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What a Bonney idea 8th October 2009 BMD Indexes
For several months I have been tracing the many branches of my wife’s family in Australia. During the mid to late 19th century there were many ways for people to gain a passage on ships arriving at the Australian Colonies. You could be an assisted immigrant, unassisted immigrant, Bounty passenger, part of the Irish Famine Relief, part of a ships crew that decided to stay and of course, be a convict. You could disembark in N.S.W, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania or South Australia. Some states had many ports you could have used such as Portland, Geelong or Melbourne in Victoria. So when I am searching for how a particular family arrived I might have to look at up to a dozen or more different sources of passenger lists.

One family I was having a lot of problems with was Benjamin Bonney and his very large family from Sussex in England. After spending many hours searching through the various shipping records I was almost ready to give up. Then I saw the Family Forename Search on The Genealogist. I took the gamble and paid my registration fee and started to use the Family Forename Search. I entered the name of Benjamin and wife and four of his children and restricted the search to Sussex and up came a single hit. But the family had the surname Boniface, not Bonney! I checked the estimated years of birth and they matched. I always want at least two different sources to verify an identity. I knew they were non-conformists so searched for them in the Non Conformist Records on The Genealogist using the surname Boniface. I found all of their baptism records which confirmed it was the correct family.

I went back to the most probable shipping list and searched for Boniface instead of Bonney and found them in a couple of minutes. So a brick wall that had stumped me for months was solved by the excellent Family Forename Search tool in a couple of minutes. The Non Conformist Records provided the extra level of proof. Further research showed that in Sussex, many Boniface families changed to Bonney. Since this family were assisted immigrants they travelled under the name Boniface as this was how they were registered. Once they disembarked in Australia they only ever used the Bonney surname.

Mark Dodd

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