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There are few branches of the Dengate tree untouched by emigration from England. Indeed, there are now thousands of Dengates living world-wide, largely due to just a handful of people uprooting their lives and moving abroad.

During the first years of the nineteenth century (when the first Dengates emigrated) early emigrants often consisted of young families, but by the end of the century, the proportion of single males emigrating had risen to the point that there were twice as many men emigrating as women. One reason for this is that the opportunities for agricultural workers (the main occupation of male Dengates at this time) which seemed plentiful in the early part of the century were not so apparent by 1900. By the turn of the century, only Canada remained as be- ing relatively easy to buy a family farm.

North America

The reasons for emigration vary from person to person, although most emigrants left for economic reasons, in particular poverty at home and the enticement of a new and better life abroad. In 1834 when the Poor Law administration was set up, new schemes to enable 25,000 people, mainly agriculture labourers from southern counties of England to emigrate between 1834 and 1860. Unfortunately, ship logs are few and far between and it is, therefore, very difficult to state exactly when and where the various Dengates who took the plunge actually arrived in North America. From family records and surviving ship logs, it is possible to know that the first Dengates arrived in North America in the early-mid nineteenth century. It is estimated that 10 million people emigrated from the British Isles during the nineteenth century, with 2.7 of these arriving between 1846 and 1855. Peak emigration years were 1854, 1873, 1883, 1907 and 1913.

In Charleston, South Carolina, there currently stands a restaurant by the name of ‘Jimmy Dengates’, which I accidentally discovered in 2006, whilst travelling around America! From initial research in Charleston library and subsequent work, I have found that the owner of this restaurant , Jimmy Dengate, died in 1978. His son and daughter both still live in the area. His family tree can be traced back to a Henry Dingate (so spelt on the American Censuses), who arrived in America around sometime around the 1840s and he is likely the first of the Dengate families to permanently emigrate. Henry, baptised in Crowhurst church in 1817, was the eldest son of Thomas and Hannah Dengate of Crowhurst.

The motivations for the next Dengates to arrive in America are partly health based, although economics likely also had a role to play. Harriet Catt (1819-1858) had endured a tragic period in her life prior to emigration. After her 1846 marriage to John Dengate (1825-1853) she bore four children: Christopher, James and twin girls, Susannah and Emily Mary. Both girls died of whooping cough within weeks of each other in 1851, followed two years later by John Dengate, also of lung disease. Harriet herself, now a widow with two young sons, was also suffering from lung disease and a physician recommended the sea voyage to help her condition. The voyage to America took the family 42 days Upon their arrival in Pennsylvania, the family settled in Sinking Valley where Harriet's brother, Christopher Catt, had already settled. However, Harriet's health deteriorated and she died 15 April 1858 of tuberculosis, as did her sister-in-law, Mary Catt. Her two young children, Christopher and James were indentured to a farmer in another valley. They both remained in the country, married and had children. Both have surviving Dengate families in America.

Another of the early emigrants was Edward Dengate (1864-?). The 1870 Census shows him living with his wife Sarah in White Water, Walworth, Wisconsin. Edward was employed as a labourer. It is believed that Edward had no children and later died in America.

Thomas Leaver Dengate (1807-1874) emigrated from Wittersham, Kent with his wife, Mary and children to Canada between May 1840 and January 1843, although there is no trace of the family on the 1841 census in Wittersham. Thomas’ great-granddaughter recalls hearing stories when she was young, stating that the voyage took six weeks ‘in a sailboat’ and that they arrived in LaColle, Quebec, Canada during springtime. The family crossed the border from Canada into America and settled in Champlain, Clinton County, New York, where Thomas worked as a farmer until his death in 1874.









Daniel Dengate (1846-?) was another early migrant. He moved to Brantford, Canada sometime prior to 1882, after his first wife died in England. He married Alice Butterworth in April 1882.

As the nineteenth century progressed, so too did the number of Dengates who chose to emigrate to North America. Another explanation for high migration numbers is the factor of ’chain migration’, i.e. the first wave of emigrants wrote to relatives and friends and encouraged them to make a similar journey. This is something witnessed in the

emigration of three siblings in the 1880s from the small Sussex village of Northiam. In 1885, aged nineteen years, Alfred Dengate (1866-1921) left Northiam to start a new life. He travelled onboard the SS Celtic, arriving in New York at 6am on 9 November 1885. He then travelled to London, Ontario, Canada where he began his new life. His two brothers Richard (1859-1931) and Charles Dengate (1850-?) later followed him out to Ontario in the 1880s. Once again, there are still thriving Dengates across North America from these three brothers.

By the time the 1900 Census was taken in America, there were 10 separate Dengate families, totalling 45 individual Dengates.


A Dengate reunion was held in Sydney, Australia in around 2005, which over 500 Dengates attended, all of whom descended from just two brothers who were the first recorded Dengates to emigrate permanently to Australia. Since then a number of other branches and family groups have ensured that the Dengate family continues to thrive in Australia and New Zealand.

The two brothers in question, John (1795- 1864) and Edwin Dengate (1811-1886), had lived their early lives in Wittersham, Kent. They were the second and eleventh children (of fourteen) of David (1770-1842) and Hannah Dengate (1774-1850). As with many of the emigrants from England in the nineteenth century, the reasons for leaving were largely due to hardship in their home town. Surviving records paint a bleak picture in the lives of David (an agricultural labourer), Hannah and their children. In 1818 Hannah was brought before the Playden Poor Law officers after she requested that her son, William Dengate might be furnished with clothing from them, since he had, in 1816 taken over from his elder brother Henry’s job as a milk carrier on the farm of Mr William Phillips Lamb in Playden. Hannah had already received three pounds to clothe her family from the parish officers of Wittersham and, as a resident of Wittersham, her appeal for assistance was turned down.

Given the difficulties experienced in Wittersham at this time it is of little surprise that John and Edwin decided to try their luck in Australia. John, his wife Sarah and their six children Susannah, John, David, Cornelius, Jabez and Mahalie (all had been baptised in the Wesleyan Chapel, Rye) emigrated, never to return to their home country. They were not alone in leaving the village. A wonderful surviving letter from Benjamin Dengate (1810-?) in Wittersham to his brother Edwin Dengate in Sydney wrote the following shortly after their arrival in Australia: ‘We have sent several more to Sydney since you left. Mr Rich’d Taylor, wife and family, except Hannah and Sarah, which sailed in May. James Munbrigg and his wife sailed on July 19th. Old Mr Sisby and Old Donkeyappe and wife. Miss Susan Glover and several more would like to come....’ Benjamin significantly tells of the hardships being faced at that time in Wittersham: ‘We have nothing in particular to tell you about the country, it is much the same as when you left, no better I am sorry to say. Wheat £20 per load and has been for a very long time. Hopps is very cheap, £3 to £4 per hun’d very dull at that price...’ He goes on to give an interesting and informative account of life in Wittersham: ‘Father and Mother are pretty well and send their love most kindly to you and Harriett, like- wise John and all his family and hope you will get on, they are living with Mrs Bates as usual [Mrs Bates is likely to be a relation of David’s brother, William who married Ann Bates]. We received a letter from our brother George the day before we received yours. He is very well and writes in very good spirits, he sends his kind love to you all. He left New South Wales in 1831 and then went to Machan [Madras] and from there to Ronghore and from there to Cannamore, which is in Ashia, and he thinks he will come to England you will fancy that your poor mother has been in full care? between both of you...she said she could not sleep for one night or two thinking about you. Father and Mother are going to Beckley Christmas Day to dine with Uncle Baker if nothing happens to prevent it before. James and his family are all pretty well and send their love to you. David is at Hastings, I have seen him hardly since you left England but often hear of him by someone. Harriett’s friends are heartily glad to hear you got their safe as well as our own selves...’ Evidently everyone in the family feared that the boat journey would be a difficult trip, as the letter goes on, ‘Dear brother we were very glad to receive those lines which you sent from Gravesend which gave us some comfort to hear you were so comfortable situated aboard ship, much more so than we expected you would be, but we can only imagine the thing. We received your letter December 3rd 1838 and I am finishing mine December 19th.’


The actual boat journey took three long months to reach Australia, arriving 26th June 1838. The boat contained 71 adult males, 71 adult females, 57 male children and 52 female children. The occupations of those on board were: 57 farm labourers, 3 sawyers, 5 shepherds, 1 saddler, 3 carpenters, 1 butcher and 1 brickmaker. The journey was fraught with problems and sickness. Ten of the young children on the ship were attacked with bronchitis and three of these children died. Six cases of fever occurred amongst the adults, five mild and one severe; none fatal. Three children died from inflammatory afflictions of the head, one boy of nine years of age of a visycrophulous habit of the body. The rest of the emigrants landed in good health, with the exception of one woman who died a few days after arrival in Sydney of puerpiral peritonitis. 


Upon arrival in Australia, John found employment as a fruit grower. Edwin Dengate found employment with a Mr H. McArthur in Capramatta. According to family legend, his wife Harriett’s mother was upset at her leaving and apparently said that if the hot

climate didn’t kill her, then the natives would! However, Harriett lived a long life in Australia and bore eleven children. She and Edwin later settled at Calmsley Hills, Liver- pool, New South Wales. Their eldest child, Frederick James Dengate founded the farm known as ‘Mount Hercules’, which remained in the Dengate family long after.

John Dengate’s wife Sarah Dengate died some time after their arrival and he subsequently remarried to Ann Mobbs on 4 January 1853, Ryde, New South Wales, Australia.

Having lived out a good life in Australia, John died aged 69 years on 25 November 1864 in Carlingford, New South Wales. At an inquest into John's death held on 30 November, his cause of death was noted as asphyxia, having accidentally drowned. John's great grandson Norman Dengate described John as a 'bit of a devil' who liked to have a go at the rum every now and then. He used to ride his horse down to Parramatta for a drink. One day his horse returned without him. A search located his body on Pennant Hills Road. The story is that John was thrown from his horse into a puddle of water and drowned.

The following announcement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 'The friends of the late Mr John Dengate are respectfully requested to attend his funeral. The Procession will move from his late residence at Pennant Hills at 12 o'clock on Tuesday the 29th instant. Joseph Smith - Undertaker.' He was buried 29 November 1864 in the Wesleyan Cemetery, Parramatta, New South Wales.

Norman Dengate said that when he was a boy (he was born 1908), his father used to point out a white sandstone monument about a metre high. This was located where 

John Dengate's body was found. Norman thought the monument was removed when Pennant Hills Road was widened around 1918.

John’s second wife Ann Dengate died of paralysis and bronchitis on 21 August 1867, age 74 years. She was buried 23 August in Dundras Cemetery. The following appeared in the 22 August edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, 'On the 21st Instant at her residence, Pennant Hills, Ann Dengate, relict of the late John Dengate Esq. and daughter of William Mobbs, the elder, aged 74 years. The deceased resided in this district upwards of 70 years and was much and deservedly respected by all who knew her.'


Both John and Edwin’s families continue to flourish to this day and, among their descendants are the author and naturalist, John Dengate and author and nutritionist, Dr Howard Dengate.

Also arriving early in Australia was convict William Dengate (bapt. 1798), hairdresser of Ticehurst (listed as William Dangate—an attempt to disguise himself or simple spelling mistake?). William was a widowed father of four at the time of his conviction. I have yet to determine William’s crime, but he was sentenced at Maidstone Quarter Sessions court to ten years on 1st July 1841. He was transported on 28 September 1841 aboard The Tortoise to Van Diemen's Land Colony (now Tasmania), one of 400 male convicts. The journey took 116 days and 6 convicts died during the journey. William died 17th March 1865 in Westbury, Tasmania.

On the 2nd January 1913 Albert Edward Dengate (1887-1966), his wife Edith Eliza (1888-1913) and their children Albert William (1907-1942) and George Frederick Dengate (1909-1994) left their home in Hastings, East Sussex onboard The Orsova and settled for a life in Tarcutta Street, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Soon after their arrival in the new country, however, Eliza fell ill and died. Her obituary read: ‘Edith Eliza Dengate only became ill on Saturday last and was admitted to the hospital on Sunday afternoon. She was aged 25 and was diagnosed with enteric fever (typhoid fever). There was keen sympathy for the husband and motherless children’. It is understood that Edith was pregnant and a daughter, Eliza, was born and also died. Both Edith and Eliza died in 1913 in Wagga and are buried in the Church of England part of the Wagga Cemetery.

Albert Edward subsequently married Lily Henrietta Bateman in 1914 and the couple had three children.

Arriving in New South Wales shortly after this branch of the family was Albert George Edward Dengate (1904-1989 from the Crowhurst tree) who came to Australia in 1923 as a part of the Dreadnought Scheme. The government scheme, which ran from 1910 to 1940, paid for boys from England to be trained to become labourers on Australian farms. Soon after Albert arrived in Australia his parents, George David (1880- 1950) and Emily Banks Dengate (c.1880- 1973) and his siblings George Henry David (1906-1990), Florence Emily (1907-?), Harry (1909-?) and Dorothy Dengate (1911-?) left their cottage in Westfield, East Sussex and joined him for a new life, eventually settling in the Upper Hunter Region of New South Wales, mainly around the town of Scone. Their descendants are now spread all over Australia.


Thomas Leaver Dengate’s son William Dengate & family

William and Caroline moved into this home in 1863 and purchased it in 1869 for $250.

From left to right are: Lillis (daughter), Caroline (wife), Elbra (daughter), William, and Will (son)


John Dengate c.1860

The dilapidated grave of Edith Eliza Dengate, Wagga Wagga, Australia

Albert Edward Dengate and his son, George Frederick Dengate
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