My Russell Story

The Story of my Russell Ancestors

My Russell ancestors

by Grahame Thom – 2013

In researching my Russell ancestors, I was lucky to have contact with a distant cousin in Sydney who held letters written in London during the period 1869 to 1917 that had been passed down the generations.  One letter, sent by Richard to his son John in Sydney on 13 April 1875 states “we have sent as you wished your Register of your birth John Russell my grandfather was 98 years of age when he died grandmother 99 she may have lived longer but fell in the fire and was so severely burnt that she died a few weeks afterwards John Russell my father was 85 when he died no 88 – my mother was 85 my brother John Russell his 75 still living and hearty”.

This, and the fact that Richard used family surnames Artus, Miller and Butler as second given names when he and his wife named their children, helped me put together several earlier generations as set out below.  However, I need to say there remains the possibility that my deductions may be wrong. If a reader considers I have erred please let me know.

Chipping Sodbury

Chipping Sodbury is an old market town, situated about 23 kilometres from Bath and 40 kilometres from Cirencester.  It has many attractive 17th century buildings, especially in the main street, High Street.  The town was established in mid 12th century by William Crassus, then owner of the Sodbury Estates, and received its name Chipping Sodbury in 1200 when its first Market Charter was granted.  Chipping, or Cheping, means buying and selling. In the early centuries of this town’s history, many traders and artisans had small rooms or workshops along the wide High Street, and many of the old buildings can be seen today.(  The parish church is dedicated to St John the Baptist and in 1821 the population was just over 1000. (Pigot’s 1830 Directory of Gloucestershire)

My early Russell generations

John Russell married Elizabeth Ware on 28 October 1773 at Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire (  Both were “of the parish” and signed their names in the  register, with Elizabeth writing her surname as Weare. Elizabeth may be the daughter of Matthew and Ann Weare who was baptised on 17 November 1746 at Temple, Bristol (  John is likely to be the son of Richard and Jane Pritchard who was baptised at Chipping Sodbury on 20 February 1750 ( My first cousin Ron Grudnoff recently found (2021) a DNA match through Richard and Jane’s daughter Sarah Russell. Although the DNA match is not strong, when combined with routine research it is reasonable to conclude both lines go back to Richard Russell and Jane Pritchard.

An examination of the parish registers for Gloucestershire and in particular for Cipping Sodbury reveals a marriage for Rich’d Russel and Jane Prtichard in 1739 (no day/month given). The baptismal registers for 1741 to end 1747 are not available and could be missing. There are no children for any couple named Richard and Jane Russell in Gloucestershie in the mid 1700s except for the following in the Parish of Chipping Sodbury :-

John Russell, baptised 17 August 1748, died aged 4 months
Betty Russell, baptised 17 February 1750 (1751)
John Russell, baptised 20 February 1750 (1751)
William Russell, baptised 4 November 1764
Sarah Russell, baptised 4 November 1764
James Russell, baptised 4 November 1764

Possible children of John and Betty (Elizabeth Weare) Russell – baptised at Chipping Sodbury (Baptismal Registers, Gloucestershire Records Office)

William baptised 4 June 1775
John baptised 2 February 1777

Using the knowledge above that Richard’s grandmother “fell in a fire” the following report was found in the Gloucester Journal dated Saturday 28 December 1833.

Fatal Accident – A short time since, an infirm female residing at Chipping Sodbury, named Elizabeth Russell, age 90, fell against the bars of the grate and her clothes having caught fire, she was so dreadfully burnt, that she lingered for some days in great agony, when death terminated the sufferings.  Her husband, who is now living, is more than 90 years old.

The burial register of the Parish of Chipping Sodbury reveals that Betty (sic) Russell was buried on 23 December 1833, aged 85 years.  So we have three ages for Elizabeth when she died in 1833, namely, 85, 90 and 99.  These indicate a possible birth year of 1748, 1743 or 1734 – see possible baptism above.

Her husband John was buried on 20 September 1834, aged 86, at Chipping Sodbury (Chipping Sodbury Parish Register, Gloucestershire Record Office).  This means we have three ages for John when he died in 1834, 86, over 90, or 98.  These indicate a possible birth year of 1748, 1744 or 1736 – see possible baptisms above.

John and Betty’s son John was baptised on 2 February 1777 at Chipping Sodbury ( He married Elizabeth Artus on 14 March 1801 at St Mary’s Church, Cheltenham ( &  Elizabeth was baptised on 31 August 1777, in Cheltenham, the daughter of Edward and Sarah Artus ( &  They possibly had the following children (

John, baptised 20 January 1802, Cheltenham
William, baptised 1 September 1805, Cheltenham, died 28 January 1810, Cheltenham
Richard Artus, baptised 25 December 1813, Cheltenham

The 1851 Census recorded (The National Archives, HO 107/1973)

5 Grove Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
John Russell, age 77, hatter born Chipping Sudbury
Elizabeth Russell, age 74, born Cheltenham
William W??,  age 64, widower, lodger, day labourer, Farringdon, Berkshire
Joseph Dutton, age 32, lodger, coach smith, born Chalford, Gloucestershire
Mary Davis, age 32, lodger, charwoman, born Cheltenham

John died on 18 October 1857 at 5 Grove Street, Cheltenham, aged 83 years, formerly a hatter, of bleeding ulcers and general decay.  The informant was a Cecilia Russell, of 8 Grove Street, Cheltenham (Death Certificate 1857/446).  There is a death of a Cecelia Russell recorded for the March quarter of 1861 in Cheltenham (freeBDM)

Elizabeth died on 20 April 1860 at 5 Grove Street, Cheltenham, aged 84 years, widow of John Russell, hatter, of natural decay, The informant was Isabella Russell of 25 Brunswick Street, Cheltenham (Death Certificate 1860/9).

My early Miller generations

Edmund Miller married Ann Butler on 23 April 1810 at St James Church, Bristol ( The Bristol Mirror of 28 April 1810, page 3, announced the marriage “at St James Church (Bristol) Mr Edmund Miller, of Bath, builder, to Miss A Butler, of Widcombe, near Bath, third daughter of Mr William Butler.”

Ann Butler was baptised at St James, Bath, on 3 July 1785 – parents William and Ann Butler.

Children of Edmund Miller and Ann Butler (freereg and part

Thomas Butler Miller, baptised 24 March 1811, St James, Bath, Somerset
Anne, baptised 14 June 1812, St James, Bath, Somerset
George, baptised 6 February 1814, St James, Bath, abode Widcombe, father a carpenter
William, baptised 14 July 1816 at St James, Bath, abode Ambury, father a carpenter
Edwin baptised 20 September 1817, St James, Bath, abode Amburty, father a carpenter
Emma Eliza baptised 19 November 1820, St James, Bath, abode Corn Street, father a carpenter

Ann was living with her daughter Ann, wife of Richard Russell, at 9 Hanover Street, Cheltenham, in the 1841 census, see below.

Richard Russell and Ann Miller

Richard Artus Russell, was baptised on 25 December 1813, at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (1813/303, Bishop’s Transcripts, St Mary’s Cheltenham). His future wife, Ann Miller, was baptised on 14 June 1812, at Bath, Somerset (freereg).  They were married on 13 January 1833, at St Lawrence Church, Swindon and Richard was a printer machine minder (Gloucestershire Record Office, Parish Register, Swindon, freereg, Family papers).  Sometime between 1843 and 1847 the family moved to Holborn, London.

Richard and Ann’s children (online freeBDM)

James William, born c 1835, Cheltenham
George Augustus, born December quarter 1837, Cheltenham
Elizabeth Ann, born June quarter 1841, Cheltenham
John Edmund Miller, born June quarter 1843, Cheltenham
Charles Butler, born September quarter 1847, Holborn
Richard Artis (sic), born March quarter 1850, Holborn
Henry, born March quarter 1855, St Pancras
Frank Artus, born March quarter 1857, St Pancras

1841 Census (The National Archives HO 107/353/8, adult ages rounded to nearest five years)

9 Hanover Street
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Richard Russell, age 25, printer j, born in county
Ann Russell, age 25, not born in county
George Russell, age 3, born in county
Elizabeth Russell, 2 weeks
Anne Miller, age 55, independent, not born in the county
Mary Brooks, age 15, f s, born in county

Mary Brooks was most likely an indirect relative as a Charles Russell married an Elizabeth Brooks

1851 Census Return (The National Archives HO 107/1513)

4 Millman Place, St Andrews Holborn, Finsbury, London
Richard Russell, age 39, printer, born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Ann Russell, age 38, born Bath, Somersetshire
James Russell, age 15, printer, born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
George Russell, age 12, errand boy, born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Elizabeth Russell, age 9, born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
John Russell, age 7, born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Charles Russell, age 3, born London
Richard Russell, age 1, born London

In an August 1867 letter to their son John living in Sydney, his father Richard says “your mother has got back to about her old Standard Sometimes well and Sometimes poorly” and later writes “I must tell you we have a flower show in conexion (sic) with the Church in our district your mother was an exhibitor and carried of 3 first Clafs (sic) prizes

1-6     inside window plants
2     Window Box
3    Best bunch of Cut flowers”

1871 Census Return (findmypast, 272/28/8, and

York Terrace, Islington, London
Richard Russell, age 60, born Stroud, Gloucestershire, partially employed, printer’s pressman
Ann Russell, age 59, born Bath, Somerset
Richard Russell, age 20, born London, partially employed, gasfitter plumber
Henry Russell, age 17, born St Pancras, London, carpenter
Frank Russell, age 13, born St Pancras, London, scholar

John’s brother, Frank Artus Russell was born in Camden Town, London in early 1857.  Poor health caused his parents Richard and Ann to send him to his brother John in Sydney.

In a letter dated 19 February 1874, Richard and Ann wrote from London to son John, that “I am hopping (sic) to tell you that Frank is better but the Doctor tells us that we must send him to Australia now’ and “we shall make an effort to send him to you I hope we shall succeed.”

Then on 16 November they wrote “to inform you of the right date that Frank sailed they could not get the ship (Baron Blantyn) ready until the 9th November and on that day she left the West India Docks direct for Sydney”.

On 17 December, they wrote a very emotional letter to John that “We hope by the blessings of God by the time you receive this letter that you have had your meeting and a letter on its way to us with full particulars and that Frank arrived safe and in better health …….. I have been with him twenty times in my sleep I am positive he touched me the other night I was wide awake thinking about him”.

They wrote again to John on 13 January and 11 February 1875.  The 13 January letter notes at the top that it is Richard and Ann’s 42nd wedding anniversary.

