Saturday, 30 March 2019

Stalking the Family Bibles for clues.

Several months back a 5th cousin showed me her mother’s family Bible.  The Bible was large and beautifully bound. It has a leather and timber cover. Included in the Bible is a records section with  coloured, gold embossed pages. This section was for recording births deaths and marriages.

Allan family bible has been handed down over the years

It is a real heirloom passed down from the original recipient of the Bible to her daughters, granddaughters etc over several generations. It records a line of the family of Allan descendants from the famous cricketer Francis Erskine Allan AKA Bowler of the Century 1849-1917


At a brief glance, it has at least 4  generations and as the family expanded with added generations of babies it became more unwieldy with backs of pages used and writing getting tighter.

....and all the descendants

I guess it also used to store more than names over the years. It would seem logical that the Bible would have become a receptacle used to slip in newspaper clippings, obituaries, funeral cards, actual documents, letters, cards, pressed flowers or even handwritten jottings.

Recently I was emailed some more simple notes recorded in a less regal family Bible of the Smith family of Bethnal Green.  Much less grandiose but nonetheless important these bore information on my great grandmother‘s brother, his wife and their children.
George Smith m Lydia Eaton

George and Lydia's family recorded at the front of the bible

 I’m grateful that a distant relative took the time to scan and share and even more grateful of the tradition of recording the family tree in the family Bible.

I’ve two other “Bible stories”. One is about a book passed down from my great grandfather Thomas Gadsby. It is “A Selection of Hymns for Public Worship” by William Gadsby printed in 1874 by a J Gadsby.  All that was known originally was that it was a gift to Thomas Gadsby in 1911 upon his departure from England to Australia. It’s a bit water damaged and has no family histories but it was a cause for further research.  Yes indeed William Gadsby was a famous Minister and prolific hymn writer 1773-1844. His hymns are still sung today.   Research has shown that it was his son John who published it.  William’s my 4th great uncle so he was Thomas’ great Uncle. Whether this was a family heirloom or just a practical gift it is in safe hands with a succession plan complete with relevant stories about it’s importance.

This Hymn book came to Australia in 1912

The oldest living granddaughter  has custody and its future has been secured

This cherished hymn book  enriches our family story

Another bible found amongst my father’s things belonged to his Aunt Jessie. It had a message “from cousin Tom 1911”.  She had a brother Tom but who was this cousin?  Further research found Jessie, a young widow living with half first cousin Thomas and his mother in the 1911 Census just before she left for Australia. So it ended up being a rather helpful inscription.

 Lately I’ve seen some genealogy Facebook posts where people have bought up Bibles with family trees found in op shops and bookstores and advertised them to try and restore them with their original family. Who can resist a quick search on Ancestry to find a current tree? Whether it is intentional or not it’s such a crime to throw away this incredible record. It probably says more about today's value of owning a Bible. How generous of these folk to buy the unwanted books and use all of their research skills and genealogical know how to find a new family home for these treasures.

The Old Testament tells us that “you should not covet your neighbour's goods”. I will admit to some serious family history envy. I’d sure like my own copy to have and to cherish. Oh well after years of research my tree is too large to fit in my Bicentennial Edition of the Good News Bible.

Hint of the Day:  Items to be saved should be identified and perhaps "gifted" to the most likely eventual custodian of the family records.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Girls Own Annual

I found a book relegated to the garage -- well it wasn't really the garage it should have been Mum's studio. Now it was just a storage shed. Sadly she didn't get time to retire and paint before she died twenty years ago. The shed was not the ideal storage place because it was built next to an old creek bed. Every now and then the land returned to its former purpose during one in twenty year flood events. The building sustained these deluges two or three times before I retrieved my mother's things.

Two rickety old shelves held the excess household books. Mum had ensured that her childhood treasures and her old favourites were elevated. Somehow her treasures became mixed with objects cast out of the house in the latest exercise in discarding excess furniture. In reality this should have been a comfy, sunny studio housing a daybed -- a place to potter and paint. Twenty years after Mum had died it had become a repository for everything that Dad had collected plus his office archives, surplus lamps, paintings suitcases, trunks and other "stuff"

When cleaning out the shed lots of this useful stuff found its way to the dump bin, op shops or auction sales. In deciding what to keep there were rash moments of "Chuck it" or discussions about whether to  "give it away" or  "could be worth something". Cleaning out that shed took weeks.

