first families 2001

Olver 'Family Stories'

By Martyn Smith, 28 January, 2014

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

First Family Member Details

Surname: OLVER
Given Name(s): Thomas Hodge
Occupation(s): labourer, farmer, miner, baker, dairyman

Birth Details
Birth Town: St Martin by Looe
Birth County,
Region, Province:
Birth Country: England
Birth Date: 24 Dec 1798

Death Details
Death Town: Daylesford
Death State/Territory: Victoria
Death Country: Australia
Death Date: 20 Sep 1886

Immigration Details
Air/Port Landed: unknown
Ship/Plane: unknown
Year Arrived: 1858/9
Surname: STRIKE
Given Name(s): Mary Ann
Occupation(s): unknown

Birth Details
Birth Town: Bere Ferrers
Birth County,
Region, Province:
Birth Country: England
Birth Date: 1805

Death Details
Death Town: Bere Alston
Death State/Territory: Devon
Death Country: England
Death Date: 20 Jun 1854

Immigration Details
Air/Port Landed: did not migrate
Ship/Plane: n/a
Year Arrived: n/a

OLVER, Rebecca 01 OLVER, Thomas Hodge 02 OLVER, John Strike 03
OLVER, Betsy 04 OLVER, William 05 OLVER, Samuel Hodge 06
OLVER, Richard 07    

Family Stories

Life in Australia:

Not having migrated to Australia simultaneously, Thomas Hodge OLVER, his second wife Jane and his three sons Thomas, William and Samuel ultimately were re-united in 1862 when they settled together at Hepburn, Victoria.

Previously, Thomas, and/or his eldest son, had purchased three-and-a-half acres of Crown land in Hepburn on 31st August, 1861.

There is some uncertainty currently whether father or son - both named 'Thomas Hodge' - purchased the land.  On the maps of the Department of Lands & Survey, Melbourne, the purchaser is identified only as "T.H. Oliver".

The land comprised two adjacent blocks on the south-western rim of Doctors Gully above its junction with Spring Creek, on the north-west side of today's Frame Street, near the remains of the old swing bridge across the gully.  Earliest Rate Books (1871-75) show that the family developed two dwellings on the land, variously assessed to have had net values of between six and eight pounds each, with annual rates of between six and eight shillings each.  Included in these assessments was a garden.

However, it appears that the Olvers were not the first occupiers of the smaller of their two blocks.

An 1857 "Crown Lands Office Melbourne" survey map of "Building Allotments at SPRING CREEK HEPBURN" shows that one "Thos Newman" had established a house and a blacksmith's shop on the land.  It is not known by this researcher why it was not Newman who later purchased the Crown Grant.

Thomas OLVER snr died in the Daylesford Hospital on Monday, 20th September, 1886, the death register recording that he was eighty-eight years old and had been "30 years in Victoria".  Eldest son Thomas was the informant.

The death of Thomas snr (identified as "Thomas Oliver") was barely noted by the board of the Daylesford Hospital when it failed to achieve a quorum at its September 1886 meeting!  The following quaint item appeared in 'The Daylesford Advocate' on Saturday, 25th September of that year:-  "The house committee of the hospital should have met on Thursday, but only Mr Jamieson (treasurer) was present.  The medical officer's report was as follows:-  ...... 2 had died during the week ...... Thomas Oliver, aged 88, native of England, who has been an inmate for four years and nine months; cause of death, rupture ......"  (Thomas' fellow departee was eighty-three years old Giovanni Barboni.)

Prior to this snippet, however, the 'Advocate' had reported, on Thursday, 23rd September, that "Another old identity has joined the great majority.  We allude to Mr Thomas Oliver, who died on Tuesday at the Daylesford Hospital, which had been his abode for the last five years.  Deceased in his early days used to sell milk in Daylesford.  He was a native of England, and at the time of his death was 88 years of age."

A day later, 'The Daylesford Herald' wrote "Another old hospital patient passed away on Wednesday.  'Uncle Tom' otherwise Tom Olver, a hardy old Englishman of 88 years.  Olver used to 'ride a horse and two milk cans' in the earlier days of the town but latterly he acted as messenger at the hospital which he could do well, being exceedingly active for his years.  In his youth he was a great wrestler."

Thomas snr's death registration states that, aged fifty-five, he had married "a widow named Jane Wheeler" - the registrar's mishearing of a south-west English-accented 'Trewhala', no doubt - at Plymouth.

Jane OLVER, formerly TREWHALA (nee ROBINS) died at Daylesford on 25th August, 1866, having lived in the Colony of Victoria not four-and-a-half years.  A study of the relevant dates shows that she and Thomas had spent fifty-four of their one hundred and thirty-three months of marriage separated by half the globe as the family migrated to Australia in stages.

Thus the athletic patriarch Thomas, 68, twice a widower, embarked solo on what were to be the concluding twenty years of his life, during which he witnessed the steady growth of his antipodean family.  At the time of his death in 1886, he had seventeen colonial grandchildren, the eldest being another Thomas Hodge OLVER, aged twenty-five.

Back in August 1866, however, when Jane died, Thomas' sons Thomas, 37, had been married less than five years, William, 28, was destined to be a life-long bachelor and Samuel, 26, well may have had an eye for John and Lydia WILKINSON's young daughter Emma, who he eventually married in October, 1867.

Thomas Hodge OLVER jnr married Elizabeth GEYSEL at Daylesford on 20th December, 1861.  Thomas' and Elizabeth's marriage registration records that

  • Thomas was a twenty-five years old labourer - a reduction of seven years on his true age - who resided at the Old Race Course, Hepburn,
  • he was a member of the Church of England, born in "Bieralston", Devon, England,
  • Elizabeth resided at Jim Crow Creek and was a twenty years old servant,
  • she was a member of the Lutheran Church, born in Frankfurt, Germany,
  • the ceremony was conducted in a private house in Daylesford "According to the rites and Ceremonies of the United Church of England & Ireland",
  • "Elizabeth Geysel was married with the written consent of James Daly Esq the Justice of the Peace appointed to give consent to the marriage of minors within the provisions of the Act 22 Vic. 70 which written consent was handed to me previous to the Ceremony." - Officiating Minister Pryce,
  • whilst the officiating minister spelt Elizabeth's surname as "Geysel", her signature appears to spell it "Guiysal",
  • Elizabeth's parents were John GEYSEL, mason, and Catherine YOUNG - 'Jung' anglicised, perhaps,
  • Witnesses were "John Barnfather" and "Charlotte Pryce".

Born on 22nd July, 1829, Thomas jnr died at Hepburn on 11th April, 1898.  He is buried in the same Daylesford Cemetery grave as his father.  His wife Elizabeth died at Brunswick on 22nd May, 1927.

William OLVER remained unmarried.  Born at Bere Alston on 5th December, 1837, he died at Hepburn on 26th December, 1902, following a fall into Breakneck Gorge.

Samuel Hodge OLVER married twice, firstly to Emma WILKINSON at Daylesford on 3rd October, 1867 and, secondly, to Mary Anne UNDERDOWN at Daylesford on 8th July, 1883. 

On 12th October, 1877, Samuel (identified as "S.H. Oliver") purchased an irregularly shaped nine-acre block of Crown land adjacent (north-west) to those of his brother and father.  This meant that the Olver family held a relatively large block on the rim of Doctors Gully between today's Fourteenth and Frame Streets, Hepburn.

Born at Bere Alston on 8th March, 1840, Samuel died at Hepburn on 14th April, 1892.  (Note:- Samuel's date of birth stated here is quoted from the General Register Office, England and differs from that stated in the family Prayer Book quoted in 'Life Before Australia' below.)

Great grandchild of this first family, Cecelia Jane CUGLEY (nee OLVER) 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, William Henry 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 SMITH, married a SMITH - Martyn Geoffrey.

Life Before Australia:  

First father Thomas Hodge OLVER married twice -  firstly, to first mother Mary Ann STRIKE at Tavistock, Devon, England on 21st January, 1826, and, secondly, at Plymouth, Devon on 30th July, 1855, to a widow named Jane TREWHALA (nee ROBINS).  On his second marriage certificate Thomas records his name to be "Thomas John Hodge OLVER".

First father Thomas OLVER's parents were John OLVER, labourer, and his wife Rebecca.  John died of dropsy at Bere Alston on 12th February, 1841, aged eighty.  Rebecca died of natural debility at Bere Alston on 13th December, 1844, also aged eighty.

First mother Mary Ann OLVER (nee STRIKE)'s parents were Richard and Susanna STRIKE (nee SMALL).  Aged forty-nine, Mary Ann died of pulmonary apoplexy at Bere Alston on 20th June, 1854.

Jane OLVER, formerly TREWHALA (nee ROBINS)'s parents were William and Catherine ROBINS.

A family Prayer Book, from the time of Thomas' first marriage, survives in the family today.  It contains the following notations, quoted here verbatim and unedited, with line breaks indicated by dots.

The following is written in ink inside the front cover and on the facing page of the book:-

"Mary Ann Olver the wife of Thomas H Olver Diead June 20 - 1854 .... Married 28 years 5 months .... when diead 48 years 3 months .... Richard Olver the son of the above died July 28 - 1854 age 8 years 3 months old .... Mary Ann Hodge Olver the wife of Thomas Hodge Olver diead June 20 - 1854 .... Richard Olver died July 28 - 1854 8 years 3 months".

Then, on the next page:-

"1837 William Olver the son of Thomas and Mary His wife whas born December 5th bapt December 20th 1837 .... Samuel H Olver Born (Noveh?) March 24 1844 .... 1826 Rebacoh Hodge the Daughter of Thomas and Mary His whife whas born December 20th bapt Jan 7th 1827 .... 1829 Thomas Hodge Olver the Son of Thomas and Mary His whife whas Born July 22th bapt August 11th 1829 .... 1832 John Strick Olver the Son of Thomas and Mary his wife whas Born Febary 16th bapt March 4th 1832 .... Betsy Hodge Olver the Daughter of Thomas and Mary Ann His whife whas Born November 22 bapt December 8-1834".

The following is written several times in margins and on blank pages within the Prayer Book, in thick blue pencil or crayon, as if a child were practising his writing, and memorising dates:-

"Thomas H Olver was Born 24th of December 1798 .... Thomas H Olver was born 24th of December 1798 .... Left Plymouth 13 of September 1858".

The following is written in ink inside the back cover of the Prayer Book along with some small difficult to read numbers and marks which do not seem to mean much:-

"John Strick Olver .... His Boock .... October th 27 . 1839".

In the 1841 Census, Thomas and Mary Ann OLVER (nee STRIKE) were living at Fore Street, Bere Alston, and with them were Rebecca (14), Thomas (11), John (9), Betsy (6), William (4), and Samuel (1).  Additionally, the Census records that Rebecca, Thomas' eighty year-old mother, a pauper, also was resident in the household.  The Census records that she was born in another county.

Ten years later, the 1851 Census shows that Thomas and Mary Ann had moved to 190 Frog Street, Bere Alston.  With them were Thomas (21, a servant working with his father), Betsy (16), William (13, scholar), Samuel (10, scholar) and Richard (5, scholar).

Of further interest is the 1861 Census which records the ROBINS household with Thomas OLVER snr absent.  The residents were Catherine ROBINS (69, widow, housekeeper), Jane H. OLVER (45, daughter, married), Samuel H. OLVER (21, boarder, unmarried, agricultural labourer).

The migration of the Olver family occurred in three stages. 

Firstly, Thomas OLVER's sons, Thomas and William, migrated to Australia aboard the 'Mary Ann' in cabins 237 and 238, having departed Plymouth 13th November, 1856 and arrived at Portland, Victoria, 25th January, 1857.  Both were literate labourers and members of the Church of England. 

Secondly, it appears from the Prayer Book that Thomas snr migrated in 1858, having departed Plymouth on 13th September. 

Thirdly, on 5th December, 1861, Jane OLVER and her stepson, Samuel, departed Plymouth aboard the 'Orwell' and arrived at Melbourne in March, 1862.  In the ship's records, Jane OLVER is shown as being a wife, aged forty-seven.  Samuel OLVER is shown as being an unmarried labourer, aged nineteen.

G. Pawley White, in his 'A Handbook of Cornish Surnames' (1972), writes that the name 'Olver' is derived from 'golva' meaning "watch place, lookout".

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

Surname:   MARSHALL
Given Name: Ian

Surname:   STEVENSON
Given Name: Edith

Contributions from Ian Marshall and Edith Stevenson

Ian MARSHALL, a descendant of this first family who has researched it extensively, has provided some of these 'Family Stories'.

Similarly, Edith STEVENSON, another Olver descendant, also has provided a wealth of material for this page.

Last updated by Martyn SMITH on 28 January, 2014.