Scrapbook of Johnstone Bryson Anderson and Rosetta Jacobs (and Wilhelmina McGhee)

Johnstone Anderson, an Irish Protestant, married Rosetta Jacobs, a London-born Jewess in Sydney, Australia. They had four children together but at some stage separated.

Rosetta Anderson nee Jacobs - Estate

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Rosetta Jacobs

Rosetta was born in N.S.W. in 1871 to Morris and Leah Jacobs nee Levy. Morris was a Tobacconist retailer. She was the youngest of eight children.

Rosetta married Johnstone Bryson Anderson in 1890 when she was 19 years old. Together, they had four daughters including my grandmother, Gladys Anderson. The eldest daughter was Leah Eleanor Anderson who was the administratix of Rosetta's estate after her death in 1923 and is the defendant in the Equity Court case transcribed here.


At some stage Rosetta and Johnstone were separated in marriage but it appears they never divorced.

In the 1903-1904 electoral roll, Johnstone was recorded as living at 2 Church Street, Paddington and there is no mention of Rosetta. However, that is not indicative of anything as voting for women only came in in 1902 and, on checking a few pages of the roll, there were no other women enrolled, so it may have been slow on the uptake.

In 1908, Leah Anderson, the eldest child, married John Arthur MacKay at St Clements Anglican Church in Mossman. As Leah was under the legal age of 21 - being 17 - Rosetta has signed the consent for marriage. Leah is recorded as residing in Glebe and Johnstone Anderson as a bus driver. We know he was a bus driver in Sydney because his brother in Canada was looking for him later on and mentioned it.

They may or may not have been separated at this time. I am leaning towards separation because if Johnstone was part of the wedding, I think he would have signed the paperwork/consent.

In the 1910 Sands Street Index, we find Rosetta as a grocer at 28 Kippax Street, Sydney. As it is only her that is listed, it is unlikely that there was a male at the residence.

In 1912, daughter number 2, Mary E. married William Patrick Lonerigan and the wedding was registered in Redfern. They lived in Bulli close to where Johnstone Anderson had settled. (Exact date of the wedding is not known.)

On 6th April, 1912 my grandmother, Gladys Anderson, married my grandfather, Joseph Aloysius Ratcliffe at the Emmanuel Church, Clifton - just over an hour south of Sydney and near Scarborough. This time Johnstone Anderson signed the consent for Gladys to marry as she was registered as being 17 at the time but in fact she would have been 16 - and a half!

I think the fact that Rosetta has been completely cut out of this event more than confirms that they are well and truly separated at this time and that Johnstone has taken up with another woman, Wilhelmina McGee, as she appears on the wedding certificate as Gladys' mother.

Wedding extract for Joe and Gladys.

Next, we find Rosetta living at 167 Marion St, Leichhardt in the 1913 electoral roll, with no one else of that last name living there. (The youngest, Florence, may or may not have been living there but she was not old enough to vote.)

(See attached funeral notice for Lillian Matthews, the mother of the children involved in the Equity law suit, who died in 1912 and her funeral left the same address of 167 Marion Street, Leichhardt. So, Rosetta was already living there at the time of Lillian's death, perhaps as a housekeeper or moved in subsequent to her death.)

Down south in Scarborough, Wollongong, Johnstone is registered in the 1913 electoral roll as living in Scarborough and is the local postmaster. And - there is a Wilhelmina Anderson on the same roll in Scarborough and the recorded occupation is Domestic Duties.

On 30th December, 1920, Florence, the youngest, married Arthur Frost Wright at All Souls Church, Leichardt. On this occasion, Rosetta has signed as a witness. She had reached 21 and consent was not necessary.

Johnstone had, by this time, had his run in with the law and, having been imprisoned for 12 months on 30th September 1919 would have been unavailable for the wedding.

Death of Rosetta

On 5th January, 1923, Rosetta passed away, aged 51. I couldn't find a death notice in the paper but there is a funeral notice posted on the 8th January.

First time that 261 Balmain Road, Leichhardt is mentioned and it is another quaint cottage.

On the 31st of January a notice appeared in the paper of an auction for the estate of deceased Rosetta Anderson. I am not entirely sure that all the goods were Rosetta's but they included a Broadwood Pianoforte, gramophone and records and an aviary with 15 canaries. It would seem that Rosetta has done alright for herself.

I would assume that the bizarre law suit, transcribed from the newspaper of the time and at right, started not long after this.

