Bell Ancestors,Coming to Australia-Robin and Mercy Bell,1838

Robin Bell (b 1785), the third son and fourth child of Thomas and Ann Bell of Mereworth, married Mercy Cheeseman in 1811, and had a family of ten children.

This family emigrated to New South Wales on the Woodbridge in 1838.

In the late 18th Century, England was again at war. The most terrible effect was the great depression it brought about in agriculture. It was essential the land produce an ever increasing amount of food and although land enclosure had been going on for a long time the pressures of war hastened the movement. Many more taxes were introduced and although they mainly applied to the rich landowners they had a roll-on effect to the labourer in that as his taxes rose the landowner used them as an excuse to pay his workers less. By 1795 in the south of England agricultural labourers were paid only a pittance compared to what they had been and attempts were made to supplement his income from the parish poor rate. Many people resisted this step and tried to do without this assistance because of the stigma associated with it. They were willing to work, but there was no work. Of course the Industrial Revolution played its part too.

We know that by the early 1830’s conditions had become so terrible that some agricultural labourers caused riots. In some effort to assist the poor, work houses were set up all over

England. It was probably about this time that Robin and Mercy Bell and family were forced to return to Mereworth from East Farleigh where they had lived and worked for a number of years.  (Mereworth was Robin Bell’s parish of birth, so became responsible for him and his family in times of unemployment and destitution).

At the same time the colonies were calling for more agricultural labourers for the expanding wool trade. Immigration was encouraged but only the richer farmer could afford to go.

By 1837 the first of the assisted immigration schemes to Australia were in place. The summer of 1837 in England and Europe was cold and wet which led to a very poor harvest for that year.

This was probably one of the catalyst that led James and George Bell of East Farleigh, the sons of Thomas Bell (b 1782) and his first wife Mary, to sign on as sailors on board the convict ship Asia to work their way to Sydney in late 1837. See former blogs My Bell Ancestors-George Bell (1817-1894) Sorting Red Herrings posted 3 July 2015 and My Bell Ancestors-George Bell Red Herrings Sorted posted 1 February 2016.

The bad summer of 1837 was followed by a very harsh winter with much snow.

Many families were literally destitute and starving. Several of our Bell families like many others decided to emigrate, hoping to make a better life. The ‘bait’ as it were, was the dream to be able and own land after a few years work in the new colony. This was a dream they couldn’t have realized it they had stayed in England. Having decided to emigrate the families had to full-fill very strict conditions for a free passage to Australia. Many applicants were turned down as they were not able to fit these conditions. Robin Bell (b1785)and his family of Mereworth, Kent, were able to satisfy the conditions to emigrate to Sydney, as most of their family were adults and employable. See former blog “Robin and Mercy Bell of Kent, England, and Scone in New South Wales”, posted 1 September 2012.

With the bounty System for New South Wales the male members of the family would have applied to the Workhouse Union Clerk at Malling for an assisted passage. He would have sent their application onto the agent General for Emigration in London. Writing back to the clerk at Malling the agent general would announce that the surgeon superintendent of a certain bounty ship, such as the Woodbridge, or his agent, would be available to interview applicants on a certain day in the workhouse boardroom. The necessary certificates had to be presented at the interview. The applicant had to produce certificates certifying to moral and industrious habits, good health and practical knowledge concerning his given occupation. These documents had to be signed by the parish clergyman and other respectable inhabitants in the parish where the applicant resided. The applicants also had to tender certificates to his age and that of his wife and children. These were usually extracted from the parish registers. It is probable that Robin and his family made the original application sometime in February 1838.

Other specified conditions for passage to Australia included a certain amount and type of clothing. Luggage packages were not to exceed 18″ deep and every steerage passenger before embarking had to put sufficient linen and other changes of clothing for a month into a box not more than 15″ square as only these small boxes were allowed in the steerage compartment. All other luggage was stored(preferably in a tin-lined trunk), in the holds to be retrieved and brought onto deck in calm weather about four or five weeks into the voyage.

Eligibility for free passage was determined by the Superintendent or his agent at the interview. The successful applicants would then be advised the ships departure date and the necessity of reaching the place of embarkation a couple of days before the date of departure so their luggage could be examined for correctness under the rules of passage.

