Thursday, August 5, 2010

William SMITH of Hamburg

I have an ancestory named WILLIAM SMITH, who I've written about a few times ( He has vexed me so much that it is his street of residence on my 'History of Matt' banner.

William Smith was born abt 1836, though as records show he was born in 'Hamburgh' in Germany it is possible that William Smith is the anglicised spelling of his original name.

The first record I have of him is that he married Helen ROBERTS at the Wesleyan Parsonage, Surry Hills, Sydney on 16 Jan 1869 (herself somewhat tricky to track). I can find no announcement in the Sydney Morning Herald. There are no real personal details recorded on the marriage certificate.

William and Helen had three children:
Grace (1870-1934)
William (1871-1944)
Alfred (1873-1955)

The birth of their daughter Grace provides their address in 1870: Lower Campbell Street Sydney. This is confirmed in the Sydney Sands Directory for 1873 showing 'Smith, William, 23 Campbell St, lower'. Lower Campbell St is located in what is now ostensibly Sydney City, south of Hyde Park. Today Lower Campbell St does not appear to contain residences - when the plague struck Sydney in 1900, many dwellings were demolished, and photos were taken of the residences demonstrating the slum-like nature of the dwellings - those remaining were the terrace-houses typical of the time.

The birth certificates of Grace and Alfred and his death certificate reveals he was a Van Driver (1870), Carter (1873) or Ostel (horse keeper, 1874). All state that he was born in 'Hamburgh, Germany'. 

 His death is listed in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1874:

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 6 July 1874

SMITH. July 4, at Liverpool, late of Lower 23, Campbell-street, Surry Hills, Sydney, William Smith, leaving an affectionate wife and 3 children to mourn their loss, aged 38.

This leads to his NSW Death Certificate. He died in 1874 at Liverpool - possibly on the road for work - leaving three children. The Liverpool Asylum and similar institutions in New South Wales were established to treat 'destitute men' though with an occupation and living in Sydney (which was then quite a long way from Liverpool, and Sydney had its own Asylum) it is possible an accident or medical issue befell him while in Liverpool. His death certificate is completed by a doctor at the Asylum, with information on family missing, again suggesting his stay there was sudden.

New South Wales Death Certificate
No. 2592
Date and place of death: July third 1874, Liverpool asylum
Name and occupation: William Smith, Ostler
Sex and age: Male 38 years
Cause of death: Paralysis
Duration of last illness: -
Medical attendant: W.E. Strong, MD
When he last saw deceased: -
Name and occupation of father: Unknown
Name and maiden surname of mother: Unknown
Informant: Certified by W.E. Strong MD, Liverpool Asylum
Particulars of registration: William Long, August 4th 1874, Liverpool
When and where buried: July 6th 1874, Liverpool
Name of undertaker: Pat Coffee, Liverpool
Name and religion of Minister: Chas A.D. Priddle, Ch. of Eng.
Witnesses of the burial: Edw Boon, Stuart Andrew
Where born and how long in the Australasian Colonies: Hamburgh, Ship unknown, 1854
Place of marriage, age, and to whom: Unknown
Children of marriage: Unknown

And that is everything I know about William Smith. There was apparently nothing too remarkable abou this death is there was no story in the Sydney Morning Herald. I am hoping to learn whether asylum records hold more (they are held at the State Archives), and whether he has a headstone at Liverpool Cemetery.

But was he really German (Wilhelm Schmidt) or perhas the son of a British soldier born in Germany? How did he get to Australia? Maybe a clue lies in the fact that his second son was 'Alfred Elpinstone Smith' (born 1873). A William Smith arrived in Australia on the Elphinstone in 1840 - a clue to descendants about his arrival? This William was aged 5 (so perfect age), the family was Baptist, and of 'Aughall' (father, George, 36, a labourer). What are the chances of this not being him? And the religion (baptist) fits with his marriage in a Wesleyan parsonage. 

The arrival date of 1854 in his death certificate suggests otherwise - though who gave the information? Clearly not his family as they themselves weren't known when the death certificate was lodged the day after his death. Whoever gave the information at the Liverpool Asylum (William was suffering from 'paralysis' - perhaps a fall from a horse?) could not name his parents, his wife, his children, or the ship he arrived on. Only his city of birth (Hamburgh) and year of arrival - so it's not likely that this detail is correct.

I'm not quite sure what I can do to learn more about him at this stage - except hope that somehow he has a headstone.

Given the possible arrival date of 1854 and the fact his name was probably German (not William Smith) I re-checked arrivals in Australia and found the following:

Ship ‘Marbs’, arrived from Hamburg in March 1855 at Moreton Bay (near what is now Brisbane), Assisted immigrant
Will Schmidt, age 19 (so born in 1836!!), ‘Native place’ (born) Hamburg, Father: Gustav Adolph Smith, mother Anna Sophia, father alive and living in Hamburg, Religion: ‘Evang’ (I think it means Evangelical? All the Germans on the boat have the same religion), Can read and write, When he arrived he already had a brother in Sydney (no name given), State of health good, no complaints about the journey, Testimonials of character provided.


This could be him. Born in Hamburg, year of birth a perfect match.In the whole assisted immigrant indexes I could not find another close match.

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