South Australian Backlers

My Auntie Betty contacted me in 2006, because Peter Backler (born 1949 Kingston, South Australia), from Adelaide, along with his wife Margaret (born 1946 Mount Gambier, South Australia), were staying in the UK for three months at Herne Bay near where I live close to Faversham, Kent, UK.  Margaret is a keen family historian and they were anxious to learn more about Backlers in the UK.  Peter and Margaret have a daughter, Holly, and they had another older daughter, Cassandra, who sadly passed away in 2011.  Peter’s father is Albert Donald Backler (Bert) and he is married to Ivy Jean Gibbs, but I didn’t find out when they were born.  The photo shows left to right: Margaret, Bert, Jean, Peter and Donald.


I did not have the time to get involved too much in family history, being deeply involved in research for my doctorate.  However, the skills needed are similar, so I filed away what I had heard for another day.  My wife Sue and I took Peter and Margaret down to Eastbourne to meet my Auntie Betty and my mother.  We were invited to Australia and decided to visit the next year.

When we were in Adelaide in early 2007, we met Peter and Margaret again and they arranged for us to have dinner with them and Peter’s cousin Donald Lloyd Backler (born 1935) and his wife Jennifer, who lived nearby at Belleview Heights on the coast.  We met at a restaurant called Red Ochre near the Adelaide Oval cricket ground and had Australian meats: kangaroo, emu, emu sausages and lamb.  My Aunty Betty spoke to Jennifer at Christmas 2015 and she heard that Donald was not very well and in a nursing home.  The picture shows left to right: Peter, my wife Sue, Jennifer, me, Margaret and Donald.100_2702

On our last night in Adelaide, we got a call from Bruce Backler from Kingston, who said he was coming to our hotel with his wife Ruth (nee Doyle) to buy us a beer.  Bruce is Bert’s brother and Peter’s uncle.  Bruce and Ruth had been married 56 years in 2007 and have two children.  Bruce has lived all of his life in Kingston and I would say that he and Ruth were in their late 70s.  We had a great evening!

Bruce’s and Bert’s father was Alexander William Backler (1891-1967), who was married to Gladys May (1902-1978).  Their grandfather was James Francis Backler (born 5th August 1868, died 31st October 1941), who was a brother of Walter George, Donald’s grandfather.  James Francis was married on 17th March 1891 to Ellen Moonlight Kerr who was born on 4th March 1871.  They had six other sons and three daughters, besides Alexander.  The picture below shows left to right: Ruth, me and Bruce.


My aunt told me that there were a number of Backlers concentrated at Robe and nearby Kingston, both on the coast about 300 kilometres South East of Adelaide and now we had met one – Bruce.  Peter and Margaret have a second home in Kingston and they kindly hosted a dinner for us with some local friends, Max and Stephanie, where we ate crayfish caught by Peter that morning.

All of these Australians are descended from Thomas Christian Backler, who emigrated from London on board the “Albuera” on 9th June 1856, also noted by Donald in a letter to my aunt.  Thomas Christian was an apprentice shoemaker in London, born on 27th November 1831 in Westminster.  In Robe he became the town crier and had a shoe shop, which still exists, although not in the same trade.  He died on 5th November 1902 and his gravestone in Robe cemetery bears the inscription “Tom the Snob”, a slang term for a cobbler.  Thomas Christian was married to Elizabeth Dudley Douglas (1835- 1919 in Millicent) on 26th January 1860 in Robe.  Her father was James Douglas and she was born in Northern Ireland.  The upper picture shows the shoe shop as it was in 2007 and the lower picture shows his gravestone in Robe Cemetery.

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According to the Australian Pioneer Families website, his older brother Charles Michael Backler, born 8th June 1829, also emigrated to Australia in 1859, with Hannah R Beaumont, but he died in 1862.  He had two daughters, Elizabeth Hannah Backler born in 1860 and Mary Ann Backler born two years later.  Elizabeth married Robert McDowell in 1887 and Mary Ann married Frederick Weate in 1882, having four children.  Charles Michael and Thomas Christian had four other siblings, all born in London, UK and they will be included in a future blog about UK Backlers.

Thomas Christian and Elizabeth had a son Walter George Backler born 29th January 1877, died 5th December 1953, who was Donald’s grandfather.  Walter married Sarah Hebbart Willson and they had a son Leslie Thomas Backler born 9th February 1903, who died 25th June 1965.  According to London Probate records Leslie left an estate in the UK valued at £2124.  Leslie married Minna Kathleen Schrader on 4th October 1935 and they were Donald’s parents.  Donald is a retired marine safety engineer.  They have a son and a daughter.  Donald told me that his sister Janet Backler emigrated to Norway, married a ships captain and they had four children.  Donald visited the family in Norway, to see his nieces and nephews, but his sister was no longer living at the time.

We toured the cemetery in Robe and the war memorial, where a lot of the above information was obtained.  We also found a relatively new Backler Street in Robe and Backler’s Lookout above the small town of Beachport, which has spectacular views out to sea.  The Backler name has extended to place names in this part of the world!  These are the pictures.

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This seems an appropriate point to finish this blog, as a few emails are needed to fill in some gaps, which were only obvious as I was writing this.  I have many further notes and photos that I need to assemble concerning the descendants of Thomas Christian, Peter and Bruce and I think Margaret is just the person to help!

10 thoughts on “South Australian Backlers

  1. Hello!! I found this incredibly helpful! I am related to janet backler, sister of donald, as i am the daughter of one of her sons.
    I have always had a curiousity over my australian ancestry and this explained it all extremely well! Thank you for researching this!!


    1. Hi,

      I guess you are in Norway!

      Thank you for your comment. I have much more information about Ellen Moonlight Backler and her many children.

      Also, try looking at

      best wishes,



  2. Great reading, I am Stephanie Backler- Bell, daughter of Albert Donald Backler and Ivy Jean Backler, sister of Peter. I just wanted to let u know that my grandfather’s name was Alexander William Backler not Alexander Henry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Stephanie, Wonderful to hear from you and it is always good to know that I have readers. I have more information about Ellen Moonlight Backler and her large number of children that I have yet to write up. Maybe, I will do this next after a blog page I am working on about my Irish ancestors. Thanks for letting me know about Alexander William Backler, I have updated the blog page. I like to keep as accurate as possible and if you know of any other alterations then just let me know. Best wishes, Ray


    1. Trevor Thomas Backler was the son of Bruce and Ruth Backler, my fathers’s brother and sister-in-law. Sadly Trevor passed away this year and his sister Ann passed away last year. So very sad for all concerned. My father is (Bert) son of Alexander and Catherine who lived in Kingston SE SA.
      Kind regards Stephanie Bell née Backler.


  4. Hi Ray , Margaret Backler , Peter’s wife . Meeting up with a descendant of Thomas Christian Backler’s daughter, Mary Ann Backler b. 16 November 1883 Robe d. 8 July 1919 Robe mar. 6 July 1887 Naracoorte to John Birmingham 1863Robe -1940 Robe . Peter & I now live in Narara , N S W , closer to Holly & family who live in Sydney.


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