Marriage of Johnstone Anderson

The passing of Rosetta cleared the way for Johnstone to marry Wilhelmina McGee. The wedding took place on the 2nd of June 1923 at St Stephen's Church, Phillip Street, Sydney - well away from where they were living as they had no doubt convinced the local population that they were already married.

This would be confirmed by the fact that the witnesses to the wedding, (C. Christie and) W.W. Christie was in fact William Christie who was the Church Officer under the officiating Reverend John Ferguson.

On the anniversary of her death, an In Memoriam notice appeared from Florence and Arthur Wright as well as Lill and Jack - assumed to be Leah and John MacKay.


Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 - 1930), Friday 16 November 1923, page 3

(before Mr. Justice Harvey.)


Matthews v. Mackay.

Hearing was concluded of the suit by George Henry Matthews, Percival Matthews, Dorothy May Matthews and Gladys Irene Church against Leah Eleanor MacKay, in which the plaintiffs ask that the defendant be restrained from selling, or otherwise dealing with, certain land and property, in Daniel Street, Leichhardt or from interfering with any moneys standing to the credit of Rosetta Anderson, deceased, at the Bank of New South Wales, Leichhardt, or with her other estate and effects.

The plaintiffs are the children of Alfred Henry Matthews, and the defendant is, or claimed to be, the administratrix of the estate of the late Rosetta Anderson. For about six years prior to her death the deceased and the plaintiff resided together at Leichhardt.

It is alleged the plaintiffs paid Rosetta Anderson divers sums of money from time to time out of their wages to maintain the household, the balance to be held on trust for them. Plaintiffs claim that she purchased a cottage in Daniel Street, Leichhardt, and that the money standing to her credit at the bank forms part of the amount received by her on trust for them.

The little cottage in question at 1 Daniel Street, Leichhardt. (Google Maps)

They complained that the defendant refused to recognise their interest in the estate, and they feared that, unless restrained, the defendant would sell the cottage, and distribute the proceeds, and the other assets of the deceased, among the persons claiming to be the next-of-kin of the deceased.

They prayed that the defendant be declared to be a trustee of the estate for their benefit; that a receiver and manager be appointed: and that the defendant be restrained from dealing with the estate except at the discretion of the plaintiffs.

The defendant pleaded that she did not know, and could not admit, that Rosetta Anderson purchased the cottage or land in question out of the balance of moneys alleged to have been paid to her by the plaintiffs, or that any of the moneys standing to the credit of the deceased in any bank were ever part of the balance of the said moneys. Defendant asserted that the Daniel Street property was paid for by the deceased out of her own money, and that the money in the bank and personal belongings left by the deceased represented her own personal savings for a number of years prior to her death.

His Honor held that the balance of the moneys alleged to have been paid by the plaintiffs to Rosetta Anderson was placed in the bank by her for her sole use. Never at any time had the plaintiffs asked for any account of the moneys referred to. In his opinion, therefore, plaintiffs' case failed, and the suit must be dismissed, with costs.

Mr. Tonkins (instructed by Mr. C. P. White) appeared for the plaintiffs; and Mr. Bradley (Instructed by Mr. N. Gregg) represented the defendant.

Original Article

The Matthews Family

Alfred Henry Matthews (born around 1872) married Lillian McCullough, in 1890 in Newtown, NSW.

They had at least five children, four of whom are named in the law suit.

Funeral notice of Lilian Matthews in 1912 - there is no actual record of death available.

So it is more than likely their mother died in 1912 and in 1913 we first see Rosetta living at the same address as the Matthews family at 167 Marion Street, Leichhardt, when the youngest, Percival, was 12 years old.

George Henry, named in the newspaper story, is likely to be Alfred Henry Jnr born 1891. (There is also an Albert Henry Matthews recorded on one of the electoral rolls living with Alfred Henry Matthews so it is likely he had an identity crisis at times.)

So the law suit says that they had been living with Rosetta for six years prior to her death in 1923 so that would make them:

  • Alfred - from 26 yrs - 32 yrs
  • Dorothy - from 21 yrs - 27 yrs
  • Gladys - from 20 yrs - 26 yrs
  • Percy - from 17 yrs - 23 yrs

So not exactly dependant children.

It seems odd that, if the father is still alive at the time of the law suit as to why he isn't mentioned as a party to the suit. It would have been more likely for him to be able to offer proof of the transactions, their number and amounts, and what the understanding/undertaking was.

The above funeral notice of 1932 refers to the late Mrs Alfred Henry Matthews - which could be the wife of Alfred Jnr.

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