In the Emerald Isle – the Shinkwin Family of County Cork, Ireland

This week I have turned my attention to another of my Irish ancestors, William Shinkwin.

Over the years I have researched and documented William’s life, through birth, marriage and death certificates, convict records, government gazettes,official correspondence and newspapers, from his arrival in Sydney in 1825, until his death in 1881.

I have now turned my attention to researching his life before his arrival in Australia. The information given in the above mentioned records, led me to begin the research in County Cork, Ireland.

Recently the internet subscription website Findmypast added over 8 million court and prison records in Ireland to their database, including those for County Cork. A search for William Shinkwin and other variants drew a blank, which was very disappointing. However after a protracted search year by year and then hundreds of pages of entries within those years, I was finally able to locate William’s entry. It stated that William was convicted under the Insurrection Act on 8 August 1823 at Mallow Special Sessions and sentenced to seven years transportation. It also stated that he had been put on board the Convict Hulk, Surprize

.There were a number of Insurrection Acts passed by the English parliament throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, which had a impact on the Irish people, but it was the Act of 1822, which had the greatest, and this was the Act that William was transported under.

In effect Ireland was under Martial Law with all the attending strict regulations, including banning of gatherings and a curfew, where all persons were to remain in their house of abode after sun-set. There were Special Session Courts to try persons who breached these laws, and they were automatically sentenced to transportation, if they couldn’t give a good reason for their conduct. Once sentenced it could not be reversed or changed.

The prison hulk, Surprize was originally a 38 gun frigate previously named HMS Jacobs which had been launched in 1812. She had seen service in the navy during the hostilities with France, but was decommissioned in 1822, and sent to Cork Harbour, to serve as a prison, particularly for political internees. Originally these transportees were housed in the Cork City Gaol, which was built over the old gate to the northern part of the city, but it was in a state of decay and was constantly overcrowded, and so the hulk was a solution to this problem.

I have not been able to locate any surviving official records of the Special Sessions, but I have been able to locate a report of the circumstances that brought William Shinkwin before the courts, and his subsequent trial.

At the time of his arrest William Shinkwin was employed as a servant and was residing at Mallow, a town some twenty miles north west of the city of Cork. On the 16th July 1823 he was out in the streets after sun-set. Being high summer at the time it would have been twilight for some hours after sun-set, and many would have been tempted to remain out doors. However, Constable Hales out on duty at 11 pm met William in the street. William gave various and contradictory reasons for being away from his place of abode at that hour, and so was taken into custody. He was brought before the Justices of Peace on the 20th July. On the 8 August he was again given the opportunity to explain his presence in the street, but declined to do so, so he was sentenced to seven years transportation as required by law. To whether it was a romantic tryst, a political meeting or a drinking session with his mates at a local public house, we will never know, but William was removed to the Cork Gaol. There he remained until the 6th September when he was removed to the Surprize prison hulk. William was to remain on the hulk for over a year.

Towards the end of 1824, the convict transport the ‘Hooghly’ was being prepared at Deptford, Kent for its voyage to New South Wales. She was an AI class ship of 466 tons, built at London Dockyard in 1819. She was under Captain Peter Reeves and Robert Tainish had been appointed Surgeon Superintendent.

Tainish kept a detailed medical journal, which began on 26 October 1824. He joined the ship at Deptford in early November and awaited the convict guard under Captain Patrick Logan of the 57th Regiment, which arrived from Chatham, on 13 November. They were cold and wet and nearly all developed severe colds.

Within a couple of weeks preparations were completed and the Hooghly set sail for Cork Harbour where nearly two hundred male prisoners were embarked, on and about the 18 December. The ship set sail from Cork on 5 January 1825.

The Surgeon, Robert Tainish’s Journal has survived and is now at The National Archives in London. It shows that Tainish was kept very busy during the voyage attending not only the prisoners but the crew and guards along with their families.

William Shinkwin reported sick on 17 February, and was treated for constipation. He was discharged from the sick list on 20 February. There were no further entries for him.

The Hooghly arrived at Rio Janeiro on 18 February and stayed there for over a month, presumably to add fresh fruit and vegetables to the diet, as there were many cases of scurvy among the convicts, guards and crew.

The ship left Rio on 22 March and headed for Australia. She arrived in Sydney on 22 April 1825 after a voyage of a total of 107 days.

On arrival William Shinkwin was assigned to ‘Piper’, believed to have been Captain Piper of Point Piper.

Although I have not finished the research on William Shinkwin, I am pleased to be able to add some details to this part of his life, which has encouraged me to continue. I am now putting into book form the life of this ancestor.



The Kennedy Clan in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

This month I have concentrated on researching some of my ancestors from Northern Ireland. On my maternal line I am descended from the Kennedy’s of County Tyrone.

Gilbert Kennedy was born about 1827, son of Thomas and Mary Kennedy near The Rock, County Tyrone, Ireland. I have not been able to locate surviving baptism records for the parish churches, in this area of Northern Ireland. I am continuing to research the Kennedy families in this part of Ireland and found some were still there in the 1901 Census.

On 3 February 1852, Gilbert married Ann Hunter at the Artrea parish church. Ann was the daughter of Robert and Jane Hunter of Ballyneill More, in County Londonderry.

In 1854 Gilbert and Ann Kennedy had a daughter who was named Elizabeth.

In 1856, Gilbert and Ann decided to emigrate to New South Wales. They traveled to Belfast where they took a boat to Liverpool and boarded the emigrant ship, Kate. The Kate left Plymouth in mid-September and arrived in Sydney two days before Christmas in 1856.

Advertisements appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald later that week stating that there were a number of Agricultural Labourers who had arrived by the ‘Kate’. It is believed that Gilbert and Ann Kennedy went to the Camden area to help with the summer harvest.

The Kennedy family were at Spring Creek, near Camden two years later when a daughter Mary Jane was born on 9 March 1858. They are believed to have been renting a farm there.

In 1860, a third daughter, named Mary Ann was born. In that same year their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, died from croup.

Another daughter, Isabella was born in 1862 followed by Martha in 1864. However, four-year-old Isabella drowned at Spring Creek in 1866. Soon afterward the family moved to Abbotsford, Picton. A son William James Kennedy was born at Abbottsford on 7 June 1866.

It was about this time that Gilbert Kennedy’s health started to decline and in February 1870 he was admitted to the Parramatta Asylum, where he remained until his death on 1 September 1903. The admission registers for this time period have not survived, to give us the medical reason for Gilbert’s admission. Gilbert was buried at Rookwood Church of England Cemetery, but there is no headstone. He is memorialized on his wife’s headstone at St Mark’s, Picton.

Parramatta Asylum was opened in 1849 in the old Female Factory. From the outset, it consisted of a free and a criminally insane division. By 1870 there were about eight hundred patients, over seven hundred being free. Although in 1885 a new hospital wing was completed, overcrowding was always a problem. Several photographs of Parramatta Asylum at the turn of the 20th Century can be viewed at the State Records website at . Because this Asylum was so much a part of my ancestor’s life, finding these photographs have been very helpful. An article in the Town and Country Journal, 12 August 1871 gave a detailed description of the establishment, which helped me put our Gilbert Kennedy’s life into context. The reporter mentions an inmate by the name of ‘Kennedy’, but further research showed he was a ‘William Francis Kennedy’ and not our ‘Gilbert Kennedy’. I have copies of surviving Asylum records relating to Gilbert, but they do not give a great insight into his ‘illness’.

In 1875, Mary Ann Kennedy, the second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died, of ‘disease of the throat.’ She was buried at St Mark’s, Picton aged 15 years.

Less than two years later Martha Kennedy, the fifth child and second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died of cancer. She was only 13 years of age. She is also buried at Picton.

On 23 March 1878, a joyous occasion was celebrated in the family, when ‘Margaret Jane’ the only surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy was married to James Baxter, in St Mark’s, Church of England, Picton. The following year a son was born to James and Margaret Baxter who was named ‘William James’.Nine children were born to James and Margaret Baxter over the next twenty years or more, all of whom survived. The youngest child, a son, was named ‘Ewart Gilbert’ in honour of his Grandfather Kennedy.

In 1894, William James Kennedy the only son of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy married Florence Emily Evans. They were to have twins, Myra, and William in 1896, followed by Stella in 1897 and Dorothy in 1899. This family resided at 73 Lincoln Street, Stanmore for over fifty years.

Ann Kennedy went to live with James and Margaret Baxter’s family in the late 1890s, until her own death in 1912. She is buried in St Mark’s Picton alongside her daughters Isabella, Mary Ann, and Martha. Headstones mark these graves.

James and Margaret Baxter are also buried here and a headstone marks the grave.

Robin and Mercy Bell of Kent, England and Scone in New South Wales

I have been researching my Bell ancestors since childhood when my maternal grandmother told me stories of bushrangers, gold miners and colourful family characters. I must admit it is still my favourite family when it comes to research.

It is now more than fifty years since I bought my first certificate, which was the death certificate of George Bell, my grandmothers paternal grandfather, who died in 1894 at Picton in New South Wales.

Since that time I have traced these ancestors back to the Middle Ages in Kent, England. I have also traced many twigs and branches of the Bell Family Tree’. Some of these I have published in book form.

For twenty years I also published a Bell Family Newsletter in which I kept the family members up to date with the family research. Family members also sent details of their ‘twigs’ and ‘branches’ which was also shared through these newsletters.

Although I no longer publish the newsletter I’m always interested in the research of these families and from time to time I solve long standing puzzles and make wonderful break-throughs.

I now intend to share these with family members through my blog and articles on my website. This blog is about the family of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), who immigrated from Mereworth, Kent,on board the Woodbridge, which arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838. These were the uncle and Aunt of my fore mentioned George Bell. Much of the story of this family and their descendants is told in ‘The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell’, which is available through this website.

I have continued to research this family line to try and solve mysteries and find information not available when the book was printed. I found some of the missing information at a later date and shared it with interested family members in the Bell Family Newsletters Nos 41 and 42. Now I have been able to find more on this family, particularly the women, before the family immigrated.

Mercy Cox was born about 1782, probably in Staplehurst, Kent, the seventh child and youngest daughter of Uriah and Anne Cox (nee Poole). Her baptism has not been found, but it is possibly in the Congregational Church records, as were her older brothers and sisters.

Mercy Cox married James Cheeseman on 8 November 1800 at Smarden in Kent. James was the eldest son of Solomon and Sarah Cheeseman (nee Cornwall) and had been born at Marden Kent in 1767.

Ann Pool, the eldest daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman was born at Staplehurst, and was baptised on 4 July 1802.

In late 1803 James Cheeseman went away to the Napoleonic Wars, and never returned. In the Staplehurst Overseers Account Books we find that the parish paid Mercy Cheeseman a weekly allowance from parish funds for nearly three years. On the 18 December 1803 the infant daughter of Mercy and James Cheeseman died and was buried in the churchyard at Staplehurst.

On the 22 April 1804 another daughter was born to Mercy and she was baptised in the Staplehurst church on 22 April. She was named Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman for James’ mother.

Mercy’s parish allowance payments stop on 14 April 1806. Lady Day, the 25 March is the first day of the Church year, and it would appear these payments stopped soon afterwards. After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, there was a break in hostilities with France, so one would expect James Cheeseman to return home to his family. Obviously not having put in an appearance by the end of the church year in March 1806, the parish may not have been willing to continue to support his family, and may have tried to resettle them in the husband’s parish of birth, Marden, Kent.

Sometime in 1806 another daughter was born to Mercy Cheeseman, possibly at Marden. She was baptised at Marden on 31 January 1808 and is recorded at the daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman. I will write more about these three daughters of Mercy Cheeseman in my next blog.

It was about this time that Mercy Cheeseman formed a relationship with Robin Bell of East Farleigh, Kent. Robin, the fourth child and third son of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence) was born at Mereworth, Kent, and baptised there on 15 March 1785.

Jane Bell the eldest daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 28 February 1808. She died at Maidstone the following year and was buried in All Saints churchyard on 25 November.

It had been over seven years since Mercy Cheeseman’s husband, James had gone off to war, and the general conclusion was that he had perished, as he had not returned home to his family. Robin Bell and Mercy Cheeseman were married at East Farleigh on 10 October 1811.

On the 10 November 1811, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh. She later married her cousin Josiah Bell and remained in England when her parents and siblings emigrated.

Mary Bell, the third daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 16 January 1814. On 4 August 1834 there was a Removal Order for her to be removed from East Farleigh and returned to Mereworth her father’s parish of birth because she was expecting a child. At her examination on 18 August 1834 she named John Saunders, a labourer of Brenchley as the father. She remained at East Farleigh with Mereworth Parish Overseers paying parish relief to East Farleigh for her keep. In the following month a son was born to Mary and she named him Robert in honour of her father. He was baptised at East Farleigh on 7 October 1834. He died just before his third birthday and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, East Farleigh on 26 September 1837.At this stage nothing further is known of Mary Bell. She may have been the Mary Ann Bell who married George Terry at Maidstone in 1836.

Further children were born to Robin and Mercy Bell including the following:

Robert Bell baptised 28 April 1816 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Henry Stirling Bell baptised 16 August 1818 at St Mary’s East Farleigh. Died and was buried there on 5 March 1820.

John Bell, baptised 28 May 1820 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Thomas Bell, baptised 7 June 1822, at All Saints Maidstone.

James Bell, baptised 7 November 1824, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Jethro Bell, baptised 18 March 1827, at All Saints, Maidstone.

Charlotte Bell, baptised 15 November 1829, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

All these children emigrated with their parents on board the Woodbridge in 1838. Much of their life and descendants can be found in my book, The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell.