A young Cavers family in search of Australian gold

I keep an eye on new datasets added to Ancestry. A recent one covers passenger lists to Victoria, Australia between 1839 and 1923. There aren’t many Cavers references in there, but most concern a single family, emigrating from Roxburghshire in the 1850s.

Robert Cavers was christened at Hobkirk, Roxburghshire in 1827, the eldest son of Adam Cavers and his wife Janet Clark. In 1847 he married Helen Hymers, and the couple appear in the 1851 census Fastcastle in Cavers parish. Robert was working as a labourer, and by this time the couple had two daughters: Margaret, aged 3, and Jessie, aged 1. A third daughter, Helen, would be born soon after.

On 1st July 1853 the family arrived on the ship “Genghis Khan” at Melbourne. I’d known they travelled to Australia, but did not know the exact arrival date before this new database went online. The passenger lists record that Robert was engaged by Mr Campbell at Richmond, now a suburb of Melbourne. This was the time of the Australian gold rush, and the family would soon become involved in this.

Sadly Robert died a year later, as the book Rulewater and its people records: “killed in blasting a rock at the gold-diggings”. His wife was pregnant at the time, and a daughter Robina was born in Australia after Robert’s death, named after her father. But the family did not stay in Australia, and made the long journey back to Scotland. The next census reference to them, in 1861, shows them at Ashtree in Southdean parish, Roxburghshire, staying with Helen’s parents Edward and Margaret Hymers.

The family can be traced forward in time, and has living descendants today.

Death on a tramcar

Another death report, this time from a New Zealand newspaper, many of which have been digitised. This looks like the oldest son of Walter Cavers and Jane Blair who were discussed, including in the comments, in the previous post. There’s a Scottish birth for this John in Stobhill district, Midlothian, in 1875, registered as “John Cavers Irvine”. And there’s a matching New Zealand death certificate for him.

Wanganui Chronicle, 1917 January 31

SUDDEN DEATH ON A TRAMCAR

A man naimed[sic] John Cavers, who resided at 116 Bell Street, boarded a tramcar at King’s Avenue, Gonville, yesterday about 5 o’clock, and was observed to collapse before the car had gone twenty chains. Dr Wilkin was hastily summoned, but could do not[sic] more than pronounce life extinct.

Deceased, who was 42 years of age, had been, until the 20th inst., employed as fireman on the N.Z. Refrigerating Company’s lighter Dorset, but had recently been working on day wages.

A second report, this time in the Evening Post of 1917 January 31, notes that he was a “married man”, and that the death occurred on 30th January.

Was he John Cavers who married Sarah A. Samways at Canterbury, NSW in 1910, with several children born over the next few years?

Death of a Cavers emigrant to Australia

I’ve just started searching through the online collection of digitised Australian newspapers. Here’s one of the first interesting entries I found. At the moment I don’t know where he fits into Scottish family trees. There’s no obviously matching Scottish birth for him. But checking his marriage certificate (1899, Granville, New South Wales, wife Ada E. Vines) would reveal his parentage. There are quite a few references in the Australian papers to marriages of his children Albert G. and Ada.

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 1946 October 16

DEATH OF G. CAVERS

Mr George Blair Cavers (69), who died recently at his residence, Eleanor Street, Granville, had lived in Granville ever since his arrival in Australia from Scotland at the age of six.

In his early days he was employed by the Clyde Engineering Co., and was a keen member of the Clyde Cricket Club. For many years he was manager and coach of the Granville Rechabite football teams, winners of several competitions.

He was one of the foundation members of the Granville Presbyterian Church. Always interested in any movement to help the young people of the district, for many years he was superintendent of the Granville Junior Rechabites.

Mr Cavers is survived by his widow, a son and a daughter.

Cavers soldiers in the First World War

One-name study researchers frequently trawl through large-scale databases looking for their surnames of interest. In my case that’s Cavers, and such databases include military records.

The largest and most readily searchable military databases currently available are those for the First World War. This includes surviving army records from Britain, Canada and Australia. I’ve examined most of these, even though my one-name study is largely focused pre-1900. The First World War army records are too useful for me to overlook purely on chronological grounds.

Sadly a lot of British service records were lost due to bombing in the Second World War, but those that can be traced are very useful. They sometimes give details of the enlistment, including address, current occupation, any former military experience, and next of kin. They also include the theatre of war the person served in, and any injuries they received. Sometimes their wife and children – with date of marriage, and dates of birth for children – are detailed. And often you will get a detailed physical description of the soldier, including their weight, height, eye colour, and any unusual features. Even where such detailed service records don’t survive there can be other references to soldiers, such as their inclusion in medal lists, or pension records, or the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for soldiers killed in action.

