Friday, 11 October 2019

16 children, all finally accounted for

While researching the land petitions and dealings of my convict ancestor, Esther Salamon Spencer Stubbs Bigge, I came across a document (1) at State Archives New South Wales which quoted:

That your petitioner has been a resident in this Colony thirty seven years during which period she has resided in Phillip Street Sydney and maintained herself and a numerous family by her own industry.
That your petitioner has had sixteen children Ten of whom are now alive and also Twenty one Grand-children now living.
1831 letter to Colonial Secretary (1)

This letter was written for Esther by someone unrecorded to the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales in 1833, Lieutenant-General Governor Ralph Darling. She is petitioning for a town allotment to build a house upon. I don't think she was ultimately successful as she died in her Phillip Street house in October 1855 (2).

Death notice for Esther Bigge, 1855 (2)

There have been several publications outlining Esther's children, but these could only account for up to 13 of them.

Children to convict John Fitz
1. Susannah 1797-?
2. Joseph Clark 1799 - 1800

Children to convict Thomas Stubbs
3. Mary Ann (my 4x great-grandmother) 1801 - 1860
4. Thomas 1802 - 1878
5. Sophia 1803 - 1803
6. Cecilia 1805 - 1896
7. Elizabeth 1808 - 1888
8. Annie Esther 1809 - 1837
9. George 1811 - 1838
10. John Emery 1812 - 1836
11. Godfrey 1814 - 1814

Children to husband Joseph Bigge
12. Robert 1816 - ?
13. Louisa Merrite 1817 - 1854

So where did this claim of having 16 children come from?

In the New South Wales register of Births, Deaths and Marriages there are a few entries that don't quite add up. This is pre-1856 so we only have baptismal register entries to work from.

Firstly, the child named Susannah. In the indexes there are two baptism entries per child, but Susannah has four. Looking carefully at the microfilm copy of the register it appears that Esther gave birth to a Susannah on 23 July 1797 and another one on 28 December 1798, 17 months apart.

So we have:
#1 Susannah Fitz, born 23 July 1797, baptised 20 August 1797, father: John Fitz
#2 Susannah Watson, born 28 Dec 1798, baptised 03 March 1799, father: Michael Watson

Baptism of Susannah Fitz on 20 Aug 1797 (3)

Baptism of Susannah Watson on 03 Mar 1799 (4)

Although there is no death record to be found, it looks as though Susannah Fitz died before the birth of Susannah Watson, and Esther has used the same name again to remember her infant daughter. One of these girls went on to marry boatbuilder, Thomas Day, in 1816. This must have been Susannah Watson because this same woman died on 24 April 1832, age 33 years as per her death notice in various Sydney newspapers. My conclusion is that it was more likely to be the child born in 1799, as the other child would have been 34 years old at that time.

Susannah Day death notice - Sydney Herald 1832 (5)

The same woman was in the New South Wales Census (6) in November 1828, age 29, in the household with Thomas Day and their children. Being age 29 on that date corresponds with Susannah Watson's year of birth.

Portion of New South Wales Census 1828 showing the Day family (6)

So with the two Susannahs, we've gone up to 14 children out of 16.

Next comes Elizabeth. It looks like there were two Elizabeths as well as two Susannahs.

One was born on 15 March 1807 and baptised on 03 December 1809, age two years and eight months.

Baptism of Elizabeth Stubbs on 03 Dec 1809 (7)

The other was born one year later on 11 March 1808 and baptised along with six-month-old sister, Ann, on 18 October 1888, age 16 days. This Elizabeth lived to adulthood, marrying John Jones and dying in 1888 at age 80. Her headstone at Rookwood Cemetery shows her date of birth as 11 March 1808. I love it when there are birth dates as well as death dates on headstones. It makes it so much easier for us genealogists to narrow down the right person.

Baptism of Elizabeth Stubbs on 18 Oct 1808 (8)
Grave of Elizabeth Stubbs Jones at Rookwood (9)

Having two dates of birth recorded makes these Elizabeths obviously two separate girls. Why would she call a second daughter Elizabeth when she already had a living one? Why was the first Elizabeth baptised after the second Elizabeth was baptised? I live in hope of finding the answers to these questions.

We're up to 15 children now.

