Thursday, 22 August 2019

The Story of James Hickey

This is the story of my paternal Great Great Great Grandfather, James Hickey (1798 - 1879).

The details of my 3x great grandfather's birth and early life are rather scant, but it's been a fascinating research journey trying to find clues.  From the few records I have ended up with, which really only includes the immigrant passenger list, the baptism records for two of his children, and his death certificate, there appears to be a difference in his supposed place of origin.  It appeared that James hailed from both County Limerick and County Clare.  So, which was correct?

From what I've been able to glean so far, it seems that both are most likely correct.  Why?  Well, that needs an explanation.


James was probably born and definitely lived in the Coonagh area (not to be confused with the Coonagh Barony!).

Coonagh was comprised of two townlands, Coonagh East and Coongah West.


The area was part of the Civil Parish of Killeely.









The Civil Parish of Killeely was part of the Roman Catholic Parish of Parteen-Meelick-Coonagh in the Diocese of Limerick.


Both the Civil Parish of Killeely and the Diocese of Limerick straddled two counties, County Limerick and County Clare. Indeed, the majority of the Limerick Diocese was in fact within the borders of County Clare, as was most of the Parish of Parteen-Meelick-Coonagh. 

The area of Coonagh (which included Coonagh East and Coonagh West) sat on the banks of the Shannon River, and was at different points in time considered to be part of both counties, although when James was growing up it was most definitely considered part of County Limerick.
Sunset on the Shannon, taken from Coonagh
By ThadysLamp - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44392588

I have not yet uncovered a definitive date of birth, but the year 1798 is an educated guess, based on the age recorded on James's immigration passenger list.  His death certificate contradicts this date though, and indicates that he was born a lot earlier, in 1793.  I do think that 1793 was in fact the date of birth for one of James's brothers.

James was the son of Patrick Hickey and Mary Price.  He had at least two older brothers.  I think that it was Patrick who was born in 1793, and then Denis came along in 1795.  James was the youngest of the boys.  It's likely other siblings were born to his parents, but it seems they did not survive into adulthood.

My 3x great grandfather James married Margaret McNamara sometime around 1820, when he would have been aged 22.  On James's death certificate it is recorded that he married in County Clare, and that would be correct if they married in the Catholic Church in the Parish of Parteen, which was part of the Diocese of Limerick!

After their marriage, James and Margaret went on to have at least 8 children whilst living in Ireland.
Their eldest son Dennis was born in 1822.
Patrick came along in 1824.
Twins, John and Thomas were born in 1827.
Bridget was born in 1829.
Ellen (my Great Great Grandmother) came along in 1832.  At that time James was 34 years old.
James (Jnr.) was born in 1835.
William was born in 1837, but it seems he died as a very young infant.

Sadly, back in 1833, James's father Patrick had died.

Tithe Applotment Book 1833 Townland of Coonagh
At that time, in a valuation undertaken on May 30th 1833, recorded in the Tithe Applotment Books, the inhabitants of Coonagh were listed under three main family groupings - Coonagh Hickey, Coonagh Sexton and Coonagh Calcutt.  The townland of Coonagh itself was owned by the Earl of Thomand and leased to these families, who would have in turn probably subleased portions to others.

Tithe Applotment Book 1833 - Coonagh Hickey
The 1833 record showed that the Hickey brothers Patrick, Denis and James, along with a Widow Hickey (likely to be their mother Mary) were all working farmland in Coonagh, totaling 18 acres.

Patrick, being the eldest brother would have been left the lease of the large 15 acre farm after the death of his father that year.  That was in accordance with the inheritance traditions at the time.  The younger brothers, including my 3x great grandfather James, would have worked the land together as well as their own small 1 acre plots.  Apparently it was fairly common for each fully fit man to work 5 acres with a spade at this time.  Hard, back-breaking work!

Both James and Denis, the younger brothers, would have been deprived of property rights, and that would have been the reality for their own sons as well. My 3x great grandfather James already had 5 sons by this time (1833) and his brother Denis had 4.  Whilst James and Denis remained working the farmland as tenants for several more years after 1833, they were to make a life-changing decision in the hope of changing their futures.

Upon the death of their mother Mary, which happened sometime between 1833 and 1839, the two younger brothers decided to emigrate, in the belief they could build a better life for their families elsewhere and perhaps end up as landowners themselves.

In November of 1839, James Hickey and his family of 8, as well as his brother Denis and his family of 6, boarded the ship Adam Lodge, along with what is highly likely to be a number of other Hickey relatives.  In all, there were 28 people with the surname of Hickey from either County Limerick or County Clare who departed Cove Cork in Ireland on the 11th of November 1839.

