The Bloggers’ Geneameme – my answers

It’s the end of Australia’s National Family History Month. I started it with a post and I’ll end it with one, too – my answers to Jill Ball’s Bloggers’ Geneameme from her well-known and well-respected blog, Geniaus. I haven’t answered all Jill’s questions because that would make this post far too long, but I hope you enjoy it.

What are the titles and URLs of your genealogy blog/s? A Rebel Hand is my only genealogy blog; the url is

Sarah Simpson's grave. Photo by Michael Wood

Sarah Simpson’s grave (Michael Wood)

Do you have a wonderful “Cousin Bait” blog story? A link to a previous blog post might answer this question. Confession time. This blog was partly started as cousin bait and it’s working slowly but well. I get emails or messages through my Contact Me page from cousins and their partners and it’s always a thrill to ‘meet’ another Delaney or Simpson descendant. Sometimes we start a long email exchange and I learn a lot from them. Generous cousins have sent me photos and documents which have helped me greatly in my research. It’s a brilliant way of sharing information and I love it. Thanks, cousins!

Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging? I was newish to the social media world (except for talking to my group of non-genealogy friends on Facebook) when I started blogging but I wanted to make my website, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798 more visible. I also wanted to write about much wider subjects than my Delaney ancestors and to add research that I’d come across after my mother and I finished our book, also called A Rebel Hand. I found inspiration from the Australian and Irish genealogy and history blogs that I enjoyed reading. They were friendly and informative and gave me the spark that said: “I can do that, too!”

Father Murphy centre, Boolavogue

Father Murphy centre, Boolavogue

How did you decide on your blog/s title/s? As you’ll have guessed, it was named, with stunning originality, after the website, which was named after the book. But why ‘A Rebel Hand’ anyway? It’s a phrase from the Irish song Boolavogue, and I’ve talked about why I chose it in a couple of earlier posts. Warning: if you like Irish music don’t click on any of the links there. You could lose a good hour and get left with an earworm.

How do you let others know when you have published a new post? I have a ‘subscribe’ button on my blog so some readers know as soon as I hit the ‘publish’ button. I find that different genealogy pals often prefer different social media, so I also post on Facebook and Google+ and tweet. But I don’t leave messages in the Facebook groups I belong to; that would feel like overkill and I don’t find it appropriate for the way I use these groups, which are less newsy and more about helping each other with research.

How long have you been blogging? I’m in my terrible twos as a blogger; I published my first post on 10th November 2010.

What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog? There are two important things I look for (apart from the content) when I visit a blog: information and communication. I like to see a search facility, preferably, or at least a list of categories or tags. I want to know some more about the person or people behind the blog, so I look for an ‘about’ page. A list of families being researched is helpful. As for communication, a subscribe button  means I never miss a post, and G+, Facebook or Twitter buttons let me follow the writer if I like their blog. When I read an inspiring (or funny) post I like to be able to comment. It’s frustrating that I don’t seem to be able to comment on blogger/blogspot – I don’t know why. So I’ll just take the chance to say hi to the geneabloggers who use this platform – it’s not that I don’t like your posts, it’s just that I can’t tell you. And I love getting comments!

Mary Maude Wilson (Delaney) hanging out the washing at Moyne Farm

Mary Maude Wilson (Delaney) hanging out the washing at Moyne Farm

What is the purpose of your blog/s? Who is your intended audience? I started out writing about the Delaney family and Irish and Australian historical background, because that was what I knew most about. As my research expanded into other convict ancestors I posted about them, too. I’m hoping to connect with and interest people who want to read about Australian history of the convict era and the background to some of those convicts’ lives in Ireland and what is now London. I also hope to reach others with a more general interest in genealogy, though that’s not my unique selling point.

Which of your posts are you particularly proud of? I’m proudest of the ones where I had to make sense of a large number of sources and condense what I’ve read into a short (well, not too long) blog post. So ferreting out the details of Nicholas Delaney’s death and the trial of his suspected murderer gave me a lot of satisfaction, as did making sense of the trial of another convict ancestor, James Thomas Richards. The emotionally-charged issue of convict courtship was another post which got my brain cells fizzing. And in this age of washer-dryers and instant hot water I enjoyed the challenge of understanding what washday was like for my great-great grandmother, Mary Maude Delaney (nee Wilson).

Which of your posts has been the most popular with readers? Ghost stories and murders are always popular. But I had no idea when I posted about the stories (urban myths?) connected with the grave of my 3x great grandmother, Sarah Marshall (aka Simpson) that it would become the most popular thing I’d written. I have a feeling that some ghost-hunters will be disappointed when they land on a genealogy blog, though.

Front cover of 'Stories from Kensington Palace'

Front cover of the short story book

Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related? If you wish please share their titles and URLs. I started another one, Writer’s Blog, after having a short story published, but I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve neglected it recently. Though I think it’ll get a lot of input when I begin a writing course in September…

Have you listed your blog/s at Geneabloggers? Definitely! If you’ve got a genealogy blog and you haven’t, go and do it now!

What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger? You don’t need to be Hilary Mantel or Steven King to write a blog well. Post what you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. And if you don’t know a huge lot yet, write about your journey of discovery. Oh, and spellcheck. Read other blogs, get to know the people behind them and you’ll find yourself part of a generous, informative and lively community. I’ve written more about starting geneablogging here. PS: give up any idea of ‘free time’.

