William Bligh RN
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William Bligh RN (1754 - 1817)

Vice Adm William Bligh RN
Born in Plymouth, Devon, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Brother of [half]
Husband of — married 4 Feb 1781 in Onchan, Isle of Manmap
Descendants descendants
Died at age 63 in 25 Bond Street, London, England, United Kingdommap
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Profile last modified | Created 29 Jul 2014
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Australian 1788
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Preceded by
Captain Philip Gidley King RN
4th Governor of New South Wales
13 Aug 1806 to 26 Jan 1808 Badge of the Governor of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Major-General Lachlan Macquarie CB


Notables Project
William Bligh RN is Notable.

Vice Admiral of the Blue William Bligh, FRS, RN (9 September 1754 – 7 December 1817) was an officer of the British Royal Navy and a colonial administrator. A historic mutiny occurred during his command of HMS Bounty in 1789; Bligh and his loyal men made a remarkable voyage to Timor, 3,618 nautical miles (6,701 km; 4,164 mi), after being set adrift in the Bounty's launch by the mutineers. Fifteen years after the Bounty mutiny, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales in Australia, with orders to clean up the corrupt rum trade of the New South Wales Corps, resulting in the so-called Rum Rebellion.[1]

William Bligh was born on 9 September 1754 at Plymouth, Devon, England.[2] He was the son of Francis Bligh and Jane Balsam.[3] He was baptised on 4 October 1754 at St. Andrew's Church, Plymouth, Devon, England. [4][5] [6]

He married Elizabeth Betham, daughter of Richard Betham and Mary Campbell, on 4 February 1781 at St Peters Church, Onchan, Isle of Man. The register has the notation "Mr William Bligh and Miss Elizabeth Betham of the town of Douglas" were married by license by Thomas Quayle, Vicar. Witnesses were Alexander McNaight and Charles Calvin (who witnessed all the marriages - he was possibly the parish clerk).[7]

Vice Admiral William Bligh died on 7 December 1817 at age 63 in London, England.[8] His death notice was in the Morning Chronicle on 11 December 1817: "DIED. On the 7th inst. in Bond-street, Vice-Admiral William Bligh, F.R.S. of Farningham House, Kent, aged 63."[9]

He was buried 15 December 1817 at St. Mary, Lambeth, Surrey, England.[10] The burial register recorded his abode as "St George's Han'r Square".[11]

Children of Vice-Admiral William Bligh and Elizabeth Betham[12]:

  1. Harriet Maria Bligh b. 15 Nov 1781, d. 26 Feb 1856
  2. Mary Bligh b. 1783, d. 4 Dec 1864
  3. Elizabeth Bligh b. 24 Mar 1786, d. 17 Jul 1854
  4. Jane Bligh b. 11 May 1788, d. 1875
  5. Frances Bligh b. 11 May 1788, d. 1862
  6. Anne Campbell Bligh b. 1791, d. 1 Nov 1843
  7. William Bligh b. 1795, d. 1795
  8. Henry Bligh b. 1795, d. 1795

Bligh’s grandson, William Russell Wilson Bligh (1827-1914), donated the famous Mutiny of the Bounty log books to the State Library of New South Wales in 1902.[13]

Research Notes

Some biographies have his birthplace at Cornwall. This appears to have originated from a misunderstanding by the Cornish historian, the Reverend Richard Polwhele. A discussion about this is by Pieter van der Merwe of the Royal Museums Greenwich.[14]


