Guide to the Papers of the Wilson family (as filmed by AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Wilson Family
Papers of the Wilson family (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1814 - 1944
Collection Number
9 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Letterbook of William Wilson 1823-24, Sydney.

Notebook 1828, 1830, of voyages by John Wilson in the brig Sisters and the barque Dover.

Letters 1824-34, to James and Willisam Wilson from their sister Jane.

Letters 1827-49, to James and William Wilson from their parents John and Barbara Wilson.

Papers 1835-80, of Sir James Milne Wilson, including letters to his family and Francis Watkins, documents, drafts of parliamentary bills, drafts of speeches and photographs.

Wilson papers 1814-94.

Correspondence 1828-50, of the Allardyce family, with a copy of the will of William Allardyce.

Papers 1935-44, relating to the history of the Wilson and Degraves families.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

For example:- M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the private residence of Mrs. Cecil Firbank, Somerset, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1975 (AJCP Reel: M940). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Private Residence of Mrs Cecil Firbank; Somerset, England.

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding Aid Note

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Allardyce Family; Allardyce, William; Australia; Politicians: Australia; Banff, Scotland; Cascade Brewery, Tasmania; Degraves Family; Dover (barque); Genealogy and genealogies; Great Britain; Parramatta, New South Wales; Photographs; Sisters, merchant brig; Tasmania; Hobart, Tasmania: visits to; Watkins, Francis; Wills; Wilson Family; Wilson, Barbara; Wilson, Jane; Wilson, John; Wilson, Sir James M.; Wilson, William


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 506, pp. 195-196.

Biographical / Historical

The Wilson Family settled in Banffshire in northern Scotland in the seventeenth century. They were merchants and shipowners and their vessels traded with the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Spain and Portugal. Captain John Wilson (c. 1762-1833) ventured further afield, voyaging to Brazil and India. He married Barbara Grey (d. 1859). Three of their children emigrated to Australia.

William Wilson (c. 1806-1840) commanded his father's brig Devoren, which sailed to Sydney and Hobart in 1822. His brother John Wilson (c. 1808-1825), who possibly sailed on the same ship, worked in the Commissariat in Sydney in 1823-1824. He died in the following year, soon after his arrival in Van Diemen's Land. Captain Wilson returned to Australia on the Devoren in 1824 and subsequently settled in Hobart. He married Grace Lord, the daughter of the soldier, pastoralist and merchant Edward Lord. Wilson had mercantile and pastoral interests, but appears to have had financial difficulties in his last years.

James Milne Wilson (1812-1880) left Banff in 1828 and joined his brother in Van Diemen's Land in December 1829. He worked in engineering and shipping and later acquired pastoral properties in Van Diemen's Land and the Port Phillip District. He leased the Cascade Brewery in Hobart for 14 years. In 1859 Wilson was elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council and held the seat until his death. He served as a minister in the Whyte Ministry in 1863-1866 and was Mayor of Hobart in 1868-1869. In August 1869 he became premier and colonial secretary and held the posts until November 1872. He then became president of the Legislative Council. He was knighted in 1873 and made a KCMG in 1878.

In 1847 James Wilson married Deborah Degraves (1821-1897). She was the daughter of Peter Degraves (1778-1852), who emigrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1821. He was a prominent landowner and businessman and was part-owner and manager of the Cascade Brewery in Hobart.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Letterbook of John Wilson (83 pp.), April 1823 - December 1824

Letters written in Sydney by John Wilson to his brother Captain William Wilson (Hobart), his parents John and Barbara Wilson (Banff, Scotland), his sister Jane Wilson (Banff), Rev. William Allardyce (Banff), William Allardyce (Hobart), J. Ogilvie (Hobart) and Walter Bethune (Hobart). They refer to the departure of Captain Wilson from Sydney, shipping arrivals and departures, the weather, financial transactions, the shipment of wheat, requests for clothes and other items, Wilson's employment in the Commissariat Department in Sydney and his relations with William Wemyss, the deputy commissary general, economic conditions in Sydney, convict society, dances, the discoveries of John Oxley at Moreton Bay, mutual friends, family news, the marriage of Jane Wilson, and Captain Wilson's return to Hobart (August 1824).

