The Three Lives of John Christmas UNDERWOOD/Christopher Christmas BERRY, born Norfolk, England 1796. Part One.

In my adolescent years it was family lore that our BERRY family was related to that of Alexander BERRY born 1781 in Scotland and his brother David, who were among the more prominent of the first families who settled in New South Wales, Australia. A great claim to make when one learns that Alexander BERRY a pioneering Australian merchant and property owner was arguably Australia’s first millionaire.
Reference to the Last Will and Testament of my Great Grandfather, Charles BERRY illustrates the family’s conviction in this claim with the bequest of  “… all my estate and interest as heir to the Berry Estate property left by my uncles Alexander Berry and David Berry in New South Wales Australia to my children ….”.  1 Kindly provided by my cousin Scott Chalmers

The fact is that none of that generation of that BERRY family with its origins in Cupar, Fife, Scotland had children. This together with my discovery of the Baptism of Christopher Christmas BERRY, 14 January 1803, at St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England is clear evidence that after many years of speculation and high hope there is nothing to be gained from claiming kinship with Alexander’s Berry family.

My further research has however revealed many mysteries and anomalies surrounding our ancestor Christopher Christmas BERRY and his families.

Why the plural “families” you might ask? From the following and my Family Tree published at genealogy.bobvine.nz  you will find that our man CCB fathered families in England to his wife Elisabeth, nee NEWDICK, and in New Zealand to Elisa FERGUSON, nee FELSTED with whom he had arrived in New Zealand in 1840 from Port Phillip, Australia with her three daughters, Rebecca, who later used BERRY as her Maiden name, Mary Ann and Sarah.

You will also discover that our man was baptised thrice with different names. Further, he resided in three countries. Hence the title I have given the writing up of my research – “The Three Lives of ….”

I have broken down the life story of Christopher Christmas BERRY, as my maternal family knew him, into three parts:

Part 1: ENGLAND 1796 – c 1837

I can understand that many readers of this story will be interested to see that I have commenced this first episode of the story with the year 1796; particularly bearing in mind that eminent family researcher, the late Anne Bromell, used information about the BERRY family, starting with Christopher Christmas BERRY, to illustrate the recording of a Family Tree, in a number of her publications, and there records CCB’s birth as “c 1800”.

Enquiry of family member John Miller, who conducted research in England on Anne’s behalf, revealed that the best information that could be obtained was that the birthplace may have been Norfolk. My research has confirmed Norfolk as the County of his birth, and that in all probability Norwich was his birth town. The details are shown at  http://genealogy.bobvine.nz/getperson.php?personID=I00102&tree=Vine1

There are 3 Baptism records of interest:

  1. John Christmas UNDERWOOD, b 25 December 1796, at Norwich, son of William UNDERWOOD and Mary his Wife, Late Mary GOODDY, Privately Baptised 08 Jan 1797, All Saints, Norwich. FreeREG transcriptions show a birth date of 15 December 1796 but a close examination of the Parish Register shows that the date could also be read as 25 December,
  2. John BERRY, Baptised 27 Dec 1802, St Nicholas, Kings Lynn, son of Christopher and Elisabeth, and
  3. Christopher Christmas BERRY, Baptised 14 January 1803, St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England, son of Christopher and Elisabeth (Baptisms, Parish Register, page 70) with an annotation “Born Dec 25”.

Further research to find family and events uncovered a morass of great proportions surrounding surnames and birth dates leaving us still with confusion as to who Christopher Christmas BERRY really was, and his origins. Research has revealed that at various times he used the surnames BERRY, UNDERWOOD and SALMON, and then there are still questions surrounding his birth.

Baptism No 3 could confirm a birth date of 25 December 1802, but this is thrown into doubt when one considers the baptism of a sibling, John, on 27 December 1802. It could be reasonably argued, that CCB under normal circumstances would have been baptised also on 27 December 1802, alongside his brother John, unless of course the baptisms of 27 December 1802 and 14 January 1803 were for the same child, a fact which has become more and more obvious, especially as I have not been able to find Parish Records featuring a  John Berry beyond that of the Baptism on 27 December 1802.

It would appear that the suspect 1800 birth date was calculated from his age of 51 given in CCB’s Death Certificate in 1851.

Baptism records for family of Christopher BERRY and Elisabeth Moss SALMON include:

  1. Elisabeth Salmon Berry, Baptised 21 June 1800, St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, Died 3 March 1802,
  2. John, Baptised St Nicholas, Kings Lynn, 27 December 1802,
  3. Christopher-Christmas, born 25 December, Baptised St Nicholas Kings Lynn, 14 January 1803.
  4. Judith, Baptised 15 October 1804, St Margaret’s, Kings Lynn, Died 1841 Loddon, Norfolk.
  5. James BERRY, Baptised, Buried, St Margaret, Kings Lynn 1 September 1813
    6. John Salmon Berry, Baptised St Margaret, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, 25 February 1817, Resident 1871 Hilderthorpe, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom 

Later records, in particular those in respect of the marriage of Christopher Christmas:

UNDERWOOD to Elisabeth NEWDICK, 6 June 1822, St Nicholas, Kings Lynn (See http://genealogy.bobvine.nz/showmedia.php?mediaID=111&medialinkID=145 ), and Parish Register entries for their children conclusively identify John (Christopher) Christmas UNDERWOOD and Christopher Christmas BERRY as being the same person.

The Banns notice for the Marriage records Christopher Christmas UNDERWOOD as having an alias “Salmon”, which was his mother’s maiden name; further proof of his heritage.

  1. Note: the deaths of Edmund, William, Edward and Sarah occured during the time of a Cholera epidemic in Kings Lynn.

The marriage of CCB and the birth records above have taken me back in time in trying to reconcile facts surrounding his birth. My starting point was to find connections between UNDERWOOD and BERRY families.

I found:

  1. Baptism, 01 Jan 1795, Lynn, Norfolk, England, St Nicholas Chapel, Mary Underwood BERRY, daughter of Christopher and Margaret BERRY (The underlining is mine)
  2. Baptism, 01 Jan 1795, Lynn, Norfolk, England, St Nicholas Chapel, Elisabeth daughter of Christopher and Margaret BERRY (Note the similar baptism dates, venues and parents for Mary and Elisabeth – they could have been twins?).
  3. Baptism, Maria Underwood BERRY, 29 Jan 1799, daughter of Christopher and Margaret BERRY (the same person as in 1. above?)
  4. Baptism, 08 Jan 1797, Norwich, All Saints, John Christmas son of William UNDERWOOD and Mary his Wife. Late Mary GOODY Spinster, born December the 15 (25) 1796 privately baptised January the 8: 1797
  5. Baptism: Aug 1801, Norwich, St John the Baptist Timberhill, Mary Ann daughter of William UNDERWOOD and Mary Ann DITCHFIELD
  6. Burial: 04 May 1799, St Margaret, Kings Lynn, John UNDERWOOD
  7. Marriage: 23 Jan 1800, St Margaret, Kings Lynn, Christopher BERRY, Batchelor and Elisabeth SALMON, Spinster in the presence of Samuel SALMON and Elisabeth PONDE.

The only firm conclusion to be derived from the above is that there were indeed connections between UNDERWOOD and BERRY families, particularly the revelation that John/Christopher Christmas UNDERWOOD and BERRY are the same, with the strong possibility that he was fostered/adopted from the UNDERWOOD into the related BERRY family.

The above concludes that our Berry family blood line proper commences with Christopher Christmas Berry/John Christmas Underwood born 1796. Prior to that our Genetic Genealogy lies with his Underwood ancestors.

The next matter for research is the migration of Christopher Christmas BERRY to Australia, circa 1837, following which we find him in Port Phillip (now Melbourne), Victoria, but at that time in the State of New South Wales, Australia.

The Seamans Register 1836 (to be found in the National Archives, Kew) places CCB with the Orissa Shipping Company, Clyde, Scotland. The Ship Orissa which left London 19 December 1835 for Hobart via Sydney arrived in Sydney on 20 January 1836 and returned to Sydney from Hobart in July 1837.  It could be safely assumed that CCB left the Orissa on one of its visits to Sydney.

Another area for research is the life of remaining members of Christopher’s family in England consequent to his departure for the Southern Hemisphere. Answers to this question of course have a bearing on the formalities of his relationship with Harriet Elisa FERGUSON nee FELSTED.

Christopher fathered 7 children in the UK:

1. Christopher Newdick Berry,   b. 8 Dec 1821, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England. Migrated to Charlestown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA c1860. Baker by Trade.
2. James-Newdick Berry,   b. 13 Aug 1823, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England; 
3. Edmund-Newdick Berry,   b. 11 May 1825, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England (Age ~ 1 year)
+ 4. Elisabeth Newdick Berry,   b. 02 Feb 1827, S Clough Lane, Lynn, Norfolk, England (Age ~ 60 years)
5. William-Newdick Berry,   b. 05 Aug 1833, S Clough Lane, Lynn, Norfolk, England (Age ~ 0 years)
6. Edward-Newdick Berry,   b. 1830,   bur. 14 Apr 1832, St Margaret, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England (Age ~ 2 years)
7. Sarah Berry,   b. 1829, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England bur. 18 Apr 1832, St Margaret, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England (Age ~ 3 years)

Note: The deaths of Edmund, William, Edward and Sarah ocurred during the time of a Cholera epidemic in Kings Lynn.

Records I have been able to reach show that in 1837 two of his children, James-Newdick and  Elizabeth-Newdick would still have been alive, together with Wife, Elis(z)abeth nee NEWDICK – the latter along with the Ferguson “separation” not allowing a lawful marriage. It is interesting though that some of the family have claimed that they were married; the reason for this being that Society in those days was much more intolerant of children born out-of-wedlock.

Read more:

Part 2:  “The Three Lives of Christopher Christmas UNDERWOOD/BERRY – Port Phillip, Australia – c1837 – 1840, and

 Part 3: “The Three Lives of Christopher Christmas UNDERWOOD/BERRY – New Zealand – 1840 – 1851

Bob Vine, Lower Hutt, New Zealand (2x Great Grandson of Christopher Christmas Berry)

Updated January 2021

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