Friday, 22 August 2014

A bird and a B

My plan is to write a short biography of one of my ancestors on a regular basis.  My first subject is a man by the name of Henry Sparrow Briggs.  He was one of the first ancestors I discovered when I started investigating my family history when I was in my teens.  I was intrigued by his avian middle name.

Henry Sparrow Briggs was born in London about 1798 and appears to have had a twin brother, Charles Mumford Briggs.  They were both baptised in the parish church of St Sepulchre on 1st February 1798.  As Charles was listed first, my guess is that he was older.  They were the younger sons of Jehu Briggs, who merits his own story, and Susan (or Susanna) Mumford.

As you can see, Charles was named for his mother.  So where did Henry’s “Sparrow” come from?  Susan Mumford was the daughter of Robert Mumford and Ann Sparrow.

The Briggs family lived in St John Street where the Smithfield Markets are now located.  Jehu Briggs had a Pawnbroker’s shop there.

I don’t know anything about Henry’s early life, yet.

Henry may have arrived in Sydney, Australia, in May 1823 on the “Andromeda”, although that could have been a different Mr Briggs.

I next have a definite record of Henry Sparrow Briggs writing a letter in 1824, describing himself to the Governor of New South Wales as having been some years an officer in the East India Company Naval Service.  Later reports say he was a Captain.  Henry was asking permission to settle in Australia to be given a land grant, as the severity of the climate in India had impaired his health.  He was given a grant on 800 acres on 15 December 1824.

I haven’t yet found any records of Henry’s time in India.

Henry Sparrow Briggs married Eliza Rowley on 28 August 1826, at St John’s Church, Paramatta.  Eliza was born in Australia and her parents deserve their own stories.  Henry and Eliza had ten children.

Henry had land at Wollombi on the Hunter River, NSW, and some of his children were born there, including my ancestor Frederick Henderson Briggs.  Life doesn’t appear to have been easy, as Henry was involved in insolvency proceedings during the 1840’s, documented in multiple editions of the Sydney Morning Herald.

At some point, Henry and his family moved to his wife’s family property at Newtown in Sydney, where there is still a Rowley Street.  He died there in 1866.  Henry Sparrow Briggs is now buried in the Rowley & Briggs family tomb in Waverly Cemetery.

His name was passed down through the family, so he must have made quite an impression on his children and grandchildren.

I am still searching for more information about his early life and his time in India.

NOTE on lineage (added 30 Aug 2014): Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Frederick Henderson Briggs > Henry Sparrow Briggs


  1. Hi Susan. welcome to geneablogging! I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  2. Thanks to a message from Shelly I found your blog. Will be following with interest.

  3. Hi Susan I have just found your blog and am fascinated as we are in face both descendants of Henry Sparrow Briggs. I am in Sydney at the moment but will send you details of how am I related when I am back home (Port Macquarie). Your research is fabulous. My maiden name is Lorinda Briggs