  1. William Bligh: Wikipedia entry
  2. Glynn Christian, Fragile Paradise: The discovery of Fletcher Christian, Bounty mutineer, 2nd ed. (U.S.A.: Bounty Books, 2005), page 53. According to Glynn Christian, his date of birth 9 September 1754 was recorded in the family Bible.
  3. Matthew H.C.G., editor, Dictionary of National Biography on CD-ROM (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1995).
  4. Glynn Christian, Fragile Paradise: The discovery of Fletcher Christian, Bounty mutineer, 2nd ed. (U.S.A.: Bounty Books, 2005), page 53.
  5. Baptism 4 October 1754: "Wm son of Francis & Jane Bligh", Devon Baptisms, Plymouth, St Andrew, Plymouth & West Devon Record Office 358/5, digitized on Find My Past website https://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=GBPRS%2FPLY%2F004634292%2F00044&parentid=GBPRS%2FB%2F31081867%2F1
  6. William Bligh, Devon, 4 Oct 1754 "William, son of Francis and Jane Bligh ("England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912", database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KC9F-C2Q : 29 July 2021), Wm Bligh, 1754. Image https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-QW12-2?i=43&cc=1804330) (accessed 14 December 2021)
  7. Image of the register can be seen at Isle of Man Parish Registers, 1598-2009 Onchan Marriages 1757-1832 (MS09754-3-1) Familysearch https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-65MG-37?i=18&cc=1784428&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AXZBR-236 (Note that the IGI incorrectly had the marriage in 1780) (accessed 14 December 2021)
  8. Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-22 Beal - Browell (Vol 02) https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1981/images/31205_Vol2-00698?pId=10083 (accessed 14 December 2021)
  9. English newspapers, Find My Past https://search.findmypast.com.au/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000082%2f18171211%2f016&stringtohighlight=william%20bligh (accessed 14 December 2021)
  10. Find a Grave, database and images Find a Grave Memorial ID 1895, citing St. Mary's Churchyard, Lambeth, London Borough of Lambeth, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find a Grave .
  11. London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-2003 for William Bligh, St Mary at Lambeth, Lambeth Road 1813-1819 https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1559/images/31280_195109-00550?pId=8791051 (accessed 14 December 2021)
  12. Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh. Burke's Irish Family Records. London, U.K.: Burkes Peerage Ltd, 1976.
  13. "Series 08: William Russell Bligh, papers", Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/record/9AL4DvRY (accessed 14 December 2021)
  14. Pieter van der Merwe, "Captain Bligh, Cornishman?" 11 May 2017, Royal Museums Greenwich https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/blog/curatorial/captain-bligh-cornishman (accessed 14 December 2021)

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Comments: 13

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Hi all,

Apparently he is one of my ancestors too! During his mutiny while he was in the Ha'apai group, Tonga he and Miss Lesieli Taufa Tofua had a daughter, Alisi "Selai" Taufatofua Bligh. Not sure if they married or not. I am still trying to find all the links that connects my great great great great grandmother Loise (daughter of Taufa Tofua and unknown woman) who married Taniela Fifi Ha'amoa who had a son Silivenusi Taumoepeau whose line i come from. If anyone here can find the link please let me know! :-) Siosifa M. Taumoepeau

posted by Sifa Taumoepeau
Was he born in Cornwall or Devon? Both places are in this profile. Is there any evidence that he was born in Cornwall and baptised a month later in Devon?
posted by Heather Stevens
It seems to be some debate about that, though maybe more likely Plymouth, Devon (with family roots in St Tudy, Cornwall).

see discussion here in Captain Bligh, Cornishman? https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/blog/curatorial/captain-bligh-cornishman

And there is a baptismal record of William Bligh, Devon, 4 Oct 1754 "William, son of Francis and Jane Bligh ("England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912", database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KC9F-C2Q : 29 July 2021), Wm Bligh, 1754. Image https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-QW12-2?i=43&cc=1804330)

Thanks Jeanette,

That discussion in Captain Bligh, Cornishman? explains that he was born in Devon but he said he had a family allegiance to Cornwall as it was the birthplace of his grandfather, Richard Bligh (1680–1757). Thank you for correcting his profile.

posted by Heather Stevens
William Bligh is 22 Degrees from Debbie Thomas

On my mother's side.

posted by Debbie (Fink) Thomas
I have stayed at his house in Lambeth Road. It is now a B&B.
posted by Heather Stevens
Admiral William Bligh was married to my 12th Great Grandmother (Lady Elizabeth Gorges) and Lt. Fletcher Christian was my 9th cousin five times removed. They were both on my father's father's branch of my family. Kind of ironic I think.
posted by Sherie Morehouse
Yes, I would say so. That is ironic.
posted by Robert Funderburk II
I am 22° from William Bligh. Profile ID Phillips-34101
Yes, I am 26° from William Bligh and 30° from you. :)
posted by Jamie Walker
edited by Jamie Walker
he was not noted as a very nice captain to his crew
It was said that he was very cruel to his men. At his court-martial, he was acquitted of any wrong-doing, but it was said that he wasn't permitted to command a ship again. As to whether that was so, I'm not sure. I think he was a Lieutenant at the time he was in Command of the HMS Bounty.
posted by Robert Funderburk II
edited by Robert Funderburk II
Hi there profile managers! We plan on featuring William as the Example Profile of the Week in the Connection finder on September 9th. Between now and then is a good time to take a look at the sources and biography to see if there are updates and improvements that need made, especially those that will bring it up to WikiTree Style Guide standards. A Team member will check on the profile closer to the week we'll feature it and make changes as necessary.

Thanks! Abby

posted by Abby (Brown) Glann