Using Annotated Maps to track your ancestors

Studying the Diploma of Family History at Utas, I learned an exciting way to discover more about our ancestors. This technique helps bring them historically to life.

I had read the court report of what transpired the night John Prendergast was arrested in Dublin. Click for court report

Although I have visited Dublin on 5 separate occasions, the location where John Prendergast was caught, after quite a chase, was mere words to me.

Because I wanted to visualise the scene, I decided to write a story speculatively of what John was doing that night and plot his route on a historical 1798 map of Dublin.  I became quite the detective and was surprised at what I discovered.


The 250 word essay written for the Writing your Family History Story for Utas Diploma of Family History follows.

The choices we make.

Wearing a half smile and feeling smug because he had once again outsmarted the Guarda, John hummed to himself as he jauntily wandered along the Cobblestone streets of Dublin. He had met with the other United Irishmen in secret at the “Sun Inn” that afternoon. Luckily, John lived just up the street from the “Sun Inn”, the assembly point for the United Irishmen in Francis Street. When questioned by the Guarda, John was always able give a plausible excuse for being near the “Sun Inn.” After the March arrests, the United Irishmen were aware that they were being watched.

As the cool April breeze swirled round him, John pulled his coat collar up to keep out the chilly air. The evening fog was descending as day turned into night.

Admiring the tall steeple and architecture of St. Nicholas church, he felt secure in the knowledge that there had always been a Catholic church here since the 12th century. His family were staunch Catholics who worshipped here and had been baptised, married and buried here for many generations. He planned to marry Catherine here if her father would give him permission.

Passing through the Coombe, on his way to visit Bishop Troy of St. Mary’s Cathedral, he thought about the large linen order he had secured. This was quite an achievement for a young Dublin weaver.

Turning into Marlborough Street, John heard the shrill whistle of a Guard as his terrified friend appeared.

“Run, the Guards are on to us!” screamed Edward. Without thinking, John ran.

The mysterious death of Elizabeth Pendergast(nee Dwyer)

John Pendergast, son of John Prendergast Snr. married Elizabeth Dwyer on 1st June, 1824.

They produced 10 children.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Cornilius and Harriett Dwyer.

It has always puzzled me how Elizabeth died. Records show that Elizabeth died on December 6th, 1847 and was buried on 8th December, 1847. Her oldest son Thomas died one week later and was buried 14th December, 1847.

The rumour was that they both died in a fire. What sort of fire? Was it a house fire or a bush fire?  It could have been either at that time of the year in Campbelltown.

When I visited the Vault of Mrs Pendergast, wife of John at St. John’s cemetery, Campbelltown, I was puzzled by the inscription on the side of the Vault.

It read “It is a Holy and Wholesome Thought to pray for the Dead that they may be loosed from Sins” Maccabees X11. 46. I have never seen this on the side of a Vault before and am wondering what the significance of this might be.

It is so sad that they both died before Christmas 1847, a time that would normally be filled with joy and excitement for the other 9 children.

It is even sadder when you discover that John Pendergast was one of those named on a Grant to build the St. John’s Catholic Church and Cemetery at Campbelltown the year before on 31st March, 1846. Little did he know that his darling wife and precious son would be one of the first to be buried there the following year!

To research Elizabeth further I visited the Campbelltown Library on my 2019 visit to Sydney but could find no information related to Elizabeth or Thomas’s death.

Vault of Elizabeth Pendergast (nee Dwyer) and Thomas Pendergast her son.

Wording on Elizabeth Pendergast(nee Dwyer) Vault.

Utas diploma of family history 2020

Photo of University of Tasmania taken by “The Examiner”

Following my invigorating research trip to the Hawkesbury NSW in June/July 2019, I felt inspired to plan a P[r]endergast family reunion and coordinate a “go fund me” and heritage grant to raise funds to restore the family Vault at the old Catholic Cemetery Windsor during 2020.

The Whitsundays where I live is a very long way from the Hawkesbury so I knew that I would have the ideas but need a great team of experts on the ground to bring the plans to fruition.

I met with Michelle Nichols OAM, a local Hawkesbury expert, regarding coordinating a Prendergast family reunion in 2019. I emailed Katie Hicks of the National Trust in regard to restoring the P[r]endergast family vault at Windsor. I then emailed a contact that I have in Ireland, Dr. Ruan O’Donnell a senior lecturer in History at the University of Limerick. I invited him to come to Australia for a 220 year commemoration of the arrival of the first convict ship “Minerva” with an Easter service at the Martyrs wall, Waverley Cemetery. I felt confident that my dreams could become a reality.

But, as the expression goes “the best laid plans of mice and men …” So sadly, like many other people world wide, my plans were thwarted by the outbreak of Covid 19 and subsequent lockdown.

Undeterred and not knowing how long Covid would curb my plans, I decided that if I couldn’t coordinate a family reunion and Vault restoration, that I would further my studies in family history.

Several years ago I had been told of the brilliant Utas diploma of family history and after further investigation and comparison with similar University courses, I decided to enrol in the Utas diploma of family history.

I cannot speak highly enough of the course. I loved every minute of it. It was wonderful!

Although, due to the fact that like all Universities world wide, on campus study had to be converted to on-line study for all students, I felt the staff at Utas did an amazing job under very difficult circumstances.

Family photo of Nanny – Milda May Rawlings and grandchildren c.1957

The units I studied were ;-

HAA003 Introduction to family history, HAA004 Writing family history, HAA006 Place, Image, Object, HAA007 Convict ancestors, HAA105 Convicts in context, HEJ001 The Photo Essay: An Introduction, HAA104 Writing the Family Saga, HAA107 Families at War.

I commenced on 24 February 2020 and handed in my last assignment early December 2020. My results were published 11 January 2021. I will graduate in August this year.

I won’t go into detail about each of the Units individually that I studied but if there is anyone who is following my blog and would like to know the details of a particular unit, I am only too happy to respond to your enquiry.

Photo courtesy AWM by Charles Bean. Anzac Grandfather James Prendergast on the right.

What I did discover was that the course gave me a deeper understanding in how to research my family history, what resources are available world wide and how by discussion with my peers we could swap ideas and gain further knowledge about our ancestors.

It was a very exciting course and I felt at a loss once it was complete.

This year I decided to complete a couple of “Future Learn” courses whilst deciding what route my studies will take me. So, in January I studied Irish 101: An Introduction to Irish Language and Culture through Dublin City University and the in February I decided to study “Book of Kells” through Trinity College University. I can highly recommend both of these courses as well.

Now I am at a cross roads and unsure about what course to study next. The idea that is mulling around in my brain is to study a BA with a History major. But, I don’t want to study just for the sake of study. It has to contribute to and enhance what I have already learnt. I would like to put more of the pieces of the Prendergast family history puzzle together.

I would like to learn about historical law and customs as I think this will put the history of my Irish Prendergast and Australian Prendergast in context. My aim is to one day bridge the gap that exists between the family’s Irish ancestors and early settlers in Australia.

If there is anyone reading my blog who has a suggestion about a course that I could undertake, I would be very grateful if you could contact me with the details.

Also, if there is enough interest, perhaps a reunion could be rescheduled for 2025 to commemorate the 225 year arrival of the Minerva. Do you have any suggestions?

June 2019 Archival visit to the Hawkesbury.

In June/July 2019, following my productive Archival visit to Sydney in February, we decided to drive to Sydney and stay for a month at Agnus Banks, a suburb on the Nepean River. This river is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River and close to all the early colonial settlements outside of Sydney in New South Wales.

Agnus Banks is a beautiful lush rural area with many large properties and elegant homes.

My plan for this Archival tour was to visit the New South Wales State Archives, the Hawkesbury public Library, Campbelltown public Library and Ebenezer historical church. I wanted to locate and visit original P[r]endergast properties at Kurrajong, Richmond, Cornwallis, Windsor, Lower Portland and Mulgrave Place in the Hawkesbury. I needed to research John Prendergast’s Airds land grant as well as the Campbelltown region. There was also P[r]endergast property at Wollombi in the Hunter Valley.

Link for Prendergast Land on Google Maps

In order to familiarize ourselves with the area, we drove around the Hawkesbury district on our first day. I had lived in this district years ago, but of course things had changed.

When I popped in to the information centre at Richmond to collect some pamphlets, I picked up a brochure “Hawkesbury River Towns, Heritage Highlights” and was surprised to learn that the name Mulgrave Place had been replaced by the name Pitt Town Bottoms. I later discovered that Lachlan Macquarie had changed the name in 1815.

Agnus Banks is a short 20 minutes’ drive to the New South Wales State Archives in Kingswood. I planned to learn more about the Prendergast properties. I wanted to discover who owned them and when by examining the Chain of Title of each property. I also wanted to learn where the properties were located in the Hawkesbury and Hunter regions so that we could visit the properties and walk on the land of my forebears.

When I visited the NSW State Archives and Records, after much research and assistance from the kind staff there, I was able to locate a Primary Application and a Map that showed 3 parcels of land purchased by Mrs P[r]endergast. This transaction occurred between 1800 and 1802. There were 2 blocks of land with Mrs Pendergast being owner and John Pendergast being occupier and a third block of land with Mrs Pendergast being owner and James Clark being occupier. James Clark was an Irish Rebel who was transported  to Australia on board the Minerva with John Prendergast in 1800.

