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.

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.

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 .

Screenshot 2018-11-17 12.37.04.png

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.

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.

Screenshot 2017-06-27 15.29.19
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.

500px-CASSIDY_-_A_collection_of_source_material-10

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?

Screenshot 2017-10-30 18.33.27.png

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.

Screenshot 2017-10-30 15.41.20

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!

Screenshot 2017-10-30 23.48.34.png

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.

IMG_0105
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.

An historic event – 52 Ancestors, DNA confirmed!

The journey so far

A momentous milestone was achieved last month, and no, it wasn’t that I have written about ANY of my ancestors for the 52 ancestors challenge, the main reason for starting this blog site 2 years ago!  At the time, I was very enthusiastic and excited by the thought of the project but I must have known I couldn’t keep up the weekly challenge given the tagline ‘starting small!’  It’s probably fitting that my inaugural post is about my genetic research, when you think of how totally obsessed I have become with solving various mysteries associated with my ancestral roots in the past few years.

Cause for celebration –  I now have 52 confirmed DNA ancestors!  It has however been a long hard slog and don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy.  You might think 52 confirmed ancestors is a lot, but if we go out 7 generations (that’s to 6th cousins) we all have a total of 254 direct ancestors who may have contributed to our DNA.  So after 6 years since my Family Finder autosomal test with FTDNA I am about 20% of the way there, but don’t forget much of what I have achieved so far is what they call ‘low hanging fruit!’  Of those 52, 28 of those are clearly confirmed and the remaining 24 we have confirmed connections back to 12 sets of ancestral couples.

To start doing DNA research, getting your head around the 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy is the most important first step, no one can explain that better than Roberta Estes.  Reading her stories about how DNA has helped her in understanding her family history as part of the 52 ancestors challenge is always inspiring.

I just thought I’d share some quick comments about my progress to date on each of the 4 Kinds of DNA:

Y-DNA

Passed down from father to sons.  Being female I don’t have any Y-DNA passed to me from my father.  A common problem in our family, particularly on my maternal side, is that the male line had a tendency to die out.   So I have had to rely on the generosity of other extended male family members to help me.  So far, I have test kits for my COAT, ROBERTS, CASSIDY and SWEENEY lines.  I am still searching for possible candidates for my BRADLEY, GRIFFIN and MURPHY lines.  In particular the COAT line has given me loads of interesting follow up research, but I’ll tell you more about that in a subsequent post! These tests helped me confirm 7 of my 52 ancestors, so 13%.

Mitochondrial DNA – better known as mtDNA.

Only females can take this test, but unlike Y-DNA which only gets passed down to sons, women pass this on to all their children.  I had the full sequence mtDNA test back in early 2011 and six years later only have six matches and all of them at a genetic distance of 3, which many say is too far out to worry about!  My maternal haplogroup is J1c5, it is said to have originated between 8-13,000 years ago, European, but often found in West Asia, South Asia, Central Asia or North Asia.  My maternal line traces back to County Clare in Ireland.  

By contrast, my fathers maternal haplogroup (which I was able to obtain by testing a distant cousin), is H1a1e, also European and originating 15-20,000 years ago, also found at significant frequency in the Near East and in some Middle Eastern populations.  It is the most common haplogroup for most Europeans being about 14% of the population. Consequently, it is not so surprising that we have 192 full sequence matches, with 37 of them a genetic distance of 1.  

Unfortunately, no DNA confirmations have yet come from these two tests.

Autosomal DNA

I like to think of this as the ‘cousins’ test.  It’s the part I love best, trying to untangle lines and identify where your DNA segment matches are coming from, a great big puzzle! Unlike Y-DNA and mtDNA it can’t just be attributed to one person up the line, but any of them! This means finding other cousins to compare your results to.  You can either recruit more testers or just build on your results as you find matches.  Every new confirmed match is a clue to finding more matches.  The remaining 45 confirmed ancestors (including the 12 couples) I have found from this type of analysis.  After about 5 years of research I was only up to about 17, mainly confirmations of my known tree through targeted testing.  In 2015, I reached a turning point, a Mac version of Genome Mate Pro was released and I haven’t looked back.  The program helps you be systematic in your approach to your research and results show for themselves. If you haven’t used it yet, I’d encourage you to give it a go, it’s a free download and they have a great support network.

X chromosome

Not to be confused with mtDNA,  the X chromosome has special inheritance patterns and in theory can help you find your common ancestor.  I’ve had a lot of fun colouring in my charts which you can find on The Genetic Genealogist, by Blaine Bettinger which I do for all my known cousins so I know when ‘X’ might be relevant.  I haven’t had any success, YET, in having this help me confirm any ancestors but it has helped me narrow down the possibilities for some of my autosomal matches.

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See my full tree at Wikitree ! embeddable family tree updated live from WikiTree

Why did I start this and where to from here?

I started out on my DNA journey to test a theory about my very elusive 2nd great grandfather, the father of Abigail COURTNEY, Arthur George COURTENAY or is it really George William COURTNEY?  I am no closer to finding him than I was when I started but I have now finally established that there are no known male descendants who may have carried his Courtney Y-DNA.  So, its only autosomal testing that can help me – one segment at a time!

The other major goal is to identify the father of my paternal grandmother, Thelma Irene GRIFFIN.  The mystery man who must have been in Adelaide, South Australia around 1903. I am in search of cousins from her known GRIFFIN line to help me isolate that DNA from the segments I have inherited from her father.  I thought I had a contender, right place, right time, but as will happen with DNA, subsequent testers have proven that those segments came from my fathers paternal side.  Back to the drawing board….  If you are a Griffin cousin please let me know if you are interested in helping with this research.