Austen Family History

Deans Family Chart #1.
Last Updated June 2007.

Alister Austen Deans
Born, 1915

Alexander Deans
Married Norah Knight
John Deans
Born, 6 August 1853, Homebush Station, NZ
Married, 12 June 1879
Died 19 June 1902
John Deans
Born 1823, Scotland
Married, 15 September 1852
Died, 23 June 1854

John Deans
Born, Scotland
Married, 17 June 1815, Scotland

William Deans
of Braehead, Scotland
Agnes Reid
Died 1774
Thomas Reid
Born, Scotland 1700,
Died 1792
Robert Reid
Married, 1698.
Robert Reid
Married, 1650.
Mary Galt
Married, 1698.
Lady Margaret Boyd
Married, 1650.
Margaret Wilson  
Catherine Young
Married, 17 June 1815, Scotland
Jane Mcilraith
Born, 21 April 1823
Married 15 September 1852
Died, 1911
Catherine Edith Park
Born, 1856
Married 12 June 1879
Died 1937

Norah Knight
Married Alexander Deans

Henry Arthur Knight
Born 29 August 1860, 'Steveton Station',Coalgate, Canterbury NZ.
Married 22 April 1889

Richard Knight
Born 1831, Steventon, Hampshire, England
Rev William Knight
Born 1798
Died 1873

Edward Austen Knight Rev George Austen  
Cassandra Leigh
Elizabeth Bridges  
Caroline Portal
Born abt 1803
Died 1837
Lucy O'Connell
Beatrice Elizabeth Dicken

At this stage it is not clear where the family connection is. I'm advised by my great aunt (who still lives in Canterbury and has an Austen Deans portrait of her husband) that we are related. The link does appear to be via Catherine Young, and then maintained by successive generations of the Canterbury based Deans and Youngs families. The Elizabeth Bridges above appears unrelated to our Bridges family connection. Research continues...

The cover of 'Pictures by Austen Deans'., published in 1967.

Biographical Details:

Alister Austen Deans (1915-)

Born 1915, Riccarton, Christchurch, NZ
Married, Elizabeth Hutton


A traditional artist, not abstract, noted for his water colour paintings of the mountains of New Zealand's South Island. Many of his commissioned work is of mountain ranges. He is descended from the pioneering Deans family of Riccarton and was raised in the Malvern Hills district between Darfield and Sheffield, north of Christchurch on one of the farms that resulted from the division of the estate of Homebush Station. Educated at Medbury, Christ's College and University of Canterbury. Studied at the Slade School in London. A returned soldier who saw action in the Middle East, appointed Assistant NZ War Artist, was injured on Crete, captured, and sent to a P.O.W. hospital. After the war studied art in England at the Sir John Cass College. Austen Deans lives at Peel Forest so he is an artist who is very familiar with the South Canterbury area. He once had a chalet up at Mount Cook. "I don't know why, but the

Austen Deans, The Road to Tekapo.

back country has always fascinated me and in most cases, the higher the mountain, the more fascinating it is." His painting On the Road to Tekapo captures the view on the road to Tekapo of Mt. Cook with a cloud near the top, perfectly. He signs his work AA Deans and paints in watercolours and oils and has made a living from art since he left art school. In 1981 he travelled to Antarctica to paint. "I started painting because of wanting to learn to climb mountains, from my childhood home at Malvern I went out to study the ridges on Mt Torlesse and made drawings of it to help myself see it a bit better in case I was able to climb to it. That's what started me off really because I found that I made quite a good job of it." he said. He began painting Canterbury landscapes at the age of twelve. In 1998 he and his brother David reached Copeland Pass when both were in their eighties.

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Biographical Details:

Alexander Deans
Married Norah Knight

Their children are:

  1. Alister Austen Deans
  2. David Mcilraith Austen Deans


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Biographical Details:

Norah Knight
Married Alexander Deans

Norah Knight is either a daughter (unlikely) or grand-daughter of either Arthur Charles Knight or Richard C. Knight - who where brothers.

