Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Return from South Africa, 1904

SS Narrung.
Emily's sister Charlotte Blay, who was present for the baptism of Emily's baby, Alfred George Henry Owens at Potchefstroom on 24 April 1904, was still there to support Emily when the baby died six weeks later.  Charlotte finally returned to Melbourne on the Medic.  The Medic had left Liverpool and picked up passengers in Cape Town, where Charlotte joined the ship.  She was recorded as being married, aged 30, occupation 'household duties', destination Melbourne.  The Medic arrived on 21 July 1904.    There was no-one else on the ship with whom she would appear to have been travelling.

A few months later Emily returned via the ss Narrung, in steerage.  She had joined the ship in Cape Town, listed as Mrs H Owens, aged 31, occupation 'Lady', nationality Australian, her destination Melbourne.  The Narrung arrived there on 2 November 1904.   Again, Emily was not obviously accompanied on this journey. 


Monday, February 11, 2013

The Owens family

"Gwen aged 2 years and 1 month, Emily 4 months."

Perhaps the death of her first baby was the impetus for the return to Australia.

The unassisted inwards passenger lists show Mrs H Owens, aged 31, arriving in Melbourne on the ship Narrung in November  1904.  Trove newspapers report the Narrung had arrived from Cape Town. There is no sign of Hugh, but it occurs to me he might have worked his passage as a ship's carpenter, though it was a short enough trip to bother.


On 17 May 1905, Emily and Hugh had a little girl called Gwendoline Louise, born at 492 Lygon St, Carlton.  Whether that was a small hospital or a residence I don't know at this stage, but when Emily gave the information on 14 June 1905 for the registration, she gave her address as 28 Laurie St, Northcote.

The children whose births I have been able to discover are:

Alfred George Henry Owens, bp 24 April 1904, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Gwendoline Louise Owens, b 17 May 1905, Carlton, Victoria
Emily Elizabeth Owens b 1907, Leichardt, NSW
Winifred Frances Owens, b 1909, Balmain, NSW
Jack Henry Owens, b 1912, Balmain South, NSW

By 1930 the family was living at 9 Parsons St, Rozelle, where Hugh was working as a carpenter, Winifred as a typiste, and Emily junior as a milliner.  When Jack was listed, his occupation was electrician.  Gwen appears to have married in Victoria and lived there.

Emily Frances Owens died in 1945, registered at Rozelle, and Hugh Owens in 1947, registered at Balmain.    Hugh's parents were recorded as Hugh and Elizabeth.


Potchefstroom, North West Province

Potchefstroom in the Park, a postcard showing treelined streets in Potchefstroom.  Souce:  eGGSA website

Moving along to Potchefstroom, where the groom Hugh Owens had been residing prior to his marriage, I examined the Baptisms recorded on the  The Genealogical Society of South Africa eGSSA branch website.

This turned up a transcription from the St Mary Anglican Church, Potchefstroom, for the baptism of a child:

Alfred George Henry
Baptised: 24 Apr 1904
Born: 19 Mar 1904
Parents: Hugh & Emily OWENS
Occupation: Carpenter
Residence: Potchefstroom
Witnesses: J. CLARKE - C.H. LINDSAY - C. BLAY
Baptised by: A. ROBERTS
Source: Potchefstroom - St Mary (Anglican), Potchefstroom, North West Province. Baptisms register, 1891-1910, entry number 188. Repository: Wits University, William Cullen Library. Transcribed by Gary Cannon, independently


The first thing that struck me about this record was that a witness was C Blay.  I presume this to be Emily's married sister, Charlotte Blay, nee Griffith.   Charlotte had married in Fitzroy, a suburb of  Melbourne in 1886 to Douglas James Blay, a printer.  Charlotte had no children of her own, but adopted a child some years after Emily's children were born.  Having both leisure and money evidently enabled Charlotte to travel to support her sister for this first birth.

