Month: September 2015

It’s frustrating

But there was a small breakthrough; a 1983 death notice for Marthinus Swiegers, looking very much like great aunt Connie’s husband. His pre-deceased spouse (1977) was Constance Louisa, no maiden name unfortunately, and daughter Johanna Louisa. All in all a pretty good fit.

So, of course, I spent some time looking for more on Ralph and Edith and anything on Doris but, alas, again to no avail. Very frustrating when you make a minor breakthrough, get all enthusiastic again but find all the old dead-ends are still there.


One down, four to go

Grandfather had five siblings; Andrew Joseph, Ralph Victor, Constance Louisa, Edith Pauline and Doris Magdalene. Tracking them down would both complete the family picture and hopefully someone would also know what became of their father, Philip Joseph Robinson.

One down

We now have a fairly complete picture of Andrew’s life, his three wives and round dozen children, not loved at all by his first family whom he abandoned, his third wife younger than his fourth daughter, and his death in 1973 from aortic and ventricular aneurysms following what must have been a major heart attack. We also now know the names of his children with second wife Rhoda – Brenda and Andrew.

However, the only clue found to PJ’s whereabouts was a memory of him saying his father was in “Pretoria at an old age”, which at least meant we could probably restrict the search to sometime post 1960.

Four to go

As for the others, the picture is far more obscure.

We know that:

  • Ralph was born in East Africa in 1905, married Lauretta Twentyman-Jones and had a son, David, and later married Patricia Campbell.
  • Connie married someone possibly called Tijn Sweigers and had a daughter, Louisa (see comment, will update soon). We do have a photo (see this post)
  • Edith, we think, married Cornelius de Jager.
  • Doris came to mum and dad’s wedding, nothing more.

Official records have not yet come to light so we can only hope that as with Andrew, a relative or two finds this or the Ancestry tree and gets in touch.

Earliest ancestors

Just a quick look at the earliest ancestor found on each of the four branches (my grandparents) of the family.

For the ROBINSON side, the earliest Robinson is still Philip, born c. 1746 but overall we have Wessel Schulte, born in Niedersarchen, Germany in 1566.

On the CURRIE side we reach the furthest back of all to one Richard Mossop born in Gosforth, Cumbria in 1490. The earliest Currie is David born 1825 in Dumfries.

We haven’t fared so well on the ELLICOTT side, although there is still a lot of data to sort through. So far it’s Robert Ellacott born in 1625 who is at least the earliest of the four names found.

Finally, the LEITH side is the least documented with Francis Foster born in 1785 the narrow ‘winner’, although there is tell of a mysterious “Mr Leitch” who would have been born a bit earlier. Otherwise the earliest Leith is John, born about 1800 in Slaght.

So in terms of generations:

Philip Robinson – is my 5 times great grandfather
Wessel Schulte – 11 times great

Richard Mossop – 13 times great
David Currie – 4 times

Robert Ellacott – 9 times

Francis Foster – only 3 times
John Leith – 4 times

Famous skeletons

When you embark upon a genealogical quest you will eventually have to start drawing lines. At some point your tree will start to look more like a hedge unless you limit the number of branches you go down – it is nice to know for example that your second cousin Bob was married to Jean, but you perhaps don’t need to know all of Jean’s ancestors or siblings and their descendants.

You will also, at the start, be hoping that there might be some link to someone famous or notable, someone to start a conversation at dinner perhaps (or maybe only because that will mean an awful lot of work will already have been done for you!).

What this is leading to is that one of the slightly more obscure branches of my tree links in to the Pretorius family, something I hadn’t paid much attention to before. But it would appear that they’re something akin to Afrikaner aristocracy; descendants of Johannes Pretorius who arrived in the Cape in 1666. He was one of the first Dutch settlers and great grandfather of the famous Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and great-great-grandfather of the first president of the South African Republic, Marthinus Pretorius.

And also, as it turns out, my eight times great grandfather.

This link to one of the most famous Boer families comes on top of being descended from an 1820 settler.

To put that in some context, I suppose it’s a bit like being descended both from a Pilgrim Father and a Son of the American Revolution.

And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Abraham and the two Rhoda Robinsons

This is by way of an update to this post of some time ago regarding my great uncle, Andrew Joseph Robinson, although he only plays a peripheral role in this tale. This is the story of his second wife Rhoda (née Wise), their two so far unnamed children and her relationship as quite literally ‘the younger model’ with Abraham van Jaarsveld.

It all started when I got back in touch with Nick to catch up and see if he’s made any progress. There was no news but it did prompt him to start looking for Rhoda’s two children, those she had had with Andrew in the early 1950s, mentioned in the divorce papers but not named. A day or so later an email from Nick drops into my inbox with a copy of an email from Jan van Jaarsveld with some detail about Rhoda Robinson and Abraham van Jaarsveld, but also, from an obscure reference in the Strydom family tree, listing Rhoda Robinson (born Wise) as de facto spouse to the same Abraham van Jaarsveld. It was clear quite quickly that either something was horribly wrong with one of these sources or there were two Rhoda Robinsons.

It turns out Abraham van Jaarsveld (b 1881) had previously been married (in 1902) to Leonora Strydom (b 1880) with whom he’d fathered five children; Leonora, Ernestus, Pieter, Abraham and Hermina. It is clear from the communication Nick has had with Jan that he later formed a relationship, possibly marriage, with Rhoda Robinson, 32 years his junior and with whom he fathered a further two, possibly three children; Ernst and Cecil, and possibly Johanna. This Rhoda Robinson was previously unknown to me but looks like she was the daughter of a Robert and Lucy Robinson born in 1913. Robert and Lucy also had a son, Cecil, a year later – fans no doubt of the infamous Cecil Rhodes, but not so far in my tree.

Anyway, Rhoda would have been 41 by the time her younger son Cecil Robinson van Jaarsveld was born in 1954 and one can only wonder how soon after this birth (if not before) the old man, now 72, took up with newly divorced Rhoda Wise/Robinson – 47 years his junior and 15 years younger than the first Rhoda Robinson. It must have been a very strange and distressing situation for Rhoda to have been replaced by what would probably have seemed like quite literally a younger version of herself.

The first Rhoda Robinson as well as Abraham’s first wife Leonora were both still very much alive when Rhoda Wise Robinson appeared on the scene, they died in 1974 and 1998 respectively. Abraham himself died in 1963 and Rhoda Wise Robinson and her children were not named in his will. While we are awaiting the paperwork on that, it seems that one of the Rhoda’s contested the Will before a couple of his children from his first marriage opposed that application. All very murky.

None of which has got us any closer to naming Andrew and Rhoda’s children!