2013 in review

The 2013 annual report for our family history blog. Many thanks to those who commented and helped with our family history research.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hannan cousins in Fish Hoek

Nearly 40 years ago we went on holiday to the Western Cape. Val and I had been married for a year, and we had just started our family history research, so we visited whatever relatives we could find and badgered them with questions about the family history.

Alex Hannan, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Alex Hannan, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

My maternal grandmother was Janet Hannan who had married George Growdon, and we visited Growdon relatives in the Eastern Cape and Hannan cousins in the Western Cape. We called to see Alex and Una Hannan in Fish Hoek. Alex was my mother’s first cousin, the son of my mother’s uncle David McFarlane Hannan, who lived in Rhodesia. I had only met Alex once before, about 10 years earlier, when I scarpered to England to avoid a meeting with Detective Sergeant van den Heever of the Security Police, and while I was changing planes at Salisbury airport (now Harare), some of the family came to see me.

This time we found their house in Fish Hoek, and managed to chat for longer, and stayed for tea. Alex’s wife Una was known locally as the Bird Lady — she took in sick and injured birds and nursed them back to health, and they had quite large aviary.

In his youth Alex had been a boxer and represented South Africa in the 1936 Olympic Games. His elder son Clyde has promised to tell us more about that.

While we were having tea there was a huge hail storm, and the whole garden was covered with hailstones about a foot deep, so that it looked almost like snow. Hail seemed to feature quite a lot in visits to Hannan cousins — more of that below.

My beautiful pictureTheir younger son Stanley was also visiting, with his wife Norma and two-year-old daughter Debbie, so we were glad to meet them as well. Stan was thinking of becoming a Baptist minister, and later he did, and I saw him a few times after that in Johannesburg. He and his family later moved to the USA.

We then went up the hill, still in Fish Hoek, to see Chris and Ivy Vlok. Ivy Sharp was the daughter of my mother’s auntie Em, and I knew them somewhat better. I’d first met them when I was about four years old, and they were living in Berea in Johannesburg. My mother and I went up from Durban on the train, and it was my first long-distance train journey, or at least the first one that I could recall. Ivy and Chris had two sons, Arthur and Terence. Arthur was about my age, and Terence was younger, and I don’t think he was born on that first visit.  Arthur is now a grandfather, living in Fish Hoek, and we visited him and his wife Jean, and their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren a couple of years ago — picture here.

On that first visit Ivy’s half sister Nellie was also there, and she took me into the centre of Joburg on the tram one day. I can’t remember why, or what we did in town, but I do recall that on the way back there was the father and mother of all hail storms while the tram was climbing up Twist Street. The hailstones jammed the points where the tram had to turn into Kotze Street and the conductor had to get out in the downpour and clear it with a metal lever before the tram could turn. My mother later told me that Nellie was a kleptomaniac, and rather strange and mysterious. She married twice and divorced twice, and had no children, and nobody seems to know what happened to her. Her first marriage was to Edward “Scotty” Davis, and her second was to Ernest Edward Turner, but she was divorced from him when I met her.

Chris Vlok was in the army, and it was war time on that visit. Later we visited them again in Lyttelton, it must have been soon after the war, where they lived in long bungalows in the barracks. I would then have been about 5 or 6 years old, and my memory was that the Sunday newspapers were different, and had different comics. In the Sunday Tribune in Natal we had Brick Bradford, who travelled around in a “time top” that looked a bit like the rubber bulbs that mens’ hairdressers used to squirt talcum powder down the necks of their customers — a kind of predecessor of Dr Who, perhaps. There was also Rusty Riley, who lived on a ranch with lots of horses. But the Transvaal papers had the Katzenjammer Kids and Moon Mullins and Kitty Higgins and Jiggs and Maggie. One of the neighbours in the bungalow was a girl called Bridget, and she had a bicycle, and that was where I first learned to ride a bicycle.

Ivy and Chris Vlok, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Ivy and Chris Vlok, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Later the Vloks moved to Roberts Heights, later known as Voortrekkerhoogte, and now as Thaba Tshwane. Chris Vlok was an electronics fundi and taught people in the military about radar and such things. We used to visit them quite a lot there when we lived at Sunningdale, just outside Johannesburg. In the 1960s they were transferred to Simonstown, where Chris Vlok did the same with the navy, and when we visited them in 1975 he was semi retired, but still looked after the library of books on electronics.

