Thursday, June 16, 2016

The missing link - William Doody

Millers Point in 1870
(Image from State Library of NSW collection)
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will be familiar with my theory that John Mason, who married Catherine Murphy in Sydney in 1841, was an Irish convict born in Limerick.  He arrived in Sydney on the Parmelia in 1834.

The problem has been that my conclusion was based on excluding all the other possible John Masons around at the time, and some circumstantial evidence. And that meant I could never be sure that I wouldn't one day come across another John Mason that I'd overlooked, who would ruin my theory. (I've mentioned before how my heart sank when I read in the Destitute Board records in Adelaide that John Mason was said to be English.)

That uncertainty has always nagged me. It meant I was constantly having to say that John Mason was "probably Irish" and "probably a convict". It's hard to build a good story on the word "probably".

So this week I started to think about what sort of evidence would I need to show that "Convict John" was the same person as "Catherine's  John". Convict John disappears from the records in 1840 after getting his certificate of freedom. What could tie him to the John who appeared on the scene to marry Catherine in 1841?

After asking that question on a genealogy forum, and tossing it around, it occurred to me that William Doody (or Dowdy or Doudey) might be a link. William was a former convict who sailed to Adelaide with the Masons in 1845. He and his wife Bridget (nee Murnane) were also the sponsors at one of the Mason's daughter's baptisms. He was obviously a friend of John and Catherine.

I found William's record on the 1837 General Muster of Convicts. It showed that he arrived on the Dunvegan Castle in 1832 and was employed by Wright and Sons in Sydney. That didn't seem very promising. I knew John Mason fom Limerick was assigned to an Alexander Fotheringham when he arrived in 1834.

Then I realised that I'd never found John Mason's name on the 1837 muster. My information about him came from his convict indent and his certificate of freedom. After some searching I found him listed as "John Wason". All the other details such as his age and his ship, the Parmelia, matched. And he was assigned to.... Wright and Sons. So he would have known William Doody in 1837, before he met Catherine. They would have worked together and probably lived in the same quarters.

I did a little dance - this was just the sort of link I needed. It's not quite proof that the two John Masons were the same man, but it makes it a lot more likely.

Since then I've done more research and found that "Wright and Son"s is probably a mis-transcription of Wright and Long, who owned a wharf and shipping business at Millers Point on Darling Harbour. Another convict assigned to them, Timothy Rourke, was a sponsor at the baptism of one of the Mason's other daughters. Two for the price of one!

More about John Mason:

John and Catherine Mason - pioneers
John Mason - where did he come from?
Two more small clues about John Mason
An interesting snippet of news about John and Catherine Mason
Discoveries in Adelaide part 1
Discoveries in Adelaide part 2
A sad tale of two Roses
The missing link - William Doody
A song of the sea