It was old and obviously well loved, ravaged by moisture and lack of care, It was a dog-eared and repaired relic I should think I would never read it and it was totally unsaleable. The Girl's Own Annual won out. This 800 page dilapidated book from my mother's shelves came home with me and only later did I work why it is so important for me to keep….

Girls Own Annual   was an important and positive influence on generations of girls and women, and a vital outlet for women's writing and ideas, for more than three-quarters of a century". E Honor Ward

A bit of research and the book was much older than my mother –so it wasn’t hers. It was then the penny dropped. “The Girls Own Annual” volume XXX was printed in 1909/1910. Finally I had a relic of the Gadsby family’s travels from England. This book came out to Australia with my great grandmother Selina and her girls 100 years ago. I can just imagine them pawing over this large finely bound green hardcover publication with gilt lettering during the 6 week journey to Australia .

The Girl’s Own Paper and Women’s Magazine was strewn with illustrated pages of paintings and drawings both in colour and black and white. There were pages of women’s fashions of the day- Edwardian dresses the girls would have had packed in their trunks ready to wear in “the colonies”.  There were stories of the times, photos of royalty, plants and gardens-not unlike current Women’s magazines only much more sensible.  It included plenty of tips on etiquette, ideas and patterns for crafts and all manner of commonsense subjects such as “Possibilities with Lemons” “Suggestions for School-girl’s Dresses”, “Ideas for Towel Ends. It may answer to “rare book” but it will never be described as “in excellent condition” or even “good” on E-bay but to me it’s priceless! 

Tuesday, 26 February 2019



Lately, I've been obsessed with growing frangipani trees. It runs in the family.

Every time we visited my grandfather at 35 Park Avenue my mother pinched another "cutting" from the tree. I'm amazed it grew any bigger. Alas, Mum's cuttings never grew because of the frosts.

I take or steal cuttings from all over Australia as a souvenir of my holidays in tropical sunny parts. It’s really an attempt to recapture my childhood memories of my Mum pinching bits at my Grandfather James's house and other memories that entails.

That piece of frangipani represents ice cream spiders made with homemade ice cream and Long and Barden's lemonade, which James lovingly served us at each visit. It reminds me of the Golden Rough that we bought with a sixpence Dad gave us so he could have a peaceful time with his father. It reminds me of coarse buffalo grass and the garden my Nanny used to tend. And it brings back memories of the piano and the crockery box that housed my grandparent’s photos. My brother and I would ram all the family photos into the piano keys. 

These household treasures would bounce up and down as we "played music".
I'm looking at those photos now, not surprisingly a little worse for wear. Here's my Nanny proudly holding her first granddaughter -- me -- in front of a much smaller version of the frangipani tree sixty something years ago.  Nanny's looking adoringly at me in a rather lairy printed Sunday best dress as we posed for photos in my long white christening gown. Sadly, as a 3 month old I'm not even looking at her or the tree with any sort of interest.  

A while ago a friend emailed me a picture of the old home at 35 Park Avenue. Oh ..the frangipani has survived. I'm already checking if there are any bits hanging over the fence so I can grow a bit of that tree once and for all! 

Above: The tree fully grown
Years later the tree seems to have been relocated to the side of the front yard as shown in the photos taken by Joan Lawrence below.

Friday, 14 December 2018

A 29th great grandfather !!! But I’m not skiting. Clayton Family History

A 29th great grandfather !!! But I’m not skiting.

Over several hours this week I added a few hundred Clayton people to my tree. 

They began as a “detached “lot (i.e. no direct relationship showed) dating back to before the days of William the Conqueror. It all stems from the chance finding of an Internet archive book called “The Clayton Family” by Henry F Hepburn Esq LLB of Philadelphia PA. He had presented a paper about Clayton History in 1904. The book which was digitised by the Internet Archive in 2008 can be found at http: //www.archive.Org/details/claytonfamily00hepb

Hepburn’s book begins with Robert to Clayton of Caudebec, Normandy, accompanying William the Conqueror. Robert was a skilled soldier who had been rewarded with the Manor of Clayton by William after his “laudable services” in the Battle of Hastings. This came with titles and land around Lancashire. So began a line of soldiers and Gentlemen farmers in the history of England and included notable lawyers, medical practitioners and ministers in the USA. 

