Thursday, January 01, 2009

Tales from the past No 2 - Cornelius Delaney

One of my paternal great great grandmothers, Mary Vaughan, sticks out like a sore thumb on the English census returns, because she was born in Gibraltar. She was married to Thomas Vaughan, born in Ireland about 1827. When I obtained a copy of her Irish marriage certificate, I discovered that she was the daughter of Cornelius Delaney, who was described as a pensioner.

I posted a message to the Delaney message board and to my surprise, got an immediate response from two Australian ladies. Cornelius had gone to Australia in 1850 and I had suddenly acquired lots of Australian relatives.

Cornelius had gone to Tasmania in 1850 as an Enrolled Pensioner Guard on the convict ship Rodney. He was listed as being late of the 94th Regiment of Foot. With this vital piece of information, I engaged a researcher to look for his Army records at Kew.

He had enlisted in 1824 at Borris-in-Ossery, in what was known as Queens County. He was born about 1800 in Aghaboe, which is near Borris. When I visited there in 2005 I found a ruined abbey, a church and 3 houses. The researcher found his record of service and in 1825, the year Mary Vaughan was born, he was in Gibraltar. Searching the parish registers of the only Roman Catholic church in Gibraltar in 1825 (courtesy of the LDS) I found that Mary was the child of Cornelius and Sarah Delaney.

Baptismal entry for Mary Delaney (click to enlarge)

I know nothing else of Sarah and do not know if Delaney was in fact her maiden name. They had a son two years later, but no further trace of him was found. What I know of Army wives at that time is based on reading the Richard Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell. I understand that a battalion was allowed a limited number of “official” wives on foreign service, but there was usually a number of “unofficial” wives. So Cornelus might, or might not, have been married to Sarah.

However, by 1832 he was in Malta and married to Margaret Horan. In 1835, they had a daughter Catherine, born on board ship, offshore Malta. At that time they were on their way to India. Cornelius only served in India for just over a year and in 1836 he was probably back in Ireland. He was in India long enough to get busted from Sgt to Private for being drunk on a bathing parade. Don’t ask.

In 1840 he was discharged on a pension of 6 pence a day because of ill health. He had scurvy and was suffering from arthritis. I don’t know what he did then but the British government maintained Army units of reservists and pensioners to maintain civil order, this was the time of the Irish famine.

In 1850 he sailed to Tasmania on a convict ship. On arriving in Hobart he was appointed as a police constable. This was not unusual for guards. He was granted some land, about 7 acres. After less than a year, he resigned from the police and in 1857 the whole family, plus a new ex-convict son-in-law, sailed to Victoria.

When he arrived in Hobart he had his wife Margaret with him and several daughters. Cornelius and Margaret seem to have had 4 daughters after Mary Vaughan, but I only know of two survivors, Margaret and Catherine. These two ladies produced over 20 children between them, most of them survived and so I have lots of Australian cousins.

Catherine Delaney in Sidney about 1913.

Cornelius lived a long life, dying in 1895 in Hesket, Victoria. When he died he was missing a leg and one eye. Family legend had it that he had been injured in the Crimean War, but he was in Tasmania at the time!

[I gained much information from Cornelius' Australian Death Certificate. He HAD married Sarah in 1819 but the informant didn't know her surname. He married again in about 1823. The certificate listed 5 children, 3 of them alive, one of them my gggmthr in England. The Australian branch obviously knew of her]

Tales from the Past No 3 - Sarah Stapleton

My grea-grandmother, Sarah Stapleton, lived a hand-to-mouth existence typical of that of many women of the time, but she must have been a toughie, as she managed to survive to the age of 75.

She was born on 7 Novemeber 1837, the daughter of William and Ann of Norwood, St Mellion, and was baptised in the village church. It's possible that the Rector mis-recorded the name of her father, as she appears in the 1841 Census with a couple called John and Ann. He was no different to most of the rest of my ancestors, being recorded as an 'Agri Lab', but by 1851 he had become a delightfully-named 'Poper'(so much better than the correct spelling). He died in December 1856, aged 65, and was buried at the Parish Church.

Sarah continued to live at Norwood and in 1861 she was with her widowed mother and older sister in the next household to her future in-laws, who were living at Thrustles Nest which was also near Amy Tree in St Mellion. Her mother died the following year, by which time Sarah had given birth to her son, Lewis. His father is unknown, but he lived with my great-grandparents, Stephen and Sarah Barrett, as their son for several years. There might be a clue in the fact that he was baptised in South Hill on 12 May 1861, at which time Stephen was a carter for the Symons family in that Parish. The couple must have known each other since childhood.

Stephen had grown up at Thrustles Nest, which is now in ruin. The small cottage(s) must have been both isolated and over-crowded, as two large families lived there for several years.

Sarah married Stephen at Liskeard Register Office on 15 August 1863, at which time she was living as a domestic servant at Cadson, near Callington. It's likely that a church wedding had been refused!

The marriage lasted under 16 years, during which time the growing family moved to Todsworthy in Calstock, home to several agricultural labourers and where Stephen died of pneumonia in March 1879. Sarah was left with a young family including my grandfather, William, aged just two. It's hardly surprising that some of the children moved away. Son Lewis went 'up country' (could mean anything to a Cornishman!) and his brother John ('Jack') ended up in Negaunee, Michigan, along with many other Cornishmen and where he died in a mine accident in 1914. He had survived his mother by less than a year, as Sarah died on 1 May 1913.

John had remained in contact with his family and they received photographs of his children and ultimately his grave, presumably sent by his wife, Mary Louisa, who survived until 1945.

Between the death of her husband and her own, Sarah moved to wherever a member of her family could find work, including living briefly in Plymouth. However, she had returned to Albaston, of which Todsworthy forms a part, by 1909 and was one of the first recipients of the five shillings a week Old Age Pension. (Photograph attached, Sarah is seated second from left. Click to enlarge)

I wonder what she'd think of her great-grand-daughter's comparatively easy life?