In 1990 I brought home my grandfather’s collection of family photographs to my mother from Birmingham. He was living in a nursing home and wanted Mom to have them. Amongst those photographs were a number of images taken in Australia, one from “Uncle Albert and Aunt Harriet,” and a few from a glamorous 1920s lady named Gladys. One was even addressed to my grandmother Lilian (Mom’s mother). Mom said that they were Nanny’s relatives, and were Squelches, who had moved to Australia, specifically Toowoomba. So I decided to find out more about them, or more specifically – find them. In the age before the internet was really accessible this meant legwork.
I found a telephone book from Brisbane (which is in the same state as Toowoomba) and looked up the name Squelch. I found a Garry Squelch. Now here is where I was working on some pretty broad assumptions, most specifically that the name was rare, and that the Squelches would have stayed in the area. Fortunately they were not far off the mark. Garry wrote back. He was not from my Squelch family but he knew of the Toowoomba Squelches and found the address for me of one of them, and the rest is history.
I wrote to John Squelch, who lived in South Australia, and he wrote a glorious letter back. We were related. It was the beginning of a great writing relationship. Both Mom and I wrote to him, and there was a furious exchange of family stories, notes, pictures, and so forth. It was great. In 2002 he and his wife Marilyn came to Canada to see the Rockies, and the met with Dad.
This is how we are related:
Charles Squelch (1837 Perry Barr) & Mary Ann Smith (1838 Walsall – 1905 Perry Barr)
1) Charles Albert Squelch (1862 Handsworth – 1940 Toowoomba ) m. Harriet Ann Poole (1861-1956)
2) Alice Mary Squelch (1864 Handsworth – Birmingham) m. Smith
3) Arthur Henry Squelch (1866 – 1884 Handsworth)
4) Florence Eleanor Squelch (1869 Perry Barr – 1932 Australia) m James Edgar Jones (Wales)
5) Ada Louisa Squelch (1870 Handsworth – 1920 Perry Barr) m Charles Samuel Davis (1872-1942)
6) Emily Francies Squelch (1875 Perry Barr – 1939 Australia) m Will Fountaine
John was descended from Charles Arthur Squelch’s son Albert. I am descended from Ada Louisa.
It was a case of chain migration for the Squelch family. Harriet Poole’s sister had emigrated to Australia already, with her husband John Wilkes in 1878. He died after their emigration, and she married John Brazier. Together they had founded the Kleinton Pottery and Brickworks in Queensland by 1901. In 1905 Charles and Harriet Squelch with their five children emigrated to Australia, and settled at Kleinton (near Toowoomba). These were the Charles and Harriet of the picture found in Grandad’s collection. Charles then sponsored his sister Emily’s family in 1908, and they were joined by Florence and her family in 1912. The Gladys in the pictures was the daughter of Florence and James Jones. Apparently the Jones lived with my great-grandparents Ada and Charles Davis for a while before moving to Australia, and their daughter Gladys was close in age to my grandmother Lilian.
Ada and Alice were the surviving children of Charles and Mary Squelch to stay in Birmingham. But until the late 1940s it appears that the families kept in touch. My letter to John reconnected the families again, and it was wonderful.
John died in 2005, but I kept in touch with his wife Marilyn. It was marvellous. Today as I write this I am thinking a lot about the Squelch family, as I just found out that Marilyn passed away in a horrible traffic accident in May. I received an email from her daughter, who had received my Christmas card to her mum.
Genealogy has allowed me not only to connect to my family’s past, but also it’s present. I have had the great fortune of meeting (if only by letter or phone call) some really great people who are related to me, if only distantly. It has been a great joy to me to connect to them, and to share family stories, and events with them. Marilyn was one of those family members who regularly emailed me to tell me all her news, and I will miss her greatly.