Can you help solve these brickwalls?

Couleur / Pixabay

Tonight’s twitterchat for #ANZAncestryTime was about helping to solve brickwalls.

Many participants had written blogposts or biographies on wikitree including the information known about their person who is a brickwall.

Other participants gave us details so we could help solve them

Sharn: I have traced my Campbell ancestors back to Neil Campbell and Christian Buchanan who had children 1761-1773 in Callender Perthshire but I can’t find a marriage or their births

Margaret: It is my father’s family that is so difficult. For his maternal gmother…, we know her father is John. We assume her mother is Isabella from Naming Pattern, possibly Jamison. NO PROOF.

Alex: I had a go at crafting a more focused research question this afternoon. Here it is. Where and when did Robert Forfar die. He married Lucy Swait on 30 Jan 1842 at St James Westminster London UK and had a son George born 23 Oct 1848 and baptised Bannockburn? Lucy Forfar nee Swait died a widow in 1866. I surmise that Robert died some time between 1861 and 1866 as he was paying for George to go to school in Ealing in 1861. Did he die in England? Did he die in Scotland? Did he die somewhere else entirely? Robert was described as a mason on George’s marriage certificate. His family were weavers in Scotland. Forfar as a name presents a whole bunch of problems – spelling and that it is a place name as well. I need to keep rigorous records of my searches.

Kerri-Anne: I’m grateful for how much I know but I’d like to find out more information on my convicts in England Scotland Ireland – Thomas Power Jean MacDonald James Bradley Sarah Barnes Mary Parker Charles Watson Waters Ann Daley Richard Hicks Margaret Howe

Sharn: My g g g grandmother was Mary Williams said to be born in Singleton NSW c 1840 to parents named as Joseph Williams and Mary Kelly. I can’t find this couple or Mary’s birth

Sharn: Would really love to know what became of my g g g uncle Lawrence Frayne, convict who left a wonderful diary from his time on Norfolk Island after he received a Cert of Freedom in 1846

Margaret: I found most of the family for my 2xggfather William Dickson – again DNA matches and lots of research. Now I have to find his parents’ siblings – and his wife – and their missing children.

Hilary: I partially broke a brickwall when I discovered who my 3xgt grandmother married then found a DNA match with her descendants from that marriage My ancestor was illegitimate so I need to confirm the father with another DNA match

KerrieAnne: I am trying to find the origins of my direct maternal line ancestry from Ann MacLean to Robertson and further back – mt dna suggests Viking origins which is no surprise as she was from the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides

Tara: I think of them as learning opportunities and, as 3/4 of my ancestry is Irish, I’ve multiple 19C brick walls. The other 1/4 are English/Welsh origins and I can take most lines back quite far although my Welsh 3GGM is a challenge of her own

Jennifer: My 2x great grandparents John Taylor & Martha Lloyd are my brickwall. They arrived in Aust betw September 1841 and October 1842. They don’t appear on any passenger list. I’ve searched Taylor, Tailor, Tyler

KerrieAnne: Brickwalls – my husband’s direct paternal line challenge – finding Edward Tiearney & Catherine Colligan in Ireland before their emigration to US. Done ydna & got a good match but no real progress to go further back in Connacht Ireland, probably around Carracastle

Claire: my brickwall is probably not solvable. Can’t find marriage of 2x g-grandparents who had 2 kids in 1880s Dublin. No death of man recorded but dead by 1901. I’ve checked every marriage of right names countrywide church/civil & every death in Dublin from year before last kid born to 1901. Not helped by names involved: Reilly/Murphy

Sharn: I would love to know more about the family of my two convict brothers Michael and Lawrence Frayne both born in Dublin c 1809 and 1821 with children between

Suggestions of where to look for information

  • Prison hulks for convicts
  • Scottish kirk session on Scottish Indexes
  • Colonial Secretary letters
  • Occupation records such as Masons
  • National library of Ireland parish registers
  • Census records
  • Newspaper and archives for British and Irish

Try more than one site for your records – GRO, FreeBMD, ScotlandsPeople. With a missing name, I look for another person – then you find the name is mistranscribed, and that’s why it hasn’t come up on the index.

I really think spelling is key. My New Year’s resolution is to write up lists of spelling variations for each surname I am researching and make sure my searches cover all and any more I find.

