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What my mother told me

By Donald Blunt

My mother when I ask about her family she told me about them in bits and pieces. First there was Grandmother that we were going to visit in Tasmania. My Mother said she had married three times; my mother said her father was John Bayley the first marriage of Grandmother and then told me of my Aunts and Uncles who we were also going to visit. Next there was the second marriage of Grandmother and that was to Percy Cox, so I had more Aunts and Uncles. I asked about John Bayley and my mother told me that he had left grandmother and she had not seen him for a long time.

Arriving in Launceston on the Princess of Tasmania, the ferry that went from Melbourne to Tasmania we then went on the train to Wynyard and off to grandmother’s home to discover that grandmother’s new husband Arthur Short who I was to call grandfather. I took this all in as in those days children did not question your elders. A few days later we went off to the Aunts home way out in the country, I was surprise that the Aunt did not have electricity, the next day we went to see one of the uncles of the Cox family and that night I was sitting with his children and I heard my mother ask him about her mother’s family and the reply came back we do not talk about that family. On one of train trips my mother told me that in grandmother’s there was talk that her mother was an Aboriginal, of course this went over my head.

All this did not matter until my mind went to who was who with my family ancestors; this was in the 1990’s Research began and at first I was only interested in my Blunt family and my wife’s family which took a few years. Not knowing anything about them this was a thrill to find out how the family was made up. I had researched a bit on my mother’s side of the family and got some surprises about her life that in the end it was my mother had tried to cover out things. It was not her fault it was the people of that time that did that to her. It is not worth taking or writing about that because we all think that way in some way and over time it will change.

This time one of my sons decided that he would do a degree to become a teacher and with the climate of the government assistance to the Aboriginal people he found that he could do his degree though the Catholic University with Aboriginal studies That is where my mind when back to what my mother had told me about that there was an Aboriginal in the family. So I gave him all the information I had and with that he was accepted.

This accelerated my interest in my mother’s family. I had done some research but came to a stop because of the lack of records. My grandmother’s mother I found her through some research at the Archives of NSW that was the birth of my grandmother in 1881 and her parents were shown as David and Mona Vincent. I collected as much records I could but this was not enough to help for my son but still he had finish his degree. Over time the research continued and another way to research came to assist me which was Ancestry.com this made it easy to research and to contact others of the family.

The Bayley family was the first I did and many more surprises turned up. I found my mother was found wandering the streets and taken into care at the age of ten. Later I found that her sister and brother were also taken into care. The few Bayley family descendants I found all had the same story that there was an Aboriginal in the family, so their father and mothers had told them like mine.

But who was the one Grandmother or her Mother or Father or even the Great Grandparents. Searching I just could not find a birth record for Mona Vincent. On her record of death her age was stated she was 38 in 1881 and this would make it 1843 she was born. I had been contacted by the husband of one of my cousins and he had found the marriage of Mona but not to David Vincent but John Mathews, on to find the children they had and found John Mathews change his name to David Vincent so I knew the death of Mona was her but had started her marriage life as Mona Mathews. This was the thing that Mona was the one the Aboriginal because there was no birth record for her.

As I look at other researchers on Ancestory.com they, although not direct descended to Mona had her in their tree. They had her with a family with parents John and Catherine Hunt and this surname was on Mona’s marriage, good I thought that this was that I have it all but not the Aboriginal person. I kept looking at these trees and asking the researchers who had them, where had they found Mona’s birth record but all I got was nothing.

Finally I made contact with a researcher who had more information on Catherine and John Hunt. Catherine was the daughter of Catherine Simpson nee Porter who had married a Thomas Simpson but that relationship broke up and Catherine their daughter at age seven was put into the Queens School in Hobart as her mother could not care for her. At the age of sixteen she was taken from the school by a Dr F J Park who was in charge of the Oatlands hospital and apprentice Catherine to be a midwife there. This was 1842 and as Mona’s birth was estimated birth at 1843 then Catherine would have been Pregnant with her and I am sure the Doctor would not allow a girl to get pregnant in his care.

