04 December 2013
12 November 2013
I've been researching some of the Merrick relatives recently, particularly James William Merrick, whom I will write about in a future post. Today I've been trawling through Trove, finding out what I can about James William Merrick, and then I sort of strayed onto other Merricks as well. Including Miss Mary Merrick.
Mary Merrick's birth is not recorded in the NSW BDM, although there is nothing to suggest she wasn't born in New South Wales. Her parents were John Thomas Merrick and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown). Mary Merrick is my first cousin, three times removed.
My great uncle told me ages ago that she worked for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, and he thought she was on the board. My research says that she was a librarian and stenographer, so it is unlikely that she was on the board! However, as I myself am a botanist, I was absolutely delighted to find that in 1925 J.H. Maiden (a big name in NSW botanical circles) and W.F. Blakely named a eucalypt in her honour.
|Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Aug 1925|
The plant was named Eucalyptus merrickiae, a name which is still current. It is native to Western Australia, in the Esperance region, and is considered vulnerable because it is rare. Take it from me, having a plant named after you is a very special honour. She must have been well liked and good at her job. According to the paper in the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales (1925, issue 59) in which the name was formally published, "This species is named in honour of Miss Mary Merrick, who, in her capacity as librarian and stenographer, Botanic Gardens, Sydney, has been of very great help to us in our Eucalyptus work".
And then I happened upon another one as well! Acacia merrickiae, known as Merrick's wattle, was also named in Mary's honour in 1927.
Mary's biography on the Australian National Herbarium website sheds a little further light on Mary's life - she was born 8 April 1897, and early staff records for the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney indicate she commenced work there in July 1921 as a librarian and stenographer, and then became a clerk in July 1922. According to records she was still working there in late 1925, and Hall (1978) says she still there in 1927. The National Herbarium of NSW records indicate that they have two plant specimens she collected in their collections, both from the Central Coast of NSW.
In 1933 Mary married Charles Harborough Thomas Taylor and her working career apparently came to an end. In December of the same year she gave birth prematurely to their first child, John Charles Harborough Taylor. They had at least one other child, Alan William Taylor.
Mary died on 10 August 1981 in a nursing home in Belrose, after spending her married life in Forbes, Avoca Beach and Chatswood. Did she continue with botanical interests throughout her life? I'd love to hear from anyone who is more closely related to her than me.
15 September 2013
I spent the day in the Mitchell Library Manuscripts Collection yesterday, looking at microfilmed church records. The records have been microfilmed by the Society of Australian Genealogists, from the original parish registers. If you can find the record you are looking for (not always) it's a cheaper option (free!) than ordering a transcript or official record from NSW Births Deaths and Marriages, though it's not nearly a comprehensive collection of the records of every single church in the state. Obviously the information for birth and death records will be not quite the same as for a baptism or burial record, but the marriage information is pretty much the same.
I was looking for information for St Paul's Church of England, Redfern (now a Greek Orthodox church and theological seminary), and St Thomas' Church of England, North Sydney.
For St Paul's Redfern I was looking for information on the Merrick family. My aunt has a prayer book that was awarded to my great grandmother, Ethel Sarah Merrick, by her teacher at St Paul's Sunday School, when she was 19, for "Answers to Scripture Questions".
It's a bit intriguing that she was still attending Sunday School at that age, but it does at least suggest that the family worshipped there. I was looking for a marriage record for James Merrick and Eliza Jane Ball (my great great grandparents), and for baptism records for any of their children. I would have looked for burial records too, but there were none available - presumably because there was no cemetery attached to the church? Unfortunately, I was unable to find the marriage record, and the baptism registers from July 1879 to October 1891 are missing - they were never received at St Andrew's House (head office for the Sydney Diocese) from the parish - and this covers most of the births of the Merrick children. Although the birth of Susanna Jane Merrick should have been in the registers (born about 1876), it wasn't there. It suggests to me that her parents were married in a different parish, and she was baptised elsewhere also. The only baptism record I could find was for Esther (Essie) Louisa Merrick.