A tip for breaking down brick walls is to re-examine any certificates or other documents you have. You never know what you might have missed in the past

look at the names of witnesses as sometimes their surnames might be a clue to a real surname after a name change

From Judy

I can’t join #ANZAncestryTime but my Brick Wall tips are (1) Research all relatives; (2) Try neglected sources (; (3) ’13 Tips to Try’ (; (4) ‘Break Through the 1837 Brick Wall’ (



DNA help in family history

Fantastic choice for a topic this week especially with RootsTechConnect having many DNA videos to watch and the upcoming Family History Down Under having a full day stream of DNA talks.

  1. Have you taken one or more DNA tests? Companies? Ethnicity or relationship discoveries / surprises? Reasons to test or not test?
  2. How have you acquired your knowledge about using DNA for family history?
  3. Has DNA helped your family history research? How? Solved brick walls, found family mysteries?
  4. DNA tips, tools and techniques? How do you manage your DNA data? Multiple kits? Enrolling more cousins to test?

There are many testing companies for DNA. Most are autosomal (DNA from both parents) but you can also do Y-DNA and mt-DNA tests which follow just the male line (Y) or the female line (mt). Here is a very easy to read with diagrams blog post about test types by Louisa Coakley an Australian. Louise has a fantastic blog with lots of links and resources whether you are a beginner or more advanced.

All the information you really need to know about DNA can be found in the links in the paragraph above or the blogs mentioned below. So the rest of the post will be more how the participants in chat have found using DNA for family history.

DNA blogs to check out:

PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

Brick walls and mysteries

Sharn: My maiden name was different to my paternal DNA matches. I discovered it had been changed. My mother’s maiden name didn’t match her DNA matches.Her grandfather had changed his after deserting a 1st wife.

Margaret B: I found family for my father’s ancestors where there are few records including a sister for my ggma

Mining the Past: it has confirmed my paper trail and I’ve found cousins who have stories and photos. I have found what happened to ‘missing’ siblings through their descendants turning up overseas.

SirLeprechaunRabbit: Gramma🐰s line (dad’s mat.line) has multiplied faster than 🐰🐰🐰 and I have found a few ATKINSONs (mum’s pat.line). Solved one mystery but split it up 3 ways! New mystery now.

WanderingGnostic: Winston Churchill is my 4th cousin 4x removed. Reckon we have a resemblance ? I’m related through the Spencer-Churchills

Helen: I’ve been following issues around solving cold cases and restoring identity to John/Jane Does. I do wonder though about issues around identifying mothers of unidentified newborns (neonaticide), in some cases. Lots to think about.

Hilary: Given all my relatives on the Relatives at RootsTech app were 4th cousins and beyond I am not holding out for matches

Tara: Several different ways: Confirm paper research. Help DNA matches rebuild and connect to my family tree, leading to photo and story exchanges. It’s helped me narrow down the range of possibilities where there are several likely ancestral contenders.

Fran: I would like more of my maternal side as a one name study has done a lot of my paternal so I’s doing other stuff rather than verify this work.

Maggie: #DNA has helped confirm a lot of my paper-based research, which is definitely encouraging! I have a few 19th century brick-walls and conundrums that I’d like to solve still…

Pauleen: My mother has a decent match to a cousin in Canada, and all her siblings and a first cousin. Their origins are in Wexford as is one of mum’s lines, but the paper trail defeats us.

dwdavisauthor0 / Pixabay

Sue: DNA has got me back to UK with some free settlers that just said Devon and Yorkshire when they arrived in Tassie. Also got my grandfather’s true name and now back to 1700’s

SOPS: Brilliant! Love it when DNA matches help people to cross continents with their research!

Sue: Definitely helps with bigamists adding extra to their names and making it difficult to research!!

Maggie: I’ve learnt about using #DNA mostly from talks and lectures – I remember my first ever one was by @DebbieKennett at WDYTYA?Live maybe in 2012? It’s a continual learning process.

Dara: I have two sizable matches with my Dad. They seemingly share the same family line in Co. Laois, but bizarrely don’t triangulate with each other. I can’t get my head around it.

Fran: Sometimes its a slow process with DNA but hopefully with some success

SOPS: Yes, DNA is a waiting game. Perhaps less so for some now, with so many having tested since the earlier days. It took 3 years for me to identify the bio father of a friend of mine who was adopted as a baby

Helen: Yes. More than a year for us to identify my mother’s paternal grandfather. Meeting new cousins was the best part of that. Otherwise, my mother felt sad that her own father never knew his father

Pauleen: #geneticgenealogy wisely comes with warnings – if you know there’s secrets and mysteries, well and good but you can be blindsided. Makes me nervous when I ask cousins to test.

