My Family History

Joseph Whimpey, from Somerset to Australia

Judith Upton on the somersetfamilyhistory yahoo group asked all members who they would invite to Christmas lunch to tell of their life.  The rules were:

They must have either been born in Somerset, or were born abroad and settled long term in Somerset.

They must have travelled across the water surrounding the British Isles (i.e. they travelled an awful lot further than to the village next door!)

It must not be a living person.

I decided to not just share my details on the somersetfamilhistory yahoo group, but here on my blog.

The person I would invite would have to be my 2x great grandfather Joseph Whimpey. Although I know some details about his life, there are still many things I’d like to ask him about.

Joseph was born 13 August 1819 in Frome, Somerset, and was baptised 28 August 1819.  He was the second son born to William Whimpey and Elizabeth Clements.  William had also been a traveller, having served in the Napoleonic Wars, and fought in the Battle of Waterloo.

I can’t really tell the story of Joseph without also mentioning his older brother, John.  John was born about 1816, and baptised 7 March 1818 in Frome.

The two brothers went to Wales to work in the coal mines, and it was there that they met their future wives.  John married Caroline Jones on 10 June 1839 at Llanfoist, Monmouthshire.  Caroline was a widow, and her surname at the time of the marriage was Griffiths.  Joseph was married the following year: he married Margaret Price on 15 January 1840 at Bedwellty, Monmouthshire.

On 9 December 1840, Margaret gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Whimpey, at Tredegar in Monmouthshire.

The 1841 census shows the two brothers living in the same street – Charles Street, in the Hamlet of Uchlawycoed, Parish of Bedwellty, and later that year the two brothers sailed to Australia.  Joseph and Margaret’s daughter died sometime between the 1841 census and when they sailed, as she doesn’t appear on the immigration lists, however no death record has been found for her.  This is one of the things I’d like to ask Joseph about.

John and Joseph with their wives Caroline and Margaret travelled from Bedwellty to Bristol between the time of the 1841 census, which was held in June, and August 1841, as they boarded the ship “Ward Chipman” in August 1841 at Bristol.  The “Ward Chipman” arrived in Melbourne on 16 December 1841.   They sailed as Bounty Immigrants.  Although their passage to Australia was free, they still needed to supply their own clothing, as well as sheets, towels and soap.  There were concerns about the provisions on board the ship from friends and relatives of the emigrants, but they were reassured that everything was in sufficient quantity.  The 21 deaths during the voyage confirmed the doubts felt before the voyage.

Although I have read books about the voyages to Australia, I would like to be able to ask Joseph what he personally experienced on the voyage, and how he felt.

The two brothers lived together for a time in Melbourne.  The first child found for John and Caroline was a daughter Elizabeth, who was born 1 December 1842, and baptised 25 December 1842 at Parish of St James Melbourne.

On 13 November 1846, the two brothers had the following children baptised at the Parish of St James:

John, son of Joseph and Margaret, born 19 Jun 1843
Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph and Margaret, born 12 Feb 1845
William, son of Joseph and Margaret, born 7 November 1846
Eliza, daughter of John and Caroline, born 7 July 1845.

Shortly after this, the two brothers went to Adelaide.  John had 6 more children in Adelaide, and died there on 23 October 1895 at West Street Brompton Park. His wife Caroline died 15 December 1897 at North Adelaide.

The movement of Joseph and his family between 1846 and 1851 is less clear.  According to his children’s birth certificates, son Joseph was born in Mt Barker (Family Bible shows he was born 10 January 1848).  The thing is, John’s son William was also born in January 1848 (on the 31st).  He appears on the civil registration records for South Australia.  If Joseph was born in Mt Barker, why doesn’t he also appear on the civil registration records?


The next record found for the family is the baptism record of daughter Eliza.  Eliza was born 18 February 1851, and baptised 22 August 1851 at the Presbyterian Church in Portland.  The baptism record shows that their abode was Margaret Plains, South Australia.

In 1851, gold had been discovered in Victoria, and this would explain the reason the family then moved to the Castlemaine area.  Daughter Sarah Ann Whimpey was born 6 October 1853 at Campbell’s Creek, and the youngest child, Isaac, was born 13 October 1855 at Castlemaine.

In summary, the children I have found for Joseph and Margaret are:

Elizabeth born 1840, died before August 1841
John born 1843
Elizabeth born 1845
William born 1846 (died aged 11 days)
Joseph born 1848
Eliza born 1851
Sarah Ann born 1853
Isaac born 1855

At the time of Isaac’s birth, Joseph and Margaret are listed as having 5 living and 4 deceased children.  The birth certificate for daughter Sarah was more specific: it stated they had 2 sons and 2 daughters living and 3 sons and 1 daughter deceased.  This means that there were 2 sons who died young that we haven’t been able to find records for.  Civil registration only came into effect in Victoria in 1853.  It the 2 sons died as infants, they may have died before they could be baptised, so no records would have been created for them.

By 1861, when daughter Sarah died, the family had moved to Sandy Creek, which was later named Tarnagulla. The family remained in the Tarnagulla area where Joseph and Margaret died.  Margaret died 31 July 1901, and Joseph died 6 May 1902, both at Tarnagulla, and both are buried at the Tarnagulla Cemetery.