Charles Edward HENRY

This page is dedicated to the memory of my Great Grandparents Charles HENRY and Louisa GIESLER.

The Origins of Charles HENRY

It is undisputed that Charles was of German extraction.

On the other hand, I have found no written record of my Great Grandfather’s existence before he married in York, England in 1868 at the age of 25 years.

Oral Family History

Oral family history suggests that he was born with a completely different name, and that he was part of an important Prussian family.  He was interested in art and music, which it would seem they disapproved of, and when they tried to marry him to someone he didn't like he escaped to England.  He changed his name because they tried to drag him back to get married. The HOHENZOLLERN family was mentioned as a possible Prussian family name. 

There is also a story from family members that he was born Karl HEINRICH, but I can find no evidence of that.

An article on page 324 of the Otago Volume of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand states that “Mr Henry was a Sergeant-Major in the Imperial Army”.  I assume that this refers to the German Imperial Army, although it could refer to the British Army.  This story is given some credence in that when he joined the Dunedin Volunteer Engineers Corp (after his arrival in New Zealand) he had the rank of Sergeant-Major.  It was stated in an article in the Otago Daily Times of 20/1/1902 (describing his funeral) that “The deceased had been a Sergeant-Major of the engineers for a period of 17 years (since the inception of the Corps)”.  Any person with military experience will understand that CEH would not have been given (and retained) this rank lightly, and this does lend some credibility to his earning this rank in previous military service (eg the Imperial Army).

Charles was also said to have known German expats in New Zealand such as Von Tempsky, Von Haast and Von Tunzelman.

Another descendant, who is descended through the Johann Walter HENRY line, relates a childhood story of her Great Great Grandfather winning the Iron Cross but then throwing it overboard during his boat journey to New Zealand.    

Documentary Evidence

In fifteen years of intensive research I have not discovered any evidence relating to the birth of Charles Edward HENRY (CEH).  The official records that I have found that contain an indication of his age are:

           1.  The 1871 Scottish census for Newington in Edinburgh

           2.  The record of his naturalisation as a New Zealander in 1885

           3.  His death registration record in New Zealand

These documents all state that he was born in about 1843 in Dresden, Saxony, Germany.

I have found 4 separate sources that provide suggestions as who his father was:

1.   In the parish record of his marriage to my Great Grandmother (Louisa GIESLER) at the Parish Church of All Saints, North Street, in the city of York, England, his father is named as “Charlj Augustus v.d. Aue HENRY”, a farmer.

NOTE:  There are a couple of points regarding his use of his own name which tend to undermine the credibility of the name he used in his marriage record. 

a.  His christian name that is given is Karl. Every other record from then on gives his christian name as Charles.

b.  A year later, on the birth record of his son (my Grandfather) Charles Victor William, he is named as Charles Auguste HENRY.

2.  Oral family history, and particularly from those of my father’s generation, is adamant that he was an illegitimate son of the Kaiser of Germany.

3.  An A4 page that I received from a Dunedin researcher containing a photocopy of an article from the Otago Daily Times newspaper describing the funeral of CEH in 1902, has handwritten on it the following unsolicited comment: “CHAS HENRY SAID TO BE COUSIN OF EDWARD VII AND HALF BROTHER (ILLEGITIMATE) OF KAISER.”

4.  My Uncle George HENRY (who was Charles’s eldest son) was a New Zealand soldier during WW2. When he was in England he was trying to trace his Grandfather.  He swore until the day he died that he was warned off this quest by a “representative of the Royal household”.

Once he was established in Dunedin he had lost all germanisation of his name - which had become Charles Edward HENRY - he was know as Chas.

There is absolutely no clue as to who his mother was either.

New Research

To a researcher of the origins of Chas HENRY, the lack of factual information presents a real challenge.  Various people over many years have tried in vain to penetrate the wall of secrecy, but with no success.  However, in modern times new tools have become available to genealogical researchers.  These include such things as:

1.  Sources of information becoming more easily accessible through the development of the internet and computers.

2.  DNA profiling becoming affordable with growing databases available for research.

3.  Psychic mediums becoming more respectable sources as a result of programs such as “Sensing Murders”.

A small group of “Chas HENRY” researchers have shared our researches, which incorporate all 3 of the above sources.

