Saturday, 6 December 2014

The mysterious Mrs. Michael Fitzhenry and her 13 children

Occasionally a search result makes you sit back and think "That's amazing, how haven't I known about this person before?"

From the Lake Placid News (New York State, USA) 18 October 1929, page 5.



Perhaps it's because that person might not actually exist...
East Dedham, England certainly doesn't exist. There is a small village in England called simply Dedham (on the Essex and Suffolk border) but historically there were no Fitzhenrys there at any time.
East Dedham, Massachusetts (named after the little village in England) has a handsome population of Fitzhenrys. 
However I can't believe I had missed a Fitzhenry couple with such a spectacular child rearing career.

"Mrs. Michael" would have been born in 1888 or 1889 to be spoken of being 40 years old in the present tense in 1929.
To squeeze in 13 children AND to have had several of them old enough to have children of their own, she would have had to start in her teens. 

My all time record holders Enoch Fitzhenry and his wife Abigail Hartt had 16 children (no twins). Abigail was pregnant with her first child aged 16 and had her last at 43.

So I thought I was looking for a woman who married a Michael Fitzhenry between 1905 and 1910.

The only Michael Fitzhenry I could find in the database who came close to this number of children (and only managed a measly 12 children) was my own great great great grandfather Michael and his wife Sarah Phillips in the East End of London, but that was back in the 1830s.

Of the East Dedham Fitzhenrys, there was a Michael who married Catherine Bishop who was born in New Brunswick in 1888. But they didn't marry until 1920 and only had 7 children in total.

So I thought this woman would remain a mystery... or maybe just the figment of a slow news day and a column inch to fill, until I turned around the family tree to look at it from Catherine's point of view.

She had been married to a William Fleming in 1904 aged 16. She then had 7 children with him from 1905 to 1918. 
So although the newspaper article was almost correct - there were 14 children rather than 13! - only half of them were born as Fitzhenrys.

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Sunday, 15 June 2014

1966 and All That ...

Some of the best stories in family history are passed down from person to person... until the chain breaks and then if it isn't written down somewhere, the story is lost.
As it's Fathers' Day and there seems to be some football on in Brazil, it gives me the perfect excuse to tell the tale of "My Dad and the World Cup Tickets".

Dad was a Spurs fan. But he would watch any football going really, so when someone offered him two tickets to the World Cup at Wembley in 1966, there was no way he was going to refuse them. These weren't just any old tickets either - they were books of tickets which got you into each of the ten matches played at Wembley during the competition - including the Final. He paid £60 for the pair. *

Mum was not pleased. This was the equivalent of over 3 months mortgage payments and more than Dad earned in a month as an engineer. They had a baby (me) and another on the way. 

Dad sold the two Final tickets for the same £60 he had paid for the whole book of tickets. And yes, he did go to all of the other matches. And yes, he did cry when England beat Portugal in the semi-finals (the Portuguese family he was sitting next to were crying for other reasons).


Dad bought me a World Cup Willy mascot who I kept through childhood when lots of toys fell by the wayside, followed me to college and then everywhere I've lived since. He still looks marvellous even if he does leak sawdust every so often. Nearly fifty years on, World Cup Willy is still waiting for another England win.

* Dad himself paid way over the odds for the tickets, as the match tickets sold singly cost 7 shillings and 6 pence, with tickets to the Final costing 10 shillings standing going up to £3 15 shillings for the best seats)




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Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Spin Like a Fitz!

Out intrepid FitzHenry family from Sidmouth (Devon, England), not content with swimming the English Channel, are now embarking on another challenge. 

They are going to cycle from Berlin to Paris in six days - 1566 miles which is a mile for every day the First World War lasted.
They are undertaking this feat to raise money for 3 very worthwhile charities:
  • Help for Heroes
  • The Soldiers' Charity
  • The Royal British Legion
Their fundraising website is here. Please visit it, leave a message of support and make a donation.
FitzHenrys of Sidmouth, we salute you!



