What if they were friends?

One aspect of our lives that rarely appears in our family trees are our friends.  Unless someone marries one, or the child of one, you really don’t know much about your family’s friends.

My gg-grandparents Robert William Black and Emily Kinley Wilson are alleged to be cousins of some sort.  Unfortunately, due to the paucity of records about their families, this has never been proven.  However, a new theory has come to me recently.  What if their fathers were friends?

Robert William’s father Robert lived and worked in Dungannon until he immigrated with his family in 1863.  He was a draper by trade.  His marriage certificate says his father Joseph was a farmer, so it was not a family trade.  So where did he learn it?  Most likely with another draper in Dungannon.

One of the drapers in Dungannon around the time Robert would have been looking for an apprenticeship was Thomas Kinley.  He seems to have been quite a wealthy man, as directories from 1824 have him associated with various businesses including as agent for an insurance company and the East India Company.

Thomas was the son of John Kinley and Mary Carr.  His sister Anne married John Wilson, the minister at Lecumpher Presbyterian Church.  Their son William E Wilson immigrated to Pennsylvania where he had a daughter Emily Kinley Wilson.

So put it simply, Robert William’s father may have worked for Emily’s great-uncle.

So would Robert (Snr) and William E ever met?  It seems likely.  Thomas Kinley’s oldest daughter (and William’s cousin) was called Emily and she lived in Dungannon.

And if we want to add some soap to all of this, perhaps William E wanted to marry Emily but wasn’t allowed, so he immigrated to Pennsylvania.  She married Rev. Robert Hamilton in 1848, shortly before William E left.

So far, all of this is supposition.  How do we prove it?

With great difficulty, is the answer.  Although the thought did come to me tonight, that I have never researched William E in Ireland.  I’ve always been busy looking for him in Pennsylvania.  So off to search!


My Pride and Prejudice Moment

There are always stories about art imitating life and life imitating art.  It’s always amusing when doing your family history to find an event that seems to come out of one of your favourite books.  In this case, Pride and Prejudice.  We all remember the delight of Elizabeth Bennet’s younger sisters when the army came to town and that in the end it resulted in her sister Lydia running off with the less than appropriate George Wickham.

So imagine my amazement when, on a whim, I went looking for the Greacen name in the British (rather than Irish) newspapers and found this report in the Morning Chronicle of 24 August 1824:

MONAGHAN ASSIZES, AUGUST 3 – An action for damages was brought by Mr N. Greacen, a printer in Monaghan, against the Ensign Unit [think this may be a name, not a military unit], for the seduction of the plaintiff’s daughter.  Damages were laid at 3,000L.  The case was opened by Mr Holmes in a most eloquent speech.  The direct and cross examination of the female (who stated herself to be only sixteen years of age) occupied a considerable time; and the case having closed for the prosecution, Mr Bell proceeded to address the Jury for the defendant, who declined calling any witnesses.  The Jury having consulted for some time without coming to any satisfactory decision, it was at length agreed on the recommendation of the Learned Judge, to withdraw a Juror, each party paying its own costs.

Why I didn’t find this in an Irish newspaper?  The OCR which indexes newspapers really doesn’t like the word ‘Greacen’ and so it’s one of those things that you need to know you need find!  But searching in August 1824 for ‘seduction’ got a lot of results (and not just this case – seduction appears to have been popular in 1824).  Most of the Irish newspapers of the time carried the story – word for word as above.  Only the Dublin Evening Post of 12 August adds this tantalizing part to the story:

Although this story seemed to have excited extraordinary interest in Monaghan and the neighbourhood, we have, partly out of tenderness to one of the parties concerned, but more particularly from a conviction that its publication would be hurtful to public morals, determined to suppress a report of it which had been prepared for the press.

The other newspapers seem to have followed suit.

Like the long suffering Mr Bennet, my 4x gt-grandfather Nathaniel Greacen had lots of daughters – 7 in total (unlike Mr Bennet, he also had 2 sons).  My research on the family so far has managed to find names for all the children, but only details on a few of them.

If we take the 1821 Census Fragment that lists the Greacen family as being fairly accurate in its ages of the children (and that is up for debate as no two documents seem to be the same on this!), then the Miss Greacen is probably daughter Nancy (aged 14 in 1821) or possibly Ellen (aged 11).  Neither sister has appeared subsequently in any records I’ve found – so far but the OCR is conspiring against me here.

There is no sign in the newspapers that Miss Greacen married her Ensign.  But I have no marriage details for the middle Greacen sisters.  But you do have to feel sorry for her as it all went very public and her father’s solution was to sue for damages.  At least they didn’t name her.  But as we all know from Pride and Prejudice:

Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex. – Mary Bennett

As an aside, the lawyer Mr Holmes also presents some interesting suggestions for further research.  There was allegedly a marriage between one of Nathaniel’s daughters and a Holmes (and Nancy and Ellen are two I don’t have husbands for!).  The Northern Standard, the local Monaghan newspaper, was founded in 1839 by Arthur Wellington Holmes and later run by his bachelor brother John.  Just before his death, John sold the newspaper to a William Swan.  This may have been Nathaniel’s grandson, son of his daughter Elizabeth and her first husband James Swan.


Children of Nathaniel Greacen and his wife Jane

From the 1821 Census Fragment we have the following children:

James – age 17 in 1821, born c.1804

Newspapers report James’ death in 1845, have not found evidence of family – yet.

