Trove does it again – Bridget Widdup and the Florentia

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 - 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 – 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

Our good friend Trove has done it again!

I mentioned in my East Clare post last week that I was waiting on a new release news story which looked tantalisingly optimistic. It’s now been released and has exceeded my hopes.

Regular readers will recall my excitement back in late December when I found a clue to my Mary O’Brien’s immigration in an advertisement for her sister, Bridget. Since the family’s oral history has them both arriving in Australia together I thought I’d hit the jackpot.

Hours of research online and in archives in Hobart, Sydney and Brisbane had left me none the wiser in terms of hard evidence, and if anything doubting whether even Bridget had come on this sailing ship. Nowhere was there a mention of her name and my hopes plummeted. I felt like the prince trying to make that glass slipper fit.

O'BRIEN Advert Florentiaarticle13011791-3-004

This new death notice and obituary once again opens up the research and reveals so much more. It tells of:

  • Bridget’s arrival in Queensland (also mentioned on her death notice)
  • Arrival on the Florentia (a confirmation of Mary’s advertisement for her)
  • Relocation to Sydney. Her death certificate mentions 1 year Qld, remainder in NSW, so she probably left Ipswich for Sydney some time in 1854.
  • Arrival in the Urana area with Mr James Broughton to work on Cocketgedong[i] Station, on Billabong/Billybong Creek, near Jerilderie, probably around 1857-58.
  • Arrival in the town of Urana before it was surveyed. “Urana village was laid out in 1859” according to Bayley[ii]. Urana was proclaimed a town on 6 May 1859 and gazetted on 10 May[iii]. This roughly fits with when Bridget was believed to have married John Widdup, who would become the town’s poundkeeper, a role Bridget took on after his death in 1876.
LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

There is some oral history that suggests Bridget worked as a children’s nurse which would fit with the birth of Emily Church Broughton in Sydney in May 1858 and Mary B on 25 April 1860. This would tally with Bridget’s move to Cocketgedong especially if she had been working for the Broughtons in Sydney. She’d certainly have been well qualified in this role having been the eldest of the eight O’Brien children. The impact of women arriving in the district was among the subjects discussed in this interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 May 1858[iv].

Of course the question remains why Bridget left Ipswich and her sister, having journeyed so far together. To the best of my knowledge there were not yet any relatives in Sydney. Perhaps she just didn’t like the Queensland heat and dryness. Certainly it can’t have been the isolation as Urana was far more isolated.

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 - 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 – 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

So here I am, back pondering the mysteries of the Florentia migration and again I’m left with the following questions.

  1. Did Mary and Bridget emigrate together?

All the oral history suggests the two young women came together. Annie Kunkel’s usually reliable information fits with what’s now known of the Florentia’s voyage. Furthermore I’ve re-read the notes I took at the time and see that she refers to them on an “old sailing ship”. I’d blipped over the “old” previously but it particularly fits with what’s known of the Florentia which had made voyages to Australia as a convict ship in earlier decades.

  1. Why would Mary advertise for her sister on the Florentia if she didn’t arrive on it?

This question now seems to be answered. I have two different sources citing the Florentia which gives me confidence that Bridget at least arrived on that ship. It only had one voyage to Queensland, in 1853. Earlier ones to other states would have meant the women were too young to travel alone, so I’m now happy to place Bridget on this ship. But why is she not mentioned anywhere in the records?

  1. Were they unassisted passengers?

I can find no evidence or mention anywhere that there were paying passengers on board the ship. It was an old ship and less likely to provide suitable cabin accommodation for anyone other than the captain and surgeon. However, is it still possible that it offered cheap paying accommodation to two young women? The records, as always, are focused on the assisted passengers and there was enough kerfuffle about the voyage that the assisted may have gained no recognition. Or am I clutching at straws?

  1. Were they assisted passengers?

As I mentioned I’ve looked at all available passenger lists for this voyage. There are no single women named O’Brien other than the daughters of Daniel O’Brien who I mentioned in the earlier post. I’d checked them out years ago because of the family’s on-going connection to Mary O’Brien and the Kunkel family. However, once again I married each girl off, and checked their deaths until I was sure none of them were actually our Bridget or Mary. Case closed there.

