Researching family history can be frustrating but today I had a magic breakthrough in relation to my namesake and great-great uncle Michael Gorey (Gorry).
Michael was born at sea aboard the Middlesex on 24 September 1841 just before the ship arrived at Port Phillip on 1 October 1841.
To give some context, the population of Melbourne at that time was fewer than 10,000 people and they were Victorian pioneers.
Michael’s parents were James and Elizabeth (nee Hanlon or Hanley) Gorey from near Thomastown, County Kilkenny in Ireland.
I knew that Michael died at Nagambie, Victoria, on 31 July 1908. The death certificate says he died of a heart attack and it states his mother’s name was Elizabeth Hanley.
That’s important because other records show her surname as Hanlon, which appears to be correct, and the variations have been noted for several decades.
There are many references to Michael Gorey on the National Library of Australia Trove website in the 1860s when he was a young man.
The Trove trail ran cold after the 1860s and I had no idea what happened to him. I checked records in other colonies and even overseas through ancestry.com without any results.
I was then inspired to check alternative spellings after an experience with Burgdorf family research. That’s the family of my paternal great-grandmother, Louisa Burgdorf. Their original spelling in Germany was Burgdorff but in Australia it was (mostly) Burgdorf. When I checked on Trove for Burgdorff, I found multiple entries.
Back to Michael Gorey, did he spend time in prison or go overseas? Maybe in the 1870s he did because I can’t track him during that decade.
He surfaces as Michael Gorry, publican of the Royal Mint Hotel in Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, in 1884; the Kent Hotel, Carlton 1886-87; and the Bayview Hotel, Kensington 1887 for 12 years or more.
It seems that he deliberately changed the spelling of his name to avoid any connection with his proper identity. This would have been much easier to do in the 1880s than today. My guess is that he had a criminal record which would have precluded him from being a publican, so he simply changed the spelling of his surname.
Here’s the really interesting bit:
On 7 November 1882 he married widow Bridget Clegg (Moylan) at St Francis’ Catholic Church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
There are several deceptions on the marriage certificate.
His surname is “Gorry” instead of “Gorey”. His age is 30 instead of 40. His father’s name is “Edward Gorry” instead of “James Gorey”.
So you might ask, is it a different person?
That’s what I thought, but the identifier is his mother’s name, Elizabeth Hanley, the same name that appears on his death certificate. Edward is also a Gorey family name, unusually for Irish (being more English).
Bridget died in 1884. Probate documents show that her estate stayed in the Moylan family and Michael Gorry was noted as deceased.
This confused me and I checked Victorian records for births, deaths and marriages. There is no record of Michael Gorry dying in that decade.
I believe he agreed that his short-term wife’s estate should stay with her family. It might have been an 1880s-style prenuptial agreement and they chose to execute it that way for simplicity.
In 1902, Michael Gorry was reported in several newspapers regarding a dispute with police over whether he was intoxicated while visiting his friend, the publican of the Britannia Hotel. This seems typical of his manner.
The trail cools again after the 1890s, but Michael Gorey’s death certificate in 1908 records his mother’s name as Elizabeth Hanley.
It’s interesting that he died less than 50km from where his brother, my great-grandfather Edward Gorey, was living at the time at Whroo.