Early Australian documents

25 January, 2011 at 10:12 pm 6 comments

To celebrate Australia Day (26 January) Shelley at Twigs of Yore invited us to write about our earliest documentation for an Australian ancestor or relative.

It might not be my earliest Australian document, but this document dates from Perth in 1832, within 3 years of the new Swan River colony in Western Australia. So these ancestors were certainly Australian pioneers.

Thomas Farmer and his wife Ann and their two small sons arrived at the new Swan River colony (Western Australia) in 1829 on HMS Sulphur. Thomas was a Private in the 63rd Regiment, part of the contingent accompanying the first ship of European settlers to the new colony. Ann was reported to be the first white woman ashore in Western Australia. By 1832 Thomas and Ann had 3 sons, and Ann was pregnant again, when Thomas drowned.

After Thomas’ death, with no other means of support, Ann married again before the birth of her 4th son. Ann was to be widowed twice more, and have 9 children in total, before she herself died at age 64.

Anyway, back to that early document. The following is an extract from C.S.O. 20/155 (microfilm), from Battye Library, Colony of Western Australia.

Enquiry into the causes of the death of Thomas Farmer, a private in His Majesty’s 63rd regiment of foot, taken at Perth in the said colony on Friday the twenty fourth day of February 1832. … Edward Barron, Colour Serjeant of His Majesty’s 63rd Regiment of foot being duly sworn saith –

“Yesterday morning about six o’clock I accompanied the deceased along with … two Privates of my regiment to the Flats to bring back a flat boat …

We had gone but a few yards from the bank when the painter broke. The sea breeze was blowing choppy and drifting the flat on shore on which account I called to Steel to pull his small boat round. He tried but I saw he could not pull it round. Upon which I told him to jump out of the boat into the water knowing he was a good swimmer and lay hold of the painter of the small boat and bring it to me in the flat.

Farmer on hearing me say this said there was no necessity for anyone swimming hereunder he could find bottom and at the same instant he jumped out. He was immediately out of his depth and went down below the surface. I called to Steel to lay hold of him and pull him into the boat. Steel did accordingly pull him into the boat. I ordered Farmer not to jump out of the boat again.

Steel again jumped out and got hold of the painter and as soon as Steel jumped out Farmer again jumped out saying he could find bottom. He immediately struck out but I saw then he could not swim and that he was beginning to paddle like a dog on which I called to Steel to lay hold of him and at the same time I undressed myself and jumped into the water after deceased and was making towards him, and had got within about four strokes of him when he went down. He never came up again. Steel swam round the boat while I dived down after deceased but we never saw any trace of him.”


Entry filed under: Australian history, Western Australia. Tags: , , .

Ancestor Approved Award Australia Day, past and present

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. geniaus  |  25 January, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    What a great yarn ….. and it’s an official document.
    Really enjoyed reading it.

  • 2. Aillin  |  26 January, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Thanks Kerry for sharing your story for Australia Day, a very interesting read!

  • 3. Carole Riley  |  26 January, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Oh how sad! A great story, you can almost see it happening!

  • 4. Shelley  |  28 January, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    It’s quite extraordinary the things some of our ancestors went through. I can’t imagine trying to keep a large family going after the death of a partner – and again and again.

    Thank you for your contribution!

  • 5. Allan Smith  |  31 May, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Hi Kerry my grandmother was May Gertrude Smith (Watson) who’s father was James Watson who’s father was Joseph Watson (Farmer) and his father was Thomas Farmer who drowned in Swan River. I have followed my ancestors early settlement life with interest thanks for making it accessible to everyone. regards Allan

    • 6. Kerry Farmer  |  31 May, 2016 at 10:20 pm

      I have May Gertrude’s birth in my database but no further information about her. You must be something like 3rd cousin (or 3rd cousin once removed) to my husband. Can I ask you to contact me through my website http://www.familyhistoryresearch.com.au so we can exchange email addresses and some family information? Thanks for reading & thanks for taking the trouble to comment.


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