Elusive Namibian families

Yesterday (10 May 2013) we spent most of the day in the Windhoek Archives, looking for elusive family connections, most of which we failed to find.

Namibian National Library and Archives, Windhoek

Namibian National Library and Archives, Windhoek

Frank Stewardson and his wife Frances Morris went to Walvis Bay in the 1840s, and had four daughters and three sons. The sons, William, Charles and James, disappear from history without a trace. We have no idea whether they married or had children, or when and where they died.

The daughters, however, married and left numerous progeny, and several families in Namibia are descended from them.

  1. Elizabeth Stewardson married Oskar Lindholm, and there are several descendants in Namibia
  2. Catherine (Kate) Stewardson married (1) Fred Green and (2) George Robb, and there are descendants in South Africa, Canada, Britian and New Zealand, though none (that we know of) in Namibia.
  3. Frances (Fanny) Stewardson married Axel Wilhelm Eriksson and had four children, whose descendants live mainly in Sweden, Denmark and the UK. She also had a daughter, Emily Jacoba Stewardson,  from an adulterous affair with Clement Stephen Stonier. Emily married Jacob Dennewill, and several of their descendants live in Namibia.
  4. Charlotte Caroline Stewardson married John William Gunning of Walvis Bay, and had several children. Some of their descendants are in South Africa, but two of their daughters,  Charlotte Annie and Catherine Elizabeth, are said to have married Dixons, and those are the ones we were particularly looking for. For more on this see our post on Gunning for the Dixons.

We found out quite a bit about the Dixon family, but not the bits we were most keen to find.

Werner Hillebrecht, the archivist, was very helpful, and suggested several published sources that might be able to help — some journals of Swedes in Namibia, including Axel Wilhelm Eriksson, have been translated and published in English.

He also asked about my diary from the time I lived in Namibia (1969-1972). I had sent part of it to the Archives 20 years ago, and he said that there was very little material from that period. I had asked them to let me know if anyone wanted to consult it for research (so far no one has), and he wanted to know if I still wanted that condition attached to it. I said yes, while I’m still alive, because then anyone who consults it can contact me to ask questions about anything that is unclear, or on which they wanted more information.

We did manage to find out quite a bit more about the Dixon family. Daniel Esma Dixon was born in the Cape, though his father Peter Dixon also lived in Namibia for a while. Daniel married Maria Cluitt, who was born in  Pietermaritzburg, and they had thirteen children.

The family lived on the farm Ubib, in the Karibib district, and Daniel Esma Dixon left the farm to his four (or six) sons, on condition that they did not sell it, but kept it for their descendants. Only the two eldest sons were of an age to have married the Gunning girls, but we found no mention of their spouses anywhere. The eldest, also named Daniel Esma Dixon, was said to have gone to Angola, where he died or disappeared. The second son was James Thomas Harwood Dixon, but there was no mention of his spouse.

We found out a bit more about the Dennewill descendants, however.

Jacob Dennewill was an Alsatian from Dosenheim, and he and Emily Jacoba Stewardson had ten children. They farmed at Ongariwanda in the Omaruru District, and several members of the family are buried in the cemetery there.

We were able to add to our knowledge of this branch of the family from an interesting source — alien registration cards.

Dennewill1

Relationships are not mentioned on the cards, but it appeared that this one referred to Wolfgang’s mother:

Dennewill2

At first we wonderdd whether there might be two different Dennewill families, but there was more information on the back of the cards, which said that they went to the farm Ongariwanda, where Wolfgang was accompanied by and staying with his parents, and Charlotte’s husband was Wilhelm. But there was no card for Wilhelm. But Jacob and Emily had a son Wilhelm Otto Friedrich Dennewill, born in 1914 (the same year as Charlotte) on the farm Ongariwanda, near Omaruru (so he would not have been an alien), so we concluded that he must have gone to Germany before 1914, married Charlotte, stayed there for two world wars, and returned to Namibia in 1950.

Unlike most archival records, the photos on these ones show what the people looked like.

Dennewill3

Cell phones are very useful in the archives, both for taking photos like this, and for scanning written documents. We scanned a few documents in old German handwriting which would have taken too long to decipher in our limited time in the archives, but we can take them home and work them out with the aid of a dictionary.

And, according to PAF, Wolfgang DENNEWILL and Valerie Muriel Katharine GREENE-153 are 3rd cousins 1 time removed.  Their common ancestors are Francis STEWARDSON-874 and Frances MORRIS-875.

The story of our Namibian journey continues here.

You can see an index to all these posts of our travelogue of Namibia and Botswana here.

Chasing Namibian families

Next week we hope to travel to Namibia to see friends and family, and do some historical research — family, church and general history. We’ll try to update our blogs with our progress if we have internet access: this one for family news and family history; Notes from underground for general observations, photos and chit-chat; and Khanya for general history, church history and more serious observations. It used to be possible to keep in touch with all of them by following Tumblr, but Tumblr doesn’t seem to work as a blog aggregator any more.

It’s more than 20 years since we last visited Namibia, and more than 40 years since I lived there, so we expect to see many changes. We plan to go first to Windhoek, where we hope to stay with Val’s cousins Enid and Justin Ellis. Enid is a cousin on the Pearson/Ellwood side of the family.

We also hope to see Mburumba Kerina, a more distant cousin on the Green side of the family. “Kerina” is the Herero form of  “Green” and Mburumba Kerina is descended from Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green through his second wife, Sarah Kaipukire (Val is descended from his third wife, Kate Stewardson). We also hope to find out something about Fred Green’s first wife, who was a Dixon, and died about 1860. We don’t even know her name. There’s more on this in the earlier article Gunning for the Dixons. On the Stewardson side of the family, there are several descendants in Namibia, mainly of the Lindholm, Dennewill and Jeske families. We don’t have any current addresses for them, but we may be able to make contact with some of them while we are there.

HiskiaUOne of the friends we hope to see is Hiskia Uanivi. When I lived in Windhoek he was a student at the Paulinum, the Lutheran theological seminary then based at Otjimbingue. In early 1971 my friend and colleage Dave de Beer and I went on a holiday trip to see friends and family in South Africa (rather like the trip we are planning now, but in reverse).

Hiskia had never been to South Africa, and the Paulinum was closed for the Christmas holidays, so he came with us, travelling via Keetmanshoop, Vanzylsrust, Hotazel and Kuruman to Johannesburg (about a 22-hour drive). There we were joined by my cousins Jenny and John Aitchison, and we travelled to Nqutu in Zululand, staying at the Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital (then an Anglican church hospital), and then via KwaMagwaza and Mphumulo to Pietermaritzburg, where John and Jenny Aitchison lived. We left Hiskia at the Mapumulo Lutheran Seminary for a couple of days, as he was curious to see how it compared with the Paulinum, and one of the old Paulinum teachers, Dr Theo Sundermeier, was then teaching there.

We spent a couple of days with the Mnguni family in the foothills of the Drakensberg, helping them to erect a chicken run that would gather manure for fertilising the crops, and then went on to Umtata, Alice, Grahamstown and Cape Town, and from there back to Namibia. At that time there were Anglican theological colleges in Umtata, Alice and Grahamstown, and we visited them, so Hiskia was able to make more comparisons.

With the Mnguni family at Stepmore, near Himeville. Hiskia Univi on the left, Mr & Mrs Mnguni on the right, Chris Shabalala in the middle, flanked by Dave de Been and Steve Hayes, Jenny Aitchison in front, and other members and neighbours of the Mnguni household. 16 Feb 1971

With the Mnguni family at Stepmore, near Himeville. Hiskia Uanivi on the left, Mr & Mrs Mnguni on the right, Chris Shabalala in the middle, flanked by Dave de Beer and Steve Hayes, Jenny Aitchison in front, and other members and neighbours of the Mnguni household. 16 Feb 1971

Now we are planning, for the first time, to travel to Namibia via Botswana on the Trans-Kalahari route. Back then it was not possible, as one needed passports to cross Botswana, and the South African government, which then ruled Namibia, would not give passports to people it regarded as politically unreliable. We also hope to visit the Etosha Pan Game Reserve, and Ovamboland, and return via the Okavango and following the course of the Taokhe River to Lake Ngami, which in Fred Green’s day was navigable by boat, though getting a boat there by ox wagon must have been quite a feat.

So, if the opportunity arises, we hope to blog about our trip as we go. You’ll find the first instalment of our travelogue here.

Life in Namibia and Angola a century ago (book review)

William Chapman: ReminiscencesWilliam Chapman: Reminiscences by William Chapman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I saw this book in the Protea Bookshop in Pretoria, I immediately bought it, mainly because of my interest in family history and Namibian history. My wife Val’s paternal great grandfather, Frederick Vincent Greene, was born at Ehangero, Damaraland, in 1868. His father, Frederick Thomas Green, a Canadian, lived in Damaraland for 25 years as a hunter and trader, and when he died in 1876 William Chapman attended him at his death bed, at Heigamkab in the dry bed of the Swakop river. He describes the scene in his book in some detail.

The late Mr Frederick Green had arrived shortly before at the bay [Walvis Bay] and had gone with his family on a trip to Cape Town so I decided to wait for his return and then go with him to the interior. During the time I was waiting for Mr Green I enjoyed the hospitality of Mr John Gunning, the manager of Mr A.W. Eriksson’s store in Walvisch Bay.[1]

When Mr Green returned I joined him and we left the Bay for the interior, he was very unwell. After reaching Hykamgap in the Swakop River he became worse and died on the 4th May 1876, succumbing to what Mr Palgrave said was an acscess on the liver, the last days of his illness being marked by vomiting. I was in the wagon with him during the last night and present when he breathed his last. Poor man, he left a widow and a number of children!

Chapman goes on to give a summary of what he knew of the life of Fred Green, who had been a friend of his father, James Chapman.

Family historians like to get birth, marriage and death certificates for information about their ancestors, but there was no registration of these events in Namibia in those days — at that time the country consisted of a number of mini-states that sometimes quarrelled among themselves. Fred Green’s death took place during one of the peaceful interludes, though he himself had participated in some of the earlier battles. But Chapman gives as much information as most death certificates, and with a more human touch.

William Chapman went to Damaraland as a teenager to seek his fortune. He had a romantic notion of following in the footsteps of his father James Chapman, and saw Fred Green as a Nimrod who would teach him the ropes. He was 16 at the time.

Instead he had to be content with Fred Green’s brothers-in-law, William and Charles Stewardson, teenagers not much older than himself, who were equipped and sent out to hunt and trade by the aforementioned Mr A.W. Eriksson. It makes me wonder about the youth of today. How many parents would send three kids aged 16 or 17 out on a business trip, putting them in charge of expensive equipment, and in a country full of wild animals, some of which they would hunt, and others which would hunt them? Though I suppose we do send them to war, to hunt and kill other human beings.

But William Chapman did not get on well with the Stewardson brothers, nor they with him. Reading between the lines, it sounds like a high school kid being excluded from a gang. The Stewardsons had been brought up rough, in a desert country. Chapman was the citified kid, who had been to a relatively posh school, which taught him gentelman’s manners. The Stewardsons preferred the company of their Damara and Herero servants, and at nights around the campfire preferred to talk to them, in their own languages, thus excluding the city slicker, who spoke only English and Dutch.

Chapman grew up fast, however, and eventually went into business on his own account, and migrated northwards to Angola, where he farmed, hunted and traded for 48 years.

