George Richards c1799-1874 : A Shadow Without Substance

The first concrete evidence of George Richards is his marriage in 1828 to Ellen Cummings. He comes through records as little more than the husband of the more visible Ellen and as the father of a bunch of children.  Recent DNA matches have confirmed my ancestral line back to George and Ellen, so maybe he is about to appear clearly to us at last.

Those who read my blog will have become familiar with a few regions of Tasmania by now, particularly the districts around the townships of Hamilton, Kempton and Port Cygnet.  George Richards lived further north, in Launceston.

For geographical context:, here is Van Diemen’s Land 1852 with the regions marked which have been referenced in my blog:

Blog map early TasMap from Wikimedia Commons

The north of Tasmania has its own unique history.

Right from the beginning of British control of Van Diemen’s Land there was debate over where administrative government should be placed. It was briefly in Risdon Cove (now a suburb of the present day city of Hobart), then transferred north to Port Dalrymple (later Georgetown), then to Launceston and then back to Hobart Town where it then remained. All of these shifts were in that first decade of settlement. Risdon Cove was settled by Britain in 1803, Port Dalrymple and Sullivan’s Cove (Hobart Town) in 1804 and lastly Patersonia (Launceston) in 1805.  These initial settlements were basically a few shiploads each of handy colonists, soldiers and some cattle. They came off the boat into heavy forest, cold weather, much rain and mud.  Over the next three years, building work began, streets were laid down and jetties were built. We can now focus on the two northern settlements of Georgetown and Launceston which had received these names by 1810.

I don’t want this post to a heavy read but a few elements of the epic tale of early settlement are relevant.

The neighbouring colony of New South Wales began in 1788 and by the start of the 19th century it was  a proper little settlement.  The administrations of the two colonies had a brotherly relationship and were each governed by England, but each colony was required to achieve self sufficiency on its own.

Here’s a map showing Sydney (in the colony of New South Wales) and Port Dalrymple (in the colony of Van Diemen’s Land).

rumrebellionetc
Location of Rum Rebellion of New South Wales and of the Van Diemen’s Land settlement of Port Dalrymple (Footnote 1)

In 1808, a famous military coup was staged in New South Wales by soldiers who felt the place was being dangerously mismanaged.  This mismanagement stemmed in part from a circumstance where coinage had not been established and was rare in the colony. With no way to buy or sell using coins and no way to pay soldiers their wages, rum became the accepted substitute. Soldiers were in a perfect position to receive new shipments of rum which they could purchase at good prices and then sell on with a profit.  Price gouging, alcoholism and an unhelpful balance of power ensued.  A newly appointed colonial governor was given orders to correct the situation.  The result was outright rebellion.  This event is known in history as the Rum Rebellion.

The rebellion took a while to quell but once this was achieved, the problem of what to do with the offending soldiers needed to be resolved.  England didn’t want them back but they were now a properly networked and coherent group who might rebel again.  The soldiers were court martialed en masse, but these guys had all lived together in a small community for years and they were deemed to have acted with good intention. It was decided to separate them to a multitude of small new settlements.

Some were offered land grants in the new settlement of Port Dalrymple if they resigned of their own volition.  It was an acceptable arrangement for all involved.  By 1812,  ex-soldiers and their families were trickling south to take possession of their new land. Thus in about 1812 came the family of toddler Mary Ann Elinor Cummings – known as Ellen – whose father had been an officer in the Rum Corps.   The dramatic tale of the Cummings family is worthy of its own blog article.  All that is relevant here is that the young Ellen arrived sometime between 1812 and 1816.

I tried to find a photograph of Launceston but on my last trip through it looked like this. However, this is probably a good indicator of life in the region on a winter’s day.  This was taken circa 11.00 am around 20km south of the city of Launceston.

South Esk in Fog Tasmania Australia

So, back to Launceston.  Descriptions occasionally appeared in local papers.

1812:
On arriving at the rising ground above the Town of Launceston, it is impossible to avoid being struck with the beauties of the situation, which commands an extensive view of the River Tamar, as also of the Rivers North and South Esk, winding through a country, at this particular place of wonderful fertility.  But the extreme difficulty of the navigation of the River Tamar, and the great inconvenience which the inhabitants experience from the want of fresh water, with which they are supplied from the Cataract River only, by boats, owing to the tide flowing up the Rivers beyond the Settlement: this circumstance, combined with the low and damp situation of the Town, (which is situated at the confluence of these three Rivers), has induced the Governor to determine on removing the chief Settlement of Port Dalrymple to a situation which can afford His Majesty’s ships, and trading vessels, a ready and easy place of refreshment on their passage through Bass’s Straits – an object quite out of the reach of shipping where the Settlement now is. (Footnote 2)

In this decade, Launceston had no newspaper of its own and is generally referenced in other papers as a shipping destination, but a few articles give a clue about life there.

1817:

It appears about the 25th ult. that … bushrangers committed a robbery near Launceston – that the day after, one of them, (Wright, who lately ran from George-town ) left the party, went into Launceston, and surrendered – that on the 29th, Collier surrendered, having a cut across the neck, and his left hand much shattered: — he states that the night after the robbery alluded to, Browne & Wright left the party — that Septon, Hillier, & himself remained at a hut behind Gordon’s Plains, where in the middle of the night, Hillier with razor cut the throat of Septon so dreadfully as to cause his immediate death — that Hillier then attempted to cut his (Collier’s) throat, who, however, got out of the hut with a slight cut on the left side of the neck: upon which Hillier, who had possessed himself of the whole of the arms, took up Septon’s rifle, fired, & shattered much of the hand of Collier. It does not appear that there had been any quarrel; And Hillier’s motive for killing Septon, and attempting to kill Collier, can only be supposed to have existed with a view to obtain the reward offered for them. Since this affair Coine, another of the old bushrangers, has given himself up, and is in confinement at this place; and there remain now at large, Howe, Watts, and Browne, for the whole of whom rewards are offered. — [See Proclamation.] (Footnote 3)

More in 1817:

George Gray, who murdered JOHN EVANS at York Plains, as adverted and noticed in our last week’s Gazette, was this morning brought in a prisoner by a guard of the 46th regt. and lodged in the gaol. He was taken on the road to Launceston, by Corporal GREEN, of the 46th alone; a circumstance highly creditable to him.

A soldier named Berbridge, who shot his comrade in the Barracks at Launceston a few days ago, was brought in by the same escort. The Coroner’s Inquest in this case was Wilful Murder; but he declared his ignorance of the musket which be fired being loaded : on the other hand, it is stated by two witnesses, that he had been told it was loaded with ball.  (Footnote 4)

It was a different and dangerous world.  Yet along with murder, assault, mental illness, severe alcoholism, floods, famines and much rain the two settlements continued to grow. Most settlers received supplemental supplies from the government but were beginning to make a go of it alone.  This was Ellen Cummings’ world.  By her teen years she had experienced the Rum Rebellion, a move to a new colony, home invasions and her mother’s tragic death by drowning in a flooded river in 1820 when she was aged 11. There had been little safety and maybe not much happiness in her world.  Shipping records indicate that her two older brothers – John and James – spent more time away from the family home than there once they were old enough to escape.  The Cummings family had money and a good position in society, not to mention a sense of entitlement which passed from father to son for several generations. But Ellen was a girl in a family which did not afford equal status to women. She missed a lot of the education and opportunities which her brothers received.  No doubt by the age of 18 in her lonely world she needed a protector.

