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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Using National Archives UK to find Australian Ancestor

Trevena's Question:
do you answer questions about England and Australia as well?

I am trying to find a signature for my Captain Henry Dunsford for when he was master of the ship "Jane Cain", British ship but registered in Australia.
Henry was born in Plymouth in 1818 and served in the Merchant navy and/or Honourable East India company. He lived in Australia from about 1834/4, but sailing back and forth to England. In 1848 he Captained the ship "Elizabeth Jane" and then in 1848 and 1851 Captained the "Jane Cain". He was married to Mary at the time and she had two children in Sydney Australia, Henry Frederick 1845 and Sophia Louisa 1846, and on the way back to England in 1849 had a third child Fanny Nelson P Dunsford.

Henry took his Masters exam in London England in March 1849. He appears on no census either in England or Australia, but on an electoral roll in Australia in 1855/6 but that was after he returned to Australia and married Caroline Sarah Litten at St Pauls, Geelong in 1854. I can find no marriage for him and Mary, did he ever marry her or was it a poor man's divorce or did he marry Caroline bigamously? I don't think I will ever find that one out, but if I could et his signature for the "Jane Cain" as Master or as discharging sailors, I would know for definite it is the same Henry, as Fanny's baptism record shows her father Henry as the Master of the " Jane Cain" and I have his signature from his marriage certificate to Caroline Litten to compare it with. Bit of a puzzle this one, can you help me at all?


Olive Tree Answer: Dear Trevena, I'm happy to attempt to answer any query sent to me. If I can't answer a query, I have some knowledgeable and generous genealogy friends who have volunteered as Guest Genealogists.

The National Archives has a research guide to Merchant Seaman log books and crew lists as well as Merchant Officers service records. You might also want to read my article explaining how to use the National Archives website Ordering Documents Online from National Archives in Kew England - a Comedy of Errors Part 1

You might want to order a copy of the marriage between Henry Dunsford and Mary Petters (Dec 1841; Barnstaple, vol 10 page 34) and the one for Henry Dunsford and Mary Meeds (same citation). The 1851 census, as you already know, shows Mary Dunsford, captains wife, born (and residing in) Clist Honiton, Devon.

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