26 May 2012

Gaspard Weiss and J.C. Bach

In an article on my 4x great grandfather Gaspard Weiss (1739-1815) in Sortir à Mulhouse (which appears to be a newsletter on some sort of cultural program for Mulhouse - its in French so I'm not completely sure!), number 36, a reference is made to him being one of the musicians who interpreted Amor Vincitore before King George III. I tried to find information on this a while back but was unsuccessful.

I've just come across a new reference to this in "Clarinet in the Classical Period" by Albert R. Rice (2008). Amor Vincitore was a cantata by Johann Christian Bach - youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Rice writes that two movements of the piece have solo parts which were written for four virtuosos - Karl Weiss (flute), Johann Christian Fischer (oboe), Josef Beer (clarinet) and Georg Wenzel Ritter (bassoon). "Karl" was a German form of the French name "Gaspard", and there are other references to Gaspard Weiss as "Karl Weiss". Gaspard Weiss often worked with the oboist Fischer. Rice also says that in 1774 Amor Vincitore was performed in Carlisle House in London (on April 15), at a benefit concert for Fischer, and at a private performance for the royal family. Obviously if you were having your new cantata performed for the royal family you would make sure it was being performed by the musicians it was written for - hence we know that Weiss almost undoubtably did play for King George III.

I still have no definitive proof that Gaspard Weiss was the principal flautist for King George III as claimed by his son Charles Nicholas Weiss, in his letter to the music dictionary publisher John Sainsbury. Perhaps if the claim was an embellishment of the truth, this may have been the event Charles was referring to.

25 May 2012

A little more information on Willoughby Gaspard Weiss

Trawling through Google Books today I discovered some new information on Willoughby Gaspard Weiss, son of (Jean) Gaspard Weiss, brother of Charles Nicholas Weiss, and my 4x great uncle.

The Gentleman's Magazine of 1867, volume 223, page 828, notes the following information regarding Willoughby Gaspard's son Willoughby Hunter Weiss, famous opera singer: "He was the eldest son of the late Gaspard Weiss, esq., of Liverpool and Manheim (sic)..." This is the first time I have definitely seen Willoughby Gaspard Weiss referred to as Gaspard Weiss i.e. without the "Willoughby", which Tobias Bonz and I have previously had discussions over - he believes there are references to Gaspard Weiss which refer to Willoughby Gaspard Weiss, but this is the first time I have seen it without a doubt.

The other new bit of information is the connection to Mannheim, Germany. Previously I have found references to a W G Weiss importing goods into Liverpool from Germany:
Liverpool Mercury, 7 May 1830: "1 case merchandise".
Liverpool Mercury, 15 October 1830: "1 ch [chest?] musical instruments".
Liverpool Mercury, 15 May 1835: "1 [something - I can't work out exactly what!]"
Liverpool Mercury, 7 September 1838: "1 case musical instruments".

All of the imports came through the port of Hamburg, however Mannheim could have been where he was importing them from. There were flute makers in Mannheim in the 19th century, so it is quite possible that there were flutes amongst the musical instruments that Weiss was importing. I have searched and searched but can't find anything else relating to Weiss and Mannheim. If only there was a search engine for German historical newspapers!

23 May 2012

The Beringer Bros Winery family

Once again, I will state right here that I have no evidence currently that I am related to the Beringer Bros Winery Beringer family. However, I am interested in them because their German background has been very hazy until now, so here I am to set the record straight.

As I wrote recently, Jacob and Frederick Beringer of the Beringer Bros Winery in Napa Valley were reputed to have been born in Mainz, Germany. I tracked down baptism records for them in St Quintin's Catholic Church, Mainz, and as I had some of my own Beringers baptised in the same church (Valtin and Dorothea Beringer, my 3x great grandfather and his sister), I ordered the microfilm of the records in to my local LDS Family History Centre.

Of the six known children in Jacob and Frederick's family, three of their baptism records were in the St Quintin's register - Jacob F, Frederick and Conrad's. I think the other three - Carl, Jacob H and Werner - were baptised at the Catholic Cathedral in Mainz.

Published information about the family has always suggested that Jacob and Frederick's father Conrad Ludovic Beringer was in the wine trade, but the baptism records state that he was a bookbinder. He must have been a reasonably well-off bookbinder to be able to send Frederick to school in Paris...

Further searching revealed that Conrad Ludovic's father was named Friderick and his mother Elisabetha Bergern/Bergin. Conrad had at least one brother, Werner (born about 1798, baptised at St Quintin's on 12 December 1798). Although I have seen Werner's baptism record, unfortunately it does not note what his father Friderick's occupation was. I have found some references to Werner possibly being a bookbinder as well, with an advertisement in Rheinische Blätter on 5 October 1816 announcing a Werner Beringer as a book and paper handler in the Schustergasse (now known as Schusterstraße) Mainz. It does suggest to me that if potentially two of his sons were in the book trade, Friderick may also have been.

So that's a little more about the family of Jacob and Frederick Beringer, who founded the Beringer Bros Winery in Napa Valley, California. And I still haven't found any connection to my Beringers.

15 May 2012

Thomas Ball

Thomas Ball was my great great great great grandfather. He is something of an enigma.

Thomas Ball was born about 1790, apparently in Highgate, Middlesex (according to his details in the 1871 Census). His parents are unknown.

