The Mystery of Mary’s Mother

There are three daughters of Edward George Clerk for whom I haven’t been able to ascertain the mother.  They are Mary Emily Clerk 1838, Susan Bundarra Clerk 1839 and Anna Maria Clerk 1840. From what I’ve been able to determine they were all born in New South Wales, Australia.

Edward George Clerk was born in Somerset, England in 1813.  He married Anna Maria Stafford on 9 Apr 1835 in Winscombe, Somerset, England.  I found out, in researching this blog post, that Anna and Edward set out for Tasmania, Australia on 19 Jul 1835 but tragically Anna died at sea on 31 Jul 1835.  They had been married for only three months.   I had initially thought that Anna Maria might have been Mary, Susan and Anna’s mother.  Here is a partial timeline of Edward’s life.EdwardGeorgeClerkTimeline


I haven’t been able to find birth registrations for any of the three sisters.  In Mary Emily’s marriage notice it states that her father is E.G. Clerk Esq. of Clerkness, Bundarra.  (Clerkness is the name of the family property in New South Wales) but it doesn’t list her mother.   I obtained a transcription of her marriage certificate but her mother’s name wasn’t listed.


1859 ‘Family Notices.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 24 May, p. 3, viewed 20 August, 2014,

In two documents I found reference to Mary Clerk visiting or living at Clerkness, Bundarra in 1839/41.  They are Clerkness Station and a memoir by Susan Bundarra Young (formerly Buchanan, nee Clerk).  I bought a copy of Susan’s reminiscences from the Royal Australian Historical Society.

So this leads me back to the date of Edward George Clerk’s marriage to Mary Ann West.  I know plenty of children are born outside marriage but in this case I don’t think it is so with Susan and others stating that Mary Ann Clerk was at Clerkness from around 1839.

My conclusion is that there was an error made in recording the date of Mary Ann West and Edward George Clerk’s marriage or a very early transcription error which has been copied many times over the years.  I now believe that they married in 1837 not 47 and I will be ordering the original marriage certificate to verify this.  I started out this blog post with a question but now I have a possible answer!!  I’ll post the result when I receive the marriage certificate.  Although this is part of a tree I’m working on for someone else I’m enjoying it almost as much as researching my own family as the stories and people are all fascinating to me.

4 thoughts on “The Mystery of Mary’s Mother

  • July 10, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Good researching here. I also queried this for years and even the family members wondered if these early childen had a convict or aboriginal mother.

  • July 10, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks Jill, it certainly was a puzzle.

  • September 18, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Kira, I too am having difficulty trying to find a record for a birth at Clerkness/Bundarra in about 1844…that of my great grandmother Sarah Ann nee Archer Beard. Perhaps registrations were not common in this area or the place was so remote then that registrations were not practical. I note that Edward Clerk hired Chinese shepherds in the 1840s and maybe their children were not registered due to language difficulties. Alternately absconded convicts would not have had much to do with authorities and their children’s births not registered. I wonder if in your research you may have encountered an Archer family of Clerkness/Bundarra ?

    • September 18, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      Hi Richard
      It certainly is a mystery and interesting that you have come up against the same problem. In some remote areas a travelling parson/minister recorded births, baptised the babies and performed marriages and took the records to their parish head. Many things may have happened to the records during this process. When you think about it we are so lucky to have the records that we have.
      Unfortunately I haven’t come across any Archers at Clerkness. All the best with your research!!


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