Jemmett Mainwaring and HMS Babet

Following on from my previous post Jemmett Mainwaring and the start of a Mainwaring naval tradition – part 1

19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer auctioned 2014. Item description “19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer, Capt Jemmet Mainwaring”

In June 1797, at the age of thirty-four, Jemmett Mainwaring was given command of HMS Babet, a four-year-old 20-gun French corvette, captured by the British three years previously. In the Royal Navy system she became a sixth-rate post ship, too small for a frigate, but big enough to require the command of a captain.

Capture on 23 April 1794 of Pomone, Engageante and Babet by Thomas Whitcombe. Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Between 25 July and 5 October 1797 under Captain Mainwaring HMS Babet captured three merchant vessels:

  • the brig Decision, of 200 tons and eight men, recaptured while sailing from Cape to Puerto Rico in ballast;
  • the brig Schuylkill, of Philadelphia, 100 tons and eight men, sailing from New York to Puerto Rico with a cargo of flour, supposedly Spanish property; and
  • the barque Æolus, of Copenhagen, 180 tons and 10 men, sailing from Marseilles to St. Thomas, with a cargo of wine, French property.

The London Gazette “No. 14073”. 12 December 1797. p. 1192 includes an account of the captures.

On 16 January 1798 Babet‘s boats captured the French schooner Désirée between Martinique and Dominique.

Letter from Captain Jemmett Mainwaring to Henry Harvey describing the capture of La Desiree. Harvey forwarded the letter to Evan Nepean then Secretary to the Board of Admiralty.
From The London Gazette “No. 15005” 7 April 1798. p. 295.

Between July and December 1798 HMS Babet was refitted at Portsmouth at a cost of £5,194 [about £230,000 today] .

After her refit HMS Babet under Mainwaring began another successful run of captures:

  • in December 1798 she recaptured the American ship Helena.
  • on 18 and 19 January 1799, she captured two French fishing vessels, Deux Freres Unis, with a cargo of herring, and another small vessel, the Jacques Charles.
  • on 24 June HMS Babet in company with HMS Harpy, an 18 gun brig-sloop, captured the ship Weloverdagt.
Surrender of Samuel Story’s Dutch Texel squadron to a British-Russian fleet under Andrew Mitchell, 30th of August 1799 in the Vlieter. Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1799 HMS Babet took part in an Anglo-Russian invasion of the North Holland peninsula. There Babet briefly served as Vice-Admiral Andrew Mitchell‘s flagship in the Zuider Zee. Babet was listed with other ships of the British fleet as qualifying for prize money for the capture of several Dutch hulks and ships on 28 August 1799. On 30 August 1799, a squadron of the Batavian Navy with 632 guns and 3,700 men surrendered to the British navy under Vice-Admiral Mitchell in the Vlieter near Wieringen, North Holland.

Babet was also among the numerous vessels that shared in the proceeds after HMS Dart captured the French frigate Desirée from Dunkirk harbour on 8 July 1800.

Engraving after a painting by Thomas Whitcombe showing HMs Dart capturing the French frigate Désirée in July 1800.
Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Loss of HMS Babet

In September 1800 HMS Babet left Spithead with orders to convey General John Knox to Jamaica, where he was to take up the position of Governor. On 24 October she arrived at Fort-Royal Bay, Martinique, sailing the next day for Jamaica. HMS Babet was never seen again. It seems likely that she foundered in a storm.

Newspaper reports in early 1801 reported on the probable loss. There were also a few suggestions that she had in fact survived.

Letters concerning the loss of the Babet

“About this time [1801] we got the melancholy account of the loss of the Babet, the ship in which our dear John (General Knox) was gone out as Governor and Commander in Chief to Jamaica. Many, many tears did I shed for him, I loved him as a brother, and never, I believe, was there a man so deserving of the regard and regret everyone expressed for him. We long had hopes that the ship was not lost, as it was not seen to go down, but years have elapsed since, therefore no hope can be indulged, though I am sometimes fool enough to feel some, in spite of my almost conviction that it is impossible they ever should be realised.” [The Honourable Frances Calvert nee Pery at An Irish beauty of the regency page 13 retrieved through]

The letters of Henry Swinburne concerning the fate of his son who was aide-de-campe to Knox, document the uncertainty of the fate of the Babet.

“London , January 3rd, 1801. … I am uneasy at not hearing yet of Harry’s arrival in Jamaica, though various persons conversant with those seas laugh at my fears . [footnote: He went out as secretary and aide-de-camp to General Knox, commander-in-chief at Jamaica. The ship was never more heard of, and must have foundered between Martinique and Jamaica.]

February 2nd . Another Jamaica mail arrived this morning, which left the island on the 21st of December, at which time no account had been received of General Knox. They are very low at the Admiralty concerning it. I have been all the morning in the city, hunting for information ; but there are so many contradictory reports and conjectures that I returned just as I went, except feeling my spirits depressed by the fatigue. I assure you I keep nothing from you, nor palliate nor exaggerate; spero contra spent . I do all I can to resist the weight of despondency, but, indeed, I am cruelly alarmed, and prepare myself for the worst. I cannot pretend to bid you keep up your spirits, or hope or despond, for I know not what to do or to say. My thoughts are on the rack about your health, and the improbability that your shattered nerves will be able to resist such a blow as this may prove. Colonel Barry sits all day over the fire crying, and is angry if one suggests a hope. He quite kills me. I had got so far when Mr. Higgins came in, who declares upon his honour he would not buoy me up with false hopes, but his opinion is not the least altered by the arrival of this packet, nor will it till we hear from Honduras. There is nothing so common as ships driving past Jamaica and being lost for months; Admiral Parker was so for four months. 

February 6th. Barry has quite got up his spirits, but I fancy from no reason but Higgins’s persevering in his opinion, or perhaps from forcing himself out into the fresh air. How often have I admired and felt the force of the Marquis of Ormond’s exclamation about his dead son! Ours, if gone, is gone “with- out a blot upon his fair fame.” How time runs on! — every day sinks so much of my hopes, that I feel myself unmanned by every desponding expression or look of other people. 

February 12th. I write to save the last post. We had just dined when a letter came from Colonel Barry, enclosing one just received from the General, the date of which was the 25th of October, from Martinique. They had arrived, after an agreeable passage in a good ship, the day before. They were to re-embark that evening for Jamaica, where the General expected to be landed about the 1st of November. His letter is written in uncommon spirits. He says they were all well, but that he keeps Swinburne so busy he has no time to write, and therefore begs Barry to acquaint his family that he is safe and well. It was almost too much happiness to bear when these tidings came amidst all our anxiety, and we were quite overcome at such unusual ways of digestion. 

