28 October 2011

The litigious branch of the family

My great great grandfather Thomas Macindoe (born 15 Oct 1841, Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland, died 8 May 1901, Ashfield, NSW, Australia) died a very wealthy man. His deceased estate papers state that he was a "Gentleman", and he owned 12 properties with the value of his estate amounting to £4746.

As far as I know, my living family did not really know how he came by such a fortune, and probably we all assumed that he was a just Scot who was very canny with his money. Certainly the Macindoe family had enough money to pay their way out to Australia, arriving as Unassisted Immigrants on the Liguria in 1884 - which wouldn't have been a tiny expense, considering the family consisted of Thomas, his wife Ellen, and their eight children. Yesterday I discovered, looking through historical newspapers, that within months of arriving in Australia he had set himself up as a house and land agent based in Petersham, and so a job like that certainly would have helped him come by quite so many properties. According to one advertisement he placed he was quite experienced in this profession:

"PETERSHAM - THOMAS MACINDOE (late of Glasgow, 19 years an extensive House and Property Agent), opposite Railway Station, Petersham, has every facility for selling of Houses and Land, and Letting of Houses. Instructions to dispose of Property will receive prompt and personal attention." Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 1885.

After he died Thomas Macindoe's will and two codicils caused a lot of problems amongst his family. He had originally chosen his wife Ellen and four of his sons (W. W. Macindoe, Thomas Macindoe jnr, Stewart Macindoe and Norman Macindoe) as executors, but in a second codicil dated 2 Apr 1901 he revoked the appointment of W. W. and Thomas jnr. It probably didn't help the situation that he lent Stewart £250 (of which he paid back £95) and Norman £110 and then, according to them, released them from the remainder of their debts, due to "the natural love and affection" of their father. In the end the family took sides and everyone, apart from the two daughters, went to court - not to contest the will, mind you, just the appointment of the executors. In the end a settlement was reached, for the plaintiffs (Ellen, Stewart and Norman), and the court costs were to be paid out of the estate. The judge for the matter then noted that "he hoped this would be the commencement of more cordial relations between the members of the family". The most ridiculous thing about the court case was that the court costs sucked most of the money out of the estate, leaving not much left over.

Thomas Macindoe's will gave provisions for up to £100 to be spent on the publishing of a "death bed message". No evidence has ever been found that the message was published, so one must assume that the court case frittered away the money so that there was not enough left to publish it. Which is incredibly annoying because I'd love to know what that mysterious death bed message was!

The court case was all written up in the papers, and apparently later at least some of the family expressed regret that they had dragged the family name through the mud. However, some of them didn't learn, particularly Thomas Macindoe jnr, who went to court with his estranged wife over the amount of maintenance he was paying her, and then his sons went to court over a punch up and slander - one complained the other slandered him when he told a doctor that he was subnormal and should have mental treatment. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

20 October 2011

A letter from the Queen

Well, not quite.

Back in August I decided to send a letter to the Royal Archives to see if they could confirm for me that Jean Gaspard Weiss was Principal Flautist for King George III. I wasn't sure if they would be able to say yes as it depended on whether he was employed by the King or by the Court. But even if they couldn't confirm it I would still get a letter from the Royal Archives!

Here is the reply, received today. I've put a photo of the envelope as well, mainly because it has the Queen's stamp on it!

And the letter itself in detail:

The diary extract the letter refers to from my original letter is this:

The Diary of James Harris (1709-80) as Secretary to Queen Charlotte, 3 May 1774, notes: "When I came into the Japan-wainscot room, I found it to my surprise filled with all the capital musicians - Bach & Abel, Cramer the celebrated violin, five or six violins, Gordon, and another violoncello, 2 opera double basses, hautboys, horns, tenors, Beir the clarionet, Richter the bassoon, Weiss the German flute, Fisher the houtboy, Millico & Grassi, & the chorus singers. When the concert began, the royal children (the younger part) stood arranged in the same room with the music - the King sometimes came out, & the Queen also..."

16 October 2011

Thomas Wickham

Thomas Wickham (born 23 August 1888, Newtown, NSW, died 22 Feb 1973, Waverley, NSW) was my great great uncle. He was the brother of my Great Nanna.

Thomas was an officer in the NSW Police. I looked up the Registers of Police while I was at State Records the other week. Thomas' service number was 9094. He was accepted into the foot police i.e. not mounted, he was 5'11", 12st 2lbs, blue eyes, fair hair, fair complexion. It was originally noted that he was single, later this was crossed out and "Married" entered instead. His previous calling was wool packer, 6yrs. Religion: Church of England. District: North Eastern. He was made a probationary constable on 26 Apr 1910, an ordinary constable on 28 Apr 1911. He was moved to the Metropolitan District on 6 Jan 1911.

And that was all it had. I assumed that he'd stayed an ordinary constable for the rest of his police career. I was wrong.

Yesterday I decided to delve a little further into his police career because I have a family anecdote about him that I wanted to post. I thought I'd just see if he came up in the historical newspapers on Trove. Yes he does. A lot. It turns out that Thomas ended his police career in 1947, after rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent, and retiring from the position of Chief Superintendent of Crime, Vice and Court Staffs. So he wasn't quite just an ordinary constable for the rest of his police career!

It wasn't until 1921 that Thomas Wickham turned up in the newspapers in relation to his job as a police officer. I'm not sure exactly what path his career took until this time, but by this stage he was already a detective. In 1926 he was one of two detectives appointed to the newly formed Drugs Bureau. He appears to have been promoted to Detective Sergeant later that year. He worked for a good number of years in the Drugs Bureau, and made many many arrests, including Kate Leigh, known as Sydney's "Queen of the Underworld". By 1934 he was in CIB teaching police recruits about court procedures. 1938 saw him promoted to assistant to the chief of CIB, as an Inspector. He was made Chief Metropolitan Licensing Inspector in 1939, and then took charge of the Morality Squad in 1940. He was promoted to Superintendent and became the Chief of the Western Police District, based in Parkes, in 1942. He returned to Sydney in 1942 as Chief of CIB. In 1945 he became Chief Superintendent of Crime, Vice and Court Staffs and was awarded the King's Police Medal for distinguished service in 1946. He retired in November 1947.

After finding all this information on Thomas Wickham in the historical newspapers I decided to Google his name with "police". One of the results that came up was for Underbelly: Razor - my response: "You've got to be joking..." Yes, my great great uncle is being portrayed in the latest series of Underbelly! I haven't watched any of the Underbelly series, Razor being no exception. But apparently Sergeant Tom Wickham, as he is known in the series, is represented as an incorruptible police officer. Glad to hear it! The book from which the series was written, Razor by Larry Writer, gives him a pretty good wrap too. Incidentally, I am quite sure, from the description given in the Registers of Police and knowing the family facial features, that the actor they have playing him looks absolutely nothing like him!

So, finally to the anecdote that Mum told me which first got me looking into Thomas Wickham, NSW Police officer: he shot a hole through the ceiling of my Great Nanna's house at 2 St Clair St, Belmore, when his gun accidentally went off. I'll bet that's one story that wasn't told at his retirement!

14 October 2011

Josiah Horsey's will

As mentioned in a previous post I visited the State Records Centre at Kingswood the other day. My primary objective was to see original records from probate packets and deceased estates. I also looked up a few insolvency records and some correspondence to the Colonial Secretary.

One of the records I looked up was the probate packet for Josiah Horsey, and also his insolvency records (I have previously written about his insolvency here). Before I go into details on these, you need to know a little more about the family. Josiah married Sarah Irish in South Petherton, Somerset, England, and they had four children in South Petherton (Elizabeth Glyde, b 1840 d 1918, Rosetta b 1842 d 1927, Selina b 1844 d 1917, and Frederick b 1846 d 1925) before emigrating to Australia in 1849 on the Harbinger (which, incidentally, I think is a terrible name for a ship). After the Horsey family's arrival in Sydney, three more children were born: Sarah Ann (known as Annie) b 1849 d 1936, Samuel George b 1850 d 1906, and Josiah b 1856 d 1932. Neither Samuel nor Josiah's births appear to be recorded in the NSW BDM, however, we can guess their birth years from their mother's death certificate, which records their ages (and their existence).

So, back to the probate packet. It contained Josiah's will, and various other documents relating to the will, the witnesses, the executors, etc. Josiah's will is quite interesting.

The first thing I realised, reading through it, was that Josiah could clearly not read nor write, despite the fact that he is noted as being able to do both in the ships passenger list when he emigrated - there are spelling mistakes in his name throughout his will, and he signed it with his mark rather than a signature. Of course, it is possible that Josiah, making out his will on 28 November 1863 and dying the very next day, was too ill to read through the document, nor sign it with his signature. However, I'm not sure you would have a "mark" if you had a signature.

The next thing I discovered was that Josiah had a property down near the Cooks River, in the south of Sydney. It was still mortgaged (for £45) at the time of his death, and his instruction was that the money from it was to be drawn and expended on the education and apprenticeship of his son Josiah (jnr). I'm not sure that any of my living relatives were aware of this property - presumably because it was sold and not retained within the family. This is the only reference to this property that I am aware of. I have not been able to locate it on any parish maps, but as it was mortgaged it is likely that the parish map would have shown the name of the bank rather than Josiah's name anyway. I am also intrigued because this land was not noted in Josiah's insolvency papers - under "Particulars of Insolvent's Landed Properties" was written "I have none", and considering he was only given his certificate of conformity (i.e. meeting the conditions of the insolvency) on 10 November 1863 (19 days before he died) how could he afford to buy land whilst insolvent? Would a bank allow an insolvent to take out a mortgage? I have no answers to these questions as I do not know which bank the mortgage was with, only that the mortgage deeds were in the hands of a Mr Pennington - whoever he was - at the time of the writing of Josiah's will.

