Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Travelling on the Sophocles to Australia in 1923

My grandparents emigrated to Australia from England in 1923 with their two young sons. They had great hopes of creating a new life for themselves on a farm in Victoria. They sailed from England on 12 September 1923 on the Sophocles.

Here are some of the passengers on board the ship.

Passengers on the Sophocles

The Sophocles at sea

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Irish Prison Registers help find my ancestor's birthplace

I've previously written about my Irish convict ancestor Eliza Nolan in Transported to Van Diemen's Land at fourteen years of age. I knew from her convict records that she had been imprisoned for another offence of stealing a bib prior to her transportation sentence, so I checked the Irish Prison Registers collection on to see if I could find her.

The online records  include the Grangegorman female prison in Dublin covering the years 1831 to 1897. I was able to find the entry for Eliza's committal to the prison in 1841 for three months, her offence being "Felony Child's Bib". The records include details of the place of birth and for Eliza this is recorded as Arless, Queens County. Her convict records had given her place of birth as Queens County, but later she said that she had been born in 'Dublin' when she married her second husband in Australia. This is the first time I have found the name of a specific place within the County. As she was baptised in Dublin I suspect that her family moved there shortly after she was born.

According to, the Irish Prison Registers collection covers the period 1790 to 1924 and comprises most surviving records for prisons in the Republic of Ireland. I think this is well worth checking and could be of particular value if trying to find the birthplace of people who came to Dublin from other areas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Napper family wedding at Sale, Victoria

Seven of the children of James and Elizabeth Napper of Seavington and South Petherton in Somerset, England  emigrated to Australia as adults to start a new life. They were Charles, Enos, Edmund, George, William, Fanny (my great great grandmother) and Eliza. James Napper's brother, John, also emigrated to Australia with his family eventually settling in Sale, Victoria.

The Nappers liked to keep in touch, and when the marriage of one of the Sale Napper family took place in the early 1890s, two of Eliza's children, Lizzy and Gilbert Denman attended. I have a photo of people at this wedding. It includes Lizzy and Gilbert, but I don't know the identity of anyone else - they would include relatives of the bride and groom but could also include friends. Please have a look at this photo and let me know if you can identify anyone.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Nineteenth Century Hoon: Charles Elbeshausen

The colourful Elbeshausen brothers were my grandmother's cousins. I've previously written about William whose body was washed up near Luna Park in Melbourne.

William's brother Charles was born in 1872. When he was 19 he was brought before the Monday sessions of the Essendon Police Court charged with furious driving. According to a newspaper report, a well dressed Charles Elbeshausen drove a horse and buggy through the Flemington Racecourse gates at a very violent pace without paying the usual charge of half a crown for admission. Later, Charles and another man, Frederick Pearce, drove their vehicles through the gates of the Governor's drive almost running over the man in charge of the gates.

As the two young men had been in the lock-up since Saturday afternoon they were let off with a fine of 20 shillings.

Charles' behaviour might have had something to do with his apparent estrangement from the rest of his family. He left for Western Australia. When William died in 1923, the family death notice listed all of William's siblings, except for Charles. Charles and his wife inserted their own death notice ending with : "Some day we'll understand".

Friday, November 11, 2011

Red Cross records tell the story of two cousins who died on the battlefields of France

It's Remembrance Day, so I 'm penning this story about two of my NAPPER relations.

Frederick Roy NAPPER (known as Roy) was born in Sydney in 1897.  In 1915 he enlisted in the13th Battalion Australian Infantry and was sent to the Middle East and France. Meanwhile, his second cousin, Alfred NAPPER (Alf), who was born in Sale, Victoria in 1887 enlisted in the 2nd Battalion Australian Machine Gun Corps. Roy had probably lived all his life in Sydney and Alf in Sale. They had possibly not met until in 1916 they found themselves at the British Expeditionary Force's depot and transit camp at Etaples in France. The two cousins spent the evening together before moving on.

On the night of August 29, Roy and his comrades left their trenches to charge the nearby German trenches near Mouquet Farm in the Somme. The attack was unsuccessful - the Germans shot and bombed the attackers. Roy was killed near the German trenches.

Two years later, on 6 October 1918, Alf was wounded near St Quentin, eight kilometers east of the main Hindenberg Line. He died of his wounds .