February 21 st. … Higgins says there is a letter arrived to a Mr. Miller, announcing the safety of all the crew of the Babet. By that I should imagine they have been shipwrecked. I care not, so he is safe. 

February 24th Nepean has just written to me in a style you must like: “I am a father, and can therefore participate in your feelings on the news of your son’s safety ; long may he live ! I am sure he will be an honour to his name.” 

March 2nd , 1801. Another month begun, and yet no satisfactory accounts of my dear son ! My hopes and fears are exactly what they were, and I wait in silence and sullen patience the accounts from Jamaica. 

March 4th. … This strong south-west wind might have blown some ships in from Jamaica. I dare not say I long for their arrival. 

March 28th . Every day takes away part of our hopes ; there are letters by the Jamaica mail, and accounts have been received from Honduras and other parts of the island. They have seen nothing of the unfortunate Babet , so that little opening remains but the chances of capture, which I am afraid would have been known before now. The Knox family and Colonel Barry give it up as a lost case. I write illegibly, for my eyes are dim, and every letter appears double.Can it be that the Almighty made my Hariy so good, so perfect, and protected him through so many perils, to take him away so early? I cannot believe it, till compelled by time and circumstances. I will still hope, till hope itself shall turn to despair. Pray look among my papers for all his precious letters, and put them carefully together. Happy is the farmer whose son learns to plough his land, and remains with him till his dying day !” [Secret Memoirs Of The Courts Of Europe Letters Written At The End Of The Eighteenth Century Vol Ii by Henry Swinburne pages 264 to 274 retrieved through]

Lines on the loss of the Babet by the Poet Laureate

Jemmet Mainwaring’s second cousin Henry James Pye (1745 – 1813) was appointed Poet Laureate in 1790, and held the post for 23 years. (Justly or otherwise Henry Pye is widely regarded as England’s worst Poet Laureate). Among his work is a poem on the loss of HMS Babet and the deaths of Mainwaring and Knox. The poem was reproduced in The Naval Chronicle.

James Stanier Clarke; John McArthur. The Naval Chronicle: Volume 5, January-July 1801: Containing a General and Biographical History of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom with a Variety of Original Papers on Nautical Subjects. Cambridge University Press. p. 525

Captain Jemmett Mainwaring’s will was probated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 1 July 1801. [PROB 11/1360/15] He left the bulk of his estate to Anne Mainwaring, daughter of his cousin William Mainwaring.

Jemmett Mainwaring and the start of a Mainwaring naval tradition – part 1

In the late eighteenth century midshipmen (‘young gentlemen’ aspiring to become commissioned officers) usually joined the British navy through patronage or ‘interest’: string-pulling. You got your berth under a captain your family had connections with. After six years of notionally voluntary service a midshipman who successfully completed a formal examination could be promoted to lieutenant. There was no system of purchased commission as in the army: this meant that a naval career could be open to boys of less wealthy families and to younger sons of the rich who were destined not to inherit.

Rowland Mainwaring joined the navy in 1795 as a midshipman on the Jupiter under Captain William Lechmere. Recording his promotion to captain in 1832, the Royal Naval Biography notes that Rowland’s initial engagement was through the patronage of Admiral Sir John Laforey. I do not know how the Mainwarings were connected either to the Lechmere or to the Laforey families.

Rowland was one of five cousins who joined the navy about this time. With the exception of Jemmett Mainwaring (1763 – 1800), a first cousin of his father, no member of this branch of Mainwaring family had ever followed a naval career.

Abbreviated family tree: The grandson and great grandsons of Edward Mainwaring and Jemima Mainwaring nee Pye who joined the British navy are highlighted in blue.

Jemmett Mainwaring born 1763 was the youngest son of of Benjamin Mainwaring (1719 – 1782) who had three sons who survived to maturity . Jemmett’s oldest brother Edward (1744 – 1803) served as an officer during the first American war. The second brother, John Montague Mainwaring (1761 – 1842), also served in the army rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General.

Jemmett seems to have obtained a midshipman’s place no later than 1783. It was a requirement at the time that before being commissioned as a lieutenant, an officer had to serve six years at sea and pass an examination. Jemmett Mainwaring was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1789 when he was 26.

I have found no record of his career before he was lieutenant nor do I know who his patron was. However, Jemmett Mainwaring’s grandmother, Jemima Mainwaring nee Pye (1681 – 1721) had a nephew, Thomas Pye (1708 – 1785), an admiral. Although Jemima was no longer alive to exert any influence on behalf of her grandson, perhaps Jemmett’s father Benjamin appealed to his maternal cousin on his behalf. Jemmett was a younger son, with two surviving older brothers. His father was also a younger son. A naval apprenticeship for Jemmett, with the likelihood of a commission, must have seemed an attractive prospect, potentially very rewarding.

The Royal Navy was expanded rapidly, especially at the time of the French Revolutionary Wars of 1792 – 1801. In 1784 there were 2,230 officers of whom 1,499 were lieutenants. In 1800 there were 3,168 officers of whom 2,120 were lieutenants; increases of over 40%. Moreover, in 1784 only about 25% of officers were serving afloat. In 1800 60% of officers and 68% of lieutenants were serving afloat.

Jemmett Mainwaring’s first placement as a lieutenant, from June 1789, was on HMS Royal George, a 100-gun first rate ship of the line, launched at Chatham Dockyard the year before Jemmett Mainwaring joined her. It appears that he served on the Royal George until 1795. 

HMS Royal George on the right fitting out in the River Medway off what is now Sun Pier, with HMS Queen Charlotte under construction in the centre background. This is a view from Chatham Ness, today the southernmost point of the Medway City Estate. Artist: Nicholas Pocock. Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Jemmett Mainwaring may have been on the Royal George at the Glorious First of June, also known as the Fourth Battle of Ushant of 1794. This was the first and largest fleet battle during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French admiral, Rear-Admiral Louis-Thomas Villaret-Joyeuse, had sailed from Brest to intercept a valuable grain fleet from America, urgently needed in famine-stricken France. The English commander-in-chief, Lord Howe, sailed with the Channel Fleet to intercept the convoy; neither the French battle fleet nor the British encountered the convoy, which reached Brest in safety. Instead the two battle fleets made contact on 28 May, some 365 nautical miles (673 km) off Ushant, Brittany.

Only a few British ships managed to pierce the French line and engage closely with the enemy. The Royal George, Admiral Hood‘s flagship, was one of these. It engaged closely with two French ships but lost its foremast and suffered damage to the rigging during the battle.

