Walter Taylor Drowned at a Brewery

February 15, 2010

I took a chance and ordered the death certificate I believed was for the right Walter TAYLOR. It arrived just before Christmas and has given me much to think about. Walter died relatively young, at age 40, and his death certificate says he died from asphyxia by drowning “on or about” the 1st of January 1894 at the Australian Brewery, Bourke Street, Waterloo (Sydney). The death was not registered until 10 days after his death and an inquest was held on the 4th of January.

At first glance I thought maybe he was an employee at the brewery and may have fallen into the beer vat. He was a brassfinisher by trade, and I’m not sure how this would fit in with brewing. Added to that, the delay in the inquest and the timing of the event made it less likely to be work related. Maybe he broke in looking for a drink on New Year’s Eve 1893.

Thanks to the online newspapers digitized by the National Library of Australia and Google, I did not have to go far to find the available information. A trip to the State Library of Queensland to view the newspaper issues I could not find online completed the picture.

In the Sydney Morning Herald on the day of the inquest (Thursday, 4th Jan 1894) there is a small piece on page 5 which reads:

A PECULIAR DROWNING CASE:  The body of a man, name unknown, was found floating in a water tank at Cornwell’s Brewery, Bourke-street, Waterloo, yesterday afternoon. The police, who were informed, removed the body to the South Sydney Morgue. It is that of a man, from 30 to 35 years of age, 5ft 7in high, fair complexion, brown hair, sandy moustache, eight weeks growth of beard, grey eyes, two or three teeth missing from upper jaw, dressed in a blue serge suit, and elastic-side boots. The body appears to have been in the water five or six days.

The Sydney Mail, Saturday Jan 6, 1894 has the exact same text, but no mention of the earlier inquest. The Sydney Morning Herald for that weekend was not online, so I went to the Library and looked it up on the microfilm. The inqest was reported in the Saturday paper as follows:

DROWNED IN A TANK: A magisterial inquiry was held by the Deputy City Coroner yesterday afternoon at the South Sydney Morgue touching the death of a man, name unknown, whose body was found on Wednesday in an unused water tank at Cornwall’s Brewery, Bourke-street, Waterloo. Death was shown to have resulted from asphyxia from drowning. An open finding was recorded.

Walter was buried at the Rookwood Necropolis on the 5th January. My guess is that his wife Robina still did not know his fate at that point. She and the Coroner are the joint informants on the death registration. I have tried to find any later mentions in the newspapers to no avail. The identification of the body does not appear to have reached the news.

I am still sadly lacking the information on Robina’s fate. I’m not sure how scandalous a death Walter’s would have been. The reported results of the inquest give no read idea as why he was where he was at time of death. Robina’s sons were 16 and 13 at the time of her husband’s death. Maybe that would have been old enough for her to leave them in Australia and return to family in Scotland? Maybe she found another partner and assumed his name without being legally married? Either way I have been unable, as yet, to piece this puzzle together. Any help would be appreciated.

James Nuttall, Gentleman of Bulimba

November 30, 2009

One of my Great Great Grandfathers was James NUTTALL. He was born on 12 Sep 1838 at Habergham Eaves, Lancashire, England. When he died on 21 Feb 1915 at his home “Pendle Hill” in Bulimba (Brisbane, Queensland) his occupation was listed as “Gentleman”.

James married Alice BOOTH (daughter of Richard BOOTH and Elizabeth PILKINGTON) on 22 Sep 1860, at St Mary and All Saints, Whalley. They had one son before immigrating to Australia, William Joseph NUTTALL (b. 1862, d. 1926), and nine other children: Mary Jane (b. 1865, d. 1889), Benjamin (b. 1866, d. 1868), George Eli (b. 1869, d. 1955), Elizabeth (b. 1873, d. 1957), James (b. 1876, d. 1959), Alice (b. 1878, d. 1878), Alice (b. 1880), Alcimus Harrison (b. 1882, d. 1963) & one unknown male NUTTALL listed as deceased. The family must have immigrated around 1864, so maybe they lost a child on the way. The Brisbane floods of 1893 destroyed many records for this period.