Ivy & Chris Vlok

Ivy & Chris Vlok

Ancestors of Marie Payard

For some years now we have been uncertain about the ancestors of Marie Payard (b. 1785 in Briest, Brandenburg, Prussia). Her parents are given as Isaac Payard and Elisabeth Bettac, but the problem is that there were two Isaac Payards and two Elisabeth Bettacs. See our earlier post on the Payard-Bettac marriage.

Now we have come across a web site that indicates a more likely set of ancestors, and shows the older, rather than the younger Isaac Payard and Elisabeth Bettac as the parents of Marie Payard. This means that we would lose the Berthe, Devantier and Gombert ancestors that we thought were in the family tree.

The Ückermark Huguenot familties were so intertwined that it would probably turn out that many of the Devantier descendants are still related, but the relationships would have to be recalculated. The older Elisabeth Bettac was an aunt of the younger one, and the older Isaac Payard a cousin of the younger one, so they have many of the same ancestors. The younger Elisabeth’s grandparents were Jean Micheè Berthe (1695-1748) and Judith Devantier (1701-1748) while the older one’s parents were Jacob (or Jacques) Bettac (1710-1779) and Elisabeth Veillard (1716-1793). If anyone reading this has any of these in their family tree, please get in touch with us.

 

 

 

A new home for our family web pages

Our family web pages, which have been inaccessible for more than a year, are now back on line, and you can see our main family history page at:

http://www.khanya.org.za/famhist1.htm

We have had some family web pages since 1996, long before we started this blog, At first they were hosted by Geocities, but then Geocities was taken over by Yahoo! and killed off. We moved the pages to Bravenet, but that died about a year ago, and when it was clear that there was no hope of it’s being  rescuscitated, we’ve moved the pages to this site.

So if you had links to any of our pages are one of the old sites, please move them to this one!

It will take some time before we get everything working again, and some links are still broken, but the main family history page seems to be working OK for now.

 

Visiting cousins and old haunts

This morning I left home before 5:00 am to go to Johannesburg for the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration, It starts at 6:00 to give people enough time to get to work afterwards. And, as I sometimes do on such occasions, I had breakfast at the Wimpy in Killarney Mall (they do hake with chips and salad). And then I planned to go and do some family history research in the Mormon family history centre in Parktown, but when I got there it was closed.

I didn’t feel like facing the freeway at the tail-end of the rush hour, so I took a leisurely drive through some of the haunts of my youth — a block of flats we had lived at in Sandringham, and St Nicholas Anglican Church down the road, where on Thursday mornings (rather like today) I used to go to be an altar server with old Canon Sharman and millions of angels. Canon Sharman seemed very old then, though he was probably no older than I am now. But he is long gone, The church was still there, though, but it has been converted into a private residence.

St Nicholas Anglican Church, Sandringham, Johannesburg -- now converted into a private house

St Nicholas Anglican Church, Sandringham, Johannesburg — now converted into a private house

Then I thought, having been deprived of the opportunity of looking at the names of long-dead relatives in microfilm readers, why not go and see a living one. So I went to see my cousin Peter Maxwell, whom I hadn’t seen for over 50 years, and met his wife Mellony for the first time. The last time I met him, I recalled, we had spent most of the time talking about cars, and he said he is still a car nut, and in the past drove in races and rallies. Nowadays it has become specialised and professionalised, and only the very rich could do it, but back then, he said, if you went to Castol and showed them your rally registration, they would sponsor you by providing a few litres of oil.

Steve Hayes & Peter Maxwell, 6 August 2013

Steve Hayes & Peter Maxwell, 6 August 2013

It’s more fun to meet one living relative than to pore over microfilm records to find a few facts about a dozen dead ones.

Peter Maxwell is the son of my father’s sister, Doreen Wynn Maxwell, born Hayes.

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland (1846-1901)

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland (1846-1901)Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland by Ione Rudner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson (1846-1901) was a nineteenth-century Swedish hunter and trader in south-west Africa, and this “life and letters” book gives a picture of his life, and what life was like for others there at that time.

