In 1780, soon after William Bligh returned from the final voyage of Captain James Cook during which he was Master of the Resolution, he met Elizabeth (Betsy) Betham, the Glasgow-born daughter of the collector of customs and water bailiff at Douglas, Isle of Man. It seems there was instant mutual attraction and the couple were married at the parish church at Onchan on 4 February 1781. (The original church was replaced early in the 19th Century.)
Betsy was a refined, cultured and well-educated woman with family connections that would prove a great asset to Bligh’s career. She was the niece of Duncan Campbell, an influential merchant and shipowner who was the overseer of the convict hulks anchored in the Thames and who was also instrumental in the establishment of New South Wales as a penal colony. It is most likely that it was Campbell who recommended to Sir Joseph Banks that Bligh be appointed for the infamous breadfruit expedition that would eventually lead to the Mutiny. (Bounty had been one of Campbell’s own vessels, a collier named Bethia)
Other individuals known to Betsy and her family who became involved with the Bounty included Thomas Hayward, Peter Heywood, John Hallett and Fletcher Christian, with whom Bligh had sailed twice to Jamaica prior to the fateful voyage to the South Pacific.
Betsy had eight children in total, including two sets of twins – one set being her only sons, William and Henry, both of whom tragically died shortly after birth in 1795. Her daughters were Harriet, Mary, Elizabeth, twins Frances and Jane, and Anne – allegedly an epileptic and mentally incapable.
As Sven Wahlroos states in his Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas: A Companion to the Bounty Adventure:
William and Betsy Bligh had many descendants including quite a number of Australians.
The name of Bligh can still arouse political controversy today in Australia. Another descendant who learned what it is like to be deposed is the former Premier of the State of Queensland, Anna Bligh, Betsy's and William Bligh’s great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter and the direct descendant of Elizabeth who married her own cousin, Richard Bligh, thus preserving the name.
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Betsy is 16 degrees from Ferenc Liszt, 31 degrees from Frédéric Chopin, 24 degrees from Johannes Brahms, 35 degrees from Clara Schumann, 23 degrees from Fanny Hensel, 36 degrees from Jean Sibelius, 23 degrees from Edvard Grieg, 15 degrees from Richard Wagner, 23 degrees from Antonín Dvořák and 18 degrees from Kathie Forbes on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.