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Finding our Convict

Charles Whitehurst - Convict No 704

by Dawn Whitehurst © All rights reserved
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The 14th October 2001 marks an important date for our family as it is the 150th anniversary of the arrival in Western Australia of my husband's great grandfather, Charles Whitehurst.

My research started back in 1974 when my son became inquisitive and wanted to know the origins of our family.

Firstly, I checked the lists of free passengers, but could not find Charles Whitehurst there; a search of the convict lists showed that he arrived in Western Australia as Convict No 704, landing at Fremantle on 14.10.1851. Checking for his date of birth, I found that he was born in Congleton, Cheshire, England, the son of Egerton Whitehurst and Ann (nee Buckley) and was baptised on the 9th October 1825. He had a brother, Egerton, and a sister, Elizabeth, both older than him.

Little is known as yet of his early years but he married Susannah (-?) and a daughter, Ann, was born in 1845.

Papers at the Cheshire CRO show that he was tried in 1849 at Knutsford Quarter Sessions on a charge of larceny but was acquitted; however he was convicted on three separate charges of false pretences against Robert Sheldon and his employers. The Quarter Sessions order book shows that he was sentenced to one week's hard labour for the first offence and to transportation for seven years for the second and third offences. Quarterly returns for March 1850 to June 1851 show that he was aboard the convict hulk Justitia at Woolwich, Kent, when his age was given as 23 years; the September 1851 return lists him as being transferred to the Minden on 4th July 1851. The Minden arrived in Fremantle on 14th October 1851 and all convicts were given their ticket of leave before setting foot on land. Charles was sent to work for Dr Galbraith for some time; with his earnings he eventually was able to repay his passage costs in full and he obtained his conditional pardon on 31st December 1853.

Whilst in and around the Perth area he met Ellen Sarah Davies who had arrived in WA on the Mary on 26th March 1852 as a domestic servant. No marriage certificate has been found to this day for the union of Charles and Ellen Sarah, however two girls were born at Guildford - Emily Amelia, baptised 5th February 1854 (of whom nothing is known), and Anne Elizabeth, born 1st August 1854 and baptised 1st October 1854; a third child, Robert Charles, was baptised in Perth on 26th May 1856.

After this date the family moved north to the Champion Bay area, six more children were born to Charles and Ellen and a study of the relevant birth certificates shows the family movements:

Charles Eddington         b.30.01.1858 at Port Gregory (Convict area and mines)
Ellen Sarah                      b.03.02.1860 at Northampton
Emmanuel                       b.30.01.1862 at Greenough Flats
John                                  b.19.03.1864 at Northampton
Mary Anne                        b.15.12.1865 at Walkaway
James Davis                   b.03.06.1868 at Greenough (he was known as James John)

Of this family:
Charles Eddington        died in Carnarvon aged 35 yrs
John                                 died young
Mary Anne                       died in a shooting accident when she was 7 years old
Ann Elizabeth                 married Alexander Johnstone (?convict) on 23.01.1874
Robert Charles             married Hannah O'Malley in 1888
Ellen Sarah                    married Thomas Speedy (convict No 1569) on 26.08.1876
Emmanuel                     married Ann Blayney on 17.10.1887
James John                  married 1. Elizabeth Sherwin on 16.04.1890
                                                        2. Margaret Russell on 04.08.1908

From these families there has been a considerable number of offspring down to the present day. From Charles' father, Egerton, to my grandsons there are seven direct generations, six of these are Western Australians (from Emmanuel).

Charles Whitehurst worked around the various areas of Champion Bay (later named Geraldton), particularly Dongara and Greenough, where he was a blacksmith. In later years he was a farmer in Geraldton and Chapman areas.

Eventually he employed other ticket of leave convicts and in 1871 the Geraldton Council approved his tender to cart stone from the local quarry at Bluff Point to the west end of the town, for road building and retaining walls in Marine Terrace. He was involved also in the transportation of goods through to the Murchison area, from Geraldton and Mullewa; accompanied by his three sons he would drive wagon teams of eight to ten horses.

He died on 20th May 1889 at Dalby's Gully, Geraldton, aged 64 years. (Darby's Gully is now known as Dolby's Gully) Ellen Sarah worked as a nurse at the Victoria District hospital between 1891-1893 and died at Fremantle in 1899; her death certificate shows that she was born in 1827.

Of the three sons, Robert and James John moved to Mullewa, Emmanuel became a farmer in the Nabawa (Chapman Valley) area, as did his son (until 1973) and his grandson (until 1963).

Descendants of Charles Whitehurst:               1st Generation       4 girls        5 boys
                                                                         2nd Generation    29 girls      29 boys

Through my Australian contact with descendants of other English Whitehursts our family tree reached distant relatives in Congleton, Cheshire. I am still researching Charles' first marriage and hope to find out more about Susannah and daughter Ann.

Being a member of the Convict Historical and Research group has helped to turn up a wealth of information about Charles which we would otherwise not have known.

First Printed in Convict Links, Vol. 15, No. 3, July 2001 - Newsletter of the Convict Special Interest Group, Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 July 2020 16:42

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