Dead Man Secrets

Orkney links: Can Tom, Dick or Harry’s DNA be matched with an Orcadian?

The five Orcadians who died in the wreck and George Stewart, who was also from Orkney, are the focus of this ‘reverse’ genealogical project  to trace living male descendants – with a view to matching the 3 DNA (Y) signatures that have recently been sequenced by Sheree Hughes-Stamm at Bond University from Tom, Dick and Harry.

Facial reconstruction of Harry by Dr Meija Sustisno
(Courtesy British Broadcasting Corporation)

This project consolidates an earlier research project on the Queensland Museum’s website called Who was Harry? which presented an hypothesis, based on circumstantial as well as archaeological evidence, suggesting that Harry may have been an individual from London called Robert Bowler, who was the purser’s steward.

Harry was found deep inside the wreck in the area of the officers’ storeroom.

Thus, Bowler was possibly the first of the 35 men to die during the wrecking. The hypothesis suggests that he had been going about his daily routine in the storeroom at the time the ship struck. He may have been knocked over by the impact of the vessel striking the reef, fallen into the hold and subsequently drowned as seawater flooded the part of the ship.

A scared sailor about to get roaring drunk (Bronwyn Searle)

Alternatively, was Harry a scared, confused sailor who knew he was about to die, so he chose to pilfer some booze from the captain’s stores and get roaring drunk one last time?

At the time (1999-2000) these scenarios were hypothetical (and still are) as the ‘clincher’ (e.g. firm documentary evidence) has always been lacking: neither a DNA sequence nor a living male descendant of the Pandora’s Robert Bowler were available for cross-referencing.

But now there is DNA from Tom, Dick and Harry. Hence this ‘reverse genealogy’ project.

However, finding living male descendants is likely to be tricky for most of the 35 men who died in the Pandora wreck. After all, they were alive some 10 or 11 generations ago and, unlike the 8 Orcadians in the Pandora’s crew, details about their age and place of birth are mostly missing or extremely sketchy.

This is because the Pandora’s books -specifically the columns ‘Place & County where born’ and ‘Age at the time of entry to the ship’- do not contain these details

It is almost as if the Pandora’s clerk did not bother with that level of detail ( cf. Adm.36/11136) Possibly because the extant copy in the Admiralty archive is a fair copy of the one kept on the Pandora, which was perhaps the worse for wear as a result of the survivors’ open boat voyage?

To date (July 2013 ) there is documentary evidence for age and origin of the commissioned officers, for master’s mate William Oliver James Cullimore, Bowler and a few others – who survived the wreck besides!. This evidence was found fortuitously in other ships’ muster lists  and Admiralty’s pay-books (Adm.35/1360) Bowler and Cullimore were from the London area, resp. Westminster and Bromley (Kent)

Detail from the David’s muster (Adm.36/11085)

The Pandora’s Orcadians were selected as the initial focus of this project, not only because they are a distinct group from a remote part of Britain, but mainly because their origin and ages at the time of their recruitment were noted against their names in the musters kept by the David’s clerk (Adm.36/11085)

It was therefore possible to start the search using the International Genealogical Index (IGI), searching for age data on the names of the 6 Orcadians who died during the Pandora wreck.

One name was Orcadian mutiny-suspect George Stewart, one of the 4 prisoners from “Pandora’s Box” who died during the wreck.

Another was Richard Mackie (Mackey) who was recruited in Kirkwall Roads and was subsequently rated as an ‘ordinary seaman’ before he joined the Pandora. The David’s musters gives Mackey’s age as 24 when he was recruited, so he would have been 25 years old when he died.

My search on the IGI mostly turned up good name and age matches for the search criteria I used:

George Stewart, male; D.o.b. ? June (?) 1766, South Ronaldsay, Orkney; Father’s name: Alexander Stewart of Massater; Mother’s name Margaret Richan

Richard Mackey, male D.o.b 11 Feb 1765; Baptism date & place: 17 Feb 1765, Stronsay, Orkney; Father’s name Peter Mackey; Mother’s name Elspeth Wasson.

Robert Fea, male, born in Stronsay on 26th April 1769, where he was subsequently also baptised several months later, His parents were James Fea and Isobel Keldahy (Keldaly?)

William Croy, male, birth date: 4 May 1764; Baptism date & place: 4 June 1764, Stronsay, Orkney; Father’s name Robert Croy; Mother’s name Margaret Chalmers; two brothers (Edward and Robert) One sister (Margaret)

4 results for Name: Croy, Event: Birth, Place: Orkney, Event Range: 1750-1800, Father Name: Robert Croy, Mother Name: Chalmers

  • Margaret Croy   – Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 Christening: 18 Nov 1759, STRONSAY,ORKNEY,SCOTLAND
  • William Croy   – Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950; Birth: 04 May 1764, Christening: 04 Jun 1764 STRONSAY,ORKNEY,SCOTLAND
  • Robert Croy – Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950; Christening: 30 Dec 1766, STRONSAY,ORKNEY,SCOTLAND
  • Edward Croy   – Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950; Birth: 23 Aug 1769   Christening: 29 Aug 1769, STRONSAY,ORKNEY,SCOTLAND

2 results for Name: Miller, Event: Birth, Place:Orkney, Event range: 1766-1770

  • James Miller b: 20 Nov 1768, Holm & Paplay; father: John Miller, mother: Helen Bewes
  • James Millar b: 5 June 1770, Firth & Stenness, father: Robert Millar, mother: Margerie Harvie

No results for Name: Eglington (Eglinton)  Event:Birth, Scotland, Event Range 1766-1770