Straightening Out the Family Tree – Eyles and Rawlinson

Ancestor home outside  the rural township National Park Tasmania
House outside the rural township of National Park Tasmania, the residence of a direct ancestor.  A good indication of lifestyle and environment in this region. Photograph circa 1944.

Every so often in family tree research, we hit rough patches.  Perhaps a war destroyed the records, or mass emigration changed surnames beyond recognition.  Perhaps a desire for respectability caused records to be falsified.  Sometimes we recognise this, sometimes we don’t.  I’ve just discovered such a patch in my own research, highlighted by the Family Finder DNA test.

I’m still looking deep into the cold woodlands of inner Van Diemen’s Land.  It was difficult terrain as I’ve said before, hilly and heavily forested without roads or any type of services. Babies were born out here with only the family around and were never registered or baptised.  If anyone died, there was a chance they’d never make it onto an official record at all.  You can find death registrations ten to thirty years after the event, required for a widow to receive the newly introduced age pension, or for a next of kin to receive a deceased soldier’s belongings.  It is very hard to know who was out here at any particular time.

I find it interesting that of the four family branches in my research, three of them had ancestors out here with no apparent connection between.  Perhaps more people moved through this area than it seemed.

Certainly, there were churches and pubs, but these were in the towns and I’m trying to track the country folk.  The best clues come from inquests and other court cases where they were called as witnesses.

Lane's Tier was a rural community in the highlands of Tasmania near Hamilton.  Article from Trove "IN CASH OR KIND?." The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 7 Apr 1873: 2. Web. 21 Mar 2015
An indication of the isolation of these communities.  Lane’s Tier was a rural locality in the highlands of Tasmania near Hamilton. Article from Trove “IN CASH OR KIND?.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 7 Apr 1873: 2. Web. 21 Mar 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8922227&gt;

In my last blog post I looked at the Daley family who lived in the Hamilton region.  Owen Daley married Susan Triffitt in 1859 when she was already eight months pregnant with Isaac.  Isaac then married his first cousin Maria Triffitt in 1878 when her twins were already one year old.  The twins were named Sidney and Fleetwood.  Sidney Daley then married Fannie Elizabeth Rawlinson in Ouse in 1899 and their daughter Evelyn was our line.

Only I somehow never noticed that Evelyn was four years old at the time of that marriage.  The chances are rather slim that Sidney Daley was actually her father.  There’s probably no Daley DNA in our family at all.  There’s also a very good chance that this is the pathway of the unexpected X Match between my father-in-law and his known third cousin.  Evelyn Daley is in my father-in-law’s direct maternal line.

Fannie Elizabeth Rawlinson is a favourite of mine.  She was called ‘Granny’ by her grandchildren, one of whom was my father in law’s mother.  They remembered her as a happy lady who gave them sweets and made a house feel like a home. In the only photograph of her that I have seen, she is smiling and the smile looks habitual.  Her own education was minimal but she could read and write.  In later years she moved into the suburbs of Hobart.  She passed away in 1953.

Headstone of Fanny Elizabeth Daley with permission from GravesofTasmania http://gravesoftas.com.au/home%20page.htm
Headstone of Fannie (Fanny) Elizabeth Daley displayed with permission from Gravesites of Tasmania http://gravesoftas.com.au/home%20page.htm

The Rawlinson family has always interested me, but I still don’t quite understand them.  They were intelligent and enterprising but never quite got ahead.

The earliest I have ascertained with certainty is one Peter Rawlinson, born in Stockport, Cheshire, England in early 1811. He was the base born son of Alice Rawlinson and I don’t know what happened to her.  Since Peter was born in Cheshire and was still there for the 1841 census, there’s a good chance his mother stayed too.  Maybe she married, or maybe passed away.

In 1831 at the age of twenty, Peter married Frances Oldham who was aged about fifteen.  Peter was a weaver in his early married days.  There was undoubtedly a child born in 1832 who must have died.  James was born in 1834 and Edwin in 1837.  Frances was next in 1838 and she was aged three in the 1841 census.  Alice was born in about 1844, after which Frances Oldham passed away.  At some time young Frances Rawlinson also died.  In the 1851 census Peter Rawlinson was a tripe setter with his own store, employing his sons James and Edwin.  Alice was a scholar aged six.

Peter hired a girl to care for Alice, and that girl was Frances (Fanny) Eyles from Bath in Gloucestershire.  At the time of the 1851 census, Fanny Eyles was aged 24 while Peter Rawlinson was aged 40.

Fanny Eyles came from an old Bristol family.  She was the daughter of John Eyles and Mary Sweet.  Mary Sweet’s ancestry has been traced back to the start of parish records on every side.  Frances was the fourth child in the family, the second daughter.  Her eldest brother was George Sweet Eyles who was nine years her senior.

George Sweet Eyles was a key player in the history of this family.

Description of George Sweet Eyles CON18-1-19 page 172 via http://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/
Description of convict George Sweet Eyles CON18-1-19 page 172 via http://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/

He seemed like the black sheep of the family.  He was transported for stealing a silver spoon but had been convicted before.  In 1835 he was sent to Van Diemen’s Land on the ship ‘Susan’ and in 1843 received a conditional pardon in a repatriation scheme which enabled many enterprising convicts to become settled and successful.  George Sweet Eyles was granted land at Ouse, out in the middle of nowhere in the wild lands.  Like James Triffitt of my previous blog, he managed to turn a seemingly impossible situation into something quite comfortable.  He built his house at Ouse and called it ‘Rocky Marsh’. He became a farmer, he saved his money and he sent back to England to have his family brought out – both his parents, all his siblings and their spouses and children.

Fanny Eyles accepted her brother’s invitation and headed for Australia.  With her came Peter Rawlinson and young Alice. James and Edwin stayed in England, being adult men probably with their own lives.

Peter and Fanny travelled as Mr and Mrs Rawlinson but actually did not marry until arrival in Van Diemen’s Land.  Their daughter Mary was born around 1854 so was already alive by the time of their marriage.

Marriage registration of Peter Rawlinson and Frances Eyles at St John the Baptist chapel in Ouse, Tasmania, Australia.
Marriage registration of Peter Rawlinson and Frances Eyles at St John the Baptist chapel in Ouse, Tasmania, Australia. Peter subtracted a few years from his age while Fanny was more accurate. 

I can’t help wondering who really wanted the marriage.  Perhaps brother George?  He was a strong and tough man, but family was extremely important to him.  He expected them to behave but he helped them whenever they needed.  Peter does not seem to have been properly committed to Fanny despite the birth of a child.

I have no idea who Sarah Eyles was, the witness to this marriage along with George.

Peter and Fanny Rawlinson only had three children that we know of – Mary born 1855, Peter born 1857 and Elizabeth born 1858.  A birth record has not been located for Mary.  Peter was born in Victoria and the family had returned to Ouse for the birth of Elizabeth.

The family is very lucky to possess a journal kept by Alice Rawlinson which gives details we could never have learned otherwise.  Alice became very close to her stepmother’s brother.  He was a forty year old man and she was a fourteen year old girl, but that’s how things went in early Van Diemen’s Land.  The ratio of men to women gave every woman a special status in the backwaters, even in the 1850s.  They were basically living as one big family anyway, perhaps it was inevitable that the two would get together.

In February 1861, John Foster George Eyles was born to forty one year old George and fifteen year old Alice.  There had been no marriage and it seems there never was, unless they travelled interstate for it.  Alice was the happiest girl alive.  Her two brothers James and Edwin were scandalized and came all the way from England to find out how their father could have allowed such a thing.  Their plan was to take Alice back to England and there was a confrontation.  Alice refused to go.  In the end the family seems to have split up.  James and Edwin left, their father Peter and their brother Peter seem to have gone with them.  Fanny can be found in Ouse a couple of years later with daughters Mary and Elizabeth. She moved in with her brother and her stepdaughter and became their housekeeper.

Peter Rawlinson junior stayed in Victoria, marrying Isabella Duckett in 1890.  Isabella was aged 35 and only two children have been located. Peter Rawlinson Senior vanished, but a death record in Cheshire in the 1870s may be his.

"THE MERCURY." The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) 15 Apr 1885: 2. Web. 21 Mar 2015 .
“THE MERCURY.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 15 Apr 1885: 2. Web. 21 Mar 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9103480&gt;.

