Are you Our William Russell? Part 2

So who is William Galloway Russell or William Russell Galloway?

William Russell arrived in Sydney on the 11th of March 1833. William and two other men William Russell Galloway Snr and Richard Fulmer Paice had been sentenced to 7 years Transportation in the Surrey Quarter Session of 3rd of July 1832. The early records show their crime as stealing fixtures, later that crime was described as stealing timber.

William Galloway Russell Snr and Richard Fulmer Paice were sent to Van Diemen’s Land and arrived on the Enchantress on the 31st of July 1833. On the 30th of April 1848, William Galloway Russell Snr received permission to marry Elizabeth McLaren who had arrived free on the Navarino. Their marriage was registered on the 10th of June 1848. Elizabeth was 38 and William was 35. William had spent a number of years in the convict system and his record showed that he was not always an exemplary convict.

William Galloway Russell aka Russell William Gullaway was a regular low-level offender during his time as a convict. His behaviour report includes charges of being “drunk and disorderly” on a number of occasions. William was also charged with making “frivolous and impertinent” remarks about his master, for which he received 50 lashes. Further “drunk and disorderly” charges resulted in William spending time on road gangs. William also incited some of this Masters servants to be rude to him and make “gross and violent threats”. At this point, is seems that William was returned to the Government to then be moved to a more remote part of the Island. After this removal, there are no further negative entries in William’s behaviour record. One wonders if the issue may not have been as much the Master as the Convict. However, by 1839 William did indeed receive his certificate of freedom[i].

Richard Fulmer Paice was leaving behind a wife, Celia, and two children when he was transported to Australia[ii]. Paice was a large man, over six foot, with brown eyes and brown whiskers. At the time he arrived in Australia he 30 years of age, considerably older than the two William Galloway Russell’s that he was transported with.[iii] Richard Paices’ conduct records do not show any incidents of poor conduct and there is, at this stage, no evidence that he married in Australia, or of where, or if he died in Australia. However, Richard did receive his Ticket of Leave and was still in Van Diemans land in 1841[iv]

William Galloway Russell Jnr, from now on just called William Russell, sailed from Portsmouth on the 13th of November 1832 and arrived in Australia four months before the other two that were sentenced with him, on the 11th of March 1833.[v] Once the Andromeda arrived, William, along with the other convicts aboard ship marched to Hyde Park Barracks on the 13th of March. [vi] William would have remained at the Hyde Park Barracks for some period and then been assigned to a “Master.” It is unknown at this stage if William was assigned to multiple people or his first assignment was the last one he went to. However, at some stage, William Russell was assigned to James Whalan and went to live in the Bathurst area on James Whalan’s property according to the 1837 Convict Muster. [vii]

James Whalan lived on a property called Ginkin in NSW. [viii] James Whalans property was near Bathurst and had strong links with that community. James was also linked to Fish River and Oberon with his brother living on a farm in an area that is now known as Oberon. James and Charles Whalan are credited with the discovery of the Jenolan Caves.  (WHALAN, James (1806-1854), n.d.) Although James Whalan’s property is south of Bathurst on the 1837 Muster William is noted as being assigned to James Whalan in Bathurst.[ix]

By the 3rd of July 1841, William Russell had received his Ticket of Freedom. At the time he was described as five foot five and a quarter inches, ruddy and freckled with brown hair and grey eyes. He had a mole on his right cheek, another mole on the inner corner of his right eye, two moles on his left cheek. He had one small raised mole near his right elbow and had a large scar on his right leg.[x]

Are you Our William Russell? Part 1
[i] (Conduct Record CON31/1/16, n.d.)

[ii] (CON27/1/6 01 Jan 1822- 31 Dec 1833 Z2040 CON27 APPROPRIATION LISTS OF CONVICTS., n.d.)

[iii] (Tasmania, 2016)

[iv] (New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 [database on-line]. , 2007)

[v] (Australian Joint Copying Project)

[vi] (Advertising. They Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831-1842) p. 3, 1833)

[vii] (Person ID: U#11072220101)

[viii] (WHALAN, James (1806-1854), n.d.)

[ix] (Person ID: U#11072220101)

[x] (New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867, n.d.)

