Ya know the old saying: “There is a legend, a story, or even a whisper of scandal in each family that has been passed down through many generations without anyone questioning its authenticity.” Yea, you got one too, eh?
We have so many in ours – however I am going with one that I like to remind myself with, how important it is to check and re-check the authenticity of the story.
You see, my grandmother Onita Woods was proud in re-telling the story, that her mother told shared with her as a young woman, about where their ancestors came from and why they’re in Australia.
Apparently, my ancestor was a ship captain from France. He has a large ship that he travelled around. One day, he decided to check out South of Europe. There, he met and married an important woman from Spain. From there, they decided a new home to be found in Australia where they could start their own family dynasty.
A lovely tribute to my ancestors, eh?
Let’s start disassemble that story…
Who are those ancestors?
John Pallier & Eleanor Willocks
John Pallier was baptised with the name “John Joseph Pallier”, said to be born on 1st July 1799 in St James, Westminster (London). His parents were John (Jean) Joseph Pallier (1770s, France -?) and Margaret Watson (1770s, England -?). John Jnr’s baptism record shown that he was baptised at St Mary le Bone, in Middlesex on 11th November 1813, at the prime age of 13 years. On the record, it revealed that his father was already dead, and that they were living in the county of St Marylebone (Middlesex – London). Why was he baptised so late, with his father dead?
On 27th March 1821, John Jnr married Eleanor Willocks (aka Wallacks / Willox / Wallocks) at St Anne, Soho (Westminster, London). Both were of the parish, and were married under Banns. However, the record I have was transcribed, so no original signatures shown.
Eleanor Willocks was born around 1796 in Gibraltar, a daughter of Robert Willocks (Wallox / Willow / Wallocks) and Ann Grifin Collins (Teeffe). While Eleanor’s birth or baptism records are still not found, her siblings were born at various places including Gibraltar, Devon, Kent, and Bedfordshire. Robert Willocks, a native of Fort Augustus, Inverness (Scotland) – born in 1764. He was in the military records, along with his father, and his sons. This could explain the Spanish woman angle.
So where does the ship captaincy comes in?
To this date, I have absolutely no idea why this was promoted. His occupations were listed as mechanic and window glazier, gleaned from his children’s baptism records in England, by 1829. In another record, he was a house painter.
And what about moving to Australia?
Now, this is the most interesting part.
The earliest Australian record found for a John Pallier was in 1852, with his name on the NSW Electoral Records. He was living on his own property in Narellan. Other clues revealed he was a postmaster and shopkeeper in Picton, Narellan, and Camden over the years before his death on 16th June 1870 in Narellan, NSW Australia. A long way from his original home in London, England, eh?
No records of his arrival. Nothing between 1829 and 1852.
So where did he hid for 23 years?
There was a petition to the Governor of Sydney Colony in 1834, asking for the family of 5 to be reunited to a convict named James Johnston. His alias was listed as John Joseph Pallier!
Ah – so John Pallier was a convict, however he used an alias to hide this fact.
James Johnston was arrested on 6th April 1829 for “burglarously breaking and entering,… with intent to steal the goods” in Newington, Surrey. Then 22 days later, he was marked “…to be severely hanged by the neck until they be dead”, along with his co-accused (James Bird and Henry Brown). However, they were reprieved with transportation for life sentences.
Transported straight to New South Wales on ‘Marquis of Huntly’ on 11 February 1830, and after arriving in the Sydney Colony, James/John was assigned to Mr. Thomas V. Broomfield of Maitland NSW. Over the years, he tried to have his family transferred to be with him on the pleasure of the Crown. However, it took almost 10 years before he see his family once again.
When the family were reunited, it expanded by the marriages and children and grandchildren, along with various land purchases, life choices, and opportunities. John, who have left his alias behind when he received his Second Class Pardon in 1845, died aged 72 years and was remembered as “…an old and much respected colonist”.
The family dynasty has continued to this day with numerous descendants from his 4 children, however there is nary a memento of him or his wife Eleanor, except for their headstones which still stand at Cobbitty’s St Paul’s church grounds.
Headstone of John Joseph Pallier – “Sacred to the memory of JOHN JOSEPH PALLIER, who died on the 16 of June 1870, aged 72 years.” (from my collection)
Re-defining the legend
So, to re-tell that story, it would be more accurate to put it this way:
John Pallier, of French ancestry, had a family of 4 children with his wife, Eleanor Willocks (who was born in Gibraltar) in London, when he was convicted and sent to Australia as a convict with life sentence in 1830. He managed to get his family moved to Australia to join him almost a decade later. There, his family expanded and lived all over NSW. His mother was also brought over to live the rest of her life in Camden.
Readers, what about yours?
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