in Family history

Life In The Hills – Triffitts, Daleys and Pearces

John Glover (artist) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

John Glover (artist) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the early days of white settlement as everyone knows, Van Diemen’s Land was a penal colony.  England was in charge, records were maintained and if we had an ancestor in Hobart Town we would probably find them on a muster record, a census or a prison report.  Churches were few and far between but most people preferred a formal ceremony for marriages and baptisms so a genealogist has a fair chance of finding a record, particularly if their ancestor lived in Hobart or Launceston.  Convicts who married had no choice but to take the formal route, if marriage was approved.

New Norfolk records start pretty early too, though the spelling was quite variable in those early days.  The first church services in the town were held under a tree, and the first marriages too.  Then a church was built.  All those Norfolk Islanders gave the town a hefty population from the start, so they didn’t worry about little chapels.  They built proper stone churches for a big congregation with stained glass windows, a large rectory and a close.  The Anglican, Catholic and Independent churches were soon there.

A proper, civilised, respectable town did not suit many of the Norfolk Islanders.  They were used to running their own show and had become successful farmers.  They were granted land outside the town which became little villages of their own, often filled with members of the same family.  New Norfolk had its troublemakers and problems, but on the whole it was a very pleasant and thriving town, and a popular day’s outing from the bigger town of Hobart.

The misfits moved further west.

By [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Portion of Dower Map 1837:   By [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Not only misfits headed west.  There was good country out there, for sheep, horses, cattle and hops.  Hops were big all round the New Norfolk district and there was good money in selling beer.  But there were also escaped convicts, bushrangers, people with mental problems and drinking disorders, aggressive natives and squatters.  There was a lot of frost and rain, steep wooded terrain, flooding rivers and mud.  People built their houses with and without skill, anything to keep a roof over them.  There were few shops, fewer churches and definitely no schools.

What they did have was Community, with a capital C.  These people were somewhat wild and kept to themselves, but in their own way they were close.  For the younger ones, it was the only life they knew.  On the map above, the towns of Hamilton and Bothwell can be seen.  To the west is the River Ouse and further west again is the River Dee.  The people who lived here walked or rode horses and travelled long distances to visit each other.  We don’t really know what they did. They were shepherds employed by wealthier folk, and bushmen and sawyers.

My father in law’s ancestor James Triffitt was born in Yorkshire in 1769.  He was arrested and transported on the third fleet in 1791.  He was sent to Norfolk Island where he married Mary Whiston aka Higgins.  Three children are known to have been born to them there but one died as a baby.  James, Mary and their two sons were then relocated to New Norfolk.  In 1812 in New Norfolk, James and Mary were married, which seems to indicate that there had been no formal ceremony on Norfolk Island.  In the register they are recorded as James Griffiths and Mary Higgins.

By JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Many researchers have examined the life of this man so I won’t go over old ground.  My favourite presentation is Nigel Triffitt’s Tribes  .  It’s a colourful account, but he conducted some good research and he was an excellent writer.   In summary, the two sons grew up and found wives.  In his old age James met a young lady and took off with her, leaving his wife Mary behind.  There was a bit of a stir in town, something even ended up in the papers.  James and his young Sophia settled in Hamilton and five children were born to them there …  maybe more. The records were scanty out there and we once believed there were three children.  The count is currently at five.

Given the awkward circumstances, we don’t know if the new five ever met their much older brothers.  We do know that most of them headed for the mainland where they went forth and multiplied in true Triffitt fashion.  Van Diemen’s Land was left to James Junior and his brother Thomas.

James was aged 20 when he married Elizabeth Barnes in 1815.  She was fifteen.  Thomas, at eighteen, was married three weeks later to sixteen year old Mary Scattergood.  All four of them had been born on Norfolk Island and had known each other their whole lives.  The families began in Hobart Town but eventually settled in a locality called Back River, not far from New Norfolk.  Thomas and Mary are my father in law’s ancestors.

Nine children were born to Thomas and Mary.   Their youngest child was born in 1830.  Mary passed away in 1857 after seeing them all grow up.  A year later, at the age of 61, Thomas married 18 year old Mary Carroll.  A further six children were born.  The Triffitt men never had trouble finding a new bride.

Thomas’s fifteen children plus his brother James’ twelve children, plus his father James’ second batch of five children, would be quite enough to cause confusion for researchers.  Many of the children moved out into the woods where no one kept track of anything.   Triffitts are everywhere in the records.  The ones in New Norfolk and in the township of Hamilton are nicely recorded.  The ones in the bush are not so easy.

Tasmania in the wilderness.  Many families lived with no infrastructure.

Tasmania in the wilderness. Many families lived with no infrastructure.

All the children had large families.   I’m not sure if anyone has produced a total of known grandchildren for James Senior, but it would be a big number.  The one I have been examining today is Susan, daughter of Thomas and Mary.

