On 6 May 1787 Johann Heinrich Thonemann (* 15.05.1758 in Scherfede, † 25.03.1814 in Scherfede) married Eva Margareta Engemann (* 05.01.1765 in Rimbeck, † 25.03.1814 in Scherfede) in Scherfede. This marriage produced twelve children, among others Augustus Louis Emilius Thonemann (* 14.12.1803 in Scherfede, † 29.06.1852 in Höxter). Augustus Louis Emilius was married twice. Together with his second wife (oo 1829 in Münster) Caroline Fredericke Jacobi he had three children, Louis (* 06.09.1830 in Berlin, † 11.11.1882 in Carlton/Australia), Emil Julius (* 03.02.1832 in Berlin, † 14.10.1874 in Bad Driburg) and Malvine († 1893 in Höxter). Emil Julius Thonemann, the founder of the Australian family brach, was married to Mary Noble and their son Frederick Emil (* 1860 in Melbourne/Australia, † 1939 in Melbourne) – one of eleven children – was a stockbroker in Australia.
Frederick Emil Thonemann, my father, was the son of Julius Emil, who
sailed to Australia in 1854, on the "Antoinette Cezard".
Both Emil, and his brother Louis were appointed consuls successively
to Victoria, Australia, from the Austro-Hungarian Emire (1871 –
1875). The exact reason for their emigration and subsequent gaining
of British Status under Queen Victoria, are not known at present.
The most likely cause is political unrest in Germany.
My father was born in 1860 in Melbourne, and was educated at the Melbourne
Church of England Grammar School, in St Kilda Road. He had a brother
named Louis Arnold, and a sister (or stepsister) named Minna Augusta.
Neither of the latter mentioned married.
Emil Thonemann (*1860, †1939)
My father started work as an ‘Office boy’ – possibly
this was in his father’s early business. His unique ability
to judge the quality of wool by the feel in his fingertips made
it possible for him to set up a wool broking business in the firm
Thonemann and Lange.
My father’s business prospered and he was able to set up as
a stockbroker. F Thonemann and Sons – National Mutual Building,
Melbourne. He retired in 1930 and the business was continued by
his eldest surviving son Eric.
My father’s business interests were many and varied, including
a large cattle station in the Northern Territory called Elsey and
Hodgson, of 4 million acres, on the Roper River. When my father
died in 1939, the cattle station was sold. The land is immortalised
in a book, and a film ‘We of the Never-Never’. A book
by my stepbrother Eric (who managed the Elsey for some Years) has
recently been discovered in the British Library. It is titled ‘Tell
the White Man’, and is written in the first person, as the
story of the life of an Aboriginal woman, whose tribe resided in
this part of Australia. (Published in 1949, in Australia, by Collins
About 60 miles north of Melbourne, in land part-cultivated and part
rain forest, my father bought some 1000 acres, which was named ‘Bennak’.
I remember this property, high above the surrounding country, he built
a great house with fischponds, flower gardens, croquet lawn and vegetable
garden. The property was surround by a 20-foot high holly hedge. To
reach Beenak, a train from Melbourne stopped at Yarra Junction. There
one transferred to a narrow gauge railway, which chugged up the valley
to Williamstown. This train used to bring down the cut timber from
the rain forest. In his Chevrolet van over muddy roads my father managed
to drive us the three miles to the property.
In 1919 the house itself was destroyed by fire. Thereafter, when anyone
from the family visited, they lodged with the farmer in a house lower
down the land. (The actual land was not sold until 1960’s, having
been bequeathed to his widow)
Beenak was some 1700 feet above sea level, surrounded by a state forest
of enormous eucalyptus trees. Initially my father rode there on horseback
from Melbourne, stopping at Box Hill on the way. Later, he bought
an open car (probably about 1917) and travelled more comfortably.
My mother, however, refused to travel to beenak, once the car was
abandoned for the railway.
‘Merriyula’ was the name of the house on top of this mountain.
There was no electricity, no gas, no water services nor other utilities
of modern life. Water was pumped up from a dam about a mile away,
by a four-cylinder hydraulic ram. With produce from the vegetable
garden and the farm the house was self-supporting. Lighting was by
kerosene lamps. I suspect the fire which destroyed the house (the
family was in residence) started in the lamp room. My father would
light the lamps every evening. Nothing remained of the house except
the brick chimney and the large iron stove.
