16 November 2012

The missing Smith children

In my last post I wrote about the children of James and Sarah Smith. And there were three for whom birth records just don't exist.

Ellen Smith was definitely born, around 1859, because she was listed as 20 years old when her father died in 1879. But her birth clearly wasn't registered. And she didn't die as Ellen Smith, in NSW at least. I looked at marriage records for Ellen Smiths, focussing on those registered in St Leonards because that's where the family was located. The most likely options (based on the date) were a marriage in 1881 to Jonathan Hinks and and an 1883 marriage to Robert Pymble. Death records for Ellen Hinks and Ellen Pymble revealed an 82 year old Ellen Hinks dying in Penrith in 1941 (no parents recorded, only her age and place of death), and Ellen Pymble dying in 1950 in Chatswood, parents Samuel and Mary Ann. So Ellen Pymble was a no-go, but Ellen Hinks could definitely fit - she was the right age if she had been born in 1859. But there the trail went cold because there didn't seem to be any obvious way of verifying the information.

Later I was filing some of my family history notes and came across some I made with Mum when she passed on the Nell Brell's Cookies recipe. And there was a reference to one of my Great Nanna's cousins - one Hilda Jouning née Hinks, whose parents were Jonathan and Ellen Hinks. Mystery solved!

Not so lucky with the missing sons. According to James' death record he had two sons who were deceased at the time of his death. In the NSW BDM no records, birth or death, can be found that relate to these two boys. And I don't think the family was elsewhere at the time of their births, I think they just weren't registered.

I rang the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages to ask about the missing registrations. The nice lady I talked to said that although civil registration started in 1856, they didn't really crack down on it until the 1890s, and some children were just never registered. The fact that there is no birth or death record for either of them suggests that perhaps the boys were stillborn or died when only a few days old. She also said that sometimes in very remote locations the births were never registered but this doesn't apply in this case - they were in St Leonards, which although it was on the north side of Sydney Harbour, wasn't that hard to get to and from!

The nice lady suggested I try church records, because although there may have been no official registration, it is possible the boys may still have been baptised. I'll have to see if I can locate parish records for St Thomas' to see if there is anything in them. I believe the pre-1930 Anglican Sydney diocese parish registers have all been microfilmed by the Society of Australian Genealogists. Looks like I might have to take a trip into the city!

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