Born in 1822 in Hobart, Susan Triffitt was just a child when the family moved back to New Norfolk.  She made no appearance in the records until her marriage to Owen Daley in 1859.  Both Susan and Owen were aged thirty.  They married in Hamilton.

For many years, Owen Daley was a brick wall. There were at least three by that name, possibly more.  I have now identified him as an ex-convict, free by servitude at the time of his marriage.  He was born in Cork and we know he had a brother who emigrated to the United States.  He was recorded on the marriage record as a labourer and he could sign his name. Susan signed with her mark.  The witnesses were George and Matilda Young.  Matilda was Susan’s married sister, and George was Matilda’s husband.

By my reckoning, at the time of marriage Susan had a toddler named Johanna who was born around 1857.  Later, Owen referred to her as ‘my daughter Johanna’ but whether she was actually his daughter is not known.  Also at the time of marriage, Susan was very pregnant.  She married on 9th July 1859 and Isaac Daley was born 26th August 1859.  They were just in time.   There is no way to be sure that Isaac was really Owen’s son which is a shame because he is my father in law’s ancestor.   Emily was born in 1863 and Edward in 1866.  Those two are more certain.  Finally, George William Daley was born in 1875.  Did Susan really have a son when she was 53, after an eleven year gap?  It’s not impossible, but perhaps unlikely.

Johanna, the eldest, became the mother of two daughters.  Mary Jane was born in 1867 and lived for fifteen days.  No father’s name was provided in the register and Johanna was listed as Johanna Triffitt.  Two years later she had another daughter, Susan.  The father of this child was John Burris.  John Burris’s parents were the best friends of my own ancestor from River Dee.  It was a small world out there!

Tangled Tree by Roberto Verzo, 7th Feb 2013

This is the kind of tree we are dealing with here.     ‘Tangled Tree’ by Roberto Verzo, 7th Feb 2013

John Burris married Sarah Ann Squires a few years after his daughter was born.  No further record has been found of Johanna Triffitt or her daughter Susan.  Maybe George Daley was actually her child, maybe she left the state, maybe her death was recorded under another name.

Isaac Daley married Maria Triffitt.  The surname may seem familiar.  Maria was the daughter of John Frederick Triffitt and Elizabeth Hay.  John Frederick was Susan’s brother, another child of Thomas and Mary.  A cousin match always does interesting things to DNA matches.  At the time of the marriage, Maria Triffitt was the mother of one year old twins. The twins have gone down in the records as Isaac’s children, but once again I do not know for sure.

Emily, third child in the family, married Frederick Edwin Triffitt.  Frederick Edwin was Maria’s brother.

Edward married Elizabeth Pearce.  The Pearce family are another tangled tree of the Ouse region and I am not sure just where Elizabeth fits.  A daughter of Edward and Elizabeth then married a son of Frederick Edwin and Emily.  That son was already the result of a cousin match so after the next cousin match, I’m not sure how easy it would be to work with their DNA.   The matches would throw back several generations.

Twins are a Triffitt inheritance so a fair indication that Maria really was the daughter of John Frederick, and that John Frederick really was the son of Thomas.   Four months into their marriage, Maria died of syncope caused by internal haemorrhage.  She was probably pregnant.  At the age of eighteen, Isaac found himself a widower with two very young sons.   Six years later he found consolation in two young ladies, each of whom gave him a child within weeks of each other. This may well indicate the improvement in record keeping rather than new activity on Isaac’s part.

One was Isaac’s new partners was Maria’s sister Anne, his cousin. Isaac and Anne were married.  No doubt the family saw to that.  The other was Harriet Pearce, daughter of John and Sarah Pearce.  Harriet was undoubtedly related to Elizabeth who married Edward, but they weren’t sisters because Harriet already had a sister Elizabeth, who married my 3xgreat grandmother’s brother.  So there are complicated connections between my family and my father in law’s, but luckily it’s by marriage. I have not discovered what became of Harriet or of her son.

Isaac Daley, my children's 3xgreat grandfather.

Isaac Daley 1859-1935

The post is getting long and confusing so I’ll leave it there.  It’s very hard to know if the marriages occurred because the men were the father, or because the girl needed a husband and the family put pressure on whichever of their members were still a bachelor.

Yes, this is doing the family tree is really about.  These guys had a tough life with few resources, they looked after each other very well and I’m proud to learn about their lives and include them in the tree.  But what a puzzle!

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  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog posts. I just have a slight correction to something in this post and an update. You list Johanna as being born around 1857 but having daughters in 1867 and 1869 which would make her too young for the births. Johanna did marry to James William Ellis in 1879 and her age then would suggest she was born around 1851. It is still possible Owen was her father but as a convict so early in his sentence he would not have been able to marry Susan. Johanna’s siblings Isaac and Emily were witnesses at the marriage and Johanna still gave her name as Triffett. Her daughter Susan took on the Daley name and married as Susan Louisa Daley to Charles Owen Bryant in 1888.