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 Birthdauy 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.

A Little Family Mystery, Louisa Bell

My Great-Great-Grandfather, George Bell was born at East Farleigh in Kent in 1817. He was the eighth child, of a family of twelve born to Thomas and Mary Ann Bell (nee Battlemore).

Over the years I have used all sorts of records to piece together not only the story of my ancestor, George, but also each of his siblings.

From time to time I review what I know, and try to find more information, particularly if new records for Kent become available. Sometimes I get an interesting surprize.

Louisa Bell, the tenth child and fifth daughter was born to Thomas and Mary Bell at East Farleigh in 1821. She was baptised on 18 March 1821 at St Mary’s Parish Church, East Farleigh. I had not found any other information about her through the parish records including the parish relief or burial records, nor any of the English census records. Not one little clue to what had happened to her.

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St Mary’s Parish Church,East Farleigh,Kent, England

 

I had found a burial record of an ‘Eliza Bell’ aged eight years, who had been buried in St Mary’s Churchyard on 9 December 1831. By this time Mary Bell the mother had died, and Thomas Bell the widower, had married Jane Larkin. Was this child actually ‘Louisa Bell’ and her step-mother thought the name was ‘Eliza’ ,which sounded very similar? Perhaps the father, Thomas wasn’t sure of the name or age anymore? It was possible of course, especially when I could not find a baptism record of an ‘Eliza Bell’ born between 1820 and 1830 baptised at East Farleigh or surrounding parishes. However, I did find an ‘Eliza Bell’ baptised at Chatham, the daughter of John and Euphemia Bell on the 20 October 1822.

My research had stalled at that point, in that I couldn’t move forward.

Then a couple of weeks ago when I was reviewing my notes and the Kent Family History Parish transcriptions published on CD for ‘Bell’ entries, I could hardly believe my eyes. [One of those Eureka moments famous in family history circles].

There in St Mary’s East Farleigh Marriage Banns Transcriptions for 1839 was a ‘Louisa Bell applying to the parish to have marriage banns read for a marriage to Edward Brooks. I searched all marriage records for East Farleigh and several adjoining parishes over several years, but could not find the actual marriage.

What had happened to ‘Louisa Bell’? Was she dumped at the altar? Did she emigrate and marry elsewhere? Did she elope and change her name?

I tried to find her as a single person in the census with negative results. Then I looked at any married ‘Louisa’s’ who gave the native parish of birth as East Farleigh. Again I struck out.

Then I decided to research Edward Brooks. I found what I believe was him in the 1841 and 1851 census living at ‘Barming’, which is next to East Farleigh, as a single man,the right age and born in the correct place. [A big sigh] Looking at Edward Brooks didn’t solve the puzzle either.

What I need to do, but do not have access to at present, is to look at the original banns, not a transcription. There should be three dates entered showing the days the banns were called in the church. There is only one date for each of the Banns transcriptions, not the three you would expect in a transcription of a document, which is very frustrating. The original banns entry may also tell if permission was granted, or if not, why. They may even tell if the marriage was forbidden!

Oh Louisa Bell-Where art thou?

World War I, Family Hero- Harold Ernest Vidler

Harold Ernest Vidler, born 1891, near Goulburn in southern New South Wales, was the eldest child and son of George Angel James and Matilda Vidler (nee Law). He along with the rest of the family moved to northern New South Wales early in the 20th Century. By the outbreak of the First World War they had moved to Zillmere in Queensland.

When war broke out his brother Kenneth George quickly enlisted and soon encouraged his older brother to join him on the great adventure.

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Harold Ernest Vidler enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in Brisbane on the 4 May 1915. After several weeks of training he embarked on 20 August 1915 for Egypt on board the military transport Shropshire.[ Also on board was Cecil Vidler another ‘cousin’, the eldest son of George Stephen and Eliza Vidler (nee Harris), who was a van driver at Lismore when he enlisted.]

 On disembarking at Alexandria, Egypt it was found Harold Ernest Vidler had mumps and was admitted to hospital. He was discharged to his AIF unit on 9 November 1915 and sailed for Moudros on Lemnos Island heading for Gallipoli. He was looking forward to catching up with his younger brother, Kenneth George Vidler. He didn’t know at the time, but Kenneth George Vidler had been injured on Gallipoli on 21 August and had been medically evacuated to England. There was to be no grand reunion for the Vidler brothers after all.

 In early December it was decided to abandon the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Australia troops were taken off during the nights of 18 to 20 December 1915.

 Here is a link to a photograph of part of the evacuation through William’s Pier, North Head, on the Gallipoli Peninsular.

http://www.gallipoli.gov.au/north-beach-and-the-sari-bair-range/evacuation-of-anzac.php

Harold Ernest Vidler returned to Alexandria in Egypt on 4 January 1916 on board the transport ‘Grampian.’

After the Gallipoli campaigns most of the Australian Infantry departed for the Western Front in Europe. However many in the Australian Light Horse as well as some Australia infantry remained in Egypt as part of the ANZAC Mounted Division that took part in British Offenses pushing Turks and their allies across Palestine and Syria. These Australian and New Zealand mounted troops conducted long range reconnaissance patrols and raids deep into the desert.

