26 December 2011

2011 - The year in review

So much has happened this year - I've found out so many new things about my family history - that I thought I would review my research, and highlight the most intriguing and/or amazing bits.

Best Performance in a Television Series:
Thomas Wickham (1888-1973)

Thomas Wickham was my great great uncle. He was a policeman in Sydney and worked as a detective sergeant in NSW's first drug squad. He was portrayed in the television series Underbelly: Razor. I didn't watch it, but as far as I know, he's my only relative who's been dramatised in a television series!

Story That Still Leaves Me Gobsmacked That I Uncovered It:
Charles Nicholas Weiss (1789-1845) and Gaspard Weiss (1739-1815), flute virtuosos

Charles Nicholas Weiss (my great great great grandfather) and his father Gaspard Weiss (my great great great great grandfather) were both very talented flautists. Both born in Mulhouse (now part of France), they both trod a path through Italy and Geneva to England where they achieved a level of fame for their musical skills. Gaspard retired back to Mulhouse, Charles joined the British Army and died young in India.

I still am amazed at what I uncovered on Charles Nicholas Weiss. The family had a vague idea that he was born in Prussia (wrong), and was in the army and died in India. I don't think anyone really realised that he was a (then) famous flautist, who joined the British Army as a bandmaster because of his musical skills.

Plus, I've never explained how I found out about Gaspard Weiss, his father. I had worked out that Charles had been born in Mulhouse, so I found a local Alsace genealogical society (Centre Départemental d' Histoire des Familles) and sent them an email asking if they had any information on him. A few weeks later I received an envelope in the mail from them, containing all they had on him: a photocopy from "Nouveau dictionnaire de biography alsacienne", which had a short biography on him. However, the startling thing was that it noted that Charles Nicholas Weiss was the son of the entry before: Jean Gaspard Weiss. And that is where I discovered his possibly even more famous father, Gaspard Weiss. Just because I happened to send an email to a family history society in Alsace.

Ancestor I Would Have Most Liked to Meet:
Caroline Beringer (c1857-1896)

Caroline was my great great grandmother. She came to Australia from Germany with her husband and two young children. She had more children once they were here, but Caroline tragically committed suicide when only 39 years old. I imagine it was a combination of loneliness, homesickness and post-natal depression that drove her to it. I would like to think that, had I been alive, I would have been able to befriend her.

Ancestor I'd Most Like to Find Out More About in the Coming Year:
Margaret Kirkwood Macindoe (1883-1929)

Maggie was my great great aunt. She was born in Scotland and came out to Australia with the rest of her family at a very young age. She died in Callan Park Mental Hospital in Rozelle, NSW, aged just 46, having been hospitalised a number of times in her life. I'm not expecting to get access to her medical records because there is a 100 year restriction on access to medical records, but I'd love to find out why she was in the mental hospital. I can't imagine that it was a good place to die.

Death Bed Message That I'd Love to Read:
Thomas Macindoe (1841-1901)
Thomas Macindoe was my great great grandfather. He was a difficult man, who'd been brought up by an alcoholic mother, and whose wife also turned to drink. Upon his death there was a death bed message that was supposed to published in the newspapers. His children went to court over his will and frittered away all the inheritance, apparently leaving no money for the publication of the death bed message. I'd love to know what it said! It is supposed that it was probably about the evils of drink, but that's just guessing.

Relative Who Met the Most Unusual Death:
Theophile Augustus Naudin (c1845-1880)
Augustus Naudin was the first husband of my great great grandmother. After Augustus died she later married the man who was my great great grandfather. Augustus was eaten by cannibals in Papua New Guinea, leaving behind two wives (whom he bigamously married) with 5 or 6 children as well. They were possibly better off without him!

20 December 2011

Who was the Rev James Dunlop married to?

I have been going through an old photo album of my great aunt's, scanning the photos, as well as trying to work out who they all are. Apart from having many many photos of my ancestors in the Paterson and Macindoe families, it has produced some puzzles for me to solve as well.

The latest puzzle I've been working on is "Rev Dunlop" and his wife "Mrs Dunlop". According to the photos, the Rev Dunlop was married to one of my great great grandfather Thomas Macindoe's sisters. As far as I know Thomas had four sisters: Mary McIndoe (it seems that Thomas used the "Macindoe" spelling of his surname, but the rest of his family generally used "McIndoe"), born 7 April 1826, Margaret McIndoe, born about 1838, Jane McIndoe, born about 1840, and Jeanie McIndoe, born about 1843.

