I really need to sort out the Leiths.

and the Leitches.

and Leeches.

But it’s a bit daunting. Snatches of information and too many people with the same name and, of course, all the inherent problems with Irish records.

There are lots of good trees leading up to the early 19th century, but once you get to Ballymena and its environs the picture starts to break up and we get several Johns who may or may not be the same person, several instances of same name siblings, possible multiple marriages, Archibalds clearly in the wrong place, and it all gets into a bit of a mess.


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.

Clearing up anomolies

To mix a metaphor, much of the last few days has been spent chasing a red herring over hill and dale. The report of a will mentioned in this post has to be examined and explained. And now it has been. The will in question refers not to Philip Joseph Robinson of Kimberley but to plain old Philip Robinson of Middleburg.

This is another example of someone taking some shared speculation and passing it on as fact, even embellishing it with middle names and a spouse. Somehow this original communication:

Philip [b4c3] left only tools of trade (£15) and a bicycle (£3) and stated in his Will that should Sir JB Robinson make any bequest to him, it to be equally divided between his son Philip [b4c3d1] and daughter Margaret Elizabeth Botha [born Robinson married to Zeiler Botha], and his grandson Philip Robinson [b4c3d1e1] and all his cattle to his grandson. Sir J.B. Robinson was the uncle of Philip [b4c3] and the brother of Philip [b4].

became this:

He (Philip Robinson) left a will in South Africa; He left only tools of trade (15 Pounds) and a bicycle (3 Pounds) and stated in his Will that should Sir JB Robinson make any bequest to him, it to be equally divided between his son Philip, married to Louisa Anderson, and daughter Margaret Elizabeth, married to Zeiler Botha, and his grandson Philip Benjamin Robinson, and all his cattle to his grandson. Sir JB was his uncle.

As you know if you’ve read the “Where it all began” section, I had made the mistake of thinking that this Philip was my ancestor when he turned out to be a great grand uncle so I suspect I share a portion of the blame for passing on the will and wondering out loud if it did refer to my great grandfather.

What’s the first rule of genealogy? Accept nothing as fact without proof!


A Slippery Fish

The earlier teaser post included this image taken from the medal rolls of the Kimberley Horse.


Note the numbers 868 and 199, the apparent numbers assigned to PJ Robinson while serving in the Cape Police.

The full entry shows how any medal supposedly earned for his service in the Anglo-Boer War was not issued (note the crossed out entry):


(and what does “H.O.” mean?)

The initials “P.J.” could be Patrick John for instance, so how do we know that this refers to Philip Joseph Robinson?

Take a look at this close-up of Philip’s attestation paper for the Kimberley Horse;


The important details are; his name (obviously), his regimental number (318, matching the record above) and that he previously served in I.L.H and C.P. vis the Imperial Light Horse and Cape Police.

So far, so good.

I couldn’t find any mention of him in the ILH rolls but did find mention of PJ Robinson in the Cape Police medal rolls (Anglo-Boer War): Here is the name:

exhibit3Again, the number 199 matches that on the Kimberley Horse record, and at the other end of that line is this:
So the two match. 199 Sergeant PJ Robinson of the Cape Police was also 318 Corporal PJ Robinson of the Kimberley Horse.

So who’s this?

And what did he do?
This is the only other PJ Robinson I have so far found in the Cape Police rolls; Peter Joseph Robinson, but matching number 868 and also discharged for misconduct. Typo? Perhaps a mix up of two different people’s records? Could it even be that the misconduct was giving a false name? At this stage, who knows?

But we do know Philip was prone to a name change…

Phillip Joseph here, Philip Joseph Hercules on his marriage certificate, just Joseph on his wife’s estate papers, no wonder he’s proving difficult to pin down!


