John Heyer’s paternal grandfather, Georg Frederick Heyer, was born in 1843 in, what was then, French Alsace where his parents ran a small mixed farm at Melsheim, some 20km north of Strasbourg. In 1868, after completing a six-year course at the Lutheran Mission College in Basel, George emigrated to Australia where he was installed as the pastor of the Lutheran Church which he had designed and helped to build in Germantown (now Grovedale) near Geelong in Victoria.
In 1870 he married Clara Elizabeth Kummer, an emigrant from Leipzig, and they had three children – Johannes, Clara and Fritz – who was to become John’s father.
On his mother’s side, his ancestry was more illustrious. His maternal great-grandfather, English born Robert William Elliston (1774-1831) was the son of the Prince of Wales by his marriage to Hannah Lightfoot, a maid in the Royal Kitchen of King George III. When their marriage was annulled, their only son was brought up by Robert Elliston, a watch-maker in Orange Street, Bloomsbury and christened Robert William Elliston.
Robert William became a celebrated actor and manager of the London’s Theatre Royal in Drury Lane but Robert’s fortunes declined and his son William Gore Elliston (1798-1872) decided to emigrate to Australia with his brother Edmund.
Soon after settling in Tasmania, William opened The Longfort Hall Academy for boys in Hobart and was appointed editor of the Hobart Courier. He married Margaret, daughter of the Marquis de Vaux, a French refugee, and they had four daughters. Their youngest daughter, Marcia Fay, married Fritz Heyer at All Saints Church of England, St Kilda, Victoria in 1909 and seven years later, John was born.