Mary Anne Vitnell (nee O'Connor)
Wooger Vetnal (that's how they spelt it in the records) was a private in the 3rd "Buffs" East Kent Regiment, who first came to New South Wales on convict escort duty in 1822. He had served twenty years in the British Army, been wounded more than once, and in 1824 was returned to England and discharged "invalid".
Health recovered, he eventually married Martha Avery Wood at St. Mary's Newington, London, in 1831. Australia must have had its attractions for Wooger, for shortly after their marriage they boarded the "Mary" and arrived in Sydney in February 1832. Later that same year son William was born at Kissing Point (Ryde). They then moved to the Hunter region where Wooger became a constable for several short periods at Merton (near Denman) and Paterson, eventually settling in the Maitland area. Daughter Mary Ann was born in 1834 and sons Charles in 1836 and John in 1838. By this time some interesting changes in name had occured. The spelling of the surname became fixed at VITNELL. It is probably unique to Australia. And in family records the name William appears before Wooger.
William Wooger Vitnell disappears from the records during the eighteen forties. Did he really vanish with a group of convicts? In 1848 Martha, now described as a widow, married Isaac Dodd. Martha died more than thirty years later and is buried in the Old Glebe Cemetery at East Maitland.
Some of the family have remained in the Hunter area. Mary Ann married George Stephens. They lived at Morpeth and are buried in the cemetery there. Most of John's family were born in the Maitland area and he was buried at Hinton in 1917.
Some of the sons went chasing gold. William was married at the Rocky River diggings (Uralla) to Mary Anne Connor who was born near Singleton in 1841. Her father had a mine at Rocky River, William and Mary Anne moved to Mudgee where fresh goldfields were opening up. They settled here and raised a family of twelve, four girls and eight boys. William and Mary Anne are both buried at Mudgee.
While most of the boys were content to work the farm with their father and then go wandering over the various goldfields, George Henry Vitnell, William and Mary's fourth son found a tutor and got himself educated. He became a school teacher in the Mudgee area, north-east of Mudgee. He married Sarah Gossage, moved to Eugowra where he was schoolmaster for nearly thirty years. Sarah died while their children were still quite young arid George married again to Christina Agnes McMillan.
William's brother George went to Mudgee goldfields, married Jane Rayner at Piambong and raised a family of four daughters, and five sons. Later he moved to Dubbo and his grave is in the local cemetery there. Charles went to the Northern goldfields, Crow Mountain, Woods Reef (Barraba), Rocky River in 1870, Bundarra in 1884 and others but we have no record of any marriage or of his death. A number of the descendants of George and William have found their way back to the Hunter district.