Morris family of Cape Town, Namaland and Damaraland

The Morris family has been one of our long-standing family puzzles.

From Edward C. Tabler’s book Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland (Cape Town, Balkema, 1973) we learned that Val’s great great grandmother Kate Stewardson’s mother was a daughter of one of the Morrises — Thomas Morris the elder and Thomas Morris the younger, the latter being a nephew of the former.

Further research showed that “Thomas Morris the Elder” was actually James Morris, and that it was his sister Frances Morris who married Frank Stewardson, though we haven’t found a record of their marriage. There is more about the Stewardson family here. According to research done in the Namibian Archives, James Morris was born in Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire, England on 8 August 1817.

There is a document in the Cape Town Archives  giving a partial history of the Morris, Huskisson and Titterton families of Cape Town (Cape Archives, Accession A610), drawn up by a William Charles Titterton in about 1951. He was a grandson of James Morris.

Thanks to FamilySearch, we were able to to discover the baptisms of the Morrises in the parishes of Nether Seal and Over Seal, near Ashby de la Zouch. Their parents were Thomas and Sarah Morris.

Children of Thomas Morris & Sarah at (Nether) Seal

  • Thomas baptised 25 May 1806
  • William baptised 23 Oct 1808
  • Sarah baptised 14 Feb 1813
  • Elizabeth baptised 7 Sep 1815
  • James baptised 8 Aug 1817
  • Frances baptised 27 Aug 1820
  • Catherine baptised 1 Dec 1822

Thanks to some very helpful people at the Rootschat site we were able to learn that the Thomas and Sarah Morris lived at Donisthorpe, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire, where Thomas was a baker and later a butcher, and that he was born there about 1781. At that time there was no church in Donisthorpe, which explains why the children were baptised at Nether/Over Seal. Donisthorpe got its own church in 1838, though it apparently closed recently, so it is back to square one.

It also appears from the 1851 census of Donisthorpe that Thomas Morris the eldest married a second time to Susanna, who was born in the Cape of Good Hope, so he himself must have been in the Western Cape at some time.

These discoveries made over the last few months, enable us to construct a very provisional Morris family history.

Thomas Morris was a butcher, and at least four of his children emigrated to the Cape Colony in the 1820s or 1830s, where his eldest son Thomas was also a butcher. Perhaps the whole family emigrated, or perhaps the father just visited them there. Though they were baptised in the Anglican Church at Nether/Over Seal, in the Cape the family were Methodists.

Thomas Morris had a contract to supply meat to the British government and his younger brother James went to Namaland and Damaraland (now part of Namibia) apparently with the object of procuring a regular supply of cattle for the market. The Hereros (then called “Damaras” by outsiders) were great cattle herders. So James Morris and his wife Mary Elizabeth Huskisson went with another family, the Dixons, overland through the Northern Cape and Namaland, visiting Methodist missionaries on the way. The Morrises had two sons with them. Eventually they reached Walvis Bay in mid-1844, and they wanted to return to Cape Town by sea.

As Tabler (1973:78) puts it

Morris and Dixon reached Walvis Bay in mid-1844, and Morris and his family sailed for Cape Town in Lawton’s vessel so that Mrs Morris could be confined there, but contrary winds drove the ship back. Morris joined Dixon at Sandfontein where they built a store and each man built a house. Mrs Morris gave birth to a daughter there.

And the Methodist baptism register in Cape Town shows the daughter, Sarah Ann, as being born on 6 September 1844, and being baptised on 6 December 1847.

James Morris apparently continued to live in Damaraland until the end of the 1840s, when, according to Tabler, he handed over the business to his nephew Thomas, who was dead by August 1863, and was buried in the Kuiseb River canyon. The problem here is knowing where this Thomas fits into the family. We know that James Morris’s elder brother Thomas had a son Thomas, but he appears to have been alive in 1864, because when his father went insolvent then, he was occupting most of the property. The other brother, William Morris, may have had a son Thomas, but we have found no record of his marriage or children. There are records of a William Morris (perhaps more than one) in the Western Cape in the middle of the 19th century, but the problem is knowing which records pertain to which William, and which of them, if any, was a member of this family.