There are approximately 40 British Cavers soldiers with known First World War army records, per the databases in Ancestry.co.uk. This is almost certainly an underestimate of the true number of soldiers, because many army records from this era are lost, and even medal lists can be incomplete. Many of the known soldiers can be linked to known Cavers family trees, and information from their service records where they survive can be passed on to modern-day descendants.

The British Cavers soldiers found are detailed below, together with the results of my trying to identify them using other records. Note: a question mark below indicates where I am uncertain about something, such as identity. And there may be multiple references to the same person, hence my uncertainty about numbers represented, because the references below come from various sources, sometimes overlapping, such as service records, pension records, and medal roll lists.

  • Albert Cavers, The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), regimental number 15857, died 1916 in action
  • Alexander Thomas Cavers, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 45534, of Loan head Dairy, Hawick, b. 1899 Jul 2, Hawick, son of George Cavers and Janet Bruce, dairyman
  • Alfred Cavers, Royal Engineers, regimental number 49998
  • Arthur W Cavers, North Staffordshire Regiment, regimental number 47090, ?Arthur William Cavers, b. 26 Aug 1885, St Anns Nottingham, son of Robert and Mary Elizabeth Cavers (nee Futrell), married Alice M Holloway Jun Qtr 1921 Burton on Trent, d. Jan Qtr 1974 Nottingham
  • Augustus William Cavers, 7th E Surrey, regimental number 33979, ?same as Augustus W Cavers, b. circa 1890, London White Chapel, a “Chandler Shop” who appears in the 1911 English census at 10 Upper Smith Street, Holborn, London, with his wife Sarah. London parish registers reveal that Augustus William Cavers married Sarah Ann Rowley on 1 Mar 1911 at Parish Church, Bow Common St Paul, London. Augustus was aged 30, a Traveller, son of Henry Cavers (deceased), Tradesman.
  • Claude Cavers, N Mid D Supply Col??, Motor Driver & Mechanic, regimental number 81, of 3 Lotus Street, Nottingham, b. 19 Jan 1895, Nottingham, son of Robert & Mary Elizabeth Cavers (nee Futrell), m. Ruth L Handley, Oct Qtr 1918, Nottingham, d. 30 Oct 1937, Nottingham
  • Claude Cavers, Army Service Corps, regimental number M2/034559, ?same as above?
  • Daniel McNaughtan Cavers, Lothian & Bord, Royal Scots, Attds Cor Hussars, regimental numbers 1593, 273232, b. 1892, Wilton, Roxburghshire, ?son of James Cavers and Margaret McNaughton
  • David Carruthers Cavers, 2nd Bde Royal Field Artillery, regimental number 74251, b. 1895, West Derby, England
  • F R Cavers, S African Signal Force, Engineers, regimental number 350, ?Francis Robert Cavers, b. Jul Qtr 1883, Stoke Newington, London, son of Samuel and Ada Jane Cavers (nee Foulsham). F.R. Cavers was buried at Kwazulu-Natal, Lions River district, Lidgetton, Anglican Church cemetery, South Africa. Described on gravestone as “F R Cavers, O.M.S., S.A. Wireless”, died February 1925
  • Frank Cavers, regimental number 060726, aged 23 when enlisted in 1914, lives in Hawick, Roxburghshire, occupation shepherd, next of kin father Thomas Cavers, Dod, Hawick
  • Frank Cavers, Scots Guards, regimental number 16796
  • George Cavers, 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, regimental number 9122
  • George Cavers, LC ex Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 147739
  • Harold C Cavers, 7th London Regiment, regimental numbers 8234, 354352, ?Harold Charles Cavers, b. 1892, Camberwell, Surrey
  • Harry Cavers, LI NCLC ex N & D, regimental number 662442
