(last updated 4 May 2020)
Rebecca Louisa Free (1849-91) was born in the small Cambridgeshire village of Barrington located some seven miles from the town of Cambridge and its grand university. She was named after her mother, Louisa Free nee Chapman (1831-53), and her grandmother, Rebecca Chapman nee Dilly (1806-86), and was baptised in the same parish church as they and Louisa's brother George and her two sisters, Mary Ann and Emily Chapman. We would like to think that Rebecca, perhaps with her mother and aunts in tow, got to gambol on Barrington's mile-long village green, admire the ducks in the pond there, and marvel at the daffodils and other bulbs that appeared each Spring. For, less than four years after her birth, Rebecca and her parents and baby brother John, left Barrington and made their way to the emigrant depot and departure port of Southampton in the south of England. There they boarded the sailing ship the LADY KENNEWAY which, on 9 May 1853, left England bound for a place named Port Philip on the other side of the world. During the three month journey, Rebecca watched her mother grow pregnant and give birth to another little boy who died soon after and was buried at sea. Her beloved mother died three weeks after they were landed at Hobson's Bay and her brother, John, four months after that.
In February 1854, Rebecca travelled with her father from Melbourne to Geelong and thence to a place called Mount Hesse where her father 'walked after sheep' on the barren and windswept reaches of the Mount Hesse No 1 run. She was seven years old when her father remarried, to a girl who was not much more than twice Rebecca's age. Within three years, she had two brothers to look after and by the time she turned 17, her father and his wife, Eliza Flavell, had had no less that eight children. They had had eleven children and were living at Raglan, north of Beaufort, when Rebecca gave birth to an illegitimate child, Frederick Free (see below). On 16 January the following year, she married George Collett (c1838-95). A copy of their wedding certificate, provided by Colleen Phillips, shows Rebecca was then a 24 year-old spinster from Haslingfield in England and George a 34 year-old bachelor and woodsplitter from Tasmania. At the time of the wedding they were both residing at nearby Mount Cole. George's parents were said to be John Collett, a wheelwright, and Elizabeth Ives (1813-91). The wedding was witnessed by Henry Sawyer (probably George's half brother) and Eliza Free (most likely Rebecca's step-mother). Both witnesses and Rebecca signed the certificate with a 'mark'. According to one of his and Rebecca's descendants, Glenice Bayliss, George's mother was a free settler who married three times, first to John Collett (1804-37), then to William Sawyer (1799-1883) and finally to a George Potter. 'John Collett and William Sawyer were convicts from England, they were both convicted together of the same crime. It would appear that Elizabeth was having children to both men while still married to the first - John Collett - he was not stable in the mind and was released into the care of his wife twice'.
George Collett sailed from Hobart to Port Philip in 1851 and worked in Victoria as a woodsplitter, miner and carter. The record of 'Admissions to the Maryborough Hospital, 1855-1907', shows a George Collett was admitted there on 26 July 1883. He was then 48 years old and a 'carter of Chinaman's Flat'. His port of entry was said to be Hobart and his ship the GO AHEAD. He had been 32 years in the colony of Victoria, was married, a member of the Church of England, and a native of Oatlands in Tasmania. Rebecca and George had nine children between 1876 and 1890. These were born in such places as Buangor, Charlton, Mount Korong, Avoca and Bealiba where they finally settled. Rebecca died and was buried in the adjoining township of Dunolly in 1891. George Collett, aged 57 years, died at Bealiba on 24 February 1895. Glenice Baylis tells us he died of cancer of the cheek and is buried in the Bealiba cemetery. He was working as a miner at the time and his death certificate was informed by his sister Sarah Thompson (nee Collett). Glenice adds that Sarah's normal residence was recorded as Geeveston in Tasmania. 'It is unknown how long she was in Bealiba for - was she there to help her brother raise his children after the death of his wife - he also would have been sick with cancer'. She thinks Sarah may have taken one of George's daughters, also named Sarah, 'back to Tasmania with her, as she was latter married in Geeveston - the rest of George and Rebecca's children were married in Victoria'.
As noted above, Rebecca had one child before and nine after her marriage to George Collett in 1875. One of these, George Collett jnr, died in childbirth at Charlton in 1878. Another, George Alfred Collett, died as an infant at Timor in Victoria in 1884. As described below, two of their other sons seem not to have married while Rebecca's first son, Frederick, did marry but had no children. The remainder of her and George's family did provide their parents with grandchildren to fuss over, in some cases, quite a number.
