What if they were friends?

One aspect of our lives that rarely appears in our family trees are our friends.  Unless someone marries one, or the child of one, you really don’t know much about your family’s friends.

My gg-grandparents Robert William Black and Emily Kinley Wilson are alleged to be cousins of some sort.  Unfortunately, due to the paucity of records about their families, this has never been proven.  However, a new theory has come to me recently.  What if their fathers were friends?

Robert William’s father Robert lived and worked in Dungannon until he immigrated with his family in 1863.  He was a draper by trade.  His marriage certificate says his father Joseph was a farmer, so it was not a family trade.  So where did he learn it?  Most likely with another draper in Dungannon.

One of the drapers in Dungannon around the time Robert would have been looking for an apprenticeship was Thomas Kinley.  He seems to have been quite a wealthy man, as directories from 1824 have him associated with various businesses including as agent for an insurance company and the East India Company.

Thomas was the son of John Kinley and Mary Carr.  His sister Anne married John Wilson, the minister at Lecumpher Presbyterian Church.  Their son William E Wilson immigrated to Pennsylvania where he had a daughter Emily Kinley Wilson.

So put it simply, Robert William’s father may have worked for Emily’s great-uncle.

So would Robert (Snr) and William E ever met?  It seems likely.  Thomas Kinley’s oldest daughter (and William’s cousin) was called Emily and she lived in Dungannon.

And if we want to add some soap to all of this, perhaps William E wanted to marry Emily but wasn’t allowed, so he immigrated to Pennsylvania.  She married Rev. Robert Hamilton in 1848, shortly before William E left.

So far, all of this is supposition.  How do we prove it?

With great difficulty, is the answer.  Although the thought did come to me tonight, that I have never researched William E in Ireland.  I’ve always been busy looking for him in Pennsylvania.  So off to search!


My Pride and Prejudice Moment

There are always stories about art imitating life and life imitating art.  It’s always amusing when doing your family history to find an event that seems to come out of one of your favourite books.  In this case, Pride and Prejudice.  We all remember the delight of Elizabeth Bennet’s younger sisters when the army came to town and that in the end it resulted in her sister Lydia running off with the less than appropriate George Wickham.

So imagine my amazement when, on a whim, I went looking for the Greacen name in the British (rather than Irish) newspapers and found this report in the Morning Chronicle of 24 August 1824:

MONAGHAN ASSIZES, AUGUST 3 – An action for damages was brought by Mr N. Greacen, a printer in Monaghan, against the Ensign Unit [think this may be a name, not a military unit], for the seduction of the plaintiff’s daughter.  Damages were laid at 3,000L.  The case was opened by Mr Holmes in a most eloquent speech.  The direct and cross examination of the female (who stated herself to be only sixteen years of age) occupied a considerable time; and the case having closed for the prosecution, Mr Bell proceeded to address the Jury for the defendant, who declined calling any witnesses.  The Jury having consulted for some time without coming to any satisfactory decision, it was at length agreed on the recommendation of the Learned Judge, to withdraw a Juror, each party paying its own costs.

Why I didn’t find this in an Irish newspaper?  The OCR which indexes newspapers really doesn’t like the word ‘Greacen’ and so it’s one of those things that you need to know you need find!  But searching in August 1824 for ‘seduction’ got a lot of results (and not just this case – seduction appears to have been popular in 1824).  Most of the Irish newspapers of the time carried the story – word for word as above.  Only the Dublin Evening Post of 12 August adds this tantalizing part to the story:

Although this story seemed to have excited extraordinary interest in Monaghan and the neighbourhood, we have, partly out of tenderness to one of the parties concerned, but more particularly from a conviction that its publication would be hurtful to public morals, determined to suppress a report of it which had been prepared for the press.

The other newspapers seem to have followed suit.

Like the long suffering Mr Bennet, my 4x gt-grandfather Nathaniel Greacen had lots of daughters – 7 in total (unlike Mr Bennet, he also had 2 sons).  My research on the family so far has managed to find names for all the children, but only details on a few of them.

If we take the 1821 Census Fragment that lists the Greacen family as being fairly accurate in its ages of the children (and that is up for debate as no two documents seem to be the same on this!), then the Miss Greacen is probably daughter Nancy (aged 14 in 1821) or possibly Ellen (aged 11).  Neither sister has appeared subsequently in any records I’ve found – so far but the OCR is conspiring against me here.

There is no sign in the newspapers that Miss Greacen married her Ensign.  But I have no marriage details for the middle Greacen sisters.  But you do have to feel sorry for her as it all went very public and her father’s solution was to sue for damages.  At least they didn’t name her.  But as we all know from Pride and Prejudice:

Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex. – Mary Bennett

As an aside, the lawyer Mr Holmes also presents some interesting suggestions for further research.  There was allegedly a marriage between one of Nathaniel’s daughters and a Holmes (and Nancy and Ellen are two I don’t have husbands for!).  The Northern Standard, the local Monaghan newspaper, was founded in 1839 by Arthur Wellington Holmes and later run by his bachelor brother John.  Just before his death, John sold the newspaper to a William Swan.  This may have been Nathaniel’s grandson, son of his daughter Elizabeth and her first husband James Swan.


Children of Nathaniel Greacen and his wife Jane

From the 1821 Census Fragment we have the following children:

James – age 17 in 1821, born c.1804

Newspapers report James’ death in 1845, have not found evidence of family – yet.

Elizabeth – age 15 in 1821, born c.1806

Married James Swan around 1730 and had 4 children.  James was tragically killed when a beam in his drapery shop collapsed on him in 1839.  Elizabeth then married Richard Foster Blakely in 1841.  His will lists 3 sons whom I am currently assuming are hers.

Elizabeth’s daughter Jane Elizabeth Swan married missionary Samuel Kelso and they immigrated to Australia.  Her son Nathaniel Walter Swan followed his sister not long after and was a renown author.  (See Rootsweb post for further details of their families).

Nancy – age 14 in 1821, born c.1807

Ellen – age 11 in 1821, born c.1810

Sarah – age 9 in 1821, born c. 1812

Jane – age 7 in 1821, born c. 1814

She is referred to in her brother-in-law Richard Foster Blakely’s will in 1891 as being alive and unmarried, but nothing further is known.

Hanna – age 5 in 1821, born c.1816

Newspapers report Hannah’s death at the age of 19 in 1839…

Rachel – age 3 in 1821, born c.1818

My 3xgt-grandmother – family records here in New Zealand have her birth around 1824…

Her brother-in-law Richard Blakely was a witness at her marriage to Robert Black in 1847.

And additionally, post 1821:

Nathaniel – born around 1823 and died in 1877

He married twice.  Firstly to Eleanor Henry and then to an Esther who outlived him.

Upping Sticks: The Black Family on the ‘Fiery Star’

This post is part of ‘Upping Sticks: the Black Family‘.  If your interest is in the Black family you might want to start there.  If not, keep reading.

The Fiery Star

The Fiery Star was a 1360 ton clipper owned by the Black Ball Line (part of James Baines & Co). She was a wooden vessel built in 1851.  Originally named Comet, she was purchased by the Black Ball Line in 1863 from Buckton & Crane of New York.

