More Bell Family Going to America

In a previous blog I wrote about George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell, sons of George and Harriet Bell (nee Collins) of Mereworth, Kent, England, who had immigrated to the United States of America between 1890 and 1909.

I also acknowledged the incredible work my Bell ‘cousin’, Glenda B. of Idaho, had undertaken to help to solve the immigration riddle of George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell and find their families.

We know that Harry and Edward Bell went to Owossa, Michigan because their elder brother George Bell and his family had settled there.

The question then arose to the reason George Bell had immigrated there in 1890. There seemed to be no obvious reason, however, when we studied the pattern of immigration of the Bell families to Australia, we found that family nearly always went to family, already established there.

If a similar pattern was present in the USA, what family did George Bell go out to in Owossa, Michigan in 1890?

Glenda was to team up with me again to try and solve this intriguing question.

While researching George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell, Glenda had collected information on all persons with the Bell surname, particularly in the Owossa area. One person who seemed to stand out and claimed our interest was a ‘John Bell’. From various USA Census Returns we knew he had come from England. His wife Elizabeth, a son John, and daughters Elizabeth and Mary Ann Bell were also listed as having been born in England. However, the youngest daughter, Harriet, was claimed to have been born in Michigan about 1859. This gave us an approximate time span for the family’s emigration to Michigan.

Glenda was able to use indexes and files in the Michigan State, City and University Libraries as well as employ the services of local historians to gather a large collection of cemetery, funeral home, census and newspapers records for this family. From those records she put together a detailed biography and timeline for John Bell and his family.

Glenda shared this material with me and I was able to use it along with other documents I held, to gain further clues for research back in England. I then purchased marriage, birth and death certificates from the Maidstone Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which confirmed my hypothesis for this family.

We were finally able to establish that John Bell (b.1822), the youngest son of John and Mary Bell (nee Kemp), of Mereworth, Kent, a carpenter by trade was living at Staplehurst, Kent, when he married Harriet Hatcher on 8 September 1851. Their children were John (b.1851); Elizabeth (b.1853) and Mary Ann (b.1855). At that time, life in Kent was difficult, with little employment and no opportunities.

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Staplehurst Parish Church – Copyright, Nola Mackey,2004

John and Harriet Bell decided to immigrate to the United States of America. John Bell travelled to London where he bought a steerage passage on the Palestine which sailed for New York. He arrived there on 12 May 1857. He is believed to have immediately gained employment and sent the money home for Harriet to purchased a passage for herself and the children on the Palestine the following year. This ship left London and sailed to the German port of Bremen where several German immigrants came on board before sailing for New York. The Palestine arrived in New York on 29 May 1858.

Soon afterwards John and Harriet Bell joined many other families on a wagon train west to Michigan and settled in the frontier town of Saginsaw. Harriet Bell died soon after arrival, at the birth of their youngest daughter. She was named Harriet in memory of her mother. John Bell needed someone to care for his young family and married Elizabeth Parkinson at Oakland on 21 March 1860.

The family moved on to Owosso, where John Bell later bought a block of land. After much hard work and perseverance John and Elizabeth Bell built up a large market garden of more than ten acres. John sold the produce in town from a cart and was well known and respected in the community.

Their children married and lived in Michigan.

John Bell (b.1851) married Mary Conklin in 1888, but had no family. He died in a rail accident in 1895.

Elizabeth Bell (b.1853) married Andrew Case in 1871 and had a number of children: Edward George,b.1872; Selina Lillian, b.1873; Bert Lee, b.1876; John Henry, b. 1878; Chester, b.1882; Theodore Leonard, b.1884; Lawrence Andrew, b.1888; William Nelson, b.1895 and Harlan I, b.1899.

Mary Ann Bell (b.1855) married William Clark Munro and had two sons: Francis Eugene, b. 1877 and Chester William, b.1887.

Harriet Bell (b.1859) married Byron Le Clear and had a son John, b. 1887.

Glenda was again able to trace and contact descendants of these families. They had been interested in family history and had done a lot of research in USA, but had not been able to find where the family originated in England.

Imagine their surprise when we contacted them and were not only able to show them where the family came from, but also where they fitted into this huge ‘family tree’, which reached back to the 16th Century.

Although these families were not on our Bell Family line, Glenda and I believed it right we should share our knowledge and research with other family members.

