Family lore tells us that Mary GIBBS was an Irish women and this is substantiated in her obituary[iii] and on her death certificate. Her death certificate tells us that she died at the age of 92and that she was from Ireland and had been a resident in the Commonwealth for 74 years[iv]. Her obituary states that she arrived in the colony on the Trovolga in 1852. No such ship sailed under this name. A ship named the Trafalgar did sail the immigrant run and it is likely that this was the ship she sailed on. No records exist of the Trafalgar sailing into Adelaide in 1852[v]. On the Trafalgar shipping list for 1854 has two likely candidates for Mary, A Mary Irwin from Waterford Ireland aged 17 and a Mary Irwin from Tyrone who was listed as being aged 21. The embarkation list only has one Mary Irwin on board aged 21 and a protestant. Family stories would suggest that Mary lied about her age but was a protestant and came from Northern Ireland. The shipping lists does not provide any conclusive evidence of who she is.
What is remarkable about this woman who had 12 children at the time of her death 6 were still living. The death certificate states that she had 8 males and 4 females. Through record searches 10, children have been identified. The children’s birth certificates tell us that registrations of births occurred on an ad hoc basis. Often a group of children were registered at the same time.
Mary was the second wife of Thomas GIBBS who had emigrated to the colony of South Australia in 1840. She married him at Holy Trinity Church on 12 March 1855[vi], nine months after arriving in the colony. Family lore states that she made him marry her after her hired her as a maid/ carer for his family. At the time of her marriage she was 19 and he was a widower of 41. She was one of many young Irish girls who migrated to South Australia around this time who were deemed to not have the skills necessary for domestic service.
Shortly after her marriage the family moved from the Mount Barker area to the South East of South Australia. Thomas worked as a shepherd, clearing land, and according the family history running sly grog shop. The family stories always depict Thomas as being a hard man. An article in the Border Watch of Thomas’s younger sons William and James aged 9 and 10 sheep stealing and Thomas allowing all the blame to be placed on them although he was in vicinity at the time[vii].
Mary GIBBS came to Australia from Ireland and when she died in 1927 her children and grandchildren and spread far and wide across Australia. DNA testing as provided a range of links with people connected through the GIBBS family in Australia. Maybe the autosomal DNA testing will help us determine the correct Mary.
[iv] Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Office, Adelaide. Death Certificate Mary GIBBS, District of Robe 209. Certified Copy dated 8th January 2015
[v] State Records of SA. Passenger Lists. https://www.archives.sa.gov.au/passenger-lists-view, accessed 20/01/2017
[vi] Holy Trinity Church Records. Marriage Record 2640, p. 209 microfiche.