The last word: an unexpected outcome of blogging When my mother died last year I was so busy and so full of grief that I stopped blogging for two months. Then I posted about her legacy to me – a love of family history. I knew that genealogy bloggers were great people (see my last answer) but I was deeply touched by the kindness of people who responded to that post. They helped me get back on my researching and blogging feet and broke down some of the loneliness we feel after a loss. Thank you, everyone.

Read all the responses to the Bloggers’ Geneameme here. I’m looking forward to them. Great meme, Jill!



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Nicholas Delaney | 4 Comments

Requiem for Seamus Heaney

Today I heard the news that Seamus Heaney, the great and beloved Irish poet, has died.

English: Picture of the Irish poet and Nobel P...

Seamus Heaney (by Sean O’Connor, via Wikimedia Commons)

A great sadness caught at me and I wondered why. I’d never met him, though I admired him. And then I realised that his words had moved and delighted me so often that the loss of the wordsmith would inevitably touch me. He had opened much of himself to us, his readers, and we had taken him into ourselves.

So as a tribute to him, here’s one of Seamus Heaney’s poems, Requiem for the Croppies, written about the Irish Rebellion of 1798 from the point of view of a croppy, or rebel, like Nicholas Delaney and his comrades.

Requiem for the Croppies

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley –
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp –
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching –  on the hike –
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until, on Vinegar Hill, the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August the barley grew up out of our grave.

Here’s Seamus talking to Kirsty Wark about the poem and the background to it

And here’s a version set to backing music which you might recognise; it’s Boolavogue

This one is simple and the words speak for themselves


Finally, something Heaney said in 2004: “I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.”


Thank you, Seamus. Rest in peace.

Posted in 1798, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A ‘Girl Announcer’ confesses… Trove Tuesday post

OK, I admit, I was naughty when I posted that ‘Wordless Wednesday’ picture. I kept wordless shtum about who the ‘girl announcer’ was, though many of you guessed…

But I did promise to reveal all on Trove Tuesday, so – ta-daaaaaa –

Here she is!

Newspaper article about Patricia Delaney, ABC's youngest announcer

Yes, it’s my Mum, youngest announcer and first ‘girl cadet’ at the ABC

I was thrilled to find this article about young Patricia Delaney in the Muswellbrook Chronicle of Friday, 18th February, 1944 and in other local newspapers across NSW and Victoria. It must have been syndicated.

I must say that my mother’s ‘confessions’ about life at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are quite tame, but that’s papers for you, always looking for a sensational headline.

It’s wonderful to come across this piece, thanks to the genealogists’ treasure that is Trove. Although her words would have been tidied up for the published interview, I can hear her voice when I read this article, as if nearly 70 years had melted away. I think I can also hear her comments about being called a ‘girl announcer’, too, though it was a big achievement to be a female cadet at the ABC at the time.

This is a precious find for me. Thank you, National Library of Australia.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Vinegar Hill – the Irish rebels’ last stand

Enniscorthy Castle, County Wexford.

Enniscorthy Castle (GNU Free Documentation License)

This weekend (August 3 – 4, 2013) the Irish rebels (cheers!) and the redcoats (boo!) have been recruiting, drilling, camping and fighting around Vinegar Hill in County Wexford.

They’ve been re-enacting the last full battle of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the end of the story for most of the United Irishmen and their allies. It’s very likely that my 3x great grandfather, Nicholas Delaney, was one of the men standing with a pike against the cavalry, swords, muskets and bayonets of the regular army on that day (June 21st).

I’ve enjoyed reading the posts and tweets from Knights and Rebels, the organisers of the re-enactment and the people who run Co Wexford’s historic sites, Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy Castle and the National 1798 Rebellion Centre nearby.

Sadly I can’t be there (that seems like this month’s theme) and so I’m missing not just the spectacle but the chance to talk to other people interested in the history of the 1798 Rebellion – and the music. I remember Vinegar Hill well from our research trips to Ireland and a bare, spooky place it still is.

Vinegar Hill - view from Enniscorthy.

Vinegar Hill – view from Enniscorthy. (via Wikipedia)

So just to make my own contribution from across the water here’s an extract from A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798, the book my mother and I wrote about our Irish ancestor and the times he lived in (pp 27-28). I’ve edited it so this post won’t be too long.

Now there was no hope for any action but a last stand at Vinegar Hill. Government soldiers moved nearer as the last of the [insurgents from the] northern division, exhausted from their two-day march, reached the rebel camp…

Many of the women there had accompanied their men, whether to care for them or out of fear for their own and their children’s safety… Some of the women… took up arms and fought alongside their male relatives.

That night, as [Miles] Byrne wrote, ‘The thousands of little fires to be seen in the fields and plain all around the hill, where our people were preparing to get something to eat and to pass the night, afforded plenty of light and presented at the same time the appearance of a vast camp…’

George Cruikshank ( 1792-1878.) Defense of the...

‘Defence of the rebels at Vinegar Hill’ (George Cruikshank) via Wikipedia

It was early in the dawn of the 21st when [British forces’ commander General Gerard] Lake‘s troops moved to annihilate the United Irish on Vinegar Hill. The rebels were ‘bombarded by cannon ball, grape-shot, musket ball, as thickly as a shower of hail-stone’. Heavily armed government forces against exhausted men, women and children, often with few or no weapons or ammunition; defeat was inevitable for the insurgents despite their ‘bravery and intrepidity… for nearly two hours, until our ammunition was expended’.

