Joadja and its Scottish roots

Joadja is a small historic town in the Southern Highlands of NSW, approximately 20 mins drive west of Berrima. It’s beginnings go back to around 1850, with the discovery of what was to become a lucrative shale seam in the area. This discovery led to the establishment of a bustling mining settlement in the late 1870s by the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company.

At one time this settlement was home to approximately 1200 people, mostly Scottish miners and their families, recruited from Scotland to work in this isolated mining town. The town grew to incorporate a general store, pub, post office and orchard. It also had its own school of arts, which became the focal point for the community and hosted recreational and educational activities as well as serving as a church and Masonic Lodge.

My personal interest in Joadja goes back to my great great grandfather Robert Sneddon (1841-1912). Robert was born in Lanarkshire in Scotland to Richard Sneddon (1801-1868) and Nicholas (yes, a lady’s name!) Stanners (also known as Stonehouse) (1805-1882). Robert Jnr married Mary McEwan (1841-1913) in 1862 and they eventually went on to have 10 children, 8 in their native Scotland and 2 in Australia – Richard, Mary, Nicholas, Margaret, William, Robert, Mary (the eldest Mary died in infancy), Andrew, Malcolm and Rebecca.

In 1879, Robert was one of many Scotsman recruited to make the trip across the world to settle in Joadja. Skilled miners like Robert were in great demand at a time and place where there was a shortage of skilled labour. Robert and Mary and their 6 children (Richard, Margaret, William, Robert, Mary and Andrew) arrived in Sydney on 3rd April 1879 aboard the ship Clyde. If you have done the maths, you will realise that 2 children were missing – Mary and Nicholas had both died in March 1868 of whooping cough at the ages of 3 and 1 years respectively.

Robert and family settled into life at Joadja, with Mary giving birth to 2 more children – Malcolm in 1880 and Rebecca in 1882. Conditions were very tough in this isolated town and we can only imagine what they had to endure. There were many deaths due to illness, accidents and suicide and the town is rumoured to have had a number of resident ghosts. The cemetery still remains but with very few intact and legible head stones.

Robert wasn’t the only member of his family to make the journey to Australia. At least two of Robert’s brothers-in-law also lived in Joadja during the same time – Andrew McEwan (1844-1901) and David McEwan (1857-1931) and their wives and children also lived and worked at Joadja. Robert’s eldest sister Elizabeth (1831-1894) also emigrated to Australia with husband William Ferguson and their 3 children (Nicholas, Daniel and Janet) sometime around 1855/56 and settled in Victoria, where they went on to have a further 4 children (Richard, William, Elizabeth and Isabella).

In exchange for their passage to Australia, the Scottish immigrants who worked at Joadja were obliged to stay for a minimum period of 2 years. At this stage I’m unsure when my Sneddon and McEwen ancestors left the Joadja township. Certainly by 1911, Joadja had ceased to be a profitable operation and the mine was wound up. While the orchard continued to exist until the 1920s, the town essentially became a ghost town after mining operations ceased and many of the workers and their families, including my Scottish ancestors moved to the Hunter Valley area where they continued to work in the mining industry.

If you are in the area, I strongly encourage you to visit Joadja. The town and what is left of the historic buildings is now privately owned and it is so encouraging to see that the current owners are working very hard to protect and restore the buildings and make Joadja a tourist attraction. The owners run very informative and entertaining tours on select weekends and there is a lovely cafe on site. Further information is available on the Joadja Town website – You will also find for sale at the cafe a wonderful souvenir history of the town by Leonie Knapman and Andrew Hutton if you are interested in learning more about the area.






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The Goddard Boat Builders

The Goddards enjoyed a reputation as some of the best boat builders in Sydney, starting with William Reuben Goddard in the late 1800s  at Berry’s Bay and continuing with his eldest son William Joseph Goddard who established a very successful business at Palm Beach in the early 1900s.

William Reuben Goddard was born in Hertfordshire, England in 1847. He arrived in Sydney in 1852 aboard the General Hewitt with his father George (1803-1885), mother Eliza (nee Arthur, 1815-1895) and siblings Henry (1843-1928), John (1845-1896) and Mary (1849-1913). William married Bridget McGrath in Sydney in 1869 and they settled in North Sydney.

William established his boat shed in North Sydney at Berry’s Bay in the late 1800s with a workshop and yards and became well-known in the area for his fine craftsmanship. The boat shed no longer remains but was situated nearby Eaton’s Timber Yard which survived on the Berry’s Bay waterfront until the 1980s. This area is now known as Sawmiller’s Reserve at McMahon’s Point.