The tree additions continued as “detached” and “no direct relationship” until Family Tree Maker program threw up a few questions such as "does this Robert Clayton born 1470 match the Robert Clayton in your tree?" With caution prevailing I hold my breath until Jane Farrington matched too.  A quick back up and person merge resulted in all the detached relatives falling into place. The earliest relative being 27th great-grandfather Robert de Clayton b 1030.  Other information has shown that the line starts two generations earlier with a man called Leosswine and son Hugh the father Richard D Clayton.  Yikes that’s a 29th great grandfather.

My interest in the Claytons stems from my Strelley connections where my 4x great grandfather Robert Strelley married Elizabeth Clayton in 1768. Interestingly Robert also descended from a Clayton where his grandmother Alice Clayton married Thomas Robey in 1714. There is evidence in the book that the families spread throughout England (and USA)

Elizabeth Clayton 1746-1833

Robert Strelley 1739-1813

In 2014 I visited Waingroves Hall which was built by Robert and Elizabeth around the 1800s. This was land in Derbyshire. I discovered that the lands were brought to the Strelleys through Elizabeth’s father Richard Clayton of Codnor Breach born 1696. It had a medieval history. The land around Waingroves was developed in 1791 as a Squire’s Hall together with lake, woodlands, orchards and the accompanying farm. When I visited in 2014 there was talk of a monument to Richard Clayton in an old brick barn which was off-limits do it due to state of repair.

Waingroves Hall, Derbyshire built on Clayton land 

We sweet-talk the farmer who volunteered to take a few snaps of the stone plaque set into the brickwork inside the rundown brick barn.

Under the foundation of the house is evidence of a stone engraved with the cross of the Knights Hospitaliers. This is evidence of past medieval owners (relatives of the Clayton’s?) whose original footprint was covered by the new Waingroves Hall.

The wording on the plaque says "Robt and Eliz Strelley (who was one of the two DAPS (daughters?) of  X Richd Clayton  of the (Codnor) Breach Gent:)X Erected this Building 1791"

Whether this was Clayton land back in the 1400s is still open to speculation. My Ancestry tree is constantly being fleshed out with more anecdotal evidence and information on the female lines. Hepburn’s work documents the male inheritance from the days of the land grants in 1066.  However, as was the usual practice he excludes the female children and the wives who may have brought land to their husbands through marriage. The family originally had interest in land in Chester, Lancashire, York, Derbyshire but spread throughout England.

Through my interest in DNA I have begun researching when family lines left England and went to the New World. Hepburn’s paper was presented in 1904 in Delaware and documents also the family history in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. I need to bone up on Quaker history. Interestingly Hepburn has also documented the Mainwaring family which dates even further back in French history. Mary Mainwaring married John de Clayton in 1440 -a job on my list for 2019.

All in all, not a bad find. Yes it brings out the disbelievers and the  “I’ll top you “ skiters but just remember I’ve been there before with my Strelley family. I'll see you one and raise you. I love my hobby.  

Tip of the day: For Family Tree Maker users- If you find an ancient line and want to work through it to find a connection its easier and quicker to work from earlier to later.  Simply add the first person as father to anyone on your tree. Then detach the father from the family. He and anyone added from there will show as no direct relationship. When you find a corresponding matching person down in your tree make a backup and merge the two common people. Relationship should then show.
Tip of the Day 2: I use an App called We’re Related by Ancestry.  It connects you to “compilations” of famous people’s trees and shows you a pathway to your famous relative. Occasionally this is a hint to extend your tree upwards and most often takes your ancestor from England to America. You need to check the pathway for errors.  In this case I was following a lead to the famous pastor, John Wesley b1703 and it led me to explore the Clayton mother in laws and off on a tangent I went!

