|Family tree||The George Turner Mystery
- Legends and Facts
|The origins of our ancestor, George Turner, are a mystery yet to be solved. We do not know his country of birth or the names of his parents. The paragraphs below are presented here to give some of our "evidence" and "legends" that might help to solve the mystery.|
Purchase of Land, 1847
This is the first record I have found of George Turner in New Zealand. On 24 April 1847 George purchased part of Allotment 29, Section 18, Town of Auckland, together with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging. The land shown in the diagram is at present public open space. It was purchased from William Field Porter and his wife, Alice Porter for £25. The boundaries measured 96 and 38 links.
George was described as a Master Mariner of Auckland.
George sold the land with dwelling house and out offices to Thomas Canty for £45 on 3 December 1849.
See deeds record book 7D, pages 131 to 135, deeds 9186 and 9187.
Methodist baptisms in Auckland|
Name: George Turner
Parents: George and Margaret Cunningham
Father's occupation: Seaman
Born: 2 May 1848
Baptised: 6 August 1848
Minister: Walter Lawry
|Possible baptism of George junior in 1848|
This is a transcript of a Methodist baptism register.
There does not seem to be a birth registration for the child.
We know that at some time George used the surname Blatchford and it is possible that he also used the surname Cunningham. The surname Cunningham also appears in the death registration for William Turner where his mother's name is given as Norah Cunningham.
The year of birth fits reasonably well with the age (35) given on Margaret's death registration in 1884 for her eldest living son.
Marriage in the District of Auckland, 1882.|
16 March 1882, in the house of John Turner,
Karangahape Road, Auckland.
William Turner, 32 years, contractor, bachelor, born at San Francisco, residence Wangaroa.
Father: George Turner, master mariner.
Mother: Margaret, nee Walker.
Ada Margaret Stephenson, 23 years, spinster, born at Bay of Islands, residence Wangaroa.
Father: Samuel Stephenson, merchant.
Mother: Ada, nee Kemp.
Officiating Minister: R. F. Macnicol.
John Turner, compositor, Karangahape Road,
Mary Laurie, Waikomiti,
|In California in 1849 or 1850 ?|
This is a transcript of the marriage register for William Turner and Ada Margaret Stephenson. This marriage record was "found" in August 2006 in the search for two un-named sons, aged 35 and 33, listed as living in 1884 on the death registration of Margaret Turner (nee Walker), widow of George Turner.
William's age, 32, in March 1882, puts his birth in 1849 or 1850. That is the time of the 1949 goldrush in California. We know that George Turner was a gold miner as well as a mariner. We think that George and Margaret left New Zealand for California when gold was discovered there. George was in Auckland in December 1849 when he signed the deed for the sale of the above land.
Departure for San Francisco, 1850
This is a copy of the Shipping Intelligence from the "Southern Cross", Friday 11 January 1850. The barque "Avon" departed for San Francisco on the 10th. Among the passengers were Mr and Mrs Turner and two children. Could this be George and Margaret with Christina (then aged 11) and baby George junior?
Arrival from San Francisco, 1850
This is a copy of the Shipping Intelligence from the "New Zealander", Wednesday 25 December 1850. The brigantine "Camilla" sailed from San Francisco on the 20th October and arrived in Auckland on the 21st December 1850. Among the passengers were Mrs Turner and three children. Could this be Margaret with Christina (now aged 12), George junior (now aged 2) and baby William?.
Margaret was buying land in her own name in the following year. Had she returned from San Francisco leaving George to find more gold? George could have been on the "Camilla" as a member of the crew and therefore not named as a passenger.
By coincidence another ship that arrived on the same day was "Hawkhead" from Warkworth, Captain R. Lawrie. That is Robert Laurie whose daughter Margaret Laurie, born 1858, married John Turner, born 1855, youngest son of George and Margaret.
Purchase of Land, 1851
This is the only record I have found of a land purchase by Margaret Turner. On 17 April 1851 Margaret purchased Allotment 5, Section 24, Town of Auckland, together with all the appurtenances and improvements thereon. The land is shaded in the diagram and is about a quarter acre in area. It was purchased from John Chadwick for £85. The purchaser was Mrs Margaret Turner of Auckland, wife of George Turner. The deed includes the statement: "for ever freed and absolutely discharged of and from the debts interference management or control of her now present or any future husband or husbands".
We note that this was 19 months before Margaret and George were married. Alternatively there were two couples with the same names!
Margaret sold the land, dwelling and appurtenances on 24 January 1857.
The sellers were: "Margaret Turner of Auckland in New Zealand the wife of George Turner formerly of Auckland aforesaid but now residing at Sandhurst in the Colony of Victoria mariner of the first part the said George Turner of the second part".
Note: Sandhurst was later named Bendigo.
See deeds record book 7D, page 410, deed 10756.
Arrival in Auckland, 1852
This is a copy of the Shipping Intelligence from the "New Zealander", Wednesday 10 November 1852. The brig "Raven" arrived from Sydney on the 8th. On board was a passenger, George Turner. Note also the passenger, Mr Edward Lewis. Edward was one of the witnesses at the marriage of George, later in the same month.
There is no mention of Margaret Walker, her daughter, Christina, or the two young sons among the passengers.
Marriages in the District of Auckland 1852|
Married 24 November 1852 by licence at
Congregational Church, High Street, Auckland. George Turner, 35 years, mariner
Margaret Walker, 34 years, widow
Officiating Minister: Alexander Macdonald
Signed by George Turner
X Margaret Walker, her mark
This is a transcript of the marriage registration of George and Margaret 16 days after the "Raven" arrived. Based on this, George was born about 1817 and Margaret was born about 1818.
There is no clue as to whether George had been previously married. Being a Scot, Margaret has used her maiden name. Her first husband, John Muirhead, must have died since arriving with Margaret and Christina in Auckland in October 1842. I have yet to find a record of the death of John Muirhead.
Note witness, Edward Lewis, was on the "Raven".
Marriage at Auckland in the Parish of Waitemata in the County of Eden. No 87|
Married December tenth 1852 at
Wesleyan Chapel, Auckland by Licence.
Edward Lewis, 30 years, gold digger
Ann Brownell, 27 years, widow
Officiating Minister: Walter Lawry
George McVay and Christina Turner.
|Marriage of friends, 1852|
This is a transcript of the marriage register for Edward Lewis and Ann Brownell 16 days after they were witnesses of the marriage of George Turner to Margaret Walker. Based on this, Edward was born about 1822 and Ann about 1825.
The classification of Edward as a gold digger is another clue that he had returned from the Victorian goldfields.
Note that Christina Turner was in New Zealand.
Births registered in Auckland 1853|
Born on 15th August 1853
David Turner, male
Father, George Turner, gold digger
Mother, Margaret Turner, formerly Walker
Informant: William Cooper, Informant, Cook Street, Auckland
Registered on 25 August 1853.
|Birth of David Turner, 1853|
This is a transcript of the birth registration of David Turner.
The parents are almost certainly the same George and Margaret who married in the previous year.
The classification of George as a gold digger is another clue that he had returned from the Victorian goldfields.
What became of David was a mystery until 2005. The family legend that he was kidnapped proved to be wrong when his death was found to be registered in Victoria.
Deaths registered in Bendigo 1854|
Died on 11th July 1854 at California Gully
David Walker Turner, male, 10 months
Pneumonia for 6 weeks
Father, George Turner, digger, California Gully
Mother, Margaret Turner
Informant: G Turner, California Gully, father
Registered at Sandhurst on 12 July 1854
Born in Auckland NZ, 2 months in Victoria
|Death of David Turner, 1854|
This is a transcript of the death registration of David Turner. David had been in Victoria for 2 months. It seems that the family moved to Victoria from Auckland about May 1854. A Mrs Turner and four children were on board the barque "Onyx" when it sailed from Auckland for Melbourne on 8 April 1854. Margaret was back in Auckland before the birth of John in August 1855.
Marriage in the District of Bendigo, Victoria|
1854, Marriage No 2779.
Married 21st August 1854 at
Wesleyan Chapel, Eagle Hawk, Bendigo
Nicholaus Gemming, bachelor, b. Kiel, Germany, mariner, 24, father Detlep Gemming, mariner, mother Amelia Bremer
Christina Turner, spinster, b. Glasgow, Scotland, milliner, 17, father George Turner, mariner, mother Margaret Walker.
|Marriage of Christina Turner, 1854|
This is a transcript of the marriage registration of Christina Turner and Nicolaus Gemming.
This marriage took place less than two years after the marriage of Christina's mother and stepfather. In 2005, I discovered that Christina was born in Glasgow in 1838, daughter of John Muirhead and Margaret, nee Walker.
The Muirhead family was living in Glasgow at the time of the 1841 census and emigrated to New Zealand in 1842 on board the "Duchess of Argyle".
Births registered in Golden Gully, Victoria, 1855. No. 8757|
Born 31 July 1855 at Kangaroo Flat, Sandhurst.
Charles Bernhard Gemming, boy
Father, Nicholas Gemming, miner, 25 years, born Kiel, Germany
Married, 21 August 1854, Californian Gully, Sandhurst, Victoria.
Mother, Christina Turner, 18 years, born Glasgow, Scotland.
Registered on 29th September 1855.
|Birth of Charles Gemming, 1855|
This is a transcript of the birth registration of Charles Bernhard Gemming, who was the only child of Christina and Nicolas Gemming.
Christina is consistent with her age and place of birth.
The parents and child moved to New Zealand and settled at Thames.
Charles married Agnes Cecilia Hollis and they had 11 children born in Thames.
Births registered in Auckland 1855. No. 2218|
Born on 28th August 1855
John Turner, male
Father, George Turner, boatman
Mother, Margaret Turner, formerly Walker
Informant: Mary McKelway, Wellesley Street, Auckland
Registered on 6th September 1855.
|Birth of John Turner, 1855|
This is a transcript of the birth registration of John Turner.
John lived until 1927 and his descendants are known.
See the family tree.
The classification of George has changed from mariner in 1852 to gold digger in 1853 and to boatman in 1855.
Lease of Land, 1860-1865
George leased the land (and buildings thereon) shown shaded in the diagram. It is now near where cars enter the underground carpark of the Sky City Casino from Federal Street (previously Chapel Street). In a deed dated 2 April 1860, William Porter leased the land to George Turner, boatman. The term was from 1 February 1860 until 31 July 1874. The yearly rent was £10 payable half yearly.
Another deed was dated 28 May 1862. George Turner, boatman, received £80 from Thomas Weston by way of mortgage based on the lease. The interest on the loan was £12-10-0 percent per annum payable quarterly. George was to insure the property for £100.
The last deed I have found was dated 3 February 1865. George paid Thomas Weston £87-10-0 to pay off the mortgage.
I have not found when the lease concluded.
See deeds books 13D, 335; Eden O1E, 691; 11M, 59.
George Turner, Master, 1859-1864
George Turner is mentioned in the shipping news many times between 1859 and 1864. He was master of boats trading between places on the Hauraki Gulf.
The first Turner mention I have is 20 June 1859, the arrival in Auckland from Matakana, of the "Wairoa" with timber. The "Wairoa" had arrived from Wairoa (Clevedon) with Walker as master on 13 June and left for Waiheke the same day. I noted 70 references to the "Wairoa", 15 ton, Turner, in the shipping columns along with the cargo carried. Then on 28 May 1862 the top notice opposite appeared. From then I have notes of 23 trips "William" 18 ton, Turner, until 13 March 1863. On that day the "William" was reported to have sunk in the Wairoa River but three days later it was reported that the damage was not great and the "William" had returned to Auckland. Then 3 months later, 21 June 1863, a gale caused the "William" to drag her moorings and it was driven against the pier, smashed and sunk. Nine months later (March 1864) the name Turner appears as master of the "Travita" 6T, trading in the gulf, but after July 1864 the name Turner does not appear in the shipping column.
|PORT OF ONEHUNGA
George Turner, passeger to Greymouth, 1867
This shipping item appeared in the "New Zealand Herald" on August 12, 1867.
The passengers on the "Isabella" on its voyage from Onehunga to Greymouth included a George Turner and son. If this was George Turner, the mariner, then the son would have been one of the three then living: The eldest (George Jnr?) aged 19, William aged 17 or John aged 12.
George Turner, committal to Lunatic Asylum at Hokitika, 1874
and the explanation of the Blatchford connection.
This is an extract from a long item that appeared in the "Grey River Argus" on 7 August 1874.
George Turner was charged with lunacy and with wilfully inflicting such bodily injuries on himself, on 5th August, that his life was endangered.
Two doctors, C L Morice and P Smith gave evidence that the accused was in a state of senile imbecility and should be detained as unfit to be at large.
John Ferris Martin said he was a neighbour of the defendant, at the Welshman's Terrace, near Rutherglen, for the last four years.   He saw him yesterday and noticed a number of blood stains on his arm.   The accused said that "It was no use living any longer, he could get nothing to do, he could not get any gold, and he was tired of being a burden to himself and to others, and he thought it was time to do away with himself."   The witness said that for a long time the accused had been subsisting on the charity of his neighbours, his credit had been stopped at all the stores and at length admission to the hospital was procured for him but when it was known that he would not remain there, where he was well cared for, he found it difficult to get any further assistance from his neighbours.
The extract also gives an explanation for the long standing family mystery - the reason why the name Blatchford was used in the family.   John Turner, when registering the birth of his first child in 1879 gave his name as John Blatchford Turner. His son by his second marriage was given the name Mervyn Blatchford Turner in 1905.
Admission number: 124|
Admission date: 7 August 1874
George Turner, male, aged 60, married.
Miner of Rutherglen
Sent by Drs Morris and Smith and 2 JPs
Mental disorder: Mania
Supposed cause of insanity: Mental anxiety
Bodily condition: weak
Epileptics: 1, duration 1 yr 7 months
Age of first attack: 60 (?)
Date of death / discharge: 25.3.76
Observation: On admission suffered from a self inflicted wound on bend of left elbow
|Seaview Hospital, Hokitika, 1874-1876|
Family legend is that George was shipwrecked and drowned overseas. However I think that this record at Hokitika is the same George Turner. It is from the Admission register of Seaview Hospital, Hokitika. George's ship ("William") was wrecked and Hokitika is "overseas" to Aucklanders!
The Register of deaths at the same hospital records that George Turner died at 2.10 pm on 25 March 1876. The cause of death was "serious apoplexy". Present at the death was Thos A Sarginson.
Summary of inquest of Death of George Turner
at Sea View Lunatic Asylum, Hokitika|
Died Monday 27th March 1876.
Hugh Gribben, keeper of the Asylum said: re admittance, George was sent from Greymouth, he had a deep wound on the back of the left arm when he had attempted to committ suicide. He was 62 years of age, an Englishman, and a (presbyterian crossed out) Church of England.
Thomas Albion Sargisson, attendant at the asylum said that George died in his presence after a series of fits.
Fitzherbert Dermott, medical practitioner said George improved in general health at the asylum but his mental condition remained. The cause of death was serious effusion on the brain. He had been a mate of a ship and was wrecked some years ago in New Zealand and remained in the colonies since then.
The Coroner found that George Turner died in the Sea View Lunatic Asylum Hokitika on the afternoon of the 25th day of March 1876 from serious apoplexy.
|Coroner's report, 1876|
This is a summary of the coroner's report held at National Archives in Wellington.
The inquest was held at Hokitika on Monday 27th March 1876. The report comprises five pages:
Two pages of evidence by Hugh Gribben
One page of evidence by T.A. Sargison
One page of evidence by F. Dermott
One inquisition form filled in and signed by the coroner, Huidenham Maunsell and twelve jurors: F W Hine, Robert Harrison, Richard Jolly, Frank Foster, Harry Friend, R T Arthur, Patrick Guerin, W Fowler, E Stanley, R Oxley, David Bourke, Joseph O'Brien. These were probably local men from Hokitika.
The doctor's comment that George Turner's ship was wrecked is further evidence that this was the same George Turner who was master of the "William".
Death in the District of Hokitika|
25 March 1876 at Hokitika Lunatic Asylum
George Turner, mariner
Male about 62 years
Cause: Effusion on brain, 3 days
Parents: Not known
Where born: blank
How long in NZ: blank
Where married, age, to whom: Not known
Living issue: A son supposed to live in Auckland
Informant: H Maunsell, Coroner, Hokitika
Date of registration: 11 April 1876
This is a transcript of the death registration.
The occupation given is mariner, whereas the admission to Sea View has miner in the transcript that I received.
The comment about the son in Auckland would refer to George's son, John Turner, who would have been 20 years old when George died. When John married in 1878, a newspaper said:- "John Turner of Wellington, late of Napier." John's obituary said "while still a young man he held positions at Greymouth and Napier." Perhaps George and John were together in Greymouth in 1874 when George was admitted to Sea View Asylum?
Benjamin Evans Turner
Another legend is that George was related to Benjamin Evans Turner. B E Turner was an early settler and well known in the Bay of Islands. He later moved to Auckland. He was an ex convict from Australia about 1836 but he told quite a different story about arriving in New Zealand as early as 1823. John Laurie Turner contacted granddaughters of B E Turner in 1938 to try to find the connection. He was not successful.
The family of George left no informarion about his origins. Was this because he had been a convict? There were a number of George Turners transported to Australia. Of particular interest is one convicted for housebreaking at Cardiff on 28 August 1830. His death sentence was changed to transportation and he was aboard the convict ship "Exmouth" that arrived at Port Jackson on 28 July 1831. On board the same ship was convict Edward Lewis who, as noted above, was on the ship that brought George to Auckland in 1852 and was a witness at the marriage of George and Margaret. The convict George Turner was a shoemaker, born at Leicester about 1812. He was assigned to two employers in Sydney and absconded at least twice by 1833. The authorities seem to have lost track of him after that. I have found no record of a pardon. I understand that by 1852 the authorities had lost interest in former convicts. If this is the same George Turner who became a master mariner, he must have been at sea most of the time after 1833.
Many avenues have been followed to try to solve the mystery of George Turner. If you have any information that would help, I would be pleased to hear from you.
For more information contact me by email at
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