The central figure in my father’s maternal family history is Patrick Wyer. Many years ago my father told me that the family came from Birmingham, that Patrick joined the British army, served in India and retired as a captain. There was some mention of an Irish connection though I had the feeling that my father was somewhat sceptical about the claim. At some stage Patrick changed the surname of his sons to Egan-Wyer but my father had no idea why the name Egan was added.
Two cousins named Patrick
As part of the initial search for Patrick’s origins by my father and aunts several years ago, a baptismal record had been found for a Patrick Henry Wyer, in Birmingham. His parents were Francis Wyer and Sarah Wyer, formerly Taberner and he was born on 26th December 1843.
Of course, they thought that Patrick Henry was our Patrick but my father made enquiries at the Commonwealth Relations Office and received a letter setting out a summary of Patrick’s service record. It is a hand written letter, unfortunately undated.
It gives Patrick’s date and place of birth as 11 February 1840, Birmingham. I puzzled over the discrepancy in the birth dates for some time before realising that there were, in fact, two children named Patrick Wyer in Birmingham.
Aged 10, our Patrick appears on the 1851 census in Birmingham, as P Wyer, born in Ireland, nephew of the head of the household, F E Wyer.
However, Francis and Sarah’s son, Patrick Henry, does not appear on the 1851 census and I discovered that he died in 1844, aged about 5 months. His name was recorded as Patrick Wier.
So Patrick born in Ireland in 1840 and Patrick Henry born in Birmingham in 1843 were cousins.
[This was my first lesson in the difficulties caused to family historians by our ancestors repeated use of the same first names in the same generation. Unfortunately, I experienced the same problem many times over when researching my father’s paternal family and my mother’s paternal family.]
It was only when the baptism records for St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, became available on FindMyPast on 18 October 2017, that I discovered an error on the certificate which had been provided to my father in 1954.
On the Cathedral transcription (as shown above) the mother’s name was given as Sarah Wyer, formerly Taberner but the transcription on FMP gives her name as Sarah Dixon.
However, looking at the image of the actual baptism register available on FMP, it is clear that the person who transcribed the record in 1954 looked at the line above, a totally unrelated entry, when writing the mother’s name, hence Sarah Taberner.
Now an experienced family historian, I am aware that transcription errors happen and, if an image of the original is available, we should always compare it with the transcription. In this case, without actually travelling to Birmingham, this is the first chance that I’ve had to do so and it is clear that the transcription error was actually made by the member of staff at the Cathedral.
Although his army records state that Patrick was born in Birmingham on 11 February 1840, there is neither a baptism nor a birth record for him and I am sure that P Wyer, aged 10 on the 1851 census, is our man and that he was born on 11 February 1840. The year was confirmed by him being recorded as aged 18 when he enlisted in 1858 and aged 33 when he married in 1873.
[Update 31 January 2019: Whilst the 1851 census notes that Patrick was born in Ireland, I am beginning to have my doubts and am, yet again, making a strong effort to establish where Patrick was born.]
The Wyer Family in Birmingham
Civil registration began in England on 1 July 1837 and reference to the birth indexes on the General Register Office website and all the censuses from 1841 to 1901 shows that his uncle’s family consisted of:
|Francis Egan Wyer||born c1801||in Ireland||Sarah Wyer (formerly Dixon)||born c1815||in Ireland|
|James Egan||born c1833||in Dublin, Ireland|
|Francis John||born c1836||in Dublin, Ireland|
|Ann Sarah||born 1837||in Birmingham|
|Mary Elizabeth||born 1839||in Birmingham|
|John Henderson||born 1841||in Birmingham|
|Patrick Henry||born 1843||in Birmingham|
|Robert Peel||born 1847||in Birmingham|
|Elizabeth Amelia||born 1850||in Birmingham|
|Catherine||born 1852||in Birmingham||Patrick Joseph||born 1855||in Birmingham|