Saturday, October 20, 2018

Souvenir Saturday: Delyse Brown

Delyse Brown, researcher extraordinary,
friend and colleague, with her published family history,
Footprints in the Sands of Time, 2011.
Remembering her on her birthday 22 October.
We all miss her vital spark.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Passenger list problems

The eternal problem of finding one's ancestor on a passenger list, particularly heading for South Africa, continues unabated. First, we have to accept that few if any original sources were made for the benefit of family historians of the future. And in the case of passenger lists, we have to accept that their accuracy - if they exist at all - must remain questionable. They will also not give full, inclusive details - e.g. initials are often not given, names of children may be omitted etc.

The passenger list of the schooner Anne, 1854, quite early in terms of Natal's history, shows us the usual practice of not naming members of the military travelling by ship. You can lose a lot of ancestors that way. We are left with '15 soldiers' - no further identification given. 

Natal Mercury  15 March 1854

Children's names are not given either - and in this instance the adults have no initials. There seems to be far more interest in the vessel's cargo than in the people it carried. It is probable that nothing further would be gleaned from a sight of the original handwritten list held in Pietermaritzburg Archives.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

World War l Moments (6)

A German soldier flies to his death as a trench is hit a second time.

On being asked for a War Poem

I think it better that in times like these 
A poet's mouth be silent, for in truth 
We have no gift to set a statesman right; 
He has had enough of meddling who can please 
A young girl in the indolence of her youth, 
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

William Butler Yeats

Sunday, October 14, 2018

World War l Moments (5)

In the trench

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Marking their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
                                    Claude McKay, 1889-1948

Saturday, October 13, 2018

World War l Moments (4)

Zeppelin L9

Hindenberg explodes.  

The first of the zeppelins took to the air in 1900, the Lenbarker Luftfahrzug. In the early days, rather than having the large, roundish, and fairly rigid shape of the Hindenburg, the first models resembled pencils and were meant to flex, much like an accordion.
Over time, zeppelins took on their more familiar shape, and all told, the Germans built 119, with a total of 130 planned. And in addition to their civilian utility, they were also heavily favored by the German--and later, American--military: The airships were heavily involved in bombing London during the first blitzes of World War I.
The end
No one knows exactly what caused the Hindenburg to explode. But on that day in May 1937, Lakehurst, N.J., was being roiled by electrical storms, causing some local rubber factories to shut down for fear of lightning igniting rubber dust. "At the most elemental level, the hydrogen ignited, it was just crazy and dangerous to operate a ship that had 7 million cubic feet of fuel. It's a flying bomb."
Although it's not known how it happened, it's agreed by Hindenburg experts that some of the airship's hydrogen escaped and met a spark, causing disaster.

Friday, October 12, 2018

World War l Moments (3)

In World War 1 tanks first appeared at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in September 1916. It was the first time tanks had ever been used in a military conflict.
The British sent 49 tanks into the battle. WW1 tanks were very slow and couldn’t exceed 4 miles an hour.
Tanks in WW1 played an extremely important role as they increased mobility on the Western Front and eventually broke the stalemate of trench warfare.

During the Battle of Amiens in 1918 72% of allied tanks were destroyed in just 4 days.6 days before the end of World War 1 the British Tank Corps only had 8 tanks left.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

World War l Moments (2)

World War l: Gas masks in the trench

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Newspaper passenger lists in family history: the Maritzburg, Natal 1863

The Natal Mercury of 7 July 1863 announced the arrival at Durban, two days earlier, of the barque Maritzburg, 536 tons, commanded by W L Eastham. She had left London on 4 April. Apart from various paying travellers (including seven members of the Pepworth family) and a general cargo, this ship carried 'Government Passengers' i.e. people emigrating to Natal under the assisted passage scheme. Sometimes such 'steerage' lists are not included in the press report, and may be found in a separate column of the same edition - or, if you're unlucky, not at all. 

This particular passenger list obligingly gives most, though not all, first names.

Having established the date of a ship's arrival it's usually worthwhile searching back a few weeks to find mention of her under 'Vessels Expected' in the shipping column. In the case of the Maritzburg, a reference in the 3 July edition reports that she had 'left the Downs' on 31 March. The same report gives her captain's surname as 'Earthian' but Eastham as shown in the arrival entry sounds much more likely - a good example of how names supplied by captain, Port Captain, or ship agent, could be misinterpreted in the press. 

Searching forward for more on the Maritzburg, in the Mercury of 10 July we find a brief paragraph in the shape of a testimonial to Captain Eastham and his Officers, 'signed by 67 passengers':  

Such testimonials were a feature of the 1860s but later on as arrivals at the port increased this charming practice dwindled and ceased.

So, three reports for the price of one, all within the same month and offering the family historian a bit more than the bare bones of a name on a passenger list.

