Back in 1990, after 10 years of teaching full time, I earned the right to Long Service Leave so took off for three months around the world. West coast America to see Disneyland and the canyons, Alaska to fly above the Arctic Circle and visit an inuit town, Europe to see the large towns and famous buildings like Eiffel Tower and Leaning tower of Pisa, sail in the Greek islands, travel down the Nile and climb in the Pyramid of Giza but most of all visit the country of my ancestors Great Britain.
Very little was digitized at this time, many records were on microfilm or in original records. So I spent a few days at the Devon Archives when they were located in the middle of Exeter. I was trying to find out who my John Davey was, where he came from, who were his parents and siblings. I stayed in a B&B in Clyst Honiton.
What did I know about John Davey before I left?
- John was my great great grandfather who married Annie Dixon in 1859. He was 26, she was 18. Until his death in 1888, they raised seven sons and five daughters to adulthood. They lived in English Town, near Evandale, Tasmania
- John was born in Devon, England. He was brought out to Tasmania as a farm servant to George Meredith on the East Coast of Tasmania. John was Church of England and could read and write. He arrived in Hobart Town aged 20 on 13 February 1855 on board ‘Wanderer‘. John was occasionally mentioned in the ‘Meredith papers’ which are housed in the State Library Archives in Hobart. He was recorded last at ‘Cambria‘ in January 1857. His wages at this time were 7 pounds and 10 shillings per quarter.
By the time I had finished my research at the Devon Archives, I had the feeling that my John Davey was born in Coffinswell in 1836. In fact, I started with a list of 50 John Davey born around 1835 in Devon and by the end of my research was down to 7 possibilities but the most likely being the one born in Coffinswell. I added this to my tree on Ancestry and of course, it has now been copied by many relatives onto their trees.
I now know better than to do this.
Since that trip to England 30 years ago, I have been to New Zealand to visit cousins there – one of John Davey’s daughters married and moved to New Zealand. She had a birthday book which she handed down through her family so I asked the current owner if they could send me any names relating to the Davey surname.
One of these was John Davey born 21 January 1834. Could I assume this was my John Davey? But the Coffinswell John Davey was born in 1836? How to prove who was my real John Davey?
Thirty years have now passed
If only I had checked those John Davy (note different spelling) births in Devon, I would have made an immediate hit but instead it has taken me 30 years until a match in mum’s DNA linked back to a person who had an ancestor Luke Davy in Devon. How was this Luke Davy related to my John Davey?
They were siblings. So mum and her DNA match named Ivor are 3rd cousins sharing 99cM across 5 segments.
This John Davy was born 21 January 1834 in Clyst Honiton, Devon, England. He was one of 12 children born to John and Mary Anne Davy nee Jennings in Heavitree area of Devon, England.
My reminder from this is to search all probable spellings of a surname. Sometimes my John was a Davey other times a Davy.
Readers: Have you made a mistake with a person on your tree? How did you go about fixing it?