Friday, 31 October 2014

Richard Clayton Strelley 1863-1897 Compound mistakes and a bit of bad luck.

My relative got it in his head that someone bumped this man  off for his money.

He was his great great grandfather, Richard Clayton Strelley 1863-1897 who had gone to the antipodes to follow up on a the family fortune and never returned. Being Australian I argued that arriving in WA and ending up in NZ would be unusual in the 1890s.  All that was remembered was that there was a gravestone in NZ- the receipt and photograph now lost.

I listened and felt that perhaps Richard left the family home and wanted to disappear. Perhaps there was eventually another lady  and possibly a family in NZ.   Besides his first wife wasn't exactly pining for him- she had married rather hastily.

While doing some research  I changed to an Australian rather than English version of a data base to check for records or shipping movements- Find My Past.com.au. Then I looked up NZ Papers Past. Up popped a cemetery record which led me to shipping records. He arrived on SS Donglas  as a passenger  - Papers Past 27/1/1890  Hokimoana Arrivals in Auckland Star. He died aged 35  and was buried buried Block D  Row 10 Plot 064 at Purewa Cemetery Auckland. Cause of death was a  fractured skull- this is mysterious. Perhaps  he really was bumped off.

Sadly his gravestone was destroyed by vandals  a few years beforehand but the staff at  Purewa Cemetery Auckland kindly photographed the site.  Armed with a date it was decided to order the death certificate.

No luck- no-one of this name reported to the NZ Birth Deaths and Marriages. Nothing in the papers- only a probate packet (but not online) which required a personal visit. No other NZ records in his name.

After a year of wondering, I emailed NZ BDM and given we had an approximate date they were able to do a first name search. Ahh....... He was registered under SHELLY not STRELLEY. Three days later the certificate was emailed.

Now with a narrowed down date of death and the thought that details were perhaps incorrectly reported I did a vague search of Papers Past-  Anything SHELLEY, RICHARD or CLAYTON  and in it rolled......
  • A Funeral Notice for CLAYTON STRELLY
  • Several  accounts of a horse bolting and a man named RICHARD CLAYTON SKELLEY suffering a fractured skull
  • A page 2 article of the full details of a rescue attempt, names of those involved and time date and location. An extra bonus was his profession, employer and the fact he was a single man. 
  • That led to a Coroners Report for RICHARD CLAYTON SKELLY.
So off we are to order the photocopies of the coroners report and probate- someone paid for his gravestone  and someone wanted probate for a lowly store man.
Watch this space.

Tip of the Day

The "contact us" tab on the BDM site and the NZ Archives site allowed for personal contact and personal correspondence regarding my dilemma.  The Archives advised of their photocopying service (not advertised) and the BDM officer explained  the mistake in registration and what to do next.

Here's the article that appeared in the page 2 of the Wanganui Herald on  25/2/1897- and they pulled out all stops to help him.