Mary Rawlinson married Henry Stump, a rather wealthy merchant from Hobart.  They settled in Hobart and raised a large family.  Elizabeth met Alfred Morling, the younger son of another wealthy merchant and they had two children, Albert and our Fannie Elizabeth,  but he would not marry her. Elizabeth sought redress in court and Alfred was forced on several occasions to pay maintenance.

Elizabeth then met Henry Dawson, a carter, and moved in with him.  Two daughters were born to them, one of whom died young.  Unfortunately Henry also died, leaving Elizabeth a single mother now with three young ones.  Finally she found Albert Triffitt, a man she had probably known for years.  Albert not only married her, but stayed alive long enough for many more children to be born.

Fannie Elizabeth Rawlinson, daughter of Alfred Morling and Elizabeth Rawlinson, was born in Ouse and grew up on the property at Rocky Marsh until her mother married Albert Triffitt.  For those who read my last blog entry, Albert Triffitt was a son of Edward Triffitt and Mary Taylor.  Edward Triffitt was a son of Thomas Triffitt and Mary Scattergood, and so was the brother of Susan Triffitt (wife of Owen Daley) and also the brother of John Frederick Triffitt, the father of Maria Triffitt who married Isaac Daley.   Some people – probably the wise ones – don’t even try to get the family structure correct.  One day I’ll have it sorted out.

Fannie was aged twenty one when she married her step-second cousin Sidney Daley, who was (probably) no blood relation to her whatsoever.  At this time, Evelyn was aged four so Fannie was about sixteen when Evelyn was born.

Finding Evelyn’s father is the new challenge.   We know Evelyn’s birth date from her own memory.  She passed away in 1974 and wrote her date of birth on many documents, but no birth record has been found.  This research will be quite interesting.

There’s nothing like a DNA test for shaking the tree!

Life In The Hills – Triffitts, Daleys and Pearces

John Glover (artist) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
John Glover (artist) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the early days of white settlement as everyone knows, Van Diemen’s Land was a penal colony.  England was in charge, records were maintained and if we had an ancestor in Hobart Town we would probably find them on a muster record, a census or a prison report.  Churches were few and far between but most people preferred a formal ceremony for marriages and baptisms so a genealogist has a fair chance of finding a record, particularly if their ancestor lived in Hobart or Launceston.  Convicts who married had no choice but to take the formal route, if marriage was approved.

New Norfolk records start pretty early too, though the spelling was quite variable in those early days.  The first church services in the town were held under a tree, and the first marriages too.  Then a church was built.  All those Norfolk Islanders gave the town a hefty population from the start, so they didn’t worry about little chapels.  They built proper stone churches for a big congregation with stained glass windows, a large rectory and a close.  The Anglican, Catholic and Independent churches were soon there.

A proper, civilised, respectable town did not suit many of the Norfolk Islanders.  They were used to running their own show and had become successful farmers.  They were granted land outside the town which became little villages of their own, often filled with members of the same family.  New Norfolk had its troublemakers and problems, but on the whole it was a very pleasant and thriving town, and a popular day’s outing from the bigger town of Hobart.

The misfits moved further west.

By http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/dower.txt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Portion of Dower Map 1837:   By http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/dower.txt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Not only misfits headed west.  There was good country out there, for sheep, horses, cattle and hops.  Hops were big all round the New Norfolk district and there was good money in selling beer.  But there were also escaped convicts, bushrangers, people with mental problems and drinking disorders, aggressive natives and squatters.  There was a lot of frost and rain, steep wooded terrain, flooding rivers and mud.  People built their houses with and without skill, anything to keep a roof over them.  There were few shops, fewer churches and definitely no schools.

What they did have was Community, with a capital C.  These people were somewhat wild and kept to themselves, but in their own way they were close.  For the younger ones, it was the only life they knew.  On the map above, the towns of Hamilton and Bothwell can be seen.  To the west is the River Ouse and further west again is the River Dee.  The people who lived here walked or rode horses and travelled long distances to visit each other.  We don’t really know what they did. They were shepherds employed by wealthier folk, and bushmen and sawyers.

My father in law’s ancestor James Triffitt was born in Yorkshire in 1769.  He was arrested and transported on the third fleet in 1791.  He was sent to Norfolk Island where he married Mary Whiston aka Higgins.  Three children are known to have been born to them there but one died as a baby.  James, Mary and their two sons were then relocated to New Norfolk.  In 1812 in New Norfolk, James and Mary were married, which seems to indicate that there had been no formal ceremony on Norfolk Island.  In the register they are recorded as James Griffiths and Mary Higgins.

By JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Many researchers have examined the life of this man so I won’t go over old ground.  My favourite presentation is Nigel Triffitt’s Tribes https://triffitt.wordpress.com/james-triffitt-1769/  .  It’s a colourful account, but he conducted some good research and he was an excellent writer.   In summary, the two sons grew up and found wives.  In his old age James met a young lady and took off with her, leaving his wife Mary behind.  There was a bit of a stir in town, something even ended up in the papers.  James and his young Sophia settled in Hamilton and five children were born to them there …  maybe more. The records were scanty out there and we once believed there were three children.  The count is currently at five.

Given the awkward circumstances, we don’t know if the new five ever met their much older brothers.  We do know that most of them headed for the mainland where they went forth and multiplied in true Triffitt fashion.  Van Diemen’s Land was left to James Junior and his brother Thomas.

James was aged 20 when he married Elizabeth Barnes in 1815.  She was fifteen.  Thomas, at eighteen, was married three weeks later to sixteen year old Mary Scattergood.  All four of them had been born on Norfolk Island and had known each other their whole lives.  The families began in Hobart Town but eventually settled in a locality called Back River, not far from New Norfolk.  Thomas and Mary are my father in law’s ancestors.

Nine children were born to Thomas and Mary.   Their youngest child was born in 1830.  Mary passed away in 1857 after seeing them all grow up.  A year later, at the age of 61, Thomas married 18 year old Mary Carroll.  A further six children were born.  The Triffitt men never had trouble finding a new bride.

Thomas’s fifteen children plus his brother James’ twelve children, plus his father James’ second batch of five children, would be quite enough to cause confusion for researchers.  Many of the children moved out into the woods where no one kept track of anything.   Triffitts are everywhere in the records.  The ones in New Norfolk and in the township of Hamilton are nicely recorded.  The ones in the bush are not so easy.

Tasmania in the wilderness.  Many families lived with no infrastructure.
Tasmania in the wilderness. Many families lived with no infrastructure.

All the children had large families.   I’m not sure if anyone has produced a total of known grandchildren for James Senior, but it would be a big number.  The one I have been examining today is Susan, daughter of Thomas and Mary.

Born in 1822 in Hobart, Susan Triffitt was just a child when the family moved back to New Norfolk.  She made no appearance in the records until her marriage to Owen Daley in 1859.  Both Susan and Owen were aged thirty.  They married in Hamilton.

For many years, Owen Daley was a brick wall. There were at least three by that name, possibly more.  I have now identified him as an ex-convict, free by servitude at the time of his marriage.  He was born in Cork and we know he had a brother who emigrated to the United States.  He was recorded on the marriage record as a labourer and he could sign his name. Susan signed with her mark.  The witnesses were George and Matilda Young.  Matilda was Susan’s married sister, and George was Matilda’s husband.

By my reckoning, at the time of marriage Susan had a toddler named Johanna who was born around 1857.  Later, Owen referred to her as ‘my daughter Johanna’ but whether she was actually his daughter is not known.  Also at the time of marriage, Susan was very pregnant.  She married on 9th July 1859 and Isaac Daley was born 26th August 1859.  They were just in time.   There is no way to be sure that Isaac was really Owen’s son which is a shame because he is my father in law’s ancestor.   Emily was born in 1863 and Edward in 1866.  Those two are more certain.  Finally, George William Daley was born in 1875.  Did Susan really have a son when she was 53, after an eleven year gap?  It’s not impossible, but perhaps unlikely.

Johanna, the eldest, became the mother of two daughters.  Mary Jane was born in 1867 and lived for fifteen days.  No father’s name was provided in the register and Johanna was listed as Johanna Triffitt.  Two years later she had another daughter, Susan.  The father of this child was John Burris.  John Burris’s parents were the best friends of my own ancestor from River Dee.  It was a small world out there!

Tangled Tree by Roberto Verzo, 7th Feb 2013 https://www.flickr.com/photos/verzo/8454397955/in/photostream/
This is the kind of tree we are dealing with here.     ‘Tangled Tree’ by Roberto Verzo, 7th Feb 2013 https://www.flickr.com/photos/verzo/8454397955/in/photostream/

John Burris married Sarah Ann Squires a few years after his daughter was born.  No further record has been found of Johanna Triffitt or her daughter Susan.  Maybe George Daley was actually her child, maybe she left the state, maybe her death was recorded under another name.

Isaac Daley married Maria Triffitt.  The surname may seem familiar.  Maria was the daughter of John Frederick Triffitt and Elizabeth Hay.  John Frederick was Susan’s brother, another child of Thomas and Mary.  A cousin match always does interesting things to DNA matches.  At the time of the marriage, Maria Triffitt was the mother of one year old twins. The twins have gone down in the records as Isaac’s children, but once again I do not know for sure.

Emily, third child in the family, married Frederick Edwin Triffitt.  Frederick Edwin was Maria’s brother.

Edward married Elizabeth Pearce.  The Pearce family are another tangled tree of the Ouse region and I am not sure just where Elizabeth fits.  A daughter of Edward and Elizabeth then married a son of Frederick Edwin and Emily.  That son was already the result of a cousin match so after the next cousin match, I’m not sure how easy it would be to work with their DNA.   The matches would throw back several generations.

Twins are a Triffitt inheritance so a fair indication that Maria really was the daughter of John Frederick, and that John Frederick really was the son of Thomas.   Four months into their marriage, Maria died of syncope caused by internal haemorrhage.  She was probably pregnant.  At the age of eighteen, Isaac found himself a widower with two very young sons.   Six years later he found consolation in two young ladies, each of whom gave him a child within weeks of each other. This may well indicate the improvement in record keeping rather than new activity on Isaac’s part.

One was Isaac’s new partners was Maria’s sister Anne, his cousin. Isaac and Anne were married.  No doubt the family saw to that.  The other was Harriet Pearce, daughter of John and Sarah Pearce.  Harriet was undoubtedly related to Elizabeth who married Edward, but they weren’t sisters because Harriet already had a sister Elizabeth, who married my 3xgreat grandmother’s brother.  So there are complicated connections between my family and my father in law’s, but luckily it’s by marriage. I have not discovered what became of Harriet or of her son.

Isaac Daley, my children's 3xgreat grandfather.
Isaac Daley 1859-1935

The post is getting long and confusing so I’ll leave it there.  It’s very hard to know if the marriages occurred because the men were the father, or because the girl needed a husband and the family put pressure on whichever of their members were still a bachelor.

Yes, this is doing the family tree is really about.  These guys had a tough life with few resources, they looked after each other very well and I’m proud to learn about their lives and include them in the tree.  But what a puzzle!

Quiet Country Towns

Portion of 1837 Dower Map of Van Diemens Land.  Public Domain map By http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/dower.txt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Portion of 1837 Dower Map of Van Diemens Land. Map By http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/dower.txt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Tasmania, the southern-most state of Australia, is an island.  This made it a perfect location for a penal colony, and having a good sea port it quickly became an economic centre in very early Australian history.  In its Van Diemen’s Land days, Hobart Town was bustling and active and full of diverse characters.  It nearly didn’t get there, but after a very early period of starvation and desperation the settlers rallied, learned to farm in the new climate and didn’t look back.

Initially settlers were not allowed to come in without a letter of introduction, but soon enough the borders were opened and the areas of white settlement spread up the Derwent River, through Glenorchy, Austin’s Ferry and all the way to foggy, damp Bridgewater.  On the map above, Bridgewater is on the Derwent below Brighton.

The whole area is steeped in history and up until twenty years ago no one could take ten steps without coming across something from the past.  Ancient pathways, stairs cut into the riverbanks, sagging huts still known locally by the names of their early occupants, convict symbols in bricks, milestones showing the distance to places which no longer bore those names but were still known to residents.   Change did not occur fast in Tasmania.  It didn’t have to in the minds of most residents.

Things have changed.  I visited the state last year for the first time since leaving in the 1990s and much has gone.  Administration for much infrastructure has shifted to Victoria, to people who lacked the local’s sense of connection with their past.  Cutting costs and the requirement for legal compliance has led to the concreting over of ancient paths and riverbanks, the bulldozing of ancient huts and the fencing off of rambling riverside walks.  It’s a shame, but perhaps was necessary for progress.

