First son and second child,  Thomas ‘Sonny’ Nevin

Thomas James NEVIN jnr (1874-1948) or ‘Tom’, known to descendants as ‘Uncle Sonny’ Nevin was born at his father’s photographic studio and residence, 138-140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, Tasmania.

Thomas Sonny Nevin, son of Thomas J. NevinThomas Sonny Nevin, son of Thomas J. Nevin

Thomas, Gertrude and Athol Nevin travelled to and from California on board the steamers, S.S. Ventura and S.S. Sonoma, 1920-1922…

Source of steamer postcard images

Known to the family as “Sonny”, when Thomas James Nevin was born in Hobart on 16 April, 1874 (d.17 January 1948), he was given the same first and second names as his father, photographer Thomas James Nevin (1842-1923).

Although his father Thomas was born in Northern Ireland in 1842 and had arrived in Tasmania as a ten year old child from Plymouth in 1852 with his mother Mary, father John (a warden for the British Imperial Government on board the convict transport Fairlie 1852) and three siblings as free settlers, Sonny Nevin was locally-born or “native-born” in Tasmania 22 years after their arrival. He was technically, therefore, an Australian national by the time he sought travel documents to leave Australia in the 1920s. His mother Elizabeth Rachel Day (married his father Thomas James Nevin senior in 1871) was also born in Tasmania in 1847; her father, like John Nevin her father-in-law, had served too as a guard captain for the British Imperial Government on board the Candahar which arrived in Hobart in 1842.

Sonny Nevin

Above: Thomas James Nevin (1874-1948), first-born son of Thomas James and Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day, known as “Sonny”, pictured here shortly before his death in 1948 in Salvation Army uniform.

Taken by a Nevin family member at 23 Newdegate St. North Hobart
From © The Eva Morris nee Nevin Estate & Nevin Family Collection 2009-2010 ARR.

Thomas “Sonny” Nevin (1874-1948) married Gertrude Jane Tennyson Bates (1883-1958) at the Wesleyan Church, Hobart, on February 6th, 1907. Her father, Walter Tennyson Bates, had died in 1905. By July 1907, Gertrude’s mother, Elizabeth Jane Bates nee Jones, had left Hobart and arrived in Sydney with six of her seven children – Gertrude remaining in Hobart with husband Thomas “Sonny” Nevin. Her mother and siblings migrated first to Vancouver, and eventually to California in 1910.

Thomas “Sonny” Nevin and Gertrude Nevin nee Tennyson Bates had a son ca. 1911 named Athol Clarence Nevin.

On the 20th November, 1920, their son Athol Clarence Nevin, student, aged 9, left Sydney on board the SS Ventura bound for California, accompanied by his parents, Thomas James Nevin, furniture carrier, aged 46 yrs, and mother, Gertrude T. Nevin, domestic duties, aged 31 yrs. They arrived at their destination, Oakland, California, on 14th December, 1920. Their friend (USA contact) was R. Brown. The USA Alien Entry documentation listed them as citizens of England, ethnicity as “English”, and Athol’s birthplace as Hobart, Tasmania.

They returned to Sydney from San Franscisco on board the S.S. Sonoma, on 5th September 1922.

1922 shipping record SS Sonoma

Above: Immigration Act 1901-1912 Report of Passengers, detail (see full page below).
Thomas, wife Gurtrude [sic] and son Athol Nevin were listed as British nationals travelling to Sydney 1922 from San Francisco.

The decision to retain British nationality may have been a personal choice when Thomas James “Sonny” Nevin travelled to and from California in the 1920s, or an official requirement for children born of British-born parents, since his father Thomas Nevin was born in Northern Ireland, and the son of an Imperial soldier. The USA and Australian (i.e. Commonwealth) Immigration authorities listed Sonny’s nationality as “British”. His wife Gertrude and son Athol accompanying him were also listed as “British” nationals. Gertrude was also born in Britain. Two other passengers, however, on the same ship returning to Sydney from San Franscisco in 1922 were listed as “Australian”, so it would seem that the Nevin family descendants of the original immigrant family to Tasmania (1852) retained their “British” nationality as recently as the 1920s due to official perceptions of patrilineage, unless of course, there was some sort of government legislation which specifically precluded Tasmanian-born citizens from easily obtaining “Australian” passports as Australian nationals (US descendants’ research of the Bates family shows that they did enter the US with passports).

shipping record SS Sonoma 1922

Click on images for large view
Above: Immigration Act 1901-1912 Report of Passengers
Thomas, wife Gurtrude [sic] and son Athol Nevin were listed as British nationals travelling to Sydney 1922 from San Francisco.
yet Hilda S. Williams, actress, also on board, and Arthur Stanley, steam fitter, were listed as “Australian” nationals.

Source of steamer postcard images

The Electoral Roll for Denison (Southern Tasmania) in 1936 listed Athol Clarence Nevin as a pastry cook and resident of 85 Queen St. Queensborough (Sandy Bay), together with his mother Gertrude T. Nevin, domestic duties. He was about 25 years old in 1936. By 1940, he was already married and had enlisted with the 2/8 Field Regiment, serving in the Middle East and Borneo. On his return, Athol and his wife Winifred moved to Melbourne (Electoral Rolls 1949-54). Athol’s parents may have separated by the late 1930s. His father Sonny’s address in 1948, the date of his death, was 23 Newdegate St. North Hobart where three of the five other adult children of Thomas and Elizabeth were resident (May, George, and Albert: William died in 1927). Thomas “Sonny” Nevin wore the uniform of the Salvation Army from the 1930s until his death, shown in this earlier photograph taken in the mid 1930s at Newdegate St. North Hobart.


Above: Mid 1930s: first-born son Thomas James “Sonny” Nevin (1874 – 1948)
The Nevin Family Collections © 2005 -2010. ARR. Watermarked

This photograph was probably the last taken of Tom Nevin just before he died in 1948.

Thomas James Nevin jnr, known as Tom and “Sonny”, taken by a family member ca. 1947
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2020 Private Collection