Red Herrings and Barking up the wrong tree??

Could it be possible? Was there another family genealogist amongst my distant ancestors?

Thurston family notes by Dr FWCBeavan

Notes from Dr Frederick Williams Cadwalleder Beavan (1808 -1867), my Great, Great Grandfather.

Sometimes we are left treasures from the past, not in the form of trinkets or jewellery but in handwritten snippets and notes. I have been fortunate to locate some of these with a distant cousin early on in my family history journey. One such treasure is notes from my 2 x Great Grandfather, Dr Frederick Williams Cadwalleder Beavan (1808 – 1867). Along with some notes about the Beavan side, he wrote down that:

John Thurston married Mary and they had three daughters –

Sarah married a distant relation, ? Symons.

Mary married 1777 John Beavan  and they had three sons.

Margaret married Tho’ Cook

The notes (pictured) say that Sarah & Mary, the eldest daughters were incorrectly registered as the daughters of John Thurston & his second wife Sarah instead of John & his first wife Mary.  However, their sister, Margaret was correctly registered as the daughter of John & Mary Thurston.

The note is a little confusing as it uses the term “registration” when registration, as we understand it, did not exist in the 18th century in either the UK or Australia. Dr Beavan, though, was a district registrar in Victoria Australia and perhaps that is why he used that particular word and, perhaps, it is a means of dating the document to post 1852 when the family arrived in Melbourne and his death in 1867. So, I assume registration actually means baptism and, at the time, I thought that they may have been baptised some time after birth as I have seen baptisms of older children and adults before in parish registers. Indeed one of the daughters of his second marriage was baptised a second time at 4 years of age.

I imagined though, that if Mary had died, and the children were not baptised until after John’s marriage to Sarah, then assumption may have caused the confusion over the mother’s name in the parish registers. Only it didn’t explain how Margaret came to have been assigned the correct parents, but twists like that make a puzzle even more interesting.

The National Archives at Kew is a fascinating place to visit  I could spend weeks there but their online catalogue Discovery can equally entertain. I used it to determine which records I would look at when I was able to visit but I did also order some online. Amongst the entries in the catalogue, I discovered, there was a Bill of Complaint.

It was dated 15 November 1786, being a complaint from John Beavan of Chelsea Co. Middlesex, gentleman and Mary, his wife, regarding the Will of John Thurston that had been proved on 5 July 1782. John, on behalf of Mary was complaining that his wife was being denied her rightful inheritance by the Administrators of the Will – William Thurston of Dymock, Gloucestershire and William Dalfy of the parish of Sidbury, Herefordshire. The Bill of Complaint was, I think, written on parchment and measures approximately a metre wide and is almost as long. I have a scanned photocopy and it is very cumbersome to handle and a very monotonous legal document but, in summary, the following information was revealed –

John Thurston had died before 5 July 1782. He was of Tirly, also Turley, Co. Gloucester. He had 3 daughters to Mary his first wife – Mary married John Beavan, Sarah married John Simmence and Margaret who had married Thomas Cook.

This part was confirmation that the notes were actually correct regarding wives and children from the first marriage of John Thurston from which we are descended. Mary Thurston was my 4 x Great Grandmother. I now had a place as well – Tirley in Gloucestershire.

With Sarah, his second wife, there was one son, John and two daughters, Esther and Diane/Dinah who were both spinsters at that time (1786). According to the Bill of Complaint, John Thurston had vast real estate assets both freehold and leasehold in Gloucester and Hereford and other places. He also had a vast personal estate including household goods and furniture, money in bonds, notes, mortgages, stock and grain, utensils of husbandry, as well as rents and profits from his real estate. The complaint was regarding the fact that the children of John Thurston and Mary his first wife were not receiving their share of the estate.

