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.


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?


Family and Local History Research Tool- Index of Passengers and Crew In and Out of Sydney from Sydney Newspapers 1830-1841

When your ancestors arrived in Australia they could have come as :

a) Seaman/wife of a seaman or family of a seaman

b) Soldier/wife of a soldier or family of a soldier

c) Convict/ wife of a convict or family of a convict

d) Assisted Immigrant

e) Unassisted immigrant

f) Government Official/ wife of official or family or a servant of an official.

They could only have arrived by ship until after the mid 20th Century when air travel was possible.

Firstly, you need to consider from what port, or via what port, they may have come. Many immigrants did not come directly to Sydney. For example a large number of unassisted immigrants came via Tasmania, where they got off the ship, looked around for several weeks or months before deciding to board a coastal ship to Sydney. Others may have joined the big rush to America before re-emigrating and finally settling in Sydney. Just be aware of possibilities.

I have compiled indexes from the shipping and news columns of at least two and sometimes as many as four Sydney newspapers. The newspaper entries are compared for the most informative entry to be added to the index. If there is a variation of the spelling of the Surname in the various papers, all variations are added. The newspapers used are theSydney Gazette; Australian; Sydney Herald and Sydney Monitor.


Incoming passengers- Although shipping passenger lists have survived for incoming passengers into Sydney, for this period can be found on the State Records of New South Wales, they are thought to be incomplete. Many names can be found on these indexes which do not appear on the archive lists.

Outgoing passengers- There are no outgoing passenger lists at the State Records of New South Wales for this period. This is the first known index to fill this important gap in the records.


In this time period very few crew lists were prepared, only four are known to survive in the State Records of NSW. Included in my index are mention of crew named in inquests, court reports, news items etc. Any additional information on the passengers is also included.

Incoming crew- Although there is at the State Records of New South Wales, an unpublished card index for ship’s captains arriving in Sydney in this period, there are no lists for crew. All mention of members of any ship’s crew through newspaper items such as wrecks, inquests, death reports and court cases are listed in this indexes.

Outgoing crew- The only known lists for ship’s Captains and crew leaving Sydney at this time. Again these lists have been compiled from all sections of the newspapers.

The information includes Surname, Christian name or initials ; Title;Ship; Date of arrival in Sydney; Date of departure from original port and other ports of call; Date of departure from Sydney and destination port; Ship’s status of person named; remarks and notes as well as full references.

Example: Volume 2




Date of Arrival

From Ports

Date of


To Port




Other Notes


FENNELL, Mr Richard



London/ Hobart Town

01.05.1833/ 28.10.1833



SMH 14.11.1833

There are in excess of twenty thousand persons in this series of indexes for the 1830-1840 period.

Volume 1 1830-32; Volume 2 1833-35; Volume 3 1835-37 were published in book, microfiche and e-book form. The index is arranged alphabetically by Surname and then Christian name of Passengers and Crew arranged in one table.

Volumes 4, 1838; Volume 5, 1839 and Volume 6 1840 are arranged in two parts. Part 1-arranged alphabetically by Surname and then Christian name of Passengers and Crew.

Part 2-Arranged alphabetically by ship for Crew




Date of Arrival

From Ports

Date of Departure

To Port




Other Notes



BROWN, William


Madras/King George’s Sound/Port Phillip





S G 15.01.1839

Court Case

Here is also a special index for 1841. This year didn’t feature in my time original period of my 1830 to 1840 indexes. Pastkeys, a research business based in Sydney had compiled a set of indexes for immigration into New South Wales after 1842, which then left a gap in indexes to surviving records. After consultation with Pastkeys I agreed to fill the gap for 1841 from the Sydney newspapers, so Volume 7 was compiled also following the same guidelines as Volumes 4-6 in two parts.

Example: Volume 7




Date of Arrival

From Port

Date of Departure

To Port




Other Notes


YULE, Robert

HMS Erebus


Hobart Town




Second Master

SMH 15.07.1841

On Scientific voyage of magnetic observation

In the last few years the National Library of Australia has scanned these microfilms of each of these newspapers and digitally released them on their website ( ) under Trove, in their Historical Newspapers section. In theory this makes my indexes obsolete as the word search facilities of the National Library site makes all the records available at the press of a button.

However, any family historian who relies on the computers facilities to find all their family history entries will often be very disappointed. Often many thousands of possible entries have to be sieved through to see if your family is indeed there. Also, the text recognition program used, although very helpful cannot hope to be 100% accurate. The printing of these early newspapers range from very dark and easy to read print to very faint and impossible to read. It needs the human eye to interpret those dark and smudged, as well as those faint broken text words. I have spent some forty years working with early 18th and 19th Century newspapers from all over the world, and have had much experience in working out those troublesome words.

I would use the National Library of Australia newspaper website everyday, but always consult my indexes if working in the 1830- 1841 time frame, as it saves me many hours of time. I immediately know if there is an entry, and in which newspaper I should be looking in.

These indexes are copyright to me and cannot be found on, or any other website. Check them out at my website

Why not give these indexes a try, as you just never know, they just may solve your research problem.

It’s a Long Way from Tipperary- the Mackey Family

It has been many years since I started researching our Mackey family. I’m often told I will not be able to research far, because I’m spelling the surname incorrectly, as it should be “MacKay”. I laughingly tell people we are the Irish variety and I do indeed have the correct spelling.

Family research is conducted backwards from the present, generation by generation,with as much documentation as we find. Beginning with my husband, who is the only son of James John and Valerie Mackey (nee Hodgetts), we find ‘James John’ was the only son of James and Honorah Lena Mackey (nee Stapleton). Then ‘James’ was the son of James and Winifred Mackey (nee O’Neill). In the generation before, ‘James’, was the son of William and Sarah Mackey (nee Hadnett). He was born in Dundrum, in the parish of Ballintemple, in the County of Tipperary, Ireland in about 1861, and immigrated to Queensland in 1883. He arrived on board the ‘Woronga”, a steam ship under Captain Fife, which left Plymouth, England on 1 April 1883 and after a passage of several weeks arrived off Cooktown on 5th June and eventually arrived in Brisbane about the 16 June 1883.

James Mackey worked as a labourer, possibly on a farm on the out-skirts of Brisbane. When he married Winifred O’Neill, on 23 May 1885 at St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Brisbane, he stated he lived at Happy Valley, Lutwyche.

James and Winifred Mackey had two sons, James b 1886 and Michael b 1887 before Winifred died in 1889.

Little is known of James Mackey Sr for a number of years, but he died in Brisbane Hospital in 1943. His sons, as young children were reputed to have been raised by a Mr and Mrs Kirby.

However, soon after the turn of the 20Th Century, both James and Michael can be found living at Mullumbimby, in Northern New South Wales. For a number of years they worked at Hollingworth’s Timber Mill. Michael later returned to Brisbane. He married Mary Jane Byrne. They were killed in an accident in 1963.

James remained in Mullumbimby and married Honorah Lena Stapleton, the daughter of Michael and Rosanna Stapleton (nee Kane), in 1912. They in turn had two children, James John, b 1914 and Rose Winifred b 1920, both of whom are now deceased.

James John Mackey married Valerie Mary Hodgetts in 1941 and had one son and three daughters.

Rose Winifred Mackey married Norman Joseph Hodgetts in 1941 and they too, had one son and three daughters.

Although James and Winifred Mackey’s descendants are small in number with less than thirty descendants over the five generations in Australia, I am still interested in being in contact with any one interested in researching the MACKEY surname, particularly in Queensland and Tipperary, Ireland.

I can be contacted on