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First white child

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Title: First white child  
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Subject: Colonization of the Americas, H. Rider Haggard, Immigration to Australia, Greeley, Colorado, History of Canberra
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First white child

The birth of the first white child was a celebrated occasion across many parts of the New World. Such births are a matter of pride for many townships, and they are commemorated with plaques and monuments at the location of the event. The birth was seen as such an honor that it was at times controversial as to who could claim the title.[1] As European conquerors and colonists spread throughout the Americas, Australia and Africa, the birth of a white child symbolized the growth and increasing permanence of their expanding civilizations.



Nada Burnham (May 1894 – May 19, 1896), daughter of the celebrated American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, was the first white child born in Bulawayo and died of fever and starvation during the Siege of Bulawayo in the Second Matabele War.[2][3] She was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, plot #144, in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).[4] Nada is the Zulu word for lily and she was named after the heroine in Sir H. Rider Haggard’s Zulu tale, Nada the Lily (1892). Three of Haggard's books are posthumously dedicated to her: The Wizard (1896), Elissa: The Doom of Zimbabwe (1899), and Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll (1900).[5][6] Haggard's dedication reads: To the Memory of the Child: Nada Burnham, who "bound all to her" and, while her father cut his way through the hordes of the Ingobo Regiment, perished of the hardships of war at Buluwayo on 19 May 1896, I dedicate these tales—and more particularly the last, that of a Faith which triumphed over savagery and death.[5]


North America

A 1937 United States stamp honoring Virginia Dare

Snorri Thorfinnsson (probably born between 1005 and 1013) was the son of Thorfinnur Karlsefni and Gudrídur Eiríksdóttir. Generally known to his contemporaries as Snorri Gudrídsson, as his mother outlived his father, was born in Vinland, making him the first European documented to be born in North America.

Martín de Argüelles, Jr., born in the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Florida, was the first white child known to be born in what is now the continental United States.[7] Born in 1566, his father was a hidalgo and one of the expeditioners who went to New Spain with Captain General Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565. St. Augustine, Florida, is also the oldest continuously occupied European-founded city anywhere in the United States excluding Puerto Rico.[8]

Virginia Dare, born in 1587 at the Roanoke Colony, was the first child born in North America to English parents, and her memory was celebrated in the British colonies. Peregrine White, born aboard the Mayflower at Provincetown Harbor in 1620, was the first Pilgrim birth.[8] Sarah Rapelje, born June 6, 1625, was the first white child born in New Netherland in what is now New York state.[9][10] Born in 1659, Kristian Gaapstörm was the first child born in New Sweden.

Hélène Desportes is often cited as the first white child born in New France in what would later be Canada. She was born probably 1620, to Pierre Desportes and Francoise Langlois, although there is some disagreement about whether she was born in Quebec or before her family arrived on the continent in 1614. Hélène's maternal aunt was the mother of Eustache Martin, born October 1621 in Quebec to Abraham Martin and Marguerite Langlois.[11]

South America


There is some conjecture about the first European birth to occur on Australian soil, but William Nash is the prime candidate. His father, also William, was a Marine private and his mother was Maria Haynes, who came as his common-law wife (they were not married until later). There are biographical entries on both parents in The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet, by Mollie Gillen, published in 1989 (pp. 261–262). The book also lists those who were born on the voyage. William Nash was baptised on 25 May 1788 (his actual birth date is unknown), and died on 19 June 1789. On the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Historical Indexes, his registry number is "1A/1788", which indicates that his is the first entry for 1788 (although not necessarily proving that his was the first birth).

Governor Phillip's reports were published in The Historical Records of Australia Series 1 Volume 1, but there is no mention of the first birth in the colony; on 12 February 1790, he simply states the number of births (59) and deaths (72) that had occurred to date. Unless further records are discovered, it will probably never be known definitely who was the "first born", but William Nash is the most likely.

New Zealand

The first European birth in New Zealand was Thomas Holloway King at the Rangihoua Bay settlement on February 21, 1815.[12][13]

See also


  1. ^ Cox, Mike. July 2003. "First Whites". Accessed August 7, 2007.
  2. ^  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Lott, J. "Jack" P. (March 1977). "Major F. R. Burnham, D.S.O.". Rhodesiana Magazine 36.  
  5. ^ a b  
  6. ^ "Rider Haggard's Tribute".  
  7. ^ Time. "First Native White". Accessed August 7, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Word, Ron. July 30, 2007. " St. Augustine celebrates 442nd birthday". Accessed August 7, 2007.
  9. ^ Colonial Ancestors. " This Day in Colonial Times – June". Accessed August 9, 2007.
  10. ^ Decoursey, William. "Bill Decoursey's notes on old Dutch families". Accessed August 9, 2007.
  11. ^ Bennett, Ethel M. G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2000. "Hélène Desportes". Accessed August 10, 2007.
  12. ^ 1814 Hansen family tree Accessed November 1, 2013.
  13. ^ record for Thomas King Accessed November 1, 2013.

NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Historical Indexes shows that William Nash has the Birth Registry number "1A/1788", which indicates that his is the first entry in the register for 1788, the year Australia was settled.

Further reading

  • Mollie, Gillen. 1989. A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet. ISBN 0-908120-69-9
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