Susanna WILHELM 1837-1925
Susanna was born 255 days after the marriage of her parents Johann Georg Wilhelmi and Anna Margaretha Bill on 11th December 1836. Her brother Konrad arrived on 31st January 1840 and a sister Anna Margaretha some time in 1842. Just before Susanna completed her schooling her father died soon after his 40th birthday. Her mother contemplated taking her children to Australia as the exodus from the village gathered momentum. Susanna was at the vulnerable age of 16 in 1854 and it was decided that she should go on ahead of the rest of the family. She left Nieder-Weisel in September with a group of 23 villagers who were mainly middle-aged family men going out to Victoria to assess conditions and prospects there. There were also two young men and two other girls of Susanna’s age – Elisabetha Reuter and Juliana Hildebrand.
Bookings were made on the Hamburg-based barque “Luise”. One hundred and thirty other passengers crammed into the ‘tween-decks’ accommodation with Susanna for the 4½ month journey to Port Phillip; they arrived on 23rd February 1855, and most of the passengers headed for the goldfields of Ballarat. Susanna’s companions later went on to Daylesford but she remained in the Ballarat area. In January 1857, her mother Anna Margaretha Wilhelm nee Bill arrived in the colony with the two younger children. Her sister married in 1860 and moved with her husband to Daylesford, before settling at Maldon; their brother, who never married, lived with them.
Susanna met Johannes Worner from Nieder-Weisel in Ballarat and lived with him. She gave birth to a daughter, Margaret, in 1861 in Sebastopol, which was then virtually a suburb of Ballarat. The couple then moved to the Rocky Lead area and spent about five years there while Johannes prospected; his widowed sister was remarried there in 1864 with her brother as a witness. Susanna had a second child, Conrad, in their Rocky Lead home in 1863; like his sister, he was registered as a Wilhelm, father not named.
By about 1867, Susanna was back in Sebastopol with Johannes and the children. She had two more children, John Philip in 1871 and Catherine Christina in 1877; they were registered in the name Werner – father John, mother Susannah Williams. Susanna’s mother lived nearby until her death in 1878. With her help in the early years, Susanna was able to raise all four children successfully.
Johannes retired from mining and took on labouring jobs to support the younger children. He died in 1903 and was laid to rest in the Ballarat cemetery in the same grave as Anna Margaretha. His death certificate shows that he was married to Susanna in 1873, but no record has been found; the four children were listed as his.
Susanna moved into Ballarat proper, living at 806 South Street with her son John. A tiny figure, just 1.5m tall, and with the clear blue eyes of her race, she aged gracefully until arthritis began to cripple her. Her son Conrad moved up to Parkes in New South Wales but her daughter Margaret and her family lived near Ballarat so she was able to stay in touch with them.
In 1920, at the age of 83, Susanna applied for naturalisation; she became one of the first citizens to be granted the new certificate, which was recognised throughout the Empire and not just in Australia. She lived for another five years until her death at the home of her daughter Catherine Railton in Preston in 1925; she was in her 88th year.
View Susanna's Family Chart