Monday, 3 December 2018


A Memoir written for the Cassidy, Davis and Ford families to honour a special lady who found love at the hat factory.

Winifred Ford  nee Cassidy 12/10/1919-7/10/2018

To be “Madly in Love”… Love has the power to drive you crazy and sweep you off your feet.


At just 13 years of age May Davis worked happily away at her job at Courtaulds, a successful silk and rayon manufacturer in Bedworth in Warwickshire. A year earlier due to increasing world demand for rayon their second mill had commenced operations and after being extended and equipped it was used for weaving viscose rayon into fabrics blouses, dresses etc.

In addition, Bedworth had become a centre for hat making after the silk ribbon weaving industry was decimated in 1860s. May’s father, Philip and her extended family either worked in the silk industry or as hat makers. Messrs Wooten and Forge bought the new hat making industry to Bedworth in 1887 and the population had jumped from 5000+ to 11,500 by 1921. Previously the hat industry and hat making were not even classed as occupations for the purpose of taking the Census. A petition to the government saw the trade of hat manufacture included in later census records. Philip Davis was a hat body maker and the 1901 and the 1911 Census records that other Davis relatives were hat plankers, hat hardeners or felt hat dyers.
James Edward Cassidy  1914

Seventy-seven miles away in Bury, Lancashire, an 18-year-old lad named James Edward Cassidy was working as a felt hat finisher for Messrs Spencer's Regent Hatworks in Bury. Factories in Bury were also becoming significant hat manufacturers.

British Legion -Bury 1919 James is centre back

After a stint in the 7th Lancashire Fusiliers where he was wounded, hospitalised and returned to England, James returned to work at the hat factory and married a local girl, Amelia Duckworth on 24th of April 1917 at St Josephs Church Bury. James was a member of the British Legion branch in Bury where he built his life with Amelia and their two little girls, Winifred and Patricia. Tragically on 19 December 1924 Amelia died.

James's old friend Frank Nuttall also worked at Spencer's. In 1924 Frank and his wife Nellie Chambers decided to head to Australia. Frank was working at R.C. Henderson's Hat factory in Broadway, Sydney. R.C. Henderson's Limited had started up in Sydney around 1907, expanding its market to Queensland by 1917. Their hats were beautifully silk stitched and were both machine and handmade with special attention to head measurement. Hats also had silk headlining with the firm's name printed inside. The Queenslander 13/10/1917

The firm produced hats to suit every taste. The Henderson Hat was a new style of hat, which was light with “simplicity of style and a good shape”. It was a droop hat with “Baden Powell” crown in all the newest colourings. They made a good range of straw hats as well.

At the age of 51 Phillip Davis with his wife Sarah Ann and children May, Ivy and Jack also decided to travel to Australia in 1926. He began working at Henderson’s and met up with Frank Nuttall who eventually became a foreman. When May arrived in Sydney on the Otranto she would have been about 20 years old.

Davis Family from Bedworth L-R Sarah, Ivy, May, Eva's husband Jack, Jack and Eva

Nuttall persuaded the bereaved James to come to Australia.  “Henderson’s” as it was known was expanding and needed skilled staff. In October 1927, a farewell concert was held in the Bury Branch of the British Legion in James’ honour. He left for Sydney and took with him the gift of a silver cigarette case to remind him of his good friends and good times in Bury. Although he was unable to take his daughters with him at that time, he took with him the good wishes of the British Legion for a good and fortunate life in his new home. After six weeks at sea on the SS Hobsons Bay, he arrived in Sydney Australia in November 1927. Eventually after a period of unemployment in Sydney James took up Nuttall’s offer of work.

And so it seems James' old friend from Bury, Frank Nuttall was instrumental in introducing May Davis to his newly arrived friend. "If you want to get ahead get a hat" is the old saying. If you want to find a girlfriend then work in a Hat works. May and James were married only 6 months later on 30 June 1928. James had managed to “marry the boss’ daughter”. May’s father was a foreman at the eastern suburbs site.

James and May's wedding

More wedding shots.. everyone wears a Henderson hat

James had left his two little daughters in the capable hands of his sister-in-law Alice Tootill. Wouldn't they have been surprised when a year or so later their Father sent for them to come to Australia and meet their new mother who originally hailed from Warwickshire only 77 miles away.

In December 1928 Winifred Cassidy aged nine and Patricia aged six sailed on the SS Orsova to Sydney to join their father and his new wife at 17 Annie St West Ryde.  Later it was renamed 17 Moss Street West Ryde. James and May happily lived out their days together after bringing up the two little girls and their four sons James, Terry, Michael and Tony.
Wynne and Pat at the family home in West Ryde with James and May

There is a saying that some people are “mad as hatters”. Mercury was used in the process of curing felt used in some hats. It was impossible for hatters to avoid inhaling the mercury fumes given off during the hat making process. Hatters often suffered from mercury poisoning, which caused neurological damage, confused speech and distorted vision. In February 1936 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Frank Nuttall was acting a little mysteriously when he was seen to approach a cupboard daily, perform some mysterious rite and emerge locking the door behind him. The cupboard exuded a peculiar and unpleasant odour. No doubt James and Phillip would have speculated with the other staff regarding Franks idiosyncratic behaviour, the contents of the cupboard and the mysterious ritual.

No… Frank who was in charge of the finishing department, was not mad – just supervising an experiment. All was revealed when new machines were designed. Frank’s experiments resulted in perfecting a new finish to the velour hat which rivalled the special Austrian velour. They would have been bemused to find that Mr Nuttall had been on a fishing trip and the contents of the cupboard were that of a drying and treated sharkskin! Nuttall had developed a process “by which the rough surface of the shark skin tore into the fur and brought out the very lifelike lustre which is so important to a velour hat “

When the Autumn millinery collection was shown that year the new velour allowed for greater diversity of style and trimming.

“High-turned brims and pointed domes speak of China, and a contrast is the befeathered model that the Duke of Wellington would scarcely have thought of wearing, but which, nevertheless, is modelled on his own ceremonial head - gear. Sports hats are Tyrolean in shape, but are not exaggerated. An interesting feature is the oblong crown, and in some cases the triangular crown.

Feathers and other trimmings follow the line of the hat. These are mostly restrained, and frequently provide just an accent of colour. Berets and Beretta persist, and ecclesiastic head-dresses are also represented. Other high-crowned models are rather like inverted flower-pots, but so restrained is the line of these has that they are smart rather than eccentric In appearance.” SMH 4/2/1956

James and May wearing the fashion of the day 1938

There is something about working in a Hat factory which brings more love and romance into this story. James's daughter Winifred or Wynne as she is affectionately known joined him at Henderson's when she left school.

Wynne was a milliner and hat trimmer, a job she was proud of and which would use her creative and sewing skills. As Australia entered the war the girls in the factory began making hats for the Defence Force. You can just imagine the girls chatting all those handsome soldiers they had seen out and about as they worked away at their machines. Theirs would've been a very important wartime job ensuring the supply of the ever-increasing numbers of Australian soldier slouch hats needed for the boys in uniform.

It was the custom in some hat works that the hat trimmers wrote little notes for the soldier who would receive a hat that they had finished. These would have been little notes of best wishes and encouragement for the young men who were taking off to foreign parts or northern Australia to defend our country against the enemy.  A visiting journalist asked Wynne if the milliners at Henderson’s were in the habit of writing notes to the soldiers. She quickly wrote a little note and impulsively slipped it in the band of the hat she was working on and continued with her quota.
One young 25 year old soldier was posted in Darwin. During a bombing raid, he lost his slouch hat. Wynne in fact, made his replacement hat. He received a replacement hat with the note attached from young Wynne who was aged around 23 at the time. One little message and then cupid did his magic. Joseph Hudson Ford and Wynne Cassidy began corresponding. Through the bond of that message in the hatband they somehow met. While they were courting Joe left the Army in Darwin and joined the RAAF to serve in New Guinea. Whilst home on leave they married on 10th of June 1944 at St Michael’s Church at Meadowbank.
Wynne and Joe's wedding with Pat as bridesmaaid , James and little brother Michael (r)

They made their home in Eastwood where they brought up their three children Mary, Chris and Stephen. Joe was totally devoted to Wynne from the day they were married until he died aged 90. Wynne continued to love hats and would continue to trim clothes for herself, her 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

So what became of Henderson’s? Mr RC Henderson, the founder, died and the company converted to a public company in 1950 to pay his death duties. By that time hats were losing popularity. Profits were up and down and despite some improving demand in 1952 the company was put in receivership in December 1954. Some time after that the factory closed down. James, having put his age down by 10 years, went to work for Hoovers at Meadowbank where he happily worked as a Nightwatchman and cleaner. He finished each shift with a beer at West Ryde Hotel. Frank Nuttall finished his career managing Battersby Hats in Remuera NZ living there with his wife Nellie until their deaths.

Click on the photo to enlarge the Hnenderson's Hats signage on the Sydney city building near Central Station

The Henderson’s sign is still painted on the side wall and can be seen from Central Railway Station. The building was taken over by Police headquarters and Henderson’s was immortalised because the police affectionately called their new home “The Hat Factory”.

Rumours abound of the mercury seeping out of the floors of the old building…. Has it affected us?  There is a touch of idiosyncrasy or madness in all of the Cassidy and Davis descendants. As Auntie Pat used to say. “All are mad except me and thee.” The rest of the saying goes … “and I even have my doubts about thee.”

Some of the clan at the wedding of yours truely in 1977

Monday, 12 November 2018

Lest we forget -Centenary of 1918 Armistice 11/11/2018

A field of "poppies" at Canberra to commemorate the Armistice (photo S Reid)
Growing up in the Baby Boomer years I didn't know any family members who went to war -or so I thought.

My paternal grandfather was too young for WWI and my father and uncle were too young for WWII. Mum's brother had been at war but was deceased when I was young. Later I found it was PTSD that caused his death. Such is the sadness that goes with service for country.
James Cross Kerr and his brothers 
signed up from 1914 onwards.

Later when I started my Genealogical journey family members who were soldiers, sailors and air force men came into view. My maternal grandfather and great uncles had been at war in 1915, my paternal great grandfather and his brothers had signed up almost at the start. My husband's family expanded the collection of those to be  remembered.

Later I began writing their stories on my blog. I learnt about the wars, the timing of the battles. I found prisoners of war, spies, some injured, and the saddest of all, those killed in action.  Bravery awards and medals have been uncovered.

So as the allied nations celebrate the end of the war I pause to reflect on how writing up their tales has enhanced my genealogical history. They were called to serve their countries and they did so whole heartedly.

Some of the men returned maimed  and we can only imagine the families who suffered when their men returned mentally scarred.

In the context of family history they were not just men but members of families - fathers, brothers, sons, husbands. Wives were left to hold the fort, work in the family business or perhaps carry on forever in their partner's absence. 

Some of the men returned maimed  and we can only imagine the families who suffered when their men returned mentally scarred. A little known and recognised casualty of war is now recognised - too often we complain "he didn't tell us anything about the war". They suffered in silence.

It has been a privilege to follow their stories, write about their sacrifices and their lives and interests post war. There are more to come- the Ford boys naval service and others.

For those who enlisted in  England I have attempted to "remember" them on the Imperial War Museum's Lives of First World War I and copy their story. This is a digital memorial to those who fought. I encourage you to seek out your relatives, "remember" them and add their stories.
Imperial War Museum - Lives of the first world war

Poppies adorn "Simpson and his donkey" monument (photo S Reid)

Lest we forget

Monday, 29 October 2018

Thomas The Missing Son Is Found! Incorporating a history of the Gadsbys' arrival in Australia in 1912

Thomas James Gadsby was the eldest of the 14 Gadsby children and the eldest son.

Born in 1889 in London, Essex having heard of his father's military exploits he was bursting to sign up for the army. In fact, his father was still in the Reserves when he was born. At the age of 2 he was listed in the 1891 census as living in West Bromwich but had already moved several times as his father sought building work.  By age 12, he was a well-travelled little chap with several moves around Stratford, Manning Park and Canning Town as his parents continued to grow the Gadsby clan and chase building work.