The Adam Lodge was a 576-ton ship carrying 273 government immigrants.  According to the journal kept by the Surgeon Superintendent Alex Stewart:
"The immigrants included 54 Protestants and 219 Catholics.  A crew member and two children died on the voyage, one child was born.  A school was established and 37 regularly attended.  The schoolmaster was very attentive and many of the scholars improved considerably. The chief amusements were dancing and leap frog and were always encourage in the evenings until 9 o'clock.  Divine Service was performed five times during the voyage, the unfavourable state of the weather, the rolling of the ship and their indisposition prevented its being done oftener."
 The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser Sat 15 Feb 1840 p2

The Adam Lodge arrived in Sydney on February 14th, 1840, after a voyage that lasted for 95 days.  The ship had taken a course from the Cape of Good Hope, across the Southern Ocean, and then up the Eastern seaboard of Australia.  The ship had 'spoken' with the Mary Ridgway whilst passing through Bass Strait, on the 10th of February 1840.


Upon arrival in Sydney all the immigrants would have resided in the government barracks on Bent Street, where an immigration muster was completed detailing information about James and his family.

It was noted that James had been 41 years old upon embarkation, but was 42 years old by the time he had arrived in the Colonies.

His previous occupation had been 'farmer'.

He was Roman Catholic and could both read and write.

James's wife Margaret was recorded as being 38 years of age and her occupation was listed as 'farm servant'.  She could neither read nor write.

Children Patrick, Thomas, John, James, Bridget and Ellen were all listed with Margaret.  Son Dennis was listed separately as a Single Male.

Dispersal List for assisted immigrants on Adam Lodge 1840 p.3 - James Hickey and family
James and his family had been bought out as part of the Assisted Immigration Scheme, which means their passage had been paid for by either the government of the colonies or a wealthy private individual.  In James's case, his passage was paid for by the government as the Dispersal List (shown above) lists his prospective employer as "unknown".

Dispersal List for assisted immigrants on Adam Lodge 1840 p.2 - Denis Hickey and family

His brother Denis and his son Dennis, on the other hand, had been sponsored by a Mr. Hunt of Sydney for 1 year at wages of 90 pounds plus rations.  It's likely that James stayed in Sydney for a while, close to his brother and son, anxiously awaiting employment prospects.

I'm not entirely sure just how long after landing in Sydney, James and his family moved north to the Hunter River District, and in particular the Maitland; but within two years of disembarkation, as another son was born in the Maitland area in 1842.

Son Michael was born in October of 1842, when James was 44 years old.

James was to reside in the Hunter River District, around Maitland, for the remainder of his life, as did his brother Denis and most of the extended Hickey family.  It seems that they were a close-knit clan.

Article in the Empire Newspaper Wed 5 Aug 1857 p2

There is mention of a "Hickey's Farm" in an article published in the Empire newspaper dated 5th of August 1857.


The article told of the effects of significant flooding in the Narrowgut / Morpeth / Phoenix Park area of the Hunter River District in New South Wales that year.


In the last paragraph there is mention that:

"Below Hinton the river broke over at several places, and poured a deluge of water into the adjacent hollows.  This was the case at Berry Park, Duckenfield, Hickey's Farm, Nelson's Plains, and Miller's Forest - all the low lands in these localities were covered with water."

Was this my 3x great grandfather's farm?


Map of Hunter River District around Maitland - shows location of Wallalong, Phoenix Park and Narrowgut.
Oral family stories mention that James originally tenanted a farm at Wallalong sometime in the 1850s, moved across the river to Phoenix Park, and at some time tenanted farmland in Cooley Camp (later known as Bolwarra).

Given that James's brother Denis had died in 1852, then perhaps the "Hickey's Farm" mentioned in that 1857 newspaper was indeed the farm of James Hickey.  The death of his brother Denis would have been a terrible blow to James, considering they had made the journey out to Australia together and spent their lives in the colony living in the same places.

I have little knowledge of the life of James during his years spent farming in the Hunter River District.  Did he end up owning his own land, or did he spend his life as a tenant farmer?

Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser Sat 21 Jun 1879 p16

James Hickey died on the 14th of June, 1879 and the death notice published on Saturday the 21st of June states:

"Mr. James Hickey, senior, died on Saturday night, the 14th inst., at his late residence, Narrowgut."

The article also mentions that he was an "old and respected resident of the district" who had been a "native of Ireland, but has spent thirty-nine years in this colony, always located in the Hunter River  district."  It was wonderful to see that he was described as "of a remarkably active temperament, and possessed a warm-hearted, genial disposition, which served to endear him to a large circle of friends."  The death notice also mentions that James died "with his children all around him", which seems to indicate the closeness of the family unit.

James's death certificate stated that he died of "senile debility" and that he was survived by 7 of his children - Patrick was 46, the twins John and Thomas were 44, Bridget was 40, Ellen (my great great grandmother) was 38 and Michael was 35.  That means his eldest son Dennis was deceased by that time.

The death certificate also lists 1 other male as deceased, and 1 female.  I know that James and Margaret had lost a son named William before they left Ireland, but I have not yet found any record of a third daughter born to them, either in Ireland or Australia.  These details were given by son Michael, so I'm assuming he would have known the true facts and I now have some more researching to do!




I'm once again joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2019 project / challenge.


I'm catching up with the prompt for Week 31 of 2019 - ''Brother".

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52Ancestors.

Check out this FB page:  Amy Johnson Crow

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The Story of James Hukins

This week's post tells the story of my paternal Great Great Great Grandfather, James Hukins  (1792 - 1871).

When James was born in July of 1792, his father John Hukins was 33 years old and his mother, Eizabeth Crittenden was 38.  James was the seventh child and the second son born to John and Elizabeth, according to the records I've managed to track down so far.

His eldest sister Sarah had been born in 1777.
Brother Richard came along in 1779.
Sister Mary had been born in 1781.
Sister Elizabeth had come along in 1782.
Sister Charlotte had been born in 1785.
Sister Ann came along in 1788.

It does seem a little odd that John and Elizabeth had not named a son after his father, given they had named one of their daughters after her mother.  Perhaps there had been another little one born at some stage, but had died quite soon afterwards and had been named John.  I have not found a record to back up this assumption though.


James, 3x great grandfather, was born in Woodchurch, Kent, Engand where the Hukins family had been farming the land for two generations up to that point.

Map showing the location of the Susan's Hill area

James' great grandfather, John Hukins (c. 1701-1763) had first come to Woodchurch around 1730 and farmed at 'Susan's Hill', on the outskirts of the village of Woodchurch.  That was the beginning of the history of the Hukins family in this area.

Map showing the location of Hukins Farm on the outskirts of Woodchurch

















My 3x great grandfather James would have grown up on the land farmed by his father, John Hukins (1759-1819).

This is still known as 'Hukins Farm' and is located on Redbrook Street, half a mile north of Susan's Hill, and overlooking the land farmed by his great grandfather.

(This information is sourced from an article titled 'James & Susannah Hukins', written by Josie Mackie in the book named 'Leaving Woodchurch - Emigration from Woodchurch since the Seventeenth Century'.  I'm fortunate enough to have copy of this book and it has been invaluable for my research on James.  It has certainly made the job of digging up my 3x great grandfather's past a little easier).

The farmhouse on Hukins Farm




The house that still stands on Hukins Farm is likely to be the house where my 3x great grandfather spent his childhood.



James obviously had a great love for the place where he grew up and was to pay respect to his childhood home later in his life, as will be mentioned a little further on in this post.



Sadly, when James was aged 16 his mother Elizabeth passed away.  James' father was now a widow but James' siblings were aged between 20 and 31 so it's likely most of them were helping out on the farm, or had begun lives of their own.  James remained living with his father for a number of years after the death of his mother.

At the age of 22, my 3x great grandfather James married Susannah Fullagar.

Banns were posted in December of 1814 and early January of 1815,



They were married in the All Saint's Church in Woodchurch on the 12th of January 1815.

The two families, the Hukins and the Fullagars, had been friends for three generations.

Susannah was the great granddaughter of John Fullagar (1700-1746) who had settled in Woodchurch in 1734 and ran the Bonny Cravat Inn till his death 12 years later.  Susannah's father, John Fullagar, had also run the Bonny Cravat for 20 years.  Susannah's mother Elizabeth took over after the death of her husband John.  Susannah's brother Thomas had then taken over from his mother and ran the inn for 4 years.

James (my 3x great grandfather) was the grandson of John Hukins (1730-1803) who had run the Bonny Cravat Inn for seventeen years.   James' Great Uncle (his grandfather's brother) James Hukins (1741-1823) had taken over as innkeeper in 1775 as well.

The running of the Bonny Cravat Inn had basically been passed between Fullagars and Hukins for nearly a century between 1734 and 1820.

As mentioned previously, my 3x great grandfather James continued working as a farm labourer on his father's farm until he started his own working life as Innkeeper at the Bonny Cravat in 1824.  He took over the license along with his wife Susannah, and they ran the inn for 13 years.  Innkeeping was in their blood!

During the time that James was innkeeper, the Bonny Cravat Inn was often used as a courtroom and several smugglers were sentenced to death inside the inn before being hung on gallows that were erected outside!

After James married Susannah, they went on to have nine children over a period of sixteen years.

Daughter Elizabeth (known as Betsy) was born only seven months after James and Susannah had married, in July of 1815.
Son John was born in 1817.

James' father, John Hukins, died two years later in 1819.  James was now aged 27.

Son James was born in 1820.
Son Crittenden came along in 1821.
Son Adolphus was born in 1823.

It was during the following year that my 3x great grandfather began his career as an innkeeper.

Daughter Sabina was born at the beginning of 1825.

Sadly, James lost his sister Elizabeth at the end of 1825.  She was survived by her husband and four children.

