Three Lives of John Christmas UNDERWOOD/Christopher Christmas BERRY Part 2: Australia c1837 – 1840

Arrival in Australia:

In July 2011 I wrote “One is left with the impression that Christopher’s migration to Australia was prompted by the loss of his family in the United Kingdom. Whilst not conclusively determined, it would seem that his wife Elisabeth, nee NEWDICK, and children had passed by the mid 1830s. Substance could be given to this belief by virtue of, as far as I can see, no entries for members of this family in the first UK Census taken in 1841”.

Subsequently after further research, and as now included in the re-edit of my Part 1 Paper, I have found two with names Elisabeth Berry in the 1841 Scotland Census, resident at Cramond, which is not too distant from Grangemouth referred to below in the “Register of Seamen”

As covered in the Part One conclusion, the next obvious step in my research derives from the entry in the “Register of Seaman 1835-6” held at the Public Record Office in England: “No. 3854. Name: Christopher Berry. Age 30. Place of Birth: Yarmouth. Ship belonging to: Orissa of Grangemouth. Quality: Mariner.”

In this record Yarmouth is given as the place of birth, suggesting that this might not be our man. However given the uncertainty around a number of his birth details this possibility should not be set aside. Also, Yarmouth could be valid as it cited as his home port.

The Orissa sailed from East London and arrived at Sydney on 16 July 1837, which fits into the time frame for CCB’s arrival in Australia. At first I thought that the answer to the question of Christopher’s passage to Australia could very well lie in the Crew Records of “Orissa of Grangemouth”. However my research, including visits in 2013 to the National Archives in London and Edinburgh did not uncover anything about a passage to Australia.

Close searches of Australian Assisted and Non Assisted Immigrants records, together with those for Convicts, show no Christopher BERRY.

Christopher’s association with Harriet FELSTED and her husband William FERGUSON could also provide a clue, certainly worth research. I suggest this because of the baptism, Parish of St Philip, Sydney, in the County of Cumberland, of William and Harriet’s daughter, Mary Ann. She was born 9 June 1837 with the parent’s abode in the Baptism record given as Sydney. We know that William, a shipwright, was engaged in Port Phillip on repairs to the Revenue Cutter, Ranger, for the Colonial Secretary. Christopher also, but it seems on a more casual basis, was engaged on similar duties interspersed with sailing between Port Phillip and Launceston and Hobart as the Master of Cutters Victoria and Rectus. At the very least there might be some substance in Sydney being port of entry for both and their having met there prior to a move to Port Phillip. The Orissa having arrived in Sydney in July 1837 coincides, but if this was Christopher’s transport to Australia his absence from the Crew and Passenger Lists could suggest he was a deserter with the complications that provides in confirming such through a lack of records.

Port Phillip, Colony of New South Wales, Australia (now State of Victoria)

Here I have listed in chronological order some references and events to trace CCB’s movements and life during his time in Port Phillip.