  1. Were there substitutions or impersonations?

As implausible as this sounds it is not impossible. State Records of New South Wales (SRNSW) makes mention of it:One practice which frequently occurred during this period was the taking on of an alias in order to obtain passage. This happened in cases where passage had been denied under the correct name; in these instances, the assumed name was often the maiden name or the name of a person with whom travelling. In other instances, an immigrant assumed the name of a person to whom a passage certificate had been granted. An example of this is Joseph Golding who came in place of John Mahon. In these cases the lists usually record the person under his/her correct name with a reference to the alias (or assumed) name. (always assuming they actually came to light)

I’ve also found manipulated records, and impersonations, in the East Clare database I’ve built up, though they are only the ones which have come to light, as per the SRNSW examples above.

It seems logical that if the O’Brien girls had taken up other passengers’ tickets/permits that they’d (a) have to have been Irish and (b) most likely have been from Clare or nearby eg Limerick or west Tipperary.

I also eliminated from consideration single women whose married siblings or single brothers were on board, just because that would have required more extensive collaboration.

Similarly two young women in their mid-teens were unlikely to be able to pass themselves off  as women over thirty.

It really does defy logic, and Irish propriety, that the girls would have been languishing on the docks of Plymouth hoping to catch a ship to Australia until some other young girl(s) changed her mind about the voyage.

  1. Checking the single women

Over the past weeks I’ve been researching the single women on the Florentia.

Even eliminating the English and Welsh women from consideration there were still lots to investigate and I set to by looking at potential marriages via Queensland’s online BDM site. If I found one that seemed plausible I traced the death and compared the parents listed with those provided on the shipping lists.

Again and again I hit brick walls, often not even finding marriages at all. I also checked the NSW BDMs, just in case, because some of the immigrants had stated they had relatives interstate. Eventually I had to give this away due to the overall ambiguity, but if any reader had ancestors arrive on this ship I’d love to hear from them.

CONCLUSION

Glass_slippers_at_Dartington_CrystalTo be honest I’m still floundering, though I’m now much more confident that Bridget was on board the Florentia when it arrived in Queensland in 1853. However, was she an assisted or unassisted passenger? Did she/they come out under someone else’s name? There is a suggestion in the local history of Broadford that some young people were assisted to emigrate and perhaps that’s where the clues lie. Perhaps the girls came out as privately funded passengers but on a very old ship, with perhaps a cheap rate.

Frustrating as this is, without Trove I’d still have no clues about their migration as I’d exhausted other avenues many years ago. My gut feeling for some time has been that they came out as unassisted passengers so perhaps that was the case on Florentia.  I’m still walking around with that glass slipper in my hand looking for a perfect fit but will it ever happen? Digitisation has saved my research and perhaps will do so again.

Other posts on this topic:

Have I cracked it?

Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien

Was it all fun and games on the Florentia?

Mixing my metaphors: macadamias and glass slippers.

[One day I may manage a short post!]

[i] Also known as Cocketygong, Cockegong from Trove reports. Cockejedong Creek was a tributary of Billybong or Biallabong Creek: Billabidgee, History of Urana Shire. Bayley, WA. Urana Shire Council 1959, page 59. For overseas readers, the word “station” here does not refer to the railway but an extremely large rural property. In American terms it would be called a ranch.

[ii] ibid, page 75.

[iii] ibid, page 23.

[iv] I was alerted to this by a reference in Bayley, op cit, page 22. Although not referenced in the book, Trove picked it up immediately when I searched by the phrase used.

Was it all fun and games on Florentia?

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

In my previous post I mentioned the newspaper remarks of problems on board the barque Florentia, and my hopes of getting to the bottom of the mystery…and finding reference to Mary O’Brien.

Only a matter of hours after disembarking from Voyager of the Seas in Sydney I was ensconced in the reading room at State Records New South Wales, at Kingswood following up the Colonial Secretary (Col Sec) records for the period, as well as the Immigration Board etc. I’d anticipated having more problems as they can be so convoluted to follow with their top-numbering system but I was lucky as the Florentia papers were easily found.

The Immigration Board in Moreton Bay submitted their report, dated 19 May 1853, to the Agent for Immigration[i], and forwarded by the Health Officer. It included statements by the Surgeon Superintendent, Dr William Clegg, and the matron, Bess McLoughlin, also one of the assisted immigrants listed on the manifest.

If the scenes on Florentia were as lively as shown in this image, one can see why there might have been a kerfuffle.