Sandra: Through DNA I have been able to add a branch I would never have known about. I have found The father’s family of my illegitimate great grandmother. Also lopped off a branch of my husband’s tree and added the DNA based one. Good to know the truth

Karen Anne: Have met some distant cousins who have told me stories that I didn’t know about the family.

SOPS: DNA testing and research has helped to confirm much of the family tree I had developed through traditional records-based research, which is gratifying! I have solved more mysteries for other people than for myself so far, but that’s been gratifying too.

Dara: DNA has mostly confirmed my paper trail, no surprises yet, though I’m starting to worry about my G-grandfather brick wall. Might be a surprise there

Paula: I was contacted by a match who was able to use my tree to confirm details of her biological mother.

bluebudgie / Pixabay

Pauleen: I have cousins with each company, but the most with Ancestry because of its market saturation. I like their coloured dots option but like everyone I wish that we had a chromosome browser. FTDNA has the browser but issues with it counting smaller Cm matches.

Jennifer: I took my DNA test with Ancestry. Ashamed to admit that I’ve done nothing with it as yet. I was surprised that I had no Welsh ethnicity when 2 X great grandparents came from Wales.

ANZ: It took me a while to do anything with my parents’ results too – and still more to do. I think it takes time to work your way through everything, and to make the most of the tools available.

Shauna: DNA totally changed my Dad’s family research. Would I do the test again? Yes as I much prefer to know the truth and it also helped me to finally understand a lot of the tensions when I was growing up. Everyone knew but no one told me

Pauleen: DNA has confirmed that my paper trail is correct…cousins match as and where they should, with no surprises so far. Existence of documents to confirm Irish ancestors is a problem. Known cousin links have helped a lot.

SOPS: I had prepared myself and my friend for a long wait, which lessened the frustration a little! It also helped that traditional research and a stroke of luck with an Ancestry family tree enabled me to ‘reunite’ my friend with some of her half siblings early on!

Helen: Someone I should have matched with on Ancestry (has taken test) I don’t. Haven’t worked through that one yet

Pauleen: Many of my genimates here were at #DNADownUnder with me. I remember being astounded just how big a percentage of people had discovered a secret or surprise. I almost felt left out…but not quite 😉

Pauleen: I had myself and mum on FTDNA for quite a while before I got a close relative. The proliferation of testing has been a blessing despite those without trees.

Sharn: I used DNA last year to find out which of my cousins now deceased was the biological father of an adoptee. He now has a whole new family. All those conferences paid off

Fran: my pile of first cousins that have tested are a great help. I can find maternal DNA cousins with smaller shared DNA that do not share with me. Good when so many people have no tree and test for ethnicity only.

DNA disproved great great grandfather William Smith half Samoan

Sue: Dad was the main surprise with no Samoan yet two relatives I also tested did have it. Hence testing others that are now half relatives. Mum was no surprise totally English/Irish a little

Sandra: Found out my parents are related and I have pedigree collapse in my tree. Plus husband’s mother’s dad isn’t who is listed on the birth certificate.

Paula: DNA test with Ancestry and added to My Heritage. Identified my g grandfather as a result. Couldn’t have done it otherwise.

Paula: my gg grandmother went to Australia leaving my g grandfather in Scotland. DNA has helped to link me with some lovely cousins in Australia

Pauleen: Connecting with cousins is a big bonus

Paula: Most definitely. DNA and blogging has opened up a whole new family

SOPS: I have tested with Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and Living DNA. A 23&Me test is to follow. For DNA matches to confirm/disprove relationships in my record-based family tree, and to see if I can unmask the father of my 2x great grandfather Henry Atcherley! And uploaded to MyHeritage too of course! Several other descendants of Henry Atcherley have also tested too, to help triangulate shared matches. No Eureka moment yet, but I have now found shared matches with shared ancestors so the field is narrowing

Sharn: When I took my first NA test I had a huge surprise – I was Polish. For years I searched for my mysterious Polish ancestors and then realised that my cousin’s DNA and mine had been switched. and that was a bigger surprise!

Fran: I found a Great Grandfathers ancestors via DNA. Happy dance find as I was stuck and my DNA cousin had done some research that helped.

