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Samaria Johnson was born about 1827, but baptised on 23 September 1832 in Ibstock, Leicestershire. She was the second daughter of William Johnson and Lydia Pratt.  Samaria was one of nine children. I always thought that Samaria was an interesting name and it seemed strange combined with the common name of Johnson. Researching into her family, equally interesting names emerged such as Selina, Reuben and German, likely Jewish in origin. Her other siblings had the more common names of William, Samuel, Mary Ann, Ellen, and Eliza. Is there a Jewish connection? Samaria’s parents were both born in Leicestershire.

In 1841 the family of seven were living at Deacon’s Lane in Ibstock. Samaria’s older sister, Mary Ann, had died the same year she was born. Her father was a sawyer.

Samaria was pregnant when she married Thomas Asher on 5 February 1845 in Ibstock. She gave birth to John on 15 June 1845. A daughter, Louisa, was born between October and December in 1848. The next son, Thomas, was born on 28 February 1851. The family were listed in the 1851 census in Ibstock. Thomas senior worked at the colliery.

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A son, William, was born between July and September, 1853, in Ibstock, then another, Samuel, between October and December, 1855, in Coalville. The last child, as far as I know, was Selina, born between July and September in 1858, in Coalville. As mentioned before, Louisa was not included in the 1861 census and I have been unable to find her, although she grew to adulthood and married.

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Samaria did live to see one of her children marry, and became a grandmother. John married in 1864 and had twins in 1869 (having lost a baby girl).  She missed seeing Louisa married later in the year 1870.

Samaria (or “Mary”) died on 31 March 1870 at Church Coppenhall, Cheshire. Her age at death was given as 47 (which would mean a birth year of 1823), but according to census returns her birth year was 1827, which meant she was just 43 years old. She died of valvular disease of the heart and apoplexy.  She missed out on seeing the rest of her children get married, and on meeting her many grandchildren:

Louisa married William Turner in Cheshire and had five children.

William married Emma Guildford in 1875 in Staffordshire. They had nine children.

Selina married Thomas Snelson in 1877 in Cheshire.

Samuel married Lavinia Hall at the beginning of 1878 in Cheshire. They had four children.

Thomas married Elizabeth Gower in June of 1878 in Kent. They had a whopping 11 children, one of whom, sadly, died in Gallipoli in 1916.

Sources: findmypast; familysearch; family archives; derelictplaces.co.uk; Ibstock Historical Society

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This really could be a challenge as I said I’d start this on Friday and it’s now the following Thursday.  Last Friday I spent trying to get answers to questions from previous research and was somewhat successful with still many questions left unanswered (isn’t that always the way?).

So, I figured I’d start with my maternal grandfather HC Rose, called Chas.  I never really knew him as he lived in Australia while my parents lived in New Zealand.  He died when I was 13.  From what I do remember, I found him a little scary and forbidding.  I’m sure he wasn’t.  I knew his sister better as she lived with him and lived to a good age, and from what I know of her, the family had a sharp wit and called a spade a spade.  Anyway, to business.

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Chas was born in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex in 1894 on 27 October.  He was one of six brothers and they had two sisters – a large family.  His brothers were Harold, Edward, Reginald, Alfred and Donald (they all had nicknames) and sisters Madge and Ruth.  Walton-on-the Naze is a small town on the coast of Essex with a current population of about 6,000. It’s a town that dates back to Saxon times, the Naze part of it referring to the promontory north of the town.

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In 1901 the family were living at 43 High Street.

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According to Google street view this is it.

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BUT, an older picture through Google search, revealed a different property. Google is not to be trusted.  It was only by zooming in on the street numbers (where found) that I identified the right property below, right next door to the above.

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The street is full of businesses.  This would make sense as Chas’ father was a grocer.  The above is now opposite a Tesco.

