DNA Updates in the Family Tree

Image from 'A Text-Book of Inorganic Chemistry' by G S Newth,Longmans Green and Co London, 1902 Figure 44 page 209

Image from ‘A Text-Book of Inorganic Chemistry’ by G S Newth,Longmans Green and Co London, 1902 Figure 44 page 209

It’s been a while since I blogged about DNA.  This is because there is very little change across all kits.

I now have nine FtDNA kits to play with, and a known third cousin has just received her own kit in the mail.  I look forward to her result popping up in my match list (assuming no family tree surprises) but it will be at least six weeks before this occurs.

Another update:

Matches excluding known family

Matches excluding known family

I’ve learned a lot since I first received a match list. I now know just what I am seeing here.  I know my region, I know the population base and where they come from and I understand the way local records were created.  All this enables me to look at a table of numbers and understand it.

Any Australian who tests needs to understand a few things about our country if they wish to properly utilise their matches. I’m writing this for my two newly tested cousins and for anyone else who might be swimming in DNA irrelevancies.

I don’t know for sure if my experience is applicable to only my four tested families, or if it works for everyone.  It certainly is necessary for my kits and all of my kits’ matches.

From Leisure Hour 1863 titled 'A Village School' with no attribution.

From Leisure Hour 1863 titled ‘A Village School’ with no attribution.

1) We have pockets of endogamy existing inside more general endogamy.  

On the match list, it looks like a whole lot of 3rd-5th cousins who are living near us geographically but do not share any ancestors. We might recognise their ancestors from perusing the registers for our own family, but we know of no connection.  If this occurs in just one or two specific families, it might be an NPE.  If it’s across the board, it’s probably endogamy.

If you are lucky, you have an ancestor in the mix who immigrated within the last four generations.  You can then separate their DNA from the general pool.  If not, you need a really good tree.

When our ancestors arrived, they stuck together for a long time. Young adults married people they met on the boat coming over, or they joined cousins who had already come out and married them.  Lifelong friendships were forged and it shows up in our trees. When a young couple married, sometimes the father of one died and the mother of the other died. The remaining widow and widower then married each other.  Sometimes that widow was young enough to have a child or two who is half-sibling to each of the younger married couple.  It happened often and genetically it is not an issue, but if you have a second cousin descended from that new baby and you descend from the original young couple, it screws with the relation predictions.

Australians need to get their trees in order to identify this and other similar situations. I really can’t stress that enough if you want to get your money’s worth from DNA testing. We are matching a whole lot of people who don’t really understand their own family.

Scene from Kent from Home Circle 1854

Scene from Kent from Home Circle 1854

2) Our colonising ancestors came from endogamous populations to start with. 

What you may see in your matches are a whole lot of distant cousins who share ancestry locations – the same little village -but not ancestor names.

In my own family, the four main endogamous regions of origin are East Dean in Sussex, East Harptree in Somerset, Redruth in Cornwall and Athea/Listowel in Limerick/Kerry.   Hard on their heels are Chardstock in Dorset and Lorrha in Tipperary.  Other testers will have identified their own regions of issue, I’m sure.

Entire villages of immigrants came from the one town.  They were all struggling, crime was high. One person came out and found Australia to be good for them. They sent a message back home and called the others out to join them.  Family came in droves, taking advantage of government assistance schemes and family sponsorship.

So chances are the supposedly unrelated settlers in one district, with different surnames and even different counties of origin, might all have had the same grandparent or great grandparent in the same little town, and if we could test their DNA they’d be fourth cousins presenting as second cousins.

The other inevitable occurrence was one homesick man from eg Fermanagh meets a young girl from Fermanagh. They share memories, places, customs, songs and an accent.  They are far from home and feel an instant connection.  Then they get married and the gene pool has not really varied.

Identifying all this takes research and a clear head.

You don’t see this mentioned much online, I assume because so few in the United States – where genealogical DNA began – have traced their ancestors back to England with much certainty. Despite the absence of discussion on this matter, it is assuredly the case.

A big new land

Too isolated for official records

3) Australian Birth, Death and Marriage registers are only as good as the informant.

These registers are generally considered to be the authoritative source, but we need to understand how they were taken.

In a city, they are usually good. If someone at the same address is the informant, then you can trust them exactly as far as you trust that person.  You get to know, through your research, just who can be trusted and who liked to spin a yarn.

Early Hobart for instance had a lot of ‘living in sin’ where a girl took on her ‘husband’s’ name for the duration of the relationship. Children born are recorded with the father’s surname and the girl says she’s his wife. Later they separate, she moved in with someone else and now all the children have his surname.  Thus, Ellen Daley born 1841 is the same person as Ellen Brown who spent six months in the orphan school in 1845 and the same person as Ellen Redden who was married in 1857 at age sixteen.  We are so lucky in Tasmania to have full free access to the civil registers giving occupations, witnesses and informants, because that detail is crucial.

And what about those remote mining communities with no church and no registrar’s office?  Or the country farms with no roads going to them?  What often happened was a travelling salesman – a regular guy usually – would be entrusted with the details.  “When you get to Bathurst, can you tell them we had a boy last week and called him William? Father is John Brown.”

At the next farm the salesman got a similar request.  “Can you tell them John White had a girl?”

But when the man gets in he gets them mixed up.  John White is recorded as having a son called William and John Brown’s child goes in as a daughter.  The salesman is entered as a ‘friend’ or a ‘neighbour’.

This is where viewing the original register helps.  You can then see how many babies were recorded on the one day and who the informant was.

Hennor House - the childhood world of Isabella Stevenson

Hennor House – the childhood world of Isabella Stevenson

4) Endogamy is very hard to detect if only one member of a family is tested

I’ve written about this before. Half my 2nd-4th cousins show in one of my parents’ 3rd-5th cousin list.  A few show in both my parents’ 4th-remote cousin list.  For those matches, each of my parents actually share a small amount of DNA with them that they do not share with each other. That DNA has passed to me from each side, resulting in a decent sized match between myself and the distant cousin.  In reality, they are not so close. In reality they are my 6th cousin via two ancestors, not my 3rd cousin via one.

It’s very useful when people have uploaded to Gedmatch since I can then compare with my parents’ tests and can find the matching portion which is too small for FtDNA.

I detect a genuine close cousin by the number of chromosomes with a 10cM or more match.  It’s a rough measure but anyone who has a descent block in common with me on three chromosomes or more, has turned out to be around the third cousin mark and we can find our Common Ancestor.

This obviously applies to my parents and my in-law’s tests as well and hopefully I can apply some of the tricks I’ve learned from my own test to theirs.

Town in the Tasmanian Midlands

Town in the Tasmanian Midlands

As a final update, regular readers may recall that one side of my family discovered a mystery relation through DNA testing. Initially we speculated on a half-brother to our tested kit but further testing set him at the first cousin distance, with a few small anomalies.  Our relative is hoping to identify his father.

Shared matches suggests this relative may be on our kit’s paternal side, but given endogamy in their birth town we cannot yet be sure.  Our kit has a Y-67 test completed.

Our mystery cousin has a Y-67 test on the way at FtDNA.  Anyone who has tested Y DNA at FtDNA will know the common experience.  I do have faith that the result will come to us eventually. If the result is a match, then we have a likely answer. If not, then we are at least a step closer to the truth.

In the meantime, after just one delay so far, we are at this stage:

It's so close!!!

It’s so close!!! Estimated date of completion 1st July-15th July 2015

We are all on tenterhooks.  What will happen?  Another delay and a new date?  Or a result!

John Morgan and Eliza Watts – My Ancestors or Not?

Town in the Tasmanian Midlands

Town in the Tasmanian Midlands

Inquiries are underway.  Over the next month, more details may arrive in the mail and until then research continues around the region in question.

To summarise: my mystery great great great grandmother Mary Morgan was born around 1840 in Tasmania, and by 1856 she was in Hamilton with my great great great grandfather Robert Brown.  Over the next 25 years they had ten children.

Children of Robert Brown and Mary Morgan in Hamilton and Broadmarsh

Children of Robert Brown and Mary Morgan in Hamilton and Broadmarsh, Tasmania, Australia

Robert Brown was a convict transported on the Tortoise.  Born in 1818 in Cambridgeshire, he was transported in 1842 for life and received a conditional pardon in 1853. Coming from a farming background, he was perfectly at home in a rural area. His parents were Benjamin and Susan. Among his children we can find these names.

My own ancestor is the third son, John.  In 1882, John Brown married Sarah Ellen Cox in Broadmarsh and their eldest daughter Esther was my great grandmother.

In the meantime, the one known Morgan family in Hamilton in 1856 has to be examined as a potential connection. At least one online tree has placed John Morgan and Eliza Watts as Mary’s parents.  Initially I discounted them but circumstantial evidence is building.

Labourer's hut in Tasmania

Labourer’s hut in Tasmania

These huts used to be everywhere but there are not so many around now.  It’s a poor photograph, taken from a moving vehicle. But you get the idea – small, single roomed or partitioned into private and public space. Used to house itinerant workers but also sometimes housed whole families of parents plus up to ten children. This one was beside a house but often they were out on their own in the forest, lived in by shepherds. I don’t know how the Morgans lived but my Brown family had some associations with these places.

John Morgan may have been the convict who was transported to New South Wales in 1838 on the Bengal Merchant.  I’ve found this information online but have not viewed it anywhere official yet. It may have been on the parish record of his wedding which is not online.