Launceston today
Southern entry to Launceston 2014. This is probably the same hill from which the 1812 description was made. The rivers Tamar and Esk are temporarily hidden by the left hand cutting.

Given the copious records, letters and official engagements of the Cummings family, it would be surprising if the George Richards that we have gleaned from the records was an equal match for Ellen.  The Cummings family were well connected in Ireland and England, had married into a very wealthy family on the Isle of Man, had some lucrative enterprise in India and managed to wriggle out of a whole lot of scrapes which would have resulted in a destroyed life for a ‘lesser’ man.  Ellen seems to have been a forgotten and unregarded child. Her father was only concerned about the boys.  Thus somehow she met an illiterate convict approximately ten years older than she and the two of them made a match of it.

Here’s the marriage record:

Marriage record of George Richards and Ellen Cummings
Marriage record of George Richards and Ellen Cummings (Footnote 5)

Civil registration started in Britain in 1831 and that requirement was sent to the colonies at the same time.  Three years earlier, in 1828, we have only a church marriage record. There was no consent sought for Ellen despite her tender years.  Eighteen was not adulthood in 1828 so she should have required the permission of either parent or if an orphan, of a guardian such as an elder brother, but in this era officiating ministers were hard to come by and they undertook a multitude of religious ceremonies.  I have not managed to trace the witnesses but hopefully I’ll find them one day.

Many of the details on this certificate are correct. Ellen was born in the colony – well, in a neighbouring colony – and she was free.  So presumably the record is correct in identifying George Richards as a convict.  I’ve never heard of anyone impersonating a convict. It is therefore logical to assume that George Richards was a convict who arrived on a ship called the Pilford.  Which doesn’t exist.

There were 9 convicts named George Richards transported to Tasmania and another 12 so far identified as transported to New South Wales.  The common theory among family researchers is that he arrived on the ship ‘Guildford’ in 1819.  There was indeed a George Richards on this ship. The convict from the Guildford was a butcher.  Our George is also a butcher.  So this fits.  But we don’t know for sure and in one place at least, it is recorded that the convict from the Guildford died in 1825.  There was indeed a convict named George Richards who died in 1825 but not ours. The record is all out of order and seems to have been rewritten from another record.

George Richards was tried on 4th March 1820 in Chelmsford, Essex and found guilty of larceny. He was sentenced to death which in the usual way was transmuted to transportation 14 years.  He was placed in a hulk named Leviathan at Hampshire, from whence he was removed to the Guildford and arrived in Tasmania on 10th October 1820. He received a ticket of leave at some early date.  In 1824 he stole something which I cannot read from the factory of William Smith in Launceston so he must have been in town then. He was in trouble again in 1826 for being out after hours.  Which brings us to the date of his marriage, of which there is no mention in the convict record.

The eldest child of George and Richard was my own ancestress, Frances Ann born 2nd January 1829. She was baptised in March 1829 at St John’s Anglican Church in Launceston.

Baptism Frances Ann Richards
Baptism of Frances Ann Richards in Launceston Tasmania

George’s convict record contains a misdemeanor of being absent from muster on 26th January 1829.

From this point, all we have is a handful of baptism and civil birth registration records. Combining the existing baptisms with later records the Richards family so far consists of:

t2

George’s ticket of leave was suspended for six months on 11th March 1831 for some unknown reason,   only a few months after the death of his first son George.

In 1833, George was charged with sheep stealing, an offense which still brought the death penalty in those days.  (Footnote 6)

George Richards

So, does this mean he died?  It seems not, because although his convict record also states ‘Death recorded’, the entries go on.  In fact, his convict record states that he received his free certificate on 7th Feb 1834, at which point he was still in jail awaiting trial. This is very very unlikely!

However, no registration has been located for the children born between 1833 and 1839. We know of them either through their marriage and death records or through DNA matches with their descendants.  The town of Launceston was growing rapidly at this time.  Whether they lived in town or somewhere very rural is not known.

In 1838 George was arrested on suspicion of felony but there was insufficient evidence to bring the matter to trial.  On March 14th 1840 he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.  There was another felony in Sept 1840 and a third offence on 3rd October the same year due to entering the constables’ huts while drunk. For this offence he was sentenced to 10 days hard labour on the roads.  It didn’t help. On the 31st October 1840 he was in trouble again for another felony but the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence. Possibly he’d gained a reputation.

After that final offense in 1840, the matter was allowed to rest on the condition that he move to the Hamilton district and remain there.  It’s where the unruly ex-convicts went.

This fits with the movements of our Richards family.  All the children from Eliza onward were born and properly registered in Hamilton.  George appears in their birth registrations as a labourer, a butcher and finally a farmer.

On 8th November 1847, George and Ellen’s eldest child Frances married Edward Cox at St John the Baptist, Ouse.   Almost ten years later in 1856, Ellen passed away, the cause of death given as dropsy.  The family split up, some of the children leaving for the now thriving colony of Victoria where fortunes were being made in the goldfields and there was work for everyone.

As required, George remained in Hamilton. Richard and Matilda moved to Victoria. Harriet married a shepherd of Osterley.  The youngest four girls all married local ex-convict farmers.  I’ve written often about the Ouse region with its early pioneers, that peculiar bunch of free-by-servitude men who lived almost as one with the bush and could comfortably spend weeks alone without missing human contact.  The six Richards girls who remained in the Ouse region became matriarchs of six large families who still live and farm in the region today.  But the sons moved away.  One of the boys had a liaison with a local girl but there was no marriage.  The resulting son grew up bearing his mother’s surname and his descendants also continued in the region.

This has been a very long post, I know.  George Richards ended his days amidst a diphtheria epidemic which took half his family. His daughters Frances and Susan plus his grandson Edward George Cox all died within weeks of each other.  George’s death was attributed to cancer. Possibly this was so. Possibly he had cancer but the diphtheria was taking hold also.

Here is his death registration. His daughter Susan is the entry immediately after his. (Footnote 7)

George Richards death

To conclude, here is George’s grave.  It’s a proper monument, worthy of a pioneer of the district who was also father-in-law and grandfather to most of the region’s farmers.

George Richards
Grave of George Richards at St John the Baptist Ouse Tasmania

(Footnote 8)

 

 

 


Footnotes:

(1) By Lencer [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

(2) “GOVERNMENT AND GENERAL ORDERS.” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842) 11 January 1812: 1. Web. 2 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article628393&gt;.