She made two voyages with immigrants to Queensland, Australia from England and Ireland in 1863 and 1864.  Rather confusingly both arrived in Moreton Bay, Brisbane on 20 November of their respective years.  On both voyages she was captained by W H Yule.

Immigration Companies and Societies

Quite a lot of immigration in the 19th Century was organised by companies or societies who were looking for specific types of immigrants or looking to settle a particular area.  The Fiery Star was bringing out immigrants for two of these:

  • The Queensland Immigration Society (QIS) attracting mainly Catholic immigrants from the King’s County in Ireland to Brisbane.  It had two major promoters – parish priest Father Patrick Dunne and the first Roman Catholic bishop of Queensland James Quinn.  Rev. Dunne was onboard the 1863 Fiery Star voyage.
  • The Queensland Co-Operative Cotton Growing and Manufacturing Company, established by Charles Bushell and Benjamin Babbage, was targeting unemployed workers from Manchester’s cotton mills.

Were the Black family part of these immigration schemes?  There is no documentation as to which of the passengers was sponsored by which group or who was an independent passenger.  However, the Black family were neither Catholic nor from Manchester and they paid for their passage, so they were independent passengers.

The 1863 voyage

The Fiery Star left Gravesend on 11 August 1863 having embarked 324 passengers.  She picked up another 230 at Queenstown (Cork) which included the Black family.  This made a total of 554 – she was chartered to take 470 “statute adults”!  So the ship was very overcrowded.

To make unpleasant conditions even worse, she took 94 days to get from Cork to Brisbane instead of around 70.  They didn’t have favourable trade winds north of Madeira and east of Brazil, and the final leg up the east coast of Australia was also very slow.  Some days they traveled less than 100 miles – to put this in context, their total journey was 17,215 miles!

The only upside is that she seems to have been well supplied.  The schedule signed off by Captain Yule on 17 August notes:

I hereby certify that the Provisions actually laden on board this Ship are sufficient, according to the requirement of the Passengers’ Act, for 460 Statute Adults, for a Voyage of 140 days.

They finally arrived on 20 November probably to the relief of all.

The Black family on the Fiery Star

The Black family were second cabin passengers.  There were Robert Black, his wife Rachel (nee Greacen), 7 children and their maid Susan McQurke (aged 23). They all gave their nationality as “Scotch” rather than Irish.

Despite being second cabin passengers, Robert and his sons Robert William (15) and Greacen (13) were listed as ‘labourers’ on the passenger list.  My Grandad (probably not knowing they traveled in the second cabin) noted that ‘labourer’ was:

a term which probably included farm workers. Since (Robert) transported a large family across the world to Australia and then to NZ, where he at once set up a substantial business, he clearly had much more money that this designation would suggest.

“The mortality was not great, only nine deaths” (Brisbane Courier) which sadly for the Black family, included their youngest daughter Sarah who died at sea on September 22.  Dr Luce, the ship’s surgeon records it thus in the voyage newsletter (Sept 26):

I am sorry, however, I cannot close my weekly bulletin without having to record one death amongst our number during the past week, viz., that of an affectionate and most interesting little girl, between two and three years old, the child of our respected and esteemed second-cabin passengers, Mr and Mrs Black.  She was taken ill about a fortnight since, with a cold and febrile attack, followed, towards the end of her illness, by inflammation of the lungs, which she sunk under after the most patient endurance of her sufferings (from beginning to end) on Tuesday last.  I need scarcely add, that the warmest and sincerest sympathy has been alike felt and expressed for the bereaved parents by all around them, who have the pleasure of their acquaintance: and I am glad to further add, that they sustain their loss with the most exemplary Christian fortitude and submission.

It makes this parent of a small child (currently with a chest infection!) very glad of the discovery of anti-biotics!

It gets sadder with the report of Sarah’s burial at sea in the voyage newsletter:

A melancholy cermonial took place on Tuesday, viz., the burial of an interesting little girl, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Black of the second cabin.  A burial at sea is a solemn and trying cermony, and has often been described, but no one who has not witnessed it can know the feeling of deep regret with which even a stranger sees the body cosigned to the vasty deep.  What then must be the grief of the bereaved parents, around who knees the departed had played or prattled in happier house, and whose tottering footsteps they watched with such anxious hopefulness.

Sarah was one of 9 children who died on the voyage.  Somewhat representative of the times, Dr Luce thought this number reasonable given the crowded conditions.

After the voyage

Newspaper articles published after the Fiery Star‘s arrival give the impression that all was well with the journey.  There was even a cricket game organised between the saloon passengers and locals (the passengers lost).  However, the overcrowding was quickly reported to the Government Immigration Office in Brisbane.

The submission by A C Kemball on 26 November includes a report from Dr Luce and letters of complaint from the passengers (the originals can be found in the Queensland State Archives).  These include one from Robert Black:

Robert Black on behalf of himself, his wife, seven children and Susan McGusk, servant.  One child having died since we came on board, six children remaining, Maketh complaint and saith that the apartments allotted to him and which he occupied on board the ship “Fiery Star” Sailing from London to Brisban were two rooms number 9 and 10 in the Second Cabin for which he paid the sum of £187.10/- That one of those rooms being next the water closet emitted a very offensive smell the greater part of the journey.  Also that the floor of same was wet when I first entered it at Queenstown.  Same day a person who I believed occupied it from London to Queenstown said it was wet and that I would need to put some boards under my trunks to keep them out of the wet.

It was damp and wet less or more from that time until the 7th October at which time I was very sick and lying in bed when I was awoke with the rushing of water in the cabin in which I was lying.  On examining I found water from 1 to 6 inches in both cabins.  My trunks and boxes have been wet a considerable way yup.  The clothing in them has been very much damaged.  A quantity of it almost rendered useless.  My family have suffered very severe sickness for may weeks occasioned I believe to a great extent from the offensive smell and continual water and damp they were subjected to.  My servant had to go to Hospital for several weeks from soreness in her limbs and swollen feet I believe brought on from the damp day and night.

I had chloride of lime put in the cabin next the water closet for several weeks by Doctors orders.  In fact, my family were all healthy and strong until subjected to the quarters they had to live in since we came on board.

Their illness was all of a similar kind and I believe to be attributed in a great measure to the impure air and continual damp which they were subject to during the day and necessarily would inhale during the night.

I had the attention of the Doctor and also the Captain called to the state we were in on two occasions.  The Captain expressed himself that if he had not seen it he cold not have believed we were so flooded.  I also asked the Doctor and Captain to take a memorandum of the state in which my cabins were on their visit, as their testimony might be required hereafter.

On my servants recovery I asked the Doctor to allow her some place to sleep in for the remainder of the journey, as I was afraid if she slept in her former place it being near the water closet her disease might return.  He don so, and since that time she has not occupied it.

The Distance from my first Cabin to the water closet is 1 3/4 inches and with the quantity of water that was about the closet from day to day it could not be otherwise that offensive and injurious to health.

This is only a condensed statement of my complaints as I have particulars more fully written down as they occurred, and which I am prepared to proved by respectable witnesses.

