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  • Mel Hulbert

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - #5 'So Far Away'

‘So Far Away’ is the prompt for week five.

For many of us, our ancestors arrived via a ship, maybe as convicts or assisted or unassisted passengers. While convicts had no choice in where they were sent, assisted and unassisted passengers often did with destinations such as Americas, Canada and New Zealand as well as Australia.

Why did they choose a particular place/country and why? We may never know all of the reasons that contributed to their decisions but to pack up your family and move to the other side of the world was certainly not one they would have made lightly.

My ancestor David Rutter was 13 years old when he and his family boarded the Constitution for Australia [1]. What must he have been thinking as a teenager? Was this a great adventure or was he apprehensive at the future in this unknown land so far away?

David was born in 1842 in Toft, Cambridgeshire [2] to parents Robert Rutter and Elizabeth Rutter nee Whitby. On the 1851 Census [3], Robert’s occupation was recorded as an agricultural labourer and this may in part explain why he decided to immigrate with his family to the other side of the world. They would not have been financially well-off and the thought of work and perhaps being able to own land one day would have been strong incentive to make the journey. Government assistance programs funded part or all of the fares to the then colonies and the Rutters’ were assisted passengers on the Constitution which brought mostly agricultural labourers and mechanics to New South Wales. The journey would not have been as pleasant as ocean travel is now and smallpox broke out on the ship with it being quarantined upon arrival on 27 May 1855 [4]. Robert and Elizabeth Rutter settled their family at Freemans Reach in the Hawkesbury where they leased land from Thomas Tebbutt, uncle of the astronomer John Tebbutt and later owner of the land.

David married Elizabeth Jane King (who also immigrated with her family at the age of 5) in June 1866 [5] at St John’s Church, Wilberforce. They had ten children including my great grandmother Mary Jane. David leased land from John Tebbutt [6] up until his death however from newspaper articles found on Trove I have learnt he also purchased land in the Government’s Crown Land Sales and worked it with his sons. David was not the only Rutter to purchase land with siblings Thomas, John and Daniel also making purchases though perhaps most interestingly his younger sisters Emily and Alice jointly purchased land in 1895 [7]. David regularly appeared in newspaper articles selling produce and also breeding and showing horses, with his funeral notice claiming he was the best judge of horseflesh in the Hawkesbury district [8].

A notice in the personal column of the Windsor and Richmond Gazette [9] in celebration of David’s 65th birthday and wishing him many more to come. This prompted John Tebbutt to write his best wishes in an article which also gave some wonderful background to the lease he held for over forty years and the long relationship between the two men [6]. David passed away on June 9, 1908 at Freemans Reach after a prolonged illness which confined him to bed for the last three weeks of his life. He was spoken of very highly in his obituary [10], leaving his widow and nine surviving children.

I will probably never know a 13 year old David’s thoughts as the Constitution left Southampton, however based on what I know of David’s life in Australia and his engagement in his Hawkesbury community, I suspect he was very pleased with the decision his parents made to leave their home in Cambridgeshire, England and head to an island in the Pacific Ocean so far away.


[1] Assisted Immigrants Index 1839-1896. NSW State Archives & Records, NRS5316/4_4792/Constitution_27 May 1855/, Copy: Reel 2137, [4/4792]; Reel 2469, [4/4947]

[2] England, General Register Office, PDF copy of an entry in the certified copy of a register of births, for Male Rutter, 1842 March Quarter in Caxton & Arrington Union, Vol 14, p 26.

[3] 1851 England Census, database with images, Ancestry ( :downloaded 31 January 2016), Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851, Class: HO107; Piece: 1758; Folio: 423; Page: 18; GSU roll: 193648.

[4] Mails by the Contract Packet Boomerang. (1855, May 28). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4.

[5] NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages, Registration number 3347/1866.

[6] Personal. (1907, February 16). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1961), p 7.

[7] Crown Land Sale. (1895, August 17). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1961), p 11.

[8] Quarter Sessions. (1908, June 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p 11.

[9] Personal. (1907, February 9). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1961), p 5.

[10] Death of Mr. David Rutter. (1908, June 20). Molong Express and Western District Advertiser (NSW : 1887 - 1954), p 2.


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