Finding William

William James Turner – adopted son of our patriarch James Ashmer Mullin Turner and son of his first wife Mary Roache.  I thought I had lost him. I had him when he travelled from Melbourne to Dunedin with his mother and two half siblings John and Anne, but after this, I lost both William and his mum.

The names were just too common – Mary Turner and William Turner – to use indexes to locate them. I had narrowed down some locations and I had a fairly tight timeline but still no luck.  There were just no candidates likely enough to warrant a wholesale ordering of vital certificates in order to locate my ‘needle’.   Mary’s sister certainly had no idea where she was, a thought that makes me sad to think about.

Mary and James TURNER Missing

The Argus, 15 Oct 1866.

But this weekend has taught me to never give up on brick walls.  I found William not once, but twice, and it appears that we stayed with his father.  But I’m not sure that it was all happy families.


WestCoastTimes, Sept 27, 1868

Wow! What lead to this? William was around 16.  I don’t know what William did in Westport.  There was a miner seeking gold at that time named William Turner but I can’t tell if they are one and the same.  Was he spending up large on mining equipment on hoc, using his fathers name as guarantee?  James was relatively new in Westport at this time – less than a year – though he was recognised as a hotelier and a watchmaker. Was he drinking around town on his fathers tab?  Either way, James cut off his line of credit.

At the same time as this financial crunch, William will have been adjusting to the presence of Kate Simpson Soden Doran in the family. Given his age, it may not have affected William much, but it certainly impacted his younger half siblings John and Anne.  James and Kate weren’t married yet, but a child of their own was on the way, creating even more unpheaval in their young lives.  How close were Kate’s stepchildren to each other? We know that they weren’t particularly close to her – a family story tells of the children hiding from their step-mother in the chicken coop after school, and of James making arrangements for their after school care.

The next (and last so far) mention of William Turner is in 1871, three years later.  William is around 20 and still in Westport and still involved with the family.


Westport Times, 14 March, 1871 – License Application (Niagara Hotel)

He applies to the licensing board to be the licensee for the family’s Niagara Hotel.  His father James had been made bankrupt, and was unable to hold the license while insolvent.  The Westport Times mentions that William is withdrawing the application due to difficulties in getting the title transferred. I suspect that James’ insolvency had locked up his properties, though not for long.  The insolvency was discharged only a month later and the Niagara Hotel continued to trade.


Westport Times, March 22, 1871 – Withdrawal of Niagara Hotel License Application

Having found William this far down the track I have to wonder if he moved with the family to Hokitika in 1876 or if he remined in Westport.  Did he marry or have children? I have new windows to research.

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