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This blog will be a record of stuff I find interesting, discover or write. Interested in family & local history, cemeteries, reading & libraries, old stuff, research & writing, photography, wine and fine dining plus lots more! Immersed in local history, fascinated by technology and social media and would like more time to spend doing the things I love!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Happy birthday Grandma Belshaw

Our great grandmother, Florence Amelia was born on the 2 October 1886. Also known as Florrie, she was the eldest surviving child of hotelkeeper Henry Ponting and his wife, Louisa nee Richey. Born in Temora, in south-western NSW, her siblings were Harry Francis 1888, Alice Maude 1890, Phoebe Louisa 1892 and Lily May in 1893. The eldest child, a daughter, died in 1886.

In the late 1890s her parents parted ways with Henry remaining in Temora operating his hotel, while Louisa left, heading to Sydney. Louisa met Alfred Petty and by 1898 was giving birth to their first child. Henry Ponting died in Temora on 3 April 1903 in Temora, leaving Louisa and Alfred able to marry, which they did, six months later, on 30 October 1903 in Sydney. 

Florence met Robert Belshaw and when she was 20 years, the couple married in Sydney on 27 October 1906. The marriage was witnessed by her step-father Alf Petty and her sister, Maud.

Robert and Florence Belshaw's marriage certificate in 1906

Florence had four younger Petty step-brothers but lost her brother Harry, in June 1908 just before his 20th birthday. Harry was working as a labourer in Mudgee and died with enteric fever at Mudgee Hospital. Just a few weeks later, Louisa Petty died on 18 July 1908 in Sydney Hospital. The cause of death was a malignant gall bladder. She was only 44. 

Her sisters also married in their 20s. Phoebe married John William Nolen in 1912, Maud married John Joseph Moore in 1913 while Lily married chemist, Alfred Hynard in 1915. An interesting incident occurred in 1909, when Robert, and his sister-in-law Maud, were charged with stealing a trunk in Sydney. Read more about this here.

Rob and Florence Belshaw

Sadly Flo and Rob lost their eldest daughter Doris from appendicitis, she died in 1915, she was only 8 years old. Read more about the story of Doris here

A lot of Flo’s life was tragic. She lost two more siblings with Phoebe dying in 1936 while Lily committed suicide in 1946. There is more about Lily’s life here  Two of her stepbrothers died tragically. Syd Petty died in 1943 in what is now known as Thailand and Abe died in 1944 aged 43 as a Prisoner of War in Indonesia. More about her Petty brothers here.

Flo and Rob had eight children, all born in Sydney:

1. Doris May 1907 – 1915 (She died aged 8 from appendicitis and is buried at Rookwood.)
2. Edna May 1908 -1992 married Arthur F. Green.
3. Florence Muriel 1910 - 1979 (my Grandmother) married John William Leach 1933.
4. Phyllis Roberta Maude 1913 - 1994 Married Alfred George Patterson in 1946 & following his death Clarence Chislett Davis in 1949.
5. Lillian Irene 1915-1982 married Tom Ryan.
6. Robert Francis 1919 - 2012 married Jean Emily Caldwell Wearne in 1948. He had also married Norma Alix McClelland in 1943 who died in 1946.
7. Leonard Allen 1921 - 1991 married Olga Merrickley
8. Arthur Maurice 1923 - 1944 Died Borneo, SIN during WW2.

For many years the family lived in Lower Campbell Street in Surry Hills, one of Sydney's inner suburbs. Flo’s youngest son Artie was keen to join up when he was only 16. He had been in the air cadets and was desperate to enlist and eventually enlisted in the RAAF in the 43rd Squadron in July 1942, three months before he was legally allowed. His older brothers Bob and Lenny had already joined up. Artie, a bombadier, died 21 April 1944 when the Catalina he was in, crashed near Borneo, he had only just turned 21. His family were devastated. 

Rob and Flo with their three sons, L to R Len, Artie and Bobby.

In the 1940s after Artie’s death, Flo and Rob moved to Melbourne Road Riverstone. Rob died in 1948, family ascertain from a broken heart after the tragic loss of Artie. Flo continued to live in Melbourne Road with most of her family living closeby.

She died from chronic cardiac failure in 14 June 1969. She was not buried with her husband Rob at Rookwood, but cremated at Pine Grove Memorial Crematorium at Eastern Creek.

