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.

Tombstone Tuesday: Vause family of Durban

On our holiday in Durban last month we visited St Thomas’s Cemetery in Durban, high up on the Berea, where my great great grandfather Richard Vause is buried.

I’d visited his grave earlier, with my grandmother, in 1968, and she had told me that she wanted to be buried there too, though whether she ever was buried there I don’t know. I’d visited a few years later and had some photos of the grave, but we thought it would be nice to have some digital photos as well, so we went to look for it, and could not find it after looking at almost every other grave in the place. Had I imagined it? Had it been moved?

No, it was still there, but it was so big that we hadn’t seen it for looking. It was just about the most prominent grave in the place. In this picture you can see it, the one with the pillar and the urn on top. The Vodapine behind it is bigger — it is actually a cellphone mast owned by Vodacom, disguised as a pine tree. There are also Vodapalms and various other varieties of Vodadendrons.

The Vause family grave in St Thomas’s Cemetery, with an urn on top, dwarfed only by a Vodapine

The current St Thomas’s Church is a bit further down the hill. The original one on the cemetery site was a wood and iron affair, replaced in the 1920s by the stone chapel that is there today, but is not used much. Richard Vause was one of the first, if not the first, churchwarden of the old St Thomas’s, and he lived a little way down the hill in what may still be called Vause Road with his wife Matilda (nee Park) and their eight children.

Their son Charles Reynolds Vause was the very first to be baptised at St Thomas’s, and is the fiorst entry in the baptism register, and was probably one of the first to be buried in the cemetery also. He and his sister Matilda, the two youngest of the Vause children, died young.

Memorial to Charles Reynolds Vause (1864-1866) and Mary Martin Vause (1866-1866), the youngest children of Richard and Matilda Vause

The second son of Richard and Matilda Vause, William John Vause, who died at the age of 41, is also buried in the plot. He married Jessie Cottam, but they had no children.

Grave of William John Vause (1855-1896) in St Thomas’s Cemetery

 

William John Vause’s elder brother, Richard Wyatt Vause (my great grandfather) married Maggie Cottam, Jessie Cottam’s sister, and Maggie Cottam also died young (but was buried in Pietermaritzburg). Jessie Vause, then remarried Gordon Parkes, but had no children by him either, and brought up her dead sister’s children. Richard Wyatt Vause, known as Wyatt to his friends, lived as a widower.

Memorial to Wyatt Vause (1854-1926), my great grandfather.

There are several other members of the Vause family buried in the same plot.

St Thomas’s Cemetery, showing the current chapel, and the Vause grave, with the urn on top of a pillar.

The cemetery also contains the grave of Julia, the daughter of nCaptain Allen Gardiner, RN. After retiring from the navy, Gardiner became a missionary, and went to Zululand. There he met a hostile reception from King Dingane and his people, so he returned to Durban, and established himself on a hill above the town. After finding the people there more receptive to his message he named the hill Berea, after the place where St Paul met a better reception than he did in Thessalonica (Acts 17:10-12). Allen Gardiner is not buried at St Thomas’s Cemetery, however. He went on to South America, where he died of starvation on Tierra del Fuego, and the South American Missionary Society was started in his memory.

Which families are people interested in?

Here are the top families that people were interested in on our family wiki at http://hayesgreene.wikispaces.com

Page Views
space.discussion.GreenAW1194 154
home 130
GreeneFT144 89
Vause_Family 85
SchultzJ40 76
Morton_Family 75
Bagot_Family 73
Green_family 59
Index_of_People 36
Family index 34
ParkW223 32
Ahnentafel 29
Devantier_family 27
GreenAW1194 27
About 26
Stooke_Family 25
Decker family 22
Sandercock Family 22
GreenMAA935 21
Growdon_Family 21
GreenWJ140 19
PearsonW2044 18
VauseRW232 18
CottamJB227 17

But, as usual, no one contributed any information about these families, or even left a message to say what it was they were looking for. And, also as usual, the thing that most people most wanted to do was discuss Alfred William Green, 154 of them, to be exact — but not one of them wrote a word.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the wiki conscept hasn’t caught on, and that the wiki page isn’t working, and take it down.

