Strongman of Fillis Circus

Started by Private User on Tuesday, June 14, 2011


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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)

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