  1. 12 September 1838: Historical Records of Victoria: Vol 3, Ch. 30: General Census of Port Phillip
  2. 5 January 1839: Historical Records of Victoria: Vol. 7 Ch 8: Customs Revenue and Expenditure 1837 – 1839. Port of Port Phillip, New South Wales Account Current of Receipts and Payments for the Quarter Ended 5 January 1839. Particulars of Payments … 1839 Jan. 5 To C. Berry, repairs to Customs boat 2 11 0 and To C. Berry, repairs to R. C. Ranger boats 12 0 0
  3. 11 January 1839: “Return Showing Engagements of Families per the Hope[1]” shows the engagement by “Christopher Bury” of Melbourne of “McPherson, William, Farm Labourer” with wages of 6 Shillings a day.
  4. May 1839 –January 1840: Shipping Arrivals & Departures, Victorian Ports, Vol 1 1798-1845 Marten A Syme: “Berry, Charles see also Bury Victoria (M) 8/5/39), (M) 28/5/39, Rectus (M) 1/40, (WP) 1/40
  5. 8 May 1839: Port Phillip Gazette, Shipping Intelligence: “Cleared at the Customs…. The cutter Victoria, Berry, for Launceston, in ballast.”
  6. 17 May 1839: Shipping Arrivals & Departures Tas Vol 2 1834-1842 Ian Hawkins Nicholson: “BERRY/BURY, C? Victoria (M) 17.5.1839
  7. 24 May 1839: Port Phillip Gazette, Shipping Intelligence: …from Launceston, the cutter Victoria, Bury, with general cargo”. Note: Port Phillip Gazette, 12 September 1839 advertises “The Cutter Victoria” For Sale.
  8. 17 July 1839: C Berry and H Ferguson witnesses to marriage of Francis Bennett and Mary Heard.
    Note: On the same day Harriet saw the marriage of Henry Joseph Grimaldi (alias used by a convict Henry Robinson ”per ship Hero 1834”) to Elisabeth Heard. Grimaldi formerly a Scourger later had his Ticket of Leave withdrawn for having deceived the Reverend Mr Grylls by taking an oath before him that he was free.
  9. 11 September 1839: Port Phillip Gazette lists an unclaimed letter “now in the Post Office, Melbourne” for “Berry Christopher”.
  10. 22 October 1839: R. Delaney and C. Berry by letter to C. J. La Trobe, Superintendent, Port Phillip offer their services to find boats and vessels for the service and act as pilots.
  11. 25 January 1840: Port Phillip Gazette, Shipping Intelligence, Cleared at the Customs: “On Wednesday last, for the Western Port, the cutter Rectus, Berry, in ballast.”
  12. 16 March 1840: ” “BERRY, Christopher Rectus (M & O 16.3.40.”
  13. 16 March 1840: Shipping Arrivals & Departures Tas Vol 2 1834-1842 Ian Hawkins Nicholson: “Rectus, new cutter of Melbourne, 10t,3 men L, 16.3.1840”
  14. 21 March 1840: The Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen’s Land Gazette (Tas. : 1839-1840) Friday 27 March 1840, page 3, Shipping Intelligence. PORT OF LAUNCESTON. ARRIVALS. None. DEPARTURES. March 20—the bark Lord Goderich, 460 tons, Kay, for Port Phillip, Henty & Co., agents —forty-four passengers. 21—the cutter Rectus, Berry, for sealing ground, G. Fisher, agent, with sundries.

The latest entry suggests that Christopher Christmas Berry’s arrival in New Zealand was dated after 21 March 1840. In fact “for sealing ground” could very well have been New Zealand.

Anne Bromell in her book Tracing Family History in New Zealandstates that “Christopher, Harriet and the three daughters of Harriet’s first marriage arrived in the Bay of Islands in 1839 on the ship the Rectus. The eight metre long, one-masted cutter was registered in Melbourne, Australia, in February 1839 as being owned and skippered by Christopher Christmas BERRY”. 

My research about departure and passage to New Zealand has not revealed any positive information about Christopher and Harriet. The only data of substance is an entry “Lander, Mrs. J., nee Rebecca Ann Berry, 1829- 1906 arriving on Rectus at Kororareka 1839” in the Centennial Memorial Publication “Roll of Early Settlers and Descendants in the Auckland Province Prior to the end of 1852”. The entry for Christopher in this publication shows only First Known Place of Residence “Auckland 1843” and a life period of “1809-1850”.  Rebecca’s arrival date 1839 however does not correlate to the Rectus having sailed “for sealing ground” from Launceston 21 March 1840, unless it made two journeys to New Zealand. Further research is required.

Bob Vine
Updated 20 October 2012

John Miller, another descendant of Christopher Christmas Berry, has drawn my attention to an advertisement in The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria), 2 February 1880:

GILBERT or WIFE, or GRIMALDI or WIFE, nee Cook or Hearn (or any of their children), who were servants to the late Mr Christopher Christmas Berry, master mariner, in 1839, at Western Port, Port  Phillip, or any person or persons who may remember Mr Berry time referred to, are kindly requested to communicate at once, Wright’s Inquiry Office 44 Little Collins street west, Melbourne. Reward for positive information required

Reference to 8. above shows a BERRY/GRIMALDI connection. Christopher and Harriet were of course long gone in 1880 and it is interesting that the term “late” is used. The advertiser could have been aware of his death in 1851.

Possibilities are that the search was at the initiative of one of the Ferguson girls, Sarah, who could have been back in Melbourne in 1880, or Emma BERRY, who married John Grant CUTHBERT on 18 October 1871 in Melbourne and was there until at least 1876 for the birth of her second child, Edward McMurray CUTHBERT.

A starting point for research of this item would be a publication, [2]Wright & Co.’s inquiry & missing friends office, 44 Little Collins Street West, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, held by the National Library of Australia.

Updated March 2017

[1] The Hope, a barque, was the first vessel to bring government immigrants to Port Phillip. It arrived from Sydney on 3 January 1839 with 103 men, women and children.

[2] Wright & Co.’s inquiry & missing friends office, 44 Little Collins Street West, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Wright & Co.(Melbourne, Vic.); Detectives – Victoria.
Work ID 18589892
National Library of Australia. [Open to the public]


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