Sinels in New Zealand

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Thomas Edwin Sinel

By Carol Richardson

John Babot Sinel (1832-1904)

John Babot Sinel was baptised in St Helier, Jersey on 26 December 1832. He was the third child in the second family of Philippe Sinel, a tobacconist, and Charlotte Babot, Philippe’s second wife. There were five children altogether to add to Philippe’s previous two children and John’s younger brother was Joseph Sinel, who later became a famous Jersey naturalist.

The family lived in 1 Commercial Street in 1841, but had moved to 26 Trinity Road by 1851. At this time John was 18 years of age and still at home with his parents but no occupation was given for him. Two years later, in 1853, he married Mary Ann Courtney on 6 February. She was 18 years old.

Edwin John Sinel
This young couple had three sons over the next five years. The first was John William. There is no baptismal record for him in St Helier. His age at his death places him as born in 1854. The second son was Edwin Thomas, whose birth and early death were registered in St Helier on 11 and 21 June 1855. The third and last son was Thomas Edwin, who was born on 14 April 1857 and baptised in St Helier parish church on 16 August. His godparents were Thomas Babot and Susanne de Gruchy.

In August 1862 John was serving as 1st steward in the crew of the SS Cygnus which ran, with her sister ships the ss Brighton and the ss Aquil, between Weymouth, the Channel Islands, France and other UK ports. All crew members could be expected to serve on any of these ships.

Nine years later in the 1871 census John was listed as a shopman living now at Longueville Village in Grouville, Jersey, with his wife and youngest son, but that was only to be for another three years. On 23 May 1874 the family embarked on the ss Coron from Gravesend in Kent and arrived in Port Charmers, New Zealand on 28 August. John Babot was listed as a painter aged 41, his son John as a labourer aged 20, his wife Mary Ann aged 41 as ‘married’ and Thomas Edwin aged 17 as ‘single’.

There was another person, Alfred Sinel, aged 18, listed as a passenger on the same ship and it seems that this could be Alfred Charles Webb Sinel, John Babot Sinel’s cousin. He had been born in The Ascension Islands while his father Alfred George Davis Sinel was in the navy. Whatever his intention in going to New Zealand we do not know (his parents were already in Australia) and he did not stay. Records show that he married in Canada but then returned to England where he eventually died.

Maude Eva Sinel

The family reappear in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1876 in what turns out to be a very significant year for Jean Babot. In September John’s older son John William died aged only 22, his other son Thomas Edwin married in October and then in November John’s wife, Mary Ann, also died.

John Babot Sinel did not marry again, and lived on in Auckland until he died in 1828 at the age of 70. He is buried in Waikumete cemetery in Auckland.

The responsibility for the Sinel dynasty in New Zealand fell squarely on the shoulders of the one remaining member of the family, Thomas, and he was not to disappoint. He had married Eliza Jane Motion (known as Jamie) and they had 11 children, nine boys and two girls.

One son died at birth; six of his sons fought in WW1 and all came home. One of his sons was Joseph Claude Sinel, the acclaimed industrial designer.

Roy Sinel


Thomas Edwin Sinel became a well known figure in the Auckland shipping circles and his obituary in the Auckland Star of 14 February 1928 tells a little of his life:

Death of Mr T E Sinel, a well-known wharf identity
Mr Thomas Edwin Sinel, a highly esteemed resident of Auckland, passed away on Monday afternoon after, a brief illness.
Mr Sinel was born at St Helens (sic), Jersey, Channel Islands, 70 years ago, and for the past 45 years has been well known by the business and shipping community as a prominent figure on the Auckland waterfront, during which period Mr Sinel represented the various overseas shipping companies as wharf representative. He is survived by his wife, one daughter, and eight sons. The funeral will leave his late residence, 5 Peel Street, Grey Lynn, at 2 pm tomorrow for Waikumete cemetery.
Joseph Claude Sinel
Mary Ann died in 1926 and shortly afterwards Thomas married again to Alice Maude Waddell, but he was only to enjoy a short time in this marriage before he died less than two years later.

Legal action over will

Families are often complicated and never more so than when trying to sort out the will of a parent who has remarried. The following article in the Auckland Star of 7 May 1929 reveals the difficulties that occurred following Thomas’s death.

Family protection. Misconception over principles. Supreme Court judgment
Arthur Harold Sinel
The case in which a number of misconceptions regarding the principles governing applications for relief under the Family Protection Act was the subject of a reserved judgment by Mr Justice Kennedy read in the Supreme Court yesterday. Further provision under the will of the late Thomas Edwin Sinel, whose death occurred In February of last year at the age of 72, was sought by Edward (sic) John Sinel, clerk, Mrs Marguerite Beata Ellis, Wilfred Courtney Sinel (wharfinger), Phillip Mathieson Sinel (electrician), and Kenneth Sinel (salesman), all of Auckland. Seven years before the death of the testator, he had married a second time, and his widow was 47 years of age. His furniture and property, valued at £1,273, were left to his widow, in addition to an income from the residue from the estate, estimated at between £8,000 and £9,000. The income she was receiving was equivalent to £400 a year. The children were getting shares ranging from 1-20th to 1-10th of the residue. Stating that the Family Protection Act was not intended to remedy the position in cases where children were adequately provided for, his Honour added that the Act did not permit the Court to recast the will any further than was absolutely essential to remedy a breach of moral obligation. Judgment was given that £300 should be paid to Mrs Ellis immediately, the sum to be chargeable against any future benefit receivable by her from the estate. A similar order was made in favour of Phillip M Sinel. costs of £4 4s being allowed in each instance. The applications of the other claimants failed.
Thomas Edwin Sinel

There are anomalies in this article since it states that Thomas was 72 when he died and married Alice Waddell seven years before his death. He was 70 at the time of his death in 1929 and the New Zealand Births, Marriages and Deaths register shows that the marriage took place in 1927 only a year after Mary Ann (Courtney) Sinel died, so it is speculative to give an exact age for Alice Waddell at the time of her marriage. It can only be said that she was a lot younger than her husband and was possibly resented by his adult children?

Children of Thomas Edwin Sinel

A good introduction to Thomas and Mary Ann’s large family can be found in the following article published in 1917.

Pars about people, Observer, 17 February 1917

Mr T E Sinel, the well known shipping representative on the wharf, and his wife, have reason to be proud of their part in the war, having at present six sons in khaki. The whole of their eight sons have put in time as volunteers or territorials before war broke out. On the outbreak of war, their first son, E J Sinel, went to Samoa. After returning, he re-enlisted in the Fourth Reinforcements, and went to Gallipoli, returned wounded and sick, re-enlisted in the Twenty-first Reinforcements, and left as corporal in that body. Their second son, Major W C Sinel, left as second in command of the Sixth Haurakis, Main Body, landed in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, was gazetted major in the field, fought through till 7 August, was wounded in the knee and invalided to England, thence to New Zealand and Rotorua. Recovering, he was again passed as fit for active service, and left New Zealand as officer commanding the Twenty-first Reinforcements.
Philip Mathieson Sinel
Helier Godfrey Sinel
Their fourth son, R Sinel, regimental sergeant-major, Field Artillery, is now instructor at Featherston, and leaves shortly for the front. Their sixth son, Corporal P M Sinel. also left with the Twenty first Reinforcements. Their seventh son, Sergeant H G Sinel, left with the Fifteenth Reinforcements, and is now in the trenches in France, as is also their eighth son, Private Kenneth Sinel. Another son, J C Sinel, is now in London working at his profession as a commercial artist. He offered himself for duty in Kitchener's Army, but was turned down on account of physical unfitness. The remaining son, Mr A H Sinel, chief clerk of the New Zealand Shipping Co's Auckland office, was also anxious to go, but on account of a serious accident to his head on board ss ‘’Ayrshire’’ some years back has not gone.

Thomas Edwin Sinel’s children were born between 1877 and 1899. The eldest was Edwin John( known as Ted), followed by Maude Eva, Wilfred Courtney, Arthur Harold, Ralph Victor (who died in infancy), Roy, Joseph Claude (sometimes referred to as Kiwi Joe), Philip Mathieson, Helier Godfrey (known as Bonce in the family because he hated the name Helier), Kenneth Grahame and Marguerite Beata.

As the article describes, six of the sons were involved in the 1914-18 war and held various ranks. Two were notably decorated; Colonel Wilfred Courtney was awarded the DSO and Gunner Kenneth Grahame was awarded the Croix De Guerre medal by the King of Belgium.

Joseph Claude left New Zealand and eventually settled in the USA where he married. He was an eccentric and well known for his work as an industrial designer. Much has been written about him. Arthur Harold became the Assistant Manager of the New Zealand Shipping Company and Philip Matheison was a jeweller by trade. There are still examples of his work in the family.

Between them these sons and daughters had at least 25 children and many of their descendants remain to carry on the Sinel name in New Zealand today.

It is interesting to speculate about what took John Babot Sinel to New Zealand as such decisions are rarely made on chance alone. His grandfather Jean Babot, several of his uncles and more particularly his first cousin Edwin Sinel Babot, were master mariners with considerable experience of the high seas. Captain Edwin Babot was well acquainted with New Zealand having visited it on more than one occasion since 1859 and was continuing to do so even after John Babot Sinel and his family had settled there. Maybe it was the stories that his sea-faring relatives told him that made him feel that New Zealand was where he wanted to settle? Suffice it to say that that decision has resulted in a far reaching family of Sinels in both Islands of New Zealand, many of whom are actively researching their origins in the homeland of Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Marguerite Beata Sinel

Since this first family, others Sinels have arrived in New Zealand and others have left. Of note is the family of Matilda Elizabeth Sinel, the granddaughter of Philippe Sinel (1796-1860) and his first wife Elizabeth Baal. Matilda married Robert David Travers and the couple, with their children Robert Reeve, Ernest William and Winter Sinel, left the United Kingdom from London bound for Wellington, New Zealand in September 1891 on the ship “Tongariro”. A fourth son, George Selwyn, was born two years after their arrival and he was to die in Turkey at Gallipoli at only 22 years of age. His three brothers went on to marry and have over 25 children between them with descendants scattered over both the North and South Islands. Of course they bear the name of Travers but are Sinel descendants none the less.

Kenneth Grahame Sinel


My first introduction to the New Zealand Sinels came through Michael Wilson (1939-2007) with whom I was put in touch by a researcher in Jersey we had both used. Michael and I are both descended from George Sinel (1802-1887), and Michael was my third cousin once removed. The fact that Michael ended up in New Zealand is quite a strange story.

His great-great-grandfather was my great-grandmother, Bessie Sinel’s brother, Alfred George Davies Sinel. Alfred joined the Royal Navy in 1854 when he was 24 years old and married the same year. His first two children were born in the Ascension Islands and then he emigrated to Australia following his discharge from the navy in 1859. His daughter Martha Charlotte Sinel was born in Melbourne, and she married another Jersey immigrant called Philip Le Gros.

Their daughter Phoebe had an illegitimate child called Loris and she was adopted by an English couple who took her back to England to Norwich in Norfolk. Loris was Michael’s mother and she went by the name of her adopted parents, so was known as Loris Revell.

A shipping record shows that the family left Sydney, Australia and arrived in London in October 1919 giving their address in England as Rose Lane, Norwich. Loris married Granville Norman Wilson and they had three children of which Michael was the oldest. When he was about 20 years old the family made the decision to emigrate to New Zealand and the rest is history; quite a circuitous route for the family over the generations and some tricky unscrambling of relationships to uncover the whole story.

A granddaughter of Marguerite Beata Sinel is Sally Anderson, neé Ellis whose parents left New Zealand and settled in Australia. Sally has contributed to this story, particularly in providing photographs, other family records and stories

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