What happened to Herbert “Bertie” Arthur VOSS & his wife Edith WENHAM?

Photograph taken about 1906 inscribed on the back:
Four generations
Mrs Pegg (right) Grandma
Mrs Voss left grannie
Bertie Voss son

Bertie finished his schooling in Eastborne, where his parents had moved as his father Albert was Manager of the Devonshire Club there.  He then worked as a furniture salesman in Eastborne, where he must have met Edith who was the book keeper in the store.  They married in 1902 when he was just 20.

Their daughter Gladys Mary “Mollie” was borne ca. 1903 in Jersey, in the Channel Islands.  Their son Geoffrey Herbert Donald was born in Sydenham, London in 1905, when Bertie was still a furniture salesman.

After this Bertie & Edith seem to have almost disappeared.

Edith and Mollie were recorded in the 1911 census in Ryde, Isle of Wight, staying with Thomas Thompson, surgeon.  What were they doing there?  If on holiday, it is unlikely that a surgeon would have been running a boarding house.  It seems more likely that they were visiting relatives, although whether Thomas was a relative or family friend is not clear.  Interestingly, Elizabeth S M PEGG (Edith’s mother-in-law) was borne in Ryde.

Geoffrey, aged 12

In April 1916 Geoffrey aged 11 was sent to King Edward’s School, Witley, Surrey by his grandmother, Bertie’s mother.  The admissions register states that he had been abandoned by his parents.   In September 1921 at the age of 16 he was discharged back into the care of his grandmother,  Within a year he had gone to Australia where he later entered the church.

I have found no other trace of Mollie in the UK, but have a letter from her to her aunt by marriage Mona, written from Flemington, near Sydney, Australia in January 1940 acknowledging news of the death of grandmother Elizabeth.  In it she refers to her husband, and three sons Geoff the eldest, Donald and John aged 5.

So both of Bertie’s children went to Australia, and Geoffrey almost immediately after leaving school.  It would be reasonable to assume that their mother, at least, had emigrated, leaving Geoffrey behind for schooling.  Perhaps Bertie’s mother felt rather abandoned by him and hence made the comment to the school.  We know too that Bertie’s mother was herself taken to Australia when she was aged 2 but the family returned when she was about 21, so Bertie would have heard about Australia from his mother who had spent her formative years there.

However, Marilyn Wilkes, Archivist for King Edwards School, has been unable to find Bertie and Edith on the passenger lists to Australia.

Did Bertie & Edith both emigrate to Australia?  Australian records need to be researched.  And if they did not, what happened to them?

8 thoughts on “What happened to Herbert “Bertie” Arthur VOSS & his wife Edith WENHAM?

  1. Coulrallie Ave is in Flemington Sydney NSW.Geoffrey went to Australia on the maiden vogage of Larg Bay ( Steamship Line -Commonwealth Government) which left London on 4/01/1922 bound for Sydney NSW. His occupation on the passenger list is given as Messenger. This assumes that he had a purpose for going out. Also in a Broken Hill voters list from 1930 “salesman” appears but I am unsure whether this is what he did before his training as a clergyman. The School magazine suggested that he was going to Agricultural College in NSW because he was to become a settler. If this is true then research needs to be done in Sydney to trace this.
    Jersey is an interesting connection. If Herbert and Geoffrey were in Jersey in 1911 then the census for that area is still to be put online so that would explain why they were missing.

  2. Bell Public House run by ARTHUR Herbert Voss born in 1871. Found in 1911 Directory and 1911 Census so that was a red herring!

  3. I have recently gained access to the petitions for admissions, which has thrown some light on Geoffrey and his family that you may find useful.
    When Grandma made her petition in 1916 she was living in “Lulworth” Silverleigh Rd, Thornton Heath, Surrey. Geoffrey attended Winterbourne primary school located nearby. She descibes herself and her husband as pensioners living on rescricted means. Geoffrey’s mother and father had deserted him and she did not know of their whereabouts. Father was a carpet salesman but she had not heard fom him for 5 years and mother she had not heard from in 2 years. Correspondence to the school in that year was on black bordered notepaper so grandfather had died and Geoffrey was admitted. The 1934 Magazine suggests that Geoffrey’s mother was keeping the Old Boys Association up to date with Geoffrey’s progress.

