I have a lot of family history in my blogs, much now consolidated in Neil’s Family Specials and Memory Hole. Lately some potentially confusing comments have appeared in what is in fact my original (though revised) post on Whitfield family history. What a maze that comment thread has become over that past 10+ years! On the other hand much there is of value and interest to family members — or families members! There are, it appears, at least four Whitfield families floating around in Australia history.
One lot came from Hull. I noted them almost ten years ago.
There is a new series ongoing on Ninglun’s Specials: Looking for Jacob. Yes, I know I said I was dropping the series idea, but not the series tags, but a recent email from one of the Whitfield family historians set me off on a small expedition to record the area we now know held the convict Jacob Whitfield’s residence in the 1830s. I was just now reflecting on this: as a child I met, and remember, at least four of the children of William Joseph John Whitfield (born 1836), the grandson of the convict, none of whom ever mentioned their great-grandfather. In fact there was a story my father had that the original family member in the colony had been a shipwright from Hull in northern England – Dad even had a shipwright’s chisel in his tool kit that allegedly came from him. Curiously, there was a Jacob Whitfield in Hull around the time of the Battle of Waterloo, listed in Indentures of apprenticeship cancelled or discharged before the magistrates 1813 – 1821: “Jacob Whitfield, son of Jacob Whitfield of Hull, blacksmith to Thomas Stephenson of Hull, master mariner, 21 June”. Not our Jacob, it seems, though the general trades area is right: but how did my father make a Hull connection in his story? (See also Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days. Our Jacob came from Ireland.)
I noted that a family in Sutherland Shire traced back to the Hull Whitfields…
It turns out there is another Whitfield family altogether extant – and with Shire links.
The Whitfield family farmed in the Tyne Valley of Northumberland before moving to iron works on the Derwent River in Cumberland where two daughters drowned in separate accidents. Descendants experienced contrasting fates. One, James Whitfield made a fortune on the Australian goldfields before becoming a successful entrepreneur in Workington. His siblings lived and worked in industrial towns and the youngest, William Whitfield became a master mariner in Australia, experiencing a number of misfortunes before returning to Hull, Yorkshire, leaving his Australian family behind.
Now that is interesting, because my father used to say his Aunty Jessie and one other family member had traced the family to Hull, and there was allegedly a lost fortune there… That must be this family, but there is no doubt there is no close connection.
Speaking of confusing, have a look at this! Jacob Whitfield (1759 – abt. 1851). Family historian Bob Starling was on the case:
In a 2011 comment on “About the Whitfields: Convict Days” Bob Starling wrote:
For some years I have been searching for Jacob Whitfield’s death. It was noticed that Jacob gave his religion as a Quaker on one of his applications to marry. With this fact the Quaker society in Sydney has carried out some research and came up with the following piece of information:
“In searching the incomplete records we have of burials in the Friends Burial Ground within the old Devonshire Street (Sandhills) Cemetery, I came across a reference to:
“Burial Notes missing of … Jacob Whitfield” Unfortunately, there is no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from about 1837 through to about 1880.”
Whilst we can now accept that Jacob died in Sydney, probably between 1851 and 1856 we cannot quite put him to rest until we find an exact date.
He was certainly around for a long time.
From Bob Starling
Now going way back it would be interesting to see how all the Whitfield families link to Wikipedia’s Whitfield family.
The Whitfield family was a landowning Norman family in present-day United Kingdom; the family was seated at Whitfield Hall Northumberland in Northumberland. The area was granted by William, King of Scotland in the twelfth century. The family derives its name from the old English hwit–feld, meaning open white lands….
Quite likely the Irish connection began as part of the Plantation of Ulster.