Kissing cousins

We each have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on; the numbers double with each generation. In ten generations we have 1024 great great … grandparents.

In twenty generations we would have 1,048,576 18th great grandparents. While this is possible in theory, it is more likely that we have far fewer, simply because our forebears married someone related to them. This is called ‘pedigree collapse’: we have fewer forebears, with multiple lines of descent from the same person.

Recently I have started to record more of my genealogy on Wikitree. I like the idea of collaborating with cousins on a single family tree. Wikitree strives for historical accuracy by requesting that facts are supported with citations. Collaboration means I can see my connections to forebears further back in time. Wikitree is free and contributors sign an honor code of shared of ethics and principles.

There are some interesting applications to help one analyse one’s family tree on Wikitree and one of these is “Ancestor Explorer” developed by Chase Ashley The app allows you to see a sortable list of all ancestors of a particular person (Descendant) for up to 20 generations back. That list shows the number of lines to the same ancestor if there are multiple lines of descent; an indication of pedigree collapse.

Amongst my forebears the first cousin marriage I have come across is Charles Gordon (1670 – 1702) who married his first cousin Elizabeth Lyon (aft 1662 – 1739). They were first cousins, the grandchildren of Elizabeth Maule (abt 1620 – 1659) and John Lyon (1596 – 1646). Elizabeth Maule and John Lyon are my tenth great grandparents.

The tool tells me that I have 3030 unique ancestors and 20,016 duplicate ancestors (additional lines of descent from a unique ancestor) within 20 generations. That is a lot of cousin marriages leading to a lot of duplicates.

It appears, for example, that I am descended in 1035 different ways from Marjorie Carrick (abt 1252 – 1292). By one line of descent she is my 19th great grandmother and by another line of descent she is my 30th great grandmother. As far as I can see, all the 1035 lines of descent are either through Helen (Kinnaird) Dana (abt 1746 – 1795), one of my fifth great grandmothers or through Sophia Henrietta (Duff) Mainwaring (abt. 1790 – 1824), one of my fourth great grandmothers on a totally different branch. Both women have long Scottish lines of descent that have been well documented on Wikitree.

Portrait of Sophia Mainwaring nee Duff, my fourth great grandmother. The portrait is at Whitmore Hall, Staffordshire. Sophia’s pedigree includes a lot of marriages between cousins.

I have recently added to Sophia’s pedigree, for I discovered her father William Duff (1754 – 1795) was the illegitimate son of James Duff, the second Earl of Fife (1729 – 1809). A link to the nobility of course adds enormously to the family tree as the pedigrees are well documented. William is recorded in the Duff House Mausoleum in Banff, Aberdeenshire. The mausoleum was built in 1793 by his father, James Duff, second Earl of Fife, but included tombs of people not related to James Duff who was attempting to prove descent from an ancient lineage.

My tree on Wikitree is by no means complete. I have recorded only 20 of my 32 possible great grandparents, 28 of my possible 64 great grandparents, and 30 of my possible 128 5th great grandparents. When looking at my personal family tree I have 26 of my 32 possible great grandparents, 36 of my possible 64 great grandparents, and 49 of my possible 128 5th great grandparents; there are 6+8+19 = 33 more ancestors to add to Wikitree.

My pedigree at Wikitree as at 28 February 2021. Tree generated with DNAPainter from a gedcom downloaded from Wikitree. The fan chart shows 9 generations: on Wikitree I know only 26 of the 512 possible 7th great grandparents. Coloured blocks indicate ancestors whose details are known; light grey indicates unknown forebears.
My pedigree at on my own research tree as at 28 February 2021. Tree generated with DNAPainter from a gedcom downloaded from The fan chart shows 9 generations: on my own research tree I know only 69 of the 512 possible 7th great grandparents – I need to transfer my research to Wikitree.

My personal research tree has only 15 people at the 14th great grandparent level and there are only 13 people who appear more than once. My Wikitree pedigree has 341 14th great grandparents and 177 people who appear more than once.

I intend to work on increasing my tree completeness at Wikitree and collaborating with cousins on distant genealogy.

C F C Crespigny nee Dana (1820 – 1904): paperback book available

Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana (1820 – 1904) : and her family in Australia by Rafe de Crespigny and Anne Young

The paperback edition of the history of the Dana and Champion de Crespigny families in Australia is now available. The ebook was published 30 December 2020 and a PDF can be downloaded for free.

For those who prefer a hardcopy version the book can be purchased through Amazon:

This biography of Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana (1820 – 1904), also includes her forebears, siblings and descendants. 

Charlotte Frances Dana, of middling gentry background, was married to a county solicitor when she met her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny. After a scandalous divorce and a brief exile in France, they came to Australia in 1852 where Philip Robert became a Warden and Magistrate in the goldfields.

Viewed through the life of Charlotte Frances, this is an account of a migrant Victorian family of the nineteenth century.




CHAPTER ONE Prologue: The family background of Charlotte Frances nee Dana
The Dana family in America 1
Edmund Dana in England and Scotland 3
The children of Edmund Dana and Helen nee Kinnaird 14
William Pulteney Dana, father of Charlotte Frances 31

CHAPTER TWO The Road to Divorce
The Bible and the census 43
Breakdown 53
Divorce 59
France to Australia 67
A note on the Crespigny surname 77

CHAPTER THREE Victoria in the Gold Rush
The Dana brothers and the native police 79
Family in Victoria 95
Commissioner, Magistrate and Warden of the Goldfields 105
Letters from home 113

CHAPTER FOUR Amherst and Talbot 1855-1871
Settlements at Daisy Hill 121
Public and private life 128
Farewell to Talbot 142
In search of Daisy Hill Farm: a note 145
Tragic cousins: George and Augustus, the sons of Henry Dana 149

CHAPTER FIVE Ararat to St Kilda 1871-1889
Bairnsdale, Bendigo and Bright, with a brief return to Talbot 157
Magistrate at Ararat 163
Constantine Trent in Australia 1875-1881 173
Rose Crespigny and Frank Beggs 182
Philip Crespigny and Annie Frances Chauncy 191

CHAPTER SIX Eurambeen 1889-1904
The second marriage of Philip Champion Crespigny 207
The letters of Constantine Trent Champion Crespigny 1889-1896 207
Banks and the land: the crisis of the 1890s 216
The Eurambeen Letters 1898-1904 218

CHAPTER SEVEN Epilogue: The immediate descendants of Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana
Philip Champion de Crespigny 1850-1927 253
Philip Champion de Crespigny 1879-1918 256
Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny 1882-1952 259
Francis George Travers Champion de Crespigny 1892-1968 261
Hugh Vivian Champion de Crespigny 1897-1969 262
Royalieu Dana [Roy] Champion de Crespigny 1905-1985 263
Claude Montgomery Champion de Crespigny 1908-1991 264
Rose (1858-1937) and Frank Beggs (1850-1921) 265
Postscript: Ada, Viola and Rose 266
John Neptune Blood 1869-1942 267



The tristate tour February 2021 part 2

See previous post for the first part of our trip.

On Thursday 9 February the weather was warm reaching 37 degrees (98 degrees Fahrenheit). We took a two hour paddle steamer ride on the Murray through lock 11 and downstream.

We admired the Murray River Flag which dates from the early 1850s; there are three variations. Our paddlesteamer flew the Upper Murray River Flag with the  darker blue bands on its flag, representing the darker waters of the river’s upper reaches. At lock 11 we saw the Combined Murray River Flag.

In the evening we visited a local distillery and after sampling several types we purchased a gin infused with saltbush.

The next day Friday 12 February we drove to South Australia. Because of the pandemic we needed to apply for permits to enter South Australia and also to return to Victoria.

Trip to South Australia

The Sturt Highway passes along the boundary of Ned’s Corner, a property once owned by the Cudmores. Ned’s Corner Station is now owned by the Trust for Nature who bought the property in 2002 when it was very degraded from drought and overgrazing. The Trust claims the 30,000 hectare property (74,000 acres) is the largest freehold property in Victoria and also the biggest private conservation reserve in the state.

My great great grandfather James Francis Cudmore (1837 – 1908) managed Paringa, 208 sq. miles (531 km²) near present day Renmark from 1857. Paringa was first leased by James’s father Daniel from 1850 as well as a number of other stations. In 1860 James Cudmore leased Ned’s Corner, further up the Murray. From these properties he overlanded sheep to Queensland and took up leases there. In1867 he married Margaret Budge. James and Margaret had 13 children; my grandfather Arthur Murray Cudmore was their third child born at Paringa in 1870.

In 1870 James Cudmore and Kenneth Budge, his wife’s brother, bought Gooyea (later Milo) on the Bulloo, Queensland. In October 1871 Kenneth Budge was in charge of a mob of 600 cows and 16 bulls travelling from Paringa, a Cudmore station, to Dowling’s Creek, at Gooyea. A herd of cattle this big could travel only about ten miles a day, so the journey from Paringa to Gooyea would have taken nearly three months.

In 1876 James Cudmore enlarged Ned’s Corner in partnership with Robert Barr Smith and A. H. Pegler. By the end of the 1870s 130,000 sheep were being shorn at his stations on the Murray.

James Mansfield Niall (1860-1941), a first cousin to James Francis Cudmore, worked at Paringa Station as a young man before moving to central western Queensland. His great grandson has been kind enough to share some of James Niall’s reminiscences.

In 1876 I went up to Paringa Station on the Murray, and took a position there as bookkeeper. I had to travel by train to Kapunda, thence by coach to Blanchtown, Overland Corner, to Ral Ral. We travelled most of the night and all day for some 3 days. The coachdriver on the later stages was a man named Lambert. Lambert had been fined the previous week for over-carrying the Paringa mailbag, and when he learned I was going to the Station he did not hesitate to abuse me at every opportunity. I was practically only a schoolboy, and I put up with it until we got to Ral Ral, where a blackfellow met me leading a horse on which I was to ride out to the Station. Lambert on seeing the horse flogged it with his whip, upon which I told him that I had had enough of it, and that he could give me a hiding, or I would give him one. (Other passengers on the coach were John Crozier – late of St Albans near Geelong – Fred Cornwallis West, and Dr Wilson of Wentworth). Lambert and I had a fairly lengthy fight, and I beat him very badly, although he broke my nose, from which I am suffering even today. John Crozier enjoyed himself immensely watching the fight from the box of the coach, calling out ”Go it young un”, a term with which he always greeted me when I met him in the Streets of Melbourne 40 years afterwards. Dr Wilson patched up my nose. We had travelled most of the night in the Coach without meals, I only had sixpence in my pocket, and I hadn’t the effrontery or courage to ask the shanty-keeper at Ral Ral to give me a meal without paying for it, so I bought the nigger a nip of rum with the 6d and rode out to the Station. There I remained for probably 18 months, when in 1878 Mr Kenneth Budge (who was manager of Gooyea Station in Queensland) died suddenly from heart disease getting out of bed, and my first cousin, J F Cudmore, on whose Station I was working, hurried me off to Queensland, without notice, to go up and take control.

Ned’s Corner Station is closed to visitors because of the pandemic.

When we crossed the South Australian border we were inspected for both quarantine and bio-security; you cannot bring fruit into South Australia.

Overlooking Pike Lagoon with the Murray in the distance, near Paringa

At Renmark we had a very pleasant lunch from the Renmark Club overlooking the river.

After lunch we visited Olivewood, a National Trust property which was originally home to the Chaffey family who pioneered irrigation in the region.

My interest in visiting Olivewood was to see the plaque from the grave of my 3rd great grandmother Margaret Rankin nee Gunn (1819 – 1863). The plaque had been stolen from the grave but was found in 1994 and is now cared for by the National Trust at Olivewood. Margaret’s husband Ewan Rankin was an overseer at Bookmark station – the station no longer exists as it is under present-day Renmark.

brass plaque from the grave of Margaret Rankin

There is a link between Olivewood and Paringa as while George Chaffey was siting for Olivewood to be built he stayed at Paringa House, the Cudmore home. There was a painting of the house at Olivewood.

Harry Harbord (Breaker) Morant (1864-1902) probably did not live at Paringa House but worked on the station before enlisting in the army.

Paringa station, Murray River about 1890 by Frederick Needham from the collection of the State Library of South Australia SLSA reference B 62050

Paringa House is now run as a bed and breakfast. The land around the house has been sold off and some of it now forms part of the township. We caught a glimpse of the house from across the river standing on the bridge.

a glimpse of Paringa House from the bridge across the Murray

My great grandfather Arthur Murray Cudmore was born 11 June 1870. Later that year there were enormous floods and the old house was destroyed. The present house was built after the flood. The 1870 flood was measured at 11.65 metres (38 feet) at Mildura but was a very slow flood. In September the flood had reached the verandah at Mildura Station.

bridge across the Murray at Paringa
A black stump at Paringa, claimed to be the largest in Australia. A 600-year-old river red gum tree trunk and root system had been hanging over the bank of the Murray River near Chowilla Station, upstream from Renmark. The old tree apparently had fallen into the river during the flood of 1917 and, becoming a navigation hazard, it was later dragged back on to the riverbank where it had lain ever since. The eight tonne stump was transported to Paringa downstream by river in a journey taking five days.

We paused for afternoon tea at Paringa and drove back.

On the way to Mildura we received news of another lockdown for the whole of the state of Victoria due to the pandemic. We made the decision to return home that evening. We were only cutting our holiday short by one night and the restrictions were that most businesses were to be shut and you could not travel further than five kilometres from home. We did not wish to experience the lockdown in Mildura. So we packed our bags and headed south stopping for dinner in Birchip. We were fortunate to have a holiday between lockdowns.

Birchip Hotel
Drive home to Ballarat via Birchip
Looking away from the sun at sunset


The tristate tour February 2021 part 1

Greg and I took our first holiday in a year to Mildura to visit some family history places nearby. A combination of illness and various lockdowns due to the Covid pandemic had prevented any travelling away from home overnight in the last twelve months. We decided to take the opportunity of some free time to meet with a cousin and see some of the places we had only read about.

Tuesday 9 February we drove north to Mildura via Warracknabeal. We travelled through the Wimmera region and the scenery matched that captured in the recent film ‘The Dry’ which I had seen only a few weeks ago.

