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 Passengers of the Brig Australia

We sat beside Dad in the wagon as the team plodded along, making another trip to the sandpit to get a load of gravel.

Gramp was waiting at the pit to help. While he and Dad shoveled, Cliff and I kept busy digging in the bank with garden spades in search of rocks for our collection.

Cliff found one that looked like a tiny canoe and added it to others in the small jute bag that Mum had made for just such a project.

When we noticed the gravel box was just about filled, we headed back over to the wagon.

Gramp looked up and asked, "Are you diggers heading for Saint John to take passage to Australia to join in the gold rush?"

As usual, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

The "New Brunswick Courier" (Saint John) reported on July 3, 1852: "Another very strong and substantial brig called the AUSTRALIA was recently towed down from Quaco, where she was built by Mr. John Brown. This vessel has been purchased by a company of persons, who are fitting her out for the diggings. She is divided into 64 shares, and has nearly as many owners, and it is probable it will carry out over that number of passengers."

The "New Brunswick Courier" of Saturday, August 14, 1852: "The brig AUSTRALIA having on board about 70 passengers, the greater portion of them being young men, natives of this city and its vicinity, was towed out of the harbour by the steamer COMMODORE on Wednesday evening and sailed for the goal of her passengers' hopes and expectations on the following morning. From the fact that this vessel containing so many individuals connected with the City and Province, and many of them having a pecuniary interest in her, more than ordinary anxiety is felt for the success of the venture, and in common with others, we wish the good ship AUSTRALIA a speedy and prosperous voyage to the region from which she derives her name".

Allan J. Tompkins of Koondrook, Victoria, Australia, a great-grandson of Joel Tompkins, one of the passengers on the Australia has set up a website at with a list of the passengers. He, along with several family researchers, have collected information about various passengers' New Brunswick connections as well as their lives after the voyage.

Among the passengers were:

Leah Nealey aged 36,  the daughter of the late Richard Burchill of Bandon, County Cork, Ireland was accompanied by her children, Sarah 6 and Richard 8.  In the 1851 census, her husband, Robert V. was listed as a teacher and they were living in Kings Ward, St. John County. He died a few months later. After her arrival in Australia, she remarried to Edward Edwin Blythe in Hobart, Tasmania.

The Brown brothers, John A. and Ward were in the 1851 census of Maugerville. When John Ambrose Brown married  Isabella Smith Matthews in August 1862, his parents were shown as John Savage Brown and Mary Holly. John Ambrose Brown died in Oct., 1903 aged 72 at Hindmarsh, South Australia. Ward Brown died in Oct., 1892 in Mudgee, N.S.W. aged 60. Another brother, George Edgar, also went to Australia and married Jane Laurence Carige in 1870.

An item in the "New Brunswick Courier" dated July 23, 1853 tells of the death from fever in Melbourne on 20 Feb.1853 of Horatio Nelson Arnold, third son of the late Rev. H. N. Arnold of Sussex, Kings County, aged 19.

Mary [Eaton] Mailman aged 22 was accompanied by her husband's three children from his previous marriage to her sister, Eliza Irene Eaton. She married John Mailman a few days before the sailing. Mary's sister, Eunice Cunnabell, was also a passenger.

James W. Robertson, the son of John C. Robertson was born in Smithtown, Kings County.  He
became the first mayor of Queenstown, New Zealand. A link on the website takes you to his lengthy obituary that was published on April 18, 1876 in the Daily Telegraph of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Passengers James Sullivan, wife Martha and children, Elizabeth and Johnston, were enumerated as living in Dukes/Queens Ward in the 1851 census of Saint John where James was a watchmaker. Martha (nee Dickson) died at Richmond, Victoria, Australia in 1884 aged 66.

A letter written a few days before sailing, by passenger Joel Smith Tompkins, to his sister Miss
Magdalene Tompkins, Northampton, County Carleton, provides details on the preparations for the voyage.

The Captain, David Seelye was accompanied by his wife and two children. They settled in Australia at Williamstown on  Melbourne's waterfront.  Capt. Seelye drowned in 1864 during a salvage attempt.

Allan J. Tompkins states, "The total number of passengers shown at the bottom of the list is "69 Adults, 17 children, 3 infants"; this tallies with the 88 numbered passengers and the unnamed and unnumbered child of William and Maria Davis. No list of crew members has been found, but obviously there had to be others on board to "run the ship". To date, aside from Capt. David Seelye, only two extra names have emerged - the ship's surgeon Dr. William Craig and John W. Squires."

Visit Allan J. Tompkins's  website at for more information. E-mail him at if you have anything to add. 

This goldmine of treasure was made possible by the many people who spent hours digging into records to furnish details on the passengers of the Brig Australia.

By the way, the June meeting of the Saint Branch of the New Brunswick Genealogical Society will be hosted by the Kings County Historical and Archival Society on Wednesday, June 29, 2005 at 7 p.m. in the Kings County Museum, Hampton. This will be an excellent opportunity  to learn about the genealogical holdings of the museum. Non-members are invited to attend.

Query 1315
Lyne - Hemphill - Kilpatrick - Tays - Steele: Can anyone provide information or pictures of the Samuel Lyne family of Barnesville. Kings County, New Brunswick. It is known that of his children Margaret Lyne married James Kilpatrick and after his death married Robert Tays, Susanah Lyne married John Steele, Caroline Lyne married John Kilpatrick, and Mary Lyne married Michael Hemphill.
1010 W. 16th St.
Upland, CA
91784, USA

Query 1316
Veness - Hamilton - Brooks: I am looking for information on the parents of Henry G. Veness who was probably married to Rebecca Brooks circa 1880. Merred L. Veness married Ruby Hamilton in 1915. Possibly connected to a Native Tribe. Any information on this family line would be appreciated.
19828 88th Avenue
NE Bothell, WA
98011 USA

New and Used Genealogical and Historical books of
New Brunswick for sale.

Ruby M. Cusack is a genealogy buff living in New Brunswick, Canada. Send your New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at:  Include your name and mailing address for the benefit of the readers of the newspaper who do not have access to E-mail but could have information to share with you. Please put "Query" followed by the surnames in your query. For more information on submitting queries, visit
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