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.

Why not subscribe to this blog and get the updates sent to your inbox? Or send us an email about your Fitz(-)henry family links.

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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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

In memoriam: Evelyn Fitzhenry of Fleet, Hampshire

We send our sympathies to Jim Fitzhenry of Fleet in Hampshire, an old friend of the Blog, on the recent death of his dear wife Evelyn. Jim and Evelyn were married in South Africa 62 years ago, and returned to England 14 years ago. Their daughter Helen and her family still live in South Africa.

Jim would also like to thank the staff of the nursing home who took such good care of Evelyn in her last years.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Fitzhenry family from County Mayo

After the publication of my article on the Ancestry blog, I was dead chuffed to get an email from Peter Fitzhenry who lives in Somerset, but whose family came originally from County Mayo via Wigan and Staffordshire. 

I already had Peter's family in the database as family group number 73, and was delighted when he then volunteered to participate in the Fitzhenry/Fitzharris DNA study.*

Although we haven't positively identified the family back in Ireland, we know that they came from "County Mayho" from their entry in the 1881 census when James Fitzhenry (aged 33, a coalminer) and his wife Bridget (aged 32) were living at 9 Walsh's Yard, Scholes Street, Wigan. 
They had 7 children that we know of Martin (born 1870) Bridget  (1873), James (1875), Mary Ellen (1876), Edward (1878), Thomas (1880) and Joseph (1882).
There may also be an eighth child, a daughter called May. In the 1881 census she is listed as May Kenny, daughter, aged 19, married, cotton operative. However May does not appear with James and Bridget in the 1871 census, and May's age in 1881 would mean that Bridget was only 13 when May was born. I suspect May was a boarder and the census enumerator mistook the word "boarder" for "daughter".

Peter would be delighted to hear from anyone descended from this family, and you can send him an email through the Blog.

* Peter's is the third DNA test we have done over this winter. We would also like to welcome Jim Fitzharris from County Carlow (our first Fitzharris man to test!) and another Peter Fitzhenry from Australia, who is a descendent of Lesley Champion's Fitzhenry family. We welcome all of them, and are looking forward to the results over the next couple of months.

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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Fitzhenry surname article for the Ancestry blog

Some while back, I wrote an article for the blog, describing the derivation and migration of the surname Fitzhenry, Fitzharris and Fitzsenry.

Today it was published as part of Ancestry's "What's in a name?" series, which has also included the surnames Cumberbatch, Braund, Owston and Hardisty to name a few.

Ancestry are the sponsors of the "Who Do You Think You Are? Live" exhibition at Olympia in London from 22-24 February, and I will be attending all three days. So if any regular (or occasional) readers are in the vicinity, drop me an email.

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