Forgotten tales

stories of my family

Florence Stacey (Florence Holdorf) 1878-1908

My father never met his grandmother, Florence Stacey, who died in 1908, many years before Dad was born (1933). Writing about his family background in July 2013 Dad noted:

My father was Charles John Stacey Holford, born July 7,1899 in Goulburn… He lived in Goulburn until his mother, Florence Caroline Holdorf (Stacey) died April 8, 1908 of typhoid fever, three weeks after her youngest son (Eric) was born… I know little about my grandmother except that she came from another shopkeeping family (the Staceys) in Auburn St., Goulburn. She was very beautiful, but was apparently treated badly by my grandfather who had a bad temper. She is buried in a prominent position in Goulburn cemetery where my grandfather is also buried beside her.

In an email from Dad, dated 6 December 2014, he again says:

I was told my grandfather had a bad temper and gave his wife a hard time. My grandmother was a sweet, gentle, sensitive woman so it must have been hard for her.

I have often wondered about Florence Stacey, the first born of George and Mary Stacey of Goulburn. Who was this sweet, gentle, sensitive and beautiful woman who married my great grandfather when she was just 20? What was her childhood like, how did she meet Charles Holdorf and why did she marry him? Was their life together really as hard for her as my father seems to suggest? What does it mean that Charles had a bad temper? What was life really like at the dawn of the twentieth century in the small rural community of Goulburn, NSW?

Florence was the first of nine children. Her father George Stacey had arrived in Australia from England in 1869, having left his home town of Bedford when he was only 16. Why he left is uncertain, but his early life had not been easy. The 1861 England census records him living with his father and his younger brother as lodgers with another family in central Bedford, in a road along which I have driven a number of times over recent years without the slightest idea that an ancestor of mine had lived there 160 years ago. So George Stacey at age 8 was motherless, a common experience for children in Victorian England, in a time when medical care was neither very effective nor universally available, and when women died often from the complications of childbirth. When he was 16 he left England forever. His father remarried and moved to London. What kind of contact they had after that is uncertain.

George somehow came to Goulburn where in his mid twenties he married Mary Atkinson, a girl a few years older than him from Berrima, NSW. According to his funeral notice, “[George] opened business as a grocer in the old Emu Stores adjoining the historic Emu Inn… Twenty years later he moved into his own store a few doors further along the street and for 22 years he carried on business there.” The following is a photo dated around 1905 of the new Stacey store in Auburn Street, which was sent me by Vicki Holford Reevey, another descendent of the Holdorf line. The wording on the facade clearly states that the business was established in 1882. At the time of taking this photo, the building was just three years old.
Stacey's circa 1905
The three men in the photo are from left to right Florence’s oldest brother Percy, born 1880, her father George Stacey, who was by the time of this photo 52 years of age, and one of the Holdorfs, though I am unsure which one. Vicki thought it was John Holdorf, but he died in 1898 so that cannot be the case. It seems most likely that it is Charles Holdorf, the first born of the ten Holdorf children, the one who Florence married. Charles was born in 1869 so would have been 36 at the time of this photo, seven years after he and Florence had married. According to my father, Charles was a travelling salesman for McMurtrey’s Shoes, but before he married he lived with his parents above their store, which was also in Auburn Street and was a drapers and general grocers store.

It is possible that the two families were close. Charles was nine years older than Florence but they grew up in the same little community, in the young town of Goulburn, and both were the children of shopkeepers in Auburn Street. Charles parents were German immigrants, while Florence’s father was English, married to a native Australian. John Holdorf (born 1828) was 25 years older than George Stacey (born 1853) but their respective wives were much closer in age (Caroline Holdorf was born in 1847, Mary Stacey in 1850) and may well have been good friends. Caroline was also probably a good deal more “Australian” than her German husband John: she was 9 when she arrived in Australia, but John was 28. But despite the difference in their ages John and George did have one thing in common: they were both masons, members presumably of the same Goulburn order of Oddfellows.

Charles was the first son of a prominent shopkeeper in Goulburn, Florence the first daughter of another. They tied the knot in 1898, when Florence was 20 and Charles 29, the same year that Charles’ father, John Holdorf died, aged 70, leaving his mother Caroline (who was only 52) a widow. Interestingly, John’s funeral notice records that a wreath was sent by Miss FC Stacey, though none from other Stacey family members is mentioned. Florence, just 19, was presumably already engaged to Charles.

Florence and Charles lived in Goulburn and had five children, the first of which was my grandfather, born in 1899. Charles was a travelling salesman and a part time soldier. Florence was at home raising the family. She died on 8 April 1908, after they had been married 10 years, 3 weeks after the birth of Eric, her fifth child. Grandpa was 9 years old. The five children and their father, Charles Holdorf, moved to Sydney after Florence’s death, where they lived with their grandmother, Caroline. Caroline was 62 years old in 1908 and had already raised 11 children and now she had to raise Florence and Charles’ five as well.

Florence is buried in Goulburn Cemetery. She never saw her children grow up. Her husband Charles lived out his remaining days in Sydney initially with his mother who cared for the children when he sailed off to Europe during WW1, where he served in Egypt and France. He returned to Australia and changed his name to Holford. His five children grew up and married, one by one. His mother died in 1924. Charles himself died in 1954, after being a widower for 46 years. It is hard to know why he treated his beautiful young wife badly, but one thing seems certain, she was the only woman ever to capture his heart. When Charles died his body was returned to Goulburn, where he is buried beside his wife.


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15 thoughts on “Florence Stacey (Florence Holdorf) 1878-1908

  1. sydney sheen on said:

    Florence Holdorf (Stacey) sister Alma married Sydney sheen in 1911 also from Goulburn born 1888 Goulburn, died in ww1, 20th Sept 1918 france. They had one child, A girl in 1912 , who was named Florence after her sister. Alma never remarried, she had one more child in 1928 to James Leslie Bannon A boy named Mervyn Sydney Sheen aka Bannon., James Leslie Bannon died in 1952/4 buried in waverley with his mother (1915) and followed by his son mervyn sheen in 1981

    • Thanks for this extra piece in the jigsaw. I have very little information on the Stacey side of the family. After Florence’s death her five children were in a sense adopted by Charles’ mother, Caroline Holdorf, and they moved eventually to Sydney. I have sometimes wondered how Florence’s mother, Mary, not to mention her father, George Stacey, felt about having their five grandchildren whisked away from Goulburn, where they were all born. Alma, was, I take it, Florence’s only sister. Given that she was unmarried at the time of her sister’s death, it is perhaps surprising that she did not issue a bigger role in the care of her sister’s children. But perhaps that would have been seen as inappropriate at the time. Do you have any more information on Sydney Sheen? A tragedy to die only 7 weeks before the end of the war. Where was he in France? I wonder if he knew Charles Holdorf. How are you related to the Sheen family?

      • sydney sheen on said:

        Alma Stacey (sheen) was my grand mother, there is little know about her where a bouts after the death of Sydney sheen in 1918. their daughter florance was passed around to family members from the sheen family. Alma turns up in the 1920,s and she introduced herself as Mrs Bannon. In 1928 she had a son to james bannon, the baby was named mervyn sydney sheen aka bannon . Alma never remarried after the death of sydney sheen, She was always know by the surname sheen. Mervyn sheen was my father and he spent his 15th birthday in the middle east ww11, passed away 1981, Alma lived in and around paddington until her death from cancer in 1956

      • OK, so your grandmother (Alma) was my great grandmother’s sister. And though you bear the name Sheen (I presume) you are in fact not descended from Sydney Sheen, who Alma married, but to Alma’s later partner (whom she never married) James Bannon, whose son with Alma was Mervyn, your father. So who do you think of as your grandfather – James Bannon (your biological), or Sydney Sheen, whose name you bear. You said James died in 1952 or 1954. Are you old enough to have known him and your grandmother Alma? Did they actually have anything to do with each other (more than having produced one child together, your father). Did he marry someone else?

  2. sydney sheen on said:

    David- my father returned home from wwii at the end of it aged 17. he met my mother (Betty May Stuart) sometime shortly after. they were married in 1946. he was 18 and she 17. both to young to get hitch. I was born in 1948 my brother in 1949. Our parents divorced in 1950. my mother could not cope with two young childern. she gave us away to Alma to care for us. I remember her very well. she was in bad health and passed my brother and my self over to my mothers parents. We lived with our gran parents untill my mother remarried in 1957. As soon as my brother started to walk i would take him by the hand and we would walk back to Alma,s flat in Edge Cliff for vists. We lived in paddington and it was an easy walk to Almas, no more then a mile. I was over 4 years old the last time i seen Alma alive it was in 1952. I was belted with a cain for going so far from home and was not allowed to vist her again or i would be cained again. Alma has always had a place in my heart.
    The two sister,s florance and Alma had a nick name by all the young bucks in goulburn, they were called the peacocks.

    I never knew james bannon and i only see him as a sperm donor,
    As for Sydney sheen. i have carried his name for 69 years and i am going to my grave with it. Over the years i have thought about a name change,but i dont because that is who i am sydney sheen

    • Fascinating! Do you know when Alma was born? She seems to have been a good deal younger than her sister Florence. What happened to your father after your parents divorced? Do you still live in the Eastern suburbs? Any idea what happened to Florence Sheen (your auntie)? Did she come back to live with her mother at any stage? If you would prefer not to reply on the blog you can email me on

      • sydney sheen on said:

        alma mary stacey (sheen) 1889-1956

        i now live in the blue mountains. the daughter of alma and sydney sheen florance went to live with members of the sheen family and the daniel family after her father was killed in 1918

        florance 1912-2004
        did Florance return to her mother, this is unkown to us and also to margret her daughter. She is still searching for answers.
        florance never spoke about her childhood to her own kids.

        as for my dad he suffered post trauma from the war, until the day he died from a massive heart attack , the real shock was at his funeral, thousands of people packed into the church and out into the streets.

      • Your dad was very young when he went to war. You said he had his 15th birthday in the Middle East. How did that happen and what did he do? He was clearly too young to enlist. But you say he had post traumatic stress, so he must have witnessed something terrible. What did he do after he left your mother and you? Did he marry again? More kids? How old was he when he died?

      • sydney sheen on said:

        david- are you aware that you also have six convicts on your great grand mothers side of the family( Florence Stacey) if not i will fill the gaps in for you,

      • Would love to hear more. I have had a vague idea of convicts. Florence’s father was English, but came as a free settler. I have a feeling that her mother Mary was descended from convict stock. But I don’t have any details. Anything you can tell would be greatly appreciated.

  3. sydney sheen on said:

    William Harper-m-Margaret Morgan in 1803 at parramatta both convicts there son james born 1805 marrys Mary Robinson in 1826 at campbelltown, Mary Robinson was also a convict. they had a dauther named sarah in 1833-Sarah Marrys John Atkinson in 1849, John Atkinsons parents are both convicts who are Thomas Atkinson and Mary Maxwell Scott, also her younger brother who was also a convict whose name i have lost. now Sarah and john Atkinson have a Dauther. they name her Mary in 1879 Mary -marrys George Stacey in Goulburn, they have 9 childern first born is your great great Granmother Florence.


    you can get much more information if you get in touch with the berrima district historical and family society.

    We are related to the Harper family of Berrima, the Atkinson family also come from Berrima, they have information on all of the convicts,
    you can check out the names on the list of the convicts that came to Australia in the first fleet on the net. There is a search fee and postage fee from the Berrima historical society

    • Thanks for that family tree. Lots to learn there. One thing that is puzzling is an obituary for Mary Stacey (George’s wife) I managed to track down from the Goulburn Evening Post, 7 May 1940. It clearly says that “the late Mrs Stacey, who had spent 66 years of her life in Goulburn, was born at Berrima, where her parents, Mr and Mrs Harper, conducted the Surveyor-General Hotel for some years. Coming to Goulburn as a young woman, Mary Stacey and her husband, the late George Stacey, commenced business in 1882 as general storekeepers…” This would suggest that Mary’s maiden name was Mary Harper, but it was really Mary Atkinson. I can send you a copy of the newspaper clipping if you are interested.

      The information you have provided indicates that Mary Stacey’s parents were John Atkinson and Sarah Harper. Perhaps the newspaper got their facts wrong and it was really Mrs Stacey’s grandparents, Mr and Mrs Harper, who had the Surveyor General Hotel in Berrima, not her parents, Mr and Mrs Atkinson.

      Anyway, the facts remain that we have six ancestors through Mary Stacey (Atkinson) who were convicts and who all settled in the Berrima area. When Mary Atkinson married George Stacey (who had come out as a free settler from England) she moved away from Berrima and her convict ancestry to Goulburn to start a new life.

      I also have convicts on another branch of the family – my Irish great great grandfather John Hickson, who came out in 1870, married a girl (Martha Watts) whose parents were convicts. Her mother was Irish, Mary Magenity, and her father English, William Watts, both transported in the first decades of the 1800s.

      • sydney sheen on said:

        David… William Harper and Margret Morgan were Mary Stacey (Atkinson) G /G GRAND PARENTS there son James married Mary Robinson. There daughter Sarha who was only 16 married John Atkinson. John Atkinson parents were Thomas Atkinson and Mary Maxwell Scott.
        Mary Stacey(Atkinson)…had convicts on both sides of her family, the Harpers and the Atkinson as well as her grandmothers brother who was a Scott.
        The surveyor General Hotel still stand there in Berrima, and the sell a nice drop of pale ale. well David if we ever fall foul of the law we can always blame it on the fact that we have far to much CONVICT BLOOD IN OUR D.N.A. HA,HA,HA,
        I though i was doing pretty well with 6 convicts, If you keep looking your a big chance of going past 7 convicts and it is looking more likely it is a 9

      • OK, that makes sense. The obituary in the Goulburn Post must have got the generations wrong. I’ll be looking up the hotel in Berrima sometime. You’re right, there is plenty of convict blood in us… And more in me than you it seems. Thanks for all the info.

  4. sydney sheen on said:

    william harper
    margret morgan
    mary maxwell scott & her brother were all sendtance to death before importation to Australia

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