(3) “HOBART TOWN; SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1817.” The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter (Tas. : 1816 – 1821) 6 September 1817: 1. Web. 2 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article652952&gt;.

(4) “Hobart Town; SATURDAY, NOVEMBER, 1817.” The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter (Tas. : 1816 – 1821) 1 November 1817: 2. Web. 2 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article653280&gt;.

(5) State Archives of Tasmania, marriage records Church of England

(6) “CRIMINAL SIDE.—THURSDAY.” Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846) 20 February 1834: 3. Web. 3 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84774309&gt;.

(7) State Archives of Tasmania, civil death registrations

(8) http://www.gravesoftas.com.au/municipalities/Southern_Tasmania.htm

 

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The Mystery of Jane Leahy

Castletownroche geograph-1796436-by-Sarah777

The pioneer of our Peard family in Australia was John Peard who arrived in the 1850’s as a young man and eventually settled in Albury on the New South Wales/Victorian border.

Family researchers in the mid 20th century went to Ireland in search of our roots and returned with a grand pedigree in ornate handwriting which gave us the lineage of the Peard family in Fermoy, Cork.  A slightly simplified version of this lineage can be found in Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland. The family home was Coole Abbey in Fermoy where the family once entertained royalty.  The manor was built for Henry Peard back in the 17th century and remained in the family until the early 20th century.

CooleAbbeygeograph-5026677-by-Jonathan-Thacker

 

Somehow the family line descended from Coole Abbey and an entry in Burke’s Peerage to my great grandfather, the respectable but hardly notable Burley Peard in the Snowy Mountains district of New South Wales.  We all wanted to know the story.  Why were we not sipping tea in our illustrious mansion in Ireland?  What happened?

There were other questions too.  Why would a well-connected young man travel alone to Australia?  Why did he then stay here when he was wealthy enough to return to Cork for a visit?  Why does the family have no heirlooms from Ireland?  Why did he not name a daughter after his mother? The story seemed incomplete.

On 18 Sep 1856 he arrived in Melbourne on the ship Saldanha. He was aged 17 and is on the shipping list as ‘Gentleman’.  He traveled alone.  Later research has shown that he first went to the Victorian goldfields before making his way to Bowna in New South Wales where he met his future wife.  John Peard certainly was an educated and hard working man. He was involved in local committees and progress associations. He was also industrious and adventurous, ready to try new methods.

AlburyWodonga

John and Mary Ann were married on 26th Mar 1868 in Beechworth, Victoria.  The marriage certificate names the parents of John Peard as Henry Harrison Peard and Jane Leahy.  The old pedigree of the family had named his parents as Henry Harrison Peard and Jane Selby.

John Peard Mary Anne Burleton two

This is the second half of John and Mary Ann’s marriage registration showing their occupation, age, location of the marriage, their address, parent’s names and parental occupation.  John Peard was a carrier aged 28 and he lived in Albury.  The handwriting is difficult to read, someone just might read ‘Lehy’ as ‘Selby’.  But until the past decade it was not easy to locate a marriage certificate in Australia without knowing which state one needed first.  After all these years looking for a Jane Selby as per the older research, now we could search for Jane Leahy.

At first it didn’t help. Jane Leahy has proved as hard to find as the nonexistent Jane Selby. Her birthplace was a complete guess.  There was no baptism to be found for John so there was no confirmation that she was even Irish, other than that very Irish surname. Henry Harrison Peard died in Inchinapalace on 4th May 1847 of fever but did not mention any family.  It was a puzzle that wouldn’t solve for a very long time.

Two recent events changed everything.  Firstly, a fellow researcher in the United States found me through this very blog and contacted me regarding John Peard.  She was the descendant of one Richard Peard who emigrated from Cork to the United States alone as a teenager sometime around 1858.  A family story had passed down that Richard Peard had a sibling who moved to Albury in Australia.  When she read my blog she suspected she had found the sibling.

Secondly, a very elderly Peard relative in Ireland replied to an online post stating that John Peard in Australia was supposed to have a brother named Henry who went to the United States.  These two sketchy stories led to a comparing of DNA test results which confirmed cousinship between the descendants of John Peard and the descendants of Richard Peard of Iowa.   It looked very positive.

Finally, after some rather pessimistic trawling through the Irish Catholic Parish Registers, I found him.  More than that, I found the whole family!

John Peard baptism

Here he is at last, after at least fifty years of constant research by various Peards with a few big surprises thrown in.  He was baptised on 26th June 1839 in the Catholic church at Castletownroche and his address is given as Inchinapalace.  At least, Henry Peard’s address is.  Jane was still a Leahy and John was illegitimate.  This explains a lot.  Henry Harrison Peard was a protestant, Jane was Catholic. After Henry’s death, did she and the children receive any protection from the rather wealthy Peard family?  Were they even acknowledged as Peards?

Looking further in the register, the following baptisms also came to light.

RichardPeardsnipbapt

This is the baptism of Richard Peard on 26 Feb 1841, the lad who emigrated to Iowa.  He was also illegitimate.  One illegitimate child might be an accident or a seduction. Two? There must have been some impediment to marriage.

William Peardsnipbapt

William Peard baptised on 28th Aug 1842, also illegitimate.  Yet Henry Peard was not called upon to marry Jane?  The existence of this boy was a complete surprise.

Ellen and Sarah Peard

Two illegitimate girls, Ellen and Sarah both baptised on 18th October 1846.  They may not have been born at the same time.

It looks as if Jane Leahy was living near Castletownroche and was in a long term relationship with Henry Harrison Peard.  One Henry Peard was having children quite nearby with a wife named Catherine.  This is an avenue to explore.  But many questions remain.  What happened after the death of Henry Harrison Peard in 1847 and the emigration of John Peard in 1856?  How did the family live?  What happened to Jane, William and the two girls?

The plan now is to look at the Leahy families around Castletownroche, focusing on Jane Leahy and the sponsors.

 

 

 


Photograph by Sarah777: attribution under Creative Commons License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Search for Bridget

For my first blog post in several months, I have decided to focus on an ancestor who just might have emerged from the shadows at last.  There is no certainty yet.  I’m making this post in case other Behan or Dillon researchers can help narrow the field at all.

I have  already written one blog post about Bridget Bain . She appeared in Tasmania in 1856 as the young bride of John Dillane. They lived in Cygnet and raised a large family. She has puzzled her descendants for a long time.

John and Bridget were married twice.  That is, they were married in 1856 in an Anglican church and conducted a second, Catholic ceremony in 1877.

In that twenty one years, the state of Tasmania underwent a huge cultural transformation. The state was self-governed as of 1856. They  ceased to be a penal settlement.  With its own parliament and a rapidly increasing free population came some pride and stability. More children went to school, infrastructure improved and there was a lot of employment for anyone who wished to work.