I claim to be compensated by the owners or agents of the ship “Fiery Star” for the damage to health and loss of property I have sustained as stated in the foregoing complaint.

I don’t know if Robert got any compensation.  I do find it strange that Sarah’s death wasn’t mentioned.  The conditions sound like they weren’t too good for her either.  But it’s likely that it just wasn’t done like that back then.

When I mentioned to my Jackman cousins that the original of this document was in Queensland’s Archives, one said “I’m taking Mum for a holiday there in a few months, I’ll go and have a look”.  A few days later he emailed “can’t wait, have sent the nephew down to find it!”.  Here it is:

Robert Black's Original Letter OriginalLetterPage2

Further Information

Newspaper articles can be found on Trove digitized newspapers (National Library of Australia)

Voyage newsletter – on the National Library of Australia website

“They Came Direct: Immigration Vessels to Queensland: Fiery Star 1863” by Eileen B Johnson

Includes transcripts of many of the documents quoted above.

I found a copy in the State Library of Queensland so check out your local library.

“Out of the frying pan: voyaging to Queensland in 1863 on board the Fiery Star” by Kerry Heckenberg published in the Queensland Review, August 2010.

Contains information from ‘They Came Direct’ and other sources

You can find a copy of this online if you have access to Gale World History in Context site (which you do through Wellington Libraries if you live here in Wellington).

The fate of the Fiery Star

The Fiery Star‘s voyage back to London from Brisbane in 1865 was her last.  The 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand summarises it in its “Disasters and Mishaps – Shipwrecks” section:

Burning of Fiery Star

The Fiery Star, a full-rigged clipper of 1,361 tons, London-bound from Brisbane, met with misadventure of the worst kind—fire at sea—when 150 miles northwest of the Chatham Islands. Fire broke out in her cargo of wool on 19 April 1865, and a course was set for Hauraki Gulf; but after four days the captain decided to abandon ship. Seventy-eight of her passengers and crew, with Captain W. H. Yule, took to the boats, and were never seen again, but the chief officer and 17 of the crew who stayed behind and fought the flames for nearly three weeks, while at the same time working the ship towards land, were taken off by the ship Dauntless half an hour before the Fiery Star foundered in a mass of flames. They were then only about 15 miles from the New Zealand coast.

Burning of the Fiery Star - engraving

This engraving of the burning by Frederick Grosse can be found on the State Library of Victoria’s website.  And NZ Bound has a further summation of the information available including the names of the surviving crew.

I have wondered what exactly the Fiery Star was doing off the Chatham Islands which are 680km (420mi) south-east of New Zealand.  It would imply they were going around Cape Horn – the Panama Canal didn’t exist at this point.  It is noted as being the most hazardous way of getting from Australia to Europe.  Not a route I would have picked!

So, if we’ve learnt anything, don’t put the word ‘Fiery’ in the name of your ship!  It’s tempting fate.

The American Connection

Updated: 19 December 2013

[A less current variation on this story appears in the October 2013 issue of the New Zealand Genealogist.  The theme of the issue was family taonga (Maori for treasure) and it features the bible I have inherited which belonged to Emily.  ScanTranscript.]

I am 1/16th American.  My great-great grandmother Emily Kinley Wilson was born in Cressona, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania in 1854, the daughter of William E Wilson of Magherafelt, Londonderry, Ireland.  She died in Auckland, New Zealand in 1939.

Grandad was my main source of information when I started out looking further into her family tree. He had found that William E was the son of Rev John (I) Wilson of Lecumpher Presbytarian Church in Magherafelt.  Rev John (I) (c1772 – 1821) was followed in his calling by his son James (1803 – 1878), who was then followed by his sons Thomas (1840 – 1884) and then John (III) (1831 – 1890).

Here’s what Grandad wrote about William E. in a letter to find more information:

He married in Ireland Florence M. C. Kinley and the couple immigrated to USA, where their eldest daughter Emily Kinley Wilson (my grandmother) was born in 1854.  Emily and her mother Florence next surface in 1872, back in Magherafelt where Emily married my grandfather Robert Black.  Her marriage certificate describes her father as “the late William E Wilson, merchant, of Cressona, USA”.  Another Irish record states that Wm E Wilson died on March 19, 1859, but where not stated.

Florence was believed to be the daughter of John and Mary Kinley.  This was supported by a silver spoon  inscribed with the initials J.M.K which is hallmarked to 1822.   Emily gave it to Grandad around 1930 saying it was a wedding present to her grandparents.  Florence was a witness at Emily’s wedding.

The daughter of the minister at Lecumpher in the 1980’s kindly sent Grandad a transcript of all the family inscriptions. Included was a tombstone in the cemetery  of the children of Rev John (I) Wilson.  William E. is listed at the bottom with his death being on March 19, 1859.  This photo was taken on a trip there in 2002.

Photo of Tombstone of John Wilson's children

Living in the UK, I started finding out more about the Wilson’s of Lecumpher.  I quickly found a family tree which had been lodged with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) which debunked the details of Emily’s mother.

It turns out William E’s mother was Anne Kinley, daughter of John Kinley (1750 – 1819) and Mary Carr (1755 – ?).  They were the JMK of the silver spoon – which could also be hallmarked to 1782, the year before they married.  Their lineage was documented in the tree I’d found.

So the mystery of who was Emily’s mother remained.  The search was not aided by not knowing her name. It remained a mystery to me for over ten years.

Then Ancestry got the Pennsylvania Church and Town Records.  I made a beeline for the National Library in Wellington to see what I could find.

I found some but not all.

William E Wilson married Matilda Bushe Wilson on 20 January 1853 at the St James Episcopal Church in Schuylkill Haven, the town next to Cressona.  On the 12 March 1856, at the same church, they had their daughters Emily Kinley Wilson (b. 1854) and Florence Coulter Wilson (b.1855) baptised.

So I had found the elusive Florence.  Emily had her sister as a witness at her wedding.  And I have since discovered from a bible held by the family that Emily’s godparents were Thomas and Mary Coulter which would account for her middle name.  Emily and Florence’s great-uncle Thomas Kinley married a Coulter, so there may have been a family connection.

Checking the other entries, I believe that Matilda’s maiden name was Wilson.  She’s not one of William’s relatives as far as I’m aware.  And I haven’t found anything else about her, such as when or where she was born.  But at least I now know her name!

For many many years I had no idea where William E died or was buried.  It was sort of assumed by the family that he had died in the US and was being commemorated by his siblings back in Ireland.  An inquiry in 2001 found that the local Pennsylvania authorities only held death information from 1893.  There is no entry for him being buried at St James.

Assuming that he had died in Cressona, there was also the question of when his family went back to Ireland.  They aren’t on the 1860 US Census – undertaken in June.  Passenger lists OUT of the US are not easy to come by.

So imagine my surprise to find this in the Belfast Morning News of 24 March 1859 (available on Find My Past for a fee):

March 19, at the residence of his brothers, in Magherafelt, where he had arrived a few days previously from America, Mr Wm E Wilson, late of Cressona, Pennsylvania, youngest son of the late Rev. John Wilson of Lecumpher.

So William E had returned home with his family.

