firstfam

Welcome,

On this web site, you will find information on, stories about and photos of those of my forebears (and their descendants) who first came to Australia, either alone or with their families. Most of these first arrivals came as assisted emigrants although two, Samuel Hickmott and John Cheeseman, were transported to Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales respectively.

elsie hickmottlaurie cheesemanThe first arrivals on my father, Laurie Cheeseman's side were: Benjamin Cheeseman and Clara Jane Cheeseman (nee Bass) from Kent in England, John Saunders Wright and Sarah Wright (nee Bodger) from Huntingdonshire, Thomas John Kersley from Hampshire, Bridget Buckley from County Cork in Ireland, and Alexander and Catherine Laurence (place of origin unknown but probably Ireland). To see Laurie's known forebears, click here.

The first arrivals on the side of my mother, Elsie Cheeseman nee Hickmott (pictured on the left), were Samuel Hickmott, Henry Hickmott and Sophia Hickmott (nee Goldsmith) all from Kent, William Free and Eliza Flavell from Cambridgeshire, Elizabeth Ann Owen from Wales, John Shepherd from Devonshire, and Johanna Mulchay from County Galway in Ireland. My mother's known forebears are shown here.

All arrived in Australia in the 1840s or 1850s. Some were forced by economic necessity to move from their loved ones and familiar surroundings and try their luck on the other side of the world. Some were lured by the stories of the gold rushes and the prospect of making their fortunes. All came from the labouring classes and, as such, had to work hard to support themselves and their families. It is likely that none had any real idea of what lay ahead of them, or of the hardships and heartaches they would have to endure. While none made a fortune, all remained in Australia and became part of the pioneering families of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

To find out more about each 'first family', just click on the links listed below:

Or click here to see a full listing of the web pages contained on this site, and here to see some of the newly received photographs.

You can also use the box below to search the site for names, places or any other information.


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As you will see, the website and the information it contains are 'works-in-progress'. If you see anything that is wrong or missing, can identify any of the unknown photographs, have any extra information, stories or photos you would like to see added, or would like, simply, to say hello, please send me an e-mail at g.cheeseman@mac.com

Other websites containing information about one or more of our 'first families' are shown at Useful Links.

Listings of births, deaths and marriages, compiled for some of these and related families from various parish registers in the United Kingdom, are shown here.

In September 2011 the 'First Families' website was included by the Australian National Library on its Pandora web archive. This comprises a growing collection of Australia's online publications and involves such other collection partners as the Australian War Memorial, National Film and Sound Archive and the various State Libraries. The webside has been re-archived each year since 2013 ensuring that the people, photos and stories described within it will be available for public viewing well into the future.

kate middleton bri and sunny

What do these two women have in common? Answer: they are both the 4xgreat granddaughters of
John and Rebecca Goldsmith of Maidstone in Kent. Click here for more details.

Recent additions and updates

November-
December 2019

We are continuing to add to and update the information and photos we have on the families and descendants of William Joseph Laurence (1855-1929) and Mary Jane Kersley (1861-1919) who were married at West Melbourne in 1884 and had ten children: Florence May Beecher (1884-1915), Mary Jane King formerly Stirrat (1886-1956), Emily Clarke (1888-1954), Alice Maud Cheeseman (1889-1967), Catherine Barclay (1891-1979), William Laurence (1893-1957), Bridget Ellen Williams (1896-1949), Lucy Margaret Pearson (1898-1985), Alexander Charles Laurence (1900-76) and Robert Thomas Laurence (1906-62).

The new material for William and Mary Jane's eldest daughter, Florence May Beecher, and youngest son, Robert Thomas Laurence, are outlined in the August to Septmber update below. We have since added some information about their second eldest daughter, Mary Jane Stirrat, plus a new and detailed account of the life, times and family of their second youngest daughter, Lucy Margaret Pearson. Lucy married Edmond ('Ned') Pearson at Narrandera in 1919 and had four children: Thelma Mary Miles (1920-84), Edmund Royce Pearson (1928-2016), Muriel Pearson, who died as an infant in 1925, and Laurence Raymond Pearson (1935-93). We are presently working on a more detailed account of Catherine Barclay (1891-1979) and her and Jack Barclay's eight children.

We have also updated what we know about the family and descendants of Mary Jane's older sister, Emily Kersley (1859-86). Born at Talbot in Victoria, Emily married Samuel Claxton (1855-1914) at St Arnaud in 1883. They had one son, Thomas Edward Claxton (1884-1956), before Emily's untimely death from enteric fever at Main lead near Beaufort in 1886. Thomas married Emma Margaret Quinn (1891-1971) at Quirindi in NSW in 1916 and had three children and six grandchildren we know of.

October-
November 2019

The 'Ballarat Benevolent Asylum Register Records (1860-81)' contained in Victoria's Public Records Office provides us with a further snippet of information on the life of Samuel Hickmott in Victoria during the 1860s and 1870s.

We have added more information about the family and descendants of Samuel's niece, Mary Jane Wright nee Jenner/Hickmott (1835-1920) who, with her husband, Adkisson James Wright (1834-1915) emigrated to Australia from London in 1863. They lived in Queensland initially and then Adelaide in South Australia and had four children - Charlotte Elizabeth White (1864-1951), Amy Caroline Wright (1866-67), George Henry Edward Wright (1867-unknown) and Charles Theodore Wright (1869-1923) - and five grandchildren we are aware of.

Using information provided by Natalie Barrington and other sources, we have begun to update what we know about Ellen Eliza Suttie nee Cheeseman (1887-1967). A granddaughter of our Benjamin, Ellen married Thomas Doig Suttie (1883-1963) at Ballarat in April 1913 and had seven children: John Ernest Suttie (1908-53), Thomas David Suttie (1921-76), Robert Thomas Suttie (1940-prob2009), Thelma Ann Howlett (1917-97) and three others.

August-
September 2019

Using photos and information sent to us by Mary-Anne Lattimore plus data obtained from Ancestry and other sources we have updated what we know of the life, times, family and descendants of Florence May Laurence who married Arthur Conrad ('Artie') Beecher (1887-1931) at Narrandera in NSW in 1905 and had two children before her untimely death ten years later. Arthur re-married in 1917 and had a further three children before his own death in 1931. Included among the new photos added is one of the wedding of Artie's younger sister, Ada May Beecher (1889-1960), and Archibald Alexander Carlisle Bland (1888-1961) at Narrandera in 1910.

We have also updated and added some more photos to what we know about May's youngest brother, Robert Thomas Laurence. Born at Narrandera in 1906, Tom married Lily Mildred Malcolm (1911-97) there in 1934. He worked for the NSW Department of Main Roads for a number of years before settling at Willawarrin near Kempsey where he owned and operated the local sawmill. He and Lily had five children: Geoffrey Neil Laurence, Unita Fae Laurence, Ronda Alice Hudson, Annette Mary Young and Malcolm Bruce Laurence.

Information obtained from Corinna Pickett's 'Holman-Moon' and 'Holman-Pickett' family trees on Ancestry plus other sources is being used to update what we know about the Australian family and descendants of John Cheeseman (1813-88) and his second wife, Christina Stewart nee McDonald (1816-86) who he married at Wagga Wagga in NSW in 1853. Born at West Hythe in Kent, John, who was the older brother of our Benjamin, was transported to Sydney in 1839 and assigned to work as a shepherd in the Yass and Riverina districts of the colony. He and Christina had only one child, a daughter, Amy Margaret Cheeseman (1860-1942) who married William Atkinson (1856-1924) at North Wagga in 1879 and had nine children.

April 2019

E-mail correspondence with Jan Saunders from northern NSW has provided us with a further Australian Hickmott connection. This is George Charles Goddard (1873-1927), a grandson of our Henry's older brother Edward Hickmott. Born at Calcutta in India, George married Olive Christine Hurley (1875-1948) at Cardiff in 1901. George travelled to Western Australia in 1909 and Olive and their two children joined him there two years later. George worked for a time at Broome and, from 1923, at Margaret River as part of the Group 60 Settlement Scheme. He died at Margaret River in 1927, Olive died at South Perth in 1948 and is buried with George in the Karrakatta cemetery. They had three children: a veteran of Tobruk, George Leonard Goddard (1902-45), who married Gladys Jean Sourrness (1907-95) at Mount Barker in 1932 and had two children; Eileen Mary Goddard who married a Gallipoli veteran, Leonard Dunkley (1893-1976), in Perth in 1939; and Olive May Goddard (1915-94) who married Edgar Robert Howard Gliddon (1917-68) in Perth in 1941 and also had two children.

Brick walls

Described below are some of the members of our extended family who
we have not been able to trace beyond a certain period or date.

Samuel Hickmott

Samuel Hickmott was transported with his brother, Thomas, to Van Diemen's Land in 1840. After being granted a certificate of freedom in January 1850, he travelled from Tasmania to South Australia where his son, Henry Hickmott, was then living. In around 1856 Samuel left South Australia for the Victorian goldfields (we think he may have accompanied Henry and some of his colleagues on their overland journey to Bendigo but have no evidence for this). Our last sighting of Samuel was in January 1872 when he was admitted to Victoria's Maryborough and District Hospital (Henry was registered as living at Maryborough late in 1871 prior to taking up land at nearby Charlton). The hospital records don't indicate how long Samuel remained a patient, merely stating that, on discharge, he was 'sent to his friends'. We have not been able to trace Samuel after this or ascertain when and where he died and was buried. It is possible he joined Henry at Charlton, or went to Warrnambool to where his brother Thomas had moved in the 1860s (Thomas died and was buried at Warrnambool in August 1871. Or he may have gone somewhere else entirely. The search continues.

Benjamin Cheeseman

Together with his wife, Jane, and three small children, Benjamin Cheeseman emigrated from England to Australia in 1853. He was contracted to work for a James Egan of the Major's Line station near Heathcote in central Victoria for a period of six months. It seems that after completing their contract with Egan, Benjamin and Jane left Heathcote for the Maryborough and later the Ararat goldfields. Some time between 1854 and 1866, Benjamin died where the versions of what happened to him differ slightly. Some in the family thought he died of thirst on the 'Old Man's Plains' while trying to walk to the Orange goldfields in New South Wales. Others thought he was found wandering in a state of delirium on the 'Emu Plains' and was taken to the Ararat mental asylum where he died soon after admission (this was more likely Jane's second husband, William Henry Robinson). Whatever the truth of the matter, we have found no official record of Benjamin's death or of his burial - his final whereabouts remains a mystery.

Christina May Hickmott

Christina May Hickmott was one of Samuel Hickmott's great grand-daughters (the third daughter of Alfred Hickmott and Alice McLeod). She was born in Kookynie in Western Australia in 1905 and married Bruce Ray Overbeck (1914-67) in Melbourne in 1933. Bruce, who served in the 2/12 Field Artillery Regiment during the Second World War, was the son of Charles Augustus Overbeck (1873-1953) and Caroline Sophie Louise Helena Hoffmann (1888-1976). We think they either separated or were divorced after the war. Bruce went to Sydney to live and work as a baker. Christina was in Melbourne at the time of the 1949 election but thereafter disappears from the electoral roll. We suspect she re-married but have not been able to confirm it. Nor do we know if she and Bruce had any children.

Emily Grace Cheeseman

One of Benjamin and Jane's grand-daughters, Emily Grace Cheeseman was born near Morchup in central Victoria in 1889 and married Victor James Mills in Melbourne in 1911. They had had two boys by the time Victor enlisted in the First AIF and departed for overseas service in 1916. Emily and her boys lived with her family at Beaufort during the war. On hearing Victor was coming home, Emily took the boys to her mother-in-law's at Ballarat and left them there. According to her niece she feared resuming her life with Victor and saw leaving him as her only way out of 'a bad marriage'. Sadly her decision also led her to be separated from, and ostracised by, members of her own family. 'Aunty Ada was the last of the family to see her, long after we went to the Mallee, Ada just shut the door on her, said she was with an Army officer and was well dressed'. Some in the family believe Emily had a daughter, Shiela Grace Cheeseman, who was born after the war although we have been unable to confirm it.

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