The essence of the problem was that the captain (Banks) had been in breach of the rules in the Charter Party, a new term to me, but apparently rather like a modern day memorandum of understanding, setting out the terms and conditions under which the ship was to sail, the obligations of those in authority, and presumably the remuneration involved. The Investigation found “the Captain was in the habit of playing with the females on the poop for about a month or five weeks after sailing”. The game referred to was Blind Man’s Bluff.[ii]

Image from Wikipedia. Blind-Man's Buff [sic], published by Paul Jarrard & Sons (London, England). This print was made within the lifetime of King George IV of England (12 August 1762 – 26 June 1830), hence copyright (if any) has long since expired.

Image from Wikipedia. Blind-Man’s Buff [sic], published by Paul Jarrard & Sons (London, England). This print was made within the lifetime of King George IV of England (12 August 1762 – 26 June 1830), hence copyright (if any) has long since expired. If the scenes on board Florentia were half as lively one can see why there might have been a kerfuffle.

Captain Thomas Hopper Banks was charged with having inappropriate “intercourse” (not as we understand it today) with the single women and permitting the crew to do the same. Warnings by the Surgeon had no impact on the captain’s and second mate’s behaviour. This in turn influenced how the ordinary seamen behaved.

Rather than have the single women locked below after dark, the key to their quarters mysteriously disappeared soon after departure[iii]. When it was found, the hinges of the door were taken off. The Captain claimed the matron was being cruel forcing the women to stay below, even though this was the custom, and requirement.

The consequence of the report was that Captain Banks and the Second Mate were refused their payments for the voyage and it was recommended that Banks not be employed in the colonial service again. The matron and the schoolmaster were paid their remuneration as was the Surgeon, Dr William Clegg.

Under the circumstances I was quite pleased to find no specific mention of my Mary O’Brien or her sister Bridget, though it also fits with the oral histories that they both met their future husbands on the voyage out. One young woman features in the story however, and that is Ann Drew who plainly had a close relationship of some sort with the captain. Two illegitimate children had been born on the voyage but they would have had nothing to do with the shenanigans on board. One of the babies had been stillborn and was hidden, but the mother had been discovered and she was cautioned on arrival…unfortunately her name is not mentioned.

Through the archive documents and/or the newspapers I’ve found specific mention of some of the passengers on the ship:

James Massy of Limerick, complained against the surgeon “for not paying sufficient attention to his wife during her illness and by…causing her death”.[iv] Later in the report the Surgeon Superintendent, Clegg, was exonerated from blame as the ship had been in very severe weather at the time. James would have had an uphill battle with three children to take care of, which no doubt made gaining employment more difficult.
Mary Massy and Cath Ryan were the two married women who died on board, deduced from the details on the Board reports.

Ann Drew: a single woman who was plainly in the Captain’s favour. Ann Drew’s mess (group of women sharing the cooking etc responsibilities) were said to have disrespected the matron’s orders.

John Hockings, a gardener from Devon, declared that he never saw the Captain give preference to Ann Drew or any of the other girls, or make indelicate remarks to them. He was also a constable on board ship.[v]

Frances Bransfield, a laundress from Cork, gave a statement that she declined to go to the hospital –it’s unclear whether her complaint was against the surgeon or the captain, though it follows an examination of the Captain by Dr Clegg.

Denis Kelly: a single man who was a schoolteacher from Limerick and so presumably the teacher on board.

Bess (Elizabeth) McLoughlin, a 40 year old laundress from Londonderry was the matron.

Daniel Brian (or Breen) a 34 year old married man from Glamorganshire in South Wales, and a plaster, was one of the constables, mentioned in a case of stealing on board ship. [vi] Although Daniel O’Brien from Tipperary, a blacksmith, would also be a possibility, overall I’m inclined to think it was the former.

Frederick Pierce (or Pearce), 33 year old smith from Cornwall, a married man with four children was another constable mentioned in the above court case.[vii]

William Henry Cox charged with having stolen a quantity of wine on board the Florentia on 19 January 1853, was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment in Brisbane gaol.

Joseph Pinch, supernumary seaman was a witness in this case[viii].

Nearly 100 years later, another Florentia causes problems with luggage. "RIOT" SHIP GOES TO Queensland Times (Ipswich), 4 June 1951 p. 1  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124609224

Nearly 100 years later, another Florentia passenger causes problems with luggage. Queensland Times (Ipswich), 4 June 1951 p. 1 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124609224

After arrival George Parsons was charged, on 12 May 1853, by Mr. Tooth, his employer, with refusing to go on to the station (property owned by Tooth). The reason alleged for this refusal was that Mr.Tooth would not provide conveyance for the whole of defendant’s luggage; but as the Bench did not think this sufficient, they passed a sentence of one month’s imprisonment.  Heaven help us! What a punishment to hand down to this poor immigrant who’d tolerated that six month voyage to get to Moreton Bay. And what happened to his wife Maria and their four children including infant George?