St Johns Park
Queens School Orphanage   Hobart Photo courtesy of Tasmanian Libraries

This researcher had more information on the Hunt family that was done by his mother, and she had interviewed the first child of Catherine and John and was told that Mona was of Aboriginal Blood and was put with her mother to be raised by them. This I thought was the end of it but more surprises came along. I got a message for a Cox descendant whom I had not had before, mostly from the Bayley family and again she had the same story. At first she was delighted that I had so much information on her Cox family as she did not know much as her line was from her Grand Mother in the Cox family and like my family not much was known about the maternal side the family because all the talk was about the male side of the family.

It turns out that her Grandmother was an Aunt to me, but she had very little information on my grandmother just the story. This made her more inquisitive to find out more. I had told her what I knew and so she started to research and found a book that was about nurses, the title “in their own right “A story of Black Nurses” and a few pages had a Janine Cox who was a nurse at Wynyard Hospital and one night another nurse came up to her and said an Aboriginal woman had came in and she said she is your grandmother. To her surprise she had never met her grandmother. Home to ask her father about her grandmother and if she was Aboriginal and he said yes. In Janine’s write up she told that her sister had found that that the family had connections to the North-Eastern tribe of Tasmanian. So the search was on to find Janine but sadly she had pass away, but the information of her memorial said she had four children and within a few days they were found and had more information that Janine had wrote. She had sort out Great Grandmother’s Vincent family and got some information off a Mrs Jarvis who was the daughter of one of Mona’s sons. She told that Mona had been buried in an open grave off Irishtown road in an open grave below St Pats Head. St Marys This is the way Aboriginals’ look after their people after death. I also contacted a Vincent family descendent, and he too had the same story about Mona, so this story was from the main family “Vincent’

Going back to the marriage of John Mathews and Mona Hunt which was in 1859 at St Lukes Church Campbelltown. Mona had her first child in 1864 at Campbelltown five more of her children were born there, some were named with Mathews and next the six were born in Fingal and this is where Grandmother was born. The family moved onto Mathinna after Mona died. David had been a shepherd before this time but later birth records show he was a Tin Miner. Mathinna had Tin mines and also a big Gold Mine. There were sad times in the family; three had died before grandmother was born. Most of her daughters moved away from the town and the eldest son moved to Sandfly near Hobart, only two sons stayed in the town the rest of their life.

My grandmother was put with a McKerchers family but my mother had told me that she was put with an Oliver family. These two families were in the town of Fingal and the wife of McKerchers maiden name was Oliver, so it could have been her mother that looked after grandmother. Years later one of Mona’s sons died and one of the mourners was a Mrs P Cox, my grandmother who had come to see the family, So she still had contact with her Vincent family in the end. All this shows that Mona was of Aboriginal Blood and the story that we all know rings of truth….. David died May 1908 and is buried in unnamed grave in Mathinna.

Photo courtesy of Tasmanian Libraries


There are many Books and Papers on the Tasmanian Aboriginal by various people as early as 1820 and N.J.B. Plomley wrote about Tasmanian Tribes and in part lists the tribe that Janine Lewis-Hamilton nee Cox believed that Mona belong to which is


PY.EM.MAIRRE.NER PAIRRE.NER: nation of country north-east Ben Lomond and south-east of Mount (6.vii.31).

PYE.EN.MAIREN.NER PAIREN.NER: nation at Piper River.

PY.EM.MAIRRERNER nation of the country to the south of the peaked hill on the coast (=Mount Horror) and to the north of Ben Lomond; name derived from word PY.EM.YER.LEE, meaning thunder
[R/A 92]

The Leader of the North-Eastern Tribe was Mannalargenna, a [Tasmanian / Australian Native and Parlevar man], was an elder of the Plangermaireener clan in what is now the Ben Lomond tribal area of north-eastern Tasmania. There was a lot of confusion between who recorded the names of these tribes because they put the names down as they heard it in English. There is no one now that can speck these words as spoken by these natives, so we have to access the way it is.


Compilers’ Donald Blunt and Kylie Green, Janine Lewis-Hamilton nee Cox. 2020 Other researchers that helped. Peter Mc McCormick

Thank You to the Tasmanian Archives and Libraries. Ancestry.com

Related family names:

Bayley Vincent

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