Thursday, June 6, 2019

Who was James Annesley's father?

Beware of online family trees – they may well be wrong.

That might sound obvious, but these errors have a habit of spreading around.  Let me give you a real life example.

My 4g-grandfather, James Ansley or Annesley, was sent to Australia as a convict on the Dorothy in 1820. We know little about his background, but some people have put parents for him on their Ancestry trees.  They claim that he is the son of John Hubert Valentia Dubois Annesley and Margaret O'Connell.

Unfortunately there is no evidence of that, and I firmly believe it to be untrue.

I tried many years ago to find out the source of this information and whether there was any proof, but it seems people had just copied information from another tree without any evidence, which is always unwise, even if the dates look feasible. It is important to always verify information yourself. I think I managed to track down person who originally posted the information, but that person won't reply to any messages I send, and therefore won't say where the information comes from.

Let me review what we know about James.
  1. James Ansley/Annesley was convicted of "felony of wearing apparel and cash" in Dublin City in Jul 1819. He was sentenced to seven years transportation. He was aged 19, his native place (i.e. birthplace) was Co. Meath. His calling (i.e. occupation) was "servant", his height was 5'2½", Complexion fair rud[dy], hair black, eyes hazel.[i]
  2. He arrived in Sydney on 19 Sep 1820 on the Dorothy.[ii] He served his full term of seven years, and received his Certificate of Freedom on 6 Jul 1826.[iii]
  3. He married Elizabeth Quinn on 10 Nov 1833[iv] and had eleven children, dying in 1883.[v]
  4. He was Catholic (from 1828 census of NSW[vi], marriage by Catholic rites, and baptisms of children in Catholic church[vii]).
  5. The convict indents and his Certificate of Freedom[viii] state that James's native place (i.e. where he was born) was Co. Meath and that he was born about 1801. The only place where it says different is an obituary for him, published in a Queensland Newspaper.[ix]
"How's, this for high. Last June, James Annesley, of Orange, (N.S.W.), was cut off in the prime of his youth, aged 82 years and 10 months ; and, in the following July, his wife, Elizabeth, left to rejoin the old man, aged 72 years, 6 months. James was a Dubliner ; Elizabeth one of the good old style of "straight half-mile " Windsor natives. Before they started on their "grand tour" they donated to the colony 11 children, 69 grandchildren, and 24 great grandchildren. Talk about assisted immigration! Figure up what this Annesley crowd will total in 2883 and you'll find they'll crowd Australia."

I have no idea who gave this information to this Brisbane newspaper, but I think the Dublin reference is due to the fact that he was living and working there when he was convicted and sent to New South Wales.

Now let's look at his purported father, John Hubert Valentia Dubois Annesley.

  1. His mother was Lady Dorothea/Dorothy Annesley (1728-1774), daughter of Richard Annesley, afterwards sixth earl of Anglesey, and Ann Simpson.[i] (She is a very interesting person. See information on her at
  2. His father was Peter Du Bois, a French musician who converted to Protestantism when he married Dorothea in 1752.[ii] They had six children. The known children are John Hubert Valentia, Frederick Peter, Ambrose Harvey Simpson (known as Simpson), Anna & Deborah.[iii]
  3. Lady Dorothea Dubois nee Annesley died in 1774. Her will mentions her two sons by Peter Dubois, John Hubert Valentia Dubois and Frederick Peter Dubois. No mention is made of her son Simpson or her daughters.[iv]
  4. John Dubois and his brother Simpson join the Honorable East India Company (HEIC) as cadets in 1778.[v]
  5. John H V Dubois was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the HEIC 16 Feb 1779.[vi] We can see that he was stationed in Bengal in the 2nd Battalion in 1787, 1792 and 1795.[vii]
  6. John promoted to Captain HEIC 10 Jun 1796.[viii]
  7. 1799, JHV Dubois retired from the HEIC on half pay.[ix]
  8. 29 May 1799, Elizabeth Dorinda, daughter of John Hubert Valentia Dubois & Sarah Matilda, was baptised at St Mary, Lambeth, England. No record of a marriage to a Sarah Matilda has been found, nor any other children by Sarah Matilda.[x]
  9. Captain John Hubert Valentia DuBois Annesley of the City of Dublin, took out a licence to marry Margaret O'Donnell of the parish of Donnybrook on 11 Nov 1803[xi]. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME HIS SURNAME IS SHOWN AS ANNESLEY. No record of this marriage can be found, but it could well be a victim of the 1922 fire.
  10. John Hubert Valentia Dubois, Esq, Capt in the 12th Regt of Sepoys took out a licence to marry Catherine Shebell of the parish of St Andrews, spinster on 23 Jul 1810[xii]. Again, no record of this marriage has been found.
  11. Hubertus Dubois, son of J.H. Valentia Dubois and Catherine was born 1 Jan 1817 and bap in the Church of Ireland 1 Feb 1817 in Tullamore, co. Offlay.[xiii]
  12. John Hubert Valentia Dubois died in 1826.[xiv]
So why do I think these two are not father and son?

  1. John only has the surname Annesley in one document.
  2. Why would a Protestant Captain in the Honorable East India company have a Catholic son who was a servant working in Dublin? Do not underestimate the religion aspect, or the socio-economic one.
  3. John was living in Dublin in 1803. There is no record that he was ever living in Co. Meath where James was born circa 1801.
  4. Not finding a baptism for James is not surprising. Most catholic parish registers start about 1830 (though there are, admittedly, some earlier ones). The reason is that the Penal Laws imposed great restrictions on anyone who was not a member of the Church of Ireland. Why keep a register that records that you are a member of the Catholic faith and therefore subject to persecution?
  5. Even if James was John's son, why is everyone so sure the mother was Margaret O'Donnell? Many people seem happy for James to have been born two years before the marriage, but this really wasn't common at the time. And if it had happened, such a child would rarely take their father's surname. I've never heard of one taking a grandmother's maiden name. Thus, if he was the son of Margaret O'Donnell, I would expect him to be called James O'Donnell.

So I'm afraid we are still no closer to discovering who James's parents were, but the online trees naming them as John Hubert Valentia Dubois Annesley (or John Herbert Valentine Dubois Annesley) & Margaret O'Donnell are extremely unlikely to be true, or at the very least, are unproved.

Mt York Cemetery, Hartley Vale, where James Annesley
is buried in an unmarked grave

[i] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
[ii] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
[iii] Betham Genealogical Abstracts: Will of Dorothea Dubois 1774 & Anne (Simpson), Countess of Anglesey, 1764. Parish register of St Marylebone, Middlesex, accessed on (
[iv] Betham Wills, Vol 10, p 46, Genealogical Office. Accessed on Findmypast (
[v] Dodwell, Edward & James Samuel Miles. Alphabetical list of the officers of the Bengal army : with the dates of their respective promotion, retirement, resignation or death, whether in India or in Europe, from the year 1760 to the year 1834 inclusive (corrected to September 30, 1837). London: Longman, Orme, Brown, and Co, 1838. Accessed on (
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] The Bengal calendar for the year 1787: including a list of the Hon. and United East India Company's civil and military servants on the Bengal establishment, &c (; The Bengal calendar for the year MDCCXCII: including a list of the Hon. and United East India Company's civil and military servants on the Bengal establishment, &c (; The Bengal calendar for the year MDCCXCV: including a list of the Hon. and United East India Company's civil and military servants on the Bengal establishment, &c (
[viii] Alphabetical list of the officers of the Bengal army, op.cit.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Parish register of St Mary, Lambeth (
[xi] Betham Genealogical Abstracts (
[xii] Ibid
[xiv] Officers of the Bengal Army, LDS film 845177/78/79 page 89.

[i] NSW State Archives: Superintendent of Convicts; NRS 12188, Convict Indents, 1788-1842. 4/4007 Microfiche: 646, Dorothy, 1820.; NSW State Archives: Secretary to the Governor; NRS 1155, Musters and Other papers relating to convict ships, 1790-1849, 2/8255, Dorothy, 1820.
[ii] Convict indent for ship Dorothy, op. cit.
[iii] Certificate of Freedom of James Ansley. NSW State Archives: Superintendent of Convicts; NRS 12208, Registers of certificates of Freedom, 1810-1833. James Ansley 018/5406, 6 Jul 1826.
[iv] Transcript of the  marriage certificate of James Annesly and Eliza Quinn, married 10 Nov 1833, transcribed by unknown transcriber (NSW Index Ref: No. 113, Vol 129, Year 1833)
[v] NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages (
[vi] Carol Baxter, 1828 Census of NSW (CD-ROM)., CD-ROM (Library of Australian History)
[vii] NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages op.cit.
[viii] Certificate of Freedom of James Ansley, op. cit.
[ix] Queensland Figaro, Saturday 18 August 1883, p3. (

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Exciting news about RootsTech London!

The first RootsTech conference not to be held in Salt Lake City will be held 24-26 October this year in London. It will be an awesome event, and I am lucky enough to be an Ambassador for the event. Although the speakers haven't all been announced yet, I've heard whispers about some of them and they are not to be missed. Those that have been announced also promise to be very interesting. Nick Barratt and Myko Clelland are always very good, and I heard fantastic reports of Jonny Perl's talk at Salt Lake City this year, so I'll make sure not to miss him this time. The full schedule should be announced in June.

But in the meantime, the first of the Keynote speakers has just been announced. It's Donny Osmond. Now, I have never been an Osmonds fan, but I saw Donny when he was the Keynote speaker at Salt Lake City during the 2015 RootsTech conference, and he was really great and very interesting.  So non-fans of the Osmonds will enjoy his talk just as much as the die-hard fans.

London RootsTech won't be exactly like the conferences in Salt Lake City, but there will still be keynote speakers (like Donny Osmond), over 150 classes, the Expo Hall (which will now be called the Exhibition Hall, and will have hands-on applications for you to have a play with) and entertainment. The sessions will be 45 minutes in length, with 45 minute breaks in between, and your registration fee will cover everything: you pay once and everything is included.

Myko Clelland from Findmypast

Currently there is an early bird offer of £49 for a 1-day pass (reduced from £99) while a 3-day pass will cost £99 (reduced from £149). There are also a discounted flights from the US to the UK on Delta Airlines, and Crowne Plaza Docklands and the Tower Hotel London.  Details of these special offers are available at

Donny Osmond Keynotes RootsTech in 2015

Closer to the event I will be giving away a free registration, and if you are a winner and have already registered for RootsTech your registration will be refunded.

I have been to several RootsTech conferences in Salt Lake City and they have all been fantastic and memorable experiences. I have no doubt that RootsTech London will be the same.

Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Researching Your Irish Ancestors Seminar

Everyone still has something to learn, no matter how long you have been researching. And it was no different for me when I attended the recent Researching Your Irish Ancestors seminar, put on by Unlock the Past.

The two speakers were David Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch, and Dr Perry McIntyre, chair of the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee.

Dr Perry McIntyre (left) & David Rencher (right)

About half my Irish ancestors are Catholic, and the other half are Church of Ireland. I have been lucky with some of these Church of Ireland families, in that the records for their parish survived the fire of 1922. In at least one case I have been able to view the original registers, which means that the parish could prove they had somewhere safe to keep them and they were not submitted to the Public Records Office and therefore not in the Four Courts Building in 1922. In other cases I have seen poor quality microfilms, perhaps of the original register, or perhaps of a copy retained when the original was submitted to the PRO. In other cases the parish registers were amongst those which went up in smoke. The families from those parishes have become some of my brick walls

What I learnt was that the Vestry minutes were not part considered official public records, and therefore were not in the PRO. There are two kinds of Vestry Minutes: Select Vestry  and General Vestry. Any of these might have references to your ancestors, though they are not likely to be references to exact baptism, marriage or burial records. But if a person is mentioned at a certain point in time, then they were alive at that point. Some lateral thinking might be required, but it might help.

Many of these Vestry Minute Books are held at the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin.

Another lesson I learnt, which I really should have realized before, was that you should still look in Church of Ireland records for your non-Church of Ireland ancestors. This means not only the Catholics, but the Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and so on. The reason for this is that the Church of Ireland was the official State Church, and therefore had responsibility for matters like probate, poor relief, local taxes and so on.

Monday, March 4, 2019


We all need a sense of belonging. Belonging to family. Belonging to a place. Belonging to a culture. And finding that sense of belonging can be a powerful motivation.

Saroo Brierley
Saroo Brierley, Friday's keynote speaker at RootsTech 2019, got lost as a five year old, but the Indian boy was adopted by a loving family from Hobart in Tasmania. His story is told in his book A Long Way Home, in the movie Lion and in his Wikipedia page, so I won't repeat it all here.  Saroo settled into the Australian lifestyle, so privileged compared to that he had lived in India, but he never forgot his past. The place where part of him still belonged.

By his early 20s he felt he had to do something about finding his original home and his biological family. He thought about everything he knew about his Indian home: where the sun came up, where there were hills, rivers and animals. And of course trainlines.

Then Google Earth came along. Saroo could use all the information and memories he'd gathered to start searching for where he came from. He searched for five years, and it would have been so easy to give up. But he didn't, and finally found what he believed to be the station where he had started his long journey. He wanted to go back and see if he could find his family.

But he also had a family in Australia who were just as important to him. So he asked his parents for permission to go back to India. He went there alone on his first journey, and when he got to his home town he knew where he was. His muscle memory took him back to the house where he had been born. He had belonged so much to that place that his body had not forgotten it.

60 minutes did a story where he went back to India again, and this time his two mothers could be united. Saroo belonged in Australia, but he also belonged in India. And he belonged to two families.

Jake Shimabukuro
Ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro was Saturday's keynote speaker. He is a fifth generation Japanese American, descended from the first group of Japanese who migrated to Hawaii in 1868 to work on the sugar cane plantations (the gannen mono). The Japanese part of his identity was clearly important to him. As he spoke he kept referring to Japanese words and to the Japanese WWII veterans and even to a Japanese backscratcher that taught him life lessons. Jake obviously had a profound sense of belonging to the Japanese culture, or at the least, to the Japanese-American culture.

But feeling a sense of belonging can be complicated, and can take time to develop. The Grand Prize winner and the People's Choice winner of the RootsTech Film Fest, Enge Van Wagoner, who submitted a video titled "My Name Is …", struggled to find a sense of belonging. She always wanted to fit in and belong, but though her looks showed her Chinese origins, it was her name that she felt singled her out. So she told everyone her name was Angie. When she was sent on a LDS mission to Taiwan she thought she'd finally be somewhere that she belonged, a place where her parents had walked in their youth and where the people looked like her, where she could connect with her culture. But after a while she realised that the people there did not view her as one of them. So she felt she didn't belong to either world. It was only when she was back in the US and had to look after her grandfather that things changed. She finally managed to make a connection with him, realising that just as she had felt like a fish out of water in Taiwan, so he felt like one in America. As two misfits they connected. It was then that she realised that "belonging" doesn't mean being the same as everyone else. Belonging is reaching across the differences to connect.

Angie and her grandfather
For us family historians, knowing who our ancestors are, where they come from and what events they lived through gives us a sense of belonging to our great big family tree.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Family makes the lady with the perfect feet happy.

Thursday's Keynote speaker at RootsTech was the actress Patricia Heaton. She comes from a large family. Patricia had three sisters and a brother, and her mother was one of fifteen. She drew up in Ohio where so many people were related to her, meeting by accident a hitchhiker who turned out to be a cousin and a bartender who was a second cousin. Her grandmother was even declared Catholic Mother of the Year for the USA in 1946 and got a medal from the Pope.

But the draw of family didn't initially make itself felt on Patricia. She decided to become an actress and spent thirteen years doing what she called "survival jobs" before her career took off. As an aspiring actress she loved being the centre of attention. But having children changed everything. She was often pregnant or in a post-baby fug while making Everybody Loves Raymond and doesn't remember much about the storylines. But she does remember all about her four children, who, along with her husband, are now of paramount importance in her life.

"Family is that place where you get your sense of self."

Whitney Peterson from FamilySearch came on stage to tell Patricia about her family history. Patricia had told FamilySearch that she was interested how her various family lines made it to Ohio. As the stories of her German (13% of her DNA), English (24%) and Irish (63%) ancestors were revealed she squealed with the excitement of it. She was so excited when she was presented with a book with the results of the research into her ancestry. Family History has that impact on many of us.

"In the end we're all connected and we have to look for the connections, not the differences."

And what is this about the perfect feet? One of her survival jobs in New York was modeling shoes for buyers from the major stores as her feet were size six, which was the standard sample size. But it turned out that not only was she size six, but she was the perfectly proportioned size six, so she was sent to Milan and Perugia in Italy to model shoes. She had never been overseas before, and only on a plane once before she found herself in the high fashion world unable to speak any Italian.

If you want to watch the session, it is already online here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wonderful announcements from RootsTech 2019

Steve Rockwood at the Opening Session

RootsTech often brings exciting new announcements, and this year is no different, except there seem to be more than usual. 

First, there two announcements concerning DNA. MyHeritage announced that it is offerning "The Theory of Family Relativity".  This combines paper trails (your genealogical heritage) with DNA (your genetic heritage) and uses graph theory (don't worry – I don't understand that either) to tell you the most likely way you and your matches are connected. And sometimes it gives potential alternative match scenarios. It makes use of the trees on MyHeritage, Geni and FamilySearch. It's a much easier way to find how your DNA matches are connected to you because it can now give you a visual connection that looks rather like the Ancestry shared matches used to to see how you connect to your DNA match. Sometimes. I found one case where it connected me to an incorrect parent for my ancestor, but the rest were very helpful.

Ancestry has also introduced "ThruLines", which are designed to suggest possible ancestors, and link to all people who have that DNA match where applicable. It is only available in beta at the moment to people who meet certain criteria (like searchable trees and having DNA matches). They have also introduced "MyTreeTags", allowing you to add tags to people in your tree. Those can be predefined tags, like "Direct Ancestor", "DNA match" or one of the other 18 tags, or you can create your own. There is also another new feature allowing you to more easily sort, group, and view your DNA matches in any way you'd like. Both of these latter two offerings are also in beta.

The power in these new offerings from MyHeritage and Ancestry is in the massive size of the trees these companies have. I'm sure more will come out about these functions as people have had a chance to play with them.

Tamsin Todd, Findmypast CEO
Findmypast was not to be left out. They made a very exciting announcement. The good news is that they have been granted an exclusive contract to digitize the 1921 census and make it available online. The bad news is that we won't be able to see it until January 2022 due to the legislated closure period.  The other good news – once we can get access to it – is that it contains more information than the 1911 census. Householders had to reveal their place of employment, the industry they worked in and the materials they worked with as well as their employer’s name. Those aged 15 and older were required to provide information about their marital status, including if divorced, while for those under 15 the census recorded whether both parents were alive or if either or both had died. I can't wait, as I need this to try to solve a particular mystery.

Findmypast also announced the addition of further catholic records to their collection, some from Liverpool and others from various parts of America. And they didn't miss the chance to reiterate their recently announced partnership with Rootsfinder, and their partnership with Living DNA, which will in future help build the kind of trees Ancestry and MyHeritage announced today.

FamilySearch had an announcement too: they are giving two million dollars to the International African American Museum. This museum is located in Charleston, on the spot where nearly half of all enslaved Africans arrived in America. FamilySearch's donation will help support the museum's Centre for Family History, and this donation will help.
Martin Luther King III

Much of the Opening Session was a tribute to the fact that this August marks the 400th anniversary of the first slaves from Africa arriving in America.  And there was a very special guest: Martin Luther King III, the son of Martin Luther King Jr, who was assassinated in 1968. He talked about his father's vision of complete integration, not just desegregation. The end result, he felt, would be reconciliation.  This would allow everyone to Connect & Belong.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

RootsTech starts on Wednesday!

Wednesday, US time, will herald the start of RootsTech 2019.  I will not be able to attend this year, so I will be watching some of the sessions live streamed from my home in Sydney. Luckily the changes to the times that the Keynotes are being held will make it far more reasonable for me to watch in my time zone.

The Wednesday General Session and Opening Event, with Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, will be 4.30pm in Salt Lake City, which is a very civilized 10.30am in Sydney.

The Thursday, Friday and Saturday sessions will be held at 11am in Salt Lake City, which is at the less civilized - but still possible - time of 5am in Sydney. I am particularly looking forward to watching Saroo Brierley from Australia on Friday. I am not a morning person, but will make every effort to struggle out of bed to watch.  At least I watch it all in my PJs.

The full live-streaming schedule is available here.

I have also signed up for the Virtual RootsTech, which will let me see another 18 sessions at a later time, again from home.

Even though I am not there in person this year, I am still very excited!


Friday, January 25, 2019

New Virtual Pass for RootsTech

There is an exciting new development for this year's RootsTech conference, which will be a real bonus for those who can't attend the conference in person (as well as for those who are attending).  You will now be able to purchase a virtual pass which will give you one year's access to recordings of 18 of the talks. This is in addition to the live streamed sessions, which as well as being able to be viewed live, will be online for free, as they have been in past years.  The Virtual pass will cost $US129 for those who aren't attending RootsTech, and only $US79 as an add-on for those who are attending. The sessions can be viewed on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. 

The complete list of the 18 talks is online here (and one of them relates to my passion, which is medieval English genealogy & history), and the list of the live-streamed sessions is online here.

Why not register for these sessions?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Less than 40 days til RootsTech 2019!

It is now less than 40 days til RootsTech 2019!  Whether you are a first timer, or a seasoned attendee, you will have a fantastic experience if you attend. And there are many reasons you should attend.

The RootsTech Expo Hall
Firstly, the classes. There are over 300 classes (labs and lectures), and they cover a variety of topics, so there will be something for everyone, not just those with American Ancestry. DNA will feature heavily in the class schedule, as it has become so popular.
The main hall, waiting for the Keynotes

Then there is the Expo hall. This is always a highlight for me, as I love the opportunity to speak to the big vendors and to see any new and upcoming ones.  This year there will be close to 200 exhibitors, so it's a great way to keep up with new developments in the industry.

Another draw-card are the Keynote speakers. They are always interesting, and this year looks to be no different.  Thursday's Keynote will be actress PatriciaHeaton from Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle. Friday's Keynote is Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his family when he was five and eventually adopted by a family from Tasmania. His story was told in the movie Lion.

Then Jake Shimabukuro from Hawaii, who is a master of the Ukulele, will feature on the Saturday. But before you turn up your nose at this, thinking that the ukulele is a bit twee and amateurish and brings back memories of George Formby, you should look at some of his YouTube videos. This is his version of George Harrison's WhileMy Guitar Gently Weeps and a classical style piece called Dragon and the ever-popular Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Me (far left), waiting for a Keynote speaker in 2018

Last year the "Relatives at RootsTech" part of the FamilySearch Family Tree app was a lot of fun. It is based on the giant family tree hosted by FamilySearch, and highlights other people who are at RootsTech who are related to you.  This year's version has some improvements, detailed here.

There is a lot of useful information in the Road to RootsTech videos, and a very useful blog post about what to wear and what to bring to RootsTech.

Register before Jan 25 to talk advantage of special price of $209.

But if you can't attend in person, details of the live streaming schedule are available here.