Frances Morris, the sister of Thoms, William and James, also went to Damaraland in the later 1840s with her husband Frank Stewardson, and their daughter Kate (Val’s great great grandmother) was born at Rooibank, near Walvis Bay about 1848. According to the Lutheran missionary C.H. Hahn, James Morris, the Wesleyan trader, lived in fierce enmity (arger Feindschaft) with his brother-in-law Frank Stewardson, which might explain the lack of any mention of Frances in the Titterton history.

We’re trying to sort out these relationships as we hope to go to Namibia later in the year and do some fossicking in the archives in the hope of finding more, and tying up some loose ends. One of the more interesting loose ends is Abraham Morris (1872-1922), the leader of the 1922 Bondelswarts Rebellion. According to the Dictionary of South African Biography (Vol III, p 634) he was the son of an English trader and a Bondelswarts mother and was educated in the Cape Colony, so he could quite possibly be related — but how?

Our family history wiki in 2012

Here are some statistics for our Family History Wiki in 2012.

The pages that had the most visitors were:

  1. 2184 – Jessie Koch, formerly Falkenberg, born Schultz
  2. 2063 – Morton family
  3. 1974 – Home Page
  4. 1815 – Alfred William Green discussion (bit of a mystery this)
  5. 1638 – Vause family
  6. 1555 – Frederick Thomas Green
  7. 1501 – Bagot family

It is a bit of a mystery why 1815 people (that’s nearly five people a day) should be drawn to a page for discussing Alfred William Green, but then completely fail to discuss him when they get there. By contrast, only 130 people visited the page that actually has information about Alfred William Green.

Jessie Schultz was Val’s great great grand mother, who came to South Africa from Germany in 1858, and it would be nice to know if any of the people who visited her page are related to us, but none of them is saying.

Here are some more general statistics for the site as a whole, and, sadly, they seem to indicate that collaborative family history research is not very popular:

WikiStat

That’s quite a lot of visitors, but the emptiness of the “Messages” section shows that the feedback is almost zero, which is why the edits are relatively few. If few people respond, there is little  motivation to add to the information.

So I’m still a bit disappointed. I thought the wiki format was ideal for family participation, and that other members of the family could help to contribute to information, especially with family stories and biographical information.

I hoped that some cousins might start their own wikis, where the relations we have in common could be linked across two wikis, and then their own wiki could branch out to the unlinked families on their side of the family. In that way we could have a whole network of interlinked family wikis. But somehow it has never reached critical mass, and never taken off.

But maybe this year will be different.

Would it be too much to hope for — that we could have one linked family wiki a month? Or even a quarter? Or perhaps even one for the whole year? It’s quite easy to start one on Wikispaces, but it doesn’t even have to be there, there are other wiki sites as well.

Where does Francis Joseph Hayes fit in?

Yesterday I discovered a Hayes relation I had not known about before; he is Francis Joseph Hayes, born about 1882.

Discovering hitherto unknown relations is not unknown in genealogical and family history research — that’s what it’s all about. But the difficulty is finding where this one fits in.

Francis Joseph Hayes appears on the 1911 English census, aged 29, staying with the Nobbs familyat 11 Ashchurch Park Villas, Hammersmith, London. Most of the male members of the family are gun makers, and he is too. He is shown as the nephew of the head of the household, 62-year-old Barbara Nobbs, widow. From other sources I know that she was Barbara Rachel Hayes, born in Bristol, England, and baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Clifton, Bristol, on 15 July 1848.

name: Francis Joseph Hayes
event: Census
event date: 1911
gender: Male
age: 29
birthplace: Finsbury Park London N, London
record type: Household
registration district: Fulham
sub-district: North Hammersmith
parish: Hammersmith
county: London

Barbara Rachel Hayes married William Nobbs, gun maker, on 4 June 1870, and they had five children, Rosa, William, Wesley, Elijah and Chrisopher. By 1911 three of the five were dead: Rosa, William and Christopher all died in their 30s, apparently unmarried and leaving no descendants. At the 1911 census two of the five children were at home: Wesley, with his wife Florence and two children, and Elijah Thomas Nobbs, who was still single. And then the mysterious Francis Joseph Hayes, nephew.

Where did Francis Joseph come from?

Barbara Rachel Hayes was the eldest of eight children of Sander Hayes and Barbara Deake Clevely. She did have a nephew William Joseph Hayes, born in 1882, son of her brother Christopher Albert Hayes, but William Joseph Hayes died 18 months later, and his birth and death are recorded on a plaque in the Easton-in-Gordano cemetery. None of her other brothers had children born in the right time frame, and their children were all born in Bristol.

One brother, John Hayes, was in the right place at the right time. He married Maud Alice Rogers in Bristol in 1877, and they had two daughters, Maude and Adelaide, in 1878 and 1879 respectively, and they appear on the 1881 census living in London, where John was a builder. It is possible that they could have had a son in London in 1882. But in 1885 the family emigrated to the USA, where they show up in censuses for San Francisco — father, mother and two daughters — no Francis Joseph. Is it likely that they would have emigrated and left a three-year-old child behind?

Earlier censuses don’t seem to cast much light on the matter, so perhaps he was in America, and returned.

Perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet and order the birth certificate for this one:

Surname First name(s) District Vol Page
Births Jun 1881   (>99%)
HAYES  Francis  Hackney  1b 509
HAYES  Francis Joseph  Islington  1b 452
HAYES  Francis William  Upton  6c 323

But if his parents are not known members of the family, then what?

The Stewardson and other families of Namibia

We have recently solved a number of puzzles relating to our Stewardson family in Namibia.

Val’s great great grandmother was Kate Stewardson (1848-1898), or Catherine Anne Agnes Stewardson, to give her her full names. She married Fred Green at Otjimbingwe in 1865, and after he died in 1876, she married George Robb. She gave birth to 16 children, only five of whom lived till adulthood, most of them dying in infancy, and one as a teenager. As Fred Green wrote to his friend and business partner, Charles John Andersson, if the children got sick as they travelled around in the bush by ox wagon, there was nothing one could do. There were no doctors, no nurses, no hospitals. He wrote of how helpless he felt, knowing that there was nothing he could do except hope that they recovered, as they sometimes did, or, in most cases, didn’t.

Anderson might not have sympathised, as he had opposed Fred Green’s marriage to Kate, and thought it a bad match, though he never said exactly why. One can, however, speculate. Kate was Fred’s second wife, and she was  20 years younger than him. He was nearly 36 and she was 16 when they were married. His first wife was a Herero princess, Betsey Kaipukire Sarah ua Kandendu, and it is not clear what happened to her. Did she die, or did he abandon her for someone younger and prettier? At any rate their daughter Ada Maria Green was only two years old at the time of his second marriage. Nevertheless, as Andersson wrote in his diary on the day of the wedding, “the thing is done”.  There is more about Fred Green on our family wiki page here.

When we began researching the family history, and got back on the Green side as far as Fred and Kate, were stuck. One of the most informative sources was a book by Edward C. Tabler, Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland, 1738-1880 which is a series of potted biographies of adult male foreigners who were in Namibia before it became a German colony in the 1880s. Women and children are only mentioned in passing. Tabler culled his information from other published sources, and collected it together conveniently in one place, so it is a very useful book. But the names of Kate’s parents are not mentioned anywhere. Her father is “Stewardson the elder” whose three sons, William Charles and James, Tabler refers to as “a bad lot”, the youngest brother, James, being “a bit of a scoundrel”. They were hunters and traders around Omaruru in the mid 1870s, and that’s all we know. His wife was “a daughter of one of the Morrises” — and he mentions two Morrises, Thomas Morris the elder, and Thomas Morris the younger, who, according to Tabler, was a nephew of the elder.

C.H. Hahn, a German missionary at Otjimbingue, mentioned in his diary the arrival of Stewardson with his brother-in-law Morris, the Wesleyan trader, with whom he lived in fierce enmity.

So all we knew was that a nameless Stewardson had married a nameless Morris, who had a brother Thomas, who took over his uncle’s business.

In 2003 we went to Cape Town on holiday and found a document about the Morris, Huskisson and Titterton families, which said that the Morris who did business in Damaraland was a James Morris, and from other sources as well it appears that this James Morris was indeed the brother-in-law with whom the elder Stewardson lived in deep enmity. And perhaps that enmity explains why James Morris’s sister Frances, who married Frank Stewardson, does not appear anywhere in that rather long and detailed document.

And then we found, in a Methodist Church register from Cape Town, the baptism of Elizabeth Stewardson, daughter of Francis and Frances Stewardson, so at last we had a name for the elder Stewardson, who was apparently also known as Frank.

