William Joseph Laurence (1855-1929) and
Mary Jane Kersley (1861-1919)

II. Family and Descendants

(Last updated: 25 February 2014)

Laurence family photos

William Laurence jnr photos

Alexander Charles Laurence photos

Robert Thomas Laurence photos

William and Mary Jane had 10 children between 1884 and 1906: Florence May (1884-1915), Mary Jane (1886-1956), Emily (1888-1954), Alice Maud (1889-1967), Catherine (1891-1979), William (1893-1957), Bridget Ellen (1895-1949), Lucy Margaret (1898- ), Alexander Charles (1900- ) and Robert Thomas Laurence (1906-62). As we will see most of these eventually moved away from Narrandera to live in places scattered across Victoria and New South Wales. As we have already seen from the sample of letters and photos that were kept by Catherine ('Kitty') Laurence, in spite of the distances involved, they continued regularly to write to each other and, whenever possible, to visit and spend time together. These close friendships extended in many cases to their children such as my father, Laurence Alfred ('Laurie') Cheeseman, who as a young person worked on one of his uncle's sawmills in the Narrandera area and always delighted in visiting (and being fussed over by) his various aunts and cousins.

sawmill at rankin springs

Sawmill at Rankin Springs

may laurenceWilliam and Mary Jane's eldest daughter, Florence May Laurence (1884-1915) - pictured on the left before her marriage - was born at Queanbeyan while her parents were en route from Melbourne to the New South Wales seaside community of Kiama. As a girl she travelled with her family first to Yalgolgrin South and later Gillenbah near Narrandera where she married a neighbouring farmer, Arthur Conrad Beecher (1882-1931), in 1905 (Arthur is pictured in the wedding photo shown below). May died at Narrandera in 1915 and Arthur went to live at 'Rosedale', the Beecher family home at nearby Dellapool, where his and May's children were looked after by May's younger sister, Catherine ('Kitty') Laurence, until Arthur re-married in 1917.

Click here to see more information and photographs of May and Arthur Beecher and their family and descendants.

mary jane laurenceTheir second daughter, Mary Jane Laurence (1886-1956) - pictured on the right - moved to Sydney sometime before 1913, the year she married Hugh Stirrat (1890-1919), the son of Robert Crawford Stirrat and Mary Theresa Foley, at the Church of St James in Croydon. Robert Stirrat was from Dalry in Ayreshire in Scotland and married Mary at Ashfield in Sydney in 1906. The NSW index of bdms shows they had at least four other children all of whom, like Hugh, were born in the Sydney suburb of Burwood: William (1886), Bertie (1892), James (1908) and Muriel Stirrat (1910).

Jane and Hugh lived in the inner western suburb of Mortlake after their marriage and had three children there - Annie May ('Mollie'), Florence May and Lily Stirrat - before Hugh's death in 1919 (probably from the Spanish flu epidemic that swept across the world in the wake of the Great War).

STIRRAT - The Friends of Mrs Jane STIRRAT are invited to attend the funeral of her beloved husband, Hugh; to leave his parents' residence, Dairy Villa, Erlwin Street Mortlake...for Church of England Cemetery Rookwood via Burwood Station'.

According to the NSW index of bdms, the widowed Jane married Sydney Arthur King in the Burwood registration district of Sydney in 1925. The electoral rolls show Sydney, who worked as a labourer, and Mary Jane King living at 9 Braddon Street in Mortlake between 1930 and 1954 (the year of Sydney's death). Her grandson, John Essenstam, tells us that Jane, who he thinks suffered from Alzheimer's disease and dementia towards the end of her life, died in the Gladesville Hospital two years after the death of her second husband. She and Sydney had no children.

laurie cheeseman and mollie stirrat at hentyWhat of Jane and Hugh Stirrat's children? Although still to be confirmed, it seems their two youngest daughters - Florence and Lily Stirrat - died as infants. Their eldest daughter, Annie May ('Mollie') Stirrat, pictured on the left with her cousin and my father Laurie Cheeseman, grew to adulthood and was married at Mortlake in 1943. Her husband was a Dutch seaman, Jan Essenstam (1918-88), who was born at Ede in the Gelderlander province of the Netherlands. His parents were Jan Essenstam snr (1891-1939) and Alida in't Hout (1894-1945) who were both born at Apeldoorn and died in the Netherlands. John adds that during the Second World War his father 'escaped from Surabaya [in what was then the Dutch East Indies and later Indonesia] on a small Dutch minesweeper, 'HM Abraham Crynssen' on 6 March 1942 when the japanese invaded the island, and landed in Australia at Geraldton' nine days later.