Most of the Australian family is covered well by online family trees. However, trying to trace James in Lancashire proved to be challenging. The death certificate, contained in James’ will file, is very specific about how old he was when he died: 76 years, 5 months, 9 days. Therefore when I received the record of his birth I was certain I had obtained the correct one. It listed his mother as being Ellen NUTTALL, with no father listed and no alternative maiden name for his mother. Unless this was an error from the early days of registration, it appeared likely that he was illegitimate. I could not however match this to a census record with mother and son. My instincts told me he was the James NUTTALL living with his Grandfather, William NUTTALL, at Dial Row, Pendleton in 1851 – Near the “Pendle Hill” which he so obviously loved. The household also contained a number of unmarried daughters, but not one called Ellen.

When James married his father was listed as William NUTTALL, but I believe this was actually the Grandfather who had raised him. James’ death certificate says his father was another James NUTTALL, but did not list a mother – so I thought this information may not be very reliable. Eventually I found the 1841 census record, and was surprised to see that even at age 2, James was living with his Grandfather and there was still no sign of Ellen.

In desperation to make a breakthrough, I started looking at my Great Great Grandfather’s children in terms of the origin of their Christian names. I noticed there are a lot of Eli NUTTALL’s in Rossendale, but then I started looking at the name Alcimus. Alcimus Harrison NUTTALL in 1882 and Alcimus is a very rare name. I found an Alcimus HARRISON b. 1845, Pendleton, Lancashire and started to look more closely. On the 1851 Census, Alcimus HARRISON had siblings: William (b 1834), Eli (b. 1836), Benjamin (b. 1840), Mary Alice (b. 1849) & Marinda (b. 1851) – Most of these names are represented in the Australian NUTTALL family. In addition the HARRISON family lived a few of houses down at Heyhouses from James NUTTALL and his Grandfather. The NUTTALL family were at number 85 Dial Row, the HARRISIONS at number 79.

The HARRISON parents were a Samuel HARRISON (b. 1810, Accrington) & Ann (b. 1812, Goldshaw). The online parish records for this area of Lancashire are excellent. Much is covered by the IGI records and the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project. There is marriage record which fits Samuel and Ann:  Samuel HARRISON, Spouse: Ann NUTTALL , Marriage: 25 Sep 1830, Whalley, Lancashire, England; & Ann is likely to be: Ann NUTTALL, Birth: 29 Jan 1812, Christening: 15 Jun 1812, Wesleyan Chapel-Nc, Higham Booth, Lancashire, England. Father: William NUTTALL, Mother: Mary.

There are other records at Higham Booth which match the unmarried daughters with William Nuttall & Grandson, James, on the 1841 and 1851 census records. I believe this record is for James’ mother: Helen NUTTALL, Birth: 26 Apr 1816, Christening: 25 Jun 1816, Wesleyan Chapel-Nc, Higham Booth, Lancashire, England. Father: William NUTTALL, Mother: Mary. It looks like Helen/Ellen died when James was an infant and he was raised by his Grandfather, William. He would have been a similar age to his Aunt Ann’s children & his Aunt died just before he married Alice BOOTH and therefore prior to his immigration to Australia. His cousin Alcimus HARRISON died at age 13 in 1858.

Looking at the dates of birth of William NUTTALL’s children I think it likely this is his marriage: William NUTTAL, Spouse: Mary GREEN, Marriage: 18 Oct 1810, Whalley, Lancashire, England.

James NUTTALL was a fascinating man. On the 1861 census he is newly married and listed as a “Take Sizer” which is a long way from being a “Gentleman”. In Australia, James was involved in local politics and for many years held the license for the Bulimba Ferry. Of course James may have been the son of a James, but we are unlikely to ever know his father’s surname. If you think you hold the answer I would love to hear from you.