A New Life

This is one of a series of e-tivities that I am doing, or have done, for the latest unit of the Family History Diploma that I am doing. In this case the challenge was to use three documents to compose a story about an ancestor. I chose Mary Ann Russell nee Adams nee Gransden.


She was leaving her home forever.

Years of listening, first to her Uncles stories and then, more recently, to her brothers’ stories, of their adventures sailing around the world, had contributed to her, Mary Ann, wanting to do the same thing. So when the chance came to do just that, she took it. But was it the right thing to do?

What was this new country going to be like? Would she even make it the huge distance to Australia? Would she find friends and a job, maybe even, eventually, a family of her own?

She was travelling with so many women, all wanting the same thing. All excited by what they were doing, at the same time scared that they were leaving everything that they knew behind. The family, the places, the friends. Like the rest of the women, she didn’t know if she would ever see her family or friends again?

Too late to back out now. The Layton was pulling her away from the home she had always known. Looking back as the ship moved further out to sea Mary knew she would never see the place that she had called home again. A new life beckoned with a new future, a different future in a different land.


Three documents were used to compose this piece. The shipping arrivals for the Layton, the female immigration ship. This had Mary Ann as one of the passengers aboard the ship. To find out about Mary’s Uncle a newspaper from Sydney provided the details of his position aboard a ship and the fact that he had visited. Finally a ships surgeons log provided the information that her elder brother had also gone to sea.

I find the story of this particular ancestor fascinating. She was a single female that travelled to Australia on one of the first female only immigration ships. Because this ship was one of the first female immigration ships to leave England Mary would have had little, if any, knowledge of what was going to happen to the women as they arrived in Australia. This would have been an incredibly courageous decision to make and I am sure that Mary Ann would have second guessed herself throughout the entire experience

Are you our William Russell? Part 1.

A few months back I wrote a post saying goodbye to William Russell. Many with Australian Gransden family links had thought of him as our William Russell for a long time but the proof had been mounting up that he was not our William Russell. But of course the story doesn’t stop there, no story ever stops there. Myself and others have continued to look for our William Russell. A number of potential William Russells have come and gone and a number of different people have followed up on likely William Russells. In particular Sylvia Murray was incredibly helpful with suggestions and with one potential William Russell that looked a very good candidate for some time. But the more we found out about that William Russell the less likely he looked.

One William Russell I had discounted some time ago started to come up as more likely than was originally thought. His name was William Galloway Russell and as the middle name seemed to be important but then didn’t appear in any records other than his convict records I had come to feel that William Galloway Russell was an unlikely William Russell but all of that has changed recently.

Some time ago I found a newspaper article about a William Russell who had come in from Rockley to Bathurst as a Vagrant claiming that he had no friends in Rockley and was unable to look after himself any longer.

VAGRANCY. – William Russell, 70 years of age, was charged with vagrancy. He had come into town from Rockley and applied at the lock-up for relief, seeking admission into the Benevolent Asylum. He said he was without friends and was suffering from rheumatism.

The Bench gave him an order for admission into the Bathurst Hospital, from which place he could be forwarded to the Benevolent Asylum if proved to be a fit subject.

1882 ‘POLICE COURT.’, Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 – 1904), 18 November, p. 2. , viewed 17 Apr 2016,

This seemed like a very likely candidate for our William Russell. He was in Rockley a known area for our Russell family. George, Isaac, William, Charles and Catherine Russell had all been born at Rockley. Later family members were married and Christened in Bathurst but as Rockley is in the Bathurst district this was not unusual. But, having one newspaper article does not prove a link and does not give any indication of what may have happened either later or earlier in life.

The obvious place to search was the Benevolent Society of NSW on searching through the records for the Benevolent Society I came across three William Russell’s that I though may be the William Russell from the News article. So I wrote to the Benevolent Society researches to get more information about the William Russell’s that had been in their records. I received a lovely email in response that explained to me that the Benevolent Society of New South Wales had stopped taking men in during the 1860’s and all of the records that I was interested in referred to children rather than elderly men. This was a disappointment.

At this stage I left the News Paper clipping for a while. I was unsure what to look for next and had other priorities, so like many research questions in Family History, sometimes it is best to give them a bit of space. A couple of months after I received a response from the Benevolent Society Sylvia Murray contacted me with some details on a possible link to Mary Ann Russell- written about here, and a possible William Russell. This enthused me to start hunting again. First I focused on Sylvia’s possible William Russell who sounded so promising but in the end it was decided that it was unlikely to be the correct one. So back to the Newspaper article.

