Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The South American connection - Ireland to Valparaiso, Chile

Rodrigo Palacios Fitz-Henry emailed us from Chile asking about his Irish Fitz-Henry forebears. He also sent us some wonderful photos from the 19th century which, to save on the allocated blogspace, I've put on our sister site

Now, a South American Fitz(-)henry is a very rare occurrence indeed, and as Rodrigo so rightly pointed out, he and his siblings are the last left in Chile. So surely it wouldn't be too hard to trace this branch back?

This is the story as pieced together from Rodrigo, his sister Isabel and some sleuthing around the internet. Before we start though, here's a quick tutorial on the method of acquiring your surname if you are Spanish or South American (something I wasn't aware of before I started putting this branch together.
Generally the surnames are made up of two names, the first inherited from your father and the second inherited from your mother. If you have a child, you pass down the first name in your surname (the paternal one) as does your spouse. The child then takes the new surname in the order (father's paternal surname) (mother's paternal surname) so the surnames vary from generation to generation. Although it's a patriarchal naming system, it has the added bonus of having the mother's surname also included so family trees are easier to construct. You'll see how that works with Rodrigo's family tree.

The story starts with an Irishman called Michael Henry Gerald Fitz-Henry who was known as Henry.
His mother was called Ann Marie Bourke (so in the Spanish method of naming he would be known as Michael Henry Gerald Fitz-Henry Bouke).
He married Mary Macdonnell of Westport in County Mayo.
"Michael Henry Gerald" and Mary came to Chile in about 1865 as he worked for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. This was profitable shipping line which ran between Liverpool and Valparaiso and was contracted to carry the post from the British Royal Mail between these two ports.
They had four children:
Michael Fitz-Henry Macdonnell
Charles Fitz-Henry Macdonnell (who died without issue)
Mary Fitz-Henry Macdonnell
Anita Fitz-Henry Macdonnell

Michael married Matilde Eichholtz and had two daughters:
Yvette Fitz-Henry Eichholtz
Yolanda Fitz-Henry Eichholtz

and Yolanda married Sergio Palacios Ureta which leads to the Palacios Fitz-Henry surname of Rodrigo, Isabel and their three other siblings. As the Fitz-Henry component of the surname is the maternal one, it dies out in this generation as any children will have the Palacios name passed down.

So that's the bare bones. What else can we add? I didn't have any firm dates apart from Henry and Ann's emigration to Chile. I know from a Chilean site that Mary Fitz-Henry Macdonnell married the Chilean senator Angel Guarello Costa (1866-1931) of the Democratic Party, and she was his second wife. Their son Fernando Guarello Fitz-Henry (1906-1971) was also a lawyer and Senator.

Here's another tantalising clue - on the Irish Family History Foundation website, I found the baptism of
Michael Joseph Fitzhenry,
son of Michael Fitzhenry and Anna Burke (spelt this way rather than Bourke)
on 22 September 1846
at the Roman Catholic church of St Nicholas in Galway.

It's the right mother with a Fitzhenry father, but surely there wouldn't have been two boys called Michael in one family unless this one died and our Michael Henry Gerald was named in his place (which I have seen before). So we can possibly go one generation further back on our tree and say that Michael Henry Gerald's father was also called Michael.
Rodrigo also said that there was another brother left back in Ireland called Henry.

Also in Rodrigo's photo collection was a picture of a Miles Fitzhenry, but Rodrigo didn't know how he fitted into the family group. I've got three Fitzhenrys called Miles on the database - one who died in Wexford Ireland in 1818 (too early for photography), and a father and son in Liverpool who were labourers so neither of these seem to be the right Miles.

Anyhow, if these names ring any bells with you or you can add in anything to this particular family history, please send us an email . My next road trip is back to the Maritime Museum in Liverpool to see if I can find anything about Michael HG Fitz-Henry's time at the Pacific Steam Navigation Company.

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