first families 2001

Bernasocchi 'Family Stories'

By Martyn Smith, 28 March, 2010

First Family Member Details
Family Stories
Family Contact, including related link

First Family Member Details

Given Name(s): Domenico Riccardo
Occupation(s): miner

Birth Details
Birth Town: Carasso
Birth County,
Region, Province:
Birth Country: Switzerland
Birth Date: 1836

Death Details
Death Town: Coomoora
Death State/Territory: Victoria
Death Country: Australia
Death Date: 19 Nov 1874

Immigration Details
Air/Port Landed: unknown
Ship/Plane: unknown
Year Arrived: c1859/60/61
Surname: BOYLE
Given Name(s): Bridget Mary
Occupation(s): servant

Birth Details
Birth Town: unknown
Birth County,
Region, Province:
Birth Country: Ireland
Birth Date: 1841/2

Death Details
Death Town: Hawthorn
Death State/Territory: Victoria
Death Country: Australia
Death Date: 25 Feb 1925

Immigration Details
Air/Port Landed: unknown
Ship/Plane: unknown
Year Arrived: unknown

Family Stories


First father Domenico BERNASOCCHI is recorded by Dr Joseph Gentilli (see 'Life Before Australia' below) as arriving in Australia in 1859 but Gentilli records no ship's name.  (Gentilli records Domenico's name as "Dom. Riccardo Bernasocchi" and records his birth year as 1836.)  On the other hand, Gentilli lists Domenico's brother, Pietro, and his cousins (probably), Giacomo and Guiseppi BERNASOCCHI, as arriving in 1859 aboard the 'Black Eagle'.

Domenico's 1874 death certificate records that he had been "13 years in Victoria" so it may be that Domenico followed Pietro, Giacomo and Guiseppi a couple of years after their migration. 

In "Letters of Naturalization" dated 3rd October, 1864, Domenico - identified as "Domenico Bernasochi of Daylesford in the Colony of Victoria, Miner" - was granted "all the rights and capacities within the said Colony of Victoria of a natural born British subject" by Governor Charles H. Darling, thus becoming entitled to purchase land.  Prerequisite to this, John Burton JP certified on 26th September, 1864, that he had known Domenico for two years and that Domenico was "a person of good repute."  Domenico duly swore his oath of allegiance on 1st November, 1864.

Domenico and Bridget were married on 10th February, 1866 in the newly completed St Peter's Roman Catholic Church at Daylesford, its first service having been conducted less than a year earlier, on 14th May, 1865.  The marriage certificate held at St Peter's records that

  • Domenico signed his name as "Domenico Bernasoco", whilst Bridget simply made her mark;
  • Bachelor Domenico was a twenty-nine years old miner born in Switzerland and spinster Bridget was a twenty-four years old servant born in County Clare, Ireland;
  • both resided at Coomoora;
  • Domenico's parents were Giacomo BERNASOCO, farmer, and Maria VALMAQUNE;
  • Bridget's parents were John BOYLE, farmer, and Mary MACNAMARA;
  • P.J. Slattery officiated and the witnesses were Antonio Barr and Margaret Kennedy.

Domenico was admitted to membership of the "Loyal Hand of Friendship Lodge Daylesford" on 4th October, 1870.  The Honour Board of the Lodge, currently displayed at the Daylesford Museum, shows Domenico as "Richard Bernasoca".

(Note regarding Domenico's names:-  It appears that, with the birth of his first child in 1867, Domenico came to be known as 'Richard Bernasoco' or 'Bernasoca'.  With the exception of the registration of daughter Clara's 1874 birth - on which he is recorded as "Dominick Bernasoca" - each one of the official Colony of Victoria registrations of the births of Domenico's children and the death of one of them records "Richard Bernasoco" as father.)

The Baptismal Register at St Peter's, Daylesford records the following births and baptisms of the children of Domenico and Bridget:-

  1. Richard John, born 29/1/1867, baptised 9/6/1867, sponsors: Baptista Monetti, Sarah McCormack;
  2. Mary Anne, 24/4/69, 21/2/70, Johanna Carroll, Peter Ross;
  3. Catherine Josephine, 2/3/71, 27/8/71, John Boyle, Florence McCue;
  4. James Patrick, 5/9/72, 12/10/72, baptised "privately periculo mortis";
  5. Clara Bridget, 16/10/74, 23/11/74, Batista Menotti, Margaret Minihan.

The family's residence is given as Coomoora throughout this time.  Domenico is identified as "Richard" (three times), "Domenico" (once) and "Dominic" (once).  The family name is recorded variously on a 'Bernasoco/a' theme, with 'a' and 'o' occasionally finding a place earlier in the spelling.

On 15th August, 1871, Domenico (as "D. Bernasoco") bought a nine-acre block of Crown land abutting Jim Crow Creek near the road from Hepburn to Franklinford.

