“Starbuck” – What’s in a name?

My wife, Judith Ann TAYLOR has in her Family Tree Rainham, Laura (Ellen) Starbuck a 2 x great aunt.

Recently we received a request from the family of Mark STARBUCK whose daughter Laura Ellen STARBUCK had been born in the Otago Goldfields after her parents had migrated from Australia. as to the possibility of a family connection.

Both families had migrated from Australia to Central Otago but my research did not come up with any apparent family connection between the two, both in NSW and Victoria, Australia, and then later in Otago, New Zealand.

The enquirer’s family had settled in Melbourne, Victoria where the principal Mark Starbuck, who later migrated to Central Otago, had commercial connections and business. Another Starbuck family, apparently unrelated, was farming in the Hamilton, Victoria district in the mid-1800s.

On our side, our family (RAINHAM) had also migrated from Australia. They had been Miners in the Clarkes Creek, Mudgee, NSW area and had arrived in New Zealand in c1866.

This left me with a real conundrum.

However, on looking up the meaning of “Starbuck”, I found in Wikipedia “The name Starbuck is primarily a gender-neutral name of English origin that means “From The River Where Stakes Were Got”. This of course, in the RAINHAM case has relevance with their gold mining endeavours. Mission accomplished and delighted that I had discovered a new research possibility.

Finally, as to how “Ellen” came to be added along the way, we find that it is a nickname derived from the name “Elizabeth” who was Laura’s mother Elizabeth Jane Whitfield.

Bob Vine
13 December 2021

Well, how is this? An email from Jane Fraser of a local history group in the Village of Hickling, Melton Mowbray, Norfolk, England has provided more definitive information regarding the naming of Laura (Ellen) Starbuck RAINHAM which has skittled (with thanks) my theory as to the origin of “Starbuck” with receipt of the following:

“Dear Bob,
As often happens with these searches, new information gradually appears and we thought you might be interested in this update to our search for a link between Laura Ellen Starbuck Rainham Kitto and our Laura Ellen Starbuck (daughter of Mark and Ellen Starbuck).

Rachael managed to find a catalogue reference to an incident in Serpentine which confirms the link between the two families; sadly, it is the tragic story of the accidental drowning of a young girl – Elizabeth (Lizzie) Rainham. We managed to track down the full records for the Inquest which are attached.

The inquest shows the Starbuck and the Rainham families living in the same Serpentine community at the time of Lizzie Rainham’s death. Her mother is heavily pregnant at the time and it would appear that she named her daughter, when she was born, after Laura Ellen Starbuck who helped her at the time of Lizzie’s death.

These inquest records are incredibly moving and, we feel, answer the questions we had over the coincidence of names.

I hope you find this little piece of history as moving as we have done.”

The timeline for the events around the tragic death of Elizabeth Rainham is as follows:

  • C1849 Laura Ellen STARBUCK born Melbourne, Australia
  • Thursday 1 November 1866 Elizabeth STARBUCK wife of Mark Starbuck, Storekeeper “tries various methods to restore Lizzie to life but without success”.
  • 23 November 1866 Laura (Ellen) Starbuck RAINHAM born Serpentine, Central Otago, New Zealand – named to acknowledge Elizabeth Starbuck’s actions around the drowning of Lizzie Rainham.

Documents relating to the Inquest may be found here. https://bobvine.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Inquest-Serpentine-1866-scanned-copy-of-Starbuck-Kitto-link-R24261666.pdf The originals are held in the Archives of New Zealand; catalogue ref. ACGS 16211 60/by 1866/2638 – https://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ViewFullItem.do?code=24261666

Please refer here to find details of the Rainham family involved in this very tragic event. http://genealogy.bobvine.nz/getperson.php?personID=I00324&tree=Vine1

Again many thanks to Jane Fraser for her assistance in bringing me to this very positive conclusion and also to Rachael Cossens who assisted Jane with the “hard work and breakthroughs”.

Bob Vine 15 December 2021