About me

My name is David Holford. I am married to Maria and we have three children, all teenagers now. When I started this blog we lived in Sweden, in a town with the annoying name of Örebro, annoying because is it so hard for English speakers to pronounce. The first syllable is pronounced ur as in fur (or fir) and the last syllable is pronounced oo as in zoo. Urebroo. Why Sweden? Because Maria is Swedish and this land is an important part of who we are. My ancestors are not from Scandinavia, but our children’s   ancestors are. Such is the fascination of family.

But for various reasons we moved “back” to Australia in 2016, after 10 years in our other “home.” Now we live in a place called Speers Point, in a “city” called Lake Macquarie. It is a strange “city” because the city centre is the largest coastal lake in Australia, and the suburbs lie all around it on its shores. At the northern end Lake Macquari’s  suburbs merge into the city of Newcastle. At the southern end they merge into another city called “central Coast.” The eastern side of the lake is formed by a narrow strip of land separating it from the Pacific Ocean. The western side is the most “rural” consisting of scattered communities nestled between the lake and the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

This blog will focus mainly on my ancestry, since I am the one writing it, but perhaps I will also find things to write about Maria’s family. When we lived in Sweden we had access not just to the records, but to the sights and sounds that Maria’s forbears experienced, sights and sounds that are somewhat foreign to many on “my side of the family” and which are for me fascinating. Now we are in Australia we have much closer links with family who have settled on this side of the globe.

How would I describe myself? I am a Christian, not just nominally, but actively, by which I mean that I go to church, read the Bible, and try to follow the teachings and example of Jesus. I am a husband and a father, a brother and a son, and a friend. Relationships are the essence of life, and so these relationships are at the core of who I am.

I am also a doctor, a GP, or general practitioner. General practice is one of the medical specialties which focusses its attentions on the person rather than the disease. Perhaps that is why I ended up a GP, because people have always been more fascinating to me than disease, as interesting as that is in itself. I love listening to people’s stories, not just their symptoms. But of course their experience of ill health profoundly affects their stories, and that is what I like to work with.

It is a little scary to be public on the internet. There is too much of this publicness nowadays. But it is hard to write a blog about family history and remain anonymous. These are real people I write about.

So that’s a little of who I am, but the focus of these pages is not so much me, but my ancestry, though I cannot help but see these people through the lens of my own life and experience. So there must be, I suppose, much of me in what I write.

18 thoughts on “About me

  1. I think I am distantly related to you. I am Paul Jones and I am descended from William Butler, the founder of the tar and resin distiller in Victorian Bristol. I have done quite a lot of research on the Butlers and have this on your great grandmother, Mabel Butler:

    “EL’s (Euart Lovell) notes – Joan Eastwood’s notes in parentheses:

    Mabel, who was about three years old when her father brought her home with him, probably lived with her uncle Isaac for a while, but was living at Clifton Grove in 1899, and upon her grandfather’s death went to Summerhill House. After a few years there she went to live with her sister Jane, where she is said to have borne a child. She then went to London as a lady’s maid since when nothing further has been heard of her. (1881 census – Mabel, 5, living with Wm Henry & Esther Elizabeth at Summerhill House therefore did not stay with Isaac long. Isaac lived in Stapleton Road.)

    1901 census of The South Eastern Hospital, Deptford St Paul, London

    Mabel Butler Patient 25 Cape Colony, South Africa Hospital Nurse

    1891 census of Staple Hill, Mangotsfield, Bristol

    Albert E W May Head M 27 Bristol Traveller
    Sarah J May Wife M 26 Bristol Draper
    Mabel M Butler Sister-in-law S 15 Port Elizabeth, SA Draper’s Assistant

    1881 census of Summerhill House, Bristol St George, Gloucester, England:

    William Heny Butler Head M 30 St George, Gloucs Chemical Manufacturer
    Esther Elizth. Butler Wife M 29 Manchester, Lancs
    Mary Isabille Butler Daur – 10 St George, Gloucs Scholar
    William Butler Son – 5 St George, Gloucs Scholar
    Joseph Henry Butler Son – 3 St George, Gloucs
    Joseph Beaumont Butler Brother U 23 St George, Gloucs Manager Of Chemical Wks
    Mabel May Butler Cousin U 5 Cape Colony
    Florence Eva Withers Govrnss U 19 Warminster, Wilts Governess (Priv)
    Mary Jefferies Servant U 22 North Stoke, Somerset Cook (Dom)
    Angelina Gallaway Servant U 16 Old Sodbury, Gloucs House Maid”