Enquiring from John at NSW State Archives and Records if there would be a document further back regarding the sale of land between the original Grantee and my Grandmother, Mrs Pendergast,  he replied “No, you have struck gold if it shows both the name of the Grantee and the owner, this is the first record in the Chain of Title.” I was delighted! This proves that Catherine purchased the blocks of land from James Ruse and Samual Pickett. There is a record of the land grant occurring in 1797 but I have since learned that there were no Land sale/purchase transactions registered in NSW prior to 1802. I couldn’t wait to walk on the land at Pitt Town Bottoms!

During my stay, I was invited to give a talk about John Prendergast (Snr) and join the Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury History Society for a picnic at Half Moon Farm. This was to be followed up by a newspaper article for the Hawkesbury Gazette.

Pitt Town Bottoms

Saturday 29 June, 2019

So, on a very foggy cool but sunny morning we set out for Half Moon Farm. We met the Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury History Society at Wiseman’s Ferry Park for morning tea and then drove in convoy to Half Moon Farm. We were greeted by the lovely Melissa Medo of Echo Bush Regeneration there and enjoyed a delightful picnic where we all laid out rugs and sat on them to enjoy a packed lunch.

Following lunch Bernadette gave a talk about “Branch Jack” and another member talked about his Sullivan family in the early colonial days of the Hawkesbury district. I gave a talk about the life and times of John Prendergast and the family who lived at Half Moon Farm for over 100 years before the property was sold.

Whilst there, we paid a visit to the historical Half Moon cemetery and then explored some of the 80 acre property. Melissa gave a talk about the endangered species of animals living on the property and showed us the remains of a road made of large boulders. It was a very enjoyable day.

Photos of Half Moon Farm picnic

Historical Club visit to Half Moon Farm

Monday 1 July, 2019

We drove to Campbelltown to conduct Archival research at the Campbelltown Public Library. I met with Librarian Andrew who retrieved for me a number of interesting books and other publications about the Prendergast family who were first settlers in the Campbelltown region.

John Prendergast Snr was granted 50 acres of land at Airds, near Campbelltown by Lachlan Macquarie on 20 June 1816.

John Prendergast Junior purchased many parcels of land at Campbelltown and married Elizabeth Dwyer in the newly consecrated St. John the Evangelist Catholic church Campbelltown on 1 June, 1824. Sadly John buried his wife Elizabeth at the Catholic cemetery, in 1847 just one year after he and Hugh Byrne were granted land and financed the construction of the cemetery. I have yet to discover how Elizabeth died but their son died just one week later. Family stories have suggested that they both died as a result of a fire but I have yet to find any details. If anyone reading this blog has any knowledge of this terrible accident, I would be interested to hear the details.

Photos of Elizabeth Dwyer’s Vault

*Since visiting the Campbelltown Public Library the wonderful Librarian Claire has emailed me information regarding the South Australian Newspaper dated July 1848. It advertises the large herd of horses bred by John Pendergast (of Campbelltown) and brought overland to be sold in South Australia in July 1848. This must have been prior to John Jnr. leaving Campbelltown and relocating to the Monaro district of NSW.

Wednesday 3 July, 2019

We decided to visit Wollombi in the Hunter Valley and Cousin Mark was only too happy to come with us and show us around the district. Along the way we visited a lovely Orchid Nursery at Peats Ridge and viewed exquisite blooms. These Orchids are very different from the tropical orchids that I grow in far North Queensland but just as beautiful.

The Wollombi cemetery where a number of P[r]endergast family are interred is within walking distance of the township. We visited the cemetery and then the very impressive museum before indulging in a spot of lunch at the Woollombi Tavern famous for its Doctor Jurd’s Jungle Juice. I was designated driver for the day so for fear of  being over the legal alcohol limit, did not partake in this famous brew as I have been told that it has a high concentration of alcohol in it.

After lunch we drove to Millfield where we viewed the historic Rising Sun Inn. Thomas Prendergast, half-brother of John Prendergast Jnr. was the second licensee in 1840.

Wednesday 10 July, 2019

Today we drove up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and enjoyed a wonderful “Christmas in July” with 60 fellow Probians from the Rouse Hill Probus Club.

The event was held at the beautiful and historical Carrington Hotel. I had hoped that it might snow but although it was very cold, it was a crisp sunny day in the Blue Mountains.

Link to Carrington Hotel Website

We were greeted at the hotel by the President and escorted into the beautifully decorated hotel decked with the largest Christmas tree to greet us that I have ever seen. Just magnificent!

The lunch was a traditional Turkey, baked Ham and vegetables with Plum pudding and custard for dessert. A glass of Gluhwein and some traditional shortbread added to the occasion. Traditional Christmas carols were played by the Pianist as we enjoyed the delicious lunch. It was truly a lovely day.

Monday 15 July, 2019.

Our holiday at the base of the Blue Mountains would not have been complete if we had not enjoyed a visit to the Norman Lindsay Art Gallery in Faulkinbridge.

Norman Lindsay was famous for his still life paintings, his book The Magic Pudding and his love of Cats featured in his art. I love the way his art studio has been kept in the way he left it at his death. I could have spent hours looking at his lovely home, art studio and the grounds. It is such a lovely place to visit.

Photos of Norman Lindsay’s place.

Tuesday 16 July, 2019.

We finished the research visit by booking a Christmas in July celebration on a Paddle wheeler that traversed the Hawkesbury River. It was a very enjoyable lunch and even better knowing that we were cruising up the same river my 5x Grandfather John Prendergast skippered the river boat Hawkesbury on in 1805.

But that is another story for another time.

Repository Visit to Sydney.

In January 2019, I travelled to Sydney to conduct genealogy research into property owned by the Prendergast family in the Hawkesbury district of NSW. The records were held at various Repositories in Sydney, Kingswood and Wollombi.

I wanted to locate records at the repositories and then visit the land of my forbears to get a sense of how my ancestor John Prendergast and his wife Catherine would have felt as first settlers on that land.

With Barry’s technical assistance, I plan to document these blocks of land on an interactive map, recording them for future generations.

View from Sydney University Village accommodation

I chose Sydney University Village as my base for the first visit in January because it was centrally located, there was plenty of public transport available and it was reasonably priced.

I visited the New South Wales land Registry Services to obtain maps of the Prendergast properties in Lower Portland, Kurrajong, Windsor, Pitt Town(formerly Mulgrave place) and Wollombi.

New South Wales Land Registry Services

By pre-booking the documents that I wished to view during my Mitchell Library visit, I was able to discover which properties were crown grants and which ones were purchased by the Prendergast family.

Mitchell Library safe

At Waverley Cemetery, I received a warm welcome from Petranella who took me on a guided buggy tour of the cemetery. She dropped me at the Martyr’s Wall – the Irish Memorial and pointed out the graves of several other Prendergast family members.

Martyr’s Wall – the Irish Memorial

One of the best days during my visit to Sydney was a picnic at Half Moon Farm with my cousins Elaine and Mark. I took the train to Windsor where I was able to borrow the key from the Hawkesbury City Council who kindly allowed me access to the property. Mark drove us to the farm so that we could visit the historical cemetery and walk on the land our ancestor John Prendergast purchased in 1806.

Mark, Jennifer and Elaine at Half Moon Farm cemetery

Catherine Prendergast – One of the first female Land owners in Australia.

In researching Catherine Prendergast and the role she played in the establishment of the Prendergast family in Australia, I needed to “time travel” back to an era in our history where married women, by law were considered part of the goods and chattels that were OWNED by their husbands. This doctrine was a rule of law associated with the common law doctrine of coverture outlined in this paper written by Andrew Cowie, School of Law, Murdoch University.  

Cowie goes on to explain that Coverture is “the state of being under the protection of one’s husband. The term can also mean marriage. Marriage can then be categorized as a contract between a wife and husband where the wife gives up certain legal powers to the husband in return for being under his protections. Until the late 19th century, the marriage contract was the last contract a woman would ever enter”. Women lost their legal identity when they married.

This law, which I found quite shocking, was further explained to me by a volunteer at the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) during my visit to their Library in Sydney, Australia on 16 December, 2017. This law changed in 1918 allowing women to own land in their own right.

When we opened the ‘’Mutch’s” Muster book of 1800-1802 and viewed the entry recording the details of John Prendergast and James Clark leasing property at Mulgrave place in 1800 whilst still convicts, “that can’t be right!”, exclaimed Alan. “A convict with a 7 year term could not lease land until he had been granted his freedom”. “Could his wife Catherine, the unnamed female on the land have leased the land”, I asked? “Yes and no”, replied Alan. He then went on to explain that if a wife had a guarantor, she could lease land but usually that guarantor was her husband. In this case her husband was still a prisoner so no, she could not own land.

So, how did John Prendergast and James Clark lease land at Mulgrave place in 1800?

I decided to delve deeper and googled the  the New South Wales Government State records and Archives site. Here I made a discovery.