Kellys Steps at Salamanca in Hobart.  Once sandstone steps which were wearing down under much use, now repaved.  Built in 1839 and still in use.
Kellys Steps at Salamanca in Hobart. Once sandstone steps which were wearing down under much use, now repaved. Built in 1839 and still in use.

Settlements formed where the land was good, sometimes by design but just as often by chance.  New Norfolk and Hamilton, both north west of Hobart Town, were early settlements (see map above).  On the north coast were Port Dalrymple at the mouth of the Tamar River, and Circular Head in the west.  The town of Launceston sprang up on the Tamar to service the port.  Very early on, a highway was forged from Launceston through the midlands to Hobart Town.  The Midlands Highway is still there today with only a few route alterations, and the original road can be seen at many points.

Inevitably, the Midlands area became a community of its own with settlers centred around the townships of Perth, Campbelltown, Oatlands and Kempton, with Bothwell established in the highlands.

To the north east of Hobart Town were the communities of Richmond and Sorell, along the land route to the Port Arthur penal settlement.  To the south was the Huon Valley where the foliage is dense and only the toughest and most hardworking settlers could make a start.  It was the land of sawyers and bushmen but the townships of Lightwood Bottom and Port Cygnet eventually established themselves.

Ducks on the Lune River in southern Tasmania, picture taken June 2014
Ducks on the Lune River in southern Tasmania,  heavily wooded banks visible on the far shore.  Picture taken June 2014

In a nutshell this is the history of Van Diemen’s Land, without the stories of the people who lived there and what they did. The state is very hilly and the rains can be heavy.  Unsealed roads were regularly washed out and the ocean swell became heavy. The whole state experiences seasonal gales.  The climatic conditions led to isolation in the towns away from the sheltered east coast.  While the villages on the Derwent – Glenorchy, Austin’s Ferry and Bridgewater – slowly expanded to become cities in their own right as well as suburbs of Hobart, the more distant communities remained small and insular.

Between 1800 and 1900, most members of a community married other members of that same community.  They were born within five miles of each other and the whole population lived within that range.  Even if they avoided cousin marriages – which were perfectly acceptable – after a hundred years everyone shared two or three sets of great grandparents.

It only changed in Tasmania after Federation, as the rail networks were established, and better roads and better policing came in.  My own grandparents’ generation was the first one to move out of their towns and take the chance of marrying into completely unknown families.  Their children were the baby boomers who moved off the land, or bought farms of their own choosing and grew crops of their own choosing.  They moved to the cities of Hobart, Launceston or Devonport.  Even into the 1970s, very few moved away from the state.

Kempton in the morning fog.
Kempton in the morning fog.

Around the small towns there developed even smaller villages, many of them formed through worker’s cottages on large farms.  Van Diemen’s Land did not have the squatters and cattle stations which are famous in New South Wales and Queensland, but it still had affluent farms which employed whole families.  As well as the farms there were wayfarer inns and landing docks on the riversides which became community centres.

In a small and isolated town further segregation was easy.  Thus it was that if you lived in Back River, you were not considered to be living in New Norfolk though the distance was an easy three miles.  If you lived in Nicholl’s Rivulet you were not living in Cygnet, if you lived in Black Bobs you were not living in Ouse.  For a while there, people living in Back River tended to marry other people living in Back River.  I have not picked these small communities at random.  Any Tasmanian reading this will know what those tiny outlying places have in common, at least by repute.

Tasmania has an unfortunate reputation on mainland Australia for its inter-family marriages.  I’d heard nothing of this until at the age of 18 I took the very risky move of accepting an interstate job.  I moved to Melbourne and the first thing my new coworkers did was count my fingers.  They were a friendly bunch and very welcoming. Yes, it was a joke on their part but it absolutely shows how entrenched the reputation is.  I’d never heard of the supposed incest rampant in my home state, or the belief that some of us are born with two heads and six fingers and ten toes.

The little town of Stanley on Tasmania's north west coast near Circular Head. Photo taken July 2013
The little town of Stanley on Tasmania’s north west coast near Circular Head. Photo taken July 2013

The reputation is one of those urban legends which can take on a life of its own, but certainly there have been cases of marriages which are too close – not only in Tasmania but across the whole of Australia and undoubtedly the whole world. These things occur in isolated communities where the education is minimal and the people are doing it tough, getting along as best they can.  There are certainly a few family names in Tasmania which genealogists might hope will not show up in their own research, but when they do, we have discovered to our relief that reality fell short of the stories.  Always assuming the written record is correct of course.