In addition to their three sons, the Stewardsons had four daughters: Elizabeth, Frances (or Fanny), Catherine (or Kate) and Charlotte. And they all married traders who plied the route between Omaruru and Walvis Bay. Elizabeth married Oskar Theodor Lindholm, from Sweden. Fanny married Axel Eriksson, also from Sweden. Kate, as we have seen, married Fred Green (who was from Canada) while Charlotte Caroline Stewardson married John Gunning of Walvis Bay (and just to confuse things, one of their daughters married a John Harold Green, who was unrelated to Fred Green). And one of the Lindholm daughters married another of the traders, Charles (or Carl) Reinhold Carlsson.

We have information on several of their descendants, so if you think you might be related, please get in touch.

And there’s more.

Twent years ago Val also found, in the Windhoek archives, an Emily Jacoba Stewardson who married a Jacob Dennewill, an Alsatian.

Where did she fit in? Was there a fifth Stewardson daughter?

Dennewill grave in Omaruru Cemetery

We left her unattached, and earlier this week things fell into place. A cousin of one of the Eriksson descendants put us in touch with Naomi McFadden who hasd been recording the Omaruru cemetery. We did have a record, also found in the Cape Town archives, of a rather messy divorce between Axel Wilhelm Eriksson and Fanny Stewardson. She had taken the children to Cape Town because there was a war on in Damaraland, and while there had an affair with the lodger, one Clement Stephen Stonier. So when Axel came to Cape Town and realised that young Emily could not be his, he divorced Fanny. And so Emily who married Jacob Dennewill was the daughter of C.S. Stonier and Fanny Stewardson.

Fanny went back to Omaruru, and had a couple more daughters by the Herero cook, whose name is only recorded as Johnathon. One of the daughters died young, but the other may also have descendants somewhere.

And one of Axel Wilhelm Eriksson’s sons, Andrew or Andreas, went to Sweden, changed his surname to Waerneman, and became a priest. No wonder we couldn’t find him.

But many thanks to Naomi McFadden of Omaruru, Bo Lindquist, and Peter Johansson of the Vänersborg Museum, who helped us to find missing links, fill in some gaps, and gave us the clues we needed to make further links.

Swingewood family

This week we’ve been looking again at the Swingewood branch of the family, which we hadn’t looked at for many years, but it seems that quite a few members of that branch of the family have become interested in the family history, and have left messages on the Internet, so we hope to make contact with some of them and share family information.

The connection came about when Marian Winifred Crighton married Joseph Swingewood in Kenilworth, Johannesburg, in 1923.

Marian Winifred Crighton (1903-1967) was the daughter of  Frederick Crighton (1852-1916) and Helene Charlotte Ottilie Zeeman (1879-1929).

Frederick and Helene had four children, two of whom died fairly young. The remaining two, Arthur and Marian, married and had children. Marian married Joseph Swingewood and became Marian Swingewood, while Arthur married Marion Douglas who became Marion Crighton. Most of the information we have on the Swingewoods came from Marion Crighton (nee Douglas), who told us about her sister-in-law’s family, but that was 25 years ago now, so there’s a bit of catching up to do.

Helene Zeeman was Frederick Crighton’s second wife, and she was actually younger than his daughter by his first marriage (he was about 27 years older than she was). His first wife was Josephine MacLeod, and Josephine’s sister and brother also married into the Crighton family:

  • William John Crighton married Anna Maria MacLeod
  • Annie Crighton married Charles Augustus MacLeod
  • Frederick Crighton married Josephine MacLeod

The Crightons were saddlers and leather merchants in Cape Town.

For more about the Crighton family see our family history wiki here.

 

 

 

2011 in retrospect

During the second half of 2011 we concentrated mainly on the Ellwood family of Cumbria in our research. We found a link to Bruce Morrison’s online family tree, which took our Ellwood family several generations back to Dufton in Westmorland, England, which enabled us to also link up to several other Ellwood families we had previously thought were unlinked. We started an Ellwood family history forum in July, and by the end of the year it had 19 members, most of them known to be related.

In May we went on holiday to the Western Cape, and visited several relations on the way, mostly of the Growdon and Hannan families. In the first part of the year we were mainly working on the Bagot and Cottam families, from Lancashire in England, and also started a Bagot family forum.

