This family history began at the request of my aunt, Barbara Joan, in 2004.
It became a quest to answer one, apparently, simple question:
Who Was Captain Patrick Wyer?
It has taken many hours of research, spread over 15 years, but I think I have now answered that question and have identified his possible father and probable grandparents.
In the process, I have made two suppositions and formulated an hypothesis but I believe it to be a valid hypothesis.
My father was John Jefferys, son of Aileen Annie (known as Cissie) Wyer and Frank Haines Jefferys. They had married in Colombo, Ceylon in 1912. Their eldest child, Moira, was born in Wiltshire, England when Frank brought his wife to meet his family for the first time. John and his sister Barbara Joan, were born in Calcutta, India. All three children went to boarding school in England.
I was born not far from where my grandmother, Aileen, lived in Kensington, London but my first seven years were spent in Devon where my brother John was born. We moved to Middlesex in 1955, then to London (Wandsworth and later, Streatham). So I have no memories of Aileen before 1955 and she died in 1961 when I was twelve and my brother was nine.
My main memory of Granny was when she arrived at our house in Wandsworth, having travelled by number 19 bus. Aileen would wear a black beret and always have a large bar of chocolate in her black crocheted bag for us. A nice memory but not exactly helpful in family history research.
In 2004, when my aunt Barbara Joan asked me to research our family history I’d never done anything like it before and so my immediate thoughts were: where and how to start?
John and I had met Aileen’s brother Owen once and, very occasionally, her sisters Kay, Nora and Mary (known for some reason as Ga). Owen and The AUNTS! as Barbara Joan always emphatically referred to them, had long since died. We’d met some of my father’s cousins and their children but I couldn’t say that I really knew any of the family and I was not in touch with any of them.
I still had a rough sketch of a family tree which I’d made in 1976 whilst in conversation with my father. And I had a few notes which had been made by him but I needed more. Evidently I needed to make contact with other members of the family but the question was: how to do so? Now I wonder why it did not occur to me to ask my aunt for her contacts with her cousins!
John and I knew that our father’s cousin Bernard Egan-Wