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Looking for links to a Henry Lawrence Bernstein (Enrique Lorenzo) or Mercedes
Posted by: Peter Benson (ID *****9598) Date: April 24, 2005 at 21:25:37
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Hi Roberta and Barbara,
I was interested in reading your letter re the Bernstein Family genealogy (American site) and wondered if there was any connection to my family.
My late grandfather (died 1973 in New Zealand) was Gerald Bernstein. He was born in Melbourne Australia in 1877. He had two older brothers - Henry Lawrence Bernstein who was about 6-7 years his senior (reportedly) and Fairleigh Strathmoir Bernstein who was born about 1875. He also had a younger sister Ivy Claire followed by the youngest brother Douglas Jacob Bernstein. The mother's maiden name was Marks (her family hailed from USA - I think her first name was Rachel) and their father's family (my great grandfather) had come out from Poland.

My Grandfather (Gerald) and his siblings, with the probable exception of Henry Lawrence, changed their surnames by deedpoll to "Benson" around about 1918.

I am trying to trace what happened to henry lawrence and in particular where he died (somewhere in England) and whether or not there were any offspring from him who may have carried on the family name (Bernstein probably) in England.

The following information is probably irrelevant if you have no connection with us, but just in case here it is.
henry lawrence probably born about 1870-72, in Melbournejoined the Australian Navy but only lasted about 15 months before deserting and ended up in South Africa working for the mounted police and militia, before receiving a comnmission for the British Army in South Africa. He took part in the illegal Jamieson Raid, for which he was sub-poenaed by the British authorities to testify before the British courts as a witness. For his part in the raid, he was dismissed from the british army. The next thing he worked for the Nordenfeld zMaxim Gun Company, before being sent to Brazil, where his job was to retrain and rearm the Brazilian army (known as Colonel Enrique Lorenzo). He married - only have first name of his Brazilian wife - Mercedes. In 1902 there was the Brazilian revolution and so he ended up in Bolivia. At some stage his wife Mercedes and 2 children were tragically killed in an earthquake. In Bolivia he led an exploratory expedition to the interior which largely failed and they had to be rescued - a number died. He was then recruited to do a military review which involved re-arming of the Bolivian army and at one stage it looked as if he would have to lead the Bolivian Army in battle against the Brazilian Army which he had had a big part in training, but war was last minute averted. He ewas well settled in La Paz, but was then given some land in the interior to develop as a rubber plantation. Not sure what became of this. He ended up back in England - probably after the eathquake that kileed his South American family. Nothing was heard until 1916, when his younger brother Fairleigh (might have been Douglas) met up with him at the Salisbury Plains Military training base in England. He reported back that it appears that Henry Lawrence had been working for the British secret service and had probaly been with them from the outset of his first outing to Brazil.
My father's 93 year old cousin wholives in Melbourne, says that some time later she had received letters and photos from Henry lawrence re-marrying in England. We have no idea what year, what the name of his new wife was, whether they had children, etc.
It appears likely he died somewhere in England so some deaths records searching will be required on my part - a bit complicated because there is always the poissibility that he later changed his last name to Benson or Lorenzo.
I have copies of his discharge papers from the Briish army and his letters requesting that they pay his passage back to Australia (they refused).

If any of the above info has any strands connecting to your family, I would be interested in hearing (my email:

Peter Benson

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