Port Phillip Apostle No. 9 Abraham Abrahams

Now, here’s a  name that distinguishes itself from the other Twelve Apostles’ names by virtue of his strong Jewish associations.  Abraham Abrahams was a merchant, along with Rucker, Were and Welsh, so it is perhaps to be expected that he might have been caught up in the financial syndicate that Rucker formed to rescue himself from insolvency and disgrace.  But given that there were several Jewish merchants in Melbourne at the time (Michael Cashmore, and the Hart brothers spring to mind), it is strange that Abrahams is acting alone here.

So what do I know of Abraham Abrahams?  He was born at Sheerness, Kent in 1813. [update: maybe not- see comments below!]  He arrived in Sydney with his wife and seven children in 1839 at the age of 26 (fast work there!) and was in Melbourne by 1841.  He was described as a “merchant” of Lonsdale Street in 1841 when he donated the land for the first Jewish cemetery on what Garryowen described in 1888 as “a stony rise at the Merri Creek between the now Northcote and Merri Creek bridges”.  The land was found to be unsuitable for burial- the poor sexton dispatched to dig the first grave “found himself working on what nature designed for a quarry and made little or no progress downward” (Finn p. 695).   The grave was only half-dug when the burial party arrived to bury 19 year old Miss Davis, the young daughter of a Melbourne innkeeper, and in any event it was not her final resting place, as the body was exhumed and sent to Hobart.   Realizing that all subsequent funerals would face the same problem, the  Jewish community applied for land adjoining the general cemetery, and after a delay, their application was granted.

In September of 1841, Abraham Abrahams was admitted to the Chamber of Commerce.  Paul de Serville mentions that a “Mr Abraham” served as one of the stewards of the alternative public ball set up in opposition to the more exclusive private Turf Day ball in May 1841.  The battle of the balls exemplified the attempt of “good society” to define its boundaries by limiting attendance to the ball to those deemed suitable.   In defiance, a public ball was championed by the Gazette and Patriot newspapers who jeered the pretensions of the Turf Club stewards.  The “public” ball was held at the end of May 1841, but was apparently not a success.  The more “respectable” stewards eschewed any involvement with it, and on the night, rain kept many guests away (including perhaps those who were looking for an excuse to extricate themselves). Mr Abraham, however, remained as a steward but I am not absolutely sure that this is Abraham Abrahams.

On 7 March 1842 he was appointed Trustee to the estate of the Langhorne Bros, even though at the time his debts amounted to 3792 pounds while his assets were 3655 pounds.  By January 1843 he was listed as insolvent and shifted to Sydney.

Abraham Abrahams served on both general and special juries, alongside other Twelve Apostles. He publicly supported Judge Willis in March 1842, but did not sign the petition circulated in November 1842, and was resident in Sydney by the time that Judge Willis was dismissed in 1843.  Generally, Jewish citizens in Port Phillip publicly supported Judge Willis throughout.

So why and how did he get involved in the Twelve Apostles arrangement?  Hard to say.  As a merchant and through his involvement with the Chamber of Commerce, he would have come into contact with several of them socially.   If he was the Mr Abraham who served as a steward at the Public Ball, then this suggests some element of social visibility, and his jury duty and philanthropic gesture with the land donation indicates a level of civic involvement.  Ah, but who can tell.

Update: see the comments below

[This information below is not correct- see comments. It’s a different Abraham Abrahams!]

Anyway, all ended well. At some stage he moved to Adelaide where he founded the Executor, Trustee and Agency Co. of South Australia which he managed until 1891.  He was one of the original members of the Society of Arts in South Australia, a Governor of the Public Library, the Art Gallery and the Museum there.  He was described as “One of the most distinctive figures in Adelaide, a man most courteous in speech and courteous in manner”.