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Ten years later, 1911, Chas, age 16, was living at a boarding house run by 41-year-old widow, Anna Mary Amoss.  The only other boarder was 60-year-old widower, Arthur Bass.  As far as I can make out, the boarding house was at 24 Foundation Street, which was less than a ten minute walk from Ransome’s Orwell works (thank you to distant cousin, Adrian, for that info).  Chas was an engineer of agricultural implements.

In February 1912, at age 17, Chas enlisted with the 1st East Anglian Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps.  His occupation at the time was listed as an engineer with the firm of Ransome, Sims and Jefferies.  The company was an old one (started by Robert Ransome in 1753), producing British agricultural machinery (but during the First World War they manufactured aeroplanes: the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 fighters).  The company lasted until the early 1980s.

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At the time of enlisting, Chas was living at 10 Wolsey Street in Ipswich (which is now a large apartment block).  Army records are notoriously difficult to read, but it appears that in 1916, Chas was released to work back at Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies (perhaps working on those planes!).  What I can read is that he was home from August 1914 to March 1915 and from November 1915 to February 1917 when he was discharged after 5 years (including 2 years, 205 days of embodied service).  From March to November 1915 he was with the British Expeditionary Force in the Mediterranean.  Does this mean Gallipoli?  I dread to think.

Chas was discharged on 26 February 1917.  He was 22 years old, 5’8, dark hair, blue eyes and his trade would be turner and fitter.  His intended residence was 77 York Road, Felixstowe Road, Ipswich.  There are still houses there, but Google is not helpful in placing the number right in the middle of the road.  Chas’ character was described as honest, sober, trustworthy and industrious, phrases which adorn many an army record.  He had spent 1 year, 107 days in munitions and 235 days service abroad in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.  What horror he must’ve seen.

As a matter of interest, his brother, Edward, was serving with the Australian Imperial Force and enlisted in March 1915 as a sapper with the 4th Field Company Engineers, 18th battalion, A company.  They left Sydney on board the Ceramic on 25 June.  He must have also been at Gallipoli.

I found this that Chas had drawn in my grandmother’s autograph book in 1919.  He must have known Gwen at least 2 years before marrying her.  As far as I know she was a nurse so perhaps they met during the war.

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Who knows what it all means, but it obviously refers to his time in the army.

Chas married Gwendoline Powell Asher on 10 September 1921 at Harwich, Essex.  At the time he was living at Valley Lodge, Holland Road, Clacton-on-Sea.  I can find no mention of Valley Lodge.  Perhaps it became Valley Farm holiday park.  Chas’ occupation was mechanical engineer and his father was now listed as a commercial clerk.  Gwendoline (Gwen) was living at Islington and her father was a postmaster.

I have no idea when Edward (Ted) had moved to Australia, but he survived the war and Chas and Gwen decided to join him.  I had noted that they arrived in Sydney aboard the Demosthenes in February 1922, but I did not note the source, and couldn’t confirm it.  When you want to search passenger lists, you can’t seem to find any (or websites are down!). So frustrating.  However, finally, thanks to findmypast.co.uk, I found departure lists (arrivals seemed impossible to search. Even Trove gleaned no passenger list that confirmed their arrival).  I’m  not sure how long it normally took for the journey from England to Australia at the time, but they definitely left on 4 January 1922 from London aboard the Demosthenes.

Demosthenes

(As an added bonus thanks to findmypast’s free search, I found Edward leaving for Australia in 1911.  I wonder what prompted the move?  I’ll never know.)  Interestingly, Chas’ parents and sisters joined them in December 1922.

I know very little about Chas and Gwen’s life in New South Wales.  By 1924, when my mother was born, they were living at Greystanes Road in Pendle Hill, at that time an area of poultry farms.  I know they did have some chooks, horses and dogs.

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In the 1936 electoral roll, Chas was listed as a “plastic artist”, still living at Greystanes Road. Gwen, it seemed, was never in paid employment in Australia.  I’m sure she had enough on her plate with the property and another child, a son, born in 1926.