The book is in two parts. The first part, the reminiscences proper, he began to write in 1916, mainly for his children, or at least at their request, and is the story of his life and of the people he encountered. The second part is an account of the Dorsland Trekkers, who left the Transvaal when it was under British rule about 1880, and went north-west through what is now Botswana, ending up in Angola, which was gradually coming under Portuguese rule.

It seems that he may have intended the second part for publication, but never actually got round to finishing it, because there are blanks for things like dates and names to be filled in later, and towards the end it is in obvious need of much editing. Most of the last part is a series of anecdotes intended to show how terrible Portuguese rule in Angola was, and why the Dorsland trekkers left after having lived there for nearly 50 years. There is no account of how they left and what subsequently happened to them.

Except for those last 50 or so pages, the book is very readable, and gives an interesting picture of what life was like in Namibia and Angola a century or more ago. There are also several photographs.

One of the things that struck me was some strange inconsistencies. I’m not sure if they were mere personal idiosyncracies, or if they were attitdes common among white people living there at the time. At times Chapman rails against the Portuguese for their unjust treatment of the “natives”, and gives accounts of such practices as forced labour, imprisonment (and even killing) without trial, confiscation of livestock and so on. And then in another place he accuses the Portuguese of over-familiarity, giving chairs to natives to sit on when they meet for discussions and similar malpractices. The British and the Boers, he avers, would never sink to that level.

The value of the book is enormously enhanced by comprehensive annotations by the editor, Nicol Stassen. He has gone to a great deal of trouble to identify people and places mentioned in the text and to provide useful information about them in footnotes. It is almost worth buying the book for these alone.

Notes

[1] John Gunning, A.W. Eriksson and Fred Green were brothers-in-law, since they had all married into the Stewardson family. Frank and Fanny Stewardson (Francis and Frances, if you want to be formal) went to Namibia from the Cape in the late 1840s, and their daughter Kate married Fred Green, Fanny married Axel Eriksson, and Charlotte married John Gunning.

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The Dixon family of Namaqualand (book review)

Die Dixons van NamakwalandDie Dixons van Namakwaland by Ledivia van Vuuren

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in a blog post Gunning for the Dixons about some of the problems of locating the Dixon family in what is now Namibia.

We were interested because some members of my wife’s family had married into a Dixon family (as described in the blog post in the link above) and they also appeared to be business partners of the Dixon family, but most of the records we had found were confusing and it was possible that there was more than one Dixon family. We made contact with the author of this book, but weren’t able to get hold of a copy because of a postal strike. Now at last we have a copy, and things become a little bit clearer.

It seems that there were definitely two Dixon families, and Edward C. Tabler confused them in his book Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland and conflated them into one.

This book deals with only one of the families, and makes no mention at all of the other, but that at least helps us to say that people who can be identified as members of this family are very unlikely to be members of the other.

Both Dixon families were probably Irish in origin, however.

The two Dixon families are:

1. Benjamin Dixon and Lodivia Manifold (the subjects of this book)
2. Peter Daniel Dixon and Whilhelmina Hendriks

I will refer to them as the “Ben Dixon” and “Peter Dixon” families.

Ben Dixon became a business partner of James Morris, and their two families set out for Namibia in 1843, travelling overland by ox waggon. They were Wesleyan Methodists and travelled part of the way with some Wesleyan missionaries, and stayed at mission stations on the way. They crossed the Orange (Gariep) river on Christmas day 1843, and reached Walvis Bay in about June 1844. This is all described in detail in the book, seen through the eyes of the Dixons’ eldest daughter Jane, who was 13 years old when they left, and had her 14th birthday on the journey.

The Dixon and Morris families built two houses and a store on the Kuiseb River, at a place they named Sandfontein, about three miles from the present town of Walvis Bay, and began trading for cattle, which they exported to St Helena to provide meat for the British garrison there. In September 1844 Mary Morris gave birth to a daughter at Sandfontein (she was named Sarah Ann Kuisip, because she was born on the Kuiseb River, though that is not mentioned in the book).