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Biographical Details:

The Knight Brothers.

Run 38 in the Malvern Hills of Canterbury covered 9,700 acres. It was first acquired by the brothers, Arthur Charles Knight and Richard C. Knight, nephews of the British novelist Jane Austen. Richard came out to Lyttelton NZ in 1852 on the Samarang and was the managing partner. He named his run Steventon after his grandfather's vicarage in Hampshire which was also his aunt's home. He sub-let the property to Thomas Norris in 1855 and eleven years later sold out to Henry Hill and Frederick Broome who had formerly been his cadets.

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John Deans


Biographical Details:

John Deans
Born 1853. New Zealand
Married Catherine Edith Park, 12 June 1879.
Died, 1902. New Zealand.

There children include:

  1. Alexander Deans

They had 11 children, of whom eight sons and one daughter were alive in 1902.

Deans children and Nurse - year unknown

The photograph, right, is from Old Christchurch in Picture and Story by Johannes Andersen, 1949. It does not make clear which generation these children are from or the year of the image - which could be as late as 1908.

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Biographical Details:

John Deans.

John Deans
Born 1823, of Kirkstyle, Riccarton, Kilmarnock, Scotland
Arrived, Nelson, NZ on the 'Thomas Harrison' on 25 October 1842.

Married, Jane McIlraith, 15 September 1852, in Scotland
Died, 23 June 1854, Riccarton, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Brother of:

William Deans; Baptised: 31 January 1817, in Kirkstyle, Riccarton, Scotland. Died: 23 July 1851, by drowning off Cape Terawhiti, NZ.

Signatures of William and John Deans
Sketch of the Deans Homestead,
by W. D. Mantell, 12 September 1848

The material below is from the Christchurch Public Library:

Deans Brothers: adult lives

  • The Deans brothers were trained as lawyers but were more interested in emigrating to New Zealand under the New Zealand Company's colonising scheme, and left for New Zealand (William in 1840, and John in 1842).
  • Disappointed with the land which had been allocated to them in Wellington and Nelson by the New Zealand Company, the brothers applied for permission to farm at Puturingmotu, (Riccarton) which was given to them on condition they did not settle near Maori plantings.
    The Deans Brother's Homebush Station
  • On 10 February 1843 William sailed for Port Cooper with the Gebbie family, who had come from Scotland with William Deans, and the Manson family, who had travelled with John Deans.
  • From Lyttelton they came around to the Estuary. From there they took a whaleboat up what is now the Avon River to a place where they unloaded bricks for a chimney, and changed to a canoe which could cope with the shallow water.
  • At the point on the river where the present Christchurch Girl's High School stands, they unloaded their supplies and carried them through to the patch of bush at Puturingamotu where James Herriot had first settled.
  • Here William Deans and Samuel Manson built the first house, with three compartments for the three families and using wooden pegs to hold it together because the nails had been left in Wellington.
  • While the house was being built John Gebbie remained with the women and children at Port Levy, and John Deans sailed from Wellington to Sydney to buy sheep and cattle.
  • Once the farm was established the Deans brothers bargained with the local Maori owners to lease more land. On 3 December 1846 a 21 year lease was signed for the land running six miles in every direction from Puturingamotu.
  • More stock was brought in and the Deans brothers were able to sell their produce in Akaroa and Wellington, and their wool in London.
  • In 1848 the New Zealand Company bought land from Ngai Tahu under the terms of Kemp's Deed for the Canterbury settlement.
  • The Deans brothers were allowed to have 400 acres for their farm in exchange for the land orders for Nelson and Wellington originally bought from the Company, but were unable to have any more.
  • An agreement was signed on Christmas Day 1848 with Captain Thomas, surveyor of the new settlement, agreeing that the farm would be named Riccarton, after the Deans' home parish in Scotland, and the nearby river the Avon, after the stream on their grandfather's farm.
  • Half of the Puturingamotu bush was to be kept by the Deans brothers, but half was to go to the Canterbury Association to provide timber and firewood for the new settlers.
  • Because they were limited by the amount of land they could hold at Riccarton, William and John Deans decide to shift their sheep to a run of 15,000 acres in the foothills in April 1850, which they called Morven Hills.
  • After an argument with John Robert Godley, who acted as agent for the Canterbury Association, the Deans brothers took up a large run at Homebush.
  • In May 1851 William sailed for Australia to buy more stock. His ship was wrecked off Cape Terawhiti, south coast near Wellington New Zealand, on 23 July 1851 and William Deans drowned.
  • John returned to Scotland in 1852 and married Jane McIlraith, bringing her to New Zealand in 1853.
  • John Deans had caught a chill on his way to Scotland and later developed tuberculosis. He died at Riccarton on 23 June 1854. On his deathbed he asked his wife Jane to make sure that Riccarton Bush remained forever.

