Finally, I think I’m a MacNamara!

For many years I have been researching my Irish roots attempting to bridge the gap in paper records through the power of DNA analysis. I recently wrote about my Sweeney family who came from the townlands of Rathclooney and Moyriesk in County Clare. You can read about them here.

From DNA matching, I have long felt that the MacNamaras, McInerney’s and McMahons must have had close associations with our family. I’ve been told that every second person in Clare was named MacNamara so perhaps it’s not that surprising. However our trip to Ireland in 2017 was to reveal more close associations to the family.

We had known from Mary Sweeney’s baptism record in 1816 (my maternal second great grandmother) that her sponsor was Catherine MacNamara. Who was Catherine and how was she related? Sponsors were usually close family members.

1816 Baptism of Mary Sweeney

It was in my discussions with Antoinette from the Clare Heritage Genealogy Centre in 2017, that she told me of a conversation she had more than 20 years ago with Joseph MacNamara who had acquired the landholding at Rathclooney. He had told her that after the death of Thomas Sweeney in 1960, the Rathclooney property had been transferred to Lizzie MacNamara and subsequently to himself. Who were these MacNamaras and how were they connected to the Sweeney’s?

Later that same day, we had a chance discussion with neighbour John Daffy who said he ‘barely remembered Thomas Sweeney when he lived at Rathclooney’. However he was able to tell me that Lizzie and Joe MacNamara had lived there together, he didn’t think they were related as Joe wasn’t ‘entitled’ but recalled that Lizzie may have been a niece of the Sweeney’s. Lizzie had lots of brothers and was the housekeeper for Thomas Sweeney who had never married. John thought Lizzie might have come from Drunmore but had lived most of her life in the Barefield-Ruan area. The final interesting piece of information, was that Lizzie and Joe were buried together in the nearby Clooney cemetery.

The headstone at Clooney describes a number of family members, most of whom seem to be connected to Joe. The entries for Lizzie and Joe’s brother John looked like they had been added long after their actual deaths, probably at the time the inscription was made for Joe in 2002. Joe’s parents were named but not Lizzies.

Clooney Cemetery, 2017

My quest when I returned to Australia was to research these clues more thoroughly, hoping to find our connection!

Ancestry of Joe McNamara 1914-2002

From the wealth of information on the headstone, I was able to piece together Joe’s ancestry back to his great grand parents Cornelious MacNamara and Nancy Keeney. (Click on the link above to view the extended family tree at Wikitree.com).

Ancestry of Lizzie McNamara 1897-1992

Identifying Lizzies ancestry was more challenging but eventually it was discovered that Lizzie was actually Joe’s paternal first cousin, sharing grandparents Daniel MacNamara and Johannah ‘Ann’ McKeogh! However no Sweeney’s were identified – how could she be a niece of Thomas Sweeney 1881–1960? Was the connection on her maternal side via the McMahon or Quinn families? (Click on the link above to view the extended family tree at Wikitree.com).

Gathering DNA clues

My first big clue came back in 2019 when I discovered a large match of 47cMs with several siblings of the Worthington family. I soon discovered we also triangulated with their second cousin, which suggested our connection was coming from their shared ancestors William Clayton or his wife Bridget Helena McNamara. This McNamara line extended back to Jeremiah McNamara and his wife Margaret Haiskins, of Clooney, County Clare, it was definately looking promising, but I was unaware of any of these names in our family tree. Utilising the Visual Phasing technique with my mother and her 3 siblings DNA kits, it did suggest the match was on our Cassidy-Sweeney line, but where and how?

My maternal uncle and his first cousin also had a small 13cMs triangulated ‘X’ match with the female sibling. Tracing the X inheritance path on both sides suggested that it could have been inherited from John Sweeney or Johanna (Enright) Hanrahan on our side and Clayton, Haiskins or O’Sullivan on their side. Being such a small match it could well be a long way back, further than any of the known ancestors we have identified so far. This ‘X’ chromosome match was also part of a small triangulated group. Another cousin in the group has ancestors from County Clare with names in contention that included Walsh, McInerney, McMahon, Clarke plus of course potential unknown females! Where did this leave us?

The information was very tantalising! My mother always used to say we had McInerney relations back in Ireland, but no one in the family knew exactly how they were connected. We also had more DNA matches leading back to the McNamara, McMahon and McInerney families in County Clare. One particular group of matches all went back to a McMahon-McInerney couple. Could these be more clues?

Combining genealogical and genetic research

By pouring over the parish records and other genealogical research of my Sweeney family I looked for our possible connections to the MacNamara, McInerney and McMahon families.

  • 1816 – Catherine MacNamara sponsor of Mary Sweeney, daughter of John and Johanna Sweeeny.
  • 1821 – Freeholders list of Clare, Canny’s and McMahons leasing from MacNamara’s at Moyriesk.
  • 1821 – Martin and Bridget McNamara sponsors at baptism of Ellen Sweeney.
  • 1824 – Michael McNamara, sponsor at baptism of Joan Sweeney, daughter of John Sweeney and Honor Murphy.
  • 1825 – Tithe record, John Sweeney residing at Rathclooney sharing 61 acres with McNamara’s.
  • 1830 – About this time, Michael McNamara married Mary Hanrahan.
  • 1830 – Tom McNamara – sponsor at baptism of John Enright, child of Patrick Enright and Mary Sweeney.
  • 1839 – Michael McNamara and Bridget Doloughty sponsor of John Sweeney, son of John Sweeney and Honor Murphy.
  • 1846 – Bridget Sweeney sponsor of Thomas MacNamara, daughter of John and Norah Sweeney.
  • 1846 – Thomas McNamara baptism, sponsors John Hays? and Bridget Sweeney.
  • 1860 – Cornelious Sweeney and Bridget Hogan, sponsors at baptism of Michael MacNamara, father of Lizzie.
  • 1860 – Patrick McNamara, witness at wedding of Daniel Sweeney.
  • 1871 – Honor McMahon m Michael McNamara. Lizzie McNamara’s parents.
  • 1874 – Bridget McNamara m William Clayton – Shared ancestors of McNamara/Clayton DNA Group, Chromosome 18.
  • 1896 – Lizzie McNamara born, believed to be niece of Thomas Sweeney. Sponsors Margaret McNamara and Peter McMahon.

  • 1811 – Hannah McInerney (spouse Michael McMahon). Ancestors of DNA match with triangulated X segment, also matches on chromosome 11.
  • 1818 – Michael McInerney holding property at Rathclooney, ‘life’ on the lease John McInerney.
  • 1849 – Eliza McInerney marries James Ryan at Tulla. Witness Tom McInerney probably a brother. Ancestors of an AncestryDNA match who appear in a potential Sweeney cluster.
  • 1855 – Margaret McInerney acted as sponsor with Daniel Sweeney to a child also named Margaret McInerney.
  • 1885 – Bridget McInerney marries John McMahon (date estimated). Ancestor of an AncestryDNA match who appears in the Worthington AncestryDNA cluster.
  • 1901 – Denis McInerney residing at the home of Daniel Sweeney, described as a cousin. Son of John McInerney and Eliza O’Grady who had 10 children. From their baptismal records it appears John may have had at least two other siblings named Margaret and Mary.

  • 1792 – Miss McMahon married John McNamara at Dronmore (where Lizzie reputedly lived), her father Terence McMahon.
  • 1811 – Michael McMahon (spouse Hannah McInerney). Ancestors of DNA match with triangulated X segment, also matches on chromosome 11.
  • 1817 – Patrick McMahon held a lease dated 15 Oct 1817, the ‘life’ on the lease was Daniel Sweeney.
  • 1838 – John McMahon (spouse Mary Canny). Ancestor of an AncestryDNA match who appears in a cluster with the McNamara/Clayton siblings.
  • 1838 – Michael McMahon (spouse Margaret Quinn). Lizzie McNamara’s grandparents.
  • 1850 – John McMahon marries Honor Hanrahan (date estimated).
  • 1871 – Honor McMahon m Michael McNamara. Lizzie McNamara’s parents.
  • 1875 – Bridget McMahon sponsor at the baptism of James Sweeney.
  • 1885 – John McMahon marries Bridget McInerney (date estimated). Ancestor of an AncestryDNA match who appears in the same McNamara/Clayton AncestryDNA cluster.

Other research yet to be completed suggests additional Sweeney links via the Mahon family and connections to Clonroad Beg near Ennis, County Clare.

  • 1800 – Circa this date, a daughter of Roe Sweeney married an Hehir 
  • 1817 – Daniel Hehir held a lease dated 15 Oct 1817, the ‘life’ on the lease was Daniel Sweeney.

So where does this all leave us?

Piecing together the MacNamara family

Based on consolidating all the clues mentioned above, the following pedigree image seeks to outline my probable links to the MacNamara family. The current hypothesis (after following the land transfers and associated BDM sponsors etc) is that Daniel Sweeney’s wife was a MacNamara (52Ancestors #11). Daniel and she would be my maternal 4th great grandparents. The MacNamaras are associated with the townlands of both Rathclooney and Moyriesk and her father was probably born in the mid to late 1700’s. Whilst we are unclear of her name, it is believed she may have been an older child in the family, one of at least 8 siblings including:-

  • Catherine MacNamara bef 1795
  • Martin MacNamara bef 1800, married Bridget
  • Jeremiah MacNamara bef 1800, married Margaret Haiskins
  • Cornelious MacNamara bef 1800, married Nancy Keeley
  • Francis MacNamara bef 1800
  • James MacNamara bef 1800
  • Michael MacNamara bef 1803, married Mary Hanrahan

Limited tree – only includes 31 DNA tester lines (as at Nov 2021). See Wikitree descendants list for more information (up to 5 generations).

Connections with Lizzie MacNamara

This hypothesis suggests that my family is potentially linked to Lizzie McNamara on both her paternal and maternal sides.

Based on what I have been able to establish on her maternal side, it would appear Lizzie’s maternal grandfather Michael McMahons mother was a Sweeney. If correct, Lizzie was a second cousin once removed to Thomas Sweeney rather than his niece. It also suggests Lizzie would be my third cousin twice removed.

On the MacNamara side, if the hypothesis is correct the wife of Daniel Sweeney was Cornelious McNamara’s sister. Cornelious was Lizzie’s paternal great grandfather. Whilst I have not yet identified any DNA segment matches down this line, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist!

DNA matching is providing clues on relatedness, however the close marrying of these families means that it is essential to undertake chromosome analysis to be able to determine how segments have been inherited by DNA testers. Extreme care needs to be taken when assigning these segments to ancestors, as they could have been inherited from multiple common ancestors. Many of our clustered matches who currently only have their results on AncestryDNA need to upload to a chromosome site to be able to contribute to further research.

The MacNamaras of Moyriesk

The MacNamara name is a common one in County Clare, however there is a well documented MacNamara family associated with Moyriesk. These MacNamaras were resident from the 17th century and can trace their lineage back to Maccon MacNamara Fionn – the Chief of Clann Kullen in 1379.

Could we also be part of this prodigious family? Only time (and a lot of work) will tell!

Very interesting that John MacNamara’s 2nd wife was a MacMahon from Clenagh!

Where to next?

It’s taken a lot of work just to be able to add Miss McNamara to my tree as my potential 4th great grandmother, but it’s all about one step at a time. Whilst the DNA evidence is not conclusive, it has certainly helped to be able to point us in the right direction and piece together these fragmented families.

I will be continuing my search through DNA matching to assist in confirming or refuting (hopefully not!) my hypotheses. I plan to create a Family Finder project at FamilyTreeDNA for ‘Rathclooney and Moyriesk, County Clare’ in the hope of attracting more DNA testers with documented ancestry to these townlands to connect more of the family. I will update this post when those details when available. As always, I am keen to find suitable Y-DNA testers for both the MacNamara and Sweeney lines. Please contact me if you are male, descend from either of the Sweeney or MacNamara families mentioned in this post and are willing to take a Y-DNA test.

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In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Elsie Ritchie for encouraging me to get a wriggle on with my Sweeney and MacNamara research and for helping to put some of the final pieces of the puzzle together.

Do you know more about the families mentioned in this post? If you are connected to any of them (particularly if you have DNA tested) I would love to hear from you. It’s the power of DNA that can help us breakthrough those brick walls in Ireland!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or by private message via Ancestry, Wikitree or Facebook.

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Featured Image: Green Tunnel, Spancelhill Moyriesk, 2017.

Establishing the origins of my Sweeney family: John Sweeney of Rathclooney.

My emigrant ancestor to Australia on the Sweeney line was my maternal 2nd great grandmother Mary Sweeney, our Cassidy matriarch, who I’ve previously written about here. Mary and her brother Terence emigrated to Australia as Bounty Immigrants from County Clare aboard the Roxborough Castle in 1839, aged 20 and 23 respectively. Their parents were stated as John Sweeney, farmer and his wife Johanna. Mary states she was a native of County Clare and Terence a native of Clones, County Clare.

