Week 5 of 52 (2022) Ancestors – Branching Out

Week 5 (1-7 Feb) prompt is Branching Out

To branch out or not to branch out that is the question!  

I most definitely believe in ‘branching out’ as far as I could on my main four names to see how far back I could go. But I have decided that I am done getting lost down the black hole of a distant relative because I followed hints in Ancestry. Thank god for the ‘Relationship to You’ button so I could find my way back!

Don’t get me wrong, I have found some very interesting stories but I realised that I was spending hours and even days on people so far removed from my direct line.

I had originally started separate trees in Ancestry for each of my four lines – Shingles, Snowdon, Witt and McEwan.  A few years ago I decided to start a new tree which would include all four branches. It would also be easier to answer any messages I received because having to search the separate trees was very time consuming!  So far, I have most of the time, stuck to my ‘not branching out’ rule and only added the parents (no siblings) to anyone who married into the family.

A few years ago a friend of my dad asked if I could help him with his family research.  At the time I was up for a new challenge as all I was doing was copying over information from my separate trees into my new combined tree and it was a little boring! I do love to research a new line and see what I can find.

I eagerly started a new tree in Ancestry but soon discovered that I could have just joined it to my combined tree as my research surprisingly led to my uncle, the husband of my maternal aunt. I hadn’t gone any further than his parents in my own tree.

This is what I discovered about my 2 x Great Grandparents of the wife of the granduncle of the husband of my aunt!

John and Honor Bowman left Portsmouth, England on 7 November 1797 as free settlers onboard ‘Barwell’ with their children John, George and Mary.  They arrived in Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia on 18 May 1798.  By 1799 they had a grant of 100 acres in Richmond on the Hawkesbury River which they called ‘Archerfield’.

In April 1806 they flew a flag on their farm ‘Archerfield’ which became the first recorded use of the kangaroo and emu supporting a shield and which may be the inspiration for the current Australian coat of arms.

Representation of the original design. Available for purchase as a flag today!

The flag currently resides in the Mitchell Library part of the State Library of NSW in Sydney. Below is the description from the State Library of NSW’s website.

The Bowman Flag was flown by John Bowman and his family on their farm, Archerfield, at Richmond, near Sydney in April 1806. The Bowmans were celebrating the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. An account of the battle and victory (which occurred on 21 October 1805) was published in The Sydney Gazette on 13 April 1806. To commemorate the victory, a day of thanksgiving was ordered by Governor King for the following Sunday at which ‘all persons not prevented by sickness or the necessary care of their dwellings are expected to attend.’

According to descendants of the Bowman family, the flag was made using silk from Honor Bowman’s wedding dress. It is not clear whether the flag was sewn by John’s daughter, Mary Bowman (then aged nine), or her mother Honor. The painting of the flag appears to be the work of a professional sign painter, so is unlikely to have been done by Honor or Mary, although the Bowmans may have assisted in the design. The design incorporates the rose, shamrock and thistle – the traditional floral symbols of England, Ireland and Scotland, as well as the word ‘Unity’ and the motto ‘England expects every man will do his duty’. This message was signalled by Horatio Nelson from the HMS Victory at the beginning of the Battle of Trafalgar to rally the fleet.

The facebook page CAWB – Save Windsor from the RTA has a great post which explains its journey to the State Library.

*The Bowman Flag – the Nation’s First Flag was Hawkesbury’s Own*

Resting securely in the collection of the State Mitchell Library is an amazing emblem of our Nation’s history. It is a flag.

The main part of the flag is square with two pennants attached on the right and rosettes and ribbons on the left. It measures 91 cm X 220 cm.

It’s image is painted in oils on white silk and consists of a central Norman shield, scrolled, with a floral design of the rose, thistle and shamrock, supported by an emu and kangaroo, all resting on the words of Nelson’s last flag order, “England expects everyman will do his duty” and surmounted by the word “Unity”.

It was created in the Richmond area of the Hawkesbury, NSW in 1806 by John Bowman, his wife Honor and 9 year old daughter, Mary. The image itself appears to have been commissioned by John Bowman using a professional sign painter.

In October 1805 Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar but it was not until 1806 that word reached the far our little Colony of NSW and the ears of John Bowman. Governor King declared a public day of celebration and thanksgiving and John Bowman decided to design and make a flag to mark the occasion.

John Bowman arrived as a free settler in Sydney Cove on the Barwell in May 1798 with his Cornish wife, Honor, plus their son and a daughter.

He was granted 100 acres at Hawkesbury and set up his farm “Archerfield” on the Richmond Lowlands near the site of what is today, the aerodrome.

It was here that Honor used the silk material from her wedding gown to make the famous flag.

The flag flew at Archerfield and was kept by the family as a precious heirloom until it was decided to allow the Bowman great-grandchildren to present the flag to Richmond Superior Public School in November, 1905. It was almost 100 years old.

The precious flag was secured in a heavy gold frame and glazed. It was kept in the school’s museum and was carefully overseen by the headmaster, Mr McCoy.

The flag was of central importance on Empire Day in Richmond, May 1908 when it was officially unveiled by by the Hon. Joseph Cook, M.H.R. who read it’s inscription and hoped that the flag which symbolized so much would continue to fly for another 100 years.

In November, 1916, the flag was “discovered” and held in great interest by trustees of the Mitchell Library because it is the earliest known object on which is shown the Emu and Kangaroo in support – now so commonly identified with Australia and it’s Coat of Arms.

Indeed it is this flag that inspired the design of Australia’s Coat of Arms as is now displayed on Parliament House.

The symbols of the flag, the Rose ( England), Thistle ( Scotland) and Shamrock (Ireland) stand for the origins of most of the Colony’s settlers and represent the heart of the then British Empire.

The presence of the Emu and Kangaroo places Australia as a part of that Empire, but not a dependent one, as the supporting attitude of the emblems denotes. It seems that as early as 1806 the free colonists had the larger vision which foresaw Australia as something better than a convict settlement.

The floral emblems looked back to and acknowledged the old world from which they had come, but the Emu and Kangaroo look forward to the Australia we know today.

In November 1916, a Mr Wright from the Mitchell Library, took the historic Bowman Flag from Richmond Public School to the Mitchell Library where it has sometimes been on public view.

It was reported that the condition of the flag was very good – “the gold lettering in as splendid order as the day it was done, the rosettes a little faded and the Emu and Kangaroo a little worse for wear”.

The flag was restored in 1977 and can only be accessed by appointment made through “Ask a Librarian”. State Library on NSW.

The local newspaper reported the move from the school to the library.

So I feel I can claim this very interesting piece of history I found in my research. Although it was accidental I choose to think of it as ‘branching out’ rather than just helping a friend!

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I have been researching my family history since 2009. I am interested it the family names Shingles, McEwan, Snowdon & Witt around Gippsland and Wodonga areas of Victoria, Australia

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