Map of the position of the ships of the British Royal Navy and the French Navy at the start of their battle on 1 June 1794. Image from Wikimedia Commons: authors users Ruhrfisch and Maxrossomachin
Philip James de Loutherbourg: The Battle of the First of June, 1794 retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
The painting shows the duel between the opposing flagships ‘Queen Charlotte’ (Howe, centre left) and the ‘Montagne’ (Villaret-Joyeuse); and also the the sinking of the ‘Vengeur du Peuple’, 74 guns, and the attempts to rescue her crew.

In June 1795 Jemmett Mainwaring was commissioned with the rank of commander and was appointed to HMS Espiegle, a 16 gun French-built sloop captured by the British in 1793.  When the Royal Navy took her into service they retained her name. Six months later in December 1795 Mainwaring was transferred to the command of HMS Victorieuse.

Victorieuse was a brig of the French Navy, launched at Honfleur in 1794. The British captured her in August 1795 and took her into service as HMS Victorieuse. She was fitted out at Portsmouth dockyard at a cost of £890. On 22 February 1796 she sailed for the Leeward Islands, a group of islands colonised by the British and situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Victorieuse was at the attack on St. Lucia on 24 May 1796 and was one of the vessels covering the landing of troops at Choc Bay. She shared in the prize money paid in June 1800.

In July 1796 Jemmett Mainwaring was promoted to Captain, with command of HMS Aimable, a 32 gun French frigate built in 1776 and captured by the British in 1782. The Aimable had a complement of 192.

On the evening of 22 July 1796, shortly after taking command, Mainwaring in the Aimable engaged the French frigate Pensee (44 guns and 400 men; Seine class frigate originally named La Spartiate) off Guadeloupe. Although the Pensee was a significantly more powerful vessel, the men of the Aimable were, so it is reported, more than willing to take her on, crying “To glory or to death!” when Mainwaring pointed out the superior force of their opponent. Mainwaring himself said that he would lead them into action against their republican foe with sincere pleasure.

In the exchange the Pensee suffered losses of 28 men killed and 36 wounded. The Aimable had two men wounded. The next morning the Aimable was preparing to capture the Pensee, making preparations to lash the Pensee’s bowsprit to the Aimable’s main mast when the French commander and his crew greeted the British frigate by pulling off their hats and waving them. The British sailors returned this chivalrous salute but then the Pensee sailed away and escaped. Three days later the Aimable arrived at the island of St Thomas, then a Danish colony,  and found the Pensee there undergoing repairs. The British and French commanders subsequently dined together with the Danish Governor.

In other engagements under the command of Jemmett Mainwaring the Aimable captured the French Privateer L’Iris (6 guns) in September 1796 and in April 1797 took the Privateer Le Chasseur (6 guns).

Places in the Carribean associated with Jemmett Mainwaring
19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer auctioned 2014. Item description “19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer, Capt Jemmet Mainwaring”



  • UK, Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815 retrieved through
  • Rodger, N.A.M. “Commissioned officers’ careers in the Royal Navy, 1690–1815.” Journal for Maritime Research, vol. 3, no. 1, 2001, pp. 85-129.
    • quoting Naval Promotions (HC 1833 XXIV p.279) p.282
  • Harrison, Cy. “Jemmett Mainwaring (d.1801).” Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail,
  • The London Gazette
  • Marshall, John (1825). Royal Naval Biography : Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted, Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes … with Copious Addenda: Superannuated rear-admirals. Retired captains. Post-Captains. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. Volume II Part II pp. 600–5. [Biography of John Wight Esq who was lieutenant on the Aimable in July 1796.]
  • James, William (1826). The Naval History of Great Britain from the Declaration of War by France, in February 1793 to the Accession of George IV in January 1820. Harding, Lepard, and Company. pp. 484–6.

Related posts

Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana (1820-1904) and her family in Australia

For the past three years my father and I have been working on the history of the  Dana and Champion de Crespigny families in Australia.

Charlotte Frances nee Dana (1820-1904), my third great grandmother, emigrated to Australia at the time of the gold rushes with her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny (1817-1889).

This year is the two-hundredth anniversary of Charlotte’s birth, an appropriate time to recall and document her life and her family.

The book is published in three versions. Below is a link to the pdf version, free to download. Hardback and paperback editions will be available soon. 

Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana (1820 – 1904) photographed probably in the late 1850s


A great emigration necessarily implies unhappiness of some kind or other in the country that is deserted. For few persons will leave their families, connections, friends, and native land, to seek a settlement in untried foreign climes, without some strong subsisting causes of uneasiness where they are, or the hope of some great advantages in the place to which they are going.

Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)

Charlotte Frances Dana and her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny came to Melbourne in 1852. Through their son Philip, who took the full surname of Champion de Crespigny, they were the founders of the Australian branch of the family.

In Champions from Normandy, published in 2017, Rafe de Crespigny discussed the history of the family, later known by the surname Champion de Crespigny, from the earliest records in France to their forced emigration as Huguenots in the seventeenth century and then the establishment in England during the eighteenth century. The present volume considers the experiences of the first generation in Australia. It is centred upon the life of Charlotte Frances, for she and her brother were central to the decision to emigrate, and she lived to see her first great-grandchildren in the new country and the new century.

Born in 1820, Charlotte died in 1904, and that period of eighty-four years was a time of enormous and dramatic change. She was first a subject of King George IV, former Prince Regent, and she lived through the reigns of William IV and Queen Victoria into the first years of Edward VII. Her voyage to Australia in 1851-52 lasted four months; fifty years later a steamship passage took only six weeks, less than half that time. When she arrived in Victoria, travel was by horse and cart, often no faster than seven miles a day; she would later take a train from the goldfields town of Beaufort and reach Melbourne in a matter of hours; while at the time of her death the Wright brothers in the United States were making their first powered flights at Kitty Hawk.

So it was a time of progress, but it was also an age of uncertainty. Health and medicine were both erratic, and diseases which are now quite easily treated were dangerous and could be fatal. Infant or child mortality was very high – to such a degree that many children were baptised with the name of an older sibling who had gone before them: Charlotte had two brothers christened Francis Richard Benjamin, three called Douglas and two more named William. And even those who grew to maturity could be crippled or killed by accident or sickness: one brother died in his thirties and another at the age of just forty; two young nephews died of scarlet fever and one of tetanus; and Charlotte’s son Constantine Trent Champion Crespigny and her sister-in-law Sophia nee Walsh both died of tuberculosis.

Such dangers applied still more to women of the time. Childbirth always carried a risk and stillbirth was by no means uncommon, while the absence of any practical means of contraception meant that pregnancy was often frequent: Charlotte had seven children, but she had twelve full and half-siblings, both her father and her mother had twelve brothers and sisters, and her mother’s father had sired ten more on another wife. Similarly, in her first marriage she experienced three pregnancies in three years, with one daughter who would live to maturity, a son who died in his very first year, and a third child which was still-born. With the vagaries of midwifery and the chances of infection, many women were weakened or simply worn out by such frequent fertility.