The two led me a merry chase for many years about exactly where in Clare they came from. To complicate matters even more Terence’s certification was undertaken in Cork, why was this so? A visit to the grave of Mary Cassidy (nee Sweeney) at Glen Innes in 1987 had revealed the inscription ‘A native of Ennis, County Clare.’ Again, not much help, Ennis being the capital city of Clare, with so many Sweeney’s to choose from!

My Uncle Laurie was a great family historian and had researched the family back in the 1950’s. I inherited his papers when he died in 2006. Laurie had purchased all the possible birth, deaths and marriage of the extended Cassidy family in Australia. The breakthrough came when I found on the birth certificate of Mary’s daughter Margaret in 1859 a reference to her birthplace as Moresk, Clare, Ireland. It took some time to identify this as probably referring to Moyriesk Townland, a townland of just over a square mile in size, most of it located in Doora civil parish and about 77 acres in Clooney civil parish. Could Terence’s native place actually be Clooney, not Clones?

Moyriesk had been the home of the MacNamaras from the 17th Century. By 1837 it had been purchased by the family of Lord Fitzgerald and Vesey. Lord Fitzgerald was ‘in fee’ at the time of Griffith’s Valuation c1857, with tenants in Clooney by the names of Samson and Scanlan and in Doora, Hasset, Molony, Hartigan, Duffy and Symth. No Sweeneys to be seen. On researching Moyreisk I discovered a small county town in Victoria, Australia of the same name. This of course meant an impromptu excursion in 2016 hoping for new speculative research ideas! Funnily enough it turned out that ancestors on my paternal side were one of the earliest landowners in the district, but more on that later. Further research established that the town had been named after Moyriesk Station, a station of 43,200 acres established by John Fitzgerald Leslie Foster (Colonial Secretary of Victoria 1853-1854 and descendant of the Fitzgerald-Veseys), presumably named after the family estate in Ireland. This brought about renewed speculation whether other close family of our Sweeneys may have emigrated to Victoria and worked on the station.

When Irish Catholic parish records finally came online, it was Mary’s baptismal record that revealed the location of her fathers family as the townland of Rathclooney. How lucky we were, records for County Clare only commenced from 1st January 1816 and Mary was baptised on 21st May 1816. Her parents were named as John Sweeney and Joan Enright, with the priest indicating that the family resided in Rathclooney in the parish of Clooney. Catherine McNamara was her sponsor. There were no other baptisms for any other children for John and Joan (or Johanna), but they may have been born before 1816. According to the shipping records, Terence was said to be about 3 years older than Mary, so it is quite conceivable that there may have been more older children.

When we visited in 2017 we found the old church at Clooney was now a ruin. However the baptismal font from which John and Johanna would have had their children baptised had been preserved and is now located in the new Clooney church nearby.

 

There were no Sweeney’s recorded in the List of Freeholders >40 shillings of 1821, but John does appear in the Tithe records for Rathclooney in 1825. The landholding was quite significant totalling 61 acres, made up of 20 acres of 1st quality land, 20 acres of 2nd quality land and 21 acres of 3rd quality land. John was shown as sharing this with John Moloney, Patrick McNamara, John Doloughty, Daniel Hehir, Connor McNamara, Francis McNamara and James McNamara.  The tithes payable on the holding amounted to £2 15 shillings ¼ pence. 

There were 125 Sweeney families in County Clare in the 19th century and in 1815 there were at least 15 Sweeney families in the Quin-Clooney parish alone. With so many families of the same surname it has been difficult to piece the rest of the family together. I had established that there was a Daniel Sweeney living in Rathclooney at the time of Griffiths Valuation in 1855 but remained unsure whether he was a relation. Other tenants residing with him at the time had similar names to those recorded in the 1825 Tithe – MacNamara, Hehir, Moloney. It seemed likely, but we lacked paper evidence to prove the connection.

My DNA surprise

On our visit to Clare in 2017 I had arranged to meet up with Antoinette from the Clare Heritage Genealogy Centre. When we arrived she initially expressed some disappointment that she may not have found out anything new for me about my Sweeney family. However she went on to say there was a Sweeney family that might be the same one but she couldn’t be sure. John Sweeney of Rathclooney, had married Honor Murphy of Newgrove, Tulla on the 30th April, 1820. The witnesses at the marriage were Matthew Murphy, James Sweeney and Mary Hennessy.  Could Johanna have died soon after Mary’s birth and John married again? John and Norahs eldest son Daniel was the tenant who had been listed in Griffiths Valuation at Rathclooney.

As soon as she mentioned the name Honora Murphy, I squealed with delight. The name was very familiar to me having researched the descendants of their son John Michael and his family in Victoria, Australia. My family had a number of DNA matches to theirs but we had not been able to tie them together through the paper records. Excitedly, we compared notes about the various descendants we each knew about. I also benefited from a conversation between Antoinette and Joe McNamara (the former occupant of the Sweeney land) about 20 years earlier who told her what had happened to various family members. We soon pieced together the known family of John Sweeney.

John and Johanna (Enright or Hanrahan)

John and Honor Murphy

By the time of Griffiths Valuation in 1855, John’s eldest son Daniel was holding the property at Rathclooney and leasing the property from Stafford O’Brien (Lot 15). The property consisted of a house, office (shed) and land. The land area was in 2 lots comprising 9 acres 32 perches which was valued at £4 12 shillings. His house, situated on this lot was valued at 8 shillings which brought the total valuation to £5. The 2nd lot amounted to 5 acres 3 roods.  Daniel was shown sharing this with John McNamara, Daniel Hehir, Michael McNamara, Anne McNamara, Michael Moloney and Margaret McNamara. His share of this land was valued at 5 shillings. 

Armed with my map from Griffiths we set out to find the old Sweeney land. Looking to clarify our exact location, I approached a neighbour John Daffy. John provided me the final steps to find the cottage and some wonderful information about the Sweeney’s and MacNamara’s that later lived there. John told me the land had been split up into smaller parcels since the Sweeney’s time and that ‘the Sweeney’s ran an old country shop from the homestead, selling cigarettes. A Sweeney from America came about 20 years ago, but there are no Sweeney’s here now.‘ We found the homestead quite easily. Whilst the homestead and shop would have been from a much later time than when my John Sweeney was living here, it was a wonderful feeling to be standing on the same land my ancestors had farmed nearly 200 years ago.

I was also very pleased to be referred by John Daffy to the Kilaghitis Cemetery near Spancihill, where he knew John’s son Daniel, his wife Bridget and several other family members were buried.

Ancestors and family of John Sweeney

It was through the examination of the baptism and sponsor records of the children of John and Honor and the information from John Daffy about the MacNamaras, that I was able to continue to piece the various members of the family together. I concluded that my John Sweeney was probably the son of another Daniel Sweeney. Daniel Sweeney (senior) was listed in the 1821 Freeholders List for Rathclooney. Daniel and his wife (who is probably a MacNamara) appear to have had at least 3 children, it’s highly likely there were more.

Daniel’s father is believed to be Roe Swyney of Moyriesk. Roe would be my fifth great grandfather, he had at least three daughters and one son. The Irish tended to have large families so there still may be a number of children yet to be identified.

Based on the wedding notice of his daughter Margaret, Roe was reasonably well off and likely a gentleman.

Ennis Chronicle, Monday, November 29, 1790: 

Married last Thursday, Mr. John O’Donnell of Dunmore to Miss Margaret Swieny, daughter of Mr. Roe Swieny of Moriesk, an amiable and accomplished young lady, with a handsome fortune.

Burke’s Peerage also described his daughter (Martha) as the ‘possible heiress of Roe Swieny’ when she married Maurice O’Connell in 1791.

Moyriesk House, former home of the MacNamaras. Courtesy: Clare Library

Family anecdotes had always suggested a family connection to the famous ‘Liberator of Ireland’ Daniel O’Connell. After many years of research and with many thanks to my 6th cousin Liam (who has collaborated with me on this family since 2012) the connection was finally found. Roe’s daughter Martha married Maurice O’Connell in 1791. Maurice was a third cousin to Daniel O’Connell but an even closer relation to Daniels wife Mary O’Connell, she was his 1st cousin once removed. Whilst somewhat distant and only by marriage, I expect that the family connection would have been a very proud one for most Irishmen at that time!

Daniel O’Connell. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Autosomal DNA Connections

Autosomal testing has already confirmed a number of branches of John’s family, including connections with descendants of both wives, Johanna Enright Hanrahan and Honor (Norah) Murphy. Matches beyond third cousin relationships who only have their results at AncestryDNA have been marked as ‘DNA Tentative’ as they cannot be confirmed through ‘segment triangulation’ as AncestryDNA does not provide segment data. We have not yet been able to get back to the next generation so are looking for descendants of Roe Sweeney c1745, Daniel Sweeney c1770 and other children of John Sweeney to be able to compare DNA. The following chart shows the descendant lines that have been confirmed to date. Click here to view a larger image.

DNA Confirmed – Descendants of John Sweeney (not a complete tree)

Autosomal analysis has confirmed DNA through the following children of John.

As to the remaining children, this is what we know of them. Can you add to this list, do you know of other potential siblings? Are you a descendant who has had their DNA tested?

Y-DNA – The male Sweeney line

Our best chance of being able to verify the patrilineal line of the Sweeneys is through Y-DNA. My fourth cousin Torin from the United States kindly tested for me back in 2016. Unfortunately to date, we have only had two matches. Both matches indicate their oldest patrilineal ancestors were from Ireland but neither carry the Sweeney surname.

Whilst we have confirmed autosomal DNA on this line up to the ancestral couple of John Sweeney and his wife Johanna Hanrahan, we would love to be able to have supporting evidence achieved through Y-DNA testing. If you are descended from Roe Sweeney c1745, Daniel Sweeney c1770 or John Sweeney c1795 can you help us compare Y-DNA? Please contact me if you are male, carry the Sweeney surname, can trace your descent to one of these three men and are willing to test.

More DNA evidence

The ongoing examination of the family groups associated with my Sweeney family has allowed me to connect more of our MacNamara family. This combined with ongoing genetic clues from my DNA research has led to more discoveries which will be the subject of a future post. Watch this space!

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Do you know more about the families mentioned in this post? If you are connected to any of them (particularly if you have DNA tested or are willing to take the Y-DNA test) I would love to hear from you! It’s the power of DNA that can help us breakthrough those brick walls in Ireland!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or by private message via Ancestry, Wikitree or Facebook.

How is Thomas Paice of Kingsclere related to Silas Cole, the convict?

Imagine my amazement to find I am somehow related to Silas Cole – the Tasmanian convict! 

Coles Bay, a picturesque locality in Tasmania was later named after him.  Silas was known to collect and burn shells from the Aboriginal middens in the bay area to make lime. He often described the beauty of the bay to his friends when he took his lime to sell for the mortar to build the township of Swansea.

Silas was born in Chilbolton, Hampshire in England in 1820. He was tried at the assizes at Southampton on the 24th February 1842 and transported to Australia for ten years.  You can read more about Silas on Wikitree.

Silas Cole, the convict

I’m hoping someone out there can help me work out exactly how we are connected, my research to date is the subject of this blog post.

How did I get here?

The search for Arthur George/George William Courtney my maternal 2nd Great Grandfather has the focus of my research for many years.  Unfortunately, I am still searching for his origins.  ‘George’ is my mothers paternal great grandfather.  Along the way however I have encountered some tantalising questions about other possible relatives, Silas is one of them. 

In my search for George I adopted the following process to find potential matches that might have been clues:-

  • Tested the DNA of my mother, 3 of her siblings and a paternal 2nd cousin.  All 4 siblings and the paternal cousin have their results on FTDNA, My Heritage and GEDmatch.  Only my mother and her great nephew are at AncestryDNA;
  • Visually phased the DNA of the 4 siblings to establish the segments that belong to each of their 4 grandparents; 
  • Identified and analysed the segments that belonged to Abigail Courtney, George’s daughter.  Due to the lack of cousin matching, many segments can only be identified as paternal 1 or 2.  To date, the split between the two paternal grandparents Abigail Courtney and Edward Roberts remains unclear for 10 of the 23 chromosomes;
  • Reviewed all known Abigail Courtney segments to determine whether they came from her father George Courtney or her mother Abigail Paice.

Unfortunately, research to date suggests Silas may actually be connected via my maternal 2nd great grandmother Abigail Paice, the wife of George Courtney. So it does not help me in my quest to find ‘George’ but it has been an interesting research exercise!

How triangulated groups and clustering techniques have helped me identify my new distant cousin, Silas!

Firstly, using ‘segment triangulation’ I discovered a triangulated group of DNA matches all matching my family on Chromosome 21, segment size being around 23cMs. Visually phasing suggests the segment has been inherited by us from Abigail Courtney. Matches in this group also had a common ancestral location of Hampshire, England.

Secondly, using the matches from the triangulated group who had also tested at AncestryDNA I was able to identify a larger cluster group using shared matches identified via DNAGedcom, suggesting that both groups probably share the same common ancestor. It was from the cluster group and ‘tree triangulation’ that the possible connections to Silas and Jane emerged.