In 1951 Jan applied to become an Australian citizen. His naturalisation papers, contained in the Australian National Archives, show he was then living at 37 Kingston Avenue in Mortlake in Sydney, was married and had one child, John Laurence Essenstam who was born at Camperdown in Sydney on 1 June 1947 (Jan and Mollie had a second son, Gary Leonard Essenstam, in 1953). Jan's application was supported by Sydney Arthur King, of 9 Braddon Street in Concord (who was said to have known the applicant for eight years) and James Stirrat of 45 Kingston Avenue Mortlake (who had known him for nine years). His file further shows that at the time of his application, Jan was working as an engineer for Timbrol Ltd of Walker Street in Rhodes. He had lived in the Netherlands from 1918 to 1937, the Netherland East Indies from 1937 to 1942, Australia and New Guinea from 1942 to 1945 and the Philippines and China from 1945 to 1946. A letter from the Netherlands-based Royal Interocean Lines says he served on their ships 'Stargen', 'Swartenbondt', 'van Spilbergan', 'van der Idjen', 'Haijnat', and 'For Renesselaer' between 1942 and 1947.

The Australian electoral rolls show that Annie May Essenstam was living at 37 Kingston Avenue in Mortlake in 1949. The 1958 and 1963 rolls have her and Jan, a fitter, living there. Annie died in 1967. The 1980 electoral roll shows Jan, still working as a fitter, and Doreen Iris Essenstam living at 13 Heath Street in the Sydney suburb of Concord (Jan and Molly's eldest son, John Laurence Essenstam, a meat inspector, and his wife Julia Kay were then living at 12 Burrebury Street in Orange). The Ryerson Index shows that Jan Essenstam, 69 and late of Concord, died there on 24 August 1988. His second wife Doreen Iris Essenstam, 86 and late of Concord, died on 8 October 1999.

As we have seen, Jan and Mollie Essenstam had two children, John Laurence and Gary Leonard Essenstam (1953-2014). In an e-mail sent in 2001, Gary told us he remembered going

... to Melbourne with mum and dad in January 1966 via Narrandera and Berrigan and met your grandmother (Alice). [In Melbourne] we stayed with [Alice's eldest daughter Winnie Stafford nee Cheeseman] Winnie and mum were particularly close even though in those days a trip between Sydney and Melbourne was not the everyday event it is these days. Winnie visited us often and of course Merrill worked on the stage in Sydney in both 'The Merry Widow' and 'Hello Dolly'. On the trip to Melbourne I became quite good mates with Greg as well even though he is a few years older than me. Isobel [the daughter of Mary Jane's sister Florence May Beecher nee Laurence] was also a regular visitor...I can just remember uncle Tommy (God he could snore) and his daughter Anne [who] often would stay while she was in the Air Force. Aunty Lucy would visit as well and Aunty Kit and Uncle Alec.

Click here to see a photo of Mollie and Jan Essenstam and their son John.

mary jane laurence mary jane and molly stirrat

Mary Jane Stirrat nee Laurence before she was married and with her daughter Annie May ('Molly') Stirrat.

emily laurenceEven though the 1915 electoral roll showed her living with her parents at Gillenbah, my grandmother, Alice Maud Laurence (1889-1967), was then at Beaufort in Victoria with her husband Alfred William Cheeseman (1881-1949). Alice had met Alfred while working as a domestic servant at the Bynya homestead located to the west of the Riverina township of Griffith. They were married at Narrandera in New South Wales in 1910 (see the photo below) and farmed at Beaufort, Skipton and Walpeup in Victoria (where Alfred died in 1949). Alice died in the Melbourne suburb of Preston in 1967. She and Alfred had seven children: Alice Winifred ('Winnie'), Christina Mary ('Teen'), Laurence Alfred, Leslie William, Lance Edward, Reginald and Alfred John ('Freddie') Cheeseman.

Click here to read a more detailed account of Alice's time at Bynya and her and Alfred's subsequent married life and times.