Our Great Grandma Belshaw

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Charles & Helena Jennings

Helena and Charles Jennings, Nichols family archive

My Grandmother, Florence Lucy Nichols 1905-1988 was the daughter of Charles and Helena Jennings. Her father Charles Robert Jennings was a sawyer born near Braidwood in 1867. The family moved at some stage to Tomakin on the South Coast, where his father, Robert Jennings, died in 1885. His mother, Lucy Jessie nee Havens married for a second time to Francis Cameron, a timber merchant, at East Gosford in 1889. It is not known when and why the family moved north other than there was work and it is possible Charles obtained work through Francis. The marriage between Francis and Lucy was not happy and did not last long, but that's another story.

Charles married Mabyn Bridge in 1892 in Newcastle. Mabyn was a member of the well-known Bridge family from the Hunter area and the couple had four children Gladys born 1894, Ivy 1896, Mildred 1898 and Warrington 1900. The marriage soured and Mabyn left Charles when Warrie was only a baby, and moved to Sydney. Mabyn eventually met someone else but did not want to return to Charles despite him visiting her in Sydney and begging her to return. Divorce proceedings commenced but did not proceed for some years. In the meantime, Charles employed a young woman, Helena Bridget Smith aged in her early 20s, to housekeep and look after the young children. Eventually, the couple fell in love and moved in together, living as husband and wife at Wyong. They had six children, Florence  (my grandmother) born in 1905, Charles 1907, Eileen 1908, Gordon 1909, Lilian 1910 and Gwendoline 1912.

The marriage between Charles and Mabyn was finally dissolved on the 14 March 1916 and just a few days later, Charles married Helena on 20 March at St James Anglican Church in Sydney.

The Jennings family moved to Richmond in the Hawkesbury in the early 1920s where Charles obtained work at the sawmill near Richmond Railway station. It was whilst he was working in Richmond, Charles was involved in an accident and he lost his leg. After a number of years in Richmond, the family moved to Hamilton Road in Riverstone where Charles became a poultry farmer. You can read more about Charles in the earlier post about his wooden leg. Charles died 26 August 1936 and was buried in Riverstone Cemetery. Thanks to the historic digitised newspapers on Trove, available to search online for free, we can read the death notice which appeared in The Cumberland Argus & Fruitgrowers Advocate, 27 August 1936 p. 4.
Mr Charles Robert Jennings (68), of Riverstone, died in the Prince Alfred Hospital yesterday. He leaves a widow and family of ten. The interment will take place at the Church of England cemetery, Riverstone, today.

Helena survived another a few more years. She died 20 March 1943. Helena's death was reported in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette 24 March 1943, p. 2. 
The death took place at the Hawkesbury District Hospital on Monday evening of a well-known and respected Riverstone resident in Mrs Helena Bridget Jennings, relict of the late Charles Robert Jennings, at the age of 67 years. A member of the Smith family, of Wollombi, she is survived by a grown family of two sons and four daughters, to whom the condolences of district friends are extended in their bereavement. The funeral takes place this (Wednesday) afternoon, when the interment will be conducted in the Church of England cemetery, Riverstone.

Check out more about Charles and Helena on the Nichols family tree.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Remembering Cemetery Day

Alona Tester has encouraged family historians to remember Cemetery Day on 18 June. 

I have always been fascinated by cemeteries and as a teenager encourage my parents to drop into various historical cemeteries when we were travelling around including Forbes, Gulgong, Bathurst and Port Macquarie. I also remember being very impressed when I visited bushranger Ben Hall's headstone.

When I was in year 9 at High School, we had a passionate history teacher, Garrett Barry who had attended some workshops with the very innovative Lionel Gilbert

Here I am cleaning a grave,  Rouse Hill Cemetery, 1975.

My friend and I decided to do an assignment on Rouse Hill Cemetery. It was very overgrown so not only did we have to clean the sites but also transcribe them. We also visited St Paul's Anglican Church in Riverstone and copied some of the Burial Register pages.

A few pages from my cemetery assignment from Year 9.

When I was studying Local History at Armidale in the 1980s, I was very fortunate to have Lionel Gilbert as a lecturer and I cherish both copies of his books that focus on cemeteries, "A Grave look at History" and "The Last Word: Two Centuries of Australian Epitaphs."

Wherever I have travelled, I always have managed to locate interesting cemeteries to visit both within Australia and overseas. I sometimes research and write more about these for various newsletters, blogs or facebook.

In 2003 my husband Jonathan Auld and I established the Hawkesbury Cemetery Register. Over the years we have been photographing, transcribing and mapping many of the historic cemeteries in the Hawkesbury district of NSW. We have also included some of the private cemeteries on private property. These days we continue to transcribe and I also manage the Hawkesbury Cemetery Register facebook site, in my spare time, which keeps me on my toes.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A carter and his sister-in-law ~ Trove Tuesday

Robert Belshaw 1886-1948

Our family were quite shocked when I located this newspaper article about our great Grandfather, Robert Belshaw charged with stealing a trunk with his sister in law Maud Ponting in Sydney in July 1909. 

POLICE COURTS. A CARTER & HIS SISTER-IN-LAW. Sydney Morning Herald 11 June 1909 p. 11.  

The trunk, with its contents, belonged to Alice Walford and was valued at £14. The trunk was to be delivered from the wharf at Darling Harbour after a journey. Aged in his early 20s, Robert was employed as a carrier and rather than deliver it to the Walford's at Neutral Bay he was encouraged by Maud, aged 19, to keep the trunk. Maud was also known by the name Petty, her step-father's surname. At the time Maud was employed by Alice Walford.

Maud was sentenced to one month's imprisonment however Robert's sentence of three month's imprisonment was suspended as it was his first and apparently only, offence. Due to his good character he was placed on good behaviour bond. Robert had only been married for a few years and was more than likely, pleased with the court's leniency. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Who was Lillian May Ponting?

Lily May Ponting was the youngest sister of our great grandmother, Florence Belshaw. She was a bit of a conundrum in our family, and much of her life is a mystery. She apparently committed suicide and I recently located some additional facts, revealing more behind the sad incident. Here is a some of Lily’s story.

She was born Lily May on 23 December 1893 at Upper Temora, a small town, north-east of the Riverina NSW. Lily was the youngest of six children of hotelkeeper Henry Ponting and Louisa Richey. Her siblings were Florence Amelia born 1886, Harry Francis 1888, Alice Maude 1890 and Phoebe Louisa 1892. The eldest child, a daughter, died in 1886.

At the time of Lily’s birth, her Mother was 29 years old, while her Father was more than twice that age, at 62. She was baptised on 8 May 1894 at Temora, and they probably lived at the hotel which was called the Bristol Arms. Just a few years after Lily’s birth, Louisa left Temora and took her children and moved to Sydney. Lily was only about 4 years old at the time. Louisa had either met Alfred Petty in Temora or moved to Sydney, as she was pregnant with his first child by December 1898. Louisa and Alfred had four sons born during six years. Alfred Arthur born 1899, Abraham ‘Abe’ Charles 1901, Henry George ‘Syd’ 1903 and Ernest William 1905. When Henry Ponting died on 3 April 1903 at Temora, Louisa and Alfred were free to marry, which they did, six months later, on 30 October 1903 in Sydney. 

Tragedy struck the family again when Harry Francis, the only Ponting boy, died 8 June 1908 just before his 20th birthday, his Mother and sisters were heartbroken. Harry was working as a labourer in Mudgee and was so unwell he was taken to District Hospital Mudgee. He died four days later as a result of enteric fever and also perforation of ulcer of the intestine. (Enteric fever is also known as typhoid and the cause is often salmonella spread by eating or contaminated food or drinking water.)

Louisa and Alfred were not together for long, as she died on 18 July 1908 in Sydney Hospital. The cause of death was malignant disease of the gall bladder. She was only 44. At the time, Lily was only 15 whilst her younger Petty half-brothers were aged between 3 and 9 years old. Although Lily’s father was Henry Ponting she was only a child when her Mother took her to Sydney. It is not known if Lily saw her father again and probably had few memories of him. Alf Petty would have been her main father-figure and she often went by the name Lily or Lilian Petty.

By this time, my Grandmother, Flo had married Robert Belshaw in Sydney on 27 October 1906 and had two children of her own, Doris and Edna, when Louisa died. Lily’s other sisters also married. Phoebe married John William Nolen in 1912, while Maud married John Joseph Moore in 1913.

Lily May Ponting 1893-1946
Courtesy State Records

As a young woman, Lily's photograph, taken in her 20s, reveals how beautiful she was. When Lily was 21 years old, she married chemist, Alfred Hynard on 18 September 1915 in Christ Church, North Sydney. Alfred was 27 at the time and although World War 1 had started the year before, he had not, and did not, enlist, although his younger brother, Percy Joseph did.  Alfred appeared to have financial difficulties and there were several appearances for bankruptcy, in 1916 and 1918. In 1916 he was living at 156 Alfred-street, North Sydney and was listed in the paper under Voluntary Sequestrations. 

The marriage did not last long and on 18 November 1920, it was dissolved by decree of the Supreme Court of NSW. Alfred was the petitioner and he applied for a dissolution of his marriage with Lily May Hynard (formerly Petty), on the ground of her misconduct with Richard Holden, or Saber, who was joined as co-respondent.  There are also a number of references to Alfred in the newspapers being tried at various courts under the Gaming and Betting Act and it is possible that he had a gambling problem.

On 9 July 1925, Lily married again. Her second husband was Harold Beverstock Williams, the son of George Henry and Marion Frances Williams, on 9 July 1925 at St Barnabas Church of England, Sydney. This marriage only lasted a couple of years when Harold petitioned Lily for divorce on the grounds of desertion for three years. This was advertised in the Sydney Mail 25 March 1931. Unusually the marriage was not dissolved by decree of the Supreme Court of NSW, until 22 August 1941, no. 1162/30. 

Lily was living at 137 Victoria Road, Darlinghurst, in 1925 and her occupation was recorded as a photographer. Phoebe Nolen, died in Prince Alfred Hospital from heart disease on 8 December 1936 aged 42 years, leaving her daughters Gladys and Dulcie orphans. There was only twelve months between sisters, Lily and Phoebe.

Petty brothers, from left, Abe Syd and Ern.

World War 2 commenced in 1939 and Lily’s half-brothers enlisted and served their country. Henry known as “Syd” had joined the Navy as a young man. He enlisted in WW2 in June 1940 and was in the A.I.F. 2/30 Bn, and his rank was Sergeant. Syd was reporting missing in Malaya and died from an illness in November 1943 in what is now known as Thailand aged 40.  According to the newspapers, his wife did not find out until 1945, two years later that he had died. He is buried at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery.  Abe began his military service in the AIF in 1940. He died on 23 August 1944 aged 43 from dysentery as a Prisoner of War (POW) and was buried in Ambon War Cemetery in Indonesia. Her nephew, Artie Belshaw was also a casualty.  He died 21 April 1944 when his Catalina crashed near Borneo, he had only just turned 21. More about this here.

Lily Ponting

Lily possibly with Tom Baldwin

At some stage Lily began a relationship with Tom Baldwin, a poulterer, and “they lived together as man and wife.” By 1946 they were living at Camperdown. 

 The Sun  19 June 1946
Courtesy Trove

On Anzac Day in 1946, Lily and Tom attended the march. Prior to “the march she was worried over her brother, who died after being a POW for 18 months. She had said on a number of occasions that she could hear her brother calling to her.”

As the 8th Division marched, Lily had a "giddy" turn and Tom took her home. At the time they were living at 124 Pyrmont Bridge Road, Camperdown. Sometime after arriving home, she committed suicide by taking poison, cyanide which she administered herself. Tom found her dead, the following morning. Due to the nature of her death and suspicious circumstances, an inquest was held on 27 April Mr R M Stewart SM, the City Coroner.

Her sister Maud, by this time was married to Jack Hanlon, “said they lost two brothers in the war. Her sister was more attached to the one who died In Malaya, and worried over it.” Additional evidence given at the inquest stated that Lily was employed as a cleaner at Camperdown Hospital. Here she “had access to poisons which were not locked away. The Coroner returned a finding of suicide.”

Her funeral was held in the Private Chapel at 59 Parramatta Road, Annandale on the afternoon of 27 April, after the inquest.  She was buried in the Church of England Cemetery at Rookwood. Much of Lily's life is mystery, hopefully this story reveals more about her story and her poignant end. 

SUICIDE HEARD BROTHER CALLING (1946, June 19). The Sun p. 3  
IN DIVORCE. (1931, September 9). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 7
IN DIVORCE. (1920, March 31). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 8
IN BANKRUPTCY. (1918, August 8). The Sydney Morning Herald  p. 4
(1916, December 16). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 9
Nichols family tree 
Birth, death & marriages certificates
Family Notices (1946, April 27). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 29