William and Ann Harris


Solving the riddle of my wife’s Harris ancestors was one of the hardest 'brick walls' I have demolished. It certainly took the most effort because I took a very wrong, and what proved to be a very long, wrong turn.  Now all the pieces are assembled it is obviously correct and hard to see why it was so complex in the first place, but it took me years to solve and there are many different, and I believe incorrect, family trees published by other families and researchers.

There were quite a few riddles.  I knew from my father-in-law that his grandfather was named Alfred Harris, that he married Annie Florence Taylor and that they had about 20 children and they lived in Pateena Road, Longford. I have visited the site, opposite the Bloomfield property, near Sheridan Court. I had met their son Syd several times before he passed away in 1990 and his memories were very clear. Yet there was no birth record for Alfred and no-one remembered exactly when his birthday was.  His obituary (Launceston Examiner 16 Aug 1918) stated he was born and spent his whole life in Pateena.  That would prove to be incorrect.  According to birth, deaths and marriage records, he appeared to have married an Emma Lucas at the age of 20 and he had his first child with Annie Taylor just eight years later. But then he didn’t marry Anne Florence Taylor until after the birth of their seventeenth and last child!  It just didn’t make sense to me.

A fabulous little book, Pateena Road, was published in 2008 and I have reproduced one page from it below.  I knew it was wrong; Alfred was the father of those children, not William, but ultimately it was the information in those recollections that helped me to finally solve the last piece of the puzzle.

I initially researched all the Alfred Harris births and the only I couldn’t eliminate was to Charles and Isabella Harris on 20 Jun 1864.  Exhaustive searching yielded no other trace of this Alfred and I eventually decided that this must be it, but there were lingering doubts.  I spent a very long time researching that Harris and Murray family because their story was a fascinating one and I have documented most of what I discovered here.  It remains relevant because there are multiple links across all our families.

But I had lingering doubts and when DNA testing became feasible in 2016 I took the plunge.  DNA testing of my wife proved me in fact wrong and showed there was little probability of Alfred being a Murray descendant.  So, demoralised, back to the drawing board I went. 

I obtained a copy of Alfred's 1906 marriage certificate to Annie Florence Taylor and found that I should have done so sooner because he named his parents as William and Mary Harris and stated that he was born in Fingal in 1855.  No matter how hard I looked, there is no record to be found of a birth or baptism of any Harris child in Fingal around 1855.  I found three William and Mary Harris’ in Tasmania of child bearing age around 1850 to 1860 but eliminated all of them.  

However, a William Harris and Ann McCoy had both a daughter Mary and a son George in the registration district of Fingal in 1858 and 1861 respectively and they had their first child, a son who name was not recorded, in Hobart in 1855.  Hobart is not Fingal and Ann is not Mary so I looked again at the Pateena Road story and slowly the bits fell into place.

Margaret Harris, a servant of Hobart Town had a son William in Oct 1829.  The name of the father was not recorded.  William learnt the trade of bootmaker and at about 25 years of age he started a relationship with or married (no record found yet) a 20 year-old immigrant Ann McCoy. They had a son Alfred in Hobart in 1855 and then moved to Avoca where Alfred continued to work as a shoemaker. Within ten years they moved to Kentishbury (Sheffield district) where William worked as a labourer until finally settling at Pateena with their three remaining children (Mary had died of diphtheria in 1861).  Three generations of Harris family were to live at Pateena Road.

On Christmas day, 1872 at the age of 20, William and Ann’s first son, Alfred, married Emma Jane Lucas,18, and they had one daughter, Rachel Grace.  Their marriage was not to last and Alfred settled with Annie Florence Taylor.  Alfred and Annie had their first child together in 1883 and their seventeenth and last child in March 1906.  But they did not formally marry until August of that year because Alfred was still legally married to Emma Lucas, who died in Devonport in 1904.

The William Harris mentioned below in Pateena Roadwas in fact Alfred’s father and the grandfather, not the father, of the named children. He re-married after the death of Ann McCoy to Ann Florence Medlicott, widow of Henry Beech.  They were buried together along with Ann’s younger sister, Eliza.

A puzzle solved but with family history there is always more; Where did Ann McCoy emigrate from and who was Margaret Harris and what happened to her?  Perhaps time and further research will tell.

Andrew Cocker
March 2017

Pateena Road
Families and Farms of the Pateena District
By Mary MacRae and Mary Dadson

July 2008  ISBN:987-0-958174-8-5


Through Pateena in the 1940's there could still be seen the remains of dwellings of the former inhabitants; the lone chimney, old fruit trees, a clump of deciduous trees and of course every year, the spring bulbs would appear.

One such place, opposite the Sheridan property 'Bloomfield', was the former home of the Harris family.

William Harris and his first wife had fourteen children. Arthur Sheridan could remember the children's names in order of age. They were: Florrie, Will, Bert, George, Alf, Hilda, Amy, Royal, Norman, Sid, Lillian, Walter, Ann and Winnie. Will, the second eldest, lopped the big gum tree on the 'Bloomfield' property in 1905. Royal was also employed by David Sheridan as the 'ploughboy' for 10 shillings a week plus a hot meal at midday.

After his wife's death William married a Mrs. Ann Bish (Beech) (7th July 1880) who had a daughter, Rebecca, from a previous marriage. William died 31st August, 1901 aged 79 years.

In the 'Examiner' July 1941 it was reported: The death occurred yesterday morning of Mrs. Ann Harris aged 93 years at the home of her only child Mrs. Harry Faulkner (of Longford). Mrs. Harris was born at Illawarra and engaged in nursing practically the whole of her life. She travelled through the Municipality with her nursing, retiring at the age of 80 years'

Both William and Ann are buried in the Christ Church Cemetery at Longford. Also on the headstone of the Harris grave another name appears - Eliza Pearson - died 25th January, 1922 aged 72. Nothing is known of Eliza or her relationship to the Harris family.