Identifying Joseph Davis

In an earlier essay here I have talked about William Davis, a once famous exile from Ireland to Australia during the rebellion of 1798, known to posterity as the Wexford Pikemaker. Australian Catholics know him as one of the chief advocates of the establishment of Catholicism in Australia: in his day it was a proscribed and unlawful faith, to the distress of the many Irish people there, both free and convict. William was 35 years old when he was exiled, and may well have been married. Marriage at age 20 was common in Ireland, and by 35 a man might expect to have as many as 12 children. No evidence for this survives, but it is worth bearing in mind as one of the losses of exile. I have also summarised earlier here what is known about three young children whom William took care of, his much loved ‘orphans’. But in between is a shadowy figure, Joseph Davis, about whom not much is known, who emerges in records of the time intermittently, mysteriously, but whose relationship to William, or the orphans, is uncertain. Researchers have speculated, and rival theories have surfaced.

Unlike the earlier essays, this one on the elusive Joseph is about what we don’t know, not what we know. It is an example of how history emerges from the shadows, uncertainly, as first one detail, then another, is uncovered or deduced. The picture seems one of a Rake’s Progress, but is it true?

William’s evidence
We know about Joseph Davis first through the words of William Davis himself. In his will dated 11 August 1843, made just six days before his death, William makes note of Joseph: “I also give…to Joseph Davis, son of Joseph Davis deceased…I also give…unto William Davis son of the above named Joseph Davis…I also give…unto Catherine Davis daughter of the aforementioned Joseph Davis and Margaret Noonan…” These are the three orphans William cared about and bought up, here identified as the children of a Joseph Davis and a Margaret Noonan. Joseph senior is identified as deceased by the date of the will. Of the 11 bequests in the will, the other eight are to offspring of William’s siblings, his sister Mary, and his brothers John and Robert. There is no mention of any natural children of his own. His relationship to the deceased Joseph, and Margaret Noonan, is not mentioned. Two rival theories are derived from this unusual lack of legal exactitude. Firstly, that there was no family relationship to Joseph; secondly, that there was, and that a breach or difference had occurred between William and Joseph leading to the ostracism of the later. This is a “family story”, an often told tale with no evidence, passed on because “there must be something to it.”

Earlier, in February 1834, William left a testimony in court records about a Joseph Davis, who could perhaps be the same man mentioned in his will (there is no way of being certain of this). This Joseph had been charged with both horse theft and cattle rustling by a Bathurst settler who appeared to have a mania for court summons, as he was revealed during the trial to have often prosecuted others for similar offences, all unsuccessfully. Joseph clearly had an excellent lawyer, and was dismissed on both charges with a caution from the judge. William was called as a character witness during the trial: “For the defence, Mr. Sydney Stephen called on Mr. William Davis, of the Church Hill, who deposed that the prisoner was an adopted child of his; that he had known him ever since he was three years of age; that he was a little wild, like the generality of the native youth, fond of stopping out to bathe, and rove in the bush, when he should often have been at home, but he never knew him to be guilty of any dishonesty; on the contrary, he considered him an honest lad…A respectable inhabitant of Sydney, the prisoner’s adopted parent, had given him a wild character, though he could impute nothing to him of a vicious nature.  His Honor adverting to the fact of the prisoner’s being a native of the Colony, advised him never again to present himself as a culprit in a Court of Justice.” This account was reported in the Sydney Gazette 20 February 1834. If this is the same man as mentioned in William’s will, the father of the orphans, then his relationship and mention in the will is explained. He was not a member of William’s family, but had been adopted by William at a young age, some time after William met him at age three. By the time of the trial Joseph had already fathered two children with Margaret Noonan, another Joseph, and Catherine, and a little over 13 months later Margaret gave birth to the third, William Michael. A Margaret Davis is mentioned in the NSW RGO index as dying in 1835, and a Margaret Davis was buried with William and his wife Catherine Miles at Devonshire Street cemetery, and this may well be the otherwise unknown Margaret Noonan.

The possibility still remains these are two different people. One, a natural son or relative but for some reason not identified as such in the will, and the other an adopted son of the same name. In either case the man had died by 1843 (there is no death listed 1834-1843 on the NSW RGO index but may be elsewhere in Australia) or been ostracised by the family and was “missing, believed dead”.

Once alerted to the existence of this shadowy figure researchers combed surviving records for other traces.

Catherine’s evidence
What surfaced was uncomplimentary, and involved another two court cases. “March 4 — Joseph Davis, free, charged with an assault on his mother-in-law, Catherine Davis; ordered to find competent sureties to keep the peace, and stand committed until entered into”. (Sydney Gazette 08 Mar 1826). And the following month: “Jos. Davis, a young man who had lately arrived in the Colony, and who, on a former occasion, of having assaulted his mother-in-law, had been brought before the Bench, and ordered to find security for his good behaviour, appeared at the bar this morning charged with riotous and disorderly conduct in the street, at 12 o’clock last night, with a further breach of the peace at the hour of one in the morning, and with having grossly insulted and abused a wardsman in the execution of his duly. His former recognizances ordered to be estreated on the present offence”. (Sydney Gazette 01 April 1826).

The behaviour is the same as that of the 1834 trial. Not vicious, but “a little wild”. Joseph is identified as son in law to William’s wife Catherine, and so married to her presumed daughter, Margaret Noonan. He is clearly the future father of the orphans Joseph, Catherine and William Michael, and the lack of any reference to William Davis suggests no family connection, but perhaps that of adoption. So we get a picture of a man who knew William and Catherine, had married Catherine’s daughter, was prone to wild and undisciplined behaviour, was to father three children, and was believed dead in 1843.

The records mention Joseph again, but much more obscurely. From now on there is some doubt of the identity of the Joseph Davis mentioned.

In August of 1824 Catherine, William’s wife, travelled to England on the ship Midas. A little less than a year later, 25 June 1825, Catherine returned, with son Joseph Davis and his wife. Passage was paid for on security of land at Charlotte Place in Sydney, William Davis’ house. Was this the same Joseph? Did Catherine take William’s adopted son (and her son by marriage) over to Ireland to marry her daughter Margaret Noonan? Why go there rather than Margaret travel to Australia?

The only thing to link all these mentions in the records together is the connection with William Davis, and the fact they are internally consistent by date, and seem to be about the same kind of person.