In recent years these families have put considerable material on-line about their families.

John Bell (b.1822) was the younger brother of George Bell’s Grandfather, Thomas Bell (b.1803), and therefore a Great-uncle to George Bell. We believe this is the family George Bell went out to Ossowo, Michigan in 1890. John Bell died in 1895 a few years after George’s arrival.

However,were John and Harriet Bell the first in our Bell family to emigrate from Kent to the United States of America, or had they also gone out to family?

 

Bell Ancestors, Going to America-Postscript

In recent times I get telephone calls and receive emails from people all over Australia asking what website they need to access to download their ‘family history’.

When I inquire a little deeper they tell me they have an important family birthday celebration coming up and the ‘family history’ would make a great gift.

Then I ask, why they thought it was on the Internet and so easily accessible? Yes, they were avid fans of ‘Who Do You Think You Are? And,yes, they had seen the advertisements on the television. They had tried the suggested site,but couldn’t find what they were looking for, so thought it must be on another website, and I would surely know which one.

Family historians who have been ‘doing their family history’ for some time know that it is not all about the collection of names and dates and entering them into a data base to reveal their ‘family tree’.

I believe it is a life time journey, where the solving of little family puzzles, finding that elusive document, sharing ideas and stories with not only with like minded people, but if you are very blessed, people, who are actually connected to the same family.

Just as it takes time, work and dedication for a seed to grow into a mighty tree, it takes time, work and dedication of many people to ‘grow’ your ‘ family tree’.

Unfortunately with the ‘fast and furious’ digital age people ‘want everything now’ with instant gratification. I know many get so disappointed, and some even angry that I can not give them the instant answers they were expecting. Sometimes I will suggest I meet them in the local library and we have a look on the Internet to see what we can find, and perhaps, even someone, who is researching the same family. If they are not even interested in doing that much, I have to tell them I cannot help.

I am very aware of how the information gets onto the Internet. It is the work of many, many thousands of people,who over time, have collected, indexed, scanned and data-entered massive amounts of information. Sometimes it is actually part of employment and people get paid to do it, but mostly it is usually many thousands of volunteers and family historians, who are ‘giving back’ to their family and community. The Internet is not some super software program, which has collected the information out of the ether and sorted it into files we can miraculously access, and download with our computers and smart phones.

I am always hopeful that the large ‘free’ as well as subscription websites might make that fact a little clearer to their subscribers and users.

Computers and the Digital Age make wonderful ‘slaves’ for researching our family history, but we always need to take care they do not become the ‘masters’. It is not all on the Internet.

I believe the most important part of family history is that everyone in the family should be encouraged to take part no matter how large or small their contribution, but everyone should also be acknowledged in some way for that contribution.

For example,take my last blog- Bell Ancestors, Going to America.

If I hadn’t made time on my busy trip to England to meet with Joan and Ivy,(as they are not on the same family line as myself);

If Ivy hadn’t been encouraged to bring out all those dozens of photographs;

If she hadn’t told us the story of those reputed uncles;

If I hadn’t followed up on the story, when I returned home;

If Glenda and Jim hadn’t been prepared to spend many hours on a difficult and a rather thankless task of combing through many, many records, (and by the way it wasn’t their branch of the family either);

If they hadn’t passed the information back to me;

If I hadn’t done anything with it, or wasn’t prepared to spend the time collating and fitting it with other records I had collected over the years;

If I hadn’t contacted Joan and Ivy with the results,and if they hadn’t then contacted these cousins in USA;

Then so much family history would have been lost again. What a terrible tragedy.

I have always been very grateful for the friendship, love and dedication to service not only with my own family research, but the ‘family history’ community at large. This is what I’m trying to pass onto the next generations. One way I have found is encouraging them all to take part at our family gatherings, as well at other appropriate activities.

Blogging also gives me the opportunity to acknowledge so many in the past, and also the present too.

Bell Ancestors -Going to America.

Over the forty plus years I have been researching my Bell ancestors I have located and corresponded with ‘cousins’ all over the world.

As well as tracing my direct line back to Medieval times, I have spent many hours researching other branches of the family to show kinship and help others find their roots.

On a trip to England in 2004, we met with Joan W and Ivy P who were descended from John Bell (b.1780), the eldest brother of my Great-Great-Grandfather Thomas Bell (b.1782), whose sons James and George Bell emigrated to Australia in 1837.

One afternoon while sharing photographs Ivy showed us one of her father, Edward Bell, taken with two ‘uncles’, reputed to have emigrated to America. She said her father had been in the Royal Navy and had visited the United States during World War II, and she believed that was when the photograph had been taken. In recent years her family had often wondered what had happened to these ‘uncles’, and if they had married and had family.

The above mentioned John Bell (b.1780) had married Mary Kemp in 1801 and had remained in Mereworth, Kent. They had five children all born at Mereworth. Their grandson, George Bell (b.1833) married Harriet Collins at Mereworth in 1861 and had a family of ten children before Harriet Bell died in 1878. George Bell then married Sarah Ann Woofe and had further children.

When researching this family years before, I had come across parish records that had a notation beside sons,George Bell (b.1868) and Harry Bell (b.1871) that said, “Emigrated”, although there was no date or place recorded. Now with this photograph perhaps we had another clue.

Family of George and Harriet Bell(nee Collins), Mereworth, (England) in the 1871 Census

George Bell Family 1871 Census

[Image accessed from Findmypast,19 March 2017

http://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=gbc%2f1871%2f0918%2f0085&parentid=gbc%2f1871%2f0013974388&highlights=%22%22 ]

Family of George and Harriet Bell (nee Collins), Mereworth,Kent,England in the 1881 Census.

George Bell Family 1881 Census

[Image accessed from Findmypast,19 March 2017

http://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=gbc%2f1881%2f4300030%2f00284&parentid=gbc%2f1881%2f0004505075&highlights=%22%22 ]

I had another Bell cousin,Glenda B. in Idaho, USA, whose mother had emigrated from Australia as a War Bride after World War II. Glenda and I had shared family research by ‘snail-mail’,for many years, long before the Internet. I explained the problem about the ‘uncles’ to her and asked if she could help.

Using the Golden Rule with family research,Glenda began with the 1930 USA Census. At that time it was not indexed and was filed in State,County and Ward order only. As we had no idea where to start, she started with the eastern states and worked westward. After much searching over several days,Glenda with the assistance of her husband,Jim, was able to track through many thousands of records to finally find them in Owosso, Michigan.

From there,Glenda searched through earlier Census for further information on these two men and their families. In the 1900 Census she found that George Bell had his brother, Edward Charles Bell living with him.

I had previously purchased from Maidstone,Kent,the birth certificate of Edward Charles Bell, who was the youngest son of George and Harriet Bell(nee Collins). His mother had died soon after his birth.

It was at this stage Glenda contacted the Owosso City Library and the Shiawassee County Library for assistance in tracing cemetery records, funeral homes, death and funeral notices and obituaries in local records and newspapers. She also looked at city trade directories. Glenda shared this material with me and I in turn was able to share with Joan and Ivy,who were delighted we had not only found these men, but had been able to put together so much information about them.

Glenda then mailed personal letters of inquiry to all the people, on the then current voting rolls in the Owosso area, who had the ‘Bell’ surname. To our delight some of her letters were answered. She found grandchildren of the three brothers, who had emigrated to the United States in the 1890’s.

Glenda put an enormous amount of time and effort to trace and help this branch of our Bell family to find their roots, for which we are very grateful. Much of the material she collected is still not on the Internet and is not easily available even today, which makes her dedicated work even more valuable to the family. Glenda passed away in 2014.

The wonderful outcome of all this research was that Ivy’s family were able to contact and then meet and visit with some of their American ‘cousins’. They found the ‘family likenesses’ quite unbelievable.

Ivy and Joan were granddaughters of John Bell (b.1861) the eldest brother of George,Harry and Edward Charles Bell, who emigrated to America, and so these men were indeed ‘Uncles’ to Ivy and Joan’s fathers.

What a wonderful conclusion to a little family mystery.

Family Heirloom- Edwardian Birthday Book

One of the family treasures on our children’s paternal line is a ‘Birthday Book’ that belonged to their Great-Grandmother, Fidelis Ann Finlay.

‘Fidelis’ is a Latin name and translates to ‘faithful’. In some countries it is used as a male name as well.

Fidelis Ann, was the fourth child and daughter, of Edward and Elizabeth Finlay (nee Cafe). She was born at Murrumburrah, New South Wales on 24 May 1884.