Daniel: I haven’t taken one as of yet. I’m not testing as being a blood relative of an adoptee who’s finding out their birth family very recently.

Pauleen: Very grateful to have my mother’s DNA on a few sites. It really helps to distinguish which side of the tree. haven’t got a definitive DNA link for the Sherry/McSharry/McSherry family back to Ireland. Always take a deep breath before asking cousins to test

Tara: Tested my late granduncle with myFTDNA (because he wasn’t able to spit and I didn’t know there was a trick) and my maternal grandmother with Ancestry. Both to help with research. Ethnicity not an interest but surprising results for GU

Pexels / Pixabay

Tips, tools, techniques

Margaret B: I have my matches on several spreadsheets in cM order from all sites

Mining the Past: I use GenomeMatePro to manage kits/matches. I need to upgrade to its replacement GDAT but haven’t had time yet. I love DNAGedcom for auto clustering and DNA Painter. Gedmatch has many useful tools too.

Tara: Attending in person and online seminars with Legacy. I’m lucky to know @GenealogyLass so I can ask her questions. I also found this book very helpful…

Fran: It’s good to have a DNA buddy.

Pauleen: DNA is like starting family history all over again and is very time consuming. I have read books, attended the excellent DNA Down Under seminar in 2019 and follow DNA FB pages

Sandra: I found Shelley Crawford’s visualising Ancestry DNA matches using NodeXL to be very helpful for me. Also using DNA painter to try and work out whether individual matching segments are maternal or paternal. Clustering is also very helpful.

Maggie: Genetic Genealogy Ireland  I’d also second the recommendation of the Genetic Genealogy Ireland videos from Back to Our Past.

SOPS: Extensive notes and use of Custom Groups at Ancestry. Was too late to get Mum to test, but both brothers and Dad have tested, two half-2nd cousins and a few 3rd cousins. Other close cousins popping up in results also help with evaluation of matches.

Sue: I do one little thing on DNA then write post about it; see post below about finding grandfather

Fran: There are over 200 webinars on DNA at Just renewed my membership. While most are free for a short while I find watching at my convenience worth the cost

Dara: Absolutely, Deleted my kits from GEDmatch, and am unsure of FTDNA. I don’t object to using DNA for crime prevention. But they should follow due process, which seems lacking, in the US. Police cannot just enter your house without a warrant, why your DNA?

Tumisu / Pixabay

Pauleen: Gedmatch can be useful but I use it less. I routinely use DNA Painter to compare where the DNA match fits in the cousin ranking. I’ve also mapped some of my matches using DNA Painter. Still lots of learning to apply. What is my priority – DNA or writing up

Margaret: My % differ markedly. Irish- with Ancestry 86%, FTDNA 99% and only 46% with My Heritage. MH clearly too low in my case and FT way too high. Ancestry picks up lots of Irish who went to US I think.

Sue: Google spreadsheets for each kit tested but mainly parents, DNAPainter, WATO, Chromosome browsers for triangulating, YDNA for Dad, colour coding ancestry, notes on how connected

Hilary: with all my matches being distant it can be difficult to know which ones are genuine when they don’t have a tree to compare matches

Pauleen: Blaine Bettinger’s books are also very good. We were so lucky to attend the #DNADownUnder conference. But man, does DNA take some time!

Tara: I haven’t read Blaine’s books but I’ve heard him speak. Really clear also @dnapainter  (Only on first mug of coffee here so a little slow!)

Sharn: Tara it was Blaine who really explained how to use DNA painter in a way I could put into practice

Tara: Yes, he’s very good. I tend to think of Jonny though because I’ve had a few drinks with him and others after FamilyTreeLive and I haven’t met Blaine yet 🙂

Pauleen: Social networking can be critical 😉

Shauna: I find using DNA Painter good for identifying Mum’s side, she had no surprises. I have also tried WATO but I don’t have enough close matches on Dad’s side. I mainly use the tools provided by the companies eg clusters, colour coded matches, chromosome browsers

Jane: I have some good matches at 23andMe. I don’t like the recent change to the ‘yes’ column though ……

Dara: Yes, the lack of Chromosome browser on Ancestry is a pain for confirming 100%, but they do have the most matches, which is great. Many are not interested in genealogy though.

Sharn: DNA Downunder was brilliant. I put so much into action after that conference. Four days of full on DNA learning

Helen: do any of you have ethical/privacy concerns about the different testing sites?