In 1949’s electoral roll, Chas and Gwen’s address is c/o Elliott, North Rocks Road, North Rocks, north of Parramatta and Chas’ occupation “turner”.  Perhaps it was temporary accommodation until they moved to 33 Kenilworth Street in Croydon?  Gwen died in 1953.  Chas and his sister, Ruth, lived at Kenilworth Street, next door to sister Madge and her husband Jack.  I’m not sure when they moved there but Ruth lived there until her death in 2002.  Chas died at the address on 27 February 1974, age 79, a toolmaker.  He was cremated on 1 March 1974 at Rookwood Crematorium.  (Just five years later his daughter died in the same house.)

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Chas, on the right, with his sisters and brother-in-law (and Lacey)

There are a lot of gaps and many missed stories of which I know nothing.  As a child you don’t ask questions (or didn’t back then, especially if the adult seemed rather forbidding).  I was also at a disadvantage living in a different country and only visiting once every few years for a few days.

So here ends week one.  The next three weeks will probably be spent on my other grandparents.

Sources: Google, Wikipedia, findmypast.co.uk, family archives

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A few months ago I proclaimed on Facebook that I had found a distant relative who died at Gallipoli. Yesterday, I heard about a display that was going to be put up at work for ANZAC day and mention was made of family documents.  That evening I went to a book launch of “Roly the ANZAC donkey”.  Both incidences got me thinking about that declaration I made on Facebook.  Who was it? Once I got home, I searched my family tree, and any notes I could find, to discover who that soldier was that died at Gallipoli.  I hadn’t even mentioned it on this blog.  I knew it was a distant relative and memory told me it was a Powell or Jones.  However,  my search revealed nothing. I even dreamed about the problem.  I must have noted it somewhere.  How did I find the information out?  My dreams gave me the answer, sadly the wrong one, directing me to some files on the computer.  I’d already looked through those files. This morning I was determined to find the elusive soldier.  There was a Walter Powell, who, my notes tell me, died in WWI (stupidly I have no source for that information) but he wasn’t it.  The soldier must have died in 1915 or 1916. In desperation, this morning, I began to go alphabetically through my family tree, looking for death dates of 1915 or 1916.  Luckily, the answer was in the A’s – Asher!   Not Powell or Jones at all.  Bertram Asher was his name. With the name, I could then search online for anything about him.  I discovered he is mentioned on the Helles memorial and his middle name was Gower, his mother’s maiden name.  Finally!  I’m still not sure how I got the initial information – perhaps through another researcher’s family tree.  I found another, which confirmed information I had, and I was able to add birth and death dates.  As most of them were for dates of people who are not related, I copied them down without much detail.

I tried getting some more information on Walter Powell.  Familysearch.org is truly useless.  What information they used to have that was useful is now just junk.  A search for a marriage, for example, will come up with a list of names who, presumably, were present at the wedding, but not telling you who the actual spouse was.  Completely stupid.  Also, trying to find the marriage of Walter, I searched for Walter and the results listed the name as father of the bride or groom, ffs.  Changing it to John didn’t help.  Searching for the wife didn’t help.  Refining the search did nothing.  Absolutely useless. I might have to re-subscrible to ancestry.com to find out where John or Walter were living in 1911, the closest date to the war.  I did find a possible Walter Powell on a couple of sites, but as I don’t know his date or place of birth/residence, I can’t narrow it down.  The one I found seems unlikely because of the age.  Actually, ancestry.com was very useful just with the hints they offered.  The information was enough to know you had the right person.  Way more useful than familysearch, which is really a complete waste of time.

I’ve spent nearly all day on solving the problem and trying to solve an additional one and have put off the plans that I had intended for today.  I resigned myself to donating the day to genealogy. As a tribute to Bertram, I left a ‘commemoration’ on everymanremembered.org.  It’s a lovely site.  If you know someone killed in the war (or even if you don’t), do commemorate them there.

Postscript:  Purely through curiosity at the above website, I searched for casualties from Goulburn, and found my grandfather’s second cousin, Alexander John Grunsell, who died in France in 1918..