Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Searching for more on Edna Witheford

This post is in response to a request for more information about Edna Witheford, daughter of J.H.Witheford. If this is your family line and you have more detail to share please link up here or at the main Witheford page http://localhistorybartley.blogspot.co.nz/2015/09/joseph-witheford-member-of-seddons.html

Edna was born on 17 July 1889.[i] She was the youngest of her family. When she was little she was sometimes under the guardianship of her brother in law Ted Barber, Ida’s husband. Her father’s political career and her mother’s health made this arrangement necessary.

Despite moving between Northcote and Ellerslie schools, Edna was an able student.  Later she is listed with her cousin Myrtle Rountree as a prize winner at ‘The Willows’. This school was a select private college run by Mrs Williams in Wynyard St, Auckland.[ii] Edna continued her education at Victoria College in Wellington, being listed there on the 1919 electoral roll.

In 1923 Edna married Ernest Hansch, a son of John and Louisa Hansch of Alfriston. This family is remembered in the district by Hansch Rd, as they were early settlers there. Three sisters and a brother are included in Ernest’s family plot at Christ Church Anglican Cemetery in Clevedon.
Their name was well known all over New Zealand because of a tragedy which occurred in 1918. Ernest’s sister Freda was the victim of a savage attack. Her father saved her life, but they were both wounded and her home was damaged by fire. This tragic but sensational event was reported widely in New Zealand and Australia.[iii]

Ernest and Edna lived at Alfriston, on family property. This was a farming district in the early twentieth century. Their first child, born in January 1924, was a son who did not survive. Margaret Edna came next, on 12 January 1925.[iv] A second daughter, Mary Elizabeth, arrived on 25 November 1928.[v]
It had not been an easy few years. Ernest’s father died in 1926 and part of the property was sold. Mother, Louisa, died in December 1928, a month after Mary was born. Brother Carl lost his home in a house fire in February 1929. This event was almost an exact replication of a fire in 1899 in which their original family home had burned to the ground.[vi]

Edna was not happy in her marriage. When her father died in 1931 she was living in Glenfield with her children. Their 200 acre block at Tomarata, north of Auckland, was sold in 1932. Ernest filed for divorce in 1934, on the grounds of desertion.[vii]
Edna continued to raise her daughters on Auckland’s North Shore, in the Birkenhead area where she had a good network of family and friends.
The Children's page AkStar 13 June 1936 - Edna's daughters Margaret and Mary amongst friends

Edna died in Auckland in 1967.

Research by M Bartley

[i] NZRBDM 1889/3336
[ii] Auckland Star 15 Dec 1904
[iii] North Otago Times 8 Oct 1918
[iv] NZ Herald 15 Jan 1925
[v] NZH 29 Nov 1928
[vi] NZH 21 Oct 1889
[vii] Refer National Archives; NZH 17 August 1934