Jemima was born in 1808 in Hothfield, Kent, England to parents Michael Willess [sic] and Mary Back.
Our Jemima appears to be a lady of some mystery. Although this photograph of Jemima appears on some family trees, most people seem unsure if this is definitely Jemima. It would be great to know if it is her for sure. The fact that she is holding a book is enticing, given that the local church paid for 15 weeks of schooling for Jemima when she was aged 10 years and at a cost of 14 shillings and 9 pence. It does make one wonder if she may have been able to read the book, and that it wasn’t just a prop for the photograph?
To confuse matters even more, birth records of her children (those born in South Australia) show Mary Willis as mother, whilst the births of the children born in Kent show the name Jemima as Mother. The following is a copy of a birth record of Maria Henniker who was born in Westwell, Kent to Thomas and Jemima and is the same for the other children of Thomas and Jemima who were born in Kent before the couple emigrated to South Australia.
England, Select Births and Christenings 1538 – 1975 about Maria Henniker
|Baptism Date:||10 Oct 1828|
|Baptism Place:||Westwell, Kent, England|
|FHL Film Number:||1473774|
Original data: England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.
about George Heneker
Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources.
Vital records—records of births, marriage, and death—are the basic building blocks of family history research, and this database features some of the most comprehensive indexes available of historical Australian birth records. These indexes were created by Australian registrar’s offices after civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths became law in the mid 19th century.
Of course there could be a number of reasons for the change of name. Is Jemima her middle name? There doesn’t seem to be any doubt by a number of family history researchers that Jemima and Mary are the same person, in regard to birth records of the children of Thomas and Jemima (Mary) early in the years after their arrival in South Australia in 1839. Records of births of the couple’s children born in Kent, before they migrated to South Australia, show the name Jemima Henniker as mother of the children born there, namely, James, Maria, Harriet, Ann and Catherine Frances. (These births are recorded by familysearch.org).
One could say that Thomas remarried someone called Mary, however it would be very unlikely given that there were continuous births soon after their arrival in 1839, and that some of the children were born at First Creek, which is where Thomas took his family shortly after they arrived in the very new state of South Australia. No records have come to light to show that there was any remarriage, and both Thomas and Jemima are recorded as having died in the Gawler Willaston area. Whilst this can only be guess work, the assumption is that Jemima preferred to be called Mary.
One other point worth noting is, that once the family arrived in South Australia, it is interesting that birth records are showing the family name as being spelt “Heneker’. Hence another change in the spelling of the surname. Once again, is this because officials who recorded vital records information spelt it as they thought it was spelt due to the family not being able to read or write? Since then however the name has continued to be spelt Heneker as far as I am aware
Beautiful Hothfield, Kent
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris Rogers of the Hothfield History Society http://www.hothfieldmemories.org.uk/ who so generously looked up information (one memorable time was Christmas Day morning a few years ago!!) to find what they had regarding Henniker and Willes history. He and Karen Puzey sent me emails and copies of some original records which has given me so much more specific information and source material that I would never have known about. I promised to send a story of the Henniker family and their journey, and have yet to follow through on that one. But it will happen. I get cross when I think I was only 5 km away from Hothfield when I visited Westwell Kent in 2008, but at that time I knew nothing about Hothfield and the family connection. Well, a good reason to return to that beautiful piece of English countryside.