Strongman of Fillis Circus

Started by Private User on Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Profiles Mentioned:

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Private User
6/14/2011 at 4:03 AM

Michael George Doubell, a grandson of the Michael George to settle the family in South Africa, performed as a Strongman.

"Michael George joined Filis' circus as a 'Strong Man' and performed at Earls Court in 1899. While in London, he married Sarah Ann Tant age 22 of 22 Pembroke Mews, London. This marriage took place on 25 Feb 1900 at St Philips, Kensington. Her father was Charles Tant," according to Millicent Emslie -

While there are numerous grandsons of the SV/PROG named Michael George, I suspect that the Strongman was a son of Thomas Henry Doubell (1837 - 1909) and Caroline Elizabeth Magdalena Myburgh (1837 - 1920). has the marriage record for a Michael George Doubell and Sarah Ann Tant that gives his father's name as Thomas.

Frank Fillis came to South Africa in 1880 to join the circus of W.H. Bell, eventually taking over when Bell died; has a good summary of Fillis attractions in Cape Town and Johannesburg -

In 1899 - 1900 Fillis "took an extraordinary show entitled "Savage South Africa" to England, but despite the attraction of an authentic South African stagecoach, black warriors and other novelties, it failed and he was again bankrupt." This was presumably the show at which Michael George performed as a Strongman. has video of the troupe's arrival in Southampton - . "From Southampton, ‘the natives and animals’ travelled on ‘three special trains’ to Earls Court, where they performed twice daily at the Empress Theatre as part of the Greater Britain Exhibition"

However, I have not yet found any references to Michael George Doubell, or a Strongman, in connection with Fillis' circus.

Private User
12/26/2012 at 1:31 PM

See Marriage Record of Michael George Doubell and Sarah Ann Tant -

12/27/2012 at 2:49 AM

Fantastic stuff, Craig. Can you update the 'theories' on the project page?

12/27/2012 at 2:51 AM

W H Bell is a tantalisingly co incident connection?

Private User
2/23/2013 at 3:01 PM

According to this tree - - Michael George Doubell, son of Thomas Henry Doubell and Caroline Myburgh, was described as being "very powerful" which ties in to the possibility of him having been a Strongman.

2/24/2013 at 12:03 AM

Just watched the film clip. How did you find it? Flippin' fantastic :-)

I wonder what the primary source for the "very powerful" descriptor is? Seems a a very valid possibility.

8/21/2014 at 11:11 AM

The more info we accumulate on this SA born Michael George Doubell, c2 & what now seems to be his two wives: British born Sarah Ann Doubell / Hunt, & SA born, Maria Doubell
the more I’m puzzled about the two wives.

The Strongman connection is convincing – especially considering the date – but I’m a bit stuck on the fact that his father - a man we have as SA born- Thomas Henry Doubell, b5 - is signing as a witness to the marriage in London.

Would the father have gone with him to London in the circus? Possible
What about the SA wife that MH shows as well?

8/21/2014 at 11:53 AM

Sorry - just found the marriage certificate. His father is given, not present.

Private User
8/21/2014 at 2:31 PM

This part of the tree is a little unclear, given the lack of records.

From what I understand looking at what we have, it seems Michael George Doubell traveled to England; whether that was a Strongman in Fillis' Circus or not I don't know.

But, he marries Sarah Ann Tant in 1900; after that I loose track of him in England; neither Sarah nor Michael seem to appear in the 1911 England Census.

Sarah Ann Tant however does seem to appear again - when she marries again to a Charles Frederick Hunt in 1915.

What's interesting is that Sarah, age 36, describes herself as a spinster; but, her father's name matches - on both records he is named as Charles Tant, coachman. Presumably Sarah and Michael either separated or divorced sometime between 1900 and 1915.

I think we need to find the baptism records of Michael's children to go any further.

8/22/2014 at 1:14 AM

Craig - you remain a better searcher than me. I spent hours trying to find Sarah Ann Tant mentioned in the British records again, with no results :-)

8/22/2014 at 1:22 AM

Profile for her 2nd husband - to link him to this discussion: Charles Frederick Hunt

Private User
12/23/2015 at 1:24 AM

Thanks to Michael George Doubell's 1928 Estate Papers, we have a partial resolution to the mystery of Sarah Ann Tant - they were married, lived in South Africa, she allegedly abandoned him to return to England; Michael's son, "Baby" Michael, who had not seen his father for 17 years, was unaware of any of this; plus, the Papers describe Sarah as a "circus girl", potentially corroborating the information of Michael being a Strongman. See Michael's Death Notice - and the Mystery of Sarah Ann Tant -

12/23/2015 at 2:33 AM

Wow - that's so interesting. Well done.
I agree about the circus girl connection.

12/23/2015 at 3:08 AM

I can't get the Michael George Doubell c2 - Death Notice to open. Does it include Patricia and Caroline?

Do you think 'Liefie' Doubell is Baby Doubell?

12/23/2015 at 3:20 AM

Okay, it's opened. I see the two females are not listed on the death certificate, and I also see that they've been removed from the MH links I found them on.

Private User
12/23/2015 at 4:46 AM

Assuming that the tree you found there names on was correct, it is possible that Patricia and Caroline died young, or that "Baby" Michael was simply unaware of them, as he was of his father's other life.