Frederick Free Collett (1874-1945). Glenice Bayliss tells us that Rebecca had Fred - pictured on the left - before she was married and his father is not named on Fred's birth certificate. She adds that Fred was known as Frederick Free Collett and was listed as a child of George and Rebecca on George's death certificate. There is some evidence that in 1903 Fred was either living with or near his uncle, William Free, and his family at Lalbert, although we have not been able to corroborate that beyond the fact that the Maryborough Hospital records show a Frederick Collett was admitted there on 21 April 1907. He was then 32 years old, a miner of Poseidon, single, a member of the Church of England, and a native of Victoria. The Australian electoral rolls show a Frederick Free, labourer, living at Eversley near Ararat in 1913 and 1914 and a Frederick Collett, contractor, living at Yallourn in Victoria's Gippsland in 1922 and 1924.
The Victorian Index of BDMs shows that in the latter year, a Frederick Collett married Lavinia Charlotte Collins. Born at Avoca in Victoria in 1863, Lavinia was the daughter of Henry Millgate (1840-87) and Sarah Carey, and had been previously twice married: first to William George Glover (1861-1914), with whom she had eight children, and then, two years after William's death at Ampitheatre, to Samuel Collins (1854-1921) who was born in South Australia and also died at Ampitheatre. Samuel, who had previously been married to Harriet Elizabeth Wilds/Wyles, was working as a miner at Mount Lonarch (located to the south of Ampitheatre) where Frederick's younger brother, John Henry Collett (1876-1941), was also working.
The Australian electoral rolls indicate that Frederick, a labourer, and Lavinia Collett lived all their married lives at Ampitheatre. Also there over this period were two of Fred's brothers, John Henry Collett (1876-1941) and Benjamin Charles Collett (1885-1959) who, with his wife Dorothy, ran an orchard there. Ancestry's Australian Death and Probate records show that Lavinia, aged 78 and the daughter of Henry Millgate, died at Burrumbeet in Victoria on 9 December 1942. As described in a report in the Melbourne Argus dated 31 October 1945, 'Frederick Collett, 73, of Amphitheatre, was found lying on the side of a road at Highton, near Geelong, yesterday morning. Collett's bicycle was near by, and it is thought that when riding to a farm to engage in pea-picking he fell from the machine. Collett was taken to Geelong Hospital, where he was found to be dead'. The Geelong Cemeteries Trust website informs us that Frederick Collett was buried in the Geelong Eastern Cemetery on 1 November 1945 (EAS-PRES-09-807-269).
The Maryborough Hospital admissions records show that in 1907, Frederick's brother, John Henry Collett (1876-1941), was working as a labourer at Ampitheatre. Subsequent electoral rolls show he continued to live and work there, and nearby Mount Lonarch, until his death on 26 August 1941. As reported in the 1 September issue of the Launceston Examiner, a Mr J. Charlesworth, a butcher on his round at Amphitheatre, 'was shocked to find Mr John Henry Collett dead on the doorstep of his home. Deceased, who was 65 years of age and single, suffered from an affection of the heart for which he had been receiving medical treatment. In his earlier years he was a sleeper cutter, but latterly followed grazing pursuits. He was a son of the late Mr and Mrs George Collett, of Launcecton, Tasmania'.
The Maryborough Hospital admissions records show Fred and John Henry's younger brother, Benjamin Charles Collett (1885-1959), was working as a labourer at Mount Lonarch in 1906. He was an orchardist at Ampitheatre when he married a local girl, Dorothy Cloke (1910-64), there in 1932. According to the 'Collett Family Tree' on Ancestry, Dorothy's parents were Alfred William Cloke (1889-1973) and Lila Jane Rayner (1892-1960), who were married at Moonlight Flat in Victoria in 1909. They had four children in addition to Dorothy: Harold (1912-84), James (1915-15), Elsie (1916-2004) and Cecil James Cloke (1919-89). It adds that Benjamin died at Avoca in 1959 and Dorothy at Geelong in 1964 and they are buried together in the Geelong Eastern Cemetery (EAS-METH-1A-807-43). They had a daughter, Judith, who died at birth, and two sons: Benjamin Harold Collett (1934-2011), and John William Collett (1939-70). The Victorian BDM index shows Benjamin Harold Collett married Dorothy Joyce Kenyon in Victoria in 1954. They lived at Geelong, where Ben worked for the Ford Motor Company, before, in the mid-1970s, moving to Lethbridge near Bannockburn in central Victoria. The family later returned to Geelong where Ben died in 2011. His tribute, published in the Geelong Advertiser reads in part: 'COLLETT, Benjamin Harold - 24/11/1934 - 9/12/2011. Passed away Friday December 9 at SJOG Hospital. Husband to Dorothy and father to Ben, Phillip, Geoffrey, Daryl, Alan, Sharyn and John. Grandfather to 14 grand children and 5 great-grandchildren and their loving families'.
