Three years after South Australia was proclaimed a colony in 1836 Michael Brooker,


Brooker Family


South Australia

Three years after South Australia was proclaimed a colony in 1836 Michael Brooker, his wife and eight of his ten children arrived in Adelaide from England.
Within four months of his arrival, in late 1839, Michael Brooker had most probably died from the deadly typhus disease and his family were destitute.
His wife Hannah Curd was left to look after the children. She was to later remarry for a short time and she died in 1891 in Melbourne at the age of 91 years.

Parish Clerk Michael Brooker had a great, great grandson, also named Michael who was born on February 27th, 1795, the fifth child in a family of twelve to Richard Brooker and his wife Elizabeth.
Michael, who worked as a sawyer, decided at the age of 44 to break ties with Framfield where his family had lived for so many years and emigrate to South Australia.

The register of applications by laborers for free passages to South Australia, gives the following information -:

  • Brooker, Michael, sawyer, Framfield, married.
    Man's age: 42.
  • Woman's age: 38.
  • Boys' ages: 12, 5, 1.
  • Girls' ages: 10, 8, 6.
  • Brooker, Mary, servant, Framfield, single, 19.
  • Brooker, Martha, servant, Brighton, 17.
    No first names of the younger children were provided and there was no information given about a sponsor.
  • Unlike the Colony of NSW, the new Colony of South Australia was to be colonized using free settlers, and to attract laborers and skilled tradesmen from England a fund was set up  by the Government to provide free passage for these people. Purchasers of land had to contribute 20 Pounds towards the fund.
    Strict conditions were applied as to who would be eligible for free passage.
    Emigrant laborers would be offered a free passage to the Colony, including provisions and every expense for the journey, providing they were of sane mind, honest, sober, industrious, and of general good character.
    Married emigrants were preferred and were to be not less than 15 and not more than 30 years of age.

    As Michael Brooker was 42 years old, he and his family must have  been a special case.  

    The Brooker Family departed from London on the "Cleveland" a barque of 490 tons, under the command of Captain William Marley, leaving the Downs on the 25th July, 1839 and Plymouth on the 8th August, 1839.
    The vessel carried 180 emigrants plus six cabin passengers and arrived in Adelaide on the 18th December, 1839.

    The official manifest for the "Cleveland" has the following entries -:

    The index of deaths in South Australia, 1802-1842, reveals that Michael Brooker died four months after arriving in Adelaide.

    It is possible he died from typhus, as there was an epidemic of typhus fever in Adelaide at that time.

    The burial register of Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide, entry 437, records that Michael Brooker of Hindmarsh was buried on the 9th April, 1840 aged 45 at the Public Cemetery, Adelaide.

    The burial records at Holy Trinity show additional burials in the plot, which is situated in the West Terrace Cemetery as follows -:

    26/11/1894. Arthur Bennett Clifford, 14 years 4 months,
    High Street, Kensington.

    5/6/1901. James Clifford. 49 years,
    Home for Incurables.

    12/7/1918. George Brown (took 99 year lease in 1891),
    North Unley.

    17/2/1939. Thirza Maria Brown, 80 years,
    Florence Street, Woodville.

    7/12/1966. Florence Brown, 76 years,
    Florence Street, Woodville.

    The headstone actually reads as follows -:

    In loving memory
    Michael Brooker.
    Died 1839.


    George Brown.
    Loving husband of
    Died July 11th 1918.
    Aged 61.

    Thirsa M. Brown.
    Feb. 16th 1839.
    Aged 80 years.

    George Brown who purchased the 99 year lease in 1891 was the grandson of Michael Brooker.
     He was born 27th July 1857 to Harriet Brooker and John Brown.

    The situation in South Australia in 1841 at the time of Michael's death would have been extremely difficult for a widow with so many children.
    The Government had sold 299,000 acres of land at 12 shillings an acre, but only 2,500 acres were under cultivation. The total population was 15,485 people, which included 12,000 assisted migrants many of whom were unsuited for a pioneering venture.