When I was growing up we knew this day as Empire Day. It was the birthday of Queen Victoria who was on the British throne from 1837 to 1901. After her death it was a designated holiday, mostly for children, throughout the British Empire from 1905 to 1958, when it was changed to Commonwealth Day.

Fidelis Finlay was known as ‘Del or Della’ by her friends and family and grew up in Murrumburrah where her father was employed as a labourer, often on the railway line built through the area.

Birthday Books were a popular gift for young ladies in the Edwardian Era. Many had a theme such as flowers. This one was on ‘Wit and Humour” with prissy quotations for each day of the year.

Mackey Archives-Family Photograph

Della Finlay Birthday Book

This book is only small, of some 85 millimetres by 105 millimetres, bound in red calf with gold embossing on the front cover and spine. On the front title page is an inscription “ To Dear Della. Wishing her a happy Birthday from JET”, and dated “24.5.1909.”

HODGETT, Fedelis Birthday Book,2016,Clarence Way,Photograph1

On the date of the 16th June is entered the birthday of “Jessie E Flower 1884”. Jessie was the second child and daughter of Thomas and Adelaide Flower, who had been married in Grafton in 1880. The family moved to Sydney in 1883, where Jessie was born. I can find no family connection to the ‘Flower’ family and believe she was probably a childhood friend. She gave Fidelis Ann Finlay this gift in 1909, the year before her marriage to Vernon Edward Hodgetts in 1910.

Among the family photographs is a photograph of a young woman with the inscription on the back “Daisy”. Using the information in the Birthday Book I believe I may have identified another of “Della” Finlays childhood friends.

Daisy Thorogood is entered with a birthday of 18 April 1885. According to the records of the Registrar of Births,Deaths and Marriages in Sydney, “Daisy F” is the daughter of William John and Annie Thorogood of Murrumburrah.

Fidelis Ann Finlay entered the birthdays of many of the family as well as close friends and it has been a great help in sorting birthdays for our family history.

My mother-in-law, Valerie Mary Mackey (nee Hodgetts) was the eldest daughter in the family and inherited the Birthday Book from her mother. She then entered the next generations of children and grandchildren. Again this was helpful in confirming dates of birth for many family connections.

This family treasure has been wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and enclosed in a small box. The story of this Birthday Book has been included, and the box deposited in our “Treasure Cabinet’ for safe keeping for the future.

The Annual Family Get-Together “Cousin’s Day”

When I was a child growing up at Kunghur, a rural district in northern New South Wales, I was one of some twenty odd first cousins on my mother’s side, who lived near our maternal grandparents farm. We all went to the same small school, and had nearly daily contact with each other, even in the holidays.

Baxter Home Grandparents Home (2011)

However, in the 1950’s most of the families left the district as the fathers sort employment. Soon the families were spread throughout Queensland and New South Wales. For some years all the families made the supreme effort to return ‘home’ for Christmas. We all looked forward to this special family gathering.

As the years passed it was not always possible for everyone to ‘go home for Christmas’ and many of the families drifted apart. The only time anyone went ‘home’ or got together was for funerals and occasionally weddings.

Then in 2011 we had several family funerals, not only of my mother’s generation, but also of my generation.

We loved meeting up again after so many years, but were very aware of the fact, although funerals afforded us the opportunity to meet with each other, we also found it difficult in the sad circumstances.

Several of us made the decision to try and visit or at least meet more often. Thus our ‘Cousin’s Day’ was established. Now the first Sunday in March we meet at Murwillumbah for a few hours together.

Due to family situations and health issues not everyone can make it every year. However, it is such a happy occasion and has become so ‘special’ to us all, we do make every effort to be there if we possibly can.

The first Sunday in March was a couple of weeks ago and we had a most successful gathering of four generations of ‘cousins’ on our maternal side.

I must say one of the drawcards each year is the material I gather together on a particular ancestral couple and share with the cousins. Last year it was our Great-Grandparents James and Margaret Baxter (nee Kennedy) and this year it was our Great-Great-Grandparents George and Sarah Bell (nee Sargent).

As I introduce more than names and dates of our ancestors lives, the younger generations have become most interested in our family history, and are keen to share with their children. This is one way I am planning to save our ‘family history’ for and with family, for the future generations.

As I only share with family members, this material has become ‘valuable’ to the family and I have no doubt it will be handed on down throughout the generations and our history will continue to be enjoyed by ‘the family ‘for many years to come. .

