My Family History

Flags from the countries, Our ancestors came from
Irish, English, Danish, German.

And our Australian flag.

Irene’s Background (updated 25 December 2014)

I was born in Stanthorpe Queensland and spent my childhood in Toowoomba, where I married in 1951. I came to Hobart in 1960 with my husband Mervyn and my two daughters Chris and Glenda. Life in Toowoomba was quiet, we were kept busy building our home and having children. It was not until we arrived in Tasmania that our more adventurous life began. We explored the island at every opportunity, camping, fishing, over the next twenty years. We saw our first flood in 1960 and went through the bush fires in 1967. My son Craig was born in Hobart in 1963.

In 1982 I began what was to become my full time hobby – family history. It started after my mother died in Hobart in 1977 and my stepfather Charles Jordan returned to Queensland. I knew that he always wanted to trace his family, and I decided to try and do this for him. He knew his father was born at Carrick and the names of his grandmother and grandfather, but that was all.

First I had to find the Archives (then on the 10th floor of the State Library) and learn how to go about this family history business. A couple of years later when I finished the research I wrote a small book for him about his Jordan family. What a wonderful way to discover early Tasmanian history, I found James Jordan was a third fleeter, who had arrived in VDL from Norfolk Island in 1813 and his wife Mary Butler, a second fleeter (she died on Norfolk Island c1812. )

From my research I found that over 700 people had arrived in VDL (Tasmania) from Norfolk Island between 1807 and 1813. Unfortunately there wasn't a great deal written about this era at this stage.

During my research on the Norfolk Islanders I discovered many exciting stories dealing with first, second and third fleeters. On completion of the Jordan story I found I did not want to give up this intriguing pastime. I also met many wonderful people who were the descendants of those Norfolk Islanders, Over the years they have became my work mates and my friends.

I started the VDL & NI Interest Group in 1986; the members were the descendants of the first Norfolk Islanders and those interested in early Tasmanian history. I took them on excursions over many parts of Tasmania for many years, only stopping these excursions and closing the group, when I put all my time and energy into the "Lady Nelson".

Local history has become my work and I have been an historian and private researcher for many years. Over the past fifteen years I have made an effort to record some of the interesting stories I have found, and print them for all to read and enjoy.

My own family history takes second place, but every now and again I catch up and add some more information.

On my mother's side I have both English and Irish - Townson, Shepherd, Cooke, Barrett. My father's side is Danish and German - Wohlsen, Horn, Jentz.  After many years I have finally recorded the story of my ancestors and added some of the photos I have managed to save over the years. I placed the story along with the family tree on a flash drive and sent it to each of the family for Christmas.

My WOHLSEN family


© Irene Schaffer


The first of our ancestor to come to Australia was our great grandfather’s brother. Amus Johann Wohlsen, he arrived in Queensland from Germany on the Godfrey in 1865 and settled at Logan, south of Brisbane. In 1866 he married Augusta Dorothea Stern at Bethesda River Albert near Beenleigh and reared 9 children. On the Godfrey passenger’s list he is stated as coming from Fohr.

Fohr is one of the North Frisian Islands on the German coast of the North Sea. It is part of the Nordfriesland district in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. It is not

known if the Wohlsen originated from this part of Germany, once belonging to Denmark, or if Amus went there in his adulthood before coming to Australia.

Our great grandfather Johannes Wohlsen and great grandmother Christine Hildahine (Antonisen) arrived 6 years later in 1871 on the John Bartram from Hamburg.

Johannes married Hildaline Christine Parramann, they had 5 children – Magazine, Christian, Johannes, Catherine, Henry and Lena.

The parents of Johanna and Amus were Johann Christian Wohlsenwho was born in 1810 in Schaundahl Germany and marriedMaria Hennerickenin Germany.


Children – Amus born 1835 and Johannes 1844.

In the 1845 census the family were as following:

Christian Wohlsen aged 35 married, day labourer, Schaundahl Germany.

Maria Hinrichsen aged 28 married, wife Espartoft near Husum Germany.

Asmus Wohlsenaged 10 unmarried child Osterhus near Husum.

