Family myths, cover-ups – what did Nicholas Delaney really do?

I’m researching my blog post for Twigs of Yore‘s Australia Day challenge. This year it’s about work. Shelley says:

Choose someone who lived in Australia (preferably one of your ancestors) and tell us how they toiled. Your post should include:

  1. What was their occupation?
  2. What information do you have about the individual’s work, or about the occupation in general?
  3. The story of the person, focussing on their occupation; or
    The story of the occupation, using the person as an example

I’m looking forward to taking part. Last year’s Twigs of Yore challenge – to write about the earliest document you have found relating to an ancestor –  was what started me blogging regularly (I wrote about Nicholas Delaney’s 1799 trial transcript).

Moyne, Little Hartley - the Delaney family farm

Moyne, the family farm

But who to choose? And which occupation?

Most of my Aussie ancestors were farmers. Then there’s another great-great-great grandfather, John Simpson, who was a tailor. Or I could stick with Nicholas. He ended up farming, but before that he was a roadbuilder, both as a convict and a free man, and an innkeeper. In Ireland, before the Rebellion of 1798, he was a landless labourer.


And there are the false leads, the family myths and cover-ups. Before we started to look closely at Nicholas’s life, we’d heard a few of these, the results of misinformation and the shame that used to cling to having convict ancestry. They can’t be blamed – it was all part of the idea of the ‘Convict Stain’. How times have changed.

Sydney: Government House, an 1802 watercolour ...

Government House, Sydney, 1802 (Wikipedia)

We’d been told that he’d been the Lord Mayor of Belfast (highly unlikely!). In Australia, family stories had him as a gardener and a butler at Government House in Sydney, where he had met his wife, Elizabeth Bayly, who was a maid there. Or he was a carpenter working on an extension to the (‘Old’) Government House in Parramatta.

All very respectable. But in researching family history there are often false leads. And there is no written evidence to support these stories. So, tempting as they are, they go into the bin.

So – a tailor, a roadbuilder, an innkeeper or a farmer? What’s it to be? Do come back on the 26th January and find out.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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12 Responses to Family myths, cover-ups – what did Nicholas Delaney really do?

  1. Pingback: Ulva, Lachlan Macquarie’s birthplace | A Rebel Hand

  2. Pingback: My first Australian ancestor (Australia Day Challenge 2013) | A Rebel Hand

  3. Pingback: Back to Blog – death and renewal | A Rebel Hand

  4. Pingback: Transports of delight – researching the book about Nicholas | A Rebel Hand

  5. My wife was stella delaney, daughter of Victor Delaney born 1 December 1881 at Marrickville.Father was James Delaney who was married 1866. I am trying to add to the bits and pieces I have read in order to up-date her ancestory, so anything could be helpful. Thanks Neville Michael


  6. Pingback: Wealth for Toil – Australia Day challenge for 2012 | A Rebel Hand

  7. Shelley says:

    I’m looking forward to finding out!


  8. cassmob says:

    Look forward to hearing which it is…you’ve got me intrigued.


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