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Robert Herbertson 1804 to 1879

I began researching the Herbertson Family Tree in 1981 out of curiosity about my origins. I was born in Portland and spent a considerable period of my life living there. Although Herbertsons were known as an old Portland family, my side of the family knew nothing of the family history and there was a reluctance of my grandfather to discuss his origins.

In the "old" cemetery at North Portland is the grave of Robert Herbertson and a number of the family members. This became the starting point for my research. I began by sending away for the death certificate of Robert Herbertson who died in Portland on 23rd January 1879 at the age of 75.

Over the years I have made contact with a number of people also researching the family history, and I was sent a copy of The Herbertson Family 1841 - 1964 which I have added to my home page. I am not absolutely certain who actually sent this to me but it is widely circulated amongst the Herbertsons. Although basically accurate, some of the details are incorrect.

What I detail on this page will be the history of Robert Herbertson as I know it. Wherever possible I will specify the source of any facts that I have been able to verify, and where I make assumptions, I will try to justify them.



Robert Herbertson's death certificate shows that he was a draper and died on the 23rd January 1879 at Wattle Hill, Shire of Portland, Count Normanby Victoria. It shows that was aged 75 as was born in Glasgow Scotland. He had been in Victoria for 37 years. His father's name is Robert Herbertson, builder Margaret Herbertson nee Not Known. In the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages records her maiden name is also shown as "NOT KNOWN"

The Herbertson Family 1841 - 1964 also states his father's name as Robert but has his mother's maiden name as McKinnon. I believe that this is based on his death certificate where the cursive script "Not Know" has been incorrectly read as "McKinnon". (At a future date, when I have access to a scanner, I will place a copy of the death certificate on this site so that you can draw your own conclusions.)

Using the International Genealogical Index as well as research conducted by Chris Harbison into such things as Census records and old Parish Registers, I have been unable to find a marriage of a Robert Herbertson to a Margaret in the period 1750 to 1810. Likewise I have been unable to find a birth of a Robert Herbertson where the father is Robert in the period 1770 to 1810.

In June 1989 Fran Herbertson of Lexton Victoria contacted me. She was researching the family history of her husband. Her husband Barry was a descendant of James and Margaret (nee Hunter) Herbertson of Glasgow. James' son, Andrew came to Australia. Andrew had a son Henry and Fran was wondering whether he was the Henry mentioned in the "The Herbertson Family 1841 - 1964". It was "known" in her family history that the Portland Herbertsons were related, and their family used to visit Portland.

In 1992 Melanie Neville of Burwood Victoria contacted me. She had been referred by Fran Herbertson and was a descendant of Alexander Herbertson. Alexander was the son of James and Margaret (nee Hunter) Herbertson of Glasgow ie. a brother of Fran's Andrew. Melanie also sent me a copy of her family tree that showed Robert Herbertson of Portland as being a brother of Andrew and Alexander. This family tree had been compiled by her grandfather.

In July 1992, Chris Harbison forwared a disc contained records from the "Old Parochial Registers". This showed the marriage of James Herbertson to Janet Dougal on 16th November 1804 at Govan. It also shows the marriage of James Herbertson to Margaret Hunter on 18th May 1822 at Gorbals. It is my believe that Margaret Hunter is the second wife of James and that he re-married after the death of Janet. I have however found no record of her death.

This would therefore make Robert the half-brother to Alexander and Andrew Herbertson.

Also supporting this proposition is the fact that Robert and Isabella Herbertsons' first child was named Janet Douglas Herbertson (later known as Jessie). This compares favourably after Robert's mother's maiden name of Janet Dougal, although not strictly in accordance with the Scottish naming conventions. Also, the oldest son is named James after the paternal grandfather.


Robert married Isabella on the 18th March 1834 in Launceston. Isabella was born in 7/12/1810. The International Genealogical Index shows her surname spelt Baillie.

Children of Robert and Isabella are as follows:

Name Date
Place of Birth Date
Place of Death Date
Place of Marriage Spouse's Name
Janet Douglass 12/2/1835 Launceston Tas 1899 Hotham East, Melbourne 1860 Johnson Hardcastle
Mary Anne 1839 Launceston Tas 24/1/1888 Hotham, Melbourne
James 1841 Launceston Tas 15/8/1861
Robert 1843 Portland Vic 2/6/1918 Portland 1875 (1) Portland Susan Cathels
'' '' '' '' '' 1891 (2) Portland Mary Ann Cathels
Sarah 1845 Portland Vic 2/2/1932 1871 Joseph Henry Porter
Eliza 1849 Portland Vic Arthur Rosevear Richard
Georgina 1848 Portland Vic 1850 Portland
Samuel 1853 Portland Vic 28/6/1891 Euroa Annie Whittle
Thomas 1855 Portland Vic 17/1/1932 27/4/1886 Portland Janet Browning Millar
George 1857 Overseas 23/7/1878

*Of the births it is interesting the only Janet's (in Tasmania) and Georgina's (registered at the same time as her death) were actually registered. The date of the birth of the other children have been derived from their age at death.


Interesting things?
Janet Douglass Herbertson's birth records which I have personally viewed on microfiche and which appear to be an actual copy of the birth certificate show her father's name as David Herbertson.

As per Janet Browning Millar, descendant of Thomas Herbertson, all the Herbertson girls suffered from a medical condition that prevented them from having children. This is supported by "The Herbertson Family 1841 - 1964" document which doesn't show any children for the girls. However, Janet (Jessie) Herbertson married Johnson Hardcastle and had a least 7 children as per Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Why was Janet's father recorded as David and why weren't her children included in the family history? Again, per Janet Browning Millar, Robert Herbertson declined the offer of having a street named after him in Portland. Why? She also cryptically says in one of her letters " I have a little more information and intrique into the Tas. scene and am struggling with the information. I don't like disturbing 160yr, old skeletons." In another letter she says, "There are also some discrepancies in the Tas. register (this could be due to many factors).


Where do I fit in?
Robert Herbertson, born 1843 who married the two Cathels sisters, also had an on-going out of wedlock relationship with a woman by the name of Mary who lived somewhere near Heywood. From this relationship, an illegitimate son (and possibly a daughter, although nothing is know of her) was born in 1865 at Heywood. His name was Robert William Henry Herbertson and he married Maria Bannam at Hamilton on the 8th of August 1901. Maria was my great-grandmother, and therein lies another story!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 April 2016 05:12