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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Miss FitzHenry the gallant governess - but who was she?


A new newspaper database has gone online from the National Library of Wales. Although the papers are mainly from Wales (and some are in Welsh), provincial papers often did what we would now call "retweeting", and filled up column inches with stories they had harvested from other publications. So even if you ancestors weren't Welsh, their exploits from the rest of the UK and even abroad may be featured in these newspapers. The website is searchable by keyword and even better, it's free.
Thank you National Library of Wales

So, naturally I put in the keyword "Fitzhenry" and was very surprised when this article turned up at the top of the list. It's from "The Weekly Mail" (which was published in Cardiff and circulated throughout Wales and into the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and Somerset) and dated 21 Aug 1897


Hats off to Miss FitzHenry, but I've no idea who she was!
This are the clues I'm working from. 
She is stated as English (rather than Irish) which narrows it down a bit. 
She would have to be educated to be a governess (rather than just a nanny) and have conversational French.
She is described as young, but I'm assuming that she would be at least 18 years of age to be out in the world, and perhaps less than 30. If so, this puts her birthdate between 1867 and 1879.
She is unmarried.

Saint Aubin-sur-Mer is on that curve of the northern French coast between Cherberg and Le Harve and. It would be a nice place for a summer holiday if you were a French family from Paris, which evidently Prof. Ernest Minault and his family were, as the Lycee Victor Hugo is in Pari.
What do we know about Prof Minault? 
Again very little. From Ancestry's "Paris and Vicinity, France Electoral Rolls, 1891" collection, he was born in Saint Sauvant in the Department of Vienne on 26 April 1861 and lived at 9 Rue Vintimille. Madame Minault was not listed as French women did not have the vote at this time.

I have one strong contender, Henrietta Fitz-Henry, the daughter of Captain William Fitz-Henry of Winchester and Ashtead.
On the English censuses, she is always a teacher.
She is not present in the 1891 census, but returned to London for the 1901 census.
She was born in St Peters, Jersey, which is a French speaking island.
She was single.
She had to make her own way in life, as her father left her nothing in his will.

Ideas anyone?

Stop Press: this is the actual article from "Le Temps" (Paris) from 17 August 1897. Apart from telling us that Miss FitzHenry threw herself into the sea fully clothed (I bet those Victorian dresses weighed a ton when wet!), there is no more to identify her.
The clipping is from the excellent French newspaper site Gallica from the National Library of France.


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Monday, 9 December 2013

In memoriam: Thomas James Fitz-Henry 1933-2013

My lovely Dad, Tom Fitz-Henry, the man who inspired me to start researching our family tree properly, died peacefully at home yesterday morning 8th December.

Tom was the eldest child of Henry and Dora Fitz-Henry, born shortly after they had moved out of the East End slums into the shiny new housing estate that was Dagenham. Tom's younger sister Pat was born 3 years later. Luckily Pat met a girl called Maureen Quinlan at school and they became best friends - lucky because Tom fell in love with her and they married after he returned from his stint in the Army on National Service.

Tom and Maureen had 3 children: me, Tim (1966-2006) and Ruth. We had a brilliantly happy childhood encouraged by energetic, intelligent and sometimes plain bonkers parents. Dad would think nothing of packing us all in our little camper van to drive 30 miles to have fish and chips on the seafront at Whitstable just because he fancied it. We were involved in Labour party politics from an early age, and our parents views on social justice shaped our lives.

Both Tom and Maureen went to college in their forties. Maureen gained an BSc Hons and became at political secretary working at the House of Commons for a succession of Labour MPs, a job she loved. Tom switched from a successful career as a consulting heating and ventilating engineer (one of his projects was the refurbishment of the Ritz Hotel in London in the 1970s) to retraining as an osteopath. He qualified with the top prize on Rheumatology for his year. He set up in Barking and treated literally thousands of patients over his 26 years in practice, many of who became good friends. He only retired on his 79th birthday when the physical work just got too much for him.

