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Francis and his wife Anne Kairns were both born in Belturbet, Parish of Annagh, County Cavan, Ireland. "Good William Little knowing them since their infancy"(6).

Anne’s parents were Patrick Kairns and Catherine McDermott. Little is known about them. 

Francis's parents were Dr Peter Gilroy and Margaret Sheenan.  Little is known about Margaret Sheenan. 

Francis and Anne embarked from Cavan, Parish of Anna, Ireland in the later half of 1840 as Assisted Bounty Immigrants on the ship Resource.  They listed themselves as Farm Servants, arriving in Australia 22 December 1840. Anne was unable to read or write while Francis could both read and write.

They settled in Sydney NSW for a number of years. Twelve children were born to Francis and Anne; six male children and two female children predeceased them. Four children, Mary, Francis, Anne and Patrick, along with their parents, settled in Dubbo NSW sometime after 1854.

Francis died in Dubbo at the age of 72, the death certificate listed the cause as dysentery and general debility over a period of three months, his occupation at death was listed as Gentleman. His witnesses were Patrick Gilroy and Thomas Frawley. The informant was his son Frank Gilroy.  

Anne passed away in Dubbo at the age of 68 on 16th April 1892, her cause of death was cancer of the breast over three years. Witnesses were James Parsons and John King. The informant was her son Frank Gilroy.

Determining the Birth Date of Francis Gilroy 
There are many reasons why it is hard to pin point the birth and death dates of an ancestor. 
  • Emigrant records were sometimes falsified to provide an acceptable emigrant age 
  • Emigrant records incorrectly transcribed
  • Aged headstones, now known as cemetery records, leave transcriptions open to error
  • Delay of death registration 
  • Age on newspaper obituary notices estimated or detailed incorrectly
Normally one would accept the death certificate as having the correct date of birth and death, but the information written on that is only as good as the person providing it.

See below the discrepancies in Francis Gilroy’s earthly dates.

1. Obituary

"An old resident of Dubbo, named Francis Gilroy, 75 years of age, was buried on Sunday 1st June 1884…"
Which means that Francis was born 1809 and died 1884

2. Cemetery Record

"Francis 1881 70y 2m.."
Which means that Francis was born 1811 and died 1881

3. Australia BDM

"Francis's death registered 1885"
Which can likely indicate that Francis died 1885

4. Death Certificate

"Age 72, date of death 30 May 1884, altered from 25th July 1885"
Which means that Francis was born 1812 and died 1884

5. Ship Emigration Record 1840

"Ship 'Resource' age 23"
Which means that Francis was born 1817

6. Ship Emigration Record 1840

"Ship Resource, Age on Embarkation 17th March 18??"


The Determination FACTS
  • We know from the death certificate and the newspaper dated 4th June 1884 that Francis died on 30th May 1884 and was buried on Sunday 1st June. 
  • Age on the headstone says 70 years and 2 months.
  • If you take 70 years away from the newspaper death year of 1884 it will give Francis’s birth year as 1814. 
  • The day and month of his 'Age on Embarkation' was 17th March which corresponds to the '2 months' at death on 30 May which gives Francis's birth month as March.

This gives the date of birth for Francis Gilroy as 17th March 1814. 

The contributing facts are:-
  • Information on Francis’s headstone misinterpreted as 1881 instead of 1884. 
  • Francis’s death was not officially registered until the following year.
  • Emigration age incorrect
  • The original death information incorrectly provided to authorities, thus the amendment on the death certificate from 25 July 1885 to 30 May 1884.
Which means that Francis was aged 26 when he arrived in Australia on 22 December 1840.


BIRTH 17th March 1814   /   DEATH 30th May 1884

Who are the Parents of Francis Gilroy?
In the search for the father of Francis, two Peter Gilroy’s present themselves, one attended Trinity College Dublin in 1816, age 19, son of Cavan farmer, Bernard (7), and the other graduated The University of Edinburgh in 1807 (8). 

AncestryPro* says that the first Peter did not graduate college and..
it would be very unusual for a doctor or surgeon to attend Trinity, which would be separate from any medical education because most medical men of the day studied with a local doctor or surgeon and took a diploma at one of the Royal Colleges [2] (9).” 
That leaves us with the second Peter who graduated from Edinburgh and married Frances Clavel. 