Internet searches on the HOHENZOLLERN family name looking for anything that may tie in with the oral family history lead us to Prince Karl Anton HOHENZOLLERN - SIGMARINGEN (1811 - 1885).  Prince Karl Anton, who was possibly known as Karl August in some circles, does show some similarity to the name Chas gave for his father in his marriage record.  He also comes from the same family as Kaiser Wilhelm I, although the exact relationship is the subject of debate.

Prince Karl Anton had 4 sons and 2 daughters.  One of his sons was names Anton, who was called Prince Anton of Hohenzollern. Interestingly, Prince Anton was born on 7 Oct 1841, which fits in nicely with the timeline of Chas.  Even more interesting was that he was supposed to have died in August 1866 as a result of wounds received in battle (the battle of Koniggratz) - there is a conspiracy theory around this though in that there is a possibility that his death was faked to enable him to “disappear”. Unfortunately we don’t know if Chas had any scars on his body (he was reported as being hit in the legs by several bullets).

Being a direct descendant of Chas down the male lineage, my DNA could be used to find a link back to Chas’s father.  I have had a 37 marker Y-DNA profile done and so all we need now is a DNA profile to compare it with.  Watch this space. 

A Psychic, who was asked about Chas and his family ties, reported that Chas was a lovely man and there was indeed a conspiracy about his origins.  He also connected Chas and Leopold as being brothers, and that Leopold had been unable to rest in peace knowing of his part in the conspiracy about Prince Anton’s death.

An even more compelling discovery adds credibility to this theory.  A photograph of Prince Leopold (Prince Anton’s brother) was compared to a photograph of our Chas (Figure 1).  The resemblance in uncanny - almost identical!

                                 Charles HENRY                                                              Prince Leopold of HOHENZOLLERN

The Period 1843 to 1868

The article in the Cyclopedia of New Zealand states that Mr Henry “who was a practical electrician, had been employed for a number of years in the electrical works of Messrs Siemens Brothers, and followed the profession of electrical engineer for several years in England before coming to Dunedin in 1879.”  The article also describes him as a gunsmith and locksmith.

All of the census, birth, death and marriage records that I have seen state his occupation as “gunsmith”. I note that a period of military service would certainly give him the required training to become a gunsmith.

In the oldest documentation that I have found he appears in Yorkshire, England at age 25. His name is given as Karl HENRY.

First Marriage


Charles Edward HENRY


Birth:              ca 1843, Dresden, Saxony, Germany

Death:           17 Jan 1902, Dunedin, New Zealand

Burial:            Northern Cemetery, Dunedin, NZ

Occupation:   Engineer, Gunsmith and Journeyman

1871 Census:  Age 31. Living at 5 Craigside Place, Edinburgh with wife Louisa (23), William (2), Frederica (7 mths) and wife's sister Dorothea Gielsler (15) dressmaker.  Civil Parish of St Cuthberts.  District of Newington.  Himself, wife and wife’s sister all shown as born in Germany.

Johanne Louise Heta “Louisa” GIESLER


Birth:         ca 1848, Bremen, Germany

Death:       28 Jul 1879, Willis Street, Christchurch, New Zealand

Father:        Batthasar GIESLER

Mother:       Freiderike MEINECKE

Emigrated to New Zealand in 1875 with her husband , Charles, and their 3 children, and her sister Dorothea GIESLER. The ship "AUCKLAND" sailed from CLYDE (Scotland) July 31st and arrived Otago October 27th 1875. 

