Friday, 19 January 2018

Byles Family plot at Karori

When I looked at the prompt photo for Sepia Saturday this week I initially thought the dark shapes were nuns walking amongst the graves, but then realised they were trees. It looks like a small, neat cemetery layout, unlike many that I've visited in the past, while searching for graves of family members. Often those searches have proved futile, with the person apparently having no headstone, just an unmarked grave that I may or may not have managed to pinpoint somewhere.  

Karori Cemetery in the hills of Wellington NZ is large, covering over 40 hectares and being the last resting place of more than 83000 souls. I went there by bus and am not sure now whether or not I was able to ask directions at the office but I had a grave location and map and surprisingly enough was able to discover the family plot for my Byles great grandparents Mary Ann and Thomas Alfred Byles and their oldest daughter Ellen Mary, known as Nellie or Nell. Nellie died first aged only 29, and according to my aunt this was because she was broken hearted after her fiance was killed in WW1. Her mother Mary died 3 years later aged 54. Thomas survived his wife Mary by 27 years and is buried here with them.
 My grandmother Myrtle May was the nextborn child of Mary and Thomas. She died in Rangiora in 1959 but both she nor her husband/my grandfather Oliver Cruickshank who died in 1985 were cremated and do not have memorial plaques, so I was happy to be able to pay my respects to Myrtle's parents and sister there by their graveside. I was also glad to leave because the weather was threatening and because it felt rather an isolated place late in the afternoon where you wouldn't want to meet any unsavoury characters. It can also be quite sad reading the heartfelt memorials even when you have no connection to the people, particularly if they are for young children or babies.

Mary, Beloved Wife of Thomas Byles, died 11th Oct. 1924, aged 54 years
Thine Forever, God of  Love
Nellie, Beloved daughter of Thomas and Mary Byles
who fell asleep on 14 June 1920, aged 29 years
There is a link death cannot sever
Sweet Remembrance Lasts Forever

Thomas A Byles ,
Beloved husband of Mary
Passed away 12th March 1951
At Rest

Byles family plot
The photo above from the National Library of NZ shows people laying wreaths on ANZAC Day, 25 April 1921, less than a year after Nell died.

Marriage announcement for Thomas and Mary Ann in the Evening Post, April 1889.

I've posted about Thomas Byles before, for example here, in relation to the fact that I haven't yet been able to discover any documentary evidence to prove or disprove the family story that he arrived in New Zealand after having been discovered to be a stowaway in the late 1870s, but finding the Byles family plot was certainly a lot better than discovering during the same trip that his wife Mary's grandmother, Jane Key nee Berry, had been buried in the Bolton Street Cemetery in Wellington but that her remains had been dug up to make way for a motorway and the remains deposited in a common grave, together with over 3000 others. At least her name is recorded here.  

For more blogs on this week's prompt, go to Sepia Saturday #402


Sandra Williamson said...

I think I would simply get overwhelmed by such a large cemetery, you were quite corageous so I am glad you were able to find those that you were seeking. Did it take you very long to find the grave or was your map enough to allow you to get straight there.

Little Nell said...

I know what you mean about unsavoury characters; you can imagine that Magwitch might pop up from behind the gravestones! There’s always something fascinating abut the inscriptions in old graveyards isn’t there?

Mollys Canopy said...

Particularly love the quote on Nellie's stone: "There is a link death cannot sever, Sweet Remembrance Lasts Forever." How hard for her parents that she predeceased them. My Irish great-great grandfather was also displaced by a highway in Baltimore, Maryland -- the entire cemetery being moved to a section of a larger one, but without any of the individual stones. Fortunately, the cemetery office paperwork was filed at the new location, so my cousins were able to verify his details. Still, it's not the same as finding those poignant stones, and that lovely grave surround, that you have posted here.

Unknown said...

Karori Cemetery is very a very large place and somewhere that I have spent many long hours. I was part of the Wellington genealogy group that recorded the inscriptions on the headstones and also have a dear friend whose baby is buried there. I have always found that Cemetery to be very peaceful and is a real treasure trove of history for Wellington city.

tony said...

Rest in Peace Ellen Mary Byles.
a very moving post Jo.

Mike Brubaker said...

I've gotten lost before in large cemeteries when hunting for a specific marker. Here in America the hardest ones to search are where the markers are put flush into the turf for the convenience of mowing the grass. I've never understood why cemeteries don't have a guide book or plaque to help visitors.

Jo Featherston said...

Yes, having a plot location reference is not much help if the rows and plots are not well-marked, which is often the case in cemeteries here in Australia and New Zealand.

Wendy said...

I often think about people who choose cremation, especially when they want their ashes scattered somewhere. There is nowhere to "visit." Will future generations look endlessly for their ancestor? My dad chose cremation but my mother did not, so we had his ashes put into an urn and inserted into her vault. My cousin, on the other hand, is among leaves and twigs and bugs, I guess, somewhere in the mountains that he loved.

La Nightingail said...

I'm one of those who favor cremation & my ashes scattered over the mountains I love. "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust." For me it's not my ancestors' graves I want to find, but pictures, paintings, or even drawings of them if possible, showing them in life. There is a funny story about my Mom who recently passed away, however. She wished to be cremated and her ashes scattered somewhere in the mountains. We wondered how we should go about that & I'll not disclose how we did do it, but at one point I suggested to my sister that a pilot we knew might be willing to take us up so we could scatter her ashes. Sis was quiet for a moment,then suddenly burst out laughing. "What?" I asked. "You do remember", she continued laughing, "Mom was scared to death of flying."

Barbara Rogers said...

What a lovely burial plot for that family. I'm aghast that there's now a motorway where the old cemetery used to be, and all those bones merged into one big plot...wonder where the headstones might have gone. I know sometimes cemeteries have to be moved, but what a chore that must be!