Vause family connections

Sandy Struckmeyer

On Saturday 30th April 2011 we visited Sandy Struckmeyer and her daughter Kerry at their home in Robertson in the Western Cape. Sandy is a cousin on the Vause side of the family, whom I had not met before, though we have corresponded about the family history for several years, and we had lived at some of the same places, though at different times, so our paths had not crossed.

Sandy is my third cousin, our common ancestors being our great great grandparents Richard and Matilda Vause (nee Park). Sandy married Tim Struckmeyer in Melmoth, Zululand in 1988 (we had lived in Melmoth from 1977-1982) and their daughter Kerry was born in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1993 (I lived in Windhoek 1969-1972).

Our ancestors Richard and Matilda Vause came to Natal in 1852, and Richard Vause was the proprietor of the Natal Mercury, and was five times mayor of Durban. His eldest son was my great grandfather, Richard Wyatt Vause (1854-1926), whose younger brother Robert (1859-1922) was Sandy’s great grandfather. Robert Vause bought the farm Argyle, at Ixopo, at auction in 1922, and it was inherited by Sandy’s grandfather Vic Vause.

Sandy & Kerry Struckmeyer

Park, Vause and Drake families of Hull and Bath

One of the long-standing mysteries of our family history is how my great great grandfather Richard Vause, who lived in Hull, met his bride Matilda Park, who was born in Belfast and lived in Bath. He was living in Hull in the 1851 census, and at the beginning of 1852 they were married in Bath and very soon sailed to Natal.

Now we’ve found a couple of census records that could explain how they met.

Matilda Park was the daughter of William Park (of Belfast, Bath and Quebec) and Mary Martin (daughter of John Martin of Belfast). There is more information about the family here and here.

One of Matilda Park’s sisters was Margaret Martin Park, who married James Drake, a surgeon dentist, at St Saviour’s Church, Bath, on 8 June 1848, and the 1851 census shows them in Hull, as visitors in the home of Simeon Mosely, also a surgeon dentist, at 15 Whitefriars Gate, Holy Trinity, Hull.  Their daughter Mary Edith Drake was born in Hull in about December 1850.

Perhaps James Drake and Simeon Mosely were partners in a dental practice, and perhaps Richard Vause was one of their patients, and maybe Matilda Park went to Hull to visit her sister. A lot of maybes, perhaps, or perhapses, maybe. But the fact that members of the Park family were living in Hull in 1850 could explain how Richard Vause met them.

In the 1861 census the Drake family were living at Castle Church, Staffordshire, and in 1871 in Warwickshire, where Margaret Drake appears to have died in 1878.

Mary Edith Drake was later known as Edith, and was single, living on her own means in Penge, London, in the 1891 census. She appears to have been the only child, and does not seem to have married, so there’s no point in looking for present-day relatives from that branch of the family.

Perhaps one thing that could be added is that last week I was contacted by Peter Henderson, who is researching a William Park/Mary Martin family for a friend. That family is in Scotland, and it is not the same family as the one I have been describing here. Peter said a Catherine Raw had a family tree that has conflated the two families. Richard and Matilda Vause’s eldest daughter Polly did marry a John James Raw, so there is a link between the Vause and Raw families, though I’m not sure where Catherine fits in. But the Park/Martin family of Scotland appears to be entirely separate, with no link to ours.

Brooks of the Isle of Axholme

Not long ago I wrote about the Axholme Ancestry web site, which seems to have some very useful information for people whose ancestors came from that part of the world. The Isle of Axholme is in north-west Lincolnshire, bordering Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.