Apart from these physical matters, social and financial life could likewise be a question of fortune, good or ill. Charlotte’s family could fairly be described as gentlefolk: her grand-mother was the daughter of a Scottish baron; her grandfather came from a notable back-ground in the American colonies; one of her uncles was a general in the British army and owned a landed estate; two of her aunts married wealthy men; and in 1839 Charlotte herself was married to a prosperous solicitor in Gloucestershire.

Apparent security, however, could change very quickly. Soon after Charlotte’s wedding her father’s printing business failed, he was sent to prison for debt and was stripped of all property. The last years of his life were survived on a small pension in the home of his daughter and son-in-law.

Bankruptcy and indebtedness were indeed a constant threat: if a bank failed, its notes were worthless – and much of the currency in circulation was issued by private banks; the system of limited liability was not in common use, so the failure of a business could bring ruin to its owner; and a batch of unpaid bills could bring a cascade of misfortune.

The position was even more precarious for women. Until quite recent times, a married woman was identified with her husband, with no separate legal or financial existence, while unmarried women had limited opportunities for a meaningful career which might enable them to support themselves. Married, unmarried or widowed, most women were obliged to rely upon their families. When Charlotte Frances’ husband Philip Robert was taken ill, he was entitled to a pension, but after his death there was no further official or government support; and her unmarried daughters Ada and Viola were equally dependent upon the goodwill of their more prosperous kinfolk.

One question may always be raised of any Australian whose family arrived within the last 250 years: “Why did they come?” For convicts, it was compulsory; very often, notably in the years of gold rush, it was the hope of sudden fortune. For Charlotte’s brother Henry Edmund Dana, educated as a gentleman but with few opportunities at home, it was the hope of better prospects than could be expected in England – and for Charlotte and her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny it was a means to escape the social and financial embarrassment of a dramatic and well-publicised divorce.

Regardless of such an erratic beginning, however, that second marriage was affectionate and companionable, and even after Philip Robert’s sad slow death Charlotte was able to enjoy the support of her daughters and the successes of her son Philip and her grandchildren. In a letter of 1858, her father-in-law wrote in praise of her patience and courage, and of her determination to make the best of everything.

Richard Rafe Champion de Crespigny
and Christine Anne Young nee Champion de Crespigny
December 2020

2020 Accentuate the Positive – a year of family history progress

Jill Ball, who blogs as GeniAus (, encourages us to look back on our family history research in 2020 and Accentuate the Positive. She gives 20 prompts; here’s my response:

  1. An elusive ancestor I found was: I followed my tree further back and found some new Huguenot ancestors: My gunpowder-manufacturing Huguenot forebears. I also made some progress on my husband’s tree through DNA and detective work. I wrote about this at Following the clues.
  2. A great collection of newspaper articles I found documented my great grandmother’s social life through the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic. She coached debutantes for their coming-out balls. Although a Victory Ball in Sydney was cancelled because of the pandemic, balls in Adelaide continued. It seems risky behaviour. I think they didn’t wear masks: A masked ball.
  3. A geneajourney I planned but didn’t take was : I had hoped to visit Mildura, Wentworth, and Renmark, the district where my Cudmore and Gunn forebears lived. My 3rd great grandmother, for example, died near Renmark and the plaque from her grave seems to be on display at “Olivewood”, the Chaffey Brothers historic homestead-museum, at Renmark.: Margaret Gunn (1819 – 1863).
  4. I located an important record with the release of new German records, the civil registration death record for my great grandfather Fritz Hermann Boltz, 1879-1954.
  5. A newly found family member shared … I often receive comments about my online research journal from fellow family historians and occasionally connect with new cousins. I enjoy the feedback and it’s always a pleasure to make a new connection.
  6. A geneasurprise I received was the digitisation of my 4th great grandfather Rowland Mainwaring’s publications. I have yet to explore these fully but I have started to research his naval career at Midshipman Rowland Mainwaring.
  7. My 2020 social media post that I was particularly proud of was completing my write-up of our 2019 trip to the UK: UK trip 2019
  8. I made a new genimate who worked with me to solve a paternity mystery for a cousin’s DNA: Using the What Are the Odds Tool version 2.
  9. A new piece of technology or skill I mastered was the What Are The Odds tool version 2.
  10. I joined two surname related groups: the Clan Gunn and the Clann Caomhánach (Cavenagh).
  11. A genealogy education session or event from which I learnt something new was a presentation on Deductive Chromosome Mapping by Blaine Bettinger. I could not wait to try the technique: DNA Technique: Deductive Chromosome Mapping.
  12. Blog posts that taught me something new were by Roberta Estes and by Debbie Kennett on small DNA matches; I applied the analysis to my own and my parents’ DNA matches: Small matches in AncestryDNA.
  13. A DNA discovery I made was a connection to Greg’s Darby forebears which helped to confirm his great grandfather’s, Henry Sullivan’s, birth mother and her father: Following the Clues.
  14. I taught a genimate how to… My most popular posts are those in which I explain DNA techniques. In 2020 my three most popular posts were on using the What Are the Odds Tool, Deductive Chromosome Mapping, and how to use the book-making tool provided by MyCanvas.
  15. A brick wall I demolished was the birth mother of Henry Sullivan. I have been working on this since we first started our family history research but DNA has made the difference and confirmed my hypothesis: Poor Little Chap.
  16. A great site I visited was the Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland at I have yet to write up some of my findings at that site though I used it when researching my Grueber gunpowder-manufacturing Huguenot forebears.
  17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was Mark Bostridge’s biography of Florence Nightingale.
  18. Zoom gave me an opportunity to watch some interesting presentations, in particular the National Library of Australia’s presentation on the Australian Joint Copying Project: What does the AJCP Mean to YOU!!
  19. I am excited for 2021 because – there is always more family history to research. I have so many projects in progress and far too many tabs open in my browser.
  20. Another positive I would like to share is: my father and I have been working for some years on a biography of my 3rd great grandmother, Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana. It’s nearly finished and we are just about to publish it.

In 2020 I have published 103 posts so far (I expect it will be 105 by the end of the year: this post and one about the new book).

My family tree at has 11,214 people; 2,338 images; 328 stories; 17,736 records attached. In March, it was 10,481 people.

My tree completeness to 10 generations (my childrens’ 7th great grandparents) remains at 34%, as I reported in March earlier this year, though I know the names and some other details of 2 more of their fourth great grandparents. I also know about 46 more of their 8th to 13th great grandparents, but that is a small fraction of their forbears that far back. There’s lots more research to do.