    I would love to her from you over in Sweden,
    Best wishes,

    1. Good to hear from you Paul. Mabel Butler has fascinated me for years, ever since I first discovered that my grandfather, George Simmonds, was born George Butler, in Redhill, Surrrey, to his unwed mother, Mabel Butler. You can read what I have pieced together of Mabel’s life in various blog entries. There are still a whole lot of things that puzzle me, but the main question that I would love answered is why Mabel’s parents were in South Africa. Had they migrated there or were they there on business? When did they go and what happened to Mabel’s mother? I have a death certificate for Mabel’s father Ephraim, registered in Plymouth. What was he doing there? Your suggestion that Mabel had a child when she was still quite young makes her even more interesting. She remains a mysterious person. I have a few letters she wrote to her son, my grandfather, in Australia. They were written just before she died. For sll the mystery of her early life she seemed to have been fairly happy and settled for the 20 odd years she was together with her husband, my great grandfather. He died however almost 20 years before her and it would seem she was fairly lonely in her later years, though her second son, Frederick, remained with her until she died just after WW2.

      How are you related to the Butler family? And where are you living now?

  2. I live in London. My great great grandmother was Emma Butler who was the daughter of William Butler, Ephraim Butler’s bother, and Mabel Butler’s first cousin. I think that makes us 4th cousins once removed.

    What I have on Mabel’s father, Ephraim Butler (b 1837, Sandiacre, Derbyshire; m 1863, Bristol; d. 1879 at sea on S.S. Arab):

    “EL’s (Euart Lovell) notes – Joan Eastwood’s notes in parentheses:

    Ephraim Butler and his Children

    In the Bristol Directories for 1867 and later there is an Ephraim Butler, an umbrella and parasol maker in West Street. Whether this was Wm. Butler’s brother or no is not clear, but our Ephraim’s wife, Sarah Jane Coombs, is said to have been the daughter of an umbrella maker who had a shop in West Street.

    Ephraim went to South Africa – to the gold-diggings there and he served in the Cape Mounted Rifles. He had his home in Port Elizabeth where his wife died in giving birth to their third child. Throughout his wanderings he kept in touch with home and it is remembered that W.H.B. had a pet monkey which his uncle had sent him.

    In the Summer of 1879 Ephraim set sail for England in the S.S. “Arab”. Feeling death at hand he wrote a letter to his brother Isaac commending his children to his care and then died before he could land. His body was brought to Bristol and buried in the grave-yard of Hanham Tabernacle. (See death certificate – died in Plymouth.)”

  3. Wow, thanks for the information about Ephraim. Do you have any idea when he and his wife went to South Africa? His death certificate says he died on the 23 August 1879, so I suppose that was the day the ship arrived and he was presumably transported to the hospital which is listed as the place of death. I have a copy of the death certificate.

    Of course I would love to get any stories and pictures you have for Joseph Butler too. Was Mabel Ephraim and Sarah’s third child? I know Mabel had a sister called Sarah, but who was the other child?

    So your great great grandmother (Emma Butler) and my great grandmother (Mabel Butler) were cousins. That makes you a generation younger than me and we may well be fourth cousins once removed. I get confused with these things.

    1. Mabel was indeed Ephraim and Sarah’s youngest.

      The other two children were:

      1. Sarah Jane was born 1864 in Bristol; married 16 Dec 1890 in Downend to Albert E W May; I know of only one child named Margaret

      2. Martha Ann married William John Milner in about 1888 and had at least 6 children: William, Leslie, James, Elizabeth, Annie and Doris.
      I have these notes for Martha Ann:

      “EL’s (Euart Lovell) notes – Joan Eastwood’s notes in parentheses:

      Martha was educated in ‘Boarding Schools at Uten Hague and Humansdorp. Upon coming to England she continued her education in Bath and then lived with her uncle Isaac a while (Stapleton Rd or, if later, L. Ashley Rd). He was kind enough, but the Aunt was jealous and the children calling her a workhouse brat one day made her resolve to leave, and she got herself apprenticed.

      About 1888 she was married and has since had a family of three sons and three daughters. (Must have been living in Bristol – was it the Horfield area?)

      During the first Great War she collected considerable sums for the Bristol Coliseum Volunteers and also took a great interest in the welfare of wounded soldiers. She established a workshop where they could be trained, and through her efforts the authorities were induced to make a road across the fields from Horfield to Southmead so that wounded men could get to the cars, and also to put seats on the Common for their benefit. In 1920, Lt. Gen. Harper wrote an appreciation of her work in behalf of the wounded men, saying that there was no doubt that her services had been of great value, both locally and nationally.

      In 1921 she became an honorary member of the women’ section of’ the British Legion and was later elected President of the Bedminster District and Bishopston and Horfield Branches.

      During the second Great War she became an enthusiastic supporter of the Bristol’s Own Fund and has been working for the Red Cross volunteering also to work daily at Southmead.