He was born around 1812 and had arrived in Tasmania by the 1840s.  He is listed as the father of an unnamed boy born 12th December 1842 in Hamilton to Eliza Watts, so he was there early, and even at that time he and Eliza were together. I have eleven children confirmed to them, plus my Mary and one other who may have been Eliza’s but not John’s but maybe were also his.  Or maybe the eldest two were John’s and not Eliza’s, which make more sense physically but less in other ways. John Morgan died in Hamilton in 1882.

Table Mountain Tas from the Midlands Highway

Table Mountain Tas from the Midlands Highway

Anyone who has read my blogs will probably recognise the names on this road sign. This is looking west from the Midlands Highway near Oatlands and the mountain in the distance is Table Mountain. To its south is Hamilton and Ouse. Over there in that blueish hazy wooded area on the left hand side of the photograph is where the Morgans and Browns lived, about 170 years ago.

Early references to Morgans in the Hamilton region are scarce.  No birth record has been found for Hugh in 1838 or for my Mary in circa 1840. Eliza informed for the birth of the two unnamed male children in 1842 and 1844.  Eliza informed for the birth of Ann in 1847.  There was a daughter Ellen born 1846, but we found her from her death record several years later. The first touch of John Morgan himself in the record is the birth of Elizabeth in 1849, when the father was the informant.  John Morgan, according to both Eliza and himself, was a labourer.

Perhaps we have a reference here:


Before His Honor the Chief Justice, and a Military Jury.

John Davis was charged with the manslaughter of Hugh Macdougall, in the district of Hamilton,in the month of April last. 

James Burn- Knew the deceased Hugh Macdougall; saw him last alive about the 16th of April ; it was on a Monday ; he was lying in bed, with his head on a pillow, by a fire in Littlehales’s house; this was, between 10 and 11 in the morning; deceased appeared to witness to be in a state of intoxication ; he laid, and seemed to be snoring, and made no motion ; his breath smelt strong of spirits ; witness remained there till about three o’clock in the afternoon; the deceased never spoke, during the time witness was there. A man named Morgan came in about three o’clock, and looked at Macdougall; he got some warm water, and washed his mouth; witness and William Patterson rose him off the bed, when he appeared as if he were going to be sick ; but only a little blood and water came out of his mouth ; he dropped his hands, his head fell upon his breast, and he died …..

“SUPREME COURT—CRIMINAL SIDE.” Colonial Times(Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) 9 Jun 1840: 5. Web. 28 Jun 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8750800>.

This just might be our John. There has been no mention of any other Morgan in Hamilton at this time.

Here are the children of John and Eliza, as per references in the official records.

Family of John Morgan and Eliza Watts

Family of John Morgan and Eliza Watts

In a previous blog I commented on the absence of a son called John, and suggested that maybe the male child born in 1844 lived and was given that name.

With regard to this suggestion, I have found a most supportive article.


AN ALARMING ACCIDENT occurred at Hamilton on Sunday last.  It appears that Mr. Albert Langdon was   returning home, accompanied by one of his men and a lad named John Morgan, and was proceeding over the bridge near Mr. Sibley’s mill, when the horse shied and became restive, which ended in him taking a leap with the cart, &c. over the parapet of the bridge, (that part being unfenced.) Mr. Langdon’s arm was much injured and the lad seriously hurt.   The man and horse escaped with a shaking. It is strange that the proper authorities do not attend to the dangerous state of the approaches to this township, when so trifling an outlay would make them secure. This is the second accident which has occurred lately, and almost a miracle each time that several lives were not lost.

“POLICE OFFICE.—THIS DAY.” The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859) 1 Feb 1859: 3. Web. 28 Jun 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2466565>.

So, I ask myself, who is this lad named John Morgan in 1859?  Someone born in 1844 would be aged 15 by this time, surely a good age to be called a lad?  I have great hopes for this clue.  I also hope that the boy lived. Injury in those days was no trifling concern.

Then finally, in the 1870s we find a glimpse into the character of John Morgan, in the briefest summary of a rather tragic event:


Emma Morgan pleaded guilty to having, on the 4th July last, unlawfully endeavoured to conceal the birth of a child, by secretly burying its dead body immediately after birth,

The prisoner, who admitted the child was stillborn, and that she did not know she was doing wrong in endeavouring to conceal its birth, [said] her father had threatened to turn her out of the house. She was remanded for sentence.

“SUPREME COURT.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 29 Nov 1876: 2. Web. 28 Jun 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8949519>.

One wonders at the story behind this event.  A bit rich, surely, for John Morgan to threaten Emma when his own elder children were born out of wedlock?  Or maybe they were not really his and he didn’t even know that Eliza had named him as father?  Always questions when looking at families in the past.

Emma’s record is very empty and she never reoffended. I have found no birth or death record for the baby in question either.  Eventually Emma married George Collins in 1883.

Emma's very brief record

Emma’s very brief record CON42/1/1 Page 142 at portal.archives.tas.gov.au/

John Morgan passed away in Hamilton on 28th January 1882 and is not to be confused with John Morgan who passed away on 7th January 1882. Different men. Ours is the later death.

His wife Eliza passed away in Bothwell on 3rd Aug 1894.  Like most women of her era, she had been conspicuously absent in the records of the time.  She will however appear in future blog posts.

Until further details come in this is the family.  I have to ask myself, given Emma’s experience, what would my Mary have done had she been a single girl of this family with a child on the way?  Is that how it was for her, threatened with expulsion from the family home?  We have still located no marriage for Robert Brown and Mary Morgan.  Did Robert Brown rescue a young girl in trouble and win himself a wife by his action?  Or take responsibility for a problem of his own making?  It would not be the first time that a couple came together in such circumstance.

The search goes on.

Hamilton and Ouse – Early Years In Van Diemen’s Land

St John the Baptist Ouse circa 1992

St John the Baptist Ouse built 1840s. Photo taken 1993

This is the only picture I have from Ouse.  The rest of my roll of film was used on gravestones. Ouse is a lovely little town, 15km west of Hamilton, 25km west of Hollow Tree, 20km south of Osterley . If you come from the United States or Europe, you would never call Ouse a town. Maybe you wouldn’t even call it a village.  In 2011 it had a population of 368 and this has been shrinking steadily for many years.  I remember when the population was over a thousand, before some essential local employers shut up shop.  Hamilton’s population is about the same. In 1830 according to several web pages of indeterminate origins the population of Hamilton was 700. As was the way, this is not counting Indigenous communities. The census was taken to inform the administration how many people it had to look after and where they were, and indigenous people were not on the list.  It would be very interesting to know what the true population of the region was.

The climate is very clear from the above picture.  Plenty of rain and mist, cold winters and cool summers. It’s a beautiful spot with productive soil.  If equipped with a good insulated raincoat and waterproof boots it is a very inspiring place to visit. On the day I took the above photograph it snowed, but I’d used up my reel of film before the snow started falling.

Family history works best if the area where the family lived is understood.  I make a distinction between genealogy (researching names, dates, places and family statistics) and family history, which to me includes stories, characters and mementoes.  Genealogy is strictly factual and if a fact is uncertain it is generally omitted till verified. Family history, while still emphasizing truth, allows for interpretation and incorporates mysteries, emotions and memories.

The distinction between genealogy and family history is hotly debated, but that’s a whole article in itself. The point here is that family history involves whole communities. You cannot take an individual or nuclear family unit and build a picture of them without understanding their world. When they and their world are known, predictions can be made as to where missing details might be found.

Which is why this blog post is focusing on Ouse and Hamilton, two nearby towns in one dynamic community with few early records where some of my family lived.

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

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

By 1830, the administration in Hobart Town was under orders to open inland Van Diemen’s Land for colonization.

It’s well recognised that Tasmania had a thriving indigenous population when white settlers arrived.  Interactions were complicated. In some cases there was peace, in others there was conflict.  It all ended badly.  There were at least a few companies of a regiment regularly stationed at Hamilton for the protection of the settlers against indigenous attack, bushrangers and escaped convicts.

In the 1830’s there were skirmishes and misunderstandings. The individual story is bound to include elements of the whole strata from friendship to enmity. Friendships certainly did exist between indigenous people and incomers right across Australia.  Unfortunately there was not enough of it and they existed mostly at a domestic level rather than an official one. The white exiles – convicts and involuntary settlers – were the most likely to be peacable and they also had the least influence on their own superiors.

In the Ouse area in 1830, there are scattered incidents which helped to form the towns and local society.

From the local papers:


It is with great concern we have to record fresh instances of outrage by some of the aboriginal tribes. – On Wednesday last, a party made their appearance in hostile array at Mr Sharland‘s hut, at the Lower Clyde, which they robbed ; from thence they proceeded to Mr Triffet‘s hut, which was subjected to a similar depredation. After committing these robberies, the party made their appearance near Mr Dixon‘s, who was in his barn with three men, thrashing grain. They made their approach unperceived by those in the barn, but fortunately a servant girl in the house discovered them and gave the alarm.  Mr Dixon immediately ran towards the house, to protect his family from the expected attack , he succeeded in reaching the house, but received a spear wound before he arrived thither. The blacks, finding their scheme of surprisal frustrated, went away without attempting any fur- ther molestation. We are glad to find that the wound of Mr. Dixon is not likely to be attended with any very serious consequence. It is reported that a soldier has been speared by the natives, in the neighbourhood of Mrs. Burns‘ farm, in the same district.

Last Friday, a mob of upwards a hundred strong appeared before Mr Hooper’s hut, at the Hollow-tree Bottom, but retired without making any attack, this is the most formidable body seen for some time.    

(“Aborigines.” Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) 16 Apr 1830: 3. Web. 25 Jun 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8645067>.)

“Mr Triffet” was most likely Thomas Triffitt but may have been Thomas’ father James Triffitt.

“Mr Sharland” was possibly Dr John Frederick Sharland who arrived in 1823 and had the job of medical officer to the convicts in the Hamilton area.  He is the only Sharland I can find in the records living anywhere out there.

“Mr Dixon” may have been Robert Dixon who settled in the area with his wife Eliza, although the earliest record I have found is dated 1841.  Mrs Burns … I simply don’t know. Presumably she was a widow or maybe a live-out servant?

The brief reference to the men in the barn “thrashing grain” and the family in the house gives a tiny glimpse into life at that time.

There was a followup in October:


Capt. Wentworth will .. detach the Troops at Hamilton Township under Capt. Vicary, across the Clyde to occupy the Western bank of the Ouse. For this service every possible assistance will be afforded by the Parties formed from the Establishments of Messrs. Triffith, Sharland, Marzetti, YoungDixon, Austin, Burn, Jameson, Shone, Risely, and any other settlers in that District,together with any men of the Field Police who may be well acquainted with that part of the country.

…. The parties of Volunteers and Ticket of Leave men, from Hobart town and its  neighbourhood, will march by New Norfolk, for the purpose of assisting Captain Wentworth’s force, in occupying the Clyde ; and they will be rendering a great service by joining that line in time to invest the Blue Hill, which will be about the 10th of October.

“GOVERNMENT ORDER.” Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846) 4 Oct 1830: 4. Web. 25 Jun 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84775336>.

There is a nice bunch of local names here, and some explanation for the arrival of convicts in the area. The event itself, the driving of ‘the Natives’ from Blue Hill, is quite distressing in hindsight, but since it occurred and was a part of the history of this region it needs to be included.  It must have had impact on everyone involved.

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

Tasmania today in the south, giving a glimpse into the unfamiliar isolation faced by the few white families in Ouse, Osterley and Hamilton in the early 19th century.

On to other aspects of life in early Ouse:


Margaret Burns was charged with stealing a China bowl, the property of Mr. John Young, of the River Ouse, with whom she had formerly lived as servant, previous to her marriage with a man named Burns. Evidence was given as to the identity of the article stolen, for Mr. Young swore positively that he had purchased it in Holland, and brought it out with him to this Colony; and Mrs. Barnes, of the Clyde, proved that she purchased it of the prisoner, who stated to her that she had brought it with her from Liverpool. It appeared that the woman had been in custody nine months on this charge, and that it was uncertain how long the stolen article had been abstracted, so that the whole proof against the prisoner rested on the fact of the bowl being traced to her possession.

“Quarter Sessions, Hobart Town.” Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) 7 Jan 1831: 2. Web. 25 Jun 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8645516>.

Wow. Nine months in custody before coming to trial.   It’s a good thing times have changed.  Already we can see some familiar surnames appearing, and family character too. Mrs Barnes may refer to Mrs Sophia Barnes who was estranged from her husband before her 20th birthday and moved to the Ouse region with James Triffitt senior.  There might also have been others of that surname in the area, such as Mr Sharland’s daughter Ann who married William Barnes of Launceston in 1830.

And the establishment of new services continued:


It being intended to establish a Punt in the River Ouse, immediately below its juncture with Native Hut Rivulet, and likewise to form a road to it from the North Westward and from the South Eastward. -Public notice is hereby given of the measure in contemplation in order to afford an opportunity to all those who are interested, of bringing forward any well grounded objection that may’possibly exist to the adoption of that line.

“Classified Advertising.” The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 – 1839) 10 Sep 1831: 2. Web. 25 Jun 2015 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4202166>.

Into the 1830s, locals braved floods, poisonous snakes, angry and desperate people and disease.  There were deaths and removals to safer areas.  Those who survived often thrived. Resilience and self-sustainability can be seen through the whole community.

It’s such a shame the records are so thin on the ground.

The Search for Mary Morgan Part Two – Clues Without Connection

Between Constitution Hill and Melton Mowbray on the Midlands Highway.

The Midlands Highway between Pontville and Kempton.

This picture was taken through the windscreen of a car on a very chilly and sunny morning. It is, however, the only picture I have of this location so near to Broadmarsh.  The hills and plains show the terrain. Black Brush Rd comes off the Midlands Highway at Mangalore to the west and after ten kilometres one reaches Broadmarsh.  Most of the road is unsealed and narrow. There are very few places to stop a car for a photograph.  Although unsealed, urban sprawl has changed its character. This is now Hobart commuter distance with very few old structures in sight and very few old trees.  The waterholes are square and bulldozed, the fences are modern and the culverts are concrete rather than stone.

