The details of my 3x great grandfather's birth and early life are rather scant, but it's been a fascinating research journey trying to find clues. From the few records I have ended up with, which really only includes the immigrant passenger list, the baptism records for two of his children, and his death certificate, there appears to be a difference in his supposed place of origin. It appeared that James hailed from both County Limerick and County Clare. So, which was correct?
From what I've been able to glean so far, it seems that both are most likely correct. Why? Well, that needs an explanation.
James was probably born and definitely lived in the Coonagh area (not to be confused with the Coonagh Barony!).
Coonagh was comprised of two townlands, Coonagh East and Coongah West.
The area was part of the Civil Parish of Killeely.
The Civil Parish of Killeely was part of the Roman Catholic Parish of Parteen-Meelick-Coonagh in the Diocese of Limerick.
Both the Civil Parish of Killeely and the Diocese of Limerick straddled two counties, County Limerick and County Clare. Indeed, the majority of the Limerick Diocese was in fact within the borders of County Clare, as was most of the Parish of Parteen-Meelick-Coonagh.
The area of Coonagh (which included Coonagh East and Coonagh West) sat on the banks of the Shannon River, and was at different points in time considered to be part of both counties, although when James was growing up it was most definitely considered part of County Limerick.
|Sunset on the Shannon, taken from Coonagh|
By ThadysLamp - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44392588
I have not yet uncovered a definitive date of birth, but the year 1798 is an educated guess, based on the age recorded on James's immigration passenger list. His death certificate contradicts this date though, and indicates that he was born a lot earlier, in 1793. I do think that 1793 was in fact the date of birth for one of James's brothers.
James was the son of Patrick Hickey and Mary Price. He had at least two older brothers. I think that it was Patrick who was born in 1793, and then Denis came along in 1795. James was the youngest of the boys. It's likely other siblings were born to his parents, but it seems they did not survive into adulthood.
My 3x great grandfather James married Margaret McNamara sometime around 1820, when he would have been aged 22. On James's death certificate it is recorded that he married in County Clare, and that would be correct if they married in the Catholic Church in the Parish of Parteen, which was part of the Diocese of Limerick!
After their marriage, James and Margaret went on to have at least 8 children whilst living in Ireland.
Their eldest son Dennis was born in 1822.
Patrick came along in 1824.
Twins, John and Thomas were born in 1827.
Bridget was born in 1829.
Ellen (my Great Great Grandmother) came along in 1832. At that time James was 34 years old.
James (Jnr.) was born in 1835.
William was born in 1837, but it seems he died as a very young infant.
Sadly, back in 1833, James's father Patrick had died.
|Tithe Applotment Book 1833 Townland of Coonagh|
|Tithe Applotment Book 1833 - Coonagh Hickey|
Patrick, being the eldest brother would have been left the lease of the large 15 acre farm after the death of his father that year. That was in accordance with the inheritance traditions at the time. The younger brothers, including my 3x great grandfather James, would have worked the land together as well as their own small 1 acre plots. Apparently it was fairly common for each fully fit man to work 5 acres with a spade at this time. Hard, back-breaking work!
Both James and Denis, the younger brothers, would have been deprived of property rights, and that would have been the reality for their own sons as well. My 3x great grandfather James already had 5 sons by this time (1833) and his brother Denis had 4. Whilst James and Denis remained working the farmland as tenants for several more years after 1833, they were to make a life-changing decision in the hope of changing their futures.
Upon the death of their mother Mary, which happened sometime between 1833 and 1839, the two younger brothers decided to emigrate, in the belief they could build a better life for their families elsewhere and perhaps end up as landowners themselves.
In November of 1839, James Hickey and his family of 8, as well as his brother Denis and his family of 6, boarded the ship Adam Lodge, along with what is highly likely to be a number of other Hickey relatives. In all, there were 28 people with the surname of Hickey from either County Limerick or County Clare who departed Cove Cork in Ireland on the 11th of November 1839.
