My “Most Wanted” family member: who was James Sherry?

From clker.com in public domain. Intended as a question about going green, it also represents my questions about where James Sherry came from, where he went.

Geniaus raised the Saturday challenged initiated by Thomas McEntee On his Destination Austin Family Blog, which in turn revived Craig Manson of GeneaBlogie‘s meme from 2009. For today I’m going to focus on my “most wanted” family member and leave the surnames to Surname Saturday.

Ever since I started family history all those years ago, one ancestor has provided me with an “impenetrable” brick wall.

James Sherry is first identified in the “public” record in Tullamore, County Offaly (Kings County as it was then). On 21 May 1859 he married Bridget Furlong, a local girl from the townland of Shruagh, in the old Catholic Church, with witnesses John Horan and Maria Slavin.Their first two surviving sons, Peter and James Joseph, were also christened there, on the same date 29 May, in 1861 and 1865. Peter, is my direct ancestor. Their second-born son, Martin Sherry (named for Bridget’s father) was baptised in Arklow, Wicklow on 15 July 1863 with witnesses James and Margaret Halpin. Martin did not emigrate with the family and nothing is known about whether he died or remained in Ireland.

A typical Irish cottage at Knockina, complete with cat.

During their years in Arklow, James was working as a ganger on the railway, presumably on the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford line. Several children were born and baptised in Arklow before the family moved to Gorey, Wexford where they settled for about 10 years. At the baptism of each child born in Gorey, the family states their townland as Knockina, just outside Gorey township. Having researched the Griffith Valuation revision lists for the period, it seems that the Sherry family must have been living in a caretaker’s cottage owned by the railway as all other properties are accounted for. This would suggest that James had reached some level of responsibility with the railway.

The interior of St Michael's Church, Gorey, Wexford 1992. Site of Sherry baptisms and Peter's marriage.

So far, so good, you’re wondering why I have a problem….after all I have quite a bit of information on them, thanks to the baptism of all those children. But there’s one thing missing – where did James come from and what’s his ancestry? Name distributions suggest he probably came from one of Ireland’s northern counties, possibly Monaghan, Fermanagh, or Meath. Dublin is also a strong contender but surely if he was from there one of his family would be a witness to at least one of the baptisms.

In 1882 James and Bridget Sherry emigrated to Queensland with all their children, except eldest son Peter. On arrival in January 1883, the family changed their name to McSharry, supposedly with the idea that he would ride on the coat tails of another James McSharry, the partner in O’Rourke & McSharry, railway construction contractors. If this was his goal, he certainly succeeded from one point of view. From that time forward my James McSharry cannot be readily identified. Despite the family’s horrendous luck with three children dying within a few years of arrival, James does not appear as the informant on any of the death certificates. By 1892, Bridget McSharry was listed in the post office directories as a boarding house keeper in Maryborough and later in Rockhampton, where she died in 1900. Had James died so that she needed to take up this work?

No problems, surely his death certificate can be found, and this will most likely tell us his place of origin and his parents’ names? Good theory, nil outcome. Despite searching around the country, this James McSharry/Sherry appears to have disappeared off the face of Australia at least. I’ve looked for him in Police Gazettes thinking he might appear there – if he had “done a runner” and left his wife with the children, they might have chased him for maintenance. Of itself this seems strange given they’d been married over 20 years and just made the tremendous decision to emigrate, but perhaps he hadn’t coped with the death of his children. I’ve searched cemeteries, inquest indexes and hospital admissions all to no avail. Trove throws up innumerable references to the construction company and even occasional documents found at the Archives remain ambiguous.

One clue appears when his daughter marries in Rockhampton in 1903, said to be the daughter of James McSharry, late of Sydney. Does that mean “recently of Sydney” or deceased…but I suspect it meant the latter.  My suspicion is that it is a red herring to infer he may be the partner in McSharry & O’Rourke who was by then in Sydney. Searches of NSW death certificates were not forthcoming.

To confuse matters further this James’s eldest son, Peter, arriving in Queensland in early 1884 with his family, changed his name to McSherry and also joined the railway immediately. To this day, many of the leaves on this family’s branches do not know of the interconnection between the McSherry and McSharry families or indeed within some branches of either.

Did James emigrate to New Zealand or elsewhere to work on the railways? Did he return to Ireland? Did he die but never make it into the records? Was he admitted to a mental asylum somewhere? Was there some sort of scandal? Questions, questions!

My bet is that his father’s name was Peter Sherry and that he was probably born somewhere in Ireland’s northern counties. Searches at RootsIreland have been unproductive or inconclusive. Without some proof, or some clue about what happened to James, or where he went from Australia, this line is stone-walled.

One Lovely Blog Award

One Lovely Blog Award

Earlier this month I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Sharon at Genealogymatters2me and Aillin at Australian Genealogy Journeys. Thanks Sharon and Aillin for this nomination which I’m very pleased to accept…it’s nice to know that others enjoy reading some of my blog. I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to get to this post… a few busy family weeks.

One issue with the award is that the favourites tend to get swamped by repeated nominations, while some excellent blogs are unlikely to want to continue the chain. However as I enjoy these sites I thought others might like to look at them too, if they don’t already follow them. I’ve diversified into non-genealogy blogs for this award, just for the fun of it.

The rules for accepting the award are:
* Accept the ward, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted the award and their blog link.
* Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
* Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

This post offers some sites to which I pass on this award –some new to me, others old favourites – so you can have a look at them.

The Magpie’s Fancy for great writing strategies and insights.

French Essence for its wonderful writing and even more fabulous images. I love reading about Vicki’s French life!