Preparations would take several weeks to complete, as the clothing alone which was all made by hand would take time. Parish Overseers Accounts in the Parish Chest Records for Mereworth, Kent, give a great insight into the lives of our Bell families, as these show us that the Mereworth Parish Overseers paid for the shoes and clothing to be made to allow our Bell families to emigrate. Also the tin lining for the trunk and tools for their trade. Emigrants were expected to travel to the place of embarkation at their own expense. Again the Mereworth Parish Overseers assisted. Note the ‘landing money’ which was given to the emigrants on landing in the colony.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Original Parish Chest, St Lawrence Mereworth, that once held the parish account books including the Overseer of the Poor. Copyright Nola Mackey-2004

“1838 – An Account of Moneys Spent by me for parish of Mereworth to assist in clothing and other expenses attending so many poor families who were emigrating from this parish to New South Wales”

April Gave Robt Bell by check To purchase tools etc £4
Paid Mr Farrant a bill for Robt Bell and family £6
Pd the Revd Mr Jebb for Robt Bells Family

To receive at Landing in Sidney (sic)

£10

 

Robin and Mercy Bell were also known as Robert and Mary Bell in the Mereworth records.

The family were given ten pounds on landing in Sydney to help them live until they could arrange employment.

The Woodbridge left  England on 7 May  and arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838.

In the next blog I will give more information on the voyage of the ‘Woodbridge‘ itself.

Bell Ancestors Coming Down-Under- South Australia

 

In former blogs I have blogged about the emigration of various branches of our Bell Family to United States ,Canada and Australia. This emigration story spanned nearly a century and was virtually global in range.

The 1830’s were a terrible time period for our Bell ancestors in Kent, England. Many families who faced with starvation or the newly erected Workhouses, saw emigration as their only opportunity and salvation. However they didn’t have means to emigrate.

Fortunately through various avenues several immigration schemes were being put forward by colonial governments particularly in Australia. Several of our Bell family took advantage of these schemes to emigrate.

George Bell (b1806) the second son and child of John and Mary Bell (nee Kemp) of Mereworth, Kent married Jane Hunt on 25 December 1827. They had a number of children all born at Mereworth; Jane (b1828), John (b 1830), Mary (b1832), George (b 1834) and Ann (b1837).

By 1837 this family had to relied on parish assistance to survive. The alternative was to go into the Malling Workhouse.

They wished to emigrate to New South Wales with other family members, but unfortunately they could not satisfy some of the conditions for a free passage. Their children were too young for employment when they arrived. However no such restrictions were proposed by the South Australia (Land) Company who were paying free passages for emigrants to come out to the newly formed free colony of South Australia.

George Bell was the right age and calling for a free passage, but the company was not prepared to pay the passage of his wife and children. The Mereworth Parish Overseers came to the family’s assistance and paid their passage. They also paid all the other costs of emigrating.

“1838 – An Account of Moneys Spent by me for parish of Mereworth to assist in clothing and other expenses attending so many poor families who were emigrating from this parish to New South Wales”

Pd the Emigration Committee for passage for five children belonging

To George Bell                                                                                                              £15.00

Pd Mr Carr a bill for list shoes etc for G Bell                                                              13. 4

Pd Mrs Browning a bill ditto                                                                                          14. 6

Pd Mr Viner a bill for G Bell                                                                                           £2. 12. 6¾

Pd Mr G Morphew a bill for tools for George Bell                                                            18. 7

Pd Mr Farrant for ditto                                                                                                     £2. 16. 2

Pd J & T Dutt a bill ditto                                                                                                            9. 6

Pd Mr Hy Shirley a bill for tin for G Bill                                                                               4. 10

Pd Mrs Capan for lowance for G Bell and family at T(own) Malling                              1. 10

Pd Mr Samuel Glover bill for Bell                                                                                     £2. 17. 6

Gave George Bell and family to receive at landing in South Australia                      £3. 10. 0

Gave the man to pay for breakfast for himself and George Bell, his wife and

family on rode (road) to Deptford                                                                                       £1. 1. 0

Pd Mr George Harryman a bill for meate (meat)for Mrs Bell                                              2. 6

Pd Mr Wolf a bill as part for Mereworth going to Deptford with emigrants                  14. 0

Pd Mr Durrell a bill at Meeting of South Australia Company                                             6. 0

Pd Mrs C Goodwin a bill for George Bell                                                                          £5. 16. 6

Pd Mr Hards a bill for Mrs Bell                                                                                                11. 3

Paid for George Bells bed and bedding                                                                              £4. 10. 0

This gives us a very detailed account of the costs involved in emigrating

Clothes and shoes as well as the necessary tin lined trunk for the clothes to keep them dry on the voyage. Tools for George Bell to bring out with him to use in his employment.

The bed and bedding for the voyage and the family’s settlement in Australia. For the family to stay overnight at Malling and their transport to Deptford. From there the emigrants were taken to Gravesend to embark on the emigrant ship.

Barque

Image from https://www.google.com.au believed to be Barque Falls of Clyde now preserved as a museum ship in Hawaii. Retrieved 15 July 2017

 A Barque has three or more masts with square sails on the fore mast and fore and aft sails on the after mast. Generally in the range of 250-700 ton capacity.

 

George and Jane Bell and family embarked on the Resource, a barque of 417 tons built in Calcutta in 1804. It was owned by Mr T Ward of London. The ship left London about 15 September (1838) under Captain Boyle and arrived in Port Adelaide on 23 January 1839. On board were more than 140 immigrants, many poor farming families from Kent and other places in England.

Shipping…

JAN. 23.—Barque Resource, Capt. Boyle, from

London, 7th October, with 140 emigrants and passengers.

Trove: Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 – 1844) Wednesday 30 January 1839 p 2 Article From <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?l-state=South+Australia&l-decade=183&l-month=1&l-year=1839&q=%27Resource%22>

South Australian Shipping…

Resource, from London, Captain Boyle, arrived 23 January, with one hundred and forty-three emigrants, six adults and fourteen children died during the voyage.

Trove: The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842) Wednesday 6 February 1839 p 2 Article From <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=%22Resource%22&l-decade=183&l-year=1839&l-state=New+South+Wales&l-month=2&s=0>

Thomas Hodgetts, Second Fleeter- Identifying Our Ancestor

For many years several family historians researching and writing about the “Thomas Hodgetts” who was transported on the Second Fleet, have argued over his origins. All records we have been able to gather together stated he came from “Staffordshire, England”. However there are several “Thomas Hodgetts” born in Staffordshire about the same time. How can we identify our Thomas Hodgetts from the rest?

 Anyone who has followed any of my research and blogs will know I am a great believer in digging long and deep into the “Parish Chest Records”. From these we can get down to the local level not only of our ancestors, but all their friends and family too.

 Over time I sorted through all the surviving Parish Chest records of many, many parishes in Staffordshire, in my quest for Thomas Hodgetts.

 I was finally rewarded when I found the Examination Certificate of an Ann Hodgetts, when she applied for assistance, on 13 January 1790, to the Vestry of Wednesbury, Staffordshire.

 This parish meeting was made up of the Vicar, Parish Clerk, and Overseer of the Poor. Church Wardens might also attend. Their job was to administer the parish funds. They had the reputation of being very careful with parish funds, especially in difficult times as was the case in Wednesbury in the latter part of the 18th Century. Only those who had a very good case would get the needed assistance.

 In her examination, which was given under oath, Ann Hodgetts stated, among other things, that she had married Thomas Hodgetts some years before and she had three children, who were desperately in need of assistance. She gave their names and ages. She also stated that her husband had been ‘transported’ and she had no one to turn to for assistance.

She finally stated that she had not at any time applied to any other parish for assistance. This would suggest she did not approach St Mary’s, Whitechapel, London, for help as some have claimed.

 Having transcribed this document and gleaned several important clues, I could now move forward on my research into the origins of our Thomas Hodgetts.

 Meanwhile, on the very day that Ann Hodgetts had been examined at Wednesbury, Staffordshire, some 170 miles to the south, in Portsmouth on the coast of Hampshire, others waited. Several ships were anchored in the harbour waiting for the wretched winter gales to abate so they might sail.

These included the Justinian, Guardian, Surprise, Scarborough and Neptune. These five ships were to make up the Second Fleet bound for New South Wales.

 On board the Scarborough was our Thomas Hodgetts, who had lost his appeal not to be transported and to serve out his sentence in England.

 On board the Neptune was our Harriet, a free woman, who arrived on the shores of New South Wales several months later claiming to be the wife of “Thomas Hodgetts”. She certainly wasn’t Ann Hodgetts who had changed her name and was sailing towards a better life. Who was she, and how did she get a ‘free passage’ on the Neptune?

 On the 19th January 1790 the weather improved and the Fleet set sail for New South Wales.

 In recent blogs I have stated that I have begun to put together our Hodgetts family history.

Most family historians know that a family history is more than a list of names and dates. You need the story around these names, dates and events. However, it does not mean that you should fabricate a wonderful fictional story with no basis of historical and contextual truth just because you want your ancestors to be so. Nor should you thoughtlessly manipulate names and dates to fit this fictitious story.

 There are many, many published books and articles that suggest how to go about putting together an interesting family history based on facts and evidence. There are also on-line writing courses on that very subject. Just Google it. You will be surprised how much there is. You need to find that book or course that fits what you want to do.

 I have written and published many books on history and family history, but each one is different, and I try to approach each project with new eyes. At the same time there are basic things I need to think about when I start to write.

Time, place, circumstances, law, custom, mood, suspense, pace and ‘voice’ are some of the things I need to keep in mind. Indeed there is much to think about as I begin to put my words down on paper.

I know I will not find it an easy project, and there will be much frustration and editing, but I can but try.

Taking the above mentioned document of Ann Hodgett’s Settlement Examination, this is one way I might use it in the family story.

 Ann Hodgetts, the wife of Thomas Hodgetts, in desperate need, applied to the Wednesbury Parish for assistance for herself and her children on 13 January 1790. (Referenced Footnote)

Or perhaps this way.

Ann sat huddled in the icy tomb. She clutched her thin brown shawl around herself and stared down into the darkness, where her much-mended shoes should be. She couldn’t see them, nor could she feel her feet. Her shoes were wet with melted snow, and her feet had literally frozen into them. She was completely numb with cold and hunger.

 She had prayed long and fervently for many months, that this hour would not come.

Firstly to Mary, the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Mother to all mothers. In the beginning in the long warm days of summer Ann’s prayers had been answered, and she believed that she had been delivered from this terrible fate. In those days Ann had hope.

 However, as the barmy days gave way to chilling winds and long dark nights, it seemed the saintly Mother no longer listened to her supplications. When Ann knew Mary had deserted her, she then prayed even longer and harder to St Bartholomew, the patron Saint of this very church, and then to all the heavenly host, but to no avail. By now, Ann’s hope had faded away.

 Would she and her children now be sentenced to a terrible death, through no fault of their own?

 Suddenly the heavy door of the church creaked loudly, and a draught of chilling winds entered the inky darkness. A single candle spluttered into life and a shadowy figure glided down the nave to light the altar candles, one by one.

 Soon other shadowy figures entered and set up a trestle and chairs three parts of the way up the nave, below the pulpit, and in front of the choir stalls. This was some distance from where Ann sat, towards the rear of the church, in what had been in better days, the family pew.

interior2

Interior of St Bartholomew’s Church, Wednesbury prior to the alterations of 1827.(from: A History of Wednesbury, in the County of Stafford’ by JN Bagnall Published 1854, by William Parke, Wolverhampton.) Retrieved From <http://dp.genuki.uk/big/eng/STS/Wednesbury/StBartholomew/picture2> on 25 May 2017

The door opened a third time and in strode several portly figures, some with chains of office hanging from their necks, to be seated at the table. To sit in judgement for, and with God himself. For a full minute a foreboding stillness settled on the ancient stone church.

 Then one of the figures of judgement rose and bellowed into the darkness. “This Vestry is now in session. All ye seeking benefit, come forth!”

 Ann rose slowly and shuffled forward. Thus began the Settlement Examination of Ann Hodgetts. (Referenced footnote)

Or somewhere in between. I would value comments from Hodgett descendants, as I know there are a lot of you out there.

The “Dash” of Thomas Hodgetts, Second Fleeter

Thomas Hodgetts, born 1763, Staffordshire, England, arrived in Sydney in 1790 aboard the Second Fleet. He died in Tasmania in 1823.

He is my husband’s ancestor and I have spent many years researching his life.

My challenge is now to get his story down on paper. I have spent the last few days collecting my notes, folders and computer files together to begin this task. Like all projects the hardest part is getting started.

While the research began at his death and progressed backwards through the surviving Tasmanian, Norfolk Island and New South Wales records to Staffordshire in England, the writing of the story is better explained from his birth through his youthful years, marriage, criminal records, transportation and life in New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Tasmania. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘dash’ in a person’s life.

