Sunday, January 1, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday

This is my great-grandmother Kate Amelia Forfar (nee Ellis)
1872 - 1905

She and her husband - her second husband - Walter William Forfar have led me and my relations a bit of a merry dance over the years.

Earlier this year I had a bit of a breakthrough using one of my favourite tools of late i.e. Trove.

Well, it wasn't really a breakthrough - if anything, the discovery has just led to more questions.

We're not quite sure when Walter and Kate got married, if at all.

Let's go back a bit.  First of all, Kate married Alfred H Doe 4 April 1896 at the Congregational Church at Woollahra at the age of 24 according to the NSW BDM Index. I've just ordered the certificate.  Kerching.

There is a marriage notice that you can see on Trove here.

Kate and Alfred were granted a divorce in 1902, some six years later as per the notice in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

What is interesting is that by that time Kate already had two children with Walter William Forfar and the twins (one of whom was my grandmother) were on the way.

According to the eldest child's birth certificate Walter and Kate were married in 1897 in Perth Western Australia.  We have searched the index to BDM in WA with no success.  However there are advertisements appearing in the West Australian from July to September for a "girl, smart, at once, to mind baby and useful at Hawthorne, ....Mrs Forfar, Lincoln Street, Highgate Hill".

But - just to keep you on your toes.....Ernest Henry Forfar was born 12 February 1900 at Queen Street East Sandy Bay in Tasmania!  Anyone who knows the geography of Australia knows that Tasmania and Western Australia are not exactly close.  Ernest's father Walter is listed as a retired surveyor.  His mother's maiden name is listed as Sinclair - which was in fact her mother's maiden name. So - did they go from Tasmania back to WA?

Kate and Walter's second child, Dorothy, was born 4 June 1901 in Windsor, Victoria.  Her mother's maiden name is listed as Morrison on this certificate (???) and Walter's occupation is now Hotel Keeper.  Again, to keep you on your toes, the birth was registered in New South Wales in November! Walter is recorded as living at Richmond, NSW.

Eighteen months later my grandmother and her twin sister were born 8 December 1902 at 23 Bedford Street Newtown.  Walter is now listed as a pastry cook. 

Just over two years later, little Walter William Forfar was born in January 1905 but died only a couple of months later due to asphyxia - due to smothering by his father rolling on top of him in bed.

Less than twelve months later, Kate herself died of premature confinement and syncope on New Year's eve at Denison Street Arncliffe.  Shortly after the children were placed into Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children by their father.

And this is where the discovery comes in...just by changing my search terms i.e. from "Walter William Forfar" or "Kate Forfar" to "Mrs Forfar" I found this disturbing article.

It becomes even more disturbing when Kate withdraws her allegations a couple of days later

Kate would have been four or five months pregnant with baby Walter William at the time. Ernest would have been aged 4 and a half, Dorothy just three and the twins nearly two years old.

I have tried to trace the steps of the locations mentioned in the newspaper article but street names must have changed over time.  It is difficult to work out what would have been Cooks River Road.

I am interested that there was shopping on Saturday nights.  Does anyone know anything about that?

And of course, it all begs the question - what was the truth of the matter?

The Forfars moved around quite a bit it seems - why?  My second cousin thinks it may have been something to do with the gold rushes at the time.  This brochure about the history of the suburb Highgate in WA seems to support that hypothesis.

I'm not sure what records to tackle next... perhaps electoral rolls and shipping records to try and trace their movements?  What do you think?

My mother only knew her grandfather as a pastry-cook - and enjoyed looking up the bakery in Sussex when we visited years ago.  However I think Walter's reputation as the black sheep of the family did not stand her in good stead.   This sweet dish is the one souvenir she managed to purchase from the shop and I was delighted to have it entrusted into my care.


Jill Ball said...

So glad you've followed me on Google+ because now I've discovered another Australian genealogy blog.

Luvvie said...

Hi Jill, yes I tend to blunder around a bit in Google+ I must say - I don't really know what I'm doing there half the time - but I was very pleased to find you there after following your blog for some time.

cassmob said...

What an intriguing story...especially the fact that she withdrew her story. I must be cynical but do you think it might have been the husband involved? Or did he pressure her to renege given there'd be publicity? Or, or, or? Like you say, one answer many questions. I've never looked up NSW Divorces -I wonder what would be in the official papers at the archives. Also re Newtown where I also have some interests, don't know if you've ever visited City of Sydney Archives -something for a visit there perhaps? They have good info on Newtown and thereabouts.

Luvvie said...

Dear Pauleen

Not cynical at all and just what we were wondering too. Could have been a bit of both - he was running a business at the time I suspect and maybe bad publicity was not considered good. I haven't visited City of Sydney Archives - something to put on the to do list. Thank you for the suggestionn.

TCasteel said...

The baby dies ... Kate dies young. There are some very sad elements to the tale.
You pastry plate is a wonderful treasure though.
Theresa (Tangled Trees)