Patrick Dillon of Dublin

#52Ancestors Week 2-Favourite Find

(View of the City of Dublin)

This week’s prompt for 52 Ancestors is ‘Favourite Find’. I have many, but I’ve not yet written about this family. It’s definitely time. Finding Patrick Dillon broke down a very persistent brick wall.

It also returned a lost surname to the tree. My paternal line is ‘Dillon’ and for decades we accepted that we had Dillon ancestry. Actually we didn’t – the paternal line is ‘Dillane’ morphed into Dillon quite recently. So after losing ‘Dillon’, a bit of research in a different line has brought Dillon back in a different place in the tree.

This is partly a post, partly a scrapbook of quotes by others about the world of Patrick Dillon, partly a historical account of Ireland from 1770-1800. I’ve done this to fill out his world where we don’t know about him personally. He lived in violent times and this is not a gentle history, but it’s accurate to his world.

Patrick was probably born in the 1770s, maybe in Dublin. He was Irish Catholic, which makes him hard to find, plus his name is very common. He was married in Dublin in 1803 and six children were born to him there. My ancestor is a seventh child to the family and there is no baptism record for her.

Dublin was a difficult place for an Irish Catholic to live. This post describes the events of the time, and how I think Patrick was impacted by them.

Irish Catholics in Ireland were into their third century of demonization by the time of Patrick’s birth. It’s hard to imagine what that does to a society, with successive generations stripped of dignity, respectability and hope. The goalposts changed regularly, they could never form a plan to pull the family together, no new way of life lasted more than two generations. And by the late 18th century they were seeing the effects of abuse on the land by the English overlords. Absent landlords ordered the planting of crops not suited to their soil, wars had resulted in the deliberate despoiling and salting of Irish owned land, as punishment. Whole forests were burned to the ground to prevent Irish soldiers and civilians from hiding.

It’s a grim picture, amidst which the Irish Catholic families fought for survival and justice, but also did what they could to lead stable, safe and happy lives. We still have remnants of their very hidden inner lives in songs, fabrics and devotions.

Plus there were wealthier Dillons: they were a major force a few centuries earlier and had found common ground with England. Many of them even became protestant. It’s possible that my Patrick came from Protestant origins, but in 1803 he was married in a Catholic church in Dublin and there’s no indication that he was comfortably off. He was most likely a quiet honest working man in the middle of difficult times.

Historian and journalist Philip Harwood describes Ireland this way:

(Philip Harwood ‘History of the 1798 Irish Rebellion’ 1849)

The situation was different across Ireland. Organised action against the tyranny of the British in the southern half of Ireland tended to start in Munster – that is, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Kerry.

Dublin was far more English controlled. This meant fewer privileges for the native Irish, but conversely more stable employment on English properties so more family security. If you could put up with the subjugation, living conditions were much better. And maybe the English officials here were able to relax a little and give the Irish tenants some of the perks of a free people.

A man named Dr Thomas Campbell described Dublin in 1777 as an expansive city, about a quarter the size of London in area but with more empty spaces between the houses. A beautiful bay of blue water, a scenic coastline. He was surprised since England viewed Dublin as a smaller place, but noted that many Irish Catholics lived in Dublin who were not counted in any records.

Dr Thomas Campbell ‘A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland in Letters’ 1777

Campbell describes Dublin beautifully, both the good and the bad. This is Dublin as Patrick would have known it.

Campbell visited Dublin University and wasn’t impressed at all. Then he spent a few days exploring Dublin beyond the main squares and began to see how people were living.

Campbell described the hospital in some detail, and how it was a centre of social life since the hospital actually held music nights and dinners and concerts and dances which were attended by many. They were, of course, for Protestants only.

He then tells us about the Dublin people and here we get a glimpse of Patrick Dillon’s cohort. (canaille is a French word referring to the beggars and homeless and downtrodden poor).

It’s inevitable that the Irish people would be like this, given their past and their present treatment and the complete inaccessibility of any infrastructure to assist them.

Campbell clearly understood this. He shows himself to be a very understanding man.

Alcohol was probably the only recourse for medication, for entertainment, for warmth, even for sustenance. It’s also the one thing the British people supplied very freely to the Irish folk. And in those days they didn’t realise it was addictive. But drinking was common among the Protestants too, with every daily occasion involving drinks. No wonder Thomas Campbell was disturbed by what he saw.

Not all Irish folk were alcoholics: just the ones who had given up.

Our Patrick hadn’t given up as he reached his adult years. He was young and most likely fit and hopeful. I think this because he got married and must have felt he was able to support a family.

Historian Philip Harwood describes Ireland in 1783 as a place ready for independence from England. Even the English colonists wanted this, so they could profit from exported produce, choose their own customers, set their own taxes and make adjustments that would help the population. Protestants and Catholics united more than ever before in this.

A lot of parliamentary changes made it seem imminent. England granted Ireland’s parliament it’s independance in 1782 and the whole country rejoiced that freedom was upon them.

Philip Harwood ‘History of the 1798 Irish Rebellion’

The world of Patrick Dillon was a tough one, full of angry people and escalating violence. Harwood wrote succinctly of the rise of Irish rebellion groups like the Whiteboys and the Defenders.

Most of this was still out in the rural areas. Dublin carried on much as it had before, with just a few brawls and minor riots. Until the French Revolution of 1789 set everything off in Ireland.

Native Ireland and France had a very long connection. France sent aid to assist them in earlier centuries against Protestant England, and right through the 18th century Irish Catholics had quietly slipped out of Ireland to go join the French armies. If an Irish Catholic felt any trust in a nation other than Ireland, it was France. It makes sense that this event would ignite a flame.

The result was war in Ireland.

It took a while to get going. The Irish people banded together, a delegate went to France to ask for assistance which was provided, but bad weather prevented the French fleet from landing. This alerted England to the danger and they sent troops.

A new powerful Irish army was ready. The plan was to take control of Dublin.

It all failed, and it failed very fast. England were clever at keeping Ireland down, and more experienced with the coast and currents than France, plus they were geared up for the Napoleonic wars already and had fresh troops straight across the channel.

The rebellion was crushed in 1798, martial law imposed and even stricter conditions placed on the Irish Catholics. Irish Catholics were rounded up, removed from their land and barred from gathering together. This was the time when hedge schools and surreptitious worship in dense thickets became a thing.

A lot of rural Catholic churches were closed down and the people banned from meeting together.

This is the social climate I wanted to describe here. A world of fear and deep suspicion, great disappointment and anger. A world full of displaced soldiers and rebels who had been stripped of their land.

In the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion, the young Patrick Dillon and Bridget Hayes were optimistic enough to envision a future together. The wedding ceremony was conducted at St. James Catholic Church in Dublin on 24th June 1803.

They settled in the parish of St Catherine’s, in the liberties, an area in the south of the city. Seven children were born to them over the next ten years.

This is all I’ve found so far. They may have moved, or perhaps one of the parents died.

John and James each married a girl surnamed Martin. Thomas married a Murphy. Those marriages took place in Dublin.

My ancestor is Mary and she married in Kildare, forty miles away from the others.

Why would she be so far from home? I still have moments of doubt that these are the same family, but the DNA matches are reasonably strong. They match on the same segments, there’s a paper trail for them all. It’s just a mystery yet to be solved. Maybe the whole family moved to Kildare and only the boys stayed in Dublin, perhaps because they had employment there?

Despite the questions, it’s a very helpful find and I’m sure to learn more as time goes on.

Ned Dillon (1878-1958) – Farmer of Gardner’s Bay : #52Ancestors Week Two – ‘Favourite Photograph’

In the 1850s, three convict brothers surnamed Dillane completed their term of servitude and were let loose on south-eastern Tasmania as new settlers.  They settled on the eastern bank of the Huon River in a heavily wooded, very hilly  area. It was almost inaccessible from Hobart Town, the colony’s main town.  There was a push to open up this region but the difficulty of  access was a major obstacle.

The Dillane brothers grew up along the western border of Limerick in Ireland where the war against the British invaders was still going strong.  Roads, bridges and shops had never been part of their world.  Nor was oversight by local authorities. Their new home suited them very well and they made a roaring success of it.  They cleared some land but only what they had to.  They didn’t worry too much about property boundaries.  They worked hard, married second wives and raised large families.

Two of those Dillane brothers were the grandfathers of Edward (Ned) Dillon pictured here in the photograph I have chosen to feature.  Ned was my great grandfather. It is the only picture I have ever seen of him. I don’t know who took this picture, but it was taken in his later years probably at Gardners Bay.

Ned Dillon photo

Edward (Ned) Dillon 1878-1958

Transportation had transmuted the surname Dillane to Dillon, and it never changed back.  Therefore, Ned was Edward Dillon from birth.

By the time of Ned’s birth there were 44 Dillons in the Huon.  This count does not include the family of Ned’s aunt Johanna Dillon who had become Mrs John Thorp.  If we add the six children she had produced by the year of Ned’s birth we have a total of 50 Dillons where a mere twenty years earlier there had been 3, all still living in that one isolated corner in the Huon.  It’s quite astounding.  Apart from a few tragic early deaths, the family were healthy and vigorous.

Fifty individuals and only about twelve Christian names among them, but while from a distance the duplication of names is daunting, at the local level there was much less confusion.  To illustrate this, here’s a map of the area they lived showing Ned’s birthplace, Gardner’s Bay.

Map of the Huon

Showing the area of settlement for the original Dillane brothers. Edmund and John remained at Gardners Bay, Timothy and his family moved to Bruny Island.

On the map the distance looks quite small, but even when I was a child it still took an hour and a half to travel that 60 kilometres. The road to Hobart was a windy, narrow hill-hugging sealed track involving much cooperation where one car met another coming the other way.   Just over a century earlier when Ned was born, the way to Hobart town involved taking a boat up the Huon as far as Franklin and travelling up from there.  It wasn’t travelled much.  They were quite self-sufficient.

By modern standards the above map looks like a small area, but even this map encompasses a much larger world than that of Ned Dillon.  He lived very much within one community.  The background of the photograph shows his world.

I couldn’t find a good map of the region in the public domain so I made my own.  It’s a bit messy, but it perfectly shows the world of Ned Dillon.  The watercourses are labelled in blue, the land in white. The distance from Gardners Bay to Cygnet (formerly named Lovett) is just under 10km, or about 6 miles.  At the time of Ned’s birth, Lovett did not exist. There was a small administrative township there named Port Cygnet.

Cygnet region rough map

Very basic map of the regions around the township of Cygnet.

Edward Dillon was born on 18th Nov 1878.  His father John Dillon was the son of the convict Edmund Dillane to his first wife Maria Woulfe. John was still a child when his father was transported, but he, his brother Edmund and his sister Johanna joined their father a few years later.

Mary Teresa Dillon was born in Glazier’s Bay on 15th April 1860, the daughter of convict John Dillane and his second wife Bridget Behan.

Mary was aged 17 when she married her 35 year old cousin on 11th May 1877 at Port Cygnet. Their first child John was born four days later.   The family then settled at Gardners Bay where the rest of their children were born.

Ned had no chance to meet his older brother. Young John died two months before Ned’s birth. A new brother John was born just after Ned’s second birthday.

The children kept coming, in the usual Dillon way.  Andrew, Christopher, Bridget, Johanna and Mary had been brought into the world by Ned’s twelfth birthday. The family were orchardists and Ned worked on the property from a young age with all his cousins. Very frequently, the Dillons all worked together.  There were certainly enough of them, they didn’t need to bring in outside labour.

Sandrock Bay Tasmania

Sandrock Bay near Randalls Bay in the region the Dillons have lived since the 1850s. This is how it looks today.

It was all shaken up when Ned’s father died on 26 October 1891 leaving a rather large young family.  Ned took over as the man of the house, working full time on the family’s farm. He was sixteen when his mother, then aged 35, remarried.  I’ve had a lot of trouble finding her second husband.  The oral history in the family – which I’ve grown up knowing – is that Mary Dillon married Pretty-boy Cowen.  The place is full of nicknames.  A search in the vital records show him to be Albert Cowen aged 20 at the time of marriage, but there is no birth record for an Albert Cowen of similar age.

I suspect his birth is the one registered as Alfred Cowen in Gardners Bay 13 Aug 1874, son of Joseph Cowen and Harriet Devereaux.

Ned became an adult and met his future wife.  Well, in that region it doesn’t make sense to say that.  They all grew up together.  He was probably around when she was born since she was nine years younger than he was.  Patience Victoria Bone was born on 16 April 1888 in Garden Island Creek, but by her teen years her family had moved to Port Cygnet.  At the time of their marriage Ned was 25 and Patience was 16.

Patience’s father Richard was the son of James Bones and Mary Ann Cowen.  Mary Ann was the sister of Joseph Cowen, probable parent to Mary Dillon’s second husband.  So Mary’s second husband was probably the cousin of her daughter in law’s father.  But now I’m getting distracted.  Back to Ned!

Page break

Ned and Patience were married on 11 September 1904 in Cygnet, which had finally come into existence as a proper town. They settled at Gardners Bay where Ned was an orchardist and small fruits farmer.  It seems to have been a happy marriage.  My grandfather remembered Patience as being an ‘unusual’ woman, one with a quirky sense of humour and a love of novelty.  Eight children were born to Ned and Patience between 1905 and 1922.

Patience was tragically struck down by an inherited health condition and died at the age of 41 on 05 Feb 1930, leaving Ned with his young family.  He did not remarry. He continued farming until a year or two before he died when he moved in to Cygnet.  The 1954 electoral roll is the last one to show him living at Gardners Bay.

