The Fenner Lineage


During my childhood in Adelaide in the 1930s, Fenner was not a common name. In 1937, for example, the name occurred only twice in the Adelaide telephone book: C. A. E. Fenner (my father, whose forebears came from Germany, at 42 Alexandra Avenue), and A. G. Fenner, the head wool appraiser for Elder Smith and Co. Ltd. The latter family had migrated from England, and of course Fenner's cricket ground in Cambridge is familiar to many. Although I have little time for genealogical studies, since they ignore the female genes, my father had acquired a lot of information about the genealogy of the relevant Fenners, including from a substantial book (Hessisches Geschlechterbuch, 1971) so I begin an account of his life with a brief summary of that history.

My grandfather, Johannes Fenner, was born in the village of Niedergrenzebach, in the province of Hesse, in Germany, on 10 February, 1841, the fourth of seven children. In 1860, troubled by the prospect of being conscripted for military service after Hesse had come under Prussian control, and attracted by the idea of gold mining, he went to England and in Liverpool he embarked on the ship King of Algiers, bound for Victoria. He left the ship in Melbourne and went to Talbot, near Ballarat. He was naturalized there in 1874, and on 19 January, 1875, he married Mary Thomas, whose parents had come from Staffordshire, in England, and who had been born in Thebarton, a suburb of Adelaide, on 16 February, 1852. They had eight children, four boys and four girls, one of whom died as a baby and another at the age of four years. Charles Albert Edward, the fifth child, was born in 1884. The youngest member of the family, Thomas Richard, enlisted in the Australian army in 1915 and was killed by 'friendly fire' at Mouquet Farm in France on 29 August, 1916. Johannes Fenner died on 13 July 1923; his wife, Mary, died in Ballarat in 1939.

Some of the German Fenners have been very interested in their family history. During trips to Germany in 1931 and 1937, my father and mother went to the village of Niedergrenzebach, where my grandfather was born. Below I quote edited portions of Father's diaries that relate to these visits (C. Fenner, 1931, 1937).

Map of Hesse and the Schwalm valley

 12.1. Map of Hesse and the Schwalm valley