Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Thomas and Friends

Continued from the previous post about Thomas Rankins of Smithfield, Maine.

I keep being mistaken about Thomas Rankins. I form a theory and then find that it is wrong. Come to think of it, that's the scientific method applied to genealogical research, so maybe my approach isn't so far off. But Thomas keeps surprising me.

I figured that he traveled across America alone and, in 1852, boarded a ship filled with strangers to go to Australia (Where Thomas Went). Then I found a website called American Fever, Australian Gold. The following quote comes from the home page:

"Authors Denise McMahon and Christine Wild realized there had been a large number of Americans and Canadians who came to the northeast district of what was then the colony of Victoria during the gold rushes of the mid 1800s and about whom little, and in most cases nothing, had been recorded or acknowledged in the region's history books. With that in mind, they set about to rectify that omission.

With five years' work into researching the lives of men and women, and of the history of northeast Victoria, Denise and Christine have captured how these intrepid travellers journeyed thousands of miles in the hope of a fortune and how they contributed to the development of the district, an area very few white men had traversed.

At a time when there were no towns, no infrastructure and little communication with the outside world, these new arrivals found nothing but mullock [rubbish] heaps, shanties, tents and tracks dotted through the Australian bush. Under a canopy of gum trees with the smell of eucalyptus in the air, and with kangaroos, koalas, and kookaburras always close by, these people lived a dream."
In the website's index of narratives, there was my very own great great great Uncle Thomas Rankins: "Born 1829; native place Smithfield, Somerset County, Maine; yr. of arrival in Australia, 1852." Wonderful! This meant that the CD called American Fever, American Gold would contain more information about Thomas.

But, wait! What was this? The very next person indexed was Leonard Richardson from... Somerset County, Maine, arriving in Australia the year after Thomas. Were there perhaps others?

Late last night, I went through the index and extracted a list of all the men and womn who left Somerset County for Australia in the gold rush years. There were fifty-five (average age just under 24 years), and several of those were from Thomas' town of Smithfield (population 873 in 1850). He had to have known some of them. (3)

I took my list of gold rushers traveling from Somerset County and compared it to the list of ship's passengers for the "fast sailing packet ship Orpheus" (1) and BINGO! There they were, all in a group with Thomas. See for yourself.

This is the list of passengers leaving San Francisco on June 29, 1852 and arriving in Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia on September 1st of that same year.

And here are the names that matched the list on the Australian gold website. The fact that they are listed in a group makes me believe that they were all traveling together. While there is no way of knowing for sure without further research, I believe that they are:

Heman [yes, Heman] Spaulding; born 1828; native place, Norridgewock, Somerset County, Maine; arriving Australia 1852
Benjamin Franklin Allen; born 1831; Somerset County, Maine; arriving 1852
Benjamin Kendall Snow; born 1828; Skowhegan, Somerset County, Maine; arriving 1852
Joshua Cushman Bigelow; born 1826; Norridgewock, Somerset County, Maine; arriving 1852
Charles Pishon Bigelow; born 1828; Somerset County, Maine; arriving 1852
Thomas Rankins; born 1829; Smithfield, Somerset County, Maine; arriving 1852 (2)

Next post: Thomas in Australia--what I know so far!


1. New South Wales Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922Ancestry.com

2. Thomas' birthdate is given here as 1829. I have used 1830 in my records, but that is based on a census record that gives Thomas' age as 20 in 1850. Age estimates from census records are often a year off if no actual birthdate is given. 1829 is no doubt the better date.

