The Hennig or Henny family of Dorfprozelten and Dungog

Aschaffenburger Zeitung, 12 September 1854, p226

At the approach of autumn in 1854, the Hennig family’s intent to emigrate to Australia was published in the regional newspapers. They had applied under the New South Wales Vinedresser Scheme to come to Australia where, in theory, they would work in the new wine industry. Sadly, it wasn’t uncommon for the emigrants to enhance their experience as day labourers in the Bavarian wine industry, and similarly the employers in Australia were guilty of deceiving them of what their expected roles would be.

The emigrating Hennig family group comprised Johann Hennig, a day labourer, his wife Anna Maria nee Zőller, and son Anton[i]. Johann had been born illegitimately to Barbara Hennig[ii] on 2 May 1812[iii] We don’t know who his father was though Johann states his parents as Johann and Barbara Hennig on arrival in Australia. He may have been aware of his father’s name or it may have been a deception to the government agents. At the time young Johann was born, it was very common for children to be born out of wedlock because of the financial and legal difficulties of marrying.[iv] Certainly there are repeated instances among the births in Dorfprozelten of children born outside marriage. Johann married in Anna Maria Zőller[v] in Dorfprozelten on 26 June 1843. Their son Anton had been born on 27 March 1838. It may have been their son’s age, and the recent political upheavals in Germany that encouraged the family to leave before he was recruited to serve in the military.

Nothing is known of the family’s journey between Dorfprozelten and Hamburg where their ship was to depart. Frankfurt provided a travel hub for emigrants from the southern Germanic states and it is most likely that for the Dorfprozelten families, the first phase of their migration travel was by boat along the River Main to Frankfurt en route to Hamburg and thence on the long sea voyage.

Ship Peru SLQ

Ship Peru, State Library of Queensland. Can you imagine so many people on board this ship?

On 16 December 1854, the Hennigs were about to sail for Australia on the barque Peru. They must surely have been partly anxious and partly hopeful of their new lives as they left the freezing port behind. Already they had severed links with many family and friends from their home village although they would have taken comfort in the company of the 24 other immigrants from Dorfprozelten on board. I wonder how they celebrated Christmas and the New Year as they made the months-long journey south.

Ship Peru Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1855, page 4

Unlike the immigrants brought to Australia by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, this voyage was commissioned by Kirchner and Co, whose agents had recruited the emigrants. Hence it seems they were disadvantaged in the standard of provisions and safety. Their journey was to be a challenge to health and well-being. When the Peru arrived in Sydney harbour on 24 May 1855, the Sydney Morning Herald described it as being “in a very dirty and disgraceful state.”[vi] At least some of the passengers on board were suffering from fever and scurvy[vii] the ship was placed in quarantine. After such a long journey the emigrants must have been so frustrated to be unable to leave the ship until released from quarantine on 4 June 1855.[viii]

Although the paper reports 36 deaths (3 adults and 33 children), the Board Lists document 32 deaths, 26 being children under four years of age. Two children and one adult belonged to the Dorfprozelten immigrants: Clara Kauflein aged 7, Thomas Neubeck aged 1, and Maria Anna Kuhn nee Heuster, aged 34.[ix]

State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood New South Wales, Australia; Persons on bounty ships to Sydney, Newcastle, and Moreton Bay (Board’s Immigrant Lists); Series: 5317; Reel: 2471

The Hennig family reported to the Immigration Board on arrival that they had no complaints (they probably couldn’t wait to get off the ship!).  All the family were literate, typical of the Dorfprozelten emigrants, and all were Catholics. Johann and Anton were listed as vinedressers.

Further major life changes occurred once the Dorfprozelten people disembarked in the colonies. After a lifetime spent in close proximity to, and familiarity with, their fellow immigrants and their families at home, the immigrants were dispersed to their employers in far-reaching corners of the colony of New South Wales, including the Moreton Bay region.

A map indicating where the Hennigs lived in New South Wales.

According to the Board Immigrant Lists, the Hennigs were allocated to Alexander Park but there is no information on them in those early years though their residence at Myall Creek near Dungog suggests that, unlike some other emigrants, they may have been sent to the employer who’d contracted them initially. Assuming the passengers were indeed distributed as per the Immigration Lists, the Hennigs will have been fortunate to have another Dorfprozelten family, that of Joseph Kauflein,  working with them at the same place.

Naturalisation Anthony Henny

State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; Series: Certificates of Naturalization, 1849-1874; Series Number: NRS 1039; Roll: 2694

Like many of the German immigrants, the Hennig family name became Anglicised to Henny. It’s not so much that they changed it themselves, as that the pronunciation was converted to English spelling. We first find mention of Anthony Henny when he and his father are naturalised in 1863[x].

A couple of years later Anton/Anthony married Sarah Jane Courts in 1863 in the district of Dungog[xi].

CONDITIONAL PURCHASES LAPSED. (1865, August 22). New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), p. 1843. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from

Anthony Henny’s land selection seems to have lapsed in 1865 and further investigation in the New South Wales State Archives might explain why[xii]. Meanwhile Anthony and Sarah were producing their own family: John (b 1866), Mary Louisa (b 1867), Charles Edward (b 1869), Sarah Mildred (b 1870), Florence Mathilda (b 1872) and William James (b 1874), Albert Ernest (b 1879), Clarence Herbert Harrington (b 1881), May Evelyn (b 1883), and Stella C (b 1888).

Probate documents John Henny. 17/1885 #3720 NSW State Archives

John Henny (aka Johann Hennig) died on 6 January 1876 in the Dungog area[xiii]. For whatever reason Anthony takes over John’s estate after his father dies, and his mother cedes the administration to him. Mary Ann Henn(e)y died in 1885 but apparently Anthony didn’t know his maternal grandparents’ names as they are registered as “unknown Zoller).[xiv]

Henny graves Dungog cemetery. P Cass 2006

John and Mary Ann’s deaths seem to have been unremarked in the local newspapers which is sad. Trove has turned up some later stories of the Henny family at Myall Creek. Anthony was involved with the Oddfellows Lodge as well as the Agricultural and Horticultural Society at Dungog. The family also had some worrying moments with Anthony having a severely broken leg and the family home having to be defended from bushfire which raged through the area.

Henny Dungog bushfires

Bush Fires. (1904, February 16). Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from

It seems the family may also have been quite social judging by this delightful story about a party at the Henny home.

Henny Anthony Myall Creek

Local and General. (1905, October 3). Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from

Obituaries can tell us quite a lot about family members as do these for Anthony and his wife Sarah, who lived to 94. While they had married in the Anglican church of which Sarah was obviously an active member, it seems Anthony had retained his Catholic faith given he was buried by the priest. Other obituaries for their children reveal the married names of daughters and the places of residence. Sarah Jane Henny’s obituary in 1939 lists the family: Albert (deceased), Jack (Sydney), Louisa (Mrs JI Middlebrook), Charles Edward (Myall Creek), Sarah (Mrs Geo Stephenson, Laurieton), Florence (Mrs Geo Paff, Southport Qld), William (Sydney), May (Mrs Pike, Melbourne), Stella (Mrs O R Lethbridge, Dungog).

The Henny family are buried in the Dungog cemetery where I was able to visit around 2006.

Family members would likely be able to learn more through visits to the New South Wales State Archives as well as pursuing further stories in Trove. The stories I’ve found have been tagged by name and can also be found in the Dorfprozelten list.

Personal. (1937, July 2). The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer (NSW : 1898 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from

[i] Indexed in the Kopittke indexes of Hamburg emigration as Henning.

[ii] Barbara was the eldest child of Johann Hoenig or Hennig, cattle herder, and Catharina Seus. Father is possibly John Neubeck.

[iii] Veh, G. Dorfprozelten Teil II, page 179.

[iv] Paterson, J. “Planned Illegitimacy in German Immigrants” in Ances-Tree Vol 20 No 2, July 2007, Burwood and District Family History Group, Sydney.

[v] Born 8 February 1809 to parents Franz Michael and Regina Zőller

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1855, page 4 columns 1 and 2. It carried a cargo of slate, battens and bricks as well as furniture and commercial products.

[vii] Scurvy suggests that the German shipping companies did not have the same level of awareness of the necessary provisions that British shipping had developed through convict transportation.

[viii] SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1855, June 5). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved November 2, 2020, from

[ix] The Dorfprozelten children who died on the voyage were Clara Kauflein (7), daughter of Joseph and Anna Kauflein and Thomas Neubeck (1), son of Alois and Clara Neubeck.

[x] State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; Series: Certificates of Naturalization, 1849-1874; Series Number: NRS 1039; Roll: 2694

[xi] NSW reference 2037/1865

[xii] CONDITIONAL PURCHASES LAPSED. (1865, August 22). New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), p. 1843. Retrieved November 2, 2020, from

[xiii] Registered as John Henney, NSW death reference 5987/1876 son of Jacob and Eva B.

[xiv] NSW death registration 9492/1885

2 thoughts on “The Hennig or Henny family of Dorfprozelten and Dungog

  1. Pingback: Trove Tuesday – a little Dungog humour – Family history across the seas

  2. Pingback: Accentuate the Positive 2020 – Family history across the seas

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