By 1877, priests and reverends could count their congregations as their own.  The pews were no longer filled with ticket-of-leavers who were only there as part of their curfew requirements.  True communities were developing and along with this came greater care with parish events such as baptisms and marriages.  My guess is that the details on John and Bridget’s second marriage are likely to be recorded with a level of respect to the couple which may have been absent the first time round. At this second marriage, Bridget’s name is written as ‘Behane’ not ‘Bain’.

john-and-bridget-marriage-2
Second marriage ceremony of John Dillon and Bridget Bain 13 Feb 1877 in Cygnet. [On microfilm at State Library of Tasmania, also accessible via Familysearch and Tasmania Names websites.
A quick search finds four women of this name in Tasmania in the correct decade.  One was a convict who arrived in 1842 and is too old to be my three times great grandmother. Another arrived in 1857 so was not present at the time of our Bridget’s first marriage.  This leaves two options, both of them Irish girls who came out under assisted immigration scheme. Both of them are written in the shipping records as ‘Biddy Behan’.  One arrived in Dec 1854 on the William Hammond from Kildare, the other in Feb 1855 on the Fortitude from Kerry.

Both were Roman Catholic, both were 18 years of age. Neither could read or write. Each came over to be a general servant.  It is very hard to pick between them.   The girl from Kildare had ‘no friends’ and upon arrival was hired by a Mrs James.  The girl from Kerry was sponsored to the state of Tasmania by a man named Denis Sweeney.  Here lies the possible clue.

At first, I had great hopes for Biddy Behan from Kerry.  Everything fitted! John Dillane came from the Kerry/Limerick border so she might have been a girl from home.  Then I tracked Denis Sweeney and lo and behold, he was a convict transported on the Lord Dalhousie, the same ship as John Dillane!  Could it really be more conclusive?  Denis Sweeney was transported with his brother John.  They ended up in Westbury where John Sweeney married convict Ellen Behane.  Biddy Behan(e) from Kerry was the little sister of Ellen Behane.  It was perfect!

But no. Biddy Behane from Kerry was married at Westbury on 23 April 1857 to Jeremiah McAuliffe.  John and Ellen Sweeney were the witnesses.  Ten years later they were living in Oatlands.  That bird won’t fly.   But at least we have eliminated the options down to just one.  This does not mean it is definitely our Biddy, there were any number of girls arriving on ships without papers or born locally  without record.  If Bridget was easy to track, someone would have done it by now.  But this one Biddy Behan was now high on the list of possibilities.

Biddy Behan from Kildare left Plymouth on 30 Sep 1854 in the ship ‘William Hammond’ and arrived in Hobart on Christmas Day the same year.  The ‘William Hammond’ was a brand new ship. Biddy traveled on her maiden voyage with Captain Horatio Edwards. The common practice in that decade was for a ferry to bring passengers from Dublin to Plymouth where they would board the bigger ship to Australia.

Their arrival was barely noticed in Hobart. It was Christmas after all.

Dec. 25 -William Hammond, ship, 683 tons. Edwards, from Plymouth, Sept. 30, with sundries and 256 immigrants; surgeon-superintendent, T. Belcher Esq. Agent-Master (Footnote 1)

The William Hammond has made an excellent passage of about 84 days. Two births and four deaths took place during the passage. She spoke no vessels. (Footnote 2)

Biddy’s first days in Hobart Town are not recorded, but we know she was employed as a general servant by Mrs James of Brown River. Brown River is in Kingston  between Hobart and Cygnet (formerly Lovett), so this young girl moved to the right general area.  If John Dillane made day trips at all, he might have found her.

Map of south east Tasmania
Massively enlarged portion of a map of Tasmania which my grandfather used at school.

There is no other record regarding young Biddy Behan from Kildare.  It is very very likely that this is the girl who married John Dillane nearly two years later.

A search for a family surnamed James at Brown River has so far yielded nothing.  However, there was a Frederick and Jane James living at Deep Bay in December 1856.  Deep Bay is deep in the heart of Dillane country to the east of Cygnet.  If Biddy’s employers had moved with her to Deep Bay, she would have had daily contact with John Dillane.  He might have been her neighbour!  Frederick James was sometimes recorded as Frederick Jaynes and he was a sawyer. If this family employed a servant, she was probably paid very little and undertaking some heavy work.  Once again, it makes sense for the unskilled Biddy Behan to gain this type of employment.

Searching for further clues had not yielded results.  Behan was a common name in Kildare, as is ‘Bridget’ as a girl’s first name.  We know she was Catholic from the shipping record but not every record has survived.  However, Kildare has some early baptisms so there are possibilities.

John Dillane (now Dillon) and Bridget Bain (Behan) had the following children:

john-and-biddy-bigger
The children of John Dillon (Dillane) and Bridget Bain (Behan) born in Tasmania, Australia

There must be a clue in here somewhere but until we locate Biddy’s family we don’t know what that clue is.

Options in Ireland:

Best Fit –

Bridget Behan baptised on 8 May 1836 age 0, the daughter of Peter Behan and Eliza Scott, in Athy, Kildare, Ireland.  Sponsors were George Scott and Mary Whelan

Two other children were born to these parents – Eliza baptized in 1837 and Thomas baptized in 1841. However, there is a marriage in 1867 in Kildare, Ireland for one Bridget Behan aged 30 with a father named Peter Behan. If this is the same Bridget, it would eliminate her as an option.

Other possibilities:

Bridget Behan baptised on 21 Nov 1841 the daughter of Patrick Behan and Mary White at Monasterevin, Kildare, Ireland. No sponsors written into this register. Although this Bridget is a few years younger, these parent names are found among John and Bridget’s children.  Patrick and Mary Behan also had a daughter Ellen baptized in 1840.  Biddy just might have put her age up to obtain passage out of Ireland. 

Bridget Behan baptised on 16 Feb 1837 the daughter of Maurice Behan and Jane Conlan at Monasterevan, Kildare, Ireland. No sponsors written into this register.  

Bridget Behan baptised on 13 Jan 1837 the daughter of Michael Behan and Anne in Suncroft, Kildare, Ireland.  Sponsors were Denis Haslan and Maria Nowlan

There are more – many more, but the years begin to be distant or the parent names are distinctly different to our Biddy’s family.

Having searched to this point I have once more come to a grinding halt.  No DNA matches show ancestral names of Scott or White in Kildare.  With the new changes in FtDNA I am no longer able to search for ‘Kildare’, which is a huge shame.

So I’ll leave it here for now.  New records are finding their way online all the time.  I will just have to wait.

 


 

(1) 1854 ‘Shipping Intelligence.’, Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), 28 December, p. 2. , viewed 22 Dec 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8778578

(2) 1854 ‘LAUNCESTON.’, The Tasmanian Colonist (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1851 – 1855), 28 December, p. 2. , viewed 22 Dec 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226470777

 

Ann Livingston’s Journey to Van Diemen’s Land

 

On the 12th April 1824, the Glasgow Court of Justiciary met to deal with three months’ worth of prisoners now languishing in Glasgow awaiting trial.

