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Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Some time ago I began an ancestry search ... at the time, I had very little to go on. Web searches revealed zilch! I had a few names on my paternal side, including both great great grandparents but that was about it. I didn't grow up knowing either sets of grandparents. My parents had very little to go on. My mother was adopted, my father's mother died when he was young. His father became a single father of four boys during the 1950's, life was tough. The family frayed, relationships unhinged, connections were lost.

Then, two years ago my father wanted to know more. He was keen to do a bit of digging and family tracing, but not being internet savvy hampered his efforts a little. That's where I came in. I was entrusted with the daunting task of discovering things he didn't know! It seemed overwhelming but exciting too. The questions I had throughout my childhood surfaced once again, "How can so little of your history be passed on", "Why hasn't anyone told me anything before now?", "Is there a secret so big, it would shock if it were discovered?' Maybe I would finally get some answers.

So I set about signing up for an ancestry.com account and tentatively began entering the only names I had. I punched these known names into the fledgling tree forming on the screen. 

Little green leaves suddenly sprouted. I couldn't believe it! 

Something was happening, the tree was growing! I thought is would be harder than this. I expected the results to take a while, the immediate connections were astounding. A few names later and the family tree had grown considerably. Hours turned into days. A long weekend was furiously consumed from dawn to dusk with frantic searching. It became addictive! The more I found out, the more I wanted to know! Dots were connected, dates discovered and ancestors traced back further than I could have ever imagined. I started entering new data into Google, and the information just kept coming. I read old newspaper articles and searched the New Zealand archives. I purchased copies of death certificates and read riveting stories. Bit by bit my history was coming together, alive right before my eyes.

My Great great great grandfather, Georg (1793-1854), married Helena Elisabeth Hansdotter (1797-) against his families wishes. She was a maid working at the family farm in Stor Mellings. Helena was the daughter of Hans Classon, a skolmastare (teacher). Georg lost the family name and his inheritance along with it. He would no longer be known by the name Botelsson (Son of Botel) and took the name Ekstrom instead. They were married in 1817. He had turned his back on his families wealth and set off a poor man, working for twelve days without pay in order to live in the house and grounds of a crofters holding at Ajsarve grund. They had four children. My great great grandmother, Johanna (Johanna Catarina Josephina Pettersson, 1835-1932), was the third of four children, all born in Levide. On October 8, 1842 they moved to Visby. At the age of 21, Johanna gave birth to a son, whom she named Axel August. He later moved to Stavangr, Norway. His father is listed as unknown.

On August 5th, 1858, Johanna married Johan August Pettersson from Torslunda in Smaland. They had ten children, nine registered with Johan as the father. Johan was a carpenter and made the candleholders in the Methodist Church on Adelsgatan. They are still used in the windows at Christmas. He is buried in an anonymous grave outside the funeral Chapel at Ostra Kyrkogarden, south of Valdemarskorset. Johanna planted a lilac bush on his grave. It was taken down around 2000 as part of the cemetery improvements.

After the death of Johan, Johanna rented a part of the house on Klinten, Norderklint 16, in Visby above the cathedral. At the time only the poor lived in this area. Today it is prestigious realty. From this house she had a good view of the sea and often sat in front of the house watching the waves roll in, thinking of her children, Karl, Frans and August who had traveled the oceans in search of a new life. Two of her sons, Carl (Karl Julius) and Frank (Frans Oscar) had settled in New Zealand carving out a new future there. Johanna earned her living selling meat and vegetables for a farmer at Stora Torget, the main market in town. She was well liked and the preferred choice for purchase of farm produce.

In 1910 basic infrastructure was in its infancy in Visby. Electric lights were installed on the streets in 1904. In 1910 they started to  deliver gas to individual houses from the gas works at Sodervag. Water was fetched from the pump on Stora Torget. The town folk would traipse down the long stairs by the cathedral, heaving the water back up again when full.

My great Grandfather, Frans Oskar Pettersson (Later changed to Frank Oscar Peterson on his naturalisation certificate) set sail for the new world full of hope and expectation. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother Karl Julius leaving behind his dearly loved Mama on Gotland Island. Little did he know that he would never return to his beloved Sweden. Only a few letters survived this time period and have only recently found their way into my hand. Frank found work on the docks of a ship yard in Auckland, New Zealand. He fell in love with an English girl, Florence Cecilia Jenkin. Her family had originated from Cornwall, England. They had eight children. My grandmother (Olga Violet, 1913-1956) was their sixth child. Olga married John Dignan Stackpole in 1938. They had four boys. My father (Michael Frank, 1947-) was the fourth son and an unexpected surprise. Olga was gravely ill for many years and died of tuberculosis in 1956. My father was nine years old.