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Biographical Details:

Jane Mcilraith
Born, 21 April 1823, of Auchenflower, Scotland
Married John Deans, 15 September 1852, Scotland
Died, 1911,
New Zealand

Source, ‘Tales of Pioneer Women’ collected by the Women’s Institutes of New Zealand, 1940, Second revised edition: Tale 59, pages 216 to 221

Jane Deans of Riccarton

By John Deans of Riccarton and Kirkstyle.

It is not easy to convey in print an impression of the life and character of my grandmother, Jane Deans of Riccarton, who came to Canterbury in 1853 as the wife of John Deans, one of two brothers, who had settled there 10 years before, and who were mainly responsible for proving the suitability of Canterbury for settlement.
She was the daughter of James McIlraith of Auchenflower in Ayrshire, a property which the McIlraith family had occupied for many generations. The house of Auchenflower stands high on the hills overlooking the valley of the Stinchar, and the view from it is one of the most beautiful in the lovely county of Ayr. The road from Auchenflower passes through the woods at Heronsford and the Sillochan Glen, and crosses the Stinchar by a stone bridge almost under the shadow of old Colomonell, “like a white ribbon on the hillside,” and in the old Churchyard there are buried many of the McIlraiths – others lie in the Churchyard at Ballentrae, where the river joins the sea. Further down the valley is the hill of Knockdolian, which gives its name to Knockdolian Castle, where Jane McIlraith spent many happy days, and where she lived for some time. It was at a picnic on Knockdolian Hill that she first met her future husband. All these old places are surrounded by trees, and the McIlraiths were renowned for their skill as foresters and planters, From her early years spent in surroundings such as these, may be traced the love of romance and the enthusiasm for trees which were shown so prominently in her later life.