Chic Provence – I love the image of the pink chair and the flood of pink camellias.

Discovering Darwin for some local knowledge tips by someone who recently arrived in Darwin and wanted to learn the ropes.

Living Delilah lives in Brisbane, Australia and has an interest in the old-style skills that we used to take for granted, but with a new spin.

Butter Hearts Sugar for some oh, so tasty treats (Week 13’s topic turned up this wonderful site)

Dolls Houses Past & Present administered by my friend Rebecca who is passionate about dolls houses and family history and combines the skills from FH to assist with tracing the dolls houses.

Mind Gardener for great strategies to re-train your mind into positive and healthy thinking.

Toowoomba & Darling Downs Family History Society for genealogical news relevant to the Darling Downs in Queensland.

Wholesome Cook is another discovery arising from Week 13’s “52 weeks” blog about sweets.

On a Flesh & Bone Foundation even though it’s been awarded previously but because it addresses Irish research issues so effectively and because the writing is so good.

Family Archeologist for East European and German research.

The Armchair Genealogist remains one of my personal favourites for motivating family historians to write their stories.

No more wriggling out of writing woman for her family history stories, English interest/travel and addressing mental health issues.

Now I need to go and let everyone know they’ve been nominated.

Introducing my family

Hello blog-world

This is my first posting on what I hope will be my family history blog, with occasional snippets about travel (another interest) and life in the Top End of Australia. While the research interests will be my own family and those from Dorfprozelten and Broadford which I’m researching, I hope to talk about the ways I go about finding new information and new discoveries that emerge, with luck and perseverance, like all family history.

My focus is more on the history of the families, their places of origin and their life history, rather than just their genealogy.

At different times I’ll be referring to my ancestral family – branches and individuals -but not to current-day people. So I thought I’d start by introducing the earliest members of my family who arrived in Australia, most of them in the mid-nineteenth century.

George KUNKEL who came from the village of Dorfprozelten am Main (on the River Main) in Bavaria. George married Mary O’BRIEN from Broadford in East County Clare, Ireland. They lived for about six years in Ipswich, Queensland before moving west with the construction of the railway line to Toowoomba. After a few years living on the Toowoomba range at Highfields, they moved down the range to the Fifteen Mile, an out-settlement of Murphy’s Creek, where they bought, and built, their own farm. Murphy’s Creek had been a major staging post during the railway’s construction. George and Mary were both working as servants when they married but in later years George was pork butcher, boarding house keeper, railway worker, and farmer. Both Mary and George were what we often refer to as “swimmers” as no record has yet been found of them in the records, despite 23 years of searching. It is believed that Mary O’Brien travelled with her sister, Bridget O’Brien, who later became Bridget WIDDUP and lived at Urana, New South Wales

William PARTRIDGE was born in London, but lived most of his early life in Coleford, Gloucestershire with his parents John & Eliza (nee Thompson).  He stated his occupation as “groom” when he arrived in Moreton Bay on board the Fortune in December 1855. He married Hannah KENT who arrived in Moreton Bay with her parents and siblings on the General Hewitt in December 1854. William Partridge was the brother of Lucy ROSEBLADE who emigrated with her husband John and family,arriving in Queensland on the Duke of Westminster in July 1866, first settling in Ipswich but later being pioneers at Yungaburra.

Also on board the Fortune in 1855 were Denis & Ellen GAVIN from Ireland (Wicklow, Kildare and Dublin) and their small daughter Mary. The family immediately went west out near Roma where Denis worked as a bullock driver.

Stephen Gillespie MELVIN and his young wife (Janet nee Peterkin) and child, Lawrence, arrived in Moreton Bay on the Woodlark in January 1877. Janet died while in quarantine soon after arrival. Stephen remarried in August 1878. His second wife was Emily Partridge, daughter of William and Hannah Partridge, and a first-generation Queenslander. Stephen and Emily lived in Ipswich and Charters Towers and after Emily’s death in 1912, he moved to Sydney. Stephen came from many generations of merchant seamen from Leith, the port for Edinburg, and had worked in that occupation himself after completing his pastry cook’s apprenticeship in Edinburgh. He was a skilled pastry cook gaining recognition in his new home for his sweets and cakes. Stephen’s mother, Margaret Gillespie (later Melvin, Ward and Wheaton) also emigrated and died in Charters Towers where she and her daughter-in-law are recognised with a large memorial stone. Margaret also came from a sea-faring family and indeed worked as a stewardess herself. She was born in North Shields, Northumberland.

Later arrivals included the McCORKINDALE family (in different immigration waves) who came to Australia from Glasgow but whose roots lie in Loch Awe and Kilmorich (Ardkinglas) in Argyll, Scotland. 

The SHERRY family emigrated from Gorey, Wexford and became two branches: the McSHERRY branch and the McSHARRY branch. The earliest identified origin for this family is Tullamore, Offaly (then King’s County) where James Sherry married Bridget FURLONG in the 1860s. James was a railway worker in Ireland and probably in Queensland but his home place is unknown. The surname is typically concentrated in the north of Ireland.  The McSherry/McSharry family worked on the railways of Queensland, building new lines and always being closely involved with the Catholic Church wherever they went.

My husband’s family, the CASS family, arrived in Victoria in the mid-19th century from Bath, England but the family originally lived in West Drayton and Retford in Nottinghamshire.

My wider interests are in emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria and Broadford in eastern County Clare. Although I’m primarily interested in those emigrants who came to Australia, I’m still keen to hear from anyone with connections back to those places.

As I dig further back into the records other names will come to light.

Happy hunting

Cassmob NT