At the entrance to the house property were two giant sentinel trees.
I am amazed at the work, which must have been involved in establishing
this property. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to spend holidays
My father, Frederick Emil, is not recorded in Baptismal files (as
far as we know). This is because my grandfather, Julius Emil, lived
with a ‘common-law’ wife, Mary Noble, née Piper.
This stable relationship produced several children. The reason for
the, at the time, unconventional arrangement, seems to be that Mary
Noble (my grandmother) was actually married to Mr Noble (untraced)
and a woman could not obtain a legal divorce in the manner familiar
to us today. Their union appears to have been a happy one, notwithstanding,
and in his will, Emil speaks with affection of the woman who has shared
his life, and bore his children. My grandfather returned to Germany,
perhaps on business, in 1874, and died prematurely at the age of 49
years. He thus lies in the land whence he came. He is the forefather
(with his English common-law wife) of all the Thonemanns in Australia
and Great Britain. There were nine children of the union (possibly
a few step children) but only four survived into the twentieth century.
My father married twice. His first wife was Margaret née Service.
She bore him 3 children. Emil Howard, born 1891, fell in France, in
the First World War, and his name is recorded at the famous monument
near Arras by Sir Edward Lutjens. The other two sons enlisted also,
My father married for the second time in 1913, having travelled to
Britain, and met a young Scottish lass from Glasgow. How they met,
I do not know, but it was a very propitious match for a respectable,
but not particularly grand, middle-class Scottish family, with the
name of Fyfe.
At 18 years of age, my mother left her native land for the other side
of the world, never to return, except for brief holidays. Herr husband
was considerably older than herself.
Mabel Jessie Thonemann bore 4 children, three sons and one daughter.
The four in order of birth were Frederick Fyfe (1914), Peter Clive
(1917), Gwenda Hope, and Ronald Howard. The eldest (my brother Frederick)
is dead, and this makes the writer the oldest surviving son of the
Australian branch. All four children have families.
Frederick Emil spend his life in Melbourne, Australia, except for
brief visits to Great Britain. With his second wife, he lived in a
suburb of Melbourne called Kew. My brother Frederick, and I attended
Melbourne Grammar School, as our father had done, and by this time
the family lived at 33 Burke Road.
My father retired in 1930, living until 1939 (long enough to see his
two sons graduate from Melbourne University). It is of interest that
our family learnt nothing of our ancestry, nor ever met my father’s
sister, Minna, (although she lived in Melbourne). This can be explained
by the fact that war broke out, in 1914 with Germany, my stepbrothers
serving on the Allied side.
I was born on June 3rd, 1917, in a house named ‘Rathgawn’,
at Kew, Melbourne. It was a large rambling house, later to become
a residence for the Salvation Army. We later moved across the road
to a smaller house. (A childhood memory is my mother throwing a rug
over a yang bird, which visited us while we were having tea on the
lawn. The bird was put in a cage, where it seemed perfectly happy.)
I never met my paternal grandparents.
My father, as I have said, never discussed his relations, living,
or dead, nor did he discuss his financial affairs. In 1936 I began
a physics degree at Melbourne University, living in a one bed roomed
flat. My brother Frederick joined the university debating team, which
travelled the world, and we saw little of each other. My sister Gwenda,
now 10 years old, was at school. (As the only girl in the family,
she was teased mercilessly.)
I enjoyed my university days. I played billards, occasional tennis,
and in particular was a member of the university skiing team which
visited Mt. Hotham.
In 1940, when war broke out, I was directed to work at the Munitions
Supply Laboratories at Maribrynong, Victoria, and stayed there until
1942. I left to join the research department of Amalgamated Wireless,
at Ashfield, near Sydney. In 1944, I was accepted by Sydney University
to read for a Master’s degree in Science. (Victor Bailey was
the head of the department.)
It was in Ashfield that I met my future wife. We have two children,
a son and a daughter. My son, a schoolteacher in London, graduated
from Balliol College, Oxford.
Peter Clive Thonemann
University of Wales
article "The Thonemann branch in Australia” is from the
book "Confessor of the Last of the Habsburgs" by Helena
Fyfe Thonemann, page 110 until 113.