Website Update

After quite a while, I have finally completed and launched a revamping and updating of my family history website at https://morrisons.id.au/.

Some of our Connected Families

This time the emphasis has been placed more on stories rather than just the vital statistics. It is anticipated that more details will be added on a more regular basis.

Please feel free to offer a critique, and any suggestions for improvement will be welcomed.

Eliza Thomasina (Walsh) Briscoe (1808-1875)

Among my less recent female ancestors, Eliza is one who stands out in my mind.

It is a fact in history, and particularly genealogy, that we tend to know less about the women in the past than about their fathers, husbands and sons. As a result, much of what we know about Eliza comes to us through the records associated with the men in her life. But when we can discover details about the lives of our female forebears it can be all the more rewarding.

It appears that much or Eliza’s life centered around her own and her extended family although she didn’t have a very auspicious start. Census records show that Eliza was born in the West Indies, a long way from the British Isles where she spent most of her life.

She was the daughter of Lt. Col. Thomas Walsh of the 56th British Regiment. Thomas came from a very distinguished Irish Jacobite emigre family who had made their home in Brittany, France after their association with the Stuart insurrection led to the confiscation of their large estates in Kilkenny. For a number of generation before Thomas, his family had had a close relationship with French royalty as privateers, merchants and particularly slave traders. Thomas had turned his back on that latter “family business” and opted for a career in the military.

While Thomas was stationed in Jamaica with the 56th British Regiment and as Deputy Adjutant to Sir Eyre Coote the Governor of the island, Eliza was born on 8 March 1808, the illegitimate daughter of one A.E. French. All indications from the wording of Eliza’s baptism records are that A.E. French was not only of European but also of African descent, ironically the descendant of a slave. In his will (part of which is below) Thomas not only acknowledged his daughter but also made provision for her future back in Ireland (seemingly illustrating his desire to firmly establish a home there and distance himself from France).

Thomas Walsh part will (dated 1809)

His will indicated Thomas’ desire for Eliza to be returned to Ireland when she was four years old and to be cared for by his friends and relatives Peter and Sarah Walsh of Belline, Kilkenny. We do not know exactly when Eliza did travel to Ireland, but by that time her father would have been dead, killed in an accidental fall from a gig in Surrey, England in 1810. Peter Walsh had converted from Catholicism to become a Protestant but whatever his religious beliefs he was regarded as a complete gentleman with a cultivated taste and appreciation of the arts as well a patron. At Belline Eliza would have had a comfortable upbringing.

Belline, Home of Peter Walsh in Pilltown, Kilkenny

The next record of Eliza is when the Waterford Mail announced that she had married Henry Harrison Briscoe of Cloncunny on 2 June 1830. Both the Walsh family of Belline and the Briscoe family of Cloncunny had close relations with Lord Bessborough in Kilkenny among the Protestant gentry. Eliza was twenty-two years of age and Henry ten years older when they married and the date may have been specially chosen because it was also Henry’s birthday.

Over the next fifteen years the couple had six children. Thomas Anthony was born in 1831 but died shortly after. Then there were five other children: Edward William, Caroline Elizabeth Henrietta, Alfred Philip, Henry Harrison jr. and Thomasina Marian.

As well managing the Cloncunny estate, Henry was a local magistrate and became an Inspector of Poor Laws. It is assumed that the latter role was at least partly to provide additional income as the economic and social changes in Ireland at the time made living off the land less sustainable. It appears that he was an absentee landlord for much of the time and away in the Poor Laws role in County Mayo and County Clare between 1848 and 1852 during the latter part of the Great Famine.

Earlier in 1846, Henry is recorded in the Slater’s Directory (under Nobility, Gentry and Clergy) living in The Crescent, Onchan on the Isle of Man indicating that this could have been the family’s usual residence. Their youngest child Thomasina was christened in Onchan in 1845 and both Eliza and Thomasina were still at The Crescent, mentioned in the 1851 census living with her father-in-law Edward Briscoe at Onchan on the Isle of Man presumably while Henry was in County Clare. It is not known how long Eliza stayed with Edward but it may have been to care for him as he died there in October 1851.

Henry subsequently took up the role of Superintendent of Poor Laws in Scotland from 1857 until his death in 1864 and he was buried in Inverness. The 1861 census for Inverness shows a Marion Briscoe as a scholar, aged 16 years, which if it is our Thomasina Marian suggests that Eliza was with Henry during his years in Scotland.

After Henry’s death, Eliza spent some time in Devonshire with her older daughter Caroline but she was back living in Cloncunny with Thomasina Marian when she died in 1875. Her other four surviving children were spread far and wide with Edward living in Surrey, Caroline in Devonshire, Alfred a sea captain and Henry in outback Australia. Thomasina was still living at Cloncunny when she died in 1881.

One of my own memorable family history experiences was locating Eliza’s grave in Kilkenny. Within the deserted Church of Ireland churchyard at Graigavine the memorial stands proud indicative of the family’s love and the esteem in which Eliza was held.

Grave of Eliza Thomasina (Walsh) Briscoe
Old Graigavine Churchyard, Kilkenny

Sacred To the Memory of Elizabeth Thomasina Relict of the Late Henry Harrison Briscoe Esq. Of Cloncunny Co. Kilkenny And daughter of the Late Lieut. Col. Walsh of H.M. 56th Regt. Died 13th February 1875 in her 66th Year. and below  
Also to the memory of Marion Thomasina Briscoe Youngest Daughter of the Above Who Died at Cloncunny in Her 35th Year Feb. 6th 1881

My great great grandmother, Eliza Thomasina Walsh, will always have a special place in the Briscoe-Walsh branch of our family tree.

Henry Harrison Briscoe (1798-1864)

One of the pleasures derived from family history research is finding real connections with our ancestors and having something in common such ones looks, similar experiences or personal traits. For me, I have the pleasure maybe even the honour of sharing a birthday with my great great-grandfather, Henry Harrison Briscoe, who was born on 2 June 1798.

Henry was one of the five children to Edward and Elizabeth (Osborne) Briscoe of Cloncunny in Kilkenny, Ireland. The townland of Cloncunny consisted of some 406 acres held from the Earl of Bessborough and where Henry was the middleman landlord holding the largest property and sub-leasing portions out to his tenant farmers. Although the second eldest son, Henry took over the responsibility for the Cloncunny estate from his father because of the early death of his brother Edward (junior) in 1815. Henry ran Cloncunny improving it by draining and reclaiming the bog on the estate so there was no waste land.

On 29 May 1830, the Waterford Mail recorded: ‘Married. Henry Harrison Briscoe eldest son of Edward Briscoe of Cloncunny to Eliza Thomasina, only daughter of the late Col. Thomas Walsh, 56th Regiment’ on 24 May 1830.

Henry and Eliza had a family of six children:

  • Thomas Anthony Briscoe (1831 – 1831)

  • Edward William Briscoe (1833 – 1878)

  • Caroline Elizabeth Henrietta Briscoe (b 1834-1890)

  • Alfred Philip Briscoe (1835 – 1890)

  • Henry Harrison Briscoe (1837 – 1912)

  • Thomasina Marian Briscoe (1845 – 1881)

Like many landlords, Henry served as a local Magistrate and Justice of the Peace and on the county Grand Jury. He was also the first Chairman of the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians of the Poor Law Union when established in 1939 (following the passing of the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838).

Although he was a supporter of the (Protestant) status quo, as a Poor Law Inspector particularly in County Clare the minutes of the Union indicated that he served the community not only efficiently but also caringly and fairly during the Great Famine and until 1852.

Later in 1857 he was appointed as Poor Law Superintendent in Scotland for Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness. In this capacity he was reported to have visited over 10,000 registered poor (paupers) of heads of families, at their own houses throughout the north identifying many who were “improperly relieved.” He remained in Scotland until his death on 14 November 1864 at the age of 66 years.

The following obituary was published in the Inverness Advertiser on 18 November 1864.

DEATH OF MR HENRY HARRISON BRISCOE

Most of our readers in the north will learn with deepest regret that Mr Briscoe, General Superintendent of the Poor for the north of Scotland, is no more. About six months ago he was seized by an attack of paralysis, which completely prostrated him, and although comparative recovery was affected by medical science, he never was himself again, speech, memory and motion being all latterly affected, until the end came on suddenly on Monday afternoon last. Mr Briscoe was the very model of a Government official – indefatigable in his work, firm as flint in matters of duty and principle, and kind and courteous to all, the poor pauper equally with the lord of broad acres. Mr Briscoe was, we believe, upwards of sixty years of age, and his wiry frame and weather-bronzed countenance, when last we saw him, gave promise of a very long life; but his incessant and anxious labours, we have no doubt, broke down his naturally vigorous constitution before its time, and brought on the attack under which he ultimately succumbed.’

In the village of Fiddown, which is not far from Cloncunny in Kilkenny, a disused church has been turned into a chapel or mausoleum to the old Ponsonby (Bessborough) and Briscoe families. Among all the commemorative stones is one to our Henry Harrison Briscoe.

Fiddown Chapel

Commemorative Stone

The times in which Henry Harrison Briscoe lived were very different to our own, but I like to think that as a public servant he tried his best to do his duty as he saw it.