At this stage I decided to contact the NSW State Archives and talk to someone in person. They went through the search process for Asylums and Hospitals with me but despite doing a number of searches we came up with a blank. However, the lady I was talking to explained to me that there were a lot of local Asylums and they did not come under one State Body. So I decided to do a search for a local Bathurst Benevolent Society. It appeared that at in the 1880- 1890’s there was no Benevolent Society Asylum operating in Bathurst and instead people were sent to either Parramatta or Liverpool. Another newspaper search lead me to believe that the most likely place that the William Russell from the above newspaper clipping would have been sent was the Liverpool Asylum rather than the Parramatta Asylum.

Back to the New South Wales Archives as they were supposed to have records for the Liverpool Asylum but they did not. So I did a more detailed search into the records that they held. Under “I” for Infirm were the details for the Asylum Records that have been digitised. There was a nice little line that said-

  • Volumes [7/3801-3805], alphabetical listing of surnames commencing C-D; H-O; S-U only

As I was looking for Russell the surname I was after fell in between the books that had been digitised so my William Russell was not going to be in the records. But that didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to be there. So now I had a likely institution- Liverpool Asylum and as New South Wales Archives has been working with it was just possible that there were copies of the record books on Ancestry.

I did a couple of searches on Ancestry and managed to find an admission for William Russell, just a couple of days after the newspaper article, in the Liverpool Asylum. This seemed likely but I could not confirm that this William Russell had come from Bathurst. Further searches page by page of the registers showed me another record, less than a year later. This had William Russell same admission date but with discharge details as well. This showed that William Russell from Bathurst had died on the 16th of July 1883. The admission date was the same as the one I had found earlier. The register also gave when William Russell had entered the country and the ship that he had arrived on, the Andromeda in 1833.

So, now I had a date of arrival and a ship, this is like gold for a family historian. I didn’t know if this William Russell had been a convict or a free settler but having a ship and a date made it easy to find out. So I did an internet search for William Russell Andromdea 1833. A number of pages came up, all convict pages with this information-

Convict Name: William Russell (The younger) Gullaway
Trial Place: Surrey Quarter Session
Trial Date: 3 July 1832
Sentence: 7 years
Arrival Details
Ship: Andromeda II (2)
Arrival Year: 1833

This gave me a whole lot of new directions to search in. I now had another name to search under- Galloway. A series of searches gradually helped me to flesh out William Russell and piece together whether or not he had been in the Bathurst region for a long time or if he has just turned up in his later years before being sent to the Liverpool Asylum.

Are you our William Russell? Part 2

The Carters; Story in history

Back at the University of Tasmania for the final unit of the year. This time around I am doing a unit on Writing Family History. I am really looking forward to this unit.

One of the first activities that we have been requested to do is to write about one of our ancestors and one of their experiences in a piece of ‘Flash Fiction’ of no more than 250 words. So this is my piece of ‘Flash Fiction’ about the arrival of the Carters in Australia, as they are the family I am currently doing some work on.

The Carters

Welcome, welcome to the country that has taken almost everything even before we arrived.

Wrenched from our crowded hammocks by the screams and the noise. The screech of wood and metal on rocks, the crash of waves, pitching and tossing us like leaves in a storm.

Everywhere the smell of fear intermingled with that of salt. A waking nightmare in the dark. Dragged onto boats in only what we wore to sleep in. Grabbing for each other, grasping for the children, terrified that at some point someone would let go and be lost.

Finally, we are here, but where is here? Nothing remains of the ship, the small airless boat that has carried us halfway across the earth, through blistering heat, bone chilling cold and days where the ship felt overpowered by the elements. In its final hours, within sight of our destination, the ship foundered in the depths of the night.

Nothing now remains, just some splinters of wood and a memory of jaw clenching terror. Here we stand in our night shirts, one pair of boots between two boys and the will to keep on going. All five of us made it. That is the best that we have.

