The Ship's Carpenter who Fell in Love

As long as I can remember I knew that I would research my family genealogy. It was never mentioned by my parents or their families. I just knew it would be so. Like most children I met many of my relatives of both my father's and mother's families but took little interest in them. There seemed to be so many! These people were always referred to as grandma, grandpa, aunty or uncle.

I began investigating the family birth, death and marriage certificates about 15 years ago and caught the bug. I started with my father George Carlyle Dodd, born in 1911 in St. Kilda, Victoria and his father, John Henry Dodd, born in Emerald Hill ( now South Melbourne ), Victoria in 1879. At this point my parents knowledge ended and I had to begin real research.

I found that my great-grandfather, John Harry "Andrew" Dodd was born in Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land in 1848. His father was recorded as being Robert Dodd, a shipwright, and his wife Elizabeth Saunders. They had been married in St. James Church of England, Melbourne on 9 May 1842. They produced a total of 9 children. Robert, his wife and three children, Mary Elizabeth Dodd (b.1842), Sarah Dodd (b.1844) and Jane Dodd (b.1845), travelled to Hobart Town, V.D.L. in the schooner "Flying Fish", arriving on 17 July 1848. John Harry Dodd and Catherine "Kate" Dodd, who died in 1852 aged one, were born there.

While at Hobart Town during 1851, Robert Dodd was part of the team carrying out repairs to a famous French Pacific exploration ship "L'Alcmene". She was wrecked soon after on her return voyage to New Caledonia near Dargaville on the north-west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. He was rewarded for his fine work with an inscribed silver plate that is in the possession of one of his descendants today.

The family later returned Melbourne and the four other children, Robert William Dodd (b.1854), Henry Thomas Dodd, (b.1856), Elizabeth Letitia Dodd (b.1861) and Harriet Alice Dodd (b.1863) were all born in Emerald Hill or on the nearby Yarra Bank.

The immigration records for Elizabeth Saunders list her as an arrival at Port Phillip from Bristol, England on the ship "Ward Chipman" on 6 December 1841, and that she was aged 20 years, could read, and came from Wales. However, her calling as a house-keeper was not an eligible occupation for a bounty. In fact she came from Wells in Somerset, England but her strong West Country accent was probably misunderstood.

Robert's certificate of his death in Melbourne on 4 December 1869 indicated that he was a shipwright, was born in the English county of Cumberland, that he had resided in Victoria for 30 years, and that he was aged 49 years at death, so his birth year was about 1820. The International Genealogical Index microfiche that I consulted in 1993 had one matching entry for a Robert Dodd born in Workington, Cumberland in 1820, and he was baptised in St. Michael's Church on 26 March 1820. I visited the family records centre in Carlisle Castle, Cumbria in 1995 and found the original Bishop's Transcripts for the St. Michael's Church parish registers.

Since 1993 I have investigated every lead I could to discover how Robert arrived in Port Phillip. Last year I calculated that as they were married in early May 1842 and Elizabeth arrived in December 1841 and her first child was born on 4 November 1842 she must have become pregnant in early March. Because she had only been in the colony for a short period she must have become pregnant to one of the very few men she would have known.

I searched the crew lists for all the ships registered in Liverpool, Lancashire in 1841 at the Public Record Office in London, and after 2 days found that of the "Ward Chipman". You can imagine my surprise and excitement when there it was in Captain Lewis Belton's handwriting, the elusive Robert Dodd had signed on in Bristol as a carpenter at the start of the voyage on 21 August 1841 and he had deserted in Port Phillip on 14 January 1842.

So the problem was finally solved. He had fallen in love with one of the passengers, Elizabeth Saunders, and had decided to stay with her here.

Contributed by John Dodd ( PPPG Member No. 1224 )

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