Dara: DNA was a steep learning curve! I’m still learning. Reading, Reading, Reading and conferences, The BacktoOurPast DNA lectures for the initial years are free online, and @RobertaJEstes blog is a treasure trove

CBGenealogy: +1 on @mauricegleeson‘s excellent work arranging Genetic Genealogy Ireland & their lectures both on YouTube @legacyfamily

Dara: Yes, and he’s one of the best speakers too, him and @GenealogyLass.

Sue: a lot of reading especially @blaine_5 info, but also reading what each different company or website says about their testing. Also joining Facebook groups for DNA in Aus/NZ/UK

Fran: Many RootsTech Classes over the years, DNA Downunder for the main conferences. Read lots of blogs. Ask Pauleen at @cassmob to sort me out. Podcasts and Webinars too. Should know more for the amount I have done. Just need to apply the learnings.

Pauleen: People to learn from: Blaine Bettinger, Angie Bush, Diahan Southard, Roberta Estes, Debbie Kennett, Louise Coakley, Michelle Leonard, Michelle Patient. Lots of skills and knowledge out there. Bound to have omitted someone – @HicksShauna @HVSresearch @kerryfarmer

qimono / Pixabay

SOPS: I’m very much a ‘learn by doing’ kind of person, taking the plunge and answering questions along the way by using Google to find websites with answers! Having said that, I did read @DebbieKennett‘s “DNA and Social Networking” back in the beginning. I also attended several DNA presentations at the #WDYTYALive shows and found Maurice Gleeson’s talks particularly enlightening.

Dara: I found Ancestry the best for discoveries, Nothing at FTDNA sadly. MyHeritage is showing intriguing results maybe for my G-Grandfather brickwall, and I love their tools. What about you?

Sue: have tested 8 relatives on Ancestry, uploaded them all to FTDNA, MyHeritage, GEDmatch and a few to LivingDNA. I also tested with Living DNA to get the specific counties info as I am virtually 100% English/Irish

Jane: Learned a lot just playing with the data, belonging to relevant forums, reading etc

Jennifer: I need to get started. I’ve been waiting until I know it all first. My knowledge as yet is very sparse, but I intend to put serious time into the @RootsTechConf DNA sessions

Tara: I have had some good success on Ancestry applying detective lessons from a @GenealogyLass seminar even when they’ve had barely anything

Paula: online research and I’ve attended a couple of talks at family history fairs. Still very limited knowledge. Keeping track of results is hard!

Shauna: I have been to quite a few in person DNA seminars and talked to experts about looking for my biological grandfather. Also read books, blogs and watched webinars. Blaine Bettinger and Maurice Gleeson are favourites

Daniel: I’d say any bits I may have seen about DNA in genealogy would have been from Debbie Kennett or anyone else that tweets about it

Blog posts from participants

Sue: Finding grandfather, posts tagged DNA, posts specific to DNA matches

Jill: posts labelled DNA

Great quotes:

Mining the Past: I am lucky to have been a scientific researcher in cell and molecular biology in a past life so I understood DNA inheritance. I thought that coupled with knowledge of genealogy would make it relatively straightforward. Boy was i wrong! I like to learn by experimenting hands on so I learnt mostly by just getting stuck in and trying things out and searching out info when I got stuck. Blaine’s Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques is great. I struggled until I began getting other relatives to test. My dad’s was really helpful in separating maternal/paternal. I also have maternal aunt and 1C1R and paternal half-uncle. A 1C has just agreed to do Y-DNA so that will be new for me.

Sue: Jeepers, chat is half over and I was here on time but got waylaid checking out some DNA matches for dad.

Readers: Have you solved a mystery or brickwall in your family history using DNA?

Who was William Elvis Allen?

After many years of searching, a close DNA match has finally given me information on my grandfather William Alan (Allen) Wyatt. From many records now shared between Dennis (and his half sister Carol), Kylie, Julie, Bob and Kevin, we are now all descendants of :

William Elvis Allen

Life in England

My grandfather was born to  parents William Elvis and Florence Emily Allen nee Evans and the birth registered in the third quarter of 1902. (Certificate has been ordered) Unfortunately, our William lost his father before he was born (death registered in first quarter 1902 and certificate ordered)  Florence had two other young children Frank Earnest aged 5 and Ethel Maud aged 1 to look after. I wonder if she had to go to a workhouse for a while as there is a record for a Florence Emily Allen age 24 being discharged to the infirmary at the Lewisham Workhouse on Friday 3 October 1903? Need to check if the children were there or if this is just a red herring.