The other interesting thing about Josiah's will is the distribution of his assets. Josiah left everything to his wife - his estate was worth under £200 upon his death - apart from the £45 mortgage which was to be realised for his son Josiah's education and apprenticeship. To his other "beloved children I give my best blessings, requesting them to assist their afflicted mother in every way as it is the duty of good children." Did the other children feel ripped off?! So why did he single out Josiah? It is likely that the reason lies with the fact that Josiah was his youngest child, and was only seven years old at the time of his father's death. The next youngest, Samuel George, was 13 and would have been of an age to be working. Josiah (jnr) needed to be provided for so that he could continue his schooling and have a chance of getting a good job. So I don't think it was favouritism for his youngest son - his namesake - but instead a caring father looking after the interests of his young child, as he wouldn't be able to be present as he grew up. It seems to be a lovely picture of a father making sure everything was in order for his family before his imminent death.

10 October 2011

Parish maps and Thomas Huxley

In an attempt to try to solve the issue of Thomas Huxley and Tom Uglys Point/Bridge, I've been looking at old parish maps. I can easily find the land Thomas Huxley Snr (of purported Tom Uglys Point fame) and Thomas Huxley Jnr owned at Lower Portland Head. I helpfully had a description of the location of the land in letters to and from the Colonial Secretary which I read through the other day at the State Records Centre in Kingswood. The land was described as being right at the junction of the Colo and Hawkesbury Rivers, and this is exactly where I found it. Interestingly, right beside these two plots of land is a parcel of land of 70 acres which was owned by one Thomas Jones. "Thomas Jones" was one of Thomas Huxley's aliases... maybe it was also his, although it could have been a completely different person who just happened to be named Thomas Jones. Below is my hand drawn map based on the parish maps.

Over on the other side of Sydney there are no maps of Tom Uglys Point which show land owned by any of Thomas Huxley's aliases. The land the point is on was owned by a Robert Townson, so it doesn't sound like the point was named after him either. It is possible that the available maps do not cover times when Huxley owned land there, or it is possible the whole story is a furphy!

Incidentally, the way I found these maps was through the NSW Department of Lands. First I looked up the parish name using the name search on the Geographical Names Board website - in the case of Lower Portland Head it was "Hawkesbury". Then I looked at the Hawkesbury parish maps using the Parish Map Preservation Project webpage until I found one which had the junction of the Colo and Hawkesbury Rivers, and there was the name Huxley - Bingo!

09 October 2011

Tying up a loose end

Ages ago I was looking into Caroline Judith Hughes (nee Weiss) and was trying to track down her children. Caroline's husband was Henry Richard Hughes.

Mary Adelaide Hughes appears to have been their first child. She was born in Kurrachee (Karachi, then in India) on 22 Apr 1862. I had not been able to find any death record for her, but had assumed she died young because she was not listed with the family in the English 1871 Census. I tracked down her death record today: it turns out she died in Kurrachee, aged 3, on 17 Jul 1865.

I still haven't managed to locate a death record for Mary's brother Henry James Hughes. He was born in Kurrachee on 30 Mar 1865. He may have died in India or England - I don't know which - but he also was not listed in the 1871 English Census.

07 October 2011

Thomas Huxley and Tom Uglys Bridge

In the south of Sydney, on the Georges River, there is a bridge called Tom Uglys Bridge. It was named after Tom Uglys Point, which is found where the northern end of the bridge reaches land.

There is a theory that Thomas Huxley lived in the area and it was named after him, using the pronunciation of the local Aborigines - "Tom Ugly" instead of "Tom Huxley". Whilst this mispronunciation is possible, no records survive that show Thomas Huxley actually lived on the Georges River. All the surviving documentation shows that Thomas Huxley lived and owned land on the Hawkesbury River, which is to the north of Sydney, almost 100kms away.

I was at the NSW State Records Centre the other day and looked at some documentation regarding land that Thomas was requesting to acquire next to the 40 or 50 acres (it is unclear exactly which - the documents appear to contradict each other) that he already had at Lower Portland Head, on the Hawkesbury. He was granted the 40/50 acres by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, and he wanted to purchase at least 40 more, next to it. This was granted by Sir Ralph Darling in 1831. There was nothing in the letters to the Colonial Secretary regarding land on the Georges River, only on the Hawkesbury River.

There is a possibility that land was purchased on the Georges River using one of Thomas Huxley's aliases - Jones, Huckles, Oxley, but I have not looked into those - I'll have to save that for another visit to the records centre. On the face of it though, my conclusion is that Tom Uglys Bridge is not named after Thomas Huxley.