Johannis Wohlsen aged 2 unmarried child Osterhus near Husum.(my great grandfather)

The name Wohlsen goes back to the closing period of the 16th century, about the year 1509, when a castle was built in the area of what is now called Franzenbur in Germany. The castle was armed with 26 cannons to prevent the Archbishop of Bremen from taking possession of the land and the caretaker of the castle was a man named Magnus Wohlsen. The area that is now called Franzenburg, Germany was formerly a Danish territory. The town Franzenburg has the address of Poste, Altenwalde, Hannover Germany. The Wohlsen’s were all baptized in the Lutheran church.

Grandfather Johannes Heinrich was born at Philadelphia near Logan (Queensland) on the 13 August 1878, he was the third child of a family of five. Magazine, Christian, Johannes, Catherine, Henry and Lena. Johannes was later known as John Henry.

Johannes and Christine later moved to Toowoomba where he built his home in James street.


Grandpa Johannes Wohlsen (will refer his a John Henry from now on) was born in 1878 in Queensland, and married Florence Horn on the 21 December 1904 in Toowoomba.


Florence Horn my grandmother (little grandma) was the grand daughter of Friedrich and Frederick Jentz, who arrived on the La Rochelle in 1865 with 4 children, including her mother Anne Emily Jentz, who was only a couple of months old when they left Germany. This was my great grandmother (big grandma) Anne Emily Jentz, she was born in Prussia in 1864 shortly before their departure for Queensland. There were 73 deaths from Typhus Fever on board the La Rochelle on her voyage to Australia.One wonders how a baby only a few months old could survive, no wonder she was a strong women during her lifetime.

One of her brothers named Gustav married Ann Lindenmeyer in 1881. They lived on a farm at Pittsworth and raised a family of 18 children, one of whom was Ivy who I later speak of as living in Whetstone.

My memories of my grandfather John Henry are very few, as he died when I was only 7 years old. I do remember him up in his shed where he repaired shoes. One side of the wall was set out in his tools and there was a last with a leather strap, that he placed his foot to hold the shoe in place. He was a boot-maker by trade and would repair the neighbour’s shoes for a small price.When he died his watch chain was cut up and each of his granddaughters were given a bracelet each. Mum later had mine and Rona’s made into a ring, but both were lost over the years.

The above photo shows grandpa last row second from right between his son Bert and daughter Dossie. Grandma is second from the left eating the watermelon. And great grandma Horn, in the center with the hat, between the two younger daughters, Dulcie and Irene.

Our family is not there because we were living at Stanthorpe. I was born early the following year.The five girls are from the Tufnell Orphan’s School (grandma must have had them for a Christmas outing) Rona and I was placed in the Tufnell Home at Westbrook on the Darling Downs in 1942-1945.


Grandpa and Grandma Wohlsen (we called her little grandma) and Great grandma Horn (we called her big grandma) all lived together as great grandpa had died at the age of 29 and left big grandma to look after 5 children. I don’t know much about her life during her early widowhood except someone told me she would cook for the shearers out in the country. She also owned the shop in Ruthven Street not far from Ravenscourt street, it later became Weis shop. My first memory of them all was when they lived at Ravenscourt street, Toowoomba. It was a lovely big house, which scared me a bit. Very strictly run by the two grandmas’ after grandpa died in 1939.They had a very set ways of running the house. Washing on Monday starting at 5pm, ironing and cleaning on Tuesday and so on for the whole week.


Rona and I have fond memories of having Christmas there when we were young. Big Christmas tree covered with a blanket so we couldn’t see it until everyone arrived. Aunts, uncles and cousins and members of the family came from far and near, very exciting for us young ones. We often stayed there when mum and dad went away and attended the South Girl’s School near town.


Our home in Alderley street (a little modernized when Rona and I visited it years later and now even more so) it even has a fence.Built on a dirt road where the cattle were driven on market day along with all the dust. Only four houses between West and Drayton streets with lots of paddocks in between, we lived more of a country life than a town one, with very few visitors, mainly because not many family members had cars.