  • Paul de Serville Port Phillip Gentlemen and Good Society
  • Edmund Finn, The Chronicles of Early Melbourne 1835-51: historical, anecdotal and personal by ‘Garryowen”
  • John S. Levi  These are the Names: Jewish Lives in Australia 1788-1850

20 responses to “Port Phillip Apostle No. 9 Abraham Abrahams

  1. Abraham Abrahams was one of my ancestors. The biography in “These are the Names” is a combination of biographies of two men by the same name. The “Apostle” was born in London in c.1797 and died, poorer than when he arrived in the colony, in 1865, in Melbourne.

    • Thank you for this, Helen. It’s confusing with people who shared the same names! Do you know whether your apostle Abraham Abraham was the same one who gave the cemetery land, joined the Chamber of Commerce, was a steward for the Ball and was involved with Langhorne Brothers– or was that the other Abraham Abrahams who ended up in Adelaide?

    • Dear Helen I would very much like to speak with you, as I have a lot of information on our Abraham Abrahams and his family. He was my great grandfather x3. You are correct about his death in 1865. His father was Meir (Michael)Abrahams.

  2. My name is Martin Toone and I too have an ancestor by the name of Abraham Abrahams.
    My great great grand father was a Joseph Abrahams and his wife was a Malvinia Nathan/Nathusius. I too have Rabbi John Levi’s book, these are the names( Yad Veshem) I have a relative who has researched Abraham Abraham as I have,but what I do know is that Abraham Abraham lived in Whitechapel London and his family were registered in the 1841 census. Abraham was married to Elizabeth Jacomb (anglicized version of Jacobs) She was a Jew and they had children by the names of Joseph,Lewis,Sarah and Anne. Abraham Abrahams was not mentioned in this census and my feeling is that he was in Australia where his brother was also. My relative tells me that Abraham was married twice and had two separate families. Joseph and Lewis Abrahams came to Australia in 1852 they are buried in the Melbourne general cemertry with Josephs wife Malvinia and a child who was the sister of my great uncle, Frederick Hickman. The childs name was Elizabeth Hickman. Is there any body out there that can add to my information.
    Ta’azor lee.

    • I, too, am related to the Abrahams Abraham who died in Melbourne in 1865. According to my research his second child, Caroline, is my g.g.g grandmother. Caroline married an enterprising dentist Jacob Emanuel in 1843. She died in 1855 at age 29 years with six living chldren. I am curious about the reference by Martin to Abraham having two families, and the names of his children which does not include my “Caroline”.

      • Peter, your comments interested me very much. I have been trying to confirm that Abraham Abrahams moved to Tasmania for a couple of years, after his first wife’s death and when Caroline and her husband were living there. Abraham Abrahams was my g.g.grandfather from his second marriage and I can give you details of that.

    • Hi Martin we must be relatives as Malvina and Nethusius are my great great great grandparents i have alot of family tree information. you can contact me via cillaabrahams@hotmail.com

    • I have a record of a Rose Abrahams being born to a Abraham Abrahams & Elizabeth Jacobs and marrying in Beechwrth, Victoria
      Stella Short

  3. I haven’t looked at this site for months and apologies for not responding to questions. Yes, ‘my’ Abraham Abrahams was the one who did all the things you mentioned. He arrived in Australia in 1839, and in Melbourne (to live) in June 1840.
    I would be grateful if my email address was not put online, but I’d be very happy to speak to Martin Toome if you either have an email address for him or could give him mine

    • Hi Helen. It is Martin Toone once again. I had your phone number but since lost it and the Nunawading Library are unable to help me. I want to contact you as I am investigating memorialsing the first Jewish cemetery on the Merri creek if you could cantact me I would be grateful.

  4. Priscilla abrahams

    Hi my name is Priscilla Abrahams and Abraham Abrahams was my great great great grandfather. He was married to Elizabeth my email address is cillaabrahams@hotmail.com.

  5. Hi I’am Rosalie from Waust. I have Abraham Abrahams b: 1775 – D; 1847 – M; to Rachel, – B;1788.
    Abraham’s 1st son ” Michael ” was born in Sheerness, Kent, Eng.
    Abraham’s 2nd son Louis A. was also b: in Sheerness 1832 – D; 1902 Sydney, Aust who M; Elizabeth Davies 1855…..
    Louis & Elizabeth’s 1st son Abraham Abrahams B; 1856 in

  6. Hi my name is Barbara Graham and Abraham Abrahams was my 3 x great grandfather from his first marriage to Elizabeth Jacobs. Their daughter Sarah was my 2 x great grandmother, she married JWB Tregurtha.

  7. I have a warrant from 1842 that has the name Abrahams Abrahams on it. Would anyone be interested in seeing this?

    • You are talking about my great grandfather x3

      • Are you serious? Of what I can see on the warrant it says-

        Samuel Raymond Es Deputy Sherrif of the District of Port Phillip, New South Wales to the bailiff, to go and the goods and chattels, Lands, Tenements, and Hereditaments of Abraham Abrahams (he was the defendant) and Chisholm was the plaintiff taking action againt Abrahams.

        It is alleged that Abrahams owed to the plaintiff, Chisholm the amount of Two hundred and seventy five pounds
        , two shillings and ten pence, to John Moffatt Chisholm.

        According to the warrant, Abrahams defaulted in coming good with what he was to give back to Chisholm.

        How fascinating you contacted me. I am pleased. How do you know it is your great grandfather x 3? This is amazing. Would you like me to scan you a copy of this warrant?



  8. I have spent the last week trying to nut out the distinction between the various Abraham Abrahams by using Ancestry.com records, Trove articles, the internet, and emailing with two descendants who have trees on Ancestry.com (one of them has blogged in above). If anyone is interested in seeing what I have put together (bearing in mind I have only just this minute come to look at this site, at the suggestion of one of the bloggers above, please feel free to contact me at rillwater@gmail.com

  9. I’m glad that you’ve put in the legwork to distinguishing between the different Abraham Abrahams. What confusion!

  10. All of the above replies are talking about one and the same Abraham Abrahams, except for the one from Rosalie. Her guy was born in Kent; our Apostle was not (which you might suspect given the birthdate of 1813 – and about which you commented: that would have been fast work indeed! His first child was born in 1821 (Frances or Fanny, who married G.G Sullivan (he was born in Cornwall: The Abrahams had a lot to do with seafaring families: eg. the Tregurthas, also from Cornwall, mentioned above by one of the bloggers, and through whom I am also related to the family). She and two of her sisters were married at the age of 15, but 8 is beyond the pale!.) It is also not correct that his wife, Elizabeth Jacobs, was still in London in 1841 with some of their children. He, she,and all of their children except for their son, Joseph, who later married Malvine Nathusius, arrived together on the brig Caroline, which Abrahams owned, or part owned (possibly the Langhorne Bros were co-owners, and/or a guy called Simmons) on 3 May, 1839, which sailed into Hobart under the command of Capt. George Grey Sullivan, R.N., Abrahams’ son-in-law. The first born daughter, Sullivan’s wife, is listed in the passenger list as “Mrs. Sullivan”, along with their (only) child (Fanny Rosina Sullivan). I have commented on G.G. Sullivan in 2 of your weekly pieces.
    The brig sailed straight to Sydney, with Sullivan still the master. The Abrahams lived in Sydney for about a year, then moved to Williamstown, but also had a place on Lonsdale Street (Elizabeth Cottage). (They had other places in Melbourne – I have not finished working them out.) They all briefly moved back up to Sydney in 1843: Abrahams was attending court hearings; two of the daughters were married there (one of them being the Caroline mentioned above amongst the blog comments); then Abraham and Elizabeth and the unmarried daughters moved back to Williamstown/Melbourne. Where they stayed. I am intrigued by the idea (floated above in one of the blog comments) that possibly he moved briefly to Hobart, after the death of his first wife (1850), where his daughter Caroline was living with her dentist husband from about 1847 until 1854. He did not remarry until 1861, in Williamstown. He died in 1865, some trees on Ancestry.com say in Richmond (Melbourne). His second wife remained in Williamstown, where she remarried and had more children.

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