World War I, Family Hero – William George Blanchard

Many years ago, when I seriously began researching my maternal grandmothers family ‘The Bells,’ I was very fortunate to be able to track down various branches including the Blanchard family, who had migrated to Western Australia. These were first cousins of my maternal grandmother, Harriet May Bell.

 William George Blanchard, born 1885,at Picton, New South Wales, was the second child, and eldest son of Joseph and Alice Blanchard (nee Bell). Through family connections, I found and corresponded with, his eldest son, Charles William (Charlie) Blanchard, for a number of years. He was able to tell me his father had served in World War I, and that his ‘job was to drive ammunition trains to the Front Line’. I was able to access William George Blanchard’s military service records at the Australian Archives, but these were basic, and had very little actual information. I also visited the Australian War Memorial seeking information on these ‘engine drivers,’ but found very little in official records. Even recent searches on the Internet had little success.

However this week I struck ‘gold’ in the historical newspapers on TROVE at the National Library of Australia. Now using family oral history, Australian Archives World War I military service records and extracts from the newspapers I have been able to add much information to this Blanchard twig of my family history.

 When a young child, William George, along with the family moved to Western Australia where the father, Joseph Blanchard found employment as an engine driver on the Midland Junction Railway. In 1906 Joseph Blanchard died suddenly leaving his wife Alice Blanchard with seven children. William George, the eldest of the children had also found employment in the railway by this time.

 William George Blanchard married Maud Lyons in 1908. They had a family of three surviving sons by the time World War I had been declared.

William George Blanchard had served several years in the local militia. He tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Forces in April 1916, but was turned down for medical reasons. In December the same year he applied to join the newly formed Railway Corps. He was finally accepted and was put into basic training. In January 1917 he was promoted to Sergeant and on 21 January embarked at Freemantle on the troopship ‘Miltiades’ for overseas service.

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The ‘Miltiades’ was of 7814 tons and a cruising speed of 13 knots. It was owned by G Thompson and Company of London and was leased by the Government for the transporting of troops and supplies from Australia in World War I.

 William George Blanchard disembarked at Devonport, England on 27 March 1917 and after further training was deployed overseas in France on 19 April 1917. On 12 October 1917 he was attached to the (British)Royal Engineers for special duties. [See below] While there, he ‘ was reprimanded by his commanding officer for failing to salute a ( British) officer’ — and I bet he wasn’t the only one.

He became ill in May 1918 and was admitted to Lakenham Military Hospital in Norwich, England.

 This Military Hospital was located in the premises of Lakenham Council School, which had only been built by the City Council in 1913.It had scheduled to receive its first pupils in August 1914. In fact, with the outbreak of First World War hostilities, its intended use for educational purposes was delayed until 1919, because the premises were requisitioned by the Army Council for use as a military hospital. [Ref:http://eventful.com/norwich/events/lakenham-military-hospital-colmans-detective-barry-/E0-001-087655001-9

 William George Blanchard later joined his unit in France and was transferred to ‘old gauge’ rail operations with the narrow French line.

When the war was over he spent a long furlong in England, before returning to his unit, to be transported home to Australia. He boarded the Konigin Luise on 21 June 1919.

 I believe the Konigin Luise was originally a German ship which had been converted by the Germans for mine-laying duties in the English Channel. She was later shelled and after much damage the wreck was finally captured. She was virtually rebuilt and was later used by the Government to bring troops and nurses home to Australia.

 After the war, William George Blanchard returned to employment with the Western Australian Government Railway. His son Charlie Blanchard was able to send me copies of much of his service in the railway.

 My ‘gold’ this week was in the form of informative newspaper extracts detailing the service of the Australian Railway Corp:-

 Australian Railway Corps on the Western Front as recalled by Lieutenant R J Burchell (MC), 4th Company Australian Railway Corps,( and Member of Parliament for Freemantle 1913-1922).

