The Journey Begins

East Perth Cemetery

The image is of the East Perth Cemetery and the Purkis Family tomb

Welcome to Down Rabbit Holes.

Our site is called Down Rabbit Holes because I have been fascinated by family history for many years and the process of finding out who is who, what they did, where they did it and who they knew is much like exploring a rabbit warren.

We already have a lot of information about our families and will be posting it as we convert it to a format suitable for publication on WordPress.


©Megan Stevens 2018

My Cousin Megan

The old Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk at Glen Lynden built in 1828 by Thomas Pringle.

Despite my distinctly British heritage, my great-grandmother’s ancestry provides a link to the earliest settlers in South Africa; some European; some not; some free citizens; some not. My great-grandmother was baptised Catharina Louiza Norton in the Dutch Reformed church at Komga in the far Eastern Cape province. Her father, Benjamin Norton, was born in South Africa to Jewish 1820 Settlers. He converted to Christianity and married Aletta Maria Muller, a young woman with a long Afrikaans pedigree. Tracing this pedigree has been fascinating, but quite complicated.

We initially struggled with tracing the ancestors. The Suid-Afrikaanse Geslagsregister (South African Genealogical Register) (SAG) proved very helpful. SAG was the product of a project of the Department of Home Affairs to map the familial connections of the Afrikaans population of South Africa using church records. This showed Aletta Maria’s parents as Cornelis Johannes Muller and Agatha Catharina Ferriera and provided links from them right back to the original Muller and Ferreira settlers in the early 1700’s – the Stamvaders. With Megan having links to the same founding families, we established that we are in fact related.

This was wonderful, but problems soon began to emerge with the narrative. Agatha Catharina could not have been the second wife of the Cornelis Johannes nominated for her, because his first wife was reliably recorded as having married a second time, as a widow, and having a second family whose descendants clearly exist. There were also doubts as to Agatha Catharina’s parentage. Generations of Ferreira descendants show her as being the daughter of a different Ferreira father and mother than SAG does. All very confusing and annoying and would Megan and I still share ancestors?

I had researchers photograph documents in the South African National Archives. I visited all the websites – eGGSA, Ancestry, Geni etc. I interrogated the people who maintained family trees and profiles. None was able or willing to provide solid documentary evidence to support their propositions. Agatha Catharina’s parentage, however, began to firm up as being Thomas Ignatius Ferreira and Aletta Maria Potgieter. Naming conventions would have seen Aletta Maria Muller named after her maternal grandmother so this seemed quite probable, and there was a convenient gap in the family tree in SAG. This link, however, brought the quandary of Agatha Catharina’s sister, Susannah Elizabeth, who is well documented everywhere as also marrying a Cornelis Johannes Muller, but with some commentators suggesting that this Cornelis Johannes was actually the one who had married Agatha Catharina. This was just more confusion.

Then Megan found links to two document collections on the Family Search web site. The first is for church records from the Dutch Reformed churches in the Cape and the other is for the official death notices for the Cape Province. These yielded three critical documents that settled the questions of where Agatha Catharina fits in and who her husband was.

The first is the baptismal record for Agata Catharina Feraire who was born in 1817 to Thomas Ignatius Feraire and Aletta Maria Potgieter. So SAG was wrong and the Geni profilers had got it right.

The second is the death record for Cornelis Johannes Muller who died in 1844 on the farm Mak Fontein in the Somerset district of the Cape. It shows that he was married to Agatha Catharina Ferreira and was born in 1812 to Cornelis Johannes Muller and Johanna Catharina van Rooy(en). This is the Cornelis Johannes Muller who is shown in SAG and on virtually all the websites as having married Susannah Elizabeth Ferreira. They all have it wrong.

The third is the marriage record for Susannah Elizabeth Ferreira and Cornelis Johannes Muller who were married in 1841. This provided the second confirmation that the Cornelis Johannes Muller everyone was showing as Susannah Elizabeth’s husband could not have been so. The record shows that both parties to the marriage were Minderjarig (Under Aged) – ie less than 21 years old. On the wedding date, the nominated Cornelis Johannes, born as he was in 1812, would have been almost 29 years old and therefore definitely not Under Age. Susannah Elizabeth’s husband was clearly one of the many other Cornelis Johannes Mullers living in the area at the time.

