in Family history

Putting Leaves Back onto the Family Tree


I have received a couple of very interesting emails from two FtDNA Matches.

As regular readers will know, my father in law’s line shows some anomalies. Y-DNA testing has nicely resolved one problem and given us some new ancestor names while removing others.  Further close examination of the tree found more inconsistencies.

It is very easy to become blinkered when examining DNA matches.  I have gone over the matches so much, searching for common surnames, common ancestor regions, common social spheres and life experiences.  With my own mother’s maternal line, this approach worked beautifully.  I’m pretty sure that her maternal family truly are who they are stated to be and it all fell into place.  My father’s paternal line is similarly straightforward except that it leads back to Ireland to an area with minimal records.  His DNA matches have ancestors who emerged from the same regions of Ireland.   My mother in law also has matches who present common ancestor surnames, making it easy to see where the on-paper tree gains credence.  But my father in law was a different story from the start.  There were no commonalities at all between his on-paper tree and the ancestor names of his DNA Matches.  Not a single surname matched.

I have been working almost exclusively on my father in law’s tree for several weeks, and have identified many points where the truth may differ from the written record.  Y-DNA testing has sorted the paternal line.  That’s a good start.  We have some third cousin matches on the maternal side.  I’m pretty sure his parents are correct.  Paternal grandfather – all good. Paternal grandmother – looking good, we have one distant match on Gedmatch sharing an ancestor with her.  Maternal grandfather – no certainty yet.  Maternal grandmother – she is a child of uncertain paternity so hard to know if we have DNA evidence or not.

Just a picture to break up the text

Just a picture to break up the text

So we come to my two emails.

Once a long time ago, I communicated with a match who listed the surname Kelly among his ancestors.  He, his mother and his aunt matched my son.  I was hopeful that Kelly was the connecting surname.  The estimated relationship was 4th-remote cousin.

Well,Jane Kelly wife of Patrick O’Keefe is gone now, deleted from our tree by the Y-DNA test.  No more delving into the life and times of that dutiful soldier and his honest wife, with their eight sons born at very different places round the world.  It’s rather sad to take them out of the story.  In their place, however, we gain a new family with their own adventures and characteristics to be admired.

Kelly was gone, but the DNA Match remained so we connected elseways.  The man emailed me recently since my father in law and my daughter’s tests have been added to the match list and his three matched all of my three.  We certainly have a common ancestor somewhere.

Taking off the blinkers – or trying hard to do so – I went looking for a triangulation and found four others who match at this same segment, all in common with the original three.  We have ten people who descend from the same ancestor.

Fun times ahead here.

urtle Dove from Sunday at Home border illustration 1876

Turtle Dove from Sunday at Home border illustration 1876

The next email was similar – a man who shared a match with my father in law and my two tested children.  This man had tested many family members.  Amongst them were his mother and his mother’s second cousin.  The match with my father in law shows as a 2nd-4th cousin match, but I suspect endogamy is at play and we are looking at maybe a 5th cousin connection.   My three kits matched his three kits.  Since the matches include his mother and her second cousin, he knew exactly which family line we were connected to.

This is a major clue for me, but unfortunately I had to tell him that we are struggling to confirm our ancestry.

His ancestors were William Day born circa 1824 who was married to Elizabeth Rees.   If the 2nd-4th cousin prediction is correct, our common family member would be more recent than this couple.

There are two obvious possibilities and countless less obvious ones.  Considering the most likely:

FIRST:  John Rees, mariner, was born in circa 1824 died in Back River, New Norfolk 1879.  The informant of death was the undertaker who knew nothing of John’s origins.

John was married twice – first to widow Lydia Schofield nee Clay, in Hobart in 1855.  Lydia died in New Norfolk in 1858 at age 48, no children registered to the couple.    John then married Mary Davie in 1859.   A son John was born to them in 1860 but died aged a toddler in 1862.  A daughter Mary Ann was born in 1862.  Mrs Mary Rees died of cancer in 1879 in New Norfolk only a few months after her husband.   There is no further mention of Mary Rees the daughter.  She could potentially have had a son in the late 1870s who might be our Evelyn Daley’s father.  It’s possible.  There may have been more children not registered.  With no way to trace John Rees the mariner back to origins, it is hard to connect him to Elizabeth Rees of London.

To continue the bird theme - a duck

To continue the bird theme – a duck from Sunday Hours 1861

SECOND:  George Day married Mary Brookwell(?) in 1835 in New Norfolk.  On the marriage registration (civil transcript) Mary’s name is shown as Mary Backall but beside her mark is written as Mary Beckett.  This is a contradiction to begin with but foreshadows Mary in future records.  It looks as if they had eight children in Tasmania and her maiden name is recorded as – not given, Birkell, Brocker, Brooker, Backel, Buckle, Brockwell and Buckerell.

Five of George and Mary’s children were registered by gender with no name provided.  Then they all vanish from records.

I am indebted to a plethora of descendants who have spent years attempting to solve the mystery of this couple.  I know that George was born in Teneriffe in Spain, and that Mary was born in Dublin and was quite plausibly the transported convict Marianne Brookwell.  I now know the names of those children registered by gender.  In 1868, George and Mary and at least three children emigrated to New Zealand.  Elder children may have remained in Tasmania.  Some very good minds and collaborators have taken thirty years at least to get this far.

There is a possible ninth child for this family, one not registered but descendants feel George and Mary are the likely ancestors.

George was a farmer in Hamilton.  This puts him right on the spot to be involved with my Daleys and Triffitts and Rawlinsons.  I think he is very promising.

So on that note, I’ll wind up my first blog post in way too many days and get back to the research.  Hopefully, something concrete will emerge soon.

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  1. George & Mary DAY – these are the parents of Peter DAY who married my great grandmother here in New Zealand, however I am not a descendant of Peter. You mentioned descendants were trying to solve the mystery of these two – likewise and very frustrating.

    Please make contact via my email address.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Margaret (NZ)