Their letter of 9 March says “we had a post card from the ship owners on the 10th Feb stating that she arrived on the 9th so you see we knew nearly as soon as you only by a few hours but it did not say the passengers are All well let us hope so we are counting the days the hours when we shall get your next letter giving us a full and correct account of your meeting you have informed us you will look after him we known you will”.  They wrote to Frank the next day.

Then their letter of 13 April indicates John had written advising Frank had arrived – “We was pleased to find that Frank his (sic) with you and that the children like there little presents hoping that they will amuse them we sopose (sic) the butterflies Frank brought with him reminds you off (sic) old England”.

The sad news arrived for on 18 May 1875 Richard wrote to John  “My Dear Children Well enough you may begin your letter with sad news for you not hearing from you for so long now we expected as much your letter arrived late last evening we thank your wife a thousands over for the kindness towards our dear boy we are thankful to God that you dear John done a brothers part by him ……. I have not written to any friends yet in fact I cannot write you must excuse these few lines we have lost two Boys now one 16 thousands miles away the other in Heaven.”  This letter and the next very emotional letter on 25 June have black borders.

Frank left London on 9 November 1874 on the ship Baron Blantyre and arrived in Sydney on 8 February 1875.  His parents paid £20 for the passage. He must have been very ill from phthisis (tuberculosis) for on 17 March 1875 he died at John and Mary’s home at 121 Stanley Street, East Sydney (NSW Registry of BDMs, death certificate 1875/842).  His occupation was lithographic artist.  He was only 18 years and 3 months old.  John placed a funeral notice in the Sydney Morning Herald advising that Frank would be buried at Rookwood Cemetery on 19 March 1875.

1881 Census (FamilySearch. httpss://, accessed 2013, RG11 246/51)

14 Salisbury Road, Islington, Middlesex
Richard Russell, age 70, printer reformer, born Stroud, Gloucestershire
Ann Russell, age 69, born Bath, Somerset
Richard A Russell, age 29, plumber and gas fitter, born London

Interestingly the series of letters written by Richard, indicates he was still working in 1875.  Then in his letter of 1 January 1886 Richard advises John that “I have been ill in fact I am ill now and at home I was in bed 3 weeks and your poor old mother waited on me well I have been at home about 7 weeks my complaint is such that I dont think I shall be able to go to work anymore” and at the end of the letter, John adds “I am tired”.  This is the last letter from Richard and Ann held by their descendants.

1891 Census taken 5 April (FamilySearch. httpss://, accessed 2013)

Home for respectable aged people
31 Landon Road, Upper Holloway, Islington, London
Richard Russell, age 81, Inmate, born Stroud, Gloucestershire
Ann Russell, age 79, Inmate, born Bath, Somersetshire

Richard died on 21 April 1891 at 31 Langdon Road, London, aged 77 years (80 on death certificate) of Inflammation of the kidneys and haemorrhage. His son Henry was present at death and gave his address as 14 Retcar Street, St Pancras, London (General Registry Office, London, death certificate 1891/407).

Ann died on 27 January 1892 at 31 Langdon Road, London, aged 79 years (80 on death certificate) of senile decay, and cardiac failure. Her son Henry was present at death and gave his address as 14 Retcar Street, St Pancras, London (General Registry Office, London, death certificate 1892/435).

John Edmund Miller Russell

John Edmund Miller Russell was born on 28 April 1843 at 15 Hanover Street, Cheltenham, the son of Richard Russell, printer, and Ann Miller (Birth certificate, General Registry Office, London, Vol 11 page 210)

On leaving school, John probably became an apprentice printer with his father.

When just 17 years old John left London on 31 October 1860 and the Downs on 2 November. He travelled to Sydney by himself, arriving on 29 January 1861, on the Light of the Age, 3100 tons, which was considered one of the finest clippers of her time (SMH 30 January 1861).   The passenger list for this voyage (NSW State Records, Inward passenger lists No 13278) just lists J Russell as a passenger.  This raises the issue of whether this person is J E M Russell.  This is confirmed by John’s father, Richard, writing to John on 9 March 1875, when he compared Frank’s voyage with John’s by writing “I find by your letter you left London on Novr 2nd arrived in Australia Feb 2”.  It is likely that it took several days for John to disembark.

Correspondence with John from home occurred on a regular basis and included in the family papers held by descendants is a 1863 birthday card from Hephzibar Frost.  Maybe Hephzibar Frost was a girl friend of John’s in London.

It is not known what specific work John undertook till 1875.  He probably worked for a printing firm in some capacity.  On marriage he gave his occupation as an artist.

John married Mary Ann McClean on 21 September 1869 at St James Church of England, Sydney (NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, Marriage Certificate 963/1869).  John was described as an artist of West Street, Darlinghurst and Mary Ann lived in nearby Surrey Street.

Their had ten children (family papers and NSW BDM Indexes)

Bertha, born 1 February 1871
Edmund George Miller, born 11 September 1872
Arthur Richard, born 23 September 1873
Frank William John, born 6 May 1875, died 29 March 1876
Harry, born 3 November 1876, died 20 March 1880
Annie May Muriel, born 16 January 1879 (also known as Annie Mary Maude)
Violet May born 7 May 1880
Ruby Lillian, born 11 February 1882
Edgar John Stanley, born 8 November 1883
Harold Septimus born 28 January 1885

In early 1875 John wrote to his father in London asking him to obtain John’s birth, which Richard sent with his letter of 15 April 1875.  This was probably because John was considering applying for a position with the NSW public service.