In 2002 his world came crashing down around his ears when Maureen died at the young age of 66. Four years later, his son Tim also died suddenly. After these two tragedies the light and laughter went out of his life. In his last year he became frail, but a group of fantastic personal assistants (a big thank you especially to Dawn and Sue) looked after him wonderfully, enabling him to stay independent in his own home.

He would always ask whether I had found any other Fitz-Henrys that we were related to, and followed the results of the new participants in the DNA study with interest.

Ruth and I will miss him terribly. We will remember his spur of the moment plans and his big laugh. We will remember that Tom and Mo pushed us to achieve more than we could ever think possible.

Tom's funeral will be held at the South Essex Crematorium, Corbets Tey, Upminster at 2pm on Wednesday 18th December. It will be a celebration of his life.

If you knew Tom and wish to tell how me he touched your life then please leave a comment below or you can send me an email

Monday, 18 November 2013

Pre-Christmas reduction in FamilyTreeDNA testing prices

I'm indebted to Gordon Adshead of the Adshead one name study for alerting me to FamilyTreeDNA's regular pre-Christmas testing price reduction.

We have had our Fitzhenry/Fitzharris DNA study with FamilyTreeDNA since 2008 and now have 23 completed tests with another one in the pipeline.

Why is DNA testing important to the Fitzhenry / Fitzharris surname study? Click here and here to find out!

Gordon writes:
I see that FTDNA have come up with their regular price reduction before Christmas
and a 37 Marker Kit is reduced from $149 to $119
At current exchange rates this is a reduction from £93 to £74
 

I note that the price of a 37 to 67 marker upgrade has been reduced from $99 to $79 ( from £61 to £49 which is 20%)

For those who have already been tested at 37 markers, this is a good opportunity to increase the power and sensitivity of your test at a reduced price.

The Christmas sale usually continues until 31 December. I will update you if it is going to end earlier.


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Sunday, 3 November 2013

In Memoriam: Mary "Mamie" McGrath (née Fitzhenry) 1924-2013

We were saddened to hear of the death of Mamie McGrath on 28 October though a message from her family

Mary Theresa was the fourth child of seven born to John and Mary Fitzhenry of Drimsnave, Co. Galway.
Theirs was a farming upbringing but all the children were educated at the local National School. Mamie continued her education and trained as a cook, working in the household of Senator J.E.McEllin along with her sister Nora.
While working for the Morrin family in Co.Mayo, Mamie met Michael McGrath, who she married at the age of 22 in her local church at Cornamona. They ran a farm and in 1963 bought what is now McGrath's quarry in Cong, Co. Mayo. Fifty years later that quarry is still in the McGrath family and still going strong.

Mamie and Michael had 10 children, but sadly Michael died at the young age of 49 in 1970, leaving Mamie to raise a family, look after the farm and manage the quarry, which her sons took over after a few years.
She was always active with her cooking, family, travelling; founding the Neale Ladies GAA club was amongst her achievements.

Mamie was guest of honour at the grand dinner during the Fitzhenry gathering in Cong and Cornamona this August. At that event, it was calculated that with 10 children, 32 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren Mamie and Michael had contributed to nearly half of the 180 descendants of John and Mary Fitzhenry!

She will be sadly missed by her family and by the local community


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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Legacies of British Slave Ownership project

Yesterday, the University of Central London in England unveiled the results of a mighty project  - The Legacies of British Slave Ownership. The website is an amazing piece of work and well worth a look. The Encyclopedia of British Slave Ownership is part of the project

Slave owners could apply for compensation for loss of their "assets" when slavery was finally abolished in the British West Indies in 1833. The encyclopedia is made up from the applications to the Slave Compensation Commission from anyone who owned slaves (from a single slave to hundreds). Twenty million pounds was allocated by the British Government, all of which went to the owners rather than to the slaves themselves. The "freed" slaves were often tied to their former masters as indentured servants or "apprentices" for a period of years until they obtained their full freedom.

