Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The German families of Barraba

So, I've just returned from a family history driving trip around New South Wales - and, yes, there was a lot of time in cemeteries!

Of course, one of the places I visited was Barraba, the small town north-west of Tamworth where our grandmother, Selina Louisa (Louie) Brodbeck was born to Jacob Brodbeck and Elizabeth Stieger on 20 July 1892.

Barraba's fortunes in the past have been as a result of goldrushes, copper, sheep grazing and, more recently, asbestos mining. In particular, a number of German immigrants took up sheep grazing probably as a result of most of them having worked for the Australian Agricultural Company which had vast tracts of land on which it ran sheep.

Today, Barraba is a small quiet town of around 1,200. What strikes you though, either through a walk in the cemetery or a stroll down the main street, is how we are, in different ways, related to most of Barraba - either those resident in the cemetery or those still with us.

This is largely as a result of the inter-marriage of the German families who settled in the Barraba from the 1870s. It appears this was a tight knit community that worked together, lived near each other, socialised together and married each other!

What that means is that because we are related to, say, the Stiegers, we are also related to a larger or lesser extent to the families of: Brodbeck, Groth, Schmidt, Simshauser, Mell, Garske and Doring.

A good number of Brodbecks, Stiegers and Garskes around 1902

How many cousins?

It also means that we have a LOT of distant cousins. For example, our own grandmother, Louie had 90 first cousins - yes, 90!

I've been trying to think which family links a lot of the others together - which was the family that inter-married the most. It's hard to say but the Stieger family is a good example. Let me show you:

Charles Stieger (1838-1917) married Eliza Schmidt (1845-1903)

Eliza had four siblings, one of whom was Caroline who married William Edward Garske.

Charles and Eliza Stieger had:

1. Andrew (1862-1937). Never married.
2. Elizabeth (1864-1920) married Jacob Brodbeck.
3. John (1865-1888). Never married.
4. Johanna (1867-1952) married Christian Brodbeck.
5. Henry (1868-1940) married Emma Jenner.
6. Edward (1870-1944) married Mary Caroline Groth.
7. Charles (1872-1923). Never married.
8. Amelia (1874-1920) married Gottlieb Brodbeck.
9. Albert (1876-1958). Never married.
10. Emma (1877-1941) married Henry Groth.
11. William (1879-1903) married Annie Simshauser.
12. Angelina (1881-1948) married John Groth.
13. Matilda (1885-1936) married Arthur Groth.

So, three Stieger sisters married three Brodbeck brothers. Three Stieger sisters married three Groth brothers and one male Stieger, Edward married a sister to those Groth brothers.

You could thank your lucky stars four of the Stieger boys never married!

But wait, here's the free set of steak knives!

Annie Simshauser who married William Stieger had two sisters.

Mary Catherine Elizabeth Simshauser married Charles Edward Schmidt who was the brother of Eliza Schmidt.

Annie Simshauser's other sister, Louisa Keziah Simshauser married Johanes Brodbeck, a brother to Jacob, Christian and Gottlieb Brodbeck.

So what?

There are two morals to this story.....always be careful who you gossip about.....they may just be a relative and....all roads lead to Barraba!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Our almost grandfather - William Thomas Bloxham

So, having readers by the 'blogload' waiting for the next instalment, it seemed entirely appropriate to throw you all off the scent by blogging about a man to whom we were never related but whose life changed the course of the family's history.

How was Will Bloxham almost related to us?

Will Bloxham was the fiancee of our maternal grandmother, Selina Louisa (Louie) Brodbeck. They were engaged in 1915. Sadly, World War One meant that a future as husband and wife did not come to pass. Will was killed at the Battle of Paschendale on 8 October 1917.

Why should we care?

Well, it's like this.... if Will had lived (and a whole chain of other events had fallen into place), this blog would be about the Bloxham family rather than the Nott family and we may well have had our roots in a small Oxfordshire village called Hook Norton because that's where Will came from.

Family folklore says that our Nana was, understandably, completely heartbroken at Will's death. To the extent that it was thought she would be the one of the family who would never marry and would care for her parents in their old age. 

While we know she did marry (our grandfather, Harry Nott), what 'baggage' did she carry with her after such a traumatic event? How did that affect her raising of her daughters, our Mum and Auntie Bo? 

At the very least, we know that part of that 'baggage' she kept all her life was all the letters and postcards that Will wrote to her from the front. And that's in addition, to all Will's personal belongings that he left to her in his last Will and Testament - his family photos, job references, Masonic lodge apron, souvenirs of his voyage to Australia and his dog tag. All of these belongings, I now have and they form an important part of the family archive.

Some of the Bloxham material held as part of the family archive.

So......who was Will Bloxham?

Born on 25th August 1885 at Hook Norton near Banbury in Oxfordshire, England. The eighth of eleven children of Leonard Bloxham and his wife Elizabeth. The Bloxham family had a farm just outside of the village of Hook Norton known as The Grounds. 

Will was a book-keeper at the Hook Norton Brewery - a significant feature of the local industry even today. Will was also active in the local community. For example, he was a member of the choral society and was a church bellringer.

In 1912, Will emigrated to Australia on the ship "Orontes". Will initially went to Bingara in North Western NSW. He then commenced an association with Barraba through being employed by the shop keeper at Upper Horton near Barraba. At this time, he met John Brodbeck (Louie's only brother) and the two struck up a friendship. 

Will and Louie were engaged by July 1914. 

While he promised her he would not go to war, in late 1915, he broke that promise in a letter to her and enlisted:

Doubtless this letter will give you much pain my darling. I want you to let me off the promise I made you some time ago about going to enlist. I promised I would not go.

Darling, I really think its my duty to go, they are wanting men badly and at home if the men don't respond readily enough I fear conscription will be enforced.

He left for overseas in April 1916. We know he spent at least one weekend with his family at Hook Norton in June 1916.

He then proceeded as part of the 18th Battalion to the battlefields of France and Belgium. During 1917 he fought at the Battle of Paschendale where he was killed on 8 October 1917.

His body was not located for some months and it was not until January 1918 that Louie received the news from the local minister at Barraba, Ernest Foster, that Will had been killed in action. 

The course of history and the course of people's lives had been changed forever.