Lawrence Ponsonby Mystery

November 20, 2009

The Lawrence PONSONBY (1841- ) I am researching was a member of an Irish Catholic family. Most Ponsonby’s with recorded family trees are from the English Protestant family who ran the Ponsonby estate in Ireland and were members of the English peerage. Maybe the name was acquired by a favoured illegitimate child or maybe the family acquired the name purely from living on Ponsonby owned land. If anyone knows the answer, I would love to hear from you.

Lawrence was the son of Irish parents, John Ellis PONSONBY (1806- ) and Mary Ann WHELAN (1811-1845). He was born in St Giles in the Fields and St George, London, England (which was a popular settling place for poor Irish immigrants) just after the 1841 census. As his older brothers and sisters were also born in England the parents must have left Ireland sometime before 1826. The children at time of immigration totalled five: James (abt. 1826-1875), Mary Ann (abt. 1828-1878), Theresa (1831- ), Agnes (1834-1889), John (1836-1919) and Lawrence. On the 29 October 1841 the whole family left for Nelson, New Zealand on the Bolton (Ship), arriving at their destination on 25 Mar 1842.

These were the very early days of European settlement in New Zealand. John and his eldest son James are listed as signing a “Petition to Parliament” dated 15 June 1844 protesting about the non action of local government to revenge the killing of twenty-two Europeans by the local Maori tribe on 17 Jun 1843. This event, now known as the Wairau Affray, left the European settlers anxious. However, the Government of the day recognised that the Maori people were not to blame for what occurred. The Ponsonby family must have heard reports of life being easier in Australia. They packed up again and left New Zealand on 22 Oct 1844 on the Sir John Franklin (Ship) bound for Launceston, Tasmania. The Ship hit bad weather, and what should have been a short journey stretched out with the ship “driven into Twofold Bay by contrary winds” (Nelson Examiner, 28 Dec 1844). The ship was there for five or six days and John PONSONBY, senior, a plasterer by trade, was offered work and decided they would stay in New South Wales and not continue on to Tasmania. Confusingly the shipping intelligence in The Courier (Tasmania) still has “Mr and Mrs Ponsonby and 7 children” disembarking in Launceston, but an letter sent from Mary Ann PONSONBY to friends back in Nelson, New Zealand shows the true landing place of the family (see, Possibly there was a seventh child born in New Zealand, but I can find no record of their birth. The family did go on to have another daughter, Anastastia in 1847.

Lawrence married Emily MARTIN (1849-1915) on 26 Jul 1866 in Bathurst, New South Wales and is recorded on the marriage certificate as being a cabinet maker. Emily was only 17 and her mother gave written permission for the marriage. They had three recorded children together: William Henry (1868-1903), Emily Jane (1870-1871), George Albert (1872-1927). This is where it gets very confusing. Emily MARTIN was my Great Great Grandmother, and I was told her husband was William STEVENS, a Cornish miner. I am descended from her daughter Frances Jane STEVENS. After failing to locate the birth record for Frances, I decided to get the birth certificate for one of her brothers, John James Lachlan “Lock” STEVENS (1890-1947) and around the same time I was sent Lock’s death certificate by a generous online contact. To my surprise his mother on the birth cerficate was listed as Emily PONSONBY, but as Emily MARTIN on the death certificate. The previous issue of William STEVENS and Emily was listed as one boy and two girls living, and two boys and one girl deceased. Frances Jane had been born a PONSONBY, not a STEVENS, but there was no father mentioned on the birth registration.

I know from family stories that Frances had a sister Maude (Caroline Maude MELL nee STEVENS, b. 1885 in Carcoar, New South Wales), and brothers, Harry & Lock. The youngest, Maude and Lock were registered as having two parents, William STEVENS and Emily. I believe there was also an Emily Susan STEVENS (1883-1884 in Carcoar, New South Wales) who would match the “one girl deceased”. Initially I could not find a suitable birth record for Harry. He is listed as next of kin on Lock’s WWI record and was known as HM STEVENS. On the Electoral role he is listed as Henry Martin STEVENS. However, I think it likely his birth name was William PONSONBY as there is an entry similar to the one for Frances with no father listed registered in Lithgow, New South Wales. My instinct says he was named William Henry after his father, William STEVENS as a sign of paternity. Possibly the presence of his mother’s maiden name as a middle name shows Emily had reverted to using her maiden name after the disappearance of Lawrence.

In 1874 & 1875 there are two other birth records which are of interest and would match the “two boys deceased”. In 1874 there is the birth of John Stevens PONSONBY to no father, mother Emily at Bathurst. Also, in 1875, there is the birth of James H STEVENS to William and Emily in Bathurst. These possible match two death records from 1889 at Mt Hope, New South Wales for John STEVENS (Parents, William & Emily) and James STEVENS (Parents, William & Emily).

William and Emily married on the 24th March 1882 at the Wesleyan Parsonage, Bathurst, New South Wales. Emily is listed as Emily PONSONBY, widow, and their residence at the time was in Lithgow. I can find no record of Emily’s first husband having died. It is possible that Emily learnt of his death sometime after their separation and was therefore not free to remarry for some time. Alternatively, as divorce was hard to obtain and desertion was a problem in the early colonies, it was common for people to be declared widowed if their spouse could not be found after an absence of several years. Emily STEVENS is buried at Waverley Cemetery, Sydney with her son HM STEVENS. The stone says “Wife of William Stevens” and at its base “Mother”. Her death certificate states she was married at a time which would have made all the children legitimate offspring of William STEVENS. It does not mention Lawrence PONSONBY, and interestingly includes “George A.” as the eldest living child.

I am still hoping to find out what happened to Lawrence. His children with Emily went on to have children of their own and I would love it one day if someone who knows the story could fill in the missing link.

Robina Taylor – Scotland to Australia

November 13, 2009

I thought I’d take a side path & outline a little about one of the Scottish/Australian ancestors of interest to me. It is a story that took me quite awhile to unravel and one which I hope may be of interest to some other family tree researchers.

Robina TAYLOR was born Robina Whitelaw on 17 Sep 1858 in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, Scotland.  She immigrated to Queensland with her husband Walter TAYLOR & their two children. The family left Glasgow on 24 May 1883 on the Nebo (Ship) and arrived in Queensland in August of that same year. I believe they may have had at least two more children in New South Wales, Australia – but the two children I think likely to belong to this family did not survive past infancy.

When researching Robina’s background I was working backwards in time. I was sure I had found the correct census records, but confused as Robina’s surname kept changing. When I finally saw her birth registration details it all made perfect sense. Here I will describe Robina’s life in the more logical direction of forwards in time.

Robina’s mother was Jessie GREY who was born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1832. In 1848 Jessie married William BLACK. She was a widow by the time Robina was born, and working as a Tobacconist. According to the birth registration Robina’s father was Robert WHITELAW and he was an iron moulder by trade.

There is an added note beside Robina’s birth record which says:

In an action relating to the paternity of this child, at the instance of Jessie Gray or Black, Tobacconist in Coatbridge, against Robert Whitelaw, Moulder, Drumdyran, the Sheriff Court at Airdrie, on the 30th day of November 1858, found that the said child was the illegitimate child of the parties aforesaid (1st July 1859).

The informant for the birth registration is John REDDELL, listed as Step-Father to the Mother.

On the 1861 Scottish Census record, Robina is listed as Robina BLACK & is living in a household with her remarried Grandmother, Helen REDDELL.  She is still with her Grandparents in 1871, but listed as Robina REDDELL. She married Walter TAYLOR on 22 Jun 1877 at Broomknoll Street Church, Airdrie listing her maiden name as Robina WHITELAW. By the 1881 Census, she has 2 children, William TAYLOR & John Riddell TAYLOR.

