Monday, October 31, 2016

John Donovan b 1776

 Not only a horse thief, and a convict, but a bigamist as well!

I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when Elizabeth (Mahoney) Donovan and her daughter arrived in Australia on the 14th May 1826  and found that her Irish husband John, transported as a convict, had married another convict in Sydney!

I think that Elizabeth must have been a feisty Irish woman, and a force to be reckoned with!


The story of John Donovan begins much earlier, around 1786 (but this date is by no means certain) when he was born in Limerick Ireland.  I have not found any confirmation of when and where John was born other than the Gosford NSW, Pioneer Register which is a derived source, so his birth is still a bit of a mystery.  Some of his convict records show him as being born in County Cork, which does seem likely as his wife was born there also.

John, age 21,  appears to have married Elizabeth Mahoney from County Cork in Ireland in 1807, and they had one child, Mary Ann Donovan in 1815.


The next thing I know about John Donovan is when he is transported to Australia for Horse Stealing aboard the vessel Southworth By this time, John was aged 35years, and I have been unable to find the details of his trial.

In the year 1821 the times in Ireland, particularly in the county of Tipperary, were very disturbed, several murders (including landlords) having taken place.  It was the beginning of the  ‘Captain Rock’ campaign of 1821–4 a series of outbreaks of agrarian unrest that began in the 1760s and continued until the eve of the Famine, when starvation finally made concerted action impossible and the landlords closed in to make the evictions and clearances they had long desired.  The Rock years were particularly intense in their misery and violence. The correlation between the anguished state of the peasantry and the violence of their protests is not hard to make, although impossible to chart precisely. The outbreak that began on the Courtenay estate near Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, and continued for over three years is regarded as the most formidable of what are generically known as the Whiteboy movements that for about 70 years were concentrated in the south and west of the country.  The newly crowned King George IV of the United Kingdom lands at Howth to become the first monarch to pay a state visit to Ireland since the 14th century, Catholics in Ireland were being treated badly and it was the beginning of an uprising against that treatment.

The first document about John Donovan is his Convict Indent, which tells us he was convicted in March 1821 of horse stealing and sentenced to 7 years. They also give a description of John: 
Shoemaker, age 39, 
5ft 5inch tall,
Build: well made
hair: grey
Complex: Dark
Speaks rather hastily, has an anchor (tatoos) on both arms.

The anchor tatoos could indicate he spent some time at sea (or not!).  When John arrived in the colony in  March, 1822 there was a muster roll of all the convicts who had survived the journey.  John Donovan is again listed as #81.


In 1824 John Donovan was assigned to work for Patrick Cameron, Castlereagh Street for 3 years. There is a notation on the letter concerning this:
"Assigned convict mechanic whose master was a defaulter in payment for {?} 
The term 'convict mechanic' refers to someone that was a convict who had been trained in a trade, as apposed to many of the convicts who were illiterate labourers.  That same year there is a letter in the Colonial Secretary's papers

List  of persons praying His Authority the Gonvernor's permission to have their names published in church in ordet to being married:
John Donovon Convict per Southworth
Mary McKelver  (?)  Convict per {ileg...mermaid?}
 There are two entries in the NSW Births Deaths and Marriages Indexes for the marriage,

3458/1824 V18243458 3B
District: CJ
 17/1824 V182417 149
District: CJ
So John's second wife Mary could be named Edwards or Kelver (or similar), on the Secretarial papers her name is very difficult to read, and so is the ship she was transported on.  I have not been able to find her on any ship's lists.

The district CJ refers to St James Church, Sydney NSW Australia which still stands today.

Lithograph of St James' Church, Sydney c. 1836  
by Robert Russell.  
The church, designed by Francis Greenway, still stands.

1826 and onwards

Two years later, May 1826 Elizabeth and her daughter Mary Ann Donovan arrived in Sydney.  What a shock that must have been to John Donovan!  Elizabeth and John must have been together however, as Elizabeth made a petition to the Governor asking for him to be assigned to her as she was not seeing enough of him.  On he next page of the letters is a notation that yes, this is John's wife from Ireland, and yes, he had married another convict in Sydney.  He apparently said he thought his first wife had died.  

I have not been able to track down what happened to John's 2nd wife, but apparently she was abandoned by John.  I would guess that Elizabeth certainly had something to say about it.

By the time the census was taken in 1828 John and Elizabeth were living in Castle Hill with three children. (Mary, John and Eliza). They went on to have another 4 children (James, Catherine, Margaret and Ellen).

Certificates of Freedom were issued to John in 1834 and 1839.  (it appears the 1834 one was lost or mutilated).

In 1834 Elizabeth leased land at Mangrove Creek, 640 acres bounded on part of the south by Iron-bark Creek and on the west by Mangrove Creek; and it appears that Elizabeth and John farmed there.  The area had several orchards in the 1800's.

Port Hacking River near Mangrove Creek, 1888

In 1835 John purchased land, noted in the Government Gazette :
Northumberland, 50, Fifty acres, parish
unnamed, on Mangrove Creek; bounded on the
south-east by Iron Bark Creek; and on all other
sides by lines to include the quantity; lying about
80 chains below Webb's grant. Applied for by
John Donovan. Price 5s. per acre.

John and Elizabeth's children seem to have stayed in the area for at least the next generation and gone on to have successful families of their own.  One of their children, Mary Ann Donovan married William Woodbury, also the child of a convict, who became a constable in the area.   The Woodbury eventually married into the Clark family via my Aunt, Evelyn Theckla Woodbury.  I remember Aunt Evelyn was a very good cook but she would not have been happy to find out she was descended from a convict!

The final chapter

John died on 24th July, 1855; he is buried in a lone grave on private property on Wisemans Ferry Road, Greengrove, NSW, AUS.  This may have been the sight of John's property.

John Donovans gravesite
Elizabeth died on 30th January, 1891.  There was an inquest into her death, and it was found that age 100years, she had drowned in the Mangrove Creek at Brisbane Water (now Gosford) and that she had no property.  Looking through the newspapers of the time, there were several drownings in the river that month.   Elizabeth is buried at the Holy Trinity Cemetery, Spencer, NSW.  Elizabeth must have been a formidable lady and I would have liked to know more about her (and what happened to John's second wife Mary), so there is a bit more digging to be done about this family.

Elizabeth's Grave.

Greengrove is a narrow north-to-south locality spread along the east bank of Mangrove Creek and is traversed by Wisemans Ferry Road. Two district pioneers, Elizabeth Donovan (1791-1891) and Richard Woodbury (1811-1897) are honoured with parks bearing their name within the locality. Elizabeth Donovan Park is a park and is located in New South Wales, Australia at:
Latitude: -33°23'12.48"  /  Longitude: 151°9'4.32"

More Information? If you are researching
John Donovan and Elizabeth Mahoney
 and would like the sources for this story, 
please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.

Inquest into the death of Elizabeth (Mahoney) Donovan.

Elizabeth Mahoney

Born in Cork, Ireland in 1791, Elizabeth was a free settler who came to Australia aboard the Lady Rowena in 1826,  I wish I had known her.  She must have been quite a woman, after arriving with her daughter, Mary Ann aged 5,  and finding that her husband had married another woman, a convict named  Mary McElver, John Donovan appears to immediately be living with Elizabeth.

She immediately petitions the Govenor in 1826 for her husband John to be assigned to her, The family lived in Castle Hill for a time, having another 6 children, all catholic.  By 1834 the family is living at Mangrove Creek, where they seemed to have stayed.

Elizabeth met a terrible death by drowning in 1891, by which time she was 100 years of age.  Drowning was not unusual in the area in those days, the newspaper reports many deaths by drowning, particularly during floods.

Back to Main Story

John Donovan and the vessel Southworth

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Emanuel Serrao b 1793

From Portugal to Australia and from Serrao to Serong

I have a tenuous relationship with Emanuel Serrao, he is my 1st cousin twice removed's wife's great-grandfather!  I came across this family through my great grandfather's sister, but he turned out to be very interesting indeed.

Emanual Serrao

What is known about the family.

The most likely place Emanuel was born is Madeira Island, Portugal as this is where he married and his wife was born, there is no conclusive evidence however.  Probably born About 1793, that's 223 years ago.

A document put together by some of the family has Emanuel marrying Antonia De Jesu De Freitas on 9th November 1820 in Funchal or Goncealo, Madeira Island, Portugal.  Again, there is no conclusive evidence so far.

The immigration of the family also has several options, according the the grave of Emanuel he immigrated on 29th September, 1880, but according to a family source the family came to Australia aboard the Alfred in 1824, and there is confirmation of that date on Antonia's headstone.

Emanual's Grave

Antonia's Grave
By the time they died, the name Serrao had been anglicised to Serong.  According to the Pioneers' Register produced by the Warrnambool FHS the Serong family came to Warrnambool c1849 possibly to work on the building of St Joseph's Church, Warnambool,  and they had arrived at Port Jackson in July 1842 from Madiera, Portugal.  (so this is another possible date for immigration).

There is an intriguing piece of information about the arrival of the ship Alfred, Captain Laughton is recorded in the Sydney Gazette Thurs 22 July 1824,
 "she arrived on Thursday last, sailed from London 19 Feb, touched at Madeira, which she left 2 April, and called at Hobart Town from whence she departed 9th July. Some of the passengers remained in that Colony, and the following have come to Headquarters; viz John Mackeness, Esq Sheriff for New South Wales; JB Richards Esq, E Abell Esq, R Wardell and WC Wentworth Esquires, Barristers at Law; Mrs Wardell; Wm Redfern Esq and Mrs Redfern with Masters William and JF Redfern, and two Miss Willeys; Miss Jane Fisher; Mr Claments; Mr Lloyd and family, and Mr C Osbaldeston."  (no mention of the Serrao family)

In the next column, The colonists are congratulated on the vast acquisition gained in the very recent arrival of seventeen casks of seeds from Europe.
"Mr Redfern, who returns to the colony after an absence of nearly three years, has brought with him nine rams and five ewes, bred by Mr Weston, MP for Essex, the celebrated agriculturist. This gentleman was at Madera some time, and from thence also brings the various kinds of grapes, and other choice friut trees. To facilitate, as well as ensure the culture of these fruits, Mr Redfern has engaged a Portugese family (natives of Maderia). Such efforts as these, the act of one individual too, are entitled to the warmest consideration of the Colonists, and will be thanked by posterity."

