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.

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- 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.

 

Family Heirloom-Bell Family Bible

On the death of my maternal grandmother, Harriet May Baxter (nee Bell) I was very fortunate to inherit some of the family treasures.

One such item was the ‘Bell Family Bible’. It is not a large tome with specially printed pages of ‘Family Register’, as found in many printed Victorian Bibles.

 It is a small volume of 11 X 18 mm, bound in brown cloth. It is the ‘King James’ version printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society. img_4899

 The British and Foreign Bible Society dates back to 1804 and from the early days, the Society sought to be ecumenical and non-sectarian. It’s aim has always been to translate, revise, print, and distribute affordable Bibles throughout the world. Although it began in England and Wales it soon extended its work to Australia, India, Europe and beyond.

 Baskets of Bibles and religious tracts were put on board convict and immigrant ships for ‘instruction’ and education on the voyages to Australia. Later they were also available in bookshops and other outlets in Sydney.

 In my small volume, no year or place of publication has survived as the cover has come off and the title page is missing.

On the inside of the front cover and fly-leaf are written, in possibly two hands, the names and birth dates of my Bell family:-

George Bell Senior

Sarah Bell wife of George Bellimg_4902

George Bell Junior

James Bell Junior

Thomas Bell Junior

Harriet Bell

Henry Bell Junior

John Bell

Emma Bell

Alice Bell

 There is no indication when these were written into the bible, but it must have been accurate personal knowledge as all dates can be confirmed by church infant baptism entries and birth certificates where applicable. Comparing signatures of George Bell (Senior) from land records and his Will, it would appear to be the hand of George Bell up until the entries of ‘John , Emma and Alice Bell’, which appear to be in another hand. Maybe Sarah Bell, his wife, or another altogether. I have no examples of Sarah Bell’s hand writing for comparison.

 A couple of things puzzle me, which I plan to research further. ‘George Bell Senior’ and ‘George Bell Junior’ are self- explanatory as they are ‘father’ and ‘son’. Even ‘James Bell Junior’ as he was named for his uncle ‘ James Bell’, who was George’s older brother and came out to Australia on the same ship. He and his family lived at Picton for a number of years too, so there may have been a reason to differentiate . However who were the ‘Thomas Bell Senior’ and ‘Henry Bell Senior’ who lived in the area and necessitated the designation of ‘junior’? Is this a clue that other members of the family came to Australia and lived in the area? Or were there other Bell families in the area?

Another puzzle to investigate.

 

My Bell Family Ancestors – George Bell (1817-1894) – Red Herrings Sorted

In an earlier blog I wrote about the puzzle concerning the arrival of my ancestor George Bell into Australia, and the fact that he might have been a convict on board the convict ship ‘Asia’ in 1837. At fist glance it looked as if  the family might have been trying to cover up the fact.

The first thing I did was to follow this convict, George Bell/Ball, who was on boad the on the ‘Asia’, from his arrival, through his assignment, marriage and death. In all the records I found in New South Wales, he was listed as ‘George Ball”. He was assigned to J Andrews of Invermein on the Hunter River. He later married Mary Drumphy or Dunkley in 1844 and they had a number of children.. He received a Ticket of Leave in 1842 and later a Certificate of Freedom. He died on 8 September 1858.

I had researched my ancestor backward from the known to the unknown, and realized that the information on the convict George Bell/Ball did not match most of the information on my ancestor, George Bell. Right name, age and year of birth, and even in the same English county. However, the records in Australia -wrong wife, place of residence, occupation and death date didn’t add up

How could my George Bell arrive on the convict ship ‘Asia’ if he wasn’t a convict? He could have been the son of a convict; a soldier in the convict guard, an appointed government official, or a sailor. How was I to sort this out.

All convict ships because they were ‘Government Ships’ were well documented especially after about 1810.

The Captain was required to keep a log of all the details of the voyage.

A Surgeon Superintendent was appointed by the Home Office to overseer the health of all those on board. He was required to hand in a detailed report in his Journal, on his returned to London, and would then be paid for his services.

The ‘Asia’ was a ship of 533 tons, built in Calcutta, India in 1814 for the East India Company,. probably for the lucrative tea and spice trade.She was the fifth ship by that name for the Company and was often termed, ‘Asia V’. In 1827 she was first used as a convict transport and left Portsmouth on the 17 August under Captain Henry Agar, with 200 male convicts onboard. The Surgeon Superintendent was George Fairfowl.

In 1831 the Asia V was again used to transport convicts. On that voyage she brought out 220 male convicts, leaving Cork, Ireland on 6 August.The Captain was again Henry Agar. After a fast passage of 118 days she arrived in Sydney on 2 December. The return journey was made via Batavia, leaving Sydney on 2 January 1832.

The ‘Asia’ was commissioned for her third voyage as a convict transport in 1837. The captain for this voyage was Benjamin Freeman and the Surgeon Superintendant John Gannon.

A family story passed down to my Maternal Grandmother, Harriet May Bell, was that her grandfather, George Bell had come to Australia on an ‘uncle’s ship”. Was this a reference to the captain of the ship, rather than the owner? If that was true what relationship could Benjamin Freeman to the Bell family.

George Bell’s father, Thomas, had a younger sister, Ann Bell who married William Freeman at East Farleigh, Kent, in 1817. He is believed to be a relative, perhaps even a brother, of Benjamin Freeman.