- "Esther Louise Meyrick (sic)" was baptised on February 3 1878 at St Paul's Redfern, born on 5 January 1878 to James and Elizabeth (sic). Her abode was Vine St, Redfern, and her father's occupation was listed as Government Employee. That he was a government employee is very surprising to me - James Merrick was a bootmaker - so I'm not sure what the government would have employed him to do!
For St Thomas' North Sydney I was looking for records on the Smith family. There's quite a bit I don't know about the Smiths, partly because they were on the poorer side of society and didn't generally put notices in papers, nor did they get themselves into newspapers for any other reason. And then there's the fact that their surname was Smith... not the most unusual of surnames! So I was hoping that the church records might shed a little more light on them. I already knew that James Smith and Sarah Ann Adamson (my great great great grandparents) were married at the Wesleyan Methodist Princes St Chapel on 28 June 1853. However, I also knew that some of the family were buried in the St Thomas' Cemetery, so there was a good chance the family attended St Thomas'. Although there was a Methodist presence on the North Shore, it was struggling, and this is perhaps why the Smiths went to St Thomas'.
- Ann Jane Smith (my great great grandmother) was baptised in the Sydney North Circuit (of Wesleyan Methodist church) on 11 November 1854, born to James and Sarah Smith on 20 October 1854. The family's abode was "North Shore" and James Smith's profession was recorded as "labourer". This particular information was actually obtained from the family history section of the State Reference Library, from the Registers of Baptisms, Burials and Marriages 1787-1856 microfilm. These are early records from before civil registration began in 1856.
- Eliza Annie Smith was baptised on 1 February 1863 at St Thomas', born to James and Sarah Smith on 11 January 1863. Their abode was "Willoughby" and James Smith's profession was "labourer".
- Susan Smith was baptised on 24 September 1865 at St Thomas', born to James and Sarah Smith on 1 July 1865. Their abode was "St Leonards", James' profession was "laborer", and the witnesses were Wm. Sparkes, Ann Jane Adamson, and Eliza Anne (Barker?).
- William Mark Smith was baptised at St Thomas' on 4 June 1871, born to James and Sarah Smith on 20 April 1871. Their abode was "St Leonards" and James was a "quarryman". This is the first time I have seen William's full name of William Mark Smith.
- Maria Smith was buried on 30 November 1861 at 4pm in St Thomas' Cemetery. She died 29 November 1861, her abode was St Leonards, and she was 8 months, 3 weeks old when she died. There is a note that she had been baptised by Mr Hurst, and was a child of James and Sarah Smith.
- James Smith was buried in St Thomas' Cemetery on 6 July 1879. He died on 4 July 1879, aged 49 years 7 months. His abode was St Leonards, and his profession was quarryman. I wonder where the quarry was?
- Susan Smith was buried in St Thomas' Cemetery on 23 December 1881, having died on 2 December 1881. She was 16 years old, and her abode was St Leonards.
So I still found no reference to the 2 deceased males recorded on the death record of James Smith in 1879. Interestingly they were not noted on their mother Sarah's death record. I can only assume that they were never baptised and their births were not officially recorded. They must have died young. Which makes me wonder what they did with the bodies of the two little boys whose births and deaths were never officially recorded... I'm not suggesting anything sinister here, I'm just wondering!
I also browsed through the other reels of microfilms and found some for the Scots Church Sydney (Presbyterian), relating to Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang. I knew that one couple amongst my relatives had been married by Rev Dr Lang, so I dug deep in my memory (and my smart phone!) and found it was Samuel Harper and Susanna Ball, sister of Eliza Jane, who married James Merrick, and daughter of James and Susanna Ball (my great great great grandparents). So I also found the marriage record for them.