In 1828, son Norman was born, but sadly only survived for a couple of weeks.

Daughter Cassandra was born in 1829.
Daughter Adelaide came along in 1832.  By this time James was 39 years old.

James and wife Susannah were still innkeepers at this time, but this was not to last.  By 1837 James had found himself in dire circumstances.  He was by now in severe financial trouble, evidenced in the listing that appeared in the London Gazette of late 1837.

London Gazette Nov 1837

James was petitioning the Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors.  Interestingly, the article lists James as "formerly of Woodchurch", so it seems he had left the village, had given up running the inn, and appeared to be living in Maidstone, Kent at this time.


He must have moved back to Woodchurch though because a mere two years later James and his family were preparing to emigrate, and were being assisted by Parish funds.


Minutes of the Woodchurch Parish meeting of the 30th of March 1839 lists items provided by the parish to assist the Hukins family for emigration to Australia aboard the ship Cornwall.

The minutes show that James Hukins was provided with:
"2 pairs duck trousers, 1 smock frock, 8 shirts, 2 flannel jackets, 1 flannel drawers, 1 cotton drawers stout, 5 pairs woollen hose, 1 hat, 2 pair shirts."

Given that James was provided with a "stout" pair of cotton drawers, I think it's safe to assume that he was a large man!

As for 'duck trousers', I had to look that one up!

Apparently it refers to trousers made of cotton duck material - heavy, plain woven cotton fabric and would have looked something like this:


Gravesend, on the River Thames,
was the major port of departure for emigrants

James, aged 47, his wife Susannah, aged 48, their seven unmarried children, John aged 22, James aged 19, Crittenden aged 18, Adolphus (my great great grandfather) aged 16, Sabina aged 13, Cassandra aged 10 and Adelaide aged 7 all travelled to Gravesend to board the ship that would take them to Australia.

Accompanying them was their married daughter, Elizabeth aged 24, her husband Edward Daw and young son Edward, aged 1; as well as Elizabeth's brother-in-law Philp Daw, his wife Sarah and their four children.


James, his wife Susannah and their four youngest children were listed together as a family on the immigrant passenger record, whilst the three older boys were listed under 'unmarried males' and their eldest daughter was listed with her husband and child as a separate family.

The ship Cornwall departed Gravesend on the 12th of May 1839 and arrived in Sydney, Australia on the 1st of September 1839.  The voyage lasted for 114 days and covered 15, 682 miles.  In anyone's mind's eye this sounds like a challenging experience, especially given the time period.

At no point during the long journey were the emigrants able to disembark and stretch their legs.  They would have seen the Isle of Wight three days into the voyage, then on day 71 the ship have passed the Cape of Good Hope, after which it would have entered the Indian Ocean.  After a further 16 days and 2,650 miles, the ship would have arrived at Ile St. Paul, midway between the Cape of Good Hope and the west coast of Australia.  The Cornwall 'hove to' for the day near this uninhabited volcanic island, and the opportunity was taken to catch and eat fresh fish.


On day 107 of the journey, the emigrants first sighted their new home when their ship entered Bass Strait, between the southern coast of mainland Australia and the island of Van Diemen's Land (as it was known then).  Three days later, Cornwall rounded Cape Howe, where the coast of New South Wales began; then on day 114 at 2 a.m. the light on South Head was seen and the Cornwall 'hove to' until daylight.  At 6.30 a.m. on September 2nd, with the pilot aboard, the ship passed through Sydney Heads and entered Port Jackson.  The emigrants were allowed to disembark the following day, September 3rd, after several gentlemen boarded the ship to inspect the emigrants and select servants for their estates.

I have spoken in previous posts about the journeys of many of my immigrant ancestors and have covered things like - the sights seen on the journey, the living conditions experienced, the length of the voyages and some of the more significant events along the way.  The reason I've been able to find out this type of information is that the colonial government required that each immigrant ship sail with a medical officer (after the disastrous voyage of the Second Fleet in 1789 - known afterwards as the Death Fleet - arriving in New South Wales with a mortality rate of 40%), and these men often kept quite detailed records.

Dr. Gilbert King was appointed Surgeon Superintendent on the immigrant ship Cornwall from London to Sydney in 1839, and his report gives a few extra details about the journey undertaken by 3x great grandfather and his family.
"When the weather permitted Divine Service was performed by reading the Prayers and a sermon afterwards every Sunday performed on the quarter deck, but if unfavourable that important duty was performed between decks, to the emigrants.  In the afternoon, and every evening during the voyage we had a short religious service on the main deck.  ----  A school was established shortly after we sailed, and from forty to sixty children attended with decided benefit.  The regulations established for the preservation of health under cleanliness and ventilation.  The beds were stowed on deck every morning unless the weather was very boisterous and wet.  The emigrants washed themselves every morning, and having appointed two washing days weekly, every facility was thus afforded them of keeping their linen clean.  Once a week their beds were opened out and aired on deck.  ---- The greater part of the day was occupied performing the service connected with the above arrangements and in attending to their own personal and family caring; and in fine weather they had singing and dancing on the quarter deck every lawful day.
        Signed, Gilbert King M D Surgeon."


After arriving in Sydney, my 3x great grandfather James found work as a farm labourer with a Thomas Croft Esq. at Wollongong, about 50 miles to the south of Sydney.   My 3x great grandmother, James' wife Susannah was also employed as a farm labourer, and all the younger children would have worked alongside their parents.

The three older sons found work in Sydney and remained there.  The eldest son John and second eldest James both found work with Bishop Broughton (the first Anglican bishop in Australia) as a gardener and coachman, respectively.  The third eldest son, Crittenden, found work with a Mr. Foster as a groom.

Tragedy struck the family almost immediately after their arrival however.  Within four months, Crittenden was killed in an accident with horses.  He died in January of 1840 at the age of 18.  That would have been a terrible blow for James, having already lost a son about eleven years earlier.

By mid-1840 James had attained the position of convict overseer on the Berry Estate.  At that time was estate around 32,000 acres in size held by Alexander Berry, located north of the Shoalhaven River.  Over time though the Berry Estate was enlarged by grant and purchase to 80,000 acres in size, stretching from Gerringong in the north to Wollumboola in the south, and from the coast to beyond Broughton Creek (later re-named Berry) in the west.

This was a position of some standing and importance.  It does seem however, that James had empathy towards the convicts.  A tale shared by his 3x great granddaughter and recorded in the book 'Leaving Woodchurch - Emigration from Woodchurch since the Seventeenth Century' states that:
"James' convict master realised that his sugar, which was a valuable and scarce resource at that time, was going missing.  He told James that he believed the convicts in James' charge were responsible, a thing which James denied absolutely.  
A trap was set to prove this one or another and who should fall into that trap but the sister-in-law of the convict master himself, who wanted the sugar for her cooking!  
It may well be that James had some sympathy for the convicts under his charge as he would have known at least one who was transported for seven years, William Hampton, brother of Benjamin Hampton, one of his fellow travellers on the Cornwall."
       
In recognition of his services as a convict overseer, James was offered a grant of land some miles south of Wollongong, but he declined this offer as he considered the land impoverished and not worthy of his time and labour!


James worked as a tenant farmer for landowners such as Captain Steven Addison Esq., who had a property of considerable size known as the Peterborough Estate in the Shellharbour area.



As a matter of fact, Steven Addison made particular mention of my 3x great grandfather during his speech at his farewell dinner held in 1848.




Part of this speech was published in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald as follows:

Sydney Morning Herald - Wed 20 Sept 1848 p2

"Captain Addison rose to return thanks ... he had come to this district and had settled on what all thought a wilderness.  He had greatly improved it ... but if he had not been blessed with such tenants as Mr. James Hukins and family, and ably supported by good neighbours, all he could have done would have availed to nothing."



The life of a tenant farmer would have been one of daily toil from sun-up to sunset. 


Landowners would let out plots of land and grant "clearing leases".  The tenant farmer was required to clear trees, fence plots and erect habitable structures within the period of the lease, which was usually two to five years.




Plots of land for clearing leases were mostly around ten or twelve acres, but if a tenant farmer was industrious and could prove his worth, he might be allowed as many acres as he could manage.  If a tenant farmer had strong hard-working family members to help, then a clearing lease might be granted for plots as large as twenty or thirty acres.

Once cleared, the land was "let" on the halves principle - the landowner provided the land, seed, animals and tools and then took half the produce as a form of rent payment.  This was the life of James Hukins for around ten years, beginning when we would have been around 52 years of age.



Historical Electoral Rolls for Kiama, New South Wales 1855-1856

In 1854, at the ripe old age of 62, James then became a landowner himself.  He bought 464 acres of land on Curramore Estate in Jamberoo.  A year after that he sold 114 of these acres to each of his three sons - John, James and Adolphus - and kept 114 acres for himself.  He named this patch of land 'Susan's Hill' which you may recall had been the name of a tract of land back in Devon, England where he had spent his childhood years.

James was to live out the remainder of his life at 'Susan's Hill'.

Sadly, in 1861 two of his sisters died, and then in 1862 his wife, Susannah, passed away.  They had been married for 47 years and James was 69 years of age.


James himself passed away in 1871, at the age of 79.

Death Notice - Empire, Friday 20 January 1871, page 1

The death notice posted in the Empire newspaper on the 20th of January stated:

"DEATHS.  On Saturday, 14th January, at his residence Susan's Hill, Jamberoo, suddenly Mr. James Hukins sen., native of Woodchurch, Kent, England, aged 78 years."

Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser Sat 28 Jan 1871




Another newspaper article stated that James had suffered an apoplectic attack whilst walking on the verandah at his house and had collapsed and died.