Unfortunately the baby died aged only six weeks.  Again, the eGGSA website provided a transcript:


OWENS Alfred George Henry
Residence: Potchefstroom
Age at death: 6 weeks
Buried: 28 Apr 1904 by A. ROBERTS
Source: Potchefstroom - St Mary (Anglican), Potchefstroom, North West Province. burial register, 1891-1921. Repository: Wits University, William Cullen Library. Transcribed by Gary Cannon, independently


SS Australasian for Natal

This notice from The Argus on 2 May 1903 advises passengers how to get themselves and their luggage aboard the  SS Australasian.    Further reference to Argus reports of vessels "cleared out" from Melbourne on 6 May lists the saloon passengers of the Australasian (amongst whom Miss E Griffiths was nowhere to be seen), but also mentioned a further unnamed 200 steerage passengers.  If Emily was this Miss E Griffiths, she evidently travelled in steerage.

Travel to Durban

The Australasian, from the State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library.
How and when Emily travelled to Durban is not certain.  However, by consulting the Public Records Office Victoria Outwards Passenger Index, using the search terms Griffith*, E*, and narrowed from 1900-1903, there is only one vessel travelling to Africa.

A Miss E Griffiths, aged 23, was listed aboard the Australasian which left for London, Capetown and Natal, via Albury, in May 1903.

Emily Griffith was actually 29 when she married, so it is not clear that it was her, but she may have reduced her age preparatory to her marriage.  Or the age may have been mis-transcribed from the shipping record.  I'll try and examine the film at PROV in the next few weeks.

I may now have to revise my idea that because Banns were called, the wedding had not been performed in a hurry.  The 2nd of June in 1903 was a Tuesday.  Presumably the Banns were called on the three preceding Sundays - 17, 24 and 31 May.  If the ship left Melbourne on 6 May, it would have been very hard pressed to have arrived in South Africa inside a fortnight, which suggests, if this is the right voyage, that the Banns were called before Emily actually arrived in Durban.  If anyone can clarify just how long it would have taken a steamship to travel from Melbourne to Natal, I would be very interested to hear.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Marriage in Durban 1903

Due to the wonderful assistance of Deryn on the British-Genealogy South African Genealogy Forums, an image of the marriage record for Emily Griffith and Hugh Owen was located in Family Search.  

This is the search path, starting by clicking on the location "Africa":

South Africa, Church of the Parish of South Africa Registers, 1850-2004 > South Africa > Natal > Natal, Durban, St Paul > Marriages 1849-1923

Now that I think of it, I'm not sure how  Deryn located the marriage, as there does not appear to be an index, but with 1902 as a starting point, the marriage turned up in the records of St Paul's Parish Church, Durban, Natal on 2 June 1903.

The groom was Hugh Owens, of full age, Bachelor, Carpenter, residing at Potchefstroom, Transvaal.  The bride was Emily Francis (sic) Griffith, of full age, Spinster, residing at Durban. 

The marriage was by Banns, which indicates that they were not rushing into the marriage after Emily arrived.  

A good perusal of the wedding photo indicates that the wedding was not a grand affair.  None of the attendants were wearing matching outfits.  There were flowers, ribbons and button-holes, but the bouquets are not elaborate. Emily is not wearing a wedding gown, but a good frock which will see her through many Sundays at church. 

The witnesses do not strike me as being family members of the Griffith family, so they are possibly friends or family of Hugh Owen.  One of the witnesses is H Thomas, and the other is less easy to read.  There is a flourish of squiggles at the beginning, but I am inclined to read the name as H Thompson, with possibly a middle initial.



If anyone would like to have a go at deciphering the first signature, please get in touch, or leave a comment.  Especially so if you know either witness.

Emily Griffith's South African Adventure

I'm going to take a break from New Zealand research for the moment, and take a side trip to South Africa.  The wedding portait above, a rather battered photo from the family collection, was unexpectedly identified by someone I met at a genie talk I was giving to a group visiting from Sydney.  This group included the grand-daughter of the happy couple, Emily Frances Griffith and Hugh Owens.  This was said to have taken place in Durban, South Africa, which I found rather astounding.  Any wonder I couldn't find what became of George Griffith's daughter Emily in Victoria!  After returning from South Africa they settled in New South Wales, which again tended to obscure what had happened to Emily.

So the next few posts are going to be looking at what Emily got up to in South Africa.  I will be asking the question, how and where did she come to meet and marry Hugh Owens?  I am not sure I will be answering the question, but it will be fun trying.  South African research is reputed to be difficult, so others may find it of interest just what records can be accessed.