Elizabeth – age 15 in 1821, born c.1806

Married James Swan around 1730 and had 4 children.  James was tragically killed when a beam in his drapery shop collapsed on him in 1839.  Elizabeth then married Richard Foster Blakely in 1841.  His will lists 3 sons whom I am currently assuming are hers.

Elizabeth’s daughter Jane Elizabeth Swan married missionary Samuel Kelso and they immigrated to Australia.  Her son Nathaniel Walter Swan followed his sister not long after and was a renown author.  (See Rootsweb post for further details of their families).

Nancy – age 14 in 1821, born c.1807

Ellen – age 11 in 1821, born c.1810

Sarah – age 9 in 1821, born c. 1812

Jane – age 7 in 1821, born c. 1814

She is referred to in her brother-in-law Richard Foster Blakely’s will in 1891 as being alive and unmarried, but nothing further is known.

Hanna – age 5 in 1821, born c.1816

Newspapers report Hannah’s death at the age of 19 in 1839…

Rachel – age 3 in 1821, born c.1818

My 3xgt-grandmother – family records here in New Zealand have her birth around 1824…

Her brother-in-law Richard Blakely was a witness at her marriage to Robert Black in 1847.

And additionally, post 1821:

Nathaniel – born around 1823 and died in 1877

He married twice.  Firstly to Eleanor Henry and then to an Esther who outlived him.

Upping Sticks: What happened to the Black children?

Updated: 2 January 2016

I recently spent time reading through my Grandad’s notes on the Black family again.  I thought I might detail what happened to Robert and Rachel Black’s children – both from Grandad and his second cousin Jane’s research and what I’ve subsequently found out.

Robert William (1848-1931)

My gg-grandfather was sent back to Ireland in 1872 to marry my gg-grandmother Emily Kinley Wilson who had been born in Pennsylvania.  I’ve detailed their life and his partnership with Robert Beattie in Black, Beattie & Co at the Criterion.

Greacen Joseph (1850-1932)

Greacen was Jane’s grandfather.  And while Grandad has great notes about his children (Jane’s father, aunts and uncles), he hasn’t written anything on Greacen himself.  So this is a potted biog from my own notes.

Greacen lived in Akaroa for many years, farming there and running a shop  named Criterion like his father’s in Christchurch.  From local paper reports it would appear his brother Richard on and off too.

Greacen diversified his farming activities to the East Cape and moved to Gisborne in 1905.  He was a noted collector and his collections can now be found in the Tairawhiti Museum in Gisborne.

Greacen married Mary McKay in 1879 and had 8 children at Akaroa, of whom 6 survived to adulthood.  I’m in touch with Jane’s family, so if you’re after more information on Greacen, get in touch and I’ll pass it along.

Henry / “Harry” (1852-1899)

Harry started out working for his father and then went out on his own.  A letter dated 9 July 1879 from Greacen says:

Harry is on his own hook now, but I don’t think he is making a pile.  I think he flirts a good deal up in Christchurch.  I don’t see much of him myself.

Grandad didn’t find much more on Harry in or near Christchurch, but his alleged womanizing ways were compounded by his drinking (shock! horror! to the teetotal Black family).  Later, Harry moved to Australia and ended up in Hobart where he was thought to have died around 1894.

From Grandad’s notes, Henry does seem to have left the most amusing impression on his nephews and nieces.  I quote:

By family tradition Harry died of the booze.  His death is known to have been held up to his nephews as an awful warning of the results of the demon drink.

To achieve this by age 42 would require quite diligent application.  The writer therefore wonders whether in Robt Wm’s certainly teetoal and possibly dour Presbyterian household Harry’s thirst may have been exaggerated.  The lack of a death certificate, which might cast some light on the matter, is regretted.

Grandad was looking in the wrong time period for Harry’s death.  A family story that his uncle Tom has been sent to Hobart to pay Harry’s debts after his death.  Tom just missed catching the Wairarapa home.  The Wairarapa wrecked on Great Barrier Island with the loss of 121 of the 235 people on board.  This occurred on 29 October 1894.  Grandad spent a great deal of time looking for Harry’s death around then but could not find it.

Because he died in 1899.  The death entry in Hobart matches with family notices in Christchurch newspapers stating that he died at his sister’s house.

So did he die of the demon drink?  Official cause of death is “caries of the spine” which I believe is a form of TB.  His occupation is listed as “tutor”.

George Wilson (1853-1868)

The existence of George was unknown to Grandad and Jane until 1979 when Grandad found Robert and Rachel’s grave in Christchurch.  George was buried with them.  His death certificate shows he died of consumption (TB) at Akaroa.  Grandad’s notes state there was no medical facility in Akaroa for consumptives at the time, so the location of his death is unknown.  Greacen is believed not to have moved there until 1871.

Richard Blakely (1855-???)

I have a separate post about my hunt for Richard.  He allegedly left New Zealand in 1879 for the US to study at a seminary college in Kentucky!!  I think he might have ended up in Victoria, Australia, but details are still sketchy.  No one in New Zealand currently knows what happened to him and the possible suspect in Australia left no children.

Before he left, Richard spent time in Akaroa with Greacen.  They were members of the Akaroa Mutual Improvement Society.  In April 1877, he presented a paper on “Courtship and Marriage“.  Richard’s departure soon after was mourned by the Society who noted “He would doubtlessly have been a tower of strength to the society, being enthusiastic in the cause, and possessed of superior debating power” (Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 20 April 1877).

Elizabeth Rachel (1857-1901)

Grandad made the following notes on Elizabeth:

In 1879 she married Charles F Creswell, a seed merchant in Sydney and went to live there.  Nothing more is known of her husband nor how she met him nor of her life in Australia.