      In 1941 she presented a purse in behalf of the “loyal women of Bristol” to the Queen who is President of the Women’s Section of the British Legion.
      Joan Eastwood has more details on Wm & Martha Milner”

      Euart Lovell was a contemporary of William Butler, the tar distiller, and wrote a book in which he mentions many other Butlers. I don’t know if the book was ever published – I suspect it may have been William’s vanity project. Joan Eastwwod was writing a book on William Butler about 15 years ago and also did a lot of work on the Butlers. I have lost touch with her now. Neither Euart Lovell nor Joan Eastwood is related to the Butlers.

      I shall need your email to send photos – I can’t paste images here.

      Best wishes,

  4. Hello, I’m Tracey Read, born in London to Barbara Walmsley, daughter of Margaret (Reddy) Walmsley. I live in British Columbia, Canada, having immigrated to Canada when I was two years old. I’m now 68. When my mother died in 2010 she left me a number of Wm Butler’s memorabilia including a photo of a gorgeous house in Bristol that she described as being her grandfather’s but which had since been torn down, some items of engraved silver and a history of the Butler family industry. For reasons that are not at all clear to me now, Mama and I never discussed the family and don’t I wish I had pushed the point! I just recently sat down to read the book, went on line to search for more info and found you. I would appreciate being in touch to see how I might be connected to all of this fascinating history. The timing seems serendipitous as you were posting just a week ago. I’ll fill in my email address in hopes I hear from you. Thanks!

  5. Hello David
    I have been researching my wife’s family tree and have just discovered she is a descendant of John Holdorf. He is her 3rd great grandfather. The information you have provided is fantastic. There was always a family story that her ancestors “owned the main street of Goulburn” however no family member had any specific details, such as names, and you assume there is an element of extreme exaggeration. Judging by newspaper reports the Holdorfs were a prominent family held in high esteem by the community in Goulburn. “Owning the main street” is certainly an exaggeration. I would like to exchange information if possible?
    Best Regards
    Nigel Johns

    1. Hi Nigel
      I would be happy to exchange any information with you that might be of interest to us both. Always interesting to hear the old family stories – like “owned the main street of Goulburn”! John Holdorf was certainly quite successful, considering the fact that he came to Australia with nothing. I suspect that his wife Caroline was also a pretty amazing person. She was a good deal younger than him (18 years I think) and outlived him by a good 20 years. Her family – the Fishers – came from Bavaria and actually arrived before John. Both the Holdorfs and the Fishers probably have hundreds of descendants around NSW these days. It would be amazing to have a reunion some day of all of them.
      Anyway, thanks for making contact. Look forward to hearing from you again sometime. You can also contact me by email. I will send a message to you with my email address.

  6. Hi David!
    Remember Faith and remember me from Tamworth? Our mutual ancestor lived in and ran a school in Summerhill House, Bristol from 1804 till at least 1808. I found your site when I googled the house. Would be glad to hear from you and send a bit I found.

    1. Hi Jan! Funny to hear from you after all these years. Interested to hear that we have a mutual ancestor. Would love to hear more. Send it over. I will reply to your email withy email address. What I would love to get is a picture of Summerhill House, which does not exist anymore. My ancestor (Mum’s grandmother) lived at Summerhill House briefly when she was a child, in the 1870s, after both her parents had died. She was taken in by her cousin, William Butler, who was a lot older than her, married, with children the same age as Mabel. As far as I know the Butler family had no connection with Summerhill House, or indeed Bristol at all, before around 1850.

  7. Hi David
    What a fascinating website! All the more so because Joseph Frearson BUTLER is my 2C5R (second cousin five times removed), his mother being descended from my KERRY family of Ockbrook, Derbyshire.

    1. Thanks Joy. Nice to hear from you. Its always fun when we find some of our own story in someone else’s. One of the joys of the internet. The Butler family was big and there must be thousands of descendants. It has been fun for me to have had feedback from people not just in the UK but in Canada and Australia. There’s still a lot to find out about my little branch of the family, one of the less glorious. Its a consuming pastime. Do you have any stories to share about the Butlers?

  8. Hi David,
    I spent my early years in Summerhill House and can provide a lot of information on the Butler connection.
    I am a retired Rheumatologist living in Warwickshire and would be pleased to hear from you.
    with kind regards
    George Struthers

    1. Hi George,
      Wow that’s exciting for me. Thanks so much for making contact. I would love to hear more about your experiences and memories. I suppose my first question is, what happened to Summerhill House, and when did it disappear? I believe my great grandmother, Mabel Butler, lived there as a child when she first arrived from South Africa, newly orphaned after the death of her father at sea. I am unsure how long she stayed there with family, or why she left. If she had stayed her life may have been very different. If you have any photos I would of course love to see them. You can write to me at my email address, holfies@gmail.com.
      Kind regards
      David Holford
      PS we are now living in Australia

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