Upping Sticks: What happened to the Black children?

Updated: 2 January 2016

I recently spent time reading through my Grandad’s notes on the Black family again.  I thought I might detail what happened to Robert and Rachel Black’s children – both from Grandad and his second cousin Jane’s research and what I’ve subsequently found out.

Robert William (1848-1931)

My gg-grandfather was sent back to Ireland in 1872 to marry my gg-grandmother Emily Kinley Wilson who had been born in Pennsylvania.  I’ve detailed their life and his partnership with Robert Beattie in Black, Beattie & Co at the Criterion.

Greacen Joseph (1850-1932)

Greacen was Jane’s grandfather.  And while Grandad has great notes about his children (Jane’s father, aunts and uncles), he hasn’t written anything on Greacen himself.  So this is a potted biog from my own notes.

Greacen lived in Akaroa for many years, farming there and running a shop  named Criterion like his father’s in Christchurch.  From local paper reports it would appear his brother Richard on and off too.

Greacen diversified his farming activities to the East Cape and moved to Gisborne in 1905.  He was a noted collector and his collections can now be found in the Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne.

Greacen married Mary McKay in 1879 and had 8 children at Akaroa, of whom 6 survived to adulthood.  I’m in touch with Jane’s family, so if you’re after more information on Greacen, get in touch and I’ll pass it along.

Henry / “Harry” (1852-1899)

Harry started out working for his father and then went out on his own.  A letter dated 9 July 1879 from Greacen says:

Harry is on his own hook now, but I don’t think he is making a pile.  I think he flirts a good deal up in Christchurch.  I don’t see much of him myself.

Grandad didn’t find much more on Harry in or near Christchurch, but his alleged womanizing ways were compounded by his drinking (shock! horror! to the teetotal Black family).  Later, Harry moved to Australia and ended up in Hobart where he was thought to have died around 1894.

From Grandad’s notes, Henry does seem to have left the most amusing impression on his nephews and nieces.  I quote:

By family tradition Harry died of the booze.  His death is known to have been held up to his nephews as an awful warning of the results of the demon drink.

To achieve this by age 42 would require quite diligent application.  The writer therefore wonders whether in Robt Wm’s certainly teetoal and possibly dour Presbyterian household Harry’s thirst may have been exaggerated.  The lack of a death certificate, which might cast some light on the matter, is regretted.

Grandad was looking in the wrong time period for Harry’s death.  A family story that his uncle Tom has been sent to Hobart to pay Harry’s debts after his death.  Tom just missed catching the Wairarapa home.  The Wairarapa wrecked on Great Barrier Island with the loss of 121 of the 235 people on board.  This occurred on 29 October 1894.  Grandad spent a great deal of time looking for Harry’s death around then but could not find it.

Because he died in 1899.  The death entry in Hobart matches with family notices in Christchurch newspapers stating that he died at his sister’s house.

So did he die of the demon drink?  Official cause of death is “caries of the spine” which I believe is a form of TB.  His occupation is listed as “tutor”.

George Wilson (1853-1868)

The existence of George was unknown to Grandad and Jane until 1979 when Grandad found Robert and Rachel’s grave in Christchurch.  George was buried with them.  His death certificate shows he died of consumption (TB) at Akaroa.  Grandad’s notes state there was no medical facility in Akaroa for consumptives at the time, so the location of his death is unknown.  Greacen is believed not to have moved there until 1871.

Richard Blakely (1855-???)

I have a separate post about my hunt for Richard.  He allegedly left New Zealand in 1879 for the US to study at a seminary college in Kentucky!!  I think he might have ended up in Victoria, Australia, but details are still sketchy.  No one in New Zealand currently knows what happened to him and the possible suspect in Australia left no children.

Before he left, Richard spent time in Akaroa with Greacen.  They were members of the Akaroa Mutual Improvement Society.  In April 1877, he presented a paper on “Courtship and Marriage“.  Richard’s departure soon after was mourned by the Society who noted “He would doubtlessly have been a tower of strength to the society, being enthusiastic in the cause, and possessed of superior debating power” (Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 20 April 1877).

Elizabeth Rachel (1857-1901)

Grandad made the following notes on Elizabeth:

In 1879 she married Charles F Creswell, a seed merchant in Sydney and went to live there.  Nothing more is known of her husband nor how she met him nor of her life in Australia.

She died of peritonitis at Hobart on 3.9.1901, aged 45.  The Creswells are not thought to have had any children.

Elizabeth and Charles married in Christchurch.  He was the son of Charles Frederick Creswell which makes things confusing, but they ran a well respected and successful business in Tasmania.  I still know nothing of how they met.

As for the no children….  A tree on Geni has suggested they had 3.  Trove online newspapers quickly filled in the blanks and confirmed:

  1. Harvey – 1884-1945 – born in Sydney
  2. Laurie May – 1892-? – born in Sydney – married Arthur William Henry Stallwood
  3. Arthur Robert – 1897-1974 – born in Hobart

I’ve found Arthur’s birth record and his WWI service record.  He was last heard of by the military in 1967 in Sydney.  His record includes a letter from his sister Laurie in 1919 wondering where he has got to.  I wasn’t sure if Arthur had any children (his siblings did), but as noted below in the comments, he did.

Harvey inherited his parent’s house at 67 Arthur Street, Hobart.  There’s still a house there of about the right era.

Sarah (1861-1863)

The existence of Sarah, like George, was unknown.  Jane found her on the Fiery Star’s passenger list.  Further research found the Fiery Star newsletter which details Sarah’s early death at sea and her burial.

The Hunt for Richard Black

Updated (a little bit): 12 July 2014

I should probably start this post by saying that the hunt continues, mainly because I’ve only just started it!

In my Grandad’s family tree notes is the story of his great-uncle Richard Black.  Richard Black was the youngest son of Robert Black and Rachel Greacen and was born in Dungannon, Ireland around 1855.  He immigrated with the rest of his family aged about 10.

A letter from his brother Greacen dated 9 July 1879 says:

My borther Richard is going to America in a fortnight.  He is going to Kentucky to study 3 years and then comes out a full blown parson.  I believe he is better cut out for that than the soft goods trade.

And off he went.  By another family account, he was last heard of in Chicago.  He certainly never returned to his family in New Zealand.

Grandad seemed to think that he would have become a Presbytarian minister.  His research in 1981 turned up the following:

  • Richard didn’t go to the only Presbytarian seminary school in Kentucky of the time
  • The Presbytarian Historical Society in Philadelphia has no record of a Rev. Richard Black in any of its lists of 19th century US ministers
  • The 1880 census records only one Richard Black in Kentucky – he was an eight year old boy living with his widowed grandmother

Poof!  Gone in a puff of smoke!

Now I know that men are pretty useless at keeping in touch and in the 19th century things weren’t as easy as they were today.  A letter home would not have gone astray.  But Richard’s mother had died in 1873 and perhaps his parting with the family was not as loving as it could have been.  And who goes from New Zealand to KENTUCKY to become a priest???  I’m pretty sure such training was available in NZ.  Sounds like he wanted to get away from everyone.  Which he did.

So I’m starting the hunt.  As passenger lists are hard to find, I’m beginning with the census.

Contrary to Grandad’s notes, there are actually 7 Richard Blacks in 1880 Kentucky.  One of them is even about the right age.  Except he’s Black by name and by race.

Onto Chicago.  There are another 7 Richard Blacks in Illinois.  Two are the right age, but neither are our Richard.

In fact, as far as I can tell, there is only 1 Richard Black, born between 1853-7 in Ireland in the United States in 1880.  And it’s not him.

The 1890 US Census was destroyed by fire, so onto 1900.  There’s one Richard Black from Ireland but it has his birth being January 1860, so I don’t think he’s ours.  There aren’t any from New Zealand.

Perhaps he went to Canada?  Perhaps he didn’t even get on the ship?  Back to looking for passenger lists!

July 2013 update:

Had a new idea this week.  Was looking for my gg-grandfather’s wedding trip to Ireland in 1872.  Grandad had noted that he went on the Nebraska via San Francisco and then across the Panama isthmus.  It turns out that the Nebraska was a mail ship which did a route between NZ/Australia and San Francisco.

My searches have found one ship – the RMSS Zealandia which did the mail route from 1876 for about a decade.  The Zealandia arrived in Auckland on July 30, 1879 and left not long after on its return route.  But the information on the outward passengers during that period in the NZ Herald doesn’t mention a Black!  An article on the Zealandia in the same issue mentions she sailed “with a considerable addition to the numerous passengers she had in transit from San Francisco”.  So perhaps Richard just didn’t get a mention?

July 2014 update:

Another year and another update!

I’ve got hold of Richard’s father’s will.  Robert Black left 400 pounds to his son “Richard Blakely Black”. Now we have a middle name! (As an aside, one of the witnesses at Robert’s wedding was a R. Blakely who was his aunt’s second husband)

So did Robert know where his son was in 1884 when he wrote the will…?

A quick Google comes up with only one Richard Blakely Black in the whole world, ever (which is a bit bizarre really).  This Richard Blakely Black lived in Victoria, Australia and liked applying for patents – which is why he turned up in the Victoria Government Gazette a few times.  His profession was listed variously as ‘farm manager’ in Berwick (1891), ‘commission agent’ in Melbourne (1893) and a ‘warehouseman’ in Bendigo (1894).  He invented a ‘combination farm tiller’ and a ‘shaking sluice or box for saving pyrites, fine gold and other metal’.

In addition, there is a Richard B Black who died in October 1902 in Hawthorn but was ‘late of Sorrento’ and is buried in Boroondara General Cemetery.  He was born around 1855 so is about the right age for our Richard.  Unfortunately, his death certificate entry doesn’t have any parents’ details and his obituary in The Argus doesn’t mention any family.

Not sure if they’re the same person but it’s a possibility?

So we have a new direction but are still looking.

Please post a comment if you have any other ideas on where to look!  Or if you’re descended from a Richard Black from Ireland (via New Zealand) who knew a lot about clothes!