Among the prisoners were our Ann Livingston aged about fourteen and her partner Alexander Stevenson, only a few years older.  The relationship between the two teenagers is not known but most likely they were either cousins or romantically connected.  Ann may not have had contact with Alexander since their incarceration but it is likely that she did. They might have had many friends to keep them informed of the other’s circumstances.

According to the book ‘A summary of the powers and duties of juries in criminal trials in Scotland‘ by William Steele published in 1833,  the crime of ‘opening lock-fast places’ means breaking into a locked or blatantly secured area while legitimately on a premises.  So this is different to breaking into a house where one is also trespassing.  Wherever they were, Alexander and Ann were allowed to be there, but they then decided to break into a room or cupboard or chest which they were not authorised to break into. The available details are very sketchy.

Ocean and birds
Ocean and birds from The Quiver 1864

 

Ann was just one of many women arrested in that quarter. Margaret Gordon, a ‘thief by habit and repute’ had been caught breaking into a house and  Maria Kelly was accused of uttering a forged note.  Margaret McTeague had been arrested along with her father for uttering several forged notes.  Margaret was five years older than Ann.  Margaret Bell was incarcerated for receiving goods from a housebreaking expedition by a group she was involved with.

 

Margaret Gordon was brought before the bar on the first day of the sessions, found guilty and sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.  Maria Kelly appeared next and was declared free.

This was the third time at least that Ann had been arrested and tried, so she probably understood the system quite well.  She was not called on that first day, but she and Alexander were the second case heard on Tuesday 13th April

There is a brief description in the Caledonian Mercury of 17th April 1824:

The court met this day at nine o’clock …Alexander Stevenson, and Ann Livingstone, accused of theft by opening lock-fast places, were found Guilty, and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. On receiving sentence, Livingstone exclaimed “I hope your Lordship will be in hell before that period.”

This is our first official record of Ann’s attitude towards anyone in authority.

There is little detail available regarding Ann’s time in jail, awaiting transportation. This was a time of bonding for many convicts whose lifelong friends in Australia can be traced back to the same ship and the same jail after their sentencing.  Ann Livingston and Margaret Gordon were soon joined by Margaret McTeague.   Ann Dunsmore, another teenager, was already in the cells with a young child of obscure description. Margaret Paisley, Janet Buchanan and Mary Little were certainly also present.  Most women had committed offenses in company with a male family member, either a husband or father. Margaret McTeague’s father had been sentenced to death.  Ann Dunsmore and Janet Buchanan had a husband also under sentence of transportation and they could probably expect to be reunited in the penal colony.

Ann’s jail report was not complimentary: a prostitute and thief, connexions of the worst description“.

The Caledonian Mercury of 11 September 1824 finally has a reference to these women:

Thursday the following female convicts arrived at our jail (Edinburgh?) from Glasgow, on their way to the hulks, preparatory to transportation, viz. – Ann Hunter or Dunsmore, Margaret McAslan or Paisley, Janet Gardner or Buchanan, Mary Little, Margaret Gordon, Margaret McTeague, and Ann Livingstone. They were the same afternoon conveyed to Leith, and embarked on board the smack Hawk, for the Thames.

 

Neptune ship
The convict ship Neptune.  Roughly similar to the Henry.

The women were transported to Van Diemen’s Land on the ship Henry.  The surgeon’s log for this journey spans the period 02 August 1824 till 01 March 1825.  Conduct reports for the convicts give an arrival date of 08 February 1825.  Ann Livingston does not appear in the summary of the surgeon’s log, however the log has not been digitized so I have not viewed the whole thing.

Shipping reports of the time all have the same brief detail, dated October 11 1824 at Deal: ‘came down the river, the ship Henry, Ferrier’ .   We know that the above women were all transported on this ship so they didn’t have long to wait.  James Ferrier was the captain.

On her conduct record, Janet Buchanan states that her husband was now at Sheerness awaiting transportation.   Ann Dunsmore says that her husband was already in the colony. The women clearly had some information about loved ones.

From the Hobart Town Gazette (“Ship News.” Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas. : 1821 – 1825) 11 Feb 1825: 2. accessed Web. 21 Feb 2016 )

SHIP NEWS

Arrived on Wednesday from England, the ship Henry, Captain Ferrier, with 79 female prisoners, who have 10 children, and 25 free women, with 23 children, the latter having been sent out at the expense of Government to join their husbands and relatives in these Colonies. The Surgeon Superintendent is Dr. Carlisle, R. N.-The Henry left the Downs the 12th of Octoher, and on her passage touched at St. Jago’s. She brings no mail, but newspapers to the 6th of October.

The Henry offloaded its cargo of convicts very quickly, keeping two convicts on board plus several of the free women who all travelled on to Port Jackson.

We don’t know Ann’s first impressions of Hobart Town. She arrived in February so the weather was probably beautiful.  The town was small, the treatment of convicts was still harsh so she may not have felt very comfortable.  Several of the convict women probably lost their children at this point, at least temporarily, with the children removed to the town orphanage.  They may not have had enough confidence in the system to believe they would see those children again.

The best thing for Ann’s descendants is that she has now arrived where the record keeping was quite good – especially good with regard to our Ann who soon made herself known to the authorities.

Mt Wellington from the west
West side of Mt Wellington in the clouds Jan 2014, a light rain falling. This was a different century but the season in which Ann arrived (summer). 

 

 

Ann Livingston of Paisley – her early years

FineCreamGin
‘Gin Parlour’ by the Religious Tract Society 1854 artist not credited

Ann Livingston was one of the many colourful characters of early Hobart and New Norfolk. As an ancestor she is a fascinating subject for research. She was probably quite difficult to be around, but her indomitable spirit comes through very clearly.

Her earliest days are still shrouded in mystery.  Most likely, Ann herself had no idea of her precise birthplace or birth year. The event occurred around 1809 in Renfrewshire in Scotland, maybe somewhere near Paisley since this is where we first find her.

The town of Paisley is an easy twelve miles from Glasgow.  In 1810 it was called a town. One 1823 edition of the Encylclopaedia Britannica says ‘The whole population of Renfrewshire amounted to 78,000 in 1801, of which Paisley alone contained much more than a third, and in 1811 it was 92,596.”  It was a region of growing population and shrinking industry.

At the turn of the 19th century the main industries of Paisley were agriculture, cotton and minerals. Many of the local families contained sailors and fishermen.  We can glean some idea of life there from books and newspapers of the time which might help to identify Ann’s early experiences.  The region was assessed  in 1811 for the British government by one John Wilson, and his report was published a year later.  In his chapter on new infrastructure, Wilson describes the region’s canal development as follows:

Paisley Canal
General View of the Agriculture of Renfrewshire 1812, drawn up for the consideration of the Great Britain Board of Agriculture by John Wilson

John Wilson undertook his contracted duty with diligence and attention to detail, but clearly his instructions were to identify and assess the county’s wealth and future financial prospects.  Knowing the future of Scotland and its smallholders, we can see the beginnings of their end in reports such as this.   After noting the ruined castles which dotted the region, his assessment is quite pessimistic.

