Chain migration

Since setting up this website I have received a few queries mainly relating to family history (this is in addition to comments on specific posts). A recent one led me to do some more research on one of my great-grandmothers who came to New Zealand in 1880. The query was:

“Hello, I have just read an article on line about my great uncle Stanley Austwick who died on the Somme in 1916. It mentions that a relative was Mrs S Morrell of Miramar. Are you related to this person? I ask because my mother says Stanley was engaged to a girl in New Zealand. We would love to know who she was and what happened to her.”

Her query intrigued me; although I had never heard of Stanley Austwick or the surname before. However a quick search on Papers Past (New Zealand digitised newspapers) found quite a few mentions of Austwicks from 1915 to 1918 and a few from 1883. This one about Mr F Austwick and his son Stanley and daughter visiting this country because of her delicate health is from 1915.

austwick-news-1Dominion, 19 January 1915

Another report mentioned that Mr Austwick was a brother-in-law of “Mr Merell, an old resident of Wellington”. I’m used to my surname Morrell being spelled wrongly, so I think this is probably a reference to my great-grandfather Samuel Morrell.

austwick-news-2Evening Post, 18 January 1915

Samuel and Susanna (nee Tankard) Morrell

Other articles reported Stanley’s death at the Somme. Some said Stanley was related to Mrs S Morrell of Miramar (Wellington), to a Mrs Smith of Newtown (Wellington) and a Mr Robinson of Auckland.[1] Others mentioned Mr Morrell as the relative:

austwick-news-3ROLL OF HONOUR Press, 24 November 1916

This article gives Mr Morrell’s address as Rongotai Terrace, which I knew was where my great-grandparents lived then (see my Morrells in Wellington post). I also knew that Smiths were related somehow – when my grandparents married in 1905 one of the bridesmaids (actually she was a young girl) was a Norah Smith and she was described as a cousin of the bridegroom.

Further research (and a few marriage and death certificates later) found that Susanna Morrell (nee Tankard), Mrs Robinson and Mrs Smith were sisters. Even the newspaper reports of Austwicks in 1883 were relevant, although at first I thought they weren’t connected.

This revealed the importance of ‘chain migration’ or family members following other members. I can imagine Susanna (as far as I know, she was the first Tankard sister to arrive in New Zealand) writing to her family back in Yorkshire and encouraging them to emigrate.

Historian Jock Philips calls the period 1871 to 1885 the ‘great migration’: “The main reason for this flood was the free or assisted passages offered by the New Zealand government. Almost half of the new immigrants came with government assistance. Three-quarters of these sailed directly from the United Kingdom…. Conditions were made more attractive for United Kingdom immigrants. From 1873 the fare of £5 per adult was waived and travel was free. In addition, New Zealand residents could nominate friends and relatives to come and join them.[2]

Three of Susanna’s sisters emigrated here, or in one case, attempted to emigrate. Here is a brief family tree showing the relevant people (there is a fuller family tree in my post Occupation: Whitesmith.)


Susanna’s older sister Esther Tankard (born c. 1845) married Walter Illingworth Robinson in Leeds in 1870. In the 1881 census they were living in Rothwell (not far from Leeds) with two sons and two daughters. In October 1883 the family arrived in New Zealand on the ship ‘British Queen’, as assisted immigrants. My great-grandfather Samuel Morrell, living in Austin Street, Mt Victoria, Wellington paid part of their fare.

The Robinsons lived in Auckland where Walter taught drawing, draughting, and ran a correspondence school for engineering certificates from his home in Balmoral Road. Their son Thomas married Sophia Morrell (his first cousin) in 1927. Esther and Walter only had the four children and no grandchildren. Esther died on 14 July 1910 in Auckland.[3] On the record of her death it said her father Mark Tankard was a farmer (he was actually a butcher, but as he died in 1866 the family memory seems to have been hazy on this matter!)

This is a photo of my aunt Ruth (nee Morrell) at the Robinsons house in Auckland, circa early 1920s and two photos of Tom Robinson and Sophie (Morrell) at and leaving their marriage ceremony in 1927.