In the online search for the UCL website, I have found a William Fitzhenry, who owned 3 slaves in the parish Port Royal, Jamaica. He was awarded £63 16s 1d, and this claim was uncontested.
At present I know nothing more about this man, or the slaves.

I am indebted to Mr Ernest Wiltshire who has transcribed information from this book:

"The West Indies in 1837; being the Journal of a Visit to Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, and Jamaica; undertaken for the purpose of ascertaining the actual condition of the negro population of those islands" by Joseph Sturge & Thomas Harvey, London, Hamilton, Adams & Co. 1838. 

and posted it on this webpage. At the bottom of the page, is an entry for the parish St Thomas in the East, where Sir Henry Fitzhenry owned an estate named Grange Hill near Manchineal Bay. It suggests that there were at least 2 apprentices on the estate (4 years after slavery was abolished), a James Purton and a Louisa Burton, a cotton picker.

If anyone has any more information about William and Henry Fitzhenry (were they related?), please drop me an email here at the blog.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

In memoriam: Evelyn Fitzhenry of Fleet, Hampshire

We send our sympathies to Jim Fitzhenry of Fleet in Hampshire, an old friend of the Blog, on the recent death of his dear wife Evelyn. Jim and Evelyn were married in South Africa 62 years ago, and returned to England 14 years ago. Their daughter Helen and her family still live in South Africa.

Jim would also like to thank the staff of the nursing home who took such good care of Evelyn in her last years.


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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Fitzhenry family from County Mayo

After the publication of my article on the Ancestry blog, I was dead chuffed to get an email from Peter Fitzhenry who lives in Somerset, but whose family came originally from County Mayo via Wigan and Staffordshire. 

I already had Peter's family in the database as family group number 73, and was delighted when he then volunteered to participate in the Fitzhenry/Fitzharris DNA study.*

Although we haven't positively identified the family back in Ireland, we know that they came from "County Mayho" from their entry in the 1881 census when James Fitzhenry (aged 33, a coalminer) and his wife Bridget (aged 32) were living at 9 Walsh's Yard, Scholes Street, Wigan. 
They had 7 children that we know of Martin (born 1870) Bridget  (1873), James (1875), Mary Ellen (1876), Edward (1878), Thomas (1880) and Joseph (1882).
There may also be an eighth child, a daughter called May. In the 1881 census she is listed as May Kenny, daughter, aged 19, married, cotton operative. However May does not appear with James and Bridget in the 1871 census, and May's age in 1881 would mean that Bridget was only 13 when May was born. I suspect May was a boarder and the census enumerator mistook the word "boarder" for "daughter".

Peter would be delighted to hear from anyone descended from this family, and you can send him an email through the Blog.

* Peter's is the third DNA test we have done over this winter. We would also like to welcome Jim Fitzharris from County Carlow (our first Fitzharris man to test!) and another Peter Fitzhenry from Australia, who is a descendent of Lesley Champion's Fitzhenry family. We welcome all of them, and are looking forward to the results over the next couple of months.

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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Fitzhenry surname article for the Ancestry blog

Some while back, I wrote an article for the Ancestry.co.uk blog, describing the derivation and migration of the surname Fitzhenry, Fitzharris and Fitzsenry.

Today it was published as part of Ancestry's "What's in a name?" series, which has also included the surnames Cumberbatch, Braund, Owston and Hardisty to name a few.

Ancestry are the sponsors of the "Who Do You Think You Are? Live" exhibition at Olympia in London from 22-24 February, and I will be attending all three days. So if any regular (or occasional) readers are in the vicinity, drop me an email.