On May 25 1812 at the age of 22 Thomas married Sarah Preston by banns at St Mary church, Hornsey, in the borough of Islington. They both signed their names. Thomas and Sarah were both living in the parish of Hornsey at the time of their marriage. There are two children who are definitely known from the marriage: James and Eleanor. James and Eleanor were both baptised on 23 November 1817 at St Mary Mounthaw. There are two parish records available for that parish, one of which gives the birth dates of the children. James' birthday was 12 December 1812. A very short gestation?! (Interestingly, the family records said he was born in 1814 - this would have been much more acceptable, except that it was wrong!) Eleanor was born 17 June 1817. At the date of the children's baptisms the family was living at Old Fish Street Hill, London, and Thomas, aged 27, was working as a corn porter. A corn porter worked on the docks, usually shifting sacks of corn onto or off ships. It would have been hard, menial work.

In 1837 Thomas' daughter Eleanor was married. In the marriage register Thomas was noted as a greengrocer.

The next definite record I have for Thomas is from his son James' immigration record in 1857 - he and Sarah were noted as living in Fenchurch St, London.

In the 1871 Census Thomas was widowed and living at Francis Cottage, Highgate. There was no rank, profession or occupation listed.

Thomas Ball died on 12 January 1873 at his residence, Francis Cottage. According to a death notice his son James placed in the Sydney Morning Herald (15 Mar 1873) Thomas worked "for nearly twenty-five years in the establishment of Charles Rivington Esq., Fenchurch St, London, solicitor, to the Hon. E.I.C." I had originally assumed that this meant that he had been employed by Charles Rivington until his death, but looking at his places of residence, I suspect that he may have retired some time prior to his death. To live in Highgate and work in Fenchurch St, London would have been quite a hike! I wonder what Thomas did for Charles Rivington - that he worked in "the establishment of Charles Rivington Esq." suggests that he was employed in the business in some way, but that he and Sarah lived on the premises (in 1857) suggests alternately that he might have been household staff. He certainly wasn't still hauling sacks of corn around!

It is interesting that although Charles Rivington was a solicitor, he came from a family of book publishers who were well connected with the Stationers' Company. Thomas' son James became a bookbinder, and was supposedly made a City Freeman, which was in some cases closely related to livery companies such as the Stationers' Company. One wonders if this was (a) how James got into the book trade, and (b) a connection that made his becoming a City Freeman possible. Also, Thomas' daughter Eleanor married a solicitor's clerk, John Bache Downing. Did they meet through Thomas' work?

I have tried to find records for Thomas (and Sarah) in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 Censuses, but have no definite records for them. I wish I knew where they were hiding!

03 May 2012

Kissing Cousins

William Rich (c1832-1927) was my great great grandfather. I am descended from his daughter Christina (1889-1971), who was born to his second wife Lavinia Huxley (1847-1929). Previously, William was married to his first cousin Mary Jane Bindon (1838-1872). In Australia it is legal to marry your first cousin, though whether it is a good idea to have children is another thing, considering the limited gene pool. However, the genetic implications of having children with your first cousin were unknown in those days and so William and Mary Jane had a number of children. I'm not sure of the exact number as the records do not really agree with each other on the names. The one thing I do know is that none of the children survived childhood.

William H Rich was their firstborn, and was born on July 22 1861 in Peel River, NSW. He died sometime in 1862 - I haven't gotten around to getting a transcript of his death certificate. Until the other day I had not found any concrete evidence of William and Mary Jane having any more children and assumed that they had not. I have wondered whether William H's short life span was just related to the type of illness which took many people's lives in those days before the advent of antibiotics, or whether there had been a congenital condition which had led to his death.

The other day a distant relative contacted me and pointed me in the direction of some children born to William and Mary Jane in Victoria, and further research revealed more, born in (surprisingly) New Zealand. I was completely unaware the family had spent time in New Zealand.

Other children believed to have been born to William and Mary Jane Rich:
Emma (born ?, died 1868 in New Zealand)
Sampson (born ? and died pre-1872)
Henry Bindon (born 1865, New Zealand - died 1865, New Zealand)
Sydney (born 1865, New Zealand - died 1866, New Zealand)
Alfred (born 1868, New Zealand - died 7 Dec 1872, Melbourne)
Cornelia (born 1870, New Zealand - died 21 Nov 1872, Melbourne)
Avice (1872, Melbourne - 2 Jul 1872, Melbourne)

Avice's death certificate says she was born in Hokitika, New Zealand. This is actually incorrect - there is a record of her birth in Victoria, however, as both her parents were not with her when she died it's not surprising that there was a mistake. However, it does suggest where the family were in New Zealand. William Rich was working on the gold fields at Peel River, NSW, before they went to NZ. Hokitika was settled in the 1860s after gold was found there. A huge number of Australians went there for the ensuing gold rush, apparently William Rich and his family included. Exactly when they arrived in NZ is unknown, but they returned to Australia, to Melbourne, in 1872. Had William made his fortune? Who knows.

The story of the children who died in Melbourne is terribly sad. Their mother Mary Jane died in Melbourne on 8 April 1872. William was left with three children, Alfred, aged 4, Cornelia, 1 3/4 and Avice, aged only 21 days old. William apparently was unable to care for the three of them, presumably because he needed to work, and fathers didn't do that sort of thing in those days anyway, so they were put into care. All three of them were sent to Industrial Schools, which were for the care of neglected children. Albert died in the industrial school on December 7, 1872 of bronchitis and whooping cough. Cornelia died November 21, 1872 of debility and marasmus (extreme malnutrition), and Avice on July 2, 1872 of marasmus and apoplexy. The industrial schools cannot have been happy places to live, especially considering the two girls died of extreme malnutrition. Were these children destined to die young anyway because of congenital conditions? We'll never know, because there was no knowledge of those things then, but it is a possibility, particularly in the case of Cornelia, who died of debility and marasmus.

It is interesting to note that from William's second marriage, to Lavinia Huxley (who was not a blood relation of his), of their eight children, none of them died in childhood.