OK so they fought for the money – love my Beavan family, they appear in Chancery records several times. If they hadn’t, I would still be scratching my head at my 3 x great grandfather… although it is still a bit itchy. 🙂

The Tirley parish records were my next port of call. In the year 1756, Sarah, a daughter of John Thurston and his wife Sarah was baptised on 19th August. In the same year, on 17th October, Mary, a daughter of John Thoston and his wife Sarah was baptised and in 1759, Margaret, a daughter of John Thurston and his wife Mary was baptised on 10th December.

Transcriptions have this last baptism as Mary, but I believe an abbreviation for Margaret – Marg has been mistaken for Mary by the transcribers. I am sure that when I looked at the film I saw it as Margaret and Familysearch also has Margaret. So, just as my notes predicted, the first two daughters were “registered” as the daughters of John and Sarah and Margaret, the youngest, was correctly  described as the daughter of John and Mary?

How can that be?

How on earth did my Great Great Grandfather know this? It seems reasonable he would know their names, even who they married, but details about their baptisms??? Admittedly, if it were true and the family knew about it, it would be something, along with inheritances lost and won, that would stick in an oral tradition – all rather scandalous and good for stories by the fireside. He also got the baptism dates for the children of John and Sarah almost correct. They were Esther 1762, John 1765 (out a year) and Dinah 1775. Esther and John were baptised at Staunton, Dinah was too in 1770 but her 2nd baptism was in 1775 as a 4 year old in Tirley.

Further research revealed that Mary Thurston, the mother, was buried at Staunton, not far from Tirley, in March 1759. Why would this mix up happen when the second wife was not in the picture until around 1762, when her first child was baptised at Staunton?

Something just doesn’t gel.

Now, I know the family was interested in their family tree in the mid 1800s – they were still arguing for the money from an inheritance on the Beavan side that was originally bequeathed in Chepstow in 1692! There were records in Chancery and I even found a hand written family tree of my Beavan family in the Durham Record Office from c.1851 – very handy even though few place names are mentioned. Slowly, I am proving it to be correct, however, it has nothing to do with the Thurston side and the John Beavan/ Mary Thurston marriage doesn’t even get a mention but his death does.

What I am wondering is, did they also look into the Thurstons? Did they somehow know to go to Tirley even though it was 100 years later when they couldn’t name many places on their own direct line? Since then they had never stayed in one spot much more than the time it took to create one vital record, it seems odd they would know the exact place to look for these  particular events. Did they find what I found and assume that those 3 baptisms all belonged to their family and left it at that? Try as I might I can’t find any alternatives in the nearby parishes where they also had links. Was there a family Bible and it was originally recorded there?

Red Herrings? Wrong tree? Will I ever know?

 © 2015 Lynette Nunn

Through the Looking Glass

I confess. I have an uncontrollable urge to check indexes and databases, even when they seem irrelevant to my family or my research. I blame my parents for this … mostly my father, who endowed me with the very rare surname spelling of JEAYES. As a child, whenever we travelled anywhere, we always checked the phone book for any others with that name but never found any. For me, this progressed to any books with indexes …anything to find someone else who was part of our family. I wanted to know we were not alone!

Roll on to the mid 1990s when I began to look at my family history. We had family stories, we actually had a couple of unusual names, with unusual spellings. I was working in a bank and was pedantic with surnames being spelt correctly on our passbooks, ATM cards and databases – it comes, I think, from having to spell my surname, slowly, my whole life. My maternal grandmother was a TINCKNELL, another unusual name …what were the origins of these names I used to wonder. One day I served a Mr Tincnell – I asked if his name was actually spelt correctly on his ATM card. He was astounded and said he had never noticed and how did I know??? A conversation ensued and that was how I found out about the LDS Family History Centre and you can guess the rest.

But back to my story. The other day I saw on Facebook mention of the Prosecution Project  The site sounded fascinating and although I wasn’t really expecting to find anyone or anything new, I could not resist my childhood compulsion. It has grown into checking any names on my family tree at any opportunity and, sometimes, other people’s as well. Perhaps, I mused, just like there is on the Old Bailey site there might be a family member mentioned as a victim or witness.