Robert and Mary Brown lived somewhere here. They began further west in Hamilton, then moved to Broadmarsh. I’ve found very few references in any record set. Robert was a labourer and we know he drove dray carts because this was how his accident happened. Presumably he worked for someone as there is no record suggesting he owned his own land. He was originally a convict, born in Cambridgeshire and transported on the Tortoise for stealing. He has no record of reoffense in Tasmania. He was probably at least fifteen years older than Mary.

How did he meet her?  This is such a worthwhile question to ask about any couple and the answer always provides useful information.  If she was born in Tasmania as she said, they met after his transportation.  Their first child was born in Hamilton so there is a good chance that is where they met.

What was Mary doing in Hamilton in 1855, aged around fifteen?  By the 1890s railway had opened up the region and single girls could come in for work, but not in 1856.  If they met in Hamilton, she must have been there with family.

First reference to Mary Morgan in official records

First reference to Mary Morgan in official records  linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names/search/results

Robert Brown Junior was born in October. They may have met in January or February of that year at the latest.  So the logical next question is, what other Morgan families were in Hamilton at the same time?

Well, there was this one:

Birth record of Hugh Morgan 1856

Birth record of Hugh Morgan 1856

Hugh Morgan born 23rd July 1856 in Hamilton, the son of John Morgan and Eliza Watts.  It might be recalled from my last blog that Hugh was the witness at the wedding of his brother Thomas Morgan and Margaret Edgerton, whose child was born at Sugar-loaf Tier in 1878 very close to Robert and Mary’s granddaughter.

It was definitely time to investigate this family. Back to the map.

Bothwell District Tas Dept of Education Atlas c1910

Bothwell District Tas Dept of Education Atlas c1910

Hamilton is in the far south west corner of Region 13.  Bothwell is to the north, also on that borderline between Region 12 and Region 13.  Halfway between those two towns is a locality known as Hollow Tree, and the road which directly connects Hamilton to Bothwell is Hollow Tree Road. Not to be confused with an earlier Hollow Tree later renamed Cambridge.  Lots of people were born in our Hollow Tree without registration.  This was definitely the stamping ground of both my Brown family and the John Morgan family. They lived in the mountainous Ouse region and as far east as Kempton, as far south as Broadmarsh (eventually moving in to New Norfolk) and as far north as Bothwell.

The marriage of John Morgan and Eliza Watts in 1850:

Marriage of John Morgan and Eliza Watts  via http://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names/search/results?qu=Eliza&qu=Watts#

Marriage of John Morgan and Eliza Watts via linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/

The ages of this couple interested me.  In that era it was very odd for a woman to reach her thirties without marrying. It meant that both John and Eliza were old enough to be Mary’s parents.  They could indeed have had a daughter ten years earlier. Even more likely, Eliza was a single mother with a daughter who took her stepfather’s name after 1850.

I then found several children born to John and Eliza before the marriage occurred.  After much researching, I have come up with the following possible family:

Children of John Morgan and Eliza Watts, extrapolated from various records

Children of John Morgan and Eliza Watts, extrapolated from various records including birth, death and marriage. 

This is a large family, but not impossibly large. Most were born at Hollow Tree and registered in Hamilton.

I still see problems with this family group. One is with the names.  Where a child died, the next child of the same sex was given that name.  This was a common practice. But along with this common practice is the one of naming a child for their father.  Why, I ask myself, is there no John Morgan among the children? Is there yet another child born 1836? There are other women in my tree with fourteen or fifteen children, but they lived in more civilized places than Hollow Tree in Tasmania.

John Morgan is also a mystery. Who was he and where did he come from?  I thought I’d found him in the convict John Morgan transported from Ireland on the Tortoise.  It would make so much sense if he came out on the same ship with Robert Brown, because the convicts certainly did form friendships as close or closer than family connections. It would explain exactly how Robert met Mary. That John Morgan received his conditional pardon in 1849, leaving him free to marry Eliza in 1850 without needing to seek permission. That John Morgan then made several trips to Victoria, one a year, and returned each time to Tasmania so we know he was still around. It all seems to fit nicely.

But it doesn’t explain so many children born before 1842 when the Tortoise arrived, unless the first Hugh, Mary and Eliza had a different father.  This is of course possible.  But if so, then why don’t we have a son called John?

Or did the male baby born 1844 actually live and was named John?  If he was the first biological child of John Morgan it would make a lot of sense.

Questions and more questions … and still no answers. Such is the way with family history.

The Search for Mary Morgan Part One – Assessing the Facts

Near Constitution Hill north west of Hobart Tas

Near Constitution Hill north west of Hobart Tas

I’ve written about Mary Morgan before. She is one of the family’s great mysteries. Born sometime around 1840 in Tasmania -by her own admission – she married Robert Brown in about 1855 and they lived in the Bothwell and Brighton region. They had ten children and every record we have about Mary comes through a record involving one of her children.

My earlier post can be found here at Brick Wall No #1.

I’ve found no marriage record for Robert and Mary. Robert was born in 1818 but given the birth date of their youngest child, Mary must have been some years younger.  In her application to the Orphan School in Hobart Town she states that she was born in Tasmania.  It’s the only clue we have. I have communicated with many distant cousins who have also failed to locate her origins.

Nothing concrete has come through DNA testing.  We do match a fellow Australian with Morgan in his tree and he does boast one Mary Morgan born 1840 in the correct region, but that Mary has apparently been located and is not ours.

That family research might be wrong. Maybe their Mary is ours and they’ve got a ring-in in the tree. But they are pretty confident of their work so I’ll leave that possibility and explore the other avenues.

I found one tree which gave her the parents John Morgan and Eliza Watts, but it turned out that they were married in Hamilton in 1850.  Right location, wrong decade.  I reluctantly decided that tree was incorrect.  I’ve bolded those names. They will appear again and again in this post and the next one.

Here is the area of research from my grandfather’s school map. Oatlands, Bothwell, Hamilton and Kempton are the ‘big’ towns and the villages are dotted around them.  A range of high hills/small mountains separate them from New Norfolk, Glenorchy and Hobart, so although geographically close there was not much travel between them.  Region 12 on the map is all mountain and valleys, tiers and crags and chasms. Region 13 is more hospitable.

Bothwell District Tas Dept of Education Atlas c1910

Bothwell District Tas Dept of Education Atlas c1910

Given its rain, deep forests and many hills, Tasmania in the 1800s was harder to get round.  Today it’s no big deal to drive from Hobart to Launceston.  Even in my own childhood that was a major journey involving an overnight stay.  In my grandmother’s childhood it was a journey of two days and travellers commonly stayed somewhere near Campbell Town for that night.

Back in the 1800s it often took three or more days of travel, although a single man on horseback could achieve faster times. Especially if he knew the shortcuts.

This was farming country in the lowlands, and grazing country at the higher altitudes. Towns nestled in the valleys, accessed via winding roads and completely invisible to the traveller until reached.  The region was settled by convicts in the 1830s and their descendants are still the principle families.  Infrastructure was minimal if it existed at all.  Churches were few and far between. Commerce was conducted more by barter than using currency. Literacy levels were low and reduced further with each new generation.

By Federation in 1901 these people were often living in isolation and had not moved with the times.  The new state government had their work cut out identifying who was there, what schools were needed and what the living conditions were.  In some cases they were satisfied and even impressed, in some instances they were absolutely appalled and immediately intervened.  Today, the region presents quite a genealogical challenge.

Road between Apsley and Jericho 2015

Road between Apsley and Jericho (near Parattah on the above map) in January 2015

It’s a pleasant area with a timeless feel. The people are very friendly.  Many of them are my third or fourth cousins and once we find the shared ancestor they can tell me a great deal about them.  The region is full of vanished towns such as Apsley where my grandmother was born and raised. If the families themselves did not remember, I’d have gotten nowhere with that side of the family.

My family bible has helped too, since it was passed down from mother to daughter or granddaughter.  It takes me back from myself to my grandmother who was born a Reading, to her mother Esther who was born a Brown and to Esther’s mother Sarah who was born a Cox. It takes us further back, but this blog is about Mary Morgan so Sarah Cox is as far as we need.  Sarah Cox married John Brown in 1882 and their eldest daughter was Esther (Hester) Brown born 1883.

John was born in 1860 in Broadmarsh, 14km west of Pontville on the above map. He was the third son of Robert Brown and Mary Morgan.  John Brown and Sarah Cox were married in Broadmarsh in 1882.

How did Sarah Cox born in Osterley even meet John Brown of Broadmarsh?  The answer to questions such as this can break through a brick wall.  Was she employed by the Brown family as a domestic servant?  Were the Brown family doing well enough to employ anyone?

I suspect the answer lies in Sarah’s own history.  While in Osterley at the age of seventeen she became pregnant. The father was Charles Harrex.  She was not the only single girl of the time to have a baby sired by a Harrex, the young Harrex men were quite sociable.

Sarah’s daughter Ada was born at her parents’ place at Lane’s Tier in 1878. I noticed something interesting when looking at this record.

