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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 22: So Far Away


This weeks 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is So Far Away.  Many people on forums and Facebook groups have been saying how vague this challenge is but I love it.  Narrowing down who to write about is the difficult one for me.  I think for me, being born in England, raised in Australia, having relatives on opposite sides of the world to me as well as the country, so far away has always been a part of my life.

Week 22 – So Far Away

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks So Far Away OceanMy dad’s family for generations and generations have lived in the Staffordshire region or in very close proximity.  My mum’s family were infinitely more adventurous and I can trace ancestors to numerous locations in Scotland and England and all around Australia.  Then you have Australia itself – so far away from the majority of the world, and such vast spaces that you can drive for hours and hours and not see a town or another person.

My Family

The reality is we live 16,500km away from my dad’s family and where I was born.  I live 4,300km away from my mum’s family in Western Australia.  Being so far away from family has been the norm for our small family unit – mum, dad, my brother and me.  We made many large moves throughout my childhood, however, we had the benefit of airplanes, cars, trains, and buses.  Prior to moving to Australia we travelled from London to Staffordshire to stay with dad’s family.  We then moved to Perth, before living in Sydney, and finally Brisbane.  I attended ten schools in three states, and had lived in 13 houses by the time I was 13 years old.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks So Far Away Australian RoadI think my parents were brave to make the moves they did, however, they had the benefit of more modern transport methods, and telephones to keep in touch with loved ones.  I can really appreciate the bravery of my ancestors in their journey’s because as an adult I have moved only twice – out of the family home to the first home I owned, and finally to the home I am in.  I have been here for nearly 17 years and it is the longest I have lived in one home in my life.

Later this year, my children and I are travelling to the UK to see where I came from, to explore where my ancestors came from, and to reconnect with relatives that I have long since forgotten or never met.  I credit the internet with enabling me to undertake this endeavour as I have made connections with many cousins through Ancestry and Facebook.  We are all getting excited, albeit a bit nervous, at the impending reunions.

So far away modern travel planeHowever, what does this mean for us?  It means hopping on a plane in Brisbane at 9.00pm and arrive in London at 12.25pm the next day, however, in reality we will be in the air or in transit for 24 hours.  14 hours for the first leg, a 2 1/2 hour stopover, before undertaking the final 8 hours.   It sounds daunting, least of all because my teenage son is already complaining about having to sit still for that long.  On our trip to Perth last year, a nearly 6 hour flight, he was pretty good but he remembers thinking that was incredibly long and is dreading adding so many more hours to that.  I just remind him at least we don’t have to do the trip the way so many of our ancestors before us.

George Brand – Stag

The Dilemma, Sailing Ship, Merchant SailorI have spoken regularly about my third great-grandfather, George Brand, a convict who travelled from Larbert, Scotland to Greenough, Western Australia.1  He was from Larbert in Stirlingshire, Scotland, and was sentenced in Edinburgh on the 1 March 1852 to 14 years transportation.2  He was then sent to Millbank Prison in Middlesex, to Pentonville, London, to Portland Prison, Dorset, to Dartmoor Prison, Devon, back to Portland Prison, before finally being placed on the convict ship “Stag” to make the journey to Australia.3,4,5,6  He boarded the ship on 27 January 1855 for the journey to Fremantle, Western Australia, arriving on 23 May 1855 – a three-month trip in cramped quarters, little variation in the diet, travelling further and further from his family into an unknown life.2,7

Some of the distances he travelled seem daunting to us, in our era of high speed train, car, and plain.  Imagine poor George (not that he didn’t deserve his punishment) as he travelled further and further away from his family and previous life.

Larbert to Edinburgh 53km
Edinburgh to Middlesex 646km
Middlesex to Pentonville 13km
Pentonville to Dorset 211km
Dorset to Devon 105km
Devon to Dorset 105km
Dorset to Fremantle 14,704km
Fremantle to Greenough 411km

Based on the above distances, he travelled a total of 16,258km by road and ocean in the space of three short years.

George’s family were to follow him after seven long years of separation, arriving in Fremantle aboard the Hamilla Mitchel on 6 April 1859 before travelling to Greenough to join him.1,8  They departed 14 January 1859 from Plymouth and I can only assume they this is when they first travelled down from Scotland.  At the very least they travelled 799km from Larbert to Plymouth, 14,746 from Plymouth to Fremantle, and 411km up to Greenough, a total of 15,956km in the first half of 1859.

You can read more about George Brand and his family in the following posts:

George Brand: A Convict Success Story Part 1 – this is a 5 part series about George Brand

The Old Homestead – part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge

Valentine – part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge

All for a Loaf of Bread – the reality of George’s crimes versus the story I was told by my grandmother

The Sentence – a fictional story on how George may have felt upon his sentence

The Journey – a fictional story from Isabella Brand’s point of view

Upside Down – a fictional story from the point of view of George Brand Junior

Samuel Bridges and Ellen Johnson

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks So far away distances in AustraliaAnother couple I have written about previously are my great-great-grandparents Samuel and Ellen Bridges.  They married on 14 May 1881 in Sittingbourne, Kent.9 They started their family shortly after in 1883, and prior to their departure to Australia they had four children – Laura, Clara, Stephen, and Samuel.10  I know for sure that Ellen, Laura, Clara, and Stephen departed Plymouth aboard the “Oroya” arriving in Melbourne, Victoria on 19 December 1887 to join Ellen’s husband, Samuel.10

Young Samuel does not appear on the ship manifest so it is possible he came out with his father, Samuel, or was just missed on the manifest.  I have assumed (I hate this word) that Samuel (senior) travelled sometime between 1886-1887 as Stephen was an infant on the ship.10  To date I have not found proof of when Samuel arrived in Australia.

Now where this family amazes me is that they did not stop in Melbourne.  I had to track them backwards via the births of their children to discover they had moved in the following ways:

1887 – Kent to Plymouth 410km
1887 – Plymouth to Melbourne, Victoria 17,198km
1893 – Melbourne to Sydney 852km
1897 – Sydney to Western Australia 3,909km
1900 – Perth to Kalgoorlie 578km

They travelled a minimum of 22,947km in 13 years covering two countries, three Australian states, and a move to the Goldfields – no cars, no paved roads, long ocean boat trips nothing like a leaisurely cruise today.

Read more about the family and their journeys in:

Strong Woman – part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge

The Kalgoorlie Express – a fictional story about the family and their travels.

Do you have any ancestors that travelled vast distances?  Leave me a comment below telling me about them.


1. Erickson, Rica. The Brand on his Coat: Biographies of some Western Australian Convicts. Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1983.
2. Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Source Citation Class: HO 11; Piece: 18. Source Information Original data: Home Office: Convict Transportation Registers; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO11); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Accessed 16 May 2016.
3. Findmypast, England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935. Piece Number 33, Series PCOM2, Millbank Prison, Middlesex: register of prisoners, Accessed 5 June 2016.
4., Millbank Prison Registers: Male Prisoners, Volume 5, England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770 1935, Series HO24, Piece Number 5., Accessed 5 June 2016.
5., England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935. Piece Number 65, Series PCOM2, Pentonville Prison, Middlesex: register of prisoners, page 34., Accessed 5 June 2016.
6. Home Office: Convict Hulks, Convict Prisons and Criminal Lunatic Asylums: Quarterly Returns of Prisoners, Convict Prison at Dartmoor, Devon. Series HO8, Piece Number 118. Accessed 5 June 2016.
7. England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935. Piece Number 357, Series PCOM2, Portland Prison, Dorset: governor’s journals, page 245,, Accessed 5 June 2016.
8. Western Australia, Australia, Crew and Passenger Lists, 1852-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Source Citation: SRO of Western Australia; Albany Passenger list of Assisted Emigrants showing names of emigrants and from which countries selected; Accession: 115; Roll: 214. Accessed 5 June 2016.
9. Marriage Certificate of Samuel Bridges and Ellen Johnson, 391/1881, General Register Office, England.
10. Findmypast, Victoria Inward Passenger Lists 1839-1923, Immigration Record 1887 Ellen Bridges, Accessed 14 December 2009.

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  1. Fred
    June 1, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Wow, Megan another great post and so many relatives to write about. I think that you are doing an amazing job tracking all your ancestors down. I don’t think I could do that. I think having to travel that much for George was punishment enough especially on a cramped ship. I like the way that you have got things organized on this post with the different links from your site good job.

    • Megan
      June 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      Hi Fred

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. I liked comparing the moves I did as a child with my ancestors – it is so much easier these days yet I really admire the Bridges family for their tenacity in their moves!


  2. Marian Wood
    June 1, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Very interesting to learn the background of how you got to be where you are . . . and your ancestors were certainly mobile too. My New York City-born father was a travel agent, after he returned from WWII, and ironically, the farthest he ever traveled was to Hawaii.

    • Megan
      June 4, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Marian

      Thank you for reading and leaving a comment! I thought it would be fun to compare the journey we did in modern times compared to my ancestors who did similar or more distances! I don’t know if I would have been brave enough in the 1800’s to move such vast distances!


  3. Dara
    June 8, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Megan, my great-grandfather left Dublin for Melbourne, in 1911. My great-grandmother and their three young children were to follow him, once he got settled. When the Titanic sank, my great-grandmother refused to sail, so he came back, and they made their home in Newcastle, England. It could have been so different. 🙂

    • Megan
      June 9, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Hi Dara

      It is amazing how one simple twist in fate could change the course of life so dramatically. My great-grandfather Thomas Richardson remained in England following the death of his father. His mother and siblings all travelled to Wisconsin to join her parents. He chose to move to Staffordshire and married my great-grandmother there. If he had of moved to Wisconsin would I still exist?


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