A projected chronology of Joseph might sum this up best.
1825 Joseph married in Ireland sometime between January and April to Margaret Noonan, William Davis’ wife’s daughter.
1826 Joseph in court in March for assault, in May for riotous behaviour (“lately arrived in the Colony”).
1828 Joseph’s son Joseph believed born 12 February in Sydney.
1833 Joseph’s daughter Catherine born in Sydney.
1834 Joseph summonsed for trial 20 February for livestock theft.
1835 Joseph’s son William Michael born 25 March in Sydney.
1835-1843 Joseph disappears, believed dead by William Davis.

So far we don’t know how old Joseph was, when he was born, or who his parents were. But archival records give some further clues.

Archival evidence
Census records don’t survive from colonial times in Australia, but similar returns, called musters, were made from time to time by the Governors. William Davis appears in these records, usually identified by his residence at Charlotte Place, or by his ship of arrival, the Friendship. William and Catherine appear in the muster of 1814 for example. But in another muster, of 1823, William is mentioned along with a Joseph and an Elizabeth. William is mentioned as arriving on the Friendship, with a life sentence, having earned an absolute pardon (which meant he could leave the colony if he wished), as living in Sydney, and whose occupation was a baker (the only time this occupation is mentioned for William). Joseph, “son to Mr Davis”, age 10, born in the colony, and Elizabeth, “child of Mr Davis”, age 2, born in the colony, are also mentioned with him. There is no mention of William’s wife Catherine. Who is this Mr Davis? Is it William? Or could there be another Mr Davis?

The Governor set up an Orphan School to help children and parents, which provided shelter, food and schooling for indigent settlers. A Joseph Davis appears in the lists for this school, in several capacities. In 1823 a Joseph Davis is listed, parent or guardian William Davis, age 10. The same year a Joseph Davis is expelled for absenting himself from the School on a regular basis. But why would the already wealthy William Davis need to have a child in Orphan School? I think the explanation is that William didn’t put him there. If we look at the records in a different sequence, we find that in the year 1823, a parent put this Joseph in Orphan School, that then William was prevailed on to become guardian of the child, and that the child then took matters into his own hands by running away. Can we reconcile all this with the Joseph we have already traced? Almost, but not quite. The stumbling block is the age, given in Orphan School listing and muster as 10 in 1823. Could this be inexact, made lower for some reason, perhaps an entrance qualification?

Joseph Davis senior
There is yet another Joseph Davis entered in Orphan School. We know a bit about this Joseph. He was the son of Ann, or Nancy, Davis. Her husband was another Joseph Davis, who was an Irish rebel from Dublin.

This Joseph Davis senior may have been a relation of William Davis, though not all families named Davis of course are related. We do know his father’s name was John, as was William Davis’ father, but again the name John is common. Some members of William Davis’ family, his nephew John and some of John’s sons, worked in Dublin as coachbuilders, but still nothing more conclusive has been found to link the two Davis families.  It is all speculation.

Joseph Davis the elder was born in 1761 in Ireland, and worked in Dublin as a cutler. He was a member of the United Irishmen. On 01 October 1797 he was arrested in Wicklow for “administering an unlawful oath” (protesting against English atrocities), a treasonable offense, and transported to Australia for a term of seven years. He was married, to a woman called Mary Bassford, and had four children. There exists several heartfelt letters he wrote to his wife while a prisoner awaiting sailing. He left Cork 24 August 1799 on the ship Minerva and arrived at Port Jackson 12 January 1800. Joseph didn’t return to his wife and family on expiration of his sentence. By 1807 he was living with another convict, Ann Calder (12 December 1781-13 June 1826) and with her had eight children, Ann born 1807, Elizabeth born 1807 (a twin), Sarah born 1808, Joseph born 20 September 1809, John Emmett born 03 November 1812, Charles Oliver born 1816, Philip born 1819, Edward Fitzgerald born 1823. Joseph was eventually pardoned, and set up as a cutler in Sydney at Sydney General Hospital. He died suddenly 25 September 1823, highly thought of.

According to his obituary Joseph Davis senior was a freethinker and deist who enjoyed debating philosophy with others (and usually won the argument). He was said to have become devout when he began suffering from the illness that finally killed him, and we could imagine if we like William earnestly urging Joseph senior to care for his immortal soul.

Ann was apparently in some financial difficulty and petitioned the Orphan School for help. On 10 January 1823 she asked for admittance to Orphan School for her son Joseph, giving his age as 10 (he was 14). On 12 April 1824 she asked for further help. She listed her children: Elizabeth born 1808, Joseph 1810, John 1812, Charles 1817, Philip 1820 and Edward 1823. Ann, or Nancy, mentions that her eldest son Joseph, aged 14, is finding it hard to earn enough to support the family because of his youth, and prays the School will take in two of her sons, Charles and Philip. Her appeal was successful. She died two years later.

We apparently have two Joseph Davises, one aged 10 in 1823, who suddenly appears in the household of William Davis for the first time, parent a Mr Davis, and is also listed for Orphan School, parent or guardian William Davis, age 10, that same year; and a second one who suddenly, aged 14, on the death of his father in 1823, must support a mother and family of six. Could this possibly be the same Joseph? How exact were the ancestors in estimating ages? My experience in looking at census returns has been, not very.

We know a little more about Joseph Davis, son of Joseph the cutler. On 02 October 1823 he advertised that he was continuing his father’s business as a cutler, and prayed for patronage, in view of his juvenile years. He was trading on his father’s good name, and sympathy for the family’s plight. Nothing more is heard of this Joseph for some time. Then, in 1832, he appears in two court cases. He was still a cutler apparently, prosecuting one customer for passing a forged note and another for stealing a watch. Then he disappears from records.

It’s quite intriguing. Could these two Joseph Davises be the same man? One would have to imagine not only that quoted ages were inexact in those days, which they were, but that Joseph was only intermittently a cutler. But that’s possible. Perhaps an extended chronology would help.

1809 Joseph son of Joseph born in Sydney.
1812 William and Joseph senior both residing at Parramatta, Joseph junior age three.
1823 Ann Davis, wife of Joseph, puts her son Joseph in Orphan School, age said to be 10 but actually 14 and he is expelled for absenteeism.
1823 Joseph’s father Joseph dies, and Joseph junior attempts to carry on his business as cutler, age 14.
1823 Joseph in Orphan School, parent or guardian William Davis, age 10.
1823 William Davis adopts Joseph.
1823 on muster, aged 10, with William Davis of the Friendship, and son of “Mr Davis”, together with sister Ann aged 2.
1825 Joseph married in Ireland sometime between January and April to Margaret Noonan, William Davis’ wife’s daughter. Age 16.
1826 Joseph in court in March for assault, in May for riotous behaviour.
1828 Joseph’s son Joseph believed born 12 February in Sydney.
1832 Joseph  prosecutes two customers for theft.
1833 Joseph’s daughter Catherine born in Sydney.
1834 Joseph summonsed for trial 20 February for livestock theft.
1835 Joseph’s son William Michael born 25 March in Sydney.
1835-1843 Joseph disappears, believed dead by William Davis.

It must be emphasised that all this is mere speculation, and that much of the ‘evidence’ is actually the opposite, lack of evidence. Would you agree that Joseph, son of Joseph, or “Mr Davis”, born in the colony in 1809, might be the adopted son of William Davis he defended in court in 1834 and believed dead in 1843? Could William and Catherine have had a difference of opinion about Joseph’s marriage, William thinking him too young but Catherine presenting him with a fait accompli? This may explain the mysterious quarrel William and Catherine conducted in the newspapers on her return from England.

Unfortunately there is very little further evidence about Joseph Davis, and it only adds to the confusion.

On 15 May 1842 a Joseph Davis married a Christina Simpson in Cooma. Could this be the same Joseph, expelled from the family in 1835 or soon after for irresponsible behaviour? This Joseph looks like he abandoned Christina, or failed to support her, and in 1859 she remarried.

In 1859 a Joseph Davis, aged 50, died of a fever in Braidwood. He was the right age. No personal details were entered on his death certificate.

Family stories
But this is not all we ‘know’ about Joseph Davis. Stories circulated about him and were passed down the generations. William Michael, the youngest orphan, believed a story that Joseph had been killed by falling from a horse some time in 1835, the year his wife Margaret died. There is no trace of this death in the records (so far). Another story has him quarreling violently with William Davis about religion, and Joseph’s irresponsible ways, and being disowned by William. This story, of course, can’t be proved one way or the other. Still another tradition says Joseph was William’s nephew, son of William’s brother Robert. This is unlikely, as Robert would have been 49 in 1809 and his wife Elizabeth about 44, should 1809 be the date of Joseph’s birth. Robert could well have had a son Joseph (it was a popular name in this family) but he is unlikely to have been born after 1800 unless our information about Robert is wrong. A son of Robert could not match the records of Orphan School or musters. And William would have no need to adopt a nephew, who was already part of his family. Robert’s son Joseph, if he existed, could have married Margaret Noonan in Ireland, come to Australia, and fathered the orphans. But he couldn’t have been the subject of the court cases or an inmate of Orphan School, or of any other Australian record.

Here is the evidence, such as it is, for the life of an obscure man who for various reasons was important in the life of William Davis and his wife Catherine. He may have represented the family William had, and lost, in Ireland. He may have proved a disappointment. He may equally well have been a warm hearted, emotional and impulsive, and in that way an unreliable character. Here I may, after stating what we know for sure, have been guilty of conflating the records for two or several men of the same name. What do you think?

Imperceptibly, history merges into speculation, nurtured by the lack of evidence. Ultimately, the question is determined as, how many different people called Joseph Davis do you think might have lived in Sydney between 1809 and 1835 having some connection with William Davis the Wexford Pikemaker? I incline to be tidy, and look to find as few as possible. You may prefer to see many, and, who knows, you may be right.

©2012 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Research data gathered from NSW Archives and RGO documents and the work of Pat Davis Farr, Robert Davis, Penny Black, Dorothy Fellowes and others on the Davis family, and Irish Wattle (Barbara Hall and Cassie Mercer) on Joseph Davis the elder. See Joseph’s letter at Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.


49 thoughts on “Identifying Joseph Davis

  1. Hi was feeling like a roller coaster ride when came across this site. Love reading everyone’s bits and pieces to the Davis puzzle. I am from catherine Davis born 1842 married Tyrone white 1863 Eden nsw and look forward to more late nights reading and checking facts lol.

    1. Joseph the alleged son of William Davis exists according to many, yet nobody seems able to pin him down. As you see, neither I nor anyone else can pin down the supposedly adopted Joseph either. Both slip between the cracks in the paperwork as it were.

    2. Kia Ora 😀 Warm greetings to you all from Aotearoa aka New Zealand 🙂
      Have roused an interest in learning about my family history and I found the connection to Joseph who married Ann Nancy Calder… He is my Great Great Great Grandfather… My line descends from Joseph n Anne’s youngest son Edward Telsford Davis, he came to New Zealand possibly 1820-1830’s with his eldest Sister Elizabeth who married Captain Young?
      Along with his older brother Charles Oliver Bond Davis…

      Reading this article was indeed a roller coaster ride! Haha…pretty amazing insight and proud of my Irish connections… If you would be interested and would like to share and exchange information then that would be great 🙂 you can find me on Facebook under my profile name Arama Hamiora Davis or email me…

      Look forward to learning more about our family 😀

      Mauri Ora

      Arama H Davis

    3. Hi Lee, re Catherine Davis and Tyrone White. I am a descendant of Catherine’s sister, Margaret. Just wondering what records you have of Catherine and Margarets parents Joseph Davis and Christina Simpson. Do you have the photo of the the 3 sisters. If you would like a copy please email me on Would love to exchange information.

  2. Thanks Alicia. Good to have another viewpoint on this rather obscure matter. My interest was aroused by the note in the Pioneer Register about Joseph born 1809, died 1873. I checked on NZ’s BMD site, but the only Joseph I could find dying in 1873 was said to be 82 years old, hence born 1791. One of these two sources must be wrong, but which one?

    And Elizabeth’s chronology causes problems too. I saw the interview you mention. The sequence of Otago, Taranaki, Auckland, Coromandel and Sydney does not fit the brothers chronologically in order of birth. In birth order they died Unknown (Joseph, for the moment), Ruapuke, Auckland, unknown (Philip) and Coromandel. So perhaps Elizabeth is referring to the order in which they died: Joseph and Philip unknown, then Ruapuke, Coromandel and Auckland. Again it doesn’t fit the deaths we know about, John, Edward and Charles. The NZ BMD site has a Philip who died in 1899 and that’s all. I concluded that Elizabeth was just referring to the brothers in random order, as they occurred to her during the interview. What a pity she didn’t know a lot of family historians were going to be interested! Of course I want to believe the brother who died in Sydney was Joseph, because it fits my theory, but I have no proof. I suppose I should have to investigate the Philip who died 1899 if only to eliminate him, but I’ve done that with several Josephs in Sydney and it’s becoming too expensive.

    In the meantime I am delighted to hear from Joseph senior’s descendants and the light they may be able to shine on the matter. I agree that Mary and her children probably didn’t come to Australia. There’s another story there!My essay on Joseph senior is here, at “A Dream of Freedom”, you might find one or two bits of interest, though familiar with most of the story.

  3. Hi interesting reading, great coming across this. I am a descendant of Joseph Davis Snr through his son Edward who came to NZ with his brother Charles, sister Elizabeth and William Young in 1830/31.

    Much of our family history/documents that has been passed down are centred around Edward and his two siblings Charles and Elizabeth. Looking through some documents I found one note: The Pioneer register: Auckland public library that states Joseph son of Joseph Davis Snr and Anne Calder; b) 20/09/1809 Sydney. d) 21/06/1873 Otago NZ. In another document Auckland Star- 28 June 1887 – a representative waited upon Mrs Young who now at 81 years of age stated she was the last of her family, her five brothers having been buried receptively in Otago, Taranaki, Coromandel, Auckland and Sydney. Hopefully this may shed a little light on this Joseph Davis and his place of death.

  4. Hi I am also a direct descendant of Joseph Davis Snr through his son Edward who came to NZ with his sister Elizabeth and William Young in 1830/31.

    Looking through some family documents that have passed down note from: The pioneer register- Auckland public library states Joseph the second child of Joseph Snr and Anne Calder was born 20/9/1809 in Sydney. Died 21/6/1873 Otago, NZ.

    There are numerous records about Joseph Davis Snr and Anne Calder – births, baptism s etc but this is the only document we have that provides a date/place of death for Joseph younger. Most of our records concentrate on my ancestor Edward, his brother Charles and sister Elizabeth once in NZ. However there is another document that reads- Mrs Young, now 81 years of age, was waited upon by a representative of the auckland star June 1887- stated she was now the last if her family, her five brothers having been buried receptively in Otago, Taranaki, Coromandel, Auckland and Sydney. Hopefully this may shed a light on the mystery of what happened to Joseph Davis Jnr son of Joseph Snr and Anne.

    Also in our records there is no mention of the arrival of Mary and four children to Sydney. Regards.

    1. Well, despite it all, there is no evidence yet for Joseph. It would seem that Elizabeth was giving the death dates of her brothers and enumerating them by age or birth dates, as she would as she bought them up. My records show John dying at Taranaki (Ruapuke), Edward at Coromandel, Philip at Sydney (thanks for your research), and Charles at Auckland. The missing brother is Joseph, who must be the one that died at Otago. The Joseph who died in 1873, though at Otago, was 82. I don’t believe a mistake of that extent in age could be made. Even if his parents were Joseph and Ann, these are very common names. It is quite possible a Joseph, son of Joseph and Ann, died at Otago 1873, but it seems to me doubtful he could belong to this family. Fallacy in genealogy no. 1 is that people of the same name must be the same person. The explanation could be that Joseph died before 1840 and the start of official records. However, I note that one of Mary Bassford’s children was Joseph, born 1890. Perhaps he came out to NZ? He would at least be the right age.

    2. Re: John Emmet Davis
      Sorry Phillip, but if you care look up my reference: Otago: John Emmet Davis 01/05/1867 Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 3047, 2th May 1876, Page 8
      you will see that Ruapuke is in fact in Southland, Otago. As for Joseph Davis age 82: you must take into consideration that you are looking at an transcription and that an eight with a small part missing could easily look like a six. unless we get a copy of the orriginal entry we will never be sure. Re: Bassford, I could not find any Bassford,on the Irish web sites, that would fit the time line, perhaps you could enlighten me with some hints? As for repeated names in a family! A common tread in famiy history is that the first son is named after the fathers father, the first daughter after the mothers mother, then the second son after the mothers father and second daughter after the fathers mother. Third son after the father or fathers grand father and dito for the third daughter. other childeren might be named ofter deceased brothers or sisters of the father/mother. You might also find more childeren from the same couple with the same name witch usually indicates that an earlier child with the same name has died, unless one of the parents has died and the other one remarried. This was fairly strictly adhered to in the old days and it leads to a grate deal of confusion for genealogist because if a couple had 12 childeren then they might have 12 grand childeren with the same name! However it also has its advantages because if you look at a couple’s childeren you have a fair chance that yoy know the names of the grand parents. therefore you could deduct that the joseph of Mary Bassford [if he was a son of Jos] was the 3th son or Mary’s / Joseph’s father was Joseph!
      regards bk

  5. Hi Alby, great of you to “butt in” and add to the store of knowledge. First, do you know the names and birthdates of Joseph and Mary’s children? All I have is the letter quoted on Irish Wattle. The “Wollmer” is interesting. If you saw my response to Russell’s info on “A Dream of Freedom” (next to last post here) you would see his belief that Joseph was in origin an English soldier stationed in Dublin (note the divergent tradition that William Davis the Pikemaker was a Welshman). I too noticed the entries on NSW BMD Index. Joseph died 1885, 17 Nov 81 years, Mrs Foy’s address Burwood Rd Enfield according to NLA Trove. There is a marriage between a Harriett Davis and a William Foy in 1867, her parents Joseph and Ellen, and a marriage between a Joseph Davis and Ellen Turner 1850 at Scots Church (Presbyterian). And issue of the marriage from 1848. I wonder if these are all connected, or separate events.

  6. Hi, I found your debate with Russell very interesting, so I’d like to add my tuppence worth … Joseph and Mary actually had 6 children, one Joseph Wollmer Davis died and a later son was also named Joseph, I’m not positive but I think Elizabeth was the other child that died.
    I got excited when you mentioned Josephs daughter, Mrs Foy as it matched well with … Joseph Davis, died 1885 @ Canterbury in B,D,&M, NSW, just need the death cert … hope you do’nt mind me butting in … LB.

  7. Thanks Russell for your contribution. You are perfectly correct to question the trade of watchmaker for Joseph senior. I was overwhelmed when looking at newspaper reports, about Joseph the watchmaker, of which there are many. But his obituary quite clearly states he was a cutler. His son Joseph also quite clearly states he is carrying on the business as a cutler. In an area where there is rarely a final account, my story of Joseph is meant to generate discussion such as your comments, and the record as a result is a little more accurate. With a name as common as Joseph Davis I should have been more careful. The watchmaker is even in business after the obituary was posted, so I have little excuse for the error.

    As regards the Minerva, I have this marriage announcement. “MARRIED — On Monday last, by Dr. Lang, Presbyterian Minister, Captain Young, of the Colonial brig Minerva, to Miss. Elizabeth Davis, of Harrington-street, Sydney.
    (The Australian Wed 23 Apr 1828)”. Is it the same ship? The Minerva came to Sydney 1799/1800 and apparently went in the East Indies trade 1803/4 for the East Indian Company in Bengal, and may have ended her days in Antigua as a hospital hulk in 1811. I have no idea how long they lasted, these old ships. Could it still have been voyaging 1828? It is a coincidence of names, but both ships were called Minerva.

    The Dissenters were the non Anglicans. In a sense it was a political label. They were the outsiders. It lumped together atheists, Freethinkers, Baptists and Presbyterians and Catholics, strange bedfellows. You may have this bit on the Minerva. Joseph may also have received mitigated sentence for surrendering.

    “Joseph Davis (1761-1823) was a convict tried and found guilty of high treason in Wicklow (he gave his native place as Dublin and trade as cutler) in 1798 and was sentenced to transportation for seven years. He was one of a large number of men who had been apprehended for administering an unlawful oath (considered a rebel offence by the authorities) on 1 October 1797. The group were given time to put their affairs in order before leaving the country. He left Cork 24 August 1799 on the ship Minerva and arrived at Port Jackson 12 January 1800. Joseph was married to Mary Bassford in Ireland and had four children, including John and Sarah (Sally). In NSW Joseph lived with Ann Calder and had several children, including Joseph 1809 and John E 1812. Joseph was non-Catholic. He was counted in the 1806, 1811 and 1814 musters”.

    “The nature of the offence is known for only two ships, Minerva and Anne, and in the case of the Minerva the ship’s muster only assigns the convicts into three categories: political offenders (64), those who surrendered themselves for transportation (7), and others (91). Six of those who surrendered for transportation were among 88 ‘prominent leaders’ of the 1798 Rising named in the Banishment Act (Thomas Brady, Richard Byrne, Farrel Cuffe, Joseph Davis, Peter Ivers and John Lacey) while the other (Joseph Holt) was among 49 listed in the Fugitive Act”.
    Unfinished Revolution United Irishmen in NSW 1800-1810

    As for Mary Bassford, do you know anything of her coming to Australia? I can’t trace her, but finding “Mary Davis” is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And the million dollar question. Do you have any details of Joseph in Ireland, parents etc. Can let you have Edward’s and Charles’ obits and Joseph the cutler if you haven’t seen them.

  8. oops my mistake…Edward is my ancestor from Joseph and Anne…John his son, is who I got confused with because his son is also called John (The second)…sorry.

  9. Strange coincidence that Josephs daughter to Anne marries the Captain of a ship called the ‘Minerva’?
    The same name as the ship that brought her dad over as a chained convict?
    This is why I myself even have to question the information given in some so called ‘reliable’ sources.
    I understand your interest…lol!…nothing seems to make much sense??

  10. By the way…My anscestor was one of a few if not the only Protestant aboard a ship of 229 other fellow ‘Catholic’ prisoners? This is what prompted my looking into the reason for this further.
    After which I had found that the protestants that were on the side of the rebels were of the Presbyterian church…so your assumption towards them being of that faith, I would say is correct.
    But thanks heaps for the other little bits of info included in your report.
    Sad to hear what my ancestor Anne Calder and her children went through after the death of her husband.

  11. Hey Phillip thanks for posting…I am a direct descendant from Joseph and Anne ‘Calders son John. Who with his brother Charles (who later became a well known writer…) went to NZ as surveyers. Married and lived the rest of their lives there.

    The story as far as I know as it was related to me by my father…
    Joseph Davis the elder or the 1st…Was a cutler. In the army he was a major of a regiment of ‘Long Cutlers’. They made the swords, sabres and bayonettets that the army used. ( Probably another advantage the ‘Irish rebels’ found with him?)
    A ‘short cutler’ specialises in cutlery. There was a need for someone to make surgical instruments for the new ‘Sydney Hospital’. This is one reason why Joseph was released early.
    He wasn’t a watchmaker as far as I know…or his son wouldn’t inherit the business as a ‘cutler?’ but a watchmaker?
    There is a newspaper advertisment posted by this Joseph Davis…Looking for the owner of a ‘lost’ watch within his possesion saying it will be returned on proof of ownership…(found at the hospital…where he worked as far as we know?)

    Another little detail was that this Joseph Davis was also charged with seditious behaviour…Marrying the enemy, a Catholic woman. Whom he had left behind… But had later come over and joined him bringing the kids.
    So whether Joseph Davis had two wives at the same time??…just speculation at this stage. Was there a law against it within the country he now lived? But could explain why he never returned home.
    Thats about all I can add I’m afraid but hopefully this spark can be turned into a flame.

  12. Well Pat, Davis and Young: very common names! The name itself is not decisive, but its connection with places like Harrington St is. Catherine Miles and Margaret Noonan: I’ve thought of that. Catherine was a Noonan who married a Miles after mothering an illegitimate daughter. Or Margaret Miles marries a Noonan before marring Joseph Davis. These are possibilities that we need to explore.

    1. Hi Phillip- I have ref to E lizabeth Young – 1828 Census age 20 — (b) 1808 living as housekeeper with Wm and Catherine – several dates for possible death, you most likely have correct one- mine are 1857, 1859, and one 1861 at Braidwood but this one has her father as David Davis and her Mother as Elizabeth Young – another list is for children of Eliz and Wm Young, but later dates, William (b) 1884, born Brewarina- James – Queanbeyan 1884, Emily J Lambeton 1885, Eliz E, Sydney 1886 – Stafford Sydney 1888 and Greorge Sydney 1903.. I didnt pursue further as tooo confusing !! but might relate to something youve found !! pat

      1. Thanks Pat The census one is the one who married William Young. Around 1830 the Captain, his wife, their daughter Elizabeth (1829) and four of Elizabeth’s five brothers migrated to NZ. The one left behind was Joseph (1809), who, if I am right in my identification, was about to vanish in 1835 after fathering William Michael. Two of the four brothers became well known as interpreters, and played a prominent part in negotiations with the Maoris and in the foundation of Auckland. One, Charles, was also a well known author. At Charles’ death his sister Elizabeth provided an obituary which gives the death sequence (no dates) of her brothers’ deaths. I have BMD dates for most. There is a tree on Ancestry/Mundia. There is also an entry in the NZ encyclopedia which identifies Charles as son of Joseph the watchmaker and Ann Calder. Captain Young, Charles, and Edward, the youngest brother, were well known and all have obits in NZ papers. Where my identification falls down is on ages quoted in muster/Orphan school. In 1823 Elizabeth was 16, Joseph 14. Not 2 and 10. Perhaps the 2 should have been 12, with both ages then being 4 years younger. Or perhaps they were different people altogether. According to Elizabeth her brother Joseph died after Edward in 1876 and before Charles in 1887. She said Joseph died in Sydney. Looking at the RGO index I could see several deaths of a Joseph of course, but one with parents Joseph and Ann who died 1885 in Canterbury. The funeral notice mentioned the procession was leaving the house of his daughter, a Mrs Foy. So far I haven’t got independent proof Joseph married Christina (there are 12 possible marriages of a Joseph on the RGO index, though only 2 are RC. Interesting that the watchmakers’ children inclined to Presbyterian). But if my identification is right then a 1835 death from falling from a horse seems wrong, unless it happened somewhere like the NT. Still a way to go. Phillip Phillip Kay

  13. Those interested in William Davis the Wexford Pikemaker will recall he is recorded in an 1823 muster in a household with an Elizabeth Davis and a Joseph Davis, both children of “Mr Davis”. I have contended in this essay that these two were among the natural children of Joseph Davis the elder, a fellow Irish rebel. We know the children of Joseph and his wife Ann Calder migrated to New Zealand under the care of their sister Elizabeth, who had married a Captain Young in the Scots Church in Sydney. The children included two who became very well known as Maori interpreters, and have an entry in the NZ Encyclopedia which mention their birth and parentage. At the death of her brother Charles, one of these well known people, Elizabeth’s obituary quotes the death place of her brothers, all of whom predeceased her. She mentions that Joseph died in Sydney, hence was the only one not to travel to NZ.

    I have found the marriage notice of Elizabeth and Captain Young:

    “MARRIED — On Monday last, by Dr. Lang, Presbyterian Minister, Captain Young, of the Colonial brig Minerva, to Miss. Elizabeth Davis, of Harrington-street, Sydney”. (The Australian Wed 23 Apr 1828). The mention of Harrington Street as the home of Elizabeth I think is another piece of evidence linking the children of Joseph Davis with William Davis, and making it likely that Joseph junior was the father of the three ‘orphans’ and William’s adopted son. Elizabeth was definitely Joseph senior’s daughter, and now revealed as probably living in William’s house at the time of her marriage. Elizabeth doesn’t give Joseph junior’s year of death, but implies it was some time in the 1880s. If true this would enable him to remarry. But whom?

    1. Australasian Chronicla June 30th 1840 p3,col 2-on list of subs to StPats Church fund — Mr Henry Davis l pound, Miss Margaret Davis 1 pound Mrs Elizabeth Davis 2 pound ! A Captain Young was stationed on Norfolk Is .. How come Catherine Miles had a daughter Margaret Noonan ? and a son in law named Joseph Davis !

  14. Fred Alexander (b) 1838 – plus Cath,Joe,Marg,Christina, Sara born 10.10.1852
    Fred Alex (m) Sara Emma Curtis Moreing 29.10.1866 Presbyterian Ch Cathcart no. 1618. Fred took on Sara’s many (5 or so) chn from her first marriage to MOREING.. —the Davis union had 5 chn — William Alexander ( remember Catherine came out on the Alexander !) Fed Jos (mine) Catherine, Lydia, Henry Fuller.. I think you come down the Margaret/Toby Tyler (he was born at sea- a Yank ) line ? — I was supplying info to a Lisa Kennedy- but emails stopped suddenly some time ago– have you any news of her ..? pat

  15. Maybe Joseph fathered Frederick in an earlier marriage and by 1842 he was widowed. I did find a marriage for Frederick to Sarah E Morang. they had 5 children, William F, Catherine, Lyddy and Henry. the same names keep popping up….diane

  16. Must be uncommon to find an unregistered, illegitimate birth in a family Bible! Just as well for those descended from this Frederick a death cert exists which giives parents’ names. Can’t help wondering, knowing Joseph’s track record, who the mother really was.

    1. Hi Diane- once you immerse yourself in the history of the period – marriage wasnt a foregone act.. Remember these were persecuted, hounded, stripped of their wealth, their religion and hated their oppressors- the English who enslaved them.. They wouldnt even think of marriage by the available English clegy- There was an understanding that they could make their promise to each other, baptise their own children , and have all sanctified when a priest eventually arrived..Re Frederick Joseph, my ancestor, he was there for Christina in her later years and was with her when she died, family story, and is on her death certificate as her grandson. At some time Christina and Joseph Croft moved to Cathcart from Eden – and I was told, had 30 acres, it may have been a grant, or some of the family thought it was part of the property of Hyborough, which was built by the family. It was an extensive enterprise, having dairy cattle, chicken farm, butchery, orchards, sheep, turkeys, lots of horses, dogs and whatever made a farm . It was still in operation when I was a child. Christina was a midwife, healer, well respected in the area and sought after for births.. Death Cert 1896 Cathcart- aged 75 ? from Scotland living in Aust 65 years — hers would be a great story if anyone had time to research it..patricia

      1. Thanks Patricia, every little bit of information helps to build the story. I am an ancestor of her daughter Margaret, so I am keen to learn as much about the family as possible. I wish I was more interested in our family history when my grandmother (Margarets grand daughter) was alive. She may have had some stories to tell me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Re your comment about persecution etc, I hadn’t thought of it like this before and it makes absolute sense. many thanks….diane

  17. Thank you Pat for this information. It would seem that Frederick is related to Joseph and Christiana, but I am still not sure how, given that they did not marry until 1842. It seems the more I learn about this family, the less I know …..diane

  18. Frederick Alexander born 1838 Bermagui or Sydney from old Bible entry- died 21.2.1904 – next Catherine (b) 2.10.1842 (d) 21.7.1921 (m)) Tyrone White 1863 Joseph (b) 22.10.1844 Margaret (b) 30.11.1846 (d) 26.3.1921 (m) Toby Tyler 1862 Eden Christina (b) 21.3.1849 (d) 10.8.1937 (m) Wm Ward 1867 Sara (b) 10.10.1852 (d) 10.8.1879 etc etc the 3 orphans you have .. 1831 or 2, 1833, 1835 taken this from notes, dont know if I found and made any corrections since- but – this info to hand now — so hope its accurate – pat

  19. There are a couple trees on ancestry that have them as the parents of Frederick Alexander born 1839. I always thought this a bit strange as they did not marry until 1842. I did find a Frederick A Davis dying in 1893 in BDM’s, but of course no parent details. Just another name to add to the mix….Diane

    1. Just to add to the confusion. I found: 1. no birth indexed under variants (either parent, under Fred, F, Frederick A, George etc or under Davies) 2. the following death notice and index entry. DEATH 705/1904 DAVIS, FREDERICK; s. JOSEPH & CHRISTINA at BEGA.

      DAVIS -September 30 at Puen Buen Scone George Frederick Davis, late of Gerringong, beloved husband of E P Davis. (The Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 1 October 1904)

      The only births indexed to Joseph and Christina are the five you have. So, no Frederick, but a George. Supposing the two entries are the same man. mmm. Phillip

  20. No. I can’t see a Frederick son of Joseph in the index at all. Over to you Pat. I was quoting you above Diane for the child of 1832, Catherine, but I think that should have been 1842. So Joseph’s not committing adultery after all.

  21. Phillip, re Christiana and Joseph – the child born in 1832, would that be Frederick Alexander? I wish they left better records back then. I will keep searching and hopefully more of the jig saw pieces will fall into place…Diane

  22. There is no doubt William Davis was considered to be a wealthy man. Did he perhaps attract a Tichborne Claimant, a person called Joseph Davis who claimed to be his son, hoping to get some of the Davis fortune? The claims for William having a natural son Joseph all seem to date only from about 100 years ago. There seems little evidence from William’s lifetime such a son existed. On the contrary, his will states in effect (by omission) he had no natural children.

    Was William really wealthy though? I’ve been looking at City of Sydney archival maps lately. There are surveys made 1835 showing some, not a lot, property owned by William. I haven’t had the patience to sift through the deeds themselves, but I recall there was a lot of buying reported in the newspapers in the early 40s. This raises the interesting possibility that when William died in 1843, a lot of his property, 17 houses in the Rocks and 5 parcels of land mentioned in his will, may have been encumbered with mortgages. We know William was financially astute, and would have negotiated rents and mortgages to his advantage had he lived. But he could have been asset rich and cash poor when he died, especially as he gave away so much cash to his Church. I now sympathise more with his heirs, none of whom had his financial skills, and understand why William’s empire of land holdings melted away so quickly. Heirs resident in Ireland sold, heirs in Sydney went bankrupt. The next detailed set of maps available is the Rocks Resumption of 1900, and one looks in vain for any property in the name of Davis. Three houses in Cumberland Street, one encumbered with back taxes, is all I could see.

    1. Hello Phillip, just thought I would add a little bit more to this saga. In answer to Bob Davis, Joseph and Christiana had the following children (that I am aware of)
      Catherine (b 1832) who married Tyrone White. Joseph (b 1844). Margaret (b 1848) who married Tobias Tyler (another who dropped off the planet). Margaret married Francis Kelly in 1885. Christina (b 1849) and Sarah (b 1852). the birth of Sarah I find interesting as yesterday in Trove I found this notice placed by Christiana Davis
      “not having heard from her husband Joseph Davis, late of Eden, Twofold Bay, for the period of 8 years; this is to give the said Joseph Davis notice, that if he does not return or communicate with her within 2 months from this date, after that it is her intention to enter again into the matrimonial state” (dated 15/10/1857).
      Poses the question of who is the father of Sarah if Joseph had been missing since 1849 or thereabouts. Just more questions to be answered! ….Diane

      1. Good to see the practice of historical research is alive and well in Australia! This Joseph sounds like the same man in all records. Someone who moves on when things get boring. Now, could he have been the gold digger who died Braidwood 1859?

      2. Just noticed the Catherine born 1832 Diane. This Joseph, if the same man then married to Margaret Noonan, was committing adultery. He had a child by Christina in 1832, then one by Margaret in 1833 and again 1835. A busy man! At least we can say of him that he was attractive to women!

    2. From the Court of James 1787- Grants to emancipated convicts- Instruct Gov Phillip 25 Apr 1787 CO 201/1. 3o acres single, plus 20 acres married, 10 acres per child. Lease of 39 3/4 rods southside Rocks to Catherine Davis – by Colonel Wm Paterson 14 Nov 1809. He was one of 3 incharge after overthrow of Bligh. He adjusted leaseholds to suit area and times. Gov Macquarie arrives in 1810 tries to reverse Col actions. But he was thwarted by an ebullient feminist Rosetta, a wealthy trader who had gained much from Col Paterson. She appealed to the new Gov to legalise the Colonels decisions, this indomitable lady achieved her wishes.

      So Catherine arrives Alexander August 1806. Marries William Jan 1809 gets lease Nov 14, 1809 – her term was for 7 years – so what extenuating circumstances permitted her to get her first lease – could it have been the birth of a child ??? was Catherine tooo old to have a child, do we know when Catherine was born ? records vary– again more queries than answers !

      1. Catherine presents a few problems, in reconciling what remains of her in surviving records. Was it you Pat who said it was like doing a gigantic jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing? Granted land in defiance of current government regulations. A business selling clothes, after being transported for stealing them. Her own claim to have supported William by running a pub. The possibility of having born a child. True we don’t have proof of her age, but she must have been close to the end of her ovulation period when she met William. However, if she had a child (other than Margaret) we still have to explain why it was ignored by William in his will. By not specifically disinheriting his or Catherine’s child William left it possible for that issue to claim the estate despite the terms of the will in favour of his siblings’ offspring and the orphans. That challenge was never made, so I presume he was correct in saying in effect he had no living natural heirs.

  23. Marist Fathers Archives Hunter Hill.. a Mr Gates of Marquet St Rhodes is a direct descendent of William Davis of Church Hill. He was shown information by his Grandfather supplied by Joseph, son of Wm Davis. This info passed on to Mr Cleary, Editor of the old Catholic Press. Cardinal Moran requested Father Leonard to have copies made.. One such copy was in possession of Sister Mary Gertrude of Sisters of Charity – who had no reason to doubt the info contained .

  24. Phillip, Thanks for your added interest in Joseph. If only we could prove that he died as a result of falling from a horse . Let’s add another name to our many Joseph descendents who believe that he was Williams son. Doris Ringland ,formaly Doris Ward wrote “William Davis was my great great Grandfather.Grandmother’s was Christina Davis and her father was Joseph Davis ,the son of the exile ,William Davis .My Grandmother’s father married a Scottish girl and they had five children ,three girls and two boys . My Grandma’s sisters married one a White and the other a Kelly.I do not know anything about the others . I did hear they went gold mining and Ma Ward’s father had the children christened Catholic but when he died Grandma’s mother had the children christened in the Presbyterian Church. I hope you can understand all this . Witt St. Tea Gardens 27/7/73. Phillip perhaps there is a Ringland,Ward, White or Kelly out there who would like to comment Kind regards ,Bob Davis Brooklyn Hawkesbury River

  25. I agree the will is an important piece of evidence. Supporting its statement that the orphans’ father was deceased by 1843 is that there was no claim to the estate by a person claiming to be William’s adopted son. As Joseph was not disinherited, if he was alive he would have had a good chance of challenging the terms of the will. But he made no claim. Of course one can assume that William was mistaken in thinking Joseph dead, and that Joseph in turn may not have heard of William’s death, but in the absence of any evidence of this we should look at the probabilities. We could also ask why Joseph never contacted his three children had he been alive after 1843, even to ask for a loan. Stranger things have happened, but we have to deal with the facts we know.

  26. I lean towards the one Joseph theory. My theory, for what it is worth, is that William was a devout Catholic and lying would not have been acceptable to himself. The wording of his will is indicative.

  27. According to Pat Farr Christina married Joseph Croft or Crofts at Eden in 1859 under the first name variant of Ann Davis. Apparently the Joseph who died at Braidwood in 1859 a few months after this marriage could also not sign his name. My case for identifying Joseph shows him to be a boy who ran away from school, so he probably didn’t learn much, and was too intractable to listen to others’ advice. Joseph the elder, the watchmaker, was also an educated man, but that family had trouble surviving, and there may not have been much money for education, Joseph junior had to work and support the family. William Davis saw to the education of his orphans, but perhaps his adopted son came too late into his life, under too many disadvantages, to gain this benefit? We have to leave out of consideration other reasons for signing with a mark, injury to the writing hand etc. The real barrier to Joseph and Christina being connected to William Davis in my mind is that William believed him dead by 1843, and passed on a story of him dying from a fall from a horse by 1835. Why should he have made that up? He could quite easily have just specifically disinherited Joseph if he had still been living. As so often, we just don’t know.

  28. Hello Phillip, what a lot of research you have done! I am related to the Joseph Davis who married Christina (or Christiana) Simpson. I have been interested in reading your research and that of others, particularly regarding that of Joseph and Christina. I am aware that there are quite a few that believe (my) Joseph is related to William in some form or other, but there is a nagging doubt in the back of mind. William appears to be an educated man and I feel that he would ensure that members of his family would also be educated. I have the marriage certificate for Joseph and Christina, and yes, Joseph is listed as being Roman Catholic, however, he is not able to sign his name – he leaves his mark with a x. It is this fact that has me wondering if Joseph is related to William.
    You also mentioned that Christina remarried in 1859. Would you perhaps know who she married?
    Many thanks for your research and thoughts….Diane

  29. The Joseph on the Midas could be one of two people. 1, Joseph, perhaps son of Robert, whom Catherine fetched from Ireland, married him to Margaret, and bought both back to Australia. He was not of course her natural son, she was not conniving at incest. He was a son by marriage. 2, the Joseph whom William adopted, just back from his trip to Ireland, who was to assault Catherine. “newly arrived in the Colony” means just that, not a statement of where he was born but a notice of his recent return after a trip overseas. But my objection still stands. William does not refer to “my adopted son Joseph”, “my nephew Joseph”, “my wife’s son Joseph”. If they all existed he would need to do so to be comprehensible to others. He refers to just plain Joseph, and later adds he had adopted him. I take this to indicate there was only one Joseph.

  30. Phillip- what a mammoth effort to assemble so much info on so many Josephs. Perhaps one of the early mysteries revolve around the passengers on the voyage of the Midas – both outging and return Gazette notice of arrival Saturday 17 Dec. 1825. Archives Packet 4/989 -Papers re payment of passages for family of William Davis to the Colony -Navy Office 13th June 1825.

    Conveyance on Midas for Mrs Davis, her son and daughter by desire of Earl Bathurst by letter of Mr Wilmot Horton (?) of 24.5.1825 13.13.0 paid to Captain Yonney for the passage of each adult plus half the sum for each child ….J. Smith

    There is a mention of her son and daughter– were these children of William and Catherine – did the story that William was impotent originate with the catholic historian Eris O’Brien stating in the official history of the Catholic Church- the Dawn of Catholicism in Australia -” that William was a bachelor and therefore we hope he left no descendants ” catholics would naturally refer to this history and of course accept such an eminent historian to be correct . Catherine seemed to have a daughter so she was not barren. Could then this elusive Joseph actually be a son of William– 1822 Muster says so.

    1. Hello Pat, yes, there are quite a few Joseph Davises in the record. They may all be different people. But I wanted to see if it was possible to argue they were all the same person, hence my article. The trouble is that if there are many Josephs you have to explain why only one is mentioned in all the surviving records. You would expect William (and others) to distinguish between them to avoid confusion, but he doesn’t. I think Horton’s letter you refer to merely gives the rates for children and adults. He had been told Mrs Davis was travelling with son and daughter, so that would have been appropriate. He wouldn’t have known their ages. In the event William seems to have paid for three adults. As regards children, usage of the time would have Catherine refer to Joseph, if he was William’s adopted child, as her son. We do the same today, sometimes referring to a as “son”. But either child, whether still young or an adult, might have been natural offspring to either William or Catherine. The muster document, like Mr Horton’s letter, is a product of government bureaucracy designed for general use, and I think the heading is “parent or guardian”. If the age given for Joseph in the muster is correct (I think it isn’t) then William would have been 47 and Catherine 40 when he was born. Possible, but not very. Does Joseph appear in earlier musters? I haven’t seen him. As for Eris O’Brien, his work has been superseded, thanks partly to your own researches.I myself think William had no living offspring, because of the wording of his will. You would expect to see “…son of Joseph Davis my son, deceased…” but not so. As so often, we just don’t know.

      1. Yes Phillip- You are right, the letter does look like a quote. How many Davis’s on the passenger list ? Mr and Mrs Joseph Davis and Catherine. 3 – Does it look like this Joseph is the one who assaults Catherine Davis his Mother-in-law 8th March 1826-being newly arrived in the Colony, therefore not born in the Colony . Can you elaborate on this Joseph ?

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