  4. I have recently returned from Australia where I tried to find out who lived in Courallie Avenue. Without a surname it was impossible to search electoral roles. I have found Geoffrey who before becoming a clergyman was a salesman who lived in 1930 at 106 Bland St Ashfield Sydney.
    I have also discovered that he is remembered on the Ballarat Memorial in Australia. There is an association of “friends” of those recorded there. Next time I go to Sydney I will try to access his records from Papua New Guinea which may tell me his next of kin. However I did find a short extract from a NSW newspaper 1950 which suggested that he left no will and his effects would be shared between his mother and sister, his father having not been heard of since 1910. This confirms what we thought that his mother and sister were already in Australia when he joined them after he left School.

  5. Herbert and Edith were married in Brighton in the March quarter of 1902. Edith was the daughter of John T Wenham who owned a House furnishing business in Eastbourne. The Wenhams were a respected family, indeed John owned a Martello tower in Normans Bay. He was also an alderman. Edith’s brother was a solicitor and an older sister Alice married a well known land agent George Ramuz. I followed up the reference in 1911 census to Mollie being born in Jersey and found out from an archivist in St Helier that she was born on August 16th and baptised Gladys May on 17th September 1902 in the church at St. Helier. Her father was Herbert Arthur Voss an insurance Agent and mother Edith Wenham.
    It seems certain that both Edith and Mollie lived in Australia. It is possible that Mollie married there and more than probable that they both died there. However I can find no record of Edith Voss or Gladys Voss in the records. So the hunt goes on! Could Edith have remarried? Where does the surgeon Edith was living with/ visiting in the Isle of Wight in 1911 fit in?

  6. I can now confirm that Edith did go to Australia with Gladys Mary. What I cannot find out is why Geoffrey was left with the Voss family.
    The facts I can now relate are
    Edith and Thomas Thomson were living in 2 rooms in Ryde in 1911. Soon after they must have left UK eventually coming to Sydney. They may have married or merely took on the identity of a family because when Gladys Mary, Mollie, married her surname was Thomson. In 1922 in the St. Peters district of Sydney she, as Gladys Mary Thomson, married Stephen Thomas Turner. By 1945 she was living in Fairfield NSW. She and her husband appear on the report of Geoffrey Voss’s death on the Montevideo Maru.
    What must now be researched is the marriage and death of Edith and Thomas.

  7. So Edith seems to have taken up with Thomas Thomson by 1911, when Molly would have been aged 9 and Geoffrey aged 4. If Edith and Thomas went off to Australia, this may have contributed to Bertie’s mother (Geoffrey’s grandmother) feeling he had been abandoned (as told to the school). She does not seem to have mentioned Molly – may be she was taken with them? Now we have a surname for Molly, we can find out when she travelled out too.

    I wonder what happened to Bertie? It is quite probable that he went abroad too, to have a fresh start (hence grandmother’s comment). My hunch is not Australia given that Edith and Thomas had gone there. On the other hand, he would have had connections through his mother’s time there. I note that Geoffrey followed out to Australia quite quickly after he left school. Unlike Mollie, he kept his father’s name of Voss. Did he join his mother or his father? Censuses may help with that one – where he went. I note that at the time of Geoffrey’s death, father would have been 63 if still alive. The report states his occupation as ‘French Polisher’. It does not say ‘deceased’ or any such. This suggests to me that Mollie knew he was still alive and polishing. Fascinating!

  8. I continue to wonder what happened to Herbert “Bertie” VOSS. I have also had a good search for any trace of him. Snag is there are quite a lot of records for various Herbert/Arthur VOSS around, especially in America and some are of the right age, but no evidence that they are indeed him. But the last record is the entry in my grandparent’s visitor’s book on 21 March 1910, at which time he was living with his parents in South Norwood, London. His wife Edith WENHAM had taken up with Thomas THOMSON by 1911.

    I have found a gazette entry concerning the distribution of Bertie’s son Geoffrey VOSS’s estate published in November 1919:
    VOSS (Geoffrey Herbert Donald) public servant, Rabulk, New Guiea, missing presumed dead. Father Herbert Arthur Voss last heard of London 1910. It is intended to effect distribution balance intestate estate to mother and sister on 27th January 1950.
    H. W. Hartdy, Curator of Intestate Estates, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

    So it looks like Bertie did a disappearing act soon after that 1910 visit and no one in the family heard from him again. May be that visit was him taking his leave of his brother. His mother lived to 1939, one uncle to 1939 and the other to 1960 and none of them had heard anything by 1919. In the absence of any death record, it is likely he either went somewhere where records are not easily available or that he changed his identity, perhaps wanting to escape from the family situation.

    Any sightings would be gratefully received.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *