A Brick Wall by the Family Tree

We have her full name, her important dates and census records. We also bought a copy of her marriage certificate which showed that she and Ernest Joseph Sheppard were married in 1925 at Cardiff. We know where they spent their honeymoon and we have some of her postcards. Irene May Hampton was one of my husband’s maternal aunts.

Rene HamptonHer sister Daisy went to France with the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps during the First World War. She met Ferdi Thiele while he was serving with the AIF as a despatch rider and he spoke of her in his war letters to his parents.

Ferdi married Daisy Hampton in Cardiff in 1919 and brought her back to Australia on a bride ship. They had six sons and my husband was the youngest. Maurie knew hardly anything about his mother’s early life in Wales. He’d never heard of his Auntie Rene; he didn’t even know his grandparents’ names. Daisy died when he was only seven. I don’t think she ever returned to visit her family in Wales.

After I’d transcribed Ferdi’s war letters, I said to Maurie, ‘It’s sad that we know so little about your mother’s family’ and he agreed.

Ferdi and Daisy in 1919
Ferdinand and Daisy Thiele in 1919

So I began to search. Soon I could reel off the names of her siblings, her aunts, uncles, cousins and many other family members. I could even recognise their handwriting. I felt as if I knew Daisy’s parents well: Edwin Hampton and Elizabeth Eliza Dukes. I’d found a family of multiple marriages and several astonishingly dramatic and sad stories.

We  discovered that Maurie’s brother, Stanley Hampton Thiele, owned three postcard albums belonging to Daisy and her mother, so we borrowed them. There’s not much you can fit on a postcard, but the brief notes, the addresses and the franked stamps with dates, times and places of despatch, were all interesting details that told part of an ongoing story.

Arthur Thiele PC from Gwendoline to Daisy

This postcard sent to Daisy in 1912 by her half-sister, Gwendoline, was painted by the German artist called, of all names, Arthur Thiele.

Irene May Hampton was there along with the rest, but after her marriage I lost track of her. I wondered if she and Ernest left Wales? Did they die young? Did they have any children? I’d like to meet her, but she was born in 1899, so would be dead now.

If only Maurie’s mother had lived longer, I could have asked about her sister. They say every researcher has a ‘brick wall’. Auntie Rene is ours. She looks such a gentle person in her photograph and from what she wrote on her postcards, I think she would have been kind. The family tree is incomplete and I imagine her, alone on her own branch…but I don’t know where it is.

Irene’s tattered postcard to her mother, complete with childish spelling. Cute.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I’ve spent so much time on all this family research. When I read the Bible and see how the Hebrews kept a record of their parentage, I understand that names and family history are important to God. He wants us to benefit from what they said and did; good and bad.

The most important record belongs to Jesus. No brief list there: it takes up several columns of fine print in my old Bible. Someone made sure that his genealogy was preserved! And he set a good example for us.

I think it’s wonderful that God always knows where everyone is. He keeps an eye out for the tiny sparrows and he cares about us even more. He doesn’t have any brick walls to separate us from him and he’s always there when we need him. We only have to call.

God the Genealogist: think about that and see where it takes you.

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