Monday, November 22, 2010

'Presented to Mr James Boyd by the teacher on the Emigrant Ship Australia..."

How I 'found' James Boyd in a Second Hand Book Store

I almost overlooked the little book entitled "History of England', as it sat on the dusty shelf of a second hand book store. With a faded dark green cover, it sat, tucked in between the large colourful picture books in the 'British Isles' section of the store. Because it appeared to be very old, it aroused my curiosity at once. As soon as I opened the front cover, I realised that I had discovered a treasure. Written in pencil in beautiful flourishing handwriting, were the following words:

" Presented to Mr James Boyd by the Teacher on board the Emigrant Ship Australia as a small token of esteem and as a testimonial of his good conduct on board the ship, and also in appreciation of his amicable character and .... and obliging disposition .... Signature .... June 11th 1853."

On the opposite inside cover page, had been written at at a later date, in blue ink, "To Connie Boyd From Mother." I knew at once that I had to buy the book and could hardly believe that the price was only $5.50. It seemed to be true that 'what is one man's rubbish is another man's treasure.

It happened that whoever had priced the small history book had not seen the transcription inside it, so, instead of placing it amongst the rare books, had accidentally put it in the general part of the book store. I had found a bargain and this book is most surely one of my most treasured purchases. The book entitled, 'History of England' was an Educational Book, Historical Series No. 1, published in London in 1852 by The Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. In the book, illustrating the text, are fold out maps. Especially interesting, is a fold out Royal family history beginning with King John, father of Henry 1 (pictured below left).

Most of the pages of the small book are yellowed and obviously well read. The musty smell that comes with age, makes me love this book even more. Intrigued by the inscription written inside the front cover of the book, I set out at once to discover who James Boyd was, and to learn something of his life. As I began my search for the original owner of my book, I wondered how this special treasure that had been thoughtfully presented to young James on his arrival in Australia, had ended up on a shelf in a book store rather than being cherished by a family.

My first task was to find a passenger list for the ship Australia. I discovered that this ship had arrived in Sydney from England, on June 11, 1853, the same date on which the inscription was written in the book. At the NSW State Library, I found the passenger list for the ship Australia. On the list were the Boyd family from Templecrone, County Donegal in Ireland. Adam Boyd ( born in County Donegal) aged 43 and his wife Mary aged 41 (born in County Leitrim) travelled to Australia with their nine children, Elizabeth 22, Mary Jane 20, James 19, Margaret 17, William 15, Anne 13, Robert 11, Adam 9 and Susan, 7 years. The passenger list stated that Adam Boyd, senior, was an agricultural labourer. Now, some years later, has put the Unassisted NSW Passenger List 1828-1898 online and this record can be found on this site.

I was very excited to have found James and his family and, importantly, to have verified the validity of the message in the front cover of the book. I had established from the passenger list that James Boyd, owner of the book I had purchased, was born in Templecrone, County Donegal, Ireland, in about 1834. I also knew the approximate date of birth for his parents, Adam and Mary, and his 8 siblings from the passenger list. The next step was to discover where the Boyd family had settled in Australia. Since I knew that the family had arrived in Sydney, I searched the NSW electoral rolls. On the NSW Australian Historical Electoral Rolls 1842-1864, I found Adam Boyd living in the Kiama area at Broughton Vale (years 1855-6).

The 1872 Broughton's Creek Post office Directory ( pictured right) lists the following entries for members of the Boyd family: Adam Boyd - Farmer, Broughton Vale, Boroughton's Creek; Hugh - Farmer, Jasper's Mount, Broughton's Creek; Daniel Boyd- Farmer, Jasper's Mount, Brouhgton's Creek; James Boyd- Farmer, Broughton's Vale. Broughton's Creek; Robert Boyd- Farmer, Broughton's Creek; Robert H - Farmer, Broughton's Creek; William - Farmer, Broughton's Creek.

A search of the NSW Historical Births Deaths and Marriages found the deaths of James parents, Adam and Mary Boyd in 1879 and 1875 respectively. A death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald ( courtesy of Trove) also reported that Mary died on "October 5, 1875, at her residence, Broughton Vale, the beloved wife of Adam Boyd, Esq, JP, and Mayor of Broughton Vale, late of County Leitrim, Ireland, aged 70 years". A death certificate revealed that Mary Boyd was born Mary Whitten, in about 1812 to parents, William Whitten and Elizabeth Stevenson. her husband, Adam Boyd was born in County Leitrim in Templecrone, County Donegal, Ireland to parents Daniel Boyd and Mary Virtue.

