29 April 2009

Samuel Smith & Maria Isabel Stephenson of Ballymena, Dunedin

I currently have in my possession a really lovely old photograph album, on loan. The owner thought we might be able to find a descendant to pass it onto. Again there is not much information as to who most of the photographs in the album are of but we think the above couple are the original owners, probably Maria in particular.

album-front-cover album-page1

This is the photograph I started with, I've darkened the headstone to read the inscription. All I could read for sure is 'New Zealand' in the middle of the cross and the words 'Gunner R. A. S. SMITH'.


From the rest of the photo I knew that it was a cemetery for the War Fallen - but where? Thank goodness for the CWGC website where I found this (and thank goodness for Robert having three given names, Robert Smith would never have worked!):-


Interesting to note that the Brookwood Cemetery is the largest in the UK and that a military cemetery was added to Brookwood in 1917 and contains some of the dead from both World Wars as well as those who died in the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. The land was set aside during WWI to provide a burial site for men and women of Commonwealth and American armed forces who died in the UK of wounds.

Robert Alexander Stephenson Smith was born in NZ in 1888 and this photo identifies him on the back as Robert Smith of High St, Ballymena, Dunedin. The second one has nothing written on it but I think it is most probably him with his mother. These are the only two photos of a child in the album.

robert-smith-blog robert-smith-with-mother-ma


Might this be an older Robert? On the back is written an address and the price of £16 which seems like a lot of money to pay for a photograph in those days, perhaps someone special to the album owner?

samuel-smith-blog  maria-isabel-blog

This couple were the first two in the album and as the lovely young woman looks like the one holding the baby I think this is Samuel Smith and his wife Maria Isabel nee Stephenson. John Richard Morris, the photographer, arrived in Dunedin in 1869 and in the early years of his photography business was partnered with a Mr Clifford but it seems he later branched out on his own which seems to fit in with the date of Samuel & Maria's marriage in 1887.

Evening Post, Vol 24, Issue 91, 14 Oct 1887, page 2


So now we know that Samuel Smith was Irish and that their home was probably called Ballymena after the Ballymena in Ireland. Actually I already knew Samuel was from Ireland because of this next photo, not a good photo at all but I was able to enlarge the headstone enough for it to be legible:-

samuel-smith-grave-blog samuel-smith-grave-enlarged

His headstone couldn't have been better! Which took me to the NSW BMD website to look for his death:-


then back to the NZ newspapers of the time:-

Otago Witness, Issue 2254, 13 May 1897, Page 31


From his listing in the NSW Deaths I was able to find a submission to the IGI on his birth and death in Parramatta, his parents were give as James Smith and Eliza Denison nee Taylor.

As far as I can see Samuel & Maria Isabel didn't have any other children. So Maria was left a widow after 10 years of marriage and son Robert was only 8 or 9 when his father died. Twenty one years later she was to lose Robert also. She never remarried and she died in 1957 aged 93.

One other photo in the album has a connection to Samuel, this one was taken in Coleraine, Ireland but again nothing to say who they are, possibly his parents and a sister although the two women don't look to be that far apart in age.

three-unknowns-in-Coleraine samuel-&-George-blog 

Lastly we have Samuel Smith with an unknown man, looks to have been taken the same day as the one of Samuel by himself (above).

This is a view of Ballymena House in High St, Dunedin, quite possibly the home of Samuel & Maria Smith.

Next time we well explore the Stevenson Family of whom there seems to be quite a few photographs.


Dawn Scotting


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