Saturday, July 21, 2012

John Mason - where did he come from?

Despite hours of research, I haven't been able to discover much more about John Mason than what is revealed by his marriage and death registrations. We know from those records that he was born about 1815, married in 1841 in the Catholic church in Sydney, moved to Adelaide in 1845 and was a labourer when he died in 1857.

Only two births for children named John Mason appear on the NSW Registry site for the period 1805 to 1825. One, John V (Valentine) Mason, was born in Richmond in 1822, and lived there all his life. The other, born 1819, was the son of Alexander Mason and Hannah Simpson. He was christened at St Phillip's Church of England, Sydney. At the age of 4, he and his two brothers were admitted to the Male Orphan School by his widowed mother. In such an institution he would almost certainly have received a C of E education. I haven't been able to trace what happened to him, but it seems unlikely that he would have married in a Roman Catholic church.

Of the free settlers named John Mason who arrived in NSW before 1841, only one was of the right age. He travelled with his parents and siblings from Ireland on the 'China', arriving in 1839. He later married Mary Hickey

The next possibility is that John Mason was transported to Australia as a convict. Out of the twenty or so John Masons who arrived in Sydney between 1820 and 1841, most can be ruled out because of their age, or because they  are known to have died, or to have married, or because they were still in New South Wales after 1845. (Fortunately the name of the ship on which convicts arrived functions almost as 'tag' which makes it possible to follow what happened to many of them through official records and newspaper accounts.)

That still leaves a handful of convicts named John Mason of about the right age (born within ten years of 1815). The most promising of these was born 1815 in Limerick, Ireland, and was transported on the Parmelia in 1833 for stealing cotton. He received his Certificate of Freedom in July 1840, which would fit in well with his marriage to Catherine the following year. Unfortunately I haven't been able to trace him after that.

And of course there's also the possibility that John Mason's birth in NSW was unregistered, or that he arrived in Sydney from one of the other colonies. As with Catherine Murphy, without some further information coming to light, it's unlikely that we'll ever know his origins for certain.

More about John Mason:

John and Catherine Mason - pioneers
Two more small clues about John Mason
An interesting snippet of news about John and Catherine Mason
Discoveries in Adelaide part 1
Discoveries in Adelaide part 2
A sad tale of two Roses
The missing link - William Doody
A song of the sea

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