Haynes Richardson Rogers Erskine Farrell Harris

Could the real William Harris please step forward!

William Harris, the son of William Harris and his wife Margaret, is my 2nd Great Grandfather on my mother’s side.

However, while I know this fact to be true, William has proven to be a complete enigma as any further revelations regarding his life on the Island continue to be an ongoing source of frustration to research.

Brick wall: Unknown fact, William’s true identity

William was born c1858 to William and Margaret Harris. This assumption is based on his second marriage record to Rosetta Isobel Richardson [nee Haynes], where he states his age, 52, his parent’s names, William Harris and Margaret Erskin, and his place of birth as Port Esperance.

This and his death certificate are the only known documents that I can reliably use to calculate his birth year back to 1858 and provide evidence that he was almost certainly born in Tasmania. But even though I have that information, I still cannot prove his documented date of birth, birth location, or his mother Margaret’s maiden name.

After extensive research by myself and Archives Tasmania, using the information provided on his marriage and death certificates, no records for the birth of a William Harris can be found.

Findings: Port Esperance, Tasmania

No known records have been found for a William Harris or a Margaret Erskin living at Port Esperance in or around 1858 or for a William Harris’s birth.

There were certainly Harris’s living in the area, but the first known recorded birth was 1871 to John and Mary Harris.

The only known Margaret Erskin (e) living in Tasmania was a convict who married a Richard Wilson in Hobart (1853). Margaret was never assigned or lived in Port Esperance.

Findings: New Norfolk, Tasmania

Local family historians widely acknowledge that my William was actually William Brewer Harris, born 1855*, in New Norfolk to William Charles Harris and Margaret Farrell. However, I have tried to ignore this information for the most part and base my findings from primary sources, which unfortunately do not support this view.

* Records show that a William Brewer Harris was born and baptized (1850) in New Norfolk. However, a second birth record also exists for William Brewer that gives his birth date as the 12th Oct 1855.

I’m leaning towards William Brewer’s actual birth year being 1850 based on his baptism record, therefore making him around 8 years older than the William I am researching.

William Brewer’s father, William Charles Harris was a convict (arriving on the Mandarin, 1840) whose occupation was recorded as a Bricklayer\Plasterer. He was assigned work in the New Norfolk district and eventually married (1848) and settled there with Margaret.

William Brewer was also the older of two siblings; his younger brother Robert was born and baptized (1857) in New Norfolk.

Birth Summary

So to narrow it down, William Harris was born between 1855 and 1858 in either Port Esperance or New Norfolk to a William Harris and either Margret Erskin or Margaret Farrell.

1881: William marries Rachel Sarah Rogers1

William’s first of two marriages was in 1881 to Rachel Sarah Rogers, the daughter of Convict George Rogers and Martha Greig.

William gave his age as 23 which again places his birth year around 1858.

Unfortunately, William does not register the names of his parents nor his place of birth. Also, the two witnesses, Edward Kelly and Annie Sylvester do not appear to be relatives. Further research is needed to find the connection between either William or Sarah.

  • Registration No: 252/852
  • Date of Registration: 25 Nov 1881
  • Date of Marriage: 25 Nov 1881
  • Where Married: St. David’s Church, Hobart, Tasmania
  • Groom: William Harris
    • Age: 23
    • Occupation: Splitter
    • Status: Bachelor
  • Bride: Rachel Sarah Rogers
    • Age: 17
    • Status: Daughter of a splitter
  • Minister: Henry B. Brumby
  • Witnesses: Edward Kelly, Annie Sylvester

Within a year of getting married, William and Rachel had either moved or returned to Carnarvon [Port Arthur*] on the Tasman Peninsula; they would remain in the district for a further 27 years until Rachel’s death in 1908.

*After the closure of Port Arthur, the name changed to Carnarvon, and the land and buildings were sold off for farming.

1882-1902: Children to William and Rachel

  1. William Thomas
    • Born: 26 Mar 1882, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: Caroline Ettie Clark, Strahan, Tasmania, 1917
  2. George
    • Born: 02 Apr 1884, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: Jessie Agnes Bloomfield, Murdunnah, Tasmania, 1914
  3. Mable Margaret
    • Born: 10 Mar 1886, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: George Bateman, Hobart, Tasmania, 1905
  4. May Alberta
    • Born: 1888
    • Died: 1891
  5. Beatrice Olive
    • Born: 07 Jun 1891, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: Andrew Butler Clark, Hobart Tasmania, 1913
  6. Susannah
    • Born: 29 Jul 1893, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: Alfred Charles Sherston, Hobart, Tasmania, 1912
  7. Mary Ann
    • Born: 31 Mar 1897, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: George Pelham, 1915
  8. Thomas Charles Benjamin
    • Born: 03 Dec 1899, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: Doris Eileen McLeod, 1924
  9. Maurice Samuel
    • Born: 20 Jan 1902, Carnarvon, Tasmania
    • Married: Amy Florence Jacobson, 1924

1888: Land Survey of Carnavon2

I am still trying to locate the deed to William’s parcel of land; however I did find the location on the 1888 survey map of Canarvon3.

The land is now overgrown as you can see on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/1TQ1NFAJMHWDQSrb8

1908: Death of wife Rachel4

A Sudden Death

The police were notified yesterday [17 Nov 1908] that Mr’s Sarah Harris, who resides in Norfolk Lane, off Melville  Street, had died suddenly. She had been ailing for some time, but as the doctor refused to give a certificate as to the cause of death, an inquest will be held at the hospital today at 11 o’clock.

