Help Me Find Caroline Dowden

They Say You Can Find Anything On The Internet

Although I have used a lot of different avenues for Family History research, I have never really just openly asked for help on the Internet here goes.

Help! I need help finding one of my ancestors that seems to have vanished into thin air. Her name is Caroline Dowden.

Caroline Dowden is missing!

Caroline Dowden was the only living daughter, and youngest child, of James Walter Dowden and Jane Elizabeth Stroud, born in Brighton, Sussex, England on October 7, 1845. Caroline’s parents had six children including Caroline, but only four lived past infancy. The infant death rate was very high during the 1800’s in England due to the poor living conditions and inferior medical knowledge of the time.

Her older siblings James and Emma died as babies, and her brother William lived to the age of 12 before he also joined his older two siblings in death. Frederick Charles and Edwin Dowden were next in line of birthright order before the world came to know Caroline. Edwin Dowden, her older brother is the main source for any information I might have on Caroline, as he is my 2nd Great Grandfather.

Caroline Dowden on her own at a very young age.

Caroline’s father James Walter Dowden was a coachman like his father before him. He and his wife Jane were keepers at the Swan Hotel, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent England. Unfortunately their lives were short lived, as he died in April, and his wife joined him in August of 1855. Both are buried in Rusthall Common Church Yard. Caroline would have been a child of just 10 years of age. Caroline, along with her brothers Frederick and Edwin were sent to live with an aunt and uncle.

Life at the relatives must have been hard for these three orphans, as each left home at an early age due to conflicts in their living arrangements. By the 1861 census they were all separated and living on their own. Edwin decided to immigrate and came to the United States and settled in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was married to Naomi Debenham by 1864 and starting a family of his own. He soon lost touch with his sister Caroline.

Caroline Dowden Arrived in New Zealand on the Montmorency

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, March 24, 1867
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, March 24, 1867

Adventures in New Zealand.

Caroline set out on her own for New Zealand. This is a very interesting decision for a young single woman at the time, for New Zealand was a place for many incorrigible refugees from England to go. She set sail for New Zealand on the Montmorency when she was 21 years old. The Montmorency landed in Napier, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand on March 24, 1867 with Caroline Dowden listed as a passenger on the ships manifest. The passengers all left the ship, and were to retrieve their belongings later. Unfortunately the Montmorency caught fire and burned in the bay. All the cargo was completely lost.

Here is where things get fuzzy... I have only a picture of Caroline with her husband with the last name of Carter. She must have sent it to Edwin from her home in New Zealand. Unfortunately it is only labeled, “Caroline Carter.” My mysterious Mr. Carter must have died early because Caroline married again, this time to a William Harris. This is all the information I have, except for a death date of December 24, 1929 for Caroline Dowden, I am assuming in New Zealand.

Is Anyone Besides Me Looking For Caroline Dowden?

I have no other information on dear Caroline Dowden at all. I simply am driven crazy with curiosity. What was her life like in New Zealand as a single woman? How did she meet and marry? Did she have children? So many unanswered questions simply plague my mind. That is when it hit me... why not ask the all knowing World Wide Web!

So this is my there anybody out there that knows anything about Caroline Dowden Carter Harris from Napier, Hawkes Bay New Zealand?

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Comments 37 comments

jmmoore321 profile image

jmmoore321 7 years ago from Utah

Good luck finding your ancestor! What a great idea for looking for her.

Just_Rodney profile image

Just_Rodney 7 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

Nice Idea, might help where other avenues have failed

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa

Hmm Stupid comment have you tried Google? If so what sort of response do you get? Good luck with your research.

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


Thanks I will need all the luck I can get to find Caroline Dowden I am afraid! I hope that the Internet will be a place to connect with someone who might have information!

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


We shall see if the Internet is really the place to get help! I found a picture of Caroline Dowden that I will post later...that might help as well.

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Here's a good luck wish and lots of prayers coming your way Diana! :-) If I stumble on anything, I'll surely tell you.

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


I have tried several different Genealogy links, Google included. I believe I have exhausted almost all of my resources so I decided to try this and see what happens. I figured it certainly couldn't hurt. I simply need to find Caroline Dowden, it has become a quest now!

amy jane profile image

amy jane 7 years ago from Connecticut

Good luck with your search!

Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Good luck with this. I love working on family geneaology, you never know what you will find.

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


I certainly do need prayers for this search for Caroline Dowden. She has been a family mystery for a very long time. I hope that "viral" marketing can help in other areas as family history! Thanks Michelle!

moonlake profile image

moonlake 7 years ago from America

I'm new at finding family but I do think that when you put the persons name into Google along with their year of birth or death you are more likly to find what your looking for or even her husband along with her name. I'm sure you have tried family search. My mother always thinks I can find anyone on the internet so she is always asking me to look up some cousin two times removed. I try to explain to her it doesn't always work that way.

I wish you luck with your search.

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author

@ amy jane- Thanks, at this point luck is exactly what I need I am afraid!

@uninvited writer- I too love to work on genealogy. I have always had good luck finding most of my relatives, but this one has certainly stumped me so far.

Willis Whitlock 7 years ago

I'll post your request around to various and sundry contacts. I still know a few people in NZ. Never can tell.

funride profile image

funride 7 years ago from Portugal

Good luck with your quest! Now I´m also curious to hear more about this ancestor of yours... keep us posted if you find anything ;)

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


Thanks for the well wishes. I have tried all those suggestions for family history research and have come up empty handed so far. This is just simply one more way to get some exposure and possibly someone will also be wondering about Caroline Dowden and her missing family.

Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 7 years ago from USA

Have you tried this link? It is alphbatical order by last name...

LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

LdsNana-AskMormon 7 years ago from Southern California

Best wishes to you, on your journey to find Caroline Dowden. I'm sure you will be successful!



In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


That would be awesome! Thanks for your help in this quest to find Caroline Dowden!

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author

@ funride- I hope that I will have something to share from this search...I will make sure and keep you posted if I do!

@Nancy's Niche- Been to that link and checked already...but thanks for the great suggestion!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Is this the Caroline Dowden shown as a servant in te Channel Islands in the 1861 census?

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Casting your search far and wide to help you Diana! Good luck! Keep us posted if you turn up any leads

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author

LDS Nana,

Your confidence is certainly encouraging. My hope is that possibly someone on Caroline's end may be trying to find out more about her family as well. This might be a great tool to help families connect.

pjdscott profile image

pjdscott 7 years ago from Durham, UK

Fascinating hub! I presume NZ keeps census records, as well as death certs - any luck with those online?

sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa

Try This link

RootsWeb: HAINER-L Fwd: My Dowden Line/Burcham/Hayner

Walter Prather) (5 Mary Prather) (5 Jeremiah Prather) (5 William Prather) ... 4 Rebecca Dowden 4 Nathaniel Dowden Jr. 4 Michael Dowden 4 James Dowden - 14k -

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author

Hi JamaGenee,

No, that is not the same Caroline Dowden. In 1861 I have found her in the Brighton, Sussex England census living with an aunt, Elizabeth Pilcher. Elizabeth was a sister to James Walter Dowden who married Felix Pilcher. I believe she stayed there until she left for New Zealand in 1867.

Nice try though, thanks for looking!

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


Thanks for your help in getting this out there for exposure. I know you have a lot of influence on line! I will definitely keep you posted if I hear of any leads on Caroline Dowden!

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author

Hi pjdscott,

New Zealand does not have the on-line census records and death records that the United States and England do. It is very difficult to find any information from those sources on-line. I have found a newspaper on-line called the Hawkes Bay Herald and have read about 10 years worth of articles! lol Still looking!

Jennyjen 7 years ago

Have you tried People Search sites?

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author

sixtyorso- Tried that link already..Dowdens but not mine! :(

Jennyjen- I have tried people search sites as well. :(

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Diana, are you absolutely **sure** she remained in NZ???  Could she have moved to Australia, or back to England??  What happened to Caroline's aunt Elizabeth???

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


At this point I am absolutely not sure of anything! lol Caroline immigrated by herself, and as far as my information goes she died in New Zealand. She never made it back to England. At one time I found her on the Voter registeration in Napier Hawkes Bay as Caroline Dowden, but I can't seem to find that information again! Perhaps when she married William Harris, she could have moved to another area but my information is limited.

The rest of the Dowden family remained in England including Elizabeth Pilcher, who had no children of her own and died in England. Edwin Dowden, Caroline's brother moved to the US and never returned to England to my knowledge. I have gone to England myself and have seen the Swan Inn where James Walter Dowden worked, and have seen the gravestones of Caroline's parents.