Susanna’s younger sister Elizabeth Tankard also came to New Zealand as a single woman on the same voyage as the Robinsons, in 1883. She married William Smith (who was born in Ireland) on 5 January 1886 at the house of Mr Morrell in Elizabeth Street, Mt Victoria, Wellington (this was my great-grandparents’ house). I believe she was known as Jessie, because an aunt told me that Susanna had another sister called Jessie (and a Jessie Tankard did sign Susanna’s marriage certificate) but I haven’t found a birth or baptism record for that name nor was a Jessie living with her parents in the 1851 or 1861 censuses. However, family tradition said Jessie married someone called Smith and lived in New Zealand (Wellington). According to my aunt they had two daughters and one son – Norah, who didn’t marry (Norah Smith was one of the young bridesmaids at my grandparents’ wedding); Kate, who had one son; and Bill, who had at least one son. My aunt said that Norah and Kate both died in Australia.

So what is the Austwick connection?

In 1915, Fred Austwick (a councillor from Pontefract, Yorkshire), his son Stanley and daughter Dorothy arrived in New Zealand for a visit. I knew from the newspaper reports in 1916 when Stanley was killed at the Battle of the Somme, that he was related to Mr & Mrs S Morrell [Samuel and Susanna]; Mrs Smith, and Mr Robinson of Auckland and that he must therefore be a Tankard connection.

Fred’s first wife (they married in 1880) was a Phoebe Tankard. They had a child, Reginald, in 1881 and Phoebe died in March 1883. In 1885 Fred married Harriet Cubbon and had more children. The woman who contacted me through my website is a great-granddaughter of Fred’s.  Phoebe was Susanna’s younger sister; she was born on 9 October 1861, but wasn’t baptised until 15 March 1876 after both her parents had died. That would make sense of the newspaper report that said Fred Austwick was a brother-in-law of “Mr Merell, an old resident of Wellington” (Evening Post, 18 January 1915).

A Phoebe Austwick, “aged 20”, was one of nine passengers who died on board the ship ‘Oxford’, in 1883, in Plymouth from typhoid. [4] She was bound for Wellington and she was described as a ‘nominated immigrant’.[5] New Zealand newspapers only reported that the disease broke out after the ship returned to port having been disabled in a storm.

Fred’s great-granddaughter told me that Fred, Phoebe and Reginald were immigrating to New Zealand, but in the Bay of Biscay they hit bad weather and had the most harrowing time. Their baby Reginald was washed from Phoebe’s arms and battered against the deck. He was recovered having swallowed copious amounts of sea water (Fred kept a journal). Phoebe died on 11 March 1883. This is a photo of Phoebe’s gravestone in Pontefract cemetery – it gives her age as 22, and says she was the ‘beloved wife of Fred Austwick’; from the Find a Grave website, added by ‘Charlie’ in 2012:


Austwick relatives also sent me a copy of the ship’s ticket listing Fred, Phoebe and Reginald, but also Elizabeth Tankard – who was obviously intending to emigrate with them in early 1883.

1883 Austwick Tankard ticket to NZ

This is a detail of the weekly food rations:

1883 Austwick rations on board.PNG

On 20 April 1918 the 60 year old Fred married the 58 year old Elizabeth Smith in Wellington. They were both widowed. She was formerly Elizabeth Tankard (Susanna and Phoebe’s sister), but he returned to England alone in 1920 and died there in 1924. Fred’s daughter Dorothy (who was a nurse) married Cecil Dinnie in Wellington in 1920. Elizabeth died in Australia in 1934. Fred’s granddaughter, who is 97, says Elizabeth’s daughters didn’t like Fred and that was why he returned home alone![6] Interestingly, Elizabeth’s two marriage certificates (to William Smith and Fred Austwick) both listed her father’s occupation (correctly) as butcher. Susanna’s death certificate in 1935 listed him as a herbalist!

This is a newspaper photo of nurse Miss Austwick from the Free Lance, 16 January 1919.


Another interesting light on Fred Austwick came from newspaper advertisements for “Austwick’s ointment”, such as this one from the Auckland Star, 22 January 1918:


But I was not able to shed any light on a possible fiancée of Stanley as there was no announcement in New Zealand newspapers of an engagement.


[1] For example: Evening Post, 22 November 1916

[2] Jock Phillips, ‘History of immigration – The great migration: 1871 to 1885’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 8 February 2017)

[3] Newspaper reports (e.g. Auckland Star, 15 July 1910). Record of Death obtained.

[4] Evening Post, 4 July 1883, p. 3

[5] “Nominated Immigrants 1871-1891: The Immigration and Public Works Act 1870 provided money for immigration. Immigrants were to be recruited by agents in Britain (a total of 83,214) or nominated by people already living in New Zealand.” From:

[6] Information from Fred’s great-granddaughter who put me on to the Austwick connection.


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