The Deans Brother's Homebush Station

Jane McIlraith was born in 1823 and educated at the Scottish Academy for Young Ladies in Edinburgh. When she was still in her teens, young John Deans came to Auchenflower to learn the best and most up-to-date methods of farming. He was there for two years, and before his departure from Scotland in 1842 there was an understanding between them, though they were not actually engaged. When in 1852 his affairs in New Zealand had so prospered that he felt himself to be in a position to take a wife, he wrote to her and asked her to come out and marry him: this she at first refused to do – it must be remembered that she had not seen him for 12 years. However, he pressed his suit successfully, and in 1852 went home to Scotland, and they were married on September 15th in that year.
The young couple sailed in the ship Minerva on October12th, and did not arrive in New Zealand until February 2nd the following year – a long and unpleasant voyage of 113 days. The bride was a bad sailor, and was ill for most of the voyage. She was so weak on landing in Lyttleton that after crossing the hills by the Bridle track (riding a white house with one eye), she had to be left in the care of Mrs. Puckle at the parsonage near Casterton. Her husband rode on to Riccarton, and returned the next day to clear their baggage. This included, in addition to furniture and all household requisites, a water-wheel, threshing mill, and dog-cart. Everything had to be taken round by whaleboat to Sumner, up the Heathcote River, and thence by dray to Riccarton. It was no uncommon occurrence for boats to capsize on the Sumner bar, but the Riccarton goods arrived safely, though it was two months before they were all delivered. What a contrast to the conditions of today! On the Minerva was a young fawn – the property of Mr. Sewell – which they took to Riccarton, but which did not live very long, and was probably poisoned by tutu.
The house to which John Deans brought his bride still stands, after 96 years’ service. It contains three rooms on the ground floor, and a small attic reached by a narrow winding stair. Until their furniture was landed and unpacked, they had very little – two beds with feather mattresses, three or four home-made chairs, and a small dressing table. There were no stoves or grates – all cooking was done on the open hearth, an old camp oven being used for baking. Flour was ground in a small steel hand mill in the evenings, everyone taking a turn at this work. The wheat that year was full of smut, and the bread in consequence black and bitter, though no one apparently and the worse for eating it.
In August 1853, their son, John, was born, and the young mother, in addition to her numerous household duties was faced with the knowledge that her husband’s health was steadily becoming worse. He had caught a cold riding across the Isthmus of Panama on his was Home, and this turned to consumption. Nothing that could be done was of any avail, and he died less than 18 months after retuning to New Zealand.
During the last few months of his life they discussed plans for the future, and the question as to whether she should return to her people in Scotland, or spend the rest of her life in the land of her adoption. This she decided to do – no light resolution to make, for she had no business experience, and her health was never very good. Lack of physical strength was, however, overcome by grit and strength of character, and she did all she could by reading and study to qualify for the strenuous years ahead. In the management of the property left in her care she showed such marked ability that the trustees – men of experience and business training – were content to give her practically a free hand.
The property which she so successfully administered consisted of the farm at Riccarton, and a leasehold at Homebush. Her brother James McIlraith, who had gone from Scotland to the gold diggings in Australia, came over from there and took charge of Homebush and the coal-mine and brick works, which had been started there, relieving her of much worry and anxiety. As money became available, parts of the leasehold were purchased, eventually about half of the run being made freehold.
There were many difficulties to overcome and many disputes to be settled before the trustees handed over the property to her son on his coming-of-age in 1874. Though naturally of a gentle and retiring disposition, her sense of duty was very high, and she was very tenacious of her rights. Her sound Scottish education proved of the greatest help during the long minority of her son, and the balance sheets of the trust were all made out in her own handwriting. She was a sound judge of stock, particularly of horses and Shorthorn cattle, and always took and keenest interest in the pedigree stock at Riccarton.
From all this, one might picture her as a hard businesswoman, with little time for sentiment, or the finer feelings. Such judgment would be entirely false. Of uncompromising hostility to anything evil, but giving her whole heart to any cause she believed in, and to those she loved, she was loyal to old friends, and always ready to welcome new ones.
She was a great reader, very well-informed, and exceptionally broadminded. Fond of music, she had a very sweet voice, heard to the best advantage in the old songs of Scotland, which she loved. Combined with a keen sense of humour and love of wit, was the deepest contempt for namby-pamby-ism in any form. Of the gentlest and most sympathetic nature, no one ever appealed to her for help in vain. At the same time, though always ready to give anyone the benefit of the doubt, her sound judgment of character saved her from being easily imposed upon.
Her sense of duty was very highly developed, and she had very definite ideas of right and wrong. Brought up in the strictest traditions of the Scottish Church, her religion was very real to her, and was the guiding motive of her life. This is shown very clearly in all her writings, as in her life, and the Bible was her infallible guide in all matters of doubt. She had strength to bear the two great tragedies of her life – the loss of her husband in 1854, and of her only son in 1902 – through her unquestioning faith in God, and acceptance of His will. Her favourite motto was “Trust in God and do the right,” and her whole philosophy of life may be summed up in the verse with which she ended her letters to her grandchildren:

With Mercy and with judgment
My web of time He wove,
And aye the dews of sorrow
Were lustred by His love.