I do think that "Liefie" Doubell is probably "Baby" Michael. There are papers in the Cape Town Archives for a "Baby" Michael, but they are not a Death Record, but a record of his admittance into a Mental Hospital. They mention a wife, Maria Magrieta, and several children, though no names for the children. (Depot: KAB; Source: MOOC; Vol. No.: 6/9/4682; Ref. No.: 47854) (Image No.: 1103 - 1106)

There is also a divorce record a Baby Michael Doubell and Maria Margaretha Oliver. (Depot: KAB; Source: GSC; Vol. No.: 2/1/1/388; Ref. No.: 13)

4/25/2017 at 7:57 AM

Message from Private User
I was looking for links to my mothers family and
came across your posts.
My mother is a daughter of Baby Michael Doubell and Maria Olivier.
I was told the story about my grandfather being a strongman
in the circus. His wife, so the story goes was a 'pianist' and not
happy in South Africa went back home. 'Baby' was a drunk and
passed away before I was born in 1957. My grandmother died around
My mothers birth name was Baby Josephine (she changed it) born in 1929 -
Her brothers were George and Fred and sisters Magdalene, Freda, Doris,
Helen and a younger sister who died at about 5yrs.
I am interested to know if we are linked to your story and if you can tell me
anything else.
Regards, Kim Rose

4/25/2017 at 7:58 AM
4/25/2017 at 8:29 AM
Private User
4/25/2017 at 9:17 AM

Thank you

Private User
4/26/2017 at 1:37 AM

Hi Kim,

It does seem very likely that we are looking at the same family.

There are Estate Papers from 1957 for a Michael George Doubell in the Pretoria Archives (Depot: TAB; Source: MHG; Type: LEER; Vol. No.: 0; Year: 1957; Ref. No.: 4571); unfortunately they do not yet appear to be available online on, you would either have to go to the Archives in-person or order copies through -

But the Estate index on NAAIRS - - does describe Michael as "divorced", which matches up with Baby Michael and Maria being divorced in 1943.

4/26/2017 at 6:06 AM

Problem: Right now we have George (Baby) Doubell as the son of Joseph Doubell and Anne Elizabeth Doubell
& grandson of Robert Charles Doubell and Annie Johanna Luza (Susannah) Doubell

Kim's version tallies with this note by Craig on Michael George Doubell, c2 profile:
"NOTE from Craig Sheldon: Michael Doubell's Estate Papers name only one child, "Baby" Michael George Doubell; however, given that Michael admits in an affidavit that he had not seen his father for 17 years, it is possible that he was unaware of the other children (Patricia, Caroline and "Liefie").

Time to cut & reconnect? Joan Bricknell can you come & give us your thoughts here?

4/26/2017 at 10:00 AM

I'm going to presume that George (Baby) Doubell & Baby Michael Doubell are different people, and Kim is descended from the latter, nit the former.

4/26/2017 at 11:43 AM

As the MH source no longer cites them, I have deleted the Patricia, Caroline & 'Liefie' Doubell profiles connected to Baby Michael Doubell - pending us finding some sources for them.

4/26/2017 at 11:56 AM

Kim also found this reference to Baby Doubell in an Article About the San in the Uitenhage Area:


A sad part of their history is recorded in the following information pamphlet of the information office at Groendal:” Groendal State Forest has a long and very interesting history. It was discovered during the period between 1843 to1880 that the Bushmen’s last stronghold was between the Gamtoos and the Kei Rivers. They were trapped between the Whites to the West and the Xhosas to the East. This area offered sanctuaries in the inaccessible kloofs and vertical rock faces of the Winterhoek Mountains, behind the site of the present Groendal Dam. Raids by Bushmen on the farms give rise to reprisals. The Bushmen drove many cattle into the Groot Winterhoek Mountains. Theft from transport wagons which traveled from Port Elizabeth and Graaf-Reinett were common. The regular outspan place at the Swartkops River near Uitenhage was often the scene of thefts by Bushmen. A sixteen-year-old boy, “baby” Doubell, was watching his fathers cattle one day near the Uitenhage fountains when the Bushmen stole the cattle and herded them into the Groot Winterhoek Mountains(Groendal). Young Doubell followed the Bushmen into Blinde Kloof (also known as Droe kloof). The search led to the branch of Blinde Kloof, known as Skelm Kloof. Doubell saw his father’s cattle in the bushy ravine below, which was cut off on one side by a stone wall. Doubell returned to Uitenhage and a Boer commando retrieved the cattle. Most of the Bushmen were shot and their graves can still be seen on the farm Hill Place near the Wilderness Area.”

Private User
4/27/2017 at 4:24 AM

Baby Michael and Baby George could certainly be two different people.

We will just have to keep looking for records.

I did come across this immigration photo for Janel Vestrheim nee Doubell, born in 1929 - is this your mother, Kim?

Private User
4/27/2017 at 9:57 AM

Hi Craig, yes we went to South America in December 1962 - as per an earlier communication to Sharon she changed her name to Janel.

4/29/2017 at 5:53 AM

Private User, I found a photo of his grave & birth/death details on the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality site -
thanks to Peter Kirkman.
Once having accessed their home page, you will find a "services" selection in the blue bar at the top. That leads you to a search facility,

4/29/2017 at 6:10 AM

=Burial information for "MICHAEL G. (BABY) DOUBELL" JUBILEE PARK Cemetery.(

GEB 4 3 1894- OORL 5 7 1956

Private User
4/29/2017 at 6:14 AM

Thank you! at the airport and on our way home - looking forward to my own bed - K

Showing 1-30 of 31 posts

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