Rebecca and George's eldest daughter, Florence Louisa Collett (1880-1969) was born at Mount Korong (or Woosang) near Charlton in central Victoria, and married James Smith (1876-1925) in 1899. According to Chloe Taylor's 'family tree' on Ancestry, James was born at Adelaide Lead south of Maryborough. His parents were Basil Smith (1832-95), who hailed from West Sandwick in the Shetland Islands, and an English woman, Julia Plumeridge (1852-1924), who was born at Dartford in Kent. They were married at Maryborough on 19 March 1870 and had eight children in addition to James: Thomas Magnus (1870-1939), Robert (1879-1961), Henry (1882-1941), Janet Mary (1885-1952), Daniel Taylor (1888-1951) and Basil Francis Smith (1893-1954) plus two others who died at birth. Two of James' brothers, Robert and Daniel Smith, served in the Australian 6th Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli and later in Egypt and the Sinai (where Daniel was awarded a Military Medal). They returned to Australia on the H T MADRAS in 1919. Robert and Daniel, together with their mother and sister, Janet, are pictured in the photo below.
From Chloe Taylor's 'family tree' on Ancestry, the photo on the left is of James Smith. The one on the right is of James' mother and three of his siblings.
From L/R: Robert Smith, Janet Mary Smith, Julia Smart formerly Smith nee Plumeridge, John Smart and Daniel Taylor Smith.
The birth of their children shows that James and Florence Smith lived at Adelaide Lead, Carisbrook, Berringa, Ampitheatre, Ararat, Daylesford and Hamilton where James died in 1925. Ancestry's Australia and New Zealand Find-a-Grave Index shows a Florence Louisa Smith, born at Woosang in Victoria in 1879, died in Melbourne on 19 January 1969 and is buried in the Geelong Eastern Cemetery (Plot EAS-PRES-07-807-243). Her gravestone reads: 'In loving memory of our dear mother Florence Louisa Smith. Died 19th January 1969 aged 89 years. Also our dear brother Basil Thomas Smith died 24th March 1964'. Chloe Taylor tells us Florence and James had eleven children, two of whom, Minnie Agnes Smith (1902-3) and James Alfred Smith (1904-4), died as infants. Another son, James Henry Smith (1909-28), died at Hamilton in Victoria aged 19 years. We believe that Florence's first-born, George Collett (1898-1975), and her and James' fourth son, Thomas Basil Smith (1913-64), did not marry although this has not been confirmed. What of their remaining six children?
Their eldest daughter, Janet Smith (1901-91), was born at Adelaide Lead and married a Second World War veteran, Brighton-born Clarence Leslie Clayton (1904-86), in Victoria in 1924. They had two children: Alice Isabel Clayton (1923-2009) who married Ernest Edward Bryne Jeffs (1923-99) in Victoria in 1945, and one other. Alice and Ernest both died at Geelong and are also buried in the Geelong Eastern Cemetery. Their gravestone indicates that Ernest served in the RAAF during WW2 (the Department of Veterans Affairs' nominal roll shows he enlisted in the RAAF in Melbourne in February 1942 and was discharged as a Flying Officer in January 1946). It also tells us they were the loving father and mother of Pam, Helen, Carol, Julie, Alan and Kathy.
Also from Chloe Taylor's 'family tree' on Ancestry. we believe this photo is of Clarence and
Janet Clayton nee Smith and their daughter Alice Isabel.
