Our Bell Family in Australia – Alice Bell, 1863, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

See Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales, and had a family.

Their children were all born in Picton, New South Wales.

George Bell Jr was born in 1845 and baptized in 1846.

See   Our Bell Family in Australia – George Bell, 1846, Picton.

He was named for his father.

James Bell was born and baptized in 1847.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – James Bell,1847, Picton.

He was named after his uncle, his father’s younger brother who immigrated with him.

Thomas Bell was born in 1849.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Thomas Bell, 1849, Picton.

He was named for his Paternal and Maternal grandfathers.

According to the Bell Family Bible, I have, after three sons, George and Sarah Bell had a daughter. She was called Harriet, after George Bell’s, sister who had died in East Farleigh, Kent, when George was six years of age.

Harriet Bell was born in 1852

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton.

Henry Bell was born in 1854

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

He is believed to have been named for his mother’s younger brother, Henry Packham Sargent.

John Bell was born in 1856.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – John Bell,1856, Picton

Emma Bell was born in 1859.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Emma Bell, 1859. Picton

The Bell family bible listed the next child as a daughter, named Alice with a birth date given as the 21st January 1863.

I checked for her baptism.

I found an entry on Ancestry.com website which was for St Marks Anglican Church, Picton. Sourced from the Anglican Parish Registers for the Sydney Diocese. This I was able to download to add to my records.

I have made a transcription of this record. See below.

I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales in Sydney at  https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/ .

I found this entry and was able to apply for a birth certificate.

BELL ALICE, 12460/1863  dau of GEORGE and SARAH registered PICTON

My transcription to share is below.

There was no Birth Notice in a newspaper.

As all the above sources give the same date of birth I feel confident that was her birth date.

It is believed that Alice was named for her Maternal Grandmother, Ellis or Alice Sargent(nee Packham). She had separated from her husband and four eldest children and journeyed to South Australia with a new partner and younger children in about 1846. She died a few months after Alice Bell’s birth, but it is not known if she knew she had a granddaughter named for her.

It would appear that with the opening of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Picton that this church became the family church.

 Alice Bell was only two years of age when her mother died. She was raised by her sister Harriet and sister-in-law Ellen Bell. Her father did not remarry.

History of St Mark’s Picton.

 The foundation stone of – St Mark’s Church, Picton – was laid by the Rev Edward Rogers – Minister of the Parish – on the 16th day of July AD 1850 – J M Antill, J Templeton, T Larkin, J Crispe ~ Building Committee.   A heritage plaque displayed in the grounds records that the original church was opened in 1856. The first Anglican services were held in 1825 at the home of Major Antill, one of the first European settlers in the Picton area. When a small court house was built on the Major’s property (he was the Police Magistrate, and the family served the local court for three generations), services were held there. – The local rector was the Reverend Thomas Hassell of Denbigh, Cobbity, and his parish stretched to Goulburn, across to Wollongong, and south to Mulgoa. In 1839 the Reverend Frederick Wilkinson had a smaller area to cover, from his house at the Hermitage, The Oaks. Next came the Reverend Edward Rogers from 1848, and by now money was being raised to build a church on land donated by the Antill family, in Menangle Street West. The foundation stone was laid in July 1850, the church being designed by Edmund Blacket, with Thomas Smith, G Wandess, and Barnsdale as masons. T Cashman and John Iceton as carpenters. Whitfield doing the ironwork, painting by W Brown, and fencing by Abel Sant and Rosette. Unfortunately, the work went very slowly, as the gold rushes affected the supply of labour, and it was not completed until 1856. – The original church was tiny, and as the town grew in the 1860s with the arrival of the railway line, so the nave was extended 12 feet, and a vestry was added. Then in 1886 Blacket’s sons, Cyril and Arthur designed the transepts which provided even more room. The original wooden shingles were replaced with slate in 1904, and then by tiles in 1930. Oil lamps were used for lighting until 1922 when electricity was connected. – The earliest burials in the graveyard date from 1858, though severe flooding in the 1860s and later has affected those graves closest to Stonequarry Creek, as well as the church. Although levy banks provide some protection now, severe flooding can still occur. The building, its furnishings, and the organ were badly impacted by the 2016 floods, together with the pioneer cemetery. It has now been restored. [1]     [1] Sourced From <https://www.churchesaustralia.org/list-of-churches/locations/new-south-wales/n-s-towns/directory/8327-picton-anglican-church>    
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Our Bell Family in Australia – Emma Bell, 1859, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

See Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales, and had a family.

Their children were all born in Picton, New South Wales.

George Bell Jr was born in 1845 and baptized in 1846.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – George Bell, 1846, Picton.

James Bell was born and baptized in 1847.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – James Bell,1847, Picton.

Thomas Bell was born in 1849.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Thomas Bell, 1849, Picton.

According to the Bell Family Bible, I have, after three sons, George and Sarah Bell had a daughter. She was called Harriet, after George Bell’s, sister who had died in East Farleigh, Kent, when George was six years of age.

Harriet Bell was born in 1852.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton.

Henry Bell was born in 1854.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

John Bell was born in 1856.

See Our Bell Family in Australia – John Bell, 1856, Picton.

The next child listed in the Family Bible I inherited was another daughter, who was named Emma.

I checked for her baptism. I found an entry on the Ancestry.com website which was for St Marks Anglican Church, Picton. Sourced from the Anglican registers for the Sydney Diocese. This I was able to download to add to my records.

I have made a transcription of this record. See below

I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/.

BELL EMMA

11569/1859 

GEORGE

SARAH

PICTON

History of St Mark’s Picton.

 The foundation stone of – St Mark’s Church, Picton – was laid by the Rev Edward Rogers – Minister of the Parish – on the 16th day of July AD 1850 – J M Antill, J Templeton, T Larkin, J Crispe ~ Building Committee.   A heritage plaque displayed on the grounds records that the original church was opened in 1856. The first Anglican services were held in 1825 at the home of Major Antill, one of the first European settlers in the Picton area. When a small court house was built on the Major’s property (he was the Police Magistrate, and the family served the local court for three generations), services were held there. – The local rector was the Reverend Thomas Hassell of Denbigh, Cobbity, and his parish stretched to Goulburn, across to Wollongong, and south to Mulgoa. In 1839 the Reverend Frederick Wilkinson had a smaller area to cover, from his house at the Hermitage, The Oaks. Next came the Reverend Edward Rogers from 1848, and by now money was being raised to build a church on land donated by the Antill family, in Menangle Street West. The foundation stone was laid in July 1850, the church being designed by Edmund Blacket, with Thomas Smith, G Wandess, and Barnsdale as masons. T Cashman and John Iceton as carpenters. Whitfield doing the ironwork, painting by W Brown, and fencing by Abel Sant and Rosette. Unfortunately, the work went very slowly, as the gold rushes affected the supply of labour, and it was not completed until 1856. – The original church was tiny, and as the town grew in the 1860s with the arrival of the railway line, so the nave was extended 12 feet, and a vestry was added. Then in 1886 Blacket’s sons, Cyril and Arthur designed the transepts which provided even more room. The original wooden shingles were replaced with slate in 1904, and then by tiles in 1930. Oil lamps were used for lighting until 1922 when electricity was connected. – The earliest burials in the graveyard date from 1858, though severe flooding in the 1860s and later has affected those graves closest to Stonequarry Creek, as well as the church. Although levy banks provide some protection now, severe flooding can still occur. The building, its furnishings, and the organ were badly impacted by the 2016 floods, together with the pioneer cemetery. It has now been restored. [1]  
  [1] Sourced From <https://www.churchesaustralia.org/list-of-churches/locations/new-south-wales/n-s-towns/directory/8327-picton-anglican-church> by Nola Mackey, 15 August 2022   

Our Bell Family in Australia – John Bell, 1856, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James, emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

See    Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales, and had a family.

Their children were all born in Picton, New South Wales.

George Bell Jr was born in 1845 and baptized in 1846.

See   Our Bell Family in Australia – George Bell, 1846, Picton.

James Bell was born in 1847.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – James Bell,1847, Picton.

Thomas Bell was born in 1849.

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Thomas Bell, 1849, Picton.

Harriet Bell was born in 1852

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton.

Henry Bell was born in 1854

See  Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

According to the Bell family bible I have inherited, the next child was a son named John, who was born on 6 September  1856.

See   Family Heirloom-Bell Family Bible

 As this was the year Civil Registration began in New South Wales I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/.

It should be noted that the date of the start of the registration of Births was 1 March 1856.

The search of this online index found that there was a reference to the baptism of John Bell, son of George and Sarah Bell, but no reference to a registration of a birth.

Remember the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages had called in the early baptism records prior to 1856 as State Records. These baptism records often had the birth and baptism date on those records.

 Also note at this point in history it was up to the parents to make sure the child’s birth was registered with the registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in New South Wales. In John Bell’s case, had his parents neglected to register this birth? The law only came in that year and not all families were conversant with this new law. Perhaps John was only baptized.

BELL JOHN, registration number 5955/1856 V18565955 121C, son of GEORGE and SARAH of IN

Using this reference I was able to search for entries in the Archives Authority of New South Wales (now State Records) Genealogical Kit (1988) for baptisms 1788-1855.

The early colonial baptism, marriage, and burial records of some 164 volumes cover the time before civil registration in New South Wales. This includes Victoria and Queensland which was part of New South Wales at that time. These are held as Government records by the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales in Sydney.

Many of these records were microfilmed and released to the public in the Archives Authority of New South Wales Genealogical Kit in 1988. Of the 164 volumes copied, only 123 volumes were released in the kit covering the time frame 1788-1855. Volumes 124-164 were not included in the kit.

This was because some of the records contained in the volumes were after 1855 so fell outside the parameters of the historical project and were subject to state privacy laws. Other volumes were not included because they were so fragile and the handling of those volumes would have destroyed them.

Returning to our Bell research, I found Volume 121 in the above-mentioned records, and I was able to view a microfilm copy of the original record on AO Reel  5046. [You will notice there is some crossover with baptism and birth registrations for 1856.]

Although you can view these records at your library you cannot make a printout as it is a condition of use of these records and is stated at the beginning of each film. The copyright belongs to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages.  I was able to make a transcription and add appropriate notes.

As parents were responsible for registering a birth from 1856, sometimes they just didn’t get around to it. In that case, you may not find the birth reference you were looking for. Another reason you may not find it is that you are not using the spelling which was used at the registration, or the child was registered without a Christian name, so it may be registered as an unnamed male or female.

This was the case in John’s birth registration.

BELL (MALE) Registration number 4010/1856 son of GEORGE and SARAH, registered at CAMDEN

I was then able to get his full birth certificate from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in Sydney using this reference.

This is my transcription of this document.

You will note the above mention baptism of John Bell was at the Wesleyan Church, Picton.

The Wesleyan Church, Picton

“On the 4th April 1849, the Colonial Secretary advised that the Governor of N.S.W. had given approval to allotments of land which had been granted to the Wesleyans in Picton on 4th January 1849. Shortly after, James Rogers began to build the chapel using convict labour. The original building was 26 feet by 16 feet, the stone being hewn from Stonequarry Creek. The roof was of shingles. The chapel was opened shortly after, in July 1849, but by 1865, because of the influx of population, especially railway men associated with terminal railway activities the little Wesleyan chapel was enlarged, again James Rogers carrying out the work: adding an extra 10 feet on to the back of the church. The early ministers who conducted services at the chapel were George Pickering (1849), J. Bowe (1852), J. Fillingham (1855), C.W. Rigg (1856), W. Clark (1859), S. Wilkinson (1861), J. Watkins (1864) and Richard Amos (1865). ” [1]

This church was not very far from the Bell home at Upper Picton, also known as Redbank.

I also checked in the newspapers to see if there was a birth notice or report but found none.

[1] Picton and District Historical and Family History Society Facebook page -Wesleyan Church

From <https://www.facebook.com/878976525498739/posts/redbank-uniting-church-picton-formerly-wesleyan-chapelon-the-4th-april-1849-the-/918616788201379/ downloaded by Nola Mackey, 3 September 2021

Our Bell Family in Australia-George and Sarah Bell in the 1840s.

When we are researching our family history, most of our energy goes into finding the documents that show the events of birth, marriage, and death of our ancestors. However, to build a picture of the lives of our ancestors we need to research the time, place, and the people involved in these events.

In a former blog, I wrote about the marriage of my ancestors, George Bell and Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest in 1844. [See blog Our Bell Family in Australia-George Bell’s Marriage 1844‘ posted 9 August 2020].

Now I needed to research the place, Sutton Forest; the church, All Saints Church of England; the Minister, Rev William Stone and the witnesses, Robert Wallace and Mary Thomas as well as George and Sarah themselves.

Sutton Forest

The graveyard and All Saints Anglican Church (1861).

Sutton Forest

Sutton Forest was named by Commissioner Bigge when he traveled through the area in 1820 with Governor Macquarie. It was on the edge of ‘settlement’  on the Great South Road. It was named after the Speaker of the House of Commons in England. Political motives were always in mind when naming places in New South Wales in our early history.

A private village grew up here in the late 1820s when the land was made available for a church and cemetery in 1828. By the following year, a weatherboard chapel had been erected and was in use. This was where George Bell and Sarah Sargent’s wedding took place in 1844. [See blog  Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844′ posted on 9 August 2020).

The neat stone building standing today was built in 1861 to the plans of the Colonial Architect, Edmund Becket.

More information can be found at https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/sutton-forest-ns

Rev William Stone

The Rev William Stone was appointed to Sutton Forest in 1843 to replace, Rev George Vidal.  He served there many years until he retired in 1858. He remained living at Sutton Forest and died there in 1870. He was buried in the churchyard and has a headstone.

The first school at Sutton Forest was opened in late 1830 with 18 pupils, under the instruction of John Eyre, a convict who had arrived that year. It had been built adjacent to the church. It was a church school and the local families continued to support it and it stayed in use until 1880 when the public school was opened.

A small cottage near the school was where the teacher and his family resided.

Robert Wallace

In the early 1840s, Robert Wallace was appointed as a teacher. He is believed to have been a friend of the Sargent family and that is how he became a witness at the wedding of George Bell and Sarah Sargent.

Mary Thomas

The other witness to the wedding was Mary Thomas the wife of James Thomas. They too were farming in the area and believed to be friends of the Sargent family. They later moved to The Oaks area near Picton, and in 1849 two of their sons were baptized at St Marks Church of England, Picton.

Sargents

The Sargent family, Thomas, his wife Alice (also spelled as Ellis in many records), and their four children emigrated on the Woodbridge in 1838. [See blog  ‘Immigration -“Woodbridge” Voyage-1838 posted 28 July 2017.]

They settled in the area soon after arrival. Four more children were born there and were baptized in All Saints. Sarah was the second daughter and had been born in Beckley, Sussex in 1827.

Bells

James and George Bell emigrated as sailors on the convict ship Asia in 1837. [See blogs

See “A Window in Time-My Bell Family in East Farleigh, Kent, England“, posted 30 April 2014 and,” My Bell Family Ancestors-George Bell (1817-1894)-Sorting Red Herrings“, posted 3 July 2014.