It is a mark of the willpower of the cornered rebels that this battle is still the one [from 1798] remembered by most Irish people – and by the American and Australian diaspora.

After their victory, Lake allowed his men to carry out extreme reprisals, ‘an orgy of looting and rape’, while the defeated forces’ hospital and its patients were put to the torch.

Major-General John Moore, the future hero of the Peninsular War, was the only one who made any attempt to restrain his troops…

Many defeated rebels slipped away… to the comparative safety of the Wicklow Mountains, to begin the guerilla campaign that the northern rebels were to keep going into the next century.

All quotations in the extract above are taken from the Memoirs of Miles (or Myles) Byrne of Monaseed, a valuable source from an eye-witness at the battle, which is available free online. For similar books about 1798 and Ireland, look here.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in 1798 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

National Family History Month – and some of my ancestors

Did you hear about National Family History Week in Australia last year? Well, the country-wide programme of family history events has been extended to the whole of August for 2013. New Zealand is holding its own sister event, too.

If you’d like to take part, look at the events listed on the right here, state by state. If you aren’t already involved, here are some ways to join in, and Shauna Hicks has drawn up another list of family history society things to do here, one for every day in the month. Overseas Aussie genealogists like me can get inspiration from Shauna, NFHM’s voluntary national coordinator, in her genealogy research suggestions here. And you can visit the Family History Month Facebook page.

Copy of Thomas Delaney and Mary Maude Wilson's marriage certificate

Marriage certificate of Thomas Delaney and Mary Maude Wilson, my great-grandparents (copy)

Genealogy and family history are huge in Australia, and I can understand why. My own Aussie ancestors intrigue me, as you’ll have guessed if you’re a reader of the A Rebel Hand blog, website or book.

So I’m going to start the month with my own Australian family history list: details of the ancestors I’m researching and the ones I’ll be looking at in the future. Ancestry members can see the Delaney family tree here ( and here ( If you’re a relative, do comment below or use this form – I’d love to hear from you.

The Delaney side:

  • Nicholas Delaney (c 1772 – 3.9.1834) and his wife, Elizabeth Bayly [Bayley, Bailey] (c 1892 – ?)
  • Their son Thomas Delaney (11.2.1812 – 10.1.1871) and his wife, Lucy Simpson (18.11.1818 – 20.1.1880)
  • Lucy’s parents, John Simpson (c 1777 – ?) and Sarah Marshall [Simpson] (c 1796 – 10.12.1838)
  • Thomas and Lucy’s son, Thomas Delaney (25.6.1851 – after 1932), and his wife, Mary Maude Wilson (10.12.1855 – 2.5.1932)
  • Mary’s parents, Thomas Robert Sandon Wilson (dates unknown) and Sarah Emma Henley [Dicks?] (1827 – 25.10.1910)

The Winter side:

  • Eleanor Ann Edith Richards (28.2.1871 – ?) and her husband, Thomas Henry Winter (7.4.1863 – ?)
  • Eleanor’s parents, Rebecca Harrington (c 1841 – ?.12.1884) and her husband, James Thomas Richards (c 1815 – 24.2.1896)
  • The Harringtons of Hackney, Bethnal Green or Tower Hamlets and the Richards and Wickings of Deptford
  • Thomas Winter’s parents, John Winter (1830 – 6.3.1875) and Ann Graham (c 1841 – 14.7.1878)
  • The Winters and Hogarths of Westmorland and the Grahams and Bells of Cumberland and Co Durham

NFHM has some impressive sponsors, and I’m looking forward to posts, tweets and messages from people who organise or attend events this August.

Update: Go to Geniaus for a Twitter feed of #NFHM13 tweets. Great idea!

You’re still here after that long list? Great! As a thank-you, here’s a link to some (mostly free) Australian history ebooks. With thanks to the Inside History team, who inspired me to search Open Library.


 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014

Posted in Australia, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

What does she confess? Wordless Wednesday

To mark one year since my mother’s death, I’m posting a Wordless Wednesday picture.

Black and white picture of glamorous young 1940s woman

The ‘girl announcer’

This is the original photo, published in various Australian newspapers and captioned ‘A Girl Announcer’s Confessions’. Because it’s Wordless Wednesday I can’t tell you any more. But come back soon to find out what the secret is…



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Australia, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Inside History Magazine’s Top 50 Genealogy Blog Awards

I’m thrilled, humbled and surprised to find this blog, A Rebel Hand, on Inside History Magazine‘ s newly-published list of 50 top genealogy blogs.

Front cover of Inside History magazine July 2013

Inside History Magazine front cover

Thrilled, because who wouldn’t be?  It’s a huge honour, coming from the must-read magazine for anyone interested in Australian or New Zealand history and genealogy. And the list was drawn up with the help of Jill Ball, alias Geniaus, whose name and expertise is known throughout the genealogy blogosphere.

Humbled? Just have a look at the blogs and bloggers on the list. If you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly start nodding like one of those toy dogs people had in their cars. “There’s one of my favourites, and another one, and another…” Which is why I was…

Surprised to see A Rebel Hand among their number. Why? See above. These are some of the most informative, authoritative and entertaining blogs I’ve ever read (and come back to again and again). And I haven’t posted as much as I’d like to lately (sorry, blog). So I’m extremely…

Grateful to Cassie, Jill and the tweeps¹ and plussers² who put this awards list together. And to the bloggers, on and off this awards list, who make my genealogy journey rewarding – and fun.