Now that I had discovered who James Boyd was, I decided to try to trace the person named 'Connie Boyd' who was the later recipient of the 'History of England' book. I found a marriage for James Boyd to Eliza Ann Walker, in Kiama in the year 1886 and then set about searching for children born to this couple. I hoped to find Connie amongst them, or amongst their descendants. James and Eliza Ann Boyd had the following children - Adam J. W 1868, Mary Ann 1870, Eliza Jane 1871, Robert Erwin 1875, Maggie Caroline Susannah 1878, William Albert 1880, Frederick E 1882 and George Leslie 1887. After searching for the marriages and children of each of James' sons and daughters, I was still no closer to finding Connie Boyd the previous owner of the book I had purchased.

Having found no 'Connie' amongst the descendants of James Boyd, I searched for marriages for all of James' siblings however I was unable to find Connie Boyd. Assuming that 'Connie' was a shortened version of the name Constance, I searched the NSW electoral rolls without success and a search for a death and marriage also failed to find any sign of Connie Boyd. One Constance Boyd in Stockton, Newcastle, NSW, proved disappointingly, to be no relation to the Boyd family who had arrived on the ship 'Australia' in 1853.

Because online searches of historical births cut off at 1909 in NSW, I looked for deaths of possible children of James Boyd and his siblings. The person named Connie Boyd, whose mother had presented James' book to, however, still managed to elude me. I searched the NSW electoral rolls for Constance Boyd but with no result. Finally, widening my search to variations of the name Constance (and by now, thinking that perhaps Connie might be my mystery book owner's real name), I searched and .... I found Connie Boyd. On the 1936 and 1937 electoral roll Connie Heather Boyd resided with her parents, Daniel Wesley ( farmer) and Maggie Caroline Susannah Boyd, at Main Road, Dapto, NSW. Connie's mother, Maggie was the fifth of James and Eliza Boyd's children. Her father Daniel Wesley, was the second child of James' sister Mary Jane Boyd and her husband Daniel Boyd. Connie's parents were first cousins and Connie was both the grand daughter and great neice of James Boyd. My next goal was to attempt to find the descendants of James and his grand daughter, Connie, the two owners of my now cherished little book. The more history that I discovered about the book the more I treasured it.

I easily found a marriage for Connie (now that I was searching under Connie and not Constance as I had previously done). She married John Frederick Miller in 1945 in Wollongong, NSW, however when I looked for her death I discovered that Connie had married more than once, as she died in 1975 in Wollongong under the surname of Halls not Miller. The 1949 electoral roll shows Connie Miller living at 263 Princess Highway, Dapto near Wollongong where she had married John Frederick Miller four years earlier.

I have been unable, as yet to trace any direct descendants of James Boyd through his daughter, Maggie Caroline Susannah or his grand daughter, Connie, but will continue to try to trace descendants through James other children. I am pleased to have learned about the boy who travelled to Australia in 1853 on board the ship 'Australia' and who was given the gift of a small history book as a token of the ship's teacher's esteem and appreciation.

The story does not end here. The book has travelled from England to Australia and is a valuable part of the Boyd family history and significantly, a treasured piece of evidence in the history of New South Wales. I will make certain that it is left in safe hands so that it will become accessible to everyone.


  1. What a wonderful find,ggreat story and fantastic piece of research. I got shivers up my spine as I read it. I hope you you manage to connect with some Boyd descendants.

  2. How very exciting! Your inspiring story makes me want to go out and explore every secondhand book shop in town.

  3. I am trying to find my fathers history in dad always talked about aunty Connie( not blood aunt) who was the post mistress at kiama post office..hopefully you have given me a couple of last names to follow..Thankyou.....Leeanne (hayward) houssenloge.

  4. Very cool! My 3x great-grandfather Nicholas and his mother Margret Meade were on that ship. It arrived in New York on March 10, 1853!
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Hi, we recently stayed in a house on Old Pioneer Crest, Berry. Outside the house is a very small graveyard with Boyds (a McKee & another family) - I didn't take photos but I think our friends did. If you can't get down to see it I'll get a photo for you. This is the website for the house we stayed in
    Cheers MT

  6. Hi - to add to that one of the graves was Adam Boyd - born in Ireland - so they are definitely the Boyds you are looking for -

  7. Hello...i have just read this with great interest as this Boyd family you talk of is my family. This James Boyd was the son of my great great great grandparents Adam and Mary Boyd nee Whitten

  8. Thank you for this information my lines adam-robert-margaret this help confirm some info i had found