Monday, June 27, 2011

Grimaldi of the Natal Police

When a collector acquired two campaign medals awarded to S Grimaldi of the Natal Police, it was the beginning of an absorbing search for information on a man who had blood ties with numerous aristocratic families of Europe - yet was at one stage of his career a Collector of Dog Tax in South Africa.

The medals were a Queen's South Africa medal for service during the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, and a Natal Rebellion 1906 medal, both named to S Grimaldi, Natal Police. The collector takes up the narrative: 
Part of the fun of phaleristics is researching the recipient of the medals collected and discovering something of their life story ... I wanted to find out as much as possible about Sergeant Grimaldi. The World Wide Web and search engines became my initial source. Searching on GRIMALDI produced a host of links to Italy, Monaco, actors, clowns and other famous people.
Searches on NAAIRS, the South African National Archives online index, brought up seven references to the surname. A South African researcher was able to trace Grimaldi's career in the Natal Police through the enlistment and order books of this unit preserved in Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository, as well as retrieving some reports written by the man himself.

At this stage I knew when and where Grimaldi was born and some details of his service and his appearance. Due to this information I believed him to be Australian and born in November 1867. However I wanted more details, such as did he marry, when and where did he die, did he have any children? So back to the web and now the fun really began, I went on a virtual tour from the Australian outback, to the English countryside via the South African veld, with the occasional detour to Monaco and Italy.

Using various surname and other sites, the following was established:

Stacey Grimaldi, born Swan, WA [Western Australia], 1867, two elder sisters also born in this area. His mother and father were English. These details came from the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I tried a further search using this utility against England and the UK. Further details were revealed, as this searched the 1881 census. I now knew Stacey and his family were back in England in 1881, his dad was a curate in Devon, Stacey himself at Probus School, Probus, Cornwall. Also there were four more siblings that I was certain of and possibly a further brother who was at Christ's Hospital School then in London before later removal to Lancing in Sussex.

Now I had some geographical data I searched the web for Probus, York and Guildford in WA, Greenwich, Pietermaritzburg and other places in the UK and SA. From these searches I obtained photographs of Probus School, the Police Station in PMB where Stacey had worked, maps of Western Australia and South Africa at the time he would have lived there. The 1881 Census return had proved productive so I tried the 1901 census ... This gave more details of the employment of Stacey's relatives. Further refined searching using both first and surnames produced some very exciting results. I was able to ascertain that Stacey's grandfather was also called Stacey (1790-1863) and was a genealogist and had published books on the subject. He also was a lawyer and has a room at the Law Society in London named in honour of him. Stacey's (1790) father was William Grimaldi, a miniature portrait painter and examples of his work are available on the web. A portrait of him by his daughter-in-law is hanging in the National Gallery, London. Both these Grimaldis are titled as Marquis and at one stage I thought my Natal Policeman might even have been the 11th Marquis, however I later discovered Stacey (1790) had two sons earlier than my Stacey's father, Henry. One interesting fact was that Stacey (1790) had given all 9 of his children (6 sons 3 daughters) Beaufort as their second name. I still do not know where this appellation has come from. There are no Beauforts in the family that I have discovered. I returned to web search engines and even more exciting was the lineage of my Policeman's grandmother Mary Anne KNAPP, whom it turned out was 21st in direct descent from Henry II: her lineage includes a plethora of European royalty.

Tracing William Grimaldi's family tree led to Alexander Grimaldi born 1659 in Genoa, died 1732 London. Other sources show this man as fleeing Genoa in 1684 for London. I had discovered a Genealogy forum and more information on the surname, including other descendants of Alexander in Australia and the USA as well as the UK.

FreeBMD, FreeCEN and other similar web facilities added further detail, as did Australian genealogy sites and sites for individual English counties:

I was able to confirm Henry Beaufort Grimaldi, Stacey's dad, had served as a curate at St. Giles in Sidbury, Devon. I visited my local central library and found Crockfords Clerical Directory, confirming details about Stacey's dad, an uncle and a brother all of whom were clergymen. The main finding in the library however was the microfiche listings of all BMDs in the UK from 1837. Scanning these I found my man had died in Paddington, London in the last quarter 1952. Armed with these details I was able to obtain a copy of his death certificate showing the date of death as 28/11/1952, cause of death and address. I have been unable to discover a marriage in the UK although I know his wife's name from research undertaken at Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository.

An exciting and rewarding journey in search of a Natal Policeman with a famous surname.

Extracts re Stacey Grimaldi by kind permission of Paul Summers.

1 comment:

Mole said...

If you are still around, Paul Summers, I have information on Grimaldi's marriage. Please contact me if you are still interested. I don't have a current email address for you. Thanks, Mole.