Logo for the Inside History Magazine top 50 genealogy blog awards

50 blogs you need to read

The Top 50 Blog Awards are also published in the current (July/August 2013) issue of Inside History Magazine. And if you fancy a peek inside, here it is! You’ll probably recognise a lot of the contributors’ names.

I’ve just got one reservation – Inside History’s own blog can’t be on the top 50 list, obviously. But it’s definitely up there at the top for me.

A quick aside: the genealogy blogging world had a lively conversation over Christmas and the New Year about posting or linking to some awards which looked like link-bait to many people. So I didn’t mention a couple which generous fellow bloggers had nominated me for. But this award couldn’t be from more reputable people. So thank you all!

What are your own top genealogy blogs? Do comment (below) and have your say.

¹ People who tweet on Twitter

² Members of Google+ (or are they ‘plusers’? The interweb doesn’t seem sure)



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Blogging, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A story from Kensington Palace

I’m back – with a book.

Other writing has kept me away from this blog. I’ve been working on a collaborative project with Kensington Palace, trying my hand at a piece of historical fiction.

My short story, Educating Peter, was based on an episode in the life of Peter the ‘Wild Boy’, a well-known character in the 1720s. It was one of thirteen to be published recently in an anthology of creative writing inspired by a visit to the Palace, Stories from Kensington Palace. It’s been not so much a learning curve as a learning vertical take-off, but I’ve enjoyed it enormously.

Stories from Kensington Palace

Stories from Kensington Palace – back cover

If you’d like to find out more, I’ve written about it on the Other Projects page of this blog.

I’ll be going back to genealogy next time I post. See you then!



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Blogging, London | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moyne in the Mercury

Moyne Farm is in the news.

The farm, near Little Hartley in New South Wales, an area where many Delaneys worked and raised their families in the nineteenth century, is the subject of a recent article in the Lithgow Mercury.

Journalist Carolyn Piggott writes about Moyne Farm and the man who built it, John Grant, in an article commemorating the bicentenary of the crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813.

Photo of Moyne Farm

Moyne Farm photographed a few years ago (© Patricia Owen 2002)

Moyne, built in 1821, is generally believed to be the oldest privately-owned building west of the Nepean River which is still standing.

Some more reading:

A history of Hartley Vale

A short biography of John Grant

Disclaimer: You, my eagle-eyed reader, will probably have spotted that the picture illustrating the ‘Mercury’ article is not the one that I have used, though I’m credited with it. Or at least a mis-spelled version of me is.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The thief up the chimney: Old Bailey Online 10th anniversary post

This is a tale of larceny and pubs – and a certain amount of naivety. The combination was disastrous for James Thomas Richards, a 20-year-old Thames waterman, and lucky for me, since he’s my great-great grandfather and met my 2x great grandmother in Australia.

"The Old Bailey, Known Also as the Centra...

The Central Criminal Court c 1808 (via Wikipedia)

I’m writing this as part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of Old Bailey Online, the “fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.” I do urge you to look at it even if London crime isn’t your interest, as it’s endlessly fascinating. And if you enjoyed the BBC TV series Garrow’s Law – sadly cancelled – the inspiration for the cases came from the Old Bailey’s proceedings.

It’s thanks to OBO that I found out the details of why James was transported to New South Wales in 1835 aboard the Royal Sovereign.

His trial was held on April 6th, 1835, at the Old Court, before the Recorder. It’s a slightly rambling account, with a number of pubs and streets mentioned, so I won’t reproduce it all here, but you can read the entire proceedings at OBO (including images) or in this transcription PDF.

It all started at around 4pm on Sunday, March 22nd. James Thomas Richards was in William Francis’s pub, the Star and Garter, in Thames Street, Deptford, near where he worked as a waterman. He may have been joined there by another waterman, Robert Dilliman. James asked William Francis for a shilling coin in exchange for twelve pennies. It was a reasonable request, since each penny weighed two-thirds of an ounce, or 18.8 grams, and was large, with a diameter of 34mm, an inch and a third. Those twelve coins would have weighed half a pound in all. And I expect that publicans found small change as useful then as they do now.

Old Bailey Online - the trial of James Thomas Richards, Robert Dilliman and Thomas Ogden

Old Bailey Online – the trial of James Thomas Richards, Robert Dilliman and Thomas Ogden

At about eight o’clock that evening, James was in another pub, the Duke of Sussex in New St, with “a young man”, probably Thomas Ogden. They sat in the tap room enjoying a pint of porter for a quarter of an hour, then Robert Dilliman came in and the three left “in about twenty minutes”.

Now the story gets a little more tangled. According to police constable William Smith, James confessed to him that Dilliman “asked him to go with him to the water-gates, to lay a barge on shore, but on passing down New-street to the lower water-gates, Dilliman asked him to go and take the till” from the Star and Garter in Thames St.

How did Dilliman know about the till? Was it a spur-of-the-moment impulse? Had he been with James in the pub and got the idea there? Was James’s request for change a ruse to see where William Francis kept his till? Though he could presumably have found that out just by watching him serve customers.