She died of peritonitis at Hobart on 3.9.1901, aged 45.  The Creswells are not thought to have had any children.

Elizabeth and Charles married in Christchurch.  He was the son of Charles Frederick Creswell which makes things confusing, but they ran a well respected and successful business in Tasmania.  I still know nothing of how they met.

As for the no children….  A tree on Geni has suggested they had 3.  Trove online newspapers quickly filled in the blanks and confirmed:

  1. Harvey – 1884-1945 – born in Sydney
  2. Laurie May – 1892-? – born in Sydney – married Arthur William Henry Stallwood
  3. Arthur Robert – 1897-1974 – born in Hobart

I’ve found Arthur’s birth record and his WWI service record.  He was last heard of by the military in 1967 in Sydney.  His record includes a letter from his sister Laurie in 1919 wondering where he has got to.  I wasn’t sure if Arthur had any children (his siblings did), but as noted below in the comments, he did.

Harvey inherited his parent’s house at 67 Arthur Street, Hobart.  There’s still a house there of about the right era.

Sarah (1861-1863)

The existence of Sarah, like George, was unknown.  Jane found her on the Fiery Star’s passenger list.  Further research found the Fiery Star newsletter which details Sarah’s early death at sea and her burial.

Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan – Spanish Grandee

Updated: 25 April 2015 – photos!

I should start by saying that ‘Spanish Grandee’ is a description of what Jasper looked like from GR MacDonald – “tall, lean and dark – had the look of a Spanish grandee” – not an indication of his personality or nationality!  And here he is!

Photo of Jasper Pyne O'Callaghan

This photo was taken by Standish & Preece between 1885 and 1890 – the duration of their partnership. I’ve known about Jasper’s ancestors since I was about 11.  When my Gran died there were genealogies of the O’Callaghan’s amongst her possessions.  Only recently have I come across further papers which show her interest in her grandfather who died 9 years before she was born.  Included amongst them is a letter from GR MacDonald (creator of the GR MacDonald Dictionary of Canterbury Biographies – a very important resource for people with Canterbury ancestors!) and what I believe is her response.  Both have given me a starting point to write about Jasper’s life which is going to be quite long winded.  Most people in MacDonald’s have a short paragraph. Jasper’s entry takes up a whole card!  He certainly seemed to be in the middle of everything!

Fermoy, Ireland

Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan was born around 1839 in Fermoy, Ireland.  Not many specifics are known about him or his siblings in Ireland.  He was the fourth son of Denis O’Callaghan (1787-aft 1863) and Sarah Pyne (1804-?).

Denis O’Callaghan’s ancestry is document in Burke’s Irish Landed Gentry and other similar volumes available online (page 517).

Sarah Pyne was the daughter of Arthur Pyne of Ballyvolane House in County Cork.  Her family have been detailed in a series of articles by HF Morris in the Irish Genealogist (available on CD-Rom – try your library).

My Gran notes that he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin but had no information on when or if he graduated with a degree.  An online copy of “A Catalogue of the Graduates in the University of Dublin who have proceeded to degrees” lists Arthur Pyne O’Callaghan, Jasper’s older brother but not him, so no degree.  Jasper’s attendance there is still up for debate.  The 1924 version of the Alumni Dublinenses only goes to 1845 and the 1935 version is not available online, so it’s on the list of things to find out!

Upping Sticks

Jasper and his younger brother Thomas Robert were the first of Arthur Pyne’s many grandchildren to immigrate to New Zealand in 1861.  Why is not specifically known, but the O’Callaghans and Pynes were Protestents in a largely Catholic country which had recently seen famine, so it was certainly a sensible idea.  And at 22 and 19 respectively, the O’Callaghan brothers must have found it quite an adventure.

They arrived in Lyttleton, New Zealand in 1861 on the Chrysolite under Captain McIntyre.  She sailed from the Downs on April 18, 1861 and arrived on July 27.  The Lyttleton Times published a list of immigrants on July 24.  The O’Callaghan’s are not on it.  The July 31 issue clarifies – there were two Callaghans in the chief cabin.  Obviously these passengers were not immigrants in the poor sense! GR MacDonald backs this identification up with an article in the Star newspaper on 8 October 1875.

Giving evidence in a sheep rustling case (Mr MacDonald points out Jasper was not the defendant!), Jasper says that he has “fourteen years’ experience of sheep in the Colonies”, dating his arrival to 1861.

He and Thomas kept in touch with home, although not always remembering to add postage. In 1865 they were joined by their siblings Arthur Pyne, Elizabeth Pyne and Emily Christiana.

Finding references for Jasper in newspapers becomes difficult after this point.  Rev Arthur Pyne O’Callaghan got a lot more press!  And it can be hard to ascertain when only the surname is given which sibling (or other unrelated person!) it is.


Jasper settled in Fendalton (now a suburb of Christchurch) where he ran sheep and grew some crops. He went into partnership with John Leslie Henry Hendry.

Lyttleton Times - 26 Sep 1868

The auction above may not have been a normal business sale.  A meeting of the Riccarton Road Board in October 1868 mentions them being asked to collect the “Education Rate in Aid” for the district.  They decline as “the collection of their own Road rates being, in consequence of the present depression, already attended with great difficulty”. The same meeting finds Jasper tendering “for gravelling Fendallton and Riccarton Junction Road, 15 chains”.  He tendered 2s 9d and was outbid by C Lewis who tendered 2s.  His attempts to increase his income this way failing.