With all the autosomal tests done for our immediate earlier generation, I am about to take a closer look at the results and the matches.  Who knows what I might find.

My father in law comes from New Norfolk.  My mother in law comes from Circular Head.  My father’s paternal line comes from Port Cygnet and his maternal line comes from Kempton.  These four very distinct Tasmanian communities are ones I have studied in some detail.  The chances are very slim that anyone from this recent in our genealogy has tested, but if they have I hope to find them over the next few weeks.

Lachlan near New Norfolk 1992
Site of the former village of Lachlan near New Norfolk. Photo taken 1992

Trends in the Family DNA – The DNA Statistics

Children picture by Mary Louisa Gow from The Quiver 1885
Children picture by Mary Louisa Gow from The Quiver 1885

It has been a very busy week.  My final Family Finder test came through after an unexplained delay.  I now have the lot.  I still have one spare kit and have a subject in mind, but that one will have to wait.

The final test was my daughter’s.  She was very keen to see it, and a little disappointed that I would learn nothing momentous since I have her brother, myself and all four of her grandparents.  In a way that’s true, but there were many things her test would tell me that I couldn’t be sure of.

For one thing, she was not switched at birth.  She really is my daughter.  To be honest I was in no doubt at all, but you read of hospital mixups and it’s always an outside chance.  All four expected grandparents are definitely the correct ones.  It checks out as it should.

I was pleased to see that she has an X Match with my mother.  Unlike my son who got my father’s whole X chromosome, my daughter has a mix from my father and my mother.

My son and daughter's match in cM with close relatives
My son and daughter’s match in cM with close relatives

My daughter received most DNA from her two grandfathers.  My son received most from his maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather.   One day I’ll test my other two sons.  The stat comparison will be very interesting.

Having all tests through gave me a lot of housekeeping tasks.  I uploaded all kits to dnagedcom.com, redoing the ones already there.  I’ve started using Genome Mate so went through the kits there, importing new match data.  I’m finally free to look at the details.

Total Matches:

All family kits with number of matches. No column for close known family so the sum of the breakdown will not quite meet the total matches.
All family kits with number of matches. No column for close known family so the sum of the breakdown will not quite meet the total matches.

This was an interesting exercise for me, since it helps me assess my chances of finding matches.  I’ve done the ‘Are Your Parents Related’ analysis on Gedmatch for all kits and there is no indication of a family connection.  The four members of the oldest generation here are all from completely distinct family groups.   Can it really be that simple?

It isn’t, of course.  One of my daughter’s 2nd-4th cousin matches is the same person as one of my son’s 3rd-5th cousin matches.  This person shows as a 4th-Remote cousin match for their paternal grandfather who is my father in law.  He matches this lady for a total 31cM.  My son matches her for 42cM, my daughter for 47cM.  Yet no other grandparent has her in their match list.

One of the other grandparents clearly is a match with her, but the total cM is too small for her to appear in their match list.  If this data was on Gedmatch it would be easy.  I have spoken to her via email and I’m not sure she could do it without assistance.  She struggles with emails.  Computers are a complete mystery to her.  I’ve never asked why she tested but I suspect she did it to help someone else, who has for some reason not helped her with other matches.

What else can I tell from this data?  Well,I could surmise that my mother and my aunt have some relatives who settled in the United States, probably in the Colonial era. Their match numbers outstrip everyone else’s by a long way and the US is where the bulk of tests are done.

Finally, the X chromosome:

Our X Matches
Our X Matches of over 7cM.  Interesting that my daughter should have so many. 

How, one might ask, has my daughter ended up with such a high number?  I had only six matches to pass down, and myself makes a seventh. My mother in law had only 1 plus herself.  My daughter, I’m thinking, should have a total of nine matches.  The extra matches are probably genuine and have appeared due to DNA from two sides adding up to enough for a cousin match in my daughter. Those people also share an X segment, probably from a long way back.

Now, it’s time to go see what ancestors I can confirm, and what new cousins I might have found.