Henry James HARPER (1812-1877)


Henry James HARPER

Henry James HARPER was born around 1812 in Bere Alton, Devon, England and christened on 6 Sept 1812 in Calstock, Cornwall, England.

Henry was married to Harriet FLOYD in Buckland, Devon, England on 24 Mar 1834. They had at three children born in England William, Charlotte and Mary Ann, and one, Sarah who was born in New Zealand.

On 19 Nov 1840, the William Bryan set sail from Plymouth harbour bound for New Zealand. Henry and his family were aboard. The majority of the migrants on board the William Bryan were Cornish miners and farm labourers[1].

The voyage of the William Bryan was relatively uneventful, with it reaching landfall in New Plymouth with only one death, that of a pre-mature infant. This was a very good record for such long voyages at the time. The William Bryan was the first of the four immigrant ships bound for New Plymouth the make landfall on 31 March 1841. It was at sea the entire time, not making any port calls between England and New Zealand.

There is some information available on the voyage via the diary of the ships surgeon, Henry Weekes. Of interest to those studying the Harper family is the following entry from 5th Jan 1841: ‘5th. Stopped Harper’s rations for insolence to Mr. Nairn[2]. Mr Nairn was another passenger on the voyage. Not sure why insolence to him would be worth punishing!

Four years after their arrival in New Zealand, Harriet died. She died on 7 June 1845, two days after giving birth to Sarah, who died on 9 June 1845. It is after the death of his wife and daughter, that Henry, with his surviving children then migrate to Australia. Before leaving New Zealand, it appears that a number of Henry’s brothers and sisters also migrated to the country.

The exact date of his move is unknown. They appear to have entered Australia via Adelaide. It is here on 17 Jan 1848 that he married Ellen BRAY at Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide, SA, Australia.

The family remained in Adelaide for at least three years bu then moved to Castlemaine. Around 1852, the family lived in the mining settlement of Berlin, Vic, Australia for some period (now called Rheola). He died on 17 Jan 1877 in Bendigo.

He was a miner. On his death certificate, his father is listed as Stephen HARPER, a miner and his mother as Mary MARKS. However, after extensive research, both these facts seem to be incorrect. His father’s name was Samuel HARPER and his mother was Mary TESTICK. The death of Henry was registered by his wife, Ellen. On the death certificate she only makes her mark (meaning she was unable to read or write), rather than signing her name. It is likely that the information she provided about her husbands parents is incorrect. However, for definitive proof, birth records need to be obtained.

Researching this branch of my family has proved somewhat difficult, due to the distance from the local Cornish records and also because of the common names involved. Not original problems, but they do tend to slow the process down.

Things I’d like to know:

  • When did Henry and his family arrive in Australia?
  • Did they arrive via Adelaide? If yes, when and on what ship?
  • Further research avenues

As always, I’d love to hear from anyone connected to this family or who has information that I might like to know!

[1] R. G Wood, From Plymouth to New Plymouth (Wellington, New Zealand: A.H & A. W Reed, 1959).p. 30

[2] The Establishment of New Plymouth Settlement in New Zeland: 1841-1843, ed. J and Skinner Rutherford, W. H (New Plymouth, New Zealand: Thomas Avery & Sons Ltd, 1940). p. 25

Using Flickr As A Family History Resource


“Up Here In Bougainville” – Letter from WWII

The proliferation of various social networking sites has been a huge boon for family history researchers. Most people are aware of using services like Twitter or Facebook to connect with other researchers. But what about other websites such as Flickr?

For those unfamiliar with it, Flickr is a photo-storage and sharing site. For a small annual fee, you can upload and share your photos with the world. It is aimed at individuals,  but an increasing number of groups and institutions are using the site to share their resources.

When you go to Flickr, you can search the entire database  in a number of ways.

  • By User – this lets you search the photostream of individual users.
  • By Group – this lets you search the photo pool of a groups.
  • By Location – you can put in a location and anything tagged with that location will be returned in the search.

Flickr is a useful site for family historians in a number of ways.

Photos of Places – Churches

It might seem obvious that a photo sharing site would be helpful to family historians. But alot of people use it only in a limited way. Have you ever wondered what the church your maternal great-great-grandparents got married in looks like? For those of us in Australia, it’s unlikely we could ever to get to visit in person. This is where Flickr can help. People who share an interest in a particular photographic topic can come together in groups. For family historians, of particular interest are groups dedicated to particular places or types of buildings.

On Flickr, there are a large number of groups dedicated to taking photos of churches in specific counties in England. Below is a small list of some of them. If you go to Flickr, search for groups by county name with churches on the end, you will probably find the one you are looking for. If you can’t find the church you are after, a nicely worded request in the group forum might produce results.

Any general county names is worth searching.

Photos of Places – General

If you go to Flickr, you can search the entire database  in a number of ways.

  • By User – this lets you search the photostream of individual users.
  • By Group – this lets you search the photo pool of a groups.
  • By Location – you can put in a location and anything tagged with that location will be returned in the search.

Using these various options you can search for villages, towns or even families.


A number of institutions and groups have started up Flickr accounts and are posting useful photos,  documents and artifacts.

Some examples are:

Do you know of any more? Please leave a comment, I’d love to have a more comphrehensive list.

The Commons

The Commons is a Flickr-driven section which taps into the world’s public photography archives. It has a second goal to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer. A number of Australian institutions are represented as well as many International groups.

Family Photo Sharing

You might be lucky enough to have a group of people all researching the same families. One problem is sharing resources. Sending large sized photos of people or documents can be difficult as they can clog up email accounts. Why not get everyone to open a Flickr account (you can open a free account which has a limited number of uploads – 100MB per month). Then you can either allow your fellow researchers to access your uploaded photos or you can create a group and a group photo pool to upload and share specific photos. Groups can be open to all or limited by invitation.

It Can’t Hurt – I’ve Tried Everything Else!

So you get to that stage of desperation, that brickwall that just won’t be knocked down. There are a number of groups on Flickr dedicated to posting old photographs that have been found or inherited by members. Some have descriptions such as names, others don’t. Why not browse and see if you can find that needle in a haystack?

Welcome to the Watson & Canet Family History Blog!



I hope you will enjoy reading my genealogy blog. I will be posting periodically about my personal family history research, about the uses of technology for genealogists and anything else that might be of interest to those researching their family history.

I’d love to hear from anyone researching the same families as me, or who have ideas for posts or information on new technologies that might be of interest to genealogists.