Although news stories report that seamen absconded from the Florentia in Hobart[ix] , when a crew of 24 is listed on the immigration documents. In Brisbane, at least one crew member absconded and who stole a ship’s boat[x] but neither he nor the Hobart escapees are mentioned by name. The Hobart documents list a crew of 24 on the ship. However, when indentured apprentice  James Murphy; native of Cork; height, about 5 feet 8 inches; age, 16 years jumped ship in Sydney, a reward of £5 was offered for his imprisonment.[xi] Poor young bloke!

Reviewing the complaints listed by the immigrants many of the same people are mentioned[xii]. Those complaining against the Matron were Hanah Todd, Frances Bransfield, Anne Drew, Hannah Gale, and Harriet and Mary Roger (perhaps Anne Drew’s Mess group?). The only complaint against the Doctor was the one mentioned by James Massy. Margaret McMullin, a 37 year old ladies maid from Meath complained of the conduct of the Captain and some his officers. Unsurprisingly Bess McLoughlin, the matron also complained against the Captain. John Hughes’ complaint is hard to read but may refer to morality. James Ryan complained that his mother-less child did not receive the milk ordered by the doctor. There was a long queue of complaints from the married men about the lack of provisions, bread and water: John Cuddihy, James Cherry, John Green, Cornelius Halloran, Thomas Madden, Michael Nowlan, Daniel O’Brien and Thomas Cherry. Interestingly they were all Irish emigrants.

Classified Advertising. (1853, May 7). The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861),p2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710117

Classified Advertising. (1853, May 7). The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 – 1861),p2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710117

Despite all the complaints and the withdrawal of the Captain’s gratuity, some ninety-eight of the passengers signed a testimonial, published in the newspaper, stating they were “fully convinced of his general and lasting friendship, as well as his willingness and cheerfulness to render all the assistance he possibly could to us at large-being to us, in need or trouble, like a father and a friend and never failing to visit us in danger; whose presence we always beheld with the greatest delight…”

And after all that, not a mention of unassisted passengers and no reference to Mary or Bridget O’Brien. In the coming days I’ll be weighing up the merits of the case for or against their being on the Florentia and whether there’s any chance of fitting that glass slipper.

And a bit of trivia for fellow cruisers on Voyager of the Seas: the modern day cruise liner has a tonnage of 138,000 compared to poor little Florentia’s 453 tons.

Voyage of the Seas dwarfs most other ships, just imagine it beside a barque like Florentia.

Voyage of the Seas dwarfs most other ships, just imagine it beside a barque like Florentia.

[i] Reference SRNSW 53/5645

[ii] Minutes of Investigate held 6 May 1853 before J C Wickham Esq and W A Duncan by members of the Immigration Board at Brisbane re ship Florentia. SRNSW 53/1679 in batch 86/6858.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] SRNSW 53/5645, Government Resident Moreton Bay.

[v] Minutes of Investigate held 6 May 1853 before J C Wickham Esq and W A Duncan by members of the Immigration Board at Brisbane re ship Florentia. SRNSW 53/1679 in batch 86/6858.

[vi] Moreton Bay Courier, 7 May 1853, page 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710112

[vii] ibid

[viii] ibid

[ix] Moreton Bay Courier, 30 April 1853, page 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710533

[x] Moreton Bay Courier, 27 August 1853, page 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3713574

[xi] Sydney Morning Herald, 2 August 1853, page 2, supplement. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12947703

[xii] Queensland State Archives Item ID339031, Passenger lists. Microfilm Z598.

Mixing my metaphors: Macadamias and Glass Slippers

Queensland nuts or Macadamias on the tree. Image from wikipedia.

Queensland nuts or Macadamias on the tree. Image from wikipedia.