Alice's place at Byna was taken by her older sister Emily Laurence (1888-1954), pictured on the left, who worked there until the property was sold in 1912. We think she then lived and worked at Narrandera until her marriage to Edward William Clarke (1889-1966), the son of Edward George Clarke and Kate Elizabeth Kearns, at Albury in 1920. One of their granddaughters, Sandra Thornton, tells us that Edward came from the Snowy Mountains where he worked as a drover. After their marriage Emily and Edward lived in the NSW town of Henty where Edward carted wood and helped his brother Bill construct farm sheds. Sandra continues that Emily and Edward had two children there:

1) Kathleen Mary Clarke (1921-68) who married Charles William Herbert Thornton (1927-93) at Rydalmere in Sydney in 1948 and had four children; and

2) Alfred William Clarke (1923-92) who married Veronica Gwendolyn Grimes (1921-89) and had one son.

Emily Clarke nee Laurence died in the Ryde registration district of Sydney in 1954. We think that Edward, who continued after Emily's death to live and work at Henty, died in the Parramatta registration district of Sydney in 1966.

Click here to read and view more photos of Emily Clarke nee Laurence and read her poem about Byna and her treasured time there.

wedding of alfred and alice

Alice and Alfred Cheeseman's wedding photo showing (L/R): Emily Laurence, William Joseph Laurence,
Alfred William Cheeseman, Alice Maud Laurence, Arthur Conrad Beecher, Catherine Laurence and Mary Jane Laurence

Another daughter, Bridget Ellen ('Nell') Laurence (1895-1949) married Robert Alfred Williams at Narrandera in 1914 (see their wedding photo below. The married couple went to live at Albury where she and Robert had twelve children we are aware of: Robert Thomas, Mary Ellen, William Henry, Clarence Raymond, Charles Alfred, Clive Laurence, Myrtle, Kevin Royce, Joan, Kathleen Josephine, Norma June and Allan Wilfred Williams.

bridget and robert williams wedding

Wedding photo of Bridget Ellen ('Nell') Laurence and Robert Alfred Williams at Narrandera in 1914.

William and Mary Jane's eldest son, William Laurence (1893-1957) - pictured below on the left - was born at Kiama the year the family moved from there to their bush block at Yalgogrin South and thence to Gillenbah. During the period of the First World War he went to live in Sydney where he worked as a labourer and married Clare Elizabeth Blucher in the Ashfield registration district in 1919. Although still to be confirmed, we think Clare had been previously married and had a daughter - Winifred Claire Laurence (1908-86) - who William adopted. The Australian electoral rolls for 1930 and 1933 show William and Clare Elizabeth Laurence and their daughter Winifred living at 10 Gallipoli Street in the Sydney suburb of Concord (Winifred was then working as a typist). They were all registered at 18 Grosvenor Street in Croydon from at least 1943 until Clare and William's death there in 1956 and 1957 respectively.

Their daughter, Winifred Claire Laurence, and her husband, Croydon-born Joseph Wood (1907-67) who she had married in the Burwood registration district in 1938, continued to live at 18 Grosvenor Street until Winifred's death there in 1986. Her husband had died in the Repatriation General Hospital in Croydon in 1967. The Department of Veteran Affairs' Second World War nominal roll shows that NX55324 Gunner Joseph Wood, born at Croydon in Sydney on 12 July 1907, enlisted in the Australian Army at Paddington on 1 July 1940. His NOK was Winifred Wood. He was discharged on 22 March 1943 while serving in the 5th Reinforcements for the 2/6 Field Regiment. We don't know if he and Winifred had any children.

Click here to see photos of William, Clare and Winifred Laurence.

Born at Narrandera, Alexander Charles ('Alick') Laurence (1900-76), lived with his parents on their farm at Gillenbah and attended the local school there. Records in the Australian National Archives show he enlisted in the First AIF at Narrandera on 11 July 1918. His enlistment papers show he was then single, working as a labourer and had previously served four years in the cadets and one month in the Australian Militia. His NOK was William Joseph Laurence of 'Glen Idol', Narrandera. It is not clear from his record whether and what unit he served with although he was discharged on 1 December 1919. After the war he worked with his father as a contractor before joining the NSW railways.