William TAYLOR went on to marry in Queensland, but lived in New South Wales for a period as well. John Riddell Taylor lived in New South Wales, and I believe that is also where Walter & Robina resided. I am still hoping to work out where & when Robina died. I think Walter died fairly young, aged 40, so possibly she remarried. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear from you.

I have seen online trees which include Robert WHITELAW’s legitimate children. I believe he married Janet Russell WHYTE a couple of months before Robina was born. I hope if descendents of Robert read this story they are intrigued by it, like I am, rather than in any way shocked. I personally like all the colours involved: Grey, Black, & White.

2nd Generation

November 12, 2009

Moving on from my last post, I want to detail my Great Great Grandfather’s immediate family:

Gustav Eduard Ferdinand WATTER was born on 30 May 1855 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld, Pommern, Prussia).  On most documents I have found he is listed as Gustav Watter. The additional names come from the death certificate of his eldest son.

Gustav married around 1874 in Falkenburg, Daramburg, Prussia (Zlocieniec, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland) and left for Australia with his wife and 3 children. His older sister Ottilie Iker (nee Watter) had immigrated 6 years earlier on the Lammershagen (Ship) and must have sent back encouraging reports.  The Watter family probably left via Bremen on a mail boat to England, but most of those records have not survived through to today for verification.  They continued their journey from Plymouth, Devon, England on 14 Feb 1884 leaving on the mail boat the Chyebassa.  The Chyebassa was part of the British India Steam Navigation Co. and the Queensland Government had a contract with them to deliver mail direct to Queensland.  Previously mail from Europe had arrived via the southern states of Australia and took a long time to reach Queensland.  The steamships halved the time it took to get from Europe to Australia.  I believe it was a more expensive way to travel, and the ships could carry fewer immigrants, but the reduction in time at sea appears to have been worth it.  The family arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on 04 Apr 1884.

Gustav and his wife went on to have another 4 children, who made it to adulthood, in Australia . He died on 11 Nov 1916 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia and was buried on 12 Nov 1916 Coulson Cemetery (formerly Teviotville Cemetery).

Gustav was a farmer, and at one stage held around 160 acres at Dugandan (Portion 309), Queensland, Australia. At the time of his death the land had been subdivided and his son, Otto & son-in-law, Alfred Bressow were purchasing large plots of this land from him.

Gustav’s wife was Augusta Wilhelmine Louise RUCKERT daughter of Christright RUCKERT and Unknown KRUEGER was born about Oct 1852 in Zlocieniec, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Falkenburg, Dramburg, Prussia).  She died on 31 Mar 1939 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia and was buried on 01 Apr 1939 in Coulson Cemetery (formerly Teviotville Cemetery).  She was listed as Wilhelmine on the immigration shipping record held at the Queensland State Archives. The Queensland State Archives immigration index has transcribed the family name as Walter, but to be fair the shipping record is very hard to read.

Gustav and Augusta had the following children:

i. Carl Wilhelm Robert “Robert” WATTER was born about 1875 in Pommern, Prussia. He married Marie Friederike Dorothee “Frieda” PRENZLER on 26 Jul 1899 in Queensland, Australia.  He died on 06 Mar 1947 in Queensland, Australia. He was a farmer.

 ii. George Franz Gotthard WATTER was born about 1880 in Gommern, Jerichower Land, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany (Gommern, Prussia).  He married Elizabeth Elsie Emma SONNENBURG on 10 Apr 1902 in Kalbar, Queensland, Australia.  He died on 15 Apr 1975 in Deception Bay, Queensland, Australia.  George was a signwriter, licensed victualler, farmer, shopkeeper, etc.  He visited the USA on a couple of occassions around 1900, I believe to visit relatives. I am still hoping to work out who these people may have been.

 iii. Hermann Edward “Harry” WATTER was born in 1884 in Pommern, Prussia.  He married Elisabeth MALUGA on 19 Oct 1910 in Queensland, Australia.  He died on 02 May 1941 in Queensland, Australia.  He was a Farmer. 

