Restoration of Tunks Memorial

In 2018, TDAI embarked on a project to repair and save the Tunks Monument at St John’s Cemetery. We understand there are 23 descendants of John Tunks and Phoebe Tomlinson buried under this monument. 

The monument had previously been restored by the Tunks Descendants Association in 1986. At that time the plaque for William Tunks was added to the Monument.

Tunks Time Capsule

In 2018, as part of the restoration work on the Tunks Monument at St John’s Cemetery in Parramatta, Ken Tunks organised a TIME CAPSULE. It contained information about the Tunks Descendants Association and the restoration. It was inserted into the monument and who knows when it will be discovered.

Tunks Ancestry Online Tree

In 2015 we started the project to get all the information gathered about the Tunks Descendants up online, and the Tunks Ancestry Tree was started. This of course is an ongoing project and we would like family members to contact us with any changed family details so we can keep this information up-to-date.

In August 2019 – there are 7856 people, 1471 records and 806 photos in the Tunks Descendants Tree.

If you have any photo of your Ancestors, could you forward them to us so we can add them to the tree. 


Thank you to the people who have worked on this project: Ron Baird, Alison O’Sullivan, Natalie Logan and Gaye White

To view the Tunks Descendants Ancestry Tree, click here

Tunks Family Tree
Memorial to a Marine

In 1977 – Memorial to a Marine was written by Joyce Cowell, B.A. A.L.C.M M.A.C.E. and published in 1977.

It has three sections, the first covering William Tunks and Sarah Lyons early life in Australia. The second, covering their children and the Third covers some of William and Sarah’s Grandchildren.

Joyce Catherine Cowell (1915-2004)
An obituary given by Peter Christian 11th Feb,  2004 

It was my distinct privilege to have first met Joyce in the early 1980s wten ljoined the Fellowship of Firct Fleeters.

At the time she was Archivist oI that organization, inwhich capacity she served so diligently for another 16 years.

We both had a common link being proud descendants ofa First Fleet Marine, \Mlliam Tunks and Sarah Lyons, aSecond Fleet Jewish convict” lt was through Joyce’sbook, “Memorial to a Marine” that stined me to delve deeper into our Family Tree.

Her commitment to her genealogical work, both lor the Fellowship of First Fleeters and the Tunks DescendantsAssociation set an example to many of us and her knowledge of History, particularly our own colonial history was indeed first rate. At all times she insisted on historicalcorrectness and rejected, as forcefully as only Joyce knew how, any sign of political correctness.

I had a deep and abiding respect for her judgment, but must admit there were a few times when we did not see eye to eye, and anyone who knew Joyce well, would no doubt corne up against an incredibly formidable opponent.



She certainly was a strong-minded character, though onesoon realized that her bark was much worse than her bitel!

I shall miss her encouragement and advice, indeed the two organizations that were so close to her heart, will be the poorer for her passing.

She was a proud mother, grandmother and greatgrandmother to her immediate family, but quite a numberof us considered Joyce the Matriarch of a much wider family, and we join you in the loss of a loved one.

We give thanks, Joyce, for your long and fruitful life and may you have eternal rest. To Live on in the Hearts and Minds of Descendants is Never to Die”

Tunks Commemorative Plaques

TDAI has erected several plaques on sites that are significant to the Tunks Family.  

  • William Tunks Plaque on Tunks Monument, St John’s Cemetery (1986)
  • Tunks Farm – Lane Cove National Park
  • Norfolk House -Church St Parramatta
  • Site of Steamship Inn -Cowell St Ryde
  • The Farmhouse – Pennant Hills Rd Parramatta
  • Old Stables Royal Oak Hotel -Church St Parramatta
  • William Tunks II Headstone – (1988)
WW1 100th Anniversary

2014 marked 100 years since the start of the First World War.  The following descendants of William Tunks and Sarah Lyons fought in the Australian Imperial Forces during WWI

William Tunks Paternal Migration Route

The Tunks Descendant Association is analysing DNA results of descendants to help us learn more about William Tunks and Sarah Lyons before they came to Australia.

There has been much discussion about whether William Tunks was a German mercenary who fought for the British in the American War of Independence. Commonly known as Hessians because the vast majority came from the principality of Hesse-Cassel.

A Tunks’ male has undertaken Y-DNA test. The Y-Chromosome is passed from father to son. This direct male descendant of William Tunks is in the haplogroup I-M253.

The haplogroup reaches its peak frequencies in Sweden and western Finland. In terms of national averages, I-M253 is found in 35–38 per cent of Swedish males, 32.8% of Danish males, about 31.5% of Norwegian males, and about 28% of Finnis males.

Tunks DNA Project
Haplogroup I (I-M170) Migration Path

Haplogroup I-M253 is a primary branch of haplogroup I (I-M170), which has been present in Europe since ancient times.

Obviously, there is a limit to what we can confirmfrom these results but it certainly strengthens the theory that his family line was Northern European.

We would be very interested to hear from anyone with more information or details from other descendants who have taken DNA tests.

Sarah Lyons Maternal Migration Route

Sarah Lyons maternal line belongs to H1  haplogroup.  (Follow the light blue line).

H1 is the most common branch of haplogroup H. It most likely originated 15-20,000 years ago and represents 30% of people in haplogroup H and 46% of the maternal lineages in Iberia. It can also be found at significant frequency in the Near East and some Middle Eastern populations. 13-14% of all Europeans belong to this branch.

This is additional evidence that Sarah Lyons was a Sephardic Jew whose maternal line came through the Iberian peninsula. 


Sarah Lyons Maternal Line
Haplogroup H1 Migration Path
Recovering the Tunks Family Tree

In 1986, the First edition of the Tunks Family Tree was published.  The original tree was compiled by Len Chalmers with the help of his daughter Meg Burns.  When it came to update the tree the computer discs containing the information were found to be corrupted.  

Marian Perrem took on the project of entering the tree into a program called Brothers Keeper.  She not only entered  and revised all the original entries (some 6000 names) but investigated all new incoming information and  upgraded numerous branches of the family where there had previously been large gaps.

The second version of the up-dated Family Tree was launched in 2001 with the Founder, Len Chalmers, there to witness Marian’s mammoth effort.  In 2004, Marian issued yet another update.

Marian was awarded a life membership as a recognition of her work for TDAI.

Revised family tree 2004
John Daniell, Marian Perrem. Peter Christian , Ronald Baird 2015 at launch of updated Family Tree.
Maritime Museum Welcome Wall - 1998

The Australian National Maritrme Museum is constructing a “Welcome Wall” at Pyrmont, on the shores of Sydney Harbour, The wall will featurenames of immigrants engraved on bronze panels. A computer database and web page will bring to life the history of the names which appear on the wall. This database will be accessed within the National MaritimeMuseum and via the Internet.

The Tunks Descendants’ Association have registered the name “Tunks”,and the plaque on the wall will read “TUNKS William and Sarah”. Our plaque will be among the first on the wall, and will be unveiled at a special ceremony in September 1998.

Maritime Museum Welcome Wall
William Tunks Maritime Museum Welcome Wall
Sarah Lyons Maritime Museum Welcome Wall