28 July 2011

James Ball's birthday

I was just reading an excerpt of the diary that James Ball, my great great great great grandfather wrote, as he and his family sailed to Australia. I clapped my hand to my head when I read:
"Fri. Dec. 19 - This is my birthday and the day we are rounding the Cape of Good Hope."
So that settles it - the James Ball I thought was my relative IS my relative.

To summarise the information that I now know is definitely true: James Ball was born on 19 December 1812 to Thomas and Sarah Ball, and he was baptised on 23 November 1817 at St Mary Mounthaw, along with his younger sister Eleanor. His father Thomas was a corn porter and they lived at Old Fish Street Hill.

24 July 2011

James Ball and the bookbinders of London

I've learnt a lot about historical bookbinding and the bookbinders of London over the last few days. I've been working on finding references to my great great great grandfather James Ball. As I noted in my last post on him, he was a bookbinder, working in London, and then in Sydney after he had emigrated.

I know that he lived and worked at 20 Little Carter Lane, in the Doctors Commons area of London. He seems to have moved there in 1841, as he and his family are living there by June 7, when the 1841 England Census was taken. He didn't make it into the 1841 Post Office London Directory for that address though - the place was apparently occupied by Francis Beams, shorthand writer, before the Balls moved in.

Searching for information on the bookbinders of London I came across references to the Jaffray Collection, a collection of scrapbooks kept by John Jaffray, a London bookbinder, who was active in trade society and social reform in the 1800s. Amongst his collection of bookbinding-related ephemera held at the British Library there were two items which referenced a "J. Ball".

Apparently in 1838 there were three large employers (masters) of bookbinders in London who sought to dictate terms of employment which were unacceptable to a large number of their employees - they hoped to cut costs by employing more apprentices, despite there being quotas of apprentices compared to fully qualified bookbinders. A stand-off ensued for about 30 weeks during which time 16 journeymen bookbinders were charged with conspiracy against the masters. Unfortunately the newspapers of the day do not actually record the outcome of the strike, nor the court case. However the bookbinders held an annual ball just after the strike ended and the atmosphere was seemingly triumphant so one might assume the strike ended in their favour. I have also been unable to ascertain the names of the 16 charged with conspiracy, apart from two who sadly died before the end of the trial.

The information containing the name of J. Ball related to an appeal by the journeymen bookbinders of London, to their brethren from all trades in all parts of the United Kingdom. In order to fund the court case against the 16 journeymen bookbinders many bookbinders sacrificed part of their wage as did workers from many other trades across the country. The information related to the third appeal for funds and was signed with 14 names, one of which was J. Ball. I cannot tell if these were the remaining 14 bookbinders on trial (two of them had died by this stage) or whether the signatories were just those people organising the appeal. Whichever it was, I have not been able to find reference to any other "J. Ball"s who were bookbinders at that time.

Family information says that James was granted the Freedom of the City of London. According to family lore he was granted it because of his ability in addressing dinner gatherings as well as his ownership and managership of a London publishing firm. All the information I have found on London City Freemen suggests that to be granted the freedom of the City of London they needed to either be a member of a livery company or gain it through nomination, patrimony (a child of a freeman) or servitude (serving a full apprenticeship to a freeman), and it was essential to be a City Freeman before they could practice a trade in the City. James would most likely have been a member of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers (the Stationers Company). I'm not at all sure that there was any criteria about being a good dinner party speaker, but that makes a good story nonetheless! Likewise his being the owner and manager of a London publishing firm - all information I've found points to him being a small-time bookbinder, who may or may not have had apprentices in his employ. I have not been able to confirm that James was a City Freeman because I'd need to visit the London Metropolitan Archives or else pay someone to do it for me - neither of which is likely to happen any time soon!

22 July 2011

Gaspar Weiss

I am constantly surprised at the amount of interest my post on Jean Gaspard Weiss has generated. I have a regular reader from Mulhouse, France, and also someone from Huddersfield, England who seems very interested in the extended Weiss family too. Do say hello people! Are you relatives? Researching forgotten flautists and composers?

In my post on Jean Gaspard Weiss I mentioned he had a son Gaspar/Gasper Weiss, born 12 September 1777. Gaspar was baptised at St Marylebone, London, on 12 October 1777. We know very little about Gaspar so I will draw together all the information I have found on him.

Gaspar next appears in 1846 (aged 69), when a music selling partnership he and his brother Willoughby had in Liverpool was dissolved. In 1847 he appears to have performed in a concert in Chester, though exactly how or what he performed is unclear.

In June 1848 Gaspar Weiss was declared bankrupt. He was noted as a music seller from Liverpool. In July 1848 there was a sale of all the stock of Mr Gasper Weiss, Pianoforte and Music Seller, at the premises of his shop, 3 Church St (interestingly his brother Willoughby's shop was at 2 Church St), to liquidate his assets. On August 25, 1848 he was to be granted a certificate, unless cause was shown to the contrary. On September 19, 1848 the certificate was to be confirmed by the Vice Chancellor. Dividends were payed out, until the apparent final one on December 12, 1850.

And that is all we know of Gaspar Weiss. Did he marry? Have children? When did he die? Where was he between his birth and aged 69 - I certainly haven't been able to find him in the 1841 England Census. We must presume that he went to France with his father when Jean Gaspard returned to Mulhouse - he would have only been a boy at the time. As for the answers to all these questions, I can't see us ever knowing!

19 July 2011

Useful family history sites - historical directories

These days if we want to find a business we either just google what we are searching for, or use the old fashioned telephone directory. In the days before telephones they still had directories - generally local, post office and trade directories.

There is a website which gives free access to digital copies of some English and Welsh historical directories, produced and owned by the University of Leicester. The directories aren't all inclusive as they weren't published every year, and neither will they cover absolutely all the country, but they are a good place to start to find information on your English/Welsh ancestor and their occupation. Of course you can find out all sorts of information apart from that, but I'll leave that up to you!

08 July 2011

Josiah Horsey

My great great great grandfather Josiah Horsey was born on 13 Nov 1809 in South Petherton, Somerset, England and died 29 Nov 1863, at his residence, 46 Hunter St, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He was the youngest son of Elizabeth (nee Glyde) and John Horsey, a sail cloth maker, of South Petherton.

Josiah married Sarah Irish in South Petherton on 22 Jul 1839 when he was 29 and she was 23. He was described as a yeoman on the marriage register, as was his father and Sarah's (Sarah's father was also known to be a publican). I'm not sure that either of the Horseys were actually landowners, but they appear to have been well respected in the community. The Somerset electoral register for South Petherton parish has Josiah as an occupier of lands in Palmer St from 1846-1848, and both were also chosen as church overseers in the South Petherton parish. One record says that in his role as an overseer he was given £20 for collecting the Church and Poor Rates.

Josiah, Sarah, and their children Elizabeth, 8, Rosetta, 7, Selina, 4 and Frederick, 2, emigrated to Australia, leaving Plymouth in Oct 1848 on the Harbinger, and arriving in Sydney in Feb 1849. Also on the Harbinger was Sarah's brother, Charles Irish, and his family. Josiah's occupation was listed as "farm labourer". Charles was a tailor.

By 1850 Josiah and his family were living at 328 George St, Sydney. In 1854 he and the family were still residing in George St, and Josiah was working as a hay and corn dealer.

In September 1857 the license of the pub Jew's Harp, on George St, Brickfield Hill (now part of Surry Hills), was transferred to Josiah. He held the license until 1858. I can't find exactly when the licence transferred to the new licensee, however in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 Mar 1858 Josiah Horsey was declared insolvent, with total debts of £319 10s 9d. His occupation was given as dealer and his address as Castlereagh St, Sydney.

I find it strange that Josiah, a seemingly upstanding member of the church community (at least back in England - I have no knowledge of his church-going in Sydney), took over the license of a pub. Perhaps his dealing business was not going so well and so, with influence from his wife (whose father was in the inn-keeping business), he took on the pub as well. With hindsight it seems ill-advised - he certainly didn't retain the pub for long. Whatever the case, it was perhaps the tipping point, and may have sent him into insolvency.

Meetings with creditors went on for a number of years until finally, on 11 Nov 1863 a notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald advising that a certificate (of discharge?) had been granted to Josiah, on payment of costs and charges.

Sadly, just 18 days later Josiah died, aged only 54. Josiah's death certificate states that he died of "debility", the duration of which was one month. Who knows what that means in relation to his health. Speculating though, the very short period between his financial state being positively resolved and his death suggests that perhaps he hung on until he was cleared. It must have been a strain on him (and perhaps his health) to go through such an embarrassing financial situation when he had once been such a respected member of the South Petherton community. During the time he was insolvent Josiah had a fruit shop at 46 Hunter Street, Sydney. This may have been a less risky business venture than his others (people always need fruit and vegetables) and presumably helped him regain his financial freedom.

Interestingly, in the second week of February 1858 there was a court case of Horsey v. Irish at the Banco Court in Sydney. I have not been able to find out any further details of this, but it was possibly between Josiah and his brother-in-law Charles Irish. Certainly, Charles, also a corn and hay dealer of George St, was listed as insolvent in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 Feb 1858, with total debts of £91 11s 6d. Did Josiah sell his badly performing hay and corn dealing business to Charles, which then caused him to go under? That would definitely be a reason for going to court.

04 July 2011

Uralla Shire Council chambers foundation stone

Here's a photo my relatives took of the foundation stone for the Uralla Shire Council chambers, laid by my great great great uncle John Valentine Beringer. They've taken such good care of it - painted over, with two different colours of paint, hidden behind some rosemary bushes, and there's a downpipe right at the edge of it. Not to mention the chisel marks from the local anti-German activist.

03 July 2011

James Ball and researching using Google maps

There are times that I wish all my English ancestors came from Somerset - many of the Somerset records are readily available on the internet, for free. Many people have voluntarily transcribed parish records and uploaded them for the benefit of all who wish to use them.

