Timothy Tierney

I’ve already mentioned Timothy when I talked about his wife Ellen Watters, but this month I’m going to present more of his side of the story.

Timothy Tierney was born in 1799, or thereabouts, possibly just beside Cashel, Tipperary, Ireland. The Rock of Cashel is nearby. As legend has it, it was created when St. Patrick cast Satan out of a nearby cave (uh-huh). The buildings that rest upon it are mainly from the 12th and 13th century, and are rare surviving examples of Celtic architecture (thanks Wikipedia). As seen in the photo below, it looks like something from Game of Thrones.


I don’t know who Timothy’s parents or siblings were, but I know he had at least one brother called John. At some point he ended up in the Nenagh area of Tipperary, and around 1821 he married Ellen Watters. They went on to have six children (4 girls, 2 boys) over the next 13 years. Timothy was a tenant sheep farmer, Roman Catholic and could not read or write.

During Timothy’s life, there was a resurgence in what the authorities called Whiteboyism, although not all of the members identified themselves as such.The Whiteboys had been one of the most well known Irish secret societies, and they were mainly active during the 18th century. By Timothy’s time some were Ribbonmen, and others were just your run of the mill secret societies. I’ve read they were highly organized, but it’s hard to know because the first and second rule of and secret society is not talk about it. What they had in common was that they took oaths, clandestinely met at night, ensured snitches got stitches, and were generally anti-establishment. Although they were largely Catholic, the Roman Catholic church didn’t approve of the oath swearing and menace to society stuff.

During the Tithe War of 1831-36 there was a resurgence in these societies. The war itself was mainly non-violent protest against the forced tithes that tenant farmers and peasants had to pay the protestant Church of Ireland. Because the majority of the tithed were Catholic, they were pretty miffed about it. While most of the resistance amounted to refusal to pay, there were some violent episodes. In 1836 the tithe collections were abandoned as it reportedly “cost a shilling to collect tuppence.”


On the evening of November 24, 1834, two men entered the house of a protestant land owner Gilbert Carter and stole some firearms and the tithe records. This kind of crime was not uncommon – the goal was to instill fear in the protestant upper class and destroy all records of who had, and had not, paid their tithes. Think Fight Club or Mr. Robot’s fsociety in rural 19th century Ireland. Timothy Tierney was found guilty.


He didn’t admit to it (who would?) and the evidence was largely based on the accusation of John Carter, the landowner’s son, who also said he wasn’t sure who he’d seen that dark night, and that he couldn’t tell Timothy or his brother John Tierney apart. He did not identify Timothy until 4 months later after an arrest had been made. Because of his reluctance to ID, he was only paid out half the reward, which he later filed a complaint over. Reading a newspaper article (Clonmel Advertiser, March 26, 1835), key information is missing and the defence claims an alibi. Timothy is found guilty but his co-defendant Patrick Dooley is not, but I’m not clear on how the decision was made or what evidence besides Carter’s accusation was presented. For the crime, Timothy was sentenced to life imprisonment in New South Wales. The trial was March 26, 1835 and he shipped out June 12. He quite likely stayed in the jail below, in Nenagh, while awaiting trial and departure.


He shipped out from Cork on the Blackwell. The Captain was the splendidly named Dalrymple Dawson. The voyage took 109 days (baaaarf). Of the 152 convicts aboard, 2 died, but 2 babies were also born. There were 7 women and 10 kids (fresh babies included), who were relations of prisoners. In some cases wives and families were able to accompany their delinquent loved one. Below is an image of convict transport, which seems an unpleasant place to spend 109 days in the throes of seasickness. The route they likely took is also below.

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Florentia route to Australia

Because Timothy was a convict, there’s a fair amount of information about him. He was 5’7.5 (the second tallest prisoner aboard!), with a dark sallow complexion, grey eyes, dar brown hair, “breast hairy,” and a small circular scar on his little finger of his left hand. In NSW he was assigned to a master called John Elliot in Newcastle. It’s my understanding that convicts in Australia generally weren’t imprisoned – instead they could be assigned to settlers (who could even be former convicts themselves) and had to reside with and provide unpaid labour for their master. In November 1843, 8 years after his arrival, Timothy was granted a ticket of leave. 8 years was the minimum necessary for a lifer to receive a ticket, and only possible if the prisoner had one master who was willing to apply for it. This meant he could receive pay for work. Conditions were that he had to attend religious service weekly, could not leave the specified area without permission (Maitland in this case), could not board a ship or have firearms, or get into any trouble; he could marry, own property, and even bring his family to Australia. Ten years after his ticket of leave was granted, at the age of 54, he was given a conditional pardon. This allowed him to be a free man, under the condition that he never return to Britain or Ireland. I assume he could have gone to other colonies, though.

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I have no idea if John Elliot was a fair master, but it seems like Timothy had the most ideal circumstances. Originally given life, he served 18 years, 10 of which he was largely free to work for pay. But, he never did leave Australia. I don’t know if he ever contacted his wife and family again or if he was aware that they had emigrated to Canada within a couple years of his conviction. I really have no idea how easy or common global communication between illiterate peasants was in those days. His wife Ellen always officially identified herself as his widow once in Canada, even before his actual death, so I don’t know if she knew what became of him.

Timothy died almost 20 years after he became a “free” man, having lived out more than half his life in Australia. He died in the Liverpool Asylum for the Infirm and Destitute in Sydney in 1872 (below is an image from 4 years later). A lot of former convicts ended up in places such as these as they aged and had no family to take care of them and were no longer able to work and support themselves.

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(Thanks to other researchers who found most of this gold on Timothy – especially Jerry Tierney, who also sent me the last image).




Mary Ann Wholesworth

Mary Ann Wholesworth was my second Great Grandmother. She’s been pretty tricky to track down. It took me forever to figure out Mary Ann’s maiden name, which is erroneously recorded in a few different locations. There were obvious literacy issues with my ancestors and the name was recorded as Wholesworth, Wholesmith, Allsworth, Ellsworth, Holesworth, and Aylesworth. I think Wholesworth is the “right” one – or at least the one that probably stuck around. I’m still not 100% sure, but I think my clues all point in one direction, so I’m going with that for now.

Mary Ann was born in 1837 in Nova Scotia, maybe in Wallace, Cumberland, which is where the person I assume was her younger brother was born some 10 years later. Besides her brother John W, she had at least 2 sisters, who I think were called Elizabeth and Ann Susan. Her parents were likely John Wholesworth Sr. and Sarah Rogers. A lot of this is based on information I learned about her brother John, who immigrated to the US, where record keeping was better. I’m still not entirely sure that he was her brother, but I think all evidence points to this – the timing, family names, birth locations, etc. Below is what Wallace looks like today (a bustling metropolis):

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It’s possible Mary Ann’s family were loyalists that came to Wallace (then called Remsheg, which meant “the place between” in Mi’kmaq) around 1783, as this is the case with her husband’s side of the family. But.. I haven’t been able to find the surname (or its million variants) on the maps from the time and I’ve seen family members claim Scottish descent on 2 censuses (but English on others). It’s quite likely they instead came from Scotland a bit later with settlers who renamed the place Wallace (after William, of course). Below is a picture of the Scottish arriving in Canada, playing bagpipes and waving a flag, immortalized in a commemorative stamp. 8-arrival-of-scottish-settlers-pictou-ns-1973_1189_08577208dba58e5L

At some point between 1847 and 1857 Mary Ann’s family relocated to PEI, where she married James Crossman Dec. 17, 1857. He was the son of a fisherman and was a lumber dealer himself. She was about 20 and he was 33. They had a daughter, Fanny, in 1860, but I think she died as she never showed up in any other records or the census. After that they had Margaret (1864), Benjamin (1866), John Edward (1869), Sarah Lena (1871), and my great grandfather James (around 1875). All but James were born on Lot 16.  They may have even been living at this house (current stalkery streetview below) in the same place Alexander Crossman (oldest surviving Crossman brother) inherited his parents’ land around 1890.

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Mary Ann was widowed in 1875 – the same year James was born. The story is below:

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I’m thinking that after her husband’s death the pregnant Mary Ann relocated to Summerside, where James was born. In 1881 oldest daughter Margaret was 17 and living with a family working as a servant on lot 13. Benjamin was 14 a farm servant at living on lot 3. I have not found the younger siblings John, Sarah, James (or Mary Ann) in the 1881 census, but I assume they were all living together in stealth.

In 1882 Mary Ann remarried a man called Solomon Vessey and they lived in Summerside. He was a labourer at the time but was later the cemetery gardener (dream job). In the 1891 census they are living with James, my great grandfather, who was a printer. In the 1911 census they were living in the house stalked below  (thanks google!) on Cambridge St.

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Her children Margaret, Sarah and John all ended up in MA by the 1890s – it took me a while to find them there, as I had no idea to look in the US. Sarah and John both married Lennoxes (who were father and daughter, wtf), from Nova Scotia. Sarah married a widow Fred Lennox, who was 20 years her senior. John married Fred’s daughter (are you keeping track?) Lillian and the age difference was a bit more respectable. I think they may have gone to MA because their uncle John W. Wholesworth was living there. John Edward and Margaret stayed in on MA, both making their residences in Somerville. On their American wedding certificates their mother’s maiden name was listed as Wholesworth and Wholesmith (boom! that’s how I found it and connected them with their uncle). Benjamin stayed in PEI and married in his mid 30s, after working in various households as a servant. The youngest son, James, also stuck around Summerside, PEI and worked as a printer for the newspaper. He and his wife (pictured below with his wife, Minerva Palmer).

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Mary Ann died in 1915, at the age of 78 (or 80 according to the obituary), still married to Mr. Vessey. Her obituary mentioned she’d been predeceased by her first husband some 40 years prior, had two remaining sisters, and that she had “enjoyed exceptionally good health and the use of her faculties up until Sunday afternoon last.” Of course her obituary doesn’t mention her maiden name or the names of her siblings, but hopefully I’ll confirm for certain one day! (Actually, I think her sister mighta been my great grandmother’s mom, Elizabeth Allsworth, who had an old widow Sarah Nicolson – same last name as her brother’s wife -boarding with her… but that would make my great grandparents cousins, so maybe we’ll pursue that lead without too much fervour).