Click here to see an expanded view of this chart

Silas Cole and his wife Elizabeth Martin were two convicts who lived in Tasmania, Australia.  They married in Australia.  Silas was from Hampshire England, whilst Jane Martin is said to have been from Ireland.   Given this and in view of the number of Hampshire connections I suspected the match was probably coming from the Cole side.  However, this is by no means certain.

Shelley Crawford’s ConnectedDNA cluster analysis provided more information. In the AncestryDNA cluster below, TB is a match who appeared in both the triangulated group on Chromosome 21 as well as matching in the AncestryDNA ‘Cole’ cluster. TB does not have any known Cole ancestors, but connects to our family on the Paice line. A key match connecting the Paice and Cole groups in the AncestryDNA cluster is JG who sadly has not responded to messages and has a very limited tree on Ancestry.

Another match in the triangulated group on Chromosome 21 is shown as * on the 23andMe cluster diagram below. This person is an outlier on this cluster of 45 matches mainly in the same area of Chromosome 6. Based on visual phasing these are probably also Courtney-Paice segments. Matches in this group warrant further investigation as they may provide additional clues.

Shelley Crawford Cluster Analysis

Ancestral origins of Silas Cole and his wife

This is what we know about the ancestors of Silas. So far, we don’t have much information regarding his paternal Cole line. I have also researched his wife Jane Martin, but have been unable to ascertain her origins in Ireland, although some researchers suggest she may have been from Cork (click the embeddable family tree link below for more information on Wikitree).

Ancestors of Silas Cole updated live from WikiTree

Two matches in the AncestryDNA cluster (uncle/niece) trace their line back to Martha HADEN who married William CARTER at Chilbolton in 1815, however no father was listed on Martha’s baptism. Samuel COLE born 1770 marries her mother Jane LADEN or HAYDEN five years after Martha was born. The couple goes on to have at least 6 more children together. So perhaps Samuel was also the father of Martha? If so, then our connection may well be on Silas’ paternal Cole line.

Paice connections within the Triangulated Group

After several years of researching the members of the triangulated group on Chromosome 21, the research points to our shared ancestors being Jonathon PAICE b1746 and his wife Elizabeth SKEAT, my maternal 5th great grandparents. Others in the group also share Jonathons parents Thomas PAICE (52Ancestors #9) born c1716 and his wife Elizabeth, my maternal 6th great grandparents. This suggests the segment on chromosome 21 was inherited by my family from Jonathon PAICE b1746. Another match in the AncestryDNA C21 cluster also shares Thomas and Elizabeth. On Chromosome 15 there is yet another match sharing Jonathon and his wife, further supporting this conclusion. If the analysis is correct, my relationship to most of the matches in the triangulated group is 7th cousin.

Click here to see an expanded view of this chart

So how does this Paice family connect to the Cole family? Could Thomas’ wife Elizabeth whose maiden name is unknown be a clue? Thomas Paice was born before 1708 and there is a big gap in the documented genealogy for Silas with his oldest documented ancestor on his mothers side b1741. However if Samuel Cole 1770 comes from the same Cole family as Silas then perhaps we need to be further exploring Silas’ paternal line.

Chilbolton and Barton Stacey parishes

Research of the Chilbolton and adjacent Barton Stacey parishes revealed both the Paice and Courtney names were common. Some of the early records include:-

  • 1787 – Elizabeth PAICE (daughter of James and Sarah Paice) married James BALL in Barton Stacey
  • 1799 – Mary PAICE (daughter of James and Sarah Paice) married William BATT at Barton Stacey

Whilst the Ball surname is a common occurrence in my DNA matches, it is Mary PAICE who is of most interest here. Her son James BATT, a farm labourer of Barton Stacey, was tried on 11 July 1837 for stealing a sheep belonging to William COURTNEY and transported for life to Van Diemen’s Land in 1838, leaving his wife and seven children in Barton Stacey.

The Courtneys of Barton Stacey have been of interest to me for many years as they are possibly connected to my HINXMAN and PAICE families. Could this be a reference to the William COURTNEY, gentleman, of Barton Stacey whose son was named Jacob Hinxman COURTNEY? I have always wondered if this family was connected somehow to my missing Arthur George/George William Courtney. Was there was some familial connection to Thomas HINXMAN b1711, the 2nd great grandfather of Abigail PAICE and father in law of Jonathon PAICE. Hinxman is such an unusual name. By 1881 Jacobs daughter Elizabeth Courtney BOUND has servants by the name of JOYCE; and Kate PAICE (Abigail’s half niece) is living nearby and working as a servant in a JOYCE household! Elizabeth’s son is named Arthur Courtney BOUND, but born in 1879 so too young to be my missing Arthur (George?) Courtney! All too many co-incidences I fear!

Interestingly, we have a cluster of AncestryDNA matches from Tasmania, one of whom includes the great granddaughter of Sarah BATT, James BATT’s granddaughter, with a match of 23cMs. James had two sons also transported to Tasmania in 1846, William and Charles. James’ transportation was shortly after the Swing Riots of 1830 in which many in Barton Stacey and surrounding parishes were involved. This match is also on GEDmatch and triangulates with ‘SB’ on chromosome 15. SB is shown the triangulated group chart referred to earlier – this suggests we possibly have a connection via James BATT’s maternal grandfather James PAICE who is thought to have been born before 1745.

Another smaller DNA match of interest is to a descendant of Joseph PAICE (who later married Mary Ann O’NEIL), Joseph is another convict transported to Australia. He came on the Neptune in 1837, after being convicted at the Worcester Assizes, arriving in Van Diemen’s Land in 1838, the same time as James BATT. To date, I have been unable to establish his origins. One of Josephs sons is named Silas PAICE! No corroborating DNA evidence has yet been found for this AncestryDNA match, but it does sounds very promising.

Thomas Paice of Kingsclere

Thomas PAICE and his wife Elizabeth, my 6th great grandparents, had at least 7 children all baptised at Kingsclere, Hampshire, between 1739 and 1756. He was the son of Guilhelm (William) and Elizabeth PAICE. The parishes of Barton Stacey and Chilbolton are only about 4 and a half hours walk away from Kingsclere, so it is quite conceivable that his descendants may have moved south over the next 50 years or so. One of their sons was James PAICE who was born in abt 1742/3 at Kingsclere. He is the right age to perhaps be same person as the father of the Paice girls Elizabeth and Mary (grandfather of James Batt) referred to earlier. If so, it could connect our Thomas PAICE to the Paice family living in Barton Stacey, but the exact nature of the connection to the Cole family still remains unclear. Perhaps the answer lies in uncovering the maiden names of the many females mentioned in this story.

Map of Hampshire district c1830 – Thomas Moule

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This post is clearly only part 1 of (hopefully) a 2 part post! Do you know more about the families mentioned in this post? If you are connected to any of them (particularly if you have DNA tested) I would love to hear from you to help solve this mystery.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or by private message at Wikitree or Facebook.

John COAT: The South Australian Immigrant

John Coat (52Ancestors #8) was an early immigrant to South Australia, arriving in Adelaide in 1848 aboard the Princess Royale. He was born in 1826 at Huntspill, Somerset, England to parents Marmaduke Coat and Amy Hewlett. Two years after his arrival in the colony of South Australia he married Elizabeth Richards in Adelaide. Elizabeth was also from Somerset England. John and Elizabeth had 12 children together with many descendants. They are my 2nd great grandparents.

Image courtesy Glen Coats, taken from a memorial card

Early Life and Ancestry

John was christened in the English parish of Huntspill, Somerset on 22 August 1826 as John Cote, parents Marmaduke and Amy, of Coat Corner, Huntspill. The village of Huntspill is situated near the mouth of the river Parret, on the high road from Bristol to Exeter, Coat Corner being a small hamlet in the parish.

John was 13 at the time of the 1841 census, living at Cote Corner with his parents and siblings Marmaduke 20, Emma 15 and Caroline 10. His uncle John and aunt Elizabeth were living on the adjoining property. Both Marmaduke snr and his brother John snr are described as labourers. Coat Corner is very close to the village of Coat where we visited in 2011.

There has always been confusion about the spelling of the Coat name. Many variations exist in the records including Cote, Coate, Coats and Coates. These variations have perpetuated down the line and it has been common for descendants to adopt all sorts of variations. According to my mother John had a fight with his father and when he emigrated to Australia, as an act of defiance dropped the ‘s’. This story is inconsistent with some census records including the 1841 census which clearly records the name at that time as Coat. However, the old map shown above suggests early inhabitants may have gone by the name of ‘Cote’, consistent with Johns baptism.

It was always said that Johns father was related to the Scottish Coats family who founded Coats Cotton; as well as to a baronet, believed to be a French Huguenot who escaped to Ireland before settling in England. Cote could be a French derivative of the Coat surname.

James Coats was from Paisley in Scotland and set himself up in business in the early 1800s, founding J. & P. Coats Ltd in the 1830’s. I haven’t yet been able to connect our Coat line to this family and so far DNA results about the origins of the male Coat line have been inconclusive, but more on that later!

My mother always said that Sylvia Coat confirmed the connection when she contacted someone from the American branch of the Coats Cotton family when they visited Australia. Sylvia was the wife of my fathers uncle Charles Coat. Unfortunately, no records exist of what she discovered!

The French baronet story is likely to be a reference to the ‘de Cogan’ family who occupied Huntspill Manor until 1382. If so, the Coggan family are not relations on John’s side but are possibly connected via his wife Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother Elizabeth Coggan. The Coggan and Coat families were close. There are a number of instances further down the line where they come together in marriage, so anything is possible!

On Johns mothers side, relationship is claimed with Judge Jeffreys, known as the ‘hanging judge’ for his readiness to condemn prisoners to death. This is a doubtful honour given Judge George Jeffreys 1645-89 is remembered in history for his injustice and brutality. John does have ancestors with the Jeffreys and Jeffries names, but these are on his paternal grandmothers side, via Hester Leaker. George Jeffreys was in Somerset during the time of the Assizes but was born in Wales. Both the Jeffrey and Jeffries lines are well entrenched in Somerset and whilst we have traced them back into the 1600’s, not quite far enough to be certain of a connection or not. Somerset is very close to Wales so it is possible. Of course the anecdote could be correct and it may be on his mothers line somewhere!

Here’s Johns immediate family tree which includes relevant DNA inheritance paths – click on the link below to view the full tree @ Wikitree.

Emigration to Australia

Around the time John emigrated, South Australia was promoted as a place where ‘good health is in every countenance‘. The colony was booming following the discovery of precious metals however the prospects for farming were considered mixed due to the prevalence of both barren and fertile lands. Many however were attracted by the opportunities offered by a colony free from convicts and with good prospects of purchasing land. John may well have read this book that was published in 1848 outlining the potential of the respective colonies before making his final decision.

John travelled from Plymouth in England to Port Adelaide, aged 22, arriving on 14 June 1848 onboard the Princess Royale. At that time, the population of Adelaide was about 38,000. His future wife Elizabeth was already living in the colony having arrived in 1847. It is unclear whether they knew each other back in Somerset, but considering the close marrying between the two families it is likely they were acquainted. John and Elizabeth married at Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide on 14 Jan 1850, John signed his name as ‘Coates’. Witnesses to the marriage were E and Mary Gould.

John and Elizabeth had 12 children together, 4 dying in infancy. The first two children were William born in 1850 and Albert in 1851. Both their births were registered at Little Para, near Tanunda. Next came twins Marmaduke and John in 1854, their births were registered at Chain of Ponds. The first son named Thomas was registered at Tulunga in 1855 but died in infancy. The second Thomas was born in 1857 at Mount Pleasant with the remaining children being born in the Coromandel Valley at Upper Sturt. Emma in 1859 who died in infancy, then another Emma in 1860, twins Charles and Caroline in 1863 and finally another set of twins Elizabeth and Frederick in 1864. Caroline and Frederick also died as infants.

It is understood the Coat family had originally owned land in Rundle Street but eventually sold it to buy their farming land at Iron Bank, in the Adelaide Hills. It was there that they flourished as orchardists.

It was during his time at Mount Pleasant that John is recognised as the first ‘poundkeeper‘ in the district. Poundkeepers were authorised to impound unregistered, stray or unattended animals roaming across district boundaries. We visited the historic area at Mount Pleasant in 2009 where Johns contributions are recognised, together with replicas of the original Pound structures.

DNA – Autosomal Testing

A number of descendants have undertaken autosomal DNA tests that have confirmed the accuracy of our pedigree back to John and his wife Elizabeth through four of their children – siblings Thomas, Emma, Charles and Elizabeth.

So far there is only one small triangulated DNA match that confirms his ancestry back to Marmaduke and Amy. More matches are needed to increase the confidence level that both Johns parents are correct. If you are a descendant and have had your autosomal DNA tested, please contact me so we can include your results in this analysis.

DNA – Y-DNA Testing

Y-DNA is passed down from fathers to sons and testing provides information on the origins of the patrilineal line. Extensive Y-DNA testing (including the Big-Y) has been undertaken for the Coat line thanks to two male cousins, results indicating Johns haplogroup is R-Y82698. So far, results from the Australian Branch have been consistent, confirming the male Coat line back to our immigrant ancestor John COAT. Beyond John however remains unconfirmed. Our closest matches are to two families from the United States, who descend from Henry Bennett c1629 of Ipswich, Massachusetts and John Locke c1695 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania respectively. What is our connection to these families? Are we Bennett or Lockes or should their name be Coat? We have established a project at FamilyTreeDNA to help answer this question – Bristol Channel DNA Study.

