52 Ancestors … Week 22

Topic: At the Cemetery.

When I first saw my Great Grandfather Frederick Wentworth Wade’s grave in the beautiful old St. Johns Cemetery in Invercargill NZ, it had several well-weathered blocks of marble inscribed with his name and dates 1838-1912, his second wife Ada Gresham Macloskey’s name and dates 1858-1931, and on top the remains of what was a large simple cross with Ada’s name (his first wife Adela 1848-1874 died in Melbourne, Australia aged 26). But the cross had been broken off and was lying alongside the main block in two pieces. I was on a very brief visit from Australia – no time to do anything.

Some years later (2002), now married to a New Zealander, I revisited the cemetery and discovered the cross was missing. But scouting around I soon found it on someone else’s grave site. The large lettering ADA was unmistakable. We carried it back to its rightful place.

A little later still I made contact with a distant cousin Barbara Ashmore, descended from Ada’s sister Constance Macloskey 1862-1897. Constance’s grave is a short distance from Frederick and Ada’s. Barbara and I decided to have both graves restored, that is the respective monuments cleaned and in Ada’s case the cross repaired, strengthened and re-erected, and fresh gravel placed on top. We also had plaques inserted, in Barbara’s case for her uncle Compton Tothill 1895-1915 who died aged 20 at Gallipoli in WW1 and is buried in Chunuk Blair, and in my case for Frederick and Ada’s only daughter Florence (Fonna) 1878-1965 who had left instructions in her will that she was to be buried with her parents and her name also inscribed on the monument, but apparently this was not done.

Fonna was the only paternal relative who I ever met apart from my grandparents, I remembered her dimly as a lovely old lady, a world traveller. Amazingly, my relatively newly discovered cousin Barbara and her mother had known her too! In the second photo Fonna is third from the left and Barbara’s mother Mary Alicia Compton Tothill 1896-1971 is the bride, marrying Irishman Albert Switzer Ashmore 1889-1970.

So it was a great pleasure to be able to restore the grave to some semblance of what it once was and at the same time to honour the wishes of my Great Aunt Fonna.

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/

52 Ancestors – Week 20.

The theme is ; BEARDED.

All the ancestral male portraits which I have show bearded gentlemen. One favourite is my Great Grandfather Alexander Johnston (1829 – 1906). How I acquired his portrait is a story in itself.

When I first started genealogy I knew little about my father’s family. I knew his father, a younger Alexander, had been born in Launceston, Tasmania and that his father had been a librarian. I started to correspond with a lady living there whose Johnston family were also from Launceston but we soon established we were not related. However she went on making enquiries on my behalf and one was at the Launceston Library. It turned out they had a huge portrait of Great Grandfather, commissioned on his retiring after over 60 years’ “faithful service”. Without being asked, the Library had a professional photograph taken and mailed it to me.

Great Grandfather looked exactly like my own clean-shaven father, apart from his huge beard. The same benign expression, the same dark eyes. But both look totally unlike my Granddad.

I’m certainly not bearded but I seem to have inherited characteristics from both GGFather and Gfather ….

The story of Alexander and his wife Margaret is at https://nancyvada.me/alexander-johnston-margaret-lyle-tasmanian-pioneers/

52 Ancestors …. Week 19.

the topic for this week is … BALD.

According to various internet sources, “… bald men were consistently rated as more intelligent, influential, knowledgeable, well educated, high social status, honest and helpful.”…

My father’s family seem to have escaped the baldness gene(s), at least according to all available photos. My father retained a full head of hair, as did his father and also my brother and my nephew. On my mother’s side the picture is not so clear; Great great grandfather Thomas Darchy retained his hair although I am not certain about some of his sons; and Great Grandfather Thomas Hunt had plenty of white hair (and beard); and as far as I can determine all his sons plus Grandmother Hunt, the youngest of nine, did not carry the gene.

Amazingly the same happened in both my husbands’ families. He was told at a young age “I promise you you’ll never go bald” …

I’d like to include photos but I’m currently away from home.

52 Ancestors … Week 18

The topic for this week is Pets.

I do not know if my grandparents ever had a dog, I suspect not, but my parents definitely did early in their marriage, according to a photo. But I have no memory of it. By the time I was 11 I’d decided I MUST have a puppy, and gave my parents no rest until they agreed, the tipping point being an advertisement which 12 year old me spied in the local newspaper. I became the owner of a darling little black and white fox terrier cross which I promptly named Whiskey. For the next two yeas he was my constant companion, we would wake at dawn and go for long walks, getting back just in time for breakfast and then school. But as I grew older and became more absorbed in schoolwork and after-school sport, a much larger and stronger Whiskey became bored, jumped our tall back fence with ease and took to following my little brother to his school. It was decided to “send Whiskey to a good home in the country” to which naively I reluctantly agreed. I still hope even now that it was true!

(Photos to be added at a later date)

52 Ancestors – Week 17.

The theme for this week is … DNA.

As a retired medical research scientist I was excited when DNA arrived on the genealogical scene. But I soon realised that my early knowledge was seriously outdated – here was a whole new world.

DNA analysis has certainly helped settle a few genealogical questions. So far there have been no surprises, welcome or not, in my own family; just confirmations and a few distant cousins to discover.

The most useful was in my paternal Great Great Great Great Grandfather’s family. Thomas Cochrane 1733-1804 and his wife Ann Kerr 1733-1789 had ten children, according to a huge old family bible – an absolute treasure trove. In addition, Thomas Cochrane left a will. So I know for certain who his children were and who most of them married.

But the bible records, which I have put up on various genealogical sites, has not deterred a number of people from claiming that Thomas and Ann were their ancestors, that they had children with other names (some at improbable dates), and that various of their children married other persons not mentioned in the bible. The main problems are that Thomas, Ann, Margaret, Jean, James, John, etc. were very common names in those times, it was not compulsory to register baptisms and also the surname Cochran(e) was very common in Renfrewshire. So it is very easy to claim ancestors who are not (!).

DNA helped me unravel such a line. Thomas and Ann’s daughter Margaret Cochrane, born 19 August 1760, married a weaver named Peter Stewart Donald according to her father’s will. But several people claim she was the wife of a completely different man and had several children with him.

Records show that Margaret Cochrane and Peter Stewart Donald (1757-) married and lived in Dunbartonshire where they had at least two children, Jane (or Jean) Donald 1780-1864 who married Robert Hillhouse, and Janet. This has been confirmed via a DNA match with a Hillhouse descendant.

A fuller story of the Margaret Cochrane above and several other Margarets, all related, is at http://www.nancyvada.me/the-five-margarets.

52 Ancestors … Week 16.

Theme: “Should be a movie!”

My Irish Great Grandmother Margaret Prendergast led a very full life and at times a very hard one. The story of her life would surely make a wonderful movie, starting with a long ship voyage, her childhood in a remote Australian country town, marriage and city life in Melbourne, widowhood, remarriage to the son of a wealthy country squire, a comfortable outback country living which changed to an impoverished drought-stricken one, running a country hotel, constantly changing house in different small towns, finally settling in the city of Sydney with a large extended family and an occasionally visiting husband …

Born in 1844 in Tuam, Galway, Ireland, she was only ten years old when her family emigrated to Australia on the “Pestonjee Bomanjee”, arriving in Adelaide in 1854. Her father became a shopkeeper in a small country town in south-western NSW, not far from a large pastoral property owned by my Great Great Grandfather Thomas Darchy.

She married in Melbourne in 1866 aged 22, had two children and was widowed nine years later. The boy died aged 24 and the girl went to Scotland to her father’s relatives and stayed there.

Margaret remarried in 1879 when she was 35 and had four more children. This second marriage was to Frank Darchy, Thomas’ son, and was frowned upon by the wealthy Darchy family as she was of the wrong religion, daughter of a shopkeeper, and some years older than her new husband. But the marriage endured.

Initially they lived at “Cuthowarra”, an outback cattle station in the Wilcannia district (far north west NSW). Initially a prosperous area, it suffered greatly from a prolonged drought and rabbit plague, the river which was the lifeblood of the town dried up, and Frank, in partnership with one brother and another man, “…. spent their capital twice over wasting a considerable amount in an unsuccessful search for water…” They were forced to leave “Cuthowarra” and that was the end of a once-comfortable life for Margaret.

Frank took to a droving life and Margaret took over the license of a country hotel, the “Hibernian” in Hay NSW, in 1895-1897. Newspaper reports showed that she had quite a time with unruly visitors who left without paying; she had to appear in the local court several times as a witness to various misdemeanours, and once was issued a summons charging her with “ …detaining, without just cause, certain goods … she was ordered to return them to the complainant once he had paid her the amount owing. (The Riverine Grazier, Hay NSW, 2 July 1895 p.2).

Margaret and Frank moved around several country towns, then eventually to a large house in the city of Sydney in 1909 which was at various times shared with a number of other Prendergast and Darchy family members. The impression is that Margaret was the glue that held them all together – as shown in the photo. Her sons were, like their father, countrymen to the core, and her daughter married but was constantly thwarted in her desire to present Margaret with grandchildren. (But she did eventually end up with several via two of her sons).

Frank must have visited Margaret from time to time but was always very restless in the city and continued droving, particularly during the war years. All the Darchy cousins who enlisted, survived. Margaret died in Sydney in 1915 and Frank in 1925.