AN AUSSIE FAMILY YARN – Skeletons and All!

by Jane van Woerkom

with assistance from Johan van Woerkom

3rd Edition 2018-19 The Genesis of ‘AN AUSSIE FAMILY YARN- Skeletons and all!’

This “Family Yarn” records a history of a very modest dynasty, comprising brief accounts, of the authors ancestors and some living descendants. The stories commence with those of the beginnings of ‘modern Australia from 1788’ and it first marriage ceremony for five couples of which the authors ancestors were the only couple to produce children that reached adulthood and thus form the longest continuous line of kin born in Australia from its first marriage ceremony. The beginning of a family that paralleled the beginning of the modern nation-Australia. Recounting, the lives of ordinary, sometimes errant and in the most part, humble people, who mainly came from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and can trace roots to the Iberian Peninsula, has been the pleasurable outcome of this hobby.

Since beginning, this almost lifelong undertaking-a hobby of family history ‘research’ conducted in fits and starts-another wonderful but unintended outcome has occurred. This outcome has been the personal journey of coming to know oneself through the eyes of the others. The author’s enrichment is best summed up in the words of Richard Llewellyn recorded in his 1939, novel: ‘How Green was My Valley’. He writes,

I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me, those who are to come. I looked back and saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front, to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond.

And their eyes were my eyes.

As I felt, so they had felt, and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever. Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning, and no end, and the hand of his father grasped my father’s hand, and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right hand, and all, up and down the line stretched from Time That Was, to Time That Is, and is not yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, had in the Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the eternal Father.

I was one of them, they were of me, and in me, and I in all of them.

This storyline learning of, about, and because of, was gained under the ‘instructive influences of kin. The small kinship group, including the piano playing sing songs from father and paternal grandmother ‘when Irish eyes are smiling’; to the far-fetched stories of the older wiser nanna (maternal grandmother) whose ‘yarns’ spawned part of the title. Her links and references to family members with throw away lines such as “oh he went to Kentucky!” which left me puzzling and searching for years, until I happened upon the information that the Kentucky he went to turned out to be a small rural gold settlement of 1858, northern NSW, not far from Uralla and Armidale Australia!  Nanna’s, YARNS, gained traction and belief with me as I peeled back the layers of family history to discover not one or two but so many of these yarns were the family’s oral history-veritas! It was family folklore, not just an example of old timers fantasizing and misremembering. Her references backed up by those of my mother (her daughter) and my father who repeatedly remarked about ‘DINNY O’BRIEN’S ARMY DISPOSAL SHOP’. Little did I know or understand the significance of these yarns and references to those comments about unknown persons and far flung places in Ireland, Britain and mainland Europe.

 The 1ST Edition

 The purpose of the first edition of the ‘Family Yarn’ was to find the ‘evidence’ for the identity of the names and places and relationships. Pushed along by the urgent desire to have the records laid out and kept as a tree of life for those kin of the future. Further, the first Edition, worked to collect and relate the stories of those family members who rose above criminal conviction and a death sentence to become Chief Constable of the colony of New South Wales; those First Fleeters who were enabled to participate and be part of the instigating group of the first civil law case of the new colony and which lead to the establishment of the RULE OF LAW in the colony of NSW Australia. The ancestors, who as participants in the first marriage ceremony of the colony have their ‘X’ signature maintained in historical records at St Phillips’s Church Sydney. The first edition also includes a recount of connections to a bushranger, a victim of murder and the longest serving Town Clerk of the state of NSW. There are also stories of members of the early teaching service, pioneers of the settlements at the “Cowpastures”, Windsor, Berrima, Murrurundi, Bundarra and Morpeth. As well, there are stories about a successful ship builder, international trader, sealer and a long serving member of the Navigation Department. One ancestor was a resident of the Male Orphan School, as well as the stories of those squatters, farmers and most importantly, of the strong resilient men and women who were our ancestors.

To these people, hardy European ancestors, we express gratitude for the stamina and resilience displayed, while pioneering and taming the fledgling colony according to European ways, while alongside lived a traditional people who long ago learnt to harmonise, in what we today call Australia. Through the tenacious efforts of the ancestors of this Yarn, they have given us what we share in twenty-first century Australia. The first Edition began the collation of not only visual records official records but also the anecdotal stories, records, events, articles, photographs and miscellaneous facts captured in one overview for family to reminisce about, commit to memory and for perpetuity.

The 2nd Edition

The purpose of this edition was to edit and digitalise what had been ‘just put down in print form’ in 2014. Secondly it became an extended prose form of the ‘family bible records’ of the past. The third purpose was to archive the family oral history records as shared by the author’s mother, father both the female maternal and paternal grandparents and sundry others, who just liked to chat and share the yarns. Along with the above goals for the 2nd edition, was the desire to complete an activity which satisfied a personal curiosity to simply identify who the ancestors were that arrived in “Australia; when they arrived in Australia and which places they came from. To put flesh on the bones of those phantoms of the past as stated in the motto of the Fellowship of First Fleeters Australia, ‘to live on the hearts and minds of others is never to die’

The 3rd Edition

In the 3rd edition of THE YARN, has developed, becoming a reviewed, re-edited and extended text document with the Foreword, transformed into a Prologue, the sections delineated more clearly with additional kin and Family Finder features resulting from DNA test results included.

Further to the 2nd and part of the 3rd Editions includes another two descendants born since to this line since 2016-immediate family descendants; a definite death record for Patrick Kennedy (d1859, Kentucky via Uralla via Armidale NSW, Australia) and born in Kilkenny. This death record and other name connected, DNA links have provided and strengthened the evidence of the ‘oral yarn’ of Nanna Flo of direct family links Kennedy (as in JFK- see paper trail records).

Most importantly as a tribute to my McMahon male line immediate family (all deceased) the 3rd Edition, updates the paternal line with its strong Irish connections, exploring the difficult to trace and intriguing links of the McMahon/O’Brien/Kennedy links of Munster, Ireland.

For this purpose, the use of DNA Testing has enabled the Y links for the McMahon O’Brien line to be researched. Tying down this part of story; the escape from the Irish Famines and the growth of a new dynasty in Australia was spring boarded with a breakthrough moment, for the MACMAHON/OBRIEN research, coming via the National Library of Australia’s TROVE DIGITAL NEWSPAPER RECORDS, where an 1857 advertisement placed by Denis McMahon of County Clare reads as follows:

