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(brick)Walls Come Tumbling Down

February 11, 2011

Mary Ann Malthouse

I’m thinking of starting a list of Genealogy Commandments.  Things like:

When/where you least expect it, expect it.

If you can’t find it, it’s probably right under your nose – have you looked there?

Family history information doesn’t go ‘out of date’ but the passage of time brings new things to light.

Some things are too obvious to bother mentioning. Ask the obvious questions.

Just because you think you’ve looked/know, have another look/think.

I started researching my family history in 1986.  I did so fairly obsessively for about seven years until children/work/study took over my life.  And then I came back to it, with the wonders of the internet at my fingertips.

Mary Ann's parents, Francis Malthouse and Mary Groves

As mentioned in my January PostADay update, January has been very busy just going through all my old research, and bringing it into some semblance of order, while simultaneously preparing posts for my blog.  This has left little time for ‘new’ research.

One morning this week I woke up with one of my brickwalls niggling at me.  It has been niggling at me for a while, but I’ve managed to keep it at bay.

This particular morning, I woke up and thought ‘today I am going to find Mary  Ann Malthouse’s death date’.

The Malthouse house in Zion St Leeds

Mary Ann Malthouse is my great-great-great grandmother.  She is the mother of Gran who wrote some of the ‘Letters to Frank’ and grandmother of Aunty who wrote the rest of them.

Mary Ann was born in Yorkshire, England on 15 July 1835 and baptised at St Peters Church, Leeds, Yorkshire England on 27 December 1835.  She was a daughter of Francis Malthouse and Mary Groves.  The Malthouse family lived in a house in Zion Street, Leeds.

Mary Ann married John Peck on 18 November 1855 at Leeds Parish Church, West Riding, Leeds, Yorkshire.

John Peck

John Peck was born in about 1833 in Wiltshire, England.  He was a son of John Peck.  John Peck’s family also lived in Zion Street Leeds.

John Peck was a contractor.  He operated large contracts in several places outside of England, before taking his family – wife, Mary Ann and their children Keziah “Kizzie”, Mary Jane “Jennie”, Ann “Annie” and John Malthouse “Jack” to Australia.  They were unassisted immigrants, and they made several journeys to Australia and back to England – mostly aboard the same ship – Commissary. So I’ve been unable (as yet) to ascertain exactly what date they first came out to Australia.

Francis Malthouse and Mary Groves with granddaughters Kizzie, Jennie and Annie

Their first child born in Australia was Margaret “Mary” who was born in Queensland in Nov/Dec 1865 and died 22 April 1867 in Middle River New South Wales.

Next was my g-g-grandmother, Emily Bertha Eliza born in Surry Hills New South Wales on 19 June 1868; Alice Maud also born in Surry Hills on 8 December 1869; Francis George born about August 1871 in Sydney (probably Surry Hills) and died 21 September 1871 (Convulsions); and finally, Thomas Groves, born 25 December 1872, Wellington New South Wales.  A family story has him being born in a stable behind a hotel on Christmas Day!

I will write more about John Peck in another post – but he died near Wellington New South Wales on 6 March 1873 of ‘privation and intemperence’ while carrying a contract to instal telegraph poles.

540 Bourke Street, Surry Hills (from Google Streetview)

Mary Ann was left with seven children, one of them just a few months old.  The family had a house in Surry Hills at 540 Bourke Street.  It was there that my g-g-grandmother grew up.

On 3 July 1875, in Elizabeth Street, Sydney, Mary Ann married Alexander Edward Murray.  He was a 31 year old bachelor, a labourer, and she was 40 years old, a widow and mother of seven children.

And that’s where the story used to end.  Or move onto the lives of the children.

I have made contact with several family members – descendants of John and Mary Ann, or descendents of her parents, in England.  No one knew what happened to Mary Ann after she married Alexander Murray.

There were some theories.  Someone thought they might have packed up and gone back to England.  That seemed most likely, in fact.  They seemed to just disappear.  One thing was certain – they didn’t have any more children, and Mary Ann didn’t die in New South Wales.

Now in hindsight there are some things I should have done: 1. asked living elderly relatives; 2. thought about other members of the family and what happened to them; 3. maybe made a timeline or such to see who was where, when.

So this particular day I searched the State Records of New South Wales, the New South Wales BDM index, and I think I may have located an arrival entry for Alexander Murray.  But then I hit all the same dead ends I was accustomed to from years ago.  Blank.

So then I went to Trove and did a search of New South Wales newspapers.  Again, in hindsight, why New South Wales – that is the one place we knew they weren’t.

But that’s what I did. I read article after article.  I found articles about John Peck’s contracts for developing Moore Park in Sydney, and Park Road, and I read about a picnic put on for him by his workers just before he was leaving the Colony on the Commissary (not permanently, it turns out).  And then I found it.  A set of three memorial notices, published in the Sydney morning herald on the first anniversary of the death of Mary Ann Murray, at the residence of her son in law W Foulston in… Kalgoorlie Western Australia!!! on 28 December 1910.

SMH 30 Sept 1870

Sydney Morning Herald 30 September 1870

I never even thought to check the Western Australian indexes – and if I had, I may not have felt confident that Mary Ann Murray in the WA index was ‘my’ Mary Ann Murray anyway – it’s a fairly ordinary sort of name.

So here she was, all along, right under my nose.  She was living with her daughter, Alice Maud (Aunty Smith in the Letters to Frank) and her first husband William S Foulston.  Interestingly if I’d checked Western Australian papers (which I did, later) I wouldn’t have found her, because I wasn’t able to find any notices printed in Western Australia – either at the time of Mary Ann’s death or a year later.

Sydney Morning Herald 28 December 1911


6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2011 8:23 am

    Interesting bit of family history there…wonder if that’s true about Thomas Groves…I love all those old sepia pictures and the family portrait is fantastic. They children are like those porcelain dolls.

  2. Michelle permalink*
    February 11, 2011 8:54 am

    Yes, I love the grandparents and grandchildren photo too.

  3. July 12, 2018 5:25 pm

    Hi my husbands grandfather Robert Peck was born in Wellington NSW in 1919 – any chance he would be related to either John or Thomas Groves Peck?

    • Michelle permalink*
      July 12, 2018 7:31 pm

      Hi Debbie
      I havent tracked John Malthouse Peck or Thomas Groves Peck’s families. Have you purchased your husband’s grandfather’s birth certificate? That will tell you his parents names? My Peck family spent a lot of time in Surry Hills but both JM Peck and TG Peck would have been adults well and truly by 1919 so may have been living anywhere. TG certainly had a connection with Wellington being born there and his father dying there. Please let me know what you find out – I’d love to know if we’re related 🙂


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