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. .

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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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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.

 

Lost in the City of London-the Baxter Family

My mother, Margaret Nola Baxter was born in Murwillumbah in 1924, the fifth child of Arthur and Harriet Baxter (nee Bell). My grandparents had married at Thirroul in 1913 and came to settle at Kunghur, on the South Arm of the Tweed River soon afterwards.

 Arthur Baxter had been born at Picton in 1888, the sixth child of James and Margaret Baxter (nee Kennedy). He had been raised on a farm at High Range in the Picton District. His bride, Harriet May Bell had also been born in Picton, where her father was a blacksmith.

 Arthur’s father, James Baxter, had been born at Spring Creek near Picton in 1851, the eldest son of Thomas and Mary Baxter (nee Mather), who had married at The Oaks, on 30 December 1850.

Thomas Baxter arrived in Sydney onboard the Roslin Castle on 15 September 1834.He was a native of London and had been convicted of ‘pickpocketing’ on 2 September 1833, and sentenced to seven years transportation. In the 1837 Convict Muster he is listed as working for George Brown at Camden. He remained in the Camden area after the completion of his sentence and received his Certificate of Freedom in 1840.

 Thomas and Mary had nine children: James, 1851; Elizabeth, 1853; Mary, 1856-1860; George Thomas, 1858; John, 1860; Charles, 1862-1863; Mary Ellen, 1864; Robert, 1866 and Thomas Henry, 1869. All were born and raised in the Picton area.

 Thomas and Mary Baxter later retired to Sydney where Thomas died on 5 February 1889. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mark’s, Church of England at Picton. His wife Mary who died in 1907 is also buried there.

 On Thomas Baxter’s death certificate it is stated that his father ‘was believed to to George Baxter, a bookbinder of London’.

London has always been a very big city, and Thomas Baxter is not an unusual name, so for a while it seemed an impossible task to find where to start.

 Searching for new clues I followed up on Thomas Baxter’s convict records and found that on 16 February 1832 in the proceedings of the ‘Old Bailey’ he was convicted of larceny and was imprisioned for one month.

 I then used a map of London to identify the parishes around where he was apprehended for his crimes. Having made a list of these parishes I then consulted the International Genealogical Index (1978 and 1988). This is a research aid prepared by the Latter-Day Saints Genealogical Department. I then made a list of ‘Thomas Baxters baptised about 1812 to 1816, which were found in the parishes of interest. I also noted the marriages of all ‘George Baxter’s’ in the area 1800-1815 who might be Thomas’s father.

 I then consulted the catalogue of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and ordered the microfilms of the parish registers of all the parishes in London which were of interest to my research. These were sent to the Grafton Family History Centre where I could visit and read the films.

 After searching through several sets of films I found the baptism of ‘Thomas George Baxter’ at St Bololoph Without Aldersgate on 17 April 1816, the son of George and Mary Brayne Baxter. The father, George’s occupation was given as ‘bookbinder’. I was able to find the baptisms of all the other children of George and Mary Brayne Baxter. I was also able to locate the marriage of George Baxter and Mary Brayne Kington at Christ Church Greyfriars Newgate, London on 13 August 1809.

 All this was before the internet and the advantages of researching on-line. However as the new technology became available I used it where I could to advance my family history. When the scanned images of the London parish registers were available I downloaded and printed the baptism and marriage entries, which I added to my folder system for quick reference.

 By using the clues suggested by the family naming pattern revealed by the baptisms I was able to ‘guess’ that ‘George Baxter’s father’ was probably a ‘James Baxter that had possible married a Miss/ Mrs Dixson. The on-line search facilities enabled me to find a ‘James Baxter who married Elizabeth Dixon in London in 1766. I was able to find a number of children born to this couple as being baptised in London.

 I was then able to find a reference to a Will of ‘James Baxter, a Claspmaker in London’, on the National Archives website in England, which I was able to purchase and download immediately. This gave not only a great deal of information about his business, but also confirmed the names of his wife and eight children.

 A further search of the National Archives website led me to Court cases in 1810 involving George and Mary Bayne Baxter, as well as Mary’s half-siblings, step brother and mother. My present challenge is to sort this out and continue to research the lives of these ancestors.