March 2010 Jerrems Family Newsletter
Looking Forward to Looking Back
Dear Donald,
Ray with Helen's assistance has done an exception job with research on Edwin.

The name Edwin has carried through three generations of US Jerrems: My grandfather, father and mine as a middle name.

Remembering Edwin
Ray Jerrems, Our Genealogist, Historian   Discovering Another Branch on the Family Tree

This article is part of the "Remember Me" series.

It is appropriate for me to write about Edwin Jerrems because we now have a reader of the Jerrems Journal (Helen Mitchell) who is a great grand- daughter of Edwin.

Sources of Information

My main sources of information come from Helen and my own research.

Who was Edwin Jerrems?

Edwin was the eldest son of Robert Cane Jerrems, the "founding father" of the Melbourne branch of the Jerrems family, being a member of the Jerrems family which migrated to Victoria in the 1850s and settled in Richmond. His mother was Alice Rigg, who was born in 1850 in County Cumberland, England (on the Scottish border) and her Scottish parents were Thomas and Agnes Rigg (nee Carter). Robert and Alice were married in 1870.

Robert and Alice had 6 children, Edwin (1871-1929), Edith Alice (1873-???), William George (1875-1937), Gertrude Amelia (1877-1951), Henry Herbert (1881- 1928) and Alfred Robert Cain (1883-1940).

Edwin's father Robert died in 1888 (when Edwin was 17) in Richmond and his mother Alice remarried in 1896, to James Alexander Newlands (b1829 in Scotland, father William Newlands). James died in Richmond in 1905, aged 76, leaving Alice a widow once again. She died on 15th April 1919 at home in Union Street, Richmond.

Edwin's Marriage and Children

Briefly, Edwin married Matilda Amelia Thomas in Richmond in 1896. They had 3 girls, Gertrude Amelia Jerrems (b1898) and Victoria Alice Ruby Jerrems (known as Ruby) b1900, who I will talk about later, and Elizabeth Maud (b&d 1899, aged 21 days).

They also had a son Edwin Thomas (b1896 in Carlton West Hospital) who apparently died in the same year (listed in Victorian BD&M records as "Edwards Thomas Jerrems").

Edwin's Wife Matilda

Matilda was born in Diamond Creek, a small town situated in hilly country 25 km north west of Melbourne CBD.

The busy and crowded suburb of Richmond would have provided quite a contrast to Diamond Creek for Matilda. Diamond Creek was a small village in the 1850s, with small rural holdings predominating in the area, and a small gold mine nearby, but then it received a large boost when the Diamond Creek Gold Mine opened close to the village in 1863. Over the next 50 years the mine developed into a major local industry, employing up to 200 men at its peak, going down to 300 metres and drawing 5000 ounces of gold a year.

A post office, Methodist church and a school were established by the year after the mine opened. By 1893 in addition to the church and school there were 6 stores, a bank agency and a police station, with a town population of 200 (the small town population indicating that the town serviced a large rural population, including people on farms and orchards). Curiously for such an active town the railway was not extended from Eltham to Hurstbridge via Diamond Creek until 1912, before that (for instance in 1893), "public" transport was limited to 2 coaches per day to Heidelberg, 15km to the south.

It is interesting to surmise how Matilda met Edwin and how she adapted to city life in Richmond.

Edwin's Occupation and Addresses

(1)1903 Electoral Roll 3 Berry Street, Richmond, Painter (2) 1909 Electoral Roll 78 Bridge Road, Richmond, Painter (3) 1914 Electoral Roll 2 Vere Street, Richmond, Painter (4) 1919 Electoral Roll same as for 1914.

Matilda's addresses were the same, except for the 1909 Electoral Roll where she was listed at 243 Gore Street, Fitzroy, 4 km from Richmond.


The Melbourne suburb of Richmond played an important role for the Jerrems family. I outlined the history of Richmond in the February 2010 Journal. It was a suburb of extremes, ranging from dingy cobbled lanes to mansions (see photos). When Edwin's's father Robert died there in 1888, leaving Alice at the age of 38 to bring up 6 children aged between 5 and 17 this would have placed Alice in a very difficult financial position. Although Edwin would have finished his training as a painter when his father died in 1888, and would have been able to earn an income, only his sister Edith Alice (b1873) would have been old enough to work. As a result Edwin would have been the major wage earner in the family, a heavy responsibility for a teenager.

The effect on Edwin's four other siblings of their father's early demise could have been that they had to leave school as early as was legally allowed.

Two of Edwin's brothers were also shown as painters living in Richmond in the Electoral Rolls (Alfred, painter in 1909, 1914, 1919), Henry (painter in 1903, 1909), so it is possible that Edwin trained two of his younger brothers as painters and the 3 brothers worked together. This would have relieved his mother of the considerable responsibility of finding a trade for those brothers.

It is in fact possible that Edwin's third brother (William George) was illiterate because his name was spelled "Jerram" on his Army Enlistment Application. His occupations (labourer and cleaner) were also consistent with this.

Life as a House Painter

In his early days as a house painter Edwin would have obtained sufficient work to make a comfortable living in Richmond from painting new houses, and re- painting existing houses in the well-to-do parts of Richmond. However during the First World War the building construction industry collapsed in Richmond and the re-painting of existing houses would have dropped off also. Perhaps he obtained some work painting new factories constructed for wartime production, but he may have had to search for other work where he could find it.

House painting was not a healthy occupation in those days. High-quality paints (as distinct from the whitewash style of paints) typically contained over 80 per cent white lead (now known to be poisonous) with the balance made up of linseed oil binder and turpentine as the solvent. Many painters mixed their own paint and added their own tints, and even if they did not actually mix their own paint they were still exposed to its toxic effects.

The Family Splits Up

Helen Mitchell's information gained from her grandmother Ruby is that Edwin and Matilda split up, possibly soon after the family photograph was taken, with Edwin taking Gertrude and Matilda ("Tilly") taking Ruby. This seems to have been an unusual arrangement which would have caused anguish for the girls, who were close in age. Later, Edwin and Gertrude were better off financially, causing some resentment on the part of Matilda and her daughter Ruby.

Except that Edwin died in Prahran (a short distance south of Richmond) in 1929 I do not know his movements after 1919 (the last Electoral Roll in which I have located him).

On the other hand, we know something of the movements of Matilda and Ruby. At some stage they moved to Ringwood (27 km east of Richmond) and Ruby worked for Mr and Mrs Andrew Chung (who had an orchard and market garden) as housekeeper. In a romantic touch she finally married their son Herbert in 1923.

At that time Ringwood was a semi-rural area with a large number of orchards. No doubt this reminded Matilda very favourably of Diamond Creek, where she was born. Although Ringwood was on the railway line to Melbourne (which was electrified in 1923) it was still a considerable distance between Ringwood and Prahran by public transport and it appears that the girls drifted apart.

Edwin's Death, Grave

Edwin died in 1929 at the age of 58 when he was living in Prahran, Melbourne. He died at Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, the cause of death being shown as Cerebral thrombosis, Cerebral haemorrhage and Medullar failure. He was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery (the grave has been reclaimed).

The gravesite was already well occupied by (a) Edwin and Matilda's infant son Edward Thomas Jerrems (b) Robert Jerrems (buried shortly after Edward) (c) Elizabeth Maude, his infant daughter and (d) Thomas Rigg, his mother's father.

More about Edwin's Daughters

Gertrude Amelia Jerrems (b1898 in Richmond) died in Heidelberg in 1978 aged 80. She married Charles Edward Smith in 1920 and they had 2 children, Ruby Alma Smith (1924-1994) and Charles Herbert Smith (d1983). Ruby Alma Smith has numerous descendants who I will not attempt to enumerate here.

Victoria Alice Ruby Jerrems (b1900 at Richmond) died in 1987 and is buried in Box Hill Cemetery. As mentioned earlier she married Herbert Michael Chung in 1923. They had 5 children and a large number of descendants (including Helen Mitchell) who I will not attempt to enumerate here.

An interesting statistic is that the large number of Edwin's descendants (approximately 80) makes his side of the Jerrems family by far the most prolific of any of the Jerrems families.

The Photograph

This is a charming photo of Edwin, his wife Matilda, and their daughters Gertrude Amelia Jerrems and Victoria Alice Ruby Jerrems (known as Ruby). Based on the fact that the girls look as though they are about 10 to 12 years old the photo would have been taken in about 1910.

On this estimate Edwin would have been about 40 and his wife about 35. Edwin looks quite dapper with his moustache and dark broad-lapelled dark suit and Matilda is wearing an austere high necked dark dress. The girls, with differing hair styles, are smart in their white dresses. It is sad to see the girls, knowing that they were to be split up later.


Thank you Helen for providing the photograph and information about Edwin and his family, a photo brings our stories alive.



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