New South Wales Land Grants Guide, 1788-1856

On page 2/36 it states that “Women were entitled to receive a grant of land – the first possibly being Ellenor Frazer on 20 February, 1794”. Fantastic! Now we know that Catherine Prendergast could own land. But why were we not finding anything with her first name, Catherine, on it?

Remembering that Catherine Prendergast was referred to as “Wife of John Prendergast, Windsor” and also “Wife of Jno Pender, Windsor” on the two documents referring to Catherine having Jane Williams assigned to her, I decided to take a look at the Land Registry Services NSW, Land and Property Information. The document “How to Search the Old System Grant Index 1792-1862” has been superseded now but is still available on line and has a wealth of information.

Keeping an open mind and thinking laterally as impressed upon me during my University College Cork genealogy course in 2015, I decided to trawl through the pages of beautifully hand written historical documents at the NSW Land Registry. My husband Barry became as interested as I am and continued the search when I took a break. Over the last five days we have viewed thousands of documents.

I have to admit that the Land Registry Services NSW site is not the most user friendly site that I have used. It is quite complicated to use and to find information the user needs to have a prior understanding of the what he is looking for.  For instance, the volume and Folio numbers or the serial and page numbers of a particular document. The surname initial is usually not enough. When I phoned the NSW Lands department for help I was advised that I might be better off to employ a conveyancer or a solicitor.

Not to be deterred I soldiered on and low and behold – Drum roll please – I have made two invaluable discoveries.

  1. As shown below, this property was listed under Jno Prendergast but the contents of the Deed clearly states “…..links to Prendergast’s 60 acres farm”
  2. The next Deed refers to “Prendergast’s 60 acre farm” and yet when there is a male owner, the first and surname is mentioned on every document that I have viewed.InkedJohn Prendergast index_LI
  3. John Prendergast land register
    The next Deed states “…links to land of Mrs. Pendergast”. and yet when there is a male owner, the first and surname is mentioned on every document that I have viewed.

    catherine prendergast land
    So, it was with great delight, on my 2019 visit to the New South Wales State Archives  and Records, that with the help of Jenny, John and Emily I discovered the document below that indicates the three parcels of land purchased by Mrs (Catherine) Prendergast from the original grantees of the land.

It appears to me that although Australia in the colonial days was liberal in allowing women to own land, where a woman was legally married to her husband, she, as was common law doctrine, lost her identity. Her Christian name was no longer used, she was addressed as Mrs. Prendergast in this instance and all her possessions were amalgamated with and under her husband’s ownership and control.

This might explain why her son, baby John when he grew up wrote his Will with strict instructions that his daughters were to inherit land in their own right and that their husbands were to have no control over it. But, that is another story, one I will post at a later date on my blog.

Catherine Prendergast – I have found you!


When I set out on my quest to find Prendergast Ancestry, one of my main priorities was to find Catherine Prendergast, wife of Irish Rebel John Prendergast, my 5x Grandparents who arrived on the Convict ship Minerva 11/1/1800

I had read in numerous records of Catherine being everything from mother “Unknown’’ (to John Prendergast junior), to having died in childbirth. There appeared to be no records of her existence  after 1801. 

This information niggled at me. How could a baby have a mother unknown, perhaps a father unknown but never a mother? Why was it assumed that she had died during childbirth? Why were there no records of Catherine in Australia apart from the recording in the Biographical Database of Australia (BDA) who lists her as Person ID: X#91011106202. Death: circa 1801

I set out on a journey to find her and I believe that I was given divine intervention with a lot of help from Archivists along that way.

In 2015 during a visit to Dublin, I visited Glasnevin Cemetery. Archivist Lyn Brady worked her magic on the keyboard and up popped a record of a Catherine Prendergast interred in Grave K64 along with 13 other Prendergast family members and some of their servants.


As I walked through the eerily quiet older section of Glasnevin cemetery, I was the sole visitor for the day.  Just as I reached Grave K64, after much searching, a strange thing happened. Out of nowhere a little girl, aged about 4 years old appeared. She caught my attention because her parents were nowhere to be seen and I kept thinking “This is no place to leave a small child on her own” She was chasing after a Sea Gull. This in itself seemed strange as we were nowhere near the sea. As she drew near, skipping and laughing I noticed she bore an uncanny resemblance to my own daughter Gretta at that age. She was very beautiful and even had the same gorgeous glossy long black hair with pale skin and rosy cheeks. As I looked closer I started noticing more details. Her hair was not cut evenly and appeared to be ragged on the edges. Her clothes were not modern. In fact I recall seeing photos of little girls in the 18th century wearing similar clothes. She had on a pink smock, white blouse underneath with white apron over her smock. As she skipped she ruffled her dress and I could see petticoats beneath her dress. She wore thick white tights and little brown shoes that I had not seen before. They seemed to be laced up leather shoes and moulded to her feet. When I glanced away and looked back, she was gone. I never saw her again.