Growing up as a child in Queensland, we had a large Queensland nut tree in our back garden.  Now known as macadamias, these nuts make you work hard to get to their delicious centres (unless you buy them stripped bare). First you have to work through the hard protective casing around the nut, unless it’s so ripened that the exterior has turned brown and ready to fall off. Then you are still left with the rock-hard shell itself. This is no dainty nut, ready to be cracked with a graceful pair of nut crackers on the Christmas table. No, you need a hammer, the perfect spot in the concrete path and a firm stroke and a good aim for the seam in the shell. Hit too hard and you’ll demolish the nut itself, hit too softly and that delicious nut will continue to elude you. Or you just use your grandfather’s vice from “under the house”.

It struck me last night that’s a pretty good analogy to some family history research, especially the focus I’ve had lately on exploring all things relating to the little barque, Florentia, on which my ancestor Mary O’Brien may have arrived in 1853.

I’ve collected as much possible information as I can including:

Passengers lists from three archives: Tasmanian Archives in Hobart; State Records of New South Wales in Kingswood, Sydney; and Queensland State Archives in Brisbane. A few were available online but there were offline ones as well (thanks to the Unlock the Past cruise I was already going to those places – good timing)

Official Correspondence at the same archives between the various authorities: Colonial Secretary, Immigration Board, Immigration Agent, Brisbane Resident and the Police Magistrate for Brisbane.

News stories from Trove and also the British and Irish newspapers on Find My Past which were largely unproductive, as was a check of the Welsh newspapers online.

JSTOR articles available with my National Library of Australia card, again unproductive.

I’ve compared the data squeezed from each source and analysed places of origin and relations in the colony.

What did I learn?

Length of the voyage and on-board disputes

I already knew this ship had taken an inordinate, and unusual, amount of time to reach Moreton Bay: 156 days or 23 weeks. They’d had an unscheduled stop in Hobart Town after 19+ weeks at sea, because they’d been loaded with only 20 weeks of provisions. Surely all on board must have been getting anxious before they reached Hobart – after all they’d been rationed since passing the Cape of Good Hope.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 11 May 1853, reported a Brisbane story of 22 April: “The Florentia is the next immigrant vessel for this place, and she may now be considered fully due”. Initially I thought this was code for wondering if the ship had been lost, especially as it had only spoken two other vessels[i], both in the early weeks of the voyage. However by the time of the story, the news of the ship’s arrival in Hobart had already been published.

Unsurprisingly the Immigration Board who mustered the passengers in Moreton Bay on 29 April reportedly found the “state of the ship does not appear to be very cleanly.[ii]

As alluded to in the newspapers, the local Immigration Board is now engaged in the investigation of certain charges against the ship’s officers, but what their nature or justice may be remains a mystery”[iii]and “some of the proceedings of the voyage are likely to furnish employment for that mysterious body the ‘Unholy Inquisition.’ We hear that the Surgeon-Superintendent does not appear to be culpable, but more sinned against than sinning. Will the Inquisition stifle this affair also?” [iv]

These newspaper references and the length of the voyage gave me hope that the official correspondence would provide some clues to this enquiry, and indeed it did…but I will keep this for a separate story. The newspaper reporter seems to have been correct in his assumption, too, that the mystery would be stifled. Nothing further is reported in any of the newspapers on Trove, as far as I could find, and as I’ve mentioned nothing in the British, Welsh or Irish newspapers, at least by the ship’s name.

 Mortality and the long voyage

There is contradictory evidence as to how many died on the voyage as well as how many births there were.  The summary information for the Florentia in Hobart lists 9 deaths: 1 married woman, 3 single women, 1 boy under 14, 3 girls under 14 and one infant. In fact the infant was, as far as I can tell a stillborn child. However by the time the ship reached Brisbane, they were reporting 12 births and 17 deaths.[v] It is entirely possible (probable) that four passengers died between Hobart and Moreton Bay as the total number of passengers falls from 249 to 245. This would still leave an anomaly of four deaths, which would reconcile with the additional four births, though not necessarily the same children[vi].

These figures are representative but without a breakdown of the additional deaths cannot be entirely accurate.

These figures are representative but without a breakdown of the additional deaths cannot be entirely accurate.

The most tragic aspect of the deaths is that those people’s names remain unrecorded. One can deduce that two married women died, simply by looking at the details for families, so presumably one died on the final phase of the journey. As the parents’ names are stated for the children in each family, the mothers’ names are revealed even though they are not listed on the manifests as “died on the voyage”, which I’ve seen on other ships. The two married women were Mary Massy (family from Limerick) and Cath Ryan (family from Tipperary).