When our William was baptised on 24 June 1903, the family were living at 120 Livingstone Road in the parish of Upper Norwood in Surrey. It is mentioned on the baptism record that his father had been a carpenter and was deceased. Looking at the 1901 census, living at the same address were William and Florence, children Frank and Ethel but also Florence’s parents George and Mary Evans and two of their sons, Albert and Charles.

In 1905, things were looking up for Florence and her children as she married Frederick Edward Bray in April. They quickly had three more children Albert, Kathleen and Charles.

By the 1911 census living at 124 Livingstone Road were Frederick and Florence Bray, their three children and two step children Frank and William. Something has happened to Ethel. Our William was now around 8 years old, his brother Frank about 14. Frederick was a general labourer working for the Croydon Council.

We next find William Elvis Allen joining the Royal Navy at age 16 and serving on the Ganges II as a boy. Research shows me this was a training ship for young boys and was at Shotley, near Ipswich, north east of London. As part of the war effort, the boys were helping with building and moving submarine nets.

National Archives, England, ADM/188/821 image 490


Image found at

It looks like after his first six month service test, he was invalided out due to chronic diarrhoea and deafness.  So what was William to do now? War had ended, maybe time to use his new knowledge of the sea and head to a new country – Australia – a land of sun, sea and sheilas.

England to Australia

We find him leaving London, early January 1919, on the ship SS Demosthenes heading to Albany, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney dropping off Australian troops in each port. As this is the time of the influenza epidemic, the ship goes into quarantine at each port until it is cleared.

StateLibQld 1 108808 Demosthenes (ship)

At this stage, he is 17 years old and is registered as a steward’s boy. On board is 175 crew including some especially serving the troops on board. Troop members are not mentioned by name on the passenger list. He finally arrives in Sydney on 15 March 1919. We don’t know if William left the ship at this time or went back to London via Colombo, Bombay and Port Said with the passengers, meat carcasses and fruits loaded on the Demosthenes for the return voyage.

There are more mentions of a W.E. Allen on board Demosthenes arriving Sydney

  • 19 September 1919 as assistant steward born London age 18
  • 4 October 1919 as an assistant steward aged 18 born Thornton Heath

But there is mention of a W.E Allen age 19 being an assistant steward on the ship SS Themistocles (sister ship to Demosthenes) travelling from Southampton to Sydney and arriving on 8 March 1921. There were 613 passengers on board being looked after by 222 crew.

These records are found at under the New South Wales, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists – 1826-1922.

Life and marriages in Australia

Sometime during the years 1921 and 1924, William met his first wife Emily Daisy Green. There is a Miss Emily D Green found on the passenger list for the Demosthenes departing Southhampton on 9 February 1921 bound for Sydney but there is no crew list for this voyage. According to her later divorce papers, Emily Daisy had met William 3 or 4 years before they married. He had been a steward on a boat but was put off the boat before they married. Maybe this news article shows the cause for his dismissal as a steward if this is our William Allen.


William and Daisy married on 12 April 1924 at Registry Office, Newtown, Sydney. At this time, he was working as a steward near Kings Cross. As William did not stay long in one place, they never had their own home. Instead Daisy and the two children born to her and William lived with other people on the North Shore of Sydney. The first son William Elvis John Allen was born in 1924 and the second son Frederick Henry Allen in 1925. By 1939, when Daisy petitioned for a divorce, she had not heard from William since 1925 when he had joined Royal Australian Navy at the urging of the family where Daisy was living. Her final contact was with the chaplain of the ship Penguin. She had been getting a monthly allotment but none after William disappeared. There is also a record in the National Archives Australia for a William E Allen – Application for covering approval of an irregular payment. This will need to be checked out as it might relate to our William.

Records show William enlisted on 19 May 1925 for a period of 12 years. He joined with the name William Alvis Allen maybe his English accent caused the misspelling.  He was born in Thornton Heath, London on 27 June 1901. William passed three Naval exams in 1925/1926. His record shows he served on the following ships:

National Archives of Australia; Canberra, Australia; Service Cards for Petty Officers and Men, 1911-1970; Series: A6770

I can’t find any reference to the ship Cerberus in 1925; nor the Penguin in either 1925 or 1927; Brisbane was refitted as a training vessel and in Victoria at HMAS Cerberus base in 1925/1926; Sydney took on its normal peacetime activities 1926/1927 including a trip to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup period; Marguerite was a naval reserve training vessel visiting NSW, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.  A remark on his record says “Run at Sydney 11 – 10 – 27.  SC filed”

A warrant for William Elvis Allen is found in the New South Wales Police Gazette on the 4th January 1928.

