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

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

December 2018

Using Ancestry, the National Library's Trove database and other sources we have re-written and updated what we know of the life, times, family and descendants of Samuel and Fanny Free nee Shepherd. Married at St Arnaud in Victoria in 1891, Samuel and Fanny farmed first at Corack and then Lalbert in Victoria's Wimmera district. They had ten children between 1892 and 1908, five of whom married and had children and grandchildren of their own. Two of their sons, Samuel John and Albert Ernest Free, served on the Western Front during the First Wold War. A detailed account of their experiences and those who remained at home can be read here.

We have also begun updating what we know about the family and descendants of Samuel's brother, James Oswald Free (1864-1922) and his wife Johanna Shepherd (1866-1937). Married at St Arnaud in 1891, they also lived at Corack and then Lalbert and had 12 children between 1892 and 1911.

October 2018

Information and photographs provided to us by his great granddaughter, Leanne Wegrzyn, have enabled us to update what we know about George Robert Wright (1888-1919), the third son of Charles Bodger Wright (1860-1935) and Mary Ann Sergeant (1856-1930). George, who worked as a builder, and his wife, Janet Lumsden McKerral (1889-1978) had four children - Robert, Alexander, Andrew and Dorothy Wright - before George's untimely death from Spanish flu in Melbourne in 1919.

Using information obtained from Amber Heath and Vyv Mathews' family trees on Ancestry, we have updated what we know about the family and descendants of William Pearman (1836-1922) and his wife Sophia Hickmott (1841-1907). It Includes information on their youngest son, Frederick James Pearman (1880-1919), who, with his wife Estella - who also died from the effects of the Spanish flu - and their first three sons, emigrated from England to Western Australia in 1910.

Using Ancestry and other sources, we have updated the information on the families and descendants of sisters Emily Claxton nee Kersley (1859-86) and Lucy Anne Burns nee Kersley (1868-1951).

April-May 2018

Changes and additions to the web page of John James Hickmott and his family using information and photographs supplied by Graeme Hickmott. Additional information on Frederick Ainsworth Bodger and his work as an artist. And a photograph sent to us by Stephen Brooks which may be of James and Mary Medlyn nee Lee and their family.

December 2017-
January 2018

We have updated the information on two of Henry Hickmott and Harriet Waters' sons: Joseph Hickmott (1872-1928) and Alfred Hickmott (1869-1956) and their families. Alfred married Alice McLeod (1871-1913) in Perth in 1898 and had six children: Marion Alice Laney, George Henry Hickmott, Annie Louisa Roy, Christina May Overbeck, Janet Harriet Higgins and Alfred David Hickmott. Joseph married Helen Watt (1885-1966) at Charlton in Victoria in 1907 and also had six children: Francis Joseph Hickmott, Gladys Helen Pendock, Reginald Hubert Hickmott, Ronald Henry Hickmott, Leslie James Hickmott and Angelina Harriet Stevens.

March-April 2017

As part of our sweep through the Australian Hickmotts, we have been reviewing and updating the families and descendants of the daughters of Henry Hickmott and Sophia Goldsmith. To date we have reviewed the material on Rebecca Smith (1851-1914) - adding in the process a new page of Smith Family photographs - and Eliza Osborne (1848-1912). Note the information on the descendants of Eliza's daughter Louisa Sophia Bassett nee Osborne was further updated on 15 November 2017 using information and photographs provided by Louisa's great grandson, Mike Bassett.

Information and photos obtained from the Wills Family Tree on Ancestry have been used to update our web page on Richard Alfred and Alice Amy Wills nee Cheeseman (1880-1917) and their children. It includes a new page of Wills and related photographs. Additional information supplied by Jenny Tapungao has also enabled us to update what we know about some of Alice's siblings including, to date, Sarah Jane Haggis, Ralph Edward Cheeseman, Ellen Frances Blackie and Ada May Allan (including photos of her eldest son Jack Allan (1908-84) and his wife Mona).

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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