iv. Elfrieda Katharina WATTER was born on 13 Jan 1885 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia.  She married Alfred William BRESSOW in 1915 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia.  She died on 15 Feb 1968 in Kalbar, Queensland, Australia.

v. Louise Sophia WATTER was born on 11 Oct 1887 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia.  She married August EHRICH on 07 Jul 1909 in Queensland, Australia.

vi. Otto Emil Heinrich WATTER was born on 16 Jan 1890 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia.  He married Sophia Ottily RICHTER on 16 Aug 1919.

vii. Martha Anna Bertha WATTER was born on 14 Feb 1892 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia.  She married Edgar Wilson SWEENEY on 06 Jul 1915 in Queensland, Australia.  She died on 01 Oct 1986.

 viii. Unknown WATTER. Sex: Female. (Listed on Gustav & Augusta’s death certificates, but I am unsure as to the country of birth)

Family Tree Interests

November 12, 2009


I never thought I would start a blog, but my attempts to polish a family tree into a format fit to publish on a website have failed. I’ve found my discoveries quickly overtake the content and it is too hard to get the mix of public and private information to balance. I am hoping that by making some posts online I may find other people researching the same family lines and share some information.

I am particularly interested in the Australian Watter family. My Watter family immigrated to Austalia in 1884 from Prussia. I was always told they were from Germany, but now I realize they came from an area which is now part of Poland. If you are Australian with any link to this surname it is likely we are related, it is also likely that I am already aware of where you fit into the family tree. If at all interested please feel free to contact me.

As this is my first post, I’ll keep it brief by detailing the first generation of interest to me:

Carl Ludwig Wilhelm WATTER was born on 15 Mar 1810 in Zlocieniec, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (was Falkenberg, Prussia). He was christened on 18 Mar 1810 in Zlocieniec and died on 12 Jan 1885 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld/Schonfeldt, Pommern, Prussia). On the death certificates of his children who immigrated to Australia he is listed as being a Blacksmith by trade.  I believe his parents were Carl Bogislaw WATTER and Charlotte VOGT.

His wife, Dorothea Sophia PAHNKE was the daughter of Andreas PAHNKE and Dorothea Sophia BRUNK and was born on 11 Mar 1812 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld/Schonfeldt, Pommern, Prussia). She died on 26 Dec 1888 in Zensko.

 They had the following children & possibly others:

 i. Auguste Wilhelmine Louise WATTER was born on 11 Oct 1838 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld, Pommern, Prussia). She died on 27 Oct 1910 in Kalisz Pomorski, Pomorskie, Poland (was Kallies, Germany). She married August Wilhelm BRIESE on 31 Oct. Descendents of this family still live in Germany.

 ii. Karl Ludwig WATTER was born on 28 Apr 1846 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld, Pommern, Prussia). He died on 24 Jun 1923 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld, Pommern, Prussia). He married Henriette Auguste GENRICH. Descendents of this family still live in Germany.

 iii. Ottilie WATTER was born on 28 Feb 1853 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld, Pommern, Prussia). She married Edward Herman Albert IKER in 1875 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld, Pommern). She died on 22 Mar 1939 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

 iv. Gustav Eduard Ferdinand WATTER was born on 30 May 1855 in Zensko, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Schonfeld, Pommern, Prussia). He married Augusta Wilhelmine Louise RUCKERT about 1874 in Zlocieniec, Zachodniopomorskie, Poland (Falkenburg, Dramburg, Prussia). He died on 11 Nov 1916 in Teviotville, Queensland, Australia.

Gustav is my Great, Great Grandfather. One of his sons, George Franz Gotthard Watter was my Great Grandfather. In my next post I will attempt to detail more about Gustav and his immediate family. 

In the future I also hope to discuss other family names of interest to me. These include DOWER, CORDNER, SONNENBURG, NUTTALL, CLEGG, STEVENS, TONER, TAYLOR, TYLER, NORMAN, HARVEY.


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