living in India and South Asia between 1600 and 1947. I found Caroline's mother's burial details on the FIBIS database. I have also recently found a few useful things on the new FamilySearch website, which I have previously found rather hit-and-miss. I don't always trust everything I find on the FamilySearch website but sometimes when you have nothing else to go on... I found Frederick and Egmont's baptism records from Aden on this website - I had known that Frederick was baptised in Aden, but was unaware that Egmont was also.

What I knew of the family was that the children were all born in England and then sometime during or after 1841 they and their mother followed their father to India who was stationed there with the British Army. When both their parents died in 1845, the boys were apparently sent to military school in India, and the girls supposedly sent home to England for their schooling. But I could find a record of Adelaide, Caroline's eldest sister, back in England, but nothing for Caroline (nor Benigna). I had an impulse to check if there were any records for the children in India. I searched the FIBIS database for "Caroline Weiss". One record came up - a listing in the Bombay Almanac of 1853 - for a marriage announcement for Henry Richard Hughes, an engineer in the Indian Army, to Caroline J. Weiss of Kotree (Kotri), married 23 Dec 1851 in Bombay. If this was my Caroline she would have been 18, and I would have expected her to have at least one middle name because those of her siblings who we have good records for all have one or two middle names. And I knew Frederick, her brother, had definitely lived in Kotree. It could be her...

I then looked on FamilySearch to see if this Henry and Caroline had any children. Mary Adelaide Hughes was born to Henry Richard and Caroline Judith Hughes in 1862 in Kurrachee (Karachi, then in India). Adelaide was the name of Caroline Weiss' eldest sister... It's not far-fetched to think she might name her daughter after her sister. There was also a Henry James Hughes born in 1865 in Kurrachee. There is also a record for an Annie Hughes born 1869 in Kurrachee. I'm not so sure about this record - there's no middle name, plus, as I subsequently discovered, the Hughes were possibly back in England by this date. They had a daughter Elizabeth recorded living with them in the 1871 Census (with son Henry there too, but no Mary) who was born around 1868 in Blackheath, Kent. Perhaps this is where they first were after they arrived back in England. Henry Richard died 7 Feb 1782. By the 1881 Census only one child was living with Caroline - Marion Constance, who was apparently born the same year her father died.

Caroline Judith Hughes died 6 May 1905 in Bath. I have not been able to discover what happened to Marion after her mother's death, however it is possible that she did not marry - she was still a spinster at 30, which is a long time to be left on the shelf in those days. Neither have I found any death records for any of the other children.

The two things that make me think this is Caroline Weiss, daughter of Charles and Benigna, are (1) she was noted as from Kotree in the wedding announcement, and I know that her brother Frederick lived in Kotree until he moved to England, and (2) her first daughter's middle name was Adelaide, which could be after her eldest sister Adelaide. It's all quite circumstantial but that's the best I've got to offer at this stage. Perhaps her marriage certificate, if I could get a copy, might give her parents' names, or maybe the name of a marriage witness might provide a clue, but perhaps I'll never know.

09 April 2011

Family likeness

The people above are: Gustav Holst, Imogen Holst, Theodor Von Holst, Constantia Tourrier (nee Von Holst), Caroline Weiss, my great aunt (also a Weiss). Theodor and Constantia were siblings, Gustav was their great nephew (and Imogen his daughter), Caroline was their niece, and my great aunt was their niece a number of generations down.

See any family likeness? I can see a long face, a long thin nose and a small mouth.

Incidentally, the portrait of Caroline is the one I wrote about in an earlier post. It clearly isn't by Theodor - it's quite amateurish compared to the painting he did of Constantia beside it - but it was a nice thought while it lasted!

It's rather unusual to be in the position to be able to compare faces through so many generations. I'm fortunate that these relatives (apart from my great aunt) were either famous or had portraits painted. I have no other branches of the family I can do it in!

Oh, and I have the thin nose, though it's not as long as those seen here.

07 April 2011

Frederick Weiss' journey from India to England

My father has a photocopy of some handwritten notes of Frederick Weiss', from when he journeyed home to England from India. Aside from the fact that I don't think I have ever read less legible handwriting from a 14 year old, it's quite informative, as it goes through the route taken, how long it took, and he also appears to have totted up his expenses as well. I guess if you are a 14 year old orphan you do have to make sure you manage your money carefully...

I transcribe it here:

Left Kotrie (Kotri, now in Pakistan) 16 Sep 1853.
Arrived Karrachee (Karachi, Pakistan) 20th Sep, arrived Bombay (Mumbai, India) 25th, in Aden 6th Nov, Suez 12th.
Left Suez at 9am on the 12th Nov, arrived at Cairo on the 13th at 1/2 past one o'clock.
I left again on the 15th at 1/2 past eight am, arrived at Alexandria the following morning.
Remained there five days.
Left again on the 20th Nov, reached Malta 25th at morning.
Remained 6 hours.
At Gibraltar 30th and remained 6 hours and arived at Southampton on the 5th Dec in the morning, reached London by the train at 1/2 past 6pm, and 73 Upper Norton St at 1/2 past 7pm.
[Illegible heading]
From Kotrie to Karrachee [illegible denomination - possibly "Rs" - rupees?] 14
From Karrachee to Bombay 42
Free passage to Suez Table money from Bombay to Suez 100
Suez to Alexandria 100-
Hotel expenses 30-
From Alexandria to Southampton 380-
Railway carriage -9-
Subtotal: 675
2 overcoats (Bombay) 40-
2 ditto (London) 22-8
2 cloth caps 8-
Total: 741-8-
Transit through the D[illegible] £5-
Hotel at Cairo 1-
Hotel Alexandria 2-10-
Passage in P&O Steamer Ripon 30-
Carriage to the College at Malta -5
Railway carriage from Southampton to London -19-
Cab hire 4-
Agency clearance -10-
Dock [something] and porterage -18-
Extra packages -14-
Boat in Alexandria 2-
Highbury College £25-
6 for Boots 2-10-
Tutor 5 months 5-5-
Edinburgh Institution 12-
Books etc 2-10-
June - Steamer twice to and from London 6-
Sep - Twice to and from Glasgow 1-
Jan - to and from London 3-
Feb - E.W., D.[7?] £4-
Presents 2-10

Certainly it would appear that the young Frederick wasn't the kind to write a diary, as we learn absolutely nothing about what the trip was like, what he saw, who he met, whether it was good weather on the ships etc. But we know that he travelled on the P&O Steamer Ripon, and he paid fees to both Highbury College and the Edinburgh Institution in 1854. The Edinburgh Institution appears to have been a private boys school - I'm not sure what age he would have finished school and then gone on to train for a profession. Highbury College was a teacher training college and Frederick did ultimately become a school teacher. He also paid for a tutor for 5 months - what was the tutoring for? Did he know someone at 73 Upper Norton St (now known as Bolsover St, in Marylebone), or did he just lodge there briefly on his way to school? Did he travel by himself? When did his brothers return to England - we know that Egmont definitely did because he is in the 1861 English census. Who were the presents for?

Ultimately the document does raise more questions than it answers, but it's interesting all the same to learn some details of his journey to England from India.

04 April 2011

A lost Weiss/von Holst?

I have mentioned that my grandmother was aware of a picture of one of the sisters of her grandfather Frederick Weiss. Grandma thought it was a locket but it turned out to be a very small painting. It is of Caroline - one of the sisters I had no evidence for!

I have not yet seen it, but Grandma has described it to me. It's about 2 x 2 inches, and in Grandma's estimation is very well painted - she says it is like a photo, the realism is so good. She guesses that Caroline may have been around 20 years old in the portrait. The painting is kept in a special little box which seems to have been made especially for it. It clearly was someone's treasure. Caroline's?

I was thinking about the painting, whilst doing some housework. It suddenly occurred to me that Caroline's mother, Benigna, had a brother who was an artist. Theodor von Holst was an English romantic painter, and was Benigna's younger brother.

Family lore says that after Caroline's parents Charles and Benigna both died in Bombay their sons were sent to a military school somewhere in India and the daughters were sent home to England for their schooling. I don't think it is a stretch to think that an uncle might paint a miniature portrait of his niece...

I shall wait to see the painting.

02 April 2011

True versus guessed, or How I got Myself all Confused...

One of my ancestors, my great great grandfather, was James Merrick. As I understood it, he was Irish (from Sligo) and a bootmaker.

He was married to Eliza Jane Ball and they had seven children, one of whom was my great grandmother. There was no death notice published in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) for him, but there was for his wife when she died, and knowing where she was buried, I found James buried in the same grave. The cemetery records showed he was buried 21 March 1911. The corresponding death record in the NSW BDM showed his parents were William and Jane.

I did quite a bit of research on James, finding he arrived in Australia on the Hotspur in 1862 with his brother Samuel (both listed as either bootmaker or shoemaker), working as a bootmaker in Sydney (Redfern) and then in Jerry's Plains in the NSW Hunter Valley. Except that there were quite a few bits of conflicting information. I began to suspect that the information I had about Jerry's Plains was not right. I'm not even sure if he had a brother Samuel, because I can't be sure that is him on the Hotspur. There also seems to be more than one bootmaker called James Merrick, more than one called Samuel Merrick, and there's also a David Merrick, bootmaker, on record too. In the end I was so confused about what I knew for sure and what I had guessed that I started again, putting together all (and only) the information I knew to be definitely true about him:

    24 Dec 1874, at the residence of the bride, by the Rev George Sutherland, James eldest son of William Merrick, of Sligo, Ireland, to Eliza Jane, youngest daughter of James Ball, Esq., Claremont Cottage, Botany Road (SMH 28 Dec 1874). This information conflicts with the ages given for James and Samuel Merrick who arrived on the Hotspur - Samuel was the eldest there. Either the listing of ages is wrong in the ship's list, or its not my James Merrick.
    James and Eliza Jane had eight children, all born in Sydney. Susanna Jane, Lizzie Madeline, Esther Louisa (Essie), Eleanor Sarah, Alice Mary, Ethel Sarah, James William and Ida May.
    16 Mar 1880. Death of Eleanor Sarah, infant daughter of James and Eliza Jane Merrick, at Clapton Cottage, Vine St, Redfern (SMH 19 Mar 1880).
    James Merrick, bootmaker, listed in 1884 Sands Directory at 96 Vine St, Redfern.
    25 Mar 1903, Essie Merrick married Arthur Hulme, noted as "second daughter of Mr J. Merrick of Redfern" (SMH 18 Apr 1903).
    27 Feb 1906, Alice Merrick married Henry Allen, "fourth daughter of Mr James Merrick, of Redfern, Sydney" (SMH 10 Mar 1906).
    2 Feb 1910, Friends and family of Mr and Mrs Merrick, Mr and Mrs A E Hulme and also Mr and Mrs H A Allen were respectfully invited to the funeral of their dearly beloved and only son and brother James William, leaving his late residence of 167 Pitt St, Redfern, for the cemetery (SMH 2 Feb 1910). My great aunt has spoken of James' death (known to her as Uncle Will) - he was on a trip to the Blue Mountains, drank some stagnant water, became sick and died. He was only 21.
    28 Mar 1910, Ethel Merrick married Frank Weiss, "fifth daughter of James Merrick of Croydon (late of Redfern)" (SMH 16 Apr 1910).
    21 Mar 1911, James Merrick buried in Rookwood Anglican Cemetery. Cemetery records give his age as 65, which would make his birth year about 1846. This may fit with the James Merrick on the Hotspur, whose estimated year of birth was 1845.
    15 Sep 1923, Ida Merrick married Harold Snodgrass, "youngest daughter of the late James and Mrs Merrick, of Railway Parade, Lakemba" (SMH 29 Sep 1923).
    13 Aug 1928, Death of Eliza Jane Merrick, widow of the late James Merrick, at her residence, Railway Pde, Lakemba" (SMH 14 Aug 1928). Buried 14 August 1928 in the same grave as her husband.

I also rang Grandma (and her sister was most helpfully visiting her at the time) and queried her on a few things that she/they might remember: was he Irish? - "yes, he was from Sligo", was he a bootmaker - "yes, a cobbler", did they know of any siblings who came out to Australia (or associated relatives) of James - "no" but they will get the family tree from my great uncle for me - I didn't know there was a family tree for the Merricks!

Other information which may or may not relate to him:

    A James Merrick married Mary Ann Cooper 26 Dec 1867 (SMH 21 Jan 1868). There is a death record in the NSW BDM for Mary A Merrick in 1870 in Sydney. There are no births registered for James and Mary Ann. It is possible that James may have been married before he married Eliza Jane - the dates do fit. Or it could be another James Merrick.
    24 Aug 1913, at Matoka, McDonald St, Lakemba, Samuel Merrick, beloved brother of John Merrick and the late James Merrick, of Pitt St, Redfern, aged 64 years (SMH 25 Aug 1913). This would make Samuel's year of birth about 1849. If he were the Samuel from the Hotspur he would have been 13, a vast difference from his listed age of 22. However, this Samuel would have been younger than James, fitting with James being the eldest child of William Merrick of Sligo, Ireland. Plus, there is a death record in the NSW BDM for a Samuel Merrick in 1913, with parents William and Jane.

I shall await the arrival of the Merrick family tree from my great uncle. If that doesn't help I think the next step will be to obtain the death certificate of James to see what that reveals.