The Browne Family

Early History

The Viscounts Montague

Thomas Browne - Hobart Town

James 'Snyder' Browne - NZ

The Family Coat of Arms

Early History

My earliest, verified Browne ancestor was Thomas Browne of Caverswall, Co Stafford, England. He was buried at Caverswall Church on 7 Feb 1562/3*. His wife's name was Margery and their son was William Browne of Cookshill, parish of Caverswall, "yeoman" who was buried 30 May 1603 also at Caverswall.

The Brownes moved on to Shredicote and Bentley Hall and then to London where Thomas Browne was born (Houndsditch - 6 July 1781) and married Jane Rutherford on 25 Mar 1804 at St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard St. London. Thomas and Jane had eleven children including my Great(3)Grandfather Thomas and his brother James (Snyder).

The Viscounts Montague

Some members of my family who have looked into the Browne family history have debated for many years whether or not 'our' Brownes are descended from the Brownes of Cowdray House, Easebourne, Sussex - the Viscounts Montague. This came about from a hand-written transcript of a newspaper obituary (of unknown source) for the sister of Thomas and James (Snyder). This lady was Eleanor Williams who died in London on 15 Jun 1884. The obituary was written in Gisborne, NZ and stated, in part...

"The deceased lady was the eldest daughter of Lord Viscount Montague Browne, who in 1805 sunk his title when his estate passed away from him. In society he only permitted himself rank as a private gentleman. Mrs Williams was the sister of Mr James "Snyder" Browne, bookseller of this town, who is now the sole surviving member of one the oldest of English families."

This connection was also mentioned in a death notice for James Browne from the Australian Town and Country Journal, 28 Nov 1885 p1135

"BROWNE. - November 5, at his residence, Gisborne, N.Z. - James Browne, journalist, fifth son of the late Lord Viscount Montague Browne".

I have not been able to verify this claim that Thomas (of London) was the last Viscount Montague. All records that I have seen state that the last Viscount Montague was Mark Anthony Browne who died without issue 27 Nov 1797 in Great Baddow, Essex. He was the ninth Viscount Montague (Oct 1793). Also, the book which has provided me with the link back to the early 1500s ("Genealogical Memoirs of the Browne Family of Caverswall and Shredicote, co. Stafford; Bentley Hall, co. Derby; Greenford, co. Middlesex; Withington and Caughley, co. Salop; also of the Peploe family of Garnstone, co. Hereford." Compiled by GBM [George Blacker Morgan]) shows that James and Thomas's father Thomas (of London) was not descended immediately from the Cowdray Brownes.

A possible link exists back in the 1500s. The first Thomas Browne (d 1562/3) was probably born around 1500 - 1530 or so. A brother of the first Viscount Montague (Anthony Browne - b about 1528) was Thomas, born about 1530. Could this be the same Thomas?

It seems that James (Snyder) Browne either believed that his father was actually the last Viscount or had attempted to establish his claim - though I have not been able to confirm this either. James was a noted journalist and humorist and it seems possible that he allowed people to believe his noble lineage for the sheer fun of it. However, the fact that he named one of his sons 'Montague' (b 1849) and the name also appears in other arms of the family from then on (see below) lends the claim more weight.

Some occurrences of the name 'Montague' in the Browne family:

Thomas Browne - Hobart Town

Thomas Browne was born in London on 10 Mar 1816 and was christened at Stepney, Saint Dunstan, London on 8 Feb 1824. He emigrated to Launceston then Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land (now Hobart, Tasmania) and became a lithographer and photographer. He died there on 23 Dec 1870.

This is part of the entry from "The Dictionary of Australian artists : painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870" edited by Joan Kerr. Published: Melbourne : Oxford University Press, 1992.

Browne, Thomas (1816-1870), professional photographer, lithographer, newspaper proprietor and stationer was born in London on 10 March 1816, seventh of the eleven children of Thomas Browne and Jane, nee Rutherford. Educated at Christ's Hospital school between 1824 and 1833, Browne emigrated to Van Diemen's Land, probably in 1835 with his brother James, and settled in Launceston. There he apparently managed Henry Dowling's printing and stationery business. With Dowling as a witness, Thomas married Sarah Spicer at St John's Church Launceston on 10 March 1840; they had fourteen children. In 1844, after the birth of their third child, Eleanor, the family moved to Hobart Town. Thomas opened his own printing and stationery business at 34 Liverpool Street in July.

Thomas Browne is thought to have been the first resident professional photographer in Hobart. He opened a daguerreotype studio in his shop in 1846. With a move to new premises in Macquarie Street by 1848, he operated his photographic studio until 1853. He is only known to have produced portraits, which, he stated in 1852, could be taken 'in any but rainy weather... The early hours of the day are generally most favourable'. He offered 'Daguerreotype Miniatures for Lockets or Brooches' as well as standard cased portraits.

James Oakley Browne (aka 'Snyder') - NZ

James Oakley Browne was born in London on 26 May 1821 and christened at Stepney, Saint Dunstan, London on 8 Feb 1824. According to the information on his brother Thomas (above) he arrived first in Van Diemen's Land in 1835 - ie, aged about 14!. If this is the case he seems to have left Van Diemen's Land and lived for some time in Brazil. In his own words (from "Reminiscences in the Life of a Colonial Journalist No. 1 by Snyder (James Browne), The New Zealand Herald 4 July 1874"):

"It was in 1843, or the beginning of 1844, when I arrived in Hobart Town from the coast of Brazil where I had lived for some time."

He travelled to Launceston where he began a long and illustrious newspaper career which took him to Port Phillip (now Victoria) then to New Zealand where he edited and established several newspapers. From "Newspapers in New Zealand" by Guy H Schofield:

"James Snyder Browne (widely known in New Zealand journalism as 'Snyder')...

J. S. Browne lived for some years in Brazil, arrived in Hobart in 1843 and was first in a newspaper office at Launceston. He contributed to the Port Phillip Patriot an account of a voyage in the ship 'Mary Ann'. About 1858 he was reporting on a paper at Corio (Geelong). He also had experience as an auctioneer and as a steam boat proprietor. Coming to New Zealand in the early 1860s he was active in several provinces..."

James Browne, under the pseudonym "Snyder", wrote a series titled "Reminiscences in the Life of a Colonial Journalist" which was published over several months in The New Zealand Herald in 1874 and 1875".

He died on 5 Nov 1885. Below is his obituary from the New Zealand Herald 9 Nov 1885 (p2)

It will be seen from an East Coast telegram in another column that Mr James Browne, an old New Zealand journalist, died at Gisborne on Thursday, at the age of 64. He was engaged on some of the West Coast papers many years ago and afterwards removed to Auckland, where he was connected with the NZ Herald for some time, in the columns of which he contributed a series of weekly articles under the nom de plum of "Snyder" also "Australian Reminiscences of Thirty Years ago" and which showed him to be possessed of considerable ability as a writer and a humorist. Subsequently he went to Gisborne, where he edited first the Poverty Bay Standard and afterwards the Poverty Bay Herald. About four years ago he resigned his position and entered into business as a bookseller and stationer, which business he conducted till his decease. He leaves a wife, 5 sons and 2 daughters. Most of his sons are connected with journalism in one form or another.

The Family Coat of Arms

Browne Coat of ArmsThis is my attempt at the actual arms. It was drawn from the black and white photocopy which is reproduced and described in the "Genealogical Memoirs of the Browne Family of Caverswall and Shredicote, co. Stafford; Bentley Hall, co. Derby etc..." Compiled by GBM [George Blacker Morgan]).



*Early Dates

The British government introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1752. They decreed that the day following Sept. 2, 1752, should be called Sept. 14, a loss of 11 days. All dates preceeding were marked O.S., for Old Style.

In addition, New Year's Day was moved to Jan. 1 from Mar. 25 (e.g., under the old reckoning, Mar. 24, 1700, had been followed by Mar. 25, 1701). For example, George Washington's birthdate, which was Feb. 11, 1731, O.S., became Feb. 22, 1732, New Style (N.S.).

Hence.. many dates appearing in genealogical records which refer to Jan - Mar have the two years, such as 7 Feb 1562/3.

The Moss Page