06 November 2012

James Smith of St Leonards

James Smith was my great great great grandfather. I have found it difficult to find much information on him, but at least his name was not John Smith - though I believe that was his father's name!

James Smith died on 4th July 1879, and was buried in the St Thomas Cemetery, North Sydney. Although many of the headstones were removed when the site was redeveloped into a rest park in the 1970s, I think that the headstone for James Smith may still be there. I'll have to go and check it out one day. According to his headstone he was 49 years and 7 months old when he died, which suggests that he was born around Dec 1829.

James Smith married Sarah Ann Adamson in 1853 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Princes Street, Sydney. They had six children that I know of: Ann Jane (born 1854, my great great grandmother), James (1856), Maria (1861), Eliza Annie (1862), Susan (1865) and William (1871). All the children who have a district recorded on their birth record were registered at St Leonards. On Ann Jane's marriage record (1876) her father's occupation is not listed, but the ceremony is recorded as being held at the bride's residence on the North Shore. In those days it would seem that the "North Shore" was pretty much all the settlement on the northern side of the harbour, rather than the geographical area which is now known by that term (being a lot larger now). Later, in 1885 after her father's death, when Eliza Annie was married, it only lists her as living in Sydney, but her father's occupation was noted as carpenter.

I have looked at James' probate packet, held out at the State Records Centre at Kingswood. In his will he mentions real estate, though I have not been able to work out exactly where he might have owned real estate - anyone have any ideas on how to find it? At a guess it might have been in St Leonards. Interestingly, in the will, he appoints his wife Sarah as the guardian of his infant children. I calculate, of the known children, that only William was an infant at the time the will was written (24 June 1879), so I suspect that it is quite possible there were more children than the six I know of. The probate information records that the personal estate of the deceased was under the value of £40. I don't think this was a huge amount.

The will records that James was a quarryman, living in St Leonards (St Leonards seems to have been the name for what is now known as North Sydney. There was also an area in the south western part of what is now North Sydney, going down to Blues Point, which was called Victoria). There was a quarry where the corner of Blue and Miller Streets is now, so perhaps he worked there. I have also found a record from 1876 for a James Smith living in Walker St, Victoria as a dairyman - which may or may not have been him. It is my thought that James was a bit of an odd-job manual-labour sort of man, and changed his occupation more than once.

Where James Smith was born is completely unknown. I've applied for his death record to see what information that contains. There are, of course, only two options - he was born here (presumably NSW) or somewhere else - likely in Britain, at a guess. If he was born here his parents were either convicts or free settlers. If he was born elsewhere, he was either a convict or a free settler himself.

According to the death record information available online, James' parents were John Smith and Susan. There is no record of a James Smith born to a John and Susan Smith around 1829-30 in NSW. However, working on the theory that not all information on death records is correct, I thought I'd see if there was a James Smith born to any John Smiths in Sydney, about that time. Yes. In 1829 there was a James Smith born to John and Jane Smith. If he was born in December 1829 they would have had to get him registered quick-smart to be included in the 1829 records, but perhaps it is him. Looking at other possible children born to John and Jane Smith around that time there is: Elizabeth J born 1817, Sarah (1821), Maria (1822), William (1824), Thomas (1826) x2, Eliza (1830), Charlotte (1832) and Jane (1838). Looking at his own children's names, James and Sarah had a Maria and a William. Whilst William was a common enough name, Maria was not so common - Mary and Mary Ann were much more common than Maria. So perhaps James had a sister called Maria. This is all pure speculation though, and I have no idea if I'll ever know if it is actually true.

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