Thursday, 1 September 2016

Online launch: Irish birth, marriage & death registers: 8th September

Oh my! 
This is going to be epic.
My thanks to Clare Santry of the Irish Genealogy News blog for bringing us this news (and to Debbie Cruwys Kennett of the Guild of One Name Studies for passing the news on on the Guild facebook page)

Clare writes:
"Next Thursday, 8 September, will be a red-letter day for Irish genealogy.

The General Register Office's historical birth, marriage and death registers will be launched online on that date, joining the GRO Index and a collection of church records on Further details will be released early next week. For now, this is all the information being made public.

When this move was first mooted, back in July 2014, it came with an assurance that these records would be accessible free of charge. Subsequent intervention should also have made us quite certain that the records will be subject to the 100-75-50-years rule ie only those births more than 100 years old, marriages more than 75 years ago, and deaths 50 years ago.

I'll bring more news when it's available."

For an Irish based One Name Study, this is fantastic news. All those Fitzhenry and Fitzharris BMD entries which will now be available online... for free.
If you haven't already visited the website, it is fantastic. The quality of the church register scans is excellent (and in colour).
And well done to the Irish Government for doing this. It's really about time the English GRO registers were opened up in the same way...

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Charles Fitzhenry of the 9th Battalion AIF - a search for living decendants

I was very touched to receive this essay as a comment to our post about Charles Fitzhenry of the 9th Battalion AIF and the graffiti he left in the caves in Naours.
It was written by Lucie Greff, aged 13, who wrote it as part of her school project, and I thought it was so good that it merited a post of its own. 
Lucie would like to get in touch with a member of Charles' family, so please do contact her by leaving a comment below.

Hello !
My name is Lucie, I live in France (Somme).I’m 13 years old. I live near Naours and its Cave. With my college, I have a project called “Soldats Voyageurs”. The project is about the Australians during the 1st world war. We are 20 in this club and we are all volunteers. I must take a photo about an Australian’s graffiti. Found in Naours’ caves. I have 2 soldiers’ name: Alister Ross (probably known by Charles Edward Fitzhenry if they were not friends) and Charles Edward Fitzhenry/William Doyle. My mission is a lot of information, search all the things about him during the war and contact a person from their family. My project won 2 prizes, one in France (3rd prize) and in Australia (1st prize (Sadlier Stokes)).

I saw an article about Charles’ tree, I was very interested. I have taken 2 graffitis in photos written by Charles, one with his real name and another with William Doyle.
Charles’ history:
Charles was born the 23rd of February 1888 in Casino, near Lismore, Australia. His father was Michael Herbert (he died before the war) and his mother was Elizabeth Doyle/Fitzhenry. He had many sisters and brothers who had wives and husbands. Charles was Roman Catholic. Physically, he had dark hair, he was suntanned or had a black skin and he had bluish eyes.
Before the war, Charles worked for the Australian Naval Force for 3 years. His service number was the 865. He was an ordinary seaman. He served the ANF only 3 years because he was discharged.
After that, he was shearer and lost his little finger on his hand.
The 21st of September 1914, Charles joined the army known as William Doyle, the reasons of its modifications are unknown. Doyle was his grand-mother’s family name. His service number was the 1126. He went to the 9th Infantry (like Alister, my second soldier who moved to Lismore with his brother).
During the war, Charles was sick, but, it wasn’t serious. Charles fled the trenches during the New Year and was punished. He was in captivity for 168 hours and wasn’t paid for 20 days. But, the 12nd of august 1918, Charles was wounded at his head and was unconscious. His friend, called Mister Carr, saw Charles and helped him. Charles was admitted to a very big Australian hospital but stayed unconscious and died the 21st August 1918. He hadn’t got any children. I’ll go to Le Tréport to see Charles’ tomb and take photos.
If anybody has more information, can he or she write a comment please? And, of course, can I contact one person in his family?
Many thanks with advance,


Sources: national archives of Australia, Australian War Memorial and your blog.

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Monday, 20 June 2016

Ballycanew, County Wexford: A potential hometown for Enoch Fitzhenry?

The title is just a teaser for many of you Fitzhenrys who can trace your line down from Enoch. But there may well be some mileage in this supposition. Excitingly, this is where DNA testing and good old fashioned paper research come up trumps together.

