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Tracing the Browning family history

Mary Ann Cloughessy (previously Bustard, nee Browning)
Mary Ann Cloughessy (previously Bustard, nee Browning)

IT IS wonderful to have an uncommon name when researching family history. As many of us have found, a name like Smith, Jones, or Brown can produce hours of frustration, especially if attached to a first name such as John or Mary. How then would you like to have a family history which has Smith and Brown, as well as Browning, in its ancestry! Such was the problem for Esme Smith.

However, Esme has produced a wonderful history which places her family in a general historical context and gives the reader many an insight into researching genealogy. Her book is called "The Browning story: tracings from the past". It is well worth reading especially if you are starting along your family history road but it also gives many clues and backgrounds which can be absorbed by even the most experienced.

The story begins in Devon in 1822 with the marriage of William Browning (who had been born in Cornwall) and Anne (Nancy) Littlejohn. This was when the Industrial Revolution was taking off in England. Over the next few years the young couple found work difficult to find and on several occasions they had to resort to parish relief. By the end of the 1830s, and with six children, they apparently decided that they should look somewhere else for their future. They chose Australia.

The decision coincided with the introduction of the Bounty system of migration. They fitted the scheme beautifully as the Australian authorities were looking for healthy young couples with children, preferably daughters. The Brownings had four girls and two boys and two of their daughters would soon be of marriageable age, a good thing in a Colony overflowing with young men looking for a bride. The family set sail on 2nd April 1840 and arrived at Port Jackson three months later.

Although the voyage was short it was tiring as they did not touch land anywhere and by the time they reached Sydney the food and water were not very good. As well there was a mutiny shortly before they landed. With the help of passengers the crew were restrained but it meant that some of the passengers had to man the ship until they reached port.

On arrival the Brownings were employed by the Australian Agricultural Company and soon found themselves on their way to Port Stephens. Here William worked as a shepherd and other members of the family were also employed. The two older girls found husbands fairly quickly. Over the next few years William and Nancy and some of the family moved several times. William obtained work either with Captain Dumaresq or Ward Stephens. This is how the family found itself in the Richmond area which, by the 1840s, had been taken over by Squatters. William was still a shepherd, as at that time sheep were grazed rather than cattle.

In that capacity he and his family are said to have been the first white settlers at what was to become known as Lismore. They had a hut approximately where St Vincents Hospital now stands. They later moved on but were to return to Lismore and purchase property there. Their youngest daughter was Mary Ann Browning who married twice, firstly to Charles Bustard and secondly to John Cloughessy. Mary Ann is buried at Casino.

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