Marriage:    28th May 1868, in York, England

Children:        Charles Victor William “Willie” “Bill”(1869-1925)

                       Friderika Augusta "Edith Elizabeth" (1870-1953)

                       Ella Dorothea "Dora Louisa" (1872-1957)

Charles Victor William “Willie or Bill” HENRY


Birth:            20 Mar 1869, York, England

Death:          8 Apr 1925, Chapel Street, Kaikorai, Dunedin, NZ

Burial:          10 Apr 1925, Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, NZ

Occupation:  Engineer

When baptised he was living in Queen Street, York, England.  His father’s name was given as Charles Auguste HENRY (profession stated as Engineer); his mother's name was given as Johanne Louise Heta HENRY.  (From the records of the Parish of All Saints, North Street, York, England).

1871 Census:  Age 2. Living at 5 Craigside Place, Edinburgh with father Charles (31), mother Louisa (23),  sister Frederica (7 mths) and aunt Dorothea Gielsler (15) dressmaker.  Civil Parish of St Cuthberts.  District of Newington.  Shown as born in England.

Emigrated to New Zealand in 1875 with his parents, his 2 sisters,  and his Aunt Dorothea GIESLER.  The ship "AUCKLAND" sailed from CLYDE (Scotland) July 31st and arrived Otago October 27th 1875.  He was 6 years old at this time according to the passenger list.  (County of origin given as Edinburgh).

Enrolled in Christchurch East School in March 1879 (NZSG School APWs).  Age given as 10 years.  Address given as Cashel Street.  Last school given as Dunedin.

It is possible that he stayed in Canterbury after his father remarried, and worked as an itinerant farmhand in mid and north Canterbury.  His future wife is from the Rangiora/Oxford area and this lends credibility to this scenario.

Ran a bicycle shop in Hokitika from Feb 1898.

Worked as a cabinetmaker in Dunedin in the 1900s.

Was age 59 when he died.

Spouse:     Ellen “Helen” “Nellie” MILNE

Birth:          20 Sep 1871, Kaiapoi, Canterbury, New Zealand

Death:        28 Jul 1943, Talboys Home, Dunedin, New Zealand

Marriage:   18 Apr 1900, All Saints Church, Hokitika, New Zealand

Children:     George Edward Victor (1901-1968)

                    Helen Mary “May” (1902-1994)

                    Elizabeth Florence Bertha “Flossie” (1904-1927)

                    Douglas William John “Doug or Ginger” (1905-1977)

                    Agnes Anne (1907-1986)

                    Colin James (1910-1992)

                    David Alexander “Jackie” (1913-1918)

                    Bertrand Leith (1915-1916)

                    Olive Milne (1917-ca 2004)

Friderika Augusta "Edith Elizabeth" HENRY


Birth:      5 Sep 1870, Newington, Edinburgh, Scotland

Death:    27 Mar 1953, 7 James Street, Dunedin, New Zealand

Burial:    30 Mar 1953, Cremated at Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, New Zealand

Born at 5 Craigside Place, Edinburgh at 9:30am.

1871 Census:  Age 7 Mths.  Living at 5 Craigside Place, Edinburgh with father Charles (31), mother Louisa (23), William (2),  and aunt Dorothea Gielsler (15) dressmaker.  Civil Parish of St Cuthberts.  District of Newington.  Shown as born in Edinburgh.

Emigrated to New Zealand in 1875 with her parents, her brother and  sister,  and her Aunt Dorothea GIESLER.

The ship "AUCKLAND" sailed from CLYDE (Scotland) July 31st and arrived Otago October 27th 1875.  She was 2 years old at this time according to the passenger list.  (County of origin given as Edinburgh).

Was living at Waitati in 1893 (electoral roll).

Cremation register No 3425. Died at son’s residence (7 James Street, North East Valley). Ashes scattered.

Spouse:     David LUNAM

Birth:          ca 1862, Caversham, Dunedin, New Zealand

Death:        28 Oct 1939, 24 Millar Street, Dunedin, Otago, NZ

Marriage:   28 Dec 1887, Blueskin, Waitati, Otago, New Zealand

Children:    John William Whitehead (1889-1948)

                   Charles Henry (ca1890-1918)

                   Isabella Maud “Maude Isabella” (ca1892-<1953)

                   David (ca1895-1961)

                   Percy Wilfred (ca1904-1958)

Ella Dorothea "Dora Louisa" HENRY


Birth:              23 Oct 1872, Newington, Edinborough, Scotland

Death:            5 Sep 1957, 175 Papanui Road, Christchurch, NZ

Burial:            6 Sep 1957, Waimairi Cemetry, Christchurch, NZ

Occupation:   Waitress (On Marriage Certificate).

Born in Edinburgh (District of Newington).

Emigrated to New Zealand in 1875 with her parents, her brother and  sister,  and her Aunt Dorothea GIESLER.

The ship "AUCKLAND" sailed from CLYDE (Scotland) July 31st and arrived Otago October 27th 1875.  She was 4 years old at this time according to the passenger list.  (County of origin given as Edinburgh).

In 1907 was living at Kumara Junction but was resident in Greymouth at the time of her wedding.

Aged 80 when she died.  Was then living at 206 Grimseys Road, Styx, Christchurch.  Buried in the same row but different plot to her husband Ernest.

Spouse:      Ernest Ferdinand “Ernie” COOK

Birth:          22 Aug 1884, Glenmorgan Vale, Queensland, Australia

Death:        3 Mar 1958, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Marriage:   7 Aug 1907, Methodist Church, Greymouth, NZ

Children:    Ernest Reid “Reid” (ca1911-1968)

The Period 1869 to 1875

In 1869 his first son was born.  The details obtained from the parish record of the baptism (for the Parish of All Saints in the city of York) show that Charles Victor William HENRY was baptised on June 6th of that year. His parents were named as Charles Auguste HENRY and Johanne Louise Meta HENRY whose address was given as Queen Street. His father’s occupation is given as “engineer”.  There is no evidence that his birth was accorded a civil registration. Once established in Dunedin, he became known as “Willie”.

On the 5th September 1870 an extract from the register of births for the District of Newington in the City of Edinburgh shows that Frederika Augusta HENRY was born at 5 Craigside Place, Edinburgh.  Her parents were named as Charles HENRY, gunsmith and journeyman, and Johanna Louisa Metha HENRY (GIESHLER), married in York.  Once established in Dunedin, she became known as Edith Elizabeth HENRY (I knew of her as my Great Aunt Edie).

There is a record of the family in the 1871 Scottish census.  The family members listed are as follows:

Charles HENRY, Head, married, aged 31, Gunsmith, born Germany

Louisa HENRY, Wife, married, aged 23, born Germany

William HENRY, Son, aged 2, born England

Frederica HENRY, Daughter, aged 7 months, born Edinburgh

Dorothea GIESLER, Wife’s Sister, aged 15, Dressmaker, born Germany

On the 28th October 1872 an extract from the register of births for the District of Newington in the City of Edinburgh shows that Ella Dorothea HENRY was born at 3 Craigside House, Craigside Place, Edinburgh.  Her parents were named as Charles HENRY, Gunmaker, and Louisa HENRY (GHEISLER), married in York.  Once established in Dunedin, she became known as Dora (my Great Aunt Dora).

The only other documented occurrence for this period came in the form of a ship’s passenger list.  The whole family (including his wife’s sister Dorothea) were listed as passengers on the “Auckland”, which sailed from Clyde on July 31st 1875, and arrived in Otago October 27th 1875. The list showed the following passengers:

Charles HENRY, 32, Edinburgh, Engineer

Louisa HENRY, 26

William HENRY, 6

Dorothea HENRY, 4

Frederika HENRY, 2

Dorothea GIESLER, 19, Edinburgh, Domestic Servant.

The Period 1875 to 1879

The HENRY family arrived in Dunedin in late October 1875.  My understanding is that he set up shop as an electrician,

gunsmith and locksmith. He set up a machine shop in which he was able to manufacture from scratch a large range of

items from parts for locks to dynamos for cars. His engineering skills were legendary.

During the time he lived in Edinburgh, it is believed that he was possibly employed by Alexander HENRY, the famous

Scottish gun-maker (Alexander designed the barrel rifling for the famous Martini-Henry rifle). Although Charles was

probably not related to Alexander he is known to have been plying the trade of “gunsmith and journeyman” while living

in Edinburgh. This would certainly explain his skill with guns and lathes.

Another famous man that lived in Edinburgh during Charles’ time there was Alexander Graham BELL (who went to

America to earn fame and fortune with the telephone). It is believed that Charles and he corresponded after they both

emigrated from Scotland. Charles, himself, went on to make a name for himself with telephones as he manufactured

the first two telephones used in New Zealand. These were a Bell design and were used to make the first telephone

call between Dunedin and Milton in 1878. (These telephones now reside in the Settlers Museum in Dunedin).

It is entirely feasible that Charles was “headhunted” by the New Zealand Government to bring telephone technology to

New Zealand. The famous parliamentarian Sir Julius VOGEL had a passion for building the transport and

communications infrastructure in New Zealand and he was known to scour the world for people to achieve this task.  I

now believe that Charles was attracted to New Zealand to work on the establishment of a telephone network - he was

the ideal man for the job when you consider his background. After working on the Dunedin system, where his

telephones were used on the existing telegraph lines for the first testing, he then moved to Christchurch with his family

where the telephone link between Christchurch and Lyttleton was being set up about 1879.

The family lived at 7 Wilson Street, Christchurch during this period.

While he was working in Christchurch his wife, Louisa, died. Her sister, Dorothea, was still living with the family then,

and she and Charles married soon after Louisa’s death.

Second Marriage

Dorothea GIESLER


Birth:           ca 1856, Bremen, Germany

Death:        16 Oct 1946, Health Home, Company Bay, Otago, New Zealand

Charles Edward “Chas” HENRY


Birth:              ca 1843, Dresden, Saxony, Germany

Death:           17 Jan 1902, Dunedin, New Zealand

Burial:            Northern Cemetery, Dunedin, NZ

Occupation:   Engineer, Gunsmith and Journeyman

Gunsmith & Locksmith at 127 Princes Street, Dunedin.

Naturalised 18 Jun 1885 File #1885/1767, Cert Reg#20 Page 116 (File not found).

Mentioned in the Encyclopedia of NZ 1905.

Was aged 59 when he died.  Buried in the Henry Family Plot in the Northern cemetery, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Marriage:    7 Oct 1879, Wilson Street, Christchurch, New Zealand

Children:    Louis Charles “Charles Louis” (1880-1950)

                   Ludwig Friedric “Frederick” (1882-1957)

                   Amy Louisa (1884-)

                   Rosa Frederica “Rose” (1885-1968)

                   Johann Walter “Walter James” (1887-1957)

                   George Edward (1889-1965)

                   Johanna Maria Elizabeth (1891-)

                   Dorothea Ruby (1895-1924)

Louis Charles “Charles Louis” HENRY


Birth:               8 May 1880, Great King Street, Dunedin, New Zealand

Death:            23 Dec 1950, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Burial:            Andersons Bay Cemetry, Dunedin, New Zealand

Occupation:   Gunsmith

Spouse:    Mathilda FORRESTER

Marriage:    1904

Children:   Charles Frederick (10 May 1905-)

                  Bertie Albert (1908-)

                  Ralph Ernest Cook (1910-)

                  Female Child(1911-)

Ludwig Friedric “Frederick” HENRY


Birth:         7 Jan 1882, Mornington, Dunedin, New Zealand

Death:      20 Jun 1957, Auckland, New Zealand

Burial:      21 Jun 1957, Purewa Cemetry, Auckland, New Zealand

Spouse:    Agnes MAITLAND

Marriage:    ca 1915, Gisbourne, NZ

Amy Louisa HENRY


Birth:    7 Oct 1884, South Dunedin

Spouse:      Paul Bishop LEMON (1884-1916)

Marriage:    10 May 1905, Saint Patricks, South Dunedin, New Zealand

CHILDREN:   Ruby May Smith (1906-)

Other spouse:    George William BRIANT (ca 1886-1953)

Marriage:           1918, Wellington, New Zealand

Children:   Male Child (1923-)

                  Male Child (1925-)

Rosa Frederica “Rose” HENRY


Birth:    25 Nov 1885, Kensington, Caversham, Dunedin, New Zealand

Death:    1968

Spouse:      William SWANERTON (1881-1938)

Marriage:    1907, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Children:     Doris Jean (1909-)

                    Charles Thomas Leslie (1911-)

                    William James Clifford Cliff” (1919-1972)

Other spouse:    Lee GARDNER (1883-1965)

Marriage:           11 Dec 1947, Registrars Office, Oamaru, Otago, New Zealand

Johann Walter “Walter James” HENRY


Birth:      19 Dec 1887, South Dunedin, New Zealand

Death:    31 Aug 1957, Victoria Road, Dunedin, New Zealand

Burial:    Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.

Name changed to Walter James HENRY on marriage certificate (Dunedin 6611 18/8/1915).

Spouse:      Sarah Janet SNELL (1891-1960)

Birth:           ca 1891, Dunedin, New Zealand

Death:         6 Oct 1960, 27 Marama Street, Dunedin, New Zealand

Marriage:    18 Aug 1915, St Matthews Church, Dunedin, New Zealand

Children:      Herbert Walter “Bert” “Jock” (ca 1918-1986)

                     Reginald Alexander (ca 1920-1928)

                     Kenneth George “Ken” (1921-1998)

                     Frank Wilfred (1923-)

                     Noeline Gwenneth (1924-)

George Edward HENRY


Birth:      1 Jun 1889, South Dunedin, New Zealand

Death:    28 Sep 1965, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Spouse:      Amy Elizabeth GIFFORD (1866-)

Marriage:    28 Aug 1916, Registrar’s Office, Invercargill, NZ

Johanna Maria Elizabeth HENRY


Birth:    24 Oct 1891, South Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Spouse:       Peter SMITH (ca 1887-)

Marriage:    12 Aug 1914, Mornington Methodist Church, Dunedin, New Zealand

Dorothea Ruby HENRY


Birth:      19 Jul 1895, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Death:    31 Mar 1924, Pembroke, Wanaka, New Zealand

Burial:    Wanaka Cemetry, Otago, New Zealand

Spouse:      Albert James WILDEN (ca 1888-1955)

Marriage:    3 Feb 1915, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Children:      Albert Dudley (1916-1973)

                    Marjorie Helen (1918-)

The Period 1880 to 1902

Sometime after his marriage to Dorothea, they moved back to Dunedin. In 1880 their first child (Charles Louis) was born.

Charles senior carried on the business that he had set up in Dunedin. As a locksmith he won the contract for installing and maintaining the locks in all Government premises in Dunedin - including the prison!  As an electrical engineer he constructed and sold telephones for the local trade. He also manufactured dynamos for cars so that they could run electrical equipment (such as lights).

Charles was also a prominent member of the Military establishment in Dunedin. He joined the volunteer Engineers when they were started and was active with them for the rest of his lifetime. His rank in the Military was that of Sergeant Major. In 1901 he was presented with his Long Service and Good Conduct medal by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (the Duke was the hier to the throne at the time and became King George V). Comment was made at the time that the Duke and Duchess knew of his background.

He passed away in 1902 at the age of 59.  It is indicative of his high standing in the community that he rated a funeral with full military honours, including a parade down the main street of Dunedin with his coffin on a ceremonial gun carriage flanked by marching troops. The local miltary commander spoke at his funeral service. The whole ceremony apparently brought Dunedin to a standstill for the occasion.

It must have been really something to be a part of!  A proud moment in HENRY family history.

A great pioneer settler in New Zealand. A great engineer. A great man.

May he rest in peace.