Further this 3rd Edition, includes the extra dimension of family history research records, connected through the results of DNA in genetic terms Identical by Descent. Using DNA Testing for Autosomal, Maternal and 2nd cousin male relative McMahon Paternal/Y DNA, has increased the number of links. Extra DNA Testing company research tools such as FTDNA’s Family Finder have also helped identify other links with name and location matches supporting previous paper trails. As well, this 3rd Edition’s uses DNA testing results to enrich family history stories, by confirming links through methodology which identifies genetic matches as Identical by Descent (IBD), archaic origins and personalised ethnic origins. In this instance these DNA research features have assisted in confirming earlier editions’ paper research and ‘family yarns’ of the hand-me-down oral history type of Iberian Peninsula Heritage i.e. Spanish and/or Portuguese. This edition also includes updated family tree charts from 2014 to 2018, with the additional information gathered following further research opportunities becoming available through new digital resources and releases of Irish BDM records. Thus this 3rd Edition continues the weaving of the written record tapestry as it continues the recounts, the personal stories and builds on the previous short overviews of each of the immediate family ancestors and some extended family member’s life stories. For this 3rd Edition the Irish links and research pay homage to my paternal line and is an obituary for all this line male McMahon Descendants including my Father Peter and two brothers Peter Jnr and Paul MCMAHON-all deceased. For this element of family research, a special thank you goes out to a great cousin and mate of my brother Paul, where 2nd cousin Terence (Terry) McMahon and his wife Liz, have kept Irish Eyes Smiling, through participating in the DNA testing to assist with confirming family heritage and history.  In this way DNA enables them to talk from the grave. The sections The sections of this Yarn include the Maternal Ancestors (predominantly English Heritage); the Paternal ancestors (predominantly Irish heritage); a new section briefly detailing the developments and benefits of DNA test results to confirm paperwork trails and connect family names” and location of birth as well as explore the ethnic origins as we grow in understanding of humankind as part of a global kinship community. Finally, the Family Tree Charts, Bibliography, Acknowledgements and References complete this 3rd Edition review and edit. The British Ancestor Family Connections. The section ‘THE YARN’ commences with Henry Kable and Susannah Homes who arrived at Sydney Cove 26th January 1788, as part of the FIRST FLEET. These two ancestors spawned many descendants and from them and through many other ancestors’ stories, convict and free settler, does this yarn take shape. Subsequent revelations of the life story of these many connected ancestors, results in a brief report, for each. As a direct line of descent chronology, for this author’s ancestors, it commences with the recount of Henry Kable and Susannah Holmes-Kable and continues through their daughter Diana Kable-Gaudry-Teale. Coming from the hardened times of the late 18th century England and suffering from the effects of the English Industrial Revolution, the characters, Henry and Susannah, fell afoul of those times. Both committed crimes that attracted the death penalty. Their crimes of theft were capital in nature and as they were “theft from a person” the crimes attracted the death penalty. Both were thus sentenced to hang. Such a sentence was usually followed by the customary plea for clemency and fortunately both had their sentences commutated to transportation, to the American colonies. If not for this outcome, their story and that of other descendants would not be ‘told’. Following their reprieves, Henry and Susannah were separately confined in Norwich Castle Gaol, in 1783 and 1784 respectively. While incarcerated they formed a union of mutual support and requested to marry. This was denied, but through their bond, support and comfort of each other a child was produced in 1786, whom they named Henry Jnr. Henry and Susannah’s commitment to each other, resulted in a creating one of many remarkable human story elements of the First Fleet prequel, voyage and settlement. As their personal story developed, in Norwich Castle Gaol, the American War of Independence interrupted their transportation to the American colonies and consequently, Susannah firstly was redirected, as a convict transport to the soon to be established British Colony in the great southland -Terra Australis/New Holland. In the 12 months before sailing on 13 May 1787, Henry and Susannah’s lives appeared to be in perpetual upheaval, resulting in a back story to the First Fleet voyage worthy of the retelling which was eventually recorded in the books of June Whittaker as a trilogy titled, Kable: the story of Henry Kable convict extraordinaire (2002) and Paul Kable and June’s book Damned Rascals (2007) In THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper (January, 2018) a six part series VOYAGE OF THE DAMMED ( covered this aspect of modern Australian folklore. In Part 2 MOTHER OF ALL VOYAGES,  Henry, Susannah and Henry Jnr’s story was in part the focus-( This story along with those of the interventions by concerned and humane others in respected positions in England, media attention and advocacy for their situation also raised their profile, while still in England and remained the focus post arrival in Sydney. Once at Sydney Cove a further set of circumstances propelled Henry and Susannah