The Y-DNA signature of our line is unusual compared to most of the other Coat families from Somerset, having marker DYS393 = 12. This marker has a very low mutation rate and is believed to suggest roots in the Anglo-Scottish Border region. Many of those with the DYS393=12 marker also have blood type B (consistent with my father). Some suggest this marker may have first appeared in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, hence its prevalence along the Scottish border. Given its uniqueness, consideration is being given to the creation of a new Y-DNA haplogroup for those with the DYS393=12 marker.

A study by Tyrone Bowes in 2014 predicted the paternal ancestral homeland of our genetic Bennett, Coat and Locke group was probably centred upon the town of Burnham on Sea, just 8 kms from Huntspill. It is in close proximity to the villages of Coat and Curry Rivel where many others carrying the Coat surname lived.

visionofbritain.org.uk

In about 1606/7 there was a tsunami like flood event at Burnham-On-Sea causing the sea bank to break with 30 villages being utterly inundated, their cattle destroyed and many people died. Could our family have moved further inland at this time?

Most of those participating in the Coats Y-DNA study trace their ancestry back to Henry Coate 1595-1662 of Hambridge, Curry Rivel, Somerset. Our Y-DNA kits don’t match descendants of Henry, but there is another Australian Coate line closely associated with the Coggan family who does! George Coggan Coate emigrated to Victoria some time between 1859-1862. He is my 2nd cousin 4 times removed, a cousin on Elizabeth Richards’ side (John’s wife) via her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Coggan. Y-DNA matches at 111 markers between an Australian descendant of George with many US participants in the Coats Y-DNA project recently enabled them to get ‘across the pond‘ and confirm their genetic connection to their Somerset ancestor. George also has ancestors that marry into the Locke family, going back to a John Locke living at Combe Florey Somerset in 1623, probably born before 1600. Given the closeness of all these families – could this be our connection somehow?

But what about the Coats cotton people? The suggestion that our line may have originated in Britain from the time of the Roman invasion gives greater credence to a connection with Scotland, perhaps different branches moved north and south over time?

In the 1840’s the company J. & P. Coats was prospering, selling high quality sewing cotton around the world. According to their website they began sending members of their families to America to act as selling agents, whilst not specifically stated it is presumed the photograph below is of their family. Why are there no descendants from this line in our Y-DNA study? Could these people be related to me somehow? If you can identify any of them I would love to hear from you! If you are a male descendant of this Scottish Coats family carrying the Coats surname (or variant) and are willing to undertake a Y-DNA test, please contact me to help rule this theory in or out!

DNA – mtDNA Testing

We don’t yet know the mtDNA haplogroup for John, he would have inherited his mtDNA from his mother Amy Hewlett but as a male he does not pass it on to his children. So, we are looking for a descendant from one of Amy’s daughters who is descended via all female lines (Amy’s daughter’s, daughters, daughter etc) to help identify his mtDNA to aid further research. If you think you meet this criteria and are willing to undertake a DNA test, please contact me! Known descendants of Amy can be found on Wikitree, but please be aware this is not a complete list.

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As always, please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or via private message at Wikitree or Facebook if you can help with this research, or are interested in more information.

Reuniting the Britton family, our ‘unnamed’ Patriarch

It’s been a long journey since I first started researching my Britton ancestors in about 2006.  I met my fellow Britton researcher Ruth online in 2009 striking up a friendship across the world where we have collaborated for over a decade.  We have always felt that all the Brittons born in Fermanagh Ireland in mid-late 1700’s were related but lacked a paper trail to be able to confirm it.  I did my first DNA test in 2010, followed by Ruth in 2014.  It has been through autosomal DNA testing that we have finally been able to make some breakthroughs!

I first wrote about my 2nd great grandmother Catherine Britton in 2017 when we were able to confirm relationships between my ancestor Thomas Cassidy who came to Australia as a convict in 1830 and his brother James Cassidy who emigrated to the US sometime before 1840 or possibly as early as 1828. We had several DNA matches with other cousins suggesting relationships to possible siblings in Fermanagh, Ireland but lacked DNA confirmation (refer previous blog post).

The only documented information we had about Catherine’s father (who I am calling our Unnamed’ Britton Patriarch – 52Ancestors #7) is a reference from a book about the ecclesiastical life of Father Philip Cassidy. When speaking about Catherine (the grandmother of Father Cassidy) it says ”.. her father was an Anglican clergyman who was a military chaplain for the garrison at Fermanagh in the North of Ireland.’’ (Source: Life of Father Philip Cassidy, PP Archdeacon, Benedictine Monks, Arcadia, NSW, Fr Peter Charles Klein SYD). Searches for more specific information have proved fruitless, although we do know that Ruth’s family were prominent members of the Church of Ireland at Boho and later lived in Tullyholvin townland. The Cassidy’s were also from Boho parish, but were Roman Catholics who lived in nearby Gortgall before being evicted from their land in 1826. Catherine and Stephen’s marriage was known as a ‘mixed marriage‘ and no doubt led to difficulties with relationships between the two families.

Church of Ireland, Boho

Tullyholvin Lower is also the home of the historic Linnet Inn. When my husband and I visited Inn the back in 2011 we were thinking my Cassidy’s may have gathered there but had no idea that Ruth’s Britton ancestors were former owners of the Inn. James Britton, the third son of James Britton and Mary Laird (Catherine’s nephew), was the first Britton owner at Tullyholvin Lower and established the public house, then known as ‘The Britton Inn’. The Inn was very different in the early days, more like a small bar. Now that we know these Brittons were also my relations, we were very disappointed that our return visit this year was cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 travel restrictions. If only the walls had ears and could tell us more! 

DSCN4391
Linnet Inn, Boho Fermanagh 2011

‘The Ribbon Informer’ was written in 1874 by Peter Magennis (1817-1910). It is an account of events that are said to have taken place in Fermanagh, starting in 1826 relating to ‘ribbonism’, in particular the informer Dominic Noone. It is believed to be mostly facts with some fictitious characters. The Ribbonmen were an agrarian secret society, their objective to prevent landlords from changing or evicting their tenants. There has been some suggestion that Stephen Cassidy (Catherines husband) may have been the leader of the local group of Ribbonmen (see previous blog post). Given Ribbonmen opposed ‘Orangeism‘ (the ideology of the Protestant Orange Order) there would have been tensions between the Britton and Cassidy families.

Ribbon society meeting in 1851

In the Magennis ‘Ribbon Informer’ story, the local innkeeper named John Egan, is described as a ‘seneschal of the local court‘, ‘of this village‘, ‘not a papist‘ and an ‘Orangeman who respected decency‘. Could this inn have been ‘The Britton Inn’ and a reference to one of our Britton cousins? They were certainly occupying land at Tullyholvin by 1825. It is perhaps unlikely that it could be a reference to the James Britton who established the public house, as this was some time later. Did they run another inn in the area before the one at Tullyholvin Lower?

When did Catherine and her family arrive in Ireland? Perhaps they came from Scotland in the 1600’s as part of the Plantation of Ulster? We know members of the Britton family were recorded as sidemen in the Church of Ireland at Boho in the 1700’s. Tithe records also suggest there were other Brittons living in nearby townlands including Aghaherrish, Lesky, Farnaconnell and Tober.  

In 1879 Magennis wrote another story called ‘The Treasurer’ which was about the Cassidy’s. It was serialised and published in the Lisbarrow Gazette. The events in both of these Magennis stories occurred within his lifetime so he may have been personally acquainted with both the Britton and Cassidy families.

Known Family

This was my Britton Tree in 2017 constructed from paper records.  We knew Catherine had a brother named Thomas identified from newspaper accounts in 1828.  Thomas Britton had at least two children, a boy and a girl and lived in a ‘snug little farm‘ at Mullaghdun, in the next house but one from James and Catherine McCourt. Little else is known about them.

By the time of Griffiths Valuation in 1864 the land in Tullyholvin Upper which included a forge, was owned by William Britton (eldest son of James Britton and Mary Laird), the forge occupied by Bernard Magee. A reference from Magennis’ ‘The Treasurer’ suggests that circa 1826 there were two forges in the town. The busiest one run by an ‘orangeman‘, described as a ‘wag‘ and a ‘newsmonger’, ‘whose nephew had papist sympathies‘. Could this be another reference to a connection between the Britton and Cassidy families? In 1826 the forge was more likely to have been operated by Williams’ father, grandfather, or perhaps even an uncle?

Other Britton families occupied land in nearby Lesky townland between Tullyholvin and where the Cassidy’s had previously resided in Gortgall. Mullaghdun however is in the Civil Parish of Cleenish, just south of Gortgall.

Potential siblings

Paper records identified a number of other ‘likely’ siblings of Catherine living in Boho Fermanagh (or nearby) in the late 18th century.  Their ages are only estimates based on their marriage dates, so they could be much older. Based on this information, it is possible there were at least seven children.

ThomasBet 1780-1800Believed to be married with a son and a daughter in 1829.
JohnBef 1785 m Mary HamiltonAt least 7-10 children, descendants in Australia and Ireland.
William Bef 1786At least one known son Noble Britton.
Catherine Bef 1788 m Stephen CassidyAt least 4 sons, descendants in the US and Australia.
JamesBef 1788 m Mary LairdAt least 11 children, with descendants in UK and Canada.
George Abt 1794 m Catherine LairdAt least 8 children, descendants in the US.
Margery Bef 1800 m William ElliotAt least one son Robert Britton Elliot with some descendants in Australia.

Autosomal Testing

Thanks to DNA we now believe we have confirmed the connections between some of these siblings and it is highly likely that over time more will follow.

We have now identified many Britton DNA test takers who have well documented pedigrees back to several of these children. Unfortunately, a number who have only tested at AncestryDNA cannot be included in this study, as we are unable to compare chromosomes, which is necessary to confirm ancestry back this many generations. However, we do now have 29 kits where we can undertake chromosome analysis, this includes data at GEDmatch (the preferred comparison platform), FamilyTreeDNA and My Heritage. Descendants of test takers, who may have also taken DNA tests, have not been included in this analysis.

As part of the analysis process it was necessary to compare the DNA results of all testers looking for matches on a common chromosome, in the same segment area, for at least 3 descendants from different family lines. Where this occurs, it suggests the group all share a common ancestor. This process is referred to as ‘triangulation‘.

The table below shows details of the identified triangulated groups, comparing matches by sibling group. The ‘cousinship‘ of the siblings descendants are considered ‘DNA confirmed’ if they meet the triangulation test. Where there are only two people matching on the same chromosome and same segment area, it is considered that these may be an ’emerging groups’ (EG’s). In these cases, another match is required to confirm the shared segment came from the same ancestor. The relationships for those in an EG can only be classed as ‘DNA tentative’ as the segment match has not been confirmed by triangulation. The DNA cousins whose matches appear in the table below are also shown in the ‘DNA Connected’ pedigree later in this post.

The table above shows the likely four siblings we have identified so far, Catherine, James, John and George. The analysis also suggests a genetic link to Jane Britten, she married Henry Brooks in Fermanagh and emigrated to the US in about 1819.  Based on her age she could either be the oldest child of our ‘UnnamedPatriarch Britton or his sister.

The DNA of our Patriarch Britton

By mapping each of these chromosome groups we are slowly building the genetic profile of our ‘Unnamed’ Patriarch Britton ancestor. The following chart shows the segments we believe descendants have inherited from ‘Unnamed’ Patriarch Britton (or his wife). The legend indicates the family lines whose matches have been used in the mapping process.

Click on the following link to view an expanded image of this chromosome map at DNA Painter”. 

These segments are scattered across the world in Australia, Ireland, England, Israel and the USA as you can see in the pedigree below. We also believe there are descendants in Scotland but there’s no confirmed genetic evidence of that – yet!

For the purpose of this chromosome map, other ‘potential‘ segments have also been shown to help with the ongoing analysis process. ‘Triangulated’ and ‘Emerging’ groups are as described previously. We have also included ‘Shared Ancestor’ segments – these segments potentially include Britton DNA. ‘Shared Ancestor’ segments are those where the split between an ancestral couple has not yet been determined, so the segment may belong to the Britton ancestors’ spouse. For more detail about the Triangulated and Emerging Groups and Shared Ancestor segments associated with this research, please click here.

Our ‘DNA Connected’ Britton Family Tree – as at June 2020.

The following chart outlines our Britton ‘DNA’ family tree developed from the DNA evidence discussed above. It is not a complete tree, there are many more descendants. Only DNA testers that have a confirmed ‘Britton’ DNA segment have been included.

To see the full sized image, please click here.

Ruth and I have been collaborators across the globe since 2009. We are ‘double’ cousins being related on both my paternal and maternal sides, yet we share no DNA. Thanks to all our DNA cousins we have been able to prove our genetic links on both our common lines. It was wonderful to finally meet in Enniskillen in 2017, the home of our shared Britton ancestors. With your help, we hope to enjoy many more exciting discoveries in the future!

Ruth and Veronica, Northern Ireland – July 2017

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NOTES: Ancestors referred to in this post can be viewed on Wikitree, please click on the relevant link to access their profile.  Sources for the paper trail and DNA confirmations (where they exist) are referenced there. Source material associated with the Cassidy family can be accessed here.

For the purposes of this study, only the closest DNA tested descendant in any direct line is included. Children are excluded as the DNA they inherit is less than the parent and does not add value to the analysis.

We have recently initiated a project ‘Brittons of Ireland’ at FamilyTreeDNA that we hope in time will identify more potential cousins. We encourage anyone with Britton/Britten/Brittain ancestors from Ireland who have had their autosomal DNA tested to join.  If you tested at another company it is free to transfer your results to FTDNA, so please join us!

We also have established a Facebook group Brittons of Fermanagh, if you have information you would like to share.

Please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or via private message at Wikitree or Facebook if you can help us with this research, or are interested in further information.

Edward Roberts – born in England or India? Fact or fancy?

Week 5 of the #52Ancestors challenge for 2018, had the prompt ‘In the Census’. It wasn’t hard to pick the ancestor I wanted to write about for ancestor #6. Edward Roberts, my mothers paternal grandfather, he died 3 years before I was born. This was the first photo I remember seeing of him, I always thought he seemed such a distinguished gentleman. Apparently dressed for one of his ‘Lodge’ meetings.

ROBERTS Edward snr b 1868

We don’t really know when or where Edward was born as we have never found a birth record.  It was said he was born on 6th August 1868 and this is the date that was inscribed on his headstone when I arranged for it to be erected at Rookwood Cemetery in 2009.  However, it may be incorrect.

His eldest son Edward Arthur Roberts said in his memoirs My father was of Welsh and French (English crossed out) descent’.  It was always presumed it was the Roberts line that went back to Wales and that the French related to his mother Ann ‘de Laundon’ even though my research suggests both sides go back in England for quite a number of generations.

The first record for Edward appears in the 1871 England Census, he is living in 22 Queens Road, Croydon, Surrey with what was assumed to be his mother Ann Roberts and two older children Arthur and Eldred Baker and a ‘nurse child’ Marian Webber aged 10 months.  Edward was aged 3 at this time, his place of birth listed as Westerham, Kent.

Screenshot 2018-11-06 08.08.38.png
1871 England Census

It was later discovered that Arthur and Eldred were sons of Ann from a previous marriage, so they would be half brothers to our Edward.  Ann’s first husband Thomas Baker was a corporal in the Rifle Brigade 2nd Battalion (1857) and a member of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, 4th battalion (1861), the son of a James Baker.  In 1871 Ann’s husband Thomas was still alive but they were living apart, their eldest daughter Alma residing with her father.  Ann has taken up the name of Roberts, presumably to be the same as her new partner Edward Roberts, describing herself as ‘wife’, with no ‘head’ of the household listed in the census record.

Edward Roberts senior was not with Ann and the children on census night 1871, he was recorded at Westerham Kent about 20 kms away.  The census states he was born in Northleach, Gloucestershire.  He is described as a clerk in the seed trade, unmarried and boarding with Jane Whickman and her brother George Poplett.  Was he just away working selling seeds. or were they living apart for respectability given Ann’s husband was still alive?

Screenshot 2018-11-06 07.54.39
1871 England Census

On 22nd April 1878,  Ann Baker, widow, married Edward Roberts, bachelor, at All Saints Church in Upper Norwood, Surrey.  It is presumed that Thomas had died by this time, although no death record has been found.  Their fathers names were stated as John Roberts, gardener and William Laundon, bailiff.  

Marriage of Ann (Laundon) Baker to Edward Roberts 1878

Witnesses to the marriage were Amy Letts and William Thornton.  Amy can be found in the 1881 census, listed as a pew opener, so she may have been a church employee not a relative.  William is possibly a relative of Ann’s, however he remains unidentified as there are 3 William Thorntons of an appropriate age living in Croydon Surrey at the time of the 1871 census.

In 1881 young Edward is still living at home when the census was undertaken and his place of birth again recorded as Westerham, Kent.  However, by 1891 he is aged 25 and lodging with Charles Nippard and his family at 34 Stafford Road in Bournemouth Kent.  This time it says he was born in India!  One presumes he gave the information himself – could this be true?  My mother and her sister Mary always said that their grandfather was a showman, a teller of tales, everybody was charmed by him.  Could this have been one of his more fanciful stories?  

Screenshot 2018-02-15 15.42.26
1891 England Census

I discovered two possible births in India around the right time period, one from Meerut, Bengal and the other from Dinapore, Bengal  but both turned out to be dead ends.

There are quite a few family stories told about Edwards connection to India.

  • It was always proudly ‘stated as fact’ that Edward was a boy soldier in India.  In his memoirs son Ted refers to him as ‘a boy sergeant of the British Army on the north west frontier of India and Burma.’
  • The story also goes that when he was born they thought he was stillborn and they tossed Edward into a corner to concentrate on saving his mother.  He soon gave out an almighty squeak – he was alive after all!!  Where was this? Could it have been India? It doesn’t sound like what would happen today in a British hospital but in 1868 could it have happened that way?  Perhaps it was a midwife helping with the birth at home?
  • The Roberts grandchildren often recalled what was known as ‘Grandpa’s box’.  It was said to have come from India.  In reality it really was a trunk, large enough for the children to hide in, often getting into trouble from their mother for locking each other in.  My mother late in her life thought it might have been made of rattan. This is at odds with her sister Margaret who recalled it as being more like a trunk. Stories always suggested it looked like it had been made in India rather than England.
  • In a radio interview during World War II his son Ted stated his father ‘served on the north west frontier of India and often joked about the ‘poultice-wellah’ of the R.A.M.C.’  It is understood this is a reference to sick bay attendants of the Royal Army Medical Corps.  According to the British army records Edward entered military service in 1886, his attestation date being 10 November 1886, however he was discharged on 5th April 1887 on medical grounds, after receiving a fracture of his left radious (wrist), incurred whilst on a period of leave.  The medical discharge papers indicate that intemperance was not a factor!  Could this be a reference to his experience with the ‘poultice-wellah’?  His regiment the 2nd Battalion, stationed in India, was part of the Black Mountain Expedition of 1888, one of many battles fought along the North-West Frontierbut by that time Edward had been discharged.  Was the Indian box part of the preparations to go to India with his battalion, or was it from his childhood days as a boy soldier?  Will we ever know?
https://www.britishbattles.com/north-west-frontier-of-india/black-mountain-expedition-1888/
1st Suffolks at Black Mountain

Edwards seniors father was said to have been a supporter of Joseph Arch a pioneer of the labour movement and had often spoken from the platform at his meetings.  Arch was instrumental in forming the National Agricultural Labourers Union in 1872.  Most of his activities were in county of Warwickshire when Edward senior and his family were living in the neighbouring county of Gloucestershire in the market town of Northleach, about 50 kilometres away.  Seems to be quite feasible.  I can find no evidence that Edward senior was in India or that he ever worked as anything other than a seedsman or gardener.  He can be found in Northleach as a child in the 1841 and 1851 censuses.  By 1861 he is lodging in Westerham Kent and is still there in 1871.  I suppose it is entirely possible that activities in India could have occurred in the intervening years between the 1861 and 1871 censuses, or more likely the 1871 to 1881 censuses – if the ‘boy soldier’ story is to be believed. 

Or, was his father someone else entirely?  Did Thomas and Ann go to India?  After all, Thomas was a military man. Could Ann have had an affair, resulting in the break up with Thomas?  Did Edward Roberts senior give her and her baby respectability?  It is unclear whether they ever co-habitated prior to their marriage in 1878.  It is also difficult to understand why daughter Alma went to live with her father Thomas, she would have only been aged 10 when young Edward was born, yet her younger brothers Arthur aged 7 and Eldred aged 3 remained with Ann and later Edward. Alma being 13 was of an appropriate age to be useful in keeping house and looking after her father.

Y-DNA testing

Edwards grandson (descended from his eldest son Ted) first took a Y-DNA test in 2012.  Y-DNA is inherited via the paternal line (fathers, fathers, father), only handed down from fathers to sons.  His haplogroup is R-M269, the dominant lineage in all of Western Europe today.  It is found in low frequencies in Turkey and the northern Fertile Crescent, while its highest frequencies are in Western Europe.  So, what does this tell us?  Its frequency in Wales is about 92%, which is quite promising if Edward Roberts snr is in fact his father.  I have only been able to trace the Roberts male line back to John Roberts. John can be found living in Gloucestershire England from about 1778, when he and his wife Dorothy baptised their first known son Isaac at Northleach.  John was probably born before 1760, perhaps he came from Wales, as it was always said the Roberts line was Welsh in origin.

Edward inherited his Y-DNA from his father – this is the paternal line as we know it from traditional research, extending back to his second great grandfather John Roberts.

Screenshot 2018-11-17 12.28.45

As far as we know Edward jnr only had two sons, both of whom emigrated to Australia with their parents in 1910.  Edwards great grandson (a descendant of his younger son Jimmy) has also taken a Y-DNA test.  Both YDNA tests were perfectly matched confirming that Edward was the father of both boys, as we had expected.

Unfortunately we have had NO matches greater than 12 markers since being first tested in 2012, even though Edwards grandson has subsequently upgraded to 111 markers.   We now have 58 matches at 12 markers, only one with the surname Roberts, his terminal SNP being R-L151.  Disappointingly this match has only tested to 12 markers and he is not interested in upgrading further.  His oldest ancestor is Thomas Roberts born about 1812 in Corwen Wales, but I have been unable to connect the two lines.  Even at 12 markers he is a genetic distance of 1 so potentially the match may not even stand up as a valid match with further testing.

Edwards grandson also upgraded his kit to the Big Y test in June 2018 and we now know his terminal SNP is R-BY23390.  Unfortunately to date he has NO matches at all on his Big Y test.

Autosomal DNA testing

Autosomal DNA results have confirmed that Ann Roberts nee Laundon was definitely Edwards mother, but to date we have no matches to confirm his fathers side of the tree.

Three of Edwards grandchildren, the ROBERTS siblings, have now been tested enabling the technique of Visual Phasing to be employed.  This method is being utilised to identify all the chromosomal segments that they inherited from Edward and provides the best hope for tracing his origins in the future.  This analysis will be a priority in the coming months.

mtDNA testing

Whilst Edward would have inherited mtDNA from his mother Ann Laundon, males do not pass it on to their children.  Looking backwards in time on Edwards maternal line (his mothers, mothers, mother) will not help to solve the mystery of Edwards birth nor confirm his father.

This is his mothers maternal line as we know it from traditional research, extending back to his second great grandmother Elizabeth York.  The line has been tentatively confirmed by autosomal DNA as far back as his great grandmother Sarah Cave, daughter of Richard Cave of Clay Coton, Northamptonshire and his wife Elizabeth York .

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Even so, Ann Laundon did have at least one female child with Thomas Baker, Alma Baker aka Gray, Corder who would have passed Ann’s mtDNA on to all her descendants.  To further my research of Ann’s maternal line I would be keen to talk more with any living descendants of Alma, but also Mary LEE and Sarah CAVE who would carry the same mtDNA and are willing to help by taking an mtDNA test.

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As always, if you can help me expand my research please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog, via private message at Wikitree or email genemonkey25 AT gmail.com.

The Cassidy Matriarch – Mary Sweeney

The prompt for 52 Ancestors challenge for Week 3 2018 is ‘Longevity’. I struggled to think which ancestor I could choose, after trawling through my tree of over 6000 people I could not find anyone who lived to be 100 or even 90. I have chosen to tell the story of my 2nd great grandmother Mary Sweeney, also known as Mary Cassidy, who lived just short of 80 years, a woman who had a tough life from start to finish, a strong woman who outlived all but three of her 12 children (52Ancestors #5).

Mary Sweeney, photo restored by M. Dann 2015

Arrival in Australia

On 22 January 1839 Mary emigrated to Australia aboard the Roxburgh Castle with brother Terence as a bounty immigrant. Mary was brought out by a Mr Marshall, her occupation listed as a housemaid or children’s maid, age 20.  Her character certified as very good, by persons in County Clare.  Bodily health, strength and probable usefulness also stated as good.  Roman Catholic and able to read.  C O’Gorman, curate of County Clare, has certified her baptism indicating the year as 1817.  Mary and Terence arrived in Sydney on 26th May 1839.

Roxburgh Castle

It took some time to determine the exact place of origin for Mary and Terence, but some clues were left throughout her life.  Both arrival records state their parents names as John and Johanna Sweeney from County Clare.

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Whilst Mary’s record states she is a native of Clare, Terence’s record indicates he is from Clones, County Clare.  This is not a valid place name for Clare and was suspected to perhaps be Clooney, a townland and civil parish in Clare.  Family stories suggest Mary used to proudly proclaim she was a native of Ennis, County Clare.

