I joined the Genealogical Society of Queensland just over 2 years ago and immediately started attending all the information sessions and seminars that were on offer. Numerous times I heard the advice, “ Be sure to consider variations on the spelling of names.” I took this advice and considered different spelling for the tricky surnames like RAILL ( Real, Reale, Rail, Raile) and Conor (Connor, Connors, Coner, O’Connor). However, I made one very serious mistake. I did not look at variations for SMITH. Subconsciously I must have thought, “ Smith! What can go wrong with a simple plain name like Smith?” That was my mistake.
My paternal great great grandfather was Patrick Smith. He came to Australia sometime in the 1850’s and settled in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales. He died in 1904 at the age of 75 and from his death certificate I obtained the following information.
- At the time of his death he had been in NSW for 49 years.
- He was born in Virginia, County Cavan, Ireland.
- His father was listed as “Christian name not known “ Smith, a farmer.
- His mother’s name was Bridget Fitzpatrick.
Patrick married Ellen Carroll in Casino in New South Wales on 8th November 1858. Ellen died on 27th June 1889 aged 56. From her death certificate I discovered that she also came from County Cavan from a town called Ryefield. The certificate stated that she had been in New South Wales for 36 years. I did not find it too difficult to trace her arrival in New South Wales. She arrived on the Ellenborough on 12thOctober 1853 as an assisted immigrant and the information listed on the passenger lists showed her as a housemaid aged 20 from Ryefield, County Cavan and she could read . I was not able to find out anything more about her until her marriage to Patrick Smith in 1858. I did not know what she had done in the intervening years until her marriage to Patrick. I wondered how they had met and had they known each other in County Cavan before they left Ireland. Maybe they did not meet until they were both in Australia and had somehow met through mutual friends or at some social get together for Irish Immigrants. An obituary for Patrick stated that he came to the Richmond in 1857 to work on a station at Kyogle and late the following year he and Ellen were married. Was Ellen already working at the station as a housemaid when he arrived?
I was very curious to know when Patrick actually arrived in Australia. I searched and searched for Patrick Smith and came up with a number of possibilities but they just didn’t seem to match. My findings even sent me on a few wild goose chases. For example, I investigated one possibility that he had come to Australia as a married man with his wife and one small child and that his wife and child had died and then some time later he married Ellen. However, this line of enquiry soon proved to be wrong.
After some time I stopped searching and concentrated on finding out about their lives on the Station called Runnymede at Kyogle and then their selection of farming land at Coraki on the North Arm of the Richmond River. Of course, a lot of my research time was also taken up with other branches of my family tree.
Then one day in the middle of December last year, 2015, I suddenly realised that I only had a few more weeks left on my Ancestry membership. At the time I was undecided as to whether I would renew the membership for another year so I decided that in the event of letting the membership lapse I should make good use of the few weeks that I had left. So, I decided that I would spend some time each day researching the site until my membership expired. I thought I would start with Patrick Smith. Give him another try. Why not? I typed in the name Patrick Smith, his approximate date of birth and his approximate year of arrival in New South Wales. The same names and ship arrivals showed up as had done on my previous searches. I felt frustrated. Then I noticed that after about 4 listings of the name Patrick SMITH there were quite a few for Patrick SMYTH. I thought I would give a few of them a try. I clicked on the first one, it opened up and my heart skipped a beat. I had found him. Just like that! After 2 years of searching. And why, I hear you asking, was I so sure it was him, my Patrick Smith?
It was because The Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1828-1896 listed as an arrival in New South Wales on the Gloriana on 27th July, 1855
- Patrick Smyth age 23, a farm labourer
- Place of origin: Cavan
- Religion: RC
- Read or Write: neither
- Parents: Hugh and Bridget living at Ryefield, county Cavan
- Relations living in the colony: a cousin Ellen Carroll living in Sydney
- Remarks by Immigration Board: £5 per Ellen Carroll
A number of my questions were answered all at once. Now I knew his date of arrival and the ship he arrived on but I also knew that he and Ellen were cousins and had probably known each other in Ireland. Ellen had in fact helped sponsor his passage to Australia. It is such a wonderful feeling to fit another piece into the jigsaw that is family history research.
An added bonus was that I had discovered Patrick’s father’s name. It was Hugh. Patrick and Ellen named their eldest son, Hugh and that name has been given to several members of the family since then. I always wondered where the name had come from because the name Hugh, although not uncommon, is also not a name you hear all that often. Now I knew.
However, this also makes me remember that I had forgotten another piece of valuable information that I first learned when I joined GSQ and that is “naming patterns.” A naming pattern often used in Ireland was to name the first born son after the paternal grandfather. So, Patrick and Ellen’s first son was called Hugh after Patrick’s father.
I was very excited by my discovery and immediately phoned my father. He is also called Hugh and is the great grandson of Ellen and Patrick. He is now 89 years old. He was delighted with the information, so much so, that he decided to give me membership to Ancestry for another year for my birthday which falls very close to Christmas. So, I didn’t have to make a decision about the membership after all and now have another year of researching Ancestry from the comfort of my own home. A very happy ending, indeed.