Direct ancestors whose names I know are coloured; blanks represent those whose names are unknown to me.
Tree created using DNAPainter.

Related posts

My gunpowder-manufacturing Huguenot forebears

I have quite a number of Huguenot forebears, among them the Champion de Crespignys and Fonnereaus. Recently, pottering about in a different branch of the family, I came across several more, including a group of gunpowder manufacturers.

One of my 3rd great grandmothers was Charlotte Champion Crespigny née Dana. Her great grandfather was an Irish cleric, the Rev. Dr Grueber. Tracing his family led me to Huguenot refugees from Zurich to merchant bankers of Lyons, and from these to gunpowder manufacturers, with factories near London and in Ireland.

Thus through the Dana line, my eighth great grandfather was a Frenchman called Daniel Grueber, the son of Jean Henry Grueber (1585 – 1683), a merchant banker of Lyons and Anne Grueber née Theze. Jean Henry was the son of Jean Grueber, described as ‘Marchand banquier allemand à Lyon, Bourgeois de Zurich’, who married Jeanne Barrian in Lyons on 22 May 1576.

At Lyons on 3 December 1657 Daniel Grueber married Suzanne de Montginot. Their children, all born in Lyons, were:

  • Francis Grueber 1658–1730
  • Anne Grueber 1660–
  • Suzanne Grueber 1661– 1737
  • Daniel Grueber 1664–1670
  • Jean Henry Grueber 1666–
  • Francoise Grueber 1669–
  • Marguerite Grueber 1669–
  • Nicholas Grueber 1671–1743 (my seventh great grandfather)

On 21 November 1682 Daniel Grueber, Susanne his wife, their sons Francis, John Henry and Nicholas, and their daughters Susanna, Margarita and Frances, received formal letters of ‘denization‘, conferring on them the status of ‘denizen’. This was similar to present-day permanent residency. A denizen was neither a subject (with nationality) nor an alien, but had the important right to own land. On the same date Philip le Chenevix and his sister Magdaelena Chenevix also received letters of denization; Philip Chenevix married Suzanne Grueber in 1693.

From 1684 Daniel Grueber was leasing both gunpowder and leather mills along Faversham Creek in Kent, 48 miles east of London. Explosives had been manufactured at Faversham since at least the 1570s. There is a connection between gunpowder and leather: considerable quantities of leather were needed to protect the gunpowder from accidental detonation during its production, transportation and storage.

Stonebridge Pond Originally part of Faversham Creek, Stonebridge Pond became a mill pond for a flour mill which was later used in the gunpowder industry. Photograph from

Daniel had possibly gained experience in gunpowder manufacture in Lyons though his immediate relatives, including his father, seem to have been merchants and bankers, not manufacturers.

Daniel had a contract to provide gunpowder to the British government’s Board of Ordnance, in partnership with James Tiphaine, another Huguenot refugee. Besides those at Faversham, Daniel had mills at Ospringe and Preston, both places within a mile of Faversham.

Daniel Grueber was naturalised on 2 July 1685 together with his three sons. Daniel was described as born at Lyons in France, son of John Henry Grueber by Anna These, his wife. ‘Naturalisation’, requiring an act of parliament be passed, granted all the legal rights of English citizenship except political rights (for example, the right to hold political office).

Daniel Grueber died in 1692 and his will was probated 15 February 1693 by his sons Francis and Nicholas. Francis continued the gunpowder business in Kent. In 1745 his son went bankrupt and eventually the mills were purchased by the Ordnance Board in 1759.

Nicholas Grueber emigrated to Ireland and had arrived by Michaelmas 1698 when he became a Freeman of Dublin under the terms of the 1661 Act of Parliament to encourage Protestants to settle in Ireland.

Nicholas Grueber’s occupation on his arrival was merchant. However, in 1717 he was awarded a 21-year contract to supply gunpowder to the government. In 1719 he established Dublin’s first large-scale gunpowder manufacturing business at Corkagh in south Dublin.

On 19 May 1703 Nicholas Grueber (the record has ‘Grubert’) married Marguerite Moore at L’Eglise Française de St Patrick (part of St Patrick’s Cathedral set aside for the use of Huguenots).

Nicholas was a merchant, son of Mr. Grubert and Madle Monginot, Marguerite was the daughter of the Reverend Moore, a minister of the English church.

Nicholas Grueber and his wife Marguerite had six children baptised at the Nouvelle Église de Ste Marie:

  • Nicholas Grueber 1704–1705
  • Elizabeth Grueber 1706–
  • Susana Maria Grueber 1707–
  • Nicholas Francis Grueber 1709–
  • Arthur Grueber 1713–1802 (my 6th great grandfather)
  • William Grueber 1720–

Of the four sons of Nicholas, one died in infancy, one followed him into business and the other two attended university and became clergymen in the Protestant Church of Ireland.

My sixth great grandfather Arthur Grueber was a pupil of the Anglican divine Thomas Sheridan, one of Jonathan Swift’s friends. Grueber studied at Trinity College, Dublin, gaining his MA in 1737 and DD in 1757. He was ordained as a deacon in 1736.

In 1754 Dr Arthur Grueber was appointed headmaster of the Royal School Armagh. The school flourished under his administration, becoming one of the finest schools in Ireland. A notable pupil was the Irish cleric and astronomer James Archibald Hamilton (1747 – 1815).

Grueber later abandoned teaching to become a bookseller and publisher, in this meeting with less success: by 1793 he was bankrupt. Arthur Grueber died in 1802.

Portrait of Rev. Arthur Grueber,  my sixth great grandfather. The miniature, owned by my father, has been handed down through the Dana family.


THE CAVENAGHS OF KILDARE by Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh

Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh (1856 – 1935), a first cousin of my great grandmother Kathleen Cudmore née Cavenagh (1874 – 1951), was the son of Sir Orfeur Cavenagh (1820 – 1891). He was interested in family history and heraldry and he spent a considerable amount of time researching Cavenagh family history in the Irish National Archives.

W. O. Cavenagh

W.O. Cavenagh presented his research to the Office of Arms in Ireland and the original manuscript and typescript (about 175 pages) is held by the Genealogical Department, Dublin, Ireland; it is much used by Cavenagh family historians. His research has also been microfilmed by FamilySearch.

Other family history documents, including many fine heraldic illustrations, are in the possession of his grand-daughter.

Some of the family history recorded by W.O. Cavenagh

Some of his research on the Cavenaghs of Kildare has been transcribed by another cousin, who has given me permission to share it.

Family Search

  • Cavenagh, W O. Cavenagh Manuscript. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1949. (Family History Library microfilm 100178.)

