Saturday, July 28, 2012

Who wants to be transported? We do!

In modern Australia the popular image of the transported convict is of someone in prison garb and chains, breaking rocks in a road gang. But many convicts were assigned to land owners or businesses to work as labourers or, in the case of female convicts, as servants. And while they may have been used as slave labour, they were at least assured of food, clothing and a bed at night. That was more than many of them had back in their home country.

Here's an extract from a House of Commons committee report of 1838. It gives some interesting insights into the conditions in England and Ireland at the time, and attitudes towards transportation. (I've modified the formatting slightly to make it easier to read.)

 309 Chairman Have you had any opportunity of ascertaining the apprehension which is produced in this country by the punishment of transportation, distinguishing England from Ireland? -  
The Very Rev. W Ullathorne, D.D. ( a Roman Catholic Bishop who was in New South Wales 1833-1836) I have had considerable opportunities of late. One of the duties which I have imposed upon myself in this country has been to expose to the poor the corporeal and moral horrors of transportation; for that purpose, for the last three months, I have been employed in preaching in the manufacturing districts in the north of England. I have found, generally, that there was a great deal of delusion existing amongst the population; and I have been informed by the clergy, that that delusion exists to a considerable extent; and when I explained the real facts of transportation, a very great sensation of horror prevailed amongst the people. 
I had much communication with the relations of persons transported; they came to me frequently after my sermons, for the purpose of obtaining information with regard to the lot of their friends, or requesting me to take letters to them; and I found that, generally speaking, they had no idea of the fate of the convicts, or the immoralities and the punishment to which they were liable. And in this country even, clergymen have informed me that they have actually in some cases been consulted by persons in a state of starvation, as to whether they might do something or other for the purpose of being transported or not; and I have found that this delusion has been kept up a good deal by letters from the colony. 
I have seen letters written by prisoners soon after arrival to their wives, in which they represent themselves as very comfortable, and give extravagant accounts of their condition, the sole object appearing, from their letters, to be to induce the wife to go out; and I believe the object of the prisoner was that, if the wife did come out, he would contrive to be assigned to her. 
I have visited Ireland lately; I was there but a fortnight, but during that time I preached once in Dublin, and I found that the same delusion existed there. I have been told by the clergy, that were I to explain those things generally to the people it would be of the greatest benefit; and I was particularly struck by the observations of one clergyman, a parish priest; he has the largest parish in Dublin; he told me, and he told me with tears in his eyes at the time, that in his parish, which was within the liberties of Dublin, he had not less than 36,000 souls; that the number of sick calls in a day which had to be attended by his curates was not less than 45; and in case of severe weather for a few days, there were 6,000 of his parishioners who did not know where to get anything whatsoever, and who, generally speaking, had nothing between their bones and the floor on which they lay but the rags that scarcely covered them in the street; and he said to me "If you will explain the horrors of transportation to my people, you will do more good in one day than I can do in a year"  
310 To restrain them in time? 
Yes, and to acquaint them with the real result; but generally speaking they have an idea that to be transported is to better their circumstances very much. I was much struck with a remark made by a person when I was preaching in Wigan. This person was a respectable innkeeper; it was stated to him that I was going to preach upon this subject and he said, "What is the use of it? People had far better be transported than remain here; for there they will have abundance to eat and drink and plenty of clothing, and here they are in a state of starvation"; and such is the general idea and I believe it has led many to desire transportation.
House of Commons papers, vol 22, Reports from Committees, seventeen volumes _16_ Transportation, page 32, viewed at Google Books

Friday, July 27, 2012

James Whybrew - a summary

Unlike his son David, who travelled the world with the British Army, James Whybrew seems to have spent all of his life in a small area on the Essex-Suffolk border in England.

According to the 1841 census, he was born about 1801, though I haven't been able to find any record of his birth. In March 1820 he married Mary Webber in Bures St Mary, Suffolk, a few months after the baptism of their first child, James.

The births of Louisa and Jeremiah followed and were both baptised on the same day in February 1823. Another child, Joseph Whybrew, was born in Bures St Mary in 1825 and died in March that year. It's not clear whether he was the child of James and Mary or another family. (There were other Whybrews living in Bures at the time.) 

James was left a widower when Mary (Webber) Whybrew died at the age of 26 in April 1825. He remarried a year later in April 1826, again in Bures St Mary, to Sarah Baldwin. Their first child, Sophia, was born in 1826. It seems there were two Sophia Whybrews born in the same area that year, and they both appear (in different places) in the 1841 census in Essex. It's possible to follow each of them through the later censuses. James and Sarah's daughter Sophia married a Charles Duncombe in 1846. The second Sophia seems to have remained single and ended her days in an asylum.

Based on the 1841 census, the next child born to James and Sarah was another Jeremiah, in about 1830. It's possible, of course, that the Jeremiah in the census is the Jeremiah born to Mary, but it seems unlikely. While adults' ages in the census are often inaccurate, it would be unusual for a child's age to be so far out. It seems more likely that the older Jeremiah died in infancy. I haven't found a record of his death, but there is a death recorded for "Jemima" Whybrew in 1826, aged 3, which could be a mis-transcription.

Also with James and Sarah in the 1841 census were Eliza, born about 1832, Harriet, born about 1833, and David, born 1838. The family were living in Wormingford, Essex at this time, opposite the Crown Inn. James' occupation is listed as 'sawyer'.

The Crown Inn, Wormingford
 © Copyright Robert Edwards under a Creative commons licence
Sarah probably died sometime before 1851 since she doesn't appear on the census that year. James' name also seems to be absent from the census. What happened to the family between 1841 and 1851 is uncertain. Conditions in rural England were extremely hard - this was a time when many people decided to make the difficult voyage to Australia or North America. Jeremiah Whybrew, James' son, was one of those who migrated to Canada, but I haven't found any evidence that James and Sarah left England.

Perhaps the family struggled to survive on a labourer's wages. A James Whybrew born about 1800 appears in the Essex courts in 1845 charged with larceny, for which he received 14 days imprisonment. But was this David's father? It could be any one of the three James Whybrews born in Essex between 1796 and 1806 who appear in the 1841 census.

In 1848 a James Whybrew died in the Lexden registration district (which includes Wormingford) but no age is recorded so again it's difficult to be sure that it's the same person. One clue that both James and Sarah had died before 1851 is that David Whybrew, still in his teens, was a resident of the Lexden and Winstree Union Workhouse at the time of the census. In that case, James lived less than 50 years.







Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trees and logs

Perhaps I should have read the instructions before I started. 


Instead I've learned about family history research by trial and error as I've gone along. There's so much genealogical information available on the internet these days that it's easy to keep following one trail after another, collecting bits and pieces along the way that seem interesting or potentially useful. The result can be a hard-drive full of disorganised notes, files, and images. 


Fortunately since I have a bit of an obsessive streak, I've kept things fairly organised, and left myself trail markers. I've taken care to keep a record of where I've found information. I've also made sure that I've excluded every other possible explanation of a fact before I add new details to the family history. 


But I'm starting to regret that I haven't kept any systematic record of what I've excluded. Sometimes I find myself going back over the same search results on the same database because I can't remember whether I've tried a particular combination of search terms before or not. I know I had a good reason for deciding that this Thomas Ward was not the Thomas Ward I was looking for, but six months later I can't always remember why. 

 Maybe that's the reason why most 'Introduction to Genealogy' articles recommend keeping a research log, that details exactly what you've looked for, and where, and what the results were (useful or otherwise.) I guess it's never too late to start.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

John Mason - where did he come from?

Despite hours of research, I haven't been able to discover much more about John Mason than what is revealed by his marriage and death registrations. We know from those records that he was born about 1815, married in 1841 in the Catholic church in Sydney, moved to Adelaide in 1845 and was a labourer when he died in 1857.

Only two births for children named John Mason appear on the NSW Registry site for the period 1805 to 1825. One, John V (Valentine) Mason, was born in Richmond in 1822, and lived there all his life. The other, born 1819, was the son of Alexander Mason and Hannah Simpson. He was christened at St Phillip's Church of England, Sydney. At the age of 4, he and his two brothers were admitted to the Male Orphan School by his widowed mother. In such an institution he would almost certainly have received a C of E education. I haven't been able to trace what happened to him, but it seems unlikely that he would have married in a Roman Catholic church.

Of the free settlers named John Mason who arrived in NSW before 1841, only one was of the right age. He travelled with his parents and siblings from Ireland on the 'China', arriving in 1839. He later married Mary Hickey

The next possibility is that John Mason was transported to Australia as a convict. Out of the twenty or so John Masons who arrived in Sydney between 1820 and 1841, most can be ruled out because of their age, or because they  are known to have died, or to have married, or because they were still in New South Wales after 1845. (Fortunately the name of the ship on which convicts arrived functions almost as 'tag' which makes it possible to follow what happened to many of them through official records and newspaper accounts.)

That still leaves a handful of convicts named John Mason of about the right age (born within ten years of 1815). The most promising of these was born 1815 in Limerick, Ireland, and was transported on the Parmelia in 1833 for stealing cotton. He received his Certificate of Freedom in July 1840, which would fit in well with his marriage to Catherine the following year. Unfortunately I haven't been able to trace him after that.

And of course there's also the possibility that John Mason's birth in NSW was unregistered, or that he arrived in Sydney from one of the other colonies. As with Catherine Murphy, without some further information coming to light, it's unlikely that we'll ever know his origins for certain.

More about John Mason:

John and Catherine Mason - pioneers
Two more small clues about John Mason
An interesting snippet of news about John and Catherine Mason
Discoveries in Adelaide part 1
Discoveries in Adelaide part 2
A sad tale of two Roses
The missing link - William Doody
A song of the sea

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Catherine Murphy - a summary of what's known

Catherine was born about 1822 (based on her stated age when she died.) It seems likely she was born outside Australia. A daughter named Catherine was born to James and Sarah Murphy in Sydney in 1821, but she seems to have married Henry Stedman, and remained in NSW. I can't find any other registered births for Catherine/Catharine Murphy in the right time period.