You know when you see “Thomas Hodgetts, 1763 – 1823”, which refers to born 1763 and died 1823. The ‘dash’ years are their life story in between those dates. In Thomas’s case it spans 60 years.

I have now broken these 60 years into his life in England and his life in Australia. He was 27 years of age when he was transported in 1790, so that gives me 27 years in England and 33 years in Australia. In England it is the Regency period and in Australia early Colonial times and all that implies in law and custom.

 We can piece the story through many records, but putting it all down in the historical and social context of the times without making some ‘gaff’ is the real challenge.

MALH0023509Above: One of the Petitions for Thomas Hodgetts [ Ref: Thomas Hodgetts Petition;1789,Home Office,HO13,Correspondence and Warrents,7/23,England and Wales; Crime, Prisons & Punishment,1770-1935,Institutions & Organizations, Prison Registers retrieved from Findmypast,15 May 2017 at http://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=tna%2fccc%2f2a%2fho13%2f00006070 ]This is  also one of the documents I  photographed  when at the National Archives, London in 2014.

 Although I find it all most interesting, it is going to take some real discipline to sit at it day after day as ‘work’, especially with the busy life we lead.

The reason I am doing this project is for our children and grandchildren, but I know there are many thousands of descendants of Thomas Hodgetts in Australia, who are always keen to find out more on this ancestral line. Hopefully their interest will keep me on track with the project.

Family Heirloom- Dead Man’s Penny for James Joseph Stapleton

A family heirloom on our children’s paternal side of the family is a World War I Memorial Plaque, but is more popularly known as a ‘Dead Man’s Penny’. It is in memory of James Joseph Stapleton who was killed in action on the Somme on 1 September 1918.

J J Stapleton Memorial Plaque-Copyright Nola Mackey 2013

This Photograph is Copyright-Nola Mackey

These Memorial Plaques were issued after World War I to the next of kin of all British and Empire soldiers, sailors and airmen who were killed or died of wounds during the war.

In 1919 the British Government held a design competition for the proposed plaque. There were over eight hundred designs submitted. The winner was Edward Carter Preston a renowned sculptor and medalist for a prize of £250.

These plaques were made of bronze and about five inches or 120 mm in diameter.

The medal design was only on the front and is an image of Britannia holding a trident and standing with a lion. In Britannia’s outstretched left hand is an oak wreath. At the bottom of the plaque is another lion tearing apart the German eagle symbolizing Britain’s superiority on land. Dolphins swim around Britannia symbolizing sea power.

A rectangular tablet to the right of Britannia is where the deceased’s full name is inscribed. No rank is included as all gave the same sacrifice- their life. Around the edge of the plaque in capital letters reads: “HE/SHE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR.”

The initial plaques were made at Acton in London, but later, manufacture was shifted to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. On the back of this plaque is “WA”(the A being formed by a bar between the upward strokes of the “W” ), which indicates it was made at Woolwich.

These plaques were issued with a commemorative scroll from King George V.

On receipt of the scroll and plaque the next of kin were required to officially acknowledge by letter and form. These can be found within the service personel records at the Australian Archives.

From the 18th Century the British ‘penny’ was made of copper and a ‘Britannia’ design featured on the face of the coin. It is described as- “Britannia seated facing right, wearing a helmet, holding a trident in her left hand and her right hand resting on a shield with the words ‘one penny’ in the field and date below.” This design with few variations remained as the face of the British penny from c 1780 to 1967.

During World War I the soldiers used these coins as ‘Two-up’ Pennies and even today many surviving sets come out on “Anzac Day”. This is the only day ‘Two-up’ is legally sanctioned.

Due to the similarity in design of the Memorial Plaque and the British penny the Memorial plaque became known colloquially as “The Dead Man’s Penny”.

See also

posted 21 April 2013 at World War I Family Heroes – The Stapleton Boys

posted 13 October 2014 at Australian World War I Battlefields Tour – Family Heroes J J Stapleton and R E Sherwood – Mont St Quentin

 posted 13 October 2014 at Australian World War I Battlefields Tour – Family Heroes J J Stapleton and R E Sherwood – Peronne

Sudds Cousins Emigrate to America

In a former blog I wrote about the family of John Bell(b1822) Mereworth, Kent, England, who had married in Staplehurst in 1851, Harriet Hatcher. They had three children John (b.1851), Elizabeth (b.1853) and Mary Ann (b.1855) before they emigrated to the United States of America in 1856-7.

At the end of the blog I suggested they were probably not the first in the Bell family who had emigrated to America.

After assessing the large collection of documents my cousin Glenda and I had collected on the various branches of the Bell family, I narrowed down my ‘possible’ families.

One person of interest was William Daniel Sudds, the youngest son of Paul and Jane Sudds (nee Bell). His mother, Jane Bell (b.1778) was the eldest daughter of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence) of Mereworth, Kent, England. This couple, Thomas and Ann Bell was also Glenda and my 4X great-grandparents, although down through different children.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Lawrence, Mereworth,Kent-Copyright Nola Mackey 2004

William Daniel Sudds (b.1811)known as Dan Sudds, is believed to have emigrated to New York about 1845. There he married a Mary Unknown and had a number of children including Emma (b.1846); Addison (b.1849); Josephine,(1852; Rachel (b.1854); Jennie (Jane) b.1856; Daniel (b.1859). This family also migrated to Michigan where two more daughters Maud (b.1860) and Elsie (b.1864) were born. The family resided at Chocolay, Michigan for a number of years. Dan Sudds died in 1868.

Dan Sudds would have been a first cousin to the former mentioned John Bell(b.1822) and also to my ancestor George Bell who emigrated to Australia in 1837.

Dan Sudds elder brother Iden (b.1804) married Jane Huggett in 1825 and had a number of children including Jane (b.1826); Mary Ann (b.1827); William (b.1828); Iden (b.1830); Sarah (b.1831); Isaac (b.1833); Ann (b.1836); Eleanor (b.1837); Catherine (b.1838); Emma (b.1841); Amos (b.1842); Caroline (b.1844); Frederick (b.1846) and Amy(b.1848).

We have been able to establish that the above mentioned Mary Ann Sudds(b.1827) married David Kennedy and Sarah Sudds (b.1831) married Jeremiah Wells. These couples emigrated to Canada c 1860. As yet I have not been able to establish if Mary and David Kennedy had any children, but she died in Ontario in 1895.

Jeremiah and Sarah Wells had a number of children including the following born in Ontario:- Julia (b.1863); Jessie (b.1865); Mary (b.1868);Mark (b.1869); and Minnie (b.1870).

I have been a member of the Kent Family History Society for over forty years. Over the years I have purchased most of their books and CD resources and in more recent years have been involved in the Global Branch of the Society. There members can post questions and problems concerning their family research on the Society’s website. I was most fortunate to have several KFHS members living in USA and Canada answer my queries and I was able to make further headway with my research over there

As well as the above mentioned Sudds families and connections, I found other Sudds families emigrating from Mereworth and Wateringbury, Kent. About 1875 Frederick Charles (b.1851) and Martha Sudds and his brother Timothy Sudds (b.1842)and his wife Sarah emigrated to the USA. They first settled in Michigan, but had moved to Ravenna Portage in Ohio by 1878. They remained there for several years, where Timothy was a saloon keeper. In about 1887 the families moved to Cook, Illinois.

Meanwhile back in Wateringbury, Kent, Frederick and Timothy’s younger brother Nathan (b.1854) had spent some time in the army, as a wheelwright. He was stationed in Malta, where he met and married a local girl, Carmella. They had a daughter, Elizabeth, born in Malta before they were shipped back to Kent about 1880. A son, Nathan, was born the following year. Then two daughters were born, Emily and Ann, in 1883 and 1885 respectively.

Soon afterwards the family decided to emigrate to USA and joined Nathan’s brothers and their families in Illinios. The family later settled in Thornton, where a number of children were born and by 1900 a total of ten children were living at home with the parents.

Although it was fun tracking down other twigs and branches of the far flung ‘Bell Family Tree’, Glenda and I decided it was time we returned to our more immediate family connection in Kent and Australia. There was still plenty of research to do.

More Bell Family Going to America

In a previous blog I wrote about George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell, sons of George and Harriet Bell (nee Collins) of Mereworth, Kent, England, who had immigrated to the United States of America between 1890 and 1909.

I also acknowledged the incredible work my Bell ‘cousin’, Glenda B. of Idaho, had undertaken to help to solve the immigration riddle of George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell and find their families.

We know that Harry and Edward Bell went to Owossa, Michigan because their elder brother George Bell and his family had settled there.

The question then arose to the reason George Bell had immigrated there in 1890. There seemed to be no obvious reason, however, when we studied the pattern of immigration of the Bell families to Australia, we found that family nearly always went to family, already established there.

If a similar pattern was present in the USA, what family did George Bell go out to in Owossa, Michigan in 1890?

Glenda was to team up with me again to try and solve this intriguing question.

While researching George, Harry and Edward Charles Bell, Glenda had collected information on all persons with the Bell surname, particularly in the Owossa area. One person who seemed to stand out and claimed our interest was a ‘John Bell’. From various USA Census Returns we knew he had come from England. His wife Elizabeth, a son John, and daughters Elizabeth and Mary Ann Bell were also listed as having been born in England. However, the youngest daughter, Harriet, was claimed to have been born in Michigan about 1859. This gave us an approximate time span for the family’s emigration to Michigan.

Glenda was able to use indexes and files in the Michigan State, City and University Libraries as well as employ the services of local historians to gather a large collection of cemetery, funeral home, census and newspapers records for this family. From those records she put together a detailed biography and timeline for John Bell and his family.

Glenda shared this material with me and I was able to use it along with other documents I held, to gain further clues for research back in England. I then purchased marriage, birth and death certificates from the Maidstone Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which confirmed my hypothesis for this family.

We were finally able to establish that John Bell (b.1822), the youngest son of John and Mary Bell (nee Kemp), of Mereworth, Kent, a carpenter by trade was living at Staplehurst, Kent, when he married Harriet Hatcher on 8 September 1851. Their children were John (b.1851); Elizabeth (b.1853) and Mary Ann (b.1855). At that time, life in Kent was difficult, with little employment and no opportunities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Staplehurst Parish Church – Copyright, Nola Mackey,2004

John and Harriet Bell decided to immigrate to the United States of America. John Bell travelled to London where he bought a steerage passage on the Palestine which sailed for New York. He arrived there on 12 May 1857. He is believed to have immediately gained employment and sent the money home for Harriet to purchased a passage for herself and the children on the Palestine the following year. This ship left London and sailed to the German port of Bremen where several German immigrants came on board before sailing for New York. The Palestine arrived in New York on 29 May 1858.

Soon afterwards John and Harriet Bell joined many other families on a wagon train west to Michigan and settled in the frontier town of Saginsaw. Harriet Bell died soon after arrival, at the birth of their youngest daughter. She was named Harriet in memory of her mother. John Bell needed someone to care for his young family and married Elizabeth Parkinson at Oakland on 21 March 1860.

The family moved on to Owosso, where John Bell later bought a block of land. After much hard work and perseverance John and Elizabeth Bell built up a large market garden of more than ten acres. John sold the produce in town from a cart and was well known and respected in the community.

Their children married and lived in Michigan.

John Bell (b.1851) married Mary Conklin in 1888, but had no family. He died in a rail accident in 1895.

Elizabeth Bell (b.1853) married Andrew Case in 1871 and had a number of children: Edward George,b.1872; Selina Lillian, b.1873; Bert Lee, b.1876; John Henry, b. 1878; Chester, b.1882; Theodore Leonard, b.1884; Lawrence Andrew, b.1888; William Nelson, b.1895 and Harlan I, b.1899.

Mary Ann Bell (b.1855) married William Clark Munro and had two sons: Francis Eugene, b. 1877 and Chester William, b.1887.

Harriet Bell (b.1859) married Byron Le Clear and had a son John, b. 1887.

Glenda was again able to trace and contact descendants of these families. They had been interested in family history and had done a lot of research in USA, but had not been able to find where the family originated in England.

Imagine their surprise when we contacted them and were not only able to show them where the family came from, but also where they fitted into this huge ‘family tree’, which reached back to the 16th Century.

Although these families were not on our Bell Family line, Glenda and I believed it right we should share our knowledge and research with other family members.

In recent years these families have put considerable material on-line about their families.

John Bell (b.1822) was the younger brother of George Bell’s Grandfather, Thomas Bell (b.1803), and therefore a Great-uncle to George Bell. We believe this is the family George Bell went out to Ossowo, Michigan in 1890. John Bell died in 1895 a few years after George’s arrival.

However,were John and Harriet Bell the first in our Bell family to emigrate from Kent to the United States of America, or had they also gone out to family?