It was only a small plain house that is often called a cat house – lounge on right and mum and dad’s bedroom on the left as you came in the front door, then through to the kitchen with our room on the left. We had no running water only a tap through the wall into the kitchen from the tank right outside. No bathroom (bathed in front of the stove in a round tub. No electricity as first, just oil lamps.Our toilet was way down the back yard and the laundry was in the shed next to it.

Dad was a keen gardener and grew vegetables. He also liked to work in the flower garden. There were plenty of old fruit trees along with fowls to keep us in fresh food. Mum was mainly the bread-winner she was a tailoress by trade and was also a keen knitter, knitting most of our things she was a noted crocheter and made many frocks for both Rona and myself as well as members of both sides of the family.

Both Rona and I started school at the Harristown State School in Warwick Street Toowoomba about a mile from home. I was very lonely when Rona went to school being  two years younger then she was and I missed her very much. I used to sit out on the dirt footpath outside our home and wait for her. The only times I could spend with her was when we visited our grandma Townson who owned the store across from the school and I was allowed to go and play with her during the lunch break. One day I did not return to the shop and mum searched for me all over Harristown, finally going to the school where she found I had gone to the headmaster's office and asked if I could start school. This I was allowed to do and mum found me sitting up at a desk as proud as punch. Only being 4 year old it was a wonder I was allowed to stay. During my later school days I often wondered firstly how I had the courage to front up to the schoolmaster and secondly because I found out later that I had a learning problem and hated most of my later school days. 

I soon found myself way out of my depth and was regarded as being slow and somewhat lazy. I spent years agonizing over why I could not learn. It was not until I was nearly 70 years old that I found out that I was dyslexic. Dyslexia was not known in those early years and when I started to write backwards (I was also left handed) the teacher wrote a letter to mum telling her to stop me. I couldn't finish school fast enough and went to work at the age of 13. I soon found that I could hide my problem as by now I too thought I was slow. I worked at Penneys in Toowoomba for the next 6 years until I married. I loved my time there and by the time I was 16 years old I was running my own department. 

Since learning about dyslexia I have realized that there are many others just like me and I only wish I had know earlier, it is not something you get over it is only knowing how to live with it. I am somewhat glad I have managed to overcome my feeling of inferiourity and was able to deal with my problem in my own way. 

The one regret I have is that I have not found a way to help other people who have this problem. Help is now available in schools and places of higher education but no way of having contact with adults. I have found some help on line though it is mostly other dyslexic people in America.

I have added this to my website in the hope that it might help others with this problem not to give up but keep trying to improve in what they can do not what they can't. 

There was a farm across the road and we used to buy milk there. The Lee family up the road were quite poor and could only afford to buy the skim milk. They also had a dirt dunny because they were on the other side of the town boundary. This was the only time we felt superior to them, as we had a man collect ours and we called ours a lavatory (how things have changed in my lifetime)

The name Wohlsen almost died out as we only had girls in our family. However the name survived as dad’s brother Bert had a son Ronnie and a daughter Frances and so the family name of Wohlsen lives on through Ronnie’s sons. There are descendants of Amus Wohlsen who I believe live in Queensland.



I was born Irene Florence Wohlsen in Stanthorpe 20 March 1932 and married Mervyn Douglas Schaffer on the 16 June 1951 in Toowoomba. Our three daughters - Christine Glenys, Lynette Ann, Glenda Rosemary was born in Toowoomba before we left for Tasmania in 1960, and Craig Douglas was later born in Hobart. 

 Mervyn was born 21 April 1929 in Toowoomba to George Schaffer born 1887 and Mary Theresa Minz born 1890. He was the youngest of five children, Cicil Adam born 1911, Irene Dorothy born 1912, Nellie Lillian born 1914, and Murial born 1917. There was 19 years between Cicil and Mervyn. His mother had married young and was still only 39 when Merve was born and his father was 42. The family ages ranged from 1 to 19 years. George was a private in the second world war, and died during the war in Toowoomba and has a war grave monument in the Drayton Cemetery in Toowoomba, he was only 57 years old.

The Schaffer family had originally come from Germany at the same time as the Wohlsen's and also settled in Toowoomba. George Schaffer was born in Toowoomba in 1887, the second last child of a family of 12. His father was Francis Schaffer his mother was Louisa Catherina Walter, both were born in Pfedelback Wurtemberg Germany.

Mary Theresa Minz was born 1890 in Toowoomba. Her father was George Adam Minz.  Her mother was Ellen Donghue born 1866.  Mary was the eldest of 9 children. (Both Merve grandmother and my great grandmother were from Ireland, while the rest came from in Merve's case, Germany, mine also German and English as well)

Because there were a large number of German Immigrants who settled on the Darling Downs, many continued to marry fellow Germans, like Merve and myself but much further down the line. 

As a child I was only slightly aware of my German background, my father however always told me that we were Danish and had married into the many German families before and after leaving Germany.  With two wars behind them it was not a subject anyone talked about.

Many of the German Immigrants came from different parts of Germany, some had fair complexions like the Wohlsens while the Minz were much darker.  This made a nice mixture with our children having lovely olive complexions.

 Anne Emilie Jentz/Horn

My Great grandmother. 1865-1947


The first memory of my great grandmother Anne Emilie is seeing her in her belovered garden at Ravencourt Street Toowoomba. I was amazed that she never knelt down, she always bent over for what seemed like hours, going along the flower beds pulling out the weeds, or planting new flowers or vegetables.

Her dresses were always black or near black and came almost to her ankles. Her hair was always pulled back in a bun. To me, who was then only about three years old, she was a quite but not a stern lady.

Anne Emilie was born in Hohenlinkin, Mecklenberg, Germany in 1865, only a few months before her family migrated to Australia.

The family arrived on the La Rouchelle on 19 December 1865.

Many German families migrated to other countries during the 1860s, some sailing to America while others came to Australia. Anna Emilie father Joachim Fredrich Jentz and her mother Fredericka Wachs were married in Stettin Prussia in 1851. They brought their four children with them, later there were three more born in Queensland.

Anne Emilie grew up amongst other German families on the Darling Downs in Queensland and I do not know much about this part of her life. The one story I remember my father telling me was that her brother Gustav and his wife Anna had eighteen children (15 boys and 3 girls) and they lived at Pittsworth, on the Darling Downs, and when they grew up the girls ran the farm and the boys went off to establish their own farms. I later met on of these girls, we called her Aunty Ivy and she lived with her husband Andy Hunt at Whetstone (near Inglewood Queensland)

Anne Emilie married George Jacob Horn at Toowoomba in 1886 and they had 4 sons and 1 daughter. Unfortunately George died on 4 September 1894, aged only 29 years old.

The only daughter was my grandmother Florence Katherine, the first child, born in 1887. She was only 7 years old when her father died and the youngest was only 8 days old. George left his family well provided for, but Anne Emilie would have had a hard time bringing up five children on her own.

Anne Emilie later (about 1913) opened a shop on the corner of Hume and Hughes Streets. Hughes Street connects with Ravencourt Street. My sister Rona and I remember buying fruit ice blocks at this shop many years later (without knowing that our great grandmother had once owned it) The shop was later owned by the Weis family and those ice blocks we bought for a 1d plain and 3d with cream down the side, were frozen in the family frig, are now made commercially and sold all over Australia.

Prior to 1913 Anne Emilie brought a big semi colonial house at 249 Stuart Street, now called Geedes Street and later when her youngest son Herbert married Alice Crane, he purchased the house and Anne Emilie later moved in with her daughter Florence at Ravencourt street.[1]

My grandmother Florence Katherine Horn married John Heinrich Wohlsen on 21 December 1904, they had 3 sons and 4 daughters. They were all brought up in the house in Ravencourt Street.

It was a big house as I remember it, large rooms with big high ceiling. As children my sister and I were rather overwhelmed by it, it was much grander and bigger then the small cottage we lived in. There were many rules at grandma’s house - don’t open the windows, don’t sit on the beds, don’t go past the living room into the main part of the house during the day. We stayed there a couple of times when our mother went away with her mother on holidays. We were well looked after, but not made a fuss of, that was not the German way. There were not many hugs either.

Grandfather Wohlsen was a bootmaker and he had his workshop set up in a shed in the back yard. I remember watching him mend the neighbour’s shoes, but can’t remember much of anything else about him. He died when I was only about 5 years old in 1937. All the grand daughters were given a bracelet made out of his watch chain. Ours was later made into a ring but lost over the years.

I suppose the family was regarded as middle class, I don’t think they had a lot of money, but were well thought of in the community. Mr Shand, the minister at St Luke’s Church was a regular visitor for Sunday night tea.

When we stayed there the only other family member still at home was my father’s youngest sister Dulcie, the others were married or away working. It was a female run house with my great grandma, who we called big grandma, and my grandma, who we called little grandma, my aunt and my sister and me.

Big grandma had the front room facing the road it seemed very big to us as children and I think we thought of it as being a very special place and one we only went in when invited. It was full of lovely old furniture and lace. I can also remember her rocking chair and the commode, which always reminded me of a throne.

Monday mornings started at 5am with the washing, all done on the outside wood copper by the two grandmas’. Then the house was cleaned from top to bottom. Tuesday was ironing and mending day. And so it went on all week until Sunday when everything stopped, we were not allowed to do much at all on Sunday except go to church and eat.

The old copper was taken with them to the new house.   

Years later when I was working everyday except Sunday, she still did not like me going on picnics on a Sunday.Christmas was great, we loved to go to grandma place. All the family came and there were lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. The Christmas tree stood in the corner covered with a blanket, which we were not allowed to see until after lunch.

During the latter part of the second world war grandma sold the house at Ravencourt street, it being too big for just the small family of the two grandmas’ and my two aunts Irene and Dulcie. They moved to a much smaller suburban two bedroom house in Jenkins Street New Town, on the other side of Toowoomba. Irene married before the move.

It was there that Rona and I later went to live with them in 1944, still a house full of females, the two grandmas’, Aunt Dulcie, who by then was married, and her daughter Carol.[2]

I think that grandma was sorry she had moved as now there was not enough room for all of us. Great grandma still did all the gardening, helped with the washing every Monday morning, and had fowl’s in the small yard at the back.

Anne Emilie was now almost eighty, and spent her leisure time of sitting in her rocking chair knitting socks. The rocking chair was also used for shelling peas and putting Carol to sleep.

Because there were only two bedrooms little grandma slept with her daughter Dulcie and the baby in one, and big grandma in the other with Rona and I. The room was only big enough for two single beds a dresser and a wardrobe and the commode. Big grandma was to share her room for three years.

We were both very aware that it was not easy for big grandma to have to live and sleep with us, but I don’t ever remember going into her room without knocking, or disturbing her when she laying down. I can remember going in after knocking and often seeing her slip one of Rona’s girlish paper-backs [3] under her pillow and replacing it with her bible. Nothing was ever said about this.

My regret is that she never talked to us about her early life, and we of course, growing up in the time when children were seen and not heard, we were never game to ask her anything. I was to find out many years later that she had cooked for Shearer’s’ out in the country. There is so much she could have told me.


Great Grandma Anne Emilie died in 1947 in her bed, six weeks after having a stroke, she was 82 years old. I can remember my father bringing a chicken into her room only days before she died and putting it near her on the bed, so she could touch it. I was fourteen when she died.

The headstones of the Horn and Wohlsen family are in the Lutheran section of the Drayton Cemetery and it was not known what was under the marble slabs on the headstone until John Horn had permission to take them off and transcribe them before returning them to their original places. I thought when I first saw them that the writing under the marble may have been in German, but no they were the names of other members of the family. It was just a matter of saving space.


Interesting to note that Anne Emilie was recorded as Annie Amelia on the headstone. On checking her marriage certificate I found that it was Anne Emilie not Annie Amelia. On the La Rouchelle passenger list when she arrived in 1865 as a baby, she was Anna.