She died at Riccarton in 1911at the age of 87, and was laid to rest in the Barbadoes Street Cemetery beside the husband whom she had survived for 57 years. Over her grave stands a Celtic cross erected by the Ayrshire people of Canterbury. She left behind her the record of a life well lived – a life which was an abiding inspiration to those who came under the influence of her serene and radiant personality.
It would be better for New Zealand to-day if there was more of her true pioneering and self-reliant spirit evident around us.

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Biographical Details:

John Deans
Born, Kirkstyle, Riccarton, Kilmarnock, Scotland
Married - Catherine Young, 17 June 1815, Avondale, Lanark, Scotland

Died, Scotland

Their children were:

  1. William
  2. James Young
  3. John
  4. Andrew (died in childhood)


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Biographical Details:

James Young Deans
Born, Kirkstyle, Riccarton, Kilmarnock, Scotland






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Biographical Details:

William Deans
Born, of Braehead
Married Agnes Reid (of Bonshaw)

They had four children,

  1. John Deans

According to "Origin and Genealogy of the "Boyds" of Kilmarnock and Bonshaw", pages 80-81, William Deans was Dr William Deans of Stewarton. And, that he and his brother, Andrew Deans, married Reid sisters. William to Agnes and Andrew to Jean Reid (d. 1789).

William Deans is mentioned in the New Statistical Account, for the PARISH OF STEWARTON. The full entry can be read here.

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Biographical Details:

Agnes Reid
Married William Deans
Died 1774.

They had four children; see William Deans record for information.

According to "Origin and Genealogy of the "Boyds" of Kilmarnock and Bonshaw", pages 80-81, William Deans was Dr William Deans of Stewarton. And, that he and his brother, Andrew Deans, married Reid sisters. William to Agnes and Andrew to Jean Reid (d. 1789).


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Biographical Details:

Thomas Reid
Born, 1700,
Married Margaret Willson
Died 1792.

They had seven children;

  1. William Reid (b. 1732, d. 1812) married twice:
    1st marriage; Agnes Mitchell (b. 1745, d. 1778), with issue of; Thomas and Margaret.
    2nd marriage; Elizabeth Gray (d. 20 Dec 1828), with issue of; Janet, William, Robert, Elizabeth, James, Alexander, James(2) and John.
  2. Mary Reid (b. 1734) married Thomas Brown
  3. Robert Reid, of Bonshaw (b. 1737, d. 1822) married twice:
    1st marriage; Miss Alexander, no issue.
    2nd marriage; Margaret Ferguson, of Auchintiber (b. 1757), with issue of; Margaret (b. 1782), Thomas (b. 1782), Alex (b. 1787), Robert (b. 1789), William (b. 1793), and James (b. 1798).
  4. Janet Reid (b. 1739)
  5. Agnes Reid (d. 1774)
  6. Jean Reid (d. 1789) married Andrew Deans (brother of William Deans).
  7. Thomas Reid (b. 1748)

According to "Origin and Genealogy of the "Boyds" of Kilmarnock and Bonshaw", pages 80-81, William Deans was Dr William Deans of Stewarton. And, that he and his brother, Andrew Deans, married Reid sisters. William to Agnes and Andrew to Jean Reid (d. 1789).


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Biographical Details:

Robert Reid
Died 1774.

Married twice:

1st marriage, to Margaret Brown:

They had one child;

  1. Marion Reid (b. 1696)


2nd marriage, to Mary Galt in 1698:

They had four children;

  1. Thomas Reid
  2. James Reid, of Watermeetings, (b. 1707) married in 1734, Margaret Bowie, with issue of; Helen (b. 1735), Robert (b. 1736), and Mary (b. 1738).
  3. Jean Reid (b. 1709)
  4. Mary Reid, (b. 1712) married Jason Dunlop, of Haysmuir.

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Biographical Details:

Robert Reid
of Braehead, Castleton.
Married Lady Margaret Boyd, in 1650.

They had one (known) child:

  1. Robert Reid.

Lady Margaret Boyd was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boyd of Bonshaw.

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