8 May 2012

How many of us are there, do you think?

I have been applying my mind to trying to calculate how many people there are living who are using our surname. How is that to be estimated? As far as I know, unless someone can tell me differently, we are only talking about populations in England and Australia and just one family in Canada (which I understand numbers 8).     

Starting with this country, I have a database of births registered from the middle of 1837 to 2011. That totals 904. Of course many of those are no longer with us. I reckon that, of those born as Swinfields, about 229 males and 126 females (who have not married and changed their surname) are still alive. To that we have to add, at my calculation, 106 living women who have “married into the family” and still bear the surname. That makes an English population of approximately 461.

For the English Swinfields, I have also been trying to produce a list of as many current addresses as possible so that we know who lives where and with whom! To date, the commercially-available indexes to current electoral registers combined with the online telephone directories through BT.com have produced names and addresses for 195 adults. In addition, there are 106 children, aged 17 and less, who are too young to be registered voters. That accounts for 201 of the population of 461. We know where about 43.6% of them are living. By the way, there may be as many as 38 of them who are aged 80 or more. The oldest man is, as far as I can ascertain, Eric Swinfield of Leicester who was born in 1920. 

How many would come to our family reunion do you suppose? I am still hoping to arrange one for this Autumn.   

I did recently highlight the amazing statistic that jumped out at me as I was doing this calculation. Of those 114, who were born in the years from 1973 to 1993, as few as 12% have formally married from 1990 to 2009. Marriage is rapidly going out of fashion amongst the younger Swinfields!

The Australian Swinfields are far more difficult for me to count from this far away. They would all appear to be natives of the state of New South Wales unless you can tell me otherwise. The online registration indexes are only accessible only for births to 1909, marriages to only 1956 and deaths to as late as 1977. None of those in the birth indexes will still be alive.

How many Swinfields are there living in Australia to add to our total population? Just send me the names and addresses of youself and your living relatives and I will compile the list. Looking forward to receiving your input very soon.

7 May 2012

Part 20: An Australian Prospector by Di Bouglas

Fans of the film actor, Humphrey Bogart, will remember that in 1948 he made a film called The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with the veteran actor, Walter Huston. Walter won an Oscar for his role as a grizzled old gold prospector, just two years before his death in 1950. Another Walter who tried his hand at prospecting, but as a much younger man, was Walter Swinfield who, according to the information we have, was born in New South Wales in 1879 and died at Bathurst in 1952, making him about the same age as his actor namesake.
Coolgardie in the 1890s

I have recently been using the Trove website of the National Library of Australia. They have digitised almost seven million pages of Australian newspapers and made them available for free on the site. A search for Swinfield produces over 350 results and I have been working through some of these to try and find out more about the Swinfields who emigrated to Australia in the 19th century.

A number of articles about Walter Swinfield caught my eye, all written in 1894. It seems that he was the victim of a confidence trick and his story, and the subsequent hunt for the tricksters, was picked up by newspapers across the whole of the country.
Coolgardie today
Walter was said to have been a young miner from Queensland, who was travelling to Coolgardie via Sydney and Melbourne, presumably to try his luck in the Western Australian town where gold had been struck in 1892. He was befriended in Fitzroy, Melbourne, by two confidence tricksters who succeeded in taking from him £28 in gold and £10 worth of opals. Their method involved a bogus inheritance and a betting game. The two men, Frederick Francois, alias Temple Perkins, and Francis Dawson, alias Johnson, were arrested soon after and eventually jailed. The full article can be read on the Trove website.
We know that Walter married Marie Nielsen in Annandale, New South Wales in 1900. Did they have any descendants? The closest relatives we are in contact with are Linda and Andrew Swinfield, the great-grandchildren of Walter's oldest brother, Henry. There must be people still alive who remember Walter. Did he find his fortune in Coolgardie? Did he and Marie have any children? We'd love to know if anyone has heard of Walter and his adventures.

2 May 2012

Part 19: Ruth Cuff comes to England

It was really good to meet recently with Ruth Elizabeth Cuff, who lives in Tasmania, during her visit to England. She was touring the places in England where her ancestors lived.

Geoff Swinfield & Ruth Cuff

Di and I had the pleasure of having lunch with her in Dulwich and sharing what we have discovered about the Swinfield line of her ancestry. She is part of Family 4 and her ancestor, John Swinfield, and his family left Warwickshire for New South Wales on the “Beejapore”, which arrived in early 1853. He lost his wife and one of his sons through disease soon after they had arrived. Ruth is his great-great-granddaughter.

Letter to Mary pages 1 & 4
Her great-grandmother, Mary (1838-1918), was the younger sister of Edward Swinfield who did not travel to the Antipodes with the rest of his family. Instead he found a job as a planter on the West Indian island of St Kitts. He became manager of the Willetts Estate on the north coast and even took on the role of Registrar of births and deaths for the parish of St Paul. Whilst there, he wrote to his siblings in Australia. Two letters dated 27th August 1861 were sent to Mary and her brother John from the Ogee Estate and Ruth still has them. In the one addressed to his brother, Edward recounts the recent story of taking his fiancĂ©e, whose name is not recorded, for a ride when the horse took fright and the gig overturned. Neither of them was badly hurt but she was severely bruised and took great fright.

Letter to Mary pages 2 & 3
It may be that this incident precipitated the end of their relationship. It was not until 1866 that he returned to Atherstone in England to marry Emily Rowley. The newly married couple went to St Kitts where they had three children, two of whom survived to adulthood. It is not known what became of Edward, who ceased to be registrar at the end of June 1873. His wife, son and daughter were to return to Staffordshire.

Letter to John recounting the accident with his fiancee

Mary and her three siblings, the brother and two sisters, all moved to Hobart in Tasmania as they did not get on with their father’s new wife. Their descendants still live there today. Ruth has been back to England to revisit their ancestral home. How nice it was to meet her here.