They kept a couple of lion cubs as pets, and various sailors from ships in Walvis Bay harbour wanted to buy them, and when they would not sell, tried to steal them. Walvis Bay harbour was amazingly busy in those days, mainly with ships collecting guano from the offshore islands, and sometimes there were 10 or 12 of them in the bay at the same time, come to re-stock with stores before going back to collect more guano.

For a while the business prospered, and then things went bad. Fewer guano ships arrived, and many of the people inland who traded cattle for goods did not pay for the goods, and so Ben Dixon and James Morris had so go on debt collecting tours. The debtors, however, sometimes decided that they easiest way to pay their debts was simply to steal the cattle from someone else, or even from those to whom they were owed. One group bought a waggon for a number of cattle, and then took the cattle back to haul the waggon home. Complaints to the British government about this led to the St Helena contract being cancelled.

James Morris took a large herd of cattle overland to Cape Town, to try to sell them there, and returned by sea with his sister Fanny and her husband Frank Stewardson, and their two children. Fanny and Frank Stewardson were my wife Val’s great-great-great grandparents, so snippets like that were of special interest to us.

So one thing that we learned from the book was that while that Ben Dixon and the Morris and Stewardson families were in a business partnership together, they did not intermarry.

Eventually Ben Dixon returned to the Cape Colony, but instead of going back to Cape Town he settled in Little Namaqualand, on a farm near the town of Garies. Their eldest daughter Jane married William Latham, and remained in what is now Namibia until her husband’s death, then went to stay with her parents. The second daughter, Rebecca, married Frank Bassingthwaighte, and their family remained in Namibia, and some of their descendants are still there today. The younger members farmed in the Northern Cape, and so the Ben Dixon family is mainly associated with Namaqualand, as the book’s title suggests.

The Peter Dixon family seems to be entirely different, though also perhaps originally from Ireland.

Peter Daniel Dixon was the son of McCombe Donald Dixon and Maria Sprewt. He was born in the Cape Colony about 1821, and married Wilhelmina Hendriks, by whom he had at least 7 children. He was trading in Walvis Bay in the early 1860s, and his daughter married Fred Green, the elephant hunter, but died in about 1860, and they seem to have had no children. Fred Green then married Sarah Kaipukire, and after a separation or divorce, married Catherine Stewardson, the daughter of Frank and Fanny Stewardson mentioned above. So Fred Green was married into the Peter Dixon family, but was also friendly with the Ben Dixon family.

Peter Dixon married a second time to Annie Cloete, probably in Damaraland, but if they had any children, we know nothing of them. We are hoping to visit Namibia in May, and to do some research in the archives here, and reading this book was in part a preparation for that. When visiting archives a long way away, with limited time, it is useful to know what you are looking for, and also to know what you are not looking for. It can save a lot of time not going down false trails.

But though it appears that we are not related to the Ben Dixon family either by descent or marriage, the book was nevertheless a fascinating and informative read, and gives a good insight into life 150 years ago.

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Gunning for the Dixons

For many years we have been puzzled by some Dixon family connections in Namibia.

We are interested in the Morris and Stewardson families, and we know that a Morris family (related to us) went to Damaraland (now part of Namibia) in 1843/44 with a Dixon family, and each family built a house at Sandfontein on the Kuiseb River, near Walvis Bay.

Mary Elizabeth Morris gave birth to a daughter there, whose name was Sarah Annie Kuisip Morris — named after the river where she was born. All this we know from estate files and divorce papers in the Cape Archives and various printed books.

Sarah Annie Kuisip Morris’s aunt Frances Morris arrived soon afterwards, with her husband Frank Stewardson, and they had three sons and four daughters. We have no idea what happened to the sons, but the daughters married Oscar Lindholm, Axel Eriksson, John Gunning and Frederick Green. Fred Green was Val’s great great grandfather.

Frederick Green’s first wife was a Dixon — Kate Stewardson was his third wife. But we don’t know his Dixon wife’s first name.