I wish such a thing happened for London records. But London is probably also different because I imagine its population was more transient - the nature of a big city (even though it was much smaller then) is different to a small town.

Despite this presumed transient nature I always use Google maps when doing my family research. I work on the assumption that most people did not move around much (apart from huge moves, such as to Australia). So whenever I find records which may be for the ancestor I am working on I plot the locations on Google maps to see how far apart they are. It's an inexact science but one that can be quite helpful.

I've been using this approach with my ancestor James Ball. According to family information he was born in London in 1814 to Thomas and Sarah Ball. I cannot find a birth record for a James Ball born to parents with those names in London in 1814. I can find one with a birthdate of 19 December 1812 though, who was baptised, along with a sister Eleanor (born 17 June 1817), at St Mary Mounthaw on 23 November 1817. Is this my James? I don't know. James and Eleanor's father was listed as a corn porter, and their address was given as Old Fish Street Hill.

In the 1841 Census James is living with his children (his wife Susannah isn't at that address at the time - not sure where she was) in Little Carter Lane (the eastern end of what is now known as Carter Lane). He is listed as a book binder.

In the 1851 Census the family is living at 20 Little Carter Lane. James is listed as 38 years old - I'm not using the age given on the 1841 Census because the ages for persons over 15 were rounded to the nearest 5 years - not very helpful to the family historian. If he was born in December 1812 this age fits with the census date of 30 March 1851 - he would have been 38 years 3 months and 11 days old. His place of birth is listed as Middlesex. This fits with a birthplace of somewhere around Old Fish Street Hill.

When James and his family emigrated to Australia in 1857 on the Matoaka he was listed as 43 years old (fitting with a 1814 birthdate), as a carpenter (not really what I would describe as the occupation of a book binder) and his place of birth as Higate (sic) Middlesex. His parents are listed as Thomas and Sarah, living at Fenchurch St, London. His religious denomination is listed as Independent - this would mean he wasn't Church of England, and if he was baptised in a non-conformist church then those records may not be available - a possible reason why I can't find a birth record for him in 1814.

So, the places we have are: (a) Old Fish Street Hill, (b) Little Carter Lane, (c) Fenchurch Street, and (d) Highgate. If we plot these locations with Google maps, (a), (b) and (c) are very close to each other and Highgate is an outlier, about 6kms away.

Can we assume that if the Immigration Board got his occupation wrong they might also have written down the birthplace incorrectly? The Agent's immigration list also has his occupation as Carpenter, but is less specific with the place of birth, giving only Middlesex. I tend to think, going on the fact that (a), (b) and (c) are all in the same neighbourhood, that the 1812-born James Ball is my relative. I think that the "Highgate" information is wrong, as is his occupation as "Carpenter" - certainly he worked as a book binder in Australia as well as in London. I can't be sure it is him, but to me there seems a reasonable possibility.

02 July 2011

The mystery of the flowers on the graves

I have relatives on holiday who have just visited Uralla. Before they went I got in touch with a local historian, Arnold Goode, who offered to meet them and take them to see a number of places connected with my great great great uncle John Valentine Beringer (born about 1858, Weisbaden, Hessen, Germany, died 15 May 1931, Uralla, NSW, Australia).

Arnold gave me a bit of information about John Valentine which I hadn't known. I knew that he was mayor of Uralla in 1914 when he got married because it said so in his marriage notice in the paper. However, I had no idea how long he was mayor for. Arnold said that John Valentine was very civic-minded and was a councillor for almost 15 years before becoming mayor in 1914. He was mayor for a number of years. At the time that John Valentine became mayor the local council was building a new council chambers, and so John Valentine laid the foundation stone. His name is still there, despite someone with some anti-German sentiment trying to chisel his name off the foundation stone, and despite being now hidden behind some rosemary bushes!

John Valentine was listed as a cabinet maker in his immigration notes and he had a joinery/furniture shop on Bridge Street, Uralla. He made a lot of furniture, including for the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph. In 1896 Mary MacKillop visited the convent, so as well as being one of the councillors who would have welcomed her to Uralla, it is also likely that she sat on one of John Valentine's chairs in the convent. Our family's little claim to religious fame!

My relatives had a great time with Arnold and he showed them a number of different places around Uralla, including where John Valentine's shop was, which had been right next door to the Post's house.

I have a transcript of John Valentine's death certificate which says that John Valentine was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Uralla cemetery. The Australian Cemetery Index does not list him so I assumed his grave must be unmarked, and Arnold was not aware he was buried there. However, yesterday my relatives and Arnold, and a local grave digger who happened to be onsite, went looking for his grave. They found it, along with Conrad Beringer (one of John Valentine's sons) plus another Beringer adult (possibly John Valentine's first wife Catherine), and two unmarked children's graves - which were likely to be Matilda, John Valentine's niece, and his firstborn son Thomas.

The mysterious thing was that within the last week someone had laid gerberas on the graves of the adult Beringers. Who?? As far as we know, there are no longer any Beringer relatives in Uralla... Anyway, its nice that someone else has remembered them and visited their graves too.