Shot between the eyes

“Shot between the eyes”

My sister had just downloaded the death certificate for Patrick Gleeson and saw that this individual, who she knew had four daughters also had a 14 year old son, named Patrick Francis Gleeson.   She said that there wasn’t any birth index for the son in the Victorian BDM index.

I looked on Ancestry for her and found the son’s birth (his full name was Patrick Francis Xavier Gleeson) registered in Sydney, NSW and a death in 1951 in Euroa, Victoria.  There was no record for a Patrick Francis Xavier Gleeson in the Australian Electoral Rolls.  Therefore, I entered his full name into the Trove newspapers website search bar and read the results out to my sister, “fatally shot Patrick Francis Xavier Gleeson, 58, at Marraweeney, near Violet Town.”

The article in The Argus was very short, stating that Gordon Sims of no fixed address was acquitted of the manslaughter of Gleeson.  A number of other articles were equally brief.  The final article gave a brief outline of the circumstances of Gleeson’s death.

“Barrier Miner” Friday 9 November, 1951.  “Detective Sinclair Emery Miller told the court that Gleeson was shot between the eyes.  Sims said he took “the old chap” (Gleeson) to a hotel for a drink after seeing him picking up cigarette butts.  Later they went to the farm.  Sims had told Gleeson that Jim Ellis (his boss) probably would give Gleeson a job.  They had a drink in Sims’ sleepout, where Gleeson saw a rifle standing in a corner.  Gleeson loaded the rifle and was examining it.  Sims said a loaded rifle was a bit dangerous and took it away.  He was showing Gleeson how to cock the rifle when it went off.”

It would seem that P F X Gleeson, who was orphaned at fourteen, lived an itinerate lifestyle and had fallen on hard times by the time of his death and it seems that on the sole evidence of the accused Sims himself, Sims was acquitted of manslaughter.

It was certainly an unexpected find for my sister’s research.

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Signatures – a sign of some literacy.

Signatures – a sign of literacy.

Having become accustomed to seeing ‘X her mark or X his mark’ on marriage certificates I was surprised that to note that all, but one, of my director male Pye ancestors back to the 17th century could at the very least sign their names.

My great grandfather, Joseph Pye (1848-1919), apparently received some schooling (for how long has not yet been established), as he was able to make a written application to apply for land.  Joseph was elected as a Councillor on the Minahamite Shire for one term.  His obituary stated that Joseph was “an excellent conversationalist and could relate the history” of the district.

Joseph Pye’s father, Thomas Pye (1797-1880) signed the marriage certificate to his first wife as “Thomas Pey”; the death certificate of his daughter as “Thomas Pye” and a land sale document as “Thomas Pye”.  The spelling of his surname as “Pey” is interesting as his uncle George Pye and aunt Alice Pye signed their surname as “Pey” on their marriage certificates also.  The majority of George’s children’s baptisms were also listed under Pey.  I had initially thought that it was just a peculiarity of the parish Curate until I looked at the respective marriage certificates which showed that the Curate had written the surname as “Pye” but George, Alice and Thomas all signed their surname as “Pey”.  Eventually all the descendants signed as “Pye”.

Thomas Pye’s father, Joseph Pye (1776-1830) did not sign his name, but made an X on his marriage certificate – suggesting he did not learn to write as had his younger siblings.

Joseph’s father, Thomas Pye (1722-1793), though he ended his life as a pauper, was the son of a yeoman and could therefore write.  He signed his Examination Certificate “Thomas Poy”.  This may be where the spelling of “Pey” evolved from.

Thomas Pye’s father, Joseph Pye (1679-1758) signed an Indenture with his father Thomas Pye (1646-1728).  They were both listed as Yeoman.  Thomas Pye signed other documents which stated he was initially a Tailor before being recorded as a Yeoman.  Thomas’s father was John Pye (1611-1681) who signed his Will.  I have no signed documents for any of the earlier ancestors but John’s cousins once removed were scriveners Humfrey and Robert Pye.