And two Gunning girls —  Charlotte Annie Gunning and Catherine Elizabeth Gunning — married Dixons. But we don’t know the first names of those Dixons.

This is where things begin to get complicated, because it appears that there were at least two, and possibly three or four different Dixon families in Damaraland in the period 1840-1880.

They were:

1. The Ben Dixon family
2. The Peter Dixon family
and possibly
3. The Sidney Dixon family (Sidney may be an alias for Ben)
4. Another Peter Dixon family

A book has recently been published on the Ben Dixon family. We are havingdifficulty in getting a copy because of the post office strike, but have been in touch with one of the authors.

We have collected a fair amount of information on the Peter Dixon family, mainly in the Cape Archives, and the author of the Ben Dixon book has told us that none of the names in the two families match — they really do seem to be two entirely different families, with no links at all.

We’re hoping to go on a research trip to Namibia later in the year, and tie up some of these loose ends, but in the mean time we’re trying to .sort out what we know of the Dixon families, so that if we do discover which Dixons married the Gunning girls, we’ll know which Dixon family they belonged to — it would be funny if one married into one family, and the
other into the other family.

Of the Peter Dixon family we know that he married twice, first to Wilhelmina Hendrikse, and second to Annie Cloete. The children of his first marriage are listed on his death notice in the Cape Archives, but those of the second marriage weren’t known — presumably they stayed in Damaraland and never went to the Cape.

It is through his son Daniel Esma Dixon (there are lots of Daniel Esma Dixons in this family) that we know that Fred Green married a Dixon — in testimony in a court case in Windhoek in 1911 he said that he had arrived in Walvis Bay from Cape Town in 1861 with his brother in law Fred Green, at the age of 14. His sister had died the year before, and Fred Green was cohabiting with a Herero woman (she later gave evidence in the same court case, and her name was Sarah Kaipukire) Daniel Esma Dixon then went to his father in Walvis Bay, and returned to the Cape for a while. He later farmed at Ubib, near Karibib. We seems to be the most probable father of the Dixons who married the Gunning girls, but we’ll probably have to wait till we get to Windhoek to find out.

I’m just wondering if anyone else has connections with Dixon families in Namibia.

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.

Alfred Francis Dawson and Alfred Dawson Francis

One of the minor mysteries of Natal history in the 1850s has been the identity of a mysterious Alfred Francis Dawson, who is described in Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer’s British Settlers In Natal:

Wine merchant. Dawson and his wife Octavia (?c. 1832-24 May 1852, Durban) emigrated to Natal on the Dreadnought. There are many unanswered questions about this family. To begin with, it is uncertain as to what their surname was — Dawson or Francis. In the burial register of St Paul’s there is an entry for their son Frederick, dated Mar 1850. The child was buried under the name Dawson, but an asterisk has been put next to the surname and the annotation ‘Francis not Dawson’ has been added, and signed by Revd W.H.C. Lloyd. The other entries in the St Paul’s registers (Apr 1851, Jan 1852 and May 1852) all give the surname Francis. Despite this, Dawson went by the name Dawson in Durban society. The only inkling of anything different comes in a letter from Thomas Roberts, J.C. Byrne’s confidential clerk, to the Government in Nov 1850, in which he refers to ‘Mr Dawson alias Francis’ (Spencer 1989:93 ff).

When I read this a few years ago, I wondered if it was the same person who had married Agnes Green in Australia. It now seems probable that it is, and we can construct an outline of the life of Alfred John Francis, alias Alfred Dawson Francis, alias Alfred Francis Dawson.

Alfred John Francis was born in or near Liverpool, Lancashire, England, about 1820, and his father was John Francis. In 1842 he married Christiana Fox Dean, and their first son, Dean Francis, was born in 1843. Another son, whos name may have been Alfred, was born about 1844, but this is uncertain. A third son, Frederick Thomas Francis, was born in 1846, again, in or near Liverpool. Then in 1847 Christiana Fox Francis died.

Two years later, in about July 1849, Alfred John Francis remarried, to Octavia Cecilia Waring, also in Liverpool, and the following month they seem to have boarded the Dreadnought, sailing from London for Durban. The Dreadnought was an emigrant ship, carrying Byrne settlers to Natal, but Alfred and Octavia Francis travelled cabin class, which means that they must have paid for their passage, and not been part of the Byrne settlers party. They also travelled under the name of Mr & Mrs Dawson, and on arrival in Natal were known by the name Dawson, though, as Shelagh Spencer notes, some knew their real name.

The children do not appear to have travelled with them, and Shelagh Spencer notes that two Masters Francis arrived on the Hannah from  Cape Town in February 1850. These could have been Dean Francis, then aged 7, and Frederick Thomas, then aged about 4.  The third child may have been the mysterious Alfred, who would then have been aged about 6. The question arises, then, why these children did not travel with their father and stepmother, and where they stayed in the mean time. Who looked after three children under 10 on the voyage? Did they stay in Liverpool and leave later? Did they travel to Cape Town and stay there for a while? If so, with whom? Were Alfred and his new young bride wanting to enjoy a honeymoon voyage without the kids? The youngest child, Frederick Thomas, died in May 1850. Octavia then gave birth to Fairfax George Francis in December 1850, but he died just over a year later.

Dawson/Francis was cited in a divorce case by John Ross Melcolm Watson, who said his wife had committed adultery with Alfred Dawson of Pinetown. The Watsons had arrived in Durban on the Hannah, the ship that has brought the Francis children. According to Shelagh Spencer, Alfred Dawson/Francis had several other extramarital affairs, and may have left some illegitimate children when he left Natal. Mrs Watson, however, was more than a match for him. After Alfred Dawson/Francis had left Natal J.R.M. Watson went into business with my great great grandfather Richard Vause at Tugela Drift, which they named Colenso after the Bishop of Natal. The Watsons later moved to Ladysmith, and Mrs Watson also had an affair with Isaiah Solomon before eloping with Herbert Stanbridge from Ladysmith in April 1860, accompanied by her daughter Theresa who eloped with Frederick William Beningfield.

Octavia Francis was very ill in April 1852, and had no sooner recovered than she was drowned in a boating accident in Durban Bay on 24 May 1852. Spencer notes

Dawson was still in Natal early in July 1852. There is no sign of his departure from the Colony unless he was the Mrs Francis who with two children left in Aug 1852. They sailed for Algoa Bay in the steamer Sir Robert Peel.

Alfred John Francis then went to Australia, and on 9 January 1858 he was married to Margaret Agnes Anne Wilson, a widow, according to the rites of the Episcopalian Church, at Gundary in the district of Broulee, New South Wales. He is described as a farmer, and one of the witnesses to the marriage was his eldest son from his first marriage, Dean Francis, who would then have been about 14. Alfred is recorded in the marriage register as Alfred John Dawson Francis.

He was later a miner and storekeeper, and went insolvent in 1860. Four children were born to the marriage, though there is some doubt about the last, Louisa Francis, as she was born after her father’s death, and possibly conceived in his absence.

Alfred John Dawson Francis left his wife in the Bodalla district (on the south coast of New South Wales) and went to Sydney where he lived for four months before committing suicide by taking cyanide on 8 March 1864. He is buried in the Camperdown Cemetery, New South Wales.

One of their sons, Arthur Walpole Francis, went to Johannesburg, and after the First World War farmed at Mariental in what is now Namibia. Their descendants went to East Africa, Germany, South Africa and Canada, and possibly several other parts of the world as well.

Their daughter Edith married William Throsby Bridges, a soldier, who founded the Duntroon Military College near Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (and where his mother-in-law had been a teacher many years before). Their descendants live in Australia, South Africa and the UK.

Louisa, the youngest, whose parentage is in some doubt, has descendants in Australia, among them Bob Cowley, who has done much research on the Australian side of the family history, and to whom I am indebted for much of the information in this and other posts on this family.

Here is a summary of the information we have on the family:

Family Group Report
For: Alfred John Dawson Francis  (ID=  945)                      
Date Prepared: 11 Nov 2011 

NAME: FRANCIS, Alfred John Dawson, Born ??? 1820? in Liverpool,  
  England, Died 5 Mar 1864 in Sydney, NSW at age 44; FATHER:  
  FRANCIS, John; He married Christiana Dean and had three  
  children in Liverpool. She died and then he married Octavia  
  Waring, and almost immediately sailed for Durban on the  
  Dreadnought, with the children following later in the Hannah.  
  In 1852 he went to New South Wales, where he married Agnes  
  Wilson (born Green). 

MARRIED 9 Jan 1858 in Gundary, NSW, to GREEN, Margaret Agnes Ann,
  Born 8 Dec 1835 in Nova Scotia, Died 26 Dec 1902 in  
  Marrickville, NSW, AUS at age 67; FATHER: GREEN, William John  
  (Goodall), Born 28 Aug 1790, Died 9 Apr 1866 at age 75;  
  MOTHER: GRAY, Margaret, Born 18 May 1795, Died 11 May 1844? at 
  age 48; Witness: Dean Francis. He was a widower, she a widow,  
  both of Bodalla.; Came to Cape Colony at age of 11 with father 
  and brothers. Married William Wilson while still young and  
  emigrated to Australia. 

MARRIED 31 Jul 1849 in Liverpool, LAN, ENG, to WARING, Octavia  
  Cecilia, Born ??? 1832, Died 24 May 1852 in Durban, Natal at  
  age 20 

MARRIED 14 Jul 1842 in W. Derby, LAN, ENG, to DEAN, Christiana  
  Fox, Died Nov 1847 in W. Derby, LAN, ENG 

CHILDREN:
 1. M  FRANCIS, Dean, born ??? 1843, died ???; Married 24 Jan  
       1865 to BOOT, Eliza Angelina Hopkinson 
 2. M  FRANCIS, Alfred, born ??? 1844, died ??? 
 3. M  FRANCIS, Frederick Thomas, born May 1846 in W. Derby, LAN,
       ENG, died Mar 1850 in Durban, Natal 
 4. M  FRANCIS, Fairfax George, born Dec 1850 in Durban, Natal,  
       died Jan 1852 in Durban, Natal 
 5. F  FRANCIS, Ada Anne Angeline Fairfax, born 10 Mar 1859 in  
       Bodalla, NSW, AUS, died 9 Nov 1938 in Ashfield, NSW, AUS; 
       Married 1 Aug 1894 to WHITE, William 
 6. M  FRANCIS, Arthur Walpole, born 7 Jan 1861 in Moruya, NSW,  
       died 8 May 1921 in Mariental Dist. SWA; Married 2 Nov  
       1887 to DONOVAN, Ida Miranda Willoughby; 3 children 
 7. F  FRANCIS, Edith Lilian, born 20 Aug 1862 in Yarragee, NSW, 
       died 13 Oct 1926 in Melbourne, Vic. Aust.; Married 10 Oct 
       1885 to BRIDGES, William Throsby; 7 children 
 8. F  FRANCIS, Louisa, born 3 Nov 1864 in Queanbeyan, NSW, died 
       18 Mar 1943 in Tenterfield, NSW; Married 24 Dec 1883 to  
       COWLEY, Percy; 10 children

Some mysteries still remain:

1. Why they travelled to Durban under the name Dawson.
2. Why the children travelled separately
3. Who looked after the children (all under 10) on the voyage to Durban.

So research continues…

__________
Bibliography

Spencer, Shelagh O’Byrne. 1989. British settlers in Natal, 1824-1857: a biographical register. Vol 5. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.

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