- Marriage of Samuel Harper and Susanna Ball on 23 September 1865 at Botany Rd, Sydney, by John Dunmore Lang. Samuel Harper was a bachelor, born in Sydney, NSW, a Custom House Officer, 24 years old, from Botany Road, Redfern. His parents were John Harper, ironmonger, and Charlotte Styles. Susanna Ball was a spinster, born in London, living with her parents, 22 years old, living in Redfern. Her parents were James Ball, bookbinder, and Susanna Smith (no relation to the Smiths above). The witnesses were Geo. West and Louisa Ball.
Thanks go to my aunt for the above photos of the prayer book.
10 September 2013
I discovered an obituary for my great great great uncle John Valentine Beringer, via Trove, in the Catholic newspaper Freeman's Journal (4 June 1931, p13):
I'd love to see some of his carpentry work... Anyone? Anyone?
01 September 2013
I spent a bit of time at the City of Sydney Archives last week. I can't remember where I first saw it, but a little while ago I discovered that a James Ball was a councillor of Redfern Municipal Council. Was it my James Ball, my great, great, great grandfather? No one in my family knew anything about it...
Redfern Municipal Council no longer exists but I was able to work out that the Redfern council records that do still exist (many do not) are held by the City of Sydney. I contacted their archives and they were able to tell me that a James Ball was indeed a councillor of Redfern Municipal Council between 1865 and 1867. I made an appointment to look through the Redfern Municipal Council Minutes books, held at the City of Sydney archives.
The minutes show that on Thursday 16th February 1865, Mr. James Ball of Botany Road was elected a councillor of Redfern Ward with 79 votes (with a majority of 23). He was proposed by Mr. Robert Ellison, who was elected councillor of Surry Hills ward at the same meeting.
So, my great great great grandfather was in local politics. He was quickly co-opted onto the Finance Committee, which is interesting considering he had been bankrupt back in London! The meeting minutes show that they were sticklers for getting the processes of the meetings correct, moving motions and seconding and debating etc. However for all the legalism, the council certainly did some good, as most of the correspondence to the council at the time seemed to be about petitions to upgrade street drainage and roads, which they generally approved, unless there weren't enough funds available.
The councillors (later aldermen) seemed to have a rotation of three years on council, so in 1867 James Ball was up for election again. It was a two-horse race, between James and Mr. Henry Hudson. James received 129 votes, and Mr. Hudson 175, so my great great great grandfather's reign on Redfern Municipal Council was at an end. He was never re-elected to council.
04 August 2013
The engraving on this section of the gravestone was very worn, and very difficult to read, but in the end we managed to pick out enough words to work it out, with the help of Google!
Now the labourer's task is o'er
Now the battle day is past
Now upon the farther shore
Lands the voyager at last.
Father in thy gracious keeping
Leave we now thy servant sleeping.
The inscription is the first verse of the hymn "Now the labourer's task is o'er". It seems a very appropriate verse to have on Samuel's gravestone - he was a labourer - a bootmaker. I also like the imagery of the farther shore - this refers to heaven, but it also alludes to Samuel's own journey from Sligo, Ireland, to Sydney, Australia.
03 August 2013
We located the right row and walked along but it didn't leap out at us. Closer inspection found it, with the headstone fallen onto the actual grave, though it was at least right-side up, and completely overgrown by grass, bulbs and a couple of camphor laurel saplings. We cleared away the grass and leaves as best we could and attempted to transcribe it. It was very weathered in places, so it took us quite some time to work it all out - we think we've got it all correct!
Also to the memory of
"She hath done what she could" suggests a woman who had a hard life but did her very best under often trying circumstances. Considering Susanna Ball lost four infant children, her husband was in debtors prison for at least two months, and she travelled with her family all the way to the other side of the world to begin a new life in a foreign land, never to return "home", I certainly think she faced some hardship.
The quote in italics is from the hymn "There is a Fountain" by William Cowper. It gives us some idea of what Susanna believed, that once her mortal body died she would be in heaven, singing the praises of her saviour Jesus.
29 July 2013
The Ball family in England is one of the parts of my family that I have found frustratingly little about. But every now and then I try all my usual searches on them to see if any new information has been loaded onto Ancestry, Findmypast and FamilySearch.