  • Harry Cavers, Sherwood Foresters AH ASC, regimental number 583840, of Ivy House, Gunthorpe, b. Oct Qtr 1884, Nottingham, Manager Government Clothing Dept, m. Lily Bignall, 18 May 1907 at St Paul’s, Hyson Green, Nottingham, children Winnifred (1907) and Marjorie (1912), d. Jul Qtr 1965 Nottingham
  • Henry Cavers, ?b. 1898 QTR 1, Carlisle RD, son of Henry & Janet Cavers, ?father son of James Cavers and Jane Corbett
  • Henry Cavers, Border Regiment, regimental number 260187
  • J Cavers, 9th Royal Scots, regimental number 2236
  • James Harry Cavers, “The Buffs” East Kent Regt, b. abt 1875, St Pancras, Middlesex, joined 1893 (listed in WW1 records, but unsure if he was WW1 soldier)
  • John Cavers, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 200208
  • John Cavers, Army Service Corps, regimental number M2/149038
  • John Cavers, Highland Light Infantry, Machine Gun Corps, regimental numbers 184, 72240
  • John Cavers, 1st Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 16297, died 1915 in action, son of William McLean Cavers and Margaret Robson Jepps
  • John E Cavers, Royal Field Artillery, regimental numbers TF731507, 187754
  • John J E Cavers, Royal Field Artillery, regimental number 3826, b. abt 1886, of 18 Willwood St Amble, married Jane Ann Graham, 15 Sep 1915 at Amble
  • John M Cavers, Gordon Highlanders, regimental number S/4365, died 1918, prisoner of war, son of Adam Cavers and Margaret Hart
  • John R Cavers, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, regimental number 45531, of Heiton Mains, Roxburgh, ?b. 1896, Roxburgh [John Robert Cavers], son of William & Margaret Cavers, father son of John Cavers & Elizabeth Aitken
  • Robert Cavers, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, regimental number 22952, of 87 Foulden Road, Stoke Newington, b. 11 Aug 1890, Croydon, Surrey, Grocers assistant, son of William Cavers and Mary Josephine Long, married Alice Dorothy Mallandain, 21 Dec 1914 at Hackney Register Office
  • Robert Cavers, Rifle Brigade Kings Royal Rifle Corps, regimental numbers S/25912, A/200989
  • Robert Cavers, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment R, Leicestershire Regiment, reg numbers 22687, 60809, b. Oct Qtr 1890, Nottingham, son of Walter Edward Cavers and Naomi Dore, d. Apr Qtr 1957, Leicester
  • Walter Cavers, 3rd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, regimental number 6306, b. Maryhill, Lanarkshire, aged 18 years when enlisted, apprentice b????
  • Walter Cavers, Royal Army Medical Corps/4AT, regimental number 2288
  • Walter Cavers, 2nd RS Fus, regimental number 6806
  • Walter Richardson Cavers, Royal Field Artillery, regimental number 6435, died 1917 in action, son of John Cavers, of 133 Holm Street, Glasgow
  • Watson Cavers, Tyne Side Battalion, regimental number 7801, of 4 Broomhill St, Amble North, b. 1892, Alnwick RD, Northumberland, Coal Teamer
  • Watson Cavers, Northumberland Fusiliers, T Battalion, regimental numbers 19/783, TR5/41233, died 1917 in action, son of Watson and Hannah Cavers, of Panhaven Road, Amble, ?same as above?
  • Wilfred Francis Cavers,  Leicester Regiment, regimental number 03995, b. Emmanuel, Leicestershire. Aged 19 years 11 months when enlisted, ?b. 1894, Loughborough RD, son of Adam Scott Cavers and his wife Fanny
  • Wilfred Francis Cavers, Leic Regiment, regimental number 13995, ?same as above?
  • William Culley Cavers, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment, regimental numbers 4986, 266613, b. 28 Apr 1890, 10 Agnes Terrace, St Anns Nottingham, son of William Cavers and Mary Elizabeth Culley, m. Nelly Nettleship, 4 Aug 1912, Nottingham, d. 22 Mar 1918, Cambrin, France
  • William J Cavers, Bedfordshire Regiment, regimental number 35552, also 3rd Garrison Bn, died 1919, buried in Lucknow Cantonment Military Cemetery, India

In the Canadian First World War records there are 18 Cavers soldiers.

  • Abner Robert Cavers, regimental number 1286564, b. 6 Aug 1891, Ormstown, Quebec, next of kin mother Mrs Mary Cavers, occupation mechanic
  • Adam Cavers, regimental number 916072, b. 29 Oct 1861 (he declared 1873 on enlisting), Glasgow, Scotland, son of Walter Cavers and Agnes Melville
  • Alfred Douglas Cavers, regimental number 2173317, b. 14 Sep 1895, Deloraine, Manitoba, occupation teacher. Was son of James McPherson Cavers and Frances Jane Vincent. Later married Kathleen Sutherland and lived in Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • Andrew Cavers, regimental number 2005221, b. 3 Apr 1884, Hawick, son of William Goode or Cavers and Robina Kennedy
  • Charles Walker Cavers, b. abt 1874, St Catherine’s, Lincoln, Ontario, son of Charles Cavers and Eliza Richardson, married Alicia Magness, occupation reporter
  • Harold Cavers, regimental number 139036, b. 23 Apr 1889, Nottingham, christened 8 Aug 1889, St Saviours Nottingham, son of Charles Cavers and Naomi Waite, married 1914 Toronto, to Annie Clifford Wilcox, occupation then was Decorator
  • Henry Cavers, regimental number 3057224, b. 21 Apr 1895, Balsam Hill P.O., Ontario, son of William Cavers, occupation farmer
  • Hugh Miller Cavers, regimental number 859383, b. 15 Oct 1895, Pilot Mound, Manitoba, son of E.P. Cavers
  • James Cavers, regimental number 878005, b. 11 Dec 1865 (he declared 1875 on enlisting), Jedburgh, Scotland, son of Walter Cavers and Agnes Melville
  • James Arthur Cavers, regimental numbers 513389 and 669618, b. 19 Jun 1898, Toronto, Ontario, next of kin at enlistment mother Sarah Cavers
  • James Pomeroy Cavers, Royal Air Force, b. 29 Dec 1891, Galt, Ontario, son of William Andrew Cavers and Stella Pomeroy (later Mrs. W. J. Dyas), died 1918 in action
  • John Duncan Cavers, regimental number 2381550, b. 6 Dec 1892, Pilot Mound, Manitoba, son of Edward Patterson Cavers, occupation farmer
  • John Leonard Cavers, regimental number 11211, b. 18 Jul 1889, Toronto, son of Andrew Cavers and Martha Green
  • Joseph White Cavers, regimental number 339991, b. 23 Mar 1896, Sydenham, Ontario, son of Joseph White (reputed father) and Margaret Cavers (?dau of John Cavers and Elizabeth Nisbet)
  • Robert J Cavers, regimental number 482016, b. 19 Sep 1896, Northumberland, England, son of James Cavers
  • Rupert Nelson Cavers, regimental number 37370
  • Victor Charles Cavers, regimental number 228011, b. 24 May 1897, St Catherine’s, Ontario, son of Charles Walker Cavers and Alicia Magness
  • Walter David Cavers, regimental number 907251, b. 12 Jun 1893, Galt, Ontario, next of kin when enlisted wife Mabel Fredina of 1852 Retallick St, Regina, Sask. Occupation Clerk

One Canadian soldier had a particularly unusual set of distinguishing marks recorded in his enlistment papers: Adam Cavers from Scotland, who had a “Tattoo on right forearm of shamrock, thistle and rose”, as well as various scars and other tattoos.

Adam Cavers is also an example of an older man fibbing about his age to enlist. He would have been too old to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, so knocked 12 years off his declared age. Similarly his brother James knocked 10 years off when he enlisted. One of the examining medical officers checking the two brothers seems to have noticed this, but still passed the man through.

Studying the Canadian Expeditionary Force records also reveals multi-generation soldier families. For example Charles Walker Cavers and his son Victor Charles Cavers both enlisted as Canadian soldiers to fight in the First World War. Similarly Adam Cavers (of the tattoos) enlisted as a Canadian soldier, while his son John joined the Gordon Highlanders in Scotland. Likewise there are cases of brothers enlisting, such as John Duncan Cavers and Hugh Miller Cavers from Manitoba.

I’ve only recently checked the online Australian service records. These include just 2 Cavers entries, both Scots originally from Roxburghshire:

  • Francis Cavers, 9th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement, b. 1894, Hobkirk, Scotland, son of William McLean Cavers and Margaret Robson Jepps, address at enlistment c/o Burrandowna, Jandowae, Queensland, killed in action April 1918
  • Frank Cavers, 11th Battalion, 20th Reinforcement, b. 1886, Hownam, Scotland, son of James Cavers and Mary Headley Robson, address at enlistment Perth, Western Australia

None of my immediate Cavers relatives are known to have served in the First World War, but a close Cavers relation did: Hugh Hall Jamieson, son of Euphemia Cavers Hall, granddaughter of Thomas Cavers and Helen Scott. Hugh enlisted with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and died just months before the Armistice. I recently found that he’d made a will in the trenches, and was able to obtain a copy of this fragile document from the National Archives of Scotland. In the will he left everything to his mother, my g..aunt. Hugh is commemorated in the Roll of Honour in Hawick Museum, as are fellow soldiers John Cavers, in the KOSB, and Australian Francis Cavers.

If any readers can identify some of the mystery soldiers above please get in touch with me by email, to cavers@one-name.org. Equally if anyone wants more information about any of the soldiers above, please feel free to contact me. Though the information I have varies, depending on record survival.

EDIT: I will be updating this blog entry as new information comes in. Thanks already to Rod Smith who has expanded the information about the Nottingham Cavers soldiers, his close relatives. Likewise thanks to Sandra Cavers for more information about Alfred Douglas Cavers.