But what of the children who succumbed on the voyage, or the single women? Sadly, there is no mention of their names anywhere. I wonder if their families ever learnt what happened to them.

With my East Clare database which covers the period 1848-1870, the mortality rate was 1%, very low. On this voyage, the overall rate was 5%, with females being the most at risk category. Girls under 14 were particularly vulnerable, with a 6.98% mortality, and likely more depending on the deaths between Hobart and Moreton Bay. It’s tempting to conclude that this would, in large part, have been down to the reduced provisions, including the lack of water mentioned in passenger complaints, and reiterated in the Immigration Board’s enquiry.[vii] Of itself the long voyage should not have had such an impact but the ship was also a former convict-ship and was probably not as well equipped as some later ones, or as suitable for general emigration.

If ever there was a voyage when one might wish for a copy of the Surgeon’s journal, this would be one of them. Among the SRNSW documents is a letter which indicates that the surgeon’s diary was forwarded to the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners[viii] but sadly it does not appear in the lists of extant diaries on the UK National Archives site. There is also no mention of a passenger diary extant for this voyage in the Log of Logs.

The prince and the glass slipper

My hope from this research voyage was that I’d find any clues at all to suggest there were unassisted passengers on this voyage, and any kind of reference to Mary and her sister. Unfortunately my quest was futile. I know a lot about this ship’s voyage but am none the wiser about Mary. Perhaps my family tree is indeed a Queensland Nut or Macadamia tree…it’s certainly keeping me on my toes.

I’m left feeling like the prince who went from house to house trying to squeeze the glass slipper on each young woman’s foot hoping to find the beautiful girl who’d stolen his heart. I suppose by now I should know better than believe in fairy stories.

 Who was mentioned in the documents? What was the scandal? Come back for the second instalment.

A readable and informative reference book on the conditions of voyages is Robin Haines’ book “Life and death in the age of sail”.[ix] I can highly recommend it to provide a solid understanding of the health aspects of migration.

 

[i] Free Trader, for New York, and the American ship Great Britain. Moreton Bay Courier, 30 April 1853, page 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710533

[ii] Moreton Bay Courier 30 April 1853, page 3.

[iii] Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1853, page 2 supplement.

[iv] Moreton Bay Courier 30 April 1853, page 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710533

[v] Empire, 10 May 1853 page 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61324080.

[vi] The newspaper reports that 12 of the deaths were children.

[vii] SRNSW 53/1419 in batch 53/5645. Immigration Board at Brisbane to the Agent for Immigration, 19 May 1853. The Board comprised Messrs Wickham, Duncan and Swift.

[viii] SRNSW 53/8264.  Agent for Immigration to the Colonial Secretary for forwarding, dated 15 September 1853.

[ix] Life and Death in the Age of Sail. Haines, R. UNSW Press, Sydney 2003

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Days 7 and 8 – Hobart Town

It was a longish voyage from Adelaide to Hobart (yes, I know, our ancestors would disagree!)  so we had a combination day with genealogy and then some sight-seeing after our arrival in port at 2pm.

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

I loved arriving by sea into Hobart because it brought to mind that Mary O’Brien had probably come this way before me, back on 4 April 1853. Just imagine the relief of all those on board the Florentia after four and a half months at sea, with a diminishing supply of provisions. Hobart is such a pretty town with its encircling hills and Mount Wellington towering over the city. It may not have the drama of Sydney’s sandstone cliffs but it has an amiable, welcoming vibe. I could happily live in Hobart but that wouldn’t be an improvement on the remoteness of Darwin, and my heat-loving tropical friends would simply refuse to visit. It must surely have been appealing though to the immigrants from Ireland, England and Wales on board the Florentia.(Apologies to my mates who are heartily sick of Mary O’Brien from County Clare).

It was a public holiday for Regatta Day as the captain brought his huge ship to dock at the wharf. Little boats were skimming round the harbour but my friend Sharn and I chose to head off along the wharf to Salamanca Place and Battery Point for some sight-seeing. Having decided to stop for a coffee, we joined other Unlock the Past Cruisers for a chat at a local coffee shop.