Grandparents - John Dignan (my fathers father of English/Irish descent) 
and Olga Violet (My fathers mother of Swedish/English descent). 
Florence's father James Jenkin was born in Cornwall, England.

Irish ancestors of Mary Furlong (Brown/Brennan - great great Grandmother)

Swedish ancestors of Georg Ekstrom (great great Grandfather)

Swedish ancestors of Helena Hansdotter (Great great Grandmother)

Johan Pettersson (great Grandfather) born in Torslunda, Smaland March 30, 1837. 
He was the son of Peter Danielsson, born 1793 and Lena Maria Petersdotter, 
born 1800 from Langemaa, Oland. He married Johanna on August 5, 1858.

Johanna Catarina Josefina Pettersson, nee Ekstrom. Born 1 March in Levide.
Georg (Johanna's father) took the name Ekstrom after being disowned for 
marrying against his families wishes. He married maid from Stor Mellings, 
on their family farm. He lost his inheritance for love.
From left to right August Svensson and his wife Hermanna, Henrik Pettersson, 
Maria and her husband Gustav Arvidsson. Johanna (my great great Grandmother) is 
seated. Children not in the picture: Axel August (Norway), Carl 
Julius (New Zealand), and Frans Oskar (New Zealand - My great Grandfather)

Thanks to ancestry.com I have been able to put the pieces together and launch into a fascinating journey of discovery. Now two years later 149 people have been included in my family tree which does not include the one hundred or so descendants currently living and spread out across the earth. Earlier this year I travelled to New Zealand for our first ever family reunion. We were able to embrace the intangible thread that bound all our stories together. 

Special thanks to facebook for getting me acquainted with family I had never met - the true wonder of the social media world!

.. // ~ // ..

For my children

A note about the Lord Edward FitzGerald connection
I read once via a distant family members discussion found here and here, that Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798) may have been the father of our Mary of Templescoby. No other details seem to exist on her parentage, except for a bit of family history that survived via oral retell and made its way to an online discussion board (thanks to Martin O'Sullivan for the queries and ancestry.com, the dates and names match). It seems it was an illegitimate birth. History tells us that Edward travelled the world and had many affairs before he eventually married. An illegitimate birth explains many things for this period of time and why it might be something to keep quiet, especially knowing that he ended up more famous for being an Irish rebel than the Irish patriot and explorer of the 'New World' that he was in his youth. 

Due to the shame and stigma surrounding illegitimacy, it would have been something discussed in hushed tones. Mary was quite possibly given the family name of Murphy. Murphy may have also been her mothers name which we can surmise due to the tradition of naming a child after oneself. She may have also been just named Mary of Templescoby due to the illegitimacy of her birth. (When she married Thomas Furlong of Wexford, Templescoby, she was using the name Mary Murphy and may have also adopted the addition of Templescoby by virtue of marriage).

Mary was born in 1779, the same year that Lord Edward was commissioned into the service of the British army, serving Lord Rawdon in the American Revolutionary war. Edward was commissioned into the army at an early age. Could it have been due to a dalliance with a young girl in his teenage years, a maid perhaps, one named Mary Murphy? (Interestingly Lord Edward would continue the pattern of travelling to far flung places at the end of his numerous affairs. Later he would marry a woman born of uncertain origins and into similar circumstances as our Mary). Being sent abroad would stem the flow of gossip running the rumour mill. His father, Lord James Fitzgerald (The Duke of Leinster and the most senior aristocrat in Ireland) died when young Edward was ten years old. Our Mary Furlong (Mary Murphy's daughter), who eloped with a British soldier (so the story goes), referred to her grandfather as James Fitzgerald, 1st Duke of Leinster on a number of occasions. 

Edward was destined for military life and it would seem the sooner, the better. He would become an explorer of the new world in the Americas, eventually being adopted by the bear tribe of Hurons on his adventure from Canada, down the Mississippi and on to New Orleans. At the end of his life, Lord Edward Fitzgerald (staunch member of the society of United Irishmen intent on freeing Ireland from British rule) was an Irish patriot through and through. He was captured while hiding in the house of one Nicholas Murphy of Wexford County. One transcript describing the events leading up to the capture and arrest of Edward (submitted by a Murphy while Edward was awaiting trial), makes mention of a girl opening the door and taking a message from a caller to the house. The relayed message, 'Bid him be cautious' (Source), was dutifully passed on. There was no mention of who this girl was other than being referred to as 'the girl'. Could this have been our Mary and Edwards daughter? Mary would have been 18 years old in 1798, the year Edward died. If this was his daughter it might explain how he came to be in the house of a Murphy that fateful night (It is worth noting that a John Murphy and a Michael Murphy of County Wexford were listed as Irish martyrs of the 1798 rebellion dying for the cause of freedom). We can only speculate on who these Murphy's were. There is no doubt that the Murphy's were well known in County Wexford and would have known each other well, and more than likely were all related at some level. The connection between the Murphy's and Furlongs seems strong, even today.

Edward died in prison of wounds sustained on the 4th of June, the very day the rebels assembled outside of New Ross town. The day after Edwards death became known as one of the bloodiest battles of the 1798 rebellion {6.}. Bagenal Harvey, the United Irish leader attempted to negotiate a surrender of New Ross but Matthew Furlong, the rebel emissary was shot while holding the truce flag and a battle ensued. Was this Matthew Furlong (1769 - 1798) related to our Thomas Furlong of Wexford (born in 1780)? Thomas would have been around 18 years of age in 1798, the same age as Mary Murphy. Matthew Furlong took the place of Edward Fitzgerald after his arrest and it can be safely assumed that the Furlong's and Fitzgerald's knew of each other. A Matthew Furlong was buried at Killurin {7.}, the same place and year that our Thomas Furlongs father, John Furlong, (who married a Mary Martin) {8.} was buried before the battle of New Ross. Both Matthew Furlong and John Furlong were buried at Killurin (perhaps this was the family burial ground). Thomas Furlong (later Lord White), was from County Wexford, a horse ride of only 31 kilometres from New Ross. Thomas would later marry our Mary Murphy. It would be this Mary, who would in the years ahead, lose her only daughter (Mary Furlong) to the arms of a British soldier. She would never see her daughter again.

Thomas Furlong (son of John Furlong and Mary Martin) of Templescoby, Wexford and Mary Murphy had a daughter, Mary Furlong. The exact date of Mary Furlong's birth is sketchy, possibly some time between 1813 - 1820. Mary Furlong {9.}, eloped to India with a British soldier thought to be named John Brown. Consequently, this did not go down well with her mother. The English and Irish had a deep hatred during this period. Apparently her father saw her off at the gate but Mary's mother refused. Is it plausible that a mother could be so angry about her daughters love match and so scarred by the battle of the New Ross atrocities witnessed, that she would be blinded to her daughters happiness because of the death of her father at the hands of the English? Years would pass before Lord White {10.} would sail to New Zealand along with John Rossiter (Dean of Ferns and also Mary's uncle), in search of his daughter. He would attempt to bring her home. Mary Furlong (now Brown/Brennan) however had remarried (in Kamptee, Madras) to a Michael Brennan (See Ellen Brennan) after the death of her beloved soldier. The cause of soldier Brown's death is unknown but the British India regiments suffered greatly in the 1842 massacre, the year his daughter Mary Ann (my great great grandmother) was born. Records show that Mary Ann was born in Dinapore, India. Mary Furlong of Templescoby along with her daughter Mary Ann and her new husband, Michael Brennan, would sail from India to England and eventually on to New Zealand {11.} (on the Berhampore - ship manifest) where they would be given a parcel of land in the new colony as the Royal New Zealand Fencibles {12.}

If you can imagine yourself for one moment as Mary Furlong, daughter of the Irish revolution, who had fallen in love with an Englishmen and thus disgraced the family name by eloping with this British soldier (to East India prior to the time of the British Raj), would you divulge your rebel Irish heritage? Especially knowing you had no claim to the Fitzgerald name? It is conceivable that the illegitimate birth of your mother(Mary Murphy) meant the family had secrets to hide. You know only too well how this impacted her life, how she had finally gained respectability with the marriage to one Thomas Furlong (destined to become Lord White). Perhaps, the knowledge of Lord Edward Fitzgerald's cause gained your mother notable admiralty in her own right among the Irish after laying his life on the line for the cause closest to his heart, his beloved Ireland. Perhaps, you being the young girl who had fallen in love with an Englishman wanted to distance yourself from this legacy. After all adventure beckoned in distant lands, the whole world was just opening up.

If you the Irish woman, then found yourself under British rule in the land that offered you a parcel of free land laden with hope and possibilities, would you feel comfortable divulging that your grandfather led an uprising against the British crown forces or would you distance yourself from that? Would you keep this a secret because chances were good that no one would ever know about these events when you were quietly tucked away at the bottom of the world. You, who had never heard of the internet imagined it was a secret that would be buried and long forgotten. You never imagined that his life would one day be set in stone on something called wikipedia!

{Mary Ann {13.} (a girl from the Fencible community) would eventually marry an Irishman, my great great grandfather Robert Stackpole in 1859 (The irony of this marriage does not escape me, an Irish/English lass returning to her Irish roots. She is listed on Jane's Genealogy pages - 13th position down). Robert sailed from Ireland and arrived in New Zealand around 1853. It is not known how long he had been travelling. His birth certificate lists a Robert Stackpole as his father, mother unknown. He was from County Cork, Ireland.}

The more I discover, the more that questions abound. The research has been fascinating, the small discoveries more precious than gold, really! Each nugget of information carefully drawing the threads of my history more tightly together. I am getting better at allowing the dangling pieces of this story to hang out there beyond my grasp. I have hit the wall for now and can't seem to progress any further with my research. I have more answers than when I began and I suppose there are some secrets that just will not ever be unlocked.

Wilton Castle today in County Wexford 
(Formerly the lands of Kayer and the Manor of Carrigmanan - Source)
'In 1376, Stephen Furlong was granted by Edward 111, the custody of the castle of Kayer during pleasure, receiving part of the issues of lands and tenements in the king's lands for the minority of Foulke Furlong, son and heir of Ismay Denn, in the King's custody. The Furlongs owned all property between Horetown and Carrigmanan but like the Fitzhenrys of Macmine - faithful in all things - sacrificied everything for the sake of their religion. After the Furlongs left Horetown during the Cromwellian confiscations they were probably transplanted to Connaught or elsewhere, but James Furlong moved to a farm at Holmstown, near Glynn and settled there. In 1768, John Furlong left Holmestown to marry Mary Martin of Templescoby, and since that time the Furlong family have lived at Templescoby. During the rebellion of 1798, Matthew Furlong of Templescoby was aide-de-camp to Bagenal Harvey, Commander-in-Chief of the Insurgents army, and was shot whilst carrying a flag of truce at New Ross. He was married to Mary Byrne of Raheen and they had five children. His body was taken to the family burial bround in Killurin, not far from Carrigmanan'. Source (Entry submitted by Alcock 2005)

Further notes 
* Lord Edward FitzGerald - Source
- Arrest of Edward FitzGerald and subsequent imprisonment at New Gate Prison, Dublin - Source

* Furlong
[1. Matthew Furlong is listed as an ancestor on the pages of this family tree along with Mary Furlong]. 
[1.a Matthew Furlong - Source - See the perpetrators].
[2. Furlong Ancestry - Source]
[3. Thomas' parents were John Furlong and Mary Martin of Templescoby. John left Holmestown/Horestown to marry Mary Martin. The Furlong family lived in Templescoby from that time - Source]. 
[4. King Henry II bestows a tract of land to John Furlong for saving him from a wild boar, hence how they came by the manor of Carrigmanan - Source
[5. History of Wilton Castle, Carrigmanan - Source]
[6. Scullabogue massacre - source]
[7. Burial of Matthew Furlong of Templescoby at Killurin, not far from Carrigmanan - Source]
[8. Burial of John Furlong at Killurin Cemetery - Source available through Ancestry.com]
[9. Mary Furlong of Templescoby, Wexford - Source]
[10. Thomas Furlong (and John Rossiter's) visit to New Zealand - Source]

* Brennan
[11. Ship manifest - Source]
[12. Royal New Zealand Fencibles - Source]

* Stackpole
[13. Mary Ann (Furlong-Brown-Brennan) Stackpole - Source]
[14. Robert Stackpole - Source]

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