William Griffin and Rachel Louisa Cooper were my paternal grandmother's parents. This document attempts to summarize important events in
their lives, as well as the lives of their family members.
Rachel Cooper's Parents
Rachel Louisa Cooper's parents were Richard Cooper and
Sarah Ann Williamson. Richard and Sarah Ann were born and married in Leicester,
England. Their first son, Henry, was born in Leicester in 1859. By 1861 the family had
relocated to Birmingham. Their second son
John Edward Cooper was born there
in 1863. On 9 June 1866 the family embarked from Plymouth on the Hougoumont as government assisted emigrants to
South Australia. The Hougoumont arrived in Port Adelaide 100
days later in a gale on 16 September 1866. Richard and Sarah Ann's third child, and first daughter,
Amelia Rickards Cooper was born in Hindmarsh, South Australia, on 22 June 1868.
Sarah Anne Cooper's death certificate.
On 22 September 1873 Rachel was born in the small town of New Hamburg
South Australia. Willyaroo is about 60km south east of Adelaide, and is adjacent to Strathalbyn.
On 20 February 1880, at age 48, Rachel's mother Sarah Ann Cooper died of esophageal cancer. The family was living in the remote town of Gladstone,
approximately 200km north of Adelaide. Sarah Ann was likely the proprietor of a boarding house, and upon
her death the business was sold. Sarah Ann was buried in the Gladstone Cemetery.
Richard Cooper's "Pushing Man" advertisement ran in South Australian newspapers for two months prior to Sarah Ann Cooper's death.
Richard Cooper Remarries, becomes Joseph
Slightly more than three months after his wife's death, on 5 June 1880, Richard Cooper remarried in Gladstone. Richard's new wife was Elizabeth Frick, formerly
Elizabeth Warner. Elizabeth had been in a previous relationship with
Louis Henry Frick, and they had
David (born 1870) and
Louis William James Frick (born 1872), however they were not married and at some point around
1872 they separated. In 1873
Elizabeth sued Louis Henry for support, however her case was dismissed because she was unable to produce a
marriage certificate. Later, Louis Henry Frick married Fanny Lines, moved to Wilmington, South Australia, and
had a large second family.
In 1878, Elizabeth's sons David and Louis, small boys at the time, were charged with being neglected
children in Adelaide and were sent to the Industrial School for a month.
Around the time he remarried, Richard Cooper, for unknown reasons, changed his name to Joseph Cooper. Joseph Richard Cooper and Elizabeth's first
daughter, Sarah Ann Cooper, was born in
Gladstone on 27 June 1881. Sarah Ann was most likely named after Richard's late wife. In 1883 Joseph Richard and Elizabeth's second child and first son,
Joseph Talbot Cooper, was born in Rosewater, South Australia, near Port Adelaide.
In 1885 Rose Elizabeth Cooper was born in Port Adelaide.
The Cooper Family Moves to Melbourne
Around 1885 Joseph, Elizabeth and most of the younger members of the Cooper family moved to Melbourne.
Henry, Joseph Richard's eldest son, is hard to track, so it's unclear if he was with the family
at this time. John Edward Cooper, Joseph Richard and Sarah Ann's second son likely stayed in South Australia. John married Emma Jacob in 1893 in South Australia,
and eventually moved to Horsham, Victoria, where he and Emma raised a large family. John Edward Cooper
died on 25 November 1931 and is buried in the Horsham Cemetery.
Amelia Rickards Cooper has been difficult to track, but it is likely she remained in Adelaide.
Joseph Richard and Elizabeth had two more children.
Charles Edward Cooper was born in South Melbourne in 1887,
and Lillian Flora Violet Cooper was born in 1891 in South Melbourne.
On 2 November 1891 Rachel's father, Joseph Richard Cooper died in South Melbourne at age 58. His occupation was Wharf Laborer.
The cause of death was bronchitis and asthma. Rachel signed as the informant on her
father's death certificate. Joseph Richard Cooper left four children
from his first marriage with Sarah Ann Williamson (with nine other children noted as "details unknown"), and five
from his second marriage with Elizabeth Warner.
His youngest with Elizabeth, Lillian Florence Violet Cooper, was born the year of his death. Joseph Richard's stepson,
Louis William James Frick/Cooper was likely living at home with Elizabeth Cooper (nee Warner) at that time too.
Peter Griffin and his son, William
William Griffin, my great-grandfather, was born in Glasgow, Scotland on
22 March 1850.
William's father, Peter Griffin, ran a
slating (roofing) business
in the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Calton. William's mother was Jane Griffin (nee Deverty).
Jane Deverty and Peter Griffin were born in Ireland around 1826 and migrated to Scotland during a period of significant privation in Ireland. Jane and Peter
married in Greenock, Scotland on 8 January 1844. It is likely that Peter's brother, James Griffin,
migrated with him from Ireland at the same time. Peter and James were to remain close to each other for the rest of Peter's life.
Peter Griffin and Jane Deverty's marriage record from the Catholic Register.
Peter Griffin migrated to Melbourne without his wife in 1854 (his brother James migrated three years later, in 1857 on the "Herald of the Morning").
It is unclear why Jane was left behind, however she died in the family home in Calton on
20 March 1855 (aged 30) when Peter was in Melbourne. It is likely that James
brought Peter's otherwise orphaned children with him in 1857, along with his own children.
Peter Griffin advertised as a slater in Melbourne newspapers from 1854 through to 1857,
when he relocated to Bendigo.
Peter Griffin slated the roof on the first Catholic Church in
Bendigo. Around 1861 the Griffin's moved back to Melbourne from Bendigo, and in 1862 the family
departed Melbourne for Dunedin, New Zealand.
Peter Griffin continued his slating business in Dunedin.
In early 1865 the Griffin family moved to Hokitika on the west coast of the South Island.
Gold had been discovered in the area the previous year. Peter Griffin advertised a painting business in
Hokitika (his occupation was frequently listed as "Slater and Painter" after this). On 18 December 1865
Peter Griffin married Sarah Crosson in Hokitika.
A US Navy discharge document exists for Peter Griffin's son, James,
dated 4 November 1869. James (likely named after his father's brother), at age 22, enlisted as a ships painter 2nd class on the
USS Nyack, a steamer otherwise patrolling the Pacific coast of Central and South America. The Nyack had
visited New Zealand in 1867.
Family oral history says that William, aged 17 at the time, accompanied his brother on the Nyack.
James Griffin, painter 2nd class, US Navy Discharge, 4 November 1869.
William Griffin "Jumps Ship"
Around 1874 Peter and Sarah Griffin moved back to Melbourne.
William Griffin returned to Australia in 1877. Family oral history says that William "jumped ship" on arrival to
Melbourne. A 28 September 1877 court case confirms this story.
Able Seaman William Griffin appeared in Sandridge (now Port Melbourne) Court on the charge of failing
to obey a lawful order while working aboard the S.S. Chimborazo. The Chimborazo was an advanced steamer capable of making the run from London to Adelaide in 41 days.
William was convicted and sentenced to eight weeks of hard labor at Pentridge. William's physical description appears on the court record:
William Griffin's 1877 court record.
Height: 5' 1"
Hair: Dark brown
Particular marks left arm:
Mermaid and crucifix
Particular marks right arm:
William Griffin Glasgow
March 22nd 1850
Naked man and woman
It is likely that William and his brother James ran a painting business in Melbourne after this time. When William married Rachel
he listed his occupation as painter. At the time he was living in Gordon House,
which was inexpensive accommodation for single men in the CBD of Melbourne. William's brother, James,
represented the Painters' Society at the Trades Hall Council
later in his life.
Peter Griffin's Final Years
Inscription: Waits Here The Morning Of The First Resurrection Be Ye Also Ready. The Dust Of Peter Griffin Who Slept In Jesus 4th May 1884 Aged 59 Years
Peter Griffin was admitted to the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum on
11 January 1881 by his brother James. The stated cause for (likely involuntary)
admission was "religious monomania". Peter was released on 2 May 1881. On 11 December 1883 Peter was again admitted
to Yarra Bend, this time by his son, my great-grandfather, William.
Peter remained in the asylum until he died
at 11:30pm on 4 May 1884. His wife Sarah visited him on
his death bed. The cause of death was "Disease of the brain and heart". He was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the St Kilda Cemetery.
No record of Peter Griffin and Sarah Crosson having children has been found. By her New Zealand marriage certificate Sarah was born around 1835. She was living
in a rental house in Prahran when Peter died. Her fate is unknown, there is no verifiable record of her death or remarriage in Victoria, and she possibly
moved back to New Zealand in 1884.
Rachel, William and George
On 26 July 1890 in South Melbourne Rachel Louisa Cooper (aged 16) married William Griffin (aged 40).
William gave the age of 35 on his marriage certificate, and Rachel 18. The Griffin family had a housekeeper/servant
in Calton named Mary, and William Griffin lists his mother as Mary, maiden name unknown,
on the certificate.
William and Rachel had seven children:
- Lillian May Griffin - born Carlton, 1892
- Daisy Violet Victoria Griffin - born South Melbourne, 5 September 1894
- Florence Ada Griffin - my father's Aunty Doll, born Melbourne, 1896
- William Henry Charles Griffin - born South Melbourne, 26 September 1898
- Evelina Griffin - my grandmother, born South Melbourne, 2 March 1901
- James Morris Griffin - my father's Uncle Jim, born South Melbourne, 1903.
- Valerie Amelia Griffin - born North Melbourne, 1908.
Some time around 1909 the family took in a boarder by the name of
George William Stap. George was born in South Melbourne
in 1890 and was about 19 years old when he lodged with the Griffin family. George had led a
profoundly difficult life up until that time.
had died a few years before and he may
have been abandoned by his father.
Griffin Family: (lr) Evelina, Daisy Violet Victoria, Amelia, Rachel Louisa Griffin (nee Cooper), Florence Ada, William Henry
Charles, James Morris.
Around this same time-frame (1909-1910) William Griffin, now aged about 70, moved out of the family home. On 12 June 1912, Rachel gave birth
to Ivy May Griffin in Northcote. Ivy's father's name does not appear
on her birth certificate, and Ivy does not appear as "Issue" on William Griffin's death certificate.
On 20 January 1915 at age 24, George Stap, who had been living with Rachel and her children, enlisted in the
Australian Imperial Force. George listed his Next Of Kin as
"Mrs R Griffin, Foster Mother"
on his enlistment form. George went through boot camp and landed at Gallipoli as a private in the AIF on 17 July 1915.
George was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 then transferred to combat in France. He was wounded twice in France
and departed England for Australia as a sergeant on 9 December 1918. On arrival in Melbourne in 1919 George resumed living
with Rachel and her family, and remained living with her through to 1945. Rachel's children with William referred to
George as "Uncle George". George's occupation is listed as Bricklayer on the Electoral Rolls during this period.
William Henry Charles Griffin
Rachel and William's oldest son, William ("Bill") Henry Charles Griffin, as with many young men of the time, was extremely eager to fight in the AIF in WWI.
Young men 18 and older and under the age of 21 were required to provide consent letters from both parents before they were allowed to enlist in the AIF. When he
turned 18, William enlisted in the AIF against the wishes of Rachel, but with the written consent of his father, William Griffin. Bill had his sister,
my grandmother Evelina, who was three years younger than him, forge Rachel's consent. The AIF accepted and filed the consent letter (see right) and William departed
Melbourne on the Nestor on 10 September 1917 for England.
William Henry Charles Griffin's forged parental consent to the AIF.
On 5 October 1918, on the last day of combat for his Brigade (the 6th)
William died in Beaurevoir, Somme, France of wounds sustained by
a high explosive shell the previous day. He was buried in the Templeux-le-Guérard Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France.
William Griffin's Final Years
William Griffin mostly lived in a cottage, "Hokitika Cottage", in Warburton, Victoria following his separation from Rachel. Correspondence between William
and the AIF regarding his son has been scanned and is
available online, and he is living in Warburton during and
after the war years. Family oral history is that he became very religious and was involved with the
Seventh Day Adventist colony in Warburton.
Between 1924 and 1928 William Griffin's Electoral Roll address was again Gordon House in the CBD of Melbourne. At that time Gordon House had declined somewhat
and had become inexpensive accommodation for otherwise homeless men.
William Griffin's death certificate.
William died on 1 February 1932 in Warburton, aged 81. He was buried in an umarked grave in the Seventh Day Adventist section of the Wesburn Cemetery; now known as the
Upper Yarra Public Cemetery.
Rachel, George and Olive
On George Stap's return from the war in 1919, he and Rachel lived at Ella Grove, Chelsea. Later in 1921 the family
was living in Clifton Hill, in 1924 Caulfield, and by 1928 they had moved to Dunlop Avenue, Ormond.
On 25 June 1945 George and Rachel were living on Dunlop Avenue when a lodger was tragically killed in a fire at the back of
their house; the story was published in The Argus.
Rachel in her later years.
Around late 1945 George married a woman
named Olive Gray. George was 55 at the time, Olive was 40,
Rachel was 72. George and Olive moved to Hurstbridge and ran a small business,
"The Wattle Cafe", opposite the Hurstbridge Station.
Excluding George's years overseas in the AIF, he lived with Rachel for most of 30 years.
On 24 May 1951 Rachel died at home in Ormond at
age 77. The cause of death was "cancer of the ear".
Rachel was buried in Brighton Cemetery in a plot shared with her daughter Lillian May Thomas (nee Griffin), and
Lillian's son William Henry Charles Thomas who had
both predeceased her.
Family oral history says that George was cut off from the Griffin family when he left Rachel. Likewise, George
and Rachel's daughter, Ivy, had fairly limited contact with her mother and half-siblings. However, when Rachel was
on her death-bed, George was called and he visited and they reconciled just before Rachel's death.
George died at the former home of his in-laws in Glen Iris on 19 February 1953. Olive
inserted In Memoriam notices in The Argus for several years after his death. Olive died in
Donvale in 1973 and her and George's remains are interred in the same plot at
the Springvale Botanical Cemetery.
Headstone of Rachel, her daughter Lillian, and her grandson William.
Many people and organisations assisted in accumulating and verifying the information and images for this page.
- My sister Cindy, my late father (Rachel's grandson) Wallace Campbell.
- My cousins Christine, Fiona, Kate, Tim, Bev, and Jan. My Aunt Joan.
- My cousin John Griffin.
- Discovering Anzacs - The National Archives of Australia.
- Trove (National Library of Australia).
- Papers Past - The National Library of New Zealand
- Indexed census returns, birth, death and marriage certificates, and electoral rolls at Ancestry.com.
- State Library of South Australia
- Scotlands People - The National Records of Scotland.
- Births, Deaths, Marriages - Victoria.
- Glasgow Post Office Directory Archive - The National Library of Scotland.