John commenced duty with the Lands Department on 12 June 1875 as a lithographic draftsman on 250 pounds a year and was permanently appointed to the NSW Public Service on 1 October 1877. He was employed as a lithographic draftsman until 1 July 1918 when he went on extended leave for 12 months and on recreation leave to 26 August 1919.

He received regular salary variations as follows

1 January 1879 – 300 pounds
1 January 1883 – 325
1 January 1885 – 345
1 January 1886 – 350
1 January 1893 – 335
1 July 1896 – 325
1 July 1911 – 350

The salary reductions were probably the result of difficult financial times as during the 1890s Australia suffered a very severe economic depression with many people out of work (

From 1905 John received an allowance of 10 ponds per annum for instructing cadet draftsmen.  He also received 10/- per lesson per hour for teaching drawing to cadet draftsmen from the Registrar General’s Department.

In 1905 approval was given to extend John’s service for 12 months. This practice was followed until 1911 when 68 years old, approval was given to further extend John’s service.  His official retirement date was 26 August 1919 aged 76 years (Letter from the Department of Lands dated 9 August 1971).

One fascinating drawing by John is of him with a large snake curled around his body and one leg.  Underneath John wrote “The Great ‘Russell’ with the Snake”.  At the top of the drawing is a measurement “18 feet 1 3/7 inch Length of Snake.  John made mention about the snake in a letter to his parents for on 17 December 1874 they wrote back saying “we received a slip of news paper from you respecting a snake what brought you there at 11 o’clock in the morning was it on a Sunday if so you ought to have been at Church”.

On Monday 28 September 1874 the Sydney Morning Herald had reported

Look Out for Snakes
About 11 o’clock yesterday morning, two gentlemen were walking on the road about a quarter of a mile on the Sydney side of South Head lighthouse, when they saw a large brown snake crossing the pathway. One of them took up a light stick and attempted to destroy the reptile, but it made such a formidable oppositor, that he was obliged to desist. The snake then got into a drain, when they assaulted it with stones, and after some personal risk, one of them succeeded in killing it. It proved to be a reptile of the most dangerous kind, and measured nearly six feet in length.”

At the time brother Frank arrived and soon afterwards died, Mary was pregnant and the boy that was born on 6 May 1875 was baptised Frank William John, but sadly he died on 29 March 1876.  John’s mother Ann wrote an emotional letter to him on 25 May following news of their grandson’s early death.

On Tuesday 8 March 1881 Sydney experienced a very bad storm and next day the Sydney Morning Herald reported at length, including :-

Yesterday’s Storms – Great Falls of Hail and Rain – Loss of Life.

It is not often that we record meteorological events such as those of yesterday.  ……  It did work up again shortly after 1 o’clock, and on this occasion the downfall was chiefly of hail, or rather of blocks of ice, as they were in very many instances of considerable size. Many were as large as hen eggs, and those which fell on the flags were crashed to pieces by the force with which they struck the stones. Lamps and skylights suffered everywhere, and the tingling sound of breaking glass mingled with the rattle of the ice stones.  Several were curious enough to run out and pick up the hard stones received unpleasant knocks, but no one, so far as we can hear, was much hurt by these means.”

One can imagine John running out to see the hail, as it would appear he picked up and took inside several pieces of hail for amongst his hand drawings, dated 8 March 188(80 on death certificate)1, are two drawings of large lumps of hail (Family papers)

The Australian Town and Country Journal of 4 March 1882 reported that

“A highly artistic show label has been prepared at the Surveyor-General’s office for the New South Wales exhibits at the Bordeaux Wine Exhibition. It is lithographed in six colours, and contains the announcement, both in French and English – “Australian Wines from New South Wales”. The label, which is a large-sized one, is beautifully got up, and being picturesque and striking to the view, will assuredly serve to attract notice. It is the work of Mr J E M Russell, of the Survey Department, on whose skill it reflects great credit.”

As well as his artist work at the Lands Department, John put his talents to being active in his own time.  My grandmother (Ruby born 1882) told me that the family went on regular picnics to the Blue Mountains by train.  She said that her father, John, regularly told the family jokingly that the Three Sisters were named after his three oldest daughters, namely Bertha, Annie and Violet.   It is also likely that John visited the Blue Mountains in relation to his work in mapping the district, and possibly became a favourite location in collecting butterflies and rock specimens.

Perhaps the highlight of his pleasure in travelling about the Blue Mountains occurred in the few years leading up to 1882, as during this period John accumulated much information about the history and geography of the area to such an extent he wrote and had published a book titled “The Pictorial Guide to the Blue Mountains of New South Wales – compiled and drawn from personal survey by J E M Russell.”  This 58 page book is made up of text, lithographic drawings and maps and is a credit to John’s knowledge and artist skills.  The first edition was published in 1882 by Gibbs, Shallard and Co of Pitt Street, Sydney, and sold for one shilling.  The National Library of Australia holds a copy of the 3rd edition published in 1885.

In his introduction John states that “One great drawback, hitherto, has been the absence of any reliable information to guide the tourist, or stimulate the visitor to fully explore these regions. ….. It is to render the tourist independent of such assistance (of a local guide) that this Guide has been prepared.  The districts described have been thoroughly explored; trees, fences, and rocks marked; tracks indicated; and a detailed contour map drawn from an actual survey of each locality, by the compiler.”

In his letter to John on 1 January 1886, father Richard says “I hope that I may be alive at this opining (sic) of the Exhibition thre (sic) as been several but I have not been to one of them but this one if I am able I shall go to on purpose to see your money box and some of your handy work and have a glafs (sic) of Australian wine.”

The Maitland Mercury of 4 October 1887 advised readers of NSW Awards at the Adelaide Exhibition, including a second place to J E M Russell for a “Bullion Bank”.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 13 April 1893 reported that John had donated a butterfly (heteronympha banksii) to the Australian Museum in March.  There is no doubt that John collected butterflies and also rocks, as his specimen cabinet is held by his descendants.  Also it is said by the holder of this cabinet that John corresponded with the Prince of Siam in relation to his butterfly collection.

On 30 August 1894, the Under Secretary in the Department of Lands, wrote to John at Haslemere, Johnston Street, Annandale, saying

In reply to your letter of 28th instant, I have the honor to inform you the Letter Receiver invented by you and now in use in this Department is a good piece of furniture and answers admirably the purposes of a safety letter and packet receiver.”

The Daily Telegraph on 11 October 1894 (page 3, col 6) reported that :-

Mr John Russell, an officer of the Lands Department, has invented an improved form of letter box.  The idea of the box is to ensure greater security to personal communications. Judging from the specimen which is on view at the Lands Office, which has been permanently adopted by the department, it should serve its purpose exceedingly well. Attached to the lid is a large roller, fitted in a cylinder. When the lid is opened a box-shaped indentation in the roller faces the spectator. He drops in his letters, and, as the door closes, the documents are precipitated into the receptacle below. Communication is had with the receiving chamber by a locked door. The whole apparatus is simple, and as the box can be constructed to any size, it will doubtless be found serviceable in offices and private houses where a check against possible depredations may be necessary.

John’s box was exhibited at the NSW Wealth and Industrial Exhibition held at Prince Albert Park, Sydney from 15 December 1884 to 15 January 1885 and he received a silver medal and a First Prize Certificate (Family papers, background, see Sydney Morning Herald 18 December 1884).

On this page of his papers, John lists other awards he received for his box :-

World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, “Very ingenious contrivance and perfect technical execution.”
Amsterdam Exhibition 1883 – Certificate of Merit
Centennial Exhibition 1888
Agricultural Society of NSW – highly commended certificate
Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition 1887 – Third Order of Merit Certificate
Colonial & Indian Exhibition 1886, South Kensington, London,  Certificate and Medal (Family papers, website wikipedia)

In 1981, a grandson of John mentioned the story of the box to a friend who happened to be the head of the Lands Office.  This caused a search of the building and the box was found in an attic. It was cleaned and polished, and steps were made to establish a small historical display with the box as a special item in the display.

In April 1895 the Balmain Horticultural and Industrial Society awarded John a first class certificate for his display of a “Case of Butterflies and Moths” (Family papers). The Sydney Morning Herald of Friday, 26 March 1895 reported that the Society had held its first annual Exhibition in the Central Hall, Darling Street, Balmain. on Wednesday afternoon.

John also acted as a judge as the family papers includes a certificate from the Young People’s Industrial Exhibition held in May 1901, acknowledging his role as a judge.

The Cumberland Argus of Saturday, 23 January 1904 reported on the proceedings of the Rookwood Council meeting held on the previous Tuesday, including having received a letter from “J E M Russell, in respect of a trench opened on Nottinghill-road, which he would be glad to have filled in, or otherwise dealt with by the Council, as it was a great inconvenience and drawback.”  After receiving an explanation by the Council Clerk, Council decided to do nothing as the Council did not make the hole and knew nothing about it.  Why was John in this area south of Parramatta Road in the Sydney suburb of Lidcombe?

The answer can be found in page 8 of the Cumberland Argus of 14 March 1903 as John is listed in a Bankstown Council notice to ratepayers that rates of one shilling have be assessed as owing by J E M Russell on lots 32 and 33 at Edgar Street, part of a 51 acre grant to Thomas Tanner (Rate no. 283 in the Municipality of Bankstown, 1903).  It appears this was the only year rates were assessed against John as his name is not listed in the 1902 and 1904 Council notices in the Cumberland Argus (8 March 1902 and 19 March 1904).

A search of the Land and Property Information Office records for ownership indicates John did not own this land so he probably held a lease for a short period, perhaps one year.  Research has also revealed that lots 32 and 33 of Section A, 2 roods and ten perches were situated on the western side of The Avenue, between the Hume Highway and near Glassop Road, now in the suburb of Yagoona (my thanks go to Dr Peter Rickwood of Sydney for discovering the 1903 rate notice and subsequent research).

In 1903 John reached 60 years of age, so its possible, with retirement in mind, he was making plans for the future.  Or was he simply leasing this land to get away from city life and pursue his interest in butterflies and rocks.  Certainly most of this area would have been underdeveloped.  It is doubtful that there were any buildings on this land.

One can imagine John, perhaps with his wife Mary Ann and some of his children, travelling west on weekends or days off work.  It would have taken some time to take a cab from home to Central Railway Station, train to Lidcombe, then a cab or horse from the station to his leased land.  This would have included travelling along Nottinghill Road, a long street going south from near Lidcombe Station.  Perhaps the state of the roads and the distant to travel, was a factor in John not continuing to lease this land.

John’s brother Charles Butler Russell wrote to John from his home in Dartford, Kent on 28 August 1912.  This letter clearly indicates that John was keeping in touch with his family in England after leaving them 51 years before.  Charles writes about John “the climate must suit you very well indeed. If the climate agrees with Frank as well, I shall not worry about him. ….. his wife has gone home to her own mothers untill (sic) he sends for her”.

Frank is Frank Herbert Russell, born 1885 at Maidstone, Kent, the son of Charles Butler Russell and Elizabeth Aylen (freeBDM and marriage certificate).  Frank married Lily West in 1908, in Dover, Kent (freeBDM), see below.  Frank left London on the steamship Commonwealth on 2 May 1912 (The National Archives).  After Frank arrived in Sydney on 17 June (SMH 18 June) he probably stayed with John at Annandale until his wife Lilly arrived.

Mary Ann died on 24 September 1918 at her residence, 28 Johnston Street, Annandale, aged 71 years from diabetes mellitus. She was buried in the Church of England section of Rookwood Cemetery on 25 September 1918. Her parents were Andrew McClean, engineer, and Sarah Jane Hughes.  Her death certificate states that three male children were deceased, namely Edmund, Frank, and Harry (NSW Registrar General’s Office, 11598/1918, Sydney Morning Herald, Death notices, 25 September 1918, page 10)

At the time of Mary’s death, John was a member of the Loyal Petersham Lodge, No 93, MIUOOF (Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 1918, page 9).

John died on 9 August 1929 at his residence, 43 Beaumont Street, Rose Bay, aged 86 years from senile debility. He was buried with his late wife in Rookwood Cemetery  on 10 August 1929. His parents were Richard Russell, printer, and Ann Miller.  His death certificate includes Edmund as living, but against his name it is noted “unknown whether living or deceased” (NSW Registrar General’s Office 5525/1929).

His death was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 10 August 1929 :-

Mr J E M Russell

The death occurred yesterday morning of Mr John E M Russell at his residence in Beaumont Street, Rose Bay, at the age of 86 years.

Mr Russell had been engaged in map making in the Lands Department since 1875.  When Mr Russell was due to retire under the retiring age, his period of service was extended for 10 years, and he did not leave till he had reached his 75th year.

Mr Russell is survived by four daughters and three sons, two of whom are in the Public Service.  Arthur is manager of the Drummoyne Government Savings Bank, and Harold, manager of the Bankstown Savings Bank.

Where did John Edmund Miller Russell live in Australia? (Sands Directories, BDM Certificates, Family papers)

1869                West Street, Darlinghurst
1871                Sayers Terrace, Union Street, North Sydney
1871                102 Burton Street, Woolloomooloo
1872                220 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo
1873                224 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo
1873                121 Stanley Street, Woolloomooloo
1875-1876      121 Stanley Street, Woolloomooloo
1877                357 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo
1879                115 Stanley Street, Woolloomooloo
1880                115 Stanley Street, Woolloomooloo
1882-1886      111 Stanley Street, Woolloomooloo
1888- 1893     John Street, Marrickville (corner of Stanmore Road)
1884-1919?    Hazlemere, 10 (later 28) Johnston Street, Annandale (3rd from Albion St)
19??-1929      Salmana, 43 Beaumont Street, Rose Bay

I cannot tell if the changes of street numbers for Bourke and Stanley Streets are different addresses or caused by a renumbering of the street.  I suspect the family moved a lot over the period 1869 to 1888.

It is not known if the Russells named their homes Hazlemere and Salmana or the homes were already named as such.  Johnston Street, Annandale houses were being built at the time the Russell’s moved into Hazlemere, so it is likely they were the first occupants.

A check of the NSW Probate Records indicates neither John Edmund Miller Russell or his wife Mary Ann Russell, made a will or their estate was subject to letters of administration.  Does this mean they rented the various houses where they lived?

The children of John Edmund Miller Russell and Mary Ann McClean

Bertha was born on 1 February 1871 at 102 Burton Street, Woolloomooloo (Family Papers, Sydney Morning Herald, Birth Notice, 4 February 1871).

Young Bertha was a talented musician and singer.  Her grandfather in London wrote on 1 January 1886 “Your Bertha my Grandchild we are pleased with you for your talent the papers speek well of you we hope you will turn out a second Jenny Lind”.  The Cumberland Argus of 13 July 1898, reported the results of recent examinations held in conjunction with the London College of Music, which included Bertha achieving 80 marks for intermediate pianoforte playing.

Bertha married Stanley (Stan) Percival Lester Maddock in 1900, and the marriage was registered at Annandale (online NSW Registry of BDMs – marriage index)

Bertha and Stan had three children

Stanley William Russell, born 1900, birth was registered at Drummoyne (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)
Jack Edmond, born 1902, birth was registered at Drummoyne (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)
Annie Bertha, born 1906, birth was registered at Drummoyne (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)

Bertha died on 5 November 1939 at her residence, 33 Earle Street, Cremorne and her death was registered at North Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index, Sydney Morning Herald 6 November 1939, page 8)

Stan died on 2 July 1940 as a result of an accident and his death was registered at North Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index, Sydney Morning Herald 3 July 1940, page 10)

The Sydney Morning Herald of 29 June 1940 reported that many people were injured when a double-decker bus crashed over a wall between the high and low levels of Reynolds Street, Cremorne the day before.  The seriously injured included Stan who received an “extensively lacerated head”.  The Coroner recorded the cause of death as “injuries accidentally received when the motor bus in which he was a passenger overturned because of a subsidence in the roadway.”

Bertha and Stan were cremated at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium .

Edmund George Miller
was born on 11 September 1872 at 220 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo (Family Papers, Sydney Morning Herald, Birth Notice, 19 September 1872)

Little is known about Edmund.  When he was aged 14, while attending the public school at Stanmore, his schoolmaster imposed discipline upon him for playing truant by giving many cuts of the cane on Edmund’s back, legs and hands.  He later suffered headaches and spat blood.  His parents were so concerned they took Edmund to their doctor, Dr Pickburn, who examined him and gave them a written report stating Edmund suffered from a severe punishment of unnecessary severity.  This matter was taken to the Newtown Police Court on 9 December and the magistrate postponed the hearing as he wanted to examine Edmund (Evening News 10 December 1886, page 3, and family papers). Even in those days a case such as this was unusual and must have been an impact on Edmund and his parents, to such an extent to take court action.

The Daily Telegraph of 16 April 1887, page 10, reported on a District Court case – Russell v Hoowarth. “This was an action between Edward (Edmund) Russell and James W E Hoowarth, for an assult, for which 30 pounds damages was claimed. The defendant in the case is the head-master of the public school at Stanmorew, and plaintiff, who, as an infannt, sued through “his next friend”, complained that he had been sverely beaten by defendany and thereby wounded and made sick. His Honor, in summing up, said that whilst he sympathised in a great measure with the defendant he must at the same time give a verdict for the plaintiff for 10 pounds. He could see that the boy had behaved very badly and that he deserved chastisement, but at the same time thought the punishment would, in all such cases, be less severe if the teacher waited until the following morning before inflicying it. In the case under =his notice the parents should have informed the master that their child was unusually delicate.”

I was told by my grandmother (Ruby Lillian Russell) that Edmund left home as a young adult to “look for gold in Western Australia”.  It appears nothing further was heard of him.  This is indicated on his father’s 1929 death certificate where it states about Edmund “unknown whether living or deceased”.  Also there are a number of family notices announcing his mother’s funeral arrangements and there is no mention of Edmund  (Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 1918, page 9). Online searches for Edmund in Australia found nothing.

Arthur Richard was born on 23 September 1873 at 121 Stanley Street, Woolloomooloo (Family papers), and his birth was registered at Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDM s – birth index).

He married Alice Katherine Rowsell in 1902, and the marriage was registered at Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – marriage index)

Arthur and Alice had two children

Kenneth Arthur was born 1902, birth was registered at Mosman (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)

Edna Alice was born 1904, birth was registered at Drummoyne (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)

Sometime before 1930 Arthur and his wife Alice separated. The Commonwealth Electoral Rolls for 1930 list Arthur and his daughter Edna Alice living at 204 Bridge Street, Drummoyne; his occupation being bank manager.   For 1933 the Electoral Roll has a retired Arthur and Edna living at 274 Lyons Road, and again in 1936 (Division of Martin and Subdivision of Drummoyne (1930) and Abbotsford (1933/36)). 

After Arthur died in 1936, the Rolls have Edna still living in Lyons Road.  But in the 1943 Rolls, Edna was living with her mother Alice at 143 West Street, Cammaray.  After Alice died in 1946, Edna married Henry George Debnam in 1950 in Drummoyne (NSW BDM Index online).

Arthur was a member of Lodge Birkenhead No 332 UGL of NSW and MUIOOF Loyal Star of Drummonye, Lodge No 180 (Sydney Morning Herald funeral notices).

Arthur died in May 1937 and his death was registered at Five Dock (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index)

Frank William John was born on 6 May 1875, and died on 29 March 1876 (Family papers). His birth and death were registered at St Leonards (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth and death indexes).  As his Uncle Frank had died earlier in 1875 in Sydney in tragic circumstances it is reasonable to assume Frank was named in honour of his Uncle.  It is not known why these two events were registered at St Leonards, but it seems to indicate the Russell family may have lived in the district; another move.

Harry, born on 3 November 1876, died on 19 March 1880 (Family papers & Sydney Morning Herald). His birth and death were registered at Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth and death indexes)

Annie Mary Maud (known as Maude) was born on 16 January 1879 (Family papers) and her birth was registered at Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)

Maude, when aged 58, spinster, married her first cousin Frank Herbert Russell, foreman rigger, on 25 April 1942 at St Paul’s Church, Rose Bay. Both gave their address as 43 Beaumont Street, Rose Bay.  Frank, born in Maidstone, England, in the June quarter of 1885 (online freeBDM index), was the son of Charles Butler Russell, brother of John, Annie’s father.

Maude died in 1971 and her death was registered at Newtown (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index).

Frank had arrived in Sydney in early 1912 and probably stayed with the Russell family at Annandale till his wife Lilly arrived a couple of years later with their two children Reginald George (1912-1964) and Frank Charles Edward (1910-1978) (freeBDM and NSW BDM Registry – Death Index, – 1911 Census, Dover, Kent).  Also a daughter Lily Elizabeth may have been born at Annandale in 1916 ( – public trees).

The Commonwealth Electoral Rolls state that Frank and Lily (sic) lived at Queens Road, New Lambton NSW, in 1930 (Division of Newcastle, Subdivision of Adamstown) and at 137 Hunter Street, Wickham in 1937 (Division of Newcastle, Subdivision Hamilton).  Both rolls state Frank was a labourer.  Lily died at Wickham in 1938 and it is likely that Frank, aged about 53 years, then moved to Sydney to live with his Russell cousins at 43 Beaumont Street, Rose Bay.

