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The following article was originally published in the May 2017 edition of Family Tree Magazine

Henry Carroll (1812-74) was largely a mystery when I wrote the original Digging Deeper article exploring his wife’s life published by this venerable magazine in September 2015.

I knew Henry was married to Jane Guillod (1804-79) but did not have a marriage or birth certificate and did not even really know if he was Irish or born in London, as what could have been his death certificate suggested. Creatively, from scant documentation, I had imagined he had been in Victoria for the gold rush making his living as a victualler and it seemed it was likely he had met an early death, just months after the loss of his 5-year-old boy.

I was wrong. Henry, although close to the Ballarat goldfields and drinking heavily rather than working as a victualler, did not die in 1854.

Since writing the original article, flesh and clothes have been placed on Henry’s bones and multiple surprises documented by letters and newspaper accounts of Henry’s personal and professional life, downfall and subsequent death in Sydney two decades later.

I now know why the marriage certificate for Jane and Henry proved so elusive. Henry’s father, Charles, placed a notice in The Cork Advertiser, many months after the event, announcing his son was married in Colombo, Ceylon on Christmas Eve 1845. Several other newspapers recorded the event for the British expatriates in India and Ceylon.

Jane travelled to Colombo aboard the East India Company cutter, Tigris and it is not clear how they met. Henry was not on the same ship and I am yet to locate records of how he travelled to the sub-continent. One assumes they did not know each other previously and met in the quite small social circles available. There is written evidence that Henry was investing heavily in coffee plantations but why did Jane travel to Ceylon? Did she have family to visit?

I already knew that William, their only son, was born in Brighton in 1849 and Julia, their only other child on St Helier’s, 1852. Clearly, considering they voyaged to Melbourne in 1852, the family were experienced sea travellers.

Henry had letters of introduction to Governor Fitzroy from his father, a Dublin solicitor, on arrival in Melbourne in December, 1852. Also, Jane’s sister, Caroline Guillod was married to James Purves, an architect and auctioneer, who also vouched for his brother-in-law’s credentials. Henry, Jane and the two children lived with Caroline and James next to the Argus newspaper office in Collins Street.


By Unknown, Public Domain, Link

The references were clearly useful as Henry was appointed the first Clerk of Petty Sessions at Gisborne, Victoria in early 1853 where he worked for the best part of two decades. A house was built for him in 1854 by William Watson who went on to complete the local courthouse in 1858. During this period Henry and Jane’s 5-year-old son passed away, he was actively raising funds to build a church and organised the Masonic Ball. There is also a record of a warrant for arrest issued against James Steele and his wife whom “absconded from the hired service of his master, Henry Carroll of Gisborne”.

Little documentation for the 1860s has been found but it becomes clear from government gazettes he was working successfully in the legal position he had been appointed on arrival in the colony. “Brother Carroll” becomes the “Worshipful Master” of the local Freemasons in 1863 and through his connection with James Purves, was friends with leading people in the colony. He is also paying rates on 26 acres of property. Life was good.

This was all to change dramatically in 1870. Henry was found guilty of embezzlement of the court he served and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment “without hard labour.” Various newspaper accounts muse over why the clearly “broken” man in the court, with such “highly placed friends” in Victorian society would stoop to such an act when he was eligible for a government pension? Henry had heavily invested in coffee plantations in Ceylon. In 1867 there was a terrible blight that destroyed the profitability of the industry. Perhaps this was a reason that Henry was in debt?


A notice in the local paper in 1871 lists the marriage of his daughter Julia to the recently naturalised German immigrant, Otto Ferdinand Seidel. It is sad to think of Henry languishing in gaol but also interesting that he is named as her father in the wedding notice but Jane is not mentioned. It appears that his daughter moves to Queensland with Otto after her marriage and before Henry is freed.

Otto Julia marriage

On release from prison Henry seeks employment in Queensland, perhaps visiting his daughter before returning south to Sydney where he resides alone in a boarding house at 201 Elizabeth Street run by Mrs Cathrine Scott. Sadly, in September 1874, Henry is found dead in his bed of “sanguineous apoplexy” more commonly known as a cerebral haemorrhage. Newspaper reports describe the now sixty-year-old “Irish gentleman” as 6 foot 1 inch with grey hair and whiskers. His possessions consisted of a letter, a Chinese silk dust-coat, satin vest, low-crowned white hat, dark tweed sac coat and trousers.



Jane appears to have fallen out of this story and is not mentioned in any document I can find post-1852 except for her 1879 death certificate. One newspaper article about Henry in the early 1870s suggests she is dead and it is odd not to see her listed in Julia’s wedding notice. Did she return to living with her sister Caroline or to family back in England after the shame of Henry’s incarceration? There is more to uncover.

What have I learnt from this experience of closely pursuing a few ancestors? The process of creatively trying to imagine what has happened to them, from scanty documentation, even though I was wrong in part, assisted to make them real when more, often very unexpected information, was forthcoming.

For example, from letters to the editor written many years after his death, I learnt that Henry Carroll “was once seen never to be forgotten, from the immense size of his nose, said to have resulted from frost-bite” and again, from another correspondent, “as his nose was getting too large, it was smothering him at nights, and he had to go under an operation, and get the part removed.  I met him afterwards, and hardly knew him, it had changed his appearance so much.”

Henry Carroll, Jane Guillod and her father, Thomas have been the source of much conversation in our family. My children have followed the unfolding text of these lives, lived long ago and in our home afresh. Genealogy is a wonderful way for children to learn about the past and as Miss 10 sagely said, it is more interesting than any historical fiction she will ever read.


Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 – 1957), Thursday 18 May 1871, page 4

Argus Office:, Public Domain,

Empire (Sydney, NSW: 1850 – 1875), Tuesday 15 September 1874, page 2

Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1932), Saturday 19 September 1874, page 2

Old Gisborne, “the Bush Inn”: letters to the editor of the Gisborne gazette 1912-1913 / compiled, with additional research by the Friends of the Gisborne Library, Genealogical Group Page: Page 4. Letter from Isaac Batey 27 September 1912 and Page 13. Letter from John Thomson 18 October 1912

Moore, Darcy. “Darcy Moore’s Blog.” 2015.

Victorian Police Gazette, Jan. 21 1858 page 53

This article was originally published in the May 2017 edition of Family TreeYou can see my video about the story here. The featured image is a screenshot from that Family Tree publication.

Digging even deeper 1Digging even deeper 2

Digging even deeper 3

The featured image is a screenshot from that Family Tree publication.

You can see my video about the story here.


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