All agree that everyone who knew him liked A.W. Eriksson, and he was well-known and widely-respected in what are now Namibia and Angola. That did not stop them from abusing his hospitality, taking advantage of his kind and generous nature, and cheating him on every possible occasion.

It took me nearly three months to read this book, mainly because I interrupted it by reading some of the sources on which it was based.

Axel Wilhelm was born in Vänersborg, Sweden (then spelt Wenersborg) on 24 August 1846, and in 1865, at the age of 18, he travelled to Damaraland (Hereroland), now part of Namibia to help his fellow-Swede, Charles John Andersson, to collect and mount specimens of the animals and birds of southern Africa for Swedish museums. Within 18 months of Eriksson’s arrival Andersson had died and Eriksson buried him in what is now southern Angola.

Eriksson then carried on hunting and trading on his own account, and became the biggest businessman in Damaraland, though he had to face setbacks caused by wars, droughts and, in 1897, the Rinderpest, the cattle plague that killed off most of the cattle in sub-Saharan Aftica.

My interest in him is twofold: having lived in Namibia for a couple of years I am interested in its history, and Axel Wilhelm Eriksson married a relative of my wife, Frances (Fanny) Stewardson, so their children are related. You can see more about that on our blig here: Elusive Namibian families.

The marriage was not a happy one, and ended i n divorce ten years later, when Axel Eriksson found that Fanny had committed adultery with his clerk, Clement Stephen Stonier. In one of his letters he described his marriage as “ten years of hell”. After the divorce, in 1883, he took his three oldest children, Sara (nearly 10), Andrew (6) and Axel (nearly 5) to Sweden to go to school there, and to be cared for by his elder sister Mathilda Olsen, who had herself been deserted by her husband. The youngest daughter, Maud, was brought up by cousins in Cape Town, where she married James Kirby, and later lived in England.

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson was joined in Damaraland by several of his brothers and a number of other Swedes, some of whom also became related by marriage by marrying into the Stewardson family, namely Oskar Theodore Lindholm and Charles Reinhold Carlsson.

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Fred & Mary Greene

One of the things that was missing from our family history was a picture of Val’s great grandparents, Fred and Mary Greene. A few weeks ago, however, Jean Mary Gray sent us one. Jean’s grandmother, Connie Semple, was the half-sister of Frederick Vincent Greene.

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances  Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene was the son of Frederick Thomas Green, the Canadian elephant hunter, trader and partisan leader in Damaraland in the mid-19th century. He was born at Ehangero, Damaraland, on 21 November 1868. His mother was Catherine Agnes Ann (Kate)  Stewardson, who was born at Rooibank, near Walvis Bay (now part of Namibia).

After Frederick Thomas Green died in 1876, his widow, Kate Stewardson, married George Robb. With her two husbands she had at least 17 children, of whom only five survived to adulthood. So Fred Greene (Junior) had two sisters, Mary Elizabeth Green (1865-1952) who married Frederick Thomas Abbott, and Alice Isabella Green (1871-1945) who married John Martin Cuthbert O’Grady.

He also had three half-sisters, one from his father’s earlier wife, and two from his mother’s later husband (it gets complicated).

The eldest half-sister was Ada Maria Green (1864-1926), born at Otjimboro, Angola, of Frederick Thomas Green’s second wife, Sara ua Kandendu (his first wife was a Dixon, name unknown). Ada, also known as Ida and Kaera, was the ancestor of Mburumba Kerina, the inventor of the name “Namibia” (“Kerina” was the Herero pronunciation of “Green”).

Frederick Vincent Greene’s other two half sisters were the children of his mother, Kate Stewardson, and her second husband George Robb. They were Agnes Mary Elizabeth Robb (1878-1959) who married Charles Ernest Peers, a Cape Town artist, and Constance Sweetingham (Connie) Robb (1889-1964) who married John Semple, and is the grandmother of Jean Gray who sent us the photo.

Frederick Vincent Greene was 7 years old when his father died, and was brought up by his mother and stepfather, who moved to the Cape Colony about 1881 or 1882, and later moved to Johannesburg. At some point he married Mary Frances Crighton — we don’t know when or where, but their first child, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene, was born in Ladysmith, Natal, in 1890. His father, Fred Vincent, was shown in the Anglican baptism register there was a “mechanical engineer”.