The 1930 electoral roll shows Alexander Charles Laurence, a railway employee, living on Darling Street in Dubbo in central NSW. The same roll has an Ellen Jane ('Nellie') Bult registered as living at the Railway Refreshment Rooms in Dubbo (a Levinia Bult was also working there as a waitress). Three years later Alexander and Nellie were married in the Rockdale registration district of Sydney. Although still to be confirmed, we believe Ellen was born at Coonamble in NSW in 1903. Her parents were Alfred Bult and Blanche E. George who were married at Warren in NSW in 1892 and had eleven children in addition to Ellen: Ethel M. (1893), Edith M. (1895), William A. (1898), Edward E. (1899), Charles V. (1901), Herbert H. (1903), Annie L. (1904), Arthur I. (1904), Ernest J. (1905), Lavena B. (1908) and Sydney T. Bult (1910).

In 1934 The Dubbo Liberal and Maquarie Advocate informed the followers of its 'Over the Teacups' column that:

Mrs A. Laurence was over from Capertee for the Wallace-Bult wedding. It is only three months since Mrs Laurence (the Miss Nellie Bult), a popular unit of the R.R.R. staff, whispered 'I will'. She is brighter than ever, and asked 'The Liberal' to convey her greetings to all old friends.

In 1936 and 1937 Alexander, a fireman, and Ellen Jane Laurence were living at 60 Ferro Street in Lithgow. In 1943 they were back at Dubbo (at 60 Darling Street). On 3 June 1947, the Narrandera Argus reported that 'Mr Alick Laurence, of Dubbo and formerly of Narrandera, has been spending a fortnight's holiday with his sister, Mrs Ned Pearson, of William Street, Narrandera, and his niece, Mrs R. E. Miles, of Sandigo. He is accompanied by his wife and family'. The electoral rolls show Alick and Nellie lived in Dubbo until 1958 when they moved to 71 Pierce Street in Wellington where they lived until Alex's death there in 1976. We have yet to discover when and where Nellie died. She and Alick had at least two children we know of:

1) Marie Ellen Laurence who was working as a telephonist in Wellington in 1958 and, we believe, married Kevin John Burrell, a labourer, at Wellington the same year. Although still to be confirmed, we further think that Kevin's parents were Percy Robertson Burrell (1908-77) and Neita Davis (1906-70) who were married at Orange in NSW in 1930 (the 1963 electoral roll shows Marie Ellen and Kevin John living on Obley Street in Cumnock in NSW together with a Percy Robertson Burrell, drover). Kevin and Marie were at Lot 35, Leonard Street in Dubbo in 1968 and 1980 (the latter roll also has a Jenny Ellen and Peter John Burrell registered as living there). According to the 'DuncanDavis' family tree on Ancestry.com, Kevin, born at Wellington on 17 December 1936, and Marie had three children: 1) Peter John Burrell, born at Wellington in 1959, married Tamara Shepherd in Dubbo in 1981 and had three children; 2) Jenny Ellen Burrell, born at Wellington in 1961, married Douglas Piesley at Dubbo in 1980 and had four children; and 3) Neil Anthony Burrell who was born at Wellington in 1964.

2) Edna Marion Laurence who was working as a nursing sister in Wellington in 1968.

Click here to see more photos of Alexander and Nellie.

Barn at Narrandera, Robert Thomas Laurence (1906-62) married Lily Mildred Malcolm (1911-97), the daughter of Thomas Frederick Malcolm and Elizabeth Jane Pitt, at Narrandera in 1934. After working for a time around Narrandera and the Dolby Downs in the Northern Territory, the family settled in the Kempsey region of New South Wales where Tom ran a sawmill at the town of Willawarrin. Lily continued to live at Willawarrin after Tom's death there in 1962 until her own death in 1997. She and Tom are buried in the Kempsey East cemetery together with their son Malcolm Bruce Laurence (1947-94). Tom and Lily had four other children in addition to Malcolm: Geoffrey Neil Laurence (1931-2012), Unita Fay Laurence (1935-39), Ronda Alice Laurence and Annette Mary Laurence.

Click here to read more about the life and times of Tom and Lily Laurence nee Malcolm and their family, and here to see more photos of them.

william laurence alexander charles laurence robert thomas laurence

William and Mary Jane's three sons: William, Alexander Charles ('Alick') and Robert Thomas ('Tommy') Laurence.

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