William and Bridget had 10 children – William (1870-1944), Henry (1872-1874), Naomi (1875-1939), Herbert (1877-1947), Maude (1878-1953), Percival (1880-1882), Harold (1884-1939, known as Johnno), Horace (1887-1957), Stanley (1888-1914) and Gladys (1896-1921). It should be noted that we now believe Gladys may not have been William’s child but rather the daughter of Patrick Donovan (1838-1917) whom Bridget Goddard married in 1902.

William’s obituary stated that he “launched many small craft from his yard in the early days, devoting most of his time to building small boats and skiffs. He was noted for his skiff building” (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Feb 1916).

Eaton's Timber Yard - Berry's Bay c1916  Lionel Lindsay etching

Eaton’s Timber Yard – Berry’s Bay c1916
Lionel Lindsay etching

Like his father, William Joseph Goddard was a well-known Sydney boat builder.

William married Ada D’Arcy in Hurstville in 1897 and they had four children – Walter (1899-1974), Arthur (1901-1960), Marjorie (1905-1998) and Grace (1911-?).

William bought land at Palm Beach near the southern end of the golf links in 1917. He constructed a house by transporting all the materials from the city by his launch.

In 1919 he constructed a boat shed and began boat building. William J. Goddard & Sons was building boats between 1928 and 1939.

In 1932 William commenced a regular ferry service to the western foreshores of Pittwater, running from Palm Beach to Coasters Retreat, The Basin, Stiles’ Wharf at Little Mackerel Beach and Great Mackerel Beach Wharf.

In 1942 he sold the business to the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company. Included in the sale were a general store with a liquor licence, marine repair facilities and ferries. The general store had been the first at Palm Beach and was run by William’s wife Ada. Also included was a small motor launch “Falcon” (which was later known as “Elvina”) built by William in 1928 (likely later sold to the Church Point Ferry Service).  “Elvina” provided a very important service to the people of Pittwater at the time, delivering supplies and mail. She is the longest serving passenger ferry in NSW.

"Falcon" later known as "Elvina".

“Falcon” later known as “Elvina”.

Records from the NSW Ship and Boat Builders Register ( record that William J. Goddard (and later William J. Goddard & Sons) was based in Palm Beach and specialised in fishing boats, yachts, launches and ferries. William J. Goddard & Sons built 11 boats between 1902 and 1938 including Grace, Gulnare, Beacon, Natoma, Idler, Kimba, Reliance, Venture II, Viking, W.J., W.J.G. and Wongawill.

William’s sons also worked in the family business – eldest son Walter worked as a mechanic and son Arthur carried on the family tradition as a boat builder. Arthur was a popular identity in the Palm Beach community and was the captain of the Palm Beach Surf Live Saving Club boat crew. Arthur married Madeline Gonsalves in 1928. Madeline was a member of the well-known Gonsalves Family, prominent boat builders in the Palm Beach area who still operate to this day. Arthur and Madeline had two sons – Donald and Jimmy. Jimmy also continued on in the business, becoming a boat builder himself and doing maintenance for Palm Beach Ferries at Careel Bay. The following is a short biography of Jimmy from the Wooden Boat Association of NSW….

“Jimmy Goddard was a larger than life identity in the Palm Beach and Careel Bay community for 83 years. He served his apprenticeship at the family boatshed at Palm Beach with his father Arthur, the family being among the first settlers in the area. Jim was a first class tradesman and in later years restored some noteworthy vessels including the fishing boat ATALANTA which was owned by the famous American game fisherman Zane Grey who used to frequent the Palm Beach area in the 50’s. Jim was also known for his fishing prowess and operated offshore fishing charters aboard his lovely old trawler CAROLINE H for many years until the Waterways in their wisdom thought Jim should get a proper licence, to which he replied “I think it might be time for me to retire”.Jim survived a heart operation a couple of years ago, but unfortunately they didn’t makethe pacemaker out of Spotted Gum. His son Alan carries on his legend in Dover Tasmania”.

For more on the history of Pittwater and specifically the families and boat building industry of Palm Beach I highly recommend exploring the archives of the Pittwater Online News –

The Goddard men preparing "W.J.G" for launch c1930s.

The Goddard men preparing “W.J.G” for launch c1930s.


Church Point Ferry Service. (2013). Tales of the Elvina. Retrieved from

Sydney Morning Herald. (1916). Late Mr W.R. Goddard. Retrieved from

Wooden Boat Association of NSW. (2012). Scuttlebutt: October 2012. Retrieved from

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The Australiana Pioneer Village

I recently had the opportunity to spend the day wandering around the Australiana Pioneer Village at Wilberforce near Windsor. It’s an interesting place to spend some time, particularly if you are related to one of the many wonderful pioneers of the area.

What is most amazing about the village is that it gives us the opportunity to see a number of the original buildings of the area which have thankfully been preserved.

One of my favourite buildings was Aiken’s Hut. Aiken’s Hut was built by William Henry Aiken in West Pennant Hills in 1875, the same year he married Elizabeth Bowerman. Aiken’s Hut was notable for being the last remaining slab hut in West Pennant Hills.

William was the grandson of notable early settler John Aiken. John was born in the West Indies and arrived in Sydney in 1796. John and family were granted 30 acres in the Field of Mars and settled in the area that is now West Pennant Hills. Those who know the area will know Aiken Road, which is of course named after the Aikens.

John’s son William (William Jnr’s father) was killed in a horse and dray accident in 1869 at the age of 53 (William is buried in St Paul’s Church Cemetery at Carlingford). This left his wife Mary with seven children to care for alone (two of William and Mary’s nine children had died previously).

William Jnr stayed on the family farm and married Elizabeth Bowerman. The building that now stands at the Australian Pioneer Village is where they lived with their children – a family of nine in a tiny hut! It was transported to Wilberforce in the 1980s with the exception of the kitchen which was unfortunately not in good enough condition to be transported.

Elizabeth and William both died in West Pennant Hills, Elizabeth in 1907 and William in 1933.

The Australian Pioneer Village is located in Rose Street, Wilberforce – a nice drive out of the city. It is open every Sunday from 10am-4pm and also extra days during school holidays. I will hopefully include a few more posts shortly with stories of some of the other unique buildings at the village and the families who built them.

Aiken's Hut

Aiken’s Hut

The last remaining hut in West Pennant Hills, now located at the Australiana Pioneer Village in Wilberforce.

The last remaining hut in West Pennant Hills, now located at the Australiana Pioneer Village in Wilberforce.

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South Coast Family History Tour – Eden Historic Cemetery

In October we headed off up the coast to Sydney and spent a few days en route exploring some of the cemeteries on the NSW Far South Coast.

First stop was Eden Historic Cemetery located in Eden overlooking Aslings Beach.

The earliest burial here was 1834 and it is the final resting place of a number of prominent founding members of the local area and a number of my husband’s Power Family relatives.

It is a well-maintained cemetery that is now managed by the Bega Valley Shire Council. Information regarding inscriptions can be found through the Bega Valley Genealogy Society or if you are in the area you can pop into the local library and access the very useful series of books Monumental Inscriptions, Known Graves and War Memorials in the Bega Valley Shire. There are three books in the series which cover the cemeteries in the local area, both large and small (Just a note that I found the three books in the series in the local studies collection at Merimbula Library).  These books can also be purchased through the Bega Valley Genealogy Society –


James Rixon1836-1893

James Rixon

Norah & Mary Jane Power

Norah & Mary Jane Power

Catherine Power 1874-1888

Catherine Power

Frederick & Johanna Lindwall

Frederick & Johanna Lindwall

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Joseph Eyles

Another interesting character in my family tree is Joseph Eyles, a convict who came to have a very successful life in Australia.

Joseph was born on the 1st December 1773 in Marlborough, England. He was the son of Sir Joesph Eyles (1743-1840) and Mary Dudley (1744-1840). In October 1796, Joseph was committed to stand trial for the theft of 40lbs of lead. In January 1797 he was found guilty and was sent to the prison hulk The Fortune, where he spent two and a half long years before being transferred to the ship Canada for transportation to Australia. He finally arrived in Australia in 1801 . In 1805 he was assigned to the whaling ship King George and by 1807 he was free by servitude.

Joseph had married Elizabeth Dixon (1784-1811) in Parramatta on the 6th November 1804. Unfortunately Elizabeth died in 1811 at the age of 27.

On the 4th February 1815, Joseph married Elizabeth Smith (1785-1854). Elizabeth was also a convict, who was sentenced to transportation for stealing a gown and arrived in Sydney in October 1811 on the ship Friends. Interestingly, it appears that the name ‘Smith’ was an alias used by Elizabeth and her real surname was actually either Trebble or Trible. Elizabeth had a daughter, Anne (1802-1853), from a previous relationship.

Joseph and Elizabeth had six children together – Joseph (1812-1865), John (1814-1878), Mary Ann (1816-1890), William (1818-1859), James (1820-1907) and Elizabeth (1824-1898).

