My mother, Margaret Nola Baxter was born in Murwillumbah in 1924, the fifth child of Arthur and Harriet Baxter (nee Bell). My grandparents had married at Thirroul in 1913 and came to settle at Kunghur, on the South Arm of the Tweed River soon afterward.
Arthur Baxter had been born at Picton in 1888, the sixth child of James and Margaret Baxter (nee Kennedy). He had been raised on a farm at High Range in the Picton District. His bride, Harriet May Bell had also been born in Picton, where her father was a blacksmith.
Arthur’s father, James Baxter, had been born at Spring Creek near Picton in 1851, the eldest son of Thomas and Mary Baxter (nee Mather), who had married at The Oaks, on 30 December 1850.
Thomas Baxter arrived in Sydney on board the Roslin Castle on 15 September 1834. He was a native of London and had been convicted of ‘pickpocketing’ on 2 September 1833, and sentenced to seven years transportation. In the 1837 Convict Muster, he is listed as working for George Brown at Camden. He remained in the Camden area after the completion of his sentence and received his Certificate of Freedom in 1840.
Thomas and Mary had nine children: James, 1851; Elizabeth, 1853; Mary, 1856-1860; George Thomas, 1858; John, 1860; Charles, 1862-1863; Mary Ellen, 1864; Robert, 1866 and Thomas Henry, 1869. All were born and raised in the Picton area.
Thomas and Mary Baxter later retired to Sydney where Thomas died on 5 February 1889. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mark’s, Church of England at Picton. His wife Mary who died in 1907 is also buried there.
On Thomas Baxter’s death certificate it is stated that his father ‘was believed to George Baxter, a bookbinder of London’.
London has always been a very big city, and Thomas Baxter is not an unusual name, so for a while, it seemed an impossible task to find where to start.
Searching for new clues I followed up on Thomas Baxter’s convict records and found that on 16 February 1832 in the proceedings of the ‘Old Bailey’ he was convicted of larceny and was imprisoned for one month.
I then used a map of London to identify the parishes around where he was apprehended for his crimes. Having made a list of these parishes I then consulted the International Genealogical Index (1978 and 1988). This is a research aid prepared by the Latter-Day Saints Genealogical Department. I then made a list of ‘Thomas Baxters baptized about 1812 to 1816, which were found in the parishes of interest. I also noted the marriages of all ‘George Baxter’s’ in the area 1800-1815 who might be Thomas’s father.
I then consulted the catalogue of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and ordered the microfilms of the parish registers of all the parishes in London which were of interest to my research. These were sent to the Grafton Family History Centre where I could visit and read the films.
After searching through several sets of films I found the baptism of ‘Thomas George Baxter’ at St Botolph Without Aldersgate on 17 April 1816, the son of George and Mary Brayne Baxter. The father, George’s occupation was given as ‘bookbinder’. I was able to find the baptisms of all the other children of George and Mary Brayne Baxter. I was also able to locate the marriage of George Baxter and Mary Brayne Kington at Christ Church Greyfriars Newgate, London on 13 August 1809.
All this was before the internet and the advantages of researching on-line. However, as the new technology became available I used it where I could to advance my family history. When the scanned images of the London parish registers were available I downloaded and printed the baptism and marriage entries, which I added to my folder system for quick reference.
By using the clues suggested by the family naming pattern revealed by the baptisms I was able to ‘guess’ that ‘George Baxter’s father’ was probably a ‘James Baxter that had possibly married a Miss/ Mrs. Dixson. The on-line search facilities enabled me to find a ‘James Baxter who married Elizabeth Dixon in London in 1766. I was able to find a number of children born to this couple as being baptized in London.
I was then able to find a reference to a Will of ‘James Baxter, a Claspmaker in London’, on the National Archives website in England, which I was able to purchase and download immediately. This gave not only a great deal of information about his business but also confirmed the names of his wife and eight children.
A further search of the National Archives website led me to Court cases in 1810 involving George and Mary Bayne Baxter, as well as Mary’s half-siblings, stepbrother and mother. My present challenge is to sort this out and continue to research the lives of these ancestors.