Find My Past has yielded more.  The ‘Transatlantic Migration from North America to Britain & Ireland 1858-1870 Transcription’ collection includes their return journey.  They traveled first class on the Edinburgh which left New York on 24 February 1859 and arrived in Glasgow on 12 March.  It provides further information.  Firstly, there are 5 Wilson’s on the ship.  The fifth one traveled third class and is therefore not one of ours.  So William E and Matilda had no other children.

[As a small aside, the Edinburgh hit an iceberg on its next journey from New York to Glasgow in June 1859.  She didn’t sink, but what story that would be!]

But the best thing is the information it provides on Matilda.  She is aged 29, therefore born around 1830.  She gives her nationality as Irish, which is the same as her husbands, but the girls’ have American as their nationality.  Now I have somewhere to search for more on her, including her trip the US in the first place.

Here’s an edited condensed version of Kinley Wilson tree.

That ‘E’

I have yet to discover what the ‘E’ in William E stood for.  Grandad assumed it was Ernest as Emily named one of her sons William Ernest.  But William E also had a nephew called William Ebenezer – perhaps named for his uncle?

I have yet to see any document about him which states what it is.  The records of his marriage and his daughters’ baptisms both have the ‘E’.  In contrast, his wife’s name is spelled out in full.

Perhaps it was just as affectation?  None of his siblings appear to have a middle name.

The Wilson family of Lecumpher

Lecumpher Presbytarian Church is set in a lovely rural location in Magherafelt, Londonderry, Ireland.

Photo of Lecumpher Parish Church taken 2002

The congregation there started in the late 18th century – it was a shorter walk than to Ballygoney, six miles away.  In 1796, John (I) Wilson of Tyrone was ordained as minister of the church, starting a dynasty of Wilson ministers which lasted until 1890.

When John (I) died in 1821, the congregation waited four years until his son James could be ordained in 1825.  James was minister there for 53 years and died in 1878.  He left 6 children by his wife Sarah Weir (? – c1843).  Tragically, his fourth and sixth sons, James Mason and Hugh passed away of a fever within a month of each other in 1863.

James and Sarah’s youngest son Thomas Kinley Wilson followed his father as minister at Lecumpher.  He passed away suddenly in 1884 after “an attack of paralysis” aged only 44.  Thomas was Emily’s guardian at the time of her wedding (she was only 18 – I’m not sure if this is a sexist thing or if her mother was dead by then).

Thomas was followed at Lecumpher by his oldest brother John (III).  He and his wife Anna Jane Neilson tendered the congregation until John’s death in 1890.

Another brother of Thomas and James, Silas Ebenezer Wilson was also a minister.  He served in Dromore.

Given the lack of religion that now exists in my family, I used to wonder if William E had immigrated to America to get away from all that religion.  He followed his older brother John (II) who immigrated with his family on the Wyoming  in 1848.

It turns out I was quite wrong.  John (II) was married to Alicia Campbell.  Her uncle Alexander Campbell founded Bethany College in West Virginia and was an early leader in the “Second Great Awakening” – a religious movement which resulted in a number of new church groups in America including the Churches of Christ.

In addition, William E’s aunt, Sarah Kinley married Robert “Robin” Tener who, with their sons, was also a religious mover and shaker.  They too had immigrated to America.

See the Kinley Wilson tree for how they all fit together.

Kinley Wilson Tree

My 3xgreat grandfather William E Wilson spent time in the USA having followed his brother John there.   Having made contact with John’s descendents there is a tangled web of family as second and third cousins married each other.

Here is the edited condensed version of the Kinley Wilson family tree – showing the links to the Coulter’s, Tener’s and Campbell’s.  It’s taken from my Family Tree programme so sorry for all those Caps!  The bolds are my ancestors.

More information on the Tener family can be found in the Tener Book.


JOHN KINLEY was born in 1750 in Drumgold, Dungannon, Ireland. He died in 1819 in Newry, Co Down, Ireland?. He married MARY CARR in 1783, daughter of JOHN CARR and SARAH CALDWELL. She was born in 1755 in Newry, Co Down, Ireland.

JOHN KINLEY and MARY CARR had the following children:

  1.  JOHN KINLEY (died young)
  2.  THOMAS KINLEY (c 1783/1791 –  1853). He married EMILY COULTER
    1. EMILY KINLEY was born in 1828 in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, Ireland. She died on 17 Nov 1869 in Dundalk, Ireland. She married ROBERT HAMILTON on 22 Nov 1848 in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, Ireland, son of Robert Hamilton and Anna Greer. He was born about 15 Sep 1823 in Omagh, Ireland. He died on 13 Jun 1879 in Duncree Rectory, Ireland.  Some of their children immigrated to Australia including Thomas Kinley Hamilton (1853-1917).
  3.  ANNE KINLEY.  She married JOHN WILSON (c 1772 – 13 Jan 1821)
    1. JOHN WILSON was born on 11 Aug 1801 in Ireland. He died before 1863 in Pennsylvania, USA. He married ALICIA CAMPBELL on 11 Mar 1834 in Ireland, daughter of Archibald Campbell and Ellen Carr. She was born on 04 Feb 1812 in Ireland.
    2. JAMES WILSON was born on 19 Sep 1803 and died on 10 Jun 1878 in Lecumpher County, Londonderry, Ireland. He married SARAH WEIR on 27 Mar 1830 in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, Ireland. She died about 1843 in Ireland.
    3. SARA ANN WILSON died 24 Oct 1860
    4. MARY WILSON died 8 Feb 1891
    5. HUGH WILSON died 6 Jun 1869
    6. THOMAS WILSON JP born 21 Mar 1811 and died 15 Apr 1901
    7. JANE WILSON died 29 Dec 1890
    8. MARGARET WILSON died 22 Jan 1897
    9. WILLIAM E WILSON was born before 1821 in Ireland. He died on 19 Mar 1859 in Lecumpher, Magherafelt, Londonderry, Ireland. He married MATILDA BUSHE WILSON on 20 Jan 1853 in St James Episcopal Church, Schuylkill Haven, PA, US.
  6.  SARAH KINLEY was born in 1774 and died in 1855 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. She married ROBERT “ROBIN” TENER in 1800, son of Thomas Tener and Matilda Jebb. He was born in 1770 in Castlecaulfield, County Tyrone, Ireland. He died in 1857 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
    1. JOHN KINLEY TENER was born in 1802 in Armagh, Co Armagh, Ireland and died in 1879. He married (1) MARY FRANCES EVANS, daughter of George Evans and Margaret Harrison. She was born in 1799. She died in 1864. He married (2) MARY ANN GRANT. She was born in Dundee, Scotland.
    2. ISSAC WILLIAM TENER was born in 1808 and died in 1898 in California, USA. He married FRANCES MARGARET EVANS, daughter of George Evans and Margaret Harrison (and sister of his brother’s wife). She was born in 1809. She died in 1897.
    3. RICHARD TENER was born in 1806 and died in 1880 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. He married MARY BROWN, daughter of Henry Brown and Jane Carr. She died in Scotland?.
    4. DAUGHTER TENER. She married MR GALBRAITH. He was born in Derry, Ireland.
    5. WILLIAM TENER died in 1833 (At sea).
    6. THOMAS TENER was born in 1809.
    7. ROBERT TENER died Dsp.
    8. HUGH TENER died Dsp.
    9. MATILDA TENER died Dsp.
    10. JAMES TENER died Dsp.


Robert Johnston – World Traveller

Updated: 14 September 2013

Everyone should have a lying toe-rag of a Scottish gg-grandfather.  My husband has one (his is much better).  Mine, Robert Johnston, only told a small lie.  About his age.  Probably to get married.

But before Robert Johnston got married, he had travelled further than nearly all of my other gg-grandparents (and many of them immigrated half way around the world!) and further than any of his ancestors.  So let’s go back to the beginning.

Robert Johnston (“no middle name” as Grandad noted) was born in Falkirk, Scotland.  Officially, in New Zealand, he was born on Christmas Day, 1851.  Grandad explains in his notes:

In later life he looked much older than a man born in 1851.  He is suspected of knocking about 10 years off his true age to avoid her parents opposing marriage to a woman born in 1860.  His Christmas Day birthday was probably also a myth, to match his wife’s birthday, which was New Years Day.

Intrigued by this, I went looking in the Scottish census.  Knowing that Robert had been a tailor, I looked for a Robert Johnston, born in Falkirk, as much as ten years before 1851 and with a tailoring family.  I found one.  Robert was born around 1844 to John Johnston and Helen Young.  John was from East Kilbride (just south of Glasgow) and Helen was from Falkirk (north east of Glasgow).

John was a tailor and “master employing 2 men” in 1851.  They lived in Bo’ness (full name Borrowstounness!), West Lothian.  By 1861, the family had returned to John’s home town of East Kilbride where they lived in a house with 4 rooms with one or more windows (got to love the census!).  At this point, Robert was 17 and a tailor’s apprentice.

At this point, this family was all supposition.  Recently, I received a copy of Robert’s death certificate from my Johnston cousins.  That, combined with his marriage certificate, confirm that I have the right family.  However, I have yet to find his birth record.

So what happened next?


Yip, China.  You only have to look at the 19th century buildings in Shanghai to see the Western influence.  Apparently, having your clothes tailored was another home comfort that the British imported to China.  And quite often apprentices would travel out with their masters.  (See the history on Dave’s Custom Tailoring website and the Streets of Shanghai).

So what was Robert doing there?  When did he get there?

I’ve been busy working on the when.  The University of Bristol is studying Chinese Maritime Customs and has started publishing/linking genealogical information on the net.  In the 1877 Chronicle and Directory for China there is a R Johnston working as an assistant at Sayle & Co – the Shanghai branch of Robert Sayle (now John Lewis Cambridge).  The directory describes Sayle & Co as “linen drapers, silk mercers, tailors etc, corner of Nanking and Szechuan Roads”.  This is probably our Robert.

He’s also listed in the 1872 Directory with Sayle & Co, but there is no listing for him in the 1867 China Directory, so he wasn’t in the far east at that time (nor was Sayle & Co.).  My search of the 1871 census in the UK has failed to find him.  It is possible he was on his way to China.

So he was obviously still continuing in aspects of the tailoring trade.  Shooting was his other occupation.  (And how the family knew he was in China!)

There is still (hopefully) within the family a rather large, not particularly attractive silver cup he won for shooting for the Shanghai Volunteer Corps (SVC) in 1878 or 9.  Rather frustratingly, my Grandad did not note down the inscription and I haven’t seen the cup for over a decade.  Grandad noted that Robert had powder burn scars on his face from “a blank shot being fired at him from too close a range during practice manoeuvers”, although this may have been from later…

The SVC was a militia formed to protect the foreign settlements in 1853.  It continued until the Japanese occupation in 1942.  From what I’ve found on the history of Shanghai, not much happened in 1870s, so Robert had plenty of time to practise his shooting!

The North China Herald newspaper for that period is available to subscribers, but has a search facility to those who aren’t.  A kindly source has given me scans of a couple of issues which mention Robert.

Under ‘Amusements’ on January 17, 1878, there is the report of the No 2 S.V.C Monthly Challenge Cup.  Despite the cold weather – “so cold that several of the men found it difficult … to hold their rifles steady”, and not managing to hit the local iceskaters or duck shooters, the winner was Private Johnston with 41 points.

In November 1879, Corporate Johnston again top scores, but is handicapped into second as he was a previous winner.  This time the report goes:

Corporal R. Johnston made the highest total, namely 60 out of a possible 70, including five successive bulls at the 500 yards’ range and four bulls out of his seven shots at the shorter range…

So he was obviously a good shot!

Robert Johnston's Cup 1879

Robert Johnston's Cup 1879 - stem   Robert Johnston's Cup 1879

This is the cup in possession of my cousin Mike.  It’s from a Spring 1879 competition.  Photographing shiny silver cups is quite difficult but it says “Consolation Cup, won by Private Johnston, No 2 Company, Spring 1879 Meeting”.

The index for the December 31, 1879 issue, gave the following tantalising snippet:

… during the Hunt Mr. R. Johnston and Mr. W. Cole man both of Messrs. Sayle and Co. had met with accidents and sustained …

Fortunately, my source has given me that article.  Both Robert and Mr Cole were participating in the “Christmas Day’s Paper Hunt” when they fell off their horses taking a jump, each breaking a collar bone.  Another hunter was less fortunate – he was beset by the locals!

There is no evidence to suggest Robert was married during his time in Shanghai.  He was in his 30s at this point so he could have, but if so, his wife was either dead or abandoned by 1880.

Robert left Shanghai sometime in 1880.  In February, 1882 he was married and in Auckland, New Zealand.

Via Ireland.

He got a job in Ireland as “chief cutter” at £150 per year (quite a lot for those days).  Where is unknown, but it can’t have been too far from Enniskillen.  There he married Elizabeth Foster on 4 October 1881 – by licence.

It needed to be a quick marriage.  On October 7, the Duncraig left the East India Docks for New Zealand with Mr and Mrs Robert Johnston onboard (Auckland Star).   (I think it’s actually the 27th since it couldn’t take 3 weeks to get a few miles down river to Gravesend, could it? But why let the facts get in the way of an entertaining story!).

From Auckland Robert and Elizabeth went to Gisborne where they set up home and lived until their retirement back to Auckland in early 20th century.  Grandad viewed Gisborne as a strange choice describing it as a “backwater”, but Robert had a very successful life there. The National Library has a photo of Gladstone Road in 1875 which gives you some idea of how big the town was.

And it didn’t get him away from the in-laws – the Foster family all moved to NZ too!

But he never mentioned his own Scottish family and claimed to have no brothers and sisters.  He had 5 (see below).

Robert appears in the Cyclopedia of New Zealand of 1902 with picture:

Mr. Robert Johnston, J.P., who entered the Gisborne Borough Council in 1891, and also became a member of the Hospital and Charitable Aid Board and the High School Board of Governors, was born at Falkirk, Scotland, in 1851, and was brought up to the trade of a tailor. Mr. Johnston came to Auckland by the ship “Duneraig” in 1880 [sic], and shortly afterwards settled in Poverty Bay, where he established the business which has since borne his name. Mr. Johnston served for about six years as a corporal in the East Coast Hussars. In Freemasonry he is a Past Master of Lodges Montrose, S.C., and Turanganui, E.C. He was one of the founders of the local lodge of Druids, and has held office as Senior District President. Mr. Johnston was married, in February, 1880[sic], to a daughter of the late Mr. J. Foster, of Inniskillen, Ireland, and has three daughters and one son.

