Quite a detailed story of the arrival of my 2nd great grandparents Matthew Nettell and Grace Martin Wills in South Australia came down to me via my late mother.

The story, as I recall it, says:

Both were only children who eloped to marry in Australia, causing their parents to disown them. They were aided in their passage by Grace's uncle who owned a ship called the Gosforth which carried them to Port Adelaide where they were married two days later on Christmas Day 1865.

It's a nice story, with elements of truth, but after failing to find any evidence of their marriage in South Australia, I obtained their marriage certificate showing that they married before leaving England on 23 Sep 1865 at Redruth, Cornwall. Grace gave her age as 17 (I think it was just over 16 and half), and Matthew gave his as 19.

The marriage seems to have been witnessed by Grace's brother George Wills and her new sister-in-law Eliza Ann Wills (see Finding identity of Eliza Ann Wills who witnessed marriage of Grace Martin Wills and Matthew Nettell in 1865 at Redruth, Cornwall?).

In any event, at least one member of the Wills family seems to have been part of the marriage ceremony which to my mind means it was not an elopement.

Matthew was the 6th of 9 children to Edward Nettell and Maria Hocking, and Grace was one of 11 children to George Wills and Frances Angove, so both were far from only children.

Matthew and Grace Nettell are listed amongst the passengers who arrived in Port Adelaide on the Gosforth on 23 Dec 1865 so that part is confirmed!

To confirm or refute whether an uncle (of either Grace or Matthew) owned the Gosforth, I am keen to find out who did own the Gosforth at the time of this voyage in 1865.

There is considerable information about this voyage of the Gosforth at the TheShipsList but it does not include the owner.

Is there another likely record source that I could use to find who it was?

I'll try to add here what I know of the occupations for any of the uncles, but Ancestry is down at the moment. My recollection is that the occupations I know of are not in the vicinity of ship owning.

  • Have you visited The Ships List? That might give you the name of the owner.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 8:31
  • I just visited it again (and added a link to my question) but unfortunately there is no owner listed.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


I usually start with the Crew List Index Project. That site has various finding aids, including one to list ships by name. Entering "Gosforth" as the ship's name (without the quotes but I'm sure you knew that) gives several ships but fortunately the Ship's List link in the question gives us a date and tonnage - the latter matches exactly the ship with Official Number 15983.

There are several lines for this ship (built 1856, registered Newcastle, 810t sailing ship) but the important one is the Mercantile Navy List of 1870. This gives the owner as George Luckley of 3 Exchange Buildings, Newcastle (that'll be Newcastle-on-Tyne, England). He is, according to the page, either the sole registered owner or the Managing Owner if there is more than one owner. Unfortunately, I can't see any way to tell which he is.

Copies of Lloyd's Register are also available online. Choosing the 1865 entry this time, we get into Google Books and searching inside the book for "Gosforth", we find the owners listed as "Smith & Co." - so assuming there has been no change between 1865 and 1870, it looks like "Smith & Co." are the owners, with George Luckley being their named representative.


I would like to confirm that Eliza Davey Wills (who you mention in the question), Richard her brother and his wife Louisa came to NZ in 1863 aboard the Accrington. They arrived in Lyttelton 5 Sept 1863. Eliza married Melchesideck Taylor 29 November 1864 at Trinity Church, Lyttelton. They are my GG Grandparents.

From Eliza's marriage date and location it seems unlikely that she was a witness to Grace's marriage.

Edith Ann another of Grace's sisters could have been the witness to the wedding of Grace and Matthew.

I am not aware of an uncle to Eliza, Grace and Richard owning a ship.

  • Welcome to G&FH SE! You may have noticed some editing that I did to your answer, and this was done to make it a more direct answer to the original question. Hopefully, our Tour will help explain the different way this site operates compared to discussion forums, bulletin boards and other Q&A sites. My user card advertises how cousins no matter how distant can contact me but I also encourage you to ask and answer questions here on the site. I have been amazed how much I have learned about ancestors and methods by doing that.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 8:40
  • I just looked into whether Edith Ann Wills was like to have been the "Eliza Ann Wills" who witnessed Grace's marriage in 1865 but my records have her aged 8 at the time which I think makes it unlikely. Perhaps one of us should ask a separate question on "Who was Eliza Ann Wills that witnessed marriage of Grace Martin Wills at Redruth in 1865?".
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 0:58
  • I just wrote up a question on Finding identity of Eliza Ann Wills who witnessed marriage of Grace Martin Wills and Matthew Nettell in 1865 at Redruth, Cornwall? to which I would welcome any input.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 10:08

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