Deptford from Crutchley's 1833 map, with streets coloured and notes

Deptford from Crutchley’s 1833 map
1: New St (violet)
2: Thames St (red)
3: Hughes Fields (green)
4: Flagon Row (yellow)
5: Butcher Row (blue)

As I was researching this post my head grew befuddled by all the boozers I was looking for and all the streets which now only exist on paper, so here’s a map which may help us on our pub-crawl round Deptford in 1835. New St (1) runs north-south and is highlighted in violet. Thames St (2), to the north,  is red.

It’s at this point I wish that the three accused had been questioned, because all their words are given in evidence by other people. This seems unusual to me, but perhaps if you know more about court proceedings at that time you’ll let me know if it was common practice.

According to PC Smith, James did as Dilliman asked, went into the Star and Garter and took the till. I’d like to know why – was Dilliman a frightening man, or was James just trying to shift some of the blame onto him? Why didn’t Dilliman snatch the till himself? Whatever the reason, James stole it.

Then all three of them ran down Hughes Fields (3, green) and shared the money, which came to “60 pence, and 160 halfpence”, a total of 11 shillings and eightpence. The till itself would not have been a cash register, of course, but a wooden box, probably a fairly plain one as it was valued at 2/-. There’s no mention of whether the box had a lock. If it hadn’t, it might have been more tempting; a lock would have taken extra moments to smash. The box would have been fairly heavy; the pennies alone would have weighed 1128 grams, or 40 oz (two and a half pounds). They left “some papers, some old locks, and other things” in it and threw it over the wall of the Beehive pub in Flagon Row (4, yellow).

Then they seem to have split up. James went on to yet another pub, the Blue Bell in Butcher Row (5, red), with “twelve penny-pieces, and twenty-five halfpence” in his pockets.

Cutting from the Morning Chronicle of April 15, 1835

Morning Chronicle report of James’s sentence

Of course there’s no way of knowing why he went to a pub rather than going home and stashing the money; he may have wanted an alibi, or perhaps he couldn’t resist spending some of it. Unfortunately for James, he had been recognised by two fellow watermen, one in the Star and Garter during the robbery and one in Hughes Fields who saw him “with something like a box under his arm”. So when William Francis realised his till was missing and set out to find the thieves, James was the obvious suspect.

PC Thomas Rose caught him in the Blue Bell at about half past nine and found the incriminating money on him. James was marched off, heading for the prosecutor’s, but “made his escape by the side door”.

Now we come to my favourite part of the story. James may have thought that he would not be able to escape again, or he may have been afraid of a severe punishment. He may have felt regret for the theft. Perhaps he thought an apology would be enough. Whatever the motive, on Monday morning he sent a message to William Francis, the landlord, saying “that he had done it”. Rather than disappearing, he appears to have stayed on at his parents’ house in Grove St, Deptford. Two or three days later, Francis and PC William Smith went to Grove St and the constable “found him secreted up the chimney in his father’s bed-chamber”.

According to Francis, “when we found him in the chimney, he asked me to forgive him, and said he would make it all right to me, and his mother should go and get the money”. PC Smith recalled that “he showed great contrition, and wished I would send for Dilliman and Ogden, that they might make the money up to Mr. Francis”. Rather touching naivety or a desperate last attempt to wriggle out of prosecution?

It was no good; Francis said he had to go with the constable, and on the way to the station James made a sort of confession to him. Interestingly, Francis took care to stress that “I did not tell him it would be better for him to confess, nor did the policeman.” And PC Smith was cross-examined in a similar vein: “Q. Do you mean that you screwed this confession out of him? A. Upon my oath I did not—I did not tell him it would be better for him to tell me—he told me this voluntarily.”

Photograph of Newgate Prison in 1900

Newgate, 1900 (Misterio y Sociedad de Aventuras Literarias, Creative Commons)

And that was that: he was tried on April 6th, found guilty of petty larceny and sentenced to seven years’ transportation; the Morning Chronicle of April 15th reported it briefly. Dilliman and Ogden were found not guilty. James was sent to Newgate Prison, transferred to the prison hulk Leviathan in Portsmouth on May 27th and embarked on the Royal Sovereign on July 29th, arriving in New South Wales on December 12th. 

Why do I find the capture of James up his father’s bedroom chimney so compelling? Well, of course it paints a wonderful mental picture (battered boots or bare feet dangling over last night’s ash; Ann Richards weeping and pleading or looking defiant; the triumphant constable, the gleeful publican) worthy of George Cruikshank. But what I love most is the fact that I found the trial transcript and showed it to my mother a few months before she died last year and I’m left with a memory of us both sitting at the table in fits of giggles over how ludicrous it must have been. Thank you, Old Bailey Online.

For more 10th anniversary posts, go to OBO’s blog, look at Tumblr, follow them (@OldBaileyOnline) on Twitter or check the hashtag #OBO10.

I’ll have another story to tell about James Thomas Richards soon, thanks to the Federation of Family History Societies and My Heritage.


The Pub History site was invaluable in identifying pubs and publicans mentioned in the trial

Old Deptford History, a wonderful site, provided useful maps and information about the disappearance of this whole area a few years after these events

I would still be wandering the watering-holes of Deptford without maps such as those at Ideal Homes: a history of south-east London suburbs (Crutchley, 1833) and Motco’s online version of Greenwood’s 1830 London map.

For more Deptford links see this post.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Convicts, London, Trial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Welsh Newspapers Online – read all about it

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus! Happy St David’s Day!

