Is this the largest family in Victoria?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A number of years ago during my decoupage class I was talking with a fellow ‘cut and paster’ about my other hobby of genealogy; how I had 54 first cousins, to which she replied that her father was one of 35 children.

“All to the same mother?” I asked astounded.  “Yes”, was the reply.  “Were there a number of multiple births within the family? My stumbling mind tried to grasp the facts.  She replied, “No, but her grandmother began having her children at 15 years of age.”  A quick calculation 15 plus 35 equals 50 – that is if a child is born every single year, but if a year was missed the mother would have likely to have been older than 50 when her child bearing was over.

My classmate went on to speak with her friends and I did not get a chance to question her further about her father’s remarkably large family.  Was this the largest family in Victoria?  Were they even born in Australia – I do not know, but I have never heard of such a large family before.  The largest families in my own tree maximized at 16 children.

Does anyone else have tales of remarkably large families to the one couple?

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Which Patrick Leddin was Timothy Leddin’s brother ?

The following article has been submitted by my sister.


Which Patrick Leddin was Timothy Leddin’s brother ?

My 3 x great grandfather is Patrick Leddin of Co. Limerick, Ireland; he would have been born approximately 1780.  Patrick had married Margaret Gleeson born 1782, their son William was born about 1809/10.  William married and had 9 children, they migrated to Victoria, Australia in 1857, 2 daughters had migrated in 1855. 

Timothy Leddin born about 1792 Co. Limerick, Ireland married Mary Judith Murphy, some descendants of their son William Leddin and wife Mary Meagher/Maher, (and their son, William Leddin and his wives Catherine Doherty and Hannah Irwin) migrated to Chicago, Illinois, USA and also New York.

Descendants from Timothy’s line started corresponding with descendants from Patrick’s line, as these two branches originated from the same region in Ireland.  A descendant of Timothy’s thought that Timothy had a brother named Patrick.  I wasn’t that convinced that my Patrick was that person, as he would have been about 18 years older than Timothy (1792).  However I feel sure that there is a relationship of some sort between the two.

Owing to the availability of more online records in recent years I’ve been doing more research into this matter.  Being aware that records from Ireland are very patchy and not very reliable as to accuracy, I have however been able to piece together a bit of information.  First of all, I looked into the online indexes of all marriages and baptisms from Counties Limerick and Tipperary, Ireland for the name Leddin (plus spelling variations).  I found a few Patrick Leddins in about the correct search range, of particular interest was Patrick Leddin who married Honora Hourigan.  There were baptism records for 3 sons ie Patrick 1830, William 1832 and Timothy 1834 at Hospital, Co. Limerick.  Patrick and Honora’s marriage year was recorded as 1836, but maybe this was mistakenly recorded due to poor records. There were also baptisms for William (1837), Edmond (1839), James (1841), and Honora (1843) whose parents I hadn’t established, but could have been children of Patrick and Honora.

Recently I found that this couple had migrated to Chicago.  I also came across the following brief newspaper articles.

18 May 1863 – Cork Examiner – Cork, Cork, Republic of Ireland

“THREE-YEAR-OLDS” LEFT FOR AMERICA. Patt Leddin, who with an activity and an energy peculiarly Irish, brandished at fair and market the “cloghalpeen,” with family consisting of ten persons, has left for America. Leddin, brave, powerful athletic man, had four sons …

19 May 1863 – Freeman’s Journal – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

… peculiarly Irish brandished at fair and market the “clughalpeen,” with a family consisting of ten persons, has left for America. Leddin, a brave, powerful, athletic man, had four sons who equalled himself, and who in every respect imitated the father ID fight …

So now I knew that Patrick and his family had migrated in 1863, I found that the following family members had migrated to New York: Patrick (1801) and Honora (1813) and children Bridget (1833), Patrick (1836), William (1838), Timothy (1840), Johanna (1842), Catherine (1844), James (1846), Honora (1848) and Mary (1850).

These birth years are approximate from ages listed on the shipping record, they don’t all match the baptism years, but again this may be due to poor/illegible records.

The family soon went to Chicago and I found that the following children had married – Timothy to Margaret Madden, Catherine to Patrick Quinlan, James to Frances Hayes and Mary to John Ambrose. William and Honora appear to have remained unmarried.

The names Patrick and Timothy are repeated down the generations in this line, whereas in my Patrick Leddin branch, the name Timothy doesn’t appear once.

It would seem feasible that the descendants of Timothy Leddin (1792) would go to Chicago where there were relation already living, or had been living.

So it is my opinion that the Patrick Leddin (1801) who married Honora Hourigan and Timothy Leddin (1792) who married Mary Judith Murphy are siblings and not the Patrick Leddin (1780) who married Margaret Gleeson.

There was also a Patrick Leddin who married Johanna Cusack in 1810 and a Timothy Leddin who married Bridget Gorman in 1817. 

So randomly selecting two families and putting them together without evidence to support it is not a good genealogical practise. 

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Emily Patience

There is a George Pye in a distant branch of my Pye tree who married Emily Patience Lawton in 1897.  No father’s name was listed for Emily and therefore I assumed that she was illegitimate.

I had not found a birth record for Emily Patience Lawton, but did not really worry as this was not connected to a close relation.  Yesterday I was scrolling through StaffordshireBMD, because they are listing more of the mothers’ maiden names on their birth indexes.  For George and Emily’s first two children, the mother’s maiden name was listed as Cooper.  I had expected to see Lawton.

Today I looked at Ancestry to see if Emily Patience’s birth was listed under Emily Patience Cooper rather than Lawton.  There wasn’t, but there was a baptism for Emily Patience Jones in the correct year of birth, to parents George and Frances Anne Jones.  Now I had a third surname!!  I thought perhaps George died and Frances Ann Jones had married again.

Looking at the 1881 census I found an Emily P Cooper aged 6 years, with mother Frances A Cooper 26 years and her husband Henry Cooper 26 years.  There were two sons as well, Thomas H Cooper 2 years and Frederick J Cooper 1 year.

I found a marriage of Frances Ann Farmer Jones to Henry Cooper in 1877.  Frances was listed as the daughter of John Jones.  Her marital status was ‘spinster’.  So Frances had invented a husband for the baptism of her daughter.  I found a baptism for Frances which gave her parents as Maria and John Jones.  On the 1891 census, 17 year old Emily Cooper was listed as the granddaughter of Maria Hill (Emily was with Frances’s mother, who appeared to have remarried).

From this information I still could not be certain that this was Emily Patience Lawton who married George Pye.  But one thing that had caught my eye was the name of Emily’s half-brother, Frederick J Cooper.  It seemed familiar to me, therefore I looked at my census transcription charts and saw on the 1901 census a Frederick J Cooper, 21 years, listed as a ‘boarder’ with the family of Emily P. Pye, her husband George and their two sons.

This confirmed it.  Emily Patience was born Jones, took the name Cooper when her mother married her step-father.  But it did not explain why Emily married under the surname Lawton.  Perhaps she discovered her wayward father’s surname and used it when she married, but used the surname Cooper when registering her children’s birth as it was the name she grew up with.

An interesting day’s research with a number of unexpected turns.

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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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