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It was the birth certificate of her daughter Margaret in 1859 that provided more information.  In this record Mary states her place of birth as Moresk, Co Clare, Ireland and that she was married in 1840 at Prospect.   It is believed that this is Moyriesk, a townland in County Clare.  Moyreisk townland is just over a square mile in size, and nearly all of it is located in Doora civil parish, with 77 acres in Clooney civil parish which aligns with the stated native place of Terence.  Mary gave this information herself so is more likely to be accurate.

Screenshot 2018-01-15 08.35.53

Irish Records

With some help from the Clare Heritage Organisation and the newly released Roman Catholic registers it appears that Mary was born in about 1816 and baptised on 21st May 1816 at Clooney, Clare, Ireland.  The daughter of John Sweeney of Rathclooney and Joan Enright.  Her sponsor at the time of baptism was noted as Catherine McNamara.

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Mary’s mother may have died shortly after her birth, as her father remarried on 30 April 1820.  A woman by the name of Honor MURPHY, the marriage registered at Tulla, Clare, Ireland.  Mary would have only been about four years of age at this time.  Parish baptism registers only started in Clooney in about 1816 and there are no other baptisms registered to John and Johanna (Joan), but there may well have been other siblings born before 1816. This would explain why no baptism record can be found for her brother Terence.  Being approximately 3 years older, it is presumed he was a full brother. 

Prior to her emigration to Australia conditions in Ireland were tough, with widespread hunger throughout the country in 1838.  Her father John and his new wife Honor went on to have at least another 8 children by 1839, half siblings to Mary and Terence.  No doubt a difficult time for all the family and not surprising that Terence and Mary who were by then aged 23 and 20 decided to take advantage of the colonial bounty system and emigrate to Australia.

Spouse and Family

Soon after arriving in the colony of New South Wales in 1839 Mary must have taken up with Thomas CASSIDY, a convict from Fermanagh Ireland who had been transported for life, but by that time had obtained his ticket of leave after serving as an overseer and constable.  The couple had their first child together in April 1841, John was given a private baptism at St Patricks Church Parramatta, he is listed as illegitimate and the record states his name as John CASSIDY or John SWEENEY probably to reflect that the couple were not married at this time.  We know that when Thomas was transported in 1830 that he had a wife and two children still living in Ireland so it is presumed he was still not free to marry.

Was the marriage date in the birth record of Margaret in 1859 just stated to account for having their first child in 1841, or was there really a marriage?  My uncle, Laurie Roberts, tried unsuccessfully to find a marriage as long ago as 1955.

Media0387

Mary and Thomas went on to have twelve children together.  The family bible gives more information about their children.  It is not known who completed this page and some of the information may have been recorded by different people. One child is not listed, the female twin of Patrick Thomas who died at birth in 1843.

Screenshot 2018-01-15 10.03.18

The family lived at Prospect, near Parramatta and the couple worked as farmers.  In a book written by Fr Peter Klein (about their grandson Phillip Cassidy) Mary is described as a ‘strongly built woman with fairer and wavy hair’.

Mary and Thomas had three children who died as infants, the female twin of Patrick Thomas in 1843, Austin at 7 days old in 1850 and Edward at 4 days old in 1851.  Her husband Thomas later died in 1862, aged about 62, after a long and painful illness.  He is buried in St Patricks Cathedral.  Mary was left a widow with 8 children to care for, although her eldest John was by this time about 21 and probably a great help to his mother.

It must have been heartbreaking when her son Phillip William died just 2 years later in 1864 at the young age of nine years.  His older sister Anna Maria following soon after in 1866, aged only 19.  Both are buried in St Patricks with their father.

Mary Cassidy – Farmer and Grazier

In 1871 Mary applied for and was granted a freehold lease of 140 acres of land in Glenn Innes, County of Gough, Parish of Beardy Plains. 

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The Glenn Innes area is rich in Celtic History, the original settlers were Scots, but many people of Irish descent followed.  Like many other Celtic families she made the trek north, close to 600 kilometres – quite an effort in those days. The rent was set at 13s 2d per annum. The property was known as Shannonvale.  

Glenn Innes, circa 1900

Having lost her husband in 1862 it was no doubt a tough move at age 54 to take up farming on her own. However, six of Marys seven surviving children also made the move later marrying there or in nearby towns.  Patrick Thomas was the only exception, he married in Liverpool but did later move to Glen Innes to be near his family.  Mary and her family worked hard and had success, continuing to acquire more property.  It appears she never married and remained independent throughout her life.

Glen Innes Examiner and General Advertiser (NSW : 1874 – 1908), Wednesday 28 April 1875, page 2

Free Selection. — The following selections were made at the local Land Office, on Thursday — Donald M’Master, 100 acres, county of Gough, parish of “Waterloo, adjoining former conditional purchase of 100 acres. Mary Cassidy (widow), 160 acres, county of Gough, parish of Beardy Plains, adjoining former conditional purchase of 100 acres.

Mary had to endure tough times as well.  It was not that long after the move north that she lost her son Patrick in 1879 aged 34.  Some time later in 1887 daughter Mary Clancy aged 39, eldest son John in 1888 aged 47 and youngest daughter Margaret Collopy in 1893 aged only 33.  All have elaborate headstones in Glenn Innes Cemetery, with the exception of Margaret who is buried in Rookwood Cemetery.  All headstones are annotated that they have been erected by their ‘affectionate mother’ suggesting Mary may have been reasonably affluent by that time, probably due to her successful farming endeavours.  

On 11 Mar 1896 Mary died aged about 80 years from anasarca (an accumulation of fluid in the body due to heart failure) and gastritis.  She is buried in the Cassidy family plot at Glen Innes with her children.  Her death certificate lists her occupation as ‘Farmer’, a comment that wasn’t lost on the various feminists in our family who were very proud of the fact that she had her own occupation and was so independent.

Mary was survived by only three of her children, Eliza BICKLEY who died in 1919, Terence who died in 1930 and lastly my great grandmother Rebecca MURPHY who died in 1931.

In 1987, 90 years after her death, I visited Mary’s grave at Glenn Innes with my son and Aunt and Uncle, Margaret and Lionel GILBERT.  The hair was quite wild in those days!

4 generations, including Mary

NSW probate papers indicate that at the time of her death in 1896 Mary’s estate was valued at 951 pounds, consisting of 940 pounds of real estate and 10 head of cattle, described as a ‘farmer and grazier’.  The real estate by this time consisted of 510 acres of freehold land valued at 780 pounds as well as lands and a cottage situated in Hunter Street, Glenn Innes valued at 160 pounds.  Much more significant holdings than when she first made the move in 1871.

Extract from will

In 2016 my husband and I visited the area known as Shannon Vale, the conditions today probably quite different than they were in Mary’s time, but no doubt it has always been rich and beautiful grazing land.  We discovered what appeared to be the Shannon Vale property but it is a much larger station today (over 3000 acres). 

DNA Analysis

It wouldn’t be fitting if I didn’t mention what we have found through DNA analysis in this post.  As I have mentioned in previous posts we now have a number of Mary’s descendants DNA tested.

Autosomal DNA Testing

It was wonderful back in 2016 to connect with my fourth cousin Torin who lives in the United States.  He is a descendant of Mary’s brother Terence, his great great grandson.  It was though our DNA matches that we were able to confirm we were all descended from a common ancestor using a technique called triangulation.  There are two segment areas on chromosome 12 where Torin currently shares DNA with multiple descendants of Mary.  This suggests these segments have been inherited from the same shared ancestor, in this case from one of their parents John Sweeney or Johanna Enright.  At this point we don’t know which, or it could be a combination of both.  It has also been confirmed that all testers all match each other in these same segment areas, which is the key test to prove a triangulated segment.

Screenshot 2018-01-23 07.31.05

mtDNA Testing

Mary is on my direct maternal line, so from the full sequence mitochondrial DNA test I took at Family Tree DNA we know that Marys mtdna is most likely Haplogroup J.  People bearing haplogroup J settled in Europe from the Near East during the late Paleolithic and Meliolithic periods.  Our sub clade J1c5 is aged between 8,300 and 13,000 years.  Screenshot 2018-01-23 09.15.59

So far all I only have nine full sequence matches.  All of them are at a genetic distance of 3, which is not considered close enough to be of genealogical significance, our connection could be up to 1000 years ago!  They all lead to Ireland though, so that is promising.  Hopefully 2018 will bring closer matches to help further expand the line.

Descendants of Mary who inherited her mtdna should also belong to the J1c5 haplogroup.  You can see other known descendants (who are on Wikitree) in the DNA Descendants View at Wikitree by clicking here.

Y DNA testing

Mary being female doesn’t carry the Y chromosome but our match with Torin was doubly pleasing as he carries the Sweeney Y DNA, being in the direct paternal line.  We hope that in the future we will be able to make more discoveries regarding Mary and Terences father John Sweeney, but that will be the subject of a later post.

Screenshot 2018-01-23 09.31.18

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As always, if you can help me further expand my research please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog, or by private message via Wikitree.

Which Noll is it?

The 52 Ancestors challenge for Week 2 2018 is ‘Favourite Photo’.  Those of you who know me would not be surprised about which photo I chose for this weeks challenge.  If you have been following my research you will known that one of my main brick walls is finding the father of my paternal grandmother Thelma Griffin, my great grandfather (52Ancestors #4). Thelma always knew she was illegitimate, her birth certificate lists her father as ‘not known’.  All we know is that he must have been in Adelaide, South Australia around August 1903.

Unknown man

This of course isn’t the favourite photo, but solving the mystery of who he might be has been one of my primary DNA goals.  I had my first DNA test in 2010, but it took nearly 7 years for me to be able to piece together enough match information to be able to come close to solving this mystery.

I’ve tested everywhere.  I’ve tested my mother everywhere.  I’m very lucky to have been able to do that.  After 7 years I’ve been able to find enough matches on my fathers paternal side to be able to be isolate matches that are probably on his mothers side.  I had a breakthrough at AncestryDNA in early 2017 where I found several 4th cousins who all matched each other and didn’t match any of my other paternal matches, so it was a high chance they were matches on my ‘unknown’ line.

As is the way, very few of these matches responded to me on AncestryDNA, but analysing one of the trees and seeing some South Australian ancestry enabled me to search for more possible matches.  I searched my more ‘distant’ matches for similar names, at all my testing sites and this led me to identifying some possible common ancestors.  I found several matches that all had one of two sets of possible 4th great grandparents in their trees.  From there I worked forward in time trying to identify likely ‘males’ who may have been in ‘the right place, at the right time’.  Then I worked back in time from my matches, making sure that all the matches still tracked back to these ancestors and that the DNA shared with them also seemed appropriate for the ‘probable’ relationships.

Screenshot 2018-01-06 18.27.46

This research suggested that my mystery great grandfather may have been Prussian, descended from early emigrants to South Australia.  This could explain my high European West ethnicity, showing about 29% at AncestryDNA, when I can only account for about 3% from my known ancestry.  Although this ancestor should only account for approx 12.5%!

Screenshot 2018-01-06 18.28.01

Ethnicity information at 23andMe is much more interesting, they suggest my predicted German ethnicity is quite close, between 1840 -1900 – so if my theory is right it’s spot on!

Screenshot 2018-01-06 18.28.19

I need to give a big thank you to the South Australian Family History Groups who wrote such wonderful histories of the Noll, Wedding and Wohling families back in the 1970’s and all the wonderful pedigrees and photos that they included. It was through these books that I was able to piece together many of the connections between my DNA matches and my possible shared Prussian ancestors.

After extensive research I became fairly certain that I was descended from one of the sons of Johann Friedrich Wilhelm NOLL and Maria Elizabeth WOHLING.  The ‘Noll Family History 1850 -1976’ actually provided me with photos of these three sons.  This became my favourite photo for 2017.  I carried it around everywhere with me, often producing it for informal discussions over dinner, taking straw polls and comparing facial features!  What do you think?

3 brothers and us

The candidates

My great grandmother Edith (Edie) Griffin is stated as living in Croydon Adelaide in April 1904 when my grandmother Thelma was born.  Edie was 17, working as an occupation machinist.  Interestingly, the youngest sister of the Noll brothers, Louisa Wilhelmina Noll, was exactly the same age as Edie also worked as a machinist.  Edith grew up in Brompton and the Nolls lived close by, so perhaps Edith and Louisa were friends. They probably went to school together and may even have worked in the same place.  Croydon and Brompton are very close in proximity and may well be references to the same place.

Heinrich Charles Otto NOLL – In 1903, Henry was married to Anne Frances Balfour (nee Richards).  He was living in Brompton in 1902 at the time his son Alfred was born and had moved to Ridleyton by 1905.  He became a minister in 1911 and died in 1938 aged 58.

Friedrich Wilhelm NOLL – The eldest of the three brothers who in 1903 was married to Anna Mabel Emery.  He had three children by this time, but two had died as infants and his wife Annie was said to have never recovered, suffering poor health for the rest of her life.   His fourth child was born in November 1903 so wife Annie would have been six months pregnant at the time Thelma was conceived.  He lived in West Street Brompton after he married in 1897, but by the time his daughter was born in 1903 he was living in Bowden and by 1909 in Hindmarsh. He died in 1933, aged 57.

Otto Eduard NOLL – The youngest of the Noll brothers and in 1903 he was 21 and single.  Perhaps the most likely candidate, still living at home in Brompton.  He married Laura Elizabeth NICHOLS in 1908 and died 20 years later in 1928, at the early age of 45 – far too young. Could he be my great grandfather?

DNA results so far…

To test my theory I managed to find a grandson of Otto (Cousin A) and his DNA test confirmed that we were quite closely related.  If Otto is my great grandfather then our relationship would be half 1st cousins once removed.  If Fred or Henry were my great grandfather then my relationship to Cousin A would be 2nd cousins once removed.  As luck would have it, after looking at the expected cMs for these relationships our match is somewhere between the two. Our shared DNA was between 164-210 cMs depending which testing site you looked at!  We also have a large X match at 74cMs, which does suggests a relationship via Cousin A’s great grandmother Maria Wohling.

Subsequently we both matched another descendant of Maria’s parents (Cousin B) which provided a triangulated match on the X chromosome suggesting the relationship to the Wohling line was confirmed.  All three cousins match each other on identical segments.

Screenshot 2018-01-10 19.38.41

As far as chromosomes 1-22 go, Cousin A and I share on multiple segments many of which are not yet triangulated, but this is largely due to the fact that the 40+ matches we have at AncestryDNA have not uploaded their results to www.gedmatch.com, so they cannot be compared at the chromosome level.  The sheer number of matches that all fit this hypothesis are strong evidence (I believe) that I am on the right track.

Of the matches at AncestryDNA only six have uploaded their results to GEDmatch.  Triangulated matches have confirmed relationships to distant ancestors on both the Noll and Wohling sides, but more are needed.

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Screenshot 2018-01-10 21.00.42

More DNA tests required…

Are you descended from any of the ancestors listed below?  Have you DNA tested?  If so, I would love to be able to compare our results at GEDmatch.   I am particularly interested in anyone descended from the three NOLL brothers and would be willing to fund autosomal DNA tests, on the understanding that results would be uploaded to GEDmatch, or another testing site that provides chromosome analysis.

Tree_Noll-576

To access the tree at Wikitree, please click here.

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As always, if you can help please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or via private message at Wikitree.

2021 Postscript: You can now hear me talk about this DNA journey on You Tube.

Featured Image: Brompton Hotel

The Mysterious Mr Courtenay?

Prompted by the new #52Ancestors challenge for 2018, I decided to revisit one of my favourite brick wall ancestors, my second great grandfather (52Ancestors #3) Arthur or is it George?  Courtenay or Courtney?  He is the father of my mothers grandmother Abigail (Courtney) Roberts who was born in 1871 in Woolwich, Kent, England.  It was this mystery that got me ‘started’ in genetic genealogy.  In 2010, I thought I may have solved the mystery through traditional research and wanted to test my theory via DNA testing.  At the time, I had expected some instant ancestors.  How naive that was!  Nearly 8 years on and I am still no closer to identifying him.  You can read about my many possible theories on his profile at Wikitree.

Tree_Courtney-408 (1)

To access this tree at Wikitree, please click here.

Here are the facts.

The first record of Abigail’s father is found in the 1871 Census where the family was living at 14 Sun Street, Woolwich, Kent, England.  His name is recorded as Arthur G COURTENAY aged 30, born in Marylebone, Middlesex, England.  This suggests he was born in about 1841.  He is listed as the head of the family living there with wife Abigail (nee Paice), three daughters and a visitor nurse in attendance Ann Muggeridge who was also born in Marylebone, Middlesex, about 1821.  The census was taken on 2nd April 1871 and at that time he was unemployed, but his usual occupation was stated as a labourer in a brass works.

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1871 England Census

The three daughters present in 1871 are 3 month old twins Abigail and Alberta, plus older sister Edith aged 3.  Research suggests that Edith is an illegitimate daughter of his wife Abigail, born December 1867 so presumably from a previous relationship.

And who is Nurse Ann Muggeridge?  She holds particularly interest for me given she was born in the same place as Arthur G, could she be a relative of some kind, there to help with the newborn twins?

Both Abigail and Alberta’s births were registered on 28 April 1871 stated as being born on 26 Mar 1871, which is slightly inconsistent with being 3 months old on census night on 2 April 1871.  On the birth certificate their fathers name is recorded as George William COURTNEY, a silver and brass moulder.  Their mother Abigail was the informant, so it is perhaps more likely that this might be the correct name of their father.

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Birth certificate of Abigail

The twins were baptised at St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich, Kent, England on 28th May 1871.  In this record the fathers name is once again stated as Arthur George COURTNEY, Brass Founder.

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Baptism register for the twins Abigail and Alberta

Arthur is not found with his wife Abigail in any earlier or later censuses, or anywhere for that matter!  Nor can a marriage be found.  Neither Arthur nor Abigail senior nor Alberta can be found in the 1881 Census – where could they have gone?  In 1881 daughters Abigail and Edith are away at school in Holdenhurst, residing with a family named Brown.  By the time of the 1891 census Abigail is listed as a widow.  Had Arthur died or was this a way for Abigail to explain her circumstances having perhaps never married and then deserted?

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1881 England Census

The only remaining record is that of his daughter Abigail’s death in Australia in 1925, the information was provided by grandson James George Roberts so it may not be entirely accurate.  In this record Abigail’s father is recorded as being George Arthur COURTNEY, a civil engineer. No trace can be found of her twin Alberta, it is also unclear when/where she died.  Interestingly, both Abigail’s sons were given middle names from her father, did she know him during her life?

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Death Certificate of Abigail Roberts (nee Courtney)

So is he George or Arthur, or even possibly William?  Is his surname Courtenay or Courtney?  For the purposes of the rest of this post, I plan to call him ‘George’.

Other anecdotal evidence from family stories may be relevant, or not?

  • My grandfather Edward Arthur Roberts states in his memoirs that his mother had some Irish in her make up which is presumed to have been a reference to her paternal line – could George have been of Irish descent?
  • My grandmother, Mona (Murphy) Roberts when asked by her children where in the South of Ireland their ancestors came from, the response was ‘Waterford and Wexford’.  Her ancestors – the Murphys, came from Wexford.  Could it be the Courtenay’s on their fathers side that came from Waterford?
  • My mother always said that the Courtney’s were talked about as being a bit ‘better’.  Did that mean more educated and upper crust?  Could they have been gentry of some sort?  Could Arthur George ‘COURTENAY’ – the name originally listed in the 1871 census, somehow be connected to the Courtenay’s of Devon or perhaps the Courtenay’s of Ballytransey, Cork?

DNA Testing Possibilities

YDNA – In the 1891 England Census, Georges wife Abigail is recorded as living with her grandson Albert COURTNEY aged 4.   I lived in hope for many years that this might also be a grandchild of George and that a YDNA test by a male descendant might be possible.  Unfortunately, Albert Edward COURTNEY was found to be the illegitimate son of Edith Courtney, the half sister of twins Abigail and Alberta.  As such he would only share DNA with ancestors of their mother Abigail Paice, not George Courtney.  Tragically, Albert died on 12 Oct 1918 in Syria World War 1, leaving no descendants.  I know of no other Courtney direct line male descendants.

mtDNA – As we don’t know anything about George’s siblings or parents we have no potential testers for a mitochondrial DNA test – yet!

atDNA – Since my initial test in 2010 there are now 7 descendants of George and Abigail who have taken autosomal DNA tests.  To date, only the ancestry of Abigail’s mother has been able to be confirmed.  Three of George’s great grandchildren, the ROBERTS siblings, have now been tested enabling the technique of Visual Phasing to be employed.  This method is being utilised to identify all the chromosomal segments that were inherited from Georges’s daughter Abigail Courtney and provides the best hope for tracing his origins in the future.

The Most Promising DNA match so far

Two first cousins, Sharon and Jon, whose shared ancestors are William Thomas FOSTER and Ivy Thomas WESTON share DNA with my family on a number of chromosomes, including chromosomes 4, 5, 9, 10 plus the X chromosome.  It is disappointing that no one in my family triangulates with both cousins on the same segment, however all our matches are in segment areas where these two cousins don’t share any DNA, so it is entirely possible that due to the random nature of DNA inheritance that these segments could still all have be inherited from the same common ancestor.

The Roberts siblings only have one paternal 1st cousin once removed who has tested that could have inherited Courtney DNA.  He does match Sharon on chromosome 9, but we currently have no way of confirming which of the paternal lines they match on.  Jon however matches my mother on the X chromosome.  Visual Phasing of the X chromosome confirms that the segment shared with the Jon was inherited from George’s daughter Abigail Courtney.  Due to the unique inheritance characteristics of the X chromosome, Jon could only have inherited the segment from a limited number of his maternal ancestors.

McLellan Jon

After some initial research, imagine my surprise when Sharon and I found Ann Muggeridge the nurse in attendance in 1871 (nee Webster, aka Ann Rudd), in Jon’s direct X chromosome inheritance path!  Surely, Ann must be a relative of some kind?  I’ve tried to contact other matches who triangulate on these segments, but there aren’t many and those who do either don’t reply or don’t know much about their ancestry.  Sigh, how disappointing!

If there is anyone out there who knows more about Ann or her relatives, and/or any possible connections to my George Courtney, I would love to hear from you!

Traditional Research Theories

As always, I am continuing to pursue possible theories associated with traditional genealogical research.  Whilst back in 2010 I was convinced that George Courtney of Shoreham, Sussex was my ancestor, today I am not so sure.   The following leads seem more likely – what do you think?

  • Henry Courtney – In 1881 George’s daughter Abigail and her half sister Edith are found living with William BROWN in Holdenhurst, Hampshire, England  It is unclear where her parents and twin sister Alberta have gone, as none can be found in the 1881 census.  In the small village of Holdenhurst there is a family of older female Courtney’s living there is 1881.  Could these be relatives of some kind?  These females are of the age to possibly be aunts of George.  Their heritage is traced back to Ireland to parents Henry Courtney and Sydney Gosselin from Dublin, Ireland. Henry’s mother was Anna Marie D’Olier.  The D’Olier family are known Huguenot emigrants to Ireland and one of their ancestors was said to have been imprisoned in France during the French Revolution.  My grandfather Edward Arthur Roberts was well known for his story that one of his ancestors was imprisoned during that time, a story that was often treated with much chagrin from his children, suggesting it was more likely that his ancestors were one of Madame Defarge’s compatriots!  Could there be some truth in this story?
  • George Courtney– this George was born in Middlesex in 1843, he is married to a woman named Sarah, living in Staffordshire and working as a brass dresser in 1881.  Could this be him?  Could he be connected to Henry in some way?
  • Of course, there is also still George Courtney from Shoreham Sussex born 1842, who was my original suspect due to a range of circumstantial evidence.

This photo is believed to be George’s daughter Abigail Courtney at school in England.  Could it have been taken in Holdenhurst?  She’s said to be the one with the scarf around her neck near the tear on the bottom left hand corner.

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Do you recognise this photo or place?

George Courtney continues to be a brick wall for me, I’ve chased down every possible George and Arthur I could find – they are all on Wikitree.  Can you help?  I would love to hear from anyone who has any ideas about how these families might be connected.  Of course, contact from any potential DNA testers of descendants of any of these families would also be welcomed.

If you can help please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or via private message at Wikitree.

Featured image: By Richard Rixon, 1841 – Saint, A., Guillery, P. (ed.), Woolwich – Survey of London, Volume 48, p. 60. Yale Books, London, 2012. ISBN 978 0 300 18722 9, Public Domain.

2021 Addendum – My New Blog

In 2021 I established a research blog to document all my research about the mysterious George, called ‘Finding George Courtney c1835’. Use the buttons below to view a ‘Research Summary’ page detailing all my genealogical and genetic research to date, or go to the ‘All Blog Posts’ page for a chronological list of blogposts to date.

Stephen Cassidy or ‘Captain Rock’? My 3rd Great Grandfather.

The Australian Context

My fascination for the Cassidy’s probably stems from the fact I was always told told by my grandmother Mona Murphy Roberts that I was like her mother Rebecca.  She used to say I was the only one of her grandchildren that could sing the Irish songs, even though my mother used to protest that I was the least Irish of all her grandchildren. When I started doing family history in earnest in 2006 I was very surprised to find that I was actually a fourth generation Australian on my mothers side! My grandmother and all her relations used to proudly say that they were Irish.  Well they were, but their ancestors had been in Australia since the early 1800’s! My great grandmother Rebecca Cassidy was born in Australia in 1852, she reputedly rode sidesaddle and was considered the finest horsewoman in the New England district.  That wasn’t a skill I inherited but it could explain my canny luck with the horses!  