Photo of Robert Johnston - Cyclopedia of NZ

So still shooting!  But still no action!

Except for this little snippet from the Poverty Bay Herald on April 3, 1888:



On Saturday night a crowd of civilians, mostly composed of young men, made an attempt to take possession of the camp. A good number of them were in possession of rifles with blank cartridge, some, it was discovered, also firing shot.

Three or four men were wounded, the most serious case being that of Trooper Johnston. He received a charge of powder from a rifle right in the face. Dr Pollen was sent for, and the injured Trooper was taken home.

This might account for Robert’s powder burns that Grandad thought came from Shanghai.  Although our family is noted for not letting the truth get in the way of a good story!  It does appear to be Robert as he’s the only Johnston on the Capitation Roll for 1888.

I’ve done a separate post on the brief history of the East Coast Hussars.

Robert died in Auckland in 1925.  His Gisborne Times obituary (21 Jan 1925) gives you an inkling of the man he was and the esteem in which he was held:

With much regret the friends of Mr Robert Johnston will learn of his death, which took place at Mt Eden, Auckland, yesterday morning.

For over forty years, the late Mr Johnston was closely identified with the progress of Gisborne.  He was born at Falkirk in Scotland in 1851 and came out to Auckland in 1880 [sic] by the ship Duncraig, settling in Gisborne shortly afterwards.

Mr Johnston was brought up to the trade of tailoring and in 1880 [sic], he established the business of Messrs R Johnston and Co in Gladstone Road in conjunction with Mr Thos. Sweet.  In later years Mr Johnston was in partnership with Mr Harry Miller under the title of “Johnston & Miller”.  On account of ill health he retired from business last year and went on a health recruiting trip to Honolulu, afterwards taking up his residence in Auckland.

The late Mr Johnston took a keen interest in public affairs, being at times, a member of the Borough Council, Hospital Board and High school Board.  He was an enthusiastic Freemason and was a past Master of Lodges Montrose and Turanganui.  Mr Johnston was also a prominent Druid, reaching the rank of Senior District President.  In his younger days he took a keen interest in military training and served in the East Coast Hussars.

The deceased gentleman was especially interested in the conduct of Cook Hospital and for some years held the position of Deputy Chairman.  He was a very regular visitor to the institution and did much to cheer its afflicted inmates.  In this connection many there are who will not soon forget the sympathetic interest which he displayed in their welfare.

The late Mr Johnston leaves a widow and a family of three – Mr Bert Johnston (Auckland), Mrs HW Black (Gisborne) and Miss Olive Johnston (Auckland) to mourn their loss and to them will be extended the sincere sympathy of a wide circle of friends.


I’ve found the “List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer at the Port of Arrival” for Robert’s trip to Hawaii.  He arrived in Honalulu on 21 July 1923 on the SS Niagara having left Auckland on 10 July.

Robert is accompanied by his wife Elizabeth and her sister Margaret Foster Mrs Johnston (no relation), who was a widow at this point.  Margaret went for a month and Robert and Elizabeth for 8 weeks.

Questions on the manifest include “Whether a polygamist” and “Whether an anarchist”.  Our Johnstons answered no to both!  It also gives a physical description of them:

Robert       5’9″  Fair complexion     Brown hair   Blue eyes

Elizabeth   5’7″  Fair complexion     Grey hair      Grey eyes

Margaret   5’8″  Dark complexion   Grey hair      Brown eyes

In lieu of colour photographs (and photographs in general!), this is the best we’re going to do on what they looked like.

And despite being born on the other side of the world, they were all New Zealand citizens.

Robert and Elizabeth returned to New Zealand on the SS Niagara on 18 October.

Robert and Elizabeth’s children

Robert’s wife Elizabeth outlived him by 15 years dying in Auckland in 1940.  They had the following children:

  1. Robert Foster Johnston (1883 – 1954)
  2. May Elizabeth Johnston (1885 – 1940) (She died three weeks after her mother and a month after her husband – not a good time for Grandad)
  3. Ena Nellie Johnston (1891 – 1920)
  4. Olive Margaret Johnston (1899 – 1967)

Here’s the only photo of Elizabeth I have, taken outside her house in Auckland in the 1930’s:

Robert’s Siblings

From a combination of census and parish records, I believe John Johnston and Helen Young had the following children:

  1. Janet Liddle Johnston (b.1842, Falkirk) – she may have married a John Dalrymple and had a daughter called Janet Liddel Dalrymple (b.1873, Shotts, Lanarkshire)
  2. Robert Johnston
  3. James Young Johnston (b.c.1846, Bo’ness, Stirlingshire) evidently immigrated to Canada some time before 1872 as he married Jessie Fraser (b.c.1848) in Nova Scotia in 1872.  From the Canadian census, I can’t see any children.  James may have died before 1891 as there is a widowed Jessie Johnston living in New Brunswick.  In 1895, she married Asa Crowningshield (as his third wife) in West Springfield, Mass, USA.
  4. Margaret Johnston (b.c.1848, Bo’ness, Stirlingshire)
  5. John Johnston (b.1849, Cambuslang, Lanarkshire) – possibly died young as not listed in subsequent censuses
  6. Helen Johnston (b.c.1852, Bo’ness, Stirlingshire)
  7. Jane Johnstone (b.1855, Bo’ness, Stirlingshire)

Upping Sticks: the Black family

Updated: 25 October 2013 with a another rewrite!

This year has revealed a lot more details about the Black family and their journey.  Figuring out the best way to write it up has been a bit of a challenge.  So I’m going to tell their story in chronological order.  I discovered it in backwards order but it’s less confusing the right way round!

My starting point

I’ve had the advantage that my Grandad did a lot of research into his family after he retired in the 1980s.  So what I knew at the start was entirely due to his efforts.  And you’ll find me quoting from his notes along the way.

My ancestors the Black family came from County Tyrone in Ulster.  Grandad used to joke that the “Blacks cleaned the toilets for the MacDonald’s” – implying that they were originally from Scotland and part of the Ulster Plantation.  My (English) grandmother preferred the idea that she was married to someone of Scottish origin!

Whether or not my Blacks came from Scotland has yet to be proven (a cousin recently met every Black family in Co. Tyrone but not ours, so we’re no further back).  What we do know is that Robert Black was the son of Joseph Black, farmer of Co. Tyrone.  In 1847, Robert married Rachel C Greacen of Co. Monaghan, daughter of Nathaniel Greacen.  They proceeded to have 7 children (listed below) and in 1863, aged in their 40s, they and their children immigrated to Queensland on the Fiery Star. From Grandad:

… at age 43 he seems to have emigrated somewhat late in life. It is therefore surmised that he may have inherited money at about this time, perhaps from his farmer father.