Civil registrations at Ouse in May 1877

Civil birth registrations at Ouse in May 1877

There’s our Ada, born to Charles Harrex (probably Charles Proctor Harrex 1842-1895) and Sarah Cox. The informant was the sub-superintendent, not a family member at all.  What I noticed then was the record immediately below.  Charlotte Elizabeth Morgan born to Thomas Morgan and Margaret Egerton at Sugar-loaf Tier.

Lane’s Tier and Sugar-Loaf Tier are not far apart. Snowed in through the winter, bogged in through spring and autumn, they are still hard to access today.  The people who lived there were hardy folk, good walkers, excellent horsemen and women and very self sufficient. They were shepherds and farmers, on the whole, and they helped each other whenever needed.  The Cox family of Lane’s Tier quite probably knew the Morgan family of Sugar-Loaf Tier.

“Quite probably” doesn’t cut it in family history as a fact but means it cannot be dismissed either.  Further investigation is warranted.  As it turns out, Thomas Morgan was born in 1851 in Hamilton, the son of John Morgan and Eliza Watts.

That pair again!  This was the second time they’d popped up.

So back to Sarah Cox. At the age of eighteen she was a single parent with a daughter Ada.  But years later no one in our family knew of Ada.  My grandmother was quite certain her mother Esther was eldest in the family. Ada is not in the family bible either. Twenty years later when Ada married George Cannan, she was still living at Osterley and she had the surname Cox.  She was married in 1898 and her parents were given as Edward Cox and Sarah Brown.

Ada's family details from her marriage registration 1898

Ada’s family details from her marriage registration 1898

It’s most irregular. That’s her grandfather and his daughter her mother.  Edward Cox died in 1876 two years before Ada’s birth.  The witnesses were the groom’s brother and one Minnie Harrex, daughter of George Harrex and Margaret Marshall. Minnie was Ada’s first cousin on the Harrex side but maybe they didn’t know that.  Minnie was also George Cannan’s cousin on her mother’s side.

Sadly, Ada Cannon nee Cox died in 1899 of pneumonia, the year before her mother died in 1900. In the end, Ada had no descendants to research and remember her.

Sarah for whatever reason left her parents’ home and found herself in Broadmarsh with the Brown family – parents Robert and Mary and their nine surviving children.  She found John agreeable and they married.  Sarah was already four months pregnant at the time of marriage.

Now that’s a DNA red flag, but luckily we have two Brown DNA confirmations from an earlier period.  No need to panic.

Here’s their marriage record.

Marriage of John Brown and Sarah Cox in Broadmarsh 1882

Marriage of John Brown and Sarah Cox in Broadmarsh 1882

The witnesses were John’s brother William and his sister Amelia.  None of the Browns could read or write but Sarah signed her own name. I knew she could write since she maintained the family bible records for the next eighteen years, till her untimely death due to postpartum haemorrhage on Valentine’s Day 1900. She’d had some education, her family had enough money for photographs and to travel into Hobart occasionally.

John Brown was a reliable working lad who carried on through thick and thin.  He was very good with horses and although called a labourer in all records, we know he was a somewhat skilled labourer and farmer.  But by all accounts a quiet and very unassuming man.  When I say ‘all accounts’ I mean three accounts.  John passed away in 1945 and I found few who remembered him well.

With this ground re-examined, I was ready to focus on the Brown family themselves.

The End of the Lull is Nigh



It’s been a while. The onset of winter and my new studies have taken over for some weeks.

Since I’ve had a surge of new visits, an update seems to be in order. I’m studying history and of course, I’m looking into the areas my ancestors came from.  Our introductory unit has covered many parts of the world with a global perspective.  It’s been a very good overview and I understand the world of my ancestors all the more.

The ethnic breakdown which comes with a DNA test is still a work in progress, but a very interesting facet.  My father’s side of the family includes 17% Southern Europe and 12% Scandinavian. On that side of the family, we are finding many distant cousins with completely Norwegian family trees, so perhaps the Scandinavian is correct.  The only Southern European matches so far are from Jamaica and Trinidad, seemingly of Spanish descent.

This led me to undertake an assignment on the settlement of South America by Spain in the 16th century and onwards.  I’m having fun.  As part of my studies, I’m reading the diaries of several buccaneers who roamed the South American coast. William Dampier and Basil Ringrose are two of these, both Englishmen.

From a DNA perspective, I can see how the bloodlines became very very mixed. The buccaneer fleet involved captains from many countries who banded together in a multi-national group, including some Indian captains. They mingled with the locals, they had a wife in every port.  They lived a truly fascinating life.

This is not a proper blog entry, simply a notification that I am still around and will be returning to this blog in a few weeks when my exams are over. Hopefully as my studies progress, I’ll contribute with greater expertise to my own research and make some interesting discoveries.

I do, however, have some interesting DNA developments to write about when I am back …