Researching Vital Statistics in New Zealand

Last time I wrote about Births, Deaths and Marriages in Australia. Today I am just adding in a little bit about Births, Deaths and Marriages in New Zealand. They can be found at

Like with Australia the time period for NSW BDM’s is limited to-

  • Births that occurred at least 100 years ago
  • Stillbirths that occurred at least 50 years ago
  • Marriages that occurred 80 years ago
  • Deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased’s date of birth was at least 80 years ago.

Stillbirths is an interesting one as they are not specifically mentioned in Australian registries but the demand for them from parents who have had a stillbirth and for acknowledgement that this was a child that should be recognised is on the increase and a lot of registries are now starting to keep this sort of record.

Researching Vital Statistics in Australia

So it has been a while since I said I would put up some information on how to do research into a family tree, so it is time to put some more information up.

Once you have talked to your immediate family the next thing to do is to start researching vital records. Vital records are birth, death and marriage records. In earlier years it is baptism, marriage and burial records as births and deaths may not be recorded.

In Australia, most birth, death and marriage records are kept at the state or territory level. For Canberra the majority of available birth death and marriage registrations for historical searches are through the NSW registry not the ACT registry as Canberra is not very old. But some are available in Canberra.

Birth death and marriage records are only available for a certain number of years. Births usually need to be over 100 years ago, marriages over 50 years ago and deaths over 30 years ago. So sometimes you can only get some of the certificates that you require.

Details for where to search for certificates for each state are in the links.

All the registry indexes can be searched at these repositories but not all certificates can be bought at each one. Queensland and Victoria are the easiest to access, their entire certificates are available on line so once you have found the entry that you require you can just purchase a digital copy online and get your certificate straight away.

NSW is difficult. To get a full certificate is expensive but can be done online but to do so is very costly for a family historian who may need a number of different certificates. So the best thing to do is to use one of the transcribing services. For about half the price of a full certificate these services will transcribe all the details for the certificate you are after into a document and email it to you. This will take a couple of weeks. But it is a much cheaper option than paying for a full certificate. These places also have other services such as check and verify that this is the correct certificate, this can be done so that you don’t have to pay full price for a certificate that you are uncertain about.

The transcription services available in NSW include;

Other services have details on how to use them and what you need to do to get certificates on their pages. Some need you to pay for a search and some allow you to search and then send in for the certificate.

Follow the directions on the search putting in minimal details at first and if you get too many answers, like for the name ‘Smith’ try to narrow down by adding in additional search criteria as it can be more difficult than you think to find the correct family member as the databases are only as good as those doing the transcriptions to the database. S and F’s are often confused and spellings both change over time and in a time when many were not able to spell names can have a large variety of spellings. So my Russell ancestors can often be spelled as Russell, Russel, Rusell, Rusfell, Ruffell, Ruffel etc. So if I can’t find the person I am looking for I try variations to see what other options I can come up with.

Camperdown Cemetery and Athlone Place

Mary Russell age 52 died Athlone Street in the Parish of Camperdown in the County of Cumberland.

A newspaper article in 1852 from Bathurst may refer to our Mary Ann Russell and William Russell. The article is in the Bathurst Free press, it does not give any details of which Mary Ann Russell and William Russell it refers to but it is reasonable to thin that this may be our Mary Ann Russell. There are other Mary Russells in the area and other William Russells but to date I have not confirmed a coupled William Russell and Mary Ann Russell living in the Bathurst area other than our Mary and William Russell.

WHEREAS my wife, MARY ANN RUSSELL absconded from her home on Sunday the 27th June without just cause or provocation ; the public are hereby cautioned against trusting her, as after this notice I will not be responsible for any debts she may contract. Any person found harbouring her will be prosecuted to the utmost rigour of the law.


July lst, 1852.

“Advertising” Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 – 1904) 7 July 1852: 1. Web. 31 Oct 2016

Given the possibility that our Mary Ann and William Russell were not living together at the time of Mary Ann’s death this opens up the searches for where Mary Ann may have lived in the last part of her life and where she may have died.

Athlone Place was a street in the Blackwattle Creek Slums of Sydney, now part of Ultimo. A description of Athlone place was written by a City Health Official in 1890.


There had been a heavy storm the evening before my visit to this street, and the water marks were plainly visible. The water was six inches above the floor in a few of the houses on the north side … From No. 11 to 27 there were the most offensive cesspits it has ever been my lot to come across. The yards were ill-drained and very damp, the open drain from one house running through the yard of the next, and so on … At No. 33 there is a cellar, which had 2 feet of stinking water in it. The tenants in this case have had constant ill-health, but have continued living here for ten years. There has been sickness in almost every house, typhoid fever and diarrhoea have been very prevalent (Clay 1890:4).

Sneddon, A. 2006. SEEING SLUMS THROUGH ROSE-COLOURED GLASSES: The Mountain Street Site, Sydney and its Limitations in the Search for Vanished Slum Communities. Australian Archaeology Number 63, December 2006

ca. 1885-90 map showing Athlone & Ultimo Streets in Ultimo and Banks Street (now Meagher) and Dale (now Balfour) in Chippendale

ca. 1885-90 map showing Athlone & Ultimo Streets in Ultimo and
Banks Street (now Meagher) and Dale (now Balfour) in Chippendale

If Mary Russell moved back to Sydney when she left her husband then it is possible that she would have lived in a slum area like this. People in these areas were working class people struggling day by day to live. Mary had an educated mother who had been able to teach when she left her husband but Mary may not have had these same opportunities and even if she did teaching would not have enabled her to live a life of much comfort.

Athlone Place, Ultimo, c.1900. Athlone Place was resumed by Council in 1906, when some 400 dwellings and a maze of tiny lanes were removed. The area was subject to flooding and it was considered a deplorable slum. This photo shows two groups of semi-detached, single-storey buildings, with neighbours and children standing in their doorways chatting. (image: City of Sydney Archives, CRS 51/6)

Athlone Place, Ultimo, c.1900. Athlone Place was resumed by Council in 1906, when some 400 dwellings and a maze of tiny lanes were removed. The area was subject to flooding and it was considered a deplorable slum. This photo shows two groups of semi-detached, single-storey buildings, with neighbours and children standing in their doorways chatting.
(image: City of Sydney Archives, CRS 51/6)

The Mary Russell who lived in Athlone Place in Sydney died in 1864. On the death certificate she is noted as being 52 years of age. This would give her a birth date of 1812 or there abouts. This fits in with the known details of Mary Ann Russell nee Gransden. The only other details that the death certificate for this Mary Russell gives is that she was buried at Camperdown.  NSW BDM, Russell, Mary. Death Cert. Vol 122C No 12256. A further search of the Camperdown Burial Butts elicits two further pieces of information, Mary Russell died of Natural causes and she was buried in a paupers grave with no headstone.

Camperdown Cemetery - burial butts St. Stephen's Church of England, Newtown, N.S.W.. [microform] : Microfilm - Utah, U.S.A. : Genealogical Society of Utah, 1981. Call Number: 3233 butts no 10,519, 3 Oct. 1862 - no 13,366, 17 Oct. 1865. [G.S.U. 1238784]

Camperdown Cemetery – burial butts St. Stephen’s Church of England, Newtown, N.S.W.. [microform] : Microfilm – Utah, U.S.A. : Genealogical Society of Utah, 1981. Call Number: 3233 butts no 10,519, 3 Oct. 1862 – no 13,366, 17 Oct. 1865. [G.S.U. 1238784]

If this is our Mary Ann Russell nee Gransden there is still not enough information to confirm so at this stage.

For further details on this subject go to;

The Death of Mary Ann Russell nee Gransden

Mary Ann Russell nee Gransden possible death

The Death of Mary Ann Russell nee Gransden

I am still searching for the death of Mary Ann. One lead that myself and Sylvia Murray had been looking at was a death in Mandurama of a Mary Ann Russell.

Sudden Death.

A poor woman named Mary Ann Russell died very suddenly at Mandurama at 11 o’clock on Thursday night, 9th inst. A wire was sent on Friday morning by Constable Grenenger to Senior-Constable George Brayne, to inform the Coroner, who held an inquest, with a jury of 12, on Friday afternoon, at the School of Arts, Mandurama. Mr James Bembrick was chosen foreman of the jury. From the evidence adduced it appeared that the deceased seemed perfectly well at 9.15 that (Thursday) evening, when Mrs William Flynn walked part of the way home with her. At 11 o’clock deceased got up out of her bed, and ran to Mrs Flynn’s cottage, and called up Mrs Flynn, crying out ‘ I am very bad, and dying.’ Deceased died in a quarter of an hour. Dr Hawthorne, after holding a post-mortem examination, gave evidence at the Court, and pronounced that, in his opinion, deceased’s death resulted from syncope, consequent upon disease of the heart. The jury gave a verdict that ‘Mary Ann Russell met her death on Thursday, 9th Sept, 1897, Mandurama, from natural causes, to wit, decease of the heart. Deceased leaves three sons and one daughter. — [We are indebted to J. Lithgow Cobb, Esq., J.P. District Coroner, for the above information.]

1897 ‘Sadden Death.’, The Carcoar Chronicle (NSW : 1878 – 1943), 17 September, p. 2. , viewed 31 Oct 2016,

On researching through inquest details it was found that this Mary Ann Russell was 50 years old in 1897. So much though it was a disappointment this Mary Ann had to be discarded.

Another Mary Russell was in the inquests

Name: Mary Russell
Death Year: Abt 1870
Inquest Date: 17 Jan 1870
Inquest Place: Wallbrook In Rockley New South Wales, Australia, Registers of Coroners’ Inquests, 1821-1937 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc.

At Rockley the wife of a farmer named Russell died from fever induced by the late excessive heat.1870 ‘GENERAL NEWS.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 27 January, p. 2. , viewed 31 Oct 2016,

At first this Mary Ann looked very promising as our Mary Ann Russell nee Gransden had been known to live in the Rockley area as some of her children were born in this area.

However, further searching through the newspapers gave the details of this Mary Russell as married to Daniel Russell of Rockley. So this is also not our Mary Russell.

On further investigation two possible death certificates for a Mary Russell have also been found that may or may not fit. Both of these Mary Russell’s are living in the Sydney area at the time of their deaths. One of these was Mary Russells died in the Newington Asylum age 70 in 1890 and one died at Athlone Place in Sydney, a slum area in the city, at the age of 52 in 1864. Both of these Mary Russells are possible.

Each of these deaths will be explored in greater depth over the next two blog posts.

Starting to Research your Family Tree

This is based upon a Facebook Post I have done as I keep getting asked by my friends how I started my research and what they can do to start theirs.

I keep getting regular requests from people who want to know how to do their own research for their family tree. So I thought I would go through the basics over time on FB. If anyone wants to ask questions please do. Otherwise the goal will be to write up something once or twice a week which anyone following along will be able to use to trace their family tree in Australia. If things are going well and we get beyond Australia so be it, but for now this is just going to be about Australia.

So the first and most important thing that everyone who does any Family History tells you is to start with yourself. So the idea is to write down what you know about yourself and then work backwards.

For example- before I did my family tree I knew where I was born, when I was born, who were my parents and a few other little bits and pieces. I then dug out my birth certificate and found a couple of interesting bits and pieces. The first of those was that my parents lived around the corner from where I now live at the time I was born and it was also really interesting to find out what my fathers occupation was at the time I was born.

From here I wrote up just a summary, sort of like a CV of my life. One day I will write that up but for now just bare bones is a good start. The thing is that things we think of as boring and not very important now are things that your children will one day want to know. Like which schools you went to. These things are actually really hard to find when you are researching families at a later date. What about all of those jobs you have had over the years? Most people have had quite a number but records will only ever show one or two. What about some of the things that you did as a child?

Once you have finished with yourself if you have any parents or grandparents around ask them about themselves. Video them if you can or record their voices. I have recordings of the voices of three of my Grandparents. This is one of the most amazing things that I have from them. Each time I hear their voices I learn things that I had not heard or remembered before.

So, for anyone playing along at home- what did you discover about yourself or your family when you asked them a couple of questions? Don’t give me anything that is really personal but I would love to hear what things people learn from their families.
Where did you go to school, have you written that down somewhere for someone? Did you go to just one school or a number of different schools? What did you do over the holidays? What was your first job? What other jobs have you had since? What are your favourite things to do for recreation and relaxation- keep it clean. 😉

Did you study at University, or TAFE or both? If so what did you study.

Then tell me something about your parents. The best thing about family trees is not just knowing your ancestors, they are just names. The best thing is knowing something about your family members, finding the stories, finding out what life was like for them. Start with you and your parents then we work backwards starting with the documents.

The Victoria Automatic Improved Knitting Machine, also known as the Victoria Sock Knitting Machine.

The Victoria Automatic Improved Knitting Machine was developed and sold by W & J Foster, of Preston, between the years 1900-1925 . W & J Fosters is known to have manufactured knitting machines in Preston from the year’s 1862 right up to the 1960’s . Though precisely when the Victoria Knitting Machine was manufactured is not known. The early circular knitting machines became available around the 1860’s with them achieving some degree of popularity during the American Civil War.
The Victoria Automatic Improved Knitting Machine is a black metal, hand cranked circular knitting machine using latch needles to catch the yarn and pull it under the previous stitch . Thus a tube is knitted which can then be either hand stitched into socks, or with some careful manipulation a heel and toe can be constructed during manufacture of the tube.

Figure 1. Victoria Knitting Machine. Bean, Christina (Authors Collection) 2016

Figure 1. Victoria Knitting Machine. Bean, Christina (Authors Collection) 2016

In early days tubular knitting machines knitted plain tubes that were then cut off so that the toes and heels could be knitted by hand. It was so simple to knit these tubes using a sock knitting machine that English Workhouses had children as young as four producing tubes that could then be cut off and completed by older workers.

During World War 1 the allied countries had a huge demand for socks as these were needed by the men at the front. Thousands of women would get together in communities around Australia and other countries and knit socks . When knitting socks by hand, a hand knitter can produce a pair of socks in around one week. Socks could be produced on a sock knitting machine in around 40 minutes per pair . Families and individuals who owned sock machines put them to work producing socks for the war effort.

Figure 2. Victoria Knitting Machine- original instruction booklets. Bean, C. Authors Collection 2016

Figure 2. Victoria Knitting Machine- original instruction booklets. Bean, C. Authors Collection 2016

This Victoria Automatic Improved Knitting Machine was originally purchased by Alfred Smith sometime around the turn of the century. Exactly when the family came into possession of the sock machine is not known. It is known that it was Alfred Smith and not his wife Helen, who bought and used the sock machine .

According to Norma Warnecke the Victoria Sock knitting machine was bought new for the family prior to World War 1. Alfred used the knitting machine to make socks for himself and members of the family, he also used this machine to contribute to the War effort in World War 1. With the knitting machine there are still some scraps of barely legible paper that have notations on them attributed to Alfred Smith . More comprehensive notes were written by Alfred William Smith, son of Alfred Smith, who inherited the sock knitting machine. Alfred William Smiths notes include instructions for making socks for his wife Grace and their three children Norma, Jenny and Robert . Norma recalls her father using the knitting machine to knit socks for the family, she also recalls her father knitting socks for soldiers at the front during World War 2 .

Included in the tins of yarn and spare parts that were passed to Norma along with the knitting machine are remnants of socks that her father had knitted when the family were young. There are also a number of skeins of wool of a variety of different colours. One particular skein is of grey, it is the left over wool from Alfred Smiths contribution to the war effort in World War 1 . Additionally there are some skeins left over from Alfred William Smith, who also made socks, this time during World War 2 .

Both Alfred Smith and Alfred William Smith were in professions that were considered to be essential services during World War 1 and 2. Thus they were expected to contribute to the war effort in ways other than fighting at the front. Both Smith family members used the sock machine as one of the ways that they contributed to the health and comfort of those at the front .

Norma Warnecke used the sock machine when her own family was young, in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Among the hand written notes is a page in her handwriting that also gives details for socks for her children . On expressing my interest in a sock knitting machine in 2015, Norma Warnecke turned up the next day with the Victoria Knitting machine. It had been in her garage for decades and she had not thought that anyone would be interested in it. So when she found out that a family member was interested Norma decided that it was time to pass on the knitting machine to another family member. The Victoria knitting machine has now passed down four generations of the same family with each family member using it to create socks for themselves and other family members.

When I receive the sock knitting machine it came packaged with all the accessories including two original instruction manuals. Alfred William Smith had also stored wool from his father and from his own efforts in two Farex tins from when his daughter Jenny had been a baby along with details on the sizing needed for his family members. Today I am gradually learning more about how to use the machine so that I can make socks for my family members.

Figure 1. Victoria Knitting Machine. Bean, Christina (Authors Collection) 2016 1
Figure 2. Victoria Knitting Machine- original instruction booklets. Bean, C. Authors Collection 2016 2

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