Mary Frances Crighton was the daughter of William John Crighton and Anna Maria MacLeod of Cape Town, where the family were saddlers and leather merchants. On her mother’s side there were also Canadian links, as her grandmother, Mary Kerwick, like Fred Vincent Greene’s father, was born in Quebec. See here for more on the Crighton family.

They had eight children, but they are the generation we know least about.

  • Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene (1890-?)
  • Charles Stanhope Greene (1891-?)
  • Arthur Walpole Francis Greene (c1893-c1943)
  • Allan Dudley Greene (c1893-c1942)
  • Edward Lester Greene (1897-c1950)
  • Frank Henry Greene (c1899-?)
  • Royden Braithwaite Greene (1905-1971)
  • Gladys Winifred Greene (1907-1997)

Val’s grandfather was Allan Dudley Greene, but he died before she was born, and when her father was a prisoner-of-war in Italy. He died of TB, but Val’s grandmother Emma le Sueur couldn’t remember when it was. She was good at remembering what pills they took and what diseases they died of, but was rather vague about dates and places. But she thought he had died in the King George V Hospital in Sydenham, Durban. So we went there and asked at the reception if they could find the record of someone who had been a patient 30 years before. They found him in the index, and said that because it was so long ago, his admission card would be in the basement. It took them all of 10 minutes to find it. So we got his date of death. We were delighted, because we had just spent the morning hunting through the records of the Master of the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg (for which I had to get special permission from the magistrate, being banned at the time) and had found no death notice or any other estate files for him. And we still don’t know when or where he was born.

The family surname was Green and remained so until the First World War. The eldest son, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Green, changed his name to Greene when he enlisted in the army, and someone said it was because he had had a fight with his father. But by the end of the war all the sons were using the Greene spelling, and the father was too.

Some members of the family refer to the eldest son as Fred Skelm, because there are all kinds of rumours about him. He was arrested in South West Africa in the 1930s for illegal diamond prospecting in the Kaokoveld, and banged up in Outjo for a while. He claimed that he was heir to the land on which he was prospecting because it had belonged to his grandfather Frederick Thomas Green. His story was perhaps not as far-fetched as it may have seemed to the magistrate at the time, because his aunt Ada (Kaera) had sued the South West Africa Company for a farm that the German colonial government had given to the Company, which she maintained that the Herero chief, Samuel Maharero, had given to her father for her. She won her case too, and the deed, signed by the Herero chiefs’ council, may perhaps be the first written title deed in Namibia.

Fred Skelm seems to have married several times, and may or may not have had children by some of his wives, One story was that he worked on a mine somewhere in America, murdered someone, and escaped on a railway handcranked inspection truck. Another said he was run over by a bus in Clairwood, Durban, and yet another that it was in London.

The second son, Charles Stanhope Green was baptised in Johannesburg in 1892 when he was a year old, but we don’t know where he was born. He disappears after that. Perhaps he died young.

Arthur Walpole Francis Greene, the third (or possibly fourth) son was married in 1915 to Margaret McLaren, who left him 2 days later. He was said to have been drowned when the ship he was travelling on was torpedoed in WWII. Edward Lester Greene had a son Lester Frederick, who went farming in Zimbabwe. Frank Henry Greene went overseas as a soldier in World War I, but while in England was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for stealing articles from a house. He apparently committed suicide at about the age of 25.

Roydon Brathwaite Green changed all three of his names, becoming Royden Braithwaite Greene. He was born in Johannesburg and lived in Port Elizabeth.

The youngest child of Fred and Mary Green was Gladys Winifred Greene, who married twice. We found that she was living in Ixopo, and Val went to visit we with her father, who was thus meeting his aunt for the first time. She was the one who first told us about the Namibian connection, which enabled us to find Fred Green the elephant hunter in the history books, though several of them erroneously referred to him as Frederick Joseph Green instead of Frederick Thomas Green. Later we met Gladys’s daughter Dion Stewart, who lived in Empangeni when we lived in Melmoth, and she was the first one who told us about the family royal legend, which turned out to be false, but did put us on the track of the real Green family history.

So we were very glad to have the photo, which is the only one we have seen of Fred and Mary Greene.

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