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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Conclusion

BOLES, John Thompson & Christina, headstone

John Thompson Boles & Christina Montgomery Boles headstone, Stellawood Cemetery, Durban, Kwazulu-Natal.  Photograph by Maureen Kruger for the Gravestones in South Africa project on the eGGSA website.

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  The disappearance of his entire family from Scotland in 1890 has been a mystery to me for several years.  With the discovery of the existence of his possible estate file, and the microfilm containing that file, I ordered the film from BYU and looked forward to learning new details that might finally answer my two big questions:

When did John Boles leave Scotland for South Africa?

and

Why did John Boles move his entire family of 9 to South Africa?

 

After ordering the microfilm containing his possible estate file, life got busy and I didn’t make it over to BYU to view the file before RootsTech.  So, I decided to look up the file while in Salt Lake City at the FHL.

To my utter delight, I found both John’s 27 page file and Christina’s 2 page file very quickly and made several discoveries.  The important first discovery was that they contained information that confirmed these estate files were about my John and Christina Boles.

MONTGOMERY, Christina, 1927 Estate File

Christina Montgomery Boles’ death notice.

The biggest discovery was that John and Christina had two children after they settled in South Africa – Alice and John.  They are listed as children numbered 10 and 11 on Christina’s death notice.  Child number 12, Isabella Miller, belongs in position 3.

I also learned that John owned land, several pieces of very nice land.

durban-bay-map

1930 map of Durban Harbour, from the collection of Allan Jackson.  Used with permission.

At the time of his death in 1935, John owned land that was part of the Farm Sea View.  This development is found west of Durban Bay just north of the sizable Clairmont Estate.

In addition to the land, John owned shares in several different mines.

He also had quite a list of movable property, nice furnishings, a piano, and many other possessions acquired during the years he lived in South Africa.

John and Christina’s estate files did not enlighten me on when they came to South Africa, but they did open my eyes as to why they came.

In Scotland, John was a coal miner.  This was not a life that afforded opportunity.  He would never own land.  His daily existence was hard and his earnings were meager.  His children would work from a young age and live a similar life.

In studying the estate files of John, Christina, and their children, I discovered that the entire family experienced a much better life, financially, in South Africa than they ever would have experienced in Scotland.  They helped manage mines and stores.  They owned land and homes and movable property of value, as well as shares in several mines.

This knowledge is bittersweet for me.  They went from being the poor workers to managing the poor workers.  My understanding of South African history and apartheid is limited, but it’s broad enough to know that my Boles family benefited from this cruel system.  I am happy that they were able to experience more comfort and safety in their new life but I am also saddened to know that it came at the expense of others.  History is complicated.

When they came is still a bit of a mystery.  I reviewed the documents I currently hold for this family and have this timeline:

  • 4 July 1889, Agnes Smellie Boles is born in Holytown, Lanark, Scotland and her father John is the informant.
  • 18 February 1890, John Boles dies in Holytown, Lanark, Scotland.  The informant is not his father John Boles, but his uncle Alexander Boles.  It is possible that John has already left Scotland for South Africa at this point.
  • 5 November 1890, the 7 living Boles children travel to Natal, South Africa aboard the Methven Castle, traveling with Chas M Boles.  A recently found record indicates that their father John Boles, residing in Dundee, was the surety name for the children.

John left Scotland sometime after 4 July 1889 and before 5 November 1890.  While I haven’t found an immigration record for John or his wife Christina, I know that neither of them traveled to South Africa with the children.  Did they come together?

My original goal in learning more about John Boles was to hopefully learn more about his parents, my 4th great grandparents.  Unfortunately, learning the end of John Boles’ life did not add new information about his parents.  I did learn more about John, Christina, and their children.  I do feel a sense of closure for their family, but as is the case with most research, I now have more questions than when I started.  Fortunately the questions are not essential to my research so I will be able to put them away and move on to other members of the Boles family.

It was a fitting end to find an image of John and Christina’s headstone pictured at the top of this post.

This research journey from Scotland to South Africa that John and Christina took me on deserves two follow-up posts – one about FamilySearch records and one about South African records found in various places online.

Happy Thursday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!

 


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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Part Two

duban-bay-image

Durban to The Drakensberg” by John Hone, 1988, photo of Durban, Natal, South Africa

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He is the younger brother of my 3rd great grandmother Catherine Boles.  John, his wife Christina, and his 7 living children who were all born in Scotland, just up and disappeared in 1890.

In 2014, a serendipitous connection with a kind stranger from Scotland, led me to an immigration record for all 7 Boles children traveling to Natal, South Africa without their parents.

Then there were the 3 marriage records for Elizabeth, Christina, & Helen Boles.  All 3 marriages took place in Natal, South Africa.  Helen’s 1906 marriage record stated that she had the permission of her parents to marry.

This was the first clue that indicated John & Christina Montgomery Boles might have also gone to South Africa.

I scoured FamilySearch and Ancestry looking for any record collection that might help me build on what I knew but I couldn’t find anything.  The collections were sparse and had very limited time frames.  I did some basic googling with no great results so I did what we all do at times, I set the John & Christina Boles family aside.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I revisited this part of my tree.  I was committed to adding something to this story.  So I dove into some google searching to see what record collections exist for Natal, South Africa.  The National Archives for South Africa led me to a bunch of potentially helpful records.  The only problem was that they look like this:

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-1-33-10-pmscreen-shot-2017-03-01-at-1-33-25-pm

I wasn’t entirely sure where I could go next based on this data.  So I went to my good friend, the FamilySearch wiki.  But.  I went to it through google.  The wiki itself has a terrible search algorithm so it’s best to use google as your entry point.  I found myself on a page entitled “South Africa Natal Death Notices“.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-1-40-37-pm

Close to the bottom of that screenshot you can see the section “Microfilmed records at the Family History Library”.  This link takes you to a catalog entry on FamilySearch.org for microfilms containing Estate Files for Pietermartizburg (Natal).  The collection includes 419 microfilm reels organized by year and file number.

This discovery got me pretty excited so I searched the National Archives of SA website as thoroughly as I could to identify as many potential estate files for John, Christina, their children, and the 3 sons-in-law that I knew of.  I had quite a list.  I compared it to the FS Catalog entry to identify microfilm numbers.  My list of microfilms was growing.

My big question was this – What exactly will I find in those Estate Files?

 

When I go to BYU for research, I can order two microfilms from the FHL in Salt Lake City for free, every two weeks.  No more.  I was trying to decide how much of my precious research time to dedicate to this family.  Which films should I order?

While pondering on this set of questions, I discovered that there is a 5 year window of estate records available on FamilySearch in a browse only collection for Transvaal.  I checked this against my list and discovered one candidate: William Wise, husband of Christina Boles.

Hooray!  This meant I could view an estate file from home to get a sense of what this record type, for this location might tell me.  This was just what I wanted.

Because finding this particular record took several steps, I will outline those steps in detail.

The first step was finding William’s file number on the National Archives of SA website.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-2-05-54-pm

I was looking for file number 3681 in the year 1959.

It was time to take that information over to FamilySearch.  I went to the main “Search” menu on FamilySearch and got myself to the South Africa landing page that looks like this.

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Then I scrolled down to the bottom to find the browse collections.  These are collections that only have images with no index.  You search them like a digital microfilm.

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Then I selected the Transvaal Estate Files.

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From here, I clicked on “Browse through 191,580 images“.

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Then I selected the appropriate year of 1959.

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That led me to a screen filled with file number ranges.  My file number was further down the page so I scrolled down.

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I am looking for file number 3681 which falls into the very last number range of 3660-3736.  I clicked that range.

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Now I am essentially looking at digital microfilm.  You can see that first image has a large stamped code of “3660/59”.  I am looking for 3681 which is only 21 files later.  I left this page on the “thumbnail” view and scrolled down until I could see the first page of file 3681.

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There is my file on the third row, far left.  I can now click on the thumbnail to view the first image of my file.  Then I click the little arrow in the black menu bar to arrow through the file.  What I discovered was a 5 page estate file.  Page one is the cover sheet.  Page two is the death notice.  Pages three and four are William and Christina’s will.  Page five is “Acceptance as Trust of Executor”.

Just to give you a little taste, here is the death notice for William.

wise-william-1959-estate-file-2

From this record I learned so much new information!  I added a birthplace in Scotland of Trenent, age at death in years and months (which helped me narrow down a time frame for birth), address at time of death, date and place of death, and the names of William and Christina’s 3 children (including their daughter’s married last name).

Finding this file got me really excited to see John and Christina’s Estate Files.  I moved those microfilm right to the top of my BYU list.  On my next visit I ordered both microfilm and hoped for the best!

Was I finally going to learn when and why John Boles went to South Africa?

 

…to be continued…


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Ancestor Story – Helen Boles, the niece – 52 Ancestors

"South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KDC5-4Z2 : accessed 25 Sep 2014), David Brown and Helen Boles, 06 Feb 1906; citing Dundee, Natal, South Africa; 02559; 1795568.

“South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KDC5-4Z2 : accessed 25 Sep 2014), David Brown and Helen Boles, 06 Feb 1906; citing Dundee, Natal, South Africa; 02559; 1795568.

I have two women in my tree named Helen Boles.  I’ve written about Helen who was my 3rd great grandaunt.  The other Helen is her niece, my 1st cousin 4 times removed and the daughter of John Boles.  That is the Helen of today’s post.

Helen was born 8 May 1882 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland.  Because she was born after the 1881 Scottish Census, and she left Scotland before the 1891 Census, I only have her birth record, Ship Record, and this marriage record.

In 1890, Helen and her six siblings left from London, bound for Natal, South Africa.

On 6 February 1906, Helen married David Brown In Dundee, Natal, South Africa.  She was 23 years old at the time of her marriage.  She is listed as a spinster, her age is listed simply as ‘Age’, and consent for her marriage was given by her parents.  Were her parents John Boles & Christina Montgomery really there?  I don’t have any evidence yet that they went to South Africa.  Is this my first shred of proof that they were also in South Africa?  I don’t know, but I’m working on finding out!

 


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Ancestor Story – Christina Boles – 52 Ancestors

BOLES, Christina & William Wise, 1902 Marriage Record

“South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KDCL-1MS : accessed 23 Sep 2014), William Wise and Christina Boles, 06 Nov 1902; citing Dundee, Natal, South Africa; 00416; 1795037.

Christina Boles is my 1st cousin 4 times removed.  She is the daughter of John Boles and Christina Montgomery.

Christina was born 1 October 1878 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland.  In 1881 she was living with her family – parents, and four siblings – in Torland Cottage in Dalserf.  Her father John, was a Coal Miner.

In 1890, Christina and her six living siblings left from London for Natal, South Africa.

On 6 November 1902, Christina married William Wise in Dundee, Natal, South Africa.  Her sister Ellen (or Helen) was a witness at her wedding.

This is all I know of Christina so far.  I hope I can learn more about her life in South Africa.  Did she have children?  Did she die in South Africa?  Most of all, why did she and her siblings travel to South Africa in the first place?


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Ancestor Story – Elizabeth Montgomery Boles – 52 Ancestors

Marriage record for Elizabeth Montgomery Boles.  "South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KDC5-BTD : accessed 16 Sep 2014), William Workman White and Elizabeth Montgomery Boles, 20 Apr 1912; citing Ladysmith, Natal, South Africa; 00495; 1795573.

Marriage record for Elizabeth Montgomery Boles. “South Africa, Natal Province, Civil Marriages, 1845-1955,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KDC5-BTD : accessed 16 Sep 2014), William Workman White and Elizabeth Montgomery Boles, 20 Apr 1912; citing Ladysmith, Natal, South Africa; 00495; 1795573.

Elizabeth Boles is my 1st cousin four times removed.  She is the daughter of John Boles & Christina Montgomery.

Elizabeth was born 19 January 1884 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland.  She was the seventh of ten children.  In 1890, she traveled to Natal, South Africa with her six living siblings aboard the Ship Methven Castle.  They departed from London.

In 1912, Elizabeth married William Workman White in Natal.  Her sister Agnes Smellie Boles was a witness at her wedding.

This marriage record is an important part of my search to discover what happened to Elizabeth, her parents and siblings.

My next task in learning the rest of Elizabeth’s story is learning about Natal, South Africa – the history and the record collections.  It appears that FamilySearch holds a large collection of films for Natal.  I see some microfilm time in my future.  I want to know if Elizabeth had children and when she died!


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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Part One

Children of John & Christina Boles, 1891 Immigration record from London to Natal, South Africa.

Children of John & Christina Boles, 1890 Immigration record from London to Natal, South Africa.

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He and his wife Christina had ten children.  In 1890, the family disappeared from Scotland.  The ENTIRE family, just gone.  Three of the children had died at this point.  So I was looking for a family of nine.  A family of nine usually leaves a big footprint.  Not this one.

A kind stranger came across my 52 ancestors post about John.  She did a little digging and found this immigration record and emailed it to me.  A perfect match for John & Christina’s living children.

  • Isabella Boles, 1876
  • Christina Boles, 1878
  • William Montgomery Boles, 1880
  • Helen Boles, 1882
  • Elizabeth Boles, 1884
  • James Boles, 1887
  • Agnes Smellie Boles, 1889

But where are John & Christina?  The children are traveling with an Elizabeth Huntley, a 22 year old single woman, and a Chas M Boles, a 36 year old married miner.  I have never seen the names Elizabeth Huntley or Chas M Boles before.  Who are they and why were they accompanying seven children to South Africa?

 


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I Know Where Mary is Standing!

 

A few weeks ago I wrote about John Boles, my 3rd great granduncle who just up and disappeared.

And then the coolest thing happened!

I got an email from a stranger named Helen.  She came across my blog post and got curious.  She decided to do a little digging and she found my family.

In South Africa.

I had not even considered South Africa before.  She sent me a few documents she had found and I happily reviewed them and updated my tree with her excellent and accurate information.  She also mentioned that she lives in Carluke, Scotland and would be happy to help in the future if I needed anything.

I instantly thought of this photo of my great grandmother.

Mary Brown Young, Scotland.

Mary Brown Young, Scotland.

I told Helen about the photo and asked if she might be able to recognize where Mary is standing.  She replied that Carluke is a very small place and it’s quite possible she would be able to recognize it and to please send it to her along with Mary’s birth date.

So I did.  I included Mary’s birth date and the address at which she was born – Chapel Street.  I clicked send and wondered if I might finally know where Mary was standing.

A few hours later I received Helen’s delightful reply:

“I recognised it the moment I saw it, and when I saw the address Chapel Street I knew exactly where it was.”

She included photos from google maps.  I compared and sure enough, Mary is standing in front of 76 Chapel Street, Carluke.

I finally know where Mary is standing!

She is standing in front of her home.  The home in which she was born.  And that home is still standing.

One day, I hope to stand in front of this home too.

Once again I am overwhelmingly grateful for the 52 Ancestors challenge.  My one post led to a kind stranger solving two of my genealogy mysteries.  Thank you Amy and thank you to my new friend Helen.  I am so grateful.