28 May 2011

The Weiss family in Manchester

This afternoon I discovered a new bit of information about Charles Weiss. He is listed under his full name of Charles Nicholas Weiss in the 1837 Pigot's Directory (Pigot and Co's National Commercial Directory of Scotland and the Isle of Man, including important towns such as Manchester) as a Professor of Music (and languages), 47 Rosamond St, C. on M., in the Manchester section. It took me a little bit of time to work out that C. on M. stands for Chorlton on Medlock. Chorlton on Medlock is now part of Manchester.

I'd always wondered about the fact that some of Charles and Benigna's children were born in Manchester - Caroline, Egmont and Frederick were, and probably Benigna and Derby as well. It seems reasonable to think that a Professor of Music (and Languages) might teach in the home in which he lives. So it seems reasonable to think that the children were born there in the house at 47 Rosamond St.

Sadly, Rosamond St doesn't exist anymore. Rosamond St West does, but to the east of it is the Manchester Aquatics Centre. I'm trying to work out what churches may have been close by, and also what cemeteries. There's a good chance that if Benigna (junior) died while they were in Manchester she is buried somewhere in a cemetery nearby. And the baptism records for Benigna, Caroline and Derby may be somewhere there too. Unfortunately the parish records for FreeReg are from 1837, and Benigna, Caroline and Derby were all born before this. If anyone has any good ideas on where to look for baptism and burial records for Chorlton on Medlock please let me know! I can only assume that considering Adelaide, Egmont and Frederick were baptised in Church of England parishes that the family was also associated with a Church of England parish when they lived in Chorlton on Medlock.

I still haven't worked out if a Professor of Music needed any qualifications for such a title. Seems to just be the title of a glorified music teacher!

23 May 2011

Ships' Passenger Lists

If, like me, you live in New South Wales, are of a European background and your family has been here for a number of generations, there is a good chance that your ancestors would have migrated here by ship. If they weren't convicts they may have come as assisted or unassisted immigrants. Assisted immigrants had part or all of their passage paid for them, sometimes by the government, sometimes by a relative and sometimes by an agent (or a combination of all three). Unassisted immigrants paid for their passage themselves. The passenger lists for the ships bringing immigrants to Australia can provide a wealth of information. However, cross your fingers that your ancestors were assisted immigrants because the lists for unassisted immigrants usually only lists their names (often only with an initial) or doesn't even name them at all. Assisted immigrants passenger lists have much more information, and often there are two lists for a ship, one containing more information than the other. The one with more information is the list from the Immigration Board, the other is the Agents immigration list.

The Agents immigration list gives the surname, first name, age, marital status, occupation (calling), native place and county, religion, whether they could read and/or write, and any extra remarks. The Immigration Board list gives all those details plus the names of the immigrants parents, and also the parents place of residence if they are still alive, the details of any relations in the colony (sometimes extremely vague), the immigrant's state of health, whether they had any complaints about the voyage, and remarks by the immigration board. So it is the Immigration Board's list which is most valuable to the family historian.

The NSW Government State records has digital copies of the ships lists online. Use the key name search to find out whether your ancestor is listed in the ships list, ascertain which ship and then view the details in the digital copies. Unfortunately, in my experience, the listing is of the Agents immigration list. To view the Immigration Board lists you need to go to the government records reading rooms, one of the 40 community access points (eg the State Library) or get a subscription to Ancestry.com. It is anticipated that the Immigration Board lists will be added online at some stage.

One other quite useful resource for assisted immigrants is the Immigration Deposit Journals. These record the details of money deposited in the colony to sponsor the passage of an immigrant. Often the money was paid by relatives, to bring out relations, or by someone who wished to employ the immigrant. If the "relatives in the colony" section in the Immigration Board list is vague this may provide a little more detail. Unfortunately it is not available online (update: as of August 2011 it is available through Ancestry.com), but instead in the government records reading rooms or at the community access points.

For more information read the Immigration information on the NSW Government State records website.

21 May 2011

Frederick and Rosetta Weiss

This photo is the only known photo of Frederick and Rosetta Weiss. Everyone I know who has a photo of them has this one.

My Grandma was young when her grandparents died but she does have some memories of them. She says her grandfather was a little man (as is evident from the photo) and a very godly man. She remembers him sitting in a comfortable chair, with a lectern with a big bible on it. She didn't like having to give him a kiss because of his hairy beard! Grandma remembers her grandmother as quite tall with a lovely happy face (also evident from the photo).

This is the only other photo I have of them (from Rookwood Cemetery):

20 May 2011

Harry Beringer

Of all the children of Adam and Caroline Beringer who themselves had children, I (or my relatives) have now made contact with descendants of all but Harry (Henry Francis Thomas Beringer).

Harry was born in Newtown in 1891 and died on June 17 1958. He married Alice May Delohery in 1914 and they had eight children: Alice, George, Eileen, Albert, Elsie, Joyce, Lillian and Iris. Because of when many of their children were born and died (after the NSW BDM 100 year cutoff for births and after the 30 year cutoff for deaths) I have had trouble tracing descendants. I do have the names of a few descendants though, but so far have had no luck in contacting them. I actually managed to track down a relative of Lillian's but the phone number I was given for him was disconnected. I've sent letters to people I've found addresses for in the phone book, but so far to no avail.

Harry and Alice lived in a house in Bankstown which still stands today. They called it "Hollywood", possibly as a cheeky nod to Harry's film star brother George. Harry worked as a labourer of some kind. I've not been able to trace where either Harry or Alice were buried, possibly they were cremated anyway. Harry and his family didn't seem to be in as regular contact with his siblings as the others did. Perhaps this is because he lived far away in Bankstown, or maybe for some reason he didn't feel like he fitted in. This is probably why none of the other branches of the family have any links with his descendants today.

So, should you, dear reader, be a descendant of Harry's please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

18 May 2011

Uncle Les

My Uncle Les was married to Grandpa’s sister. Uncle Les died in 1977 whilst on holiday in Canada, and I was only 3 so I don’t remember much of him. However I do remember a story that he had a dog called Dopey who was particularly dim. I’ve often wondered whether they changed his name from something like “Rupert” when they discovered how dim he was. Dad thinks he was always called Dopey, so he must have just embodied his name particularly well. The story goes that whenever Uncle Les put on aviator goggles Dopey didn’t recognize him.

Uncle Les and Auntie Gen didn’t have kids. So going to visit Auntie Gen’s house meant a living room stuffed full of furniture (though with exciting exotic things like gramophones) and no toys to speak of. One particular contraption that Auntie Gen had though, which was Uncle Les’, was a small wooden coffin (about 10cm long maximum) which, as I recall, had a wind-up mechanism. When you wound it up the coffin would open and a small skeleton would sit up. Brilliant fun for small children!

Uncle Les was supposedly from New Zealand. I checked the New Zealand births, deaths and marriages records and could find no trace of him. All I knew of his parents were from his engagement notice in the paper, which gave his father as A.F. Davis, of Manly. Uncle Les’ middle name was Alfred, so I wondered if his father’s name was also Alfred. I didn’t have a NSW death record to check for Uncle Les (because he died in Canada), so I couldn’t confirm his dad’s name that way. In the end, I decided to see if there was a birth record for Uncle Les in NSW. Yep. He was born in Manly, in 1903, to Arthur F and Ida M Davis. So he clearly wasn’t from New Zealand! It turns out that his mother was born in Sydney, and his parents were married in Sydney. I haven’t yet been able to work out where his father was born. Perhaps it was New Zealand, though I haven’t found a birth record for him there either.

Supposedly Uncle Les was in the Imperial Forces and entertained the troops during the Second World War. I haven't managed to uncover any actual evidence of this yet, though we do have photos of him in a uniform.

Family legend says that Uncle Les’ dad rode a bicycle from Sydney to Melbourne when he was 80 years old - Grandma certainly remembers him as being very active. Surely something like that might score a write-up in the local newspaper... I searched the historical newspapers on Trove and found an article which stated that he had been involved in a motorcycle accident with a car and had sustained injuries which might have led to the amputation of his foot. At the time he was 76 and believed to be the oldest motorcyclist in NSW. Dad and I guess that he probably rode his motorbike to Melbourne rather than his bike, but I can only assume that his foot wasn't amputated!

02 May 2011

John Merrick

When I first started researching the Merricks, I tried to find out information on them from Ireland. Perhaps I was comparing it to the ease of access to records that we have here in NSW but I really didn't get very far. I knew that James Merrick was from Sligo, but I didn't have a certain birth date, and really didn't know where to search. I had a bit of a go at RootsIreland, but that was pretty expensive and pretty hit-and-miss as well. In the end I gave up.

Recently though, a relative of my husband's did some excellent research on the Irish branch of their family so I picked her brain to find out the secret of her success. She had access to another subscription database (origins.net) and found a number of references to Merricks in Sligo. She passed them on to me, so I made up a spreadsheet of all my Merrick references to see what I could make of them. I also used information from the new FamilySearch website, which is SO much better than the old one (which I found next to useless).

I still had the problem of knowing that there were two sets of James and Samuel Merricks in Australia, both from Sligo, so I focused on the brother of my James and Samuel - John, my great great great uncle. I didn't even know if he had emigrated to Australia, but I had found references to at least one other child born to a William and Jane Merrick in Sligo at about the right time - Mary Ellen. If she hadn't emigrated, but the three brothers James, Samuel and John had, then that could be why only the three brothers were listed in the death notice of Samuel.

These were the pieces of information I had on a John Merrick:

  • John Thomas Merrick, born 3 Sept 1864, Sligo. Father: William, mother: Jane. From FamilySearch.
  • John Merrick, carpenter in John St, Sligo, 1894. From Slaters Directory, 1894.
  • John Thomas Merrick, died in Parkes (country NSW), but lived in Penshurst (Sydney, NSW). Was a builder. Was married to Margaret. Father: William, mother: Susan Jane. Children: William, Mary, John. From Trove (Sydney Morning Herald death notice), NSW BDM, Sands Directories of NSW.

So were these all the same people? My great aunt didn't remember any uncles called John, but I spoke to my great uncle. He remembered an Uncle Jack (✓ - "Jack" often equals "John"), who worked on the Sobraon as a tutor, teaching carpentry skills (✓). Uncle Jack was married to Margaret (✓), had three kids (✓), one called Mary (✓) who worked for the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, and another was a chemist (✓ - this was the son John). My great uncle also told me a lovely story about Uncle Jack's apple: Uncle Jack went to Tasmania and got an apple which was so big it was shared between six people. After that, within the family, if anything was big it was compared to Uncle Jack's Apple. He also, incidentally, remembered one of James' daughters going back to Ireland to visit an aunt - perhaps Mary Ellen.

So, with my great uncle's help I concluded that the pieces of information I had were all for my great great great uncle, John Merrick. The different mother's name - Susan Jane - is probably because it was "remembered" by grandchildren who had never met her, and therefore may have been hazy on her name - close enough though! I came to the conclusion that John had married and had at least one child before he and the family emigrated to Australia. This was confirmed when I accidentally happened across the military service record listing for John's son William in the National Archives of Australia - it listed his birth date and his birthplace - 1895 and Sligo, Ireland.

So there we are - chipping away a little bit more of the Merrick brick wall.