Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Australian Descendants of Jefferson County, New York settlers

One narrative of the research  links between DNA results, the Patriot War, and New York ancestry.

Sometimes one thing leads to another in genealogy research, usually seemingly with reason, at least for awhile. Then it turns out that the connections weren't the ones we were looking for, or maybe they are, but we can't prove it yet. But...we always get a good story, and therein lies much satisfaction.

This story started with a speculation on a chromosome match spotted on Gedmatch. It appeared that there would be a Northern New York connection worth defining. Long story short, through pursuing the ancestry of the match, I found the name of  Ira Polley, born about 1816 in Lyme, Jefferson, New York.

All names connected to the DNA match were from an area of Tasmania. All of the names, not just some.  Considering that I was looking for a connection to  Northern New York ancestry, how could that be? Well, the Patriot War resulted in Northern New Yorkers being sent to Tasmania--"Van Diemen's Land." When I looked up the names of those transported to Tasmania,  I found that only one name matched--the very same last name of the person for whom I had found an online tree--Polley. The man "transported" (taken as war captive) was named Ira Polley.

Now the big question was whether Ira Polley had met a fate of death at sea or elsewhere, as did many who were transported, whether he was pardoned and returned to New York (again, like many others), or if by chance he had stayed in Australia.

Strangely enough (or not so strangely, given the DNA matching), he is  one of the very few who stayed--one of four--he was actually eventually pardoned, and got as far as Hawaii before returning to Australia. There is no explanation as to why he chose to stay, but stay he did, and he married twice and had many children. His descendants are now numerous.

Before the brief war waged against England in Canada, he had been living in Lyme, Jefferson County, New York. Although many researchers say that his father was John Polley, who also lived in Jefferson County, his death information in Australia names his father as William Polley. Other documents show that Ira Polley of Australia was born in New York, while the son of John Polley named Ira was born in Connecticut. It does appear that William Polley, also of Connecticut, but who moved early to New York, is indeed father of Ira. William Polley died in 1852 in Russia, Herkimer County, New York, not far from Lyme. He does not mention Ira in his will, however, and I cannot be sure he is the father without more documentation.

Sir George Arthur, of Upper Canada at the time of the Patriot War ordered the transportation of captives to Australia. Ira Polley named one of his sons George Arthur Polley. See the following website for details on this and on various captives  in the online article "American Patriots  Political Prisoners in Van Diemen's Land": leatherwoodonline

The story that I was able to piece together (beginning with a DNA clue) gave me more knowledge of, and interest in, the Patriot War of the late 1830's, and of the lives of those who begin as captives and continue as citizens of a different land and culture. 

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