Like a lot of Australians, I have a couple of convicts in my family tree that married each other. They are Matthew CONNELLY alias Michael (Lord Sidmouth 2) and Ellen DAWSON (Elizabeth 5) alias DOYLE who lived at Emu Plains. Matthew died in 1857 and from then on I lost Ellen and their children, except for my 4 x Great Grandmother, Mary Ann. She had married Alfred WALKER in 1866 in Sydney and I knew what happened with her. The other five surviving children and Ellen were an enigma. Ellen hadn’t died or remarried and was apparently still alive and kicking at nearly 200 years old. Years passed…

Then, out of the blue one day, I received an email from someone researching a James Connelly whose parents, it was said, were James Connelly and Ellen Dawson. Hmmm …that was interesting but I had no child called James and there was only one Dawson who married any Connelly or variation during the 1820s to 1860s in Sydney. James, the son, lived at Dalby. That was also interesting. So, in an effort to help the lady, I decided to investigate for myself in Queensland records to see if I could find anything to explain why the name Matthew, who was also known on unofficial documents as Michael, could possibly morph into James as well. No explanation was forthcoming but I found something else. Was it serendipity?? In the Qld death indexes, and at that time only available on microfiche, was an Ellen Connelly who died in 1881 in Mackay!! Of all places! The certificate subsequently bought proved it was her. Eventually I made contact with descendants of her son Peter who, by now, had changed the spelling of their surname to CONNOLLY. Peter had married in northern NSW in 1877, so it appeared the family had travelled up the coast, probably chasing work, land or both I supposed. Peter had taken up a land grant in Mackay but perhaps it was actually something more than chasing work or land that made them move on to Mackay.

One day, while filling in time at Qld State Archives waiting for documents, I picked up from a shelf an index to prisoners at St Helena Island prison. Well, what do you know? There in black and white was Peter Connelly. They had a copy of the judge’s book so I ordered it and read through the trial … although not all the way through … the judge ran out of pages and started a new book half way through the trial. Just like finding the last page of a novel torn out, the next book was missing. Oh no! It was enough for me to get the gist of the story though. Peter and his brother-in-law Richard GRIFFITHS were convicted of stealing a cow from the neighbour and burying the skin. So, they were probably hungry, I told myself, and trying to make a go of it on the land Peter had taken up. Richard, I discovered from this, had married the youngest Connelly daughter, Ellen in 1879.

I did half wonder whether Peter’s trial would come up in the Prosecution Project but it didn’t and I wasn’t all that disappointed since I had plenty of information on that. I was more than a little surprised though, and when I think about, really, heaven knows why, to see

ELLEN CONNELLY 29 Sep 1865 Receiving Rockhampton Qld

At the side, under the column Trove, was a little looking glass symbol. I clicked and it took me to Trove and to a newspaper article in the Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser dated 8 July 1865, p.2

AT the Police Court, yesterday, a child. aged fourteen years, named Ellen Connelly, was charged with stealing a gold watch, a gold Albert guard, and a cash-box, all valued at £11, the properly of John Schenk, a water-carrier, living near Denham-street. The evidence was not sufficiently conclusive to convict the child with the charge, and she was discharged. Ellen Connelly, the mother of the child, was next charged with receiving the above-named articles knowing them to be stolen. It appeared that prisoner and her child were acquainted with a girl, seemingly a half-caste, named Annie Casey, who had been in Schenk’s employ, and had been charged with stealing a purse, the property of her employer. The cash-box, containing the articles named, had been taken from the sill of Schenk’s bedroom window while he and his wife were out, in the early part of Saturday night. Shortly after Schenk and his wife went out, the child called at a house next door to Schenk’s, and asked for the girl Annie Casey. On Thursday afternoon Sergeant Judge and Constable Canning went to Mrs. Connelly’s house, in Fitzroy-street, and found the portions of the watch and a key in a glove, behind some books, upon a shelf. In reply to the charge of receiving stolen property, Ellen Connelly, the elder, stated that she knew nothing about the property; Casey had come to her place begging for a lodging, and she allowed her to remain for two nights. She was committed for trial. Annie Casey, who was under remand, charged with being accessory to the stealing, was discharged, there being no evidence to produce against her. One summons case was struck out for want of parties.

Hmmm… My Ellen, the younger, was born, according to her baptismal record, on 7th April in 1852. So in 1865, she would have just turned 13 – a year out. This entry was a distinct possibility. I went back to the Prosecution Project and searched under CONNOLLY this time:


No looking glass for me this time but that didn’t matter, I knew what to do. Off to Trove I went again and what a story was waiting for me! Over ten years or more there were tales of larceny, Police advice to “get out of town for a while”, false pretences in matters of love, as well as finance, a faked marriage, illegitimacy, drunkenness, breach of promise, declarations of love after marrying someone else, inheritances, insulting language …. 10 pages of transcriptions later and that wasn’t everything. I haven’t quite taken in a story in someone else’s trial of Ellen using a tomahawk on a man’s head (fortunately not fatally) to protect her mother! Who needs to watch the soapies or reality TV??

I also have gained an admiration for Judge (Sir) Joseph George Innes, grandson of Thomas and Mary Reibey (of $20 note fame) He was a man, I suspect, that may have been way ahead of his time. What follows, in part, is his instruction and summing up to the jury in the case of breach of promise involving the younger Ellen as reported in Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser 12 September 1868 p.2 :

His Honor then went through the evidence observing that because the plaintiff was the daughter of a woman occupying a not exalted position in the social scale, the jury were not justified in assuming her to be unchaste….

Defendant might have a very good reason for his absence, for he would not only be the laughing- stock but the scorn of every right-minded man in the place. What was the object of the defendant in giving her the rings, portrait, and brooch? It had been argued that plaintiff had been nurtured in vice, and that evidence of it was found in her sentence to three months’ imprisonment; but it was for the jury to consider if it were not in evidence that defendant was cognisant of it, and after that made a promise of marriage. His Honor commented at much further length on the evidence, and directed the jury that as to the question of damages, they were not to confine consideration to mere pecuniary loss, but to the loss of character and honour sustained by plaintiff, as to how her chances of a settlement in life were diminished by being burdened with a child, and being compelled to institute these proceedings ; also the means of the defendant – and they had his representation of his worldly position, it might be a tissue of falsehoods, but why did he so represent himself ? …..

His Honor said he had addressed the jury upon all the circumstances he remembered, and upon the point referred to, but he or anyone – the most virtuous man or woman that adorned society-might be placed in a dock at a period of their lives. The evidence was that plaintiff was there once, she might have been three times, and yet may have reformed. 

I am sure it is my Ellen as in a court case in June 1868, the younger Ellen’s age was given as seventeen on 7th April last and a couple of days later as 8th. While that again means a birth year of 1851, one year out from the baptismal record, the day varies and month are the same so perhaps the date was forgotten over time or the baptismal record is incorrect. She also states on another record that she was born in Penrith. It couldn’t really be a co-incidence!

So, by checking one index on an off chance, I have been led to take another look through the looking glass at different time and place in the world of my ancestors.

© 2015 Lynette Nunn


Clues in newspapers.

Dr FWC Beavan

The picture is of my Great Great Grandfather Dr FWC Beavan. Back in 2007 I was chasing my BEAVAN family. According to oral tradition my 3 x Great Grandfather Frederick BEAVAN (the elder born c 1786) benefited under the Will of Serjeant Edward WILLIAMS of Middle Temple (who died in 1759). It was for him that my 2 x great grandfather Frederick Williams Cadwalleder BEAVAN (the younger son, born 1808, of above Frederick) was named.

According to the same tradition Lord Alvanly, Sir Charles Edmonston & Mrs SCURRAHS were guardians under the Will & Frederick the elder & his brothers, Henry & John spent the holidays with the Miss’ Hardins, sisters of Lord Alvanly who lived near Beverly in Yorkshire.

I had researched Lord Alvanly, Sir Charles Edmonston and the sisters but never found out who was MRS SCURRAHS. Research in the PRO (now TNA) where there are documents regarding the WILLIAMS estate and the BEAVAN family, and the purchase of relevant Wills, had proved it was actually the senior Frederick’s father, John BEAVAN who was the benefactor ( the father of brothers John, Henry and Frederick BEAVAN all born c 1780-1786). Unfortunately, he died when his sons were young, sometime before 1789. The estate remained in the possession of Edward WILLIAMS’ wife (Elizabeth nee Capper) until she died in 1793 and when the father, John BEAVAN (the elder) had by then also died. The sons John, Henry and Frederick therefore inherited but were minors at that time, so this would explain why Guardians were appointed. This all took years of painstaking research and many dollars to figure out. Fortunately for me, as well as leaving Wills, the family fought for their inheritances in Chancery as their mobility makes it hard to find parish registers to help. Chancery documents are heavy reading but they often give a lot of detail of family relationships and ancestry.

As it is often the case though, everyone is called John, Henry and Frederick making it  a little hard to follow. As well, for good measure and as a blessing in disguise, everyone starts also throwing in Williams for a second name. 🙂

Eventually I tracked some of them to Swansea in Glamorganshire Wales (brothers John and Henry Williams, and later Frederick turns up too for a short time) and this is why I was interested in the Cambrian Index online and, using it as a guide, I had copied a lot of pages from the Cambrian when I was in Swansea in early 2007 – entries such as those below advertising houses to rent, property for sale etc. that enabled me to draw a timeline of who was where and when.



By Messrs. REES and THOMASC
On Wednesday, the 25th day of March, 1840, at two o’clock in the afternoon, at the SIX BELLS INN, Park-street, Swansea,
In Two Lots.
 All that very desirable and compact FREEHOLD FARM and LANDS, called LLANMORLAIS, situate in the parish of Llanrhidian, in the county of Glamorgan, containing 32 Acres, of thereabouts, now in the possession of Mrs. Mary BEVAN, widow.
There are some very Valuable Veins of Coal and Iron Stone under the above arm, which could easily be worked at considerable profit, the property being near the Barry River, and thus affording great facilities for shipping it.
Also to be sold at the same time and place,
53 OAK TIMBER TREES, and also about 120 tons of COAL PIT TIMBER, growing on the above Farm.
For further particulars apply to Messrs. BERRINGTON and JENKIN, Solicitors, Swansea; or to Mr. David REES, Auctioneer, Oxford-street, Swansea, and to view the Farm and Timber apply to Mrs. BEVAN, on the premises.

Breaking down the brick wall.

There were a couple of difficulties – Beavan/Bevan in Swansea and Neath is like Smith anywhere else and, although I am not sure, I don’t think my family is related to the other prominent BEAVAN family in Swansea. For these reasons,  I have to always be careful not to assume too much and to sort them carefully.

One day in September 2007, I got out my fiche of St Mary’s Swansea to look for a burial of John BEAVAN, the eldest son of John BEAVAN, as I had figured out that he must have died between 1804 and 1809 using information from the Cambrian. I found a suitable one, Mr John BEAVAN aged 25 in 1806. So back again I went to the Cambrian Index hoping to get some more information and found this entry:


It looked very promising as I knew the one I wanted was from Cwmgwyn. Looking further on I found another:


Mrs Scurrah!!! Mother! His mother, I knew, was Mary THURSTON/BEAVAN born 1759 so she must have remarried and it perhaps explains why they may have moved to Swansea.

I could not believe my luck!

Next step was to get the Administration and search for a marriage of Mary Beavan to ? Scurrah.

© 2015 Lynette Nunn

Postscript: I eventually found the marriage of Mary Beavan to Robert Scurrah in the Saint George Bloomsbury Register of Marriages LMA 21 February 1797. They had two children, Robert Thomas Beavan Scurrah baptised in St Mary, St Marylebone 25 Dec 1799 and Mary Margaret Scurrah born about 1806. Again newspapers led me to corroborating evidence.