Of these four sisters I know that the youngest sister Jeanie McIndoe married Thomas Weir, from a marriage notice in the Glasgow Herald:

"At Albion Cottage, Helensburgh, on the 12th inst., by the Rev. James Dunlop, Motherwell, assisted by the Rev. John Lindsay, Helensburgh, Mr THOMAS WEIR, writer, Glasgow, to JEANIE, youngest daughter of the late WALTER MACINDOE, Esq., of Ashfield." Glasgow Herald, 13 August 1875.

I don't think it is too presumptuous to assume that the Rev James Dunlop who married Thomas Weir to Jeanie McIndoe was the Rev Dunlop who was married to Jeanie's sister, especially considering he was "imported" in from a different parish to celebrate the marriage. So, clearly, his first name was James.

Searching historical newspapers, I hoped to find a marriage notice for Rev James Dunlop. No such luck. However, I did find his death notice:

"MOTHERWELL. - DEATH of a U.P. MINISTER. - Yesterday morning the Rev. James Dunlop, U.P. minister at Motherwell, died in the 60th year of his age and the 36th of his ministry. Mr Dunlop, through failing health, found it necessary lately to resign his charge. He was born in Irvine in 1823, and was educated at Glasgow University, where he took the degreee of M.A. He laboured at Biggar for nineteen years prior to being called to Motherwell." Glasgow Herald, 26 January 1883. [U.P. stands for United Presbyterian.]

Googling him, I found out he had two ordained brothers, the Rev Hugh Dunlop and the Rev William Dunlop, and he himself was ordained on 14 April 1847, and he accepted a call to the Motherwell parish in 1866. Still no mention of a wife though.

I am guessing that the wife could be Mary McIndoe, mainly because she's the closest in age to James Dunlop. A search on FamilySearch revealed two options: two marriages between a James Dunlop and a Mary McIndoe - one a marriage in Biggar, Lanarkshire in July 1851, the other a marriage in Kilmaronock, Dunbartonshire on 4 July 1851. My hunch is that this is the same event, registered in two places, probably each person's home parish. I could check on Scotlands People, but I would have to pay then, and I prefer to do my genealogical research for free if possible. It must be my Scottish heritage!

Further searching on FamilySearch revealed children of the marriage, the first being named Walter Macindoe Dunlop. I think that clinches it - the first son named after Mary's father. Finally, I've worked out that the Rev James Dunlop was married to Mary McIndoe!

17 December 2011

William Rich married his cousin

...at least I think so. I wrote about William Rich recently, and said I was going to send away for some transcripts of marriage and death records. They arrived today. And I learnt quite a few new things!

  1. William Rich was not from Devon, England, but instead from Bridgwater, Somerset. His marriage record for his marriage to Lavinia Bennett neé Huxley says he was from Bridgwater. His death record says Devonshire. Considering he wasn't present at the time his death was registered I'm inclined to believe he was from Bridgwater. Unless he lied at his wedding, but we have no reason to think he might have.
  2. His mother's maiden name was Milton. Which is interesting, because the name of the house he lived in at Rose Bay was "Milton". And the maiden name of his first wife's mother (Susannah Maria Bindon) was Milton. Furthermore, Susannah had a lot of siblings, one of whom was named Elizabeth. Was this William Rich's mother? Evidence from the 1851 English Census suggests she was: William's sister, Avice, was staying with her uncle at the time of the census - Benjamin Milton, in St Decumans, Somerset. Susannah and Elizabeth had a brother Benjamin, and the birth dates for the brother and this Benjamin Milton match up. So it would seem that William Rich married his cousin Mary Jane Bindon.
  3. William was listed as a gold miner on the marriage record, though his usual residence was recorded as Sydney. So he clearly was no longer working in Peel River. On the death certificate he was listed as a farmer. Where? None of the directory listings I have found for him list an occupation. Is that what he was doing at La Perouse when his wife Lavinia was in Bondi? There are market gardens in La Perouse that have been there for about 150 years...
  4. The death certificate says that he was in NSW for 73 years. Considering he died aged 95 in 1927, this suggests he arrived in NSW in about 1854, when he was 22. Narrowing this down still doesn't help me work out how he got here - there's no records that I can find that match that.
  5. The other thing I learnt is that William Rich was buried in Waverley Cemetery. Waverley Cemetery is the only major cemetery in Sydney that I can think of which does not have a deceased search function on its website. You have to go to the actual cemetery to find out whether the person in question is buried there, and where exactly. That William is buried there also gives me a clue why I've never been able to find his wife Lavinia's burial information either - probably because she is buried there as well. Considering she died in Katoomba it doesn't seem the first place to look for her, but for the fact I now know her husband was buried there.