I had never known what her first name was, as everybody just called her mum, grandma or big grandma. The family was very aware that she was the matriarch and though she never seems to ever raise her voice, what she said always seemed to be accepted by all the family, especially my father.


Irene Schaffer nee Wohlsen 2009





[1] Information from John Horn from book Family Horn Von Baden Deutschland, Toowoomba Qld Aus. 1855 by Kenneth John Chinnery.


[2] Dulcie’s husband Mervyn was away at the war.


[3] Miracle and Oracle


My Townson Family

On mum’s side of the family it was William Townson who was the first to arrive in Rockhampton Queensland on the Scottish Knight in April 1879 aged 22. William was born in Salford Lancashire in 1857 to William and Hannah Townson and his grandparents were John and Sarah. William jr. aged 14 was living at 13 Cow Lane, he was a mechanic by trade.

Salford Channel Manchester England

On arriving in Rockhampton he decided to travel south to Brisbane and then went on to Warwick on foot with his swag by the way of the gap, where he found a job an the railway.


William arrived in Warwick in 1878 and was to work on cuttings for the railway. It was not till 1883 after he had moved to Toowoomba, that he married Elizabeth Shepherd. Elizabeth and her twin sister Emma were born at Whetstone in the western part of Queensland.They were the first white children born in the district with no medical attendant for their mother.


John and Mary Shepherd and their family of six arrived in Queensland in 1859 on the ship British Empire from Carlton in Devonshire England. John went to work on the Whetstone Property. Only one year after they arrived, Mary found she was pregnant. This would have been a surprise as Mary was then 42 years old. Their eldest daughter Sarah was eighteen when they arrived. The family later moved to Toowoomba where they settled and called their home Carlton. I believe this could be the land where we later lived in Tor street as the property went from the airdrome to Tor street.

(I have been working on my Shepherd ancestors and have made some interesting contacts and received some more information on them.

John and Mary Shepherd as I have said above came from Devonshire in England but I have since found out from the 1851 Census that they lived at Bowen Cottage Charleton Kingsbridge Devon and that he was an Agr. Labourer aged 39 and that Mary was 33. They had 3 children at home at the time aged from 1month to 8 years, Mary Grace aged 8, Johannah aged 5 and James
one month. 

(My stepfather Charles Jordan told me a story about Jack/John Shepherd that he heard when he and his father and brothers worked at Whetstone in the 1920s. There were at that time a number of white horses roaming over the countryside and the folklore was that they were from Jack Shepherd's white stallion that got away and went wild.

Johanna later married Richard Bimrose and they went to live at Herberton in north Queensland when gold was discovered there in the 1870s. They were the first settlers to settle at Herberton.  

My great grandmother Elizabeth Jane became a champion whipcracker in her youth, but never told me!)

During our stay in Inglewood we visited Whetstone to see a relation of dads, Ivy Hunt (Jentz), a well known identity in the district. Mum would take us to visit, going on the train from Inglewood to Whetstone as early as 7 o’clock in the morning. I think it was then that I first noticed and came to love the bush, watching the sun come up from the carriage window was something I remembered for many years.


The mornings were cold and frosty and we had to walk a half a mile up to Aunty Ivy’s house but it was worth it. It was only a small little house and I think it belonged at one time to the Whetstone Estate. Ivy’s husband Andy Hunt grew tabacco for a living.


What I remember most about the house was the fireplace in the kitchen, it was so big that we could walk into it. It had a form on each side where we could sit. It was lovely after the cold walk. Rona and I stayed there for a fortnight when mum and dad went on holidays. Only a one teacher school, but we liked staying with Ivy and Andy she was very kind to us.What we didn’t know was that our great grandmother Elizabeth Jane Shepherd had been born on the Whetstone Station in 1860, and was still alive at Darra.

I visited Whetstone in 1994 with a friend whose ancestors had owned the property. This was the Devine family who had originated from Tasmania and who were amongst those who settled there from Norfolk Island in the early 1800s.


I found it all so different I could not get my bearing at all. We did find the homestead but nothing like I remember it, even the creek seemed to be in the wrong place. Sometimes it is not always a good idea to revisit the places we have known in our childhood.


William and Elizabeth Jane were married in Towoomba in February 1883 and they lived in a foundry cottage for eighteen months before moving to the Newtown Estate for the next 12 years, where five of their children were born (not far from where we were to live when we were married in 1951) William’s sister Sarah, who had arrive a few years before him, married Henry Eastgate. Henry also worked at the Toowoomba Foundry, he later went into partnership with William who had started his own business as an engineer and blacksmith in Neil Street near the railway line.


Two years later the family moved to Maryborough where William worked for Walkers Ltd. After eight years residence they moved back to Toowoomba in 1903 where William again went back to work at the foundry. Two years later his severed his connections with the foundry after a dispute regarding some machinery that William had invented. Because he had made it in the foundry and with their materials, they claimed it as theirs. This did not go down well with our William who was a Lancashire man and full of fight and he left the foundry for good. Other places where he found employment at Cohoes Toowoomba, Barlows in NSW and the Lithgow Steel Works.


He also visited his family back in England, but g/grandma would not accompany him.


William and Elizabeth moved to Darra in late 1919 where William started work at the Darra Cement works, where he stayed until he retired at the age of 72 when he was their chief engineer. Their small house was called Salford Cottage after his birthplace in Lancashire.

Salford Cottage Darra

I always thought grandpa was well off, he was an engineer and worked at well known establishments. I don’t think he was, their little house at Darra was small. As I remember it and as seen in the photo not at all fashionable.

His son Phillip was I think an inventor like his father and it was he who built the models and aeroplane on the roof. It seems grandpa made them work. I don’t remember seeing any of these on our visits.

William  and Elizabeth Townson

Jill in her book about William Townson tells of how careful they were with their money. Grandpa made grandma darn their grand daughter’s socks when she wanted to buy a new pair. This fits in with my memories, as once when we were down there great grandma was cross with mum for giving us six pence (5 cents) to go to see Snow White at the pictures)


What I remember the most about grandpa in particular was his moustache that was coloured from the tea he drank from a special cup that had a border on it to keep his moustache out of his tea. I didn’t like it when he kissed me.He also used to hold court on the verandah and talk for hours to all the old men who came to listen to him. All the Townsons’ descendants are good at talking.


William and Elizabeth were to loose three of their sons and have another one spend most of life in a hospital. Their 16 years old son Arnold was killed in a gas explosion in Oakey. They also lost two son’s in the First World War. The first one George, the father of two children and Stanley. Stanley was in the trench when his brother was killed.Stanley was killed two years later. They are both buried in France.


Great grandma Townson died in 1948 and great grandpa went to live with his son Phillip and his wife Florence at Holland Park. Great grandpa passed away at 94 years old in January 1951 at the Brisbane General Hospital.He was survived by 3 of his children, 14 grandchildren and many great grandchildren.

I would like to thank Jill Jarrett, Phillip’s grand daughter, for doing the research and allowing me to access to it .


As you can see none of the ancestors were to make their fortune or become famous. All of them arrived with very little money or prospects, but they all left their mark in one way or another, and we can be proud to have come down from such strong stock.

Extra informaion on William Townson - April 2009

Received from Jill Jarrett (also great grandaughter of Willam Townson) and her daughter Angela.  First a photo of William found in a book "The Hands That Made The Cement" The photo was taken at the Darra Cement Works in the 1920s and shows William in the front row, fifth from left, he would have been Chief Engineer at this time.

Angela also found William's name on the shipping records 1890-1960 on the Ancesrty. Jill had told me that William had travelled to England in 1929 but that was all that was known, and that grandma would not go with him, possibly frghtened of the sea voyage.

With the kind help of a friend I have managed to find out the name of the ship and the date he arrived in England.


William Townson born about 1857 aged 72. Departed Brisane Australia - Arrived 5 May 1929. Port of Arrival Hull England.  Ship the "Largs Bay" Shipping Line - Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line. Official number137225.

It would have been 50 years since he left England for a new life in Australia.

While in England he stayed at 46 Smith Street, Trafford Road Salford Manchester.

I think great grandpa would be rather thrilled if he knew we were still following his life 150 years later.