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Midshipman Rowland Mainwaring

In May 1795, at the age of twelve, Rowland Mainwaring (1782 – 1862), my fourth great grandfather, joined the Royal Navy as a ‘young gentleman’, an aspiring officer. He was under the patronage of Admiral Sir John Laforey. His first ship was the Jupiter, a 50-gun fourth-rate ship of the line commanded by Captain William Lechmere.

The Art Gallery of Ballarat has an 1885 painting of the Jupiter by the Norwegian artist Johan Bennetter. Disguised as an East Indiaman, the
Jupiter is being pursued by the French frigate Preneuse. The Jupiter has
fired into the French ship’s rigging, the first shot of their engagement.

In the same year he became a midshipman on the Scipio, a 64-gun third rater, serving on the West Indies Station. He also served for a short while on the Beaulieu, a 40-gun fifth-rate frigate, and on the Ganges a 74 gun third-rater. In just over a year Mainwaring had served in four ships, ranging in size from 40 to 74 guns. The Beaulieu had a notional complement of 320 officers and men and the Ganges 590 (naval vessels of the period were usually short-handed).

In 1796 Mainwaring transferred to HMS Majestic, a 74-gun third-rater under Captain George Blagdon Westcott. The Majestic was taking Admiral Sir John Laforey back to England from the Leeward Islands Station. In June 1796, John Laforey died of yellow fever aboard the Majestic on his return voyage to Portsmouth.

HMS Majestic under Westcott then joined the Channel Fleet, and was present at the Spithead Mutiny in April and May 1797. The mutiny at Spithead (an anchorage near Portsmouth) lasted from 16 April to 15 May 1797. It was one of two major mutinies in 1797. Sailors on 16 ships in the Channel Fleet protested against the living conditions aboard Royal Navy vessels and demanded a pay rise, better victualling, increased shore leave, and compensation for sickness and injury. During the mutiny the mutineers maintained regular naval routine and discipline aboard their ships (mostly with their regular officers), allowed some ships to leave for convoy escort duty or patrols, and promised to suspend the mutiny and go to sea immediately if French ships were spotted heading for English shores. Because of mistrust, especially over pardons for the mutineers, the negotiations broke down, and minor incidents broke out, with several unpopular officers sent to shore and others treated with signs of deliberate disrespect.

The mutiny ended with an agreement that saw a royal pardon for all crews, reassignment of some of the unpopular officers, a pay raise and abolition of the purser’s pound. Afterwards, the mutiny was to become nicknamed the “breeze at Spithead”.

HMS Majestic then joined the Fleet in the Mediterranean and assisted Rear-admiral Nelson in a search for for the French fleet.

The Battle of the Nile was fought from 1 to 3 August 1798 at Aboukir Bay, on the Nile Delta, 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Alexandria. The British fleet, led by Nelson, decisively defeated the French under Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d’Aigalliers.

At this time Rowland Mainwaring was 15 years old. He never forgot the experience and frequently mentioned the anniversary in his diary entries. In later years he commissioned the marine artist Thomas Luny to paint the battle, himself sketching what he remembered of the scene, in particular the terrible moment when the flagship of the French Navy, L’Orient, was hit by a cannonball in her gunpowder magazine and exploded. The painting by Luny showing the battle at 10 p.m. on 1 August 1798 still hangs in Whitmore Hall.

The painting of the Battle of the Nile by Thomas Luny commissioned by Rowland Mainwaring still hangs at Whitmore Hall

Although it was late afternoon and the British fleet had no accurate charts of the bay, Nelson ordered an immediate attack on the French who were unprepared and unable to manoeuvre as the British split into two divisions and sailed down either side of the French line, capturing all five ships of the vanguard and engaging the French 120-gun flagship Orient in the centre. At 21:00, Orient caught fire and exploded, killing most of the crew and ending the main combat. Sporadic fighting continued for the next two days, until all of the French ships had been captured, destroyed or had fled; eleven French ships of the line and two frigates were eliminated.

 Map of ship positions and movements during the Battle of Aboukir Bay, August 1-2, 1798. British ships are red, French ships are blue. Intermediate ship positions are shown in pale red/blue. Based on a map from Intelligence in WarJohn Keegan, 2003 and retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. I have shown the positions of the Majestic with black stars.

Majestic was towards the rear of the British line, and did not come into action until late in the battle. Together with HMS Bellerophon, Majestic, passed by the melee and advanced on the so far unengaged French centre. In the darkness and smoke Majestic collided with the French ship Heureux and became entangled in her rigging. Majestic then came under heavy fire from the French ship Tonnant. Unable to stop in time, Westcott’s jib boom became entangled with Tonnant‘s shroud. Trapped for several minutes, Majestic suffered heavy casualties. The captain of the Majestic, George Westcott was hit by a musket ball in the throat and killed. Lieutenant Robert Cuthbert took command and was confirmed as acting captain by Nelson the day after the battle.

Tonnant under fire from HMS Majestic at the Battle of the Nile  by Louis Lebreton. In the collection of Royal Museums Greenwich.

The Battle of the Nile was a great defeat for the French. The Royal Navy lost 218 killed and 677 wounded; the French losses were 2,000–5,000 killed and wounded, 3,000–3,900 captured, 9 ships of the line captured, and two ships of the line and two frigates destroyed.

The strategic situation between the two nations’ forces in the Mediterranean was reversed, and the Royal Navy gained a dominant position that it retained for the rest of the war.

A medal was issued for those who took part in the Battle of the Nile. Rowland Mainwaring claimed his medal only in 1847 and received it in 1850 with a medal for the Siege of Copenhagen. I am not sure why he left it so late to claim these honours.

Great Britain. Battle of the Nile, Davison’s Medal 1798. Bronze, 47.5mm. By C.H. Küchler. Hope standing left on a rocky promontory, holding an oval medallion depicting Nelson, rev. The British Fleet assembled in Aboukir Bay preparing to engage the French: ALMIGHTY GOD HAS BLESSED HIS MAJESTY’S ARMS.; VICTORY OF THE NILE AUGUST 1. 1798. in ex. BHM 447, Eimer 890. Medals were given in gold to admirals and captains, silver to officers, gilt bronze to petty officers and bronze to all others. Image from

In 1826 the English poetess Mrs Felicia Hemans wrote her well-known ‘Casabianca‘, which begins:

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but him had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.

The poem commemorates the young son of the commander of the French ship L’Orient who refused to desert his post without orders from his father.

The Destruction of “L’Orient” at the Battle of the Nile, 1 August 1798 by George Arnald. In the collection of the Royal Museums Greenwich (bhc0509)

(I will write separately about the rest of Rowland Mainwaring’s career.)