Janet's sister, Florence Beatrice Smith (1904-99), was born at Beringa in Victoria and married Harold George (Harry) Barr (1902-60) at Hamilton in Victoria's western district in 1921. According to the 'mybigtree' on Ancestry, Harry's parents were George Barr (1859-1944) and Susan McClennan (1868-1963) who were married in Victoria in 1889, farmed land at Strathkellar, and had twelve children in addition to Harry. His paternal grandparents had both emigrated to Victoria from Ireland - William Henry Barr from Westmeath and Ann Bell from Fermanagh - and were married at Portland in 1848. The Australian electoral rolls show Harry, a labourer, and Florence Barr lived at Cavendish (north of Hamilton), Colac and Geelong where Harry died in 1960 and Florence in 1999. They are buried in the Geelong Eastern Cemetery (Plot EAS-PRES-10-807-348) on 1 December 1997 and 28 September 1960 respectively. They had at least two children we know of: 1) Douglas Francis (Doug) Barr (1932-2016) who, according to his tribute posted in the Geelong Advertiser on 28 May 2016, 'Passed away peacefully at Wallace Lodge on May 23, 2016, aged 84 years. Much loved husband of Marlene (dec). Loved father of Raymond, Graeme and Matthew. Grandfather of Caleb and Chelsea. Will be sadly missed by his constant companion, Pepe'. Doug's wife was Marlene Terese Walsh who died in 2014 and is commemorated with Doug in the Geelong Eastern Cemetery (EAS-LAWN-SN-808-018). A further tribute in the Geelong Advertiser, on 18 May 2013, is to Percy Leslie Barr, the 'Loved brother of Doug and brother-in-law of Marlene, loved uncle to Raymond, Graeme and Matthew'. Percy is buried in the Colac Cemetery (CLC-LAWN-F01-808-41) along with his wife Bettine Marion Barr.
Janet and Florence's younger brother, Benjamin James Smith (1907-78) was twice married, first to Dorothy Mary Priddle (1908-34) in 1928, and second to Nellie Valmai (Val) Neave (1919-90) in 1936. He had one son, Benjamin Frederick Smith (1930-64), with Dorothy and six children with Val. Ancestry's Australian and NZ Find-a-Grave website shows that Benjamin James Smith, died on 29 May 1978 and is buried in the Geelong Eastern Cemetery (EAS-LAWN-E-808-0447). His gravestone reads: 'Benjamin James Smith born 5th September 1907, died 29th May 1978. Loved husband of Val. Devoted father of Benjamin, Violet, Dorothy, Lorraine, Charles , Lynda and Garrie'. Adjoining his plaque is another one which reads: 'Nellie Valmai Smith Born 16th May 1919 Died 17th May 1990 Loved wife of Benjamin'.
Born at Ararat in 1911, Myrtle Robina Smith married Henry Enos Robins (1898-1971) at Hamilton in Victoria in 1926. According to the 'Wherewebegan Family Tree' on Ancestry, Henry was born at Ringarooma near Scottsdale in north eastern Tasmania. His parents were two locals, Luke Mark Robins (1870-1940) and Martha Ann Capple (1878-1959), who were married in Launceston in 1895 and had nine children. Henry's grandather, Enos Robins (1828-1909), a native of Surrey in England, was transported to Van Diemen's land in 1851. He married a Scottish womam, Janet Harris nee Jamieson (1828-1907) at Launceston in 1863 and had two other children: Mary Matilda (1863-84) and Enos Robins jnr (1867-95).
His military file in the Australian Archives shows that Henry enlisted in the First AIF at Claremont in Tasmania on 11 May 1916 and was discharged as medically unfit three months later. After successfully re-enlisting on 24 November 1917, he sailed from Melbourne on the A 71 NESTOR on 28 February 1918. After spending time in hospital at Sutton Veny in England, he proceeded to France in July 1918 where he joined the 12th Infantry Battalion. He was wounded in action (a GSW to the right thigh) at Amiens on 26 August 1918 and was repatriated back to England. After rejoining his unit in November 1918 he was attached to the Australian Provost Corps and continued to serve in Frances and then England where, on 2 September 1919, he married 19 year-old Florence Amelia Gertrude Wensley at the Willesden Parish Church in London. In january 1920, he took indefinite leave from the Army. A month later he appeared before the Westminster Police Court charged with 'stealing'. While found guilty, his sentence was bound over for twelve months due to his military service and he returned to Australia in April 1920.
Henry was working as a labourer in Hamilton when he met and married Myrtle Smith on 23 October 1926. In June the following year, he appeared before a local magistrate's court charged with bigamy. The evidence presented by the local police that Florence was still alive was deemed insufficient and the case was struck out. The Australian electoral rolls show Henry and Myrtle were living at Casterton in Victoria in 1937. Sometime after that they moved to Geelong where Henry died in 1971. A copy of his death certificate, contained on the 'Wherewebegan Family Tree' on Ancestry, tells us he was then working as a woodcutter and he and Myrtle had had eight children. The death certificate adds he was buried at the Geelong Eastern Cemetery (Plot EAS-LAWN-F-808-140). We have not been able to trace Myrtle's subsequent whereabouts or determine whether and where she died. Henry's death certificate and other sources tell us her and Henry's children were: Florence Amelia (Stella) (1926-95), John Henry (1930), Jean (1934), Leslie George (1937-2012), Kevin Walter (1939-2012), Gwendoline Myrtle (1940-2012), Donald (1942) and Shirley Anne Robins (1946-2013). We know little about John, Jean and Donald beyond their birth dates. More details about the others are as follows:
1) Florence Amelia (Stella) Robins (1926-95) was born at Hamilton and married Sydney Alexander Morrow (1920-80), probably in 1941, with whom she had a daughter. They later divorced and Sydney re-married to Aubrey A. Broughill (1926-99). Florence died in Geelong.
2) According to the 'Robins_2013-6' family tree on Ancestry, Leslie George Robins (1937-2012) was born at Coleraine and married Aileen Mary Heard at Warnambool in 1958. He died at Geelong in 2012, his tribute in the Advertiser telling us he 'Passed away peacefully at Geelong Hospital. Loving husband of Aileen (Heard). Loving father of Helen, Diane, Julie and Sue. Father-in-law of Joe, Barney, Glen and Butch. Proud grandfather of Melissa, Melanie, Stephanie, Laura, Shane, David, Neil, Stacey, Bradley and Ebony. Great-grandfather of 6. Brother of Stella, John, Jean, Kevin (all dec), Gwen, Donny and Shirley' (5 May 2012).
3) Kevin Walter Robins (1938-2012) married Patricia Olive Minogue (1949-2011). Their respective tributes in Herald Sun read: 'ROBINS (Minogue). Patricia. To our beautiful Mum. Goodbye our mother, but not forever, we will meet again. You're now safe in Dad's hands. We will love you for all eternity. You'll always be in our hearts, may the Angels keep you safe and warm R.I.P. Love - your children Wayne, Michelle, Janice, Kevin, John, Peter and Christine, in-laws Ness, Lisa, Skye, Phil and Bill and your 18 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren' (25 October 2011); and 'ROBINS - Kevin Walter. Aug. 19 1938 - July 9 2011. Loving father of Wayne, Michelle, Janice, Kevin, John, Peter and Christine. Father-in-law to Ness, Lisa and Skye' (12 July 2012).
4) The 'Phillips (Miatke) Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us that Gwendoline Myrtle Robins (1940-2012) was born at Scottsdale in Tasmania and died at Lakes Entrance in Victoria. She married Alan Leslie Miatke (1931-2014), who was born at Rainbow in Victoria, the son of Oscar Conrad Miatke (1903-73) and Beatrice (Beryl) Jean Johns (1912-54). Gwen and Alan had two children. The 'Robins_2013-06' family tree tells us Gwen was married three times and had four children in all.
5) The 'Hargreaves Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us Shirley Anne Robins (1943-2013), born at Geelong and died at Carlton in Victoria, was married twice, first to Frank Bradley (1943-2003) and then another with whom she had one child.
Sarah Ann Elizabeth Collett (1887-1969) was born at Bealiba in Victoria. After the death of her mother in 1891 and father in 1895, Sarah went with her aunt, Sarah Thompson, to live in Tasmania. There she married a local blacksmith, Leslie Ivor Johnston (1881-1964), at Geeveston on 12 April 1905. She was just 18 years old. According to the 'Johnston Family Tree' on Ancestry, Leslie was born at Christchurch in New Zealand, the son of two Tasmanians, Henry Johnston (1850-1921) and Caroline Sophia Johnston (1852-87), who were married there in 1876 and had three children in addition to Leslie: Henry Edward (1878-1954), Vernon Harcourt (1880-1948) and Elsie Ida Johnston (1885-1957). It adds that Leslie's grandparents were Thomas Tiger Johnston (1797-1874), who was born at Edinburgh in Scotland, and his second wife, Belfast-born Isabella Gunning (1815-1905), who were married at Hobart in 1839. Following Caroline Sophia's death at Christchurch in 1887, Henry and their four children returned to Tasmania where they lived at Broadmarsh north of Hobart. We believe that Henry and his eldest son, Henry Edward, both died at Broadmarsh. Vernon, who married Amy Susannah Clark at Hobart in 1913, died at Wynyard on the north-west coast of Tasmania. And Elsie Ida Johnston, who married Oliver Edward Hall (1884-1973), died at Launceston (she and Oliver had four children).
Tasmania's Civil Registration of Births, 1899-1912 shows that Leslie and Sarah Johnston nee Collett had two girls at Geeveston - Elsie Maud who was born on 10 January 1906 and Vera May Johnston born on 10 November 1907 - before leaving Tasmania to live in New Zealand. His military file in the New Zealand Archives shows that Leslie, who was then working as a qualified engine-driver, and Sarah were living at Ruru on the West Coast of the South Island in July 1918 (when Leslie was drafted into the New Zealand Army). The New Zealand electoral rolls show them at Arnold Siding in Westland in 1928 and Gladstone Siding in Westland in 1935. By this time Leslie was again working as a blacksmith although as the following report published in the Hokitika Guardian on 26 February 1935 noted, he was also an avid beekeeper: 'C. F. Page (apiary inspector) proceeded against Leslie Ivor Johnston on a charge that in November 1934 he did move without a permit, a colony of bees from their registered site, Hokitika, to Gladstone Siding when fully aware that a permit was necessary'. Leslie was found guilty by the presiding magistrate and charged 7/6 with 12s costs. By the time of the 1949 election, Leslie had retired and he and Sarah had moved to Christchurch where Leslie died in 1964. We think Sarah died there in 1969 although that has still to be confirmed. We do know that probate from her will was granted in 1971. What of her and Leslie's two daughters?
The 'DNA Tree J' on Ancestry tells us that their elder daughter, Elsie Maud Johnston (1906-85), married Patrick Clarence (Paddy) Sweeney (1905-87) in New Zealand in 1927. Born at Greymouth, Paddy's parents were John Lewis Sweeney (1867-1946), who came from Donegal in Ireland, and Mary Ann O'Connor (1873-1944). Married in 1897 they had three children in addition to Paddy: Mary Bridget (1899-1974), Annie Josephine (1900-79) and John Lewis Sweeney jnr (1901-60).
The NZ electoral rolls show Elsie Maude and Paddy, a motor driver, living at Hokitika in 1928, 1935 and 1938. On 10 December 1940, the Hokitika Guardian informed its readers that 'Mr Patrick Sweeney, manager of the Harihari branch of the NZ Road and Rail Services, has been transferred to the Greymouth branch, and left on Friday. Mr Sweeney has been connected with the motor service in South Westland during the last twenty-two years, and has been consistently courteous and helpful to residents and the travelling public'. The 1942 New Zealand Ballot List has Paddy, a bus foreman, registered as living at 47 Arney Street in Greymouth. The electoral rolls show he and Elsie still at Greymouth in 1946 and at Harihari in 1949 (Paddy was said to be a civil servant). They were still registered at Harihari in 1954 along with their son, Harold Patrick Sweeney, a driver. Paddy was then working as a hotel keeper (possibly of Okarito's Royal Hotel which Paddy's father had been appointed licensee of in 1924). By the time of the 1957 election Paddy and Elsie had moved to the town of Ashburton. They were in the port town of Lyttelton near Christchurch in 1963 (Paddy was now said to be a timber worker) and, from 1969 onwards, at 87 Hamilton Avenue in the Christchurch suburb of Riccarton. They both died at Christchurch, Elsie in 1985 and Paddy two years later, and are buried together in Christchurch's Waimairi cemetery. Their gravestone tells us Elsie Maude was born on 10 January 1906 and died on 11 November 1985 and Patrick, 'a loved father, grandfather and friend', was born on 5 September 1905 and died on 16 October 1987.
We believe Elsie and Paddy had only one child, a son, Harold (Harry) Patrick Sweeney (1931-2017) who married Josephine Mary (Jo) Waddell (1934-2018) in 1954. They both died and are buried at Christchurch, their respective tributes posted in the local newspaper, The Press, telling us their three children and their partners, Paul and Gael, Chris and Christine, and Deirdre (who also died in 2018) and Gary, provided them with nine grandchildren - Emma, April, Marc; Rory, Regan; Callum, Bryn, Eden, and Merle - and at least three great grandchildren: Caiden, Kyla, and Mia.
Elsie's sister, Vera May Johnston (1907-83) was barely 17 years old when she married Herbert Louis Gray (1895-1975) in NZ in 1924. The electoral rolls show they lived at Ross, a small town located in the Westland District on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, where Herbert worked as a fireman. After they were divorced, at Hokitika in 1946, they both re-married, Herbert to Ella Doris Abbott (1910-94) and Vera to David Alexander Barclay (1905-78). According to the 'Harper Et Al Tree' on Ancestry, David was born at Otago, the eldest son of Alexander Robert Barclay (1876-1920) and Margaret McGrath later Popham (1878-1961) who were married in 1900 and had six children in addition to David: Lilian May (1901-55), Margurita Janet (1903-38), Violet Elizabeth (1904-49), Kathleen (1906-6), Kathleen Mary (1907-85) and Raymond Robert Barclay (1914-23). Although still to be confirmed, we think that David served as a private soldier in the 23rd Infantry (Canterbury-Otago) Battalion during the Second World War. The New Zealand electoral rolls show Vera and David, who worked as a labourer and timber worker, lived at Selwyn and then the suburbs of Fendalton and Papanui in Christchurch where David died in 1978 and Vera in 1983.They are buried together in the Waimairi cemetery in Christchurch (Block Lawn Plot 927). We don't know if they had any children.
Following their mother's death at Bealiba in 1901, Sarah Ann Elizabeth's younger sister, Alice Eliza Collett (1888-1910), seems to have gone to live with a Mrs Burbridge in Bealiba from where, on 16 November 1903, the then 15 year-old Alice wrote the following letter to 'her Aunt Connie' at Melbourne's Weekly Times:
Dear Aunt Connie, This is a very quiet place, although there are four churches, and a very large school, and a number of shops. We have a very large flower garden. We have nearly every kind of pot flower. I have no mother nor father, but I am living with Mrs Burbridge and she is very kind to me, and I have been with her for three years. I have five brothers and two sisters. I am 15 years old, and I take great interest in reading the "Young Folks" page. We have three rosellas, one pigeon, a cat, and a prize dog. We have eight goats milking. We have got five swarms of bees out of two boxes. When the last swarm came out Mrs Burbridge went up to the apple tree with a box. After we had rattled them down to shake them into the box, they flew up into her face, and they stung her in the eye and on-the lip, and one stung her on the nose, and her hands and arms were swollen as big as two. When Mrs Burbridge's son was coming home from the bush on Saturday he heard some buzzing, and he looked back, and there was a swarm going on a stump. He got them, and now we have eight swarms. My favorite songs and hymns are "Open the Beautiful Gates," "Jesus is Calling," "While London Sleeps," and "Mother Kissed Me in My Dream." With love to Uncle Ben, Cousins Connie and Florrie, not forgetting yourself, I remain, your loving niece. ALICE COLLETT (5 December 1903).