The drive north from Ballarat to Mildura via Warracknabeal

We came upon some painted silos at Rupanyup, part of a 200 kilometer series of portraits of local people painted on grain silos from 2016. A few kilometers further on we paused to admire the pretty weatherboard St John’s Lutheran Church in Minyip.

We had a terrific lunch at Warracknabeal at The Creekside Hotel in a very nice beer garden beside the Yarriambiack Creek. The hotel’s staff were very Covid-conscientious with masks, check in, sanitiser, and ordering lunch via an online webpage retrieved by a QR code; we even managed to order a jug of iced water and 3 glasses for the table, free, through this page.

We planned to have lunch at the Warracknabeal Hotel but it was closed. The hotel had been owned by the great grandfather of a friend and passed down to our friend’s father who finally sold it. Our friend commented “Wheat all sown and harvested by Collins St contractors so pubs shut.” Sadly the hotel seems to have been stripped of its wrought iron which had still been in place in 2010 but was gone by 2019. The hotel was registered on the Register of the National Estate but that register was closed in 2007 and is no longer a statutory list and is maintained on a non-statutory basis as a publicly available archive and educational resource. It seems a pity that heritage buildings are not better protected.

Yarriambiack Creek was fairly full and attractive to look at. There was a park across the creek with some cages of birds and an enclosure of kangaroos.

Our trip north continued with more silos and a stop in Ouyen. Ouyen had been famous for its vanilla slices having hosted a competition from 1998 to 2011 initiated by Jeff Kennett, the then premier of Victoria. Kennett acted as guest judge until 2005. In 2011 volunteers relinquished the competition to another small town. This afternoon the bakery and many other shops were closed and there were no vanilla slices to be bought.

Wednesday 10 February we visited the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens just across the Murray River in New South Wales and also the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers at Wentworth. When we visited the confluence last in 2010 you could see the muddy Darling joining the clearer Murray. This time the two rivers were a similar colour.

Trip into New South Wales

On Wednesday afternoon we visited Avoca Station and met one of my fourth cousins, AL, and her mother, JA, my third cousin once removed. JA’s grandfather (AL’s great grandfather), George Agars (1864 – 1943) was the son of Margaret Alice Agars nee Cudmore (1842 – 1871) and grandson of Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore (1811 – 1891) and Mary Cudmore nee Nihill (1811 – 1893).

George’s mother Margaret died in 1871 at 29 from an ear infection. George was brought up by his grandparents Daniel and Mary Cudmore. He was educated in Adelaide to become an accountant for his Uncle Dan at Avoca Station. George later became an irrigation pioneer in Mildura when the Chaffey Brothers arrived from Canada. My cousin commented “He did not do that well on the land and should have followed his dream of being a writer and poet.”

The current owners of Avoca Station are Barb and Ian Laws who have owned the property for 21 years. They bought the house with 104 acres. 

The property was established on the west bank of the Darling River in 1871 by Daniel Henry Cashel Cudmore (1844 – 1913), the fifth of nine children of Daniel Michael Paul and Mary Cudmore. Daniel H  purchased the western half of Tapio Station on the Darling from Messrs. Menzies and Douglas, and named it Avoca, said to be  after his father’s hometown in Ireland; however Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore was born in Tory Hill, Limerick near Adare, 230 km west of Avoca.

Avoca Station had frontages of ten miles (16 km) to the Murray and twenty-five miles (40 km) to the Darling. Other properties in the area were acquired and in 1885 Daniel Henry and two of his brothers, Milo Robert (1852 – 1913) and Arthur Frederick (1854 – 1919), managed 709,000 acres including Avoca and Popiltah Station to the north of Avoca. 120,000 sheep were shorn at Avoca in 1888 with new Wolseley shearing machines. The wool clip was transported by paddle steamer from the woolshed downstream via the Darling River to the Murray River. Daniel Henry retired in 1895 to Victor Harbour. Avoca Station was sold in 1911.

The homestead was built in two stages. In 1871 the first stage was constructed of cypress pine drop logs. Many of the outbuildings are believed to have also been built at this time. In 1879 a second stage stone wing of the homestead was added.

I have previously written about Ernest Osmond Cudmore (1894 – 1924). He was the second of four sons of Milo Robert Cudmore and a cousin of my great grandfather Arthur Murray Cudmore. In 1908 Ernest was holidaying at Avoca when he jumped from a horse as he feared he was about to collide with a portion of the stable. He broke his leg and it was badly shattered; the bone did not set and his leg had to be amputated below the knee.

the stables

Sara Kathleen de Lacy Roberts (nee Cudmore) (1883 – 1972), the daughter of  Arthur Frederick Cudmore, was another cousin of my great grandfather Arthur Murray Cudmore. In 1971 Kathleen Roberts was interviewed by a granddaughter of Milo Robert Cudmore, Helen Bewsher nee Cudmore (1928 – 2001). Kathleen lived at Avoca as a teenager and young adult from 1895 until her marriage in 1909. She was educated at boarding school in Melbourne and travelled to and from school via train and the paddle steamer, Trafalgar. Her recollections of Avoca, when she was 88 years old in 1971, were as follows:

One cook, one housemaid, one nurse at Popiltah. No Aborigines in the house at Popiltah, one at Avoca. A camp of 30 as stockmen. 

The Avoca vegetable garden was on the river. A huge steam engine, between the vegetable and flower gardens, pumped river water to them. In the hot weather this was done at night and made a terrible noise. A Chinaman worked full time on these gardens and would come to the kitchen door every morning to enquire on what vegetables were required that day. All the linen was made at Avoca, the girls spending their time sewing, making visitors’ beds and preserving.

Staff of 10 men at Avoca, jackaroo and overseer. 

Bred horses there – had about 100. Every second year, one of the men spent two or three months breaking in – always gently.

reminiscence of Kathleen Roberts nee Cudmore

1911 sale poster on display at Avoca Homestead

Ian and Barb Law, the present owners of Avoca, gave us afternoon tea and showed us around the property. It was delightful to meet them and our cousins too.


170 years since the ‘Black Thursday’ bushfires in Victoria

Today is the 170th anniversary of the 1851 bushfires, which devastated large parts of Victoria.

Fires covered a quarter of what is now Victoria (approximately 5 million hectares). Areas affected include Portland, Plenty Ranges, Westernport, the Wimmera and Dandenong districts. Approximately 12 human lives, one million sheep and thousands of cattle were lost.

Forest Fire Management Victoria – past bushfires
Black Thursday, February 6th. 1851, as depicted by William Strutt

In 1851 among our forebears these people were living in Victoria and would have experienced the frightening conditions that day:

Greg’s third great grandparents John Narroway Darby (1823 – ?) and his wife Matilda nee Moggridge (1825 – 1868) had separated and Matilda was living with David Hughes with whom she had a daughter Margaret born 1850 at Ashby, now west Geelong. In 1851 Matilda and her daughters Matilda (1845 – ?), Greg’s great great grandmother, and Margaret were probably living in Ashby. John Darby and their daughter Henrietta may have been living in Portland where John married for a second time in 1855.

Greg’s third great grandparents Thomas Edwards (1794 – 1871) and Mary Edwards nee Gilbart (1805 – 1867), were living near Geelong at the time of the death of their daughter in 1850. They later moved to Bungaree near Ballarat but at the time of the fires they were probably in the Geelong district with their children including their youngest son and Greg’s great great grandfather, Francis Gilbart Edwards (1848 – 1913).

Samuel Proudfoot Hawkins (1819 – 1867) and his wife Jeanie nee Hutcheson (1824 – 1864), my third great grandparents, were living in the Portland district. Their second daughter Penelope was born in July 1851 at Runnymede station near Sandford which had been settled by Jeanie’s brothers. Also at Runnymede was Isabella Hutcheson nee Taylor (1794 – 1876), Jeanie’s mother and my fourth great grandmother.

The fire did not reach Ashby or Geelong but a week later a report wrote about the conditions experienced that day in the Geelong district.

The peculiarity of the phenomena of Thursday, was the extraordinary violence of the hot blast by which the conflagration was kindled. Had the hurricane continued to blow during Thursday night with the same violence as during the day, the conflagration might have approached closer to the suburbs, and we might have been exposed to the fiery projectiles which were swept through the air, and which carried devastation to stations and homesteads that were thought to be secure. The violence of the wind, the intensity, breadth, and volume of the fire, the combustible condition of grass, trees, fences, train, huts, and houses, formed a combination that baffled both calculation and means of resistance; and had the fire reached Ashby, we could not have reckoned on the safety of Geelong.

FRIDAY MORNING, FEBRUARY 14. (1851, February 14). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1847 – 1851), p. 2 (DAILY and MORNING). Retrieved from

An account of the bushfire from the Portland perspective:

(From the Portland Guardian.)
Yesterday forenoon was a period of extraordinary heat, and we are sorry to say, of calamity also. The heat from 11 o’clock, am, until afternoon was most oppressive ; a hot wind blowing from the N.N.W. in a most furious manner. At this time the thermometer stood for an hour by one glass at 112° while by two others it reached 116° in the sun. The dust in the streets was most suffocating, penetrating the smallest crevices, and filling the houses. In consequence of the excessive heat and bush fires, the last day of the races was postponed, until this day, when they duly came off. About 12 o’clock a bush fire in the vicinity of the town began to rage with the utmost fury. It sprang up near the racecourse, and through the violence of the hot wind, threatened to consume the booths, and to envelope the persons who had assembled there in the flames, before time could be afforded them to escape. By a slight change of wind, however, the racers escaped ; but the resistless element swept away in its course the newly erected cottage of Mr Howard the collector of Customs, leaving time only to hurry away Mrs Howard and the family out of the house, before their residence became a perfect cinder So sudden and rapid was the progress of the flames that the fowls and goats about the premises were all consumed. The fire swept along before the wind, carrying away the fences, and all that stood in its way, for about a mile and a half, when Mr Blair, with the whole body of the constabulary, and others from the racecourse arrived in time to save his own hay-stack and residence. The utmost concern was felt in town at the same time, at the approach of the fire from another quarter. Burnt particles were whirling down the streets and flying over the tops of the houses in profusion. But a constable was not to be seen in town. Those of the inhabitants in their houses were making the best preparations which they could for themselves respectively , water carts and concentrated effort was at a sad discount. Several gentlemen did their utmost to prepare against a highly probable casualty, but the utmost which they could do was to warn others of the danger. Fortunately the wind moderated about two o’clock, and the apprehension passed away.

While this fire was raging in the immediate vicinity of the town, Mount Clay and the farms in that locality were enveloped in one vast blaze. Mr Millard has again been a heavy sufferer in this latter fire, and has now lost the whole of his crops. Messrs Monogue, M’Lachlan and Dick, have partaken with him in his misfortunes. The work of years has been swept away from those industrious families and severe sufferers. Their fences, their crops, and their homes, have been annihilated at a stroke.

Just at the same hour the Bush Tavern, which has stood scathless for many years in the midst of a dense forest, and proved so often a place of shelter to the forlorn traveller from the pitiless storm of winter and the scorching heat of summer, is now a heap of ashes. The fire reached the buildings without warning ; and the few articles which were saved from the wreck ignited afterwards with the excessive heat which the burning houses created. The bridge across the Fitzroy has shared a similar fate with the house;  a dray, and it is supposed a horse, have met a similar calamity.

At sea, the weather was even more fearful than on shore. Captain Reynolds reports that yesterday, when 20 miles from the Laurences, the heat was so intense, that every soul on board was struck almost powerless. A sort of whirlwind, on the afternoon, struck the vessel, and carried the topsail, lowered down on the cap, clean out of the bolt rope, and had he not been prepared for the shock, the vessel, he has no doubt, would have been capsized. Flakes of fire were, at the time, flying thick all around the vessel from the shore in the direction of Portland.

BUSH FIRES. (1851, February 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved from
Black Thursday, February, 1851. Engraved F.A. Sleap. In the collection of the State Library of Victoria.

Climbing our family’s gum tree again

In 2014 I responded to a prompt by a fellow genealogy blogger, Pauleen Cass, to look at my family’s immigration to Australia. In the seven years since, I’ve learned a lot more about our family history so I thought it would be fun to revisit Pauleen’s prompts.


My first ancestor to arrive in Australia was…? George Taylor (1758 – 1828) and Mary Taylor née Low (1765 -1850), my fifth great grand parents, were the first of my forebears to emigrate to Australia, arriving in Tasmania on 10 January 1823 with most of their adult children. Their daughter Isabella Hutcheson nee Taylor, my fourth great grandmother, followed ten years later with her children. The property the Taylors and their sons farmed, called ‘Valleyfield‘, near Launceston, was sold in 2005 after more than 180 years in the same family.

About ninety percent, of our immigrant ancestors arrived before 1855, one arrived in 1888, and four arrived in the middle of the twentieth century after World War 2.

Fan chart of my children’s ancestors showing immigrants highlighted in dark green. Those highlighted in purple came to Australia but returned to England. We don’t know anything about the immigration of John Clark and Hannah Clark nee Sline highlighted in olive green. Chart generated using DNAPainter.

Were there any convicts? There are no convicts on my side. My husband Greg’s great great grandmother Caroline Clarke, who married a gold-digger called George Young, was born in New South Wales about 1835. I still haven’t been able to trace her parents, so perhaps they were convicts, though this seems unlikely as convicts are well documented.

Where did our ancestors come from? Twenty-nine were from England, seven from Scotland, two from Wales, eight from Ireland, and four from Germany. One was born in New Zealand and arrived in Tasmania as a baby. One of our English forebears was born in India; two were British subjects born in France. There are also two immigrants, John Clark and his wife Hannah nee Sline, in the list of fifty-three that I know little about.

Did any of our ancestors pay their passage? Many paid their own passage, and there were some assisted immigrants. Only one person seems to have worked his way to Australia, Greg’s great great grandfather John Plowright, who on his admission to Maryborough Hospital in 1873 stated that he had arrived in the colony from London on the Speculation about 1853. He gave his occupation was mariner. He wasn’t listed as a deserter. It seems he gave up life as a seaman to try his chance on the goldfields.

How many ancestors came as singles? couples? families? Thirty-two of the fifty-three immigrants – sixty percent – came with their family. Twenty-eight were adults and eight were infants or children accompanying their parents. Thirteen came as single immigrants. There was only one couple without children: John and Sarah Way.

Did one person lead the way and others follow? There are quite a few instances of this.

What’s the longest journey they took to get here? Of the voyages I know about, two took 136 days or 4 ½ months:

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place? Several ancestors came via other places:

  • John and Matilda Darby emigrated first to New Zealand and came to Tasmania several years later.
  • Gordon Mainwaring, one of my 3rd great grandfathers, came to Australia from Calcutta.
  • Wentworth Cavenagh, one of my great great grandfathers, first tried farming in Canada, then coffee planting in Ceylon, then tried for a job in Calcutta, India. He arrived on the Bendigo goldfields in 1852 before making his way to South Australia a year later.

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive? Twenty arrived in Victoria, fourteen in South Australia, eleven arrived in Tasmania, two in Western Australia, two probably came to New South Wales, and four migrated to the Australian Capital Territory.

Did they settle and remain in one state or colony? They moved between the colonies, especially to and from Victoria and to and from South Australia.

  • the Ways moved from South Australia to Victoria and then to New South Wales
  • the Darbys moved from Tasmania to Victoria
  • the Ralphs moved from Victoria to South Australia
  • the Plaisteds and the Hughes moved from South Australia to Victoria
  • the Cudmores and Nihills moved from Tasmania to South Australia
  • the Hutchesons moved from Tasmania to Victoria
  • Philip Chauncy moved from South Australia to Western Australia to Victoria

Did they stay in one town or move around? They tended to move around.

Do you have any First Australians in your tree? No direct forebears .

Were any self-employed? They were mostly self-employed. Many were farmers or miners.

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in? Most of them took up farming.

Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation? Not in my immediate family.

Did any of our ancestors leave Australia to return “Home”? William Snell Chauncy, one of my 4th great grandfathers, visited his children in South Australia for only twelve months before returning to England. Gordon Mainwaring and his wife Mary née Hickey both died in England, as did their son-in-law, Wentworth Cavenagh-Mainwaring.

Previous posts about immigration

Jemmett Mainwaring and HMS Babet

Following on from my previous post Jemmett Mainwaring and the start of a Mainwaring naval tradition – part 1

19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer auctioned 2014. Item description “19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer, Capt Jemmet Mainwaring”

In June 1797, at the age of thirty-four, Jemmett Mainwaring was given command of HMS Babet, a four-year-old 20-gun French corvette, captured by the British three years previously. In the Royal Navy system she became a sixth-rate post ship, too small for a frigate, but big enough to require the command of a captain.

Capture on 23 April 1794 of Pomone, Engageante and Babet by Thomas Whitcombe. Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Between 25 July and 5 October 1797 under Captain Mainwaring HMS Babet captured three merchant vessels:

  • the brig Decision, of 200 tons and eight men, recaptured while sailing from Cape to Puerto Rico in ballast;
  • the brig Schuylkill, of Philadelphia, 100 tons and eight men, sailing from New York to Puerto Rico with a cargo of flour, supposedly Spanish property; and
  • the barque Æolus, of Copenhagen, 180 tons and 10 men, sailing from Marseilles to St. Thomas, with a cargo of wine, French property.

The London Gazette “No. 14073”. 12 December 1797. p. 1192 includes an account of the captures.

On 16 January 1798 Babet‘s boats captured the French schooner Désirée between Martinique and Dominique.

Letter from Captain Jemmett Mainwaring to Henry Harvey describing the capture of La Desiree. Harvey forwarded the letter to Evan Nepean then Secretary to the Board of Admiralty.
From The London Gazette “No. 15005” 7 April 1798. p. 295.

Between July and December 1798 HMS Babet was refitted at Portsmouth at a cost of £5,194 [about £230,000 today] .

After her refit HMS Babet under Mainwaring began another successful run of captures:

  • in December 1798 she recaptured the American ship Helena.
  • on 18 and 19 January 1799, she captured two French fishing vessels, Deux Freres Unis, with a cargo of herring, and another small vessel, the Jacques Charles.
  • on 24 June HMS Babet in company with HMS Harpy, an 18 gun brig-sloop, captured the ship Weloverdagt.
Surrender of Samuel Story’s Dutch Texel squadron to a British-Russian fleet under Andrew Mitchell, 30th of August 1799 in the Vlieter. Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1799 HMS Babet took part in an Anglo-Russian invasion of the North Holland peninsula. There Babet briefly served as Vice-Admiral Andrew Mitchell‘s flagship in the Zuider Zee. Babet was listed with other ships of the British fleet as qualifying for prize money for the capture of several Dutch hulks and ships on 28 August 1799. On 30 August 1799, a squadron of the Batavian Navy with 632 guns and 3,700 men surrendered to the British navy under Vice-Admiral Mitchell in the Vlieter near Wieringen, North Holland.

Babet was also among the numerous vessels that shared in the proceeds after HMS Dart captured the French frigate Desirée from Dunkirk harbour on 8 July 1800.

Engraving after a painting by Thomas Whitcombe showing HMs Dart capturing the French frigate Désirée in July 1800.
Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Loss of HMS Babet

In September 1800 HMS Babet left Spithead with orders to convey General John Knox to Jamaica, where he was to take up the position of Governor. On 24 October she arrived at Fort-Royal Bay, Martinique, sailing the next day for Jamaica. HMS Babet was never seen again. It seems likely that she foundered in a storm.

Newspaper reports in early 1801 reported on the probable loss. There were also a few suggestions that she had in fact survived.

Letters concerning the loss of the Babet

“About this time [1801] we got the melancholy account of the loss of the Babet, the ship in which our dear John (General Knox) was gone out as Governor and Commander in Chief to Jamaica. Many, many tears did I shed for him, I loved him as a brother, and never, I believe, was there a man so deserving of the regard and regret everyone expressed for him. We long had hopes that the ship was not lost, as it was not seen to go down, but years have elapsed since, therefore no hope can be indulged, though I am sometimes fool enough to feel some, in spite of my almost conviction that it is impossible they ever should be realised.” [The Honourable Frances Calvert nee Pery at An Irish beauty of the regency page 13 retrieved through]

The letters of Henry Swinburne concerning the fate of his son who was aide-de-campe to Knox, document the uncertainty of the fate of the Babet.

“London , January 3rd, 1801. … I am uneasy at not hearing yet of Harry’s arrival in Jamaica, though various persons conversant with those seas laugh at my fears . [footnote: He went out as secretary and aide-de-camp to General Knox, commander-in-chief at Jamaica. The ship was never more heard of, and must have foundered between Martinique and Jamaica.]

February 2nd . Another Jamaica mail arrived this morning, which left the island on the 21st of December, at which time no account had been received of General Knox. They are very low at the Admiralty concerning it. I have been all the morning in the city, hunting for information ; but there are so many contradictory reports and conjectures that I returned just as I went, except feeling my spirits depressed by the fatigue. I assure you I keep nothing from you, nor palliate nor exaggerate; spero contra spent . I do all I can to resist the weight of despondency, but, indeed, I am cruelly alarmed, and prepare myself for the worst. I cannot pretend to bid you keep up your spirits, or hope or despond, for I know not what to do or to say. My thoughts are on the rack about your health, and the improbability that your shattered nerves will be able to resist such a blow as this may prove. Colonel Barry sits all day over the fire crying, and is angry if one suggests a hope. He quite kills me. I had got so far when Mr. Higgins came in, who declares upon his honour he would not buoy me up with false hopes, but his opinion is not the least altered by the arrival of this packet, nor will it till we hear from Honduras. There is nothing so common as ships driving past Jamaica and being lost for months; Admiral Parker was so for four months. 

February 6th. Barry has quite got up his spirits, but I fancy from no reason but Higgins’s persevering in his opinion, or perhaps from forcing himself out into the fresh air. How often have I admired and felt the force of the Marquis of Ormond’s exclamation about his dead son! Ours, if gone, is gone “with- out a blot upon his fair fame.” How time runs on! — every day sinks so much of my hopes, that I feel myself unmanned by every desponding expression or look of other people. 

February 12th. I write to save the last post. We had just dined when a letter came from Colonel Barry, enclosing one just received from the General, the date of which was the 25th of October, from Martinique. They had arrived, after an agreeable passage in a good ship, the day before. They were to re-embark that evening for Jamaica, where the General expected to be landed about the 1st of November. His letter is written in uncommon spirits. He says they were all well, but that he keeps Swinburne so busy he has no time to write, and therefore begs Barry to acquaint his family that he is safe and well. It was almost too much happiness to bear when these tidings came amidst all our anxiety, and we were quite overcome at such unusual ways of digestion. 

February 21 st. … Higgins says there is a letter arrived to a Mr. Miller, announcing the safety of all the crew of the Babet. By that I should imagine they have been shipwrecked. I care not, so he is safe. 

February 24th Nepean has just written to me in a style you must like: “I am a father, and can therefore participate in your feelings on the news of your son’s safety ; long may he live ! I am sure he will be an honour to his name.” 

March 2nd , 1801. Another month begun, and yet no satisfactory accounts of my dear son ! My hopes and fears are exactly what they were, and I wait in silence and sullen patience the accounts from Jamaica. 

March 4th. … This strong south-west wind might have blown some ships in from Jamaica. I dare not say I long for their arrival. 

March 28th . Every day takes away part of our hopes ; there are letters by the Jamaica mail, and accounts have been received from Honduras and other parts of the island. They have seen nothing of the unfortunate Babet , so that little opening remains but the chances of capture, which I am afraid would have been known before now. The Knox family and Colonel Barry give it up as a lost case. I write illegibly, for my eyes are dim, and every letter appears double.Can it be that the Almighty made my Hariy so good, so perfect, and protected him through so many perils, to take him away so early? I cannot believe it, till compelled by time and circumstances. I will still hope, till hope itself shall turn to despair. Pray look among my papers for all his precious letters, and put them carefully together. Happy is the farmer whose son learns to plough his land, and remains with him till his dying day !” [Secret Memoirs Of The Courts Of Europe Letters Written At The End Of The Eighteenth Century Vol Ii by Henry Swinburne pages 264 to 274 retrieved through]

Lines on the loss of the Babet by the Poet Laureate

Jemmet Mainwaring’s second cousin Henry James Pye (1745 – 1813) was appointed Poet Laureate in 1790, and held the post for 23 years. (Justly or otherwise Henry Pye is widely regarded as England’s worst Poet Laureate). Among his work is a poem on the loss of HMS Babet and the deaths of Mainwaring and Knox. The poem was reproduced in The Naval Chronicle.

James Stanier Clarke; John McArthur. The Naval Chronicle: Volume 5, January-July 1801: Containing a General and Biographical History of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom with a Variety of Original Papers on Nautical Subjects. Cambridge University Press. p. 525

Captain Jemmett Mainwaring’s will was probated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 1 July 1801. [PROB 11/1360/15] He left the bulk of his estate to Anne Mainwaring, daughter of his cousin William Mainwaring.

Jemmett Mainwaring and the start of a Mainwaring naval tradition – part 1

In the late eighteenth century midshipmen (‘young gentlemen’ aspiring to become commissioned officers) usually joined the British navy through patronage or ‘interest’: string-pulling. You got your berth under a captain your family had connections with. After six years of notionally voluntary service a midshipman who successfully completed a formal examination could be promoted to lieutenant. There was no system of purchased commission as in the army: this meant that a naval career could be open to boys of less wealthy families and to younger sons of the rich who were destined not to inherit.

Rowland Mainwaring joined the navy in 1795 as a midshipman on the Jupiter under Captain William Lechmere. Recording his promotion to captain in 1832, the Royal Naval Biography notes that Rowland’s initial engagement was through the patronage of Admiral Sir John Laforey. I do not know how the Mainwarings were connected either to the Lechmere or to the Laforey families.

Rowland was one of five cousins who joined the navy about this time. With the exception of Jemmett Mainwaring (1763 – 1800), a first cousin of his father, no member of this branch of Mainwaring family had ever followed a naval career.

Abbreviated family tree: The grandson and great grandsons of Edward Mainwaring and Jemima Mainwaring nee Pye who joined the British navy are highlighted in blue.

Jemmett Mainwaring born 1763 was the youngest son of of Benjamin Mainwaring (1719 – 1782) who had three sons who survived to maturity . Jemmett’s oldest brother Edward (1744 – 1803) served as an officer during the first American war. The second brother, John Montague Mainwaring (1761 – 1842), also served in the army rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General.

Jemmett seems to have obtained a midshipman’s place no later than 1783. It was a requirement at the time that before being commissioned as a lieutenant, an officer had to serve six years at sea and pass an examination. Jemmett Mainwaring was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1789 when he was 26.

I have found no record of his career before he was lieutenant nor do I know who his patron was. However, Jemmett Mainwaring’s grandmother, Jemima Mainwaring nee Pye (1681 – 1721) had a nephew, Thomas Pye (1708 – 1785), an admiral. Although Jemima was no longer alive to exert any influence on behalf of her grandson, perhaps Jemmett’s father Benjamin appealed to his maternal cousin on his behalf. Jemmett was a younger son, with two surviving older brothers. His father was also a younger son. A naval apprenticeship for Jemmett, with the likelihood of a commission, must have seemed an attractive prospect, potentially very rewarding.

The Royal Navy was expanded rapidly, especially at the time of the French Revolutionary Wars of 1792 – 1801. In 1784 there were 2,230 officers of whom 1,499 were lieutenants. In 1800 there were 3,168 officers of whom 2,120 were lieutenants; increases of over 40%. Moreover, in 1784 only about 25% of officers were serving afloat. In 1800 60% of officers and 68% of lieutenants were serving afloat.

Jemmett Mainwaring’s first placement as a lieutenant, from June 1789, was on HMS Royal George, a 100-gun first rate ship of the line, launched at Chatham Dockyard the year before Jemmett Mainwaring joined her. It appears that he served on the Royal George until 1795. 

