Earliest known ancestor of Group 12
Edward Chand/tler, b Sussex, England 1754, d Sussex, England 1828

Members of this family, which came from Lewes and the nearby villages of Barcombe and Hamsey in East Sussex, England, are found in Australia, Canada and the United States, as well as in England. Twelve of their descendants have come together in an informal group to research the history of the family.

The earliest known ancestors were cousins, or maybe brothers, William Chandler (1742-1806) and Edward Chand/tler (1754-1828). Their birthplaces are unknown but William spent his married life in Lewes and Edward lived a few miles to the north in Barcombe. DNA tests carried out on living male descendants of both have shown that they, and by necessary implication, William and Edward, had a common ancestor. A major focus of the group’s research is to discover the earlier family history linking Edward and William.

How amazed these ordinary 18th century folk would have been to know that their grandchildren and great grandchildren would leave the hardships of Victorian and Edwardian life in England to become pioneers opening up the wilds of New South Wales, Canada and the USA, and making very different futures for themselves and their children.

Edward Chandler (1st)
Edward Chandler and his wife Sarah Smith were married at Barcombe, Sussex on 10th October, 1788. They seem to have spent their married life in Barcombe where they had six children:

  • George (1789-1847) was an agricultural labourer who married Mary Green at All Saints Church, Lewes on 28th March 1821 and had nine children, among whose descendants is group member Terry Fry
  • Charlotte (1790- ?),
  • Edward (1792-1869) married Martha Knight at Wivelsfield, Sussex and had 10 children in Hamsey and Lewes. Six members of the group are his descendants
  • Elizabeth (1795-1871) married George Parker at Hamsey on 31st July 1815 and had a son John who, with his second wife Hannah, emigrated to Australia. Their descendants include group member Bronwyn King
  • William (1797-1809)
  • Mahalath (1803-1878) married William Muggridge at St. John sub Castro Church, Lewes, on 19th July 1834 and had three sons: William, Somers & James.

Edward Chandler (2nd)
Four of Edward and Martha’s childrens’ stories feature below:

  • Edward (1812-1889), the founder of the Australian branch of the family
  • Martha (1817-1890), whose marriage linked both sides of the family
  • Samuel (1819-1852), who became a soldier
  • Charles (1828-1908), a carpenter who outlived three wives.

Edward’s life was marked by tragedy. Three other sons – William (age 15), James (age 12) and George (age 11) – were buried on 22nd and 24th January 1826. Their mother died in 1835. She was buried with her sons in the churchyard of St. John sub Castro in Lewes on 4th January 1835.

The June 1841 census shows the youngest sons Charles (age 13) and Stephen (age 11) living at St. Anne’s Workhouse in Lewes. Their sister Ruth had died in 1843. Their father, Edward moved to Upper Beeding, West Sussex and set up home with a lady named Jane born in nearby Shermanbury. They lived together as man and wife for many years.

Edward died in tragic circumstances too, taking his own life. The Coroner at his Inquest concluded that he “had hanged himself being insane” on 17th April 1869. The newspaper report of the Inquest gave the whole sad story. Edward and Jane had been parted for some time. The 76-year-old was still working but had a drink problem. He had been sleeping rough in barns. His friends tried to persuade him to go into the Workhouse but evidently he preferred death to this ultimate indignity.

Edward Chandler (3rd)
The first Chandler known to have emigrated was Edward and Martha’s son, also called Edward Chandler (1812-1889), who, with his wife Sarah Mepham Huggett (1813-1889) and children Susannah, age 3 and George Edward, age 1, sailed from Plymouth on the ship Strathfieldsaye in April 1839.

Their three times great grand daughter, Marley Strecker has provided the following account of their journey and subsequent life in New South Wales.

On Board the Strathfieldsaye
The Strathfieldsaye was a barque of 476 tons built in 1829. Captain Spence was in charge of her for the 1839 voyage from Plymouth to Sydney leaving on the 8th of April and arriving on 25th of July. On board were 185 bounty migrants and 93 paying passengers. Henry Parkes, his wife Clarinda and their baby daughter were among the bounty migrants. [Note: Henry Parkes was to become a merchant in Sydney and then entered politics to become the earliest advocate of a Federal Council of the then colonies of Australia, a precursor to the Federation of Australia. He is generally considered the most prominent of the Australian Founding Fathers and known as the Father of the Federation. Edward and Sarah Chandler with children Susannah and George Edward were fellow bounty migrants on this voyage.]

The migrants were recruited by John Marshall who represented himself as an agent for the colonial government. He was, in fact, a shipowner who developed a lucrative business in the late 1830s, recruiting and supplying passages for “bounty” migrants to New South Wales (NSW). The colony was desperately short of labour at this time and had two schemes to attract migrants: free government-provided passages under the direct control of the emigration officers, and “bounties” (30 pounds for each married couple) paid to the shippers who brought out migrants meeting the special needs of the colony. Under the “bounty” system more than 56,000 persons travelled to NSW between 1837 and 1850. In practice, the system became a commercial operation controlled by British shipowners. The recruited migrants were not always what they and their documents stated, but the distance from Britain made it impossible for those wishing to employ migrants to choose just what they wanted. There was no shortage of aspiring applicants and Marshall seems to have worked out a crude method of separating the sheep from the goats.

The steerage of an emigrant ship has been described as a most uncomfortable place as it was almost impossible to escape the stagnant crowd of human beings. The ship’s hold was divided at the centre by a deal partition: male steerage passengers to the area towards the front, or forecastle; and females were given the back part of the ship – towards the poop. There were two rows of berths, one above the other. The berths were three feet by six feet, just allowing room for two persons to lie down. They were separated from each other by a small narrow deal board, about ten inches high so that when everyone was in bed, their bodies rose higher than the boards which separated them.

The passengers messed [ate] in groups of eight, each member taking weekly turn as “captain”, the person responsible for collecting provisions from the ship’s steward, and seeing to the cooking by the ship’s cook and the dishwashing. There was some livestock aboard for the use of the ship. A cow and calf, 24 pigs, 30 sheep, geese, fowls, etc. These were not for those in steerage however, but for the paying passengers and the crew. The diet for those in the hold was biscuit and salt meat. After leaving Plymouth no more fresh supplies were taken on as the ship sailed direct to Sydney. After the last glimpse of the Cornish coast the passengers saw only the cliffs of the Verde Island of St. Antonia between England and King Island (off Tasmania) in the Bass Strait. The non-stop voyage took a little over 100 days. Seasickness, congestion, poor food and the foetid air must have made it a nightmare for everyone in the cramped conditions of the hold.

On the morning of the 23rd of July [it was mid-winter in Australia], a few hours sailing from Bass Strait, they sighted the Australian mainland for the first time. The previous night had been cold and rough, and the ship had rolled uncomfortably. The Strathfieldsaye tacked up the east coast in search of the South Head lighthouse and then, on the morning of the 25th of July, at 8 o’clock, sailed into Port Jackson [Sydney harbour].

Sheep Farming
Edward Chandler was engaged on arrival as a shepherd and agricultural worker at a vast estate owned by Sir John Jamison called “Regentville” at Mulgoa on the Nepean River in the outer western area of Sydney. Henry Parkes was also engaged by Jamison for only a short period of six months, possibly because he was not an experienced agricultural worker like Edward Chandler, who stayed there for three years, and he and Sarah had two more children on the estate. After the death of Jamison, the family was able to lease land further along the river flats at historic Richmond, where two more sons were born. They then took up land close to the village of Mumbil near Wellington over the Blue Mountains and thence, in 1856, they moved onto a grant of 650 acres of land which they named “Coombing Creek” at Shaw near Carcoar in the central west of NSW. In time, his sons and sons-in-law also took up various large acreages in the area which were given names such as “Springfield”, “Belleview”, “Honeysuckle Gully” – we might be forgiven for thinking that this branch of the Chandlers had certainly found their home!

In addition to sheep farming, it seems from local newspaper reports that the Chandlers were successful gold prospectors in the New South Wales gold fields of the 1880s. The Sydney Morning Herald’s correspondent in Carcoar reported a number of bank deposits of gold by Chandler & Company from their claims at Old Junction, Frenchman’s Reef, Jordan’s Reef and Milburn Creek.

Sarah Mepham Chandler died in 1889 and Edward soon followed her. The local paper recorded:


  On Friday week an accident, which has since terminated fatally, happened to Mrs. Chandler, senior, of Mount Macquarie. Although over eighty years of age, she was driving in a cart, and, not being able to see well, collided with a stump. The cart was overturned, and Mrs. Chandler sustained severe injuries, a leg and an arm being broken, in addition to internal injuries. Medical skill proved unavailing, and on Wednesday last she died. The deceased lady was an old and highly respected resident in the Carcoar district, and leaves a large circle of mourning relatives.
(Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Tuesday, 14 May 1889)

Mr. Chandler, a very old resident of Mount Macquarie, near Blayney, and a shipmate of Sir Henry Parkes, died last week.
(Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Thursday, 12 September 1889)

A touching postscript to Edward’s death is provided in a letter written by his brother Charles on learning of the death. More of Charles and this letter follows below.

The Chandler Reunion, Australia 1997
Marley Strecker has also provided the following account of the grand gathering of Edward and Sarah’s modern descendants:

I was contacted “out of the blue” by Chandler family researchers because I had written to various people during my own researches and they thought I just might be interested in attending a Family Reunion of the Chandler Family of Australia to be held 30 March 1997 – was I ever! Well, that reunion has come and gone more than 14 years ago, and I have been asked to tell the story of the experience. And what a delightful story it is! There is nothing quite like the bonds of family – whether you know them all or not. There was definitely a lot of good-will that day!

The venue was a large, picturesque parkland in the centre of the city of Toowoomba, Queensland. Why Toowoomba? And, why the State of Queensland? After all, it is known that the Chandlers settled in the central west of the State of NSW. Well, there were four reasons:

  • Two grandsons of Edward Chandler and Sarah Huggett (the emigrants from Sussex, England) spread their wings and travelled to the Queensland interior in search of their own niches in life. Kind of like, as they would say in the USA, “Go West young man!”, except in this case it was North to the Darling Downs where the land was rich and open for pioneering.
  • The reunion organisers, Robin Dunn (nee Chandler) and her husband, Max, lived in Queensland and Robin was descended from those Queensland pioneers, who came from the Charles Chandler branch.
  • The large city of Toowoomba, Capital of the Darling Downs, although quite a distance away (hundreds of kilometres), by Australian standards is accessible from western NSW for those living there.
  • And, of course, many of the descendants of the Queensland branch of the family still lived within that State.

By coincidence, we lived in Queensland at the time, so it was extremely fortuitous and easy for us to attend this reunion, whereas, if it had been in NSW we would not have been able to attend and that would have been a great disappointment. After speaking with my husband, our son and my mother, we three generations became most enthused about the prospect of meeting and mingling with other Chandler “rellies” (Aussie word for “relatives”!). I contacted Robin to register our interest and continued to be in close touch with her and Max. In fact, as the numbers grew larger and the time grew shorter, they needed extra assistance in a big way. I was able to take on the task of making name tags for all the attendees. I set about devising colour codes for each of the eight Australian branches (being a branch for each of the eight children of Edward Chandler and Sarah, these being; Susannah, George Edward, Sarah Ann, Charles, Edward, William, Stephen and Elizabeth Ann). Except for Susannah and George Edward, the children were born in NSW in the early years of settlement.

On the day, and once registered, the direct descendants of these branches wore name tags of the appropriate branch colour, with the spouses who “married in” to the family wearing white cards with the same coloured borders. It turned out to be a great fun idea, because we were able to circulate around and introduce ourselves to our “branch” members, who were in actual fact, our very own cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Of course, it was just as wonderful to meet the extended family of the other siblings, too, and hear their stories. It was amazing how closely many of the family still resembled each other! There was a representation of fairly short, rotund descendants – and looking at some of the old photographs, we could see where it came from!

Max Dunn had created a very long and very wide computer-generated Family Tree, mounted it on a board and we were all able to determine our place within the family. It was great to hear comments like, “Oh, now I see, you’re the second son of Great Uncle Stephen!” or “Yes, here I am, a direct descendant from George Chandler!”, even the youngsters were keen to find their names and seemed proud to see where they “fit in”. There was also a lot of old photos displayed and stories to be shared. A great deal of chatter ensued throughout a very warm day, only to be pleasantly interrupted by our picnic lunches and a welcome cup of billy tea and lamingtons!

It was at that gathering that I had the very good fortune to meet Allan and Betty Chandler from NSW for the first time. Allan and Betty are the “prime movers” in researching our Chandlers in Australia. I was so fortunate to make contact with this delightful couple and would like to pay tribute to them and to recognise all their hard work and generosity over many years. They have made several trips to Lewes, Sussex (which, from Australia, is no small thing!) to further their research the hard way, that is, laboriously copying out information, purchasing certificates, joining societies and travelling here and there – they had no computers, no world wide web at their disposal! Almost everything I know about the early Chandlers was given to me, handwritten or typed on an old typewriter, freely and enthusiastically by Allan and Betty Chandler. Their dedication to the family and generosity of spirit has saved many people a lot of hard work and I was so happy to meet them at last.

At last, at the end of an inspirational day, it was time for the group photo before we went our separate ways. Well, that in itself certainly took a good deal of further organisation! We called for colour groups to try to be somewhat together, with tall at back, short in front, etc. etc. Finally, after a few misses, we were ready and all shouted together: “Chandler!” and then, like the precious photographs of the earlier generations, that moment, too, was frozen in time…..

Marlene Strecker
Queensland, Australia

Martha Chandler
Edward and Martha’s daughter, Martha Chandler (1817-1890) was baptised at St. Peter’s Parish Church, Hamsey, and married James Strong (1817-1894), a roof slater, in Lewes on 6th June 1838. They had twelve children and lived in Sun Street, Lewes alongside Chandler and Strong relatives. Theirs was one of a number of intermarriages between these two Lewes-based families both in Sussex and New South Wales. James Strong was the great grandson of William Chandler (1742-1806) and Jenny Fryer, through his grandmother Ann Chandler (1767-1846) who will appear again later when William & Jenny’s family’s story is told.  Martha and James’s descendants, including Group 12 member Peter Strong, trace their ancestry back to both “founders” of the family.

[Editor’s comment.  By a remarkable coincidence James Chandler, a member of an entirely different genetic Chandler family (#8), migrated some 130 miles from his home in Leicestershire to Lewes in Sussex in 1879, a little before his 19th birthday.  Chandler family #8 also had connections with a family named Strong and James’ father was named William Strong Chandler.  Without the DNA proof to the contrary, it could have been assumed that these two families were related.  The story of Chandler family #8 can be read here.]

Samuel Chandler and His Sons in the Army
Edward and Martha’s fifth child, Samuel Chandler (1819-1852) was a soldier. Army records show that he joined the 35th Regiment of Foot (Royal Sussex) at Lewes in 1839. Between 1841 and 1846 he served in various locations in Ireland including Carlow and Clonmel in the south, Carrick on Suir on the north west coast, Youghal and Charles Fort in County Cork, Templemore and Nenagh in County Tipperary. During this time he married Mary Elizabeth Mitchell in Ireland. In July 1846, Samuel was posted to Jersey, the largest of the Channel Isles. In September, their son, William H. Chandler (1846-1909) was born in Nenagh, County Tipperary. A further son, James Chandler (1847-?) was born in Jersey. There was also a sister, Mary Jane. Unfortunately, Samuel died at Stoke Damerel Military Hospital, Devon in 1852.

Following his father’s death William, then aged almost six, was sent to the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea, West London. From contemporary official reports, this school was short of both academic achievement and suitable accommodation. Conditions in the school can be gathered from the following extract from a letter from the school to the War Office:

Lastly, with reference to the proposition for additional Water Closets & urinals for the Boys during school hours, the Committee strongly recommend that this, or some similar measure should be adopted, the pressing necessity for this accommodation being apparent.

William joined on 2nd July 1852. His school ledger also records his later desertion from the Army in 1873. In January 1860, aged just 14, he followed his late father into the Army, joining the 2nd/13th Regiment of Foot.

His younger brother James probably grew up in Ireland with his mother and from 1856-1861 attended the Royal Hibernian Military School in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland – possibly sent there by his late father’s regiment. In any event he joined the same regiment as his older brother at Dublin on 22nd December 1860, aged 13 years and 11 months. (The Military School buildings are now Dublin’s Museum of Modern Art.)

The brothers served together at Fermoy, Ireland, as the only two “Boys” in the regiment until 18th January 1861, when apparently it was thought William had become 15. (His 15th birthday was in September 1861!) He became a private with an increase in pay. They continued to serve at Fermoy, and James became a private on 27th December 1861. From January 1862 to March 1864, they served at Fermoy as drummer boys at one shilling and one penny (less than ten cents) per day. There were only four musicians. Their attendance was exceptional, being 100%. They never missed a day for hospital or for any misdemeanour. This was most unusual at the time.

The regiment marched 83 miles to Templemore, Ireland, in February 1865, where the brothers remained until June. They boarded ship and after 73 days at sea arrived at Mauritius in the Indian Ocean where they continued to be engaged as “drummers and buglers”. They both sent money home to their family. 1868 saw them back at Portland, Dorset, England. William received “Good Conduct Pay” of an extra one penny but this was withdrawn in December. The brothers were then stationed at Gosport in Hampshire having sailed there from Portland in September.

In August 1869, the brothers had been in trouble and spent seven days in military prison. In October they are in trouble again, and James served another seven days. William is tried and sentenced to 336 days detention, which he served at Gosport and London’s Millbank Prison. Family lore said that William shot a deer in one of the Royal Forests and was reprimanded by a superior officer while in the army. He got mad at the officer, hit him, and ran away to avoid punishment. He put his clothes on his head and swam down the River Thames. This could be the reason for his jail sentence.

He was released at Aldershot on 14th September 1870. James still played in the band, now based at Aldershot. In October 1870 the regiment moved to Pembroke Dock in Wales, from whence they sailed to Kilkenny, Ireland, in September 1871. The next month William rejoined James in the regimental band in Kilkenny.

They moved to Dublin in July 1872. James has been receiving “Good Conduct Pay” of an extra penny a day through this time. William gains the same from 15th September. Clearly they have been behaving themselves. On 20th November 1872 both men went on furlough (leave) until 28th December. Such a long break must have followed an unbroken period of service. They never returned and were recorded as deserters in January 1873.

William Chandler arrived in New York, USA, on 4th October 1873 aboard “Calabria,” en route from Liverpool, England and Queenstown, Ireland. He settled in Williamstown, Pennsylvania, where he worked above ground at a colliery. He married Emily Haskins and they had two sons: William H (1877-1879) and Albert E (1879-?). Family lore has it that toddler William fell down a well and drowned. After his first wife Emily’s death, William married her sister, Elizabeth Haskins, in about 1884. Emily and Elizabeth were daughters of James Haskins and Ann Mariah Hazel from Bitton, Gloucestershire, England. William and Elizabeth also had two children: Ralph Chandler (1885-1946) and James Frank Chandler (1888-1940). James Frank was known as “Frank”. William died in Pittsburgh in 1909 and was buried in Williamstown.

Frank married Ida Gertrude Richards (1890-1958) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where the couple settled and raised five children, including Frank Richard Chandler (1925-1991), father of group member Carol Chandler.

Charles Chandler – Carpenter, Scholar & Gentleman
Edward and Martha’s fifth son was Charles Chandler (1828-1908). In April, 1853, he was married to Jane Adams (1834-1860) at St Andrew’s Parish Church, Hove, Sussex. He was a labourer and she was a “minor”, being under 21. They had three children:- Lucy(1853-1931) married Edward Merriott at Lancing, Sussex on 15th December 1883 and they had five children. Their descendants include group member Edward White; Sarah Jane (1855-1920) married James Stinton at St. Peter’s, Brighton on 18th July 1880 and had four children; Charles Thomas (1857-1934) married Priscilla Heather in St. Mary’s Church, Reigate, on 15th February 1885 and had four children. Jane died in 1860. In 1861, Charles was 33, a widower lodging at 17 West Hill Place, Brighton and working as a carpenter. He married Harriett Hampton on 21 June 1863 in Southwick Parish Church. Harriett was a widow born in Earnley, Sussex in about 1817. By 1871 they were living at 37 Guildford Street, Brighton; Charles was 43 and working as a carpenter. Living with them was Charles’ son, Charles Thomas who was 16 and an errand boy. Ten years later the family was still living in Guildford Street having moved to number 38; Charles Thomas was working as a butcher, in which business he remained for many years. In 1889, his brother Edward died in Australia shortly after Edward’s wife had died. (See above)

On hearing the news from one of his Australian nephews, unfortunately unnamed, he wrote the following eloquent and touching reply:


19 Camden Terrace, Brighton
October 31st 1889Dear NephewI received your letter on the 28th inst with feelings of regret at the loss of your Father and my Brother but I cannot say I was much surprised, as one often sees and hears of instances of man and wife who have lived together so long – over 50 years – of one not long remaining here after their partner is taken from them. I think you and we must all console ourselves with the thought that the death of both your parents although somewhat sudden was peaceful and that they are gone to the grave in a good old age like a shock of corn is gathered in his season. I sent your letter to Lewes for your Uncle Stephen and your Aunt Martha to see but your cousin John Strong had a letter from his brother Stephen on the same day so that they were in possession of the sad news. Your Uncle Stephen who has been laid up for over a month with congestion of the lung but who is now getting better joins me and my wife in deep sympathy for yourself and all your brothers and sisters and their families in this your sad bereavment. There are now but three of the family left – your Aunt Martha, myself and your Uncle Stephen – and we are all glad to hear that all your brothers, sisters and families were well so far as you knew and I think I may say that we in England are in fair health with a few exceptions. It will never be that either of us will reach NSW but it may so happen that one or more of you may come to England, in which case do not fail to find out St John’s Church, Lewes. You will be sure to hear of some of your relatives. I shall be glad to hear from you at any time or any of the family and be glad to know of your welfare. Your Uncle Stephen of Lewes had a man call on him yesterday – a Mr William Best – he had a brother John about Your Father’s age come out to NSWales about 1837 two years before your Father – they both worked for Mr Isaac Leney of Lewes and knew each other very well. This Mr Best went to work for a Sir John Jamieson somewhere out near your father, he thinks, and he had two sons who were both apprenticed to shoemakers – he has had no tidings of his brother or his sons for about 37 years and your Uncle Stephen wished me to ask you when any one writes to England if you could give the brother anything he would be very happy.

I must now conclude by once more expressing the sympathy and love of my wife myself and family – your Uncle Stephen begs to express the same as also that of his wife and family and love to each and all of you.

  I remain
Your affectionate Uncle
Charles Chandler

Harriett died in Brighton in 1895, and Charles married again in 1897. His third wife was Eliza Cornwell, originally from Rotherfield, Sussex. She had spent her life in domestic service, mostly as a cook, and in 1891 was employed at The Grange, Portslade, Sussex.

On 16 October 1897 Charles made his will. He was living at 33 Goldstone Road, Hove, Sussex, and married to Eliza. In the 1901 Census the couple were still living at 33 Goldstone Road, Hove, the same house as Thomas and Ann Cornwell, and it is very likely that Thomas and Eliza were siblings.

The death of Eliza Chandler was registered in the first quarter of 1905 in the Steyning Registration District. Emma White once said that her grandfather, Charles Chandler, had outlived three wives.

Charles was still living in Goldstone Road in Hove. He made regular visits by train to his daughter, Lucy and her family in Lancing only a few miles away. His granddaughter, May Merriott remembered him as a very friendly and jovial man.

Charles Chandler died in the first quarter of 1908 in the Steyning Registration District. His will was probated in 1908 as well.

In his will he made his son, Charles Thomas Chandler, the executor. He wished that his household goods and one third of his money went to his wife Eliza,  the rest of his money to be divided among his children: Lucy Merriott of North Road, Lancing; Sarah Jane Hinton [the name should have been Stinton] of 37 Wellington Street, Cambridge; and Charles Thomas Chandler of 20 London Road, Brighton. If Eliza died first then all of the goods including his books, watch and cloths [sic] were to be divided between the three children.


The descendants plan to continue researching their family history.  Anyone able to provide more information about this family, or wishing to exchange notes, can contact them by clicking on the email address below.

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