Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Unsolved and mysterious past of Mary Ann Goodwin, the Gleesons, the Lesters and More

When she arrived  in New Zealand aboard the Brodick Castle in 1876 the past of Mary Ann seemed fairly obvious. She was listed as Mary Ann Gleeson age 17 , Domestic Servant from County Kerry Ireland.
This in itself from a genealogical point of view was a little problematical as Irish family history can be difficult to trace, however the past of Mary Ann was to prove even more difficult and mysterious and full of red herrings.
The first confusion arises in details on her death certificate where Mary Ann is listed as being born in Dublin but despite her maiden name of Gleeson, her parents names in this document are listed as James Lester and Mary Lester.
Certainly Lester is a name that has proved important in the family. Her son Phillip used Lester as his middle name, and he named is eldest son Lester.
A search of the few records available in Dublin bought no joy in finding any trace of James and Mary Lester.
Mary Ann's obituary has no mention  of parents but does say she grew up in Dublin.
The mystery still remains, why would her name be Gleeson if her parents names were Lester? Perhaps she was adopted and it was the Lesters who raised her in Dublin. It seemed that her past would remain unknown.
That was until another document came to light. 
The birth certificate of her eldest daughter Gertrude, reported by Mary Ann's husband James added more confusion into the mix .
James reported that his wife's place of birth was not in fact Ireland, but was Leeds, England. Further research showed that the same place of birth was reported on the certificate for son George Goodwin, a birth also reported by husband James. Just to confuse things more, on the birth certificate of son Phillip the birth place is reported as Dublin, however this birth was reported not by James but by James’ mother.  I would surmise that Jane assumed Mary Ann was born in Dublin as this was where she grew up, when James knew otherwise and perhaps this fact was not widely known among the family.
The good news from a genealogical point of view is that Mary Anns birth date of circa 1859 means if she was born in England, then her birth should have been registered.
A look at all births for Mary Gleesons in the Leeds area of Yorkshire yields  several worth investigation
The only one actual listed as born in Leeds was born in 1856, which is probably a little early as every document that we have with Mary Ann's age consistently places her birth around 1859-60 . In addition this Mary Ann , whose parents were Thomas and Frances Gleeson appears to remain in Leeds throughout her childhood .
A second Mary Gleeson born 1859/60 appears in the 1861 census with parents William and Mary.
This family is also traceable through to 1871 so is not a likely candidate.
There is another Mary Gleeson, born in 1860 in Rotherham Yorkshire to parents Daniel and Bridget Gleeson. Daniel and Bridget are both from Ireland and their children were born in the Leeds area . Bridget and Mary appear on the 1871 census so we can probably discount that family too.        
The 4th and I believe most likely entry in the 1861 census is a Mary Ann Gleeson age 2 and is a         
visitor in a house with an Ann Smith ( aged 30 Widow, Hawker) and a Kelly family.
 I strongly suspect this is our Mary Ann.  Where are her parents and who are they?  In order to  solve this mystery we will need to order the birth certificate of this Mary Ann Gleeson. - and when we do we will know her parents but will the rest of the mystery be solved? Only time will tell.

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