Also living at 137 Hunter Street was Albert Anzac Russell.  A website states Albert was born at Annandale on 25 April 1916, married Florence Elizabeth Bottrill in 1947 (, public tree)  and died on 9 November 1994 (Ryerson Index) – no parents given and no children listed.  Albert served in World War II with the Australian Army and his next of kin is given as Frank Russell (National Archives of Australia – NX68944).

Frank died in 1974 at Camden aged 89 years (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index)

Violet May was born on 7 May 1880 (Family papers) and her birth was registered at Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)

Violet married Allan Collins (1888-1963) in 1918, their marriage was registered at Ashfield (online NSW Registry of BDMs – marriage index).  Allan owned a sheep station in the Crookwell district in NSW.

Violet and Allan had one child :-

Russell John Collins, born 2 July 1921, married Joyce Ida Price on 5 June 1948, died at Goulburn on 20 September 2001; Joyce died at Goulburn on 18 May 2006  (Family papers). Russell and Joyce had five children :-

Harvey Russell Collins
Graeme Maxwell Collins
Mechele Joy Collins
Virginia Collins
Warren Douglas Collins

Violet died in 1947 and her death was registered at  Crookwell (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index). Allan died in 1963, and his death was registered at Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index).

Ruby Lillian was born on 11 February 1882 at 111 Stanley Street, Woolloomloo (Family papers),  Before marriage, Ruby became an opera singer and her daughter Merle, my mother, told me that she was a fellow of the Royal Philharmonic Society and had been invited by Dame Nellie Melba to study singing overseas at her expense.  Melba was known to support young Australian talent in this way, but Rudy declined the offer.  Perhaps because she was willing to give up singing to marry Alfred Oram Lane in 1916 (see various Lane articles on my web site)

Ruby and Alfred had five children

Lillian Merle (Merle) born 4 February 1918, Annandale
Oram Trevor (Trevor), born 4 June 1919, Murrurundi
Arthur Edgar (Edgar), born 23 July 1920, Murrurundi
Noela Jean, born 29 November 1921, Murrurundi
Eric Victor, born 24 May 1922, Murrurundi

Edgar John Stanley was born on 8 November 1883 at 111 Stanley Street, Woolloomooloo (Family papers)

In the 1913 Commonwealth Electoral Roll, Edgar is listed as living at 303 Wickham Terrace, giving his occupation as clerk.  Also listed as living in Wickham Terrace was a William Saint George Russell, chauffeur (no street number given) (Roll – Division of Brisbane, Subdivision of Brisbane South) Please appreciate that it can take some time to change electoral enrolment details, so it cannot be assumed that Edgar was living in Wickham Terrace in 1913, but he would have been living there at the time of his enrolment; this applies to any printed Roll.

In 1914 Edgar lived at 108 George Street, East Melbourne and in the electoral roll gave his occupation as a clerk. (Commonwealth Electoral Roll, Division of Melbourne, Subdivision of East Melbourne, 1914)

World War I – Edgar enlisted on 8 June 1915 in Sydney.  He gave his occupation as a clerk, living at Haslemere, Johnston Street, Annandale, Sydney NSW, the home of his father; next of kin.  As a private he joined the 2nd Australian General Hospital, special reinforcements, and embarked at Brisbane on board HMAT Kyarra on 16 August 1915 for Melbourne and then on 18 October 1915 to Egypt on HMAT Port Lincoln. On arrival he joined the 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance.  He served in various locations in Egypt and the Jordan Valley with the Field Ambulance. He was promoted to temporary Corporal on 11 May 1918 and Lance Corporal on 13 July 1918. Edgar returned to Australia on the “Port Sydney” arriving 11 April 1919 at Sydney.  He was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  (Australian Archives B2455, item 8071608)

The electoral rolls from 1930 to 1963 (at least) state Edgar was living at his late father’s house at 43 Beaumont Street, Rose Bay; he gave his occupation as a clerk.  Others living at 43 Beaumont Street, at various times were his sister Annie Mary Maude (sic) and her husband Frank Herbert Russell (Commonwealth Electoral Rolls 1930-1963, Division of Wentworth, Subdivision of Rose Bay)

At some time Edgar moved to the War Veterans’ Home at Collaroy Plateau where he passed away.

Edgar died in 1980 (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index) and was cremated at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium on 24 September 1980. (Sydney Morning Herald 23 September 1980)

Harold Septimus was born on 28 January 1885 (Family papers), his birth was registered at Sydney (online NSW Registry of BDMs – birth index)

Harold married Grace Chapman in 1913, their marriage was registered at Annandale (online NSW Registry of BDMs – marriage index)

The Commonwealth Electoral Rolls for 1930 to 1943, list Harold and Grace living at the Government Savings Bank, Bankstown as Harold was the bank’s manager (Rolls –  Division of Reid, Subdivision of Bankstown)

Harold died on 16 May 1946 and his death was registered at Ashfield (online NSW Registry of BDMs – death index). “Mr and Mrs Frank Russell and Edgar” sent to their relatives and friends an appreciation card in response to expressions of sympathy (Family papers).


John and his parents and siblings exchanged letters regularly and seventeen letters sent from London over the period 1869 to 1917 have been passed down to family members.  Without these letters I may not have been able to establish the details relating to earlier Russell generations and I may have never realised that brother Frank came to Sydney in such sad circumstances.  Note that at this time it took 50-70 days for ships to sail from London to Sydney.

My thanks go to my cousin Ron Grudnoff for his contributions and suggestions.

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