Camel Corps were formed, as camels could achieve much more than horses in the dry dessert terrain

On the 5th February 1916 Harold Ernest Vidler was transferred to the Camel Corps and after minimal training he was taken on strength at Sollum. He took ill and was admitted to hospital and transferred to Alexandria by the Rasheed. After spending some time in the hospital, he returned to his unit on 18 November1916.

 Military conflicts took place in North Africa from 1914. The Senussi of Libya sided with the Ottoman Empire against the British. On 14 November 1914, the Ottoman Sultan proclaimed war and sought to create a diversion to draw British troops from the Sinai and Palestine campaigns. The Senussi Campaign took place in north Africa, from 23 November 1915 – February 1917.

In the summer of 1915, the Ottoman Empire persuaded the Grand Senussi, Ahmed Sharif, to attack British-occupied Egypt from the west, and encouraged insurrection in support of an Ottoman offensive against the Suez Canal from the east. The Senussi crossed the Libyan–Egyptian border at the coast in November 1915. British Empire forces withdrew at first and then defeated the Senussi in several engagements, including the Action of Agagia.

In January 1917 the victory of the Desert Column at the Battle of Rafa completed the capture of the Sinai Peninsula and brought the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces within striking distance of Gaza.

On 28 January 1917 Harold Ernest Vidler was transferred to No 2 Company of the 1st Australian Battalion of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces, under Brigadier General Smith.

[Ref:From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_operations_in_North_Africa_during_World_War_I

The First Battle of Gaza was fought on 26 March 1917, during the first attempt by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force to take the territory around Gaza. Fighting took place all day and late in the afternoon, on the verge of capturing Gaza, the troops were withdrawn due to concerns about the approaching darkness and large Ottoman reinforcements. This defeat was followed a few weeks later by the even more emphatic defeat of the British Forces at the Second Battle of Gaza.

The Second Battle of Gaza was fought between 17 and 19th April 1917. In the three weeks between the two battles of Gaza, the Ottoman strengthened entrenchments and fortifications at Gaza which proved unassailable and disasterous with the British frontal attack. It was estimated the casualty rate for the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces approached fifty per cent, for very slight gains in this battle. Officially there were 6444 casualties with the Camel Brigade some 345 of these. -509 killed,4359 wounded and 1534 missing including 272 prisoners of war.

[Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Gaza]

 Harold Ernest Vidler was one of these. It was reported on 22 April 1917 that Harold Ernest Vidler had been wounded near Gaza during the battle on 19 April, but it was some time before his true fate was known.

The Australian Red Cross Society of Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau in London received a communique on 19 May 1917 from the Ottoman Red Crescent Society, dated 10 May, that Harold Ernest Vidler was a prisoner of war in Turkey. He had been admitted to the hospital at Zeyne Kiamil, Istanbul suffering a gunshot wound to the right knee. He had then been transferred to the Prisoner of War Camp at Psamatia. This camp was on the western outskirts of Istanbul and was formed around the Armenian Church of the Virgin Mary

We have no other information on Harold Ernest Vidler’s time as a prisoner of the Turks. It was many months before his family knew what had happened to him and he appeared in the official lists. However other prisoners told harrowing stories of forced labour and starvation.

Many Australian prisoners were assigned to work parties in the Taurus and Amanos Mountains and spent up to twelve hours a day quarrying, drilling tunnels, felling timber, laying track and blacksmithing on the Baghdad to Istanbul section of the Berlin- Istanbul Railway. Almost all were subjected to the same harsh living conditions and very limited supplies as their Ottoman captors. Feeding and clothing prisoners in the far reaches of the Ottoman Empire proved woefully inadequate owing to the logistical problem of sending Red Cross parcels from London, so many prisoners fell victim to sickness, hard labour and prolonged effects of malnutrition.

The personal effects of Harold Ernest Vidler, which remained at camp when he went into battle, were sent home to his parents in January 1918 by the ‘Wiltshire‘.

On the victory of the allied forces in the Middle East he was released on 6 November 1918 and repatriated to Alexandria in Egypt, along with many other surviving Australian prisoners. He embarked on the troop ship ‘Leicestershire’ on 23 December 1918 and headed home.

He was discharged on 19 March 1919 in Brisbane and returned to his parents farm at Chillingham.

This soldier was a first cousin of my paternal grandmother, Olive Pearl Vidler. However there was another personal link for my family history. My grandmother had married an Irishman in 1910 and settled on a dairy farm at Jackson’s Creek near Chillingham on the north arm of the Tweed River.

 Several Vidler families had migrated from southern New South Wales in the early 1900’s including my Great-Grandparents, Thomas Nathanial and Margaret Jane Vidler (nee Goodwin), and also Thomas’ younger brother, George Angel James Vidler and his family. However, by the beginning of World War I these families had moved to Queensland. George Angel James Vidler’s family settled at Zillmere in Brisbane, where two of the sons enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in 1914 and 1915. In 1916, George Angel James Vidler, uncle to my grandmother returned to Chillingham and purchased the successful dairy from my grandparents, William and Olive Growcock (nee Vidler), who then moved to Tygalgah near Murwillumbah.

 

Other Vidler World War I Family Heroes blog posts include-

Frederick Cecil Vidler posted 25 April 2015

Harold Frederick Vidler posted 11 November 2015

Frederick Grenville Vidler posted 11 November 2015

Edward Herbert Vidler posted 14 November 2015

Sydney Vincent Vidler posted 27 November 2015

Kenneth George Vidler posted 10 February 2017