Yes, it is the (Whitfield) bicentennial!

Thanks to James Whitfield for posting this wonderful photo on Facebook on Tuesday.

Image is of two of W.J.J & Elizabeth Whitfield’s daughters:
Sarah Brittania Whitfield-Wilson (Left) & Ann Elizabeth Whitfield- Vacchini-McKechnie. I can personally attest to the fact that these were two beautiful and amazing ladies (James Whitfield).

Photograph courtesy the Whitfield Family collection.

Auntie Annie! I remember her well. In the early 1970s I quizzed her about family history, and she was the first to mention Ireland to me. She recalled sitting on the knee as a small girl of an old man with a long white beard who had come from Ireland, though Auntie thought he had been a soldier. Probably not. In all likelihood it was William Whitfield, born in Cootehill County Cavan in 1812, arrived on the “Thames” in 1826 along with his sister Mary and others, to join his father, the convict Jacob Whitfield who landed from the convict ship “Isabella 1” at Sydney Cove 10 March 1822.

How many Wests were there?

In my family tree I mean. A search of Bob Starling’s amazing Whitfield family tree finds four. However, the version of the tree that I have is a draft now at least 15 years old and was work in progress. I had been added by that stage (in the right place) but my brother and his family had not been, nor my late sister Jeanette (1940-1952). So there are gaps. But it is brilliant — and here are three of the West entries.

William Joseph John is my father’s grandfather. He had (like so many in the tribe) a very big family of whom these are three of the younger ones — my Dad’s aunts. I met their sister Anne in the early 1970s, and Dad used sometimes to mention Jessie.

Now consider these people in a photo recently sent to me — I had never seen it before last weekend!

It came with these notes:

First email: Do you have the Photo of the 3 West brothers and the 3 Whitfield sisters, looks like pre 1900?

Second email: Attached is the image of the West brothers and the 3 youngest Whitfield girls. To me

It looks to be pre 1900. In Picton or Braidwood? Would you know?



Merrick Bailey is a cousin of mine through the Braidwood branch of the family. I mentioned him last year.

You see the point this is leading to is that I have recently added a friend to my Facebook list, a request from someone I had never heard of, one Merrick Bailey. Looking at his face and what I could see of him I accepted, and then came the explanation.

Hi Neil, My name is Merrick Bailey, Grandson of Richard John Whitfield, who with his brother Bill had the blacksmith Shop on the corner as you left Braidwood. I was looking at some family history stuff and came across you in a blog post. I grew up between Braidwood with my grandparents and parents in Baulkham Hills during the war. So I have a few memories of the Blacksmith Shop as a small child, and living at Fairview with them. Good to make contact. I now live in Moruya on the South Coast.

Turns out he is an absolutely brilliant photographer. Look at his site!

One recent example of the brilliance of Merrick Bailey!

In a reply to Merrick about the 1900-ish gathering of uncles and aunts he sent me I referred to conversations I had had in Wellington NSW with my Dad’s cousin Dorothy West, the daughter of one of those couples in the photo. The conversations happened over 50 years ago so there is no way I can confirm them, but I did write an account some years ago now. The story I also recounted in my email to Merrick at the weekend is this:

The story of the sailing ship ticket and letter in Wellington NSW


See that name Richard West, a passenger on the brig Grecian?


Visiting my father’s cousin Dorothy West in Wellington in the later 1960s I saw his original sailing ship ticket! I also saw a letter to him from England. All I remember of the letter is a snippet about “knowing you have said you don’t want to die in that country…”

And who was he? It appears he was the father of Caroline Philadelphia West, my great-great-grandmother, wife of William Whitfield. See this interesting note:

Richard Constable West (Widower) and Ann Willson (Spinster) were married on the 10.10.1819 at St Leonards Shoreditch, Middlesex. William Willson was a witness (original document recently listed online). I’ve started searching for Richard West’s previous marriage, as his daughter Caroline Philadelphia West was born in 1817, it is possible his previous marriage may only have been recent to that date.. Mr Richard West & two children sailed from London on the 212 ton brig “Grecian” 23.11.1831, arriving Sydney 17 April 1832. The ship was carrying merchandise. — regards, Vicki

Now I have long wondered about that name Philadelphia. This makes sense.

Of course that West is of an earlier generation than the gentlemen in that 1900-ish photo. Dorothy and my Dad both knew the story of Picton Whitfield sisters marrying West brothers, but Bob Starling’s tree only accounts for two, not three. For the life of me I can’t remember how many sisters there were in Dorothy’s and Dad’s versions! In 1968 I may not have been paying enough attention.

So — two or three? Hence the post title!

Here are some hypotheses.

First: was the West whose ticket/letter I saw in Wellington not the earlier one (father of Caroline Philadelphia West) who arrived on “The Grecian” in 1832, but a later arrival?

But if the documents did relate to that West, then were the Wests of the next generation cousins of the Whitfields — that is the Wests who married May (m. 1893) and Jane (m. 1903)? Perfectly legal.

Second: Is the family tree correct and only TWO sisters of my Grandfather Tom married Wests in the late 1890s to early 1900s?

Third: If so, has the story of the three (not two) Wests been confused with the story of the three Ratcliffes?

So who are the three girls in the photo Merrick sent me? Almost certainly three Whitfield sisters, daughters of William J J. The men? At least two Wests? Family historians, any ideas?

1822 – 2022 — the bicentennial year!

The what?

Missed it back in 2020! The bicentennial of my ancestor Jacob Whitfield’s trial that is — not at the Old Bailey, but in County Tyrone, Ireland, in June 1820. CORRECTION: As you will see further into this post. Jacob’s trial, according to a contemporary news report, was in August 1820, though his 1834 Ticket-of-Leave says July! The June date concerns the co-accused Thomas Fisher of Lear in County Cavan.

Continue reading

Seems the descendants of Jacob Whitfield are a clan really…

Jacob Whitfield’s crime occurred in 1820, for which eventually he was transported for life to NSW, leaving on the Isabella 1 from Cork two hundred years ago and arriving in Sydney on 10 March 1822. Looking closely again at information I have already posted about the Isabella I see I could have “celebrated” a family bicentenary last week!

There are lots of details about the “Isabella” here.

The vessel was moored at Cowes on Thursday 2nd August 1821 when the detachment of the 24th regiment under orders of Lieut. Harvey from Albury Barracks embarked. There were 28 Privates and Corporals and three women. The following day at noon they weighed anchor and passed through the Needles under light and variable winds. On the next Friday (10th) they arrived at the Cove of Cork after a rough passage when the Guard and women suffered very much from sea sickness. They remained at the Cove of Cork for some time during which time several of the guard became unruly and rebellious. A court-martial took place on board and six soldiers were sent back to shore.

On October 14th forty-seven convicts were received onto the vessel making the total to 200 men. They were divided into messes and sent on deck during each day in two divisions. This routine continued until nearly the end of October when rain set in and the men were kept below. The surgeon reported that the prisoners were orderly and well behaved. The bad weather continued and the men were allowed on deck intermittently. By November they had set sail and most of the convicts, guard and women were all experiencing sea sickness in the boisterous weather.

Over the next four months Surgeon Price kept a daily record of the position of the vessel and weather experienced as well as the various illness of the convicts.

There were light winds on the 10th March when they came to anchor in Sydney Cove. The convicts were mustered on deck and divine service performed. The following day the Colonial Secretary came on board to muster the men.

On the 14th March at daylight the guard and the convicts were all disembarked and at 11am Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane inspected the prisoners in the gaol yard.

This is where Jacob was first housed in Sydney. It is the Convict Barracks, and is still there. I have visited and tried the hammocks…


Jacob was later given permission to bring his family out from Ireland. They came on a ship called the Thames, sailing via Cape Horn, reaching Sydney on 11 April 1826. Sadly, Jacob’s wife died. Four of their children did survive the voyage, one of whom was my direct ancestor William Whitfield, born 16 March 1812 , Parish of Drumgoon, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, Ireland.

The population (non-Aboriginal, and rounded figures) of Australia was: c. 1815 – 25,000; c. 1825 – 35,000; c.1835 – 128,000. The present population of Wollongong is c. 282,000.

This was an interesting decade for my Whitfield ancestors. The convict Jacob got his Ticket of Leave in March 1834.

Then, as I have noted before:

[Jacob] witnessed the wedding on 20 June 1836 at St Andrews Presbyterian Church of William Whitfield and Caroline Philadelphia West, along with the other witnesses Maria Burgess and William Burgess. On 18 September 1836 (yes, I can count!) the baptism is recorded at St James Church, King Street, of William Joseph John Whitfield, son of William and Caroline. William gave his profession as carpenter, and his address as Elizabeth Street. The child had been born on August 14. (By the way, it snowed in Sydney on June 28 1836.)

From William a clan does indeed seem to have sprung — large families, lots of survivors. William in the 1840s settled in Picton, and there are still plenty of descendants in that area, though my immediate family, springing from William Joseph John’s son Thomas, settled in Shellharbour, where my father was born in 1911.

I have long been aware of the existence of the Braidwood branch of the Whitfield clan but I don’t recall meeting any of them, nor have I travelled to Braidwood. But it is a good story, how they got there. So this is about two of my father’s great-uncles, Jacob 2 and Richard Whitfield.

The information in Jacob 2’s entry is more evocative: “Jacob was farming in the Picton district of NSW until 1875 when with his wife, Eliza and five children, his brother Richard, his wife, and other family members, he left Picton to walk to Araluen NSW to the gold fields. They took with them a cow and horse and cart with their belongings. After three years in Araluen they went to Braidwood NSW where they set up their first blacksmith shop in 1879. Jacob died six years later on 22 Oct 1885…” His wife became a midwife in the district.

By the way my great-grandfather William Joseph John Whitfield, who stayed in the Picton district, and his brothers Jacob and Richard all married sisters from the Ratcliffe (Radcliffe) family, respectively Elizabeth, Eliza, and Mary Ann.

Note in the extract from  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 above the story about the blacksmith shop in Braidwood, particularly the story from the Sun-Herald.

You see the point this is leading to is that I have recently added a friend to my Facebook list, a request from someone I had never heard of, one Merrick Bailey. Looking at his face and what I could see of him I accepted, and then came the explanation.

Hi Neil, My name is Merrick Bailey, Grandson of Richard John Whitfield, who with his brother Bill had the blacksmith Shop on the corner as you left Braidwood. I was looking at some family history stuff and came across you in a blog post. I grew up between Braidwood with my grandparents and parents in Baulkham Hills during the war. So I have a few memories of the Blacksmith Shop as a small child, and living at Fairview with them. Good to make contact. I now live in Moruya on the South Coast.

Turns out he is an absolutely brilliant photographer. Look at his site!

And there is a side-note here too, Looking at his branch of the family tree, compiled some years ago now by Bob Starling, I see a grandson of William (“Bill”) the Braidwood blacksmith — a Robert Whitfield. Is that another mystery solved? But the birthdate was not available.


I am, I think, indirectly acquainted with the Robert Whitfield who gives his details in the comment below. Thanks again, Robert. And for the email as well.

Bob Starling’s very thorough family tree is enormous. The Robert Whitfield I found fits into descendants of the Braidwood branch thus. Keep in mind that the Richard John Whitfield (1840-1929) — who is the link to him — is my great-grandfather’s brother, in other words my Dad’s great-uncle.

Family history can be such fun!

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 72 — FB delivers more family history

Isn’t this delightful?

In Memoriam:
Graham, Ruby Ruth (nee McInnes). (11.12.1892-5.10.1991)
Daughter of Jonathan & Susan Caroline (nee Whitfield) McInnes.
Wife of Stanley Keith Graham.
Mother of Jonathan Adolphus & Lilian May.
Photograph: Ruby aged 10 years courtesy Whitfield/McInnes family collection.

Thanks to the Wollondilly Historical Page on Facebook on 5 October. I commented: I met them! Really! And indeed spent time with daughter Lilian as recently as April 2014. Lilian turned 100 this year and is still living in Gunnedah.

I learned of Lilian’s birthday in February, again thanks to the Wollondilly Historical Page. This is what I said then:

Whitfields — this is a must read!

So here is a Whitfield relative who has cracked the ton! And I can vouch for her being an amazing woman and a fount of family history. I was privileged to have met Lilian at Stanwell Park in 2014. She recalled my father as a bronzed beach god — from her memories of Shellharbour in the late 1920s!

“At Stanwell Park yesterday. She had a shopping trolley of Whitfield family pics, photos and documents going back to the 1830s! Amazing stuff! The four hours I could spend didn’t do it justice. Lilian Lee. 90+ and sharp as… She has been a TAFE teacher in her time. Recalled I met her father and mother too sometime around 60+ years back and he gave me a ride in his buggy.

“She really was just wonderful. And I am sure you can see the intelligence and humour in her face. She had at 90+ walked up the hill to Stanwell Park Station to meet me — and it is quite a climb.

When she was a little girl she saw William Joseph John Whitfield (b. 1836), the son of William Whitfield, in his turn the son of Jacob Whitfield, the convict who arrived in Sydney from Ireland in 1822. When you contemplate that….

Lilian at 100

This is what the Wollondilly Historical Page said:

Lilian Lee of Gunnedah is today celebrating her 100th Birthday (10.2.2021)

Lilian May Graham was born on 10.2.1921 at Lidcombe N.S.W. her Parents being Ruby Ruth (nee McInnes) & Stan Graham. Lilian’s Grandparents were Susan (nee Whitfield) & Jonathan McInnes.Lilian married Raymond Lee on 24th October 1942.

Their children were Alan (Sadly was killed in accident at 37 leaving 3 children and a wife.), Graham & Jennifer.

Lilian has eight grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren and looking forward to the arrival of another two.

Lilian is still a dedicated member of the Gunnedah Country Women’s Association where she held various positions such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, International Officer, Cultural Officer, Land and Cookery Officer. She volunteered in other capacities, such as Art Gallery attendant, Bible Shop attendant, and Treasurer at the Uniting Church.

Lilian taught as a TAFE teacher teaching Secretarial Skills and was a Secretary at the Roads & Traffic Authority. On 30th November 2020 Lilian Lee was granted Life Membership to the Country Women’s Association for thirty years of dedicated service. The Citation that was prepared for her Life Membership described Lilian as an “immensely popular member, well-respected by our younger members and our more mature members alike.”

Lilian often inspires and advises others to reach their potential and is instrumental in making a beneficial difference in many people’s lives.

Photograph of Lilian May Lee. (3.2.2021) Information & photograph courtesy of Jennifer Lee-Robins & Whitfield family files.

Church of England cemetery, Picton

See my posts To Stanwell Park: 1 (2014) and Still in Dharawal country — but among the Whitfields, contemplating centuries (2021).