My Cooke Family

The first to arrive in Qeensland on my mother’s side was her grandmother Mary Jane Cooke, she was 23 when she arrived in Brisbane on June 1876 on the Windsor Castle. Mary Jane I was to find out many years after mum died, had cast a mystery over her past and not even her immediate family knew the real story. Some of it I have been able to solve but not all and it’s not likely now that we will ever know the whole truth.[1]

[1] See my book - Mary Jane Cooke, Irish Immigrant Windsor Castle To Morton Bay 1868.

Tartaraghan Church Armagh where Mary Jane’s brother Joseph received the bible that I now have, given to me by my grandmother just before I was married along with her wedding ring.

Mary Jane Cooke was born 17 March 1853 at Tartaraghan Armagh Ireland.Why she came to Australia is not known but it could have been that she came to be with Alexander McKinstry as she had her first child Martha to him just nine months after her arrival, on the 1 March 1877 (Martha died on 17 March 1877).Mary Jane had two other daughters in 1778 and 1880, both to Alexander, although she never married him. At the time of his death Mary Jane was the informant living at the same address.

Alexander McKinstry was killed at Crump’s Slaughter House in Lane Road Logan Road when a cart ran over him.

The two surviving children were only very young, Sarah aged two and Mary Martha five months. Alexander’s death left Mary Jane with two very young children with no income or family to help her. I remember meeting Sarah and Mary when as a child I visited them with mum. They seemed very different to grandma, what I didn’t know then was that they were her half sisters not full sisters.

I often wondered how she managed, an unmarried mother of two children, no pension so what could she have done to bring money into the house and keep a roof above their heads. On some of her records she is stated to have been a nurse. Did she take on the role of midwife? I have not been able to find out.

In 1885 Mary Jane McKinstry married my grandfather Joseph Barrett. Joseph had arrived from Devon and was working as a labourer.Only a few years ago I made contact with Keith Barrett in England and exchanged information with him. Keith is a descendant of Joseph’s brother.


Great Grandma Barrett/McKinstry certainly kept her secret to herself, even Mum thought she had come from England as a child. Mum knew nothing about her grandmother being Irish. I wish I had been able to find this information before she died not afterwards. She really needed to know this part of her history, but times being what they were Mary Jane could never let it be known that she was not a widow but a single mother. Society would not have been as kind as they are now and she and her children would have been known under other less polite names.

Mary Jane and Joseph had five children and my grandmother Lydia Rosecleer was the eldest born at Kangaroo Point in 1886.

Lydia Rosecleer married William John Townson on 1 March 1906 at the Brayside Church in Brisbane.

 Grandpa William Townson was not a well man for most of his life, he had been in an accident and was left with being subjected to fits. They had five children, two girls and three boys, mum was the third eldest.

Grandpa Townson was placed in the Willowburn Hospital when the family was quite young, although grandma had looked after him at home, washing, shaving and feeding him until she could no longer do it.

William died during the war. I remember the phone call that grandma received at the shopshe owned across the road from the Harristown School.

As I have written in the Wohlsen section mum’s life was not always a happy one, even as a child. She told me grandma was very strict, not allowing Glady or her much freedom. The three boys were allowed to wander as much as they liked (mum said they couldn’t get pregnant) One story she told me was that she was never allowed to read as there was too much work to do and mum loved to read so she would hide the books in the sawdust in the toilet. One day grandma found them and burnt them.

Another time when she was going on a date with dad she made her own dress, but grandma thought it too reveling and took the scissors and cut it from hem to neck.

Grandma always kept us girls at arms length, not allowing us to even come into her house most of the time. She would tell mum to make us sit on the steps. She took to her bed about ten years before she died in 1952 and each member of the family had to take turns in looking after her. They always left after a few weeks in tears vowing never to come back.

Just after we were married Merve and I went to look after her. I don’t remember how long we lasted but I nearly climbed into bed next to her. Something good did however come of that visit she gave me the bible and her wedding ring. I used the ring at my wedding and the bible was what started me off on this family history, even if it was thirty years later.