Of the convicts named Catherine Murphy who arrived in Sydney between 1820 and 1841, only three were born within ten years of 1822. Two of these are known to have married other men, and the other didn't obtain a certificate of freedom until 1848, so Catherine was probably a free immigrant, or her birth in NSW is unregistered.

It seems she was unable to write, since she signed her name with an 'X' when she married John Mason on February 2 1841. Both were said to be Roman Catholic, and married in St Mary's Catholic church in Sydney. Father Joseph Platt performed the marriage, and Andrew and Mary Goodwin were the witnesses. 

The birth of a daughter, Mary Ann, was registered in 1842 in Sydney, and another child, Catherine, was born in 1844. There may have been one or more children born to John and Catherine in Sydney who died in infancy, but this is uncertain.

In December 1844, John and Catherine and their two children sailed to Adelaide on the Dorset, arriving in January 1845. Catherine must have been pregnant at the time, as a third daughter, Margaret, was born in July that year.

Rose followed in 1847, Susan in 1849, Eliza 1850, Jane in 1852 and Bridget in 1854. When Bridget was 3 years old John died, leaving Catherine, then 35, with eight girls to bring up alone. Michael Murnane filled out the death registration details on Catherine's behalf.

The three older girls, aged 14, 13 and 11, were already working, and the 14 shillings a week that they earned between them was the family's total income. (The average labourer earned about 4 shillings per day at that time.) Catherine applied to the Destitute board for relief in June 1857, and again a few months later.

Catherine's eldest daughter, Catherine, married George Davis in June 1865 in Adelaide. Mary Ann married Henry Atkin in July 1865, and Margaret married Henry's brother, Thomas, in February 1866. Catherine's first grandchild, John Thomas, was born in 1865 to Mary Ann. More marriages and grandchildren followed, with Rose marrying William Morris in 1868 and Eliza marrying Jeremiah Murphy, a British soldier, in March 1869.

It's not clear what became of Jane and Bridget, but Susan must have caused Catherine a lot of heart ache. From the age of 14 her name appeared in the Police Court reports of the Adelaide papers several times. In April 1868 she appeared as a witness to a theft, in a case involving her future husband, David Whybrew. Susan's first child, Harriet, was born 'out of wedlock' in September 1868. Susan eventually married David in May 1869, with her second child Elizabeth (Eliza) born in December of the same year.

Both Susan and her sister Eliza left Australia about 1870 with their husbands and returned with their army regiment to England. Catherine Mason remained in Adelaide until her death in 1874, at the age of 52. She was probably buried at West Terrace Cemetery, but no newspaper announcement of her funeral, and no record of her grave has been found.




Friday, July 6, 2012

Not the right Catherine Murphy after all

Well, there goes that theory. This week I went to the State Library and looked up "Quarantined! The 1837 Lady MacNaghten immigrants" (by Perry McIntyre and Liz Rushen). It revealed that the Catherine Murphy who arrived on that ship was married to a Richard Murphy, and died in 1846. One Catherine Murphy excluded, dozens to go!

The book also had a couple of paragraphs on the Murnane family. Michael Murnane and Anne (nee Quinn) had three daughters old enough to be 'bounty' passengers - girls of marriageable age - as well as four younger children with them when they set sail. Sadly, one son died on the journey, and a daughter died during the time in quarantine in Sydney. What a terrible start to a new life  in Australia.

James Whybrew (c 1801)


Name:James WHYBREW
Sex:Male
Individual Facts
Birthabt 1801Essex1
Deathmaybe 1848 (maybe age 47)
Marriages/Children
1. Mary WEBBER (1799-1825)
Marriage1820 (about age 19)Bures St. Mary, Suffolk, England2
ChildrenJames WHYBREW (1819-1898)
Louisa WHYBREW (1821- 1874)
Jeremiah WHYBREW (1823-1825)
??Joseph WHYBREW (1825-1825)
2. Sarah BALDWIN (1811-1847)
Marriage1826 (about age 25)Bures St. Mary, Suffolk, England2
Census (fam)1841 (about age 40)Wormingford, Essex3
ChildrenSophia WHYBREW (1826-1905)
Jeremiah WHYBREW (1830-1878)
Eliza WHYBREW (1832- 1908)
Harriet WHYBREW (1833- 1893 )
David WHYBREW (1838-1917)


1. 1841 census (UK).
2. familysearch.org.
3. 1841 census (UK), HO107/0334/14/~F4.


More about James Whybrew:
James Whybrew - a summary

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Mason link to the Murnane family

Here's a more established link between John Mason and the Murnane family. In 1842, Michael Murnane's daughter Bridget married a William Dowdy (or Doody) at St Mary's Catholic church in Sydney. The Dowdy's travelled to Adelaide on the Dorset with the Mason family in 1845. (They are listed as Mr and Mrs W Doodey in this newspaper clipping.)

On July 7 1845 the Dowdy's second child, Michael Patrick, was baptised in Adelaide by Bishop Francis Murphy. One of the sponsors was John Mason.