Yesterday I was looking up James Ball, my great great great grandfather, and discovered something new. Even though I knew he died in Sydney, after emigrating from England in 1857, I was looking under the British parish records collection for burials. For some reason they have details of some Sydney burials in there (I don't quite understand why), and I happened upon the burial records for James and his wife Susannah. I've looked for them before out at Rookwood Cemetery, but had not been able to locate the graves, as the Anglican section of the cemetery at that time was completely unmapped.
However, I discovered yesterday that with the graves for James and Susannah is also a memorial for four of their children "who died in the City of London": Thomas John, aged 3, Emma, aged 2, Mary Ann, aged 2, and Arthur Henry, aged 1. Although it didn't note the children's dates of death, this was a starting point as I previously had no knowledge of their existence, apart from Thomas John!
I already knew that Thomas John had been buried in the Middle Ground of the New Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, Islington, on May 2, 1844 - this was known from the London Non-conformist registers. I then managed to find that Mary Ann was buried at St Gregory by St Paul, aged 15 months, on 28 March 1850, her abode given as 20 Little Carter Street. I still cannot find anything in relation to Emma and Arthur Henry, but at least I'm aware of their existence now!
Thomas John and Mary Ann were buried in different graveyards, under different Christian denominations (St Gregory by St Paul is Church of England, non-conformist churches were other protestant churches, such as Methodist, Baptist etc) and I wondered why this was. Checking the known baptisms for all the Ball children, I found some previously undiscovered ones: Susannah, Louisa and Eliza (Eliza Jane) were baptised together at St Jude's, Bethnal Green (Church of England) on 11 May 1856, with their actual birthdates noted (Susannah: 27 May 1843, Louisa: 22 August 1845, Eliza Jane: 30 July 1847). When they emigrated to Australia, their religion was noted as Independent, however James and Susannah were buried in the Church of England (now Anglican) section of Rookwood Cemetery when they died. When their children married in Australia, they were married by Presbyterian and Wesleyan Methodist ministers. I tend to think that they gravitated to the nearest church wherever they were, but perhaps had a soft spot for non-conformist denominations.
The baptism records for the three girls also noted their father James was a carpenter, and that they lived at 1 Johns Place, Essex Street. I have puzzled before over James as a carpenter - the only reference I had previously found was in the immigration records when they arrived in Australia, despite the fact that I know he worked as a bookbinder in Little Carter Lane, London, and also in Redfern, Sydney. So it made me wonder what it might be that made him change profession before leaving for Australia. I wondered if his bookbinding business might have gone bankrupt. After some searching, I found that's exactly what did happen.
The first I can find of it is a notice in the London Gazette that he was to appear at the Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors on 7 January 1854: "James Ball, late of No. 23 Lambeth-hill, Thames Street, London, Stationer and Bookbinder - in the Debtors' Prison for London and Middlesex." Another notice stated that he was formerly of 20 Little Carter-lane, then and late of 23 Lambeth-hill, Thames St.
He was imprisoned because of his debts. What happened to his family while he was in prison? If he was unable to pay his debts, I'm sure he wouldn't have been able to afford the rest on the house they were living in, so where did they live? According to immigration records, James' wife Susannah was a house servant, and possibly her meagre income was what they lived off during this time.
The Morning Post of 27 February 1854 contained a small article about the case:
"THE CITY IMPROVEMENTS - IN RE JAMES BALLIt rather suggests that James was slightly naive in his business dealings...
This insolvent, a bookbinder, &c., applied under the Protection Act. Mr Sargood opposed. The case created some laughter. The insolvent attributed his insolvency to the removal of his business from Carter-lane in consequence of the City improvements. He got 200l., having asked for 400l. He heard it was usual to get half of what was asked. (A laugh.) He then went to Lambeth-hill, hoping another line of improvement might be made, so that he might make a speculation, but he had been disappointed (laughter). The case adjourned to serve a creditor."
