2018: That was the year that was

In the past people used to keep in touch with family and friends far away (and even, sometimes, close at hand) by sending and receiving Christmas cards. That seems to have died out; this year we have sent none and received none. For a while that custom was replaced by more informative duplicated newsletters, and more recently by the PDF attachment equivalent. Well here’s ours, from Steve & Val Hayes, as a blog post. The advantage of a blog post is that one can keep it fairly short, yet add hyperlinks for those who would like to know more.

Steve: Has been engaging in quite a bit of nostalgia this year, recalling events of 50 years ago, as 1968 was quite a significant year in my life. For more on that, see my blog post on 1968 in Retrospect, and if you want more detail, for two months that year I was at St Paul’s College in Grahamstown, and I’ve written a series of posts on that, starting here. They cover things like theological education of 50 years ago, and contemporary theological currents.

That handles the distant past, but what about the immediate past, of 2018?

Val and I are both retired, and we continue to live in Kilner Park, Pretoria, in the Great City of Tshwane, where we have lived for the last 35 years, with our sons Simon and Jethro, and one dog, and several birds, like the hadedas that crap on our cars, and the toppies that come into the kitchen.

Our daughter Julia Bridget Hayes, is an ikonographer in Athens, and you can read about her work here.

Val Hayes, 70th birthday, November 2018

Our life as pensioners has settled into a routine over the last couple of years, with little variation. We can’t afford to travel, and so mostly stay at home.

Val: In November we celebrated Val’s 70th birthday, a milestone worth marking perhaps. We celebrated with our usual Sunday service in Atteridgeville, and a family dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

Once a fortnight, more or less,  we go to the Alkantrant library to change our library books, which has a rather limited selection of books, many of them apparently donated by library patrons.

The core of the Atteridgeville congregation — Christos Nkosi, Demetrius Mahwayi and Artemius Mangena. Charles was baptised at Christmas 2017.

We go on alternate Sundays to services in small mission congregations in Mamelodi (18 km to the east) and Atteridgeville (35 km to the west). In Mamelodi we meet in the house of parishioners. We used to meet in a school classroom, but they raised the rental , and in any case Theophania Malahlela has a bad leg, and finds it difficult to walk to church so it’s easier for the church to some to her.

In Atteridgeville we borrow the African Orthodox Church, and you can see what that looks like here. Neither congregation is big, and in Atteridgeville it is mostly the two of us and three regular faithful guys. Perhaps we’re all too old to attract any young people.

Once a month the Russian parish of St Sergius in  Midrand has the Divine Liturgy in  English on a Saturday, and we go to that, and sometimes take our baptised members from Mamelodi and Atteridgeville so they can receive communion.

Fr Wolde Selassie (Diliza Valisa) of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, OT. Данила Луговой (Fr Danil Lugovoy), Rector of St Sergius, Midrand; Leonard Skweyiya; Deacon Stephen Hayes

Midrand is midway between the centres of Johannesburg and Tshwane, and so the English services there are also useful for inviting non-Orthodox who want to experience Orthodox worship, and chat about it at breakfast afterwards, and there are sometimes visitors from other parishes as well.

St Sergius Church, Midrand, 20th anniversary celebrations

St Sergius Parish also celebrated its 20th anniversary which we attended with members of the Atteridgeville congregation. There was a visiting bishop from Russia and of course our own Archbishop Damaskinos. There was also a visiting monastery choir from Russia, so the singing was magnificent.

In Lent and Holy Week especially we try to take part in some of the services in our old home parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg though the travel is expensive and tiring as every year the traffic gets heavier.

Another fairly regular event in our lives is a weekly ecumenical gathering called TGIF. It’s held at 6:30 am on Fridays in a local coffee shop, and someone gives a talk, usually on some aspect of the Christian faith, followed by questions, and it’s over by 7:30, in time for busy people to get to work, and retired old fogeys like us to have another cup of coffee, and chat to anyone who is still around. The general purpose is Christian apologetics, but there is no proselytising and no pressure on anyone to convert. Anyone is welcome.

At one TGIF meeting David Levey, of the English Department of the University of South Africa, spoke on Reading Irreligiously, and we suggested to him that we should have a more focused gathering on the general topic of Christianity and literature, a bit like the Inklings group of C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien et al. As a result we have been meeting to “inkle” once a month for nearly three years now, I’ve tried to keep a record of some of the books we have discussed in my blogs — see here, and here and here for accounts of some of our 2018 gatherings. The last of these deals also with the current situation in South Africa, and compares it with the “Matter of Britain” — the legends of King Arthur, with the idea that behind Britain there was the realm of Logres — the land of true good and piety, nobleness and right living — which is often overwhelmed by the evil that breaks through. And between 1994 and 2004 we had a glimpse of a South African equivalent of Logres, before the evil empire renewed its attacks.

Apart from those regular things we don’t go out much, and spent most of our days at home, pursuing our hobby of family history and general historical research, and occasionally trying to share ideas through blogs. In February Steve found himself part of an oral history project when Jess Richards and Renate Meyer came to interview him for the Banned People’s Project. Jess and Renate were both young, late 20s, perhaps, and so banning would have been before their time. They said that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had dealt only with gross human rights abuses and thought that lesser human rights abuses like banning also ought to be documented. If you, reading this, are also too young to remember banning, you can find out more here: The Banned Wagon.

In September we had the first and probably the last reunion of Steve’s matric class at St Stithians College. It was the class of 1958, and we were perhaps never close enough to have a reunion, and were unable to contact any class members but two of us. The Class of 1968, which also gathered, had a better turn-out. More on that here.

We were also saddened by the death of an old friend, Stephen Gawe, whose 80th birthday we had celebrated at the end of 2017. A consolation was that we had got to meet his daughters Nomtha and Vuyo, who were both born while he was in exile in the UK.

In November Steve finally got round to publishing a novel he had been working on for a long time. It’s called The Year of the Dragon. It arose out of a challenge to write a book in the same genre as those of Charles Williams, which have been described as “supernatural thrillers”. You can find out more about it and how it came to be written here. The cover was designed by our son Simon, who spends most of his days (and sometimes nights too) working on computer animation.

Debbie & Jethro

In December Jethro and his girlfriend Debbie went on a trip to Botswana to visit Debbie’s parents who live in Gaborone.

Towards the end of the year we had disturbing news that Bishop Athanasius Akunda of Kisimu and Western Kenya was seriously ill in a hospital in the USA. He had come to South Africa as a young deacon to help with the mission work of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and we worked together for 13 years. He was ordained priest, and was made deputy dean of the rather under-resourced diocesan Catechetical School, where he made a deep impression on the students who passed through it. Steve was promoter for his doctorate in theology at the University of South Africa with a thesis on Orthodox diologue with Bunyore culture. He became the parish priest of our “home” parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg where Steve served with him as deacon, and was a mentor, student, colleague and friend.

In 2015 he returned to Kenya and was consecrated bishop of the new diocese of Kisimu, where he has done excellent work, and so his illness affects not only him but many others.

In other news…

Samwise, a dog obsessed with balls

On 11 November our dog Samwise died. He was 12 years old. We got him as a small puppy in September 2006, which was a three-dog year, and Samwise was the third puppy we got that year. In January 2006 our strange excitable bonsai Alsatian, Alexa, suddenly took ill and died. In February Jethro came home with a puppy, Ralf, and within a few weeks he had died. We later discovered that both had probably suffered from a particularly vicious form of biliary.

We got another puppy called Mardigan, and covered him with anti-tick stuff. We got these puppies to keep our other dog, Ariel, company. Then when thieves broke in to steal our Toyota Venture, they poisoned the dogs. After an enormous vet’s bill, Mardigan died, but Ariel survived. We got Samwise to keep her company, but kept wondering if something bad would happen to him too.

Pimen running to welcome people home.

Samwise was a very big dog, and of all the dogs we have had he was the one most obsessed with balls. If someone came to the fence, he would bark madly at them, often quite frighteningly, but actually he was just asking them to throw his ball,. So we buried his balls with him.

Now our younger dog Pimen lacks canine company. When we came home in the car Pimen would bark to let Samwise know we were home, and Samwise would bark to summon Simon to open the gate. But now we have silent homecomings, because there is no Samwise for Pimen to summon.

 

 

 

 

Gammage cousins visit

Yesterday we had a visit from Val’s cousin Arthur Gammage, his wife Jenny and daughters Sonja and Hilda. We hope to see more of Sonja, as she is moving here to start working at the University of Pretoria, and the rest of the family came to help her with the move. We hadn’t seen them for about 10 years. Arthur has retired from the town planning department at Durban, and Jenny from teaching.

We took Sonja and Hilda on a kind of orientation tour of the town, along the ridge to the south, which has a small nature reserve.

Zebras in the nature reserve on Johan Rissik Drive

Somewhere in the middle distance in the picture is Centurion, also part of the Great City of Tshwane, and beyond that, on the horizon, is Johannesburg.

 

Hilda, Sonja and Val, looking over Pretoria from Johan Rissik Drive, above Waterkloof.

Then we crossed to the Union Buildings, on the other side of the valley, and looked at everything from the other side.

Sonja, Hilda and Val at the Union Buildings, all over spring flowers

We reminusced about the Union Buildings. We visited here in 1976 to visit the state artchives to do family history. The archives were then in the basement, with the reading room under the west wing, and one could go to the civil service canteen on one of the upper floors for lunch.

When we moved here in 1983 P.W. Botha was in charge, and he wanted the entire building for gis office, so gradually all other departments were moved out, and the archives eventually moved to their own building a couple of miles away,

Then came democracy, and Nelson Mandela moved in, and the public still had access to the exterior of the building, and on a couple of occasions he invited a whole busload of school children to see his office.

Vire from the terrace at the Union Buildings, with statue of Nelson Mandela Below, and view over Sunnyside

But then the main building itself was fenced off, and so ironically in the democratic South Africa the public has less access to the seat of government than it did at the height of the authoritarian Vorster regime.

Arthur Gammage with Sonja, Val Hayes, Jenny and Hilda

Heavy Plant Crossing

For the last week our quiet little cul-de-sac neighbourhood has become the proverbial heavy plant crossing.

It began on Tuesday, when  this appeared outside our front gate.

They broke a hole through the concrete fence at the end of the road and started clearing the ground on this side of the railway line. Over the next couple of days more pieces of earth-moving equipment came and went, with the beeping of reversing lorries, the crash of stones being offloaded.

By Thursday there were rows of railway sleepers, and piles of ballast, so what was going on?

Were they building a new station over the road? Convenient for public transport, if they are, but also the noise and in the increase in traffic could be a bit much. Or are they building a new siding, or re-aligning the tracks on the main line?

On Friday they worked right through the night, with trains passing slowly and hooting all the time. They had generators going to light up the scene, providing this view from our bedroom window.

And when dawn was breaking they were still at it.

Perhaps we’ll only know what it is when they’ve finished. Or perhaps not. Anyway it’s provided a lot of entertainment, even for the dogs, who bark with each new piece of equipment that arrives, and then watch to see what it does.

Visiting Pearson/Ellwood cousins

Last week we had visits from two cousins on the Pearson/Ellwood side of the family that we hadn’t seen for a long time.

On Tuesday 24 October we went to the Balalaika Hotel in Sandton to meet Ian and Zania McKenzie from Edinburgh. They were on a tour that had begun in the Western Cape, and gone along to the Eastern Cape. They had visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and were about to go to the Kruger National Park, then to the Victoria Falls and home.

Zania McKenzie & Val Hayes, Balalaika Hotel, Sandton 24 Oct 2017

We had last seen them 12 years ago, when we visited Scotland in 2005. Zania is Val’s double second cousin — her grandfather Ernie Pearson was the brother of Val’s grandfather William Walker Pearson, and her grandmother Margaret Ellwood was the sister of Val’s grandmother Martha Ellwood.

Zania & Ian McKenzie

It was quite interesting to me to see the Balalaika Hotel, a large multistorey affair in a cobbled street (where some clown tried to run us over when we were going to the hotel), and a row of tall trees. In my youth the Balalaika was more of a nightclub than a hotel, s single-storey building with coloured lights in the garden in Sandown, which was then the heart of Joburg’s “mink and manure” belt, where people used to go to watch polo and gymkhanas. Now it is full of high-rise buildings, mostly office blocks.

The other cousin we saw was Sonja Gammage, who had been attending a Classics Colloquium in Centurion. She had spent a couple of years at Oxford in England doing her Masters, and is now completing her doctorate at UKZN. I was fascinated to learn that her thesis is on Atticising tendencies in Greek novels of the 2nd Century AD. I hadn’t known that novels as a literary genre went back that far, and as they would all have had to be hand copied, they must have been pretty expensive.

Sonja Gammage and Val Hayes at Hawk Lake Spur, Centurion. 28 October 2017

It was even longer since we had seen Sonja — 14 years. We had last seen her at the funeral of her grandmother Mollie Gammage, who was Val’s aunt.

 

Heirlooms and other family news

An heirloom is an article or object that has been in a family for several generations. Most objects that might become heirlooms don’t, because they are broken, thrown away, stolen or destroyed or lost (by fire, flood, earthquake etc). So in the end, only a few may survive to be passed on from one generation to another.

bell01Those that do survive, however, often have stories attached to them, and the stories are often forgotten, so we’re recording the story of one such heirloom — a measuring tape in the shape of a china fisherwoman. It was made in Germany, and belonged to Auntie Belle.

Auntie Belle was Val’s great aunt, Isabella Carr Ellwood (1873-1958), who was Matron in a hospital in Whitehaven, Cumberland, England. She was married to Jim Hurst, and they had no children. Val’s grandmother, Mattie Pearson (née Ellwood), who was living in a granny flat with Val’s parents in Escombe, Natal, travelled to the UK about the time that Auntie Belle died, and brought back the measuring tape, and gave it to Val, who was then about 9 years old.

Mattie Pearson wrote regularly to her brothers and sisters in England, and especially to her younger sister Maggie, who was married to Ernest Pearson, Mattie’s late husbands brother, which made him a double brother-in-law. The family tried in vain to persuade Mattie to make the journey home to England to see her brothers and sisters. When Mattie’s daughter (Val’s Auntie Mollie) was ill with jaundice, Mattie stayed with them to look after the children. When Mollie recovered, the family primed the family doctor, Doctor Rosenthal (who was well-known and well-loved in Escombe and vicinity) to tell Mattie that she needed a rest, and that a trip to England to see her family there would do her good. What Dr Rosenthal suggested was tantamount to a command.

Mattie Pearson and her sisters when she visited the UK in 1939, bust before WW2. Mattie is on the front right. Behind her at the back right is Maggie. Bessie was at the top left. We think the other two are Belle and Lizzie -- can anyone identify them?

Mattie Pearson and her sisters when she visited the UK in 1939, just before WW2. Mattie is on the front right. Behind her at the back right is Maggie. Bessie was at the top left. We think the other two are Belle and Lizzie — can anyone identify them?

So Mattie booked a trip on the Southern Cross, a three-week relaxing voyage in company with her old friend Mrs Mitchell who had been glad to join her on her trip, and saw her brothers and sisters. Auntie Belle died either while she was there, or shortly before, and so she brought the fisherwoman measuring tape back for Val.

Mattie Pearson (on the left) at dinner on the ship, with her friend Mrs Mitchell on the right.

Mattie Pearson (on the left) at dinner on the ship, with her friend Mrs Mitchell on the right.

The time for such sea voyages has passed; air travel is quicker and cheaper, but far less relaxing, and if you want to go by sea, for the most part you can only take cruises to nowhere. The days of passenger ships was dying by the early 1970s.  The ship that took Mattie and Mrs Mitchell to England was the Southern Cross.  When Val and her sister Elaine travelled to England in 1971 they went on the very last voyage of the Arawa and came back in September on the very last trip of the Southern Cross.

banana1Now here’s another family artefact that will never become an heirloom because we’ve already eaten it. Our son Simon saw a food programme on TV where the presenter said that food should be artistically presented, so Simon made this artistic arrangement of bananas in the fruit bowl. But the photo might last a bit longer than the bananas.

Mention of the Ellwood family, and the fact that Mattie Pearson kept in touch with her siblings by letter for almost 60 years reminds me of changing patterns of communication. When our daughter Bridget went to Greece 20 years ago, we kept in touch by snail mail, writing almost every week. When Bridget got e-mail, it should have been easier to communicate, but it actually wasn’t. E-mail messages were much less frequent and much less informative. Now there is Facebook, but Facebook, though it allows one to share photos, lends itself to textbites rather like soundbites. You see a photo of a place and realise that whoever posted it might have visited it, but there is little description of the when, where and how, or who they were with, or what they did there.

For the last 3 weeks our internet connection has been faulty. I’ve been able to download e-mail (after 5-20 attempts), but the replies are all queued, waiting to be sent when the line is repaired (for more on this problem and the reasons for it, see Incommunicado). But in these 3 weeks there have been almost no personal messages from friends or family. There was one very welcome message from a cousin whose existence I was quite unaware of — Roxanne Williamson, née Dryden — and I’ll reply to that more fully when our internet service has been restored (if you are reading this, then it will have been restored). But apart from that all the genuine mail has been in two mailing lists, one from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and the other the Legacy User Group – a support service for a genealogy program I use. Two-thirds of the mail that we have downloaded with such difficulty is spam — things like discount offers from shops I’ve never heard of (which country is “Macy’s” in? Or “Everest Windows” or “Takahashi?).

But that’s what the state our communication has been reduced to, in spite of, or perhaps because of, all the marvellous technological aids. I can receive and send email without moving my bum from this chair, whereas to send a snail-mail letter I have to go 2,6 kilometres to the nearest post box, a 40-minute walk one way. Yet Mattie Pearson managed to write to her sister Maggie once a week, and at less frequent intervals to her other siblings, and her letters were probably far more informative.

When we first started doing family history just after we were married back in 1974 we tried to re-establish contact with those relatives, and Maggie’s daughter-in-law, Nora Pearson, wrote to us by snail mail once a month or so, long chatty letters telling about her children (Val’s double second cousins) and grandchildren, what was going on in the town, and in their church (she and her husband John had just joined St Begh’s Roman Catholic Church). Now we are “friends” with her children on Facebook, but Facebook censors the communication so we only see about 10% of what they post 10% of the time, and in spite of the wonders of modern technology, we are less in touch with that side of the family than we were by snail mail 40 years ago.

Meeting new Green cousins

Last Saturday we met some cousins on the Green side of the family that we had not met before when we met Rupert and Sarah McKerron for coffee. Rupert is Val’s fourth cousin on the Green side of the family, and though we had been in correspondence with people from that side of the family, it was good to meet some face to face.

Val Hayes with Rupert & Sarah McKerron 14 May 2016

Val Hayes with Rupert & Sarah McKerron 14 May 2016

Rupert and Sarah have a bush cottage that they named after the Green brothers, and we met to swap stories about them.

The Green family came to the Eastern Cape about 1846. The paterfamilias, William Goodall Green, who was born in Quebec in 1790, was in the Commissariat Department of the British Army based in Newfoundland, when he was transferred to the Cape Colony, probably as part of a boosting of British military strength because of the War of the Axe (1846-1850). William Green’s wife Margaret had died a couple of years earlier, and some of their 15 children died young, but quite a number of them seem to have come to southern Africa at that time.

Henry Green, the eldest, and Rupert’s ancestor, had followed his father into the commissariat department, and accompanied a British force led by Major Harold Warden to what was then called Trans-Orangia (now the Free State province). After establishing British authority and defeating the short-lived Republic of Winburg at the Battle of Boomplaats Warden was appointed British Resident of what became the Orange River Sovereignty, and he established a capital on the farm Bloemfontein. Henry Green succeeded Warden as British Resident in 1852, but his post lapsed in 1854 when the Sovereignty was abandoned and the republic of the Oranje-Vrijstaat was established.

Another of the Green brothers, Edward, joined the Cape Mounted Rifles, took part in the War of the Axe, and was wounded in the thigh. He married Emily Ogilvie of Grahamstown, and after having two children they left, Emily to stay with family in England, and Edward to India, and later to China, where he took part in the Opium Wars, the aim of which was to persuade the Chinese government to lift its embargo in the importation of drugs. Edward Green never returned either to the Cape Colony or Canada, but eventually settled in New Zealand.

Three other brothers, Charles, Fred and Arthur, went to Bloemfontein. Arthur, the youngest, got a job in his brother Henry’s office, while Charles and Fred, aged 25 and 21 respectively, set out to the north-west on a hunting expedition. In those days elephant hunting and the sale of ivory must have seemed like an easy way for young men to earn a living. Charles and Fred Green returned to Bloemfontein as their base after each hunting season, and spent their holidays playing billiards and cards with the soldiers, and taking them on hunting trips on nearby farms. Fred (Val’s great great grandfather) seems to have planned to settle there, because he bought a plot of land in Bloemfontein.

Charles and Fred were friends with the Bakwena chief Setshele (his name is sometimes spelt Sechele), and left cattle in his care when they went west up the Boteti (or Botletle) River to Lake Ngami, where tsetse flies were bad for cattle (follow the links to read more about their journeys). On their return they found that their cattle had been looted by Boer raiders from the Transvaal, who had also wrecked David Livingstone’s house in Kolobeng, and abducted hundreds of women and children as slaves.

Charles and Fred took Setchele with them to lay his complaints before the British government, in the person of their brother Henry, but he was told by his superior, the Governor of the Cape Colony, that since the signing of the Sand River Convention in 1852 the British government took no official interest in events north of the Vaal River. Charles Green may have accompanied Setshele back home, and then possibly went to Australia, perhaps with his sister Agnes, whose first child, Caroline Wilson, was born in Sydney in 1854.

After reconnoitering trade routes to east and west, Fred Green seems to have decided that the western route was safer, and made his base in Damaraland, later called Hereroland, and now part of Namibia, and spent the rest of his life there. Charles joined him a couple of years later, but was drowned in the Okavango River when his boat was upset by a hippo in the early 1860s. I don’t think Fred ever saw any of his siblings again.

Fred married three times. We know nothing of his first wife, other than that her name was Dixon and they had no children. The second was Sarah uaKandendu Kaipukire, a Herero princess. They had a daughter, but parted when the Hereros did not want her to accompany him to the Cape Colony. One of her descendants, Mburumba Kerina, is credited with the invention of the name Namibia.The third wife was Catherine Agnes Anne Stewardson, They had seven children, of whom four died young. Of the surviving ones, Fred Vincent Green was Val;s great grandfather.

Henry disappeared for 6 years, married his cousin Margaret Aitchison in England, and returned to the Cape Colony in 1860 as Civil Commissioner and Magistrate of Colesberg. His wife and two children died soon after their arrival, but she still lives on as the family ghost. He married again to Countess Ida Von Lilienstein, and had several children by her, and many of the Green descendants in southern Africa come from them. When diamonds were discovered near Kimberley Henry Green went with a syndicate to work them, became a member of the legislative assemby for Griqualand West, and then retired to his farm near Barkly West, where he died in 1884.

Arthur Green became a photographer, and achieved some fame as a pioneer in that field. His daughter Agnes married twice and had children, some of whom were born in Canada, but eventually returned to South Africa. We met one of his descendnats some years ago, Doreen Armstrong of Pinetown, who was also interested in the family history.

Agnes Green, who went to Australia, married four times (twice to the same man). Her first husband was William Wilson, who drowned in the Tuross River in New South Wales. She next married Alfred Dawson Francis, who may have caused a stir in Durban  as Alfred Francis Dawson. He committed suicide, and she then married William McLean Thwaites, once bigamously in Sydney, and the second time after the birth of their four children, in Adelaide. Though she never returned to South Africa, some of the grandchildren of each of her marriages did. Caroline Wilson, the eldest daughter, went to New Zealand to stay with her uncle Edward Lister Green. She married  Roy Ashley Warre Brathwaite, and one of their children, Frank Brathwaite, came to South Africa and made a name for himself as a racing tipster. Arthur Walpole Francis, a son of her second marriage, lived at Langlaagte, near Johannesburg, and made contact with several of Fred Green’s family, who had moved to the Transvaal after his death. One of his daughters married a coffee planter from Tanganyika, and was caught in Germany diring the first and second world wars. One of her sons was killed in the German army during the invasion of Poland in 1939. Her letters to her sister in Sydney provide a fascinating insight into the history of that side of the family.

Another member of the Francis side of the family was Peter Bridges, whom we met in Johannesburg, and whose granddaughter Jenny was at the same school as our daughter Bridget for a while. Peter discovered that on his mother’s side he was descended from another of the Green siblings, Caroline, who married Robert Leslie Cowan and died of cholera in Shanghai in 1863.

So the Green brothers had interesting lives, and seem to have spread the family to many different parts of the world, with quite a number from several branches still living in South Africa and Namibia.

Linking the Growdens

When we started researching our family history more than 40 years ago, one of the things we soon discovered about the Growdon or Growden family was that everyone said they came from Cornwall, and that they were all related. Louise Deragowski of New Orleans, one of the first Growden researchers we made contact with, quoted another relative as saying that “they lived so close, they traded roosters”.

My mother was Ella Growdon, and her father George Growdon came from Cornwall in 1876 at the age of three, when his father, William Matthew Growden, came to work in the Cape Government Railways, building the rail line inland from East London. We soon traced his ancestry though is father Matthew Growden, and his father William Growden, who married Elizabeth Saundercock, and there we were stuck. It took a couple of years to be fairly certain my my relationship with Louise Deragowski (she was my 4th cousin). She was in contact with lots of others, including Sylvia Reebel, who researched the Pennsylvania Growdens, and we all owe a great debt to those two, because much of what we know comes from them, though they never did manage to discover how they were related.

We discovered some other Growden families, who came from the same area of Cornwall, but no links between them. We made a Growdon family web page, and invited members of the various Growden families to help us find the links between them. Then Marguerite Growden, who was originally from Australia, and is now living in Canada, discovered some Growden baptisms in Withiel, Cornwall, that seems to provide the missing links that draw all these families together.

Withiel, Cornwall, where the Growden family lived in the early 18th century.

Withiel, Cornwall, where the Growden family lived in the early 18th century.

Laurence Growden married Elizabeth Vanson in Withiel in 1719, and had four children, Laurence, Matthew, Joseph and Elizabeth. Most of the Growden families in the world today are descended from Laurence and Joseph.

Laurence Growden the younger (1721-1787) married Joanna Thomas, and they are the ancestors of the South African, Australian, Canadian, Lancashire, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alaska Growdens,

Joseph Growden (1726-1811) married Grace Jeffery and they are the ancestors of the Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, California, and Yorkshire Growdens.

The exception to this is the New Zealand Growdens, who are descended from Edwin Williams alias Edwin Growden, who was the stepson of Thomas Growden who married Edwin’s mother Charlotte Hawke. Edwin took his stepfather’s name and passed it on to his descendants.

Louisiana Growdens: Arthur Bruce Joseph Growden, Vicki Growden and Lori Growden Murphy at Southern Yacht Club, 2 June 2013

Louisiana Growdens: Arthur Bruce Joseph Growden, Vicki Growden, Lori Growden Murphy, and Thomas Bradley (Brad) Growden at the Southern Yacht Club, 2 June 2013

Some of these links are based on circumstantial evidence, but they seem the most likely explanations of the relationships that we have been able to find.

Grave of George Growden and Ann Maynard, ancestors of the Australian Growdens, in Wallaway, South Australia.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Grave of George Growden and Ann Maynard, ancestors of the Australian Growdens, in Wallaway, South Australia (click to enlarge).

Marguerite Growden, who found these links, has also written a book on the Australian branch of the Growdens, and so when it comes out a whole lot more people can find it interesting, knowing that she is writing about our cousins. Though some of the other branches of the Growden family have descendants in Australia, most of those bearing the surname Growden are descended from George Growden and Ann Maynard, who emigrated from Cornwall to South Australia in 1864.

Most branches of the family seem to have used the spellings Growden and Growdon interchangeably, and a few earlier records have the spelling Grouden. But most seem to use the Growden spelling. Our South African branch seems to have used the Growdon spelling almost exclusively.