Friday, December 8, 2017

Gadsden Bell Swires families

Maud Alice Gadsden, nee Swires (my grandmother), with her only son, 
my father William Bell Gadsden, aged about 6 months, ca 1910.

William Bell Gadsden was the son of Sydney Bartle Gadsden and
grandson of Thomas Alfred Gadsden who married
Eliza Ann Bell.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bell Caithness family descendants

Mary Ann Caithness, daughter of James Ramsey Caithness and Ann Scorey, was born at Marchwood, Hampshire, 20 March 1820. She married William Douglas Bell at Port Elizabeth 29 June 1838. Their children were Mary Ann Elizabeth Pamela, Douglas William, Ellen Selwyn Sophia (d in infancy), Ellen Harriet, James Colquhoun, Sarah Scott, Sturges Bourne, Eliza Ann, Jessie MacGregor, George John Head, Alfred Thomas Payne, and Alice Millican Bell.

Mary Ann Elizabeth Pamela, their eldest child, married John James Johnason and they had a boy and a girl. Douglas William did not marry. Ellen Harriet married Edward Abbott Forbes Baxter, producing one son, Alexander. James Colquhoun married Sarah Clark in 1874 and had eight children. Sarah Scott married Charles George Pay; they had 3 children. Sturges Bourne's marital history remains unknown and he is the subject of further research. Eliza Ann married Thomas Alfred Gadsden, the Bluff lighthouse keeper; their children were William, Philip, Sydney Bartle, Faith and Hope. Eliza Ann and Thomas Alfred were my great grandparents.

Jessie McGregor married James Evans Pascoe Martin, engineer of the SS Basuto; no children are recorded. George John Head married Mary Catherine Tonkin. Alfred Thomas Payne Bell died in Whitechapel, London, in 1884 at the youthful age of 24. Alice Millican married Alfred Mathias Tilley and had two children. 

                                                                 Sydney Bartle Gadsden

                                     William Bell Gadsden and his mother Maud Alice nee Swires.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Reformatory Ancestors: Caithness Bell

William Caithness Bell and his brother Alfred Douglas Bell, grandsons of Captain William and Mary Ann Bell nee Caithness, are missing from their family’s entry in the 1891 UK Census. Parents James Colquhoun Bell and Sarah nee Clark are at home in Lyndhurst Street, South Shields, with their other children ranging in age from 11 years down to the infant Elizabeth. Where were William and Alfred, then aged 15 and 14 respectively, on Census night, 5/6 April 1891 - perhaps away working, possibly apprenticed to a trade?

These would be reasonable assumptions but the truth is that, unexpectedly, the two boys are listed elsewhere. On that date they were guests of the North Eastern Reformatory, Netherton, near Morpeth, Northumberland.

William Caithness Bell was born when his parents were living in Mile End Old TownLondon

A photograph of him in a dress (as small boys were before being ‘breeched’) and wearing only one shoe, shows William as bright-eyed and chubby-cheeked. Unusually, there’s a date written on the back of the photograph, 9 November 1876, so William was a year old. Tartan or similar checked fabric was a popular choice for children and there are yards of it in William’s outfit, complete with a large bow, as if he’d been gift-wrapped.

By 1881 William (5) had two younger brothers, Alfred Douglas (4) and James Colquhoun Bell jnr (1). Ten years later the family were in South Shields, probably having moved there due to work opportunities for James snr: he was a ‘Marine Enameller’. Additional children had arrived in the interim and seven are listed in 1891: James jnr (11), Hester, Henry, Ellen, Victor (his full name was Sturgeous Victor), and Frederick.Bell.

Local newspapers provide nuggets of information about the absent sons. On 31 December 1890, a brief report appeared in the Shields Daily Gazette:
Today's Police News: Pigeons.—William Caithness Bell (I4) and James (16) [no surname given]were charged with stealing two pigeons, the value 3s, the property of Charles Temple, joiner, 109 Edith Street. James Townsley, pigeon dealer, Mill Dam, said the elder lad brought the birds to his shop and he bought them from him. Fined 5s and costs each.
This was a relatively minor brush with the law, but there had been at least one previous misdemeanour in October 1890 and William was soon to be in the news again. In February 1891 he and Alfred were charged with three separate incidents of breaking and entering. The Bell brothers were duly sentenced and served two weeks in prison after which they were sent to the North-Eastern Reformatory for four years.

South Shields Gazette and Shipping Telegraph
Tuesday 24 February 1891

It seems a harsh punishment, though in an earlier era they might have been transported or worse. As the 19thc neared its close, there was a slightly more enlightened view. Juvenile offenders, especially those who had appeared before the court more than once, could be placed in Reformatories and hopefully redirected onto the straight and narrow path. These institutions weren't holiday homes, as entries in the Punishment Book for 1891 reveal, and the cane was frequently used.

The North-Eastern Reformatory School for Boys was founded in the mid-1850s, moving to a site at Netherton near Morpeth in 1859. By William’s and Alfred’s time there would have been 210 boys at the Reformatory. From 1933 the establishment became the Netherton Training Approved School.

Alfred Douglas Bell’s further adventures remain unknown but William Caithness Bell emerged apparently unscathed after his four year stint, marrying a Durham girl, Elizabeth Mankin, in May 1900 and settling down to raise a family. William was ‘in work’ at the shipyard. By 1911 they had a daughter Victoria Josephine and a son named James Colquhoun Bell (the third in that line), evidence that William valued family tradition and that his life was back on track. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Bluff lighthouse and Signal Station, Durban

The Bluff Lighthouse and Signal Station, with keepers' and signallers' quarters.
Ca 1890s/early 1900s. Definitely prior to the addition of the ugly concrete casing
added to 'strengthen' the lighthouse in 1935.

Senior Lightkeepers

1867 - 1880              T A Gadsden (Assisted by D Bell in the 1870s)
1885                          Moffat
1898                          J Stephenson
1.7.1898                    B Shortt
1918                          G Johnson
1922                          L R P Daly
1927 - 1933              T F Addison
1938                          G A Orchard
20.1.1941 - 1.4.1942 A Gray


27.7.1889 - 30.6.1898 F B Shortt
1.7.1898                     John Murphy
18.8.1931 - 16.7.1934 A Spring
16.7.1934 - 1.3.1941   E L Andreason                                              

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Souvenir Saturday: Bell/Martin marriage Durban 1874

Entry in the marriage register for the Colony of Natal
 in the parish of Addington, Durban, 16 April 1874:

James Evans Pascoe Martin, Engineer of the SS Basuto, to Jessie MacGregor Bell aged 17, daughter of Captain (deceased 1869) and Mrs. William Bell. The ceremony was performed by Archdeacon Lloyd at the bride's home, Conch Villa, on the Bluff. One of the witnesses was Douglas William Bell, brother of the bride.

was only 13 at time of Bell’s death. 

If your ancestor married in Natal check the following for a civil marriage certificate:

South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955


Civil marriage certificates for Natal Province sent to the Registrar General in Pretoria. Marriage certificates may include date of act, date of registration, name of bride and groom, ages, place of marriage, birth place, occupations, and residence at time of marriage. Records are usually filed by date of registration and include registrations of Blacks, Coloureds, Indians and Whites. Text of original records is in English or Afrikaans. When searching the index, researchers should be aware that in some instances individuals only have a single name versus having both a given name and surname. Original records are conserved at the National Archives, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Anglo-Zulu War 1879

Anglo-Zulu War Memorial, Pietermaritzburg

For more on this memorial see

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Marburg School (Natal) Group ca 1908

Descendants of some Norwegian emigrants to Natal.
Acknowledgement: David Larsen.