Friday, November 23, 2012

Felonous Family

My Convict Connections

In the early days of my venturing into family history, in those days when one wrote letters to Archives or a Birth, death and Marriage Registries requesting certificates, and waited patiently for them to arrive,  I knew little of the obstacles which lay in wait for me. 

When I received a birth certificate from the Queensland Archives for the birth of my great great grandmother Sarah FRAYNE, born September 13, 1878 in Brisbane, I was at once excited as I read that her father Michael Frayne was a Lawyer from Dublin. With my husband's ancestry traced back to Royalty, I felt unquestionably proud of my Dublin Lawyer!

This is the image I had of my 3 x Irish great grandfather.

Some years later, with a great deal more experience in family sleuthing, a revelation dropped heavily onto my convivial family tree. Whilst reading an article about commonly misunderstood old English letters my assumption erratum dawned weightily upon me. No sooner had I read that an old English "S" is often mistaken for and "L", it was with some disappointment that I realized Michael Frayne was not a Lawyer but a Sawyer! In an instant pillage of my research, my illustrious ancestor had fallen from grace on my family tree. Michael Frayne at the time of his daughter's birth was employed, not to respectably uphold the law, but rather less impressively to cut down trees.

 As is want to happen, one realisation frequently leads to another. On the birth certificate for Michael's daughter Sarah in 1878, it stated that he had resided in the colony for 40 years. That placed Michael Frayne's  arrival at around 1838. Instantly, I comprehended that 1838 was too early in Australian Colonial History for the arrival of  free Irish settlers and my three times great grandfather plummeted spectacularly for a second time from respectability. The obvious conclusion stared me incredulously in the face. My ancestor was a CONVICT! 

A more likely image of my 3 x great grandfather!

Seconds after my initial surprise, I became very excited. A convict in the family, I decided was far more exciting than my husband's Royal connections. And as I ventured into my convict research, my offending ancestors did not stop at one convict. Indeed, I discovered that I have a most fascinating flock of felons for forebears. My expedition into my ancestral convict past has been one of my most fascinating genealogical journeys. I have begun this blog to record the stories of my convict ancestors. They are: my three times great grandfather Michael Frayne, a Dublin burglar, who arrived in NSW aged 14, his brother, Lawrence Frayne, convicted of stealing rope and who is the only convict to have left a written account of his harsh treatment on Norfolk Island ( held in the Colonial Papers, Mitchell Library) his parents in law, Joseph Williams and Mary Kelly and Michael's notorious first wife, Bridget Donnelly who operated a brothel in King Street, Sydney. 

My new blog "Family Convictions" will be dedicated to the intriguing stories of my 'Australian Aristocracy', convict ancestors. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post... and you have me hooked as the descendant of a number of convicts... I keep finding more, so, on with the chase...