Farmhouses
General View of the Agriculture of Renfrewshire 1812, drawn up for the consideration of the Great Britain Board of Agriculture by John Wilson p61

So just what does John Wilson mean by this?  Basically that the farmers are of too low a class to be worth better housing.  In another few pages he begins to explain:

FarmersThree

Finally, we have a description of the poor people of the region.

PoorofRenfrew
Wilson page 80

It’s a very impersonal and clinical description but we can begin to see the situation.  There were itinerant workers and families without support. The farmers were barely hanging on to their homes, the canal had failed to provide egress for trade and there was very little in place to support poor people.

Ann has a local surname. There were Livingstons scattered right across this region but they don’t seem to fit into a coherent family.  The Napoleonic wars had taken many men, put an end to a lot of trade.  Somewhere, Ann had a biological father and mother, but perhaps her father was a soldier and not present in her life?  Perhaps her mother was one of the semi-nomadic seasonal workers referenced above who became pregnant to a local man?  Until a baptism record is found we have no idea at all.

 

Paisley Abbey
Paisley Abbey from North West © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (creativecommons dot org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

After this very emotionless description, we can examine newspaper reports for more detail.  The following excerpts are a small sample involving events around Paisley but they show the situation clearly – people surviving any way they can, children left alone while the parents are working, regiments coming and going and the need to constantly watch out for fraud in every transaction.  This was the world for Ann Livingston as she grew from baby years into comprehending childhood.

1807: Alexander Taylor, [surgeon’s apprentice] and Matthew Smith, gardener, both of Paisley, were accused of the murder of an infant child. The indictment accused Smith of having taken from Agnes Kelly, on the street of Paisley, a female child of between two and three months old ...  (Scots Magazine 01 Feb 1807)

From the Caledonian Mercury 20 Feb 1812)

A number of disorderly women and vendors of base coin have been taken into custody, and sentenced to solitary confinement in the Bridewell (Glasgow).

Tuesday this week, the Berwickshire Regiment of Militia marched from Queensberry-House Barracks for Paisley.

A female swindler, of decent appearance, upon Friday last came to lodge in a house in Leith St. She pretended she had come on the coach from Falkirk and that her husband was an officer in the navy whom she expected to arrive hourly by the road.  On Tuesday afternoon the lady decamped, taking with her a large number of valuable items from the house. 

1812 (all from the Caledonian Mercury 16 Nov 1812):

John Cochran, carter, was tried for cutting away the land-fasts of a vessel moored at the Broomielaw, and selling them for old rope ….

James Crawford, a deaf and dumb man, was attacked between Glasgow and Paisley by three foot-pads, cut and abused very much, and robbed of a silver watch ….

A man in Paisley was robbed of ninepence and a pair of new shoes, which the villains took off his feet after cruelly abusing him ….

Two children in separate towns, both very young, were burned to death this week in singularly similar circumstances.  In each case the fathers were absent on business and the mothers had gone out to raise potatoes ….

(from the Caledonian Mercury 06 Apr 1814)

On Wednesday last, a Paisley gentleman left Glasgow betwixt nine and ten o’clock to walk home. On the way, three men sprung out from the Plantation west gate, one of whom grappled the gentleman by the collar and attempted to trip him; while the other two struck him with sticks over the head and brought him to the ground.  While in this situation two of them proceeded to rifle his pockets while the third held a pistol within a few inches of his face. Not one of them during the whole transaction ever uttered a word ….

And then, seemingly a long way off in Manchester, England, came an event now known as the Peterloo Massacre.

Wikipedia (2016) describes it this way:

The Peterloo Massacre occurred at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

At the time of the Peterloo Massacre, Ann Livingston was about ten years old. The event sent shockwaves across Great Britain.  Men and women from all walks of life united in protest.  News travelled and protesters mobilized.

 

Paisley Renfrewshire
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland By Sarah Q from Northern, NJ, United States (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
From the Morning Post of 11 September 1819:

In the course of last week a bill, with a mourning border, calling a meeting for Saturday of the inhabitants of Paisley and its vicinity to take into consideration the late proceedings at Manchester, was circulated in the above district. But when the hour of meeting came, three o’clock in the afternoon, it was found necessary owing to the inclemency of the weather to postpone, for the rain fell in torrents. The Meeting stands postponed until Saturday.

The Public Ledger of 17 September 1819 tells us a little more (much abbreviated):

The postponed meeting .. took place on Saturday last .. about two miles southwest of Paisley. The day was fine and the numbers assembled was great, perhaps from 10,000 to 12,000. All the speakers were dressed in mourning .. numerous speakers .. angry tirades on the character and conduct of the Manchester magistrates .. 

In consequence of what is not known, but all the town hall windows were broken and the mob had not dispersed at half past 11. The Sheriff and the constables were grossly insulted, and assailed with stones while parading the streets. A considerable number of rioters were taken into custody. 

The following day was reported as follows also by the Public Ledger:

On Sunday the scene of riot and outrage was renewed in Paisley. During the day a number of persons assembled in the streets.  By seven o’clock their numbers had greatly increased and they proceeded to open violence. The Sheriff Deputy was knocked down, kicked and left insensible. Many other respectable individuals were assaulted and abused, and their houses damaged.  It was found necessary to read the Riot Act and call out the military. The constables with patrols of soldiers searched the streets and the town is again tranquil. 

This blog is not about the Paisley Riots but since our Ann was in the middle of this event, it undoubtedly had a huge impact on her.  One letter writer of the time described the town as for the whole of that Sunday having a ‘very threatening aspect’.  By that Sunday night there were rumours of large crowds marching out from Glasgow to join the fray. Very few residents would have slept well that night.

The Yorkshire Gazette of 25 September 1819 gives the end of the story.

At Glasgow, a number of villains who had collected in the Green, with a view to joining the rioters in Paisley, returned to Glasgow after having been, three miles out of the town, joined at the New Bridge by a crowd of about 8,000, who paraded the streets for some time. It being represented to the magistrates that a riot would take place .. two troops were fetched from Hamilton. About nine o’clock the riot act was read and the cavalry called out.  About 100 persons were arrested and sent to the Police Office. 

The unrest went on for days, involving vandalism of anything made of glass, stone throwing and attacks with sticks.  Shops stayed closed for a week.  Eventually it  settled down, with the jails completely full and the military still out on full alert.

Flare-ups continued for months and nothing improved for those without money.  The newspapers are full of robberies, murders and abandoned babies. We have no idea what was happening to Ann in these years but given her personality later on, she was probably learning by now to watch out for herself.  These were undoubtedly tough and lonely years.

According to Ann’s later statement, her first stint in Paisley Jail was for one fortnight when she was aged about twelve years.  Her second was for eight months in the same place for housebreaking.  Hopefully a record will show up one day for these periods of incarceration.  After her release from jail the second time, she was aged about thirteen, maybe fourteen.

At the time of her third arrest in early 1824 at the age of fourteen, her occupation is recorded as ‘prostitute’.  Ann and 18 year old Alexander Stevenson, also of Paisley, were caught ‘opening lock-fast places’ in Glasgow. They were placed in Glasgow prison to await trial at the April sessions.

 

A Hundred Thousand Unknown Cousins – Another DNA tip

St John the Baptist Ouse
St John the Baptist cemetery at Ouse, Tasmania, Australia, September 2015

I grew up with second, third, fourth and fifth cousins on my father’s side.  That degree of kinship was an acknowledged relationship in our town and fifth cousin didn’t feel so far from the nuclear family.  We all knew how we and those around us fitted into the greater family unit.

This was the family view I had as a child.  With little understanding of history it never occurred to me that our emigrating ancestors left siblings behind in their home countries – or had siblings who emigrated to different continents.  My known family was quite unaware of the bulk of our extended cousinry (apparently this is a word) who had scarcely even heard of Australia.

As a counterbalance to this family experience, my mother’s family is completely different. Her paternal line is a two hundred year story of orphanages, boarding schools and foster homes.  The teenage orphans often met their future spouses through the orphan-care system, further compounding the genealogical challenges.

Ship

The young orphans even lost sight of their own brothers and sisters.  There are no family stories from long ago, no photographs, no idea whether people were named after earlier family members or if they were named by the orphanage staff.   These families travelled broadly.  Their orphan experiences left them unrooted and emotionally free to chase the work wherever it could be found.  They travelled from South Australia to Western Australia to New South Wales to Victoria.   They scattered far and wide, one child settling in the south and his/her sibling in the north.  I really needed DNA testing to help me here because these orphans as adults were also painstakingly law-abiding.  A criminal record is a wonderful genealogical aid but I found no such thing with these ancestors.

It seemed quite reasonable to me that I should know who all my cousins are at least to the fifth-cousin relation.  For many years, I thought I was doing well.  Then I discovered genetic genealogy and realised what a fantasy world I’d been living in.  I’ve said this before and it strikes me anew every few weeks.

At present, my parents’ profiles show the following matches:

DNA Match update

What does this tell me?  Firstly that through my parents I have 35 quite close cousins whose names mean absolutely nothing to me.  It’s disturbing enough to have 140 3rd-5th cousins that I don’t know, but much worse to have that 35 in the closer range.  Some have trees, most don’t.  Very few of these cousins are in Australia. Some have responded to email and told me they are adoptees.  Some have very good trees, as good as I try to make mine, but we have no common family anywhere within them. It can be very disheartening.

However, I have learned a thing or two in the 2 years since I first tested.

Don’t panic.  THE FTDNA ESTIMATES ARE A ROUGH GUIDE, at least as far as my own family is concerned.  For instance, consider the following four cousin matches in my mother’s profile.

DNA Match sample

The first one is actually now a confirmed 3rd cousin.  Look at those figures – 128.82cM shared and the longest block is 34.27cM.  A match like this really does belong in the 2nd-4th cousin category.  This is the only match I have ever seen of this strength among my random matches. I have two more but I put them there myself.   If you are Australian, test your DNA and find that kind of match, you are very very very fortunate!

Now compare it to the second one.  She is also a predicted 2nd-4th cousin match but the total shared cM is 49.07cM.  This is vastly different to the one above.  The reason she has this relationship prediction is the longest block – 30.48cM is quite a big portion to come down unchanged to both my mother and to herself.  Statistically, you would expect that chunk to break up.  But it hasn’t.

In my experience, with my own family, large chunks seem to be coming down from a long way back.  For my own lineage this is not a good indicator of relationship.  This lady has a very good tree and each of us have an ancestral line to the same little village in Sussex. Assuming an NPE (either way) at the most recent period of common residence would make her a fifth cousin to my mother.  Were it not for that long block, she would have been placed in the 3rd-5th cousin range anyway.  The more of your known family that you test, the more you can find which inheritance patterns hold for your own DNA.

Page break

The third match is a predicted 3rd-5th cousin but she only shares 35.06cM.  The longest block is 18.10cM which is a decent size segment.  I have absolutely no idea where this lady fits, she has not responded to an email and she has provided no tree but she does have a list of surnames, none of which match mine.  There are no locations provided.  I can therefore only guess, but I suspect she is around the 6th cousin level and the 18.10cM match has brought the prediction closer.  I might be wrong, but when faced with page after page of mysteries we have to make some initial assessment.

The final match here is a predicted 3rd-5th cousin but he actually shares more DNA with my mother than all her 2nd-4th predictions other than the identified third cousin. 72.60cM seems like a lot to me! He has been placed in this category because of the smaller longest block of 15.34cM.  The algorithm therefore places him here instead of closer.

Comparing the second match (49.07cM) and the fourth match (72.60cM), which seems like the closer relative?  His longest matching block is half the length of the lady’s, but I still think he will turn out to be a closer relation to my mother.  Unfortunately he has no provided ancestral details at all and also has not responded to my email.

This does not make FtDNA’s algorithm wrong.  It’s just that they are trying for a single best fit when faced with greatly varying inheritance patterns.  We can all work with this as a starting point, then adjusting based on the trends we have spotted for ourselves.

As a last illustration, here is my daughter’s chromosome 15 match with myself in orange (her mother) and my father in blue (her grandfather).  It’s identical. An unchanged 118.07cM across three generations.  That’s going to skew some DNA prediction in a hundred years time.

Chrom 15 3 gens

 

 

My point here for those who are struggling to identify relations is not to confine your investigation to the predicted range.  I’ve received emails from people who do this, in the interests presumably of family privacy.  If I am a 2nd-4th cousin match they will look for my ancestors in their ‘great’ to ‘3 x great’ grandparent range and not a generation further.  They will then tell me that it must be a false positive because we don’t share ancestors in that range.  But I might share 4 x great grandparents or further out.

The more remote the relation, the less certain you can be that you have it correct, but paper records can help from that point.  Remote DNA matches are good pointers, they give us clues about which physical record collections to search in.  That quite distant match can be pencilled into the tree with a question mark.  You don’t want to forget it entirely until it can be confirmed or refuted.

If you are only after close relatives that’s fine, no need to take this step.  But if you are about to give up because you can’t resolve the matches, please look that bit further first.

Don’t feel you are getting it wrong because you can’t place many cousins.  I’m pretty sure we are all experiencing the same thing here, especially those of us in Australia.   It’s a big big challenge but we don’t need to make it worse by focusing too narrowly. The more cousins we place, the easier it will be to place the rest.  It can’t be rushed.