I doubt if she would have moved back to England, unless her husband's family was there because she had no family to return to really.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

In the 1861 UK census, I find 15-yr-old Caroline Dowden (b. Brighton, Sussex) with her 54-yr-old widowed aunt Elizabeth Pilcher (the "P" looks looks like an "F") at 17 Constantia Terrace, Marine Town, Minster-in-Sheppey, Kent, England.  Elizabeth's bp was Lambeth, Surrey.  Her occupation was "Lodging House Keeper", and she appears to have 3 boarders on the date of enumeration: George A. BRINE, 40, occ Lt in the Royal Navy, his wife Henrietta, 31, and (separate room) John B. Scott, 34, also a Lt in the RN. 

Marine Town was apprently just what the name implies, a seaport. (CJ Stone, feel free to step in here!)  The occupation of all males on that and preceding pages was sea-related (Royal Navy, shipwright, etc).  I'm guessing Caroline got the idea to go to NZ from that. It's even possible, as she was shown as a servant on the passenger manifest for the Monmorency, that she went to NZ as a servant for a family from Marine Town. 

Diana, if Elizabeth (Dowden) Pilcher's middle name was Jane, then she died in the summer of 1864. The death of Elizabeth Jane Pilcher of Sheppey was recorded in the Sep Q, meaning she died in Jul, Aug or Sep.  If this IS Caroline's aunt, then Caroline was more or less orphaned (again) at age 18.  Unless she inherited #17 Constantia Terrace, she would've had to find employment, which also points to being a servant for a Royal Navy officer or someone in the shipping business.

I know this doesn't shed any light on Caroline in later life, but the more you can flesh out a person's life, the more clues there are to follow.  Someone reading this who might not recognize "Dowden" might have a connection to the PILCHERs.  That's called "back-door genealogy", and I use it all the time to knock down brick walls. 

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


Totally cool information! I did find her in that census, but didn't really correlate the "Marine Town" with the Navy servant connection.

Elizabeth could have a middle name of Jane, I am not sure... but is sounds like one in the same. I don't have a death date for her. I do know that her husband Felix Pilcher died in 1856 in Newington, Surrey and then it is quite possible that she moved by the 1861 census to Kent.. In fact I am sure it is her. I have no other information on Felix Pilcher except he was born in 1814 in Eythe, Kent, England. He and Elizabeth were married on 27 Aug 1836 in Newington, Surrey. I have no information on the parents of Felix Pilcher, and they have no children so my Pilcher knowledge is limited. I would welcome any and all "back-door" connections in this area!

I have a friend who is from NZ and she explained that Napier Hawkes Bay would have been mostly Maori at that time, so a hard place for a single young girl from England to live. (my friend is Maori so no disrespect is intended, it is just how it was) Your idea for why she may have gone there makes really good sense to me. I had never considered that line of reasoning. (Do you think she could have been his mistress?) Would she have been listed on the ships manifest as traveling with them? I think I better try and go back and find the ships manifest now!

Thanks for your continued help in this area... this has been a "brick wall" for me for a very long time!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

It didn't make sense that in 1867 a 21-yr-old single female servant would go half way round the world just to be going.  The ticket alone would've been beyond Caroline's means, I'm guessing.  More logical that she either went with a *family* or was promised a position upon arriving.  More likely the first.  So I too would like to see an original or the passenger list, altho the English being  frightfully English to the core, servants would've been berthed in the lower decks, not with the family they served, and therefore grouped with every other servant on board on the pass list.  The sea version of "below stairs". 

Of course her husbands' names, Carter and Harris, are no help!  Must've been at least a zillion Caroline Carters or Caroline Harrises in NZ on any given day.  Again, just because she disembarked at Napier Hawkes Bay doesn't mean she stayed there.  Look at how many European immigrants to the U.S. got off the boat in NYC, and then went straight to places like Iowa or Nebraska!

This is really hard without access to NZ records, but there ARE hubbers from there.  I suggest a note in Hubbers' Hangout that you're looking for a NZ hubber with access to censuses and such.

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 7 years ago from California Author


I am still trying to find the ships manifest, but you are probably right...servants below deck! lol I realize that those last names are very common, so to find them will take a miracle of sorts! My hopes in publishing this Hub is simply to get the name available so that by some small twist of fate, perhaps somebody from New Zealand may start looking for Edwin Dowden, Caroline's brother.

Thanks for all your awesome input...if you come up with any other avenues let me know!

The How To Hub profile image

The How To Hub 7 years ago from Australia

Best of luck with your search. Will do what I can to spread the word about your online hub with bookmarks : )

Keith Wilson 7 years ago

Hi. If the P looks like an F it could be an S!

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