The Whaite Family History

From Coddington to Sydney NSW via Manchester

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Harry in England

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Revised 18 November 2011



Family stories say that Harry was being trained as a photographer in Manchester when he met Alice, who was a member of a vaudeville company, where she was known as "Alicia Bool/Boule", though born as Blakeney. Though the family say that Alice was " a Spanish dancer", it seems more likely that she and her partner and later husband Michael John Meagher were a duo who staged a Spanish dance "act" as part of the company's performances.

This is a bit hard to reconcile with records of "Samuel John", who is said to have been an "Oil Painter" in the Burnley birth record of his son Frederick in November 1879, but the Errand Boy in 1871 could have changed a lot by the time of his 1876 marriage. The 1881 Census record as "Artist (PR)" follows 1879 details, as do birth details of George in 1882. However by 1884, Harry is shown in Kelly's Walsall Directory as being a Photographer living Hawkins Court rear of 93 Hatherton St Walsall Staffordshire. Another researcher has sent an undated photo of a family group posed in a field, which bears the inscription "Australian Portrait Parlours Stafford St Walsall Whaite & Cooper", though a record of this firm has not been found so far in any directory.

However, in an Australian magazine "The Theatre" of 1 December 1909, p22 was an article " A Scenic Artist at His Studio", which reported "All Mr Whaite's people were scene painters. His uncle Clarence [actually cousin Henry Clarence, son of his great uncle Henry] was an RA and President of Water Color Society of Manchester. It was with this uncle and others that Mr Whaite first got his tuition."

While living in England, Harry and Alice had two children. There was George born in June 1882 in Walsall who died when only 9 weeks old. Then there was another George also born Walsall March 1884 who died on 27 October from Abscess on the Brain when 8 months old. His death occurred at sea on S S "Kildare", on which the family were travelling to Melbourne Victoria, just 2 days after it left Plymouth and even before the boat arrived at its first port, Canary Islands. It was a maiden voyage for "S S Kildare" and its stormy journey is recorded in "The Tasmanian Mail" of 20 December 1884.

When the ship arrived at Hobart Tasmania on 15 December 1884, the ship's captain registered George's death, his parents said to be "Child of Passengers" and George's name was crossed out on Passenger List, when the ship arrived in Melbourne c 22 December 1884.




The person known in Australia as Harry Whaite seems to have suddenly appeared in English records on 4 April, the date of 1881 British Census living at Walsall Foreign near Wolverhampton in Staffordshire calling himself Henry Waite age 22 years born Burnly, Artist PR, Head of Household, together with his wife Alice age 21 born Wolverhampton Staffs.

Census records do not show his parents, so these have been implied from Australian records, his father George being named as an Engineer and his mother Anne, though her maiden name was not Garrow.

Even with this information, no records of a birth in any name similar to Harry Whaite in the five years before and after the Census birthdate of 1859 could be found. There was nothing unusual in this, especially if Harry had been an ex nuptial child of Anne Fisher Widow, or maybe even of George Whaite before they married in Manchester in 1855 as it was not compulsory to register births in Britain until 1875.

Several suggestions as to Harry's true identity have been made by other Whaite researchers, but all came to nothing, though a recent one that he was actually Samuel John born end of December 1855 at Duckinfield some ten kilometres to south east of Manchester, does have some credibility. For him, there is a birth certificate with parents George Whaite Spindle Maker and Mother Anne Fisher Widow formerly Harris, though on their Marriage Certificate, her father was James Heywood Gamekeeper. By the time of 1861 Census, George and Anne were living in Tame Valley on the border of Cheshire and Lancashire, together with Samuel John age 6 and his siblings.

In 1868, Anne died and the children were separated so by 1871 Census, the three surviving children were living apart. Samuel John had discarded his first name and now age 15 was an Errand Boy living in Victoria St Manchester with the Gregson family, near his sister Elizabeth, though his birthplace was not in Lancashire. This is the last UK Census record so far found for Samuel or John Whaite, with the correct details.

By 1876, Samuel was in Burnley near his father George and his second wife Mary H Bowker and his sister Sarah. There, using his full name and age 20, he married Isabella H Thompson and they had three children, the eldest being Mary Anne, who in 1881 Census was living with her maternal grandmother. Mary Anne was still with her in 1891, though her mother who had by now remarried as a Widow, was living at nearby Habergham Eaves with her second "husband" Elijah Marsden, and in 1901 they were both living at Burnley. Mary Anne married in 1901 Francis Hadfield, but he died and in 1906 at Blackburn she had married Robert Harwood and it was under this name that around 1935 that she got in touch with her “brother” [actually half brother] Fred. His wife Lilian continued the correspondence, mainly about trips to beaches at nearby Blackpool, but over the years the families lost touch.

Because his former "wife" had remarried, it did seem likely that Samuel John had died prior to 1887, but no deaths of either Samuel John nor John in Britain, with the correct particulars, could be found up until the end of 1935.

Reflecting his conduct later when living in Australia, it does seem possible that Samuel John and Isabella, whether by mutual consent or not, had separated and that Isabella later "remarried" as Widow as a concession to the conventions of the day.

Samuel John and Isabella had a second child who died as an infant, as did their last child, said to be born 11 November 1879 in Burnley.

However, it was in February of 1879, that "Harry" Whaite and Alice Blakeney were said to have been married, according to 1885 NSW Birth Certificate of their son Frederick, at St Johns Wolverhampton, Alice's birthplace. No record of this marriage has yet been found. Another record is from his partner Alice [then Meagher's] NZ death certificate, on which her spouse for her "First Marriage" is called Harold Waite and they are said to have been married when she was 15 i.e. in 1874, though no record around this time has been found.

When Harry petitioned for divorce in 1900 in NSW, the papers accused his wife of adultery with the Co Respondent, but his wife countered with mention of Harry's prior adultery with "other women'' in Mossmans Bay and Pyrmont. Perhaps his behaviour in England was simply a pre cursor to that in Australia.

There is a quite a progression in his christian names from Samuel John to John for the birth of his first child with Isabella in 1877. In 1881 Census, his name was the more formal Henry, but by the birth of his first son with Alice Blakeney in 1882, he was John Harry. By the time his second son George was born in 1884, his father was Harry and that was the name he used thereafter.

The ages Harry gave on various documents are of no help to confirm his identity as they vary so widely. Though his age at 1876 marriage was correct, in 1881 Census Harry said he was but 22, then 23 on arrival in Victoria at end of 1884 and only 39 on his second marriage in 1905, but at last his correct age of 76 years at his death in 1931.

While the above particulars may have some validity, other ones may yet be found and we may never know for sure, just what the connection was between Harry Whaite and his probable parents.