Benjamin Freeman had come to Australia in 1836 as captain of the ‘Henry Wellesley’ on its first voyage as a convict transport. The ‘Henry Wellesley’ was a barque of 304 tons built in India in 1804. It left Ireland on 7 December 1835 with 118 female convicts and had come out direct with a passage of 123 days. The return voyage to England was by way of Batavia in the East Indies,

So it was Benjamin Feeman’s second voyage to Australia as a captain of a convict ship when he brought out the ‘Asia V’ in 1837. As far as I know The Captain’s Log Book has not survived, but Surgeon Superintendant Gannon’s Journal has survived, and is on microfilm at the National Library of Australia in Canberra as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

From his Daily Sick List I found.

2 August 1837, George Bell, 20 years, seaman, inflamed thigh on sick list.

29 August 1837 Put off sick sick list as cured. (treated for nearly a month.)

5 November 1837, George Bell, 20 years, seaman, inflamed thigh.

12 November 1837 Put off sick list as cured.

This was John Gannon’s first trip to Australia as a surgeon on a convict ship. He made one more trip on the ‘Barossa’ on its third voyage in 1844 to Tasmania.

Another family story was that George Bell’s father, Thomas, had remarried after his wife’s death, and George and his brother James couldn’t get on with their step-mother, and decided to emigrate. At this stage the Bell family were very poor and there was no money for a passage on a ship. There were no Government Immigration Scheme’s to assist young men to emigrate either. I believe George and James made use of a family connection with the Freeman family to gain a place as a seamen on the convict ship coming to New South Wales. It was indicated that he had a letter of introduction to a settler at Camden and made his way their on arrival.

I believe the above mentioned George Bell is my ancestor. His older brother, James was also on board the ‘Asia’ and is also mentioned on the sick list, which is supportive evidence.

I have may have solved the problem of how and when my ancestor arrived in Australia. However, there were still more questions to answer.

Why did his marriage certificate state that he was ‘free by servitude’? Was it an error made by the clergy, or had he got into trouble after he arrived in Australia?

His marriage was seven years after his arrival in Australia and to date I have not been able to find him in the records during this time.

Although, I have many documents to tell the story of George Bell after his marriage in 1844,the seven years before his marriage in Australia, is a complete mystery. Still plenty of research to do on this ancestor.

Headstone George Bell

My Bell Family Ancestors – George Bell (1817-1894) – Sorting Red Herrings

I have blogged about my ancestor George Bell before, and mentioned that he was born in 1817 at East Farleigh, Kent, England.

He married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest in 1844 and settled in Picton, (NSW),where they raised a family of five sons and three daughters.

My next challenge was to find when and how he had arrived in Australia. Where would I find clues?

I had his full death certificate (1894) which stated he had been in the colonies 56 years. This would give me a time period of approximately 1837-1838.The informant was his eldest son, George.

On his marriage entry in All Saints, Church of England, Sutton Forest, (NSW) in 1844 he was a “bachelor, Free by Servitude” and his wife Sarah was a “spinster, Free Immigrant.” So, it looked like he may have been a convict!

When I had been researching his life at Picton I had come across a subscription publication, “Aldine’s History of NSW “(1888) in which there were biographical details of the pioneers, alledgedly submitted by themselves. There was an entry for George Bell in which states:-

In 1837 he left England to try his fortune in the colonies, and landed in the same year in Sydney.”

Amongst other material I have been able to find on the family was a copy of an article published in the journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. James Bell, the second son of George and Sarah Bell, who was born in 1847, and had spent his whole life in Picton, was asked to give a lecture to the Royal Historical Society on the history of Picton. In it he states:- “My father, George Bell, who was a native of East Furley (Farleigh), near Maidstone, in Kent, England, arrived in Sydney in 1838, a freeman, having joined the crew of the convict shipAsia (adopting the name of Freeman) to obtain a passage to Sydney”.

I had been able to confirm through parish records, that George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent in 1817, the son of Thomas and Mary Bell.

The immigration records for most government assisted immigrants have survived and are now held by the State Records of New South Wales, formerly known as the Archives Authority of NSW. These had been indexed by the staff and volunteers at the Mitchell Library, ( a part of the State Library of NSW), in the early part of the 20th Century. I started my ‘research’ into my Bell ancestors in 1973 and made a visit to the State Archives.

[Where as in the 1970’s it was only accessable by visiting the library and searching an in- house card index; by the 1980’s and 1990’s the Archives Authority made them available through several printed books based on the card indexes. They are now searchable on-line by logging onto the State Records of NSW website. These searches are free. ]

I was not able to find George Bell amongst the free immigrants to Sydney in 1837 or 1838.

A search of convict shipping records at the Archives Authority of NSW (now State Records)confirmed the convict ship ‘Asia’ did make a voyage to Sydney in 1837.

A check of the ‘Convict Indents’ at State Records for the 1837, Asia voyage also confirmed there was on board a convict named “George Bell, alias Ball. He was aged 20 years (born 1817), could read and write, was a Protestant, single and a native of Woolwich (Kent). He had been tried in the Central Court, London on 27th February (1837) for stealing hats and had been sentenced to seven years transportation.”

Great excitement, a convict in the family!I kept it quiet, as it was not fashionable to have convict forebears in the early 1970’s. Only after 1988!.

It looked as if there had been a family cover-up and I had found my ancestor coming as a convict.

Evidence:                           a. His marriage certificate in 1844 had stated that he was ‘free by servitude’.

          1. He was born in the right year , 1817.

          2. He was born in Kent, England. Woolwich is only a few kilometres from Maidstone.

          3. He arrived in Sydney in 1837.

          4. The convict ship ‘Asia’ had made a voyage to Sydney in 1837.

BUT,was this my ancestor, George Bell? Or were there two people with the same name on the same ship? More research was needed.

In my next blog I will explain some of the detailed research that helped to prove that this George Bell was not my ancestor. It is all too easy to trace the wrong family tree, if you are not careful.