    The Government returns at the time, 1839, noted on the Brooker family -:

    The family recovered from sickness but on the 8th April the husband died.
    On inquiry into their circumstances, it was found they were unable to bear the funeral expenses and he was subsequently buried by this department.
    The wife was left with nine children, six of whom with herself are now entirely dependent on this department for subsistence, which they receive weekly.
    They are also placed in one of the oldest houses.
    The mother earns a little money by washing, but not more than sufficient for the wants of young and growing family.
    The son a boy is in employment, one daughter resides with the mother and the other is an improper character and has left her home.

    The 1841 Census for Adelaide shows the following entry for Currie Street, Adelaide.


    One Female under 50. Presume Hannah

    One Male under 21. Presume John.

    Two Males under 7. Presume Samuel and Eli.

    Three Females under 14. Presume Harriet, Caroline & Elizabeth.

    One Female under 7. Presume Hannah junior.

    Mary was not shown as she had married Edward Barnes on December 12th, 1840.

    Martha is also not shown as residing with the family, as she had married William Best on December 18th, 1840.
    She was also a witness at Mary’s wedding in 1840.

    Hannah Brooker, after the death of Michael, married John Viant, who was a widower on June 18th, 1843 at Holy Trinity Church, Adelaide. His occupation was described as laborer.

    John was born in Plymouth, England and he married Ann Polkinghorn on March 4th, 1826, in Redruth, Cornwell, where he worked as a miner and where their three children, Thomas James, John Edward and Elizabeth Ann were born.

    They arrived in Adelaide on the Waterloo in 1840, the year John applied to immigrate to South Australia. Their application for passage to South Australia stated that John was 30 years of age whilst the sons were aged 12 years and 4 years and the daughter aged 10 months.

    Ann and John were living in the Pirie Street end of Hindmarsh Square in April 1843, when Ann died during childbirth. A Colonial Grant was provided to bury Ann.

    After he married Hannah Brooker, it appears by June 1847, he had accumulated sufficient funds to purchase land at Gawlertown, now known as Gawler, which is 42 Km from Adelaide.

    The marriage had broken up by February 1849 because at that time John was living at Kooringa (Burra) with Caroline Shugwin.
    A child was stillborn to them on February 15th 1849.
    Another boy was stillborn on February 15th 1850.
    Another son was born on July 4th, 1852 but died at 6 weeks of age.

    John Viant and Caroline Shugwin were married on February 28th, 1855 at Kooringa.
    During the goldrush times, they searched for their fortune near Bendigo in Victoria for a few years before returning to Burra where John Viant died on February 22nd, 1880.

    Returning to Hannah Viant (Brooker) she moved to Victoria in the 1860's, the 1878 and 1879 directories indicate she was living at Stafford Street, Collingwood, however she died, aged 91years, on July 6th,1891 at 44 Harmsworth Street, Collingwood.

    The death certificate listed her father as Benjamin Curd however, no details were known of her mother’s maiden name.

    The certificate shows she was married to Michael Brooker in England and an "unknown" Viant in South Australia from which marriage there was no issue.
    Hannah was shown as born in England and as living 22 years in South Australia and 20 years in Victoria.

    Hannah was buried at Melbourne General Cemetery. Click here for photo of Hannah.

    She is buried with her son John Brooker who died in January 1877 and also with two great grandchildren who were born to William James Wormhill Brooker and Annie Nash (Naish), Annie Wilhelmina b1885, and William George b1887.
    William George died, aged 4 months, in 1877 and Annie Wilhelmina died, aged 9, in 1894.
    William James Wormhill Brooker was born at sea in 1861.

    The informant on the certificate was shown as her daughter, Hannah Cox also of 44 Harmsworth Street, Collingwood, Victoria.

    Children and their ages listed on the certificate were -:

    The following is known about the children of Michael and Hannah Brooker -:

    Thomas Goulding Bond died in 1882 aged 60.


    It therefore appears that Hannah the daughter of Michael and Hannah Brooker married twice or perhaps at least three times.

    Hannah Cox passed away in 1916 aged 77 years at Collingwood. Her parents were shown as Michael Brooker and Hannah Curd.

    If you can add to or correct any of this information

    Please email Ray Lane

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