Sunday, July 22, 2012

FREDERICK FITZGERALD - an Irish wannabe?


The following was written by my friend Margaret who has been chasing the story of her great-great-great-grandfather for years:

Who was Frederick Fitzgerald? Was he an Irish wannabe, or was he part of an aristocratic Irish family? Why does he seem to have no history until he departed from Liverpool on 23 December 1843?  Did he swap identities with someone else, and why does he seem to disappear from all records for long periods during his lifetime?

Frederick & his Resta g-daughters

Frederick Fitzgerald was my great-great-great-grandfather. He is my own international man of mystery. Questions about his life have intrigued me for years. I have established that he arrived in Sydney in 1844 aboard the ship United Kingdom, travelling under a different name. To date I have been totally unable to locate any formal proof of his identity under either of the names he used – at least not in Ireland, in any of the locations with which he claimed to be associated. So why did he seem to need two identities so early in his life, and which one – if either – is actually correct? 

I know from his arrival documents that Frederick was a 'bounty immigrant' to Australia. An agent back in Liverpool, employed by the Australian authorities, had assessed him as a suitable candidate to settle in the colonies, and on his safe arrival had been paid £18 7s 6d. But how did Frederick get to be on the United Kingdom, and more importantly, why? The potato famines in Ireland had not begun in 1843. Gold had not yet been discovered in Australia. So why was this young man apparently emigrating to the bottom of the world? And why can I find no evidence of his life, or that of his parents, in Ireland? All his named referees, and the certifying doctor and clergyman, check out. These people existed, and their details as provided on Frederick’s immigration documents are correct. But Frederick and his parents remain invisible.

From Australia he came to New Zealand and lived and mined intermittently at Macetown, Otago, for several years from 1868.  He might even be considered the patriarch of Macetown, being the father of Fanny Beale, whose husband Elisha Joseph Beale, was one of the original discoverers of gold at Macetown.  Frederick Fitzgerald’s four daughters all lived at Macetown; he was grandfather to the Beale, Cox and Resta families who lived there, and to the Tripp family of Skippers. Some of his Beale grandchildren married into other Macetown families and further perpetuated the link with the town.

But who really was Frederick?  The answer has to be out there, somewhere. I wish I knew where!

Margaret would appreciate any information about the elusive Frederick Fitzgerald. Send me an email if you know anything.

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