into history making events where the foundation of the New Colony through their allowance to participate in the first Civil Law case of the Colony. The outcome of this case (in their favour established the legal framework of the colony based on The Rule of Law. In all Henry and Susannah though simple in position became prominent participants of the First Fleet community and the settlement of the new colony. Henry and Susannah’s story is the platform for this “YARN” through the author’s maternal line and connects many other story foci for the settlements at Windsor/Hawkesbury and surround then into the New England and Hunter regions. The following chapter of Part 1 detail these ancestors stories The Irish Ancestor Family Connections These Irish immigrant ancestors include those with the names M(A)CMAHON/OBRIEN who married a CAHILL (Co. Clare) and from whom, seven offspring eventuated with only four surviving (males) reaching adulthood to produce a narrow line of McMahon descendants, that for the authors line, have now ceased in name MCMAHON. The name MCMAHON and line of descent came from that of the grandchildren of Brian Boru, High King of Munster. Clare Family History Library states – ‘The Family Name MacMahon was the most common family name in County Clare at the turn of the century-1900. It was one of the best-known and most distinguished names in Ireland. In Irish MacMathghamha or in modern spelling MacMahuna, is said to be derived from the Irish word for a bear and is borne by two quite distinct septs, in Co Monaghan and in Co. Clare. The more important of the two belongs to Co. Clare. This Clare line descends from Mahon son of Murtagh Mor O Brien, King of Ireland (d. 1119). The last inaugurated Chief of the name MACMAHON, fell at the Battle of Kinsale in 1602. The Clare territory for these MACMAHONS was Corcabaskin, in West Clare’. This West Clare location is the most recent known location for the author’s ancestor MacMahon/Obrien and who are the first known arrivals of this line in New South Wales (1840). This line has been identified from a TROVE DIGITAL NEWS article of 1857. Denis (aka Donat O’Brien MacMahon of Carrigaholt, Barony of Moyarta, West Co Clare- – advertisement # 1496). As well there arrived the KENNEDY’s (a maternal line ancestor) descended from the Irish Royal clan name of: Ó Cinnéide, who were an Irish royal dynasty and Kings of Ormond. These Kennedy’s provide an interesting element of this “family yarn” recounted by an ageing “nanna” who firmly stated that she was connected to the “JFK” of USA President fame. More to come on this yarn! Other ancestors were connected to Maher and Hogan families of Tipperary. Other stories include a Royle with Welsh connections, stemming from the French connections of the tribal “Rois” and anglicised to Royle. As well there are the stories of two “jumped-ship seaman” a Scotswoman-Isabella Smith, Greentree, Cowan/Cohen immigrants as well as the workman and location names of Baker, Lane, Smith and Hall. Special respect is owed to all those other Irish connected family, ‘spoken’ of in this ‘family yarn’ including those of Howard, Tobin, Lane, Baker, Smith, Hall, Kennedy, Calla(g)han, Maher, Hogan, O’Donnell French and Strong and the family names Bowman-Haakma.  All, of their, descendants, are the beneficiaries (within this small family unit) as well as the sources for this ‘Aussie Family Yarn’. Acknowledgement Importantly, it should not be left unsaid, that these First Fleeters, at Sydney Cove, lived alongside the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land- DARUG People. To the European settlers the land ‘Terra Australis’ also known as ‘New Holland’ had been identified as ‘terra nullis’ before over 300 years by European mariners.  To the TRADITIONAL OWNERS and Custodians of the Land/s we owe a debt of gratitude for sharing the land. Without this sharing the First Fleet of Europeans would certainly have been ‘lost on land’ not at sea. These, the ancestors of this yarn, convict and free settler alike, had another chance at life. While no direct connections to the traditional owners are recorded in this family yarn, the places our ancestors lived, suggest that relationships and contacts must have been made. Their witness to a lifestyle of habitation and survival was, to me, itself a model for those First Fleeters and subsequent others. To these first “Australians” on behalf of my family, I pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge the traditional inhabitants as the Custodians of the land, we now share. Conclusion While the major focus of the previous Edition, 2016 (2nd), was to honour the First Fleet ancestors, HENRY KABLE and SUSANNAH HOLMES and their many descendants, who as participants in the first wedding ceremony of the new colony, 10th February 1788, were remembered and honoured with a large family Reunion, at their final resting place of Windsor, NSW during a two-day weekend celebration held to coincide with their 230th Wedding Anniversary-10th February 2018. This edition has another primary focus. Appropriately this 3rd Edition (2018-19) explores the Irish Family links and pays tribute to the MACMAHON(OBRIEN) CLANS of West Clare/Clonderlaw and Thomond. Also, the kin who were descendants of Denis (Donat OBrien) MACMAHON (b @1819 Carrigaholt, Co Clare); his son Thomas Augustine MCMAHON (b1841 Morpeth NSW); his son Peter MCMAHON Snr (b 1880 Morpeth NSW); his son Peter MCMAHON (b 1928 MAYFIELD NSW); and his sons Peter and Paul MCMAHON (b1953&1960 WARATAH NSW) are remembered fondly. RIP 2018. Special thanks to cousin Terry MCMAHON and his wife Liz… Paul’s mates, who have enabled him to speak from beyond the grave.