Thursday, May 20, 2010

More on Oliver Alfred Rayson

Further to earlier post: In Search of Oliver Alfred Rayson. John from NSW's Blue Mountains has kindly reported back on his findings with regard to Mr. Rayson. There's more pieces to the puzzle, but still some gaps. However, now we are a bit more informed about both the Avondale Rayson and the Sydney one -- it's just still not proven that they were either one and the same, or related. Many thanks, John, for taking the time to look into this!

Dear Lisa,

Well, as promised, I went to the NSW State Records Office last Monday and checked out the Deceased Estate file for Oliver Alfred RAYSON and also did some further miscellaneous research on him. Your man has caught my imagination and being responsible for such a large number of horses involved in the omnibus business, is not altogether unrelated to an area of research I am interested in at the moment – the history of animal welfare.

Anyway, to the Deceased Estate file first! While this did not provide any confirmation of his New Zealand origin, it did give his full name as Oliver Alfred RAYSON and his wife’s name as Catherine Margaret RAYSON and provided some interesting detail about his estate.

His estate was valued at £485 and consisted of: £26-5-0 worth of shares in the Sydney Tramway & Omnibus Company Ltd; £100 deposited in the Savings Bank of NSW; £7-4-4 of interest on these savings; a policy with the Colonial Mutual Life Insurance Company Ltd worth (with bonuses) £349-7-0; one milch cow valued at £2 (probably the one that later went wandering!). On the debit side he owed a debt of £2-7-4 to the Colonial Finance Mortgage Investment & Guarantee Corporation Ltd.

Though not mentioned as part of his estate in the above file, I later found an auction advertisement placed in the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 December 1896, on the instructions of Mrs. Rayson that included considerable furniture, glass, china and electroplate, a pianoforte, carpets, engravings and watercolours and other household items.

A further advertisement I located in the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 1889, that sheds some light on the affluence of Rayson at this time is one placed by Mrs. Rayson: “General servant required, good wages, Mrs. Rayson 1, Lancaster Villas, Ocean St. Woollahra.”

Now a look at some further odds and ends I discovered from poking around a bit more:

It appears that Rayson may have gone from New Zealand to Melbourne before moving on to Sydney. In the index to Victorian BDM I got one match for a marriage between ‘Oliver Rayson’ and ‘Catherine’. You have to pay on-line to access the details so I will wait until I next visit my local library (where I used to work) where they have it all on CD-ROM. However, I am pretty certain this is our man as I also came across a notice in the Sydney Morning Herald, 9 August 1895, for the death of Catherine Rayson’s sister at her home in Richmond, Melbourne. So, it would seem that Mrs. Rayson came from Melbourne. (No marriage for Oliver and Catherine came up in the NSW Index.)

It appears, also, that Catherine was not Oliver’s first wife! I had a quick look at the NZ BDM Index and found a baby girl, Eliza Mary, born to Oliver Alfred and Sarah Agusta (sic) RAYSON in 1875. (Eliza died ten days later.) Couldn’t find their marriage so went to the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and up came a marriage between Oliver Alfred RAYSON and Sarah JONES at St. Paul, Deptford, Kent, England, on 27 November 1858. If this is our fellow I wonder what happened to Sarah between 1875 and the Melbourne marriage to Catherine (for which I don’t yet have a date)?

While I was at the State Records Office I also checked the Sands Sydney Directory for the earliest date of Rayson’s appearance in Sydney. The first entry for him is in the 1884 edition, suggesting that he began his job as Manager of the Omnibus company ca.1883-84.

Finally, the NSW Index to BDM shows that Catherine Margaret and Oliver Alfred RAYSON had five children in NSW – Sidney (1884); Ruby (1886); Katherine M. (1888); Alfred H. (1890); and Harold G. (1894).

The NSW Index (Deaths) records Oliver Alfred RAYSON’s parents as Oliver and Louisa.

So, for the moment, I’m afraid that’s it! I hope it’s of interest and you can make something of it all. I will certainly pass on anything further I might come across. We don’t know for absolute sure, of course, that the Kiwi Rayson and the Aussie Rayson are one and the same and I think we might have to get a copy of Rayson’s death certificate to prove this categorically.

With very best wishes,



  1. Hello Lisa,
    The Rayson case is becoming even more complex! I looked at the Victorian BD&M Index at the local library the other day to see if any further information was available regarding his marriage to Margaret (her maiden name was Lindsay)and discovered that her husband Oliver Alfred was born in Massachusetts. I think it's looking more likely that the Aussie and Kiwi Raysons might indeed be different people. Anyway, it's certainly been an interesting little research project and I will pass on anything else that may come to light.
    John (in the cold Blue Mountains)

  2. I am reading all these comments with great interest - albeit quite belatedly. Like Don McLennan, who posted earlier, Oliver Alfred Rayson, was also my Great Grandfather - Don's mother, Rita, and my mother, Nancy, being daughters of Oliver and wife Catherine Margaret's daughter, Catherine Mary Rayson. According to my mother, Oliver was quite a colourful, larger than life character - possibly even a bit of a scoundrel.

    My records for him in Australia commence with his marriage in 1876 at the age of 37. He worked as a manager for Cobb & Co in Clare, SA, where two of his children were born. He then moved to Hamilton, Victoria, where his third child was born in 1882. By 1884 the family were in Sydney, Paddington & Woollarah, where the remaining five children were born.

    My mother told me that her grandmother said he was friends with George Tattersall, of lottery fame, with George a dinner guest at the family home. Interestingly, I have since found a Sydney newspaper article about the fact that Oliver was a Tattersalls lottery winner on six occasions - leading to the instigation of a Sydney colloquialism, " lucky as Rayson...". The family recalled him speaking with an American accent, however it was subsequently revealed that he was not from America at all.

    My research identifies an Oliver Alfred Rayson in New Zealand in the years leading up to his appearance and associated records in Australia around 1876 at age 37. These NZ records also include a bankruptcy so, given this timeline, mo and age, it would appear likely that this is the same Oliver Alfred Rayson. He was born on 24/08/1839 apparently, and I would be keen to find his birthplace and origins - his parents being Louisa Phillips and Oliver Phillips - again, apparently, as I suspect Oliver may have reinvented himself on more than one occasion.

    I would be grateful for any information,

    Jan Balme (née Greenwood)

  3. Hi
    Oliver Henry Rayson is my Great Grandfather and Alfred Henry Rayson my Grandfather. Interestingly I had a few conversations with my mother Jean (nee) Rayson and one family stories was that GGrandfather had won tatts a couple of times which aligns with above story. The assumption was that excessive spending had seen with windfall come and go. My Grandmother Alfred's wife mentioned to me forty years ago that a distant relative had stowed away on a ship from Boston America when he was a teen and come to Australia. Don, a cousin of my mothers had since thought that this was not correct with regard to Oliver but it is the only relative that whose movements were unknown. Although this story was told to me by Alfred's wife on a number of occasions, this may be a red herring but it was a convincing family 'story'. Who knows, if he was a bit of a scoundrel then maybe he didn't want his history past following him.

  4. I know its been a while since anyone has posted anything about what they have found out about Oliver Alfred but I just wanted to let you know that I have created profiles for the families on WikiTree and you are more than welcome, If you want to, to add, correct, fix or what ever you want to aid in the understanding of the man and his descendents.

    researcher and not related to the Profile/s