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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Last call for the FamilyTreeDNA sale prices

Just a quick reminder that if you now have Christmas present money burning a hole in your pocket, the FamilyTreeDNA price reduction finishes on 31st December.
So if you are a Fitzhenry or Fitzharris or Fitzsenry, now is the time to get ordering your festive DNA test to see where you fit into the great Fitz family.

The price of a 37-marker is currently US$119 through the Fitzhenry surname study. 

Only 5 more days to go...

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FamilySearch Indexing - New Year's resolutions and forums

FamilySearch.org is a great resource for we genealogy researchers. And many of those who use the resources at FamilySearch make some repayment by joining the legion of indexers, making more genealogical information available to everyone.
Try your hand at indexing sometime, it's extremely satisfying.
You don't have to be a member of the Church of the LDS to do it
You could even make it a New Year's resolution.


Up until now, all those indexers had a place where they could turn to for help and advice from other indexers. It was well hidden deep within the layers of the FamilySearch website, but it was there, and I for one found it very useful.

Very quietly, FamilySearch have whispered that they are closing down the forums. 
As from 31st December. 
Many thanks to the Ancestry Insider who published it on his blog.
Familysearch haven't really put anything new in place which will be up and running by the time the forums are switched off apart from a Facebook option, but thankfully a senior indexer called April already has started up a replacement forum which can be found here.

So if you have tried indexing, and need a little help, try April's forum.

And the Fitzhenry / Fitzharris blog wishes you all a Happy New Year, and promises to be a bit more prolific next year...

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget - Private Edward Fitzhenry of the Worcestershire Regiment

Private Edward Fitzhenry 10285 of the 4th Battalion of the Worcester Regiment died 28 April 1915 at Gallipoli and is commemorated at the Helles Memorial, Turkey

Edward was the second child born to Edward Miles Fitzhenry and Maud Mary Dallaway in 1889 in the Aston area of Birmingham. He had an older sister Maud Matilda, and a younger brother William Dallaway. 

Edward Miles died in early 1891, around the time his youngest son was born, and Maud found herself as a 24 year old widow with three children under four years old to support. The family initially moved in with Maud's mother and her extended family in Old Cross Street, Birmingham [1891 census], but in 1893 Maud married again to Frederick Robson, a carter for the City corporation and they had two more children Ethel and Frank. In the 1901 census, the whole family was living back in Aston.

Unfortunately Edward's military records have been lost, but we do know that at some time between 1905 and 1911 Edward joined the British Army, as in 1911, the census showed that he was stationed with his regiment, the 4th Worcestershire in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India. [Wikipedia] The census return states he was aged 22, single and born in Birmingham Warwickshire. 
Back home, his siblings were still living all together in a house in Kings Norton, Worcester, along with a Dallaway cousin and all the men were in the bicycle manufacturing trade.

I'm indebted to the excellent website of the Worcestershire Regiment for the story of what happened next. Click here for a fuller account.
The 4th Worcestershire regiment transferred to Burma in 1912, and in early 1915 was summoned back to England to regroup for the battles now taking place in France. The regiment billeted at Leamington Spa, so it was very likely that Edward was able to see his family again after several years. Along with several other regiments, the 4th Worcestershire became part of the 29th Division which was sent out to support the operations in progress in the Dardanelles.
"Thousands of the civil population turned out to see the troops off and "a whole army of relations from Birmingham" came down to Leamington to bid the 4th Battalion Worcestershire farewell. In three trains (9.0 p.m., March 21st. 1.0 a.m. and 4.30 a.m., March 22nd) the Worcestershire companies left Leamington..."
Perhaps Edward's brothers and sisters were in the crowds.
The 29th Division was transported by sea via Malta and Alexandra to the Aegean Islands where they learned that their enterprise was to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Gallipoli Campaign took place between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916 by which time it had degenerated into trench warfare. Many hundreds of Allied soldiers were killed landing on the beaches in the first day.

On the 28th April, the third day of the campaign, the 4th Worcestershires were part of the advance inland on the slopes of Achi Baba in the driving rain. Edward was killed in this offensive. He was 26 years old. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. A moving contemporary account of the campaign written by Private Ben Ward can also be found on the Worcestershire Regiment's website.


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Sunday, 14 October 2012

DNA study update - related Fitzhenry families in Maum and Cornamona, County Galway

Within the past few days we have had the very exciting news that two of the Fitzhenry families originating in County Galway are related. The geographical origins are only 11 miles (18 km) apart but as parish records failed to show a connection, up to now we could only speculate.

Once again DNA testing has shown that there is a link between these families going through the male line. Analysis of the Y chromosome which is passed from father to son, has shown that a male descendent from each family share a very close DNA pattern with only 1 difference out of the 37 DNA markers tested.

So let's have a look at these two families, and perhaps someone out there will recognise a pattern from their Fitzhenry family and send in some more information. Our knowledge is hampered by these families not always registering their births, marriages and deaths with the authorities in Ireland!

The family of Edward (or Edmund) Fitzhenry of Maam (or Maum) 
This is the more westerly of the two families. The mountains out here are beautiful but bleak. The farming life must have been very hard. Thanks to the family history information provided by Frank Fitzhenry and Lenard Baldy.
The earliest known male ancestor was Edward Fitzhenry (b 1830) who married Catherine Shaughanessy. In the Griffith's valuations of 1855 he is known as Edmund and is renting land in Maum East from the Earls of Leitrim and Charlesmont.

Edmund had at least 2 children, Mary born 1859, and William (1856 - 1915) who married Bridget Lydon (1869-1953). William and Bridget had at least 11 children:
Patrick ( b and d 1885)
Mary  (b 1886) emigrated to Pittsburgh, married John Coyne
Bridget (1890 - 1971) emigrated to Pittsburgh, married Anthony Coyne
Martin (1892 - 1973) stayed in Maum on the farm, did not marry
Thomas (1893 - 1906)
Stephen (1895 - 1968) emigrated to Pittsburg, married Bridget
Sabina (1898 - 1995) emigrated to Pittsburgh, married James O'Donnell
John (1900 - 1982) emigrated to England, married Ethel Johnson
Edward (1902 - 1957) emigrated to Pittsburgh, married Nora Staunton
William Joseph (1904 - 1985) emigrated to Pittsburgh, married Bridget Joyce
Myles (1906 - 1989) emigrated to Pittsburgh, married Helen Theresa Lally and died in Fort Lauderdale

As far as I can tell, all the surviving descendents of William Fitzhenry and Bridget Lydon now live in the US.
The family of Thomas Fitzhenry of Cornamona
Cornamona is 11 miles east of Maum down the only winding road around the base of the mountains. I am indebted to the research done by Jim McDonough for most of this tree.

Thomas Fitzhenry (1776-1846) married Margaret Joyce (1790-1870) and they had at least 2 sons. We only know the name of one from Jim McDonough's research: Thomas (1808-1873) who married Caitlin Joyce and had at least one child that we know of, again called Thomas.
This Thomas (1841-1933) married Honora (Nora) Burke and had 8 recorded children 
Mary (1875-1879)
Bridget (b 1873) who emigrated to Boston, Mass., and married Patrick McDonough
Myles (1875-1879)
Catherine (b and d 1879)
John (1882-1956) who married Mary Conroy
Catherine (b 1883)
William (b 1885) emigrated to Montana and was living there unmarried at the 1940 census
Patrick Joseph (b 1887) emigrated to New York and married Evelyn Stone.