Gadsby Family on the 1891 census in UK

He joined the Busbys as they were called after they returned from South Africa in 1905. His attestation was 5/1/1909 at Stratford Essex. Officially they were known as the 7th Hussars. They were known to have spent a quiet 6 years in England before the Regiment returned to the subcontinent, namely India for another tour.  They were stationed at Bangalore and were left there at the start of World War I, moving to Secunderabad with detachments keeping order in Delhi.Proudly he set off wearing his tall black furry hat and red uniform. 

In 1911 his mother, Selina, gave birth to her 9th and 10th living children, Edith and William, who were sickly twins. In 1912, with the family fearing that there would be a war in Europe and heeding the doctors' advice to get to warmer climates, they prepared to leave for the warmer climate in Australia. Little Edith Laura didn't make it having died in London early in 1912 so Selina and Thomas senior were probably all to pleased to leave London and its miserably cold winter weather behind when they left in early October 1912. In the back of her mind Selina would have been glad that her two teenage sons, Harold 15 and John 13 would probably be spared the need to join up to fight in a war which was looming in Europe.

Thomas Senior’s family on the 1911 census (Thomas Jnr had joined the army)  

Selina travelled to Australia with the girls - Selina, Maude, Julia, Catherine and Grace and one year old William. Lena was 22 and leaving behind a fiance, a much older man known as Ben.  They travelled on the “Zealandia” arriving as unassisted passengers on 15/11/1912.  

Thomas and his older sons Harold and John travelled to Australia by some other means, possibly as crew on board a merchant ship. There is probably some truth in the rumour doing the rounds of Harold's family that “he jumped ship” in Sydney.

On board the ship, Selina and the girls met up with the Thurlows who were also travelling to make a home in Australia.  A relationship grew between a young Alex Thurlow and the young Selina. (Lena). Reputedly, her furious mother wrote to Ben back in England of the situation and advised him to make haste to Australia.

Meanwhile a Gadsby family reunion had taken place in Sydney and within 5 months of their arrival in Sydney, or perhaps because of the cold nights in Katoomba, Selina Snr was pregnant with her final child, Edith Fanny who was born early 1914

The girls began to settle into school in Katoomba and life in Australia. With the declaration of war in Europe, Harold and John quickly joined the troops to fight the War. Ben had arrived by this time and in a great shock to the family their mother began a relationship with him, leaving her husband and Lena to bring up her children and the new baby. At the end of the War, John returned home a little worse for wear having been gassed and Harold joined his father as a bricklayer. They began to anticipate the arrival of their brother Thomas who would be returning from a long spell in the military in India and Mesopotamia.

Having been in the Asiatic theatre of war since 13/9/1915 it was in 1917 that the frustrated 7th Hussar regiment sailed to the River Tigris near Basra to fight against the Turks. They moved to Baghdad from where the first attack was launched in March 1918 against the enemy in Khan Baghdadi. The 7th had the role of cutting off the enemy retreat, which they managed very efficiently, first destroying the baggage column, then routing the enemy division in fifteen minutes. Six months of stagnation around Baghdad took place as the Turks had withdrawn. Another offensive was mounted by the British where they again encircled the enemy at Sharquat. The 7th executed a brilliant piece of fire and withdrew. On the 30th October, as they were preparing to attack again, news came through that Turkey had surrendered but the 7th were to remain as an occupying force not arriving home until May 1919.

The London Gazette 15/8/17 reports that his services were brought to the notice of Lieut Gen Sir Stanley Maude KCB, Commander in Chief of the Mespotamian Expeditionary Force as deserving of special mention.  7th Hussars issued the British War Medal & Victory Medal and Acting Sergeant Thomas Gadsby of the 7th (Queens Own) Hussars Corps was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal which was gazetted on 15/1/1920.

In a Supplement to the London Gazette on 3/2/20. ....The his name was are brought to the attention of the Undersecretary of State for War for valuable services rendered with the Bushire Force in Persia 1/4/18-31/3/19 and again in the London Gazette 31/1/20  Supplement

"His Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Meritorious Award to the undermentioned in recognition of valuable services rendered with the British Forces in India S Persia Bushire Force Hussars H3726 Pte A/ Sgt Gadsby TJ 7th (Canningtown)"

Thomas was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as arriving in Sydney on 9th August 1919 on the Steamer Janus from Calcutta.