In late 1865 or early 1866, they move onto Christchurch, New Zealand where they opened a drapery shop called the “Criterion”.  Grandad further notes:

It seems unlikely that he would set up a drapery and clothing business, apparently of quite substantial size, without some prior experience in this trade.  If he had such experience, it is not known where or when he acquired it.

So this is what I knew.  Now onto what I’ve found.


Robert and Rachel married on 3 Nov 1847 at the First Monaghan Church in Co Monaghan.  On their marriage certificate  they are both listed as being shopkeepers, but resident in different towns.  This is the first confirmation that they had retail experience before New Zealand.  Rachel’s father Nathaniel Greacen is listed as a ‘stationer’ so she may have worked in his shop.

Street directories found online at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) website give further details of their retail business.  In the available Belfast and Province of Ulster directories from 1852 to 1863 there is a Robert Black, haberdasher, Market Square, Dungannon.  In 1865 he’s not there.

Confirming this is the 1860 Griffiths Valuation which lists Robert Black in Market Square, Drumcoo, Dungannon occupying a property which consisted of “house, offices, and yard”.  There are no references to shops, so the “offices” could have been retail premises.  The Valuation Revision Book for 1860-63 shows the name of Robert Black being crossed out and replaced with Joseph Henry Burgess.

The Belfast News-Letter is the only online newspaper I’ve found with reference to Robert (available through Find My Past for a fee).  The first reference is an advertisement listing his business for sale in March 1863:



Haberdashery Goods, Fixtures of Shop, Wareroom and Storeroom, in which the Subscriber has carried on a large Wholesale (and Retail Cash) Business for the last fifteen years.

The situation for the business is one of the best in town, being No.1, Market Square.

As the Stock has been bought from the best houses on the best terms, and is well assorted, such an opportunity seldom offers to any person wishing to commence the Drapery Trade.

The Subscriber is retiring only on account of his health.  For terms, &c, apply to ROBERT BLACK.

As will become apparent, Robert knew how to advertise!

Another item in the Belfast News-Letter on 13 August 1863 gives further insight into Robert’s life in Dungannon and his standing within the community:

A public dinner was given to Mr Black by the Town Commissioners, and other friends of his, in Mr Moore’s hotel, on the occasion of his leaving for Queensland with his family.  Mr Black has long been a Town Commissioner, and has invariably taken a leading part in everything that has had for its object the welfare and prosperity of Dungannon.

Mr Brook gave the toast of the evening, “Mr Robert Black and his wife, and may success and prosperity attend them in the land of their adoption.” It gave him much pleasure to bear witness to the very superior character Mr Black had always borne for manly integrity and uprightness.  He had been much respect by his fellow-Commissioners; and he would say that if he should think of again returning to Ireland after the restoration of that health, which was the chief cause of his removal from among them, he should be kindly and cordially welcomed among them. (prolonged applause.)

The Blacks were on their way!

I’ve yet to find anything about Robert’s father Joseph so Grandad’s speculation on an inheritance is still speculation.  From the above, it could be that Robert was very successful and had enough money from his own efforts to immigrate.

Getting to Queensland on the Fiery Star

The Black family – Robert, Rachel and 7 children and their maid Susan McGurke left Queenstown (Cork) on 18 August 1863.  The voyage was not a happy one for the family.  The ship was overcrowded and the journey took 94 days.  The Blacks were in the second cabin which is usually a pretty good place to be.  However, they had the cabins closest to the ‘water closet’ and spent the journey damp and ill.  And tragically their youngest daughter Sarah died at sea on 22 September aged 2.

There has been much written about the Fiery Star and this voyage, so I’ve put it into a separate post Upping Sticks: The Black Family on the ‘Fiery Star’ which has many specific details of the Black family’s experiences.

The Black family’s brief stay in Brisbane

A search on Australia’s answer to Papers Past called Trove has uncovered some information on Robert’s commercial activities in Brisbane.  Less than 3 months after they arrived, this from The Courier, 20 Feb 1864:


DRAPER, &r-,

BEGS to say he has OPENED in that New Building, corner of Edward and Elizabeth streets, with a well-assorted stock of ENGLISH and SCOTCH GOODS brought out by himself, which he will sell for very Small Profits.

Come and see the Value!

Men’s Ready-made Clothing very cheap,

Advertisements for their wares continue until November 1865 when the clearance sale begins:


         In Consequence of Returning to Europe.

ROBERT BLACK, corner of Edward and Elizabeth streets, BEGS to inform his Customers and the Public generally that he has commenced to SELL OFF his Entire Stock of DRAPERY, HABERDASHRRY, and CLOTHING, at an IMMENSE REDUCTION; and, as he proposes clearing all off as quickly as possible, parties in want of Cheap Goods should call at once. P.S.-Note the   Address- Corner of Edward and Elizabeth streets. 6333

Returning to Europe?!  By mid December, the advertisements were demanding that creditors settle their accounts as soon as possible.  The last notice in Brisbane regarding their shop is the final auction on January 11 & 12 1866.

New Zealand, here come the Blacks!

But why leave Brisbane?

Life in 1860s Queensland

Cotton growing became a big industry in Queensland in the early 1860s with the American Civil War cutting off supply from the US.  Investment was encouraged as was immigration of cotton workers.

However, reality for these immigrant cotton farmers was a stark contrast to life back in Ireland.  They were expected to cut fields out of the bush.  Most had little farming experience and little success.

In 1864, Queensland had what Wikipedia describes as it’s ‘annus horribilus‘  “In March of that year, major flooding of the Brisbane River inundated the centre of town, in April, fires devastated the west side of Queen Street, which was the main shopping district and in December, another fire, which was Brisbane’s worst ever, wiped out the rest of Queen Street and adjoining streets.”

The state was heading into a depression.  Robert and Rachel could obviously see which way things were going and decided to up sticks again.  Why they picked Christchurch is unknown.

The maid?

You might be wondering what happened to Susan McQurke?  in 1865 a Susan McQurk marries John Anton Crayn in Queensland (BDM ref 1865/B1197).  I’ve search both Queensland and NZ records to see if there are any further births, marriages or deaths but have come up blank.  There are newspaper references to a Crayn family in northern NSW in the 1890s which may be her descendents or her husbands family.  There is no evidence to suggest she continued with the Black family to New Zealand, yet.

The last stop – New Zealand

From my Grandad’s notes:

On 29.6.1866 Robert opened in High St, Christchurch, a drapery shop which he called the “Criterion”. This was situated on the southwest side of High St., one door north from Lichfield St corner. The business must have quickly grown, since a photo taken in 1868 shows that he then occupied the corner shop also with a combined frontage to High St of about 14m.

He appears to have trained at least his three eldest sons in the business, since Greacen and Henry later established drapery businesses of their own, while Robt Wm (the eldest son) remained and eventually took over the “Criterion” from his father in 1883.

The shop on High St and Lichfield St corner was a single storey building with a wooden shingle roof and a corrugated iron verandah over the footpath.  It was demolished in or before 1896, when a large four storey brick building (still there) was erected on the site.  Robert Black never own the land (part of Lot 3 DP 3779) and occupied the property as a lessee.

Here’s that photo from 1868 (thanks to the Jackmans):

“GJ Black himself, on the left side, arms folded, with dog beside him; RW Black, with shiny belltopper and spreading beard, on road near the third post; Mr Black senr., at his side; F Gabites, with hands crossed, near door and to the right of the fifth post” (from Old Christchurch in Picture and Story by Johannes C. Andersen, 1949).  I think Robert and Robert William are the other way around as RW would have only been about 20 at this point and I have a picture of his father with that beard.

Here is the opening ad for the premises from the Lyttleton Times, 30 June 1866 (Papers Past/National Library):

Black Advert - Lyttleton Times - 30 June 1866

Grandad continues:

In 1882 a decision was made to move to a different site a few doors up High St towards Cashel St, in a new building to be erected by Robt Wm.  While this building was under construction, Robert appears to have formally retired in August 1883 and the further history of the business is continued under Robt Wm’s name.

This was the point where the partnership with Robert Beattie was formed creating Black Beattie & Co.  Beattie who was a draper from Dunedin. Robert William managed the shop in Christchurch while Beattie traveled the South Island as the company’s sales representative.

According to my Jackman cousins, the new Criterion Building:

was the first building in New Zealand to be fitted with a pneumatic document carrying system, which connected the shop counters with a central cashier to whom the customer’s payments would be dispatched. The cashier would then return the change and receipts to the shop assistants in cartridges that were driven along overhead pipes by compressed air.

The Criterion shop was the site of an accident in 1894 which injured Margaret Horne Pyne and led to her premature death.

Their days in New Zealand

There are many references to Robert on Papers Past – although having a son of the same name, sometimes things are confusing!  The most frequent are ads for their shop – promising a sumptuous array of products not dissimilar to the one above.  There are also a few appearances before the local magistrates for various misdemeanors.

Grandad did a lot of research into Robert and Rachel’s life in New Zealand.  He was particularly interested in their homes (he was an engineer). Here’s his summary of their homes:

Where Robert Black lived during his early years in Christchurch has not been traced.  In 1872 he lived in Montreal St. South, but the house number and location are unknown.  On 11.6.1872 he bought a large section (Town sections 511 to 514, CT 2/85) running between Kilmore St and Chester St, just west of Barbados St corner, area 0.4 ha.

On the northern part of this land he built a house, 65 Kilmore St, financed by the un-Presbytarian act of borrowing £500 at 8 percent from the (C of E) Dean of Christchurch, which he later repaid.  Before the house was completed, Rachel’s fatal accident occurred, so she never lived in it.

George had died in 1869, Greacen had moved to Akaroa in 1871 and Robt Wm was now married.  So early in 1873 Robert moved in, presumably with Henry (20), Richard (17) and Elizabeth (16).  He lived there until his death in 1887.  After his death the 0.4 ha land was subdivided and sold in three lots, one including the house.

In 1981 this house (renumbered 214 Kilmore St) still existed and the writer has been in it.

It is a single storey timber framed weatherboard house with a slate roof.  As there is no slate in NZ, the slate would have been imported from Britain. [Deleted: With increasing availability of other materials, this practice had ceased before the end of the century, so slate roofed houses are now rare.] There is a roofed verandah across the whole front with cast iron filigree ornamentation between the posts.

It is quite a large house, about 200m2, but the interior shows signs of considerable past alterations, so how it was loud out originally remains doubtful.  In 1970 the property was compulsorily acquired by the Ministry of Works, apparently with eventual intent to erect a public building on the site.  Meanwhile it remains in use as a tenanted dwelling, but it is very dilapidated and really fit only for its prospective demolition.

I have yet to ascertain if the house is still standing after the 2010/2011 Christchurch earthquakes.  There does appear to be a building still there on Google Streetview taken before the earthquakes.

Robert and his wife were staunch Presbyterians and were associated with St Pauls Presbyterian Church in which over the years Robert held various offices.

As noted above, the death of Sarah was not the only tragedy to befall Robert and Rachel.  In June 1869, their fourth son George Wilson Black died aged 15 of consumption.  He died at Akaroa which suggests he was sent there for the sea air.

Three years later in 1872 Rachel was killed when her buggy fell off the road to Akaroa.

Robert died in 1887:

He died at his Kilmore St home on 25.2.1887.  His death certificate attributes his death to “Paralysis”, time from onset 20 years.  What that means in modern terms is uncertain.  Possibly he died of a cerebral hemorrahage (stroke) with some history of an earlier stroke.

He is buried in Plot 591, Addington Cemetary, Selwyn St, Christchurch, with his wife Rachel and their son George.  Curiously, his wife is named on the headstone as Rachel Greacen (not Black), apparently and Irish practice.

In 1981, the grave was in good order.  The white marble headstone, presumably 112 years old, has weathered dark grey, but is otherwise unimpaired and the inscription is sharp and clear.

Again I don’t know what state the grave is currently in after the earthquakes.

I am still trying to work out who the old lady seen in the garden by Johannes C. Andersen in the early 1880’s.  It wasn’t Rachel.

Robert’s ‘Ill Health’

It is a recurring theme in the news articles from Ireland that Robert and his family immigrated because of his bad health (above and the report of Rachel’s death).  But how bad was it?  It certainly didn’t seem to have prevented him from engaging in a business that would have involved much heavy lifting.  And there is no mention of it in any of the New Zealand news reports.

It has been speculated that it was an excuse to leave Ireland.  I think there may have been an element of truth in it.  As Grandad noted Robert’s death certificate says he had ‘paralysis’ for 20 years.  While this is likely to indicate a stroke that he most likely had in New Zealand, there is the possibility that he might have had a mini-stroke (or TIA) while still in Ireland.  But as usual, it’s all speculation!

Robert and Rachel’s Children

  1. ROBERT WILLIAM BLACK was born in 1848 in Ireland and died on 28 Jun 1931 in Auckland. He married EMILY KINLEY WILSON on 27 Nov 1872 in Magherafelt, Londonderry, Ireland, daughter of WILLIAM E WILSON and MATILDA BUSHE WILSON. She was born on 24 Oct 1853 in Cressona, Pennsylvania, USA. She died on 05 Mar 1939 in 249 Queen St, Onehunga, Auckland.
  2. JOSEPH GREACEN BLACK was born on 02 Jan 1850 in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, Ireland. He died on 24 Jan 1932 in Gisborne, New Zealand. He married MARY MCKAY (1851-1927) in 1879.
  3. HENRY BLACK was born in 1852 in Ireland and died in 1899 in Tasmania, Australia.
  4. GEORGE WILSON BLACK was born in Feb 1853 in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, Ireland and died on 04 Jun 1868 in Akaroa, New Zealand, aged 15.
  5. RICHARD BLACK was born in 1855 in Ireland.  He allegedly went to theological school in the US and was never seen again.
  6. ELIZABETH RACHEL BLACK was born in 1857 in Ireland and died on 03 Sep 1901 in Hobart, Tasmania. She married CHARLES FREDERICK CRESWELL on 02 Apr 1879 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. He was born about 1855.
  7. SARAH BLACK was born in 1861 in Ireland and died in 1863 on the “Fiery Star” while on voyage to Queensland.

I’ve detailed more about the children on their own Upping Sticks page.