Val’s Day at the National Archives

We have been playing detective for almost 20 years.  The best clues in our Search for WJ have almost always come from visiting archives.   In October, 2011, we were in London and London houses the daddy of all the archives – The National Archive at Kew.  “1,000 years of history in documents” is a great incentive to make the trip to London.  We just could not resist taking a day to go and soak up the experience of seeing and touching the paper that recorded contemporaneously the events that touched their lives of our forebears.

Our archive experience started on a high note right from day 1 in Hobart in 1994.  We didn’t know anything but we blundered our way into finding gold on WJ.  We started digging in the Tasmanian Archive with only the name of my great grandmother and a rough idea of when she was born.  Within hours we we found our very first record.  It was WJ’s ‘Permission to Marry’ record which allowed him as a convict to marry Ann Carey on the 17th April, 1854.

What Val was about to experience in London was special.  She was about to hold the actual paper record of the court martial of WJ.  It was recorded by the court scribe on the 30th March, 1843 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. It was signed off by Dr AS Kane who said WJ was fit to undertake any punishment from flogging to hard labour.  It was signed off by Captain Richard French who chaired the proceeding and by Captain Evelyn K.G. Packlington who had the role of Deputy Judge Advocate for the hearing.

My Readers Ticket for the National Archive allowed me to order the records online the day before, to cut down our time at the Archive without records. The 5 sets of documents were ready for us in the document reading room lockers when we arrived and seat 6G had been allocated. We were ready to roll.

We brought the archive box to our desk, removed the ribbons and took the lid off.  There was WJ’s Court Martial record right on the top of the box, just as I had left it a year earlier. Nobody had looked in the last year.  When I first found this record in 2010, I placed the court martial records for WJ, Kennedy and Keefe on the top of the box of records.

Opening the National Archive file box

Val opened WJ’s Court Martial record up and made her way through it.  It is definitely easier to read the transcription, but nonetheless a great experience working through the original.  When Val had finished WJ’s trial record, she then read through the trial records of fellow escapees Keefe and Kennedy.

Val looking at WJ's Court Martial

I went through other items in the archive box and found another 2 Court Martial hearings for the 52nd regiment in Fredericton. I couldn’t resist taking copies of them for review to further understand the context of WJ’s trial. The interesting thing about these other desertions is that both of these poor wretches tried to make it to America and were both caught at one the Deserter Posts near Woodstock.  Bob Dalison from the historical society in Fredericton had told us about Deserter Posts and here was the proof.

I wanted to make sure that I tried to find new material, since I was at the Archive and it is an awful long way to come to look at material already seen.  I wanted to find how long the 52nd Regiment stayed in Canada after WJ’s expulsion from it.  I went through 6 set of Regimental Muster Rolls and Pay-Lists to find that the regiment stayed on until the Spring of 1847.  It took 2 document requests to order up the documents.  Amazingly it only took 30 minutes for each of those sets of records to be retrieved and delivered to my reader’s box for reading. What a great system! And for free!!!

Box WO 71/350 - WJ's Record on Top

The other thing I wanted to look for was any record of George Luther Hatheway being paid for the capture of WJ and his 2 fellow deserters. And eurika – I did! Voucher No 75 of the Pay List for the period April to June 1843 was for payment to “Mr Hatheway for apprehension of deserters”.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t found the amount. The Pay-List is a summary, so I had to be happy with that find.

I think I could move into the Archive.   But my attention was called back to reality by a text from Lynette letting me know that our taxi to Heathrow had just picked her up from Andrew and Megan’s house and would be picking me up in around 45 minutes. Thud!!  I won’t be moving into the Archive, I will be going back home and really soon.

Val’s Day at the Archive was over – now back home to Australia to transcribe, to interpret and to share.

Record Hunting in Northern Ireland

We drove from Bowness-on-Windamere to Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport, after topping up on Beatrix Potter magic.  Having seen the Lakes area and looking at the Beatrix Potter sites, I have to say I am even more impressed with the movie Miss Potter.  Poo hoo to the critics who think Renee Zellwegger made her too eccentric!

We had an occasional sighting of the Irish Sea on the flight from Liverpool to Belfast with glimpses of the wind generators we had seen off Maryport and ships sailing between England and Ireland.

Wind Turbines in the Sea

We had several objectives in travelling to Ireland; see if we could find birth, death or marriage records for the McClintocks; see if we could locate Penny Plain, Ballymena; see if we could evidence one McClintock brother going to New Zealand and the other to America; work out what the family did in Ireland; get an understanding of what made the family Members seek new lives over the sea; see if could understand the McClintock Scottish connection.

We knew we were in for a tough assignment and were very likely to have to be satisfied with a ‘feel’ for what the world of Andrew McClintock might have been like in 1881.

Andrew McClintock left Belfast in 1881 bound for Littleton in New Zealand aboard the Coptic, which was one of the fleet of seagoing steamers operated by the White Star Line of Titanic fame.  Fortunately for us, he made it to New Zealand and his new life.

After arriving at Belfast International airport, we headed for the Holiday Inn Express in the town of Antrim just to the north, without the aid of our GPS which would not cooperate because we set the country for Ireland instead of the UK.  It worked pretty well after that except for not being able to locate Belfast International airports as a POI, which we wanted to catch our plane to London.

We came to Ireland with a solid record of failure in trying to find birth death or marriage records for Andrew, his father James and his mother Jane Mills despite subscribing to the best Irish Family History site at paying 8 Euro a pop to try.

North of Ireland Family History Society

You never know – we could have our share of the luck of the Irish actually being in Ireland.  Well, as it happens, we did.

Lynette was busily uploading MYOB for the office in Brisbane and Bill went downstairs to get access to Wi-Fi for the I Pad and came up with the website of the Northern of Ireland Family History Society.  They were open for 2 hours a week and they were open RIGHT NOW.  We threw everything into our cases and beat a hasty retreat from our hotel.

Armed with an address and a GPS now set for the UK we made it to NIRHS base in Belfast and came across some really friendly and helpful people.  Unfortunately, they found as much as we did in terms of birth, death and marriage records for the McClintocks.  None – they just don’t exist before the mid-1860’s.  Andrew McClintock was born in 1859 – just too early.  But we did get some tips, we now have a contact who we have met and we will join the Society as associate members.  We also know the Society has a branch in Ballymena, where the McClintocks came from.

Having confirmed that our skills in tracking down records wasn’t too bad since the locals couldn’t find the McClintocks either, we decided to retrace our steps back up through Antrim and have  look at Ballymena.

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