We’ve seen a gradual greowth in the number of visitors to our Family Wiki, but still practically no interaction, which is the main purpose of a Wiki — a collaborative effort at building up a family history, but apart from us, only one other person contributed to it in 2011.

Perhaps one of the problems is that most of the visitors seem to have come from the USA, though the families we are researching are mainly in the UK, South Africa, Germany and Australia.

Another historical project that Steve, in particular, has been involved in is a mailing list on the history of the Anglican Church in Namibia. Steve worked in the Anglican Church in Namibia from 1969 to 1972, and had been in touch with some other people who had worked there in the same period, and have been comparing notes.

On New Year’s Eve we were visited by Val’s cousin Enid Ellis and her husband Justin, who have been in Namibia for the last 20 years, and were also there in the 1970s.

Val Hayes, Enid Ellis, Laura, Justin Ellis, 31 December 2011

 

Jane Ellwood and the perils of online family trees

Do you keep your primary genealogy data in an online family tree?

My advice is: Don’t.

If you use an online family tree, you should use it only as a back-up for you main data, or as a way of contacting other researchers. It is best to keep your data in a reliable genealogy program, on your own computer (with back-ups, of course).

We’ve been looking at a lot of online family trees lately, especially in connection with the Ellwood family, where the discovery of a link to several generations has opened up a lot of possibilities for more research, and shown a lot of people interested in various branches of the same family.

But we have also discovered that a lot of the online trees are full of errors, and the people who run the sites make it easy to propagate the errors by encouraging you to copy faulty research to your own tree. It also seems that in the some cases  online software actually creates and introduces errors that weren’t there in the first place. We’ve sent people GEDCOM files and when they’ve uploaded them to Ancestry.com, Geni.com, MyHeritage.com and other sites, they are full of errors that weren’t in the GEDCOM files we sent.

Here is an example where about 80% of the trees on Mundia/Ancestry were simply wrong.

There was a Jane Ellwood born about 1834/35 in Dufton, Westmorland, England.

She was the daughter of John Ellwood and Nancy Bell.

The majority of online family trees show her as married to Anthony Brunskill.

A much smaller number show her as married to John Ellison.

Since polygamy was illegal in England in that period, it is unlikely that she was married to both of them. So which is right?

You could take a majority vote, and say that since the majority of trees show she was married to Anthony Brunskill, that would be the correct conclusion, and the others must be wrong.

But that would be wrong.

A look at FreeBMD shows that Jane Ellwood married John Ellison in 1857.

And Jane Elwood married Anthony Brunskill in 1863.

So, logically, one should look at the 1861 census, when one Jane would be
married and the other wouldn’t.

But unfortunately in 1861 the unmarried Jane was not staying at home with her parents, but was staying with Robert Bellas Brunskill, and she is described as his sister-in-law, before she married his brother Anthony, who was also staying in the house.

That means that Robert Bellas Brunskill’s wife Bridget could be Jane’s sister, if we’re lucky.

Or, more remotely, that Robert had another sibling who married one of Jane’s other siblings.

It turns out that Bridget Brunskill’s maiden name was Ellwood, and she was
Jane’s sister.

Their parents were John Ellwood and Ann Bellas.

Note that a marriage certificate would not have solved this problem, because the father of both Janes was John.

So two Brunskill brothers married two Ellwood sisters, and what is more they were first cousins on the Bellas side. That doesn’t affect the identification much, though it does help to confirm it.

What is more, in 1861 Jane was staying with Bridget, in 1871 Bridget was staying with Jane.

So the Jane Ellwood who married Anthony Brunskill was the daughter of John Ellwood and Ann Bellas, and NOT the daughter of John Ellwood and Nancy Bell. The daughter of John and Nancy married John Ellison, but only a minority of
online family trees showed that.

Do you have these Janes in your family tree?

Make sure you have them attached to the right parents and the right husbands!

And be very careful with what you copy from online family trees. Ask the person who posted the tree where they got the information, and that they didn’t just incritically copy it from somewhere else. Unfortunately one of the other problems with family tree host sites is that they make it difficult for you to contact other researchers. They encourage you to use their own internal messaging system rather than regular e-mail, and sometimes to contact other researchers you have to pay to join that site. That is why they recommend it, of course. They want to get you to pay. But if one researcher you want to contact uses one site, and another uses another site, and yet another uses a third site, it can become quite exorbitantly expensive and time wasting.

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