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!


  1. Fascinating finds,Prue. I have enjoyed reading your summary.

  2. Thanks Jill, and thanks for dropping by!

  3. Wow Prue! That's some year! you've certainly made some amazing discoveries -I'm mesmerised by the cannibal story in PNG. As to poor Caroline, how very sad that she suicided. Some of the Germans seemed to find life here so very different that they just couldn't cope -throw in small children and they were obviously at their wit's end. I don't know if the Germans were unusual or if it's just that I've looked at a few of them and read of others. Congratulations and happy hunting in 2012.

  4. Can you believe I almost forgot to include the cannibal story?!