The other unknown son of the original Thomas Fitzhenry may have been called Patrick or John, as these are are the two male Fitzhenry tenants in Cornamona in the Griffith's valuations. The son with the unknown name had a son Martin Fitzhenry (1849-1944) who married Mary Welch and had  5 known children:
Catherine (b 1883 and still alive at the 1901 census of Ireland)
Mary (b 1886) emigrated to Boston Mass.
Bridget (1888-1911) died in Cornamona
Patrick (1890 - 1981) went to the US for a spell, fought in WW1 in the US army, came home to Ireland and had  a large family. He is buried in the Rosshill cemetery in Clonbur in the family grave but with an additional US army headstone.
John (b1893 and still living with his widowed father Martin in the 1911 census)

Now we have other Fitzhenry branches which came originally from County Galway, and it would be great to know if they are linked to these two families. More about these other Galway Fitzhenry families in the next post.

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Sunday, 12 August 2012

The 2012 London Olympic Games - how was it for you?

From a British perspective, it was bloody brilliant. As much as I was in the "Bah humbug" camp of naysayers originally, I enjoyed it immensely, especially the cycling.

Fitzhenrys and Fitzharrises of any spelling haven't appeared the the Olympic games.

However, we do have Mount Fitzhenry in the Olympic Range in Clallam County, Washington State. And that has to be worth a medal!

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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Congratulations to Kristen Fitzhenry, award winner at UCSF

Congratulations to Kristen Fitzhenry of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine Dean’s Office. She was a 2012 Sustainability Award Winner in the staff category. 
You can read more about Kristens award here.


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Monday, 9 July 2012

Update on the DNA study.. and the FamilyTreeDNA summer price reduction

 It's been a while since I updated you on the progress of the DNA study, so here goes....


You may find it helpful to have the chart with all the results open in another tab, and here's the link:
http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Fitz-Henry/default.aspx?section=yresults


The study has been going for 4 years now, and we have had 14 men join it. Last year (2011) was our best year with 5 project joins, and we have had 2 joins in 2012 so far.


Here's the science...
The process tests the Y chromosome, which only men have, and the Y chromosome passes from father to son with the father's surname. The Y chromosome doesn't change ("mutate") very often which makes it ideal for studying its inheritance over a very long time  - many centuries.


The tests look at specific parts of the chromosome (markers) which have a tendency to show a repeat pattern. The number of pattern repeats are counted which gives the numbers that you see in the results chart. So when someone has a number 13 in the first column (all our men do) then it means that they have 13 repeats of the DNA pattern at a certain point. In our study we ask for 37 places on the Y chromosome to be tested. The more individual places which match up on different men's Y chromosomes, the more likely they are to be related. However we also know that over the centuries, the DNA changes slightly so this is when we see differences when we know people are related. More on that below.

The tests carried out on the Y chromosome are done in 3 batches or "panels".
The first 12 markers tested mutate very slowly indeed, so it gives a general feel that two men's distant common ancestor had been many centuries before. A perfect match of 12 can be encouraging but we have had 2 occasions where we have had a perfect match in the first 12, and then many mismatches in the rest of the markers, which show no calculated link for the last 24 generations, or the era when surnames were used in a familial way.
The next batch of markers 13-25 mutate more readily than the first 12, so this starts to show whether there really is a link between the two men tested.
The third batch 26-37 markers mutate more readily still and this can be useful to show who is a member of a particular family line of the same surname in near history (the last few hundred years!).


The most tested family we have is that of Enoch Fitzhenry (1752-1835). His descendants have been remarkably well documented due to a combination of well kept records in their family bibles and enthusiastic family historians in their family (a nod to Mrs Josephine Hodges here who did a lot of sterling work in the pre-computer age and who has been a friend to the Fitzhenry study since its start).
We have 3 men tested from Enoch's line which you can see together in the chart. Each one represents a line from a different one of Enoch's sons. Over the past 250 years mutations have crept in, even in the slowly changing first 12 markers. 
The sample from individual known as 230345 has a 12 in the fourth column where the other two descendants have an 11. However, overall the results do not differ by more than 2 markers out of the 37 marker total, and so this means that indeed we can say that all these men are true descendants of Enoch.
There is also a fourth test in this group, which comes from the family of John Fitzhenry (born 1800) of Oulartwick, County Wexford. This family is now in Australia, but has a very good paper trail back to this one townland. The DNA tests match 36 out of 37 markers with Enoch descendant 130259. 
We know that there has been no common ancestor between these 2 lines since before 1752, so to only have one marker difference over this timespan indicates a very close link between the two families, with perhaps a common ancestor only the generation or two before Enoch. We can also say with a fair degree of certainty that Enoch's family came from this east part of the county near Enniscorthy.

