25 January 2011

Campbell immigration 1839: my earliest Australian document

Graphic by Shelley
To celebrate Australia Day (26 January), Shelley at Twigs of Yore invited us to write about the earliest piece of documentation we have for an ancestor in Australia.

The earliest Australian document I have is an immigration record for my great-great-great-grandmother, Ellen (Helen) CAMPBELL. On 28 Feb 1839, Ellen and her thirteen children arrived at Sydney NSW on the British King. (NSW Immigration Department: Persons on Government Ships, 1839. State Records NSW: 4/4780, pages 230-231.)

The ship sailed from Tobermory in Scotland, but the family came from the Isle of Tiree. Ellen was a widow aged 49. Her children's ages ranged from 3 to 24. One daughter (Anne) was accompanied by her husband, Dr. Donald Rankin MACDONALD, and an infant who died on the voyage.

Helen CAMPBELL, in a letter dated July 1839 (NSW Colonial Secretary In Letters 39/7892 and enclosure; AONSW ref. 4/2454.3) says that her elder daughters obtained situations on arrival, but one was attacked with fever, which obliged one of her sisters to leave her situation to nurse her, and she being also attacked with the same disorder, another sister was also obliged to relinquish her situation to nurse her sick sisters. She 'arrived in this Colony without funds' and 'what little money she has been able to obtain by her own exertions and that of her other children, is now expended and she has no further means of assisting her child who is lying very dangerously ill, and in a state of wretched destitution'.

Ellen's three sons (John, Malcolm John and Archibald) became well known pioneers of Gippsland, Victoria. I have some information about most of Ellen's daughters, who married COCKBURN, COULSON, HOLMES, LAMONT, MACDONALD, McKENZIE, McNAUGHTON, WEBSTER and WELLS.

Believe it or not, Ellen's youngest daughter was named Duncan (her late father's name). She remains a mystery. A Scottish baptism register, NSW shipping records and NSW Colonial Secretary's Office correspondence all say that Duncan was a girl. Her mother's death certificate, 26 Apr 1858, lists Duncan as 'living'. If you are related to a Miss Duncan CAMPBELL born about 1835, please contact me!

Tuesday's Tip: School registers - parent or guardian?

If someone 'vanished', it may be because they changed their name. If children are involved, try using school admission registers. I once overcome a genealogical dead end by finding a school admission register entry that listed the child's 'parent or guardian' as the mother's new partner. She did not marry him, but she and the children used his surname. Once I knew what that surname was, the research progressed in leaps and bounds.

School admission registers usually show the child's date of birth. Although it's not always totally accurate, it can be helpful if you haven't found a birth registration.

Some indexes to Queensland school pupils (from many school histories, some admission registers, etc) are now on the Internet.

Australian school admission registers should be either at the school or in State Archives. By law, historical societies or museums should only hold copies, not originals. Many indexes to school registers are listed in the book Specialist Indexes in Australia: a Genealogist's Guide (1998 edition and 2006 Supplement). For specific advice about Queensland school records, see the latest edition of the book Tips for Queensland Research. Those books are described in more detail on my Web site.

('Tuesday's Tip' is a theme used by 'Geneabloggers'.)