3. List that I extracted from the index to the website American Fever, Australian Gold

 Name Birth Arrival Origin

Allen, Benj Franklin 1831 1852 Somerset County, Maine
Allen, Daniel 1830 1853 Smithfield, Somerset, Maine
Allen, Francis 1836 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Allen, Freeman 1834 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Bickford, Samuel Augustus 1822 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Bigelow, Charles Pishon 1828 1852 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Bigelow, Joseph c1826 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Bigelow, Joshua Cushman 1826 1852 Norridgewock, Somerset, Maine
Bigelow, Leander Lowell 1833 1852 Norridgewock, Somerset, Maine
Bradley, Augusta D 1829 1853 No. Anson, Somerset, Maine
Cleveland, Simeon Cragin 1817 1853 Embden, Somerset, Maine
Cleveland, William Parker 1833 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Dean, Samuel Jr. 1833 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Dillingham, Joseph S 1831 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Dinsmore, Ephraim 1828 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Eaton, Horace 1825 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Gould, William Dinsmore 1821 1853 Norridgewock, Somerset, Maine
Hill, Ebenzer [sic] 1830 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Hilton, John 1824 1853 Starks, Somerset, Maine
Hilton, Sarah Wheeler 1829 1853 Starks, Somerset, Maine
Holloway, Ansel 1831 Bef.
1853 Starks, Somerset, Maine
Hutchins, Cyrus L 1831 1853 New Portland, Somerset, Maine
Johnson, N ---- 1853 Brighton, Somerset, Maine
Kimball, Cyrus 1827 1853 Brighton, Somerset, Maine
Kinsmore, John Roscoe 1831 1853 Cornville, Somerset, Maine
Leighton, Albert 1826 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Longley, Wm 1830 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Marston, Norris 1823 1853 Smithfield, Somerset, Maine
Morrison, John Keith 1809 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Neil, Henry Baker c1827 1853 Smithfield, Somerset, Maine
Nowell, Samuel 1827 Bef.
1854 Fairfield, Somerset, Maine
Nye, Bartlett Samuel 1830-1832 1853 Fairfield, Somerset, Maine
Nye, Hiram 1836 Bef. 1861 Fairfield, Somerset, Maine
Page, Augustus C 1835 1853 Norridgewock, Somerset, Maine
Page, Henry S 1834 1853 Norridgewock, Somerset, Maine
Pearson, Wm Henry c1833 1853 Norridgewock, Somerset, Maine
Smiley, Shepherd Parkman 1828 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Snow, Benjamin Kendall 1828 1852 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Spaulding, Charles Hudson 1831 1853 No. Anson, Somerset, Maine
Spaulding, Heman [sic] 1828 1852 Norridgewock, Somerset, Maine
Steward, Horatio 1827 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Steward, Philander Coburn 1832 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Steward, Charles Miller 1829 1853 Penobscot County, Maine (included here because of possible relationship to other Stewards)
Rankins, Thomas 1829 1852 Smithfield, Somerset, Maine
Richardson, Leonard 1831 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Teague, Francis 1795 1853 Skowhegan, Somerset, Maine
Thompson, Stephen 1833 1853 Starks, Somerset, Maine
Tufts, Charles 1835 1853 Starks, Somerset, Maine
Tufts, Hanson 1835 1853 Starks, Somerset, Maine
Walker, Cephas Raymond 1820 1852 Embden, Somerset, Maine
Waugh, Daniel 1820 1853 Starks, Somerset, Maine
Wentworth, William 1822 1853 Athens, Somerset, Maine
Weston, Ephraim 1827 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine
Weston, Moody Joseph 1822 1853 Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine


Additional note: Here is how I am related to Thomas Rankins.


  1. Very cool - I appreciate all of your hard work!

  2. Thank you. I'm looking forward to setting up family records, documents, and stories like this one all together in binders by family and person. It will be easier to understand the context then. In the meantime, I keep spewing out random stories I find along the way and putting them on this blog.

  3. From Matt in Australia:
    Have you been able to look any further back into the Rankins? I understand that Thomas Rankins' parents were Joseph Rankins and Johanna Perkins. Some family history I have found suggest Joseph's parents were Thomas Rankins and Joanna Wallingford. Given I'm in Australia and struggle to search American records, any information you may have would be helpful. Thomas Rankins is my great great great grandfather. My great grandfather who was also Thomas Rankins dropped the 's' in around 1920 so my surname is now Rankin.


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