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...

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