March 1st is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and what better day to write about an important new development in Welsh genealogical and historical research?

I’m just catching up with all my notes and papers from this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live event, which took place in Olympia on the 22nd – 24th of February. It was the first time I’d gone, and although it was a fascinating and exhausting time I’m not going to go into all my thoughts here or this post would be boringly long. Lots of people have blogged and tweeted about it, though.

National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales.

National Library of Wales (via Wikipedia)

One of the highlights for me was the news that the National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru) is launching the first one million pages of its online historic newspaper and journal collection, Welsh Newspapers Online, on Wednesday, March 13.

This is exciting news for people like me who have Welsh ancestors. Until now, we’d have had to go to the National Library in Aberystwyth to look at them (and, of course, that’s still worth doing).

But now the first part of its online collection, local and national, in Welsh and in English, will be available to anyone, and it’s free to use!

Beryl Evans of the NLW, who spoke about the launch on Saturday, gave us some background information about the project, which began in 2009. The site is in beta at the moment, so there may be changes, but you will be able to search or browse using various categories. You’ll also have a search history for future reference or research.

Images of the original pages will be high-resolution, greyscale 400 PPI (pixels per inch), de-skewed uncompressed tiffs. This will not just make them attractive to look at; it means that the optical character recognition (OCR) process, which ‘transcribes’ the original type, is likely to be fairly accurate.

Some leaflets from the National Library of Wales

National Library of Wales leaflets

OCR technology allows users to search, cut and paste, analyse data and highlight different parts of the page to show advertisements, lists or images, for example. And of course it gives you electronically translated text, which can be easier to read than the original.

Now this may sound familiar to you if you use Trove, the National Library of Australia’s wonderful (free!) treasury of digitised newspapers, journals, books and much more. So I asked Beryl if she knew Trove, and she said that it had been one of the models the NLW had looked at. That’s a good start for the new site! And when I asked her if readers would be able to correct text, just like Trove users can, she said that they were considering it.

I’m very much looking forward to climbing around the Welsh part of my family tree using Welsh Newspapers Online.

Some useful facts:

  • The first printing press in Wales was set up in 1718 (surprisingly late for a country which loves learning)
  • The Cambrian (1804 – 1930) was the first English language newspaper, printed in Swansea and covering South Wales. Its index is already searchable online
  • In 1808 the North Wales Gazette (later the North Wales Chronicle) was published in Bangor
  • Seren Gomer was the first Welsh language paper. Covering the whole nation, it lasted for 85 issues
  • The first daily national was the Cambria Daily Leader in 1861
  • In 1855 the hated ‘Tax on Knowledge’ or newspaper tax, was abolished. The number of papers increased
  • Eventually there will be 2 million pages online (by the end of 2013, it’s hoped). There’s a list of all newspapers to be included here


It’s up and running – a day early! Here’s the link.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

My first Australian ancestor (Australia Day Challenge 2013)

This year’s challenge comes from Helen at From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard. She writes:

“Your challenge… is to tell the story of your first Australian ancestor.”

Now that does make it a challenge! Because the first-ever Australian in my family tree is Nicholas Delaney, and I’ve written a lot about him. I don’t want to recycle stuff and risk boring you, so I’m going to choose his wife, Elizabeth Bayly (Bayley, Bailey). And she’s a tricky one.

This image is a digital reproduction of a pain...

Sydney Cove in 1808 by J.W. Lewin (via Wikipedia)

Elizabeth was only 15 or so when she arrived in Sydney Cove and, as far as we can tell, alone. At that time (she came on the Brothers, which embarked on October 17, 1806 and dropped anchor on April 4, 1807) it was very rare for a young woman to travel by herself unless she had family waiting for her.

And because she ‘came free’, she turns up much less in the records than my convict ancestors do. They were monitored and recorded from arrival to freedom – or death.

So far, Elizabeth’s kept her secrets. Years of leafing through manuscripts and peering at screens in Australia and the UK have turned up… nothing. It’s possible that she was a relative of Nicholas Bayly, a New South Wales Corps soldier who, after a stormy career, became a wealthy settler. But we just don’t know.

And what did she do when she arrived? Another mystery. Family myth has her working as a maid at Government House in Sydney where she met Nicholas Delaney, her future husband. But I don’t think Nicholas was there.

However they got together, they married in St Phillip’s (Anglican) Church on October 17th, 1808. And there’s another question: why would a young free settler marry a convict up to 20 years older than she was? She was already two months pregnant, so that may have been the reason. Or maybe not.

English: Portrait of Samuel Marsden, 1764 - 1838

Samuel Marsden (Wikipedia)

The ‘petulant ox’-faced parson, Samuel Marsden, was away from the colony so they were married by Major Edward Abbott of the Rum Corps. When the ‘flogging parson’ returned, he refused to allow the legality of the 17 marriages that Abbott had carried out. The Delaneys didn’t seem to mind; they considered themselves married and never went through another ceremony. Perhaps, as Catholics, they didn’t feel that a second Anglican marriage would make much difference.

Elizabeth bore 12 children; of these nine lived to marry and six reached old age. Her second, the first to survive infancy, was John Delaney, who married Mary Anne, the daughter of John Grant, the ‘Father of Hartley’. Thomas, my 3x great grandfather, was her third child.