HMS Royal George on the right fitting out in the River Medway off what is now Sun Pier, with HMS Queen Charlotte under construction in the centre background. This is a view from Chatham Ness, today the southernmost point of the Medway City Estate. Artist: Nicholas Pocock. Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Jemmett Mainwaring may have been on the Royal George at the Glorious First of June, also known as the Fourth Battle of Ushant of 1794. This was the first and largest fleet battle during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French admiral, Rear-Admiral Louis-Thomas Villaret-Joyeuse, had sailed from Brest to intercept a valuable grain fleet from America, urgently needed in famine-stricken France. The English commander-in-chief, Lord Howe, sailed with the Channel Fleet to intercept the convoy; neither the French battle fleet nor the British encountered the convoy, which reached Brest in safety. Instead the two battle fleets made contact on 28 May, some 365 nautical miles (673 km) off Ushant, Brittany.

Only a few British ships managed to pierce the French line and engage closely with the enemy. The Royal George, Admiral Hood‘s flagship, was one of these. It engaged closely with two French ships but lost its foremast and suffered damage to the rigging during the battle.

Map of the position of the ships of the British Royal Navy and the French Navy at the start of their battle on 1 June 1794. Image from Wikimedia Commons: authors users Ruhrfisch and Maxrossomachin
Philip James de Loutherbourg: The Battle of the First of June, 1794 retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
The painting shows the duel between the opposing flagships ‘Queen Charlotte’ (Howe, centre left) and the ‘Montagne’ (Villaret-Joyeuse); and also the the sinking of the ‘Vengeur du Peuple’, 74 guns, and the attempts to rescue her crew.

In June 1795 Jemmett Mainwaring was commissioned with the rank of commander and was appointed to HMS Espiegle, a 16 gun French-built sloop captured by the British in 1793.  When the Royal Navy took her into service they retained her name. Six months later in December 1795 Mainwaring was transferred to the command of HMS Victorieuse.

Victorieuse was a brig of the French Navy, launched at Honfleur in 1794. The British captured her in August 1795 and took her into service as HMS Victorieuse. She was fitted out at Portsmouth dockyard at a cost of £890. On 22 February 1796 she sailed for the Leeward Islands, a group of islands colonised by the British and situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Victorieuse was at the attack on St. Lucia on 24 May 1796 and was one of the vessels covering the landing of troops at Choc Bay. She shared in the prize money paid in June 1800.

In July 1796 Jemmett Mainwaring was promoted to Captain, with command of HMS Aimable, a 32 gun French frigate built in 1776 and captured by the British in 1782. The Aimable had a complement of 192.

On the evening of 22 July 1796, shortly after taking command, Mainwaring in the Aimable engaged the French frigate Pensee (44 guns and 400 men; Seine class frigate originally named La Spartiate) off Guadeloupe. Although the Pensee was a significantly more powerful vessel, the men of the Aimable were, so it is reported, more than willing to take her on, crying “To glory or to death!” when Mainwaring pointed out the superior force of their opponent. Mainwaring himself said that he would lead them into action against their republican foe with sincere pleasure.

In the exchange the Pensee suffered losses of 28 men killed and 36 wounded. The Aimable had two men wounded. The next morning the Aimable was preparing to capture the Pensee, making preparations to lash the Pensee’s bowsprit to the Aimable’s main mast when the French commander and his crew greeted the British frigate by pulling off their hats and waving them. The British sailors returned this chivalrous salute but then the Pensee sailed away and escaped. Three days later the Aimable arrived at the island of St Thomas, then a Danish colony,  and found the Pensee there undergoing repairs. The British and French commanders subsequently dined together with the Danish Governor.

In other engagements under the command of Jemmett Mainwaring the Aimable captured the French Privateer L’Iris (6 guns) in September 1796 and in April 1797 took the Privateer Le Chasseur (6 guns).

Places in the Carribean associated with Jemmett Mainwaring
19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer auctioned 2014. Item description “19th century miniature portrait of a naval officer, Capt Jemmet Mainwaring”



  • UK, Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815 retrieved through
  • Rodger, N.A.M. “Commissioned officers’ careers in the Royal Navy, 1690–1815.” Journal for Maritime Research, vol. 3, no. 1, 2001, pp. 85-129.
    • quoting Naval Promotions (HC 1833 XXIV p.279) p.282
  • Harrison, Cy. “Jemmett Mainwaring (d.1801).” Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail,
  • The London Gazette
  • Marshall, John (1825). Royal Naval Biography : Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted, Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes … with Copious Addenda: Superannuated rear-admirals. Retired captains. Post-Captains. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. Volume II Part II pp. 600–5. [Biography of John Wight Esq who was lieutenant on the Aimable in July 1796.]
  • James, William (1826). The Naval History of Great Britain from the Declaration of War by France, in February 1793 to the Accession of George IV in January 1820. Harding, Lepard, and Company. pp. 484–6.

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Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana (1820-1904) and her family in Australia

For the past three years my father and I have been working on the history of the  Dana and Champion de Crespigny families in Australia.

Charlotte Frances nee Dana (1820-1904), my third great grandmother, emigrated to Australia at the time of the gold rushes with her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny (1817-1889).

This year is the two-hundredth anniversary of Charlotte’s birth, an appropriate time to recall and document her life and her family.

The book is published in three versions. Below is a link to the pdf version, free to download. Hardback and paperback editions will be available soon. 

Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny née Dana (1820 – 1904) photographed probably in the late 1850s


A great emigration necessarily implies unhappiness of some kind or other in the country that is deserted. For few persons will leave their families, connections, friends, and native land, to seek a settlement in untried foreign climes, without some strong subsisting causes of uneasiness where they are, or the hope of some great advantages in the place to which they are going.

Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)

Charlotte Frances Dana and her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny came to Melbourne in 1852. Through their son Philip, who took the full surname of Champion de Crespigny, they were the founders of the Australian branch of the family.

In Champions from Normandy, published in 2017, Rafe de Crespigny discussed the history of the family, later known by the surname Champion de Crespigny, from the earliest records in France to their forced emigration as Huguenots in the seventeenth century and then the establishment in England during the eighteenth century. The present volume considers the experiences of the first generation in Australia. It is centred upon the life of Charlotte Frances, for she and her brother were central to the decision to emigrate, and she lived to see her first great-grandchildren in the new country and the new century.

Born in 1820, Charlotte died in 1904, and that period of eighty-four years was a time of enormous and dramatic change. She was first a subject of King George IV, former Prince Regent, and she lived through the reigns of William IV and Queen Victoria into the first years of Edward VII. Her voyage to Australia in 1851-52 lasted four months; fifty years later a steamship passage took only six weeks, less than half that time. When she arrived in Victoria, travel was by horse and cart, often no faster than seven miles a day; she would later take a train from the goldfields town of Beaufort and reach Melbourne in a matter of hours; while at the time of her death the Wright brothers in the United States were making their first powered flights at Kitty Hawk.

So it was a time of progress, but it was also an age of uncertainty. Health and medicine were both erratic, and diseases which are now quite easily treated were dangerous and could be fatal. Infant or child mortality was very high – to such a degree that many children were baptised with the name of an older sibling who had gone before them: Charlotte had two brothers christened Francis Richard Benjamin, three called Douglas and two more named William. And even those who grew to maturity could be crippled or killed by accident or sickness: one brother died in his thirties and another at the age of just forty; two young nephews died of scarlet fever and one of tetanus; and Charlotte’s son Constantine Trent Champion Crespigny and her sister-in-law Sophia nee Walsh both died of tuberculosis.

