Posted originally on January 15, 2015 by Neil.
This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.
Here my living memory meets the memories of people I actually met! For example, my grandfather T D Whitfield’s siblings no doubt recalled William Whitfield (1812-1897), the son of Jacob the convict (arrived 1822), just as I recall some of them. Such is the story of European settlement in Australia.
I think I am changing my mind about Jacob too. For example in Respectability achieved–and rapscallions left behind? (2012) my assumption was Jacob was left behind in Sydney out of some sense of shame. I now doubt that; I suspect it was merely because he was old. After all, William did name his second child (Jacob 2 1838-1885) after him. That child was born in Sydney. I now rather discount the character sketch of Joseph provided by the gunsmith George Whitfield (no relation) in 1839 – see the previous post.
The thumbnail biography of William Whitfield is: born 16 Mar 1812 — date now in doubt —in Cootehill, Drumgoon Parish, Cavan, Ireland and died 12 Oct 1897. He had arrived in Sydney 11 Apr 1826 on the “Thames”, master Robert Frazer, from Cork, Ireland. By 1856 he was in Picton, NSW. This is expanded with information in the reference book Australian biographical and genealogical record series 1, 1788-1841, with series 2 supplement, 1842-1899 / series 1 edited by John T. Spurway, assistant editor Allison Allen; series 2 edited by Kenneth J. Cable and Jane C. Marchant.
It appears that after his marriage to Caroline Philadelphia West in 1836 William lived in Brickfield Hill (2) and Strawberry Hills (3). (1) is where Jacob the convict lived in the 1840s.
I lived exactly in Strawberry Hills myself from 1992 to 2010, in Elizabeth Street indeed as did William. There are some remnants of the 1840s still in this area – McElhone Place, for example, with this former shop, which I photographed in 2008, conceivably visited by William when he lived in the area all those years ago. In 1987 I lived in the next street to that building!
There is also a post marking the city limits, dated 1842.
Here is the entry on William Whitfield in Australian biographical and genealogical record.
They left Sydney in c1846 with five children… That’s about ten years after their marriage, and their wanderings, judged by the birthplaces mentioned there, were quite extensive.
A child born in Penrith at the foot of the Blue Mountains in 1846, another at Molongo near modern Canberra in 1848, and another at Mittagong in 1850. (“MITTAGONG is where the first iron smelting venture in Australia was established. The Fitz Roy Iron Works operated from 1848 with varying degrees of success until the 1880s.”) Soon after that to Picton where much of the family stayed into my lifetime, and where no doubt many still are in the district, though I no longer know them.
William had no easy arrival in the colony either, at the age of 14 in 1826: see William made it–or I wouldn’t be blogging, would I?, Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames” and William and his tribe…
And by way of background:
While the 1830s in Australia saw a land boom and economic highs, the early-mid 1840s experienced a fall in land values due to a slump in the price of Australian wool, wheat and livestock. The economy of the colonies was dependant on England and its buoyancy corresponded to harsher economic conditions in the ‘mother country’. Stock and land were hard to sell due to a drought that had started in 1839. Sheep that once provided fine wool for export to England were being boiled down for tallow to make candles and soap. Speculators who bought land expecting its value to rise found that they were no longer able to sell or repay their mortgages to the bank. The banks consequently made credit harder for the graziers and farmers to obtain. Shops faced difficulties selling goods as people earned less. Capital stopped coming from England. Mechanics and labourers were glad to get employment even at vastly reduced wages.
By 1844, a slow economic recovery had started and the value of exports exceeded the value of imports. By 1847, New South Wales had economic recovery, and the depression was officially over by 1845, although the boom times would return only after the discovery of gold.