No announcement yet.

Did this man swim to Australia? Can anyone help?

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Did this man swim to Australia? Can anyone help?

    I am coming to the conclusion that he must have. I have been looking for records of my GG grandfather arriving in Australia around 1840 for almost 2 years now and still cannot find him. I also cannot find any records of him or his parents (James McMahen and Ann Moore) and siblings in Armagh, Northern Ireland. Can anyone help me?

    My GG is William Moore McMahen, born around 1811 in Armagh, Northern Ireland. I do not know what parish or townland which I know is a great pity. William was a Protestant and other documents I have suggest he arrived around 1840 and worked for Captain William Thomas, an Assistant Protector of Aborigines in Victoria, Australia. I have found records of other Williams spelt McMahon (which is the Catholic spelling) rather than McMahen (the Protestant spelling), but none of them are my William as they are either too early, too late, from the wrong place, or when I have traced them into the latter 1840's it is clear they are not the right man. I have also searched using other, similar spellings to McMahen but to no avail.

    William married Margaret Keys in Scot's Presbyterian Church in Melbourne in 1846 and went on to have a large family. I know that in the second half of the 1840's he owned a grocery business at the corner of Swanson St and Flinders Lane in Melbourne and lived in St Kilda. Later he and Margaret moved to a farming property at Keysborough, in the Greater Dandenong area. Keysborough is named after the Keys family. William died in 1892.

    i have his death certifiate, marriage certificate and several of those of his children. They do not throw any further light on matters other than what I have said above. I have searched all ship records I can find, but cannot find a William who fits. I have also contacted historical societies, placed search requests on boards such as this etc, but have not been able to find any trace of William before he married Margaret Keys in 1846.

    Incidentally, the "Moore" middle name is carried on through our branch of the McMahen family, presumably from William's mother Ann Moore. However, I have found several other "Moore McMahens" through but do not know how they fit with our line as I cannot find evidence of a link. They appear to be contemporaries of William's children which makes me think that one of his brothers may have also come to Australia around the same time as William, but again, I'm only guessing. At least one of these "Moore McMahens" gives their place of birth as Glasgow which is confusing, unless they went from Armagh to Glasgow to Australia? - or perhaps William went from Glasgow to Armagh to Australia??

    If anyone can help me crack this mystery I'd be very grateful.

    The fact is that pre 1865 records are nowhere complete as in those days it wasn't compulsory for shipping companies to lodge passenger lists to relevant shipping

    authorities. Of course some did but a great many fell through the cracks. I know, I am in the same boat with my OH's forebears, and it seems that immigrants from Ireland

    were the worst kept records.

    States kept their own records and unfortunately a search of immigrant lists usually entails spending money. Not a lot necessarily. Also most (if not all) Commonwealth records

    are generally free and the place to start would be the National Archives of Australia and browse through this site. Haven't got the web address handy but if you google the

    name it will come up. Also the V state archive site is linked below.


    Whoever said Seek and Ye shall find was not a genealogist.



      a lot of records don't exist anymore. i can't find my irish families at all arriving in victoria, and the records office is no help with that. they say all their records are searchabkle online, but they don't have have all of them, as i have a family who arrived in 1850 from england, and previous generations claimed to have seen the passenger list, yet the records office claims they have nothing on it, and to check out trove.


        Have you considered he may have been "Beached" was common for a captain to beach an unruly crew member if he was more trouble than he was worth....picture a sailor who is aggressive / wanting to fight / drnks too much /complains too much /has an effect on the rest of the crew ??...what would you do if you were the Captain if you still have another 18 weeks of this man who is disrupting the running of your ship....??....they used to put him in a rowing boat off shore and he would be rowed to a beach and left there that may be a possibility
        Last edited by garstonite; 01-12-12, 06:24.
        Allan ......... researching oakes/anyon/standish/collins/hartley/barker/collins-cheshire
        oakes/tipping/ellis/jones/schacht/...garston, liverpool


          It might be difficult to pin down exactly when he arrived in the colonies, especially if he came as a "free settler". Less records were kept of those arriving by their own volition than convicts and assisted migrants.

          I found the most helpful information for my husbands early Melbourne settlers came from Obituaries. I could not see anything in Trove for William M'Mahen, except his death notice, but could Keysborough have had a more local newspaper in the 1890s which is not yet included in Trove ?

          NSW State Records is off-line this weekend, but you need to check their various records and see he if came to NSW before moving to Melbourne. You might also be able to trace the movements of William Thomas in the early 1840s which might give some clues.

          Most incoming passenger records for Victoria prior to 1851 are held by NSW.

          ALso the local family history or local history society might have some old records, recollections or other which might relate to Margaret and William M'Mahen, and might give a clue how William came to Melbourne.
          Sydney Australia
          Avatar: Reuben Edward Page and Lilly Mary Anne Dawson


            Well I dont think that this helps much as the page is outdated but someone must have written it up.
            The problem you have here is to find the author.
            sorry I could do no more.
            Joe in Sydney


              Thanks Joe. Yes I'm aware of those pages and have been in contact with Elizabeth one of the authors. Although it is indeed my ancestor who married Margaret Keys in 1846, Elizabeth has William mcMahen coming to Aust on the Robert Benn in 1842 (with a McMahon spelling). However that William appears to be a different person, coming from Scotland rather than Ireland and at least two years later than William McMahen. Again, I appreciate you and others taking the time to respond.


                Thanks Diane. Yes I've tried all of those sources including the local historical society which is run by my cousin x4 the gg granddaughter of Margaret's brother. It really is a mystery.


                  it could be possible william went to scotland first and then decided to come to australia, or maybe he caught the ship in scotland. i believe the place recorded was not birth place, but the place you were living on embarkation. death certs are only as good as the perosn supplying the information, so a rough date of departure is just that. i have a few who are off a couple of years.


                    Also, while in Ireland McMahen was Protestant and McMahon the Catholic version, out here in the colonies, where most of the record-keepers were Englsih, I doubt that they would have distingisuhed such niceties and probably recorded him as McMahon or M'mahon. It was only in the later 19th century with more education that spelling of surnames became fixed to the family choice. Before that many variation depended on the recorder, not the person being recorded, so a marriage or immigration record was only as accurate as the writer of it.

                    Finding a free or unassisted migrant before the 1840s depends a lot on luck and persistence. The colonial government was only concerned with keeping track of convicts and making sure Assisted/Bounty Migrants were properly sponsored and that their "bounty" was paid. Like all good bureaucrats, they incidentally recorded as much information as they could including native place and parents and religion which is helpful to we family researchers, but if migrants came here by paying their own full fares, there was really no interest in the bureaucracy keeping track of them.

                    Keep looking, one day, the very record/newspaper article you need might just surface. I recently found a baptism for which I had been searching for over 10 years, off and on. It just took some new transcriptions to come online, and a typo by me which widened the search area and there it was !!!!
                    Sydney Australia
                    Avatar: Reuben Edward Page and Lilly Mary Anne Dawson


                      what about the Protestant irish side ?
                      there were fewer of them and they kept records somewhere?

                      Irish protestant did come from the uk 1st ?

                      as you are in australia

                      you might not have seen graham norton who do you think you are

                      and here is a link to to watch the show

                      wye surrey/london/birmingham
                      lawrence/laurence berkshire/london/norfolk
                      hall harrison cook/e pratt surrey
                      ebbage maltby pratt norfolk
                      herbert pratt yorkshire/hampshire
                      armstrong/rickinson/harrison/beddington yorkshire