The Family of Samuel BROWN

Jane BEER married Samuel BROWN on 17 June 1893 in Bowen, Queensland. They had two children (William and Selina) before Sam disappeared, never to be heard from again. 

But who was Sam Brown? His grandchildren were not sure. They thought he was a Scot, and had probably lied about his age at marriage as his bride Jane was 22 and he was only 21.

There is more to Sam BROWN than these two rumours.

Starting with what we know, Sam married Jane BEER in Bowen, Queensland. If Sam filled in the marriage licence then we could assume his details would be correct, but if Jane filled them in then perhaps she was not so sure. Certainly, Jane's details are correct - we can verify them from other records (see Jane's story). 

Arrival in Australia

We can also assume that both Jane and Sam were immigrants, either coming alone or with their families as both claim they were born outside Australia.  A search of the shipping registers shows only one Samuel Brown arrived in Australia prior to 1893 and this person was contracted to disembark in Bowen - so is is almostly certainly our Sam BROWN. Similarly there is only one Jane BEER and she arrived in Bowen in 1892.

On 26 May 1891 two young men Samuel and James BROWN  boarded the ship JUMNA bound from London for Bowen, Queensland. They are shown as farm labourers, aged 19 and 20 and are irish. They travelled on the same ticket number (1090) so were almost certainly brothers. 

Model of the Jumna

But there are two more vital clues in the shipping record. First his age is given as 19 so that he would have been 21 in 1893 when he married Jane as shown on the marriage certificate. Second his nationality is recorded as Irish. When he bought his ticket to Australia, Sam might have been able to lie about his age, but most shipping clerks of the time would have been able to distinguish Irish from Scots - so the shipping data are most likely to be correct. Otherwise, we have to assume that Sam lied about everything and we could stop this story here.

The 1891 census was taken on the night of 5 April, about 7 weeks before Sam departed from London. He and his brother may have travelled from Ireland to London and then decided to emigrate to Australia - but if that was their intention it might have been cheaper to take a ship directly from Ireland.  I suspect that Sam and James were probably already in England, so should be in the 1891 census (but they could have avoided it if they were travelling or sleeping on farms). There are only two records for a Samuel Brown that fit the description and both of these were in the British Army. One was a Private aged 19 in the Royal Irish Guards, stationed at Colchester, the other was aged 18 in the Inniskilling Fusiliers (and was in Alverstoke Military Prison on the night of the census). There is also a census record for James BROWN in the British Army.

Whether this is our Sam Brown or not he arrived in Bowen, married Jane BEER in 1893, had two children and then vanished.

  Jane BEER============v=========Samuel BROWN
  1867-1929           1893          1872-?
  William George     Selina    
    1894-1918      1895-1973
        |              |

The family never heard from him again. Soon after his departure, Jane took up with Charles TAYLOR and had a child by him in Septemebr 1897, so Sam would have left between mid-1895 and the end of 1896.  Jane continued to live with Charles TAYLOR. Soon after their sixth child was born (John on 20 March 1909) the older children remember Jane and Charles getting dressed up, driving into town in the horse and buggy and coming back married. This was 12 May 1909, so we can assume that Jane had received some information that told her Sam BROWN had died. She is shown on the marriage record as "widow".

But what information? To be able to remarry legally, Jane would have to wait until she was a widow, so she waited until she received something that confirmed Sam had died. Today a death certificate would be required, but in 1909 it is likely that a letter from a Minister or a solicitor would have been accepted. To receive such a letter the sender would need to have been told by Sam that he was married and where his wife lived. If Sam had left a Will he was still legally married to Jane so she was his next of kin adn would have been a beneficiary of the Will.

Death of Sam

Sam died some time between late 1896 and May 1909. There are several Queensland and NSW death records for a Sam Brown in this time, but none fit the details. He might have boarded a ship and departed Australia - but where to? We have not been able to find him - yet.

The Parents of Samuel BROWN


According to his marriage record, Sam was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His parents were Samuel BROWN and Elizabeth McWhinnie. He was 21, so was born about 1872. The Scotland BMD records are reasonably complete for this time period, civil registration taking over from local church registers in 1855. Despite extensive searching neither Sam BROWN nor his parents appear to be in the Scotland records.


If Sam was not born in Scotland, then perhaps the shipping record is correct - maybe he was Irish?

There is a birth for a Samuel BROWN, parents Samuel Brown and Eliza MAWHINNEY, baptised on 9 March 1872 at Killyneese, Derry, Ireland. There are also two more births with these parents:

Jane 13 December 1862
Mary 13 June 1865
James 1870 (from the shipping record)
Samuel 9 March 1872

Samuel Brown (senior) married Eliza Mawhinney at Curran, Derry on 18 July 1857. They are recorded as widower and widow so both had been married before. Curran is close to Magherafelt, lying just west of Lough Neagh, and a few miles west of Belfast:

Previous marriages

As far as I can determine from the Irish records, Samuel had perviously married Nancy LEE on 29 June 1848 at First Magherafelt Church, Derry. Both were Presbyterian, single and farmers.

Eliza MAWHINNEY has peviously married William ROCKS on 14 October 1852 at Magherafelt, Derry. They were married in the Church of Ireland and both were weavers. Interestingly, the witnesses to the marriage were Catherine REYNOLDS and Samuel BROWN. As the marriage was at Magherafelt, this is probably the same Sam BROWN that later married Eliza.

The family tree as far as I can determine looks like this:

                      |                        |         |
   Joseph          Thomas                    Adam      Jane
    LEE            BROWN==v==?            MAWHINNEY==v==?
     |                    |                          |
Nancy LEE=====v=====Samuel BROWN=======v=======Eliza McWHINNEY========v========William ROCKS
            m:1848     1845-?        m:1857        1844-?           m:1852
          Magherafelt                Curran                       Magherafelt
              |                         |                              |
              ?               |---------|----------|----------|        ?
                            Jane      Mary       James      Samuel
                           1862-?    1865-?      1872-?     1872-?     
                                                           Jane BEER
                                         William George     Selina    
                                           1894-1918      1895-1973
                                               |              |

Go to the Jane BEER Page

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Last updated: 14 December 2011