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Catherine Hancock (nee Byrnes)

There was only one mysterious element to the Hancock family of Pimlico & that was Great Granny Hancock. My maternal grandparents were Alexina Forbes Muirhead & Arthur Frederick Charles Hancock. Alexina was born in Newcastle & her paternal & maternal lines (Murdoch) were not too difficult to explore. My grandmother had often spoken of her family, so a lot of history had been passed on verbally to my mother & her siblings. The Hancok line was another kettle of fish! As two previous generations of Hancocks had inhabited the Ballina area, it wasn't too difficult to extract some information about them either. Great Granny Hancock was another matter. The only two pieces of information that had been passed on about Great Granny Hancock were that her name was Catherine Byrnes & that Burns Point (Emigrant Point), just south of Ballina, was named after her family. The spelling of "Burns Point" caused much speculation on my behalf & Mum bore the brunt of my teasing about her family's spelling capabilities for many years. Eventually I purchased Catherine Byrnes & Charles Phillip Hancock's marriage certificate. I was expecting to find the parents of Catherine & Charles but was disappointed to find that both sets of parents were listed as unknown. It did of course, give me a marriage date & place, as well as a couple of marriage witnesses. The certificate sat in my very skinny "Byrnes Folder" for quite a few years. 

As Catherine was married at Southgate, near Grafton, I thought her family may have been from that locality. I decided to attempt to search cemeteries near Grafton for any Byrnes family members. I was clutching at straws & hoping for clues. It was on reinspection of the marriage certificate that I noticed two peculiarities. The marriage had taken place at "Leesonvale", Southgate & one of the witnesses was Mary Leeson. The other odd factor was that the second witness was Arthur Burns. I remembered teasing Mum about her family's inability to spell their own name, with regard to Burns Point & wondered if there was a connection.

I decided to try e-mailing the Clarence River Historical Society to see if the Byrnes or Leeson names featured in early life. Surprisingly I received an e-mail explaining how the Byrnes & Leeson families were indeed linked. The wedding announcement for Catherine & Charles actually referred to Catherine as the daughter of Jane Leeson (Byrnes) & the step-daughter of Christopher Leeson, of Leesonvale, Southgate.

Jane's first husband (Thomas Byrnes) had died in the year of Catherine's birth. Thomas links back to a Byrnes convict, Peter Hibbs (First Fleet Mariner & much more), a Second Fleet convict (Mary Pardoe) & a soldiar (Benjamin West).

Great Granny Hancock's family tree turned out to be one of the most exciting I have traced. Allen Maunder's book "Sailing On ... The Hibbs Line" includes an extensive amount of information on the Byrnes & Hibbs families. The discovery of my link to Thomas Byrnes has solved one of the mysteries not covered in the book.

If anyone has an interest in the Hancock or Byrnes family please feel free to contact: Donna Williams

Copy of page originally transcribed by Mandy O'Neill (content remains unedited)
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