Neil’s personal decades: 13 – 1885 – Whitfields, Bursills

According to the older version of the Whitfield family tree prepared by Bob Starling that I have on my computer, my grandfather Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield (1866-1948) married Henrietta Bursill (1874-1931) on 9 November 1892. Now that makes sense when you realise Henrietta must have been 18. But there is this curious item I just found on Trove:


That is from the Kiama Independent of 15 November 1882. I know for sure that Henrietta Bursill was born in 1874:

The chances of her being the “Ettie Bursill” in that 1882 story are thus very remote: 8 years old?  That Henrietta’s mother was also Henrietta, as I note in this 2013 post. Yet an obituary for Henrietta Senior dated 1921 – reproduced in that post – states that she was survived by two sons (including Charles) and ONE daughter “Elizabeth, Mrs. Whitfield.”  That of course should be “Henrietta”.  There is another obituary for Henrietta Senior in the Kiama Reporter and Illawarra Journal 6 July 1921.

On 28th June, 1921, at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. Thos. Whitfield,of Shellharbour, one of our best beloved and most highly esteemed residents passed quietly away to her rest in her 85th year. Mrs. Bursill was born at Bradfeld, England, in 1837, and at the age of18 years took passage for Australia by the sailing ship “Asiatic,” and after sailing 97 days, entered Sydney Heads, 24th May, 1855. When 21 years of age she married Thomas Bursill, and they came to Illawarra in search of a new home. They settled on a small farm near Shellharbour over 62 years ago. Mr. Bursill passed away many years ago, leaving his partner the care of five children, three sons and two daughters. The two elder sons, Mr.E. Bursill, builder, of Robertson, and Mr. Chas. Bursill, builder, of Shellharbour, and are both highly esteemed and respected residents of both districts, the third son, George, passed away, from heart failure.It is safe to say we have never had  a resident more universally beloved and esteemed than was Mrs. Bursill,always bright and cheerful, and ready to help, going about doing good. The district is better for the lives and examples of such as she, and very much poorer for their loss.The Rev. Gallop, of Jamberoo, con-ducted the funeral service, at Shellharbour cemetery on 29th June, and spoke of the good she had done and of her kind way of doing, of a long life of usefulness, then entering into rest.

You may have noticed that the “two daughters” left when Thomas B died could not have included my grandmother Henrietta Jr. Do the Maths and study that birth certificate extract carefully.

George Bursill, by the way, died in the middle of a cricket match at Dunmore near Shellharbour in 1913.

So I am just puzzled. My initial thought that the wedding I was reading about was my grandfather’s (with a typo of F for T in his initial) can’t be right then, but Thirlmere is certainly family territory. Who were “F. Whitfield” and “Ettie Bursill” of that 1882 wedding? I am not sure.


I read in the Sydney Evening News for 10 November 1899:

The marriage of Mr. W. Whitfield, of Thirlmere, to Miss Eliza Wilkinson, of Bargo, was solemnised on Tuesday evening, 31st ultimo, at the residence tit. the bride’s mother, the Rev. D. H. Dillon officiating. The bride was attended by her two sisters as bridesmaids,and was given away by her brother, Mr. Geo. Wilkinson. Mr. Geo. Whitfield, brother to the bridegroom, acted as best man. A large gathering of friends assembled to witness the ceremony. After the wedding breakfast was partaken of, dancing was kept up with vigor until morning. Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield were the recipients of many congratulations.

That is my dad’s Uncle Bill, and I remember him well and their house in Upper Picton. Cheese and tomato on Sao biscuits in a gorgeous old country kitchen.


Cedar Creek, Thirlmere, New South Wales, 18 September 1887, Robert Hunt, Albumen print.

UPDATE 28 January:

Mystery solved: the true date at the top of that Kiama Independent story (“Wedding Bells”) is 15 November 1892!  So it is an account of my grandfather’s wedding!