Thursday, October 22, 2020

One Rood, One Perch,
and Nine Tenths of a Perch


I give, devise and bequeath to my son Michael Joseph O'Leary all that piece of land situate in Bunny Street Masterton containing One rood, One perch and Nine-tenths of a perch....

It is only in family history, I suppose, that we meet people in the most backwards of ways: from the end of life we move toward the beginning. Thus, for one potential Falvey relative who emigrated in the 1870s to New Zealand as a near-invisible female subject of the Dominion, it is through the very end of her husband's life that we gain our first glimpse of this branch of the family.

Mary Falvey, assumed ancestor of one of my husband's DNA matches, must have arrived in the South Island by 1875, for October 30 of that year was when she was married at the Catholic church in Blenheim. Though I have no documentation—yet!—for either of those events, my research collaborator on the New Zealand side of the Falvey family assures me that was the case.

Mary Falvey's intended apparently also hailed from her native County Kerry, back in Ireland—if, that is, I've located the right emigration record. Arriving in the Marlborough region August 17, 1874, on the Ocean Mail, there were actually two men with the same name as that of Mary Falvey's future husband.

One was twenty one year old Humphrey O'Leary, the blacksmith from County Kerry, and the other was nineteen year old Humphrey O'Leary. Not that their surname is making this search any easier for us, but at least the second Humphrey, despite coming from the same county in Ireland, was labeled a mere farm laborer.

Both Humphreys had arrived in Marlborough region as part of an "Assisted Emigration" program and, as can be seen from the record of their arrival, were listed as if they were two in the same party—perhaps relatives?

Finding any record of Mary and whichever Humphrey O'Leary ended up being her husband was challenging. Though there are ample online research opportunities for other regions of the world, not much is available currently to Americans wondering about their distant cousins in New Zealand. 

I did find, however, two possible records for the O'Leary family's oldest child, a daughter our Falvey DNA matches assure me was named Margaret. One was for a birth in Wanganui in the third quarter of 1876. The other followed right afterward, in the fourth quarter of the same year, but was reported in Wairau. Of course, neither transcribed record included the names of parents, and neither location was quite in the region of either Falvey family's later residence. For all I know, neither of these two documents could be the one representing our collateral Falvey line.

So much for my attempt to trace Mary Falvey's life forward through history. Fortunately, there was more to be said about the family of Mary Falvey and Humphrey O'Leary, if we started our search from the end of his life. There, following Humphrey John O'Leary's death on August 5, 1934, his last will was filed in the Wellington Judicial District. 

First encouraging note was to see that the man was clearly labeled as a blacksmith, allowing us to determine which of the two arrivals from County Kerry was the one destined to marry Mary Falvey—who, incidentally, was provided for in her husband's will.

Then, too, the listing of family members, though limited, allows us to connect other names to this family tree of Falvey descendants. According to Humphrey O'Leary's will, there were two other relatives beside his wife whom he wished to name. One, of course, was his son to whom he gave his property, Michael Joseph O'Leary. Though Humphrey and Mary had several children (according to others researching this particular line), only one other name was recorded in Humphrey O'Leary's will: that of his grandson, Edward Humphrey Peters.

With that last record of the husband of our Falvey DNA match's ancestor, we now have a toe-hold to enable us to walk the line of the right Humphrey O'Leary and, by extension, the descendants of a collateral Falvey line which is somehow connected to Falvey descendants in America, as well.


Above: Excerpt from the Assisted Emigration Passenger List to Marlborough, New Zealand, dated 17 August 1874, showing the entries for two single men named Humphrey O'Leary; image courtesy   

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