From DNA results, we have William moving to Tasmania and now going by the name William Allen (Alan) Wyatt. According to the Denison Electoral Roll (in Hobart) for 1929, William was living at 160 Goulburn St and was a labourer. Also living at this address were Ellen Sarah Avery, Keith Henry Avery and Oscar Clyde Goldsmith Avery.

According to his marriage certificate to Jean Violet Ward on 5 December 1929, Alan was age 25, a bachelor, occupation was a steward. He was born in Sydney NSW and his parents were Alan George Wyatt and Florence Emily Wyatt nee Evans. Jean and Alan were married at the Registrar Generals Office. Two children were born in the next two years, Alan and June, before their mother passed away in September 1931.


During the two years of this marriage, William was in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve (RANR) and according to his certificate of service with them, he was born 27 June 1905 in London, England. When he joined up on 3 February 1930, he was living at 3 Allison Street, Hobart with his wife, Jean Violet Wyatt nee Ward. He was a steward, could swim and was Church of England in religion. His description was 5’8″ with dark hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. Keith Avery was also in the RANR at this time training with William.

He spent only 27 hours in drill training at the naval depot in Hobart, he was of very good character but his ability was inferior. After 30 June 1931 he was not assessed and his 3 year engagement expired in February 1933. By the time of the electoral roll in 1931, Alan William Wyatt (reversal of name) was living at Allison Street also and he was now a steward.

It is at this time that Emily Daisy Allen nee Green starts divorce proceedings against William Elvis Allen.

After the death of Jean, William marries my grandmother Irene Ellen Gertrude Smith in Hobart at Holy Trinity Church on April 11, 1932 states his age at last birthday being 30 and his occupation as a steward. He was a widower, his wife dying in 1931 and he had two living children. He was born in Sydney, New South Wales. His parents were Alan George Wyatt (a licensed victualler) and Florence Emily Wyatt (nee Evans).  My father was born in November 1932 and two years later William deserted my grandmother and my father.

According to my grandmother’s petition for divorce in 1945, William was working at Hadley’s Hotel as a steward and they had been living in a flat in Hampden Road. She was deserted by William shortly before Christmas in 1934.

According to DNA match, William now heads back to New South Wales but using the name Alan William Wyatt. Alan is next found marrying in November 1936 to Stella Wilby Parrish at Wollongong St Michaels church. He is now a lorry driver living at Port Kembla and age 36, yet still a bachelor. He was born in Scotsdale – which could be either Tasmania or Western Australia. His father, George Wyatt, a hotel keeper is deceased but his mother Florence Emily Wyatt is still alive.

On 8 June 1940, Emily Daisy Allen finally got a decree absolute from William Elvis Allen and on 2 October 1945, Irene Ellen Gertrude Wyatt got her decree absolute from William Allan Wyatt.

It seems Alan has decided to settle down and no longer has anything to do with the navy. Instead he is found in the New South Wales Electoral Rolls:

  • 1937 billiard Saloon proprietor living at 23 Kembla Street, Port Kembla
  • 1943 and 1949 a labourer living at Shellharbour Road in Port Kembla
  • 1954 and 1958 a clerk living on Wentworth Estate in Wollongong
  • 1958 a railway employee living in Kully Street, Warrawong
  • 1972 a railway employee living in Bent Street, Warrawong

Even though the family moved around a bit, Alan and Stella remain married until his death in 1974.

Thanks to the following people

Without the help of Bob – my father, Kevin – dad’s half brother, Kylie and Julie – daughters of Kevin, Dennis – dad and Kevin’s half nephew and Carol – Dennis’s half sister, I would not have been able to piece together the story of my grandfather. There are still things to check and certificates to wait for but I think we have sorted out the story of William Elvis Allen. Below are photos of William, his sons, Bob, Kevin and Frederick and his grandson Dennis. I think the resemblances prove the DNA matches.

Readers: Hope you have enjoyed my biography of my newly found grandfather who has been my brickwall for many years. Who is your best brickwall in your research?