12 December 2015

William Rich, Crimean War Veteran

My great great grandfather William Rich was, according to his funeral notice, a Crimean War veteran.

Sydney Morning Herald, 27 April 1927, p11.

And according to the funeral notice under the one his family placed in the paper, he was also a member of the United Imperial Navy and Army Veterans' Association of NSW. What was that? I've never heard of it!

I did some research on Trove, and also in the Sydney Morning Herald archives (1955-1995). The first mention in the Sydney Morning Herald of the the United Imperial Navy and Army Veterans' Association of NSW was in 1908, and the last was in 1960.

From the research I have done, it appears that the organisation pre-dates today's Returned Services League (RSL), which was formed in 1917. The RSL is for those who served or are serving in the Australian Defence Forces, whereas The United Imperial Navy and Army Veterans' Association of NSW appears to have been for any British veteran who had seen service up to and including 1885. Members of the latter organisation had served in many different conflicts including in the Crimea, the Sudan, and India. I contacted the RSL and they confirmed that they are unrelated to the United Imperial Navy and Army Veterans' Association of NSW. It seems to me that the United Imperial Navy and Army Veterans' Association of NSW possibly just died out once all the old veterans had died.

A write-up of the Veterans Christmas Dinner of 1923 mentions William Rich; "Nine of those present were over 80 years of age, two of the oldest being Mr. William Rich, 89, who fought at the Crimea in 1854, and Mr. Charles Kidd, 80, who fought in the Indian mutiny three years later." (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1923, p10). At a veterans gathering for Empire Day in 1926 "The Governor General was the principal speaker... [and] hailed as "comrade" the hardy old soldier, William Rich, who served in the Crimea, and is marching - if more feebly than of old - towards his centenary." (The Telegraph, 29 May 1926, p12.) At the Christmas dinner after William Rich died he was mentioned: "Since the last dinner their oldest member, William Rich, who had served in the Crimea, and almost reached 100 years, had died" (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 December 1927, p10).

From these articles we learn that William Rich was in the Army, not the Navy, as he is referred to as a soldier, not a sailor, and that he fought in the Crimea in 1854. One wonders why it was only 1854, as the British were still in the Crimea in 1855 - was he invalided out?

I also learnt in my research that William Rich lived at the Veterans' Home at La Perouse, on Bare Island. This explains why he did not live with his wife towards the end of his life - a question that I have wondered about for some time. 

The gravestone of William Rich, at Waverley Cemetery, Sydney.

18 November 2015

Samuel Henry Baumgarten

A while ago I accidentally discovered a new child of Samuel Christian Frederick Baumgarten and Mary Joynes who had been hidden from me by bad spelling! I discovered Samuel Frederick Baumgarten's baptism record, though his surname was spelled Baumgerten.

Further research has revealed that Samuel Frederick Baumgarten actually went by Samuel Henry Baumgarten for the rest of his life... In my research into the Baumgarten family I had come across Samuel Henry Baumgarten and his descendants regularly, but had found nothing to link him to my Baumgarten family. Actually, the only way I was ever able to work out that he was the same as the person who was baptised Samuel Frederick Baumgarten was through reading some centuries-old legal documents at the National Archives UK.

It would seem that one of the reasons why I didn't realise Samuel Henry Baumgarten was related to my Baumgartens - even though Baumgarten was an extremely uncommon surname in 18th and 19th century London - was that he was disowned by the rest of his family over a dispute over an inheritance.

Samuel Henry Baumgarten was the firstborn of Samuel Christian Frederick Baumgarten and Mary Joynes. His maternal grandfather, Henry Joynes, died in 1754, leaving an inheritance to his two surviving children: his son Samuel Joynes and his daughter Mary, Samuel Henry Baumgarten's mother (or her children in equal shares in the event of her death).

Samuel Joynes died in June 1770, leaving the residue of his estate to his sister Mary, and in the event of her death, in equal shares to her children. However, Mary died less than a month after her brother, and being intestate, and following the law of primogeniture, her firstborn Samuel Henry Baumgarten inherited everything.

Taking into account the wishes of Henry Joynes and Samuel Joynes, the rest of the Baumgarten family, lead by their father Samuel Christian Frederick Baumgarten, obviously felt they had a case for contesting the allocation of the entire inheritance to Samuel Henry Baumgarten, and they took him to court. A succession of court cases over many years followed, which eventually resulted in the inheritance from Mary Baumgarten née Joynes being split equally amongst her surviving children. Sadly, it appears that relations between Samuel Henry and the rest of his family irreparably broke down as a result of these court cases.

