Friday, 8 November 2013

Mary Jane ANNETT c1835-1869

Born in c1835, the first of seven children to William ANNETT and Mary RODGERS. Research supports Mary Janes mother was born in the Catholic faith about 1803 in Dublin, Ireland. Her father born c1808 to James and Elizabeth nee ?SHEPHERD was a farm labourer Kent, England and of Church of England faith.

There is some confusion as to whether Mary Jane was born at Sevenoaks, Kent, ENGLAND (as were all her siblings), IRELAND (1841 census) or Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA (1851 census)... to date I have been unable to substantiate or locate any records of her parents marriage, her birth, or documentation pertaining to her travel as an infant.

If born overseas,Mary Jane had returned to her fathers home at Seven Oaks in Kent, ENGLAND before the birth of her first brother in 1838.

By the 1850s revolutions in agriculture and industrial practice had caused great changes in the lives of village folk and many landless farm workers flocked to the large towns and cities.

Meanwhile in Australia, there was an acute shortage of labour caused by the gold rushes which began in 1851. The incentive of assisted passage was offered to emigrants of good character whose skills were needed in the colony. This no doubt had a bearing on the decision of the ANNETT family to emigrate.

At age 16, Mary Jane emigrated aboard the "Priam' as a single woman along with her parents and siblings but on a separate document, she is recorded as a housemaid who could read and write. The Priam departed from Plymouth, England on the 21 May 1852 and arrived 3 months and 4 days later at Portland, Victoria, Australia on 25 August.

At disembarkation Mary Jane went with her parents, who had been allocated a round tent, and camped in that until accommodation was found. Her brother Henry recalled this experience remembering seeing as many as 200 aborigines taking part in a corroboree at Wattle Tree Hill, near Portland.

Upon reaching the new country, Mary Janes father aged 49 years joined the Police Force on the 01 September 1852, but by 1855 he had been found 'Drunk on Duty' on three occasions and was dishonorably discharged.

When 18 years old Mary Jane was married on 09 March1853 to Charles WIGGINS, son of John Wiggins and Sarah Hodges. The Marriage was held in the Presbyterian Denomination in the Portland Parish and recorded in the Pioneer Index file no. 3154.

There is no known issue.

Two years and eight months later aged 20, she married Johannes Barends GROENEVELD son of Barends Hendriks Groeneveld and Catharina SIMMERMANS, at the home of William ANNETT (father), at Portland, Victoria on 17 November 1855.

As Charles did not die until June 1901, it can be assumed that Mary Janes marriage to Johannes was either after an annulment or bigamous. I am unable to substantiate either at this time. Provision for divorce in Victoria was not introduced until 1861.

It is worthy to note here the verbal history, albeit forth-hand and four generations further on , that mentions the idea that Mary Jane was a barmaid or dancer when Johannes rode into town from the goldfields one day. A fellow worker commented to Mary Jane about the handsome gold miner, to which Mary Jane replied 'keep your eyes/hands off him, he's mine' as he was until her untimely death.

Eleven months after their marriage and while Johannes was seeking their fortune in gold, Mary Jane gave birth to their first child Johannes at the Armstrong Diggings, Mt Ararat, on 27 December 1856. Mary followed in 1858 at Belfast (renamed Port Fairy), Victoria, and Caterina at Warnambool, Victoria in 1860.

Perhaps it was the primitive conditions in which they were raising 3 small children, the thrill of a new goldrush, or simply the promise of a better life in a new country... but by the time the youngest child was a year old, Johannes and Mary Jane again emigrated... this time to New Zealand.

Johannes preceded Mary Jane by three months arriving at Port Chalmers, North Otago on either the 'Mary Anne Wilson' or the 'Aldinga'. He traveled on to and settled at Oamaru, a fast developinging South Island harbour town, where he arrange accommodation for his family. Mary Jane and Johannes lived here the remainder of their days.

Mary Jane traveled aboard the 'Mary E Ray' to Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand in March 1862 with her 2 oldest children. Another Mrs Greenfield had traveled to Port Chalmers two weeks earlier aboard the 'Blue Jacket' with a 1 year old infant, I suspect it was Mary Janes sister Frances traveling with the youngest child but to date I have been unable to substantiate this.

Mary Janes brother, Henry ANNETT (aged 30 years) also traveled to Port Chalmers on the same voyage as Mary Jane.

Within 14 months of arriving in the new country, on 20 May 1863, Mary Jane gave birth to her third daughter Fanny undoubtedly named for and in appreciation of her younger sister. Sadly this child survived only one week and succumbed to "inflammation of the lungs".

Jane was born 14 months later on 10 July 1864 and baptised at the local Oamaru Church 'St Lukes'.

A second son, Henry, was born at Oamaru 31 March 1867.

Her final child, Eveline was born on 16 February 1869 also in Oamaru.


On 22nd September, Mary Jane Annett, Beloved wife of John Greenfield, aged 34 years.

The funeral will leave her late residence, Wharfe Street tomorrow (Saturday), at 2 O'clock.

M Grenfell, Undertaker.

Mary Jane died of "Phthisis and weakness" on 22 September 1869 in Oamaru aged only 34 years.

She left a legacy of seven children; Joseph (Johannes Junior) aged 13 years, Mary aged 11 years, Caterina aged 9 years, Fanny (deceased), Janes aged 5 years, Henry aged 2 years, and Evelyn aged only 7 months.

The funeral left the family home in Wharfe Street and traveled to the Oamaru Cemetery. Mary Jane is buried at Block 9 Section 22.

Her final resting place is marked with a significant oamaru stone headstone bearing the inscription:

In loving memory of Mary Jane ANNETT

beloved wife of John GREENFIELD

who departed this life 22 September 1869 aged 34 years.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord"

John is also buried with his wife but only her name appears on the headstone.

Only three of Mary Janes children would survive to produce descendants.

It was only once I traced Mary Jane back to Victoria that any light was shed on what had become of her for fellow researchers, to date I have been unsuccessful in all attempts to find any further information on her sister Frances in either Australia or New Zealand.

Mary Janes male siblings became founding families of the area of settlement in Australia and quite prominent and well documented members of society.

The voyage of Mary Jane ANNETT aboard the ‘Priam’  21 May-25 August 1852
                             written (with some poetic licence) by Corrinne KING

In 1852 what would tempt one to embark on the arduous and hazardous three-month journey to the opposite side of the globe?
Of course we had no say, it was father’s decision so that was that!
Throughout the nineteenth century deaths at sea were tragically common, as many as one in five children, and one in sixty adults died on the voyage to Australia.  At least twenty-six emigration ships were lost due to disease, fire, collision or sinking. Few sailors or passengers could swim, rarely were there enough lifeboats available anyway.  Conditions for steerage passengers were little better than those suffered by the unfortunates on coffin or convict ships...

 ‘We was stuffed into the single women’s quarters aft of the ship like livestock into cages at the Sunday market. At times the noise was as bad... and the smell worse.
The bunks running both sides was double-deck, each three foot wide, so we shared with another. Cos we were from the same village Elizabeth and me coupled up. Most of us could sit up on our bunk but the taller girls would bash their head on the low overhead. We brought our own bedding but they was infested with filthy fleas, lice and vermin within a week of leaving shore, and smelly soon after. Every few days, when weather allowed, we took our bedding up to shake and air, but it never seemed to be quite dry ever again.
Our quarters was below the water line so we only had vents to allow air and light in. When the weather was bad we had to shut them. We couldn’t use candles or oil lamps then either,  it was too dangerous with the pitching and rolling, so it got mighty dark, and the air got pretty bad... especially when we first left home and when we hit bad weather, even those without the seasickness was soon vomiting too cos of the smell.
There wasn’t really room for the ladies to bathe. Sometimes we would take a seawater-soaked cloth onto our bunks for ‘top and tail’.  Elizabeth said the men stripped down on a shelf hung over the side of a ship, and threw buckets of water at each other, we envied them sometimes.

There was only two toilets, one each side... there was always a waiting line. We were told to use the rags on the back of the door ‘to clean’, they had been soaked in vinegar but it didn’t really cover the smell. Water that slopped down the bilges smelled even worse and it wafted up through the floor to our quarters, especially in the hot weather.
There was a clothesline down the centre of our passageway, we took turns at washing out a single garment in seawater to hang there. Often they wasn’t dry again the next day but we had to make do.
Cos our ship was new, the captain made sure below deck was scrubbed with vinegar and chloride of lime every few days. Widow Wilson took charge of who was on duty, we tried to dodge her but she always found us.

The food was good enough; pickled meat, flour, sugar and dried peas mostly. The weevils got at it though, as did the rats and mice... Elizabeth found one cooked in her porridge one morning!
Water became foul after about a month and stuff would grow in the barrels that could make you sick. Sometimes even the new water brought onboard still tasted bad and people still got sick. Whenever it rained, if we could get on deck, everyone used whatever they could to collect the rainwater. It tasted so sweet... but there was never enough. Sometimes I would just stand with my eyes shut and my tongue out. Elizabeth said I would catch my death in my wet clothes, but for just a wee while I could pretend I was still back in the fields at home catching the raindrops on my tongue.
We was only a few days out when the first case of measles happened. Seems poor Johnny Crockett brought it onboard. Soon it was raging through the whole ship, even some of the sailors caught it. Five children succumbed. Mum was worried about our bairns, she needn’t be though, they caught it but they came through ok.  Johnny Crockett’s mother left this life after she got to fitting when she saw him buried at sea.
As the trip wore on more people came down with fever and coughing. Doctor said it was infection of the lungs mostly, but all in all we was a healthy bunch. We had seven babies born on the ship too, only one didn’t make it to land.
Come the ninth day, just off Madeira, we hit the stillness when the Trade Winds failed. Absolutely no motion for 12 days! The heat on-deck was unbearable and even with a hat, more than a half-hour in the sun could bring on sun-stroke. Down below it was suffocating, we was soaked in sweat and even fanning brought no relief. We thought this had to be the worst... it wasn’t.  
On day fifty-eight, just past the Cape of Good Hope, we hit the Roaring Forties. It became so much colder and we was met by mountainous seas and drifting ice-floes as we passed through the uncharted expanse of the Great Southern Ocean. For ten terrifying, unrelenting days we was confined in our sodden quarters, fearing for our very lives. Clinging to each other and anything fixed, fervently reciting our Hail Mary’s as the ship and our possessions were tossed about like autumn leaves in a November gale back home. Elizabeth and me was certain this was the end, just like the other ship we had heard was seen sinking off the Cape of Good Hope.

Then... day ninety-six, I saw it!  My first glimpse of the new land... my new homeland.    
I disembarked, older and wiser, at Portland Bay to the unfamiliar but pleasing smell of eucalyptus.’
3)      Steerage Passengers. Accessed from
4)      Passenger List. Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839-1923. Accessed from
5)      Voyage of the Priam 1852. Accessed from
6)      Arrival of the Priam and sighted sinking barque. Accessed from Trove Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875)

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