So now I just need to try and sort out the confusing tangle of Riches, Miltons and Bindons. It may take a while!

The Weiss Gene

Being the Christmas season I thought I should write about my most memorable Christmas dinner, mainly because I feel the story needs to be preserved for future generations!

After a big lunch with another branch of the family, the extended family was having dinner with my maiden great aunts. Because we generally don't eat too much at Christmas dinner, there was a reasonably small first course. I seem to recall there was some Christmas ham, some sliced and probably lavishly buttered bread stick, some canned beetroot, some tomato, and some cheese, chopped up from a block of cheese. So after that, and after lunch, we were probably full already.

And then my great aunt brought out the dessert. Desserts actually. Nine in total. I have absolutely no recollection as to what they each were, apart from a vague memory of a chocolate and mint something-or-other in a bowl - it's the green of the mint flavouring that I remember. My brother-in-law and my grandmother's cousin decided to try all of them - just because then they could say they had tried nine different desserts at Christmas dinner - which took them quite some time! They probably didn't feel so well afterwards either!

And I feel that Christmas dinner sums up my great aunt, a Weiss, very accurately. She thought it was wonderful - after all she organised it! She's always had a sweet tooth, which is known in our family as "The Weiss Gene". I'd be interested to hear from other Weiss' whether this is a trait in their branch of the family too!

13 December 2011

Postcards from the war

My mother has two postcards which were passed on to her from her own mother. They were sent in 1916 to an unknown female relative, from her father, who was away at war in France.

From the details written on the cards we could tell it was a young girl because her father called her "girlie", but we knew it wasn't my grandmother because her father, Adolf Beringer, didn't go to war. We wondered if it was someone on my grandfather's side of the family - but looking at all the men in those families there was no one who seemed to fit. So we looked at ancestors in the Rich family - my grandmother's mother's family.

And we had a possible contenter: my grandmother's favourite cousin - Cousin Dorothy - her father went to war. In Dorothy's family there was her father, Harry Radley, her mother, Emma Radley nee Rich, Dorothy, and her brother Kenrick. So, with no sisters, it was quite likely that Dorothy might be her father's "girlie". One of the postcards was a birthday postcard, and it read "Wishing my dear little girlie many happy returns of 9/2/17". The only problem was that we didn't know Dorothy's date of birth - we only knew it was about 1913 - the NSW BDM birth records in the online search are only up until 1910 at the moment, and this was after that. Googling didn't come up with any birth dates either. I was looking up Harry Radley's service records at the National Archives of Australia when I discovered that Dorothy also had one. Although her actual service record is not yet available online the available information had her date of birth: 9 Feb 1913! So, quite by accident, I confirmed that the postcards were sent to my grandmother's favourite cousin, Dorothy Radley.

I suppose that the reason why my grandmother had them was that Dorothy never married and had no children, so there were no descendants of her own to pass such treasured belongings on to. To give them to your favourite cousin would be quite logical. I only vaguely remember Cousin Dorothy. I didn't meet her many times, but I remember she was a lovely kind lady.

Oh, by the way, the cards both have quite a bit of foxing on them. Are there any paper conservators out there who could tell me a good gentle way to clean them, without damaging them?

12 December 2011

André de Beranger's war service

André de Beranger, silent movie actor, was actually my great great Uncle George - born George Augustus Beringer. I have previously written about him here.

A relative, Bryony Cosgrove, has done quite a lot of research on "Uncle George", and has just had an article on him published: "Missing in Action, Caught on Film: Silent Film Actor "André de Beranger" Goes to War".

11 December 2011

Andrew Paterson

Andrew Paterson was my great great great grandfather, born 12 Jan 1803 in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland, to William Paterson and Lillias Welch/Welsh.

He married Margaret Kirkwood in Barony (a parish of Glasgow), Lanarkshire, Scotland on 23 Jun 1826. They had nine children, the youngest of whom was my great great grandmother Ellen Paterson.

Andrew Paterson was a stonemason. I don't know exactly when Andrew moved to Glasgow, but he was working there as a mason when he got married in 1826, aged 23. Presumably he did an apprenticeship, but I haven't located any Scottish apprenticeship records available online. So whether he did it in Clackmannanshire or Glasgow I couldn't say. I do know that his wife's father, Alexander Kirkwood, was also a mason, so perhaps he learned the trade from his future father-in-law - pure speculation on my part though!