The final three letters in the book were written in Sydney in December 1824 by Captain William Wilson to his father, John Price & Co. (London) and James Love (Tooting, Surrey). They deal with the voyage of the Devoren from England, the loss of the ship's foremast, future movements and the possible sale of the ship, financial transactions, the possible transfer of John Wilson to the Commissariat in Hobart, William Wilson's visit to Van Diemen's Land and his engagement to Grace Lord.

Series 2. Notebook of James Wilson, 1828 - 1830

A small notebook containing very brief entries recording Wilson's voyage from Banff to Sunderland on the brig Sisters (Sept. 1828), from Sunderland to London on the Devoren (Oct. 1828) and from London to Hobart on the Devoren (16 July-25 Dec. 1829). It also records a voyage from Hobart to the South Seas whaler (1 June-3 Oct. 1830).

Series 3. Letters from Jane Wilson to William and James Wilson, 1824 - 1834

Letters from Jane Wilson, later Jane Craigie, to her brothers in Australia, written from Banff, Scotland, and Midnapore, Fort William (Calcutta) and Barrackpore, India. (11 letters)

Series 4. Letters from John and Barbara Wilson to William and James Wilson, 1827 - 1849

The letters were written by John Wilson in Banff and London (1827-1830) and Barbara Wilson in Banff (1827-1849) to their sons William Wilson (1827-1835) and James Wilson (1830-1849). They refer to family news, mutual friends, shipping movements, cargoes and financial transactions.

Series 5. Letters from Deborah Wilson to James Wilson, 1851 - 1852

Letters from Deborah Wilson in Hobart to her husband James Wilson in Melbourne (Dec. 1851-Aug. 1852) referring to Hobart news, the receipt of gold from her brother William Degraves, horses, their children, the wreck of a steamer at King Island, her sadness at her separation from James and her wish that she and the children join him in Melbourne. (4 letters)

Series 6. Papers of Sir James Wilson, 1835 - 1880

The papers include; correspondence inwards and outward of Sir James Wilson; commissions of appointment of Wilson as member of Executive Council of Tasmania; draft speeches, portrait photograph of Wilson; accounts and governemnt papers.

The majority of the material relates to events and circumstances in Hobart; Melbourne, Bay of Islands and Parramatta.

Series 7. Miscellaneous papers of the Wilson Family, 1814 - 1894

The papers consist of correspondence, letters of introduction, legal documents, German documents relating to the Devoren, verse and printed items including programs for the Hobart Regatta (1 December 1838, 12 December 1876, 1st February 1879) and Newtown Races (17 March 1841).

The majority of the material relates to events and circumstances in Hobart; Melbourne, London, Calcutta and Parramatta.

Series 8. Correspondence of the Allardyce Family, c. 1828-1850

The Wilson and Allardyce families were related. The Allardyce Family were based in Aberdeenshire. William and Claud Allardyce emigrated to Van Diemen's Land at about the same time as William and James Wilson settled in the colony.

The correspondence includes letters of Rev. William Allardyce (Rhynie, Scotland) to his mother [1828], William Allardyce (Banff) to William Wilson (1835), Ann Allardyce (Cromarty) to William Wilson (1835), Francis Allardyce (Aberdeen) to Claud Allardyce (1837), Francis Allardyce (Rhynie) to Claud Allardyce (1838), Nancy Allardyce (Rhynie) to Claud Allardyce (Hobart), James Wilson (Hobart) to Rev. William Allardyce (Rhynie), (1839, draft), Claud Allardyce to James Wilson (1841), William Allardyce to James Wilson (1847) and William Allardyce (Rhynie) to James Wilson (1848, 1850).

There is also a copy of the will of William Allardyce of Blair, Van Diemen's Land, 26 September 1842.

Series 9. Histories of the Wilson and Degraves families, 1935 - 1944

The two typescript volumes, with manuscript amendments, were probably written by Ada Wilson, the daughter of Sir James Wilson. The first typescript (93pp) mainly deals with the Degraves Family, including Deborah Degraves who married James Wilson. The second typescript (67pp) deals with the Wilson Family, in particular Sir James Wilson.