Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Charles Masters and Samuel Edward Masters were the two eldest sons born to Samuel Masters, a builder from Northampton, England. My 3rd Great Grandfather, Charles, was the first born and was baptised on 13 March 1831. Samuel arrived in the following year and was baptised on Christmas Day in 1832. Both were baptised in the St Sepulchres Church in Northampton.


It’s fair to say that the brothers were most likely close. As they grew, Charles went on to learn the building trade from his father while Samuel became a carpenter. They both resided with their family on St George’s Street in Northampton up until 1851.

Samuel was the first to marry. He met Maria Kippin and on 29 August 1852 the couple (both aged 20) were married in the St Giles Northampton Parish Church. Charles Masters was one of the witnesses along with their sister, Catherine.

Samuel and Maria’s first child, a son named Edward, was born in the second quarter of 1853. Their second son, Samuel, arrived in the last quarter of 1854.

By 1856, Charles Masters had met his future bride to be. On 28 January 1856, at age 25, he married Mary Smith (aged 22) in the same Parish Church. Like Charles had done for him four years previously, Samuel witnessed his brother’s marriage.

That same year, Charles and Mary’s first child (named Charles Henry Masters) was born. Both families were still living in Northampton and both may have heard talk about Australia and, in particular, Western Australia.

Three years earlier, the Northampton Mechanics’ Institute obtained the services of Mrs Caroline Chisholm to give an address on emigration to Australia. The room was crowded with many individuals interested in hearing the talk. The reporter was a little woeful at what this fact meant.

Certainly, it was impossible to disassociate a feeling of sadness from the contemplation of the gay voices and sparkling eyes around us, when the main object of the meeting was considered, and we reflected that so many of whom the country might be proud were inquiring how to leave it.

Mrs Chisholm (who was herself a native of Northampton) spoke briefly about the history of the colony of Australia, touched upon the difficulties she’d encountered with regards to emigration and then explained the work that she’d done to promote it. She gave humerous anecdotes as a way to illustrate the differences between the United Kingdom and Australia which further served as hints for when they did emigrate. She read from a letter she’d recently received which stated:

…brickmakers, carpenters, and limeburners, were the most in request…

While I have no way of knowing whether Charles and Samuel attended the talk there is no doubt that they would’ve heard about it from others or read about it in the paper. Perhaps it was Mrs Chisholm’s words and the opportunities she spoke of which first planted a seed of thought within the minds of the Masters brothers.

With both Charles and Samuel having trades and family support behind them, it’s not known what would’ve drawn them towards a new land. Perhaps there had been a downturn in work and they were concerned about the future. Perhaps the lure of making one’s fortune in a Colony which was crying out for skilled tradesmen was too much to pass up. Perhaps they simply longed for adventure and wished to escape the town which their family had lived in for generations. Whatever the reason, both brothers decided to embark on the adventure together.

Though it appears they did not receive free passage to Western Australia, it is likely  that their passage was subsidised under an emigration scheme. Charles, Samuel and their families made the journey from Northampton and travelled south to London where, in late March 1857, they boarded the ship ‘City of Bristol’.


The voyage took 94 days with the ship arriving in Fremantle on 8 August 1857. Unfortunately for Samuel and Maria, any excitement felt at the prospect of starting a new life would’ve been short lived. Sometime during the passage, their youngest son, Samuel Jnr (aged 2) passed away and was buried at sea. His death was recorded on the passenger list.


From Fremantle, most of the immigrants travelled to Perth to the Immigrant Depot where they awaited to be engaged by the settlers. A notice printed in the immigrantsGovernment Gazette (right) further helped to advertise the types of trades in which the men were proficient. Under the column ‘Married and with Families’, Charles would’ve been marked as a ‘bricklayer’ while Samuel marked as a ‘carpenter’.

Initially, the people of Perth were thrilled with the new arrivals with the newspapers reporting that the immigrants “appear to be a well-selected and superior class“. Months later however they lamented “The proportion of immigrants with families was much too large for this place.