Thomas Jnr’s war medals from his time in 7th Hussars

He arrived in Australia after a long absence from his family to be greeted by his sisters who had become women complete with war time boyfriends and his brothers who had also had their own war time experiences. His sister Lena was married to Alexander Thurlow who she met on board the ship. Edie, his little Australian sister was 5 years old when he met her for the first time . A few adjustments had to be made. He was 22 when his family had come to Australia and now he was 30. Having led a life for 10 years or so in the Army in India, he was used to having servants to attend to his needs. He saw no problem with getting the same treatment at home and felt that his little brother William and little Edie could fill in as servants when he left his shoes out for them to shine. This created much resentment amongst the littlies.
Lena’s wedding 1918 –Maude Rose Gadsby, William Thurlow, Alexander Thurlow, Selina Charlotte (Lena) Gadsby, Selina Gadsby, John Robert Gadsby, Julia Nellie Gadsby
The family unit was much different when Thomas arrived back from the war

Meanwhile Thomas, a deeply religious man, was not happy with what he saw when he returned home. His mother had taken up with his sister’s ex fiance, Ben, and his sister Lena was left to bring up the girls and the younger children while his father earned a living. He told Julia, before her wedding in 1921 that he wouldn’t see any of his family again. True to his word, he didn’t and amazingly given his beliefs married a young divorcee, Violet Emma Harrison in Ashfield, and moved with her to New Zealand. It appears he met this young divorcee Violet Emma  nee Harrison (previously Stewart) who was born in England , moved to NZ and then came to  Australia with her mother and brother after the death of her father. 
Thomas and Violet’s wedding certificate

Until 2011, nearly 100 years after his family came to Australia no one knew what happened to Thomas. That passing comment to his sister Julia remained somewhat of a family secret. Julia passed it on to her daughter, Marlene, who recorded it in her family history notes. Twenty years had passed when Julia’s granddaughter-me- came across the message and began a search. Remarkably with very little to go on a marriage was found and certificates from both NSW Birth Deaths and Marriages and New Zealand Registry were obtained. During my investigations there were rumours he had made contact and was living in Australia but this cannot be substantiated. 
Thomas Jnr’s death certificate gave comfort to the older members of the family

Messages went out to the family at large. The mystery of the missing son, Thomas, has been solved. He is/was alive and well. Unbeknown to the family Thomas had met and married Violet Emma Harrison who was born in England and came to Australia via New Zealand. She was living at Ashfield. They had married in Sydney in December 1921 and moved to NZ where he lived and worked as a Tramways conductor until his death in 1953. They had been childless. Violet lived on to 1986.  Why hadn’t he written or kept in contact?

You can’t help but think that Thomas’ life and relationship with his family would ever be the same again when he arrived in Australia in 1919. A new country and previously unknown siblings who resented cleaning his shoes would have been difficult enough. His other brothers and sister were almost strangers after his long absence away from the family. The war had changed everyone. Perhaps his family would not have approved of his new love- a divorcee in the 1920s. Certainly he was at odds with his opinion of his mother’s carry on with his sister’s ex-fiance and her new life and lover.  Perhaps his mail never quite caught up with a constantly moving family. History can be unravelled but not undone. There is a kind of comfort in knowing that he lived a long life in Grey Lynn NZ and although childless he had created a new life with Violet probably living through the memories of all the places he had experienced.  Not bad for a kid born in London in 1889.
The only known photo of Thomas until........

Thomas and Violet .... thanks for sharing Patricia Ahmu nee Harrison
A couple of years ago Patricia Ahmu approached me after seeing his details on Ancestry. She was the great niece of Violet. She had met her Great Aunty Violet  when she was on holiday in NZ in 1970 and again when she lived in Auckland in 1972.  She often dined with her at her new place at Birkdale on the north shore of Auckland.   Violet told her that she and Tom had no children but she had twin boys and they were born dead.  Patriciat said that she was a bright and kind lady who would have been a wonderful mother. 

I was excited to receive this news and even more excited when she shared photos of Thomas and Violet.

More Stories in this series: