Sunday, 12 August 2012

N is for ... Nhill

Nhill is a town in the Wimmera in Western Victoria.
I haven't visited there yet but it is on my "to do" list as Nhill may hold some family secrets.
Recently in Trove I found the death notice for my ggg grandmother, Ellen Fleming, in 1885. 
She was living with her daughter, Annie Convary, at Nhill in Victoria's West.

Gould Genealogy 
In 1896 at Nhill, Annie was burnt to death in her home.  

Her life is a bit of a riddle. It seems she may have had 2 or 3 marriages but we can't find any record of them.

Annie was 63 years of age according to her death certificate even though a couple of news reports say 53 years.
She may have first been married to someone with the surname Kiblin/Kibbing/Kibbin and then to a Joseph Harris.  On her death certificate there were 3 children by a former marriage but this marriage was not listed. These children appear to have the surname Harris.
Five other children were listed from her marriage to Peter Convary/Convery but no certificate or registration has been found for this marriage.
Peter was killed in a mine accident at Sebastopol in 1869.
He seems to have 2 death certificates. Informant on one is the police constable who was present at the inquest and on the other informant is the Coroner.
Is one in error containing incorrect information and the other made to correct it, or did he have 2 wives?

His death certificate naming Anne Fleming as his wife has four children but no names or ages.  Unless the last two of Annies Harris children were actually Peters ..............................

The last 3 of Annie's children who are listed on her death certificate were born after 1869 (the year of Peter's death)

Annie's great granddaughter, Margaret, is still trying to sort and  piece together information.

Click here to read Margaret's blog

Below are transcripts of some of the news articles.

Precis of inquest taken from the Nhill Free Press Tuesday 28 January 1896.

Annie Convary, resident of Church Hill in Nhill was burnt to death in her home - aged 63 years.  Deceased was the mother of a large family, most of whom were absent from Nhill at the time of the fire.
Occupants of the house beside the above were daughter Ellen, William Huntly, son James Harris - both children.  William Huntly was the grandson of Annie Convary.
Annie, James Harris and Ellen slept in the one room.  Huntly in the adjoining room.  Annie woke Ellen saying the house was on fire and Ellen took Harris outside and returned to wake Huntly.  She did not see her mother again.  House was ablaze when fire brigade arrived and it was impossible to make any entry to the house.
The coroner returned the verdict that Annie Convary was burnt to death with no evidence to show how the fire originated.
Annie Convary occupied a house on allotment 11 section 1 Langford street Nhill.
Shire rate books of 1894, 1895, 1896 upon which arrears of water rates were owing.

Nhill Newspaper, January 26, 1896
Fatal Fire at Nhill - sad end of a widow - Burned to death in her cottage.
About a quarter to one o'clock on Monday morning the bell of the fire brigade rang out its warning notes, and in a remarkably short space of time a large majority of the townsfolk was astir, each enquiring of the other the locale of the fire.  It was soon ascertained that a house on Church Hill, in which a family named Convary were living, was in flames.  The brigade responded to the summons with praise-worthy alacrity, but the fire had got well under way before the alarm was given, so that it was plain on its arrival at the scene that there was no hope of saving the building.  The pressure of water was good, and two streams were got on to the flames.  In the meantime it became known that Mrs. Convary was confined in the doomed building.  This was first made known by her daughter Ellen, who was in a distracted state, bordering on frenzy.  On being questioned by Mounted-constable Kroon, who was amongst the first arrivals, the unfortunate girl appeared quite unable to give a coherent statement.  When the fire had pretty well exhausted itself a search was made for the remains of Mrs. Convary, and they were found under the debris of one of the front rooms.  The body was terribly charred beyond recognition, and the legs were missing.  It was at once removed to the police station under the direction of Senior-constable Montiford.  The origination of the fire is shrouded in mystery.  Besides the deceased, her daughter Ellen and two little grandsons were the only occupants of the house at the time of the outbreak, which according to a subsequent statement by her daughter, deceased first discovered.  She evidently had plenty of time to escape, but it is presumed that she lingered too long  in the room and was overpowered by the smoke.  With the exception of a few burns sustained by one boy named Harris the other occupants of the house escaped injury.  The whole of the family's belongings was destroyed.  Deceased, who had resided in Nhill for some time, was the mother of a large family most of whom were absent from Nhill at the time of the sad occurrence.  Fuller particulars are furnished in the depositions taken at the Magisterial Inquiry.

Magisterial Inquiry
A Magisterial Inquiry was held at the Court House Yesterday morning, before Mr. J. Young, J.P. Senior-constable Montiford represented the Crown.
Ellen Convary deposed: I am a daughter of the deceased woman, whose name was Annie Convary.  She was a widow, 53 years of age, living at Church Hill, Nhill.  I was at home with her on Sunday evening.  Besides me there were in the house when we went to bed, my mother, William Huntly, and James Harris, the two latter are children.  I slept in the same room as my mother in a separate bed.  The boy, James Harris, slept with my mother.  We went to bed about eight o'clock.  I was awakened by my mother, who told me the house was on fire.  She had Jim Harris in her arms.  When I awoke the room was on fire, and I went outside with Jimmy Harris, and returned for the boy William Huntly.  Huntly was sleeping in another room just behind ours.  When I returned for Huntly I did not see my mother.  At this time the flames were confined to the front room where my mother and I slept.  When I went to sleep Willie Huntly was reading to my mother.  I was asleep when Huntly left the room and cannot say whether the light was left burning or not.  There had been no drinking in the house during the day, and my mother was perfectly sober when she went to bed.  There was no fire about the house, as I saw the fireplace before going to bed.  I don't think my mother was dressed when she called me.  I was unable to get dressed.  I can from no ideas as to how the fire occurred.  The house was not insured.  My mothers life was not insured.  
William Huntly deposed:  I lived with my aunt and grandmother, the deceased.  I last saw my grandmother in her bed.  I was reading to her.  This was about 8 o'clock.  I think I was reading to her about half an hour.  My aunt was in bed asleep in the same room.  My grandmother after a time said I had read enough, and could go to bed.  My auntie Nellie awoke me saying the house was on fire.  My aunt took me out through the back door.  When I got up I saw flames rushing out of the middle door into the back room.  When I went out I looked back and the fire seemed to be coming out of the front room, opposite my grandmother's room.  There was a fireplace in the room where the fire was coming out of, but there had been no fire used in it for a long time.  When I finished reading I left the candle where it was, which was some distance from where my grandmother was sleeping.  I looked at the kitchen fire before going to bed, and there was no fire burning.
Thomas Murphy, captain of the Nhill Fire Brigade, deposed:  I was present at the fire at Convary's.  When the brigade got there the place was wholly on fire.  I, living near, reached the place before the brigade, the place was enveloped in flames.  I knew the room where the body was found.  It was impossible to get into it.  When we were able to get into the room the body was found lying on the right side with arms turned back, the feet were under the bed, the seat of the fire seemed to be in the room where the body was found.  A verdict was recorded that the deceased, Annie Convary, was burned to death at her residence, Church Hill, there being no evidence to show how the fire
originated, being apparently accidental.

 My family history through the alphabet list


  1. What a sad story about poor Annie. Gee you've got your work cut out for you Kerryn trying to work out her marriages and children too!

    1. It is sad isn't it Kylie. Yes she presents a real challenge.

  2. Oh that is such a tragic story. But while it is sad, it is nice to be able to put more of a story to a person, rather than just a name with a death date.

    1. Very true, that's what makes family history addictive for me.

  3. I wonder if these pesky ancestors are up in heaven laughing at our efforts to sort out their lives.

    1. I think they are Jill, hopefully every now and then they'll point us in the right direction.