I'm once again joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2019 project / challenge.


I'm catching up with the prompt for Week 30 of 2019 - ''Easy".

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52Ancestors.

Check out this FB page:  Amy Johnson Crow

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Story of William Henry Browning

This is the story of my paternal Great Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Browning (1800 - 1867).



William was born in Launceston, Cornwall, England.  His father was John Browning and his mother was Elizabeth Jackett.


William was baptised at the Wesleyan St Mary Magdalene Church, in Launceston in September.

The baptism record does not indicate a date of birth, but I'm assuming William was born in that same year - 1800.



By the time William was born, his mother had given birth to four other children but sadly, two of them had already died.

Hannah had been born in 1792, but died in 1795.
John had come along in 1794.
The first son named William had been born in 1796.  He died a few months later.
Another girl was born in 1798 and she was also named Hannah.
After the birth of my 3x great grandfather, another daughter named Mary was born in 1803.

I have not been able to discover anything much about my 3x great grandfather William's childhood whilst growing up in Cornwall.  His hometown Launceston was a fairly busy little market town, apparently known for its wool industry and straw hats!  The population would have been around 1,500 whilst William was growing up.

William's father, John Browning, died in 1820 when William was 19 years old.  It does seem that the family had fallen on hard times by then, as the death record for William's father listed his residence at that time as the 'Poorhouse'.  I do wonder what William's life was like at that point.

When his father died, William's mother Elizabeth would have been aged 58.  William's brother John would have been 26, William's sister Hannah would have been 22, and sister Mary 17 years of age.  I wonder if they were all still living together, or perhaps some of William's siblings had already married and/or moved away looking for a way to make a living?



In July of 1822, at the age of 21, William got married at St. Sidwell Church in Exeter, Devon.

Exeter is about 42 miles to the east of Launceston, William's place of birth; so I've hypothesized that William, and perhaps other members of his family, had moved from Launceston in Cornwall to Exeter in Devon, perhaps in search of work.






William wed Nancy Littlejohns (although she had been baptised as Anne).


Nancy (Anne) was 20 years of age and had been born in Exeter, so the wedding appears to have taken place in her home town.






Over the following eighteen years, life appears to have become more and more difficult for William and his growing family.  The clues can be found in the places of birth and baptism of his first six children.

First-born, Susannah, was born in Exeter, Devon in 1823, when William was 23 years old.   (Susannah - Exeter)




By the time the second daughter Hannah was born, in 1825, it appears that William and his family had moved back to Launceston in Cornwall.  That is where Hannah was born and baptised.   (Hannah - Launceston)




It's likely William had moved back to Cornwall to be with his mother and extended family, perhaps because he had found it hard to support his wife Anne and his youngest child Susannah while living in Devon, or perhaps because his mother had fallen on hard times as well.

Sadly, William's mother passed away the following year, in 1826, and it appears that William once more left Cornwall.  When his son John Thomas came along in 1827, the family was back in Exeter, Devon.  (John Thomas - Exeter)


The family had again moved back to Launceston in Cornwall by 1830 however, and it appears they remained there for the following ten years.

Daughter Caroline Penelope (my great great grandmother) was born there in 1830.  Records of my 2x great grandmother's birth indicate that she had been born in the Poor House in Launceston, so it seems the family were destitute as this time and relying on parish funds.  My 3x great grandfather William was 29 years of age by then.

Son William Henry came along in 1832.
Daughter Dinah was born in 1835.
Daughter Mary Anne was born in 1837.
All of these children were born in Launceston.

(Caroline, William, Dinah and Mary Anne - Launceston)

Tragically, William and Nancy's daughter Dinah died in 1838, aged just 3.  William was now 38 years old.

Life was in general very, very difficult for William and his family during this time.  I know this because of information taken from an article published in the Northern Star on the 21st of July 2015 based on a book written by Esme Smith titled "The Browning story: tracings from the past".  

This book traces some of the history of William Browning and his wife Anne, and according to the author:
"Over the next few years the young couple found work difficult to find and on several occasions they had to resort to parish relief. By the end of the 1830s, and with six children, they apparently decided that they should look somewhere else for their future. They chose Australia."
William was no doubt feeling that the difficulties finding work and simply trying to exist and feed his family must have seemed insurmountable in his home country.  There had been lots of changes happening in the economy around that time. 
Launceston, Cornwall  circa 1830


Launceston was witness to a period of industrial decline in the early 1800s, with the closure of much of the wool industry in the area due to industrial revolution advances happening in the north of England.  The wool spinning factories closed down, along with the serge mill which ended over 200 years of serge production in the area.  Agriculture was also facing mounting difficulties during this period with the loss of most of their labourers due to low wages.

So it seems, like many others before and after him, William had started wondering about other options that might lead to a better life for himself and his family.  At the same time, the Bounty Scheme had come into existence in the Colonies and would have seemed quite enticing.