Such dangers applied still more to women of the time. Childbirth always carried a risk and stillbirth was by no means uncommon, while the absence of any practical means of contraception meant that pregnancy was often frequent: Charlotte had seven children, but she had twelve full and half-siblings, both her father and her mother had twelve brothers and sisters, and her mother’s father had sired ten more on another wife. Similarly, in her first marriage she experienced three pregnancies in three years, with one daughter who would live to maturity, a son who died in his very first year, and a third child which was still-born. With the vagaries of midwifery and the chances of infection, many women were weakened or simply worn out by such frequent fertility.

Apart from these physical matters, social and financial life could likewise be a question of fortune, good or ill. Charlotte’s family could fairly be described as gentlefolk: her grand-mother was the daughter of a Scottish baron; her grandfather came from a notable back-ground in the American colonies; one of her uncles was a general in the British army and owned a landed estate; two of her aunts married wealthy men; and in 1839 Charlotte herself was married to a prosperous solicitor in Gloucestershire.

Apparent security, however, could change very quickly. Soon after Charlotte’s wedding her father’s printing business failed, he was sent to prison for debt and was stripped of all property. The last years of his life were survived on a small pension in the home of his daughter and son-in-law.

Bankruptcy and indebtedness were indeed a constant threat: if a bank failed, its notes were worthless – and much of the currency in circulation was issued by private banks; the system of limited liability was not in common use, so the failure of a business could bring ruin to its owner; and a batch of unpaid bills could bring a cascade of misfortune.

The position was even more precarious for women. Until quite recent times, a married woman was identified with her husband, with no separate legal or financial existence, while unmarried women had limited opportunities for a meaningful career which might enable them to support themselves. Married, unmarried or widowed, most women were obliged to rely upon their families. When Charlotte Frances’ husband Philip Robert was taken ill, he was entitled to a pension, but after his death there was no further official or government support; and her unmarried daughters Ada and Viola were equally dependent upon the goodwill of their more prosperous kinfolk.

One question may always be raised of any Australian whose family arrived within the last 250 years: “Why did they come?” For convicts, it was compulsory; very often, notably in the years of gold rush, it was the hope of sudden fortune. For Charlotte’s brother Henry Edmund Dana, educated as a gentleman but with few opportunities at home, it was the hope of better prospects than could be expected in England – and for Charlotte and her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny it was a means to escape the social and financial embarrassment of a dramatic and well-publicised divorce.

Regardless of such an erratic beginning, however, that second marriage was affectionate and companionable, and even after Philip Robert’s sad slow death Charlotte was able to enjoy the support of her daughters and the successes of her son Philip and her grandchildren. In a letter of 1858, her father-in-law wrote in praise of her patience and courage, and of her determination to make the best of everything.

Richard Rafe Champion de Crespigny
and Christine Anne Young nee Champion de Crespigny
December 2020

2020 Accentuate the Positive – a year of family history progress

Jill Ball, who blogs as GeniAus (, encourages us to look back on our family history research in 2020 and Accentuate the Positive. She gives 20 prompts; here’s my response:

  1. An elusive ancestor I found was: I followed my tree further back and found some new Huguenot ancestors: My gunpowder-manufacturing Huguenot forebears. I also made some progress on my husband’s tree through DNA and detective work. I wrote about this at Following the clues.
  2. A great collection of newspaper articles I found documented my great grandmother’s social life through the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic. She coached debutantes for their coming-out balls. Although a Victory Ball in Sydney was cancelled because of the pandemic, balls in Adelaide continued. It seems risky behaviour. I think they didn’t wear masks: A masked ball.
  3. A geneajourney I planned but didn’t take was : I had hoped to visit Mildura, Wentworth, and Renmark, the district where my Cudmore and Gunn forebears lived. My 3rd great grandmother, for example, died near Renmark and the plaque from her grave seems to be on display at “Olivewood”, the Chaffey Brothers historic homestead-museum, at Renmark.: Margaret Gunn (1819 – 1863).
  4. I located an important record with the release of new German records, the civil registration death record for my great grandfather Fritz Hermann Boltz, 1879-1954.
  5. A newly found family member shared … I often receive comments about my online research journal from fellow family historians and occasionally connect with new cousins. I enjoy the feedback and it’s always a pleasure to make a new connection.
  6. A geneasurprise I received was the digitisation of my 4th great grandfather Rowland Mainwaring’s publications. I have yet to explore these fully but I have started to research his naval career at Midshipman Rowland Mainwaring.
  7. My 2020 social media post that I was particularly proud of was completing my write-up of our 2019 trip to the UK: UK trip 2019
  8. I made a new genimate who worked with me to solve a paternity mystery for a cousin’s DNA: Using the What Are the Odds Tool version 2.
  9. A new piece of technology or skill I mastered was the What Are The Odds tool version 2.
  10. I joined two surname related groups: the Clan Gunn and the Clann Caomhánach (Cavenagh).
  11. A genealogy education session or event from which I learnt something new was a presentation on Deductive Chromosome Mapping by Blaine Bettinger. I could not wait to try the technique: DNA Technique: Deductive Chromosome Mapping.
  12. Blog posts that taught me something new were by Roberta Estes and by Debbie Kennett on small DNA matches; I applied the analysis to my own and my parents’ DNA matches: Small matches in AncestryDNA.
  13. A DNA discovery I made was a connection to Greg’s Darby forebears which helped to confirm his great grandfather’s, Henry Sullivan’s, birth mother and her father: Following the Clues.
  14. I taught a genimate how to… My most popular posts are those in which I explain DNA techniques. In 2020 my three most popular posts were on using the What Are the Odds Tool, Deductive Chromosome Mapping, and how to use the book-making tool provided by MyCanvas.
  15. A brick wall I demolished was the birth mother of Henry Sullivan. I have been working on this since we first started our family history research but DNA has made the difference and confirmed my hypothesis: Poor Little Chap.
  16. A great site I visited was the Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland at I have yet to write up some of my findings at that site though I used it when researching my Grueber gunpowder-manufacturing Huguenot forebears.
  17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was Mark Bostridge’s biography of Florence Nightingale.
  18. Zoom gave me an opportunity to watch some interesting presentations, in particular the National Library of Australia’s presentation on the Australian Joint Copying Project: What does the AJCP Mean to YOU!!
  19. I am excited for 2021 because – there is always more family history to research. I have so many projects in progress and far too many tabs open in my browser.
  20. Another positive I would like to share is: my father and I have been working for some years on a biography of my 3rd great grandmother, Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana. It’s nearly finished and we are just about to publish it.

In 2020 I have published 103 posts so far (I expect it will be 105 by the end of the year: this post and one about the new book).

My family tree at has 11,214 people; 2,338 images; 328 stories; 17,736 records attached. In March, it was 10,481 people.

My tree completeness to 10 generations (my childrens’ 7th great grandparents) remains at 34%, as I reported in March earlier this year, though I know the names and some other details of 2 more of their fourth great grandparents. I also know about 46 more of their 8th to 13th great grandparents, but that is a small fraction of their forbears that far back. There’s lots more research to do.

Direct ancestors whose names I know are coloured; blanks represent those whose names are unknown to me.
Tree created using DNAPainter.

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