The Hendley/O’Callaghan partnership managed to survive the depression for a while but ultimately went bankrupt in July 1870.  A further court hearing in October Jasper gives more details of their problems:

we had a quantity of wet grain and we were not able to put in the crops for the following year on account of the river overflowing

If the economy was depressed, then nature had been the last straw.  Although JLH Hendry being named as co-respondent in the first divorce case in Canterbury may have also contributed.  The aggrieved husband Mr Ferguson was asking for £1,000 damages!  Infuriatingly, there is no report of what ultimately happened in the case.  It does not appear to have been resolved before the bankruptcy.

According to GR MacDonald went bankrupt a further 2 times – in July 1876 and March 1883.  Mr MacDonald’s letter to my Gran expresses a hope that she won’t be too upset by this.  It would have had a very negative effect on her family.


Farming and bankruptcy must have kept Jasper busy because he didn’t find time to marry until 1872 – eleven years after he arrived and at the age of 33. According to my Gran, her grandmother Winifred Alice Baker was a pupil at Mrs Sale’s School at Oxford.  Winifred was the only known child of Charles Baker and Emma King to be born in New Zealand.  Near her school was the farm of Arthur Pyne O’Callaghan.  At some point on a visit to his brother, Jasper met Winifred and charmed her into marriage.  She was only 19 when they wed.

Photo of a young Winifred Alice Baker

From the information provided by Walter Cook, it would appear that this photo dates to the 1890s.  It was taken by Wrigglesworth and Binns. Jasper and Winifred would go on to have 9 children – they’re listed below.

The Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry (CYC)

Jasper’s younger brother Thomas had joined the CYC in 1873.  The CYC was the local militia, although once you read some of the newspaper reports you wonder if it wasn’t just boys playing with horses and guns!  The CYC later evolved to become the Canterbury Mounted Rifles which first saw overseas service in the Boer War.  Among those who served then was Jasper and Thomas’ nephew Leslie George O’Callaghan (1879-1917) who survived the Boer War, only to be killed at Ypres in WWI.

Thomas was tragically killed in June 1874 when his horse shied and the wagon he was driving fell on top of him.  [The foreman of the inquest jury was ET Revell, doubtless a member of the Revell family Thomas’ 2 sisters had married into.]  Captain Stouts of the CYC encourages friends of Thomas’ to attend the funeral:

Funeral Notice - Press 9 Jun 1874 - TR O'Callaghan

Very soon after, Jasper joined the CYC.  This snippet from the Star on 16 May 1878 shows the sort of things they got up to…

Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry - Star 16 May 1878

And why did they miss the train?  I’ll leave that up to your imagination! I’m not trying to denigrate the CYC, but when Jasper turns up in the papers, there always seems to be alcohol involved!  They do turn up in the papers without him (and sober!).

Later life

Jasper joined the Papanui Cricket Club in 1874 – probably as my husband does – to get away from the family and (then) play cricket!  And in 1886, he became a member of the Christchurch Amateur Swimming Club. My Gran wrote the following to GR MacDonald:

The O’Callaghan family of nine, who were to lose their father early, must even in his lifetime known some vicissitudes.  He was of a generous disposition, had not been trained to practical farming, and after several bankruptcies and an unfortunate  gold-mining venture, was probably glad to accept  a position as Inspector with Selwyn County Council.

His generous nature is evidenced by his efforts to collect grain for the Irish Famine in 1880.  He was obviously very persuasive as the Timaru Herald reports him saying that “he had not met a single farmer who had not promised grain” (5 Feb 1880). GR MacDonald’s letter says this about the gold:

He was a Provisional Director of the North Creek Gold Mining Company and reported to the shareholders on a journey he had made up the Wilberforce River. (This was a hopeless affair) Jan ’84.

This was obviously Jasper’s next big idea after he went bankrupt in 1883! Press reports show that Jasper’s brother Arthur Pyne O’Callaghan was also involved.  The Company issued a prospectus in January 1884:

Press - 21 Jan 1884 - North Creek Mining Company

Two years later the company went into liquidation: Press - 5 Jan 1886 - North Creek Mining Company - liq

This had been agreed at a extraordinary meeting of the shareholders in July 1885. Jasper was appointed Inspector of Slaughterhouses in Selwyn County in December 1885.  He beat out 72 other people for the role.

Jasper died in 1895 of stomach cancer.  His children were aged 22 down to 10.  His wife Winifred died in 1932 aged 79.

Photo of Winifred Mrs O'Callaghan in old age

Children of Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan and Winifred Alice Baker

[+ had descedents; – no descendents; ? don’t know]

– MAY O’CALLAGHAN was born on 01 Jun 1873 and died in 1935. She married JAMES HASWELL WOOD (1874-1954) in 1917, son of James Haswell Wood and Susan Mrs Wood.

May O'Callaghan       May O'Callaghan and her nephew Gerald Nicholls

+ DORA SARAH O’CALLAGHAN was born on 28 Oct 1874 in Christchurch and died on 22 Jun 1922 in Christchurch. She married JOSEPH WILLIAM ATHA WALKER (c1871-c1944) on 12 Jan 1899 in St Matthew’s, St Albans, Christchurch, son of William Henry Walker and Anna Maria Esther Pearce.           Photo of Dora O'Callaghan

+ GRETA MARION O’CALLAGHAN was born on 15 May 1876 in Christchurch and died on 19 Mar 1949 in Wellington, New Zealand. She married ALFRED JAMES NICHOLLS (1874-1949) on 26 Feb 1901 in St Albans, Christchurch, son of JAMES EBENEZER NICHOLLS and ROSE ANNE MARIA BUXTON.

+ EDITH EMMA O’CALLAGHAN was born on 01 Oct 1877 and died in 1933. She married WILLIAM HENRY COLLINGTON SWAN (1879-1950) in 1904, son of William George Collington Moore Swan and Helen Sarah Spratt.

+ THOMAS ROBERT O’CALLAGHAN was born on 01 Mar 1879 and died in 1944. He married WINIFRED LONG (c1874-1944) in 1901.

+ JASPER WARNER O’CALLAGHAN was born on 14 Sep 1880. He died in Aug 1933 in Napier, New Zealand. He married ALEXIS BERYL ALLARDYCE (1903-?) in 1926, daughter of William Morrison Allardyce and Janet Angus Russell.Jasper Warner O'Callaghan - military uniform

– GERALD CHARLES O’CALLAGHAN was born on 22 Mar 1882 in Christchurch and died on 27 Nov 1947 in Christchurch, unmarried.

– GORDON HARCOURT O’CALLAGHAN was born on 8 Mar 1884 in Christchurch and died on 3 Jun 1953 in Christchurch, unmarried.

Photo of Gordon and Gerald O'Callaghan
Gordon on the left, Gerald on the right

+ WILLIAM BELL O’CALLAGHAN was born on 11 Oct 1885 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. He died in 1960.  He married (1) MARION HILLIARD WHITE (c1888-1922) in 1911, daughter of George Henry White and Marion Painter and (2) ELSIE GLADYS DAVIS in 1923.

I’ve added another blog post about their son’s experiences in WWI

Being Led a Merry Chase

I’ve been researching the family of my gg-grandmother Rose Anne Maria Buxton (Mrs James Ebenezer Nicholls, not Mrs Alfred Nicholls).  Her family originally came from Norfolk which is a really easy area to research for free.  Scans of most of the parish registers are available on Family Search and they’re indexed pretty comprehensively on FreeReg.

Rose’s parents were Robert Buxton (1822-1884) and Frances Maw (1823-1905) who lived in Middleton, Norfolk until they moved to the big smoke of Greenwich around 1857.  Robert’s parents were Samuel Buxton (1793-1842) and Phillis Kemp.

And this is where the merry chase begins.  I should point out that this has gone on for a year or two or three!

Samuel and Phillis married in 1821 at St Margaret’s, Kings Lynn which is just up the road from Middleton.  They proceeded to have 4 sons in Middleton:

  1. Robert (1822-1884)
  2. Edward (1825-1830)
  3. George Kemp (1828-1828)
  4. Edward George (1831-1831)

Then in 1833, Samuel has a daughter Elizabeth Kemp Marianne Buxton (1833-1836).  Her mother was called Anne.

Okay.  Perhaps Phillis had died and Samuel had remarried?  The vicar hadn’t changed between 1831 and 1833 and you’d expect him to know who Samuel’s wife was.  There wasn’t another Samuel in Middleton to confuse children and wives with.

The 1851 Census further muddied the waters.  Ann Buxton was the Head of the household which contained her “son” my Robert, his wife and children and a niece Hannah Cozens.  Ann was a grocer and was born around 1799 being 52 years old.  She had been 40 years old in 1841 which was consistent with 1799 being her birth year.  This didn’t debunk the stepmother theory because census information isn’t always correct.

In 1870 there is a death entry for Ann Buxton on FreeBMD for the Middleton area.  Her age is given as 78.

So at this point all the documents before 1833 have Phillis and all the ones after have Ann.  So I’m thinking that Phillis died and Samuel had remarried, possibly to her sister.  I found a Kemp family in nearby Great Massingham.  George Kemp (1746-1828) and his wife Elizabeth Church (1752-1798) had a number of children including a Phillis Kemp born in 1792 and a Hannah born in 1795.  Could Hannah be Ann?

But I wasn’t finding a death for Phillis or a marriage for Samuel and Ann.  I trawled through the actual parish registers for Middleton and the neighbouring parishes.  Nothing.

Reaching out for help on the Trade Me Genealogy board it was suggested that I look into Hannah Cozens and see where that got me.  It got me Hannah Kemp marrying William Cozens in 1824 and having a daughter Hannah in 1837.  So it was quite obvious from the dates that Hannah Kemp was NOT Ann.

One theory down, but still didn’t answer the questions of what happened to Phillis and who is Ann?

I revisited Ann Buxton’s death entry on FreeBMD.  Her age is given as 78 which would make her born around 1792 which is when Phillis was born.  Maybe they were the same person?

I couldn’t find her 1861 Census entry to see how old she was that year (I did later and her age was 66 – born around 1795).  I was pretty sure she was still in Middleton as that’s where she died, but perhaps she was taking a trip somewhere in 1861 and not on the census?  It was time to think outside the box.  What other records could there be for the 1860s?

The answer is directories.  The University of Leicester has a great website called Historical Directories which has digitised and indexed many trade and post office directories .  I’d previously found shopkeeper Ann in the 1854 White’s History, Gazetteer & Directory of Norfolk.  Now I looked for ones in the 1860s.

Up popped the Post Office Directory of Cambs, Norfolk & Suffolk,1869. [Part 2: Norfolk] so I looked for Middleton.  On page 353 there is Middleton and listed under ‘Commercial’ is:

Buxton, Phillis (Mrs.) shopkeeper

Lots of swear words promptly followed!  They WERE the same person!  Chase over.  Yay!

So the lessons to be learnt:

  • Never assume a change in name means a change in person unless you have documentation to conclusively prove it.  People weren’t always called by the name that came first or, as this case proves, by any name that’s been previously recorded!
  • People have been lying about their age for a very long time!

Upping Sticks: The Black Family on the ‘Fiery Star’

This post is part of ‘Upping Sticks: the Black Family‘.  If your interest is in the Black family you might want to start there.  If not, keep reading.

The Fiery Star

The Fiery Star was a 1360 ton clipper owned by the Black Ball Line (part of James Baines & Co). She was a wooden vessel built in 1851.  Originally named Comet, she was purchased by the Black Ball Line in 1863 from Buckton & Crane of New York.

She made two voyages with immigrants to Queensland, Australia from England and Ireland in 1863 and 1864.  Rather confusingly both arrived in Moreton Bay, Brisbane on 20 November of their respective years.  On both voyages she was captained by W H Yule.

Immigration Companies and Societies

Quite a lot of immigration in the 19th Century was organised by companies or societies who were looking for specific types of immigrants or looking to settle a particular area.  The Fiery Star was bringing out immigrants for two of these:

  • The Queensland Immigration Society (QIS) attracting mainly Catholic immigrants from the King’s County in Ireland to Brisbane.  It had two major promoters – parish priest Father Patrick Dunne and the first Roman Catholic bishop of Queensland James Quinn.  Rev. Dunne was onboard the 1863 Fiery Star voyage.
  • The Queensland Co-Operative Cotton Growing and Manufacturing Company, established by Charles Bushell and Benjamin Babbage, was targeting unemployed workers from Manchester’s cotton mills.

Were the Black family part of these immigration schemes?  There is no documentation as to which of the passengers was sponsored by which group or who was an independent passenger.  However, the Black family were neither Catholic nor from Manchester and they paid for their passage, so they were independent passengers.

The 1863 voyage

The Fiery Star left Gravesend on 11 August 1863 having embarked 324 passengers.  She picked up another 230 at Queenstown (Cork) which included the Black family.  This made a total of 554 – she was chartered to take 470 “statute adults”!  So the ship was very overcrowded.

To make unpleasant conditions even worse, she took 94 days to get from Cork to Brisbane instead of around 70.  They didn’t have favourable trade winds north of Madeira and east of Brazil, and the final leg up the east coast of Australia was also very slow.  Some days they traveled less than 100 miles – to put this in context, their total journey was 17,215 miles!

The only upside is that she seems to have been well supplied.  The schedule signed off by Captain Yule on 17 August notes:

I hereby certify that the Provisions actually laden on board this Ship are sufficient, according to the requirement of the Passengers’ Act, for 460 Statute Adults, for a Voyage of 140 days.

They finally arrived on 20 November probably to the relief of all.

The Black family on the Fiery Star

The Black family were second cabin passengers.  There were Robert Black, his wife Rachel (nee Greacen), 7 children and their maid Susan McQurke (aged 23). They all gave their nationality as “Scotch” rather than Irish.

Despite being second cabin passengers, Robert and his sons Robert William (15) and Greacen (13) were listed as ‘labourers’ on the passenger list.  My Grandad (probably not knowing they traveled in the second cabin) noted that ‘labourer’ was:

a term which probably included farm workers. Since (Robert) transported a large family across the world to Australia and then to NZ, where he at once set up a substantial business, he clearly had much more money that this designation would suggest.

“The mortality was not great, only nine deaths” (Brisbane Courier) which sadly for the Black family, included their youngest daughter Sarah who died at sea on September 22.  Dr Luce, the ship’s surgeon records it thus in the voyage newsletter (Sept 26):

I am sorry, however, I cannot close my weekly bulletin without having to record one death amongst our number during the past week, viz., that of an affectionate and most interesting little girl, between two and three years old, the child of our respected and esteemed second-cabin passengers, Mr and Mrs Black.  She was taken ill about a fortnight since, with a cold and febrile attack, followed, towards the end of her illness, by inflammation of the lungs, which she sunk under after the most patient endurance of her sufferings (from beginning to end) on Tuesday last.  I need scarcely add, that the warmest and sincerest sympathy has been alike felt and expressed for the bereaved parents by all around them, who have the pleasure of their acquaintance: and I am glad to further add, that they sustain their loss with the most exemplary Christian fortitude and submission.

It makes this parent of a small child (currently with a chest infection!) very glad of the discovery of anti-biotics!

It gets sadder with the report of Sarah’s burial at sea in the voyage newsletter:

A melancholy cermonial took place on Tuesday, viz., the burial of an interesting little girl, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Black of the second cabin.  A burial at sea is a solemn and trying cermony, and has often been described, but no one who has not witnessed it can know the feeling of deep regret with which even a stranger sees the body cosigned to the vasty deep.  What then must be the grief of the bereaved parents, around who knees the departed had played or prattled in happier house, and whose tottering footsteps they watched with such anxious hopefulness.

Sarah was one of 9 children who died on the voyage.  Somewhat representative of the times, Dr Luce thought this number reasonable given the crowded conditions.

After the voyage

Newspaper articles published after the Fiery Star‘s arrival give the impression that all was well with the journey.  There was even a cricket game organised between the saloon passengers and locals (the passengers lost).  However, the overcrowding was quickly reported to the Government Immigration Office in Brisbane.

