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The often turbulent years of the middle of the 19th century in
strife-torn Europe was the time when many of Peter Byrnes' ancestors
made their way to the other side of the world. They were soldiers,
labourers, farmers and would-be farmers to whom the perception of
wide-open lands, or possibly gold to be found, was enticing. They came
from many parts of Europe - England, Ireland, Germany and what today is
Croatia. One, Samuel Archer, who came from a line of soldiers, was born
in France in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars,and brought his family
to Australia after years in Mauritius, while others first settled in New
Zealand before sailing west back across the Tasman.
Although all branches of the Byrnes family were here by the 1880s, none
came courtesy of the English convict system. The first to arrive, Felice
Pobar, landed in Australia in the early 1850s, at the time of the
Victorian goldrush, well after the end of transportation to eastern
Australia. However, at least three Byrnes ancestors, Francis Burns and
Mary Wilson from Ireland, and William Sexton from Suffolk, had earlier
gone to New Zealand via Hobart on convict ships - two as soldiers
guarding the convicts, the other as the wife of a soldier on board the
same ship. Once here, they became gold-diggers, shepherds and farm
labourers, before establishing themselves in southeast Queensland as
farmers and butchers (or both, as in the case of Christian Retschlag,
William Dance and Felice Pobar).
Succeeding generations left the land to go into the printing trade and
the railways. Several had large families, a consequence of which makes
it almost impossible to trace all of today's descendants of the original
settlers (although Neville Eveans has attempted this Herculean task on
the Retschlag branch of the family).
There is a very large question mark over whether or not we are really
Byrnes descendants; it appears that although the original Byrnes to come
to Australia was the soldier Francis Burns, the child who grew up
bearing his name (although with a change of spelling) was registered at
birth in New Zealand under the name Sexton, his mother's husband at the
time. Short of DNA testing, the question of the boy's paternity will
never be answered and perhaps we should simply regard it as adding a
touch of mystery to the family story.
BUT BUT BUT....
Regarding that last paragraph above, and the possibility or
desirability of DNA testing on the Byrnes line to clarify the birth
line of James Sexton/Byrnes.....
It now appears through Y-DNA testing, which follows the DNA of the
male line, that the likely father of young James was indeed Francis
Byrnes, although, of course, William Sexton still has a role to play
in our family history, as Mary Wilson's first partner, and the father
of her four eldest children.