The ability to sign a document does not equate to literacy, but it does suggest some “imperfect” education and it was an interesting project to discover that eight generations of my direct males ancestors had this skill.

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Humfrey Pye – Scrivener

Humfrey Pye – Scrivener

Humfrey Pye was a cousin of my 7 x great grandfather and an elder son of William Pye, and his wife Margery, of Haughton, Staffordshire, England.

In the Will of Margery Pye it refers to Margery’s “dear sone, Homfrie Pye, citizen of London”.  The term, “citizen of London” suggested that Humfrey was a member of one of the ancient livery companies or guilds of the City, and indeed Humfrey was a member of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners.

Scriveners were ‘Writers of the Court Letter’ as opposed to members of the Stationers’ Company who wrote church service books and other books.  Scriveners wrote confidential documents, such as wills, charters and legal documents.

Humfrey Pye began his apprenticeship under John Yarlington on 19 May, 1597.  He was taken in as an Assistant of the Company in 1611; became an a Steward about 1623; rose to Warden by 1624 and an Upper Warden by 1625, the year he died.  Therefore Humfrey did not reach his goal of obtaining the rank of Master Scrivener.

I am fortunate to have two samples of Humfrey’s writings – one was his own will and the other the memorandum of his brother, Robert’s, will.  Robert Pye began his apprenticeship as Scrivener on 20 May 1611, to Thomas Preene.

From his Will it is stated that Humfrey Pye owned a number of parcels of land.  A property at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in London (did he ever witness any hangings at Newgate?) the rent of which was to benefit his sisters, Elizabeth and Joan.  Land at Church Eaton and Woodeaton, Staffordshire bequeathed to his mother, Margery, and after her death to his brother, John.  Land in Ranton and Haughton, Staffordshire bequeathed to his mother, Margery, and after her death to his brother William.  His other siblings, Margaret, Ann and Thomas were bequeathed money.

William junior was his mother’s favourite child, possibly because he was the youngest.  William Pye junior is the father of the Robert Pye mentioned in my previous article, “Roman Catholick or inclined to that Religion.”

Humfrey’s father, William Pye, was listed as a “Yeoman” and a “Husbandman”, but I do not believe he was a large landholder.  Perhaps Humfrey and Robert showed sufficient aptitude and writing skills to enable their father to send them to London to be apprenticed into the Company of Scriveners.

It was interesting to note that at the time of Humfrey’s death in 1625 there is evidence of only two of Humfrey’s surviving eight siblings being married.  Margaret to Thomas Tully and Ann to a Mr Haughton, and they had children.  Being the beneficiaries of Humfrey’s will, both William and Joan married in 1627.  Joan was 54 years of age.  William and Ann appear to be the only siblings to have children and I have found it strange that Ann’s husband is not named in Humfrey’s will nor in Margery’s will.  There is a blank space instead of his name in both wills.

“Item I doe give and bequeath unto the Children of my Sister Ann Hawten now the wife of (blank space) Hawten fouer score and ten pounds of like lawfull money of England equally to bee devided amongst them.”

There is nothing in the Haughton parish records to shed light on who Ann Haughton’s husband or children were – perhaps they lived in another County.  If Humfrey’s land was to be bequeathed down through family members than it would be inherited by Ann’s children, because William only had the one granddaughter who died unmarried.  However, I suspect the land passed out of the hands of this Pye family.  I don’t believe that it passed to members of my direct ancestry.

I feel privileged to have a connection to Scriveners, Humfrey Pye and Robert Pye, Citizens of London.



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Captain Charles Pye VC and Charles Colquhoun Pye

I have spent decades now advising numerous organisations that their military records are incorrect – that there were two Charles Pye’s from Staffordshire, England, who were enlisted in the British Army during a similar time period and that it was Charles Pye who was awarded the Victoria Cross and not Charles Colquhoun Pye.

Now with the creation of Ancestry and numerous other records online (newspaper images and military records) it is very easy to confirm this.  Unfortunately, I still see new websites listing Charles Colquhoun Pye VC.  Captain Charles Colquhoun Pye (11 Nov 1834 – 17 Feb 1872), was the son of Henry John Pye and Mary Anne Walker of Clifton Campville, Staffordshire.  He married Barbara Wilberforce.  He was with the 63rd Foot (The Manchester Regiment) and he fought at the Siege of Sebastopol in 1854 (Crimea) and from 1857 to 1861 was in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  He sold his commission on 16 August, 1861.

Initially the VC record at Kew, London stated that the medal recipient was born in 1822 at Rickets Coat, Staffordshire and died in August 1890 in Middlesex, London.  I don’t know where this death date originated.  I remember when my Pye research correspondent, the late Donald Charles Pye of NZ wrote to Kew in the 1990s informing them of our research data on the real VC recipient.  Their response to Donald was that our data had “set a cat amongst the pigeons”.  It is easy to understand that the military circles of the time would attribute the VC to Charles Colquhoun Pye because he was from the upper class and my Charles Pye was the son of a convicted felon and had died in Australia.

It seems that the confusion between the two men began as early as 1898.  In a letter written by Thomas A Browne, the employer of Charles Pye’s father Thomas; Browne wrote, “he enlisted in the army after his father left for Australia, fought with distinction in the Crimea & Indian Mutiny – getting his commission as Lieutenant & V.C. – ‘for conspicuous gallantry before Lucknow” – tinge of romance about it, isn’t there?  They were a game lot – father and son – anyhow”.  The mistake Browne made in his letter being the mention of the ‘Crimea’, as it was Charles Colquhoun Pye who fought in the Crimea and Charles Pye who fought in India.

In an interesting aside:  a family of Charles Pye’s second cousins in Staffordshire named their home “Clifton House” – the sons from this family were Charles Edward Pye and Major Henry Pye.  Charles Colquhoun Pye’s father Henry John Pye was from Clifton Campville, Staffordshire.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this family was trying to association themselves with the Henry John Pye’s and were not aware of their own claim to fame in being related to their distant cousin, Captain Charles Pye VC from an earlier era.

The full history of Captain Charles Pye VC and his father can be found in my book, Tapestry: Bold Blood”.  Please contact me for details.


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Richard Corbett

Richard Corbett

Richard Corbett was the man with whom my great, great grandfather was convicted of housebreaking.  The pair received a Life sentence by being transported to Australia, arriving in May 1837.

The Stafford Advertiser ran the following notice.

“Worcester Assizes. – On Monday the business of the Assizes commenced, Mr. Justice Littledale presiding at the Crown Bar.

Fifteen county cases (five special juries), and one city, were entered for trial.  None of them were of much public interest.  It was thought that Mr. Justice Littledale would leave Corbett and Pye (or Corbett only) for execution.  They have been convicted of robbing an old man named Halfpenny, of Mamble, of between 80l and 90l chiefly in gold – the fruits of his frugality – and using him in a very cruel manner.  Corbett’s crime is aggravated by the circumstrance of his being Halfpenny’s nephew.  They will be transported for life.”

It appears that Richard was fortunate in his early years in the colony, being assigned to the Ryrie brothers who moved south to what was later the State of Victoria and somehow Richard amassed enough wealth to purchase Rutherford Station situated on Western Port Bay.  Richard’s wife, Mary, and children came out from England to join him.

When well set up on his successful Station, Richard wrote to his siblings in England to tell them of the opportunities they would have if they emigrated also.  A letter, that he wrote to his sister Mrs E Pope, has survived (but it probably never reached her) and his first paragraphs show the vagrancy of the postal system of that time, 1853.

“I have root many letters both to you and my Brother John and James (piece out of letter).  And likwis my sister Mary Lewis.  But No hanswer have hever reached me from Any one of them sense you last be loved letter.  I mad shoor you was all ded, or thought I was not worth riting to”.

Richard then goes on to say that he could pay family members expenses to come to Australia and to describe his circumstances, I would give you and your family 40 pounds per yer and find you in every thing but catteing.  I have A very larg station at hear wich you calls farms att ingland I have uperds of five hundred of ___ed cattle and 14 horses.  I milk 30 to 40 cows the year round you wish to know wether (wethren) we have pertatoes here or not But I can ashure you that we grows Every thing that man can Eat or Beast we grow weet Barley mais oats potatoes Cabbages carots and every thing nesery for lif mor so ___then what you in ingland I have got A butful vineand wich we grood from 4 to 5 hundreds waight thes last 3 years and you ned not think any thing of this country for it is the finest country in the wool world.”

Richard answered his sister’s question about which language was spoken in the Colonies, perhaps she believed it to be a foreign heathen place like India.  Dear sister you wis to know wether we had the same langwig as you, our langwig is the sam and complectons.  But there is all sorts and culing here sens the Golminds as Bin found There as been better the 30 thousand of pepol arrived this Colony this last twelve months we have got five in my sivies as left near to Eester.  November we are giving 40 to 50 pounds per year for married caples 20 to 25 for single.  Dear sister you no my Brothers need not be Afraid of riting to me for it is no disgrass to you for I ham ranked amongest the hed of this Colony.”

Though Richard Corbett’s material wealth improved he was to suffer emotionally from the death of his wife, Mary, on 19 January, 1862.  Richard married his second wife, another Mary, in April 1862 and they had a daughter, Margaret.  But it does not seem to have been a happy marriage, as three years later Richard took his own life by overdosing on laudanum.  His suicide note read, “to Mary Corbett Cranbourne August 30 1865.  My ever dear wif the words you spook to me this morning as caused my life.  My hart is brook.  I canot with stand it any longer.  wen you reed this I shall be no mor.  pray for me.  be good to my dear Magey.  Broken hart.  RC.”  He also left a note for his daughter, Jane Brann, “Dear daughter, Mrs Corbett request me rit to you requsting you to send for your daughter as she is quit tired of keeping her.  yours most tender and efenct father R Corbett.  dar child my hart is all most brook.”

Richard’s widow went on to marry her step-son, John Corbett (John had previously been married) and they had a daughter, Louisa Corbett, who married her first cousin, Reuben Brann.

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BDM Certificates

Edith Alice O’Connor – birth certificate.

I have said that I like the State of Victoria’s birth, death and marriage certificates because they contain a lot of information, however, it is due to the amount of information required on the certificates that has resulted in more inaccurate details being recorded on them.

I have seen on a death certificate, the deceased’s brother and sister were recorded as his parents.  On another death certificate, the informant’s parents listed as the parents of the deceased.  On some marriage certificates, the groom and bride’s names listed as the parents of the groom, plus invented marriage dates of unmarried parents on their illegitimate child’s birth certificate.  Coupled with the problem of recording a consistent spelling of names due to illiteracy, accents etc., and the misinterpretation of information given resulted in details being missed from the final certificate.

When my sister and I were researching our O’Connor ancestry, we asked our father what he could recall.  He told us that “Lil O’Connor had fallen from a Jig and was killed”.  My sister discovered that Lil’s real name was Edith Alice O’Connor.  Her parents were John O’Connor and Susan Tuite.  Edith’s mother’s death certificate showed that there were three daughters in the family.  Ellen Mary, Edith Alice and Margaret Mary.

When my sister was scrolling through the BDM microfilm index, she could only find the births of Ellen Mary and Margaret Mary O’Connor indexed.  Edith Alice O’Connor’s birth was not recorded; however, there was a birth of a child named John Mark O’Connor indexed in the year (1890) that Edith Alice O’Connor should have appeared.  This was confusing.  We thought – was Edith a twin and only one child recorded; but if that was the case, why wasn’t John listed on his mother’s death certificate?  We looked through the death index and saw there was no death for a child named John Mark O’Connor, son of John and Susan.  We purchased a copy of the birth certificate to see if it could shed any more light on this mystery.  The child’s date of birth was given as 15 December, 1890.  We knew that Ellen Mary was born on 9 January 1890 (she had died at 5 weeks).  So there were two children born at either end of the same year.

We began to suspect that the birth certificate of the child listed as John Mark O’Connor was incorrect, but it wasn’t until I wrote to the parish secretary of the church in which the children were baptised that we were able to confirm that the child born on 15 December, 1890 was indeed Edith Alice O’Connor.  What I image occurred was that when the father, John Mark O’Connor, went in to register the birth of his daughter and was asked, “Name”, John had replied, “John Mark O’Connor’ believing the registrar/priest was asking for his name and not the child of his child.

Ladies, image obtaining a copy of your birth certificate to find it recorded your father’s name instead.

My sister purchased the death certificate of Edith Alice to see if she did, “fall out of a Jig” as our father had told us to find that it was from a “motor car” that she fell.  How this occurred I doubt we will know.

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Finding Michael Sinnott

I have asked my sister to write the following article about her great detective work in finding out what happened to Michael Sinnott, who was said to have changed his name to avoid the law.

“Rediscovering someone who’d changed his name.

In 2007 I decided to put my research on my Sinnott ancestry into book form.

One of the members of this tree was Michael Sinnott who was born in 1880 at Yambuk, the son of Michael and Catherine Sinnott.

I knew from another genealogist relative that Michael had committed a crime, changed his name and ended up in Batlow, New South Wales.  I had previously made random searches for Michael (also Michael Clifford) – with no luck, but as I was about to do a book I was determined to find out more about him.

So I recontacted my relative “S” to find out what she knew about Michael and she sent me an email with some more information that her cousin “K” had given her.

“K’s” uncle was a solicitor and had tracked down Michael as part of settling an old will.  So I now had Michael’s alias of Jack Clifford, plus another name, that of Mrs. Cobden and an address in Wagga Wagga.

To find out more about how the names Cobden and Clifford were connected I searched electoral roll records on Ancestry (at this stage only the years 1930 and 1936/7 were available in NSW).  I found both the Clifford family and Mrs Cobden at the address I was given and also noted a previous address for them.  I searched the New South Wales online marriage indexes and found a Pearl Clifford marrying a Cobden so I ordered this certificate.

Then it was about a 2 week wait for the certificate to arrive in the post.  Pearl’s birthplace was given as Goyura, Victoria and her parent’s names were included on the marriage certificate.

With this information I was able to do a search of my Victorian Birth, Death and Marriages indexes, which turned up a marriage for John Clifford and his wife and also births for their seven children.

I purchased the Victorian marriage certificate online and downloaded it.  I found that John had given false names for his parents as well as an incorrect birthplace and incorrect age.  Going by the marriage certificate alone was not going to confirm that John and Michael were the same person.

At a later date “K” sent me a copy of the Indenture from 1941, that had Jack Clifford signing his name as Michael Sinnott and admitting he was a son of Michael and Catherine Sinnott of Yambuk.

I started searching for living descendants of John Clifford, I gathered information from electoral rolls, BDM indexes and certificates and cross referenced telephone number listings to get names to write letters to.  After this I sent off several letters which included a picture of a young Michael Sinnott and the facts that led me to the conclusion that Michael Sinnott and Jack Clifford were the same person.

I was grateful to receive a phone call from the wife of one of Jack’s grandsons and further communications ensued.  The family was surprised to learn about Jack’s real identity and wondered if they were still Cliffords? or should they now be Sinnotts?

With the further sharing of information I was then able to fill in a fuller picture of the life of Jack Clifford/Michael Sinnott.  Family descendants were able to learn Jack’s real ancestry where previously they’d only found a dead end. ”  Copyright.

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