"The immigrants included 54 Protestants and 219 Catholics. A crew member and two children died on the voyage, one child was born. A school was established and 37 regularly attended. The schoolmaster was very attentive and many of the scholars improved considerably. The chief amusements were dancing and leap frog and were always encourage in the evenings until 9 o'clock. Divine Service was performed five times during the voyage, the unfavourable state of the weather, the rolling of the ship and their indisposition prevented its being done oftener."
|The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser Sat 15 Feb 1840 p2|
The Adam Lodge arrived in Sydney on February 14th, 1840, after a voyage that lasted for 95 days. The ship had taken a course from the Cape of Good Hope, across the Southern Ocean, and then up the Eastern seaboard of Australia. The ship had 'spoken' with the Mary Ridgway whilst passing through Bass Strait, on the 10th of February 1840.
It was noted that James had been 41 years old upon embarkation, but was 42 years old by the time he had arrived in the Colonies.
His previous occupation had been 'farmer'.
He was Roman Catholic and could both read and write.
James's wife Margaret was recorded as being 38 years of age and her occupation was listed as 'farm servant'. She could neither read nor write.
Children Patrick, Thomas, John, James, Bridget and Ellen were all listed with Margaret. Son Dennis was listed separately as a Single Male.
|Dispersal List for assisted immigrants on Adam Lodge 1840 p.3 - James Hickey and family|
|Dispersal List for assisted immigrants on Adam Lodge 1840 p.2 - Denis Hickey and family|
His brother Denis and his son Dennis, on the other hand, had been sponsored by a Mr. Hunt of Sydney for 1 year at wages of 90 pounds plus rations. It's likely that James stayed in Sydney for a while, close to his brother and son, anxiously awaiting employment prospects.
I'm not entirely sure just how long after landing in Sydney, James and his family moved north to the Hunter River District, and in particular the Maitland; but within two years of disembarkation, as another son was born in the Maitland area in 1842.
Son Michael was born in October of 1842, when James was 44 years old.
James was to reside in the Hunter River District, around Maitland, for the remainder of his life, as did his brother Denis and most of the extended Hickey family. It seems that they were a close-knit clan.
|Article in the Empire Newspaper Wed 5 Aug 1857 p2|
There is mention of a "Hickey's Farm" in an article published in the Empire newspaper dated 5th of August 1857.
The article told of the effects of significant flooding in the Narrowgut / Morpeth / Phoenix Park area of the Hunter River District in New South Wales that year.
In the last paragraph there is mention that:
"Below Hinton the river broke over at several places, and poured a deluge of water into the adjacent hollows. This was the case at Berry Park, Duckenfield, Hickey's Farm, Nelson's Plains, and Miller's Forest - all the low lands in these localities were covered with water."
Was this my 3x great grandfather's farm?
|Map of Hunter River District around Maitland - shows location of Wallalong, Phoenix Park and Narrowgut.|
Given that James's brother Denis had died in 1852, then perhaps the "Hickey's Farm" mentioned in that 1857 newspaper was indeed the farm of James Hickey. The death of his brother Denis would have been a terrible blow to James, considering they had made the journey out to Australia together and spent their lives in the colony living in the same places.
I have little knowledge of the life of James during his years spent farming in the Hunter River District. Did he end up owning his own land, or did he spend his life as a tenant farmer?
|Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser Sat 21 Jun 1879 p16|
James Hickey died on the 14th of June, 1879 and the death notice published on Saturday the 21st of June states:
"Mr. James Hickey, senior, died on Saturday night, the 14th inst., at his late residence, Narrowgut."
The article also mentions that he was an "old and respected resident of the district" who had been a "native of Ireland, but has spent thirty-nine years in this colony, always located in the Hunter River district." It was wonderful to see that he was described as "of a remarkably active temperament, and possessed a warm-hearted, genial disposition, which served to endear him to a large circle of friends." The death notice also mentions that James died "with his children all around him", which seems to indicate the closeness of the family unit.
The death certificate also lists 1 other male as deceased, and 1 female. I know that James and Margaret had lost a son named William before they left Ireland, but I have not yet found any record of a third daughter born to them, either in Ireland or Australia. These details were given by son Michael, so I'm assuming he would have known the true facts and I now have some more researching to do!
I'm once again joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2019 project / challenge.
I'm catching up with the prompt for Week 31 of 2019 - ''Brother".
Check out this FB page: Amy Johnson Crow