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Thomas Arnott and the Mysterious "Anne Selby" .....

Thomas may have returned to seafaring, as he was absent from his land for some time so it seems, but Hannah and Priscilla were released from the orphanage, to their father's care in 1843. 1 & 2 Evidence strongly suggests Thomas had returned to Sydney and the sea, having left his two daughters with a family relative, possibly Richard Arnott. This occurring at some point between the death of his second wife Sarah in 1839, and mid 1840, when a marriage registration appears in NSW. The Proclamation of Banns in the church register, shows the following detail. 3

  Name Condition Abode Ships Name Sentence When Allowed When Published Remarks
Married Thomas Arnett Widower of this Parish Ocean 1808 X   June 7th Free
  Christiana McGeady Widow of this Parish Miller 4 1840 X   June 14 Came free to the Colony

Thomas, a widower, marries a Christiana "McGeady," also a widow, at St James Church, Sydney, on 22 June 1840, The Minister was Robert Allwood and witnesses were a Joseph Moss of Castlereagh Street and Elisha Hayes of Pitt Street; 5 Elisha Hayes, being a clerk at St. James Church, witnessed many marriages there, so he probably had no personal connection to either Thomas or Christiana.

This then raises the question of where and when had Christiana possibly previously married someone by the surname "McGeady." The issue is further complicated by a correction made on the actual church marriage registration, where the names of the parties have been entered as per the Proclamation of Banns details and both parties sign their names respectively, except Christiana signs her surname as "Margaretje" or similar. It could be possible that Christiana gave her surname verbally for the Banns, and it was written down as it sounded, but when it was read out at the wedding, she corrected it. The Minister or church Clerk, probably subsequently then has to correct the name of the bride, previously written as "McGeady". It is also puzzling that when she later married William Rodgers in 1848 she signed with a cross, and when she was also later admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol in 1856 it was noted that her education was "Nil", i.e. she could not read or write.

Back in VDL, at Kangaroo Point, on 26 February 1844, an unnamed female child is born to Thomas Arnott and his "wife" or partner, "Ann Arnott - formerly Selby". 6

Where Thomas had been and where, when and if he married Ann is unknown. She has not been positively identified but there are no known convict records for a female of a similar name. The daughter is subsequently named as "Eliza", at a baptism at St Georges Church in Battery Point on 14 April 1844. The baptism entry shows her birth date as 26 February 1844. Both the civil birth registration and the church baptism show the mother of Eliza as "Anne Selby".

Are Christiana McGeady / Margaretje and Ann(e) Selby one and the same person ?. The naming of two of Thomas' granddaughters (daughters of Eliza), as "Christina" and "Clara", strongly suggest this possibility as being plausible.

Did Thomas and Christiana travel to Adelaide and South Australia and return in 1845 ?.

Shipping Intelligence. June 25.
Same Day.-The cutter William, 33 tons, Tait, from Launceston. Passengers-T. Arnott and wife, Mr A. Best, E. Kenedy, J. Williams, J. Penfold, J. Sandford, W. Stevens, and four privates of the 96th regt. 7

Shipping Intelligence. SAILED.
OCT 19.-The brig Dorset, 81 tons, Walsh, for Sydney. Passenger- Dr. Calmann.

SAME DAY.-The brig Henry, 106 tons, Tregurtha, for Launceston. Passengers- Mr and Mrs Arnott, W. F. E. Liardett, Esq., Mr Wells, Mrs Lett and two children, Mr. Koch, Mr Bloomfield, Mrs Brown. 8

Thomas spent the last three years of his life surrounded by growing daughters, farming his small-holding near Kangaroo Point and making chairs.

Thomas died of inflammation of the stomach, and was buried at St Matthew's Church, Clarence Plains in an unmarked grave on the 5th January 1847. 9 R[ichard] Arnott "Labourer, Richmond Road near Kangaroo Point" was the informant.

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On the 1840 marriage document for Thomas and Christiana; she states that she arrived by the ship "Miller (in) 1840" So far, a ship by that name in that time period has not been found. The ship's name of "Miller" (or similar) could possibly refer to the name of the captain of a ship arriving in the relevant time frame - and there is this possibility -

Local
In our market article yesterday, we noticed that an American vessel was signalised. She arrived in port this morning, and proves to be the Tybee, Captain Millett. She brings a general cargo, but not one bushel of wheat, or a single barrel of flour. The Tybee left Sydney on the 26th September, 1839, discharged cargo and loaded again at Boston in thirteen days, left that place on the 25th February, 1840, thus sailing round the. world, including loading and discharging, in eight months and twenty-three days. 1

Hobart Town
JUNE 17
- Sailed the ship Tybee, 285 tons, Millet master, for Sydney. 2

This could also fit with how Christiana may have " ... given fifty dollars for the watch in California ..." which was stolen from her in Sydney in 1855 (?).

Could Thomas have travelled to Sydney after putting his daughters in the Hobart orphanage in August 1839 ?, and then sailed as a crewman on the Tybee a month later in September ... ?

Is this how Thomas met Christiana  ... ?

  • 1. LOCAL - The Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen's Land Gazette (Tas. : 1839 - 1840) 19 June 1840: p3
  • 2. Hobart Town - The Colonial Record (Launceston Tas. : 1839) 24 June 1839: p3