Notice of Elizabeth Delaney's donation, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser

Elizabeth’s donation

I don’t know much more about Elizabeth (yet). She is listed in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser of March 13, 1823, as subscribing to the Roman Catholic Chapel in Hyde Park (where St Mary’s Cathedral now stands). It was her second donation, and she gave one pound – a generous £83.22 in today’s money. John, aged 13, also gave a pound.

Perhaps she could afford to be generous. The only mention I have found of her in the Colonial Secretary’s Papers is on May 24th, 1821, when she was paid £79/18/9 for 3,837 lb of ‘fresh meat’. If I’ve read the figures right, that’s a lot of money for a lot of meat. Nicholas’s cattle farming was doing well.

When Nicholas became unable to work, in 1829, John took over as the ‘man of the house’ and main provider. I can only wonder how they all coped with that. John was 19 now, an adult, but as he was single I expect Elizabeth still had the running of the house.

John did marry in 1833, to Ellen Gilligan, and perhaps Elizabeth found that having a daughter-in-law in the house was less comfortable. At any rate, after Nicholas’s death in September 1834, it seems she had no taste for staying in John’s house in Penrith as a widow.

St Phillip's from Joseph Fowles' 'Sydney in 1848'

St Phillip’s from Joseph Fowles’ ‘Sydney in 1848’

She married again, to Michael Mulcahy, in 1835. That’s interesting, because he was a witness at the trial of John Kennedy for murdering Nicholas. Were they friends who decided to live together for convenience? Did he comfort her, and they then fell in love? Was something already going on between them? I’ll never know.

After Michael died she had two more husbands: William Fitch in 1848 and Laurence Nicholls in 1852. Quite the Wife of Bath, our Elizabeth. The best guess for her birth year is 1792, so she was 60 the last time she became a bride.

I haven’t been able to find out anything about her three other husbands, so if you know about them, please get in touch. I haven’t found any more children, either, but since she was about 43 when she married Michael, perhaps it’s not surprising.

So that’s Elizabeth Bayly: courageous, strong, a survivor and perhaps a bit gorgeous, too. But still most of all – a mystery.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Convicts, Genealogy, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Irish Family History Day

Have you got Irish ancestors?

Today (January 24th) is the first-ever Irish Family History Day. It seems to be part of The Gathering, a year-long celebration of Ireland present and past. Their official website says:

Wenzel Hollar's historical map of Ireland

Wenceslaus Hollar’s map of Ireland (via Wikipedia)

”Communities throughout Ireland are showcasing and sharing the very best of Irish culture, tradition, business, sport, fighting spirit and the uniquely Irish sense of fun.

“Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry. The Gathering Ireland 2013 provides the perfect excuse to reach out to those who have moved away, their relatives, friends and descendants, and invite them home.”

Findmypast Ireland is marking the occasion in two very positive ways. They’ve added “21m birth, marriage and death certificates to its records, bringing the total number to more than 60m”. These new records cover the mid-1800s to the late 1950s.

And there’s a special offer of 50 free credits at their website, valid until January 31st.

The excellent Irish Genealogy News website, which I can’t recommend too highly, discusses the new records and points out that they were already available to people who have a subscription that covers the Republic of Ireland.

Update: And British GENES has found out that you can get 50 more credits with FMP US (I can’t sign in, but that’s probably a glitch I can wiggle round).

Sadly, since Nicholas Delaney left Ireland in 1802, the new records won’t show him (I’ve searched) but they may help me find out about his family. I hope!

Happy researching.

There’s more about free credits here. NB some of them may have expired by now.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Genealogy, Ireland, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

On the twelfth day of Christmas

So the decorations are down and the cards are ready to be recycled. It’s a flat sort of day. Especially since the next day is a Monday this year, and Real Life starts up in earnest for everyone.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, though, Twelfth Day in Britain was a celebration (and also the Feast of the Epiphany). In those days, the ones I mostly write about, Christmas went on after December 25th, instead of peaking on the day. And our Christmas cake developed out of the old Twelfth Cake, with its bean and other tokens and its turning upside down of the usual rules.

In Ireland, the rules were kicked over too. January 6th was known as Little Christmas (Nollaig Bheag), or Women’s Christmas (Nollaig na mBan). On this day, the men took over all the housework and the women got a well-earned rest, or the chance to enjoy themselves with sisters, daughters or friends.

I’m not planning any misrule today, but I’m going to celebrate Twelfth Day with a few photos of my first Christmas. So here we are, me and my parents…

Family photo of mother, father and baby

Slightly bored baby, handsome but serious parents…

Mother, father and baby

Perking up a bit now Mum’s stroking me

Mother, father and baby

That’s better!

My mother used to have a party on January 6th, so today’s poignant for me, but with happy memories.

Here’s a very rich recipe for Twelfth Cake, if you’re into baking. Have you got any Twelfth Day/Night traditions?



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

More positivity in 2012 (Accentuate the Positive part 2)

Are you too hard on yourself about your genealogy or family history work in 2012? Do you think more about what you didn’t achieve, or that ancestor who is still hiding,  or whose records seem all to have been destroyed? It’s easy to think like that, isn’t it…

I’m constantly frustrated my being unable to pin down Rebecca Harrington, a 2x great grandmother. She’s a very slippery character. Still, I won’t give up.

A very good year for geneabloggers

So I was delighted to read Geniaus‘s inspiring geneameme, Accentuate the Positive, in which she invites us to share the good news about our activities in 2012. Thank you, Jill!