I shall give a timeline of all the events of Andrew's life that I have been able to establish, and then discuss my issues after that:

    12 Jan 1803 - Born in Alloa, Clackmannanshire
    23 Jun 1826 - Married Margaret Kirkwood, Glasgow, Lanarkshire. Andrew noted as a mason.
    28 May 1827 - Daughter Margaret born in Gorbals, Lanarkshire
    1829 - Son William born in Glasgow, Lanarkshire
    6 Jan 1832 - Daughter Lilias born in Barony, Lanarkshire
    19 May 1834 - Daughter Janet (Jessie) born in Dunoon and Kilmun, Argyll. Birth record lists Andrew as a stonemason.
    18 Aug 1836 - Daughter Ann born in Barony, Lanarkshire
    Abt 1841 - Daughter Jane born in Lanarkshire
    31 Jan 1841 - Daughter Mary born in Barony, Lanarkshire
    6 Jun 1841 - Living in Blackhill, Lanarkshire in the 1841 Census, working as a mason. Other members of the family on the census are: Margaret (wife), Margaret (daughter), William, Lillias, Janet, Ann, Jane and Mary.
    19 Nov 1842 - Son Alexander Kirkwood born in Barony, Lanarkshire. Birth record lists Andrew as a stonemason.
    11 Nov 1845 - Daughter Ellen born in Blackhill, Lanarkshire. Birth record not located.
    14 Dec 1846 - “At Blackhill, on the 14th instant, Mr. Andrew Paterson, Manager of the Monkland Canal.” Glasgow Herald, 18 Dec 1846

It is believed that Andrew Paterson, although he was a mason, was the manager of the Monkland Canal, which connected Monklands to Glasgow and was an important trade route. There was a lock at Blackhill, which was rebuilt in 1841. I wonder if this is how a mason came to be the manager of the canal - locks would presumably have been built with stone and wood in those days, and I guess that Andrew's masonry skills would have assisted with managing the rebuilding of the lock at Blackhill.

Because of the seemingly unlikely idea of a mason managing a canal I had wondered if there were two Andrew Patersons - one a mason, the other the canal manager. However in the post office directories of the time there is only one Andrew Paterson listed, and so I can only conclude that either one of them wasn't listed, or they were the same person. The rebuilding of the locks in 1841 gives me more reason to believe they were the same person. As well as this, there were no more children born in the family after my great great grandmother Ellen, which fits with a father no longer being around to contribute to more children. So although I can't say with complete certainty that he was, it would seem that my great great great grandfather was the manager of the Monkland Canal.

06 December 2011

The importance of reading handwriting correctly

I have previously written about the Wickham family and the sheet of paper, written by an unknown hand, which records dates of birth for the family members, and also other important dates.

One of the most mysterious pieces of information on that sheet of paper regards an apparent stay in Mackay by Thomas Wickham (patriarch of the Australian branch of family, not Thomas Wickham the policeman, who was his grandson). Here's an excerpt:

"Married Dec 7th 1835, sailed for Sydney Dec 20th 1852, arrived at Sydney April 29th 1853, left for Mackay Jun 29th 1867, returned to Sydney July 1878. Died at Summer Hill 13th Sept 1897."

I had no idea why Thomas went to Mackay, and could only assume that Rachel, his wife, went with him. I searched and searched for indications of why he was there - for 11 years no less - but to no avail. I contacted the Mackay Family History Society and they (for a small fee) checked everything - electoral rolls, post office directories, the local paper in case it mentioned his leaving in 1878 (unfortunately they didn't have the relevant issue of the paper), and histories of the local churches but there was no mention of him in any of them.

So that mystery remained unsolved.

And then I showed the piece of paper to my mum and she took one look and said "Macleay". Oops. Yes, it did look like "Mackay" but it also looked like "Macleay" - the Macleay River region, up near Kempsey. I looked at Thomas and Rachel's kids and yes, some of them lived in the Macleay River area - Kempsey, Macksville...

So that solves that mystery. [Feeling a little bit sheepish here].

04 December 2011

William Rich

William Rich was my great great grandfather. My mother and I have done a lot of digging on William Rich but there are still a lot of questions about his life.

