Unravelling the McKenna family

It has long been thought in the Cass family that James McKenna, aged 17.5 yrs, arrived Marion 1848 was part of this family even though it was a leap from Melbourn, Cambridge to Newcastle where he was tried in January 1845 for stealing a hank of worsted. Then sent to Millbank & Parkhurst, thence to prison hulk before being sent to Oz as an “exile”. Sentence was 7 yrs, and pardon granted immediately on arrival.  (Various documents are available on Ancestry).

It now seems unlikely this is the case. I also suspect the Melbourn Cambridgeshire may be a mistake against the shipping records obtained by my father-in-law some 30 odd years ago. Another immigration document on Ancestry shows Catherine and Peter coming from Monaghan but immediately under someone from Melbourn and I suspect this may have muddled the picture.

McKENNY aka MCKENNA Cath and Peter 1848 per Adelaide

Catherine and Peter McKenna at the bottom of image, on the Adelaide to Melbourne in 1848.

The situation now seems to be that the family most likely stayed in Ireland the whole time before emigrating some time after Elizabeth’s husband (Owen or Bryan?) died, pre 1848.

Elizabeth’s immigration says she’s leaving on her own account and looking for her son James McKenny.[i] Other researchers suggest that James McKenna who died in 1907 was part of this family.

McKENNA Elizabeth to Jas McKenny

Disposal list of immigrants on the Adelaide 1848, extract for Elizabeth McKenna, William and Catherine.

The immigration records also show that the family comes from Arragall Monaghan. This is neither a townland or a place and we have concluded that it is actually Errigal, Monaghan. Some family trees indicate that it is in the townland of Mullanacross aka Mullinacross in the Errigal Trough Civil Parish, but I can find no source for this information, which doesn’t mean it isn’t correct.

On the immigration records obtained by Les Cass back in the late 1980s, the family is shown together under the surname McKenny. The two youngest, Catherine 13 and Peter 12, are listed as having been born in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. As per above I now believe this may have been an error. This is further reinforced by the fact that I’ve been unable to find Elizabeth, Peter or Catherine on the 1841 English census, even searching by first name and age.

So what was the family which arrived in Australia per the ship Adelaide on 22 June 1848. They had sailed from Plymouth on 1 March 1848[ii].They had been enumerated on the nominal lists as follows:

McKenna Elizabeth 44    house servant    neither

McKenna William 22       farm labourer    both read & write

McKenna Sarah 20           farm servant      both

McKenna Mary 17            housemaid         both

McKenna Catherine 13   daughter             read

McKenna Peter 12           son                         read

All were Roman Catholic and depending on which immigration documents, all state their home place as Monaghan.

Now let’s look at which James McKenna might have been the son who Elizabeth was looking for. We’ve discounted (at least for now), the convict from the Marion.

And in an oops moment I missed this notation on the bottom of the disposal lists.

McKENNA Elizabeth see re children 1848

Ancestry trees suggest that James McKenna arrived ahead of the rest of the family (which fits with the annotation mentioned). There are two possibilities then:  the George Fyfe on 23 July 1841 or the Frankfield also in July 1841.  James McKenna on the George Fyfe is aged 21, a labourer and a Catholic, who can neither read nor write. He is travelling with a Sally McKenna also aged 21, a dairymaid who could read and is also Catholic. At 21 he would be the eldest of Elizabeth’s children that we know about.

The James McKenna on the Frankfield is 19 and is Presbyterian. Given the religion of the rest of the family, it suggests to me that he is likely not the right one.

The James McKenna on the George Fyfe is 21 and is accompanied by his wife, Sally (not his sister as some seem to think[iii]) also 21, both Catholic and both from Monaghan[iv].  Sally is a nickname for Sarah so I went searching for (1) children and (2) her death. I was also puzzled (still am, really) about the listing of marriage details and children for James McKenna and Mary Tyrell. Is this the same James McKenna or a different one?

MCKENNA Sarah and Mary per Adelaide 1848

James and Sally McKenna on the George Fyfe, 1841

 

But first let’s look at Sarah McKenna. I found her death, aged 77, in Purnim shire, Warrnambool, Victoria on 20 October 1894. Her parents were Arthur McElmeal, farmer and Margaret Hacket. The informant is her grandson whose name is illegible due to fading. She is stated to have married in Donagh, Co Monaghan, Ireland at age 22 years to James McKenna[v].

James McKENNA & McELEEL Sarah Donagh parish Monaghan

I then looked at the Ancestry Catholic marriage records for Donagh (from the National Library of Ireland registers). I found the marriage by banns of James McKenna and Sarah McElmeel of Donagh on 17 February 1841 in the Catholic parish[vi].  It’s unclear to me whether it’s James or Sarah who comes from Donagh. The marriage had taken place just under a month from when the couple would sail on 15 March ex Plymouth.

Victorian indexes and Sarah’s death certificate provide the names of children to this couple: James 1841, Sarah (later McDonald) c1844, Mary Ann 1846, Susan (later McGrath) 1848, John 1849-1864, Peter c1852, Eugene c1855 and Margaret c1857. To confound things further, Sarah is stated to have spent three years in Tasmania and 50 years in Victoria – the initial year of arrival fits but not the stint in Tasmania for which I can find no records. I also can’t find the death of Sarah’s husband James in Warrnambool or buried in the cemetery.

Returning to the second option for James McKenna. There is a marriage for James McKenna in Victoria in 1846 to Mary Tyrell (various spellings in indexes). From the death certificate and the Victorian indexes their children are: William 1845, Elizabeth 1846, Sarah 1846, Thomas 1850, Owen c1852 , Peter c1852, Catherine c1860, Mary c1864, and James 1848 deceased. James died, aged 85, in 1907 at Penshurt, Victoria and was buried in the Boram Boram Cemetery by Rev Fr Walsh. James had been born in Monaghan and spent 66 years in Victoria (making his arrival c1841).  His father is stated as Owen and his mother as unknown.

It would suggest that there are two different James McKennas from Monaghan yet they don’t match up with the immigration records. I remain befuddled. There is nothing on either certificate to indicate whether Sarah was a widow or James a widower.

So which James McKenna is which, and does either belong to the family of Elizabeth McKenna?

Does it even matter, given that Mr Cassmob’s ancestry is through William McKenna from the Adelaide?  A further subject for analysis.

Thanks for listening. I’ll be back with Part 2 of my ruminations.

[i] Series: VPRS 14; Series Title: Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kingdom (refer to microform copy, VPRS 3502) on Ancestry

[ii] 1848 ‘Shipping Intelligence.’, The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser (Vic. : 1845 – 1848), 20 June, p. 2. , viewed 23 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226354034

[iii] James and Sally are among the couples and families, the unmarried males and females are listed separately and neither name appears there.

[iv] Series: VPRS 14; Series Title: Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kindom (refer to microform copy, VPRS 3502) Original data from Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports). Microfiche VPRS 7666, copy of VRPS 947. Public Record Office Victoria, North Melbourne, Victoria.

[v] Victorian death certificate 116/1894 #14731.

[vi] Through Ancestry or Findmypast from registers held at National Library of Ireland and digitised at registers.nli.gov.ie Catholic Parish Registers, The National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 05574 / 09

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