When Esther arrived on the Indispensible in 1796 she arrived alone. Looking at newspaper accounts of her trial in London in 1794 she claimed to be pregnant, although this was not mentioned at her trial, just in newspaper reports pleading for clemency. Firstly, I was not surprised that she would claim to be pregnant. Who wouldn't, if it would save you from the death penalty?

Extract from the Sun newspaper, London, England, Monday 21 July 1794 (10)

Conditions within Newgate would surely be detrimental to a healthy pregnancy, moreso to a newborn baby. I haven't found a baptism for this child, but I'm sure Esther would not have forgotten the existence of this child as she got on with her life in New South Wales. The child might have been miscarried, stillborn, or born and lived only a short while. Whatever happened, Esther would have surely counted this child in her tally of babies that she had given birth to throughout her life.

16 children. All acknowledged, and none forgotten.

(1) Colonial Secretary’s Letters relating to Land 1826-56, item no 2/7801, reel no 1093. State Archives New South Wales, accessed 6 Oct 2019.  
(2) Family Notices (1855, October 29). Empire (Sydney, NSW: 1850 - 1875), Monday 29 October 1855, page 4. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from  
(3) Baptisms from New South Wales Births Deaths Marriages index for 1797. Microfilm viewed at State Archives NSW, accessed 25 Sep 2019.
(4) Baptisms from New South Wales Births Deaths Marriages index for 1799. Microfilm viewed at State Archives NSW, accessed 25 Sep 2019.
(5Family Notices (1832, April 30). The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831 - 1842), page 4. Retrieved October 7, 2019, fro    
(6) New South Wales Census 1828, State Archives New South Wales, accessed 07 Oct 2019.,contains,NRS-1272&sortby=rank&offset=0
(7) Baptisms from New South Wales Births Deaths Marriages index for 1809. Microfilm viewed at State Archives NSW, accessed 25 Sep 2019.
(8) Baptisms from New South Wales Births Deaths Marriages index for 1808. Microfilm viewed at State Archives NSW, accessed 25 Sep 2019.
(9) Grave of Elizabeth Stubbs Jones, Find A Grave, memorial ID 199553957, accessed 11 Oct 2019.
(10) Sun (London, England), Monday July 21, 1794; issue 565. Accessed 11 Oct 2019.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Some genealogy-themed music

So not only do we have blogs and websites and Facebook groups and societies and podcasts and conferences and even universities all dedicated to genealogy, we also have some excellent music. Canadian guitarist, Michael Stewart, has written several catchy songs around the theme, his most popular being "The Genealogy Widower" which was highlighted on Lisa Louise Cook's podcast.

Michael has a YouTube channel where you can listen to his songs, including The Genealogy Widower, Genealogy Gems, 10 More Minutes, Who Do You Think You Are, and an instrumental called Paper Airplanes. Follow Michael on his Facebook page as well.

Michael Stewart 

Friday, 30 August 2019

DNA Down Under is the place to be

What a wonderful two days, with another to follow tomorrow. This is a great opportunity to learn about DNA for family history at an advanced level. There are still vacancies for tomorrow. Just roll on up to Castle Hill RSL.
We have DNA guru Blaine Bettinger, who is here with his sons, that are a credit to him. They are such polite and well-mannered young men. Our other speakers are also full of knowledge that they’re passing on to an eager audience.
I’m surprised at the proportion of men in the audience, around 25%, compared to about 5% at every other conference I’ve been to. It must be the science aspect that’s the hook for them.
Looking forward to another day of learning tomorrow. Thanks to Alan Philips from Unlock The Past for such a successful event. It’s a large gathering by Australian standards, with almost 400 people per day.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Time's running out!

If you haven't already got your tickets to DNA Down Under you'd better get a wriggle on! Tomorrow's the last day for pre-booking for the Brisbane and Perth events. Each city's line-up is slightly different, so if you can make it to a few you'll learn something at all of them. Don't miss out on this fantastic experience.

Bonus news:
Prizes – these will be drawn for every city from those who pre-book for that city (pre-book by 7 Aug for Brisbane and Perth, 14 Aug for Adelaide, Melbourne & Canberra and 18 Aug for Sydney).
Special offers – a number of exhibitors, speakers, societies and other sponsors. These will be available to all who attend, whether pre-booked or booking at the event.

Click this link to get your tickets.
This event is a 3-day extravaganza not to be missed. It's being held at Castle Hill RSL Club. 
Come for one day, or all three!