One of my ancestors from there, John Vause (1747-1823), married an Elizabeth Brooks in Epworth on 4 January 1780. They had four children: Richard, John, Samuel and Sarah. Elizabeth died when Sarah was a couple of months old, and Sarah herself died a few months later.

Since I first visited the site a month ago someone else has added some more information, including the probable parents of Elizabeth Brooks, Samuel and Sarah Brooks. They had a daughter Elizabeth baptised on 6 September 1745, which makes her about the right age, and since the third son and first daughter were named Samuel and Sarah respectively, it seems that Samuel and Sarah (senior) were probably her parents. So that takes another family line another generation back.

Early history of the Vause family

I recently came across another Vause cousin on the web, Penny Howell in Canada and have been looking again at the earliest Vause ancestors we have recorded.

The earliest member of the Vause family that we know of is Robert Vause, of Kelsey in South Lincolnshire, who voted in Epworth in the election of the Knights of the Shire, and died in 1748.

But that is open to question.

The information came from Arthur Wyatt Ellis who compiled (or had compiled) a family tree which made its way to several members of the family in South Africa. Don Stayt had a photocopy, as did Mollie Vause-Doyle. The information may have come from the will of this Robert Vause of South Kelsey, who apparently left his lands in Epworth to his son Robert. The tree shows two other sons, Richard and Thomas. Richard is our ancestor.

Arthur Wyatt Ellis was born about 1880 in Reynoldston, Glamorgan, Wales (according to the 1880 census), the son of Henry Vause Ellis, who was himself the son of Phineas Samuel Ellis and Fanny Vause. He obviously maintained some contact with the family in South Africa, since his family tree made its way here.

But it seems more likely that Richard and Thomas were the sons of John Vause and Anne Gilliott of Epworth, who were married in Epwoth in 1702. If  so, then there were two other brothers, John and Alexander, but no Robert. Perhaps this will be answered if we can find the will of Robert Vause of South Kelsey.

For more on this see the Vause family page on our family Wiki.

Cottam and Bagot and reading novels

I went to the LDS Family History Centre in Johannesburg today and transcribed more baptism records for the Cottam, Bagot and Mashiter families.

I reread Rider Haggard’s novel Allan Quatermain, and found that family history made me enjoy it more, as it had links with my great grandfather Wyatt Vause and Val’s great grandfather Daniel William Pearson. I’ve written about it more fully in my LiveJournal.

Vause marriage discovered

For more than 30 years I’d been looking for a Vause marriage, and I think I’ve found it. It’s been staring me in the face for the last couple of years, when someone sent me an index of Vause births, marriages and deaths from Lincolnshire in England.

My great great grandfather Richard Vause (1822-1886), who came to South Africa in 1852, was the son of John Vause (1784-1863) and Eleanor Wyatt. John Vause was himself the son of John Vause (1747-1823) and Elizabeth, whose maiden name we did not know. The elder John Vause was the son of Richard Vause (1720-1751) and Elizabeth Hill, who remarried Francis Whitehead in 1756.

I was checking the index again, to see if there were any matches to things I had found in the Crowle church registers and censuses, and there it was, staring me in the face: John Vause married Elizabeth Brooks in Epworth on 7 January 1780

I’m pretty sure this is the right one, because they had four children born to them in the 1780s, Richard, John, Samuel and Sarah. Samuel and Sarah died young (and Elizabeth died shortly before Sarah, possibly as a result of complications following childbirth).

Richard married a Fanny, and apparently lived in Hull, and it seems that his nephew and namesake lived with his aunt in Hull before marrying Matilda Park in Bath and emigrating to Natal.

Anywway, the next step is to discover Elizabeth Brooks’s parents. Another one whose parents are still unknown is Elizabeth Hill, but she is said to have been the sister of a John Hill, Gent., of Hull. A Mary Vause married a John Hill in 1770, and this Mary was probably a niece of the Richard Vause who married Elizabeth Hill, so the Vause-Hill connection needs to be followed up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.