You wouldn't necessarily expect to learn too much relevant to family history from the sometimes huge pieces of vellum that the court cases were written up on - or at least I naively didn't! However, as the court cases took place over many years, it was possible to track the births and deaths of children and grandchildren of the Baumgarten family over that time. I could work out which of the known children (from baptism records) died young, because they were or were not included in the parties bringing the case to court. I could also confirm Mary Baumgarten's death date, which I had not been able to find with certainty anywhere else. So its worth poring over ancient documents which might seem virtually impenetrable because of the old legalese and handwriting because you just might find some very useful facts!

10 October 2015

Some "new" family heirlooms

You never know your luck in a big city small German town, close to the French border. Today there was a handicrafts flea market in the hall behind my daughter's school. There were lots of balls of wool and ugly material that no one wanted any more, some old junky bits of sewing notions, and some beautiful old sewing things too.

I judiciously avoided the junk and found some old insertion lace, some old threads on beautiful wooden reels - so much more lovely than today's plastic reels, some antique copper monogram stencils (never seen anything like them before), an old tape measure and a random assortment of buttons. Because we are so close to the French border, some of the goods were of French origin, including from companies based in Mulhouse, historically an important textile manufacturing city, less than an hour away. Mulhouse is the home of the embroidery thread company DMC, and also my Weiss family.

Top left is a reel of sewing cotton made by DMC. Top middle is a ball of Cordonnet Spécial crochet cotton also made by DMC. As explained here, DMC stands for Dollfus Mieg et Cie, and I am distantly related to one of the founders, Jean-Henri Dollfus.

On the tape measure it says "Employez le 'Fil Schlumberger' pour la couture a la machine et a la main". Schlumberger is also a Mulhousien surname which is related to my Weiss family.

So I picked up some beautiful things, some of which have real family history significance to me. You never know your luck in a small German town, close to the French border.

08 October 2015

Who was Mary Ann Williams?

Mary Ann Williams was my great great grandmother. I know she was from Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, married John Wilkey in Bristol, and then they emigrated to Australia, where they had nine children.

Mary Ann Wilkey née Williams, undated.
Photo courtesy of Margaret Robinson, used with permission.

Who were her parents? According to her marriage record, her father's name was George Williams, and he was a labourer. According to her immigration records, her father was Joseph and her mother was Ann. Slightly contradictory!

Where was she born? I can only assume it was Bristol, Gloucestershire, as this is noted on her immigration records and also her death certificate. There is a baptism record which is potentially hers at St Philip and St Jacob's, Bristol, on 9 June 1844, with the parents listed as George and Ann (there is no baptism record in Gloucestershire with parents Joseph and Ann in the right timeframe). Unfortunately I have only been able to view a transcript of this record - I'd love to see if there was further information on the original parish record. There are many other Mary Ann Williams born around this time in Bristol, but the above record is the only one with a father named George, in the correct time period. Interestingly though, there is no obvious matching birth record for this baptism in the English Births Marriages and Deaths records.

Where did Mary live? On her marriage record in 1863 Mary Ann Williams' residence at the time of the marriage was Newfoundland Gardens. As they married only two years after the 1861 English Census, I checked the census records for any Mary Ann Williams living in Newfoundland St. Unfortunately the only Mary Williams living in Newfoundland St was 50 years old.

So we must therefore assume that Mary Ann Williams had moved residence between the 1861 Census and her wedding. There is no record for a Mary (Ann) Williams of the correct age living with a father George and/or mother Ann in Bristol in either the 1851 or 1861 Census. Was she orphaned? Did she have to go out and work from a young age? Or did she move away for a time?

There is a Mary Ann Williams of the right age living in New St in both the 1851 and 1861 Census, with James and Martha Vowles. Mary Ann is listed as their grandchild. It is just a coincidence that New St and Newfoundland Gardens are similar? If she was my Mary Ann Williams, this would mean that it was her mother who was James and Martha's child. However, I was unable to find a marriage record for an Ann Vowles and a George Williams anywhere. Similarly there was no marriage record for an Ann Vowles and a Joseph Williams.

Searching back to the 1841 Census, I realised that although I wouldn't find Mary Ann because she wasn't born yet, I might find James and Martha Vowles. And there the plot thickened... Listed in New Street were the following living in a single house:

James Vowles, aged 40, Labourer, born in Gloucestershire
Martha Vowles, aged 40, born in Gloucestershire
Mary Weaver, aged 75, born in Gloucestershire
John Vowles, 14 (born c1827), born in Gloucestershire
James Vowles, 10 (born c1831), born in Gloucestershire
Eliz Vowles, 4 (born c1837), born in Gloucestershire
Mary Vowles, 3mths (born 1841), born in Gloucestershire
Ann Williams, 17 (born c1824), born in Gloucestershire
Louisa Williams, 11 (born c1830), born in Gloucestershire

It seemed very interesting that there were two girls with the surname of Williams tacked on at the end there. Particularly one called Ann. So perhaps they were daughters of Martha, from a previous marriage. But then the eldest Vowles son, John, was born between Ann and Louisa Williams.... so perhaps John Vowles was the product of a previous marriage for James Vowles. Did we have an early version of the Brady Bunch here?

Further research revealed James Vowles married Martha Williams on 30 January 1836 at St James, Bristol, and James' marital status was married (though perhaps it should have been widowed?) This suggests that John and James (jnr) were sons of James Vowles senior from a previous marriage, and Ann and Louisa were daughters of Martha Williams from a previous marriage.

So if Ann's maiden name was Williams, and her daughter Mary Ann's surname was also Williams, this suggests that Mary Ann was born out of wedlock. I wonder what Mary Ann's father George's surname was? I'd have to pin down a definite birth record to be able to find out, but Mary Ann's illegitimacy may be why it is hard to find - maybe Ann was sent away to have her baby and thus it was registered elsewhere. And what happened to Ann - why was Mary Ann living with her grandparents rather than her mother in the 1851 and 1861 censuses? Perhaps Ann died, or maybe she married and her new husband didn't want her illegitimate daughter living with them.

Mary Ann's wedding
On 6 April 1863 Mary Ann Williams married John Wilkey at St Paul's Bristol, by banns.

Both Mary Ann and John were listed as of full age but this was incorrect for both - John was 18 years old and Mary Ann was 19. It would seem that there were a few white lies on the marriage record: Mary Ann's father was listed as George Williams, however from the research detailed above it is unlikely that George's surname was Williams, though it was Mary Ann's mother's surname. Did their parents attend the wedding? Mary Ann's mother was possibly dead, and one wonders if she had any contact with her father. Both of John's parents were still alive, but they certainly didn't sign the register as witnesses. In fact, the witnesses were both employed by the parish of St Pauls - William White was the parish clerk, and Mary White, his wife, was the sextoness of the parish.

Emigration to Australia
Just over half a year after they were married, on December 15, 1863, John and Mary Ann Wilkey left  Liverpool, England for Australia on the Montrose. The Montrose arrived in Sydney, on March 27, 1864. The immigration records show that Mary Ann Wilkie (sic) was 19 years old, the wife of John Wilkie (sic), from Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, her parents names were Ann and Joseph, with her father dead and her mother living in Bristol, and it also noted that Mary Ann could read and write (interesting considering she signed the marriage register with her mark!) 

So if we have established that it was more likely that George was her father, where did this Joseph fit in? Had Ann married someone called Joseph? There is a marriage record for an Ann Williams, single, marrying a Joseph Cross on 11 May 1845, at St Paul's Bristol. The bride's father's name was James Williams. This all fits. And so it would seem that Joseph Cross didn't really want his new wife's daughter Mary Ann living with them, so she was sent to live with her maternal grandparents. 

Mary Ann clearly knew that Joseph Cross was not her father because he was not named as her father on her marriage record, and Mary Ann had retained Williams as her surname. Perhaps it was just easier to put Joseph down as her father on the immigration records. Unhelpfully, I can't find a definite death record for either Ann or Joseph, nor can I find Ann in the 1861 Census, where she should be if she were still alive a few years later according to her daughter's immigration records. Maybe she remarried, though I can't find anything that confirms this.

So, most of this is completely circumstantial, but it does all seem to fit together. And I'm not sure that there is any easy way to confirm any of this, though I will keep trying!

31 August 2015

The failing eyesight of James Arthur Wilkey

My great grandfather, James Arthur Wilkey, died in 1907, aged 30, after falling from a train, while trying to rescue his hat which had blown off.

I was searching through some of the recently added records on Ancestry this morning, plugging in some surnames to see if anything new came up. I was particularly interested in the NSW Teachers Rolls, 1869-1908, as there were a number of teachers in my own ancestry around that time. On a whim I put in the surname "Wilkey" not expecting to find anything, but....

James Arthur Wilkey, who I understood to have been a clerk when he died, had a record in the NSW Teachers Rolls! Slightly surprising.

The record says he was employed on probation as a Pupil Teacher at Darlington Public at the end of 1895, but by the beginning of the 1896 school year he had been transferred to Stanmore Public instead. Sadly though, his teaching career never really started before it was over because on February 24 of 1896 he called the Chief Inspector and stated that on account of his failing eyesight (aged only 19) he didn't feel he could continue his appointment as a pupil teacher.

No one in the family has ever mentioned his eyesight to me, probably because they didn't know about it - his son, my grandfather wasn't even born when he died. I wonder what the cause of the poor eyesight was? And now I wonder if his eyesight contributed to his death... 

14 August 2015

Hints and Tips: German family history - historical newspapers

I have always found that historical newspapers can be very important sources of information when researching family history. In an English speaking world that can be reasonably easy, however switching to other languages can make it more difficult.

I have a considerable amount of German ancestry, and have in the past, on the suggestion of Pauleen Cass from Family History Across the Seas, researched German newspapers with Google Books by guessing newspaper names e.g. Blatter, Zeitung and putting it with location names. It's hit and miss, but can yield some wonderful results.

The other day I found a fantastically useful book to assist with German historical newspaper research: Zeitungs- und Zeitschriftentitel- Register by Gert Hagelweide, published by de Gruyter in 2007. It is available (though with limited pages) on Google Books. If you want to buy the e-book it will only cost you €269...

Of course, you still have to find access to those newspapers, and not all of them are available online. Your best bet is to start by searching Google Books and also Internet Archive for the online ones. Look for newspapers with the town/city/region name in them. Once you've found some search the newspapers for the surname(s) that are relevant to your research. If you find the surname, and assuming you don't know German, use Google Translator to get the gist of the information. Then you should be able to work out if it is useful, even if the sentences only vaguely make sense!

Good luck!

13 August 2015

The Holsts in Riga

It has been a long time because I've been working on other things, but I'm here!

I've recently been researching the Holst family, in memory of Harro Lange, who was a distant Holst relative and a keen researcher of the Holst family. Before he died in 2013 he hoped that others would take up the reins.

I'm interested in the Holst family because my 3x great grandfather Charles Nicholas Weiss married Benigna Catharina von Holst. Her father Matthias adopted the "von" when he moved to England, but he was born Matthias Holst, in Riga. I've recently discovered online parish records for the Lutheran churches in Riga, through Raduraksti.lv, and so have been delving into the Holsts. The records are written in German, which is something I'm reasonably used to reading, so I'm finding lots of new info.

Benigna's parents were Matthias Holst and Catharina Rogge. The story goes that Catharina's brother, Johann was a knight or a prince of Russia but there has never been any evidence found to support this. Catharina was married before Matthias, to Johann Wilhelm Becker. They appeared in Riga in the 1790s (from Russia?), and had a child, Matthias Alexander, of whom Matthias Holst was a godfather. On the baptism record for Matthias Alexander, Catharina's name was given as Catharina Beata Roggen. Was this really her surname, or a misspelling? I can't find her in any other parish records for Riga, so have no other primary sources with which to compare the spelling.

Matthias Holst's father was said to be Meno Holst. Meno Holst married Maria Saumann at St Peter's Lutheran Church on the 3rd Sunday after Trinity in 1753 - I think this was in July. I have found records for many of the their children, but still have to nail down Matthias' baptism record.

According to all published information on him, Meno Holst apparently died in Riga in 1805. I have searched the parish records for his burial record and cannot find it in his family church of St Peter's, Riga in that year (though it may be in another parish). I have, however, found a burial record for a Meno Holst, with the same occupation description as on the baptism records of Meno and Marie's children, at the same church, who was buried on 31 January 1787, aged 63 years. I think this could be him. Although I haven't yet found a baptism record which corresponds, working backwards, this Meno Holst's birth year would be about 1724, in which case, if it IS my Meno Holst, he would have been 29 years old when he married Marie Saumann, which seems reasonable.

I wondered if there were two different Meno Holsts so I went through all the parish records that I could find for him, and checked his occupation:

