Brisbane family tree with Crozier branch

Mary Williams - Crozier
Mary Williams - Crozier

A family rumour, a curious name and a set of candlesticks were the intriguing clues which sparked a genealogy hunt connecting one family in Brisbane, Australia, to the famous Banbridge-born polar explorer Crozier.

A vague whisper that the family had a connection with Franklin had always puzzled Mary Williams and her relatives, but the mystery couldn’t be unravelled until a reluctant skeleton was hauled out of the closet.

That skeleton surrounded Mary’s great grandfather - Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier Spaul, and Mary said: “His four unusual given names had often been mentioned in the family with some wonder and curiosity”.

Following a television documentary in 2008 about the ill-fated expedition led by Franklin, the family were shocked to learn the full name of the second in command of the expedition - Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier. With an identical name to that of great grandfather Spaul it was only then they realised the connection was with Crozier and not Franklin, as they had previously thought. The family’s search had been confused because as an illegitimate child of Acheson Crozier, a childless widower and Lieutenant in the Royal Marines, and his housekeeper Maria Spaul, also a widow, Francis was using his mother’s surname.

It would appear that great grandfather Spaul was named after the explorer some 14 years after the fated mission, because his grandfather - Captain Acheson Johnston Crozier, was the second cousin of the Banbridge explorer.

At the age of 12 the family immigrated to Queensland, Australia.

Great grandfather Spaul grew up and and married Edith Frances Innes Philpot in 1896 to whom he had seven children. He became a compositor, working with his father-in-law, James Robert Makepeace Thackeray, who was an editor.

Mary said: “During World War One he was sacked by the Rockhampton newspaper because of his name Spaul which sounded German. Ironically his name should have been Crozier. He never worked again.”

Great grandfather Spaul received little of the inheritance from his father, but liked to show his grandchildren his few treasures including a pair of Old Sheffield Plate candlesticks, which Mary now owns.

Maritime tendencies can still be found in the family to this day. Mary said: “My father had a deep love of the sea and ships and used to build sailing boats for us when we were young. We raced sailing boats too. Dad also owned and sailed small yachts and made sailing ship models. Maybe that’s how we got Captain’s tendencies!”