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Tony Whelan


Family History
End of Life choices

Hildebrand family history research

Hildebrand family

Whelan family
Ballantyne family

Williams family

The information summarised here was obtained partly by my own research, but much of it is also thanks to the work of other researchers with a common interest in this family. I am indebted to those cousins and others who have helped to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Most of the early material on the Hildebrand family was researched from the Old German records forming part of the International Genealogical Index (IGI) held in LDS Family History Centres. When I started researching in the mid 1990s I was fortunate to be put in touch with researcher Kelvin Williams in Queensland,  and am indebted to him for his extensive research over two decades, and for the assistance he gave me.

Sadly, Kelvin has since passed away but much of his research material has been placed online by Alan Haintz, at as a tribute to Kelvin and an invaluable source of information about many of the people from Niederweisel who migrated to Australia in the 1850s.

My paternal grandmother was a Hildebrand. Her paternal grandparents came to Australia in 1857, from the village of Niederweisel near the city of Frankfurt am Main in the state of Hessen in Germany, in what was then the grand dukedom of Hessen Darmstadt. The name Hildebrand was not uncommon (and was very common in Niederweisel), and several different Hildebrand families migrated from Niederweisel to Australia in the 1850s.

My immigrant great-great-grandfather Jacob Hildebrand was born 9 Feb 1816 in Niederweisel. He was a son of Jakob Hildebrand (b. 9 Oct 1778) and Katharina Heinz (b. 28 Aug 1779). Jakob's parents were Johann Jakob Hildebrand (b. 5 Aug 1737) and Katharina Lemp (b. 29 Sep 1743), and Johann Jakob was a son of Adam Hildebrand (b. 12 Jul 1705) and Anna Katharina Maas (b. 26 July 1707). There are no earlier records than this, owing to a fire in 1761 which destroyed much of the village including the church records.

Jacob Hildebrand's first wife Anna Katharina Heinz died in 1856 leaving him with three surviving children (Elizabeth b1844, Anne Catherine b1852 and Peter b1855). Given the difficult economic situation in Europe and the attractions of new lands such as the US, Canada and Australia, many local people left the village in that decade. In 1857 Jacob embarked at Liverpool in the U.K. on the clipper Euroclydon which had just been sold and renamed Greyhound (causing confusion to later researchers), bound for Australia.

Accompanying him as his wife (though they actually married later) was Elisabeth Hauser and her surviving daughter Margaret. Elisabeth, nee Ziegler, was born in 1826 and first married in the nearby village of Steinfurth; her first husband Jacob Hauser was killed in 1850, just three years into their marriage.

Jacob Hildebrand married Elizabeth Hauser/Zeigler in October 1857, a few weeks after arriving in Melbourne. In December they had a daughter Caroline who was later to marry an Englishman named John Francis Knowlden Williams. The Williams' migrated to San Francisco in about 1876, and had twelve children. Caroline and her husband John are buried in the Cypress Lawn Cemetery at Colma, California, along with many of their family. Two branches of Williams family descendants visited Melbourne in 1997 and I met many others at a family reunion in San Francisco in 1998.

In 1860, Elizabeth Hildebrand had a son George, then two further sons, Richard in 1862 and John Jacob in 1866. A daughter, Elizabeth, died in infancy in 1865.

Of the four children who had migrated with Jacob and Elizabeth in 1857, Peter died single in his thirties, a victim of alcohol abuse. Elizabeth married brewer Richard Davis and lived in Castlemaine for some years, later moving to Adelaide in South Australia. Margaret (Hauser) moved to New Zealand in 1866 and married Julius Kelpe in Westport, on the north-west coast of the South Island. Anne Catherine migrated to New Zealand in 1874 and married Charles Notman; they settled in Dunedin (on the south-west of the South Island), and Annie was buried there in 1901; several of the descendant families still live in the area.

Jacob Hildebrand ran a wood and coal yard in what is now the centre of Melbourne. He drowned in the Yarra River in 1870, and his wife Elisabeth died six years later. They are buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery with Jacob's unmarried son Peter, their infant daughter Elizabeth, and the infant ex- nuptial child of their daughter Caroline. The grave lies in one of the many neglected parts of this historic old cemetery; some years ago, some family members in Australia and the USA arranged a commemorative plaque on the gravesite.

Jacob and Elisabeth's son George married Ellen Ballantyne in 1891. Ellen had a daughter by a previous marriage, and had four more daughters of whom one died in infancy and is buried in Melbourne General Cemetery with her parents. George and Ellen's second daughter Bertha, born in 1894, married Michael Whelan in 1916; their first child was my father, who died in the 1990s.

 Tony Whelan   2008-2022 This page was last updated on 23 October 2018