SONY DSC

A Jack and Jill Sussex Mill

Found at http://www.windmillworld.com/millid/2614.htm

After marriage George and Sarah Bell moved to Picton. In those days nearly fifty miles away over a rough and dangerous track. It is believed that Thomas Sargent was employed to help build a windmill on what was known for many years as Windmill Hill, which overlooked Picton. This was for the Larkin family, who were also of Sutton Forest. George and his brother James assisted him. It was built in wood and was in the ‘Sussex Style’. It was not successful as it was too far from the village and the wind was unreliable. George and James Bell made bricks and later assisted in building a steam-powered mill down on Stonequarry creek.

George and Sarah Bell’s children were all born at Picton. They were baptized there too. However, although George and Sarah were married in the Church of England at Sutton Forrest when it came to baptize their children, they took advantage of whichever minister was visiting the village at the time.  Their children’s baptisms can be found in the Church of England, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan records.

More information on the Picton Windmills can be found at

https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageap/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=2690285

Information on the time period can be found at

https://myplace.edu.au/decades_timeline/1840/decade_landing_16_1.html

Most of all have fun with your research.

Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell’s Marriage 1844

I have been researching our Bell family for over fifty years. The first of our family to arrive in Australia were two brothers, James and George Bell from East Farleigh, Kent, England. They arrived as sailors on the convict ship Asia on 2 December 1837.

See “A Window in Time-My Bell Family in East Farleigh, Kent, England”, posted 30 April 2014 and,” My Bell Family Ancestors-George Bell (1817-1894)-Sorting Red Herrings”, posted 3 July 2014.

Although I have searched diligently for years, I have not been able to find any documents for these brothers until 25 December 1844 when George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest.

I first purchased a certified transcription of this marriage in 1973 from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, Sydney. This is a transcription of that document.

BELL-SARGENT, 1844,Sutton Forest,Marriage Transcription 1

I especially noted “Bachelor, free by servitude”, beside George Bell’s name. This meant he had been a convict.

However, I had found good evidence that he had come free as a sailor on the convict ship, Asia in 1837. Had he gotten into trouble after his arrival?

I searched many court and gaol records between 1837-1844 at the State Library and State Records of New South Wales, and even old newspaper reports on Trove, but never had been successful in finding any clue to why George was ‘free by servitude’.

It has been my greatest sticking point in writing up the history of George Bell. I have had other professional historians have a look at the problem but no-one had been able to solve this problem or help with answers.

I then checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/

I found the only reference:-

404/1844 V1844404 29      BELL      GEORGE   and   SARGENT  SARAH    MY

The early colonial baptism, marriage, and burial records of some 164 volumes cover the time before civil registration in New South Wales. This includes Victoria and Queensland which was part of New South Wales at that time. These are held as Government records by the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales in Sydney.

Many of these records were microfilmed and released to the public in the Archives Authority of New South Wales Genealogical Kit in 1988. Of the 164 volumes copied, only 123 volumes were released in the kit covering the time frame 1788-1855. Volumes 124-164 were not included in the kit.

This was because some of the records contained in the volumes were after 1855 so fell outside the parameters of the historical project and were subject to state privacy laws. Other volumes were not included because they were so fragile and the handling of those volumes would have destroyed them.

Returning to our Bell family research, I found Vol 29 was in the records released and I consulted the appropriate film.

This gave the same information as the certified transcription from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages Office, and with the identical reference, it was clear to me that the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages had sighted the same register. I added this reference to my transcription, so I knew I had looked at this record.

It looked as if I would never solve the mystery.

However, were these transcriptions enough for my datasheet for my ancestor’s George Bell and Sarah Sargent’s marriage?

As I have been encouraging the historians in our families as well as my students to collect every document they can to build evidence for the events of birth, marriage, and death for all ancestors, I thought about what I could do to collect more evidence.

I consulted Trove for any notice or newspaper article about the marriage in 1844. There was none.

I had not found any other memorabilia concerning this marriage in family papers on any branch of the family either.

I then decided to see if the original parish register of All Saints, Sutton Forest had survived and track down the register itself.

I found it had survived in the Sydney Diocese Archives, but I was unable to visit to see the original. However, it had been microfilmed and copies were available at the National and State Libraries as well as the Society of Australian Genealogists. Again, in the present circumstances, I couldn’t travel to view these filmed records.

An online search revealed that many of the Anglican Parish Registers of the Sydney Diocese can be found at Ancestry.com, including Sutton Forest.

[As we are in lockdown with COVID 19- yes, we are those elderly relatives- family gave me a subscription as a birthday gift].

I was able to find and download an image of the marriage of George Bell and Sarah Sargent. I was excited as this was a ‘true image’ of the register the couple, witnesses, and clergy had signed on the day-the 25th December 1844.

On examining this document I was shocked by what I found. Right there, clearly written for George Bell was “Bachelor, free immigrant”. I admit I enlarged the image and then just stared at it for a few minutes.

BELL-SARGENT,1844,Sutton Forest,Marriege Register ClipExtract from an image – Bell-Sargent Marriage,1844 downloaded from Ancestry.com, by Nola Mackey,1st August 2020.

 

What a great find!

In all other respects, the entry was identical information to what was on the ‘official’ documents.

This is an example of a ‘transcription error’ at the first ‘copy’ made from the original parish register for the Colonial Secretary’s Office. After all these years I am very happy about this outcome.

My share transcriptions of these documents can be found under the Resources and Examples Tab on this website under:-

BELL-SARGENT, 1844, Sutton Forest, Marriage Transcription 1 and

BELL-SARGENT,1844, Sutton Forest, Marriage Transcription 2

The moral of this story is that family history is an ongoing journey and you should never assume you have all the information. Nor should you ever give up in trying to solve family stories and inconsistencies on documents.

In the next blog, I will show you how I took the information from this document to carry on with my research into the lives of George and Sarah Bell.

World War I Family Hero-Roy Hamilton Mitchell

Roy Hamilton Mitchell the second son of Reginald and Leticia Kate Mitchell (nee Bell), was born in the Hunter Valley about June 1893.

His father had been a builder at Gloucester for many years before the family moved to Mosman in Sydney.

His mother had been born at Picton and was the seventh child of James and Elizabeth Bell (nee Crockett). James Bell had worked his way to Sydney as a sailor on a convict ship in 1837. His brother George Bell had come with him.

As a young man, Roy Mitchell was very keen on engines and was apprenticed as an electrical engineer to Brian Bros and Stanton Cook.

He was in his early twenties when World War I broke out. He enlisted on 1 September 1915 some three weeks after his elder brother, Leonard.

DSC02798

After several weeks training, Roy embarked on 30 November 1915 on the troop ship, Suffolk, as part of the 4th Field Company of Engineers, bound for Egypt. These soldiers were to be deployed on the Gallipoli Peninsular. However, on arrival, they found that the Australian and New Zealand troops had been evacuated, and returned to Egypt.  (During the Gallipoli landings and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War, Tel-el-Kebir was a training centre for the First Australian Imperial Force reinforcements).

On disembarking Roy Mitchell was transferred to the 14th Field Company as a Sapper.

(A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties such as breaching fortifications, demolitions, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, preparing field defenses- such as laying razor wire trench fortifications, as well as working on road and airfield construction and repair.)

The 8th,14th, and 15th Field Companies were part of the Australian 5th Division.

Roy Mitchell displayed leadership and was promoted to a Lance Corporal before his unit embarked for the Western Front. This unit was originally deployed around Rouen in France. (In the First World War the city was safely behind the lines and became a major logistics centre with numerous base hospitals. Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen.)

Campaigns for the 14th Field Company includes Fromelles, Bullecourt, Polygon Wood, Villers-Bretonneux, Morlancourt, Amiens, Peronne and the Hindenburg Line.

Polygon Wood- 2014

Above: Polygon Wood (Copyright Nola Mackey 2014)
Below: The Australian 5th Division Memorial (copyright Nola Mackey -2014)

5th Division Memorial

Much of the day to day life in the trenches for Roy Mitchell can be found in the Unit War Diaries at AWM4 14/33/1 March 1916 to AWM4 14/33/25 March 1918.

 

14th Field Company-29 Sept 1917

Page for 29 September 1917, from the Australian Imperial Forces Unit Diaries 1914-18 War, 14th Field Company September 1917, AWM 4(Australian War Memorial), 14/33/19.

As can be seen from the above extract this unit was working in the Butte area at Polygon Wood on 29 September 1917, when Roy Mitchell’s older brother Leonard, was seriously wounded in the shoulder. It is interesting to speculate if they met or knew each other was in the area. I believe although not impossible, highly unlikely, given their different jobs on the front line. (In the 8th Brigade Infantry War Diary, mention is made that the 30th Battalion and the 15th Field Company having had contact on 28 September 1917).

From Spring 1917 the whole war became more mobile, with grand offensives at the Battles of Arras, Messines, and Passchendaele, there was no longer a place for a tactic that depended upon total immobility for its employment. It was about this time the Australian Tunnelling and Mining Companies came under direct control of the British Engineers who changed tactic when the men were employed

Underground work continued, with the tunnellers concentrating on deep dugouts for troop accommodation. To assist the attack, the Royal Engineers constructed 20 kilometres (12 mi) of tunnels, graded as subways (foot traffic only); tramways (with rails for hand-drawn trollies for taking ammunition to the line and bringing casualties back); and railways (a light railway system). Just before the assault, the tunnel system had grown big enough to conceal 24,000 men, with electric lighting provided by its own small powerhouse, as well as kitchens, latrines and a medical centre with a fully equipped operating theatre.

To improve the logistical movement of artillery and supplies an extensive programme of road building was started. Ten field companies, seven tunneling companies, four army troop companies, and nine battalions were put to work repairing or extending existing plank roads. From the middle of October until the end of the offensive, a total of 2 miles (3.2 km) of double plank road and more than 4,000 yards (3,700 m) of heavy tram line was constructed.

 Except for a couple of bouts of sickness including Mumps, Roy Mitchell spent more than two years on the front line. He was on leave in Paris when the Armistice was declared.

He re-joined his unit and was transferred to the Australian Engineers, Mining and Boring Company.

This company was attached to the British Royal Engineers and was tasked with the rebuilding of roads and bridges in France to begin the mammoth task of moving of troops and equipment from the front lines back to Britain. From early December 1918 to March 1919 Roy Mitchell was involved in these activities.

On 7 March 1919, he finally transferred back to the 14th Engineers and was sent to England, where he boarded the Devonha for return to Australia.  The ship arrived on 8 May 1919 and an interesting incident occurred when it reached Adelaide. Details can be found here.

Roy Mitchell was finally discharged a few weeks later.

Roy Hamilton Mitchell had a brother and number of first and second cousins who served in World War I.  I have written blogs on the following:-  Leonard Ingram Mitchell, Phillip John Vincent, James Joseph Thomas Bell, Louis Augustus Bell, Arthur Campbell Bell, William George Blanchard.

Although Roy Mitchell showed courage and leadership during his years of service on the Western Front during World War I, it was his daring and courage after the war that made him famous.

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 a 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 of 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 1890s.

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 was 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 true ‘Uncles’ to Ivy and Joan’s fathers.

What a wonderful conclusion to a little family mystery.

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 first 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 board 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 oversee the health of all those on board. He was required to hand in a detailed report in his Journal, on his return 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 with a passage of 123 days. The return voyage to England was by way of Batavia in the East Indies,

So it was Benjamin Freeman’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, 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 list as cured. (treated for nearly a month.)

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

12 November 1837 Put off the 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  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 there 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, aledgedly 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.”

Amoungst 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 ship Asia (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 amoungst 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.