To recap:

The Fitzhenry-Fitzharris DNA surname study has given us several interesting leads:

The descendants of Enoch Fitzhenry (huge family in the US, number 002 in my database*) have provided us with 4 DNA tests now - these have tested the lines of four of Enoch's nine sons. They all match up showing that this is reliable data for this family. However it is unknown precisely where in Ireland Enoch had come from or anything about his Irish family.

The DNA pattern from Enoch's tree also matched up with a Fitzhenry family now resident in Australia, whose most distant ancestor was John Fitzhenry born about 1800 and who lived in Oulartwick, County Wexford (this is group 020*).

Oulartwick is to the north eastern side of Enniscorthy, County Wexford. This caused us great excitement when the two family groups matched DNA patterns in 2009. As we said then, Group 002 and Group 020 were historically Protestant rather than Catholic.

Then last year, we had a further DNA test result from a Fitzhenry family whose most distant ancestor was a Samuel Fitzhenry born around 1799 (Family group 075*). He married Mary Anne, the daughter of a Methodist minister, the Rev. Robert Banks in 1832 and had a large family which continued to be Methodist.
The descendant of Samuel had a DNA pattern which matched that of both Enoch (group 002) and John (020). But ... we didn't know where Samuel came from either. We had inferred his birthdate from his age of death of 65 years in 1864 in the Lismore registration district in Waterford, but hadn't seen a birth or baptism record.

So up until now we had three Fitzhenry families, with only one attached to a geographical place.

Until I found these couple of lines in a little known Irish newspaper, The Pilot:

In Athy, Samuel FitzHenry, of Ballycanew, county Wexford, Esq., to Mary Anne, eldest daughter of the Rev. Robert Banks of Athy.

The Pilot [Dublin, Ireland] 14 Nov 1832 page 4 - FindMyPast online newspaper archives

The fact that Samuel was called Esquire in the announcement hinted at money and status, rather than a simple farm labourer. It was also in a national rather than provincial newspaper which indicated that one or other of the families wanted the marriage to be widely broadcast. And also implies that Samuel was "Protestant enough" (either Methodist, or at the very least Church of Ireland or converted Catholic) to have the approval to marry the eldest daughter of a Methodist minister. Samuel became an auctioneer with his own auction house in Waterford.

Ballycanew is on the North East side of Enniscorthy less than 9 miles from Outlarwick, heading more northeast on the road to Gorey. So did the wider family come from Oulartwick or Ballycanew, or somewhere in the vicinity?

Not only is this finding very exciting, but there is another Fitzhenry family associated with Ballycanew, which is as yet untested for the DNA study. 

This is family group 025, whose earliest known ancestor is a John Fitzhenry who married Ann Jane Cranwill at St Mogue's Church of Ireland Church in Ballycanew on 27 December 1819. Ann Jane was born in 1790, so I'm assuming a similar birthdate for John. The Cranwills (or Cranwells) were established members of the Church of Ireland congregation in Ballycanew from the old Vestry records which are online. There are no Fitzhenry mentions in the Vestry records, but if John was from another parish originally, he settled and had property in Ballycanew by the 1853 Griffiths' Valuations (a house in the village and farmland) and his three children (Jane Elizabeth 1821, John Cranwill 1823 and Mary Ann 1826) were baptised at St Mogues. The two younger children emigrated to Fulton, Illinois, United States. 
I've not actually seen the documentary evidence for the marriage of John and Ann Jane myself, but I used the evidence from the excellent Hollygardens website ( which has a very well documented genealogy of the Hollingsworth family, of which the Cranwells are a part, and a pdf link to John Beatty's transcription of the Vestry Books of St Mogue 1760-1819

Are there any male Fitzhenry descendents of John Fitzhenry and Ann Jane Cranwill who would be willing to discuss joining the Fitzhenry surname DNA study to positively link this Fitzhenry branch into these other three Fitzhenry branches? Please get in contact!

* The family group numbering system is purely the order in which they were assembled in my database, my own family being Group 001. It does not imply any degree of hierarchy or preference, and is purely there for convenience as a shorthand when discussing the different trees. I currently have 117 trees comprising some 9000 individuals.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

Johanna: An unexpected third wife of William Fitz-Henry of Arklow

I was being creative with my search terms in the Find My Past newspaper collection last night, and turned up this entry:

April 1, at Arklow, Johanna, the beloved wife of Mr William FitzHenry, after a long and protracted illness, which she bore with Christian resignation anf fortitude, sincerely and deservedly regretted by all who knew her.

Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail 6 April 1844 page 7

This was unexpected, as the Arklow Fitz-Henry family were a small tight knit group, who were affluent enough to have nice gravestones and regular mentions in the local newspapers. The OCR hadn't originally picked up the surname Fitzhenry, so I found this by querying "Fitz Henry" and "death". Splitting the name helps if the Henry part of the name has been orphaned onto the next line.

So... there was only one candidate for the bereaved husband. He was William Fitz-Henry (1788 - 22 Oct 1859), merchant of Arklow. 

He married his first wife Sibbella (surname unknown) before 1812. They had at least 5 children and she died 21 July 1832, and has her grave in the Old Kilbride cemetery near Arklow. William was buried with her.

Then there was a puzzling 12 year gap, and 56 year old William remarried to the 33 year old widow Mary Jenkinson in May 1845 by who he had another 6 children. Mary and two of their infant children are buried in another grave in Old Kilbride cemetery.

But what of Johanna?
More creative searching  - "Johanna" in the first name box, "Fitz* " in the surname box, and "Arklow" in the keyword section, turned this up:

Yesterday, at St Andrew's church, by the Rev. Mr. Nevin, William Fitzhenry Esq., to Johanna, widow of the late Thomas Smyth Esq, both of Arklow.

17 January 1834 - The Pilot - Dublin

Which nicely fills William's apparently unmarried period 1833-1845. The OCR had made Henry into Henrv, which is why it hadn't been picked up before.

I have no more details about Johanna, her age, maiden name, whether she had any children with William, or indeed where she is buried.

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Online genealogy resources for Cincinnati, Ohio

I'm working my way round the Fitzharris family of Cincinnati at present.

I've found two online resources which are outside my usual range of "go to" collections to search.

The University of Cincinnati has a Digital Resource Commons website, including (yay!) index cards from the Cincinnati (Ohio) Health Department (Births and Deaths 1865-1912). Eleven Fitzharrises in there (put "Fitzharris" in the "global search" box), which dovetail nicely in with...

The St Joseph New Cemetery Association (records from the opening of this Catholic cemetery in Cincinnati  in 1854). The search page is here, and don't forget to search on parents' names too. And also don't forget to read the section on the history of the cemetery.

Overall I couldn't find any Fitzhenrys at all in Cincinnati in the 19th century (from my usual record sets and including these ones) and from what I can see, most of the 20th century too.
For those who have found the new green look to the Blog a bit startling - yes, it surprised me a bit too. I may have to tone it down...

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Sunday, 22 February 2015

The FamilySearch blog: keeping up to date with new collection releases is a fantastic resource for genealogists everywhere. Not only is it free to search (and often links to the actual document images) but it covers countries worldwide. There are the big sexy record collections such as the US censuses, and smaller collections which a commercial company might think not worth their while scanning and indexing.

But how do you keep up with the new collections which are published or updated on a regular basis? How can you find out when images have been added to what was previously an "index only" collection?

The FamilySearch blog.

By subscribing to blog updates by email, you will get all that is new in the world of FamilySearch: research tips, news from big events such as RootsTech, and really usefully, lists of new record collections.

The screenshot below of the "collection update" post from 20th February shows the variety of collections which the LDS church are still adding to FamilySearch. The underlined titles in blue are clickable links straight to that collection (not in this image but in the post itself). You don't have to be a Church member to subscribe. You also don't have to be a Church member to participate in indexing projects which not only give a bit back in return, but also gets the next collections ready and indexed more quickly!


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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Fitzharris... no, wait.... Fitzhenry...

I've written before about how the surnames Fitzharris and Fitzhenry were interchangeable in 19th century Ireland, especially in County Wexford.

But on the same day, indeed within a couple of minutes while you were registering the birth of your daughter?

I came upon this entry in the General Register Office of Ireland Register of Births for 1873 *.

