Week 14 – Brick Wall

I have a few ‘brick walls’ in my Family History Research file. However, the one that probably frustrates me the most is the one that I’ll probably never solve. My John James! I wrote about him in Week 02, but would like to re-visit his story in a little more detail.

james - john james (1)Working backwards, in his personal life, I have a photo of John James in his later life, I have marriage certificates for both of his marriages in Tasmania,[i],[ii] I have a death certificate for his first wife, my 2x great grandmother Caroline,[iii] and I have birth certificates for his children (I will come back to those later!).

In his professional life, I have proofs of the place and profession of his employment as a shoemaker/bootmaker in Hobart.[iv],[v]

I have tied all of these to his convict records, for which I have an Old Bailey conviction record,[vi] a Conduct recordJAMES - John - Old Bailey Trial - oldbailey online - 183004150152 cropped [vii] and an Appropriation List Record.[viii]

All of these confirm that he is My John James!

That’s where the proofs stop. I would love to prove the next step. I have spent many hours perusing births of ‘John James’ at the appropriate time in the appropriate place – circa 1813 and in London, England. There are many available and I have attempted to follow through on each one online, without success of any type of proof of birth.

I then decided to look for other clues to whom he might be. One important clue jumped out from my records and was pivotal in my research beginning once more. His firstborn son, William was given the second name, Fairchild.[ix] His second son was named James - William Fairchild - Birth croppedCharles Fairchild.[x] I then researched marriage records of a John James to a Fairchild in England throughout the possible years, with no success, whatsoever.

Widening my research, as you do, I decided to try as many different possibilities as I could. I eventually put John James into the search engine as two first names with no surname. I knew the birth year was about 1813, because of his age when convicted. I assumed he had probably been born in London as this is where he was convicted. I was searching for a connection to the name ‘Fairchild’, so I tried it as a surname. Immediately, a baptism record popped up for one ‘James John Fairchild’, 17 October 1813, St Pancras.[xi] Interestingly, as well as the mother there was a notation in brackets which said, ‘also Tobin’. After adjusting my search so that the surname was then Tobin, I found a baptismal record for ‘James John’ with the surname ‘Tobin’. The plot thickened!

I obviously needed to know more. Using various search engines, I eventually discovered that these baptismal records had been transcribed from the original Parish records via ‘Pallot’s Baptism Records’. The transcription was brief but contained some very interesting information in my pursuit of proofs.

‘Fairchild, Jas Jno’ – next line – ‘(Jas Tobin[r] & Isabella Fairchild)’ – next line ‘(parents dead)’.[xii] I then enquired and was able to receive a digital copy of the handwritten Parish of St Pancras Baptismal records for 1813.[xiii] This gave me more detail, but no more proof.1813 baptism St Pancras cropped

I have not been able to locate records for St Pancras Foundling Hospital, St Pancras Workhouse, or Apprenticeship Records that are registered in any of these names. There my ‘brick wall’ rears itself as strong, as secure, and as impenetrable as any well-built brick wall ever was.

[i] Marriage Registration of John James and Caroline Woller, 28 March, 1844, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, RGD37/1/3 no 1174.


[ii] Marriage Registration of John James and Jane Town, married 24 March 1863, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, RGD37/1/22 no 146


[iii] Death Registration of Caroline James, died 4 July 1857, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, RGD35/1/5 no 310.


[iv] ‘The Gazette’, Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas.: 1828-1857), 31 August 1841, p.4.


[v] Government Notice No 37’ The Courier (Hobart, Tas.:1840-1859), 16 February 1844, p.4.


[vi] Old Bailey Proceedings Online, ‘Trial of John James, 15 April 1830 (t18300415-363)’, www.oldbaileyonline.org , accessed 21 August 2017.


[vii] John James, Conduct Record, Conduct Registers of Male Convicts Arriving in the Period of the Assignment System, TAHO, CON31/1/24.


[viii] John James, Appropriation Record, Appropriation List of Convicts, TAHO, CON27/1/4.


[ix] Birth Registration of William Fairchild James, born 4 January 1845, Register of Births in Hobart (RBH), TAHO, RGD33/1/2/ no.806. [Note: spelling – Wooller].


[x] Marriage Certificate of Charles Fairchild James and Mary Ann Rawlings, married 11 January 1879, RMAD, TAHO, RGD37/1/38/ no.54.


[xi] 1813 Birth of John James – Mother FAIRCHILD – Father TOBIN or Tobir 31451_212711-00492 ANCESTRY – London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906/Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1906; Reference Number: P90/PAN1/011


[xii] 1813 Fairchild, Jas Jno – Pallot’s Baptism Index – 1780 – 1837 – Ancestry.com. England, Pallot’s Baptism Index, 1780-1837 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2001.


[xiii] Baptism Registration of James John Fairchild, baptised 13 October 1813, St Pancras Parish Registers, Achievements, UK.



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