02 May 2011

John Merrick

When I first started researching the Merricks, I tried to find out information on them from Ireland. Perhaps I was comparing it to the ease of access to records that we have here in NSW but I really didn't get very far. I knew that James Merrick was from Sligo, but I didn't have a certain birth date, and really didn't know where to search. I had a bit of a go at RootsIreland, but that was pretty expensive and pretty hit-and-miss as well. In the end I gave up.

Recently though, a relative of my husband's did some excellent research on the Irish branch of their family so I picked her brain to find out the secret of her success. She had access to another subscription database (origins.net) and found a number of references to Merricks in Sligo. She passed them on to me, so I made up a spreadsheet of all my Merrick references to see what I could make of them. I also used information from the new FamilySearch website, which is SO much better than the old one (which I found next to useless).

I still had the problem of knowing that there were two sets of James and Samuel Merricks in Australia, both from Sligo, so I focused on the brother of my James and Samuel - John, my great great great uncle. I didn't even know if he had emigrated to Australia, but I had found references to at least one other child born to a William and Jane Merrick in Sligo at about the right time - Mary Ellen. If she hadn't emigrated, but the three brothers James, Samuel and John had, then that could be why only the three brothers were listed in the death notice of Samuel.

These were the pieces of information I had on a John Merrick:

  • John Thomas Merrick, born 3 Sept 1864, Sligo. Father: William, mother: Jane. From FamilySearch.
  • John Merrick, carpenter in John St, Sligo, 1894. From Slaters Directory, 1894.
  • John Thomas Merrick, died in Parkes (country NSW), but lived in Penshurst (Sydney, NSW). Was a builder. Was married to Margaret. Father: William, mother: Susan Jane. Children: William, Mary, John. From Trove (Sydney Morning Herald death notice), NSW BDM, Sands Directories of NSW.

So were these all the same people? My great aunt didn't remember any uncles called John, but I spoke to my great uncle. He remembered an Uncle Jack (✓ - "Jack" often equals "John"), who worked on the Sobraon as a tutor, teaching carpentry skills (✓). Uncle Jack was married to Margaret (✓), had three kids (✓), one called Mary (✓) who worked for the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, and another was a chemist (✓ - this was the son John). My great uncle also told me a lovely story about Uncle Jack's apple: Uncle Jack went to Tasmania and got an apple which was so big it was shared between six people. After that, within the family, if anything was big it was compared to Uncle Jack's Apple. He also, incidentally, remembered one of James' daughters going back to Ireland to visit an aunt - perhaps Mary Ellen.

So, with my great uncle's help I concluded that the pieces of information I had were all for my great great great uncle, John Merrick. The different mother's name - Susan Jane - is probably because it was "remembered" by grandchildren who had never met her, and therefore may have been hazy on her name - close enough though! I came to the conclusion that John had married and had at least one child before he and the family emigrated to Australia. This was confirmed when I accidentally happened across the military service record listing for John's son William in the National Archives of Australia - it listed his birth date and his birthplace - 1895 and Sligo, Ireland.

So there we are - chipping away a little bit more of the Merrick brick wall.

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