” There were three broad-gauge and three light railway companies, the original strength of each being 269 of all ranks which was increased by reinforcements to 300, so that the Australian railway operating troops totalled 1800. We were attached to the Royal Engineers for duty and discipline–a fact we did not appreciate. Our only connection with Australian corps was that we received AIF orders and an AIF paymaster visited us periodically for the purposes of pay. We took our places alongside our comrades of the Britain and French railway services, and whatever work came our way, in whatever circumstances, we did it.

Our first job was in the Ypres area with the British Second Army, under General Plumer. That started on October 5 1917, and we were at work up to the conclusion of hostilities-13 months. We were not fighting troops, but I may say that the whole of our sphere of operations was within range of the enemy’s artillery, and he paid particular attention to the railways, both with his heavy guns and aeroplane bombs. Even Hazelbrouck, the furthest back station of the 4th company, was under fire from the 15in guns. The first time I went into the station on a train the water tower was toppled over by a shell just as the train was entering the station. In the latter stages of the war the aeroplane bombs were of huge size. At Peronne the Australians captured German bombs estimated to weigh a ton, while for some time before the end the British planes were using 15cwt bombs. With both planes and guns the enemy paid systemic attention to our main lines of rail, so you can realize that life in a railway unit was not altogether a picnic. The 5th Company, [William George Blanchard’s Battalion] based at Peselhoek, had the worst spot of the lot in the Ypres area for danger. Their section of the line was continually exposed to bomb raids and gunfire, night and day, and their casualties were heavy.

In military railway work, owing to the conditions resulting from continual interruptions in the line by shell fire, you so not worry about mileage, or time-table. The main thing is to deliver your load safely where it is wanted. If you come to a spot on the direct road where the line has been blown up by the enemy, you go back, and endeavour to reach your destination by a roundabout route. The amount of work behind a great army is tremendous. Despite the network of lines, I have seen 280 trains per day pass over a single section of line, and the trains carry 1,000 ton loads. The system of traffic adopted mainly for army work was that of the Midland Railway Company, England. The French system of railway signals, which was in use, is much different from the British, and entails a much greater eye-strain on the engine drivers. Many of the men practically ruined their sight in the service.

As I have said, the lines were frequently cut by enemy fire. The British Engineers carried out repairs at any hour of the night or day, with remarkable expedition, but the French were not nearly so prompt.

After three months in the Ypres area, we were sent to the Somme, near Peronne. We had 30 miles of line to work, our main function being to supply ammunition, material, and food to the 5th Army, under General Gough, and provide engine power for six 15-inch guns, mounted on railway waggons, which operated from the ends of our lines. The 5th Army connected with the French Army on its right, and our corps was the last connecting link of British railway troops on the Southern end. We had exceptionally heavy work in this sector, culminating with the great German offensive. The attack began on March 21, and three days later we were compelled to evacuate as the 5th Army was pushed back. The Australian railwaymen did particularly fine work during those critical days. The men of our company were warmly commended for their services at Tincourt in unloading ammunition at the advanced dump under heavy machine gun fire. Three of them were awarded the DCM, and six received the Military Medal over that episode. The German attack was pressed home so rapidly that the big rail-mounted guns were abandoned b. We managed to get two of the pieces away y the gunners in the nick of time. An attempt was made to rescue two more, but, while they were being hauled away, the line was so badly cut up by enemy gunfire that the rails spread, and the guns could not be moved further. Our fellows stuck to it as long as there was work to be done, but quitted only when everything that could be shifted had been shifted. The French railwaymen had all gone 12 hours before….Lieut. Burchell was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty… on this occasion]”

[See also http://www.ww1westernfront.gov.au/bellenglise/calvaire-cemetery-montbrehain/tincourt-british-cemetery.php for those Australians that died there]

Lieut Burchell continues, “Many hard things have been said about General Gough and the 5th Army, …often by Australian soldiers. But the difficulties and odds against which they had to contend are seldom realised. In numbers the odds against them were eight to one, and the enemy had an immense concentration of artillery. The attack began on March 21, but the Australians did not come into contact with the remnants of General Gough’s force until the following Tuesday. In the intervening five days the 5th Army were forced back over 30 miles, fighting continuously, at a terrible disadvantage. The whole of their ordinary transport organisations was gone, and they had no fixed supply and ammunition points, and they were for long periods without food.