Parallels with the fictional Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey

Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey are fictional Royal Navy officers of the Napoleonic war years. Hornblower is the protagonist of a series of novels and stories by C. S. Forester published 1937 to 1967; Jack Aubrey is a fictional character in the Aubrey–Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian published 1969 to 2004. Hornblower and Aubrey are both a little older than Rowland Mainwaring.

In Forester’s novel Mr. Midshipman Hornblower his hero has that rank between 1794 and 1799. In his fictional career Hornblower served under the famous admiral Sir Edward Pellew; Mainwaring also served under Pellew, evidently with respect and admiration, for he christened his second son ‘Edward Pellew’.

In Master and Commander O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey, at the time lieutenant on HMS Leander, earns a silver Nile medal. The medal is mentioned every time Aubrey puts on his dress uniform.

Sources and notes

  • O’Byrne, William R. A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty’s Navy, from the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet to that of Lieutenant, Inclusive. 1849. Page 711. Retrieved through
  • Marshall, John. Royal Naval Biography : Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted, Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes … with Copious Addenda: Captains. Commanders. 1832. Pages 126 – 130. Retrieved through Google Books.
  • Bradford, Ernle. Nelson: The Essential Hero. Open Road Media, 2014. Retrieved through Google Books.
  • Cavenagh-Mainwaring, James Gordon. The Mainwarings of Whitmore and Biddulph in the County of Stafford; an account of the family, and its connections by marriage and descent, with special reference to the manor of Whitmore, with appendices, pedigrees and illustrations. 1934. Pages 104, 114, and 115. Retrieved through
  • Cavenagh-Mainwaring, Christine and Britton, Heather, (editor.) Whitmore Hall : from 1066 to Waltzing Matilda. Adelaide Peacock Publications, 2013. Page 82.

Note: Although the birthdate of my fourth great grandfather Rowland Mainwaring is usually given as 31 December 1783, he was baptised at St George, Hanover Square London on 18 January 1783 and thus his date of birth is actually 31 December 1782. [City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: SJSS/PR/5/16 retrieved through]

Pudding memories

My maternal grandparents were German, so perhaps not surprisingly our family Christmas traditions were conducted along German lines. On  Nikolaustag, celebrated on 6 December, we were given some little gifts. These appeared miraculously in a pair of your shoes, which you’d left outside your door on going to bed the night before. Naughty children were told that their shoes would contain only a lump of coal. We opened our larger presents on Christmas Eve, Weihnachtsabend, not on Christmas Day.

The meal we ate on Christmas Eve after attending a Christmas Eve carol service and opening presents, was usually cold but had taken on an Australian twist. We would have smoked salmon, cold turkey, ham, and salads. These days we also have prawns. We finished the meal with a pudding, which was definitely an Australian rather than a German tradition.

I don’t remember my grandmother cooking the pudding but I do remember her other Christmas cooking including pfefferkuchen, s-kuchen and stollen. There was lots of Christmas food throughout the month of December. 

When serving the pudding on Christmas Eve I do remember that once my grandmother was so liberal with the brandy for the flambé that it seemed the blue flames would never stop. One year she made an ice-cream pudding. I’m not sure whether this was quite properly German or even Australian, we only ever had this once.

I do like rich fruit-and-suet pudding served with brandy butter. In 1985, the year after I was married, I took part in a Christmas-cooking course presented by an English Cordon Bleu instructor. One of the dishes she demonstrated was a Christmas pudding made with suet, and I’ve been making it every Christmas since, for thirty-five years.

Advertising (1985, September 22). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), p. 12. Retrieved from The teacher was Julia Wilkins who had given an interview to The Canberra Times in September: The Good Times – Cordon bleu chef loves teaching (1985, September 19). The Canberra Times, p. 8 (a supplement to The Canberra Times). Retrieved from

This afternoon my son Peter and I made this year’s pudding, two actually. We had soaked the dried fruit in brandy for a week first.

The recipe is very reliable and the puddings are always delicious.  

2005 pudding with a summer pudding as well

Newly-released German records: Fritz Hermann Boltz, 1879-1954 has added to its collection Berlin civil-registration death records from 1874 to 1955. My great grandfather Fritz Boltz died in 1954; I searched for his record, hoping that the official document would tell me something more than I already knew.

My great grandparents Fritz and Anna Boltz about 1952; two years before his death

In 1874 the Prussian Government passed a law governing the collection of information about civil status, including the registration of deaths. This was the “Gesetz über die Beurkundung des Personenstandes und die Form der Eheschließung”.

Section 56 in the Fifth section, Notarization of deaths, requires that “Every death must be reported to the registrar of the district in which the death occurred no later than the next day of the week.” Section 57 says it must be reported by the head of the family or if that person not available “the person in whose apartment or dwelling the death occurred”. Section 58 provides for official investigation into the death. Section 59 prescribes the information to be provided to register the death:

  • First name and family name, status or trade and place of residence of the notifying party;
  • Place, day and hour of death;
  • First name and family name, religion, age, status or trade, place of residence and place of birth of the deceased;
  • First name and family name of his spouse, or a note that the deceased was single;
  • First name and surname, status or trade and place of residence of the deceased’s parents.

If the information is unknown, this must be noted against the relevant entry.

Section 60 states that no funeral may occur until the death has been

The legislation was amended in 1920 and again in 1937 but apparently without changing the requirements for death registrations.

My great grandfather’s death was registered in Dahlem, Berlin on 7 April 1954, the day after he died.

Name Fritz Hermann Boltz Gender männlich (Male) Age 74 Birth Date 13/Juli/1879 (13 Jul 1879) Death Date 06/04/1954 (6 Apr 1954) Civil Registration Office Zehlendorf von Berlin Death Place Berlin Berlin Deutschland (Germany) Spouse Hedwig Anna Berta Boltz Certificate Number 730
Landesarchiv Berlin; Berlin, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Laufendenummer: 1940 Berlin, Germany, Selected Deaths, 1874-1920 retrieved from

His occupation was ‘Schulhausmeister im Ruhestande’: Retired school caretaker.

It was noted he was ‘evangelisch’, evangelical, that is, Protestant.

He was living in Steglitz, Stubenrauchplatz 1. I knew he had retired and was no longer living at the school in Florastraße where he worked as caretaker, but I did not know where my great grandparents were living at the time.

Initially I could not find this Platz on a map; it was renamed to Jochemplatz in 1962. Their flat was on the corner of Jochemplatz and Florastraße, only 60 metres from where they had lived at Florastraße 13 when Fritz Boltz was school caretaker. The school is still in existence. There is a small park in the triangle bounded by Jochemplatz.

from Google maps showing my great grandparents’ addresses at Florastraße 13 and Stubenrauchplatz 1 which has now been renamed Jochemplatz.

The 1952 photo above seems to be from their balcony overlooking Florastraße.

from Google street view: image captured July 2008. The balcony of my great grandparents can be seen I think towards the right looking onto the trees on the top floor.

My great grandfather died at 2:30 on 6 April 1954 at Nikolassee, Kurstraße 11. This is the address for Evangelisches Krankenhaus Hubertus, now a small general hospital of 200 beds.

Map generated by Google maps showing Stubenrauchstraße 1 now Jochemplatz 1, my great grandparents’ former residence at Florastraße 13, the hospital at Nikolassee, Kurstraße 11, and the residence of the informant of the death: Willi Lindemann, residing in Berlin-Steglitz, Grunewaldstraße 4. The hospital was about 9 kilometers away from my great grandparents’ home; Grunewaldstraße 4 was less than 1 kilometer from where they lived.

Fritz Hermann Boltz, ‘Der Verstorbene’, the deceased, was born on 13 July 1878 at ‘Götz, Kreis Zauch-Belzig (Standesamt Götz Nr. 12)’, that is, at Götz in the district of Zauch-Belzig (Registry office Götz Number 12).

He was married to Hedwig Anna Berta Boltz, born Bertz.

Fritz Hermann Boltz married Hedwig Anna Berta Bertz on 26 April 1909 in Brandenburg, Germany.

The death was entered from a verbal report from a businessman, Willi Lindemann, residing in Berlin-Steglitz, Grunewaldstraße 4. The reporter is known [presumably to the deceased]. He stated that he had been informed of the death from his own knowledge.

‘Todesursache Krebs der Vorsteherdrüse, Knochenmetastasierung’: Cause of death: cancer of the prostate gland, bone metastasis.

The death certificate does not mention children. Fritz and Anna had only one child, my grandfather Hans. He had emigrated to Australia in 1949.

My mother does not recall Willi Lindemann but remembers that her paternal grandparents had several close friends, Willi Lindemann presumably one of these. His address, in Grunewaldstraße, was close to theirs in Florastraße.

Fritz’s widow, my great grandmother Anna, continued to live in Berlin until 1959, when she emigrated to Australia. She lived in Canberra with her son Hans until her death on 29 April 1961.

The new collection of death records from Berlin has several of my relatives, and I hope to be able to learn more about my family history from them.  Already, besides the death of Fritz Boltz, I have found Anna’s mother Henriette who died in 1942 and learned her father’s name.


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Going bush in 1987

In the 1980s I worked for the Domestic Policy Division of the Department of Aviation as an auditor for the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme. The Scheme, still running, subsidises a weekly passenger and goods air-transport service to remote settlements in the Australian outback.

As an auditor, I travelled to Port Augusta, Alice Springs, Katherine, Darwin, and Wyndham, near Kununurra. Although I spent most of my time in airport hangers checking account books, the glimpses I had of the countryside made me want to see more.

In 1987 my mother and I decided to have a holiday in the outback, visiting some of the places I had passed through. My father and my husband Greg at first pooh-poohed the idea on the grounds that one gum tree looked like any other. However, fear of missing out – disguised as marital duty – persuaded them to join us, and my father extended the program to include a week’s sailing in the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, near the Great Barrier Reef.

In the 1980s Australian air travel was expensive, but besides normal destination-to-destination fairs, Ansett, one of the domestic carriers, offered a ‘Kangaroo Airpass’ charged by distance. In 1987 for $600 you could fly 6,000 kilometers. 10,000 kilometres cost $950.

In late August 1987 we set out from Canberra, first stop Sydney. From there we flew on to Proserpine, in Queensland. Laden with groceries for our bare-boating experience, we continued by minibus to the port town of Airlie Beach, where we’d hired a 33-foot sailing boat called ‘Panache’.

‘Panache’ was a bit cramped and its engine was unreliable, but we had great fun, with perfect weather and some wonderful sailing.

Leaving ‘Panache’ at Hamilton Island Marina, we flew north to Cairns. There we hired a car for a drive to Kuranda in the hinterland. The town of Kuranda is surrounded by tropical rainforest and is on the escarpment high above Cairns.

 From Cairns we flew on to Darwin, in the Northern Territory. On the following day we hired a car to drive to ‘Yellow Waters’, a resort in Kakadu National Park. The hire car, unfortunately, had a faulty fuel gauge and we ran out of petrol half way.  Greg hitched a ride to buy enough to get us going; my father and mother and I had a tedious wait in the tropical scrub at the roadside. Told about this, the hire car people seemed quite relaxed and unconcerned. It was around then that we learned a local joke about the NT. The letters stand not for ‘Northern Territory’, but for Not Today, Not Tomorrow, Not Tuesday, and Not Thursday.

‘Yellow Waters’ made it worthwhile, though, especially a dawn boat ride we took through the lagoons. The birdlife was was superb; the crocodiles elegant but sinister.

From Kakadu we returned to Darwin and the next day drove to Katherine, 300 kilometres southeast. In Katherine we walked along a trail to view the scenery. We got a bit bushed and turned back, but it didn’t matter, for in the afternoon we had a boat trip on the Gorge itself, quite magnificent and worth the long drive.

 From Darwin we flew to Broome in Western Australia, once a pearling port. We stayed at the Hotel Continental, the ‘Conti’, a few kilometres from Cable Beach, where the submarine telegraph cable from Java came ashore in 1889. I had a swim there, but the water was churned up and – I imagined – full of sea snakes, so it was really only a brief splash. The town of Broome has certainly changed since we were there, but I’m sure the earthy red colour of the landscape and the turquoise sea are the same: quite memorable.

 From Broome we flew back to Darwin and then on to Alice Springs.

At Alice Springs we visited the Telegraph Station. My step grandfather George Symes was very interested in Charles Todd, the astronomer and meteorologist who planned the telegraph line linking Adelaide to Darwin. Alice Springs was named after Todd’s wife. Symes began a full-scale biography of Todd. Though this remained unfinished, he wrote the entry for Todd in the ‘Australian Dictionary of Biography’.

 From Alice Springs we drove to Yulara Resort near Ayers Rock (now often called Uluru), 450 kilometres southwest. The five-hour drive was was a marvellous experience: how vast the inland seems!

In those days you could climb Ayers Rock, so we did, and we signed the book at the top to prove it. Since then the rock has been closed to climbers.

We flew home from Yulara to Canberra, arriving with only a few hundred kilometres left of our 10,000 kilometre air tickets.

It was a memorable holiday. Even though the air-pass scheme has gone and the socially-lubricating bottle-a-day of gin would now cost more, I’d do it all again tomorrow.

A map of our 1987 itinerary generated by