In 1810, Joseph was living with Elizabeth and her daughter Anne on land in Field of Mars – 6ha of land leased from John Macarthur. That land was on Marsden Rd almost opposite Mobbs Lane and on it, Joseph planted a peach orchard. In 1821, John Macarthur gave up all his properties in the Pennant Hills district in exchange for land in the Cowpastures (Camden). By this time, five of the Eyles children had been born.

In 1822, Joseph asked Governor Brisbane to grant him the land on which he was living in exchange for 20ha that he been granted by Governor Macquarie to the north of his peach orchard. The 1822 Muster lists Joseph’s farm as comprising of 6 acres of wheat, 6 acres of corn, 2.5 acres of oats, 1 acre of potatoes and a 1 acre orchard. He also had a horse and 16 hogs.

Joseph’s request for more land was not finally settled until 1832 although Joseph had built a much grander house and planted more peaches on his original orchard.

In the meantime, in January 1828, Joseph was made a Constable at Parramatta. That appointment provided him with an income (3/15/- per half-year) and government rations, also obtainable half-yearly.

Of Joseph’s sons, Joseph Jnr moved to the Richmond River in northern NSW where he supplied goods and services to the cedar cutters. John moved to Ballina, William remained in the Carlingford district, as did James who became a pillar of the Wesleyan Church (now Uniting Church) on Marsden Rd. That church was established in 1825. James built a fine house on Marsden Rd. That house, still standing, was named “Caskie Ben” after a parish near Aberdeen in Scotland.

Joseph died on the 26th June 1856 in Dundas and was buried at All Saints Cemetery in Parramatta along with his wife Elizabeth and her daughter Ann.

Eyles Family Grave


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One resource that I get particularly good mileage from is the National Library of Australia’s online resource Trove ( Trove is a free online repository of Australian material and includes digitised newspapers, journals, photographs, videos, books and archived websites amongst other valuable resources. Trove currently includes almost 240 million resources for users to browse.

The area of Trove that I tend to access most often is their fantastic online repository of digitised newspapers. Currently this collection includes a range of Australian newspapers published between 1803 – 1954. These newspapers are from right around Australia but are predominantly those from New South Wales and Victoria.

The NLA is continuously adding new newspapers and issues to the website and users can subscribe to an RSS feed to be kept updated on new additions. New additions for the month of April include The Australasian Sketcher (VIC), The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW), The Clarence and Richmond Examiner (NSW), The Empire (NSW), The Gippsland Times (VIC), The Mail (SA), The Observer (TAS) and The Townsville Daily Bulletin (QLD).

It is always worth searching through Trove for death notices, funeral notices and obituaries. I have found many missing puzzle pieces in my own family tree this way.

Obituary for Thomas Power (1843-1929)

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In Their Footsteps

For those who didn’t happen to catch the new Channel 9 program In Their Footsteps ( on Sunday night, it is well worth watching. We tuned in to the first episode and were particularly enthralled because the focus in this installment was on the life of Sailor and WWII Serviceman, PO Tommy Johnson, whose experiences throughout WWII greatly resembled those of my husband’s Great Uncle Walter Mervyn Dorman.

Walter, known as Merv, was born on the 3rd July 1905 in Leichhardt NSW. He was the eldest son of Walter Henry Dorman (1883-1961) and Alice Lillian Dora Power (1182-1961). In 1919, at the age of 14, he enlisted as a Cadet with the Australian Army and on the 24th June 1940 he joined the 2/12 Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers.

Walter was captured by the Japanese and we believe sent to work on the infamous Burma Railway along with approximately 60,000 Allied POWs. He survived this horrific experience and returned to POW camps in Singapore.

On the 4th September 1944, Merv was one of 1317 POWs placed aboard the Japanese ship Rayuko Maru bound for Japan. On the 12th September 1944, the Rakuyo Maru was torpedoed by the US Submarine Sealion, unaware that Allied POWs were on board. 1159 POWs from the Rayuko Maru and the ship it was travelling with, Kachidoki Maru, perished. Merv survived this event and although American submarines later returned to rescue some POWs, Merv was one of the 136 survivors who were picked up by the Japanese ship Kibitsu Maru and transported to Japan.

In Japan, Merv and his fellow POWs were destined to see out the war working in Japanese mines and shipyards until the American Occupation Forces emancipated them in September 1945. Tragically, after all he had been through, Merv died in a hospital in Tokyo on the 21st May 1945. He missed out on his freedom by a few short months.

Merv is buried in the Sydney War Cemetery at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney.

Some related links –

Royal Australian Engineers Homepage –

“Railway of Death” – History of Burma-Thailand Railway –

“The Survivor” by Darryl Kelly – An extract from this fascinating book which details the life of Bill Webb, a fellow POW and survivor of the Rayuko Maru –

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