The submission by A C Kemball on 26 November includes a report from Dr Luce and letters of complaint from the passengers (the originals can be found in the Queensland State Archives).  These include one from Robert Black:

Robert Black on behalf of himself, his wife, seven children and Susan McGusk, servant.  One child having died since we came on board, six children remaining, Maketh complaint and saith that the apartments allotted to him and which he occupied on board the ship “Fiery Star” Sailing from London to Brisban were two rooms number 9 and 10 in the Second Cabin for which he paid the sum of £187.10/- That one of those rooms being next the water closet emitted a very offensive smell the greater part of the journey.  Also that the floor of same was wet when I first entered it at Queenstown.  Same day a person who I believed occupied it from London to Queenstown said it was wet and that I would need to put some boards under my trunks to keep them out of the wet.

It was damp and wet less or more from that time until the 7th October at which time I was very sick and lying in bed when I was awoke with the rushing of water in the cabin in which I was lying.  On examining I found water from 1 to 6 inches in both cabins.  My trunks and boxes have been wet a considerable way yup.  The clothing in them has been very much damaged.  A quantity of it almost rendered useless.  My family have suffered very severe sickness for may weeks occasioned I believe to a great extent from the offensive smell and continual water and damp they were subjected to.  My servant had to go to Hospital for several weeks from soreness in her limbs and swollen feet I believe brought on from the damp day and night.

I had chloride of lime put in the cabin next the water closet for several weeks by Doctors orders.  In fact, my family were all healthy and strong until subjected to the quarters they had to live in since we came on board.

Their illness was all of a similar kind and I believe to be attributed in a great measure to the impure air and continual damp which they were subject to during the day and necessarily would inhale during the night.

I had the attention of the Doctor and also the Captain called to the state we were in on two occasions.  The Captain expressed himself that if he had not seen it he cold not have believed we were so flooded.  I also asked the Doctor and Captain to take a memorandum of the state in which my cabins were on their visit, as their testimony might be required hereafter.

On my servants recovery I asked the Doctor to allow her some place to sleep in for the remainder of the journey, as I was afraid if she slept in her former place it being near the water closet her disease might return.  He don so, and since that time she has not occupied it.

The Distance from my first Cabin to the water closet is 1 3/4 inches and with the quantity of water that was about the closet from day to day it could not be otherwise that offensive and injurious to health.

This is only a condensed statement of my complaints as I have particulars more fully written down as they occurred, and which I am prepared to proved by respectable witnesses.

I claim to be compensated by the owners or agents of the ship “Fiery Star” for the damage to health and loss of property I have sustained as stated in the foregoing complaint.

I don’t know if Robert got any compensation.  I do find it strange that Sarah’s death wasn’t mentioned.  The conditions sound like they weren’t too good for her either.  But it’s likely that it just wasn’t done like that back then.

When I mentioned to my Jackman cousins that the original of this document was in Queensland’s Archives, one said “I’m taking Mum for a holiday there in a few months, I’ll go and have a look”.  A few days later he emailed “can’t wait, have sent the nephew down to find it!”.  Here it is:

Robert Black's Original Letter OriginalLetterPage2

Further Information

Newspaper articles can be found on Trove digitized newspapers (National Library of Australia)

Voyage newsletter – on the National Library of Australia website

“They Came Direct: Immigration Vessels to Queensland: Fiery Star 1863” by Eileen B Johnson

Includes transcripts of many of the documents quoted above.

I found a copy in the State Library of Queensland so check out your local library.

“Out of the frying pan: voyaging to Queensland in 1863 on board the Fiery Star” by Kerry Heckenberg published in the Queensland Review, August 2010.

Contains information from ‘They Came Direct’ and other sources

You can find a copy of this online if you have access to Gale World History in Context site (which you do through Wellington Libraries if you live here in Wellington).

The fate of the Fiery Star

The Fiery Star‘s voyage back to London from Brisbane in 1865 was her last.  The 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand summarises it in its “Disasters and Mishaps – Shipwrecks” section:

Burning of Fiery Star

The Fiery Star, a full-rigged clipper of 1,361 tons, London-bound from Brisbane, met with misadventure of the worst kind—fire at sea—when 150 miles northwest of the Chatham Islands. Fire broke out in her cargo of wool on 19 April 1865, and a course was set for Hauraki Gulf; but after four days the captain decided to abandon ship. Seventy-eight of her passengers and crew, with Captain W. H. Yule, took to the boats, and were never seen again, but the chief officer and 17 of the crew who stayed behind and fought the flames for nearly three weeks, while at the same time working the ship towards land, were taken off by the ship Dauntless half an hour before the Fiery Star foundered in a mass of flames. They were then only about 15 miles from the New Zealand coast.

Burning of the Fiery Star - engraving

This engraving of the burning by Frederick Grosse can be found on the State Library of Victoria’s website.  And NZ Bound has a further summation of the information available including the names of the surviving crew.

I have wondered what exactly the Fiery Star was doing off the Chatham Islands which are 680km (420mi) south-east of New Zealand.  It would imply they were going around Cape Horn – the Panama Canal didn’t exist at this point.  It is noted as being the most hazardous way of getting from Australia to Europe.  Not a route I would have picked!

So, if we’ve learnt anything, don’t put the word ‘Fiery’ in the name of your ship!  It’s tempting fate.

Myths & Legends: Viscounts Lifford

Updated: 6 November 2013

The Myth

Our Hewitt family is descended from the Viscounts Lifford, whose family name is Hewitt.

This one has been doing the rounds for more than a hundred years.  As I detailed in ‘The Elusive John Hewitt‘, my Field cousin Henry Claylands Field wrote to William Hughes Field in 1897 that his grandmother Sophia Ann Hughes had married:

John Hewitt, a son or grandson of the Earl of Lifford who was also Dean of Cloyne. He was an officer in the army, I think the Guards; but retired on his marriage, which was probably considered a mere alliance by his people.

And pretty consistently when I make contact with members of the extended Hewitt family they are fascinated by this story and spent quality time trying to find out if it’s true.

The Truth


Being Viscounts, the Lifford Hewitts are very well documented.  The first Viscount Lifford was James Hewitt who was born in 1712 so could have been the father of our John Hewitt.  He did, in fact, have a son called John.  John was born in 1756, spent time as Dean of Cloyne in Ireland and died in 1804.

So our John Hewitt was not the son or grandson of a Viscount Lifford.  He was born around 1747 and so could not have been one of the Viscount’s legitimate offspring.

But I am related to them – through my grandmother and a couple of marriages.  My family tree programme says that James is the “paternal grandfather of husband of 2nd great grand niece of wife of 7th great grand uncle” of me.  Which in English means that a 7th great-uncle’s sister-in-law married a Lifford descendent.

My personal view is that our John was trying to impress his rich in-laws – he was, after all, significantly older than his wife.  But then William Hughes was too rich to be that stupid (?) and probably checked out things before letting his daughter and heir Sophia marry.


There is the possibility that our John Hewitt was a cousin of the Viscount.  So what do we know of the Lifford Hewitts before James First Viscount?

James’ father was William Hewitt, a draper and Mayor of Coventry in 1744.  So far I’ve ascertained that William and his wife Hannah Lewis had three sons:

– James, 1st Viscount (1712-1789)

– William (1719-1781) – lived in the West Indies – had no children

– Joseph (1725-1813) – had no children

So our John wasn’t a nephew of James.

Which brings us to Cumberland. William Snr was born in Rockliffe, Cumberland in 1683.

The Hewitt Papers

Amongst the Hewitt Papers held at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) is the ‘Notes and Memoranda, Genealogical, Historical and Personal of the family of Hewitt’ were written in 1891 by Rev. James Alexander Hewitt of the ‘Cape of Good Hope’.  Their catalog lists it as (my emphasis):

A2  A genealogical, historical and personal record of the Cumberland Hewitts. Known as “Statesmen” the highest form of regard in the North. There are no less than 13 lines from which descendants may exist. Scattered during the Civil Wars in reign of Charles I.

This implies that there are LOTS of Hewitts out there from Cumberland.  Too many to go chasing willy-nilly.

And thanks to the lovely Zofia at the University of the Witwatersrand I now have a copy of this part of the Hewitt papers.  I shall start out saying that our John is not mentioned in the papers.  However, there are mentioned many potential avenues of inquiry.

From a family bible the Rev James traces his Hewitt family back to a Henry Hewitt born in Blackrigg near Rockcliffe, Cumberland.

His interest was in working out which Henry Hewitt was his.  From this seems to have spread an interest in the various Hewitt families that sprang from Cumberland.  He noted that there were also Hewitt families in Bedfordshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire which he thought came from ‘the time of the Conqueror at Manor Hewits – near Ashford in Kent’.  He also mentions a branch in Warwickshire!  The possibilities seem to be getting bigger rather than smaller!

The Cumberland Hewitts

The Hewitt family of Cumberland which would ultimately produce the Viscounts Lifford line began in Rockcliffe which is a few miles outside of Carlisle.  The parish registers there started in 1679.  The Rev James notes that at that time there were 6 heads of families called Hewitt:

  1. Robert Hewitt whose son William was baptised in September 1679
  2. James Hewitt who married Mary Urwin in November 1679 (grandparents of the 1st Viscount Lifford)
  3. Allen Hewitt whose son Thomas was baptised in July 1680
  4. Peter Hewitt whose daughter June was baptised in July 1680
  5. George Hewitt of Castletown whose daughter Sarah was baptised in March 1681
  6. William Hewitt of Churchtown whose son Henry was baptised in 1686

These Hewitt heads could be the g-grandfather or grandfather of our John Hewitt?  Although I continue to be dubious.  Why?  Because none of these names appear in our Hewitt branch.

The Piccadilly Hewitts

The first Viscount Lifford’s brother William Jnr spent time in the West Indies.  Papers that survive from then refer to relatives based in London.  A cousin has sent details through of plaques that commemorate some Hewitts in St James Piccadilly.  One is dedicated to John Hewitt by his brother Edward:

of a respectable Family in the County of CUMBERLAND, a near Relation, Friend, and many Years private Secretary to JAMES Viscount Lifford. Lord High Chancellor of IRELAND.  He died 1st March 1783 Aged 46.

This isn’t our John either but is a contemporary.  Also at St James Piccadilly is a plaque to his brother Edward who died in 1794.

The Hewitt papers provide further details of that branch.  Edward left an estate of £18,000 (a huge fortune!) to his nieces, daughters of his brother James.  This James Hewitt was a wine merchant in Carlisle.  From the will we find two daughters and a son Francis.  There were also bequests to various Hewitts still living in Rockcliffe further confirming the family connection.  It’s still not clear if these Hewitts were first or second cousins of the Viscounts Lifford.  And there is no documented connection to our family either.


I’m going to reiterate here that as I currently have no idea where our John Hewitt was born, there is no known connection to any of the Hewitts discussed above.  But we keep looking.  DNA may provide some hints – once I get around to it!