AncestryPro says that.. 
The Peter Gilroy who graduated from Edinburgh was a physician in Navan, Co. Meath so he is not your man (9)”.
While Paul MacCotter Irish Researcher says..
it is clear that this Dr Peter Gilroy is your ancestor (10)”. 
Below is the linage for the later Dr Peter Gilroy with the addition of a possible mistress named Margaret, note Francis’s 1814 birth two years after Dr Gilroy’s last legitimate child, the name also reflecting that of his wife. 

Descendants of Peter Gilroy

Peter Gilroy b1779 Navan, Meath, Ireland, died July 1853 Dublin, Ire. Doctor of Medicine
+ (1) Frances Angelica Clavel[1] b13 Apr 1791 Dublin, Ire, d4 June 1874 Dublin, Ir (Wife) 
........ 2....... Jane Antionette Gilroy b11 Feb 1807 Dublin, d18 Nov 1877 Dublin
........ 2....... Maria Angelica Gilroy b3 Oct 1809 Dublin, Ireland, d Mar 1879 Sth Dublin Ire
........ 2....... Emily Frances Gilroy b20 May 1812 Clent, Mon, Ire, d20 Jul 1901 Chester, Eng
+ (2) Margaret Sheenan born c1788 Belturbet, Cavan, Ireland (Mistress)
........ 2........Francis Gilroy b17 Mar 1814 Belturbet, Ireland, d30 May 1884 Dubbo NSW

Click here to see an image of the descendant line of Peter Gilroy

Who is Peter Gilroy?
Dr Peter Gilroy, Esq. M.D. was born in 1779 in Navan, co Meath, Ireland. At the age of 27 he graduated from the University of Edinburgh.
On Thursday last, the Senatus Academicus of the University conferred the Degree of Doctor in Medicine on 2 Gentlemen of Scotland, 18 from England, 1 from  Portugal, 1 from America, 3 from the West Indies, and the following from Ireland...Peter Gilroy.. " (15)
Dr Gilroy married Frances Clavel, daughter of Anthony Clavel and Jane Cades. Frances gave birth to three daughters between 1807 and 1812. Jane Antoinette in 1807, Maria Angelica in 1809 and Emily Frances in 1812.

Read more about  Peter Gilroy

Read more about the daughters of Peter Gilroy and Frances Clavel

Marriage and Birth Control
Marriages in the 1800 were either patriarchal or the purely practical. Connections were made through marriages and one was perceived in society as to whom one was married to. The daughters of the wealthy were usually supervised rather closely so "getting into trouble" wasn't as much of a problem. A marriage alliance was worth lots of money so the daughters were kept pure until married off. 

However, if a woman of the wealthier classes became pregnant, she could be shipped off to the country castle to wait out her time. The child would be quietly farmed out for a fee and no one would be much the wiser. If the woman was married, the child would probably just be passed off as belonging to her husband

A wife was a ‘respectable’ member of society who could be introduced to, could visit, and be visited by similarly ‘respectable’ members of society. As a widow she would automatically inherit a proportion of her husband’s estate. Her children were ‘lawful’ and also had inalienable rights. 

And it was common in 'respectable' society to practice birth control through abstention. It was acceptable for men to take a mistress. 

Mistresses were 'kept' women, and therefore only noblemen or wealthy businessmen or members of the upper educated working classes could afford to keep them. The mistress held a less respected, but generally well-loved and vital role in society, for it was the mistress who gave the man pleasure and release from the tensions at home.

A mistress generally reserved herself for one man at a time, she was considered relatively free from venereal disease, whereas there was no telling who the prostitute had slept with and how many times. The sin of adultery for a man was not in his finding himself in the beds of other women, but in finding himself in love with a woman other than his wife, for the transfer of his affections to the other woman threatened the well-being of his wife and, most importantly, his legitimate offspring. The church was loathe to grant divorces, abandonment was often the lot of the wife whose husband transferred his affections to his mistress, and the man who did so was usually blackballed by members of his class and society, making it nearly impossible for him to maintain himself financially (14).

While a mistress of a wealthy man might live quite well and be accepted in a certain segment of society, her situation was still precarious. Even if everyone knew who was the father of her children, she had no legal claim on the man. She was entitled to no inheritance from him. She was provided for only if he did so before his death (16).

There is every likelihood that Peter Gilroy followed his 'class' and engaged a mistress named Margaret Sheenan who lived at Belturbet in the Parish of  Annagh, Co Cavan.  The proximity of Belturbet to Navan is approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles), a distance easily achievable, but sufficiently out of reach, for a professional man with a mistress.

Peter Gilroy MD was an honorable man, and Margaret Sheenan and her illegitimate children would have been provided for. 

Francis would have grown up in the security of his mothers home in Belturbet, with his father coming and going from the city of Navan, Co Meath where he worked as a doctor. It is not known if Francis had siblings. That information has been lost to time. 

Distance between Belturbet and Navan
Distance between Belturbet and Navan, Ireland

The Illegitimate Facts
It has been determined that Francis is the illegitimate son of Peter Gilroy Esq. M.D. by the following methods :-
  • Shipping record
  • Death Certificate
  • Customs of the day surrounding wealthy men and mistresses
  • And lastly by the name bestowed on him - Francis
Confirmation remains to be seen with an autosomal DNA test. In 1919 an Ancestry DNA sample was submitted from the family of Francis Gilroy. It is yet to be matched with the family of Maria Angelica Gilroy, Peter Gilroy's only daughter to have children, or perhaps, to an undiscovered child of Peter Gilroy.

It is possible that the illegitimacy of 26 year old Francis came to light in 1840 with his marriage to 16 year old Anne Kairns. The revelation followed by a decision to seek a new life in Australia. 

Such an event would have been a great personal loss for Dr Peter Gilroy; and also for Margaret Sheenan, the mother of Francis.

Belturbet, Bellanacragy, Navan
Proximity of Belturbet to Bellanacragy and Navan, Ireland


  •  Anne's Father's name on her ships emigration record is Patrick Kairns.
  •  Anne's Father’s name on her own death certificate is Patrick Keighran
  •  Anne's maiden name on her husband’s death certificate is Anne Kearns.

Anne's father is written on her death certificate as Patrick Keighran, which is questionable given that Keighran is also the surname of her son-in-law with whom she was living when she passed away. It is possible that the informant, son Francis, made an error, being that Kairns/Kearns is similar sounding, or perhaps he couldn’t remember his mother’s maiden name from another country and Keighran was improvised for filing purposes.

(6). 'Resource' 1840 Emigration, Married Male Immigrant, Registry of Baptism, Character Reference
(7). Find My Past. [Online] Alumni Dublinenses - 1924 edition Transcription, 1816. <https://www.findmypast.com.au>.
(8). The University of Edinburgh. Historical Alumni Collection. [Online] <https://collections.ed.ac.uk/alumni>.
(9). Joanna Fennell AncestryPro. Email Conversation March 2017.
(10). Paul MacCotter Research & Genealogy. Irish Genealogy, Irish Surname Research and Irish Historical Research. [Online] 20 March 2017. <https://www.paulmaccotter.com>.
(11). Google Books. Volume 1 of A Topographical Dictionary of Great Britain and Ireland, John Gorton. [Online] Chapman and Hall, 1833.
(12). Belturbet. Wikipedia. [Online]
(13). "Ireland, Valuation Office Books, 1831-1856," database with images, FamilySearch <https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVML-8M9M> : 15 March 2018), Francis Gilroy, 1840; from “Griffith's Valuation 1847-1864,” database and images, findmypast <https://www.findmypast.com> : 2014); citing Bellanacargy, County Cavan, Ireland, House Books, various libraries, offices, and a private collection.
(14). Leah Leneman (1999) Wives and mistresses in eighteenth-century Scotland , Women's History Review, 8:4, 671-692, DOI: 10.1080/09612029900200224 To link to this article: <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09612029900200224>
(15). Mon 29 June 1807, Belfast Commercial Chronicle, British Newspaper Archive

(16). Illegitimate Children and Missing Fathers <https://www.genealogy.com/articles/research/52_donna.html>

County Cavan, Ulster, Ireland <http://members.tripod.com/~Scott_Michaud/Cavan-history.html>

[2] I would suggest contacting the archivists, Ireland and Edinburgh are the most likely, and you could also enquire with the archivist of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. If you want to go another route I recommend an autosomal DNA test, so you can trace Gilroy ancestors beyond the limitations of Irish records. – Joanne, AncestryPro.

[3] Emily Hudson's background is confused: J. Little, op. cit., and the Anglo-Celt for 1 May 1846, combine to make Peter Gilroy, M.D., of Meath the father-in-law of Dr. Hudson: an IGI entry names Emily's father as Peter Gilroy. Emily's 1881 Census entry claims her birthplace as Co. Meath, but those for 1871 and 1891 as Clones, Monaghan. (A CONGREGATIONAL SOAP: HUDSONS AND BORWICKS, pg 557, Volume 7 No 9, November 2006 <https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/jurchs/07-09.pdf>, link by Paul MacCotter).

* AncestryPro research for the program 'Who Do You Think You Are'.