Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

My  2x Great Grandfather, George Bell was born in East Farleigh, Kent, England in 1817.

In 1837 he and his brother, James, emigrated to Australia as sailors on a convict ship.

George Bell married Sarah Sargent at Sutton Forest, New South Wales in 1844.

This couple settled in Picton, New South Wales and had a family.

Their children were all born at Picton.

George Bell Jr, was born in 1845 and baptised in 1846. See ‘Our Bell Family in Australia- George Bell, 1846, Picton.’

James Bell, was born in 1847. See ‘Our Bell Family in Australia-James Bell, 1847,Picton.’

Thomas Bell, was born in 1849. See ‘Our Bell Family in Australia-Thomas Bell, 1849,Picton.’

According to the Bell Family Bible after three sons, George and Sarah Bell had a daughter. She was called Harriet, after George Bell’s, sister who had died in East Farleigh, Kent, when George was six years of age.

Harriet Bell, was born in 1852. See “Our Bell Family in Australia- Harriet Bell, 1852, Picton’.

Two years later George and Sarah Bell had another son. He was named Henry.

The Bell family bible gave a birth date of 27 March 1854. As this was before Civil Registration in New South Wales I needed the baptism of Henry.

I checked for references in the online index of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in for New South Wales in Sydney at https://bdm.nsw.gov.au/  for the baptism, but found there was no reference at all for ‘Henry Bell the son of George and Sarah Bell.’

Although Henry Bell did not marry I have found many documents for him throughout his life, including his death and burial in Picton in 1936.

Throughout the years of researching my family history, I have found sometimes the odd baptism will have been missed in the indexing. I was quite confident that George and Sarah Bell would have had their son baptised, and at Picton. As the older siblings had been baptised in the Church of England, Presbyterian, and Wesleyan churches I decided to search the available baptism registers for the three churches. I carefully moved through the records page by page for 1854 and 1855 but I was not able to locate a baptism record for Henry Bell. Perhaps he was not baptised?  However, this did not sit well with me.

I decided to go and look at the Indexes for Baptisms in New South Wales released by the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in microform. These were released in 1988 on 26 microfiches plus 4 Supplementary. They were arranged alphabetically. In looking at the Bell entries I found baptism reference entries for George, Harriett, James, and John Bell all children of George and Sarah Bell but no Henry. With a sinking heart, I searched the supplementary fiche.  There it was! ‘Henry Bell son of George and Sarah Bell in 1854’! The reference was No 48 in Volume 153.

In 1988 the  Archives Authority of New South Wales (now State Records) released a Genealogical Kit to assist family historians to research their ancestry. This was long before the Internet. Part of this kit were copies of baptism registers before civil registration began in 1856. The time frame was 1788-1855. The early colonial baptisms, marriages, and burials records were contained in 164 large volumes. This included Victoria and Queensland which was part of New South Wales at that time. These are held as Government records by the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales in Sydney.

Many of these records were microfilmed. Of the 164 volumes copied, only 123 volumes were released in the above Genealogical Kit covering the time frame 1788-1855. Volumes 124-164 were not included in the kit.

This was because some of the records contained in the volumes were after 1855 so fell outside the parameters of the historical project and were subject to state privacy laws. Other volumes were not included because they were so fragile and the handling of those volumes would have destroyed them.

Returning to our Bell research I found Volume 153 in the above-mentioned records was one of the registers held by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages of New South Wales.

I was able to purchase a transcription, from that office, but not a photocopy.

According to the transcription Henry Bell the son of George and Sarah Bell (nee Sargent) was baptised at Picton on 1 May 1854 by Rev William McKee of St Peters, Presbyterian Church, County Cumberland, New South Wales. The birth date was given as 27 March 1854, which agrees with the family bible. The father, George Bell’s occupation was given as Farmer.

This transcription appeared to have been made from the clergy returns for 1854 and not the original parish register. I searched library catalogues for the original parish register but have not been successful. It would appear that the original register for that year may not have survived, or if so, it has not been deposited in a library or archive for safekeeping.

Henry Bell, 1854, Picton, Baptism Transcription

I was able to find some information on the Rev William McKee as follows:-

Reverend McKee

Reverend William McKee packed a lot into his short life. He was Campbelltown’s second Presbyterian minister, succeeding Reverend Hugh Gilchrist at St David’s in 1852. Like his Ulsterman predecessor, Rev. McKee worked tirelessly in undertaking his pastoral duties for the town and surrounding areas. It was unforeseen circumstances however that lead to his premature demise.

The Rev. William McKee was born in 1821 and educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institute. In 1848, with his wife Frances, he sailed for Australia, arriving at Port Phillip on 6 October 1848. He arrived in Sydney the following year after an offer of a vacancy at St Andrew’s at Port Macquarie. Reverend McKee was then called to Campbelltown and inducted into St. David’s on 18 May 1853.

Rev. McKee’s pastoral duties were arduous. He travelled extensively throughout the district from Liverpool, Appin, Camden, Picton, Bargo and beyond. [1]

The service was probably held in the old Court House,  Picton which had been built by the Antill family many years before.

I do not know why the baptism was in the Presbyterian records because the Wesleyans had built a chapel not far from the Bell family home in Upper Picton,  and the son Thomas had been baptised there some two years before.

My share document for this baptism transcription can be found under the  Resources and Examples Tab on this website under-

BELL, Henry, 1854, Picton, Baptism Transcription.

[1] Retrieved by Nola Mackey,15 September 2020

From <http://campbelltown-library.blogspot.com/2016/11/reverend-mckee.html


2 thoughts on “Our Bell Family in Australia – Henry Bell, 1854, Picton.

  1. Hi Nola! I’m a descendant of George Bell (1854) and Sarah Bell (1846), through their son Aretas. I lived near Mereworth, Kent my whole life and my Father (who was born there) still lives locally. I’ve been trying to decipher my family tree for such a long time, but it’s so difficult because Mereworth was absolutely full of different Bell families (as you know!), with many overlapping names. Thank you so much for all your work on our family history; I’ve been devouring it all recently. I would really like to read some of your publications but I can’t find any available online. Is there any way I could get them or any detail you’ve collected? It goes without saying that I’m very happy to take photos of anything in particular in Mereworth or it’s surrounds if that would help your research ! Thanks in advance, -Matt Bell 🙂

    • Hi Matt,
      Thank you so much for making contact concerning the Bell family.
      I can help in sorting out your family line living in Mereworth. I’m sorry I do not place much of my research online but prefer to share and work closely with genuine and enthusiastic members of the family. I will contact you privately. Regards, Nola

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