So far we have had no other close matches between any of the other men tested who are all from trees that so far we have been unable to connect in any other way. This indicates that there was more than one man who originally took the surname Fitzhenry and passed it on to his descendants. Or it may indicate somewhere in the tree what we genetic genealogists delicately call a "non-paternity event" (NPE). 
An NPE may happen covertly when a child is born of an affair out of wedlock, but it is not acknowledged either to the husband or outside of the family if he knows.
Or it may be very apparent that the child is not the son of the man from who he takes his name. This happens with:
  • adoptees; 
  • when a widow has married again and the children from her first marriage take the name (but obviously not the DNA!) of the new husband; 
  • when the child is given the mother's surname;
  • when a man has changed his surname in adult life, either to inherit a fortune or escape the long arm of the law.

  • If you are a Fitzhenry, Fitzsenry or even Fitzharris (a variant of the Fitzhenry name in Wexford) man and you are interested in finding out about your deeper family connections, please consider taking the DNA test. 
    Now is a good time to do it, as FamilyTreeDNA who host our study are having another summer sale, so the 37 marker test is now US$129 ($20 off) until 15th July. And if you have any questions or comments, please add them below or drop me an email at the usual address.

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    Monday, 25 June 2012

    Bomber Command Memorial unveiled in Green Park, London 28 June 2012

    This Thursday the Queen will unveil a long overdue memorial to more than 55 thousand members of Bomber Command who lost their lives in the Second World War. The new memorial is sited in Green Park in London and more about it can be found here at the Bomber Command website: www.bombercommand.com
    With fantastic photos of the construction of the memorial here:
    www.bombercommandmemorial.co.uk
    A programme about the memorial and unveiling ('Bomber Command: A Tribute') will be screened on BBC2 at 1700h BST on Thursday 28 June, with a repeat at 2320h.

    Stanley Herbert Fitzhenry was born in 1919 in Richmond, Victoria, Australia, the son of Herbert and Helen Fitzhenry. He enlisted for the Royal Australian Air Force in January 1942 aged 22. 

    After training, he came to England and after flying with 156 Squadron, he joined 405 Squadron (Canadian Air Force) in 1944 based at Gransden Lodge airfield, Cambridgeshire. 
     
    At 1545h on 2 January 1945, as one of a crew of 7, his Lancaster bomber took off for the last time from England for a bombing mission over Nuremberg, Germany. The plane crashed at Rohrau near Nufringen.There were only 2 survivors.

    Pilot Officer Stanley Herbert Fitzhenry is buried at Durnbach Cemetery. Posthumously, he was awarded the Permanent Path Finder Force Badge, a high honour in Bomber Command. More about the P.F.F. can be found here
    On Thursday we will remember Stanley Fitzhenry as one of the lost  airmen of Bomber Command. 

    On-line service records and photo from the National Archives of Australia 
    http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ListingReports/ItemsListing.aspx?series=A9300 


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    Sunday, 3 June 2012

    In memoriam: Lindsay Roberts FitzHenry of Oregon

    Teresa FitzHenry Hull has sent us an email to let us know of the recent death of Lindsay Roberts FitzHenry.


    Lindsay was born in Myrtle Point, Oregon in 1940 and he died on 6th May 2012. 
    Teresa says despite his medical problems " he put up a good long fight".


    Our thoughts and sympathies go to his family and friends.
     

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