Rachel died of a cerebral haemorrhage, through the bursting of a diseased blood vessel. At the time of her death, Rachel and William were residing in Norfolk Lane, off Melville  Street, Hobart. William was away from home at Eagle Hawk Neck at the time and her death was reported by their daughter Beatrice.

There is no headstone for Rachel but records prove that was buried with her sister Rebecca Curren [nee Rogers] at the Cornelian Bay Cemetery, New Town, Tasmania.5, 6

1910: William Remarries to Rosetta Isabel Richardson7

Rosetta was born in Ralph’s Bay, 1873 and was the daughter of convicts, William Haynes, and Jane Thompson. She had previously been married to George Edward Richardson who died in 1903 and had three daughters with George; Gladys Mytle, Olive Evelyn and Laurel.

  • Register No.: 1092
  • Marriage Date: 13 Jul 1910
  • Married by: Licence
  • Usage of: King St, Independent Church*
  • Groom: William Harris
    • Residence, present: Hobart
    • Residence, usual: Hobart
    • Age: 52
    • Profession: Bushman
    • Condition: Widower
    • Former spouse deceased in the year: 1908
    • Children living: 8
    • Children dead: 1
    • Birthplace: Port Esperance
    • Father’s name: William Harris
    • Father’s occupation: Bushman
    • Mother’s name: Margaret Erskin
  • Bride: Rosetta Isabel Richardson [nee Haynes]
    • Residence, present: Hobart
    • Residence, usual: Hobart
    • Age: 35
    • Profession: Domestic duties
    • Condition: Widow
    • Former spouse deceased in the year: 1903
    • Children living: 4
    • Children dead: 1
    • Birthplace: Sandford
    • Father’s name: William Haynes
    • Father’s occupation: Farmer
    • Mother’s name: Jane Thompson
  • Witnesses: M. Paterson, 151 Patrick St, G. Bateman*, 151 Patrick St

* G. Bateman was George Bateman who married William and Rachel’s daughter Mable Margaret in 1905; I am unsure who M. Paterson was.

* King St, North Hobart, Tasmania was later renamed Pitt St

1930-1931: William moves to Victoria, Australia

William’s 1946 death record stated that he had been living in Victoria for 16 years; this would place his arrival around 1930-1931.

Local historians have written that his marriage to Rosetta failed and that he had moved to Victoria to be with his children.

However, it appears as though William and Rosetta remained married; she was described as the loving wife of the late William Harris in her 1951 death notice.8

1946: William’s Death Record9

  • Registration No.: 10758
  • Date of Death: 22 Sep 1946
  • Place of Death: 35 Hancock St, South Melbourne
  • Usual place of residence: 35 Hancock St, South Melbourne
  • Name and surname: William Harris
  • Occupation: Saw miller
  • Sex and age: Male, 89 years
  • Cause of death: Myocardial degeneration: years, Senility
  • Father: William Harris
  • Father’s occupation: Splitter
  • Mother: Margaret Harris, maiden name unknown
  • When registered: 10 October 1946
  • When buried: 24 September 1946
  • Where buried: Fawkner Cemetery
  • Where born: Tasmania
  • How long in Australian states:
    • 16 years in Victoria
    • 73 years in Tasmania
  • First marriage: Rachel Sarah Rogers
    • Hobart, Tasmania
    • 23 years
  • Issue:
    • William: deceased
    • George: 60 years
    • Margaret: deceased
    • Beatrice: 55 years
    • Susan: deceased
  • Second Marriage: Rose Richardson [Widower]
    • Hobart, Tasmania
    • 39 years
  • Issue*: Mary: 49 years, Thomas: 47 years, Morris: 45 years, May: deceased

    *Children of Rose and her previous husband George Edward Richardson

1946: Death and Funeral Notices 10

Death Notice

Harris – On September 22, at South Melbourne, William beloved husband of late Rachel. And loving father of William (deceased), George, Margaret (deceased), Thomas, Mary, Beatrice, Susan (deceased), Thomas, Mary, Morris and May (deceased), and loving relative of daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, aged 89 years, Peacefully sleeping.

Funeral Notice

Harris – The funeral of the late William Harris will leave 35 Hancock Street, South Melbourne, tomorrow at 3 p.m. for the Fawkner cemetery.


  1. TAHO: RGD37/1/40, Film No. Z2470, https://stors.tas.gov.au/RGD37-1-40$init=RGD37-1-40P442
  2. TAHO: https://stors.tas.gov.au/AI/AF819-1-261
  3. TAHO: https://stors.tas.gov.au/AI/AF819-1-261
  4. The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 18 November 1908: 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12658444
  5. TAHO: https://stors.tas.gov.au/NI/1550793
  6. SRCT Search Page – details (millingtons.com.au)
  7. TAHO: RGD1/1/22 no. 1092, Film No. Z2015, https://stors.tas.gov.au/RGD1-1-22$init=RGD1-1-22P00030JPG
  8. “Family Notices” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 10 July 1951: 10. Web. 4 Dec 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27029686>.
  9. VIC BDM: 10758/1946
  10. “Family Notices” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 23 September 1946: 11. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206374187>.