Ned passed away on 12 Apr 1958 in Cygnet and was buried in the Catholic Cemetery there. He was a quiet man who lived a very quiet life, but having a photograph keeps him with us a unique individual.







The Ocean of Descendants

Families were large and take a lot of researching.

Families were large and take a lot of researching. On the far left is Robert Brown, the husband of Mary Morgan my first brick wall and subject of an earlier post.  On the far right is his eldest son Robert.  The seated lady is Robert Jr’s wife Emily, and the children are theirs.

When I began researching my family tree, the plan was to learn about those relations which my family knew but I didn’t.  The net was wide.  I spoke to everyone, listened and took notes.  I learned about Sister Muriel who found the smallest things fascinating, about my grandfather’s grandmother who sat on the firestep smoking a black smoke and was consulted about every small decision each family member had to make, and about my grandfather’s mother who everyone said had a wicked sense of humour but her daughter in law (my grandmother) said was ‘a little bit strange’.  Personal relationships spoken and unspoken came through.  I could see who had got along with whom, and where the conflicts were.

Stage One of my family research was sorting all these people into their proper places.  Eventually, I achieved this.

Stage Two was researching the families back to their point of immigration to Australia.  As I looked further back, the families were all large with many siblings in every family.  I found several who had between 15-20 children, obviously men who were married more than once.  I located all the siblings since they were part of the direct ancestor’s main story but continued back looking for the emigration.

In order to answer the question ‘why’ they emigrated, I needed to ‘cross the pond’ and learn about their family situation in wherever they came from.  This proved fascinating and never straightforward.  Many of them were already displaced, having left their home county to chase the work.  In order to work out their true origin I had to research their parents too.

If everyone had a thoroughly researched tree, direct ancestors are all that would be required for DNA matching.  You’d just search for the ancestor name and bingo you’d have your match.

Stage 3 of my family research is getting each line back to 1700 to do my bit towards the simple DNA Match effort.  I’m a long way from it – so far that I don’t even know how far.  I’ll tally it all up sometime soon. I think I have about eight couples at that time period across mine and my spouse’s trees.

The elderly surviving members of one Dillon family of ten children.  These are the children of John Dillon and Bridget Bain (second brick wall and subject of an earlier post)

The elderly surviving members of one Dillon family of twelve children. These are the children of John Dillon and Bridget Bain (second brick wall and subject of an earlier post)

All of this has involved pushing on back and finding parents. Once I have a baptism register, of course, I’ll record all the relevant births I can find – other children and nieces and nephews.  If I don’t have that much information I’ll just take what I get and push on back.

Subscription sites are really bad for this kind of research.  Obviously they are in a competitive business so they give as little as they can – single record by single record.  Those who pay per view will be more profitable to them this way.  But those of us who just want the fun of a page of records to pore through and sort into the various family groups don’t have the opportunity.

What I have now recognised is that not everyone can get back to where I am so I need to meet them halfway.  I have also recognised that most of my confirmed matches – the Burleton match, the Lockley match and the Brown match for instance – have been through a daughter of the family on their side, a daughter whose surname changed.  Sometimes it is easier to come down from above than to go up from below.  I need to trace all those descendants and meet my matches maybe much more than halfway.

So – I need to take my ancestors all the way back to 1700 and then come back down filling in all descendants.  This is where the sea of descendants turns into an ocean.  I gather that many have begun this task but given up.

Consider an ancestor couple who married in 1700.  Assume they had ten children who all lived to grow up and marry.  Assume they all had ten children between 1725-1745.  The original couple now have one hundred grandchildren. If all those grandchildren marry and have ten children, we are looking at a thousand great grandchildren by 1800.  We then want to follow those thousand descendants for another 200 years.  No wonder people give up.

In reality we shouldn’t have to do the final 100 years.  Most DNA testers barring adoptees, orphans and refugees will have their tree back to their grandparents and great grandparents.   But if each prolific person can have 1000 descendants after 100 years, by 1900 we have 1000 times 1000 – that’s 1,000,000 .  Yes, giving up was the sensible move.  I also feel a little better about not identifying 388 matches on FtDNA (and the number keeps growing).  It’s a miracle I have confirmed as many as I have.

Of course, it won’t be like that.  It could, theoretically, but it won’t.  Not so many families of ten had them all growing up, not all adult children married, not all of those who married then had children.  Of course, this might be countered by the Casanovas of the family who fathered children they never even knew about, but we’ll see.

Also, population numbers dropped off in later years and in times of trouble.  The worse case scenario won’t really hold.  But – I’d better get on with it.

Children from an orphanage school from Sunday At Home 1876

Children from an orphanage school from Sunday At Home 1866