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Where did we come from?


As far as I am aware, the Burnells originated in France, moved to Great Britain, then migrated mainly to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America.

There was a convict by the name of James Burnell, aged 30 years, who arrived in Australia on the "Lady East" on 9 Apr 1825. He was granted a 'Ticket of Leave' at the Kings pleasure and was appropriated to a Captain Glover. Finally, he was granted his 'Certificate of Freedom'. Unfortunately, I have no further record of him or his immediate family. Do you have knowledge of this man?

On 17th August 1846, another man by the name of Charles Burnell aged 18 years was convicted at "The Old Bailey", London for being in possession of stolen watches and was sentenced to 7 years with transportation to Van Diemans Land. After serving two years in gaol he was transported on the ship "Anna Maria" arriving in Hobart on 7th June 1848. He was eventually granted a 'Ticket of Leave' and married Elizabeth Goldsmith a 'free-settler' in 1862. I believe Charles and Elizabeth are my great-great grandparents.

It's interesting to note that Elizabeth Goldsmith's parents were both convicts (see below). Charles and Elizabeth had four children ,... Henry Charles, John, Esther Mary and William. When Charles was granted a Ticket of Leave, he found employment as a drayman with Charles Davis, an ex-convict who opened one of the largest hardware emporiums in the Southern Hemishere. Charles had a son called Henry Charles, who was also employed by Davis at the Emporium in later years and he would take his boss to work each day in a horse-drawn buggy.

Henry Charles Burnell, my great grandfather married Elizabeth Harris, who was the daughter of two convicts William Harris and Ellen Curley (Fitzgerald). (More details below) 


John Goldsmith arrived in Van Diemans Land on board the ship "Layton" on 9th Oct 1827 at age 20 years. He had been tried in Surry England for burglary and transported for 'Life'.  He married Mary Ann Donovan (also a convict) in New Norfolk on 14 Nov 1836.


Mary Ann Donovan was born in County Kerry, Ireland in 1808. She was sentenced to 14 years transportation to Van Diemans Land for pick-pocketing and arrived on the ship 'Harmony' on 14 Jan 1829. John and Mary are my great-great-great-grandparents.


John Goldsmith and Mary Ann Donovan had nine children,...Joannes, Elizabeth, Mary Ann 1, John, Eliza, Charles William, Maria, Mary Ann 2 and Joseph.



Another convict by the name of Walter Cleary aged 20 years was tried in Kent on 13th March 1820 and sentenced to 'Life'. He was transported to Van Diemans Land on the ship 'Maria' and was given a conditional pardon in 1836.

He married Mary Ann Glover who had been convicted for stealing a piece of print in London and was transported for 7 years. She was only 16 years at the time. She arrived on the ship 'Frances Charlotte' in 1833 and they were married in 1835. Walter and Mary are also my great-great grandparents.

Walter Cleary and Mary Ann Glover had six children,... Elizabeth, Mary Anne, Walter Thomas, Sarah Ann, James George William and William.


Also as mentioned above, another convict by the name of William Harris, who came from Bristol, stole two sheep and wounded a man with a knife in 1849. At age 21 years he was tried, convicted and transported to Van Diemans Land for 7 years. He spent two years on a hulk in the Thames and later arrived in Australia in 1852 on board the 'Aboukir'. He was granted a conditional pardon in 1854 after he married another convict Ellen Curley in 1853.

Ellen Curley was 22 years of age when she murdered her child and was transported for 'Life' to Van Diemans Land. She arrived on 1 Sep 1852 in the ship "Martin Luther".Finally she was granted a pardon and gave birth to 5 more children with William Harris. William and Ellen are also my great-great grandparents. Their five children were called ,... Ann, William John, Ellen, Susan and Elizabeth.

WOW !!!  What a background. Seven convicts in the family tree. When I think about it, if any one of these people had not committed their crime (petty or serious), I would not be alive today. It was all meant to happen.

Of course many others who are linked to the 'Burnell' family arrived as free passengers to Australia in the early 1800's and settled in South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales. As time went by, a number re-located to Western Australia and the tropical, warmer State of Queensland.

The South Australian Burnells originally came from Yorkshire, and became heavily involved in the fast-growing wool industry. One man called George Burnell, was extremely clever, and he invented and patented the first wool-washing and drying machine in Australia.

The Tasmanian Burnells, and in particular, my grandfather Cyril Burnell was involved in the manufacture of high class, hand-made 'Victorian' era furniture and upholstery.  As mentioned before, my great grandfather, Henry Charles Burnell worked for the Charles Davis Emporium (the largest hardware and iron-monger store in Hobart) around 1900. At one time he also managed 'The Baths' (public swimming pool) which was located at the Northern most point of the city of Hobart on the Derwent River.

Later during the 1920's, my grandparents and their two sons re-located to Chatswood, New South Wales, where they continued their furniture business until retirement.

I however, grew up in Sydney and knew very little about my heritage until I paid a visit to Tasmania and discovered a wealth of information through the Archives Office in Hobart and a long lost relative, Judy Dixon. We both share the same great grand-parents. I've since discovered 'distant' relatives in various parts of Australia and England.

The culture of Tasmania today began with the early settlers and the convicts, who were forced to live out their lives away from their homeland. Life was tough in those early colonial days - it was all manual labour. They built homes and businesses, then brought up their families in the best way they knew how. No doubt they made some mistakes in their lives, but haven't we all. We are all human.

So I'm very proud of all my ancestors, who arrived in Van Diemans Land many years ago. They played an integral part in the building and development of our wonderful country, Australia. 

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Surname List



This is a list of family names I've found while researching my family tree.



Almond, Allen, Allison, Bagnall, Bagnell, Bartlett, Barton, Benson, Binet, Blunt, Brennan, Bromfield, Browne, Burgess, Burnell, Cakebread, Campbell, Castle, Cato, Clare, Cleary, Coad, Cohen, Cox, Cunningham, Curly, Curtis,
Dawson, Delaforce, Dempsey, Dick, Dierdich, Dixon, Donovan, Dunn, Emmelhans, Fittler, Fleming, Flynn, Fox, Fragiadakis, Frame,
Gardoll, Glover, Goldsmith, Goldston, Goodwin, Gorrie, Grant, Green, Habgood, Hall, Hamilton, Harper, Harradine, Harris, Helmstaedter, Herber, Honeysett, Howard, Howey, Hunt,
James, Johnson, Kelly, Kent, King, Leary, Ling, Love, Masters, McCahill, McDonald, McGuigan, Millar, Mills, Moore, Munn, Needle,
O'Driscoll, O'Mara, O'Neil, Paine, Payne, Peoples, Perri, Perslor, Peterson, Pettet, Player, Plenty, Rechichi, Reed, Roberts, Rodgers, Ross,
Sanderson, Sheumack, Small, Smith, Stearn, Thompson, Tucker, Tutt, Wakefield, Webb, Well, Wheatley, White, Williamson, Wilson, Wolfe, Wray, Wright.
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Sample family crest; Size=135 pixels wide

A drawing of another Burnell Coat of Arms


  The direct descendants of this line of Burnells migrated to South Australia
and can be referenced in 'The Burnell Family' by Fanny Lincoln.
(Limited Edition.)
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