Have  a cup of tea and take a few minutes to sort the matches in different ways.  If nothing jumps out, leave it for a week and try again.  Keep the surname list or tree updated if possible.  No pressure, really.  Something will come of it sometime.

cup of tea

 

 

 

 

Genetic Genealogy – A Forest Full of Trees

 

Tasmaniaforblog
Trees of all sorts – living, dead, standing, fallen, bushy, skeletal, rambling, well-defined.  What better metaphor could I find?

I have received four emails recently from four completely unconnected people, all of whom have said they are giving up work on their DNA test.  It’s too complicated, it’s too uncertain, it’s all just too ….  big.

I most certainly understand – I’m there too, for a few minutes at least each time I log in and see potential leads which go nowhere.  But a result is possible, and the last thing I want is for my newly discovered cousins to declare themselves defeated just when I am working on my own tree.

DNA testing has now entered mainstream genealogy.  When I first tested with FamilyTree DNA back in March 2014, I was getting a new cousin match every couple of weeks.  Now I’m getting about six new cousin matches every week.  Each week there’s a new hope that I might identify a connection, confirm an ancestor and know from whom I inherited a particular segment of DNA.  I don’t expect to know all my new cousins, but you would think I might get lucky with some!  After all, I have a big tree and I’m trying to be as accurate as I can.   The more tests there are, the more chance of a breakthrough.  But testing alone won’t achieve this.

Chemistry1900
Image from ‘A Text-Book of Inorganic Chemistry’ by G S Newth,Longmans Green and Co London, 1902 Figure 44 page 209

Genetics is a complicated business.  It really is an exact science but there are so many factors that the exactness seems to be hidden behind a random mess.  Genealogy is very similar, a complicated puzzle which resolves perfectly when that missing detail is finally located. Once the whole story is presented, we wonder why we didn’t see it before.

I’m going to give my tips for working with FamilyTree DNA tests, just in case they help someone.  People are different, maybe what works for my family won’t work for others. But it might.  If it does, the whole thing may seem less daunting.  This might take a few blog posts.

HeadstoneRebeccaClarke
After hours of searching a neglected cemetery, we found enough pieces to obtain a death date and a birth year.  Genetic genealogy can give similarly useful clues.

BEFORE TESTING

Why are you testing?  Just to see who is out there? To meet new relatives, break down brick walls, confirm ‘best guesses’ in your tree?  Or are there more specific objectives?  To find an unknown parent or siblings? To confirm that a Y-DNA match shared an ancestor within the last six generations?  To ascertain which of your great grandfather’s two wives was your own great grandmother?

If you are testing for a very specific purpose, you may think you have made this clear to all matches by keeping your profile blank – but you haven’t.  Others will just assume you have not gotten around to adding the details.  It’s best to post a message on the test profile politely stating that the test was undertaken as part of a specific project and not for general genealogical purposes.  Or set the test to profile so it doesn’t drive us all mad with it’s potential to break down our brick wall!

 

NASTY SURPRISES

Arrest
Some events are remembered but not spoken of.

Having the management of ten DNA kits, there has so far been one complicated surprise, two slightly awkward revelations from the 1870s and one from the 1850s.

Some of us know our families well.  We might know, for instance, that a neighbour is rumoured to be the child of our uncle the family black sheep.  If we know this we won’t be very surprised to learn that he fathered another child a year earlier.  This might still be awkward but it won’t change our perception of that uncle of ours. But if the uncle was a loving and devoted husband it might be more difficult to accept.

What if there’s an unexpected sibling?  The past century has seen adoption, war babies, free love, communes, and both sperm and egg donors.   Someone is going to find relatives where they shouldn’t have any.  That someone might be you and it might take diplomacy and great discretion to pave a way through.  Some of those unresponsive DNA tests in our match lists are probably a result which shocked the test taker.

DNA testing will provide the truth with no regard for cherished illusions. I have no idea if there are statistics on this, but the odds are slightly in favour of uncovering secrets. Those of unknown or suspect parentage are very likely to DNA test.

Forewarned is forearmed. Many people find exactly what they expected all along, no rude shocks at all.

 

WHO ARE THE COMMON ANCESTORS?

We all have our own ways of doing this part.

DNA testing matches us to our cousins but it’s up to us to find the common link.  My first cousins share a grandparent with me, probably two but not necessarily.  My second cousins share a great grandparent.

There is software that does this, but I made myself a table.  Manually constructing the table helped me think it through. This is my mother’s relations and the ancestors are listed from paternal down to maternal.  So to be my mother’s second cousin, you would need to descend from one of the four couples in the second column.

Cousin list

If FtDNA suggests that someone is a 2nd-4th cousin, they ought to have an ancestor who appears in the 4th cousin section at least of my list.

The more unknowns in this list, the less chance of identifying matches.  But the list still helps. Every few months I can update a name in here.

 

WHERE ARE THEY FROM?

Location is everything.  Here is one branch of my ancestry, one with multiple records and confirmed DNA matches.

Regions

I might not have any matches who share an ancestor surnamed Wookey, but I might have several who have ancestors from West Harptree.  If I can’t find any common ancestor this is the next thing to look at.  West Harptree was a little village and after several generations most of the inhabitants were some degree of relation to each other.  This means they all shared DNA.  If a proposed 5th cousin has ancestry in West Harptree, we probably need to look in that location and go back a few more generations.

The same holds true for Fermoy, Cork, Ireland.  The Peards, Gumbletons, Woodleys, Conners and Leahys married into each other’s families for three centuries.  If someone has an ancestor from Fermoy – or more specifically Castlelyons or Mitchelstown – then we have a 75% chance of a match there, maybe higher.  Finding it may take us back more generations than expected because of the many cousin marriages, but it’s probably there.

It helps enormously to put the location on FtDNA with the test kit.  Names are good but locations are – as I said – EVERYTHING.  ‘Unknown’ from East Harptree finds a DNA match much faster than ‘Samuel Wookey’ from nowhere specific.

IT’S A SLOW PROCESS

Genealogical research for most of us in ongoing.  We learn new facts all the time, we learn new name spellings, find more children, realise we took a wife’s name from an incorrect source, discover that the eldest son was born before the parents could possibly have met.  This is the way of research and not a problem.   As a result, people might have their trees wrong.  We might, our matches might.  That information just might get corrected as more records are digitized or the tree owner finally gets to make that trip to the ancestral home.  We might convince a cousin to test with spectacular results, or we might just have to sit for a year or two as remote matches trickle into our match list, waiting for the one. It’s a bit like the old idea of marriage, going through life trying to make oneself perfect so when we meet the one, we will be properly attractive to them.

What we do here is very similar, but the one is now that person with the right DNA who also holds the family bible/oral history/photo album that can confirm a connection which has eluded everyone else.  We all know they are out there – it keeps us going.  When their test shows up in our match list we’ll have that Eureka moment.

Maybe that person exists, maybe they don’t.  All we can do is work on our own trees and provide enough information to assist but not obfuscate.

We can do it!

ORderly trees
A nicely defined row of trees at Osterley Sept 2015