52 Ancestors – Identity

The prompt this month for 52 Ancestors is Identity.

Solving the Mystery of Cyril Clyde Orchard

When my mother-in-law Leslie died in 2013, I inherited a very large box of her family history research. She had spent many of her retirement hours researching my husband’s paternal lines, but her father-in-law, my husband’s paternal grandfather, Cyril Clyde Orchard remained a brick wall. Over the years she had recounted a few stories about Cyril, and her thoughts about his origins. She believed that his mother had come from a family with the surname Grace and that his father was an unknown Orchard.

Based on knowledge passed down by close family members, I knew that Cyril Clyde Orchard was born in Kyogle New South Wales in 1910, and that his mother was a young woman by the name of Sarah. At the age of three, Cyril was removed from his mother’s care and placed in the care of a woman by the name of Mrs Wall in Dirranbandi, Queensland. It was unknown why Cyril Clyde was removed from his mother as there were no records. There was a bit of speculation but nothing with any proof.

Three years ago, my husband took a DNA test with Ancestry, in the hope that it might provide some clues to help solve the mystery of Cyril’s origins. The results provided numerous matches, mostly distant. The few close matches were at the second cousin level. Using the Leeds Method I sorted his matches and I was able to identify his four grandparent’s lines. I could easily identify and connect matches that descended from his maternal grandparents, Stewart and Keen and his paternal grandmother’s Henningsen line. The fourth group had to be the Orchards.

Although the matches on the Orchard line weren’t ideal, it gave me a place to start. I studied each, looking at their trees and building out trees for those who didn’t have extensive ones. I looked at shared matches in the hope of finding a common ancestor or ancestor couple.

It took many months and countless hours but eventually I was able to construct a hypothetical family tree. Based on all the trees of the matches, I was able to find a pathway to two sets of ancestor couples – George Orchard and Caroline Mallett and John William Wallwork and Letitia Byron. Now that I had determined the MRCAs (Most Recent Common Ancestors), I had to start working my way backwards and learn everything I could about their children.

While I was working through the DNA, I was also chasing the paper trail. I had ordered Cyril’s birth certificate and through that I discovered that Cyril was born out of wedlock. His mother’s name was Sarah Orchard but there was no father’s name recorded. Now that I knew the Orchard name had come from Cyril’s mother, I knew the Wallwork line had to be his paternal line.

Through DNA connections I was able to determine that Cyril’s father was most likely one of three brothers, sons of John William Wallwork and Letitia Byron. Unfortunately, for now this is as far as I have been able to go, but I do have my favourite candidate based on details that I’ve learned.

Having done as much as I could with Cyril’s paternal line I was able to go back to working on his maternal line, which I now knew was the Orchard line. My next step was to determine who Sarah’s parents were.

As I knew little about Sarah, I compiled a list of every Sarah Orchard that I could find in Australia, and then I eliminated them one by one. Finally, I was left with a Sarah Orchard, who’s age according to the NSW birth index was closest to the age of Cyril’s mother as recorded on his birth certificate. Feeling confident that I had narrowed it down to the correct Sarah, I ordered a copy of her birth certificate.

Upon receiving the birth certificate, I discovered that Sarah was also born out of wedlock. Her mother’s name was Mary Ann, her father wasn’t named. I learned that Sarah’s birth had been registered by her grandfather John Orchard and a witness on the certificate was Ann Orchard.

Now, I knew that George Orchard and Caroline Mallett had a son named John, and he had married Anne Little. My husband also had numerous DNA connections to the Little family, so I knew I was still heading in the right direction.

I ordered Mary Ann’s birth and death certificates as well as a Marriage certificate. I also ordered the birth transcriptions for two children born to Mary Ann. The information contained in the various certificates, along with DNA connections, confirmed that I had managed to identify Cyril’s mother and her mother and connect them back to the ancestor couple George Orchard and Caroline Mallett.

Cyril Clyde Orchard was the son of Sarah Orchard, who was the daughter of Mary Ann Orchard. Mary Ann was the daughter of John Orchard and he was the son of George Orchard and Caroline Mallett. The Orchard family had immigrated from England in 1856. You can read their immigration story here.

So, having made good progress on the origins of Cyril Clyde Orchard my curiosity about his mother Sarah will steer me towards my next big project… Learning more about Sarah and trying to identify her father.

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