We knew that Agatha Catharina’s and Cornelis Johannes’s second child, Cornelis Johannes, was baptised in the Anglican church at Port Elizabeth. The collection yielded the baptismal records of their younger children; all at the old church at Glen Lynden (near modern day Bedford) where they would have been baptised by the Scottish dominee, Alexander Welsh. These showed an extra daughter not recorded on any of the websites or on Cornelis Johannes’s death notice. She clearly died as a young child.

Their oldest child, Aletta Maria, was born in the Gamtoos River area south-west of Port Elizabeth on 3 October 1832 – ten days before her parents were married with her mother just 15 years old!

The confirmed marriage and parentage of Agatha Catharina has allowed us to revisit the connections between Megan and me. Looking back over twelve generations we have a number, because there was only a small population pool which intermarried extensively – especially amongst the French Huguenots to whom we are both connected. Our closest common ancestors are our shared seventh-great-grandparents, Johannes (Jan Harmensz) Potgieter (1674-1733), Marthinus Jacobus van Staden (1706-1746) and his wife Catharina Botha (1714-1781).

We are officially 8th cousins.

More to come. There are some interesting characters.


©Alun Stevens 2019

Whatever happened to ‘Alma’ and ‘Inkermann’?

Megan came upon a blog post by Philip Boys regarding an intriguing side-story to the Crimean War. The image is a photograph by Roger Fenton taken during the siege of Sevastopol in 1855 of two Russian boys with Colonel Brownrigg. The boys were nicknamed ‘Alma’ and ‘Inkermann’.

The one standing holding the tent pole, ‘Inkermann’, real name Simeon Paskiewitch, was taken back to England where he adopted the surname Sinca. After this photograph was published in 1901, Simeon’s son came forward and this resulted in Simeon being interviewed:

“I remember quite well that photo being taken; it was before Sebastopol, forty-six years ago.”

“After the battle of Alma, when the English, French and Turkish soldiers got into Balaclava, the Russian farmers became frightened, and ran inside the walls of Sebastopol, leaving the grape crops behind them. We boys got out and began picking the grapes, but one day we saw some English soldiers in front of us. We all ran away, and I and the other little one in the picture got under a big tub. Here we had to stay in fright all night and part of the next day. In the afternoon one of the soldiers came across our por old tub and knocked it over, and there was a surprise for him to see us two frightened little nippers.”

Mr Sinca (or Paskiewitch) went on to tell how they were let go, and were chased and ill-treated by Turks, and finally got into English hands again, and were taken care of by Colonel (then Captain) Brownrigg.

Mr Sinca says he was brought to England and educated at St Mark’s School, Windsor, eventually entering the service of the Earl of Pembroke, where he has been for thirty years.

It is this reference to St Mark’s School (“the Working Class Eton“) that provides the interesting link for us because St Mark’s was founded by Rev. Stephen Hawtrey M.A. who was Vicar at Holy Trinity Church, Windsor, and eventually Head of Mathematics at Eton College. He also took Simeon, and other boys, on trips to HMS Pembroke and the Suffolk seaside.

Stephen Hawtrey was also the person who Charles Henry Marshall and Charlotte Augusta Dring Drake chose to marry them in 1857. The Hawtrey and Marshall families were linked over many generations and Charles and Stephen were second cousins. Charles and Charlotte named their second son Hawtrey.

I have also found another point of connection. Simeon Sinca was a seaman in his early years. He was an apprentice aboard The Florence Nightingale from 1863 – 1868 and his first voyage was to Melbourne. The interesting link is that Charles Henry Marshall in a letter dated 4 March 1874 indicated that he was shipping new wool bales to his partner at Glengallan “per ‘Florence Nightingale’ for Brisbane”.

The fascinating story of ‘Alma’ and ‘Inkermann’ can be found HERE

The Marshall Orphans

Charles Henry Marshall and his siblings had eventful early lives. Their parents, William Marshall and Louisa Bentall, married in 1810, just prior to moving to Cape Town where they had four children. They then moved to Mauritius where they had five more children. Only six of the children lived to adulthood, and the family story was that three of those born in Cape Town, Mary, John and Charles, died as infants.

Louisa died in 1823 in Mauritius, after which the family relocated to Leith, Scotland, where William also died in 1828 without leaving a will. The family stories were that this left the children destitute and they had to be supported by their wider family.

William’s probate documents revealed a very different story and prompted further research that provided a lot more information on the family’s time in Cape Town and Mauritius, their return to England, and the support the children received from their wider family after being orphaned in 1828.

From this we see that, although Charles Henry Marshall had travelled the world by the time he was ten and had suffered a great deal of family upheaval, he was still given a solid foundation for life. And there is a link to Burke and Wills.

The probate documents (with transcriptions) and the corrected family story, including some fascinating documents from the Benthall family archive, can be found HERE


©Alun Stevens 2018

Descendant Charts

Megan’s family history database now holds information on over 13,000 people including the wider interconnected family and people important to their stories. It is not possible to make this information available in the form of family trees and the like because these require programming and other infrastructure beyond the scope of the blog hosting service we use.

Nonetheless, understanding how all the people link up between generations and within generations is important to appreciating their stories. We have therefore constructed Descendant Charts for selected people in the Drake, Marshall, Benthall and Ayliff families using the Reunion genealogical software that Megan has used since the 1980s to hold her information.

These charts show summaries of the parents and children of various generations of these families. The families have been selected so that the charts follow the generations. The charts can be viewed concurrently so that the generational linkages can be explored.

The Stevens charts will come at another time.

The charts can be found under the new “CHARTS” item in the menu or you can click HERE

Glengallan Orchard being re-created

The following post has just been made to the Glengallan Homestead Facebook page. It will be lovely to see an orchard again similar to what was laid out in the 1850’s.

It will undoubtedly take some years before we see the fruits of their labour, but we look forward to the result.

NewsMail also published a story about the orchard on 4 September 2018 which can be found HERE

The Drakes in London

Having returned to England following the end of the Crimean War, the Drakes settled down to enjoying the many attractions of the centre of empire. They visited the big attractions of the time – the Crystal Palace, Wyld’s Great Globe, and Kew Gardens.

They also met and entertained their many acquaintances and friends from Western Australia, Tasmania, Canada, and the Crimea. They attended concerts, shows, and exhibitions. They attended lectures, including two by Henry’s friend, William Howard Russell of the Times, about his experiences in the Crimea.

Henry took an interest in the preaching of Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a popular, but controversial Baptist preacher of the time.

Their son, John, wrote to them telling them that he was getting married. His fiancé was Matilda Elizabeth Ormiston, whose grandmother, Elizabeth Fulloon, had been the first superintendent of the famous (in Australia at least) Parramatta Female Factory.

Their daughter, Charlotte Augusta Dring, also married during this period, to Charles Henry Marshall. There was much engagement between the Drakes and Marshalls, and the family even travelled to Devon to meet Charles’s relatives.

Not long after the Marshalls left for Australia, Henry was informed that he was to be posted to Gibraltar. While he waited, he managed to fit in attendance at the wedding of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Victoria, and the family enjoyed the annular eclipse of the sun. Henry, Louisa, and their youngest daughter, Laura, even attended a lecture to prepare themselves for it.

The military eventually came through and the family left for Gibraltar on 27 April 1858.

 

Megan has done an excellent job of researching all the events, places and people that Henry refers to. She has assembled a lot of information including contemporary pictures, photographs, and commentary of the events the Drakes attended. Together they provide insight into Victorian life, but with the added interest of a family connection. There is also a lot of information for those interested in the Marshalls of Glengallan.

This is a big article, but worth the read. It can be found HERE

Comments welcomed.


©Alun Stevens 2018

Another Glengallan Picture

The Australian Town and Country Journal printed an article on Glengallan on 19 June 1875. The article was accompanied by an engraving showing the homestead and the then new wool shed.

Someone clipped the engraving out of the Journal and carefully coloured it with what appears to be water colours to produce a very attractive view of the property.

The article provides a good description of the property and its workings so I have kept them together. Interesting reading. Good descriptions of the layout of the wool shed and the facilities for the cattle stud.

The painting has been included with the Martens, Lloyd and Marshall pictures and can be seen HERE.

The pictures are in chronological order so this one is at the bottom.


©Alun Stevens 2018

Did Charles Henry Marshall go to the Turon goldfields?

Nehemiah Bartley (pictured above left) was the brother-in-law of Edmund Barton, the first Australian Prime Minister. He travelled widely across Australia and in August 1851 went to the Turon goldfields in New South Wales. There he met “Marshall … and his West Indian friend, Davson.”

Some biographers have claimed that this was Charles Henry Marshall and that his efforts on the goldfields yielded the capital that allowed him to prosper at Glengallan where Bartley definitely did meet him and Charlotte in July 1858.

The link between the two meetings seems to have been made because Charles’s brother, William, was a cashier at the Bank of England, and the Marshall at Turon claimed to be the son of the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England.

The Chief Cashier of the Bank of England at the time was indeed a Marshall; Matthew Marshall (pictured above right). He was not related to Charles and William. So, did Bartley meet Charles? Or did he meet someone else?

It took some digging by Megan, but the true story is HERE

©Alun Stevens 2018

The Drake Family Bible Etc.

In our last post we indicated that we had been contacted by an antique dealer who had come into possession of a a collection of Drake family memorabilia including the Drake Family Bible. We bought the collection and it has now arrived.

We are slowly working through the material – collating, organising, photographing and scanning. There is quite a lot of stuff so this will take some time to complete. We have started with some of William Henry Drake’s awards and the family Bible.

The Bible is a lovely old leather bound book printed in 1747 in Oxford. A King James Bible in old English script and still in very good condition. The pages are still white and the leather is still smooth and flexible.

The fore and aft pages have been used to record births, deaths and marriages from 1743 through to the early 20th century mainly related to the families of the eldest sons of each generation. The fore pages are not in as good a condition as the rest of the book as they have become detached and worn where they have stuck out from under the cover. Nonetheless, they are legible and present some interesting genealogical information for those interested in the Drakes.

I have photographed and transcribed all of the fore and aft pages and have put them together here. Have a look and let us know what you think.


I have also photographed the “Warrant granting to Deputy Commissary General William Henry Drake the dignity rank and privileges belonging or appertaining to … Companions of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath.” Another interesting document. In flowing Victorian prose and prominently signed by Victoria herself (naturally), and also by Albert. Rather than create a new web page to display the document, I have added it to the existing page that discusses the award when Henry was in the Crimea. The award can be seen on the updated page here. If you click on the images, they will expand to full size.


©Alun Stevens 2018

Drake Collection

We having been watching the traffic to Down Rabbit Holes with some interest. Visitors from all over the world following up on our blogs and also now finding us via online searches and the links on the Crimean War Research Society web site. Visitors as expected from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States, but also from France, Greece, China, India and Canada amongst others.

On Tuesday we had an interesting visitor. Instead of just reading our material, he also contacted us to tell us that he had a collection of Drake family documents from a deceased estate and was looking for a home for them. The collection includes:

  • The Drake family Bible dating from 1747 with records of births and some deaths
  • The warrant from Queen Victoria granting William Henry Drake the rank of Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath
  • Photographs
  • Family letters
  • Many other things.

This was all too tempting so we have bought the collection and will know its full extent when it arrives in the near future. From what we have seen, there will be some interesting new information to add to the family story which we will publish in due course.

It is good to see the web site helping uncover these hidden collections because without it we would not have been visible on Google.

As we say on the Home page, family history is like exploring rabbit warrens.

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