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. (