January Thirtyfirst 1873, Ballygalvert [County Wexford, western side near the Carlow border]
Father: Moses Fitzharris, Ballygalvert, a farmer
Mother Anty [Anastasia] Fitzharris formerly Eustace
Informant: Moses Fitzhenry, father, Ballygalvert
Registered: February Twentythird 1873, James Rickesley, Registrar

The local registrar obviously didn't see this as a problem, but the Government official in Dublin obviously had a "Say what?" moment as evidenced by the rather surprised pencil swirl linking the 3 surnames. 

Moses' other 7 children were all registered as Fitzhenry, and in the 1901 and 1911 censuses the family also appear as Fitzhenry. 

* GROI reference: Index of the Register of Births 1873 Anne Fitzharris, New Ross, vol 4 page 985.

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice: Dr Lindsey Fitzharris

Another very much alive member of our clan, Lindsey Fitzharris is from the Chicago Fitzharris family. But she works in London in what must be the best job in the world - as a medical historian at the Wellcome Museum.

Lindsey's aim is to educate (and entertain) about the fascinating world of surgery in pre-anaesthetic times. To this end she authors The Chirurgeon's Apprentice website, and I have to admit I'm a bit of a fan of her oeuvre (... do you know how long I've waited to put that word into a blog post?)

As well as a very entertaining Facebook and Twitter feed (@DrLindseyFitz), with new images posted daily from old time medical practice, Lindsey also produces a series of YouTube videos which you can find here. And if you are so moved, you can support her by becoming a Patron.

On this day in 1829, William Burke, the unluckier half of the Burke and Hare bodysnatcher and murderer duo was hung in Edinburgh for his crimes. His body was not only dissected but his skin was used to cover books, a practice which is the subject of Lindsey's latest video.

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Katie Fitzhenry: Irish Rugby international

Congratulations to Katie Fitzhenry who has been included in Ireland's women's squad for the Six Nations Championship.  Katie plays her club rugby for Blackrock College RFC and represents Leinster.
I was lucky enough to met Katie's mum, Jackie, last October when I was in Ireland and met up with the extended Fitzhenry family of Cleariestown, Co. Wexford. She had high hopes of her girl then, and we all very much hope that Katie gets her chance in the Six Nations tournament which starts on February 6th with an away match against Italy.

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Monday, 12 January 2015

1911 Fitzharris households added to the Irish census map

The Fitzharris households from 1911 are now on the Irish census map.

I've realised that a lot of them are missing from the 1901 census, especially from County Kildare. This needs more investigation.
Also, not as many people were changing versions of their surnames as I expected. 
My next project is to match the 1901 people with those in 1911 and see who is missing and why.

This is the key to the icons on the map.

People calling themselves Fitzhenry - the Google inverted teardrop icon
People calling themselves Fitzharris - a circle

1901 census entries
Red - this was a Fitz household
Orange - a Fitz living in the household of a non-Fitz relative
Yellow - a Fitz living in a non-related household (eg a school or as a lodger).

1911 census entries
Purple - this was a Fitz household
Mid Blue - a Fitz living in the household of a non-Fitz relative
Pale blue - a Fitz living in a non-related household 

Here's that map again, and here is the link to the full screen version.

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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Update to the Irish census map - Fitzhenrys in 1911 now added.

Eagle eyed subscribers will have noticed that another layer of the Irish census map has been completed. I have now extracted and placed the Fitzhenrys in the 1911 census.

Update 12 January: the Fitzharrises in 1911 have now also been entered                   

[If you missed the first post about the map, here is how I constructed it and the sources I used.]

Here is what the map looks now:

Click on this link to get a full screen view.

The 1911 Fitzhenry layer follows the same convention as the 1901 layer. The place markers are again the inverted teardrop Google marker.
Colour codes are as follows:
Purple: a Fitzhenry household
Mid blue: a Fitzhenry as a relative in a non-Fitzhenry household
Light blue: a Fitzhenry in an unrelated household (such as an apprentice or at school)

What does it show?
In the 10 years since the 1901 census, the County Wexford Fitzhenrys have tended to stay put, or not moved very far. The County Galway Fitzhenrys have also stayed at their farms (the one exception being a child (John Fitzhenry) sent to St Joseph's Deaf and Dumb School in Cabragh (now spelled Cabra) in Dublin).

The Dublin Fitzhenrys moved around more within and out of Dublin.

If I could find where a person or family was in the 1901 census, I have added this to the beginning of the description.

There were also some examples of Fitzharrises of the 1901 census calling themselves Fitzhenry in this census. Where this has happened, it has been mentioned in the annotation.

A mystery woman
For those with a puzzle solving bent, here's a person that you can help me with. I have found an Elisa Robert Fitzhenry, a 30 year old hospital matron living in Bray, County Wicklow (link to the census reference). She is Church of Ireland, single, and says she was born in Sligo, having filled in the census return herself.
I can't find her in the 1901 census, there are no other Fitzhenrys or Fitzharrises from County Sligo, and there is no birth registration for her in the GROI. 
Any information about her gratefully received!

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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Mapping out the Fitzhenrys and the Fitzharrises in the 1901 and 1911 census

Happy New Year to one and all. 
Recently I've been working with the new version of Google's "My Maps" to create a picture of who was where in the 1901 and 1911 censuses of Ireland.

Update on 4 January: I have now added the Fitzhenrys in 1911 to the map - Click here to read all about it.

Update on 12 January: The Fitzharrises from 1911 have also been added.


Here is the link to that map.

So far I've only entered the 1901 data for Fitzhenry and Fitzharris and the variant spellings (the next phase will be 1911).

How to use the map
The data is put in as two layers so you can toggle between those who were calling themselves Fitzhenry at the time of the census, and those who were calling themselves Fitzharris. You can also have both layers showing at the same time for a global view.

The Fitzhenrys are identified by the standard Google place mark icon (the inverted tear-drop) and the Fitzharrises by circles.

This is the colour coding:
Red - a Fitz was head of the household.
Orange - a Fitz was staying in a non Fitz household but they were relatives.
Yellow - a Fitz was staying in an unrelated non Fitz Household (for example as an apprentice or at school).

Clicking on an icon will bring up details of who was in the household at that location on the night of the census. The details are presented in the standard layout for 1901 census return on the National Archives of Ireland website (see below in sources).

What does the map show?
As expected, the Fitzhenry and Fitzharris names have a very East coast distribution. 

Those who were calling themselves Fitzhenry were much more likely to be living in County Wexford and be born in Wexford. There is also the small Fitzhenry family in County Galway (born in Co. Galway and living there) and the general melting pot of Dublin and its environs where people would have migrated to from the countryside as industry looked a better option than farming.

Those who were calling themselves Fitzharris, while still East coast in distribution, were more scattered. There were significant populations in County Carlow, County Wicklow and County Meath who had been born there, as well as those who had migrated to Dublin. They were more likely to live north of Dublin (1 Fitzhenry, living in an unrelated household compared to 11 Fitzharris households), extending up to what is now modern day Northern Ireland.

Overall, there were also more Fitzharrises (220 Fitzharris individuals in 92 households) than Fitzhenrys (182 Fitzhenry individuals in 56 households).

What next?
I will add the census data for 1911, again in separate layers for Fitzhenry and Fitzharris. It will be interesting to see how many Fitzhenrys had swapped to calling themself Fitzharris and visa versa.

It will also help to track which Fitz families emigrated in this 10 year period.

If there is a cluster of Fitz families in adjoining townlands it will be easier to see who is related to who. Notes on relationships with other families will be added as I find them.

These are all free, and can be used to verify the data I have used for the maps. Please send any corrections and comments to the usual blog address.

I used the excellent National Archives of Ireland website to extract the data for the Fitzhenry and Fitzharris households.
I used the search term F*t*h*n*r*y for Fitzhenry and variants, and the search term F*t*h*r*s* for Fitzharris and variants. This only gave a few false positives, which were easy to weed out.
The addresses given on the map are those from the census returns, so you can use this to verify the transcription.

The map was created using Google "My Maps". You will need a (free) Google account to create a map.
Many townland and street names are the same as they were 100 years ago, but for variant townland spellings, and also to try to pinpoint where farms would have been within a townland, I used the Griffith's Valuation search facility on the Ask About Ireland website. I'm aware that by the 1901 census, these maps would have been 50 years out of date, but some farms would have still been in the same family.

The Dublin Street Directory from Thom's Irish Almanac 1862 (the Library Ireland website) enabled me to pin down passages, alleyways and streets that have changed their names (or are just no longer there) in modern Dublin. I could then use the historical map function on the truly excellent Ordinance Survey of Ireland website to translate these old addresses to what they are called now.

When all else failed, Google search and Wikipedia helped out with the more obscure townland variant spellings.
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Saturday, 6 December 2014

The mysterious Mrs. Michael Fitzhenry and her 13 children

Occasionally a search result makes you sit back and think "That's amazing, how haven't I known about this person before?"

From the Lake Placid News (New York State, USA) 18 October 1929, page 5.

Perhaps it's because that person might not actually exist...
East Dedham, England certainly doesn't exist. There is a small village in England called simply Dedham (on the Essex and Suffolk border) but historically there were no Fitzhenrys there at any time.
East Dedham, Massachusetts (named after the little village in England) has a handsome population of Fitzhenrys. 
However I can't believe I had missed a Fitzhenry couple with such a spectacular child rearing career.

"Mrs. Michael" would have been born in 1888 or 1889 to be spoken of being 40 years old in the present tense in 1929.
To squeeze in 13 children AND to have had several of them old enough to have children of their own, she would have had to start in her teens. 

My all time record holders Enoch Fitzhenry and his wife Abigail Hartt had 16 children (no twins). Abigail was pregnant with her first child aged 16 and had her last at 43.

So I thought I was looking for a woman who married a Michael Fitzhenry between 1905 and 1910.

The only Michael Fitzhenry I could find in the database who came close to this number of children (and only managed a measly 12 children) was my own great great great grandfather Michael and his wife Sarah Phillips in the East End of London, but that was back in the 1830s.

Of the East Dedham Fitzhenrys, there was a Michael who married Catherine Bishop who was born in New Brunswick in 1888. But they didn't marry until 1920 and only had 7 children in total.

So I thought this woman would remain a mystery... or maybe just the figment of a slow news day and a column inch to fill, until I turned around the family tree to look at it from Catherine's point of view.

She had been married to a William Fleming in 1904 aged 16. She then had 7 children with him from 1905 to 1918. 
So although the newspaper article was almost correct - there were 14 children rather than 13! - only half of them were born as Fitzhenrys.

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

1966 and All That ...

Some of the best stories in family history are passed down from person to person... until the chain breaks and then if it isn't written down somewhere, the story is lost.
As it's Fathers' Day and there seems to be some football on in Brazil, it gives me the perfect excuse to tell the tale of "My Dad and the World Cup Tickets".

Dad was a Spurs fan. But he would watch any football going really, so when someone offered him two tickets to the World Cup at Wembley in 1966, there was no way he was going to refuse them. These weren't just any old tickets either - they were books of tickets which got you into each of the ten matches played at Wembley during the competition - including the Final. He paid £60 for the pair. *

Mum was not pleased. This was the equivalent of over 3 months mortgage payments and more than Dad earned in a month as an engineer. They had a baby (me) and another on the way. 

Dad sold the two Final tickets for the same £60 he had paid for the whole book of tickets. And yes, he did go to all of the other matches. And yes, he did cry when England beat Portugal in the semi-finals (the Portuguese family he was sitting next to were crying for other reasons).

Dad bought me a World Cup Willy mascot who I kept through childhood when lots of toys fell by the wayside, followed me to college and then everywhere I've lived since. He still looks marvellous even if he does leak sawdust every so often. Nearly fifty years on, World Cup Willy is still waiting for another England win.

* Dad himself paid way over the odds for the tickets, as the match tickets sold singly cost 7 shillings and 6 pence, with tickets to the Final costing 10 shillings standing going up to £3 15 shillings for the best seats)

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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Spin Like a Fitz!

Out intrepid FitzHenry family from Sidmouth (Devon, England), not content with swimming the English Channel, are now embarking on another challenge. 

They are going to cycle from Berlin to Paris in six days - 1566 miles which is a mile for every day the First World War lasted.
They are undertaking this feat to raise money for 3 very worthwhile charities:
  • Help for Heroes
  • The Soldiers' Charity
  • The Royal British Legion
Their fundraising website is here. Please visit it, leave a message of support and make a donation.
FitzHenrys of Sidmouth, we salute you!

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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Miss FitzHenry the gallant governess - but who was she?

A new newspaper database has gone online from the National Library of Wales. Although the papers are mainly from Wales (and some are in Welsh), provincial papers often did what we would now call "retweeting", and filled up column inches with stories they had harvested from other publications. So even if you ancestors weren't Welsh, their exploits from the rest of the UK and even abroad may be featured in these newspapers. The website is searchable by keyword and even better, it's free.
Thank you National Library of Wales

So, naturally I put in the keyword "Fitzhenry" and was very surprised when this article turned up at the top of the list. It's from "The Weekly Mail" (which was published in Cardiff and circulated throughout Wales and into the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and Somerset) and dated 21 Aug 1897

Hats off to Miss FitzHenry, but I've no idea who she was!
This are the clues I'm working from. 
She is stated as English (rather than Irish) which narrows it down a bit. 
She would have to be educated to be a governess (rather than just a nanny) and have conversational French.
She is described as young, but I'm assuming that she would be at least 18 years of age to be out in the world, and perhaps less than 30. If so, this puts her birthdate between 1867 and 1879.
She is unmarried.

Saint Aubin-sur-Mer is on that curve of the northern French coast between Cherberg and Le Harve and. It would be a nice place for a summer holiday if you were a French family from Paris, which evidently Prof. Ernest Minault and his family were, as the Lycee Victor Hugo is in Pari.
What do we know about Prof Minault? 
Again very little. From Ancestry's "Paris and Vicinity, France Electoral Rolls, 1891" collection, he was born in Saint Sauvant in the Department of Vienne on 26 April 1861 and lived at 9 Rue Vintimille. Madame Minault was not listed as French women did not have the vote at this time.

I have one strong contender, Henrietta Fitz-Henry, the daughter of Captain William Fitz-Henry of Winchester and Ashtead.
On the English censuses, she is always a teacher.
She is not present in the 1891 census, but returned to London for the 1901 census.
She was born in St Peters, Jersey, which is a French speaking island.
She was single.
She had to make her own way in life, as her father left her nothing in his will.

Ideas anyone?

Stop Press: this is the actual article from "Le Temps" (Paris) from 17 August 1897. Apart from telling us that Miss FitzHenry threw herself into the sea fully clothed (I bet those Victorian dresses weighed a ton when wet!), there is no more to identify her.
The clipping is from the excellent French newspaper site Gallica from the National Library of France.

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Monday, 9 December 2013

In memoriam: Thomas James Fitz-Henry 1933-2013

My lovely Dad, Tom Fitz-Henry, the man who inspired me to start researching our family tree properly, died peacefully at home yesterday morning 8th December.

Tom was the eldest child of Henry and Dora Fitz-Henry, born shortly after they had moved out of the East End slums into the shiny new housing estate that was Dagenham. Tom's younger sister Pat was born 3 years later. Luckily Pat met a girl called Maureen Quinlan at school and they became best friends - lucky because Tom fell in love with her and they married after he returned from his stint in the Army on National Service.

Tom and Maureen had 3 children: me, Tim (1966-2006) and Ruth. We had a brilliantly happy childhood encouraged by energetic, intelligent and sometimes plain bonkers parents. Dad would think nothing of packing us all in our little camper van to drive 30 miles to have fish and chips on the seafront at Whitstable just because he fancied it. We were involved in Labour party politics from an early age, and our parents views on social justice shaped our lives.

Both Tom and Maureen went to college in their forties. Maureen gained an BSc Hons and became at political secretary working at the House of Commons for a succession of Labour MPs, a job she loved. Tom switched from a successful career as a consulting heating and ventilating engineer (one of his projects was the refurbishment of the Ritz Hotel in London in the 1970s) to retraining as an osteopath. He qualified with the top prize on Rheumatology for his year. He set up in Barking and treated literally thousands of patients over his 26 years in practice, many of who became good friends. He only retired on his 79th birthday when the physical work just got too much for him.

In 2002 his world came crashing down around his ears when Maureen died at the young age of 66. Four years later, his son Tim also died suddenly. After these two tragedies the light and laughter went out of his life. In his last year he became frail, but a group of fantastic personal assistants (a big thank you especially to Dawn and Sue) looked after him wonderfully, enabling him to stay independent in his own home.

He would always ask whether I had found any other Fitz-Henrys that we were related to, and followed the results of the new participants in the DNA study with interest.

Ruth and I will miss him terribly. We will remember his spur of the moment plans and his big laugh. We will remember that Tom and Mo pushed us to achieve more than we could ever think possible.

Tom's funeral will be held at the South Essex Crematorium, Corbets Tey, Upminster at 2pm on Wednesday 18th December. It will be a celebration of his life.

If you knew Tom and wish to tell how me he touched your life then please leave a comment below or you can send me an email

Monday, 18 November 2013

Pre-Christmas reduction in FamilyTreeDNA testing prices

I'm indebted to Gordon Adshead of the Adshead one name study for alerting me to FamilyTreeDNA's regular pre-Christmas testing price reduction.

We have had our Fitzhenry/Fitzharris DNA study with FamilyTreeDNA since 2008 and now have 23 completed tests with another one in the pipeline.

Why is DNA testing important to the Fitzhenry / Fitzharris surname study? Click here and here to find out!

Gordon writes:
I see that FTDNA have come up with their regular price reduction before Christmas
and a 37 Marker Kit is reduced from $149 to $119
At current exchange rates this is a reduction from £93 to £74

I note that the price of a 37 to 67 marker upgrade has been reduced from $99 to $79 ( from £61 to £49 which is 20%)

For those who have already been tested at 37 markers, this is a good opportunity to increase the power and sensitivity of your test at a reduced price.

The Christmas sale usually continues until 31 December. I will update you if it is going to end earlier.

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Sunday, 3 November 2013

In Memoriam: Mary "Mamie" McGrath (née Fitzhenry) 1924-2013

We were saddened to hear of the death of Mamie McGrath on 28 October though a message from her family

Mary Theresa was the fourth child of seven born to John and Mary Fitzhenry of Drimsnave, Co. Galway.
Theirs was a farming upbringing but all the children were educated at the local National School. Mamie continued her education and trained as a cook, working in the household of Senator J.E.McEllin along with her sister Nora.
While working for the Morrin family in Co.Mayo, Mamie met Michael McGrath, who she married at the age of 22 in her local church at Cornamona. They ran a farm and in 1963 bought what is now McGrath's quarry in Cong, Co. Mayo. Fifty years later that quarry is still in the McGrath family and still going strong.

Mamie and Michael had 10 children, but sadly Michael died at the young age of 49 in 1970, leaving Mamie to raise a family, look after the farm and manage the quarry, which her sons took over after a few years.
She was always active with her cooking, family, travelling; founding the Neale Ladies GAA club was amongst her achievements.

Mamie was guest of honour at the grand dinner during the Fitzhenry gathering in Cong and Cornamona this August. At that event, it was calculated that with 10 children, 32 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren Mamie and Michael had contributed to nearly half of the 180 descendants of John and Mary Fitzhenry!

She will be sadly missed by her family and by the local community

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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Legacies of British Slave Ownership project

Yesterday, the University of Central London in England unveiled the results of a mighty project  - The Legacies of British Slave Ownership. The website is an amazing piece of work and well worth a look. The Encyclopedia of British Slave Ownership is part of the project

Slave owners could apply for compensation for loss of their "assets" when slavery was finally abolished in the British West Indies in 1833. The encyclopedia is made up from the applications to the Slave Compensation Commission from anyone who owned slaves (from a single slave to hundreds). Twenty million pounds was allocated by the British Government, all of which went to the owners rather than to the slaves themselves. The "freed" slaves were often tied to their former masters as indentured servants or "apprentices" for a period of years until they obtained their full freedom.

In the online search for the UCL website, I have found a William Fitzhenry, who owned 3 slaves in the parish Port Royal, Jamaica. He was awarded £63 16s 1d, and this claim was uncontested.
At present I know nothing more about this man, or the slaves.

I am indebted to Mr Ernest Wiltshire who has transcribed information from this book:

"The West Indies in 1837; being the Journal of a Visit to Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, and Jamaica; undertaken for the purpose of ascertaining the actual condition of the negro population of those islands" by Joseph Sturge & Thomas Harvey, London, Hamilton, Adams & Co. 1838. 

and posted it on this webpage. At the bottom of the page, is an entry for the parish St Thomas in the East, where Sir Henry Fitzhenry owned an estate named Grange Hill near Manchineal Bay. It suggests that there were at least 2 apprentices on the estate (4 years after slavery was abolished), a James Purton and a Louisa Burton, a cotton picker.

If anyone has any more information about William and Henry Fitzhenry (were they related?), please drop me an email here at the blog.

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