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.

Mary Kerwick

One of the ancestors we knew little about was Val’s great-great-great
grandmother Mary Kerwick. She married William James MacLeod, a master
mariner, in Cape Town in 1827, and they had eight children. 

On her death notice (she died on 23 June 1863) it said she was born in “Three
Rivers, Canada” and that she was 52 years and 9 months old. So we put her
date of birth as September 1810, and wondered what had brought her from
Canada to the Cape Colony. 

Since the advent of the World Wide Web more and more genealogical records
have been put on line, and yesterday we discovered her in the International
Genealogical Index (IGI), which informed us that she was the daughter of
James Kerwick and Elisabeth Clouith; born 13 Sep 1810, baptised 25 Sep 1810.
Eglise catholique. Immaculée Conception (Trois-Rivières, Québec). 

That would make her age at death exact, so we’re pretty sure she’s the right
one. 

Now, of course, we’re looking for more information about her parents and
where they came from, and also whether she had any brothers or sisters, and
what happened to them.

Death of Canadian author Mollie Gillen

Mollie Gillen, who died recently at the age of 100, was not a relative, as far as we know, but she made an enormous contribution to our family history research into the Green family.

As her obituary in the Toronto Globe & Mail puts it

Born and educated in Australia, married to a Canadian sergeant in wartime England, Mrs. Gillen lived and worked here for most of her very long life. No more than 5-foot-2, with bespectacled hazel eyes and curly brown hair – which eventually turned into a snowy crown – she was the author of several acclaimed biographies, including an early study of Lucy Maud Montgomery…

She published The Masseys: Founding Family in 1965; The Prince and His Lady, an intrepidly researched study of Queen Victoria’s father, Edward Duke of Kent, and his mistress, Madame de St. Laurent, in 1970; and in 1972, The Assassination of the Prime Minister, a biography of Spencer Perceval, who was shot through the heart in the lobby of the British House of Commons during the Luddite riots of 1812.

Ir was The prince and his lady that put us on the track of the history of the Green family.

Val went to see her great-aunt Gladys Clark, who lived in Ixopo, to ask about the Green family, and she said that her grandfather was “General Green”, who had lived in South West Africa (now Namibia). Reference to history books, such as Vedder’s South West Africa in early times showed that he was Fred Green, an elephant hunter.

A few years later, when we lived in Zululand, we visited Gladys Clark’s daughter, Dion Stewart, who lived in Empangeni, and she told us that Fred Green’s father or grandfather was the Duke of Kent. That sent us back to the library, looking for books on the Duke of Kent, one of which was Mollie Gillen’s The prince and his lady, which refuted the family legend of royal descent, but in the course of doing it showed the actual ancestry of Fred Green’s father, William John Green, alias William Goodall Green, who was the illegitimate son of William Goodall, a London merchant, and Eliza Green, the daughter of a Quebec butcher.

We wrote to Mollie Gillen, and she very kindly sent us copies of her research materials, including the baptism records of William Goodall Green and other members of the Green and related families, and his will, and that of Thomas Esdaile, his stepfather, who later married Eliza Green.

So thanks to Mollie Gillen’s research we were able to trace more of the early history of the Green family. She was a careful researcher who documented every one of the claims she made in her book, as the material she sent us showed.

See here for more on the early history of the Green family.

So we salute Mollie Gillen. She may not have had formal qualifications, but she was a careful and diligent historian, and we owe her a great deal.

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