He was born in somewhere (there's a possible contender in Sutcombe) in Devonshire, England(1) in about 1832 to William and Elizabeth Rich(2). He apparently had at least one sister, Avice(3). At some stage he came to Australia, by means unknown, though presumably he didn't swim! His sister Avice also came to Australia, with her husband Robert Bindon.

The first we hear of William in Australia is when he married Mary Jane Bindon on 19 April 1860 at the Scots Church, Sydney(1). William was noted in the marriage notice as a goldminer from Peel River (near Tamworth). On July 22 1861 Mary Jane gave birth to a son, William H Rich, at their residence at Dernon Point, Peel River diggings(4). William jnr died in Sydney the following year(5). It would appear that the marriage produced no more children. Mary Jane died, aged 34, in 1872 in Victoria(6). Why was Mary Jane in Victoria? Was William with her? When did they leave Peel River? I have not been able to find Mary Jane's death record in the Victorian BDM index (which I find quite irritating to use at the best of times), otherwise I might have more information on this. Perhaps there were more children born to Mary Jane and William in Victoria, but I can't find any records regarding that either, possibly because there may not be any!

William Rich next appears in the public record in 1875 in Sydney, when he married widow Lavinia Bennett (neé Huxley, grand daughter of Thomas Huxley)(7). Lavinia seemed quite flexible with her name and she was also known as Laurina, Lawina, Laura, and possibly other names as well. William and Lavinia had eight children: Lily (1877-1912(8)), Avice (1879-1973(9)), William Milton (1881-1950(10)), Laurine (1883-1952(11)), Emma (1885-1958(12)), Florence (1887-1977(13)), Christina (1889-1971(14)) and Ethel Louisa (1891-1971(15)).

In 1908 when William's sister Avice Bindon (neé Rich) died, they were living at "Mount View", 82 Gordon St, Paddington(16). They were still there when their daughter Lily died in 1912(17).For some reason in 1915 William and Lavinia seemed to be living in separate locations, as shown by their son William Milton Rich's military service records - William snr was listed as living at La Perouse, whilst Lavinia's address is 7 Jackaman St, Bondi. The Sands Directory for 1916 gives William's address as 9 Jackaman St, Bondi - is this next door to his wife, or is she with him?(18). By 1922 William was listed as living at "Milton", O'Sullivan Rd, Rose Bay, where he appeared to live until soon before his death(18). He died on April 25 1927 at his daughter Avice's house in Willoughby, but the death notice states he was late of Milton, O'Sullivan Rd, Rose Bay(19) - perhaps Avice nursed him in his ill-health until his death. Lavinia died two years after William in 1929 in Katoomba(20).

William Rich's death notice also says that he was a Crimean veteran(19). Unfortunately I am unable to access British Crimean war records without either visiting the British National Archives in England or paying someone to research it for me. I guess that he must have come out to Australia soon after the war was over.

The most mysterious thing about William is what he did for a crust. The only occupation I have for him was as a goldminer in Peel River. I have not found any directory listings (or anything else) which list any occupation for him. Did he find a fortune in gold and live off that for the rest of his life?

I think I probably need to order a transcript of William's marriage record to Lavinia, and also his death record. That might shed a bit more light on him.

  1. Marriage notice in Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 21 Apr 1860.
  2. NSW BDM death record 6651/1927.
  3. Funeral notice for Avice Rich Bindon, SMH, 18 Nov 1908.
  4. Birth notice, SMH, 3 Aug 1861.
  5. NSW BDM death record 307/1862.
  6. Australia Death Index (Ancestry.com.au).
  7. NSW BDM marriage record 344/1875, Lavinia listed as "Lawina".
  8. NSW BDM birth record 3508/1877, listed as "Lilly". Interestingly there is no father recorded.
  9. NSW BDM birth record 779/1879, listed as "Avis".
  10. NSW BDM birth record 3953/1881.
  11. NSW BDM birth record 8741/1883.
  12. NSW BDM birth record 10431/1885.
  13. NSW BDM birth record 9422/1887.
  14. NSW BDM birth record 5147/1889.
  15. NSW BDM birth record 38803/1891.
  16. Funeral notice for Avice Bindon, SMH, 18 Nov 1908.
  17. Funeral notice for Lily Rich, SMH, 17 Apr 1912.
  18. Sands Directory (Ancestry.com.au).
  19. Death notice for William Rich, SMH, 27 Apr 1927.
  20. Death notice for Lavinia Rich, SMH, 21 Jan 1929, Lavinia is listed as "Laurina".