After unceremoniously leaving the Somme we were sent to Dunkirk, where we served until the conclusion of hostilities. Even Dunkirk can hardly be described as a safe spot well behind the firing line. Indeed it had the reputation of being the most heavily bombed city on the whole front. The official figures carefully recorded by the municipal authorities show that 7514 projectiles were dropped on it during the war… the town was decorated by the British Government in recognition of its sacrifices

Our welcome to Dunkirk was a warm one, for on our very first night there was a succession of air-raids, and 500 bombs were dropped. The port has fine wharf and harbour accommodation, which was used for the purposes of landing great quantities of ammunition from England, and it was on this account that it received so much attention from the Germans. Their spy service must have been remarkably good, for every time one of the great lighters full of ammunition arrived there would be an air raid. We were there for six months, working ammunition from the docks….”

[Reference:- With The Railway Corps on the Western Front, Interview with Lieutenant R J Burchell, Western Australian (Perth, W A: 1879-1954), Monday 2 June 1919, page 6, retrieved from Trove 11 February 2017 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27606481 ]

 Another newspaper extract from Lieutenant-Colonel Fewtrell [DSO] invalided home 1918….” There was a light railway running out to the Ypres salient, and on this railway I trained my 4th Battalion officers and men. I am as you know, a railway construction engineer, and there were a number of others. The result was that in about four weeks we had a first-class railway construction battalion, our reinforcements having come up in the meantime. Then the whole of the Anzac Corps was suddenly removed south again on the Somme, and we arrived there about the beginning of November, 1916. We had taken over a new area from the French, and the mud was frightful on the roads along which the ammunition and supplies had to be got up to the troops holding the front line. There was so much stuff that had to be got up that I have seen at night time as many as three lines of traffic. As the mud was 2 feet deep in many places you can imagine what a task it was, and one of the first things we were asked to do was to make decent roads.

Then I was made officer commanding light railways. We constructed a mile of light railway a day, and within ten weeks we were supplying 40,000 men and 8000 horses with all they required, carrying the supplies right into Bapaume. One night we took up to within 300 yards of the battle positions the whole of the guns, with the exception of one battery, for one of the Australian divisions. At the end of ten days the Canadians had built a broad-gauge line into Bapaume and when we pushed out to the Hindenburg line we had passenger trains running into the town every half-hour-just like the suburban system at home…”[Reference:- Colonel Fewtrell’s Return, Sydney Morning Herald (NSW:1842-1954),Saturday 30 March 1918, p12, retrieved from Trove 11 February 2017 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15782819

 What a productive day with my Bell Family History with researching and writing up.

The moral of the story in family history research, never give up and think’ outside the box’

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Family Heirloom – The Chain-mail Purse

My mother, the fifth child and fourth daughter of Arthur and Harriet May Baxter was to be named ‘Margaret Alice’ in honour of her two grandmothers. Arthur’s mother had been, ‘Margaret Jane’, born 1858 to Gilbert and Ann Kennedy, and Harriet May’s mother ‘Alice’, was born in 1854 to Robert and Margaretta Sherwood.

 However when my grandmother,Harriet May went to register the birth of her new daughter, at the Murwillumbah Court House, she gave her the name ‘Margaret Nola’.

 Having grown up with the story of how my mother was to be named for her grandmothers, but only received the name of her paternal grandmother, I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, why the change?

 She explained to me that she and Arthur had originally decided to name their fourth daughter after the grandmothers because although by this time Arthur’s mother had eight granddaughters, only one had been given the first name ‘Margaret’ and that granddaughter had died in an accident as an infant. One other had Margaret, as a second name.

 Harriet May’s mother had eleven granddaughters by this time. Only one had been given the name ‘Alice’, but it was used as a second name. The maternal grandmother wanted the ‘new’ grandchild given the name ‘Alice’ as an only name, like herself. However, my grandparents had privately decided to use it as a second name.

 My grandmother called at the Murwillumbah Court house to register her new daughter, shortly after being released from the Newbrae Private Hospital. However, when it came to the actual registration my grandmother used ‘Nola’ as the second name. My grandmother had two nieces, one on each side of the family named ‘Nola’, and she liked the name.

 I asked my grandmother, Harriet May, again, why the change?

Her reply was that she and Arthur had been engaged shortly before her seventeenth birthday, but her mother was set against the marriage and would never give her consent and blessings.

Arthur and Harriet May were married a week after ‘Harriet May’s’ twenty-first birthday.

Although her relationship with her mother was quite cordial in most ways, she could never quite forgive her for withholding consent and blessings for the marriage.

 My mother first met her grandparents in 1928 when she, her mother and baby sister, Joan, travelled by train to Sydney for Harriet May’s parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary at Thirroul, on the South Coast of New South Wales.

Afterwards they went to Picton to visit Arthur’s parents, who had also celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary earlier in the year.

fhp000333 Left: My mother ‘Margaret Nola’ (left) with her Aunt Milly and cousins Phyllis and Heather, in the front garden of her paternal grandparent’s home, at Picton, October 1928

 

It was on this visit that Arthur’s mother,’ Margaret Jane’ gave her namesake granddaughter, ‘Margaret Nola’ a gift, in honour of the name. This was a small Victorian chain-mail purse, ‘to take her pennies to church in’. It was always one of my most mother’s prized possessions, and my sisters and I, when children, were never allowed to use it to carry our pennies to Sunday School and Church.

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My mother didn’t know if her grandmother Margaret, had purchased it as a special gift, or if it had originally been her prized possession as a child. I have not been able to solve this question either.

 By the way, there are thirty grandchildren on my maternal side. Seventeen are female and not one was named ‘Margaret’ or ‘Alice’, which was most unusual for the time.

PS: The ‘sixpences’ in the above photograph were used by my family for many years as the ‘pudding’ money at Christmas. They were kept in a little cigarette tin and wrapped in the calico cloth used to make the ‘boiled’ pudding for Christmas Day.

Oh! The funny stories and laughter those coins evoke each time I look at them.

 

 

Convict Cousins in My Baxter Family

I have already blogged about, my ancestor, Thomas George Baxter, who arrived in Sydney as a convict on board the Roslin Castle in 1834. However, he was not the first in our Baxter family to be transported as a convict. William Shipman Baxter, his first cousin, was transported in 1829.

William Shipman Baxter, the eldest son of John Baxter and Sarah Shipman was born in London in 1806. He was baptised at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, which is the same church his first cousin, Thomas George Baxter was baptised in some nine years later.

St Botolph's, Aldersgate Street2

[St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, Google Earth, 2014]

Although they were both born and raised in London, and even baptised in the same church some years apart, due to a family quarrel, they are not likely to have met, or had knowledge of each other.

John Baxter, William’s father , inherited half the family business along with his mother,Elizabeth, when his father, James, died in 1802.

John Baxter married Sarah Shipman in 1806 at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London. They had three sons; William Shipman, 1806; Charles, 1808 and Frederick John, 1810,all of whom were baptised in the above mentioned church.

John Baxter died suddenly in January 1810, a few weeks before his youngest son was born. He was only 29 years of age and died without a Will. His mother, Elizabeth took the family business over herself, including John’s apprentices. It appears she declined to assist John’s young widow and infant family, and is said to have turned them out into the street.

Sarah Baxter with her three young sons moved to the poorer area of Shoreditch, where she worked as a laundress and charwoman.

She stated in a letter to the Home Office in 1828, that she apprenticed her sons to a trade at a young age, but I have not been able to find any apprenticeship nor guild records for these Baxter boys. As she was very poor, perhaps it was a more casual arrangement.

William Shipman Baxter was reported to have been apprenticed to a silk weaver. However, he didn’t finish his apprenticeship as the silk weaving trade fell into rapid decline and there was very little employment. He then found work on the waterfront moving cargo. Work was piecemeal and wages very low and William struggled to make a living. He was also the sole support of his mother and aged maternal grandmother.

William Shipman Baxter, known as William Baxter was tempted, along with many others, to steal goods from his employer and sell them to make ends meet. He was caught and sentenced to transportation for life. He was sent to NSW on board the convict transport, Waterloo, under Captain Addison, in 1829. On arrival he was assigned to the McArthur family at Camden. Later he was sent to their properties near Goulburn.

William Baxter married Ann Rankin in 1846 at Goulburn, and they had nine children, before William died from injuries after a fall from a horse in 1868.

Meanwhile his cousin, Thomas George Baxter, was not faring well either. When his father died in 1829, and his mother remarried, he was left to find his own way on the streets of London. Early in 1832 he was arrested and indicted at the Old Bailey for stealing a cap. He was sentenced to one month imprisonment in the nearby Newgate Prison.

The following year, he was again arrested and charged with picking pockets. The sitting Justices of the Peace at the Middlesex Session in September did not treat him so lightly this time, as he was considered a habitual petty thief, and was sentenced to seven years transportation. He was held in Newgate until transferred to the Euryalus prison hulk for boys, which was anchored off Chatham in the Medway River in Kent.

Thomas Baxter was in the Euryalus for eight months, when he was transferred to the Roslin Castle to be transported to New South Wales.

When we were in Kent last year I was able to visit an interesting mock-up of a ‘hulk prison ship’ at Rochester. This gave me some idea what it was like on board these vessels.

When Thomas Baxter arrived in Sydney in 1834, he too was assigned to the Camden area, in the employment of George Brown.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, Thomas Baxter is listed as working for George Brown at Camden.Two years later, Thomas Baxter is recorded as receiving a Ticket of Leave, which allowed him to hire out to work for himself as long as he remained in the Camden area. His residence was shown as ‘Stonequarry,’ which is now ‘Picton’. He was granted his Certificate of Freedom in 1842 having completed his sentence.He married Harriet Mary Mather in 1850, and they had a family of nine before Thomas died in 1889.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, William Baxter is recorded as working on the McArthur property at Goulburn.

Although both cousins were in the Camden area for a time, it is very unlikely that they ever met. Even if they had, they would not have known they were related.

Some years later, these convict cousins, both had sons born within a few months of each other, whom they named “John.” When Thomas George Baxter’s son “John” (born 1860), married Mary Ann Davis at Stonequarry (Picton) in 1885, they moved to Taralga near Goulburn, where they raised their family.

Meanwhile William Baxter’s son ‘John” (born 1859), married Mary Ann McLean at Taralga in 1902.

Believe it or not the old cemetery at Taralga, where many of the Baxter families are buried is referred to as ‘Stonequarry’. Similiarly, the old cemetery (St Mark’s Churchyard) at Picton, formerly known as ‘Stonequarry’ is also the resting place of many of the our Baxter families too. These two cemeteries are about 168 kilometres or over 100 miles apart.

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[Above: St Mark’s Anglican church and churchyard, Picton, Chalmers Family Private Collection, 2014]

There lay the ground work for much confusion between not only these two ‘convict cousins’ Baxter families, but several other Baxter families in and around Goulburn.

What wonderful puzzles there are in our family histories just waiting for us to sort them out.

Educating Nola- Mortal Me, The Abdication of Superwoman

Those who follow my blogs and perhaps others who have a passing interest in the people and places I have blogged about, will think I have fallen off the face of the earth, as after starting so promisingly last year, with the exception of a couple of blogs this year, I have been silent.

I have always kept my personal life under wraps, and never liked to talk about my activities and achievements, but it is time to declare, ‘Superwoman’ has abdicated!’

I have always taken on the role of ‘superwoman’ both for our families and in the community. I stepped up every day and most nights, to help and deliver whatever was asked of me, whether by family, friends, or even strangers. A family joke was, that our phones may as well have been a ‘call centre’, they were so busy. I never learned to say ‘no’ to anyone. Of course criminal activities were not in any of those pleas for help, just frightened, ill and desperate people or enthusiastic family historians. I loved my ‘work’,why would I say no?

For most of my life I have been the lynch-pin for four generations of our immediate families, as well as the ‘go-to’ person and ‘family historian’ in the extended families.

As a community volunteer I have also been on a great many and a variety of community projects in a time span of more than fifty years. Without fan-fare I got the job done. Sometimes in an executive role, but usually as a dedicated worker.

Commemorative Plaque-2010

Commemorative Plaque-2010

For many years I have been known as ‘the local historian’ for the Clarence River area in Northern New South Wales, although I have no family connection to the area, just a obsessional interest for over fifty years, of the area and the families who settled here.

Memorial Plaque No 3

Memorial Plaque No 3

Rotundra and Memorial Gardens

Rotundra and Memorial Gardens

I believe in life long education, and along the way, completed a Diploma in Family Historical Studies with the Society of Australian Genealogist (Sydney) and an Associate Diploma in Local and Applied History ( CAE,Armidale). I also began a degree in history at UNE (University of New England, Armidale). I sadly withdrew, when I could no longer afford or justify the many thousands of dollars in fees and HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) each year for my ‘hobby’, when our own, (then teenage children), needed assistance to continue their tertiary education.

Along with this I have run three parallel careers throughout my life; one in teaching, one in health sciences and one in researching, writing and publishing in local and family history.

To top it all off we have eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 19 to 3 years. I have always been involved in their busy lives and activities.

As you can imagine, being so busy, I have no time to be ill or slow down, although by the end of last year, my close friends and family were getting concerned about the amount of work I was being pushed to take on. I was getting up earlier and going to bed later, so it left so little time for sleep.

Well it all came crashing down just after Christmas, when we seemed to be attending funerals every few days. Some of these were for elderly friends at the end of a long life and could be expected, but some were for friends and family about my own age and younger. A sudden illness had taken them unexpectedly and quickly.

Although I have had to deal with death all my life, with the death of many friends, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and even siblings,  I thought I could continue to do it all, and was not ready for the overwhelming grief that brought about the sudden and dramatic change in my life. No stroke or heart attack (-thank goodness-), but my body just rebelled and I couldn’t function anymore.

I needed complete rest and a change of life style to begin to get my life back. This included retiring as a busy community volunteer and the closing of my history research and publishing business- Heritage Path. Consequently, I have also taken down my website, also known as ‘Heritage Path’.

For the time being I have retired from teaching, but have recently taken on the role of ‘student’ in a few activities to improve my health and well- being.

Always the optimist, I have taken this opportunity for a life ‘do-over’. Many will be involved or following Thomas Macentee and his ‘Genealogy Do-Over’ weekly blogs at Genebloggers. Well I am not actually involved or following Thomas’s program, but I am taking this opportunity to return to researching our family histories. Previously I was so busy I could only manage the occasional research foray into our own family histories. Now, I can find time most days to have a little dabble, although it is seldom uninterrupted. One thing I am doing is taking time to record and document the facts- this means adding my sources- and to ‘write up’ my research as I go.

I recently finished, or as far as possible for the time being, the story of the ‘life and times’ of my maternal grandparents, Arthur and May Baxter (nee Bell). Although born in Picton, in southern New South Wales, they moved to the South Arm of the Tweed River in the north of the state, soon after marriage in 1913, and lived there for fifty years.

I shared this story with my first cousins and their families at a family gathering a few weeks ago. We all had a wonderful day, with much laughter and reminiscing. I am very keen to continue the story of other generations, particularly all our direct ancestors. I hope to share some of this research through blogging, as I believe this will keep me on track.

The Kennedy Clan in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

This month I have concentrated on researching some of my ancestors from Northern Ireland. On my maternal line I am descended from the Kennedy’s of County Tyrone.

Gilbert Kennedy was born about 1827, son of Thomas and Mary Kennedy near The Rock, County Tyrone, Ireland. I have not been able to locate surviving baptism records for the parish churches, in this area of Northern Ireland. I am continuing to research the Kennedy families in this part of Ireland and found some were still there in the 1901 Census.

On 3 February 1852, Gilbert married Ann Hunter at the Artrea parish church. Ann was the daughter of Robert and Jane Hunter of Ballyneill More, in County Londonderry.

In 1854 Gilbert and Ann Kennedy had a daughter who was named Elizabeth.

In 1856, Gilbert and Ann decided to emigrate to New South Wales. They travelled to Belfast where they took a boat to Liverpool and boarded the emigrant ship Kate. The Kate left Plymouth in mid September and arrived in Sydney two days before Christmas in 1856.

Advertisements appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald later that week stating that there were a number of Agricultural Labourers who had arrived by the ‘Kate’. It is believed that Gilbert and Ann Kennedy went to the Camden area to help with the summer harvest.

The Kennedy family were at Spring Creek, near Camden two years later when a daughter Mary Jane was born on 9 March 1858. They are believed to have been renting a farm there.

In 1860, a third daughter, named Mary Ann was born. In that same year their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, died from croup.

Another daughter, Isabella was born in 1862 followed by Martha in 1864. However four year old Isabella drowned at Spring Creek in 1866. Soon afterwards the family moved to Abbottsford, Picton. A son William James Kennedy was born at Abbottsford on 7 June 1866.

It was about this time that Gilbert Kennedy’s health started to decline and in February 1870 he was admitted to the Parramatta Asylum, where he remained until his death on 1 September 1903. The admission registers for this time period have not survived, to give us the medical reason for Gilbert’s admission. Gilbert was buried at Rookwood Church of England Cemetery, but there is no headstone. He is memorialised on his wife’s headstone at St Mark’s, Picton.

Parramatta Asylum was opened in 1849 in the old Female Factory. From the outset it consisted of a free, and a criminally insane division. By 1870 there were about eight hundred patients, over seven hundred being free. Although in 1885 a new hospital wing was completed, over crowding was always a problem. Several photographs of Parramatta Asylum at the turn of the 20th Century can be viewed at the State Records website at http://www.records.nsw.gov.au . Because this Asylum was so much a part of my ancestors life, finding these photographs has been very helpful. An article in the Town and Country Journal, 12 August 1871 gave a detailed description of the establishment, which helped me put our Gilbert Kennedy life into context. The reporter mentions an inmate by the name of ‘Kennedy’, but further research showed he was a ‘William Francis Kennedy’ and not our ‘Gilbert Kennedy’. I have copies of surviving Asylum records relating to Gilbert, but they do not give a great insight into his ‘illness’.

In 1875, Mary Ann Kennedy, the second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died, of ‘disease of the throat.’ She was buried at St Mark’s, Picton aged 15 years.

Less than two years later Martha Kennedy, the fifth child and second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died of cancer. She was only 13 years of age. She is also buried at Picton.

On 23 March 1878 a joyous occasion was celebrated in the family, when ‘Margaret Jane’ the only surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy was married to James Baxter, in St Mark’s, Church of England, Picton. The following year a son was born to James and Margaret Baxter who was named ‘William James’.Nine children were born to James and Margaret Baxter over the next twenty years or more, all of whom survived. The youngest child, a son, was named ‘Ewart Gilbert’ in honour of his Grandfather Kennedy.

In 1894, William James Kennedy the only son of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy, married Florence Emily Evans. They were to have twins, Myra and William in 1896, followed by Stella in 1897 and Dorothy in 1899. This family resided at 73 Lincoln Street, Stanmore for over fifty years.

Ann Kennedy went to live with James and Margaret Baxter’s family in the late 1890’s, until her own death in 1912. She is buried in St Mark’s Picton along side her daughters Isabella, Mary Ann,and Martha. Headstones mark these graves.

James and Margaret Baxter are also buried here and a headstone marks the grave.

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.