Unfortunately I have been unable to ascertain where Charles and Samuel went after their arrival and it is not known whether the brothers kept in touch. Despite not knowing the finer details, it is obvious that the brothers, whether they liked it or not, had been separated. One website states that Charles took up a tillage lease in Dandaragan in 1858 but the Western Australian Biographical Index lists a contradicting date of 1868. Furthermore, up until 1860, Charles’s next two children were recorded as born in Perth. It would seem Charles may have remained in Perth for a short time before eventually moving to Gingin by 1862.

Samuel is much the same. There is not a great deal of information about what happened after his arrival. It would appear however that he and his family moved north to Geraldton and when he next appears (likewise in 1862) it was under unhappy circumstances.

As Charles was setting up his growing family in Gingin and was offering his services as a builder, Samuel on the other hand was preparing to leave Western Australia.

On 4 March 1862 Samuel (noted as being a carpenter residing in Champion Bay) handed over all his property to George Shenton “for the benefit of all his creditors“. It’s likely he’d sale-by-auctionbeen in Geraldton for some time and over that time he’d purchased several lots within the town. Perhaps his debt became far too much for him. By 26 November 1862 everything he owned (including his carpenter’s and joiner’s tools which were vital for his work) was advertised for sale by auction.

In Gingin, Charles and Mary welcomed their fourth child, Richard, who was born in October 1862. It’s not known whether Charles knew of the troubles which had befallen his brother but the town would’ve eventually received copies of the papers and it may be that Charles found out via the advertisements (if he even found out at all).

Samuel stayed in Western Australia for the rest of 1862 and into at least the first half of 1863. For a time he resided in Fremantle and it was there in 1863 that his wife Maria gave birth to another son who they named Charles Henry Masters; perhaps in a nod to his brother and nephew.

On 18 May 1863 an ad was placed in The Inquirer and Commercial News giving notice to Samuel’s creditors that a General Meeting was being held in June at Mr Stone’s office with a view to winding up the Estate.


Despite having been unsuccessful within Western Australia, Samuel was unwilling to give up on the country altogether. He left Western Australia after 1863 and moved to Adelaide, South Australia. On 21 February 1866 Maria gave birth to another son who they named Jesse Walter Masters. Sadly, Jesse did not thrive. A month later he was Christened and the day after his Christening he passed away.

Nothing seemed to go right for Samuel. Charles meanwhile was still in Gingin and had extended his children to five.

This may have been the breaking point for Samuel and around this time he decided to leave Australia for good. His wife decided to stay.

One can only speculate what this fact meant and, really, it could’ve been a myriad of different reasons. Perhaps Maria was still hopeful of the opportunities while Samuel was not. The couple may have had marital problems and simply decided they’d both had enough of being together; one leaving and one staying. Either of them could’ve met someone else. Or, it could simply have been Samuel, in absolute grief and depression from his limited success and the loss of his children wanted to go back home; back to where his family were.

While I have not found when he left, his departure would’ve taken place sometime between 1866 and 1871 as by the 1871 English Census, Samuel was back in Northampton and living on St George’s Street with his parents. He had resumed working as a carpenter.

Back in Western Australia, Charles (age 40)  was still in Gingin and had recently completed building the Methodist Church. He now had seven children with my 2nd Great Grandmother, Priscilla, arriving in 1869.

Ten years later, when the 1881 English Census was taken, Samuel was still recorded at St George’s Street in Northampton with his parents. Now age 48, he was the only child living at home.

Charles’s life had also changed in the ten years. No longer in Gingin, he and his family moved to Guildford where Mary gave birth in 1874 to their final child, Cornelius. He was still working as a builder and had done quite well, with the wealth he had built enabling  him to purchase several properties within the town.

Samuel however had not been faring well. Perhaps grief stricken at the loss of his wife and children and depressed at how his life had panned out, he had turned to drink. He was reported to have done little work (perhaps because of the drink) and was supported by his parents. This resulted in the occasional fight. Having had enough, on 23 November 1882, Samuel Edward Masters committed suicide.

On Thursday afternoon a young man, while in the Cow Meadow,* observed a man, whom for some minutes previously he had noticed loitering near the canal, jump into the water at the locks. He at once raised an alarm, and P.S. Bursnell and others proceeded to the spot; but the body was not recovered until life was extinct. It was removed to the mortuary, the remains being identified as those of Edward (or Samuel) Masters, who followed the occupation of a mason, and lived in St. George’s-street.

*Cow Meadow is today known as Becket’s Park.


Becket’s Park (Cow Meadow) Lock as it is today.

Charles and Samuel’s younger brother, Daniel, was a witness at the inquest. He provided information about Samuel’s circumstances and mentality, stating that he did not think he was “low-spirited.” He also advised (albeit partly incorrectly) that the “Deceased had spent twenty years in Australia, where his wife now was.” The Coroner ruled the death to be ‘felo de se’ (felon of himself).

The news of Samuel’s death may never have reached Charles in Guildford but, if it did, it would’ve taken quite a long time to arrive.

While many people often recognise the early settlers and celebrate the success of their pioneering ways I think it’s also important to recognise those who emigrated but struggled in their endeavours. Stories such as Samuel’s illustrate that it was not an easy task to undertake and I know he’s not alone in the list of people who emigrated to Australia and, for whatever reason, left again.

My 3rd Great Grandfather persevered in his endeavours but also seemed to have had luck on his side. I’m sure Samuel also persevered but was continually faced with bad luck, perhaps starting with the death of his son en route. It is a tale of two brothers; both starting at the same spot and both ending up on completely different paths.

Charles went on to live for about 40 more years. When he died on 16 September 1920 at age 89 the cause of death was recorded as senility. In the end, much of the wealth that he’d built was gone but as his time drew near I wonder if he thought often of the brother who originally shared his journey with him.


  • Northamptonshire Record Office; Northampton, England; Register Type: Bishops Transcripts. Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912. Obtained via
  • Northamptonshire Record Office; Northampton, England; Register Type: Parish Registers; Reference Numbers: 233P/20. Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912. Obtained via
  • Image of the St Sepulchres Church in Northampton courtesy of Ancestry Images ( Northampton, St Sepulchres Church, 1811.
  • England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915. Obtained via
  • Northampton Mercury; 5 March 1853; page 3 (obtained through Findmypast).
  • Evening Mail; 4 May 1857; page 2 (obtained through Findmypast).
  • SRO of Western Australia; Albany Passenger list of Assisted Emigrants showing names of emigrants and from which countries selected; Accession: 115; Roll: 214. Accessed via
  • 1857 ‘THE INDEPENDENT JOURNAL.’, The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 – 1864), 14 August, p. 2. , viewed 25 Nov 2016,
  • 1857 ‘Classified Advertising’, The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 – 1864), 21 August, p. 2. , viewed 25 Nov 2016,
  • 1857 ‘Local and Domestic Intelligence.’, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 28 October, p. 2. , viewed 25 Nov 2016,
  • 1862 ‘Advertising’, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 30 April, p. 2. , viewed 26 Nov 2016,
  • 1862 ‘Classified Advertising’, The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 – 1864), 28 November, p. 2. , viewed 26 Nov 2016,
  • 1863 ‘Advertising’, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 20 May, p. 2. , viewed 26 Nov 2016,
  • Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922; Obtained via
  • Australia Death Index, 1787-1985; Obtained via
  • 1871 England Census; Class: RG10; Piece: 1481; Folio: 131; Page: 30; GSU roll: 828792. Obtained via
  • 1881 England Census; Class: RG11; Piece: 1545; Folio: 16; Page: 30; GSU roll: 1341373. Obtained via
  • Northampton Mercury; 25 November 1882; page 8. Obtained via Findmypast.
  • Image of Becket’s Park Lock courtesy of Nicholas Mutton (© Copyright Nicholas Mutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence).
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