The two cousins are now at rest in France. Alf is buried at the Tincourt New British Cemetery and Roy at the Ovillers Military Cemetery.

The Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing  Enquiry and Bureau Files for the First World War provided much information about the two Napper cousins and many other Australian personnel. They are available from the Australian War Memorial website.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New Nursing Service Records online

Thanks to The National Archives, UK (TNA) I have been able to find out much more than I previously knew about my great aunt, Ida JOHNS. TNA has just published the service records of over 15,000 nurses covering from 1902 to 1922. They are indexed and are available for download from DocumentsOnline.

When my grandmother left England for Australia in the 1920s she left behind her brother and sisters, including Ida. She never saw them again, however, she spoke fondly of Ida and was proud that she had been a nurse during the First World War. Ida never married and I knew little else about her, but have now downloaded her 46 page nursing service file from TNA and have been delighted to find many new details of her life.

Ida Mary JOHNS

Thursday, November 3, 2011

William and Ann Napper - South Australian Pioneers

William Napper and his first wife, Ann (Buckland), emigrated to South Australia in 1855 and settled at Lake Bonney. He operated the Lake Bonney Hotel (later known as Napper's Accommodation House) for many years, and was proprietor of the Overland Corner Corner Hotel for a few years.

William is thought to have been the first person to irrigate from the Murray River in South Australia. In about 1889, he used a steam engine and pump on the creek to water his vines and fruit trees which were growing on dry sandy soil. About two acres of land was irrigated.

Ann Napper died in about 1860, reputedly the first white woman to die in the district. A memorial cairn was erected in her memory. It  is located near a picturesque lagoon on the road between Cobdogla and Kingston.

The Sad Story of Emma Noad

Emma Amelia Noad (sometimes recorded as "Knowles") was my great great aunt. She was born in Melbourne in 1853, and when she was about 10 her parents separated. Her mother married William Flynn a few years later.

I came across an entry in the Children's Registers of State Wards in the Colony of Victoria in 1867. Emma was then aged 13. She had been  sentenced to two hours in gaol and two years at a reformatory. She was admitted to the Abbotsford Girls' reformatory on the same day. According to the Admissions Register, she was found in a brothel. Of course, I wondered why Emma had ended up in these circumstances.

Some answers were provided through the wonderful National Library of Australia Trove site. An article in the Melbourne Argus reported that:

"Margaret Reilly, seventeen years of age, and Emma Knowles, thirteen years of age, were accused of vagrancy. The former, a girl of prepossessing appearance, has only been in Melbourne about six months, but during the greater portion of that time she has been cohabiting with a Chinaman in Little Bourke Street. The little girl, Knowles, has been seen visiting this Chinaman's place several times recently, notwithstanding her mother's command that she was not to do so. She was ordered to be kept in the reformatory for two years; but Margaret Reilly was discharged, and is once more free to continue her abandoned course."

In another great resource - the index of Patients in Melbourne Hospital 1856-1905 produced by the Genealogical Society of Victoria, I found a reference to Emma's step-father, William Flynn. The hospital ward books recorded that William was a blind man and an alcoholic.

Bird's Botanic Essence

Why am I writing about a treatment for horses in a genealogy blog?

This advertisment was found in a book given to me by my great uncle, Aubrey Cuthbert Reader. The book, titled Veterinary Counter Practice, was published in 1891. Aub Reader was a chemist at McKinnon in Melbourne, as was his father, Felix Maximillian Franz Reader who lived in Dimboola then Warracknabeal in Victoria. This book originally belonged to Felix. The book was written for chemists, providing advice on dispensing treatments for animal diseases. In the foreword, it is emphasised that it is not intended that chemists compete with veterinary surgeons.

No doubt chemists in more remote regions of Australia diagnosed illnesses as well as dispensing treatments for both animals and people - But perhaps Felix took this a bit too far!

The Melbourne Argus of 14 June 1901 reported on the outcome of an inquiry into the cause of death of a woman named Flora Burns as follows:

"The jury, after an hour's retirement, brought in a verdict to the effect that the deceased had died of blood poisoning, as the result of an illegal operation performed by F. M. Reader. Reader was committed for trial at the Supreme Court, Horsham, on the 10th September."

The prosecutor, however, decided not to proceed with the case, and Felix continued his work as a chemist.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Washed up near Luna Park

In 1923 a relative of mine, William Elbeshausen, owned the Red Lion Hotel in Windsor, a suburb of Melbourne. He lived there with his two unmarried sisters, Lydia and Maud. He was  a bachelor and was engaged to marry a Miss Burgess.

Each morning he went to the butcher about 8am  to buy a piece of steak for his breakfast. He then returned to the hotel where he had his breakfast. He was sometimes away for quite a while, however, on a cold bleak morning in May he didn't return from his morning walk.

Just before 4pm, a fully clothed body was found in the water near Luna Park in St Kilda - It was William. An inquest was held and it concluded that 'on the 22nd day of May 1923 at St Kilda, William Edward Elbeshausen was found drowned in the sea, having been in the water several hours. There is not sufficient evidence to determine how or by what means he got into the water.'

What happened to William? Did he fall into the water? Was he attacked? Did he intend to take his own life? I guess we will never know.

London Parishes

My CHRISTMAS family lived in London and Middlesex in the early 1800's, and I've been finding out some information about the parishes where they lived.

I found an excellent book on Google Book Search about London Parishes published in 1824. This book gives interesting information about parishes in London and Middlesex including very useful information about the boundaries of each parish.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Looking for gold: Henry Ashmore in New Zealand

Born in Dover, Kent, my ancestor, Henry Ashmore, emigrated to Australia shortly before the gold rush. He was living in Geelong, but when gold was first discovered near Ballarat in 1851 he headed for the diggings. He settled in Creswick, but the lure of gold again attracted him when it was discovered in Otago, New Zealand. He travelled there in 1861, but was not impressed by what he saw.

Soon after arriving in Dunedin, New Zealand, Henry wrote to his brother, William, saying:

'Dear brother, I am compelled to go up to the diggings for I have not the means of returning. I may as well suffer there as to remain in the town. Meat, in the town, is one shilling per pound. I have seen numbers eat meat here which in Victoria would be given to dogs. Hundreds of people are continually returning from the diggings. It is to be hoped that the Victorian Government will immediately take steps to relieve the people, most of whom would gladly return if they could do so, and I could safely say no rush out of Victoria would take them away again. I am very glad to think George did not leave Geelong for this cursed place. I hope to God this will deter people from coming. With sincere regards for all friends.

I remain your affectionate brother,
Henry Ashmore.

P.S. I hope you will be enabled to make this out. I write this in my tent on the back of a dish.'

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Transported to Van Diemen's Land at fourteen years of age

I've carried out extensive research into my Irish convict ancestor, Eliza Nolan, who was transported to Van Diemen's Land for seven years in 1842. The records kept by the penal authorities had given Eliza's age as about 17 when she was transported, however, a petition from her mother had said she was 14 when convicted. The judge who heard her case was the Recorder of Dublin, Frederick Shaw. He responded to the mother's petition saying that "The memorial is incorrect in stating her to be but of 14 years of age. She looked twenty at the least". When Eliza married for a second time in Australia, she gave her age as 44 in 1872 which suggests that she was 14 when she was transported in 1842.

Thanks to the recent addition of Dublin Roman Catholic records to the Irish Genealogy website I found her baptism at St Mary Pro Cathedral in Dublin on 25 February 1828. Catholic children were required to be baptized within a few weeks of birth, so Eliza was probably born in January or February 1828, making her 14 at the time of her transportation.

Thank you, Irish Genealogy!   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Early Copper Mining in Cornwall

I  recently found that an ancestor, David Daniell, had moved from one part of Cornwall to another in about 1600. He went from the parish of Newlyn East to live in Zennor, a distance of about 40 km.

There could be many reasons for moving, but for the Cornish mining activities have played an important part in the movement of people around the county and out of the county. In the case of David the move could have had something to do with the development of copper mining in the West Penwith area.

Tin mining had been an important activity in Cornwall for many centuries, but in the sixteenth century attempts were made to mine other metals and by the 1580s copper mining was taking place in St Just in Penwith, not far from Zennor. In 1586 copper mining started in Zennor, and I suspect that this is what lured David Daniell to his new home.