Rebecca CASSIDY c 1880
Rebecca c1880

It was always said in Mum’s family that the Cassidy’s were holier than the Pope.  The Murphy side, were supposedly the black sheep and scallywags!  Not surprising as Rebeccas first cousin Phillip Cassidy (1848-1922) was recognised as the first ‘Australian Born’ ordained priest (aka Brother Melitus).  He reached the status of Venerable Archdeacon (from what I’ve read, that is only two levels away from being made a saint!).  His work with the Australian Indigenous population in the small town of Moyura in Southern New South Wales was particularly of note.  There were many others who took up religious professions on the Cassidy side of the family, including Phillips sister Catherine – the first ‘Australia Born’ postulant of the Good Samaritans, who designed the ceiling of the Rosebank Chapel at Five Dock.

CASSIDY Phillip Catholic Weekley 1922
Phillip Cassidy

Who would have thought they were of convict stock!  It was through the association of Rebecca and Phillip that we were first able to trace the family connection, their fathers Thomas and Phillip being brothers.  My third cousin Marnie, a Cassidy descendant, later sourced a book written by Father Peter Klein about the ecclesiastical life of Father Phillip Cassidy. In the first chapter he talks about the Cassidy’s roots in Ireland and suggests they came to Australia as early farming pioneers.  In reality they were convicts, now proudly referred to in Australia as ‘Australia Royalty’.

Crime and Punishment

The Cassidy brothers, Thomas, Phillip and Edward were convicted and transported for life, for reputedly throwing a horse over the precipice at Cullaigh, Belmore Mountain, Fermanagh.

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Courtesy Boho Heritage Organisation

They were sent to Australia on board the Hercules II in 1830. Whilst their father Stephen was also charged, he obtained a reprieve on account of his age and newspaper reports suggest he was to be imprisoned for 2 years, whilst his 3 sons were transported for life. It seems odd that he was not transported along with his sons, as many persons of advanced years were.  What became of him remains a mystery.

Hercules II 1830
Hercules II 1830

In about 1874 Peter Magennis wrote a story that included information about Stephen that was published in the Lisbellaw Gazette 1879-89 called ‘The Treasurer, A Story of the Great Irish Famine’.  This series was kindly given to me by local historian Seamus MacAnnaidh in 2009. Whilst the work is a mix of fact and fiction Magennis indicates Stephen was probably over 70 years of age in 1835, so he may have been born as early as 1765, he also says Stephen had a large family.  Stephen is described as a senarchy (sennachie) which is understood to mean ‘one occupied in the study of traditional history, genealogy and legend’.   Magennis suggests he was the best senarchy and historian in the country.

Secret Societies?

We don’t know much about Stephen Cassidy (52Ancestors#2).  In Father Kleins book it says he was based with the military at the garrison in Fermanagh in the North of Ireland and was referred to as ‘an outstanding young catholic captain‘.  We now know that Stephen was from Boho, near Enniskillen and lived in the townland of Gortgall, where there is a nearby village called Garrison.  As a Catholic, it seems unlikely that Stephen would have been a captain in the British Army and it is more likely that the term ‘captain’ may have been a nickname.

The 1820’s were a turbulent time in Ireland with many disputes between landlords and tenants. Protestants and Catholics. The Cassidys had been evicted from their land in 1826.  Catholic Emancipation being finally gained by 1829.

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A number of newspaper references suggest that Stephens landlord Reverend Andrew Clarke wanted the Cassidy’s ‘out of the country’ (the inference being transportation) and that there had been previous litigation between the Cassidys and Clarke.  It was also implied that the local prosecutor Henry Fausett may have been offered money to prosecute the Cassidy’s.

One newspaper article in 1828 reports that Stephen and his son Thomas (my second great grandfather) were charged with making threats and menacing James McCourt of Upper Gortgall, near Garrison on 7th April 1828.  McCourt was the new tenant now residing on their old land, having lived there for about a year.   The evidence suggests that McCourt believed the intruders to be the Cassidy’s, also stating there were references to the murder of Dominic Noone and that the intruder making the threats referred to himself as ‘Captain Rock’, known to be the leader of the local group of Ribbonmen. The Ribbonmen were an agrarian secret society, their objective to prevent landlords from changing or evicting their tenants.  Whilst McCourt stated he didn’t see the intruders he said he had previously chased ‘Captain Rock’ and knew his voice.  The court returned a verdict of not guilty for both Stephen and Thomas, but could this be the reason Stephen was known as the outstanding young ‘Captain’?   There is a lot more information about the Ribbonmen and the murder of Dominic Noone at Derrygonnelly in Peter Magennis’ earlier  book ‘The Ribbon Informer”, but Stephen Cassidy is not mentioned by name in that account.

Later in July 1829, around the time of Orangeman’s Day there was an incident that is well known in Irish sectarian history, known as the Macken Fight. The persons involved in the incident were tried on the same day as the Cassidy brothers and also transported to Australia on the Hercules II in 1830.  Whilst our Cassidy’s were not named as being involved, there was a Hugh CASSIDY named in some reports but he was not among those finally charged and I have yet to identify him.

It was somewhere between 9-12 September 1829 when the horse owned by Andrew Whaley (a protestant tenant) was driven off the lands of Upper Gortgall, near Moyleat, Belmore Mountain into the precipice. References differ about the date but most suggest it was the night before the Enniskillen Fair, probably 10 September.  The Cassidys were charged, the Belfast News reporting on 22nd Sep 1829 the exact location of incident on Upper Gortgall lands and the effects on the horse. The report also suggested there had been many ‘degradations’ over the last few years since the Cassidy’s were ejected from their lands. Thomas may have been living at Tobradan by this time.  At the trial,  Stephen refers to Andy Flanagan, concerned about what had happened to him.  I have been unable to determine whether there is any significance in this comment?

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Could the events at Macken and the charges against the Cassidys be linked?  The Cassidys continued to claim their innocence over the horse incident.   If Stephen was involved with the Ribbonmen and was their leader it does seem probable that he may also have been connected to the events at Macken.  Was Reverend Andrew Clarke instrumental in bringing into play his desire to see the Cassidy’s deported?

Where Stephen was imprisioned remains a mystery.  I have been unable to source any relevant gaol records, or find a death record.  However, given his age Stephen would have died before civil registration was introduced in Ireland.

The  ‘extended’ Cassidy Family

Stephen was married to Catherine Britton, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, who had abandoned her faith and become a Catholic when she married Stephen, which at the time would have been known as a ‘mixed’ marriage.  To date, we know the couple had at least three sons, but it is suspected that the family would have had many more children as Peter Magennis also suggests.

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Several other potential family members Cassidy’s have been identified during this research.  Could they be connected to our family?  If anyone out there has information to share,  I would love to hear from you.

  • Pat Carron was uncle to Andrew and Catherine Cassidy.  He was transported on Hercules II in 1830 for his involvement at Macken, he may be the same person who was involved at Inismore riot in 1824.
  • James Keenan was also transported in 1830 on Hercules II for his involvement at Macken.  His wife was named Mary Cassidy, they had a daughter Ann, both of whom remained in Ireland due to Marys ill health.
  • Patrick Cassidy born c1790, m Mary McCaffery  The Derrygonnelly Cassidy article by Janet Cassidy-Strop, outlines more detail.  The geographic closeness of Patrick is of particular interest as well as the suggestion of the family’s involvement in Ribbonism.
  • Hugh Cassidy involved in the events at Macken.  Hugh Cassidy born 1827 is too young to be the Hugh Cassidy suggested as being involved in the events at Macken, but perhaps his father Owen Cassidy born abt 1788, also from Derrygonnelly, may have had a brother Hugh?  Could Owen be connected to Patrick? Or, perhaps our Stephen might also have another son or brother named Hugh?  
  • Stephens son Thomas Cassidy was also said to have left a wife in Ireland with two daughters.  No application was made for her to join him in Australia so perhaps she may have died soon after Thomas’ transportation?
  • John Cassidy is listed in Griffiths Valuation in 1859 at Tobradan where Thomas Cassidy previously rented lands before his transportation.  John is married to a Mary Maguire, whose father is probably named Patrick.  They have a son Owen, who married Margaret Wynne.  Also living in Tobradan townland at that time is another James Keenan.
  • There are also number connections to the McManus family, including several involved at Macken, however it is quite a common name.

The Y-DNA story

In late 2010 I became interested in DNA testing soon afterwards I began looking for a male CASSIDY to help me confirm the CASSIDY line back to Ireland.  Enter Des Cassidy my third cousin!  He did an autosomal test for me in 2012. I soon followed that up with a Y-DNA test in 2013, looking for our extended Cassidy line back in Ireland. We had no Y-DNA matches for the first two years – none at all, not even at 12 markers!  It wasn’t until 2014 that we got our very first Y-DNA match, we had to upgrade to 67 markers to finally get it!  A Cassidy from the USA who listed his oldest known ancestor as Patrick, that’s all, no years, no locations and uncontactable.  How frustrating!

By 2016 Oliver Cassidy from Ireland tested, his ancestor Owen lived at Coolarkan a short distance from Stephen at Gortgall and we thought perhaps they may have been brothers.  Oliver matched both Des and our US Cassidy at 67 markers and whilst the matches suggest a patrilineal relationship, it is more likely that Stephen and Owen were cousins when you look at the genetic distances of the two matches.  With the help of another US Cassidy descendant Don, a 4th cousin once removed, we were able to trace the ancestors of our mysterious match, identifying his oldest ancestor as James Cassidy 1861-1840 from Derryrealt Cavan, very close to the border of Fermanagh.  I suspect James was the son of the Thomas Cassidy from Drumcask, Cavan who was listed in Griffiths Valuation in 1859, his wife Mary McManus.  As can be seen on the map below, the places where all three ancestors lived is quite close, particularly Owen and Stephen, with Thomas not too far away at 25 kilometres.

Screenshot 2017-11-08 09.48.45

Autosomal DNA

It was autosomal DNA tests that gave us the breakthrough we were looking for to confirm our relationships back to Stephen.  Des’ initial autosomal test confirmed the relationship of our family back to Thomas and Mary Cassidy our Australian convict ancestor, but it wasn’t until early this year that we managed to get back to Ireland.

Earlier in the year we confirmed the relationship of our family back through another son of the Cassidy family, James.  An X chromosome match with my US cousin Don, enabled us to confirm Stephens wife as being Catherine ‘Kitty’ Britton.  To read more about how we identified Kitty through DNA and our relationship through her son James, please refer to my earlier blog post, by clicking here.  It’s a long story and for another post, but I have long wondered whether this James is actually Edward, one of the three brothers transported to Australia, who escaped the colony in 1833 and was said to have gone to the United States.

Leaving that aside, we now have autosomal results from descendants of Thomas, Phillip and James that confirm the three brothers are all from the same family.  We have no less than five triangulated segments and two more on the way!  Chromosomes 1, 4 and 21 are the only ones that triangulates all three brothers, but we are close on the others as you can see.  These segments must be coming from the ancestral couple of Stephen Cassidy and Catherine Britton.  It might take some time to unravel which segments belong to which side of the family but its a great start!

Screenshot 2017-11-08 11.54.53

Whilst I am currently aware of 13 DNA testers whose ancestry can be traced back to Stephen and his wife Catherine there must be more out there. We know the brothers had at least 33 children between them, potentially more if we could identify more siblings.  Unfortunately so far, the descendants of Stephen do not share any autosomal DNA with either of our Y-DNA matches, but that is not surprising given that those genetic relationships may be much further back in time.  However, you never know what new tests might reveal.  If you have tested your DNA and think you might be related to this family, please let me know.  I would love to compare results, but results need to be uploaded to GEDmatch for comparison.  The chart below outlines our new possible family, taking into account ‘possible’ relationships based on Y-DNA testings!

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The Clan Gathering – July 2017

It was a great thrill on our trip to Ireland in July this year to actually stand on the spot near Eagles Knoll on Belmore Mountain where the horse was reputedly thrown from the precipice after my many years of researching the Cassidy story.  Special thanks must go to the efforts of a lot of people from the Boho Heritage Organisation, especially my ‘predicted’ 4th cousin once removed cousin Oliver Cassidy.  It was a delight to finally meet Oliver and his family.  It doesn’t look like much of a precipice in this photo, but take a look at the surprise BBC coverage of the event here.

At the Cassidy Clan Gathering I was appointed to the Executive Committee as the DNA officer.  I hope to be able to assist members to connect with other Cassidy’s around the world.  If you are a Cassidy and have tested your DNA please join our Facebook group.

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Our newly formed Cassidy ‘cousin’ Clan – Oliver, Magdalan, Des, Donna and Veronica

You can read more about the Clan Gathering at both the Cassidy Clan website and in my private travel blog rayver33 – Here and There.  If you need access, just ask.

As always, if you can help me expand my research please do not hesitate to contact me via this blog or via private message at Wikitree.

References

  1. Belfast Newsletter, 6 April 1830.  Indicates transportation for life. Identical article in Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet, 6 Apr 1830, p4.  Identical article in Impartial Reporter, Apr 1830.
  2. Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet, 31 July 1828, p1.
  3. Excerpt from Rituals and riots: sectarian violence and political culture in Ulster, 1784-1886 By Sean Farrell.
  4. Belfast News 22nd Sep 1829, p4.
  5. Most of the sources for my Cassidy research have been published on Wikitree and can be found here.