Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Re-assessing Helen Charlotte ROBERTS

I had been building up facts on Helen Charlotte ROBERTS, and felt I had uncovered the correct family, however I had attached her to another family in Lambeth, London about that time with the same parents, William and Charlotte ROBERTS. I have since found that William ROBERTS and Charlotte nee GANT could not be Helen Charlotte's parents. The three posts I'd previously made now have retraction notices stating inaccuracies, and the information I can state with certainty is re-combined below.

Following from the recent post on Grace SMITH (1870-1934) and her siblings (http://thehistoryofmatt.blogspot.com/2008/11/updated-photo-details-2-who-were-hilda.html), I've spent some time looking into her mother Helen Charlotte nee ROBERTS. Particularly because the prospects of finding her father William SMITH's death, or any other details for that matter, are slim for now given his name.

From her birth certificate, Grace SMITH, born 14 Mar 1870, Lower Campbell Street, Sydney to parents William SMITH and Ellen Charlotte nee ROBERTS. Ellen was in fact mis-written, and should have been Helen Charlotte - Helen and Ellen being homophones. Later certificates all state her name as Helen.

I knew the following about her mother:

Helen Charlotte ROBERTS, born abt 1836 in London, England, parents not yet identified (marriage certificate did not contain details), arrival in Australia not known. Confounding this, her marriage certificate to William Smith at the Wesleyan Parsonage, Surry Hills on 16 Jan 1869 contained no information beyond the fact that neither had been married previously, and that William was a drayman.

According to NSW BDM indexes, Helen Charlotte SMITH died in Sydney in 1918, aged 82 years, with the fathers name ROBERTS listed (parents names were not given).
I started by ordering her death certificate:
1918 Helen Smith death

NSW Death Certificate
Date and place of death: 1918 16th January, 34 Hardie St
Name and occupation: Helen Charlotte Smith, Widow
Sex and age: Female, 82 years
Cause of death: Senile cardiac disease and collapse
Duration of last medical illness: Nicholas P Elhirst, MRCS(?) Registered
When he last saw deceased: 7th January 1918
Name and occupation of father: - Roberts
Name and occupation of mother: -
Informant: A.E. Smith, Son, South Head Rd, Rose Bay, Sydney
Particulars of registration: (signed) 22nd January 1918, Sydney
When and where buried: 18th January 1918, Church of England Cemetery, Waverley
Name of undertaker: Walter Carter
Where born and how long in the Australasian colonies: London England, 57 years in NSWales
Place of marriage, age, and to whom: Sydney NSWales, 34 years, William Smith
Children of marriage:
Grace (Hodge) 47
William 45
Alfred E 43
None dead


The death certificate confirms that Helen and William had 3 children: 1870 – Grace Smith, 1871 – William E Smith, 1873 – Alfred E Smith. While not stating her parents names, the death certificate also gives two important clues: that she was born abt 1836 in London, and that she arrived in NSW abt 1861.

The IGI Familysearch site revealed only one baptism for a Helen Charlotte Roberts around 1836 - in fact it appears that Helen was a relatively rare name (though the name Ellen abounds):

Christening: 29 MAY 1836 at Saint John The Evangelist, Lambeth, Surrey, England

Note the full name William Richard ROBERTS of her father, and the mother listed as Charlotte. Ancestry have placed most C of E parish registers on-line, and searching the same parish with help of look-ups have provided me with three children - there don't appear to be others in the two or three years preceding and following this time.

From the baptism register St John the Evangelist, Lambeth
Valentine Abraham ROBERTS
Date of baptism:  28 Dec 1834   Saint John The Evangelist, Lambeth, Surrey
Valentine Abraham ROBERTS, son of
Parents:  William Richard &
Charlotte Elizabeth ROBERTS
Abode: Waterloo Road
Quality, Trade or Profession: Bootmaker

From the baptism register St John the Evangelist, Lambeth
Date of baptism: 29 May 1836

Helen Charlotte ROBERTS, daughter of

Parents: William Richard & Charlotte ROBERTS
Abode: Waterloo Road
Quality, Trade or Profession: Shoemaker

From the baptism register St John the Evangelist, Lambeth
Date of baptism: 7 Mar 1838
Elizabeth Selina ROBERTS, daughter of

Parents: William Richard & Charlotte Roberts
Abode: Frances Street

Quality Trade or Profession: Shoemaker

Date of birth in margin: 13 Feb 1838

So we know that William Richard ROBERTS married a woman named Charlotte Elizabeth ? at or prior to 1834. William was a shomaker, and the family lived in the parish of St John the Evangelist, Lambeth from 1834-1838.

I have not found the family in the 1841 or 1851 censuses, with the exception of Helen Charlotte in 1851, visiting with a family in Marylebone a few miles from Lambeth:
Helen C Roberts, Visitor, aged 14 (born abt 1837), scholar, born Lambeth, Surrey

They must be there somewhere. There are probably two further pieces of information I could obtain at this stage:

1. Civil registration for births, deaths and marriages started in 1837, so Elizabeth Selina's birth registration may contain more information:
Elizabeth Selina Roberts
Year of Registration:     1838
Quarter of Registration:     Jan-Feb-Mar
District:     Lambeth
County:     Greater London, London, Surrey
Volume:     4
Page:     297

2. I checked NSW BDM records in case I could find a clue on Helen's siblings. Luckily enough, I found a death for Valentine Roberts in 1916!

NSW Death Index
Registration district: LIVERPOOL  

This may give clues on when the family arrived in Australia.

As for Helen Charlotte's arrival in NSW, inspection of the NSW State Archives reveals only one possible match for Helen's arrival:
ROBERTS, Ellen, aged 23. Ship: Chance, year: 1860. The ship sailed from Southhampton, England to Sydney, Australia arriving 13 July 1860.

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