With four children under seven years of age - a fifth, James Patrick, had died in 1872 - Domenico ("Dominick Bernasoco") died of "Disease of the Heart" on 19th November, 1874, recorded to be thirty-five years old.  (Baby Clara was just eight weeks old.  Sadly - one imagines Bridget's emotions - within four months of her father's death, Clara, too, had died.)  Domenico's cousins, Gaetano and Battista Minotti, were witnesses to his 20th November burial at Daylesford Cemetery, officiated by Reverend Henry Bradbee.

Maps produced by the Department of Lands & Survey, Melbourne show that Bridget (as "B. Bernasochio") purchased three quarters of an acre of Crown land in Coomoora on 7th December, 1875.  Interestingly, more than a decade later, on 6th March, 1888, her daughter Catherine (as "C.T.J. Bernasochi") purchased a two-acre block of Crown land abutting Bridget's.  Catherine was just seventeen years old.  (Note:  'T', for 'Theresa', has been added to her name by 1888. Indeed, she is named as "Catherina Theresa Josephina", aged three and a half years, on her father's 1874 death registration.  On later official documents, viz. her 1896 marriage and 1962 death registrations, 'Josephine' has been dropped and her given names appear as 'Catherine Theresa'.)  No more is known about these property matters but it would appear that the land, which today is in open paddocks south-west of the intersection of Wallaby Creek and the main road to Glenlyon, was all or part of Domenico's original miner's right.  Certainly, the blocks are at the south-western extremity of the originally surveyed subdivisional "Residence Sites at Comoora", photo-lithographed 3/12/1866.

Bridget Mary BERNASOCCHI (nee BOYLE) may not be a 'first mother'.  It is possible that she emigrated with her parents during the 1850s.  This is being investigated currently.  Following Domenico's death, Bridget Mary married Glenlyon labourer Patrick LEE at St Peter's, Daylesford, in 1876.  She and Patrick had two children, William Patrick and Eliza Bridget.  Sponsors at the baptism of William Patrick were John Boyle and Catherine Boyle.  These are the second and third references to 'Boyle' at the baptisms of Bridget's children, thus suggesting that she did have family in Australia, including, maybe, her parents. 

When Bridget died on 25th February, 1925 she was living with her daughter, Catherine, and son-in-law, Henry OLVER, in Stewart Street, Hawthorn, Victoria.  (Domenico's name is spelt "Domnico Bernasocchi" on Bridget's death certificate.)

Catherine's brother, Richard, also came to live with her towards the end of his life.  William Henry SMITH, the son of Catherine's daughter Cecelia (aka Florence) faintly recalls Bridget and, more clearly, "Uncle Dick" when each of them lived at Stewart Street.  At the time, William Henry, known all his life as 'Harry', also lived there for a short while with his mother before they both moved a very short distance to a neighbouring street.  Richard died at Camberwell in 1930, aged sixty-three.  His death registration spells his surname with the original "Bernasocchi", as it also does when recording his father's name.

Richard BERNASOCCHI appears to have been an active member of the Daylesford community in the decades surrounding the turn of the century.  Records at the Daylesford Museum show that he was a member of a Lodge (with Henry OLVER), the fire brigade, a brass band and the cricket team.  Further details are being sought currently.

Another of Catherine's siblings, Mary Anne Frances BERNASOCCHI, married William TODD in Port Melbourne at the age of twenty-seven.  She and William had two children - Margaret and Francis Richard.  Frances, as she was known, died on 24th May, 1953 aged eighty-three, at her home in Warwick Road, Greensborough.  Widowed at the time of her death, Frances had been unwell for some time, suffering senility (four years), gangrene of the right leg (four months) and pneumonia (four days).  She was buried in the Brighton Cemetery on 26th May.  Frances' death registration shows her father as "Richard Bernasocki" and her mother as "Bridget Mary Bernasocki".

Catherine and Henry OLVER's daughter, Cecelia Jane, married twice, first to Reginald Tresise SMITH and then to John Rowling CUGLEY.  She had no children by her second marriage.  At some time before her first marriage she became known as Florence Cecily.  Her son from her first marriage, William Henry (Harry) SMITH, also married twice, first to Phyllis Joyce O'HARA and then to Margaret WATSON (nee BENNETT).  He and Margaret bore no children.  His and Phyllis Joyce's daughter, Helen Cristine (that's not a typo - there is no 'h'!) SMITH, married a SMITH!! - Martyn Geoffrey.  An exceptional touch of no change of name!

Life Before Australia:

The story of Domenico BERNASOCCHI and his fellow Ticinesi is told in 'The Settlement of Swiss Ticino Immigrants in Australia' by Dr Joseph Gentilli.   This is an Occasional Paper of the Department of Geography, University of Western Australia, published in the Department's publication GEOWEST 23, August, 1988.

Family Contact
Surname: SMITH
Given Name: Martyn
Related Link: Directory of Helen and Martyn Smith's FF2001 Webpages

Last updated by Martyn SMITH on 28 March 2010.