On March 24 1854 the Morning Post reported:
I don't understand half of that article, nor really what the outcome was, but it apparently left James in the position of no longer having a bookbinding business, so he clearly took up carpentry instead, and worked as a carpenter until the family emigrated to Australia. At some stage he then was able to buy some more bookbinding equipment and he took up bookbinding again in Redfern, Sydney.
16 July 2013
Recently a reader (Graham Sciberras - thank you so much Graham!) sent me a link to a 1962 ABC Four Corners report on the gentrification of Paddington, an inner-city suburb of Sydney. The report is interesting to watch because of the hilarious English accent that so many of the reporters of the day affected, but also, and most importantly, because my great great uncle, Tom Wickham is featured in it. I've seen a few photos of him before, but never seen film of him, so this was brilliant to see!
Mum was visiting my grandfather recently, who is Tom's nephew, and though he is quite unwell, when Mum asked him, my grandfather did remember his Uncle Tom. So today Mum and I visited my grandfather again and showed him a still photo of Tom from the Four Corners report, and also some of the footage from the story. Sadly, the other day my grandfather must have been more lucid because today he just kept looking at the photo and shaking his head. Because of his illness I don't think he could get his head around the fact that this was someone he once knew.
However, should you be interested in what Tom Wickham, retired policeman, looked like in 1962, pop over here and take a look - he's about 2 minutes in. There is a big resemblance to my grandfather. And then compare him to how they imagined him in Underbelly: Razor - slightly different!
|Tom Wickham, interviewed for ABC Four Corners, 1962|
|Steve Le Marquand, as Tom Wickham for Underbelly: Razor|
21 June 2013
James Arthur Wilkey was my great grandfather. He was born in Burwood, Sydney in 1877 to John and Mary Ann Wilkey. Comparatively little is known about my great grandfather, because he only lived to 30 years of age. For him there was no sitting around with the grandchildren, regaling them with stories of "When I was young...."
James Arthur, known just as "Arthur", was the seventh of nine children of John and Mary Ann Wilkey, though he only knew two of his older siblings because the others died in infancy or childhood.
|James Arthur Wilkey on his wedding day.|
The next event that history records in Arthur's life was his marriage, aged 25, to Ellen Paterson Macindoe in 1902, at Petersham, Sydney. They lived in a house in Wyatt Avenue, Burwood, and started a family - their first child, Helen Genevieve, was born in 1904. Arthur worked as a clerk. Then, in 1907, when Ellen, known as Nell, was newly pregnant with their second child, named James Arthur Macindoe Wilkey (known as Arthur, like his father), tragedy befell the family.
|Evening News, 16 Sep 1907. Accessed via Trove on 21 Jun 2013. Note that Arthur's name is quoted incorrectly.|
The accident occurred at about 8am on Monday 16 September. Nell sat up all Monday night, praying for her husband, with her mother, sister Maggie, brother Norman, and a few friends. I cannot begin to imagine her emotional state at the plight of her husband, especially in her pregnant condition, but her brother Norman described it thus in his diary: "Remained up all Tuesday night sharing Nell's heart agony, also portion of Wednesday night". Tragically, Arthur died the day after the accident at about 1pm. He was buried at Rookwood Cemetery on 19 September 1907.
Witnesses at the inquest into his death described how, after his train had left Burwood Station on its journey towards Sydney, as he stood on the platform of the train, his hat blew off when another train passed, and in a effort to catch it, he fell from the train. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
Life for Nell after her husband's death was hard, though her family was there to help her. She gave birth to their son Arthur in the following April. Some of Nell's brothers took a particular interest in young Arthur as he grew up, to provide him with a father figure.
I've often wondered how the family survived financially after Arthur's death, as there was no longer a breadwinner in the family. This question was answered when I looked at Arthur's deceased estate papers at State Records: on the 31 Dec 1898 when he was 21, Arthur took out a £100 life insurance policy with the Australian Mutual Provident Society. When he died, the policy paid out £111. That would certainly have helped provide for the family.