Jill is right! 
Disclaimer: As a DNA Down Under Ambassador I receive free registration in return for promoting the conference in various social media forums and on my blog.

Monday, 5 August 2019

I'm a winner!!!! London, here I come.

Recently I entered every competition I found so that I could win myself a pass to RootsTech, which is on in London in October. This will be my first time in London, as well as my first RootsTech extravaganza. On Friday night I found out that I was a winner!! Many thanks to RootsTech London Ambassador, John, from Antecedentia in The Netherlands. I'm looking forward to meeting him in London, as well as going to RootsTech and experiencing a week of sightseeing.

John messaged me, but also put up his winning entry draw on YouTube. I still get a stupid grin on my face when I watch it. Thank you so much, John, for drawing my name out of a RootsTech mug.

Here's a bit about John. If you need any expertise in Dutch research he's the person to see.

Photograph of John Boeren in Tilburg, the Netherlands

Antecedentia | Genealogy in the Netherlands is founded by John Boeren (*1973) from Tilburg, the Netherlands.
He studied at Tilburg Law School and at the School for Archivists in The Hague. For almost ten years he worked at the Regional Archives in Tilburg, mainly as a manager of the Department for Research Services and Education.
Since 1988 he is engaged with genealogy and other forms of historical research. All those years he has been an instructor for genealogy courses. He regularly gives lectures about genealogy or local history. He publishes articles in books and magazines. John is a graduate of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (Professional Development Certificate and Methodology Certificate).

Sunday, 21 July 2019

What a trip! Elizabeth Macquarie's journey to Sydney in 1809

While researching for a future blog post I've been reading Elizabeth Macquarie's journals that are held at Sydney's Macquarie University. Both Elizabeth and husband Lachlan Macquarie's diaries have been digitised and grouped into years for ease of searching.

Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell Macquarie, ca. 1819 - watercolour on ivory miniature.
Courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Their ship Dromedary departed Portsmouth, England on 22 May 1809, stopping along the way at the Island of Madiera, the Cabo Verde islands off the west coast of Africa, Rio de Janeiro, and Cape Town, arriving in Sydney Cove on 28 Dec 1809, a journey of 220 days. Also on board was my ancestor's husband, Joseph Bigge, who was their coachman and groom, earning him the nickname 'Joe the Coachman'.

During this voyage Elizabeth suffered a few shocks, and encountered some interesting situations.
Only two days into their journey she thought they were being chased by two pirate ships which "occasion'd much uneasiness to me & the other Ladies". These ships turned out to be friendly, but I'm sure Elizabeth was wondering what she had let herself in for.

On 4th June she saw three sailors drown from the Hindostan due to the Captain of that ship sending out a smaller boat into rough seas to retrieve their letters and packets from the frigate Magicienne.

On 18th June while anchored at Madiera Elizabeth toured around the town and went by chance into a church where a young woman was taking the veil. She describes it like this:

A second ceremony took place at the door of the convent, but the crowd was so great that I could not see it, at this moment there was a noise made by a Person pressing forward thro' the mob, she was soon known to be the Mother of the young woman, there was room made for her to pass, & she arrived at the spot where her Daughter stood, to take her last embrace! -- till that moment the Nun supported herself, but the sight of her Mother totally overcame her; her head fell on her breast, & she sob'd aloud in an agony of grief; she was then hurried forward, & I saw her walk on follow'd by those dreadful looking black nuns, who threw rose leaves at her. ---I saw her no more! but I understood that her head was immediately to be shaved, she had a great quantity of fine hair, and I saw the dress carried in which she was to change for that she had on, it was an extreme coarse brown heavy stuff, which I suppose she was to wear till she took the black veil. ---I cannot say that I ever felt so much distress at the fate of a stranger, as I did on this occasion; the impression was not that I could not hear the subject mention'd without considerable emotion for sometime after. I hope her situation does not feel to her, as it appear'd to me. 

Elizabeth found it quite distressing to be on board a slave ship for a while from Bengola to Rio de Janeiro.

[O]n the third of August we boarded a Portuguese Brigg [sic] from Bengola to Rio Janiero [sic] laden with female slaves, this was a more hazardous service than we had any idea of, the officers found on getting on board that an infectious fever prevail'd among them, to which the Captain and a great number of the slaves had fallen victims -- to put a stop if possible to the complaint, they had resorted to a precaution at which humanity shudders, namely, that of throwing the unfortunate slaves overboard as soon as they were taken ill. 

