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.

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