Month: June 2015

Quick update – Mary Ann Foster

So far it seems Mary Ann Foster has managed to cross continents unrecorded.

Thanks to some help from Rootschat, I’ve found that at the time of her father’s death in 1898 Mary was living in Cheltenham, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. I still believe she was a nurse, but have also discovered she wasn’t trained at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and can still not find her on any list of Australian nurses bound for the Cape.

The next time we know her whereabouts is August 1902 when, presumably because of her impending nuptials, she asked for and received confirmation of her birth record from the Victorian State Statist, Richard Treacey. This shows that she was in South Africa shortly after the conclusion of the Anglo Boer War and, it can be surmised, she hadn’t just arrived if she had got engaged that summer.

So, sometime between 1898 and summer 1902 she crossed the Indian Ocean. There’s a searchable index of passengers leaving Victoria to foreign climes and as far as I can see, she’s not on it. There is a Miss Foster bound for Fremantle and it is possible that she travelled there¬†first (her sister Matilda was married and living in Perth) which is great, but passenger lists for those leaving Western Australia are not so easily found. Update: I found the arrival manifest which has been digitised on the WA archives site, and while the Victoria archive suggests a Miss M Foster left Melbourne on the Wollowra, she’s not listed when it gets to Fremantle. So frustrating.


Noticing things

It’s funny what you notice when you’re not really looking.

I’ve been both a bit disheartened after Kew and busy with other things, so haven’t been actively looking for anything in the family history for weeks. However, some time ago I made a list of things I should be doing in this field, one of which was to track down the nursing credentials of Mary Ann Foster. I had another cursory look today and there’s still nothing showing on any of the records of Australian nurses at the Boer War. A bit disappointing but not unexpected.

Anyway, I started to look at it from another angle given that there were a number of nurses who travelled to South Africa from Australia but were not part of any official party. Passenger lists are an obvious option and I was about to start searching for them but then I got distracted. Just going over things known, I was reading the reports of her father’s demise when it struck me that she wasn’t there – the reports only mention her younger sister Margaret and later the husband of her older sibling, Sarah, as pall-bearer. Mary Ann¬†would have been 26 by this time and although still single could, in theory, be anywhere in the world, so the chances that she would show up on any official Australian list of nurses becomes more slight not better. Just the sort of puzzle one needs to kick-start the research juices.

The game is afoot!