Soon afterward she watched a seaman fall overboard. Thankfully he was rescued.

During this voyage one day when the Ship was going at eight knots an hour, a sea man fell overboard -- he fell over the poop & past our Cabbin [sic] window, I saw something fall, but had no idea it was a man till I hear'd him cry out, which he did in the most disturbing manner. Coll.. Macquarie ran forward and encouraged him by every means in his power to keep a hold which he had fortunately caught of a fishing line, which hung over the stern -- the Ship was put about, and a Boat lower'd, by which the man was saved.

This next seaman didn't fare so well:

[A]bout the end of the month we had a great deal of rain, and on the night of the 31st.. our Cabin was quite in a float; owing to a leak in the Deck. George Tiers having gone to bed, a Carpenter Charles Tonkins was sent to caulk it, I observed as he pass'd me what a very pleasant handsome looking man he was; after doing what he could to the leak he said that for want of materials he could not do it completely that night, but that he should finish it in the morning. --- Poor young man he little knew that that morrow, was to be the last he should ever see in this world. The Soldiers suffer'd much inconvenience from some of the ports taking in water, it was blowing pretty hard, and the Ship was going 9 knots, when Charles Tonkins went over the side of the Ship unattended & unobserved by any person, to caulk in those ports; a service which might have been perform'd with perfect safety if the man had been properly attended, one of the officers in the gun room hear'd a cry, & saw the poor young man fall into the sea [---] he was never seen again ---The Ship was brought to, a boat was sent from this ship, & one from the Hindostan but they could not find him. [T]his melancholy accident shock'd us all very much; next day (as is always the custom on board Ship,) there was a sale of his effects & his papers were examined by the Captain; he found a great many letters from a young woman who was engaged to him, which in my opinion contain'd more pure affection, express'd in a more natural & affecting manner than any I ever read; there were also copies of some of his in return, which were also very interesting -- what her sufferings will be when she hears of this event it is dreadful to think on. ---The man who fell overboard sometime ago might really have lost his life owing to a joke, as when Capt.. P. saw the Ship in confusion, & the men busy lowering the boat, he ask'd what the matter was, & if any one had fallen; the Sailors call'd out Sir, Nobody has fallen overboard; that being the name he went by in the Ship, tho' known to Captn.. P. by his proper name of John Smith.

On 31st October after leaving Cape Town another sailor died in sad circumstances:

On the 31st.. in the evening Coll.. M. & I were walking on Deck when Thomas Jackson fell from the fore top Mast Rigging on the Forecastle, and fractured his skull; which occasion'd his immediate death. [H]e was a very active good temper'd young Man, and a great favorite with the Sailors; they were much affected with the accident, & some of them shed tears. This young Man had been rather addicted to drink, when Coll.. M. & Captn.. P. passed him at quarters the Captn.. said I dont think you are quite as you should be. [H]e seem'd offended, & said, you always look hard at me Sir. [I]t is supposed from this circumstance that his being in drink occasion'd this dreadful accident. [N]ext morning his Body was committed to the deep.

Curiously, on 5th November at 11 o'clock at night a large fire ball was seen not far off, passing in a S. W. direction
I'd love to know what this was!

Ten days later yet another sailor lost his life:

[A]t 2 o'clock this day the Commodore hove to, & made the Signal for a Man overboard; we lay to, but did not go to him; he had his boats out for two hours but to no effect, the Man was unfortunately drown'd — he was one of the best Seamen Captain Pascoe had; it was his birth day, the other sailors had treated him to a share of their Grog on the occasion he went to his station on the yard arm to look out in a state of intoxication, & fell asleep; another man was half way up to releive [sic] him when he fell. — This disturbing accident detain'd us three hours during which time the favorable wind lasted but shortly after deserted us. 

Elizabeth had such an eventful voyage to an unknown future as the wife of the Governor to New South Wales.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

So much for I used DNA to find Henry's family

I have long been fascinated by my maternal ancestors, Henry TUCK and his Irish bride, Catherine FALVEY. The family legend had it that Henry was born on the Isle of Skye in 1810, and my family fully embraced the Scottish connection. One of my uncles and a cousin even bought kilts and learned the bagpipes, joining a local pipe band. Another cousin named her daughter Syke.


Photos of Henry Tuck and Catherine Falvey from the Family Reunion booklet
My late Uncle Peter in 2011

This legend is evident on Henry's death certificate (1) and a biography written by his grandson, Samuel, published in 1963. It starts "My Grandfather, Henry Tuck, was born on the Isle of Skye in the County of Inverness in 1810, just five years before Waterloo." (2)

Death certificate of Henry Tuck from Births Deaths Marriages Victoria
Image from the booklet:  Henry Tuck and his Descendants: Family Reunion 7th March 1982 (3)

The genealogist in me wanted to find some proof of where Henry was from. Thinking that Skye was the obvious place to start I contacted SkyeRoots, who searched their records and came up with nothing, informing me that Tuck isn't a Skye name.

Looking at a heat map of the Tuck surname in the UK I saw that the county of Norfolk has the highest number of people with this surname in the 1841 UK Census. Norfolk looked like the place to resume my search.

I found a baptism record on FamilySearch in Blofield, Norfolk, that looked promising. All of this particular Henry's siblings names were also the names my Henry gave his children. His mother has a relatively unusual first name, Christian. My Henry didn't call any of his children Christian, so the chance that this was "my" Henry was still just a chance.

To find out more about this Tuck family I joined the Norfolk Family History Society so I could view their user-submitted trees, as well as access their large library of records. There were a number of Tuck family branches, and I chose the one that included my potential Henry.

Tuck Family Tree from Norfolk FHS

This Henry matched the baptism I found on FamilySearch, and also this Henry could not be found on the 1841 UK Census, or dying before then in the UK, leading me to believe that he could be the man who sailed away to the other side of the world. I created a tree for this Henry, paying attention to the other surnames that were part of his ancestral family. I had a feeling this was the right guy, but how could I prove that this was the same Henry Tuck who came to Van Diemen's Land in 1830?

Enter the brave new world of DNA testing. I am very fortunate to have both of my parents still living, and I had tested them sometime before with Ancestry. I looked at my mother's DNA matches and searched for the most unusual surname that I could find in Henry's tree, SKEDGE. Unlike with the surname Smith, I knew there wouldn't be many Skedge's out there. I had two men come up as a match with the Skedge surname in common, both in Canada. I reached out and luckily they both replied. Alan is descended from Henry's grandmother's sister, Ann Skedge (b.1762). She married James NORTON and they emigrated to Canada, producing a large number of descendants still living there today. Alan has done extensive work on his family tree, which is how I found Ann and her sister Elizabeth. Our match is only 7 centimorgans, which is down the lower end of results. The other match was with my other Canadian relative, Steve. We share 15 centimorgans, which is an even closer match. He is also descended from the Skedge-Norton marriage. He knew of Alan, but they hadn't corresponded, so I was thrilled to be able to introduce them to each other via email.

Ancestry DNA match with Alan showing 7 cM

Ancestry DNA match with Steve showing 15 cM

Without DNA I would not have been able to prove that this relationship existed. I would have been left wondering forever. Using DNA in this way has helped me break down a 20-year brick wall.

Additional y-DNA testing of a direct male line descendant of Henry has revealed the Tuck name going back many hundreds of years to matches in Norway. The name Tuck being of Old Norse origins must be right after all! Thanks to DNA I have found Henry's family of origin and made friends with distant relatives interstate and across the oceans.

If you would like to learn more about how DNA can break down your brick walls, come along to the DNA Down Under event, a multi-city event featuring the best speakers in the field of DNA and genealogy, Blaine Bettinger, Louise Coakley, Kerry Farmer, Michelle Patient, Helen Smith, Fiona Brooker, and Mike Murray. They will be visiting Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra for a one-day event in each city, and a three-day extravaganza in Sydney from 29-31 August 2019.

I am honoured to be an Ambassador for this event. Come and see how learning more about DNA can take your genealogical research to the next level.

(1) Death Certificate of Henry Tuck, died 17 March 1890, Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria, 1890/7229.
(2) Samuel Tuck, Biography of Henry Tuck, [Victoria], 1963.
(3) Len Arboit, Henry Tuck and his Descendants Family Reunion 7th March 1982, [Victoria], 1982.