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

But first there was some genealogy while still at sea:

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (panel discussion)

GeniAus (Jill Ball) hosted this Panel on Ethics which got good feedback from the audience. The panel was Kirsty Gray, Maria Northcote and myself and Jill had prepared a range of pertinent questions for us to respond to in turn. It was interesting to see the consistency between our responses …and there’d been no prior consultation or discussion. (if anyone has thought on the session I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the panel – difficult to retain it all while in the thick of it)

391 ethical dilemmas

Chris Paton again unravelled the complexities and variability of Scottish records with his talk Scottish marriage: instantly buckled for life. Scotland may be (currently) part of the UK, but Scottish family history is really not the same as that for England, make no mistake! Among the warnings Chris issued is that people only needed to have a witness to their commitment and the marriage was a valid one, and also the the (wonderful) ScotlandsPeople only has marriages for the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Churches. If you can’t find your ancestors you may wish to follow up the Statistical Accounts to see which other denominations were active in their parish at the time. 

After arrival in Hobart people scattered to their various activities and plans. I was fortunate to spent a few fun hours with fellow genie and photo obsessive, Sharn from Family History 4 U. Some of my photos from the day will eventually make it to my photo and travel blog Tropical Territory and Travel which has been sadly neglected of late, like other things. Although the weather looked a little precarious in the beginning it turned into a magnificent afternoon with crystal clear vivid blue skies.

The day finished with a very good fireworks display over the harbour, with resounding toots of the ship’s “horn” in thanks for the display. It certainly gathered the crowds on the high decks and afterwards I was invited to join my table-mates, Cathy and Dot and friend Maria in the cocktail bar on Deck 14…a very pleasant end to the day.

547 painting the shipDay 8 was another full day in port and imagine our surprise to look out from the verandah and see another cruise ship had arrived overnight. It was interesting to see that life at sea involves little down-time for the crew who were busy painting any blemishes on the ship’s hull.

My priority for Day 8 ( a shore day) was to hit the archives in Hobart although initially I’d hoped to go to the Cascade Factory. However that was superseded by following up all possible leads on the Florentia and whether they would offer any further clues to whether Mary O’Brien was on board as an unassisted immigrant when the ship sailed into Hobart. Despite searching a range of pre-ordered documents, the answers were still ambiguous by the end of the day. My research outcomes re the Florentia will be the subject of an upcoming post.

And so we sailed from Hobart Town with my thoughts reflecting on whether Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget were similarly sorry to leave this pretty place behind to head north to Moreton Bay, or in my case, to Sydney Town.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Have I cracked it? Shall we dance?

Mary O'Brien, my 2xgreat grandmother.

Mary O’Brien Kunkel, my 2xgreat grandmother.

The midnight fairy came to visit me last night with an amazing surprise –in fact such a big surprise that I can’t quite believe it, and have spent the day trying to confirm or deny my conclusions. Oh ye of little faith!!

As a prelude to sleep (!!) I decided to have a quick look on Trove for Bridget O’Brien Ipswich. Bridget was my Mary O’Brien’s (2x great grandmother) sister. You see the other day I’d found a new obituary for her on Trove which mentioned that her year in Queensland had been spent in Ipswich. Up came the following advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9th and 12th February 1859:

SHIP-FLORENTIA – BRIDGET O’BRIEN  Your sister Mary is anxious to hear from you. Mrs KONGEL, Post Office, Ipswich.

It’s as well I was lying down I tell you!! I couldn’t believe my eyes and kept saying “keep calm, keep calm”.

Why was I so excited? Because I’d pretty much guarantee that this is my Mary Kunkel (nee O’Brien) and her sister Bridget. Kunkel is routinely mangled even today, or greeted with a “what??” so the mis-spelling doesn’t bother me much, especially since Mary was illiterate and had a Clare accent.

I’ve been hunting for Mary’s immigration for 27 years to no avail. I’ve looked at every possible immigration record I could find, including checking every Mary O’Brien entry, as well as Bridget and Kate/Catherine.

So am I leaping to conclusions? Please tell me what you think after reading this.

My memory didn’t instantly retrieve Florentia but it was ringing loud bells for me. A quick search of my records reminded me this was the ship that the Daniel O’Brien family from Tipperary arrived on. I wrote about the connections in this post early in 2013. This O’Brien family and my Mary O’Brien Kunkel were involved as witnesses in each other’s church events.

So let me put together the details and compare it with the oral history given to me by Mary’s granddaughter, Anne Kunkel who lived with her, and who was an extremely reliable witness (she’s been spot-on about 99% of what she told me):

1.      Mary left Ireland when she was 16

In 1852 when the Florentia sailed Mary was 16 years old. This tallies with the age stated on several children’s birth certificates as well as her death certificate. Bridget’s age at death, and the details on her certificate also indicate an arrival year of 1852-53.