Sometimes it seems that tracing your ancestors is like picking your way through a minefield populated by explosive cans of worms. When you know there are people out there still believing outdated and disproved relationships, it’s hard to keep track of what’s right and any help you get has to be weaned off the error-strewn trees of others. You try so very hard to accept the basic facts you have without further embellishment, trying not to care that you don’t know the exact date of someone’s death, or even birth, but you can’t. You have to pull at the thread.

So it was when once again I turned to the yawning gap in the family tree; my only incomplete great grandparents, Philip Joseph Robinson and Louisa Johanna Anderson. Pick, pick, pick. I know one day that Philip’s death record will come to light as it must have happened in the latter third of the twentieth century, and also that sooner or later someone will find and digitise his baptism record if it still exists. But, regardless, we know the basics. He was born in Kimberley in 1878 to Andrew Joseph Robinson and Sarah Vercuil, married Louisa Anderson in Harrismith in 1903 and had six children before she died in 1920. Despite the odd missing document, the Robinson line is there.

Louisa on the other hand, remains a mystery. We know from her death notice that her parents were Ralph and Pauline and from her marriage that she was born around October 1884 in Harrismith. And that’s about it. Widening the search proves fruitless. There are no Ralph and Pauline Andersons to be found anywhere, no sibling Andersons with the same or similar sounding parents, no baptismal record for Louisa.

The trouble is, in searching for Louisa again, other long-forgotten leads are brought once more into the light. And these snippets of information, however vague, can set off those worm bombs. For instance there is a report of a Will that in one version indicates a bequest from Philip to son Philip and Louisa and also to grandson Philip Benjamin – South Africa records seem plagued by inconsistent record-keeping, bad handwriting and poor transcriptions so I suspect mistakes and assumptions have been made and that this applies to a different Philip altogether, but the actual Will now needs checking. And the worms are loose.

Then, just to get things clear in my head once again, I summarise the knowns and discover that Andrew Joseph, having only recently become a person of interest (see this page), does not appear on either of his parent’s death notices. Panic ensues for several hours until I realise that he pre-deceased both of them and that only live offspring are listed. However, it does shine a light on the missing detail of a birth record for Andrew. More worms. What if this carefully constructed edifice is nothing more than a house of cards?

Another line, another tangle

While I wait for more details about AEG Ellicott so I can complete that set of stories (see earlier post), I thought I’d take a preliminary look at the Currie family – Elsie Edna Currie was my paternal grandmother – and surprise, surprise, there was another little mess-up within the data; conflicting Scottish census links. Not too disastrous this time, it just means I don’t know as much about my 4 times great grandfather as I thought.

It just shows how useful this process can be in sorting out your facts and sources!

Going back over things 2

I’m sitting here about to embark on the next chapter, chronicling the life of my mother’s grandfather Alfred Edgar Goss Ellicott, when it strikes me; there’s an anomaly here. Well, not so much an anomaly so much as a missing link or two.
When I was tracing the life of his father, William, I couldn’t help but notice the progress of his daughter Adela and her sisters in the drapery business – the census records were quite clear on the matter; throughout the period Adela, Annie and Julia are living with their parents and so, without really trying, we can follow their career paths too.
Turning to the available trade directories for Torquay confirms “A&J Ellicott, Drapers and Milliners” registered at the family address. All well and good until I turn to Alfred and remember that he too was a draper and shopkeeper. So where’s his business entry? Despite an extensive search of available resources, Alfred refuses to be found and then the penny drops; A&J Ellicott – Alfred and Julia? Adela, Alfred, Annie and Julia?
Of course, Alfred has his own family and his own place while his sisters remain unmarried living ‘at home’ but it must be that it’s a whole family business, Alfred would not set up in competition would he?
But then I start wondering. The census shows Adela is an employer, Alfred is a shopkeeper and this is late Victorian Britain; Is Alfred just the figurehead, the public face of A&J Ellicott so they can allow the public to assume the ‘A’ is for Alfred when in reality is remains Adela’s business?
I need to find out more about this before I can write Alfred’s story.