Mary Ellen's death certificate gives her birth place as Hobart -
however, she was actually born in Melbourne, where her father, a
soldier, was stationed. Ellen, as she was known, then spent most of her
early years in Hobart, as the family returned there when she was only
two years old. Her sister, (Sarah) Margaret, was also born in Victoria.
Ellen’s family had settled in Sydney by 1864, where her father John, since retired from the Army, had become a warder at Darlinghurst Gaol. She may have been embarrassed by this occupation, for on her marriage certificate, her father is simply described as a “Government official”. On the same document, the 24-year-old Mary Ellen gave her own occupation as "Gentlewoman"; presumably, she did not work outside her parents’ home.
(above): Housing typical of Surry Hills in the 1870s –1880s.
Ellen and Thomas went on to have a family of five daughters and four sons, the youngest, Clyde, being born with Down's Syndrome, when Ellen was 45 years old.
An artist’s impression of Sydney c1880s,
when Ellen and Thomas were starting out on their married life.
(from Shirley Fitzgerald, Sydney 1842-1992, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney 1992)
A gathering of the Williams clan at the family home in 108 Carrington Road, Randwick, c1938, with Mary Ellen (centre) surrounded by her family including some of her children and grandchildren
(from left): Beryl McInerney, Clyde Williams (seated); Patricia McInerney, Gertrude Williams, Patrick and Nellie McInerney [née Williams] (standing)
centre (from left) Florence Williams, Mary Ellen Willliams (née Hyde) and Margaret Hyde
(in front); Joan Gaffey and Kevin McInerney.
Photo: courtesy Kevin McInerney
In 1918, Ellen’s husband Tom died suddenly of diphtheria but she herself lived on for another 25 years. In her old age, Ellen lived on through the Great Depression, and the start of World War II, being cared for by her dressmaker daughter Gertrude in Carrington Road, Randwick. In the late 1930s, Gertrude also took in her niece, Joan Gaffey, the daughter of her sister Stella who had died 10 years earlier. Completing the household were Ellen’s unmarried sister Margaret, Ellen’s sons Clyde and Frederick and daughter Florence. At one stage, it was also home to the family of another daughter, Nellie and her husband, Patrick McInerney, who took over caring for Ellen after Gertrude’s premature death.
During the war, her eldest son Arthur, (who was a Labor Member of State Parliament), became concerned for his mother’s welfare in Sydney and bought a house for her to live in at Leura, in the safety of the Blue Mountains. Her granddaughter Joan Gaffey, who was among those who accompanied Ellen to the Blue Mountains, remembered her only as a very quiet old lady, virtually bedridden. However, after the worst of the threat was deemed to have passed, Mary Ellen returned to Sydney in the care of Nellie and Patrick and their family at 55 Darley Road, Randwick, where she died in 1942.
 May Ellen’s Victorian birth certificate
 NSW Marriage Certificate. Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages. Mary Ellen's marriage certificate
 Daughter Stella’s birth certificate
 Husband Thomas’; death certificate
 NSW Death Certificate. Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Ellen's death certificate, no. 29595
 Mary Ellen’s marriage certificate
 One puzzling note about the marriage - although Ellen and Thomas Williams were married in the Catholic Church at Woollahra, the ceremony was conducted “according to the rites of the Church of England” (although this may be a transcription error at the New South Wales Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, as it’s hard to conceive of a such a ceremony being allowed in the Catholic Church at the time).
 Christopher Keating, Surry Hills: The City’s backyard, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney 1991. Pp 31-54