James Johnson 1856-1941 and Mary O’Neill 1864-1945

Copenhagen, home town of James Johnson

Great Grandparents – Paternal mother’s line Johnson Family

Jons Jönsson, was born in about 1856 in Copenhagen, København, Denmark, his father, Feus, was 21 and his mother, Karen, was 19. Eight years later, in 1864, Mary O’Neill was born in Picton, New South Wales, Australia, her father, Bernard, was 49, and her mother, Mary, was 29. Following his arrival in Australia Jons became known as James Johnson. He married Mary O’Neill on 11 October 1882, in Picton, New South Wales, Australia. James and Mary had 13 children in 25 years. They both died in Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia, and were buried there. James died on 5 September 1941, at the age of 85, and Mary died on 28 August 1945, at the age of 81.

Animated stork delivering a baby representing birth Births

James Johnson was born in 1856 in Copenhagen, København, Denmark, to Karen Jeppeson, age 19, and Feus Johnson, age 21. Further information regarding the parents of James is subject to ongoing review and verification.

Mary O’Neill was born in 1864 in Picton, New South Wales, Australia, to Mary Ryan, age 29, and Bernard O’Neill, age 49. Her father Bernard O’Neill was the son of Elinor and Berd. Her mother Mary Ryan was born in Tipperary, Ireland, the daughter of Mary and John.

From Hamburg, Germany to Brisbane, Australia

James Johnson boarded the immigrant ship Fritz Reuter at Hamburg on 5 October 1878 to travel with over 480 immigrants on board to Cape Moreton, Australia. Thirty passengers had perished during the trip, many due to typhoid fever. The last death from typhoid occurred as the ship made its final approach to Cape Moreton on the 16 January. The Fritz Reuter journey took 105 days, arriving in Queensland on 18 January 1879.

James Johnson was quarantined on Peel Island in 1879

On moving across to the Bar, the ship was inspected by Dr. Challinor Health Officer who immediately placed the Fritz Reuter under quarantine. The ship was towed across to Peel Island on 19 January by the Boko, for a period of detention that would extend through until the 8 February 1879. Serious strains were being placed on the Island’s resources with the immigrant ship’s Clara from Glasgow and Fritz Reuter from Hamburg being joined by the steamer R.M.S.S. Somerset with a smallpox outbreak at anchor off the island.

By 1880 James Johnson had made his way to New South Wales, he was initially living at 70 Sussex Street, Sydney. James then worked as a labourer for the railways in the vicinity of Picton for many years. It was at this time that James met Mary O’Neill and her family.

Animated graphic of a heart representing marriage Marriage

James Johnson, labourer, married Mary O’Neill, housekeeper, in Picton, New South Wales, Australia, in October 1882. He was 26 years old, and she was 18 years old.

The consent of Bernard O’Neill, of Picton, was given to the marriage of Mary O’Neill, his daughter, with James Johnson, the said Mary O’Neill being under the age of 21 years.

James Johnson and Mary O'Neill married at the Picton RC Church

The Marriage was conducted at the Roman Catholic Chapel, Picton, on Wednesday, 11 October 1882, by James Sheridan, in accordance with the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. James Connellan and the bride’s younger sister, Annie O’Neill, were witnesses to the marriage.

First Ten Years of Marriage

Following their marriage in 1882 James and Mary moved around the Sydney metropolitan area. Their first child Maria was born in 1884 at Parramatta and their second child, James, was born in 1886 in the district of Central Cumberland. The district of Cumberland covered 72 km² of the western suburbs of the Greater Sydney Region.

It was not until 1888 that James, Mary and their two children, finally moved into a small residence at Atkinson Street, Liverpool. At that time Atkinson Street was unformed and only a few homes existed. Although the birth location of their third child Bernard John is unknown; it probably occurred in 1888 in either Atkinson Street, Liverpool, or nearby.

James Johnson was employed on the railway when a duplicated line was being made through to Campbelltown. It was at this time that he was involved in an accident that ultimately caused severe damage to his foot. James fell from the engine and the wheel of the engine passed over his leg. He was laid up for years with foot injuries that were not resolved until medical staff finally decided to amputate his foot. Post operative his mobility improved when a prosthesis was fitted. Some people referred to the prosthesis as a peg-leg.

In the 1891 Census, James was living at Atkinson Street, Liverpool together with a total of three male persons and three female persons.

Obviously, Mary was very busy with four children under the age of seven to care for and nurture. James continued to be occupied in his new endeavours to succeed in business as a greengrocer and dealer in the Liverpool area.

Unbeknown to both Mary and James was the fact that their life was to become much busier. Another nine births were to follow in the next eighteen years. Details of all thirteen births and where applicable, spouses, are listed below:

Children of James and Mary

  • Maria Johnson [1883-1953] spouse Edward Preston
  • James Johnson [1886-1966] spouse Mabel May Hilsdon
  • Bernard John Johnson [1888-1942] spouse Mildred Capstick
  • Annie Karen Johnson [1890-1968] spouse Frederick Vickery Howe
  • Lucy Johnson [1892-1983] spouse Edward J Malone
  • Laura Johnson [1894-1982] spouse Harrie Spillane
  • George Arthur Johnson [1896-1943] – no known spouse or children
  • Francis Charles Johnson [1898-1960] spouse Agnes Myrtle Greer
  • Elsie Kathleen Johnson [1900-1954] spouse Stanley Loftus Hall
  • Edward Cecil Johnson [1902-1977] spouse Hazel Maud Elizabeth Benson
  • Albert Harold Johnson [1905-1989] spouse Dorothy Eileen Gorman
  • Ellen Doretta Johnson [1908-1983] spouse Vincent George McGrane
  • Frederick Eric Johnson [1909-1971] spouse Ethel Pearl Walker

Life and Marriage in a new Century

In 1900, at the age of 42, James Johnson, Fruiterer of Liverpool, a native of Denmark, applied for the New South Wales Certificate of Naturalization. It was granted by Governor Beauchamp on 9 October 1900.

At the time of the 1901 Census, James was still living at Atkinson Street, Liverpool together with a total of five male persons and six female persons.

Both James and Mary enjoyed the company of their early neighbours in Atkinson Street. Nearby residents included Isaac Jones and his family of seven; Christopher Cullen with his family of eight; and a man named Martin Christensen whose family numbered eleven. Martin lived at the end of Atkinson Street.

Their last child, Frederick, was born in 1909. James and Mary could normally assume this time was to be a period of relaxation and family consolidation. But this was not to be a time of rest. It was now a time when their own children sought life partners, got married and produced children.

Soon, both James and Mary, would become grandparents. Their son James was the first to marry in 1908, quickly followed by Maria in 1913, Bernard in 1914 and Elsie in 1918. Elsie Kathleen Johnson aged 18, was our direct ancestor, she married Stanley Loftus Hall on 7 August 1918 at the Registrar General’s Office, Chancery Square, Sydney. Other marriages followed in the 1920s and 1940s.

Almost all their children settled within the metropolitan area of Sydney. Some of the boys settled outside the Sydney region. Bernard married a girl from Lithgow and moved there. George and Albert settled on the South Coast at Warrawong and Wollongong. Except for a period during the 1930’s depression, Elsie and her husband Stanley mainly lived in the inner suburbs of Sydney.

Occupation and Electoral Roll records between 1905-1937 indicated that James was either a Fruiterer, Greengrocer or Dealer at Liverpool during these 32 years.

Icon sized photo of family cemetery south coast of NSW Death Details

James Johnson died on 5 September 1941 and was buried the next day in Row 5, Grave 60, at the Anglican section of Liverpool Cemetery, New South Wales.

In January 1942, the estate of James Johnson, occupation Greengrocer, was valued at £409 and £617.

Mary Johnson née O’Neill died on 28 August 1945 and was buried two days later in Select, Section A, Grave 8, at the Liverpool Cemetery, New South Wales.


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Reviewed and updated – 31 August 2022