Although the Headstone was hard to read, I felt sure that I had found the right grave and was surprised to see how similar the vault was located in the cemetery in Dublin as it compared to John Prendergast’s family vault in Windsor, New South Wales, Australia.

Both Vaults/Graves were situated beneath a tree and each had other family members buried with them. John Prendergast has 22 family members buried with him in his vault and Catherine had 13. One of the many admirable traits of the Prendergast family is their love of family and the need to take care of all their loved ones.

K64 Glasnevin Ireland
Grave K64 Glasnevin Cemetery

Finding Grave K64 at Glasnevin Cemetery in July 2015 set me thinking. Did Catherine Prendergast die in Australia and were her remains returned to Dublin Ireland for burial? Did Catherine Prendergast return to Ireland shortly after the birth of her child and leave baby John just months old in the care of her husband and why would she do that? Were there other children from the marriage of John and Catherine who were being cared for by family in Ireland and had Catherine returned to Dublin to collect these children with the intention of taking them back to Australia? And, finally how did Catherine Prendergast travel back to Ireland?

Being a Geni Detective I had to analyse how Catherine thought, how she planned and how she put her plan into action.

Firstly, I discovered on two possible children from the marriage of John and Catherine Prendergast. The most likely one is Patrick Prendergast born in 1797. This child may well have been named after John Prendergast’s father Patrick, thus the Irish naming pattern having been adhered to. This could have been the child that Catherine rushed back to Ireland to collect.

Secondly, Catherine would have realised that John Prendergast could not take care of a New born on his own let alone run a farm and keep a house without assistance. These questions needed answers.

On Saturday December 16, 2017 whilst on a visit Sydney, I decided to conduct research at the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) office and met Alan Day, a volunteer who had been researching genealogy for 60 years. His knowledge was invaluable and he was very enthusiastic and helpful.

Alan helped me to find information relating to John Prendergast in the “Settlers’ Muster book of 1800” where there are two convicts renting 30 acres at Mulgrave place. One is named as James Clark and the other one is John Prendergast both convicts and with the letter P (Prisoner) beside their names. They arrived as rebels on the Minerva. Alan expressed surprise that two convicts were able to rent land whilst still prisoners. There is also interestingly, one unnamed female not listed as a convict. Was this Catherine? Did James Clark and John Prendergast both still convicts without their freedom, lease a farm or did Catherine lease the farm? Were both the convicts assigned to Catherine? They were all recorded as “Off store”. How could this be so early in their existence in the Hawkesbury? This was unusual for a Convict to be self-supporting. Was Catherine independently wealthy and able to provide for them all? We know the Muster was taken in June/July 1800 so we now know that Catherine had not yet given birth to baby John at that stage as there are no children recorded at the farm.prendergast-clark.jpg

On 14 December 1801, on board the convict ship Nile, we know that Jane Williams arrived at Port Jackson. Having read the chapter in the book “Sinners, Saints and Settlers” by Richard Reed and Brendon Kelson, I read recall how Convicts were selected and assigned to free settlers.  Along with many wealthy English wives of important men in the colony, waiting on the docks to hand pick the Irish girls for servants was one very gutsy, intelligent and independently wealthy Irish female by the name of Catherine Prendergast. Catherine on the other hand picked an English girl to be her Governess for baby John and Housekeeper for John Prendergast. Fortunately for the survival of our Prendergast family Jane took great care of baby John and John senior as no harm came to them. They thrived and prospered and 6 generations later I am here to tell the tale.

Catherine-Jane Williams - 1
Jane Williams assigned to Wife of J. Prendergast (Catherine)

Catherine-Jane Williams
Jane Williams assigned to Wife of J. Prendergast (Catherine)

What proof do we have that Jane Williams was assigned to Catherine Prendergast? On Friday 15 December, with the help of Gillian at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney, I finally found the information that I have been waiting for so long to discover. My cousin Mark was with me and as delighted as I was to find this latest information.

Above we have a copy of the NSW State Records and Archives document indicating that Jane Williams is assigned to Wife of J. Prendergast, Windsor

On Saturday 16 December whilst trolling through “Find my Past” citing the NSW State Records and Archives, I discovered the record that states Jane Williams was assigned to the “Wife of Jno Prender, Windsor”. These two records prove that Catherine hand picked Jane to take care of baby John and John Senior and that she survived the birth of baby John. Picture1

As for how Catherine returned to Ireland, I have yet to discover the answer to that question along with the many other questions that have arisen during the quest to find Prendergast ancestry.

As for the little girl in Glasnevin Cemetery, when I got back home to the Whitsundays in 2015, I read all the names of the others interred in K64 and found that a little girl by the name of Catherine Prendergast aged 4 had been buried there. When I googled “Life threatening illness prevalent in the 18th Century with their symptoms”, I discovered that Cholera caused hair loss and breakage, thus explaining the state of her hair. The record does not show the cause of death but the little child that I “saw” may well have been the little child Catherine who is buried along with her Grandmother Catherine Prendergast.




Fond memories and exciting new research

Saturday 19 August, 2017

I am back in the Whitsundays and constantly in awe of the amazing trip I enjoyed to Ireland in May/June this year.



Visiting the National Archives at Kew, I changed trains at Turnham Green Station. This is the very area where King William 111 would have been assassinated had it not been for my ancestor Sir Thomas Prendergast, 1st Baronet. I did not know this at the time but found out a few days later about the Jacobite plot with the intended ambush of his coach at Turnham Green on Saturday 15 February, 1696 and Sir Thomas Prendergast’s role in preventing the murder.


At the National Archives Kew I was delighted to read the details of Sir John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, Baron Kilarton of Gort, sixth Viscount Gort, and the role he played as Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary force at Dunkirk.


Lord Gort’s promotion to Governor of Malta and Gibralta in 1942 was exciting to read with the often hand written documents and mention of the Prime Minister of England Sir Winston Churchill, Louis Mountbatten and King George V1


Lord Gort is descended from Maurice de Prendergast, as am I.


Clans and Surnames Conference Nenagh

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would have been given the opportunity to deliver a Conference paper at Nenagh if it had not been for the faith Lorna Moloney showed in my ability.

Not only did I share my research with the Delegates in Nenagh but I was delighted to meet 4 other Prendergast researchers at the Conference. By chance, the evening that I did not join the rest of the group on an outing in Nenagh, I met two Prendergast descendants at the Abbey Court Hotel where we were staying during the Conference. I had not realized how much I had in common to all the Prendergast descendants until we started comparing notes. There were so many similarities. It was uncanny.

At the end of the Conference, Medieval Genealogy expert Kenneth Nicholls spiked my curiosity as under his breath he ruminated “Thomas Prendergast, hmm, he was involved in the 1696 conspiracy to assassinate King William 111” as he handed me my certificate. Of course I couldn’t wait to google Sir Thomas Prendergast to find that he had helped prevent the assignation by a Jacobite plot and was awarded land at Gort for his intervention.


Ennis Weekend

Sue generously shared her friends John and Joanne Boyle and their lovely children with me on the weekend following the Conference when we stayed with them. It was a wonderful way to wind down before the next hectic leg of the trip. Not only were we taken care of beautifully but driven around to areas in Ireland that we would not have had the chance to see.

I was surprised and delighted to discover that we were staying just 15 minutes from Gort and grateful to Joanne and John for offering to drive me to see the Castle that my ancestor build. We enjoyed walking on the land my ancestor Sir Thomas Prendergast, 1st Baronet was awarded at Lough Coutra Castle in County Galway.



I had contacted Marsh’s Library whilst still in Australia prior to my visit to Ireland and was delighted to be shown through this wonderful Library by Jason McElligott who had taken the time to retrieve books and the signature of my ancestor John Patrick Prendergast for me to view.

John Patrick Prendergast is the author of “The Cromwellian Settlement” and I was able to order a copy on line through Biblio. This wonderful text book arrived on Monday and I will learn so much more about Irish History by reading all about it.


At the Royal Society of Antiquaries, Ireland Conor Lucey escorted me through this wonderful repository and Aaron Binchy showed me items that would help me with my Prendergast research.


At the National Archives of Ireland I met Maire MacConghail who is the President of the Accredited Genealogist, Ireland who helped me research the two Wills of John Prendergast and Catherine Prendergast and may well be our John and our Catherine. I have yet to consult with a Legal Genealogist to find out if the contents of the Will prove the connection. Stay tuned!

Wandering around the streets of Dublin after my visit to the National Archives, in the distance I noticed St. Anne’s Church. As I approached I realized that I was in Dawson Street and recalled that I had seen a Deed for a property leased in 1804 by Francis Prendergast, Registrar of the court of Chancery. This property was at 38 Dawson Street.

I walked into a health food shop and asked the attendant if she knew about a large property in Dawson Street that in the early 1800s had outhouses and a stable. The young girl replied that all those buildings other than the Lord Mayor’s house had been built out and that there were no stables left in Dawson street.

I looked so disappointed that she suggested that I visit the Little Museum of Dublin. So I walked to the Little Museum of Dublin where June was in attendance. When I enquired about the property my Prendergast ancestors had leased in Dawson Street, her eyes lit up. “Come with me” she said and took me to a back room where we could see through a window what appeared to be the stables of an excavated building two doors across in Dawson Street. 

I asked June if I would be able to take a look at the stables but she said that the property would most likely have no access to Dawson Street.

Undeterred I walked back along Dawson Street and found what normally would have been a blocked off lane way was open but blocked by a car.

Without hesitation, I walked down the lane and on to the property. There amongst the excavation work taking place I could clearly see a blue stables door.

Two staff members from the Real Estate next door looked surprised when I began asking about the property and the young lady seemed to know about the property. She told me that the street number was now 18 Dawson Street but years ago the numbering had changed.

The young man looked so surprised when I told him that I was pretty sure that we were standing on property where my Prendergast family had lived in 1804.

Just then the developer arrived to take a look at the property. When he approached me I asked if he minded if I took some photos as my ancestor Francis Prendergast had lived here in 1804. “We might be related” he said. I was so stunned that I did not think to ask his name or how we could be related. 

Since returning to Australia, I have viewed historical OSI Maps and the property as per the description of the Deed appears to be the very property that I was standing on. Now I just have to find out who the developer/owner/relation was.

This is also the property where John Patrick Prendergast, the historian of the the Cromwellian Settlement in Ireland was born. He is the eldest son of Francis Prendergast.

 At the National Library of Ireland it was lovely to catch up with Kay Caball who was the Archivist on duty and also one of the experts at the Conference in Nenagh.


They were all so kind – nothing was too much trouble.


I was able to view two Deeds at the Registry of Deeds that I discovered on my bespoke Archives visit in 2015 whilst being accompanied by John Nangle. Having read the content I was able to order them and they have arrived in Australia since my return. They are being transcribed by my clever cousin Mark in Sydney and I will shortly be able to share the details with you.


High Tea Enniscorthy – Princess for a day.

Never in my wildest dreams could I, an Australian born Prendergast with Irish roots, host a High Tea at Enniscorthy Castle. I still have to pinch myself to believe that it actually happened. I enjoyed myself immensely and have received many messages from my guests telling me that they did too.


I am extremely grateful to the Kind and helpful Enniscorthy locals who arranged everything prior to my arrival in Ireland. I could not have held the High Tea without your support and encouragement. You are wonderful.


Also, I could not have brought messages of welcome without the generous support of the Australian Mayors of the Hawkesbury, Monaro, Victorian High Plains, East Gippsland and the Whitsundays who graciously wrote warm letters of welcome and sent me armed with gifts to give to the Chairman County Wexford, Paddy Kavanagh.


I have received so many warm letters and want to share one of them with you.


Dear Jenny and Sue,


A huge big “Thank You” for a memorable High Tea and afternoon in the Castle. It was a wonderful occasion and so enjoyable!!! Little did our forefathers ever imagine that we have now formed yet another important link due to our treasured past!!


Jenny, if you really focus on our “convicts” who were transported for standing up for their/our national rights, being labeled as criminals, this was the way our oppressors thought and acted at the time. However, what they did was to single out the bravest and most loyal Irishmen for standing up for their principles and beliefs, and provide Australia with rich “seed capital” to form the Australian nation. They were very resilient, brave and of strong character as indeed your ancestor John Prendergast proved.


I hope you have a safe journey home and that, whilst your luggage may not be any heavier, that you will bring back “loads” of further memories.


With every good wish from Enniscorthy and its people.


David Hasslacher


There have been at least 3 Newspaper items written about my trip to Ireland and I proudly share them with you here.


If you would like to read them, please click on……………….

Bairnsdale Advertiser

Enniscorthy Guardian

Jindabyne News



Singapore – a nice way to unwind.

Saturday 3 June, 2017

Old fashioned service with a smile seems to no longer be “on trend” at most hotels. Some impersonal Receptionist, usually very good looking but who appears to have overdone the Botox and can’t smile, checks you in without a smile in super fast time with little or no information. No wonder so many guests return to say that their Key Card does not work – they just haven’t been given instructions on how to use it!

Not so here at the Concord Hotel in Singapore. The Porter whose name I do not know but has been here since I first started staying in 2013 met me at 6.30am this morning with a cheery “Welcome Back” and a freshly squeezed fruit juice mocktail.”Just to freshen you up”, he said in a fatherly manner as he took my heavy cases. He could see that I was exhausted after my 12 1/2 hour flight from Copenhagen.

Continue reading “Singapore – a nice way to unwind.”