Date Event Occupation of Meno Holst Source
Jul 1753 Marriage of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann Ältester der Schwarzen Häupter St Petri Riga 1712-1842 German, married
18 Mar 1754 Baptism of Adolph, son of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann No occupation given St Petri Riga 1737-1762 German, born
20 Mar 1754 Burial of unnamed child (possibly Adolph) of Meno Holst No occupation given St Petri Riga 1657-1811 German, died
Feb 1755 Burial of unnamed daughter of Meno Holst No occupation given St Petri Riga 1657-1811 German, died
Jan 1757 Baptism of Lorenz Christian, son of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann No occupation given St Petri Riga 1737-1762 German, born
Jun 1757 Burial of Christian Lorenz, son of Meno Holst No occupation given St Petri Riga 1657-1811 German, died
Jun 1758 Baptism of Anna Gerdrutha, daughter of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann No occupation given St Petri Riga 1737-1762 German, born
Aug 1759 Baptism of Matthias, son of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann Kaufmann St Petri Riga 1737-1762 German, born
Sep 1759 Burial of unnamed child (Matthias?) of Meno Holst No occupation given St Petri Riga 1657-1811 German, died
3 Oct 1764 Baptism of Meno Hinrich, son of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann Commercien Rath St Petri Riga 1763-1800 German, born
May 1766 Baptism of Martha, daughter of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann Commercien Rath St Petri Riga 1763-1800 German, born 
Jan 1770 Baptism of Meno Hinrich, son of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann Commercien Rath St Petri Riga 1763-1800 German, born
Oct 1770 Burial of Meno Hinrich, son of Meno Holst Commercien Rath St Petri Riga 1657-1811 German, died
Jul 1773 Baptism of Maria Eleonora, daughter of Meno Holst and Maria Saumann Commercien Rath St Petri Riga 1763-1800 German, born
Oct 1786 Burial of Maria Eleonora, daughter of Meno Holst Commercien Rath St Petri Riga 1657-1811 German, died
Jan 1787 Burial of Meno Holst, aged 63 Commercien Rath St Petri Riga 1657-1811 German, died

A bit of further research confirmed that unmarried merchants could become members of the Schwarzen Häupter, and then after the married they would join the Gross Gilde (the Great Guild). This would explain why he was no longer referred to as Ältester der Schwarzen Häupter (Elder of the Black Heads) after he was married. Commercien Rath was a title for someone who promoted trade activities, while kaufmann means merchant.

As far as I can tell, Meno Holst died in 1787, not 1805. All the information that I can find stating that he died in 1805 was written at least 100 years after either death date, so therefore I will stick with the death year of 1787, unless someone can prove to me otherwise!

Edited to add: I found Meno's wife Marie's burial record - she was buried on 14 August 1805. I believe that the year of Marie's death has been assumed to be Meno's. I'm not surprised no one had found her death record before - she was named as Maria von Holsten, however it says she was the wife of the Commercien Rath, and that she was 72 years old, which fits. Glad I sorted that out!

19 January 2015

Cemeteries in Mulhouse, plus my new website

Yesterday I took the kids on a very rainy day to do some searching for dead relatives in cemeteries in Mulhouse.

From my research I had found that the old cemetery of Mulhouse had now become Parc Salvator, even though I thought that some of the graves remained. No, I was wrong. There were none. All the headstones had been removed, and I have no idea if all the occupants have been reinterred at the new cemetery, or whether there were some left in situ. Perhaps if I understood French I would know! So after getting to Parc Salvator and finding it a wasted trip, with the rain and all, I decided we would head home.

Of course, I got us lost on the drive home (I have a good map but I can't read it while driving, and I'm not sure of any of my kids' map reading skills), and ended up very close to the new cemetery, so I made the decision we would go after all. Serendipity!

We found a lot of family buried there, and we didn't even finish exploring before the kids' whinging got the better of my searching and we headed home.

Which brings me to the reason I wanted to see the graves: I have a new Weiss family website which I am working on. It covers my ongoing research into the Weiss family of Mulhouse, and brings all the information I have on each individual together. I hope there will be many people across the world who find the information I have put together useful. And now there are some photos of graves on the new website too!

See here for the new website: The Weiss Family of Mulhouse.

08 January 2015

Using a wildcard to search

A couple of days ago I was doing some research on Samuel Christian Frederic Baumgarten and accidentally discovered an extra child!

It turns out that Samuel Frederick Baumgarten was Samuel and Mary Baumgarten's first child - they were married on June 6, 1751, and he was born on March 4, 1752. I cannot find any record for what happened to him, but neither can I for most of his siblings, and can only assume that they died young.

But why hadn't I found him before? I'm pretty thorough with my research after all.

Spelling. The surname was spelled differently.

I've found Baumgarten transcribed as Baumgarton before, as a result of how they wrote the letter "e" in those days - which can these days be misconstrued as an "o". In this case though, it was recorded with an incorrect spelling - "Baumgerten", which could well have been transcribed as Baumgorton but amazingly wasn't! You can see the way they wrote the letter "e" below.

I found him by using a wildcard when searching for Baumgarten references. A wildcard is a symbol used to represent one or more characters. Usually the symbol used is a "?" or a "*" or a "%". On the off-chance that there might have been different spellings I used "Baum*" in my search, though usually I have used "Baumgart*" as I never expected them to get the second "a" wrong! And I accidentally discovered Samuel Frederick Baumgarten as a result.

So, if you're up against a brick wall, can I suggest you use wildcards in your searches. You never know what surprises you might uncover!