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Brick Wall Solutions – John Francis Beeston | Unlock the Past

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Brick Wall Solutions – John Francis Beeston

John Francis Beeston was born in Stockport, Cheshire in 1859, the son of Robert Beeston and Elizabeth Hudson, but I knew none of that when I started my research.

John Francis Beeston and Frances Elizabeth FordJohn Francis Beeston and Frances Elizabeth Ford
Early on I found the marriage of John Francis Beeston to Frances Elizabeth Ford in 1881 at South Brisbane – that was a surprise to my father who had always thought his grandparents had married in England and migrated as a married couple. The marriage certificate gave me his parents’ names – Robert Beeston and Elizabeth née Hudson – and the fact that he had been born in Stockport, Cheshire.

Well, how did he get here? I thought this was simple – just a visit to the Queensland State Archives (then located next to Boggo Road Gaol) would quickly sort that out for me. I thought I hit the jackpot that first visit in June 1985 – there was Elizabeth (three in fact), Robert (two) and a John in the card index.

Well it wasn’t quite so simple – the John definitely wasn’t mine and there was something funny with the Elizabeth and Robert entries. When I checked the shipping lists I was in for another surprise – only one ship, the Hannah More departed Liverpool 16 January 1863, had both an Elizabeth and a Robert recorded and on that ship Robert’s name was actually crossed out and a note written beside “not on board”. I couldn’t understand this – perhaps the parents of my John Francis didn’t even migrate to Australia.

Three young children meant I didn’t have a lot of time for research but by early 1986 I had established that both Robert and Elizabeth had come to Brisbane. Robert was the informant for his wife Elizabeth’s death in 1866 though the certificate indicates neither that she was married nor had any children. At least when Robert died in 1910 it was claimed he had been here for 48 years so now I had an approximate arrival year of 1862.

Inside cover of The Christian Age – Light From Across The WaterInside cover of The Christian Age – Light From Across The Water
Questioning my father’s cousins did give a hint as to John Francis’s arrival – one said they were sure his house was named after the ship on which he had come. Now I knew his house well having visited there as a child. Though he died just before I was born, I remember my great-grandmother and the large white cockatoo she had. We hopped straight into the car to check out this vital clue. Alas, the verandah of the house was now closed in and there was no sign of a house name. Later, as I was flicking through a book which had belonged to my great-grandfather, The Christian Age – Light From Across The Water, I found on the inside cover he had recorded: Mr J F Beeston, “Venella” Juliette Street, Thompson Estate SB. Now I was sure I could find him.

The main problem was there was no such ship! While Eric looked after our children in a nearby park (we used to take it in shifts while visiting the archives), I sat looking for ships with similar names – there was the Valetta (1864), Venilia (1865), Villalta (1886) and the Vimiera (1861 to Sydney). Clearly the best two options were the Valetta and the Venilia. I combed both lists hoping that someone had missed a Beeston when creating the immigration card index – no such luck. Then all of a sudden it hit me – on the Venilia were John Hudson (58), Sarah Hudson (56) and John F Hudson (5). He had come to Australia with his mother’s parents and two of her sisters, not as a Beeston but as a Hudson! He arrived just in time to reunite with his mother before she died some months later.

I eventually resolved the issues with his parents’ immigration – for some reason both had been booked to sail on the Hannah More but Robert did not – just his wife Elizabeth who gave birth to a son, Thomas, on the voyage. Instead Robert sailed later on the Light Brigade which departed London 1 February 1863 and arrived in Brisbane on 18 May 1863 – the list shows him as a late “extra” added at the bottom. Little John Francis had been left in England with his grandparents.

Brick Wall Tips

  • Ask questions of the older relatives
  • Remember to check for alternative spellings of names
  • Check the Family Bible and other books owned by the person you are seeking
  • Consider that they may have come with relatives and travelled using a different surname
  • Be persistent - check as new material becomes available that you may not have previously examined


John Beeston

I knew a John Beeston who would have been born c.1924

and was a pupil at Greenslopes S S  in the late 30s.

I also know the Kopittke name from Peachester.

John Francis Beeston blog

The Kopittkes are all related - helps when it comes to research as you just have to work out where they fit in. The Beeston name is also relatively uncommon. I did have a family living in the Greenslopes area so perhaps it is the same family - mine mostly seem to have attended Junction Park and Yeronga schools.