Family Heirloom- Oil Portrait of George Bell

 

As I write the history of our ancestors I always include the story of artifacts or heirlooms that have been passed down through branches of the family and remain with descendants today.

One in our “Bell family” is a framed oil on canvas portrait of my Great-Great-Grandfather, George Bell, in his mature years. Although it is unsigned, and undated, a printed label on the reverse side of the painting states “Sue Hing Long and Co agents of 181 Lower George Street,(Sydney) agents for Chinese Oil Painting”.

According to Sand’s Directories they were general merchants and importers in Sydney, at least in the 1870 and 1880, and perhaps later.

This photo of Lower George Street from the Sydney Living Museum [http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/file/looking-north-along-george-street-no185-sue-hing-long-co-no183-mrs-hgoldsmide-pawnbroker-and ] shows Sue Hing Long and Company at 185 Lower George Street about 1890- not 181 Lower George Street as on the label. Was this an earlier address?

 It would appear a client would have a photograph taken at a professional photographers and supply a carde-de-visite photograph to Sue Hing Long and Company, who sent it back to China, where an unknown artist, would paint the ‘likeness’ portrait in oils. The painting was then framed and returned to Sue Hing Long’s in Sydney, from where the client was notified by post for collection of the painting.

I am fortunate to have  a copy of the photograph, shared by another family member, of the ‘carde-de-visite’ photograph, which is believed to have been the one used for this portrait. It is imprinted with J T Gorus, Sydney.

There are also two similar oil portraits of George Bell Jr and his wife Ellen done about the same time.

Over the last few months we have been down -sizing and generally cleaning out clutter of a life time.

Childhood ‘treasures’ I have come across are some of my drawings and watercolour paintings.

Between my tenth and twelfth birthdays I spent much of the time I wasn’t at school, with my maternal grandparents on their dairy farm at Kunghur, in Northern New South Wales.

At the time my grandmother Harriet May Baxter was a survivor of Breast Cancer, and had had surgery many years before, when all the muscles and tendons on her right side had been removed . There were many things she needed help with in cooking, washing and cleaning. My grandfather, Arthur, was seriously ill and bedridden most of the time and needed twenty-four hour care.

Although, my parents and some Aunts and Uncles did assist from time to time, it turned out I was their primary carer and companion for much of that time. We lived in the country with no electricity, TV or any gadgets, so not a lot of entertainment for a young girl, but I did love to draw and paint.

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All Rights Reserved to Author

On my grandparents dining room wall were several family portraits, including one of my grandmother’s paternal grandfather, George Bell.

I can remember the wet afternoon in the May School Holidays -between 1st and Second Term in those days- when I was undecided what I should draw or paint. My grandmother must have been quite exasperated and suggested I should ‘paint’ our ancestor “George”. Above is the result of that afternoon’s work.

 

World War I, Family Hero – Arthur Campbell Bell

Arthur Campbell Bell, born 1893,at Picton, NSW, was the tenth child and seventh son of Thomas and Matilda Bell (nee Anderson). He was also a first cousin to my maternal grandmother, Harriet May Bell.

When Arthur Campbell Bell was a young child the family moved to the Tumbarumba Ranges in the southern highlands where they had various gold-mining leases.

Thomas and Matilda Bell retired to Sydney just before the outbreak of World War I and Arthur Campbell lived with them.

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He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on 23 May 1916.At that time he gave his occupation as motor driver. He was first sent to the signal school at Broadmeadows for several weeks training.

When training was completed his unit was sent to Melbourne by train, where they embarked on 25 September 1916 on the troop ship Shropshire for overseas service.

Some weeks later Arthur Campbell Bell disembarked at Plymouth on 11 November 1916. Soon afterwards he was sent with the 58th battalion to France as a signalman. Little is known of his actual service there, but he fell ill in the April and was returned to England for treatment.

He was then attached to the 15th Training Battalion and was promoted to Lance-Corporal, however he asked to be returned to the ranks as a private before the end of the year.

He was admitted to hospital again in April 1918. He was then transferred to Motor Transport Department.

A few weeks later, when on leave he got into trouble for’ asking for an extension of leave by telegram, contrary to regulations’ and ended up having to forfeit a day’s pay.

After the war was over he remained in England for some time, where he continued to serve as a transport driver. He returned to Australia by the SS Cape Verde in February 1920.