Two years later Alice married a Bealiba local, Alfred Henry Wilson, at the Presbyterian Manse in Maryborough. Their wedding certificate tells us Alfred was a 26 year-old bachelor who was working as a miner and whose usual address was Bealiba (his place of birth). His parents were said to be Nathan Wilson, a labourer, and Rebecca 'Closs'. The wedding was witnessed by a John [indecipherable] and Elizabeth Veal. Written consent for the under-age Alice to marry was given by a local police magistrate, William Leader. Alfred's father was a Cornishman, Alfred Nathan Wilson (1839-1913), who, with his mother Mary Ann and four siblings, had sailed from Bristol in England to Australia on the sailing ship PROTECTOR in 1853. He married Edna Rebecca Burbridge nee Close (1836-1917) at Bealiba in around 1870 (was this the Mrs Burbridge Alice was living with when she wrote her letter to the Weekly Times - the electoral rolls show a Rebecca Burbridge at Bealiba in 1903, 1906, 1909 and 1915 - and was the son Alice mentioned Alfred Henry)?Alfred Nathan Wilson, who was living and working as a miner at Archdale south of Bealiba in 1909, died at the Dunolly hospital on 7 June 1913. In a notice published in the Melbourne Age on 31 July 1913, the Curator of Estates called for claims against his estate which had been amended by the following note written by Nathan on the day he died: 'I wish to be buried in the Bealiba cemetery and pay 1 pound per week to the Dunolly hospital and after paying expenses the rest to be paid to the Church of England Dunolly'. Nathan's last instructions together with the possibility that Rebecca was using her former married name could indicate she and Nathan had separated or had become estranged or, even, were never formally married. Rebecca died at Maryborough in 1917. Her death certificate, a copy of which is contained on the 'julie perry' family tree on Ancestry, tells us she was a native of Bradford in Yorkshire and had been in Australia some 70 years. She had been previously married to a William Burbridge with whom she had six children only one of whom was still living. She and Nathan were said by the informant, Rebecca's son Elijah Wilson, to have had four children: Thomas (then aged 44 years), Elijah (42), Mary Ann (40) and Alfred (38). The following obituary, published in the Bealiba Times on 13 July 1917, provides a little more information about her:
There passed away at the residence of her son in Gladstone street Maryborough, on Monday, a very old colonist in the person of Mrs Edna Rebecca Wilson, relict of the late Alfred N. Wilson, of Bealiba. Deceased, who was born at Bradford, came to Australia when 11 years of age, and was for seventy years a resident of Victoria, fifty years of which she spent in Bealiba. Deceased was twice married, and by her first husband had six children (five of whom are dead), and four by her second husband, all of whom are living. She had twenty-six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
The Australian electoral rolls show Alice and Alfred, who was working as a labourer, were living at Bealiba in 1909. Sadly, Alice died the following year and is probably buried in the local cemetery although that has still to be confirmed. The electoral rolls show that Alfred continued to live and work at Bealiba until around 1921. An Alfred Henry Wilson, labourer, was at Morton Plains near Birchip in 1928 (a Maurice Wilson, also a labourer, was registered there in 1931 and 1934). An Alfred Henry Wilson, a groom, was living on Napier Street in St Arnaud in 1931 and 1934. As described below, there is some evidence that Alfred died before his son Maurice's wedding at Birchip in 1935 although we have not been able to find any record of his death.
Di Herbert tells us Alice and Alfred had two children before Alice's untimely death at Bealiba in 1910: Edna Elizabeth Ann Wilson, born there in 1906, and Morris Alfred Edward Wilson who was born in 1908 (both births are confirmed by Ancestry's Australian births index). We know nothing about Edna beyond her date of birth. As the following response published in the 'General Inquiries' section of the Weekly Times on 1 October 1932 suggests, nor, it seems, did her brother: 'MAURICE WILSON, care of Mr C. Croft. Birchip, inquires for the whereabouts of his sister, Edna Wilson. He should advertise in Missing Friends columns of newspapers'. A letter written in June 1936 to the Victorian 'Government Statist' by Birchip's Presbyterian Minister, H. H. Donaldson, informs them that Maurice Wilson's marriage certificate does not include his mother's Christian name as 'She died when Maurice Wilson was a baby. His father is also dead and he had no relatives from whom to enquire. All he knows is that her surname was Sutton.
The marriage certificate the Reverend Donaldson referred to is not available, but was for the wedding of Maurice Alfred Edward Wilson and Lila May Watson at Birchip in 1935. Ancestry's Australian deaths index shows Lila May Wilson, aged 70 years, died at Birchip in 1984. Her parents were James George Watson and Effie McRae who were married in Victoria in 1906 and had five children: Francis, Charles and James McRae Watson plus two others. According to the 'Langton Family Tree' on Ancestry, Effie was born at Lake Bolac in Victoria in 1882 and died at Kaneira in 1924. Her parents were a native of the Isle of Skye, Charles McRae (1837-1925), and a Scots woman, Ann Ross (1842-1901). Charles had arrived in Australia in 1853 and Ann in 1852. They were married at Mortlake in Victoria in 1860 and had eleven children with Effie their youngest.
The Australian electoral rolls show that Maurice and Lila spent all their married lives at Birchip where Maurice worked as a labourer and later a wood merchant and where they had at least two children: Leon Maurice and Leslie John Wilson who were working respectively as a roads contractor and storeman. As noted above, Lila died in Birchip in 1984. We have yet to discover when and where Maurice died.
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