I’ve already posted the first half of my contribution, so here we go with the second:

Fleet marriage (from Robert Chambers 'Book of Days')

18th century Fleet marriage (detail)

11. A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was… I haven’t been to any in 2012, but I have attended talks at the National Archives in Kew. One of these was Rebecca Probert’s fascinating and illuminating Tracing marriages; legal requirements and actual practice, 1700-1836. Click on the link to hear a podcast.

It’s full of useful information about those elusive marriages and debunks a few myths, as well. Broomstick weddings – true or false? And what about Fleet marriages?

I do plan to go to Who Do You Think You Are Live in London this February. Maybe I’ll see you there?

12. I am proud of the presentation I gave at/to… I haven’t given one, but I’m pleased with a question I asked at another National Archives talk, by Hamish Maxwell-Stuart, on Morbidity and mortality on convict voyages to 19th century Australia. I asked about transported convicts being deprived of water (which happened to Sarah Marshall on the Friendship), and this led to an interesting email exchange. I’m grateful to him for taking the time to contact me.

'Irish Lives Remembered' article about Nicholas Delaney

‘Irish Lives Remembered’ article

13. A journal/magazine article I had published was in the new free online Irish genealogy magazine, Irish Lives Remembered. I was thrilled and honoured when Eileen asked me to write about my 3x great grandfather, Nicholas Delaney, and how my mother and I came to write A Rebel Hand, our book about him.

I’m an avid reader of the magazine, and an added bonus is that it features a lot of Australian information as well.

So you can imagine what a joy it was to write the article, and to remember the extraordinary days when we were researching our book. It was hard work, but very rewarding and exciting, too. And it started me on my genie journey.

14. I taught a friend how to find and order a birth certificate online. It wasn’t difficult, but it was useful for them, and so it was worth it for both of us.

15. A genealogy book that taught me something new was The John Simpson and Sarah Saga, compiled by Sylvia Taylor. This is the record of her research into the lives of John and his (?clandestine) wife, Sarah Marshall, and a list of their descendants, along with family stories. They’re my 3x great grandparents, both convicts, who arrived in New South Wales within days of each other in January 1818 and got together soon after. Their daughter Lucy, my ancestor, was born ten months later…

I’m grateful to my cousin, Wayne Morris, for letting me see his copy of the book. I couldn’t track down a copy anywhere, online or in real life, until then. Sometimes it’s frustrating trying to do Australian research while I’m in the UK. I can just see my Aussie genealogy pals smiling wryly – many of them may have the same problem, but in reverse.

My next step is to follow up every fact in Sylvia’s book. Not that I doubt her for a moment, and I’m very thankful for all her hard work, it’s just that if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s check your sources. And check again.

English: Photograph of the The National Archiv...

The National Archives by Nick Cooper (via Wikipedia)

16. A great repository/archive/library I visited was The National Archives in London. I planned to go to more archives and libraries in 2012 and signed up for introductory tours of the London Metropolitan Archives, the Guildhall Library (where I took the chance to see a fascinating exhibition about London’s guilds) and the Society of Genealogists. They were all Aladdin’s caves, but I have to say that TNA was the most impressive – not surprisingly, given its size and reach.

I also went along to my local library’s refurbished Local Studies centre and will be going back often now it’s open again. Our libraries are under threat and need our support.

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was… (cough) I’m going to cheat bend the rules a little now. Here in the UK, there seems to be an endless fascination (obsession?) with the Tudors. And a slew of books about the period, too. I’m up for history of any era, but I’ve been feeling Tudored out recently.

But I’d been impressed (and puzzled!) by Hilary Mantel‘s Wolf Hall, her novel about Thomas Cromwell, and was looking forward to reading Bring Up the Bodies in about five years when it would be available at my library. Popular books tend to be borrowed back-to-back for a long time. So one day as I was browsing the shelves I was surprised and delighted to see it sitting there, available and grabbed it. Bring Up the Bodies isn’t a book for reading on the beach. You have to work hard, but I learned a lot of historical background (while remembering it was fiction). And, yes, I really enjoyed it.

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, New South Wales

Blue Mountains by JJ Harrison (via Wikipedia)

19. A geneadventure I enjoyed was… I had no big adventures in 2012. There were small voyages of discovery, though, like getting to know those excellent libraries I’ve mentioned. Writing the Irish Lives Remembered article was a new departure as well.

And really, family history and genealogy is all an adventure. We set out with a map which is missing huge chunks, we take wrong paths, we get lost, we get help from others, and sometimes we find what we are looking for – or even something we aren’t, but which is also worth the journey.

If I had a fairy godmother, I’d ask her to magic me to the Blue Mountains in 2013. It’s the 200th anniversary of the first crossing, made by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth in 1813 (though the story can be questioned). It was on the other side, near Little Hartley, that my Delaney ancestors made their home. So I’d love to be there for the bicentenary celebrations, but it won’t be possible. I’ll travel in my dreams and on the net instead.

20. Another positive I would like to share is something you’re probably familiar with – the genealogy community online. Bloggers, tweeters, on Facebook and Google+, writers and readers, you’re wonderful. Supportive, funny, full of information. Thank you for your comments,  advice, suggestions and encouragement.

If you’d like to see all the other responses to this geneameme, Jill’s listed them here. You’ll find stories of hard work, triumph, humour and above all, a record of a positive 2012.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Blogging, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments