My husband Greg’s great aunt was Mary Ann Nichols, formerly Lack nee Whiteman (1884-1945). She was the daughter of Robert Henry Whiteman (1839-1884) and Sarah Jane Young formerly Whiteman nee Way (1863-1898).
When I first started researching our family history Greg and I looked through a postcard collection that his father Peter Young (1920-1988) was given by Greg’s grandfather Cecil Young (1898-1975). At first we didn’t know who the people mentioned on the cards were. Nor did we recognise the place names. When we saw ‘Timor’ on one of the cards we thought it was a reference to the island of Timor to the north of Australia, not – what it was – a gold mining town in central Victoria!
The notes from our research 25 years ago show some of the things we learned from reading the cards carefully and looking carefully at the postmarks and addresses.
Conclusions from the transcribed postcard collection. This collection was passed from Cecil to his son Peter. The postcards were mainly addressed to Cecil’s brother Jack. From at least July 1906 to after 1911, Jack and Cecil lived with a Mrs GE Wilkens in Lower Homebush. Bob Whiteman (Jack and Cecil’s half brother) referred to them as Aunty and Uncle. He also referred to Lora (a daughter?). Mr George E Wilkens is a teacher at Lower Homebush school from at least 1899 to at least 1916 according to Wise’s Victorian Post Office Directory. In ‘Avoca the Early Years’ a George Wilkens is mentioned playing the cornet. Cecil and Jack’s father, John Young, was not living with his sons. In 1907 he was in Barringhup, Victoria. In 1909 he was at Burnt Creek or Middlebridge. After 1911 Jack and Cecil moved to Clunes. At one stage they are with or near Aunt Harriet and her children. At another stage Jack lived in Service Street Clunes. According to another post card Cecil lived with a Mr Thomas, Fraser Street, Clunes. Bob Whiteman (Jack and Cecil’s half brother) was living at Moriarty in Tasmania at least between 1906 and 1911. Jack and Cecil’s half sister, Mary, lived at Homebush in 1909.
We have since learned much more. We now know that Mrs G.E. Wilkins was Charlotte Wilkins nee Young (1861-1925), who was married to George Wilkins (1857-1944), a schoolteacher at Homebush, Victoria, not far from Avoca. Charlotte was the sister of John Young (1856-1928), father of Cecil and Jack. She was the twin sister of Harriet Richards nee Young (1861-1926) who lived at Clunes.
Mary Ann Whiteman was born 19 August 1884 at Parkes, New South Wales, the second child of Sarah Jane and Robert Henry Whiteman, a miner. Robert Henry Whiteman had died of pneumonia in February 1884, six months before Mary was born. Mary had an older brother, Robert Henry (Bob) 1883-1957).
In September 1894 Sarah Jane married John Young, a gold miner, in Melbourne, Victoria. Mary was then aged ten and her brother Bob aged 11. Sarah Jane had earlier given birth out of wedlock to another child (Leslie Leister) in 1894, but left him in Parkes to be brought up by her mother and sister. It seems that Bob and Mary came to Victoria to live with John Young and Sarah Jane.
John Young and Sarah Jane had three children together:
- Caroline 1895-1895 born and died at Timor aged one month
- John Percy (Jack) 1896-1918 born at Bowenvale near Timor
- Cecil Ernest 1898-1975 born at Rokewood, Victoria
Sarah Jane died of postpartum haemorrhage the day after Cecil was born.
John Young was left a widower with two step-children, Bob aged 14 and Mary aged 13, and two infants: Jack, almost two, and the newborn Cecil. It appears that John’s sisters looked after the children. Jack and Cecil grew up mainly in Homebush, cared for by their aunt Charlotte.
John Young with his step children Bob and Mary Whiteman and his sons Jack and Cecil Young. Photograph taken 1898-9. A copy of this photograph came from the Tunks family (relatives on the Young side) but a copy is also held by the Way family (relatives of the children’s mother).
The post card album
There are four postcards in the collection signed by Mary. It seems that Mary called Charlotte ‘Aunty’ and spent time at Homebush.
It is hard to tell in what order the postcards were sent. Mary, it appears, was living with a Mrs Thomas in Stawell (75 kilometres west of Homebush and Avoca). She was presumably Mrs Thomas’s servant.
My address c/o Mrs Thomas Childe Street Stawell
Dear Jack I am sending you this to let you see that I have not forgotten you, I do wish the you Cecil would write me a letter and tell Aunty to write also I do wish I could see you. I hope to come down at Xmas time. Love to all your loving sister Mary.
Addressed to Master J Young c/o Mrs Wilkins Post Office Lr Homebush
Dear Aunty Just a line to let you know that I will be coming down to see you on Friday morning. Mr T is in Avoca and Mrs T is going down so she is going to pay my fare and I am coming down to see you. Hope all are, love from Mary.
My dear brother Jack. Just a card hoping you are all well as it leaves us all nicely at present, how do you like being at Clunes. I think that you will like it better than Homebush. It will be livelier for you, give our love to Harriet and all the children, how did you spend Xmas. Well dear wish you all a happy new year, with love from Jim and Mary.
[In 1911 Mary married James Theodore Lack (1887-1971) at St Arnaud, 60 kilometres north of Avoca. I assume this is Jim.]
The fourth card is to Miss Eva Hogan (1889-1913). She lived at Homebush and in 1910 married James John Cross (1886-1963), also a relative of Greg’s, his great uncle, but on a different branch of the family.
Dear Eva Just a line hoping you all are doing well, & did not get washed away. Tell dad Gus wrote to Charlie to give him a show if he gets it, that is all we know at present. When are you coming to see us. Give love to all from all yours Mary.
Addressed to Miss E Hogan Bromley near Dunolly and postmarked 6 August 1909.
[I have not yet worked out who Gus and Charlie are or what “give him a show if he gets it” could refer to.]
Mary and Jim Lack had three boys.
In 1925 she and Jim Lack were divorced. In the same year she remarried Henry White Nichols (1873-1959), a widower. They had one daughter.
John Young lived with the Nichols family in Melbourne for the last years of his life. He died at the age of 72 in 1928.
In 1945 Mary died aged 63.
John Young and Mary Nichols are buried together in Footscray cemetery.
The unmarked grave of John Young and Mary Ann Nichols, Church of England section, Footscray Cemetery FO-CE*D***755