Is it possible that the family engaged by Redfern was Emanual and Antonia?  Doctor Redfern was an interesting charecter, and his life story included : "After a sojourn in Madeira for his health he returned to New South Wales in the Alfred in July 1824, received a further grant at Campbell Fields and acquired land near Bathurst and Cowra."

This piece of information is the first that might lead to something, as Emanual's first son, William was born in 1824, and second son Joseph was born in 1826 - but searches of both Victoria and NSW BDM's delivered nothing about ether son's birth.  I did find some of the children's deaths in the Victoria BDM however.

A search of the Museum of Victoria found some information about the family, confirming that the parents plus Selina arrived in Sydney in 1824, and moved to Warrnambool with their family in 1852.

So this last piece of information seems to fit with immigration in 1824 aboard the Alfred, possibly with Doctor Redfern.  So far this is all I have found out about the family, my next step will be to go to Warnambool and see what the family history society has there.  We want to see the great ocean road anyway so what a great combination!

More Information? If you are researching
Emanual Serrao and Antonia De Jesu De Freitas
 and would like the sources for this story, 
please contact me or comment below. 
 I would be happy to collaborate with you

Madeira Island - Emanuel Serrao

Saturday, October 1, 2016

John Clark - b1784

John Clark -The Beer connection

The name Clark is an old one, it is derived from 'clericus,' meaning a priest, or one connected with the service of the Church.  At first the term was used only to designate those in clerical orders, but as in early times the Church was the only source of learning, any person who had been educated by the clergy eventually came to be called a 'clerk.' The designation was finally given to all who were able to read and write.  The name dates back to at least the reign of William the Conqueror (1066).
My Clark family is from Kent where the name goes back a very long way indeed.  The men in the family were carpenters and builders, and probably apprenticed to their fathers along the way to avoid paying tax.  Although the family line in Australia no longer seem to be builders, they are all handy with a hammer and nail!


John Clark was the son of William Clark and Mary Hatcher from Kent. We know the Clark name goes back another 2 generations at least in Kent to another John Clark, probably born around 1710 and his wife Mary Watts, both from Biddenden, Kent, England.

My Great Great Great Grandfather John was born in 1784 in Dover, Kent England, and Christened on 7th March 1784 in the St James the Apostle Church, Dover, Kent, England.  The church, built in 1070,  no longer stands today, only ruins are visible due to the damage it sustained in WW2.

The remnants of St James the Apostle Church, Dover

This is probably what it looked like:
By W Fairclough - 1949 - old antique vintage print


John Clark married Jane Beer on 28th October, 1809 at Dover, Kent England.  There was an extensive Beer family in Kent at this time.  They had 9 children, Mary, Jane, William, James, Mary, Elizabeth, John, George and Edmund Charles Clark who is my GG Grandfather.  The family appears to have lived in Dover until about 1815 when James was born in Ramsgate, after that date all the records are from Ramsgate, Kent, ENG.

C1830 Ramsgate Harbour

Now I should say something about the name Beer - my family are very happy with it, assuming it has something to do with brewing.  It may do, but I have not found the link yet.  (still looking)
John Clark was a builder, and his sons were carpenters and builders.  (Edmund immigrated to Australia and helped build the town of Bendigo).  This is confirmed by the 1841 census, which holds the following information (pg 2)

Township:Ramsgate,  Place:Addington
John Clark, aged 56, born abt 1785, Builder, born Kent
Jane Clark, aged 56, born abt 1785, born Kent
John Clark, aged 20, born abt 1821, Carpenter AC born Kent
George Clark, aged 10, born abt 1831, Carpenter
AC born Kent
Edmund Clark, aged 16, born abt 1825, Carpenter,
AC born Kent

1841 census

Eight years after this census, in 1849, Jane died aged 64 and is buried at St Georges Church Cemetery, Ramsgate, Kent, ENG.

John Clark is in the 1851 census aged 67, living with his grandson who was his errand boy.  (His daughter Jane Clark had married John Clunn and they had 6 children).

Wellington Place (no number), Ramsgate, Kent, England
John Clark, Head, widower, age 67, Master Builder, born Dover Kent.
John Clunn, Grandson, unmarried, age 14, errand boy, born Ramsgate, Kent

John Clark died when he was still living at Wellington Row on  8th April, 1856, he is listed as formerly a builder, aged 72.  He died of  "Aproplexey".  John Clark is also buried at St Georges Church Cemetery, Ramsgate, Kent, ENG.   

More Information? If you are researching John Clark and Jane Beer
 and would like the sources for this story, 
please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.

Death information on John Clark,

Jane Beer - b 1783 - John Clark

Dover - John Clark

Dover Castle staircase. 
Picture Anne Boleyn and the royal court here while 
they awaited  better weather to cross the channel to 
France for the wedding of Mary Tudor and King Louis XII.