52 Ancestors – Week 21.

The topic for this week is BRICK WALL

I have one mysterious ancestor, my GGGF Thomas Darchy, born February 1820 in Augsburg Bavaria. Thomas Darchy, a wealthy young man aged 19 with mysterious antecedents, arrived unaccompanied in Adelaide, Australia in 1839 on board the “India”. Several family legends claim that he was the son of a Scottish nobleman and a French heiress, and/or a descendant of the French Dauphin “on the wrong side of the blanket”. Intriguingly, Thomas’ great grandson Darchy Catt has been told by someone who did not know the family history that he looks “just like a Bourbon”!

From legal records held in the Swiss Archives we know Thomas was born in Augsburg, Bavaria on 24 February 1820, his baptismal certificate naming his parents as Thomas Darchy ‘English property owner’ and Amey Maude Philipse; his godfather was given as ‘Herr Alexander Johann Wilhelm Bradford, English nobleman owning estates in and near London’. In reality the godfather/guardian was Dr. Alexander Broadfoot, a pecunious army surgeon on half pay and the son of a Scottish merchant. Later he was to be appointed Inspector General of Health in the Ionian Islands, quite a promotion. Ten days before Thomas’ birth the baby was entrusted to the guardianship of a Swiss doctor Frederick Louis Ferdinand Sacc, formerly aide de camp and advisor to the King of Prussia and Prince of Neuchatel. Dr. Sacc, a Prussian, became a citizen of Neuchatel soon after his appointment as Thomas’ guardian.

Thomas spent his first nine or ten years happily in Cortaillod in the Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland being cared for by members of the Sacc family. Then in 1829 Dr. Sacc received a letter saying Thomas was to go to England (Sacc’s private papers in the Archives include a draft letter a distressed Sacc wrote protesting that this was “too soon”). It is not known exactly who ordered this, but Broadfoot was involved.

Thomas was escorted back to England or Scotland by a well-known churchman and Fellow of Trinity College, Julius Charles Hare, who was issued with a special passport attesting to his identity by the Ambassador of the King of the Low Countries. At that stage Thomas probably only spoke French and German, and it is likely Hare instructed him in English language and social customs on the long journey. It is curious that in all the collected papers of Hare and all the books and articles written about him there is not a single mention of his trip to Neuchatel to collect Thomas. Nor has any trace of Thomas’ parents or their marriage been found in any records. Were the names falsified? Why all the pomp and intrigue?

It is not known where Thomas spent the next nine years, nor with whom, nor the source of his early wealth. It did not come from the estates of Dr. Sacc or Dr. Broadfoot. But he never made any secret of his early years in Cortaillod and several of his children visited Neuchatel and the Sacc family after his death.

All attempts to verify his parentage and to find their marriage have also failed. A brick wall indeed!

A fuller story is at https://nancyvada.me/the-mysterious-advent-of-thomas-darchy/

1 thought on “52 Ancestors – Week 21.

  1. Dear Nancy 


    Wonderfully interesting article.

    Thank you

    Hope you are both keeping well.




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