Destroying the Family Myth.

The Raisbeck Family of Ballarat.

My grandfather Tom, is on the right, at back.

All families have stories, some are true and others are myths.

How do we know the difference? I set out to find the proof of our family history.

Belmont Resident Dies at 85 

(Newcastle Morning Herald Tuesday Feb.10, 1970 

Funeral services will be held at Broadmeadow today for Mr. Thomas Edwin Raisbeck, a descendant of Charles Dickens.
Mr. Raisbeck died at his home in Belmont at the age of 85.
He was the son of Charles Dickens’ eldest daughter, Catherine.
 His father, Edwin Sheffield Raisbeck, migrated to Australia in the 1800’s and settled in Ballarat (Vic.) during the goldrush of 1851.
Mr. Raisbeck was born in Ballarat in 1884 and became a champion gymnast.
He married Miss Violet Fandoni Davey in Sydney in 1908. Her grandmother was Italian opera singer Rosina Fandoni.
A signwriter all his life, Mr. Raisbeck moved to Maitland in 1922 where he established a business. He retired to Belmont in 1960.Mr. Raisbeck is the father of 6 children, one of whom is the famous singer, Rosina Raisbeck.
The others are Charles Raisbeck of Cessnock, Ted and Alan, of Newcastle, Harry of Wollongong and Connie of Gosford.
Mr. Raisbeck had 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

As the eldest daughter of the eldest son of Thomas Edwin Raisbeck, I have attempted to establish our illustrious family tree. Alas, all I have found is the truth.

We are not related to Charles Dickens at all.

Photo commemorates 50th. Wedding Anniversary Thomas Edwin and Violet Fandony Raisbeck

21st.  September 1958.

             Raisbeck Family at Cessnock.

Pictured from left: Joyce Raisbeck, Charles Raisbeck (my parents), Janice Macpherson with son David, Rosina Raisbeck, Violet Fandony and Thomas Edwin Raisbeck.

I also learned some stories about our family from a talk my father gave at his Rotary Club.

Not all true, unfortunately.

Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913 – 1954), Tuesday 30 November 1948


Autobiography at Rotary.

During the course of an autobiography given by Cessnock artist Charlie Raisbeck at the last Cessnock Rotary Club dinner, he revealed that he had not always been dependant on brushes and paint for a living, but had met with success as a gold prospector.

Mr. Raisbeck prospected for gold at various goldfields, including Ballarat, in Victoria, and Hanging Rock, near Nundle, New South Wales. 

Another interesting fact was that in the family history has appeared such illustrious names as William Hogarth, the brilliant 18th Century master of Satirist Art. 

Charles Dickens, who was Charlie’s great grandfather; Giovanni Fantoni, Cue Italian 18th century lyric poet and Madame Itosina Fantoni, 19th century Italian Prima Donna, from whom it is inferred the present Rostna Raisbeck, Charlie’s sister, has inherited her talent as a singer of world class. 

She is at present singing with Cessnock’s Kenneth Neate at Covent Garden Opera House. 

Mr. Raisbeck’s description of the City of Ballarat, where he was reared, showed that Australia’ indeed ‘ has a city to be proud of, with it’s beautiful artificial fresh water lakes, glorious parks, statues, zoo and Botanical Gardens. Two of the World’s most valuable pieces of, statuary, ‘Ruth’ and the ‘Flight from Pompeii,’ were exhibited in the Statuary there, he said. ‘ It was a city of romance, historic traditions and beauty, and a town which should be studied by all town planners.

Mr. Raisbeck gave a brief illustration of alluvial fosicking, and also some interesting details and information on the Nundle fields. Charlie’s ability with the saw and mouth organ is well-known in coal field’s musical circles, but it is not so well known that he was a solo cornet player with Maitland Federal Band, under Fred Fitners, and the 13th Battalion under W. O. Hamilton. He also played solo cornet with Tamworth Citizens and the A.A.O.C. Band. During his talk several humorous incidents in his life were well received.

Charlie has what one could truthfully call a colourful life. He claims that his father, Mr. T. E. Raisbeck of Maitland, is the greatest signwriter he has ever seen.

Violet Fandony Davey married Thomas Edwin Raisbeck at Springmount on 21/9/1908.

My father Charles was their eldest, born in Sydney 27/6/1909. 

My grandparents were very kind to me as a child growing up during WW2. With Dad in the Army, I spent some time with them in Maitland where they lived in a 2 storey rented house with shop front that Grandpa used as a sign-writing workshop.

I was always fascinated by the beautiful lettering he produced as well as cabinet making and growing exotic vegetables and herbs. Grandma was a skilled embroiderer and made rag rugs.

What I discovered during the process of looking up my family tree was a number of very resiliant women. I share their DNA . Our very bodies, nervous systems and biology has been passed down through the generations.

My own children are unaware of my findings but I have a record on because it is important to know that we aren’t just lost branches and twigs wandering about scattered on the earth, but are part of a Family Tree with many sturdy limbs.

There has been history, struggle, and hardship as well as achievement in our lives to get us to this point. Not much wealth or fame or beauty to speak of but at least we have survived, given the uncertain beginning of our time in Australia, that is a lot.

Because we have been a family that scatters, rather than remain static, in one place, there has not been opportunity to get to know cousins, aunties and uncles to build close family ties. That is regrettable. However, we can make the most of modern day communication technologies and get to know one another better. That is my hope. 


  1. faithanncolburn says:

    I understand. My grandmother swore her great-grandmother was the first woman to homestead in Nebraska. It turns out Great-great-great grandma Sicily didn’t homestead at all. Her husband preempted their land. Ah well, I grew up thinking otherwise and that women can do anything. Made me a different person than I would have been.


    1. Designgranny says:

      I was always reminded how important my father’s reputation was and made to feel” the girl most likely” to bring about disgrace to the family.


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