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[For complete story see Mary Ann's Tattoo, or how we found Catherine's mother]
I believe that I have established beyond reasonable doubt that Mary Ann Ray the mother of Catherine Clarke/Peever who married Thomas Beswick II was born Mary Ann Clarke, at Dromore, County Down, Ireland, 3 December 1823. At long last, we have finally settled the identity of Catherine's mother.
Mary Ann Ray the convict who gave birth to Catherine 19 June 1845 at the Female House of Correction, Launceston, had the name John Ray tattooed on her right arm above the elbow with "other marks too faint to be made out", and other initials on both arms, as listed in the convict record. Only the name John Ray was spelled out and it appears from its position and the faintness of the associated marks to be likely to have been the first or at least an early tattoo. I decided to search for a possible origin of a John Ray near to the birthplace of a possible Mary Ann Clarke, probably somewhere in Ireland, on the assumption that her later name Clarke was her original name that she might have gone to England with him.
Her convict record shows her native place as Liverpool, but the family tradition that Catherine's mother came from Ireland is well attested. Given her age 17 at the trial in October 1841 and 18 on arrival in April 1842, and the hypotheses that her original name was Clarke which she had resumed by 1852 and used at the time of her marriage to John Anderson in 1853, and which was used for her daughter Catherine's maiden name at the wedding of Catherine Clarke and Thomas Beswick 1 March 1862, I looked in the IGI Family Search for an Irish birth of a Mary Ann Clarke about the end of 1823 and found only one near that time born in Ireland (though there was also one Mary Clarke):-
Mary Ann CLARKE Sex: F
Event(s): Born: 3 Dec 1823 Dromore Parish, Down, Ireland
Parents: Father: Hamilton CLARKE Mother: Anne CRAIG
To find John Ray I decided, after finding it too difficult to identify him among a number of possibilities, to use 1881 census on the chance that he might still have been alive somewhere in England and that the census record would be more informative . The 1881 census, though very late for our purposes, is especially useful because it has a national index and can be searched on CD ROM. Looking for John Ray I found a likely prospect in Lancashire:-
1881 British Census Dwelling 63 Tetlow St., Kirkdale, Lancs. Emgland
James Sedgley Rel:Head Occ: Mariner Married 32 Male birthplace: Liverpool
Sarah Sedgley Rel:Wife Married 31 Female birthplace: Liverpool
John Ray Rel:Father No occ. Widower 74 Male Birthplace: Ireland
Lucy Morris Rel:Ser Occ:Serv Widow 34 Female Birthplace:Liverpool
This was of interest because of the Irish birth (which was almost unique among John Rays in England at that time) and the birth of a daughter in Liverpool in 1849/50 about 10 years after Mary Ann Ray was living there, so he must have been there at least by the end of the 1840s and probably sooner. Looking for the birth of a John Ray in Ireland about 1807 I found only one, and he was born in the same place as Mary Ann Clarke!
John REA Sex: M
Event(s): Birth: 10 May 1807 Dromore Parish, Down, Ireland
Parents: Father: John REA Mother: Elizabeth WATSON
The odds against such a co-incidence are astronomical. He must be the man whose name was tattooed on the arm of the convict Mary Ann Ray, and she must have been Mary Ann Clarke. It will noted that he was 16 years older than her, and that if, as the convict record shows, she had been "on the town for two or three years" at the time of her arrest in 1841, she must have been only about 14 or at most 15 years old when she went to Liverpool with a man more than twice her age at about 31. It would appear that the affair did not last long, as she was soon earning her living as a prostitute with the associated profession of "stealing from the person"; unless, perhaps he was her pimp. Could the tattoo have even been a kind of branding by the man who "owned her" and hired her out? Perhaps not, but the subtleties of relationships allow for many variations on such a theme. However it was, it was most likely to have been an unhappy and unrewarding venture, leaving the secure environment of her home village at a young age for the growing industrial city of Liverpool. The relationship could easily have been as exploitive one. She lived by her wits and her body, it appears, and had already had three prison sentences, one for 12 months, before she was taken into custody again and transported. Her record after arrival in VDL is one of rebellion, prostitution and frequent further punishment, with 15 convictions and about half her time in goal in the years 1842-48. Writers on sexual exploitation today have drawn attention to a pattern of promiscuity, rebellion against authority and self harm in later life, as a common feature in cases of sexual abuse of young girls by adult men. Prostitution by juveniles was, however, very common at that time, as it is in disadvantaged societies undergoing rapid change today, and the effects might well be similar.
Dromore is about 20kms South West of Belfast. Mary Ann's father, Hamilton Clarke was also born there. And there were others indicating that the family was in the same parish for several generations. There are parallel names in England, some in Liverpool, a little later, so Mary Ann might not have been the only one to go there. She referred to a brother Francis in Shiffield (?) in the information provided upon arrival. Many immigrants from Ireland settled in the Mersey valley from about 1830; and it is even possible that she could have gone there with her family and met up with John Ray soon afterwards, but that is unlikely. Liverpool was the most likely port of entry to England for people leaving the Belfast region, especially if they were "leaving" rather than going anywhere in particular. Of course even marriage at Gretna Green, often used by run-aways living in Liverpool, is another unlikely possibility. I doubt we will ever know much more about how they came to be there, but it would be worth looking for other births and marriages, and at the 1841 census, especially if we could find the parish in she was living when arrested that year. Unfortunately, from what John found out recently, it appears that the book of the record of trials at the Liverpool Lancaster QS for the relevant period no longer exists; but given the misleading information we were given about Anne Clarke's trial in Liverpool in 1809, I should think it still worth asking some questions.
Anyway, it seems clear to me that Mary Ann Clarke was born in Ireland as we have always believed; that she was known in Liverpool and during the 10 years of her transportation sentence 1841-51 as Mary Ann Ray; and that she took the name Mary Ann Clarke again by 1852 when she had a child by John Anderson who she married under that name the following year. Furthermore, I suspect that Thomas and Catherine and old Henry knew all this, and Thora knew more than she told, but we have got there at last.
As for Catherine being born in Hobart, according to her death certificate, and on 18 May 1844, according to the family Bible, rather than in Launceston on 19 June 1845, that could be a genuine loss of information between the generations. It could all be part of an attempt to hid the identity of the her mother, but it seems unlikely as a full explanation for her true original and later official name was acknowledged by Catherine even if her being known also as Mary Ann Ray was not passed on. The year of birth might have been forgotten, and the actual day uncertain. Henry Peever undoubtedly knew she was born in Launceston, but he could have passed on the information that he collected her from Hobart when he took charge of her, for that is where Mary Ann was in prison from October 1846 for 3 months, March 1847 for 2 months, and for last time for 6 months from February 1848, when Catherine was aged 2 to 3 years and might have been more likely then than when she was younger to have been taken by her father . It was at about the age when children of women convicts tended to be placed in an orphanage. We have not been able to find her among the children in government orphanages in Hobart, but it is likely that she was either in such an institution or was about to be placed there when she was released to Henry Peever.
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