This scheme allowed settlers in the penal colony of New South Wales to recruit their own workers in the United Kingdom.  

Under the Bounty Scheme, settlers who needed workers paid the emigrants' passages.  They employed agents to recruit suitable workers in many of the embarkation ports of the U.K.  

Upon arrival in New South Wales, these workers were examined by a Board, and if the Board was satisfied with the condition of these workers, the settler would be issued with a certificate entitling him to claim back the bounty money he had paid from the Government.  



Very often it was the poor house / workhouse inmates who were encouraged by the parish to take up the opportunity of emigration, as the burden of providing for increasing numbers of people needing parish relief became overwhelming.  It's likely that William and his family, who were often in and out of the poor house, had taken heed of the advice of the parish and prepared for a new life elsewhere.

New South Wales, Australia 1828 - 1842: Bounty Immigrants List:  1840

William and his family boarded the ship 'Premier' at the port of Plymouth on April 2nd 1840.  

At the time William was 39 years of age.  His occupation was recorded as 'Gardener', which is an interesting turn of events.  I wonder if he did indeed have a job as a gardener at that time?  

It was noted on the Assisted Immigrants Passenger List that William was a Protestant and could both read and write.

William embarked on this journey with his wife Anne (it seems she no longer went by the name Nancy) aged 38, whose occupation was recorded as 'House Servant'; along with his children John aged 13, William aged 8, Caroline (my great great grandmother) aged 9, and Mary Anne aged 3.  

William's other two daughters were recorded on the passenger list separately under the single female section.  Susan's age was recorded as 16 (but my records show she was actually aged 18) and her occupation was listed as 'Childsmaid', whilst Hannah was aged 16 and her occupation was listed as 'Kitchen Maid'.

William and his family had been bought out by the Australian Agricultural Company, sponsored by a Mr. Capper who had paid an 18 pound bond for William and his wife, a 10 pound bond for the 13 year old John, the 8 year old William and the 9 year old Caroline; as well as a 18 pound bond for both the older girls, Susan and Hannah.

The journey from Plymouth to Port Jackson turned out to be quite a short journey for that time period - only 90 days!  The ship Premier left with a total of 159 immigrants and only four infants were lost during the voyage.  

It turned out to be a memorable trip for all on board, but for reasons other than the usual - which included being at the mercy of the weather (unrelenting heat when crossing the Equator), being stuck in the doldrums, existing for lengthy periods in stinking cramped unhygenic living conditions, poor food, the risk of being seasick or possibly suffering life-threatening illnesses; and of course the more interesting events such as the sighting of islands, sea creatures, phosphorus water, sharks, flying fish and magnificent sea birds. 

As if all that wasn't enough for William and his family, they were also involved in a mutiny!  The headlines of the day read:  Mutiny on Board the Emigrant Ship Premier.


The Sydney Herald, Friday 3rd Jul 1840, p.2
All of the newspaper articles written at the time explained the events in this way:

The ship's captain, Captain Were was on his first voyage to the colonies and his authority was tested when a few of the crew acted with insubordination and total disrespect. It appears that about a fortnight before the ship arrived in New South Wales, some of the seamen went on strike (which was a mutinous act back then), according to one newspaper article "owing to some discontentedness on their part", although the exact nature of this discontentedness is never really explained.  

The Captain then enlisted the aid of emigrants to work the vessel for one day.  Following this there appears to have been a confrontation between the seamen on strike and the Captain, one of them called the Captain "a liar, and struck him".  The Captain, with the assistance of the officers and some of the emigrants, rounded up the man who had hit Captain Were and the other three "ringleaders" and shackled them in irons for the remainder of the voyage.

The viewpoint of all the articles published at the time is definitely in favour of the Captain, with decidedly persuasive language used to talk about the crew and their actions.  Phrases such as "vile notions of the seamen", "extreme indolence", "crimp taught fellows", were obviously intended to skew the viewpoint of the readers against these lowly seamen.


The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Thursday 2nd July 1840, p. 2

Upon arrival, the four men were incarcerated in the Sydney Gaol and bought before the Court to answer the charges laid.

The Court case was reported in the newspapers of the day in great detail.  One of the reports of the incident on board, recorded by the Surgeon Superintendent Mr. John Turner, was presented at the trial and published in the newspapers.  In that report my 3x great grandfather was mentioned:
"Towards evening a report was circulated by an Immigrant. William Browning that " bloody work" would be the consequence if the Immigrants persisted in assisting the Captain. The man Browning himself acquainted me of this, wishing me to use my influence with the Captain to prevent his further notice of the mutinous transactions and pardon the offenders.   This I contemptuously refused to do, and having that most of our recruits had deserted from fear, and others wavering I again assembled them for the purpose of banishing their fears, in which I was successful, as also adding a few to their number."

So it seems that my 3x great grandfather, William Browning, actually stood up for the seamen and thought that the the assistance given to the Captain by the immigrants was "bloody work"!  He actually asked the the "offenders" be pardoned!  Obviously this was not a popular opinion and he was standing up to the beliefs of not only the Captain, but the officers and many of the immigrant passengers.  

I just love the fact that William was an advocate for these so-called mutineers!!  Why would he do that?  Well, if you looked closely at the emmigrant record for William, you would see that the occupation of his father was listed as: Sailor.  It seems that William had a very good idea of the working life and conditions of the seamen on board the ship, and was firmly placed in their corner!

I find another sentence in the report written by the Surgeon Superintendent very interesting indeed!  After the initial mention of my 3x great grandfather's involvement in the 'mutiny', Mr. John Turner goes on to say:
"The conduct of two of the immigrants William Browning and James Leek, during the progress of the mutiny, was most disgraceful - exciting their companions to add fuel to the already ignited flame; their expressions were also very disgusting. (Signed,) JOHN TURNER. M.R.C.S.L. Surgeon Superintendent."
I think the statement that William's (and James Leek's) "expressions were also very disgusting" is designed to paint my 3x great grandfather in a very bad light, but says more about the person of John Turner than William.  William is a bit of a legend to me!


The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser Tue 18 Aug 1840 p 2

Interestingly, as a side note, the mutineers were "discharged on their own recognizances" once Captain Were had left port on his ship!


William Browning was to spend most of his life in Australia working as a shepherd.  




He initially worked for the Australian Agricultural Company at Carrington, Stroud and Goonoo Goonoo on the central coast of New South Wales.  These properties were mostly around 1000 square kilometres or more, which were massive at the time.

Information gleaned when researching the lives of shepherds during the 1840s to the 1850s, indicates that the life of a shepherd was tough, very tough indeed.



Their duties included looking after the flock during the day, and flock sizes were mostly quite huge in the days of colonial Australia - in the hundreds, sometimes thousands - so that would have been challenging.  

The stations were unfenced so there would have been frequent loss of livestock when sheep wandered off and became separated from the flock.  Other threats would have included attacks by dingoes and theft by the Aborigines living on the same land.

A shepherd would take the flock of sheep out to graze before the sun rose in the morning.  He would have carried his meagre ration of food with him and spent the long day keeping watch, trying to prevent sheep from becoming lost, injured, or becoming food for dingoes or the indigenous population.  

In the summertime, the shepherd would have to see that the flock had water in order to survive the heat of the day; and would likely have tried to herd sheep under the shade of trees when the heat became unbearable.

At night the shepherds would pen the flock in 'folds', which were basically enclosures made with 'hurdles'.  These were movable as the flock would be constantly on the move.




Shepherds generally lived in makeshift huts on the stations, in close proximity to the position of the flock, and living conditions would have been quite primitive.  

Their diet would have been poor and monotonous, and they would have been exposed to attacks from the indigenous population.

This was the everyday life of William, his wife Anne and his growing family.  No doubt Anne and the children would have helped out with looking after the sheep.  Having arrived in Australia with a family of six children, William and Anne went on to have another four children and they basically lived a tough life, working under very poor conditions. 

James Francis was born in August 1841, a year after the family had arrived in the colonies.  He was baptised in Port Stephens, central coastal New South Wales.

William's eldest daughter Susannah was married the following month, September 1841, at the age of 18.  Sadly, she passed away a mere two years later in 1843.

William's second eldest daughter Hannah married in December of 1841, not long after her eldest sister.  Hannah was aged 16 when she married a convict.  She was widowed just a year later.



My 3x great grandfather William and 3x great grandmother Anne had a son Joseph Edward born in 1845.  By this time William was 44 years old.  He had been employed by Ward Stephens and had worked on Runnymede Station.

William's and Anne's third eldest daughter, Caroline Penelope (my great great grandmother), was married in January of 1846 when she was aged only 15.

Another daughter, named Elizabeth, was born in 1846 in October, but sadly died the following month.

The last born child of William and Anne, a son named Matthew, was born in 1847.  By this time William was aged 46 and was working for Matthew Marsh at Maryland on the Darling Downs in Queensland.

I have very little information about William's life after this apart from the fact that he selected land at Rosehill, near Lismore in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, and lived out the rest of his life there.



William died in 1867 and was buried at Rosehill on the Richmond River, near Lismore.  It appears that William's son Joseph, who was completing the details of the death record, gave an incorrect age for his father.  Given that William's age was recorded on the immigrant passenger record for 1840 as 39 years of age, then I think William would have only been 66 years of age when he died.  That would also match with the baptism record showing William was baptised (and likely born) in 1800.




I'm once again joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2019 project / challenge.


I'm catching up with the prompt for Week 26 of 2019 - 'Legend'.

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52Ancestors.

Check out this FB page:  Amy Johnson Crow


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