Note: The Maritzburg was one of J T Rennie's Direct line of clippers, i.e. sailing from the Thames direct to Natal, the first of which to arrive at Durban was L'Imperatrice Eugenie, closely followed by the Prince Alfred, the Tugela, the Natal and Natal Star, the Umgeni, the Quathlamba and others.
Read more about 'The Colonial Clippers' in Basil Lubbock's book of that title.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Passengers on steamer Natal April 1854

Arrival and Departure of the Natal

This screw-steamer, part of the General Screw Company Cape-Natal line, first appeared in March 1854, followed some 8 months later by a sister-ship, the Cape of Good Hope, which had been carrying troops from England to Malta. At the time of this report, April 1854, both the Natal and the Cape of Good Hope were employed on the coastal service between Table Bay and Natal. The Natal was not long seen in South African waters as the General Screw Company withdrew from the Cape and disappeared altogether in 1857. The Natal was chartered to the French Government and finally wrecked on the Spanish coast in March 1855 on her way to the Crimea. There was another later ship named Natal, a coaster of the Union Line, built in 1866.

Natal Mercury 12 April 1854

April 6 - Natal, scr-steamer, 680 tons,
Lowen, - from Table Bay.


Miss and Mr Churchill
Masters Shepstone (2)
Master Goodricke
Mr Durrant
Capt Glanville (45th Regt)
Ensign Close (45th Regt)
Miss Dunn
Miss Ellerman
Mrs Miller and 2 children
E Snell, agent.

Apr 12 - Gitana, schr. - Mitchell,
from Table Bay - Cargo, sundries.
John Brown, agent.

April 10 - Natal, scr-stmr. 680 tons,
Lowen - for Table Bay

The Lord Bishop of Natal
Mr Clerk's servant
the Bishop's servant
Mr and Mrs Williams
Mr and Mrs Simons and 2 children
Mr Pepworth
Mr Scorgie and son
2 coloured women
1 woman, child and infant
For Algoa Bay
Mrs Griffin
Miss Cato
Miss Lake

Jane Morice, bq. 256 tons, - Captain Joseph Browne - to sail from Liverpool about Feb 14.
EP Lamport, agent.
Leontine Mary, schr. 29 tons, - Baragwanath, - from Algoa Bay.
E Snell, agent.
Anne, schr. 99 tons, - Cameron - from Table Bay.
J Brown, agent.
Heath, bq. 307 tons, - W Whightman, - from London, - to sail on the 1st March.
John Millar and Co. agents.

On the 6th instant, the lady of William Smerdon, Esq., of this place, of a son.


The Natal Mercury, Durban, Wednesday, 12 April, 1854
Arrival of the Natal. [includes reference to wreck of the Australian]

This long expected namesake steamed round the Bluff shortly after 12 o'clock at noon, on Thursday, the 7th inst., and immediately crossed the Bar to the inner anchorage, although it was at the time low water of neap tides. This fact, accomplished without difficulty or danger by a vessel of 700 tons burden, is an appropriate practical commentary on the letters we have lately published, by the Resident Engineer of the Harbour Works, and a satisfactory illustration of the effects already produced by those Works, even in their present comparatively incipient state.

The Natal is a remarkably fine vessel, and besides having capacity for a large cargo - a great desideratum at present to our Colonial trade - she possesses ample and elegant accommodation for passengers. On this subject, and with reference to her general management, we elsewhere publish the testimonial of her recent passengers.

The Natal arrived at the Cape on the 20th March, and left with our Mails on the 27th, two days after the arrival of the Argo from England. She encountered heavy south easterly gales after she left the Cape, which occasioned her passage to be protracted to nine days.

The Peel which left this Port on the 22nd, had been fortunate in her run, having touched at Mossel Bay a day before the Natal arrived there; and as the wind, which was unfavourable for the Natal, was most propitious for the Peel [Sir Robert Peel steamer], it is highly probable that the latter would reach Table Bay in time to put the Mails on board the Lady Jocelyn, the homeward bound steamer which was to leave on the night of the 27th, the day on which the Natal left; but the south eastern blowing, would probably detain her, - and this is another circumstance favouring the probability of our mails being in time to be forwarded by her.

The Anne, Capt Cameron, had made a quick passage of nine days from this Port, having arrived on the 22nd ulto, and of course therefore in time for the English Mail. The Anne was reloading for Port Natal, and the Gitana was also chartered to bring cargo waiting for shipment. Both vessels may be expected daily.

The Natal met on the other side of Mossel Bay the Australian steamer, Australian, from Melbourne and Sydney, which had put into Algoa Bay for coals; and on the arrival of the Natal at the latter place, the disastrous news had arrived overland of the wreck of the Australian, which, through some at present unexplained mischance, had been run upon the rocks at Green Point at the entrance to Table Bay. The night was clear and fine; and the passengers and cargo, including a large quantity of gold, were all saved; but it was believed that this fine but singularly unfortunate vessel would be a total wreck.