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

October 2021

Using Ancestry, Trove and other sources, we have updated what we know about the family and descendants of William Charles Cheeseman (1883-1951) and Jane 'Jinny' Anderson (1885-1969) who were married at Beaufort in 1906 and had four children: Olive Jane Symons (1906-82), Ivan William Cheeseman (1908-77), Dulcie Beryl Allender (1910-2003) and Eric Norman Cheeseman (born in 1923).

September 2021

Photographs and information provided by Rhonda Palmer and her father, Ron Moss, has helped us update what we know about the children of Richard Colmer Smith (1881-1976) and Hilda Alice Fidge (1889-1971). Born at Bungeeluke in northern Victoria, Richard was the sixth of fourteen children of a Cornishman, Joseph Colmer Smith (1832-1926), and Rebecca Hickmott (1851-1914), youngest daughter of Henry Hickmott (1812-1914) and his first wife, Sophia Goldsmith (1828-53). Richard and Hilda were married at Lalbert in 1909 and had seven children between 1911 and 1934: Doris Lilian McCarthy, Gladys Irene Bloomfield, Alan Richard Colmer Smith, Heather Pearl Stone later Walker, Douglas Albert Smith, Shirley Victoria Armstrong and Maureen Linda Moss.

We have also updated what we know about Richard Colmer's younger brother, Charles Christopher Smith (1882-1964), who married a widow, Charlotte Christina Margaret Makin (1887-1927), at Balliang in western Victoria in 1913 and had five children all born in Melbourne: Charles Albert Smith, Mabel Rebecca Marr (1915-2006), William George (Bill) Smith, Stanley Clyde Smith and Roy Percival Smith (1922-2011). All four boys served in the Australian Army during the Second World War. One of them, Stanley Clyde, was captured in Greece and served out the war as a POW in Germany. Another son, Bill Smith, joined the Australian Communist Party and wrote an acclaimed novel about his childhood experiences in the Kindonan and Kalmany Park childrens' homes run by the Presbyterian Church.

Information and photographs sent to us by Hideo Izumida has led us to research the life, times and family of William Edward Cheesman (1840-1916) who, with his wife Henrietta and daughter Florence, emigrated from England to South Australia in 1878. Born at Dover in Kent, William served as a draftsman and marine surveyor in the Royal Navy and later worked in these capacities in Turkey, Japan and South Australia. We have still to determine whether and, if so, how he connects to our Cheeseman line.

We have been revising and updating the Hickmotts in Western Australia webpages which cover Henry Edward Hickmott, (1853-1931), his wife Elizabeth Ann Owen (1855-1923) and those members of their family who moved with them from Victoria to Western Australia in around 1909. These were: Sophia Elizabeth Carter formerly Lewis (1879-1947), Florence Mary Wilmshurst formerly Austin (1882-1977), Alice Ann Weise (1884-1947) - covered in children and descendants Part 1 - George Alfred Hickmott (1889-1945), Ruby Minnie Holdsworth (1893-1941), Ella Adeline Bowron formerly Lock and Shean (1895-1975) and Rebecca Elsie Whittington formerly Spice (1898-1989) - covered in children and descendants Part 2. The new material so far includes an additional obituary for Henry Edward; details of Sophia's first two sons - Henry Norman ('Harry') and Vivian Price Lewis - and her daughter Dorothy Florence Elizabeth Tate (1919-2017); more detailed accounts of the lives, times and families of a number of children of Alice Ann and Johann Otto Weise; George Alfred Hickmott's two daughters: Olive Elizabeth Hovell (1931-96) and Florence Ella Davenport and their families; and information on Selby Maurice Whittington's forebears plus details about six of his and Rebecca Elsie Hickmott's eight children.

Information and photographs sent to us by Rosemary Wright about her grandparents, Harry and Edith Oliver nee Kersley, have been added to the Kersley Family webpage which looks at our Thomas and Robert Kersley's English forebears (both Thomas and Robert came to Australia from England in the 1850s). One of Harry and Edith's sons, Ronald Oliver (1923-2006), married an Australian girl, Beryl Olive Blake, at Aldershot in Hampshire in 1947. Three years later the young couple and their infant son, Kenneth Bruce Oliver, sailed from Southampton on the ASTURIAS bound for Australia. Their final destination was Beryl's family home at Cardif near Newcastle in New South Wales where they lived and worked and had a daughter as well as their son Ken.

April 2021

Using Ancestry, Trove and other sources, we have added to what we know of the family and descendants of Eliza Osborne nee Hickmott (1848-1912), second daughter of Henry Hickmott (1825-1914) and his first wife Sophia Goldsmith (1828-53). Eliza married Robert Osborne (1830-1918), a saw miller, at Coghill's Creek in Victoria in 1863 and had twelve children in the Clunes/Amherst/Eganstown area between then and 1890. New information has been added for their eldest daughter, Louisa Sophia Osborne (1870-99), and her husband, Charles William Bassett (1863-1905) and for two of Eliza and Robert's grandsons and their families: 1) Raymond James Osborne (1929-2014) youngest son of John and Alice Osborne nee Aldrich; and 2) Ronald Henry Thomas (1924-87) youngest son of William and Alice Mary Thomas nee Osborne.

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.

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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