Genealife in Lockdown Week 3 – The GIBBS Family

Trinity Church Adelaide where Thomas married his second wife Mary IRWIN in 1855

Throughout 2021 I have been reviewing the history of the GIBBS family in South Australia. During the lockdown of 2020 I joined the Pioneers Association of South Australia. Thomas GIBBS and his first wife Elizabeth HUGHES arrived in South Australia in 1840 on board the Charles Kerr, with them came 2 daughters Elizabeth and Thirza, a son Charles was born onboard the ship. Through Thomas and his second wife Mary Irwin I meet the eligibility requirement for membership of the association. The association are currently researching the ships that arrived in the colony of South Australia in the first 10 years of white settlement. As a part of the same ships project I have been looking into the GIBBS family.

Church Yard of St Mary’s Vernham Dean

Thomas GIBBS came from Vernham Dean in Hampshire and was listed as a woodsman and laborer on his application for assisted passage. There is little in the records to tell us what Thomas and his family did in their early years in the colony. Thomas and Elizabeth had 3 further living children after they arrived in South Australia. Newspaper articles from 1850 inform us that Thomas was a sheep farmer living at Mount Torrens, his daughter Thirza is also listed in the article as she had been minding the sheep. This confirms that we have the correct Thomas GIBBS. In 1851 we read that Thomas had deserted his wife and family. Elizabeth died and two of the children were dangerously ill with typhus fever, it is not clear if they died or not. No burial r4ecords have been found for Elizabeth or the children. Three of the children were removed to the neighbours house where they were cared for. One can only assume that Thgomas returned and took responsibility for the children as they were later in his care and he is named in birth, death and marriage notices in the paper.

Newspaper article that discusses the death of Thomas’s first wife.

In 1855 Thomas married his second wife Mary IRWIN an Irish immigrant. A family story states that Thomas originally wanted to employ Mary to look after his children. She refused to marry him when she realized that some of his children were older than her. Thomas and Mary had ten children, although Mary’s obituary states there were 12 children in the family. Family folklore states that he had 21 children in total. These have never been found. The records show that 10 children were born to Mary and Thomas and there were a further 6 from Thomas’ first marriage. The family was haphazard when registering the birth of children, this may mean that still births were not recorded. By the time of his marriage the GIBBS family had moved to the South East and were living in the Robe and Kingston area. The children were all born near Robe or Kingston.

Kingston in 1890

Thomas was seen by many in the family as a hard man. A newspaper article from 1869 would suggest this is true. Thomas and two of his young sons William and John aged 9 and 10, were charged with killing and stealing sheep from Wangolina Station. Thomas stated that the boys had gone to Cape Jaffa Lighthouse and he had gone to meet them and that he had nothing to do with killing the sheep. From his statement and the evidence Thomas was discharged from the matter. William and John were committed for trial. By today’s standards this seems a harsh thing for a parent to do. Maybe in a different age we would view Thomas’ response in a different light.

Mary’s obituary provides an insight into the number of descendants in the GIBBS family, in total there were 70 grand children. Throughout the lockdown and restrictions of 2021 I been endeavoring to complete the family data sheets for all the children of Thomas and Mary and Thomas and Elizabeth. At times it is like putting together a great big puzzle which is all minor shades of the one colour. The children named their children with the same names and hardly any middle names to be seen, hours are spent trying to determine which Alexander GIBBS belongs to which sibling. This is still a work in progress.

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