Monday, 7 December 2015

Looking for Mr Gridley. A post for Trove Tuesday and Sepia Saturday

According to the quote on the Sepia Saturday prompt this week, 'a man may be down but he's never out'. This provides a rather tenuous link to the subject of my blog, which concerns a man who is in fact 'out', as in out of sight, disappeared without trace, at least as far as I can discover to date.

Lately I've been trying to find out a little more about my husband's great grandmother Margaret Splatt Neilson, who was the eldest child of Daniel Neilson and Elizabeth Bernard, Scots immigrants who married in Ballarat in 1868. Margaret was born in Mount Pleasant, BalÅ‚arat in 1869 and was 21 when she married Joseph Featherston there in 1890.  Here's a report of their wedding from the Ballarat Star:

Ballarat Star, 2 October 1890, from Trove web site

                                                 Believed to be Joseph Featherston

Joseph and Margaret Featherston had 5 children but to date I've discovered no family photographs, other than the one above. According to the electoral roll in 1909 the family were living at 8 Nelson St, Ballarat East and Joseph's occupation was carter. In 1914 he was listed as a groom and the family address was 65 Eureka St. Joseph died on 1 December that year, when youngest daughter Lillian Myrtle was aged 14. Their third son Albert Leslie Featherston was killed at Monquet France on 8 August 1916.

In 1924 Margaret Featherston, her two daughters Sylvia and Lillian and her mother Elizabeth Neilson nee Bernard were living at 38 Hilton St Clifton Hill. Sylvia was a confectioner and Lilian was a heel finisher. Sylvia married in 1926, but Margaret and Lilian were still there in 1931, and her grandson Robert Featherston, son of oldest son Joseph, remembered catching the train from Geelong to Melbourne as a teenager to visit his grandmother and go to the movies there. Margaret died at 38 Hilton Street in 1935 and is buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery together with her husband Joseph. Here is a present day photograph of 38 Hilton St, a Hawthorn or polychrome brick terrace house which looks to have changed little since 1936, on the outside at least. Lillian remained living there until at least 1954. We live about forty minutes drive away from Clifton Hill, but by total coincidence we walked past #38 when we attended a house concert held in a home just a few doors away last Saturday night.

In the family death notice published for Margaret there is a particular mention of  her friend Mr C. Gridley:

The Age, Wednesday Jan 2, 1935 (snipped from Trove web site)

In Memoriam notices were subsequently placed for Margaret in the Age in 1936, 1937 and 1940 and in each case her 'loved friend' Mr C. Gridley published his own separate notice for her. Here for example are the 1940 notices:

The Age, 1 Jan 1940 (snipped from Trove web site)

So who was this Mr C. Gridley?  According to the Electoral rolls, one Clarence Henry Gridley, boot maker, was residing at 46 George St, Fitzroy together with Henry Gridley, carpenter from 1928 until some time after 1936.  Henry passed away in 1950 and by 1954 Clarence had moved to 29 Victoria Pde, Collingwood. After that date I've so far found no further mention of him, neither on electoral rolls or Victorian death records, nor in Trove.

The fact that Clarence Gridley was a boot maker suggested to me that this must be the connection. Margaret's daughter Lilian was a heel finisher, hence she and Mr Gridley may well have worked together.  Clarence Henry Gridley appears to have been born in Launceston Tasmania in 1900 and would have been the same age as Lilian. Was he perhaps her suitor, who also became friendly with her mother Margaret? Another In Memoriam notice placed in 1950 for Lilian's sister Sylvia adds weight to this theory.

The Age, 12 Sep 1950 (snipped from Trove web site)

It may be no coincidence that in 1928 Sylvia and Lillian's brother Emerson Ralph and wife Dorothy named their second son Clarence Henry. They also named daughters Sylvia, Lily, Margaret and Elizabeth. In about 1950 Bob and his wife Mary went to the wedding of Bob's cousin Betty, daughter of Sylvia and Len. It seems quite likely that Clarrie Gridley would also have been invited to attend. I don't know if my mother-in-law Mary remembers him, but I think she recalled Bob's Aunt Lilian as a lady who had lots of shoes.

In this very small image of Betty Hamilton's marriage to Robert Stephenson, it must be father Len standing between his daughters Betty and her sister Margaret Lillian, but I don't know who the gentleman on the left is. He looks rather older than the groom on the far right. Could he possibly be family friend Clarrie Gridley? Perhaps Mary can enlighten me.

 In 1956 Lillian married her widowed brother-in-law Len Hamilton, and they lived together in his Footscray home until her death in 1977. So what became of Clarrie Gridley after 1954?  Did he perhaps move back to Tasmania after Lillian married Len? It would appear that he was a close friend of Lillian and indeed of the whole Featherston family. So far what I've found about him since 1954 ressembles a doughnut in the tennis sense of the word, but Clarrie may just be 'out to lunch'. To find out more I'll ask Mary if I get a chance over Xmas, but failing that I may just have to wait until more recent newspapers are digitalized or perhaps the Tasmanian death indexes go online.

If you fancy reading other Sepian blogs about doughnuts, mess kits, servicemen or other more substantial fare that may be prompted by this week's image, take a bite out ofSepia Saturday #309.


Lorraine Phelan said...

Trove is such a great resource. I can see why you are intrigued by this puzzle.

Wendy said...

Oh what a fun little puzzle. I love noticing those subtle clues that feel almost like an "inside joke" and you just have to worm your way inside to understand it. It is so satisfying to think you have that ancestor all figured out.

Kristin said...

Mysteries, mysteries and more mysteries.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the kind of blog post which I enjoy reading. Clarence oh Clarence, please let Jo find your story It sounds intriguing. I can also place a family bootmaker in Fitzroy in the same time period at 148 Brunswick St - first Sam Crabtree and then his nephew Leslie McDonald

ScotSue said...

It is mysteries like this that makes family history such an absorbing hobby.

La Nightingail said...

Family mysteries such as this one could make up the core of a lovely story!

Little Nell said...

Well, it doesn’t really matter how tenuous the link to the prompt if it leads you off onto this journey of discovery!

Jo Featherston said...

How interesting. They could well have known Mr Gridley, either as colleagues or competitors.

Mike Brubaker said...

Family history is always more interesting when occupations, friends, and travels are added to the names and dates. I'm fascinated by the sentimental verses that people chose for memorials. Did they compose the words themselves or choose from a list supplied by the newspaper? The cost is usually by the word, so did people worry that fewer words convey cheap meanness rather that loving memory?

Jo Featherston said...

I doubt they would have made up the verses themselves, more likely they chose from a newspaper selection. Newspaper memorials are a lot less common than they used to be

Tattered and Lost said...

The plot thickens! You've proven searching family history can have many unknown branches.