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Thomas Waters Letters to Bedfordshire 1862 – 1871

June 29, 2019


ThomasWaters is my great great grandfather. He was born on 05 October 1829, at the family farm, ‘Newtonbury’ Dunton, Bedfordshire, England.  He died on 28 June 1913 at Rochester, Victoria, Australia

Some years ago, I obtained from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, letters that Thomas had written from Kyneton to his family in Bedfordshire, between 1862 and 1874. I have copies of these letters at hand. They make very interesting reading, giving a glimpse into the life of a battling newcomer to Australia, in the 19th century, The letters outline his difficulties in trying to support his family without economic or family support.  The homesickness Thomas is feeling for his family in England, is very obvious and heartbreaking to read.
HSV Location: Box 79-2
Item Type: MSS Collection
Item No: MS000976

I have decided to publish these letters over a series of blog posts, in the hope that family members may see them and contact me I am very interested to make contact with other researchers of this family, so we can compare notes about the Waters family. I have started compiling articles for a book detailing the life of Thomas Waters and his family, both in Australia and England. 

Trentham 25th March 1874

My dear Brother & Sister & Everybody

In very great haste I make an attempt to scribble a few lines stating that I am quite well and as I believe the family are also. I have not seen them, but once, for nearly three months, I am at present working about 18 miles from them, at a saw mill. I came here to work in the harvest and as soon as that was completed, I continued on at any work that might be required. The work is very hard or rather it appears so to me, after having been sitting in an office for such a length of time doing nothing but writing.

We are a long way from a Post office, and I have only a few minutes to say a word or two. The messenger is about leaving for the Post Office. I have not had a letter from England for some time, pray ask some one to write. I shall be happy to hear from any of you.

I cannot say any more they are calling out for me to send my note away. I will try and do some thing more by the next mail. I am quite ashamed of this, short as it is. I thought you would be glad to see only a line from me.

I hope this will find you all well and accept my very best love all and every one of you and pray excuse this blundering haste. I only begged for a few minutes delay to write.

from Your Affectionate Brother –

Thomas Waters.

Please address the same as before Thos Waters

My Thoughts

With this shorter than usual letter, this series is now complete. There are many gaps in the letters as I suspect many of them never survived. Anyone who has read the letters, would remember that the main theme that came through, other than hardship in a new land, was how heartbreaking it was to be away from his family, and know that he would never see them again.

My great aunt Hilda always told me that there was some sort of scandal attached to Thomas. She never knew what it was, but remembers her father Ernest Waters mentioning it many times. Ernest was Thomas’ son.

Perhaps the scandal was that he was married. Did he run out on his wife?

For a time Thomas ran a pub in London that appeared to close quickly. Did he run away from financial problems?

I haven’t been able to find any shipping records for Thomas’ arrival in Australia, but family hearsay has it that he came out as ships crew. Did he jump ship in Australia, as many did at the time?

The main thing I think of every time that I read these letters is, why were his family in England not writing to him? It’s obvious in reading the letters, that he is writing time and again, but not receiving replies.

The story behind the dates, places and behind the known story in family history and genealogy can be very frustrating. I suspect this is why we love it so much. It gives us the opportunity to become amateur detectives in fishing for the truth.

Listed below are links to the letters and a time line for Thomas:

Thomas Waters’ Letters to Bedfordshire 23 February 1866
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – May 1862
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – August 1862
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – 17 May 1863
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – 23 May 1863
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire Kyneton 23 May 1864
Thomas Waters’ Letters to Bedfordshire 23 March 1865
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire 20 September 1866

Brief timeline for Thomas Waters


From → Uncategorized

  1. Such a treasure to have these letters even though they don’t answer all your questions about his life and his family. They do reveal quite a bit though.

    • Thanks for visiting Virginia. I deeply treasure these letters, but it would have been fabulous to if my questions had been answered.

  2. I wish I had letters, but vital records show about 99% of my ancestors from this time were illiterate, signing with an X.

    • DiAnn most of my ancestors were illiterate like yours. This line is probable the only one that could have written letters, making them extra special. Thanks for visiting

  3. What an incredible window into the life of your great-great grandfather! And how challenging to figure out what the “scandal” was that estranged his family from him. Perhaps there is something in a local newspaper — either in England or Australia — that mentions him, if the indigent was public enough, that would shed light on his situation. Best of luck with this family mystery.

    • I have checked the newspapers Molly,and found nothing. Holding out hope that one day something will show up. Thanks for visiting

  4. I agree, there is a poignancy to Thomas’s letters, with his strong desire to hear from his family in England. You have such a wonderful legacy in his letters.

  5. Sad story. He so wants them to know he’s thinking of them. And perhaps that he’s working too. I hope you do find out more!

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