2.      Mary was six months at sea coming to Australia

The Florentia was at sea for 22 weeks, slightly over five months. On top of that Mary had to get to Plymouth to catch the ship, either by boat from Limerick or Bianconi carriage to Dublin. Either way you can see how the total trip would have been close to six months. And wouldn’t the temptation be to round up, not down?

3.  Mary and Bridget came together…though Anne did suggest perhaps sister Kate also came, but then she would have been <10 at the time.

Assuming this is correct, then Mary would have been on the Florentia too. I had eliminated Kate as an arrival through Moreton Bay as she married in Sydney in 1871 but now I’m rethinking that. Kate witnessed a baptism in Broadford, Clare in 1860. A Kate O’Brien witnessed Mary’s child’s baptisms in 1864 and 1866 in Ipswich. Was this her sister or Daniel and Winifred’s daughter (born 1854), which does seem young to be a witness? Our Kate’s details suggest she arrives in the early 1860s, just when there are some Board Immigrant Lists missing.

4.“Mary had a job before ever she got here…and she worked for a sea captain in Brisbane

Was Mary arriving as an unassisted passenger? Or did she come under a false name as happened occasionally (and perhaps more than we realise?).  Certainly the passenger list of the Florentia tallies with the stated number of passengers, and does not include two unassisted passengers because when the ship docked in Hobart on 4th April 1853 to take on additional supplies, there is only one cabin passenger stated on the Tasmanian documents, the Surgeon Superintendent for the voyage, William Clegg. Might she have been under an alias? This is tricky and yet none of the ages quite fit, let alone for two young women, aged 16 and 18.

5.      She met her husband on the voyage

This tale is common to both Mary and Bridget. Bridget’s future husband was a mariner, John Widdup, so that may be plausible. I’ve never found George Kunkel’s immigration either, and have conjectured he too may have worked his passage given his upbringing on the River Main. The Tasmanian records indicate there were 26 crew on the Florentia…I wonder if either George or John was one of them. Unfortunately the Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters website does not include the Florentia.

So far at least I’ve also been unable to trace them through the CLIP website.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

The voyage

The ship’s captain was Capt TH Banks and Surgeon Superintendent William Clegg and the ship arrived in Moreton Bay on 25th April 1853. The Florentia was a barque of 453 tons, and on arrival was carrying 249 immigrants so a fairly small ship. Apart from being unusually long, due to “contrary winds and calms”, the voyage had a fairly high fatality rate, with two differing death rates: 17 deaths (Moreton Bay) and 9 deaths (Hobart). Although “offset” by either 8 or 12 births, this was not a good tally. And yet surprisingly very little is documented in the Trove newspapers about the voyage, other than an elusive hint that there were issues with the ship’s officers: The local Immigration Board is now engaged in the investigation of certain charges against the ship’s officers, but what their nature or justice may be, remains a mystery.- Moreton Bay Courier, May 7 quoted in the Maitland Mercury of 18 May 1853.

The Moreton Bay colonists were far more concerned that the ship brought far more women and children, than the men they wanted to boost their workforce.

Further Queries 

Was there another Florentia voyage? Yes, but back in 1841 when Bridget was only a girl of about eight. It seems logical that the 1853 voyage is the correct one. Our Bridget witnessed her brother’s and sister’s  baptism at home in Broadford in 1846 and 1850 adding to that likelihood.

It’s also not surprising that Mary might have been advertising for her sister, as Bridget left Ipswich after a year, so about mid-1854. By the 1860s she was married and living with her little family in Urana in southern New South Wales. Meanwhile Mary too had married in 1857, to George Kunkel, which Bridget may not have known.

So why was Mary “anxious” to get in touch with Bridget in early 1859? Their parents didn’t die until much later. Mary’s marriage and children seemed to be having no problems. Perhaps she just hadn’t heard from Bridget for a while or perhaps Mary knew that Kate was thinking of emigrating and wanted to get in touch.

jumping-people-silhouettes-colorful-illustration_275-6273

Image from Freepik.com

Plainly there’s room for further research at various archives and online.

So what do you think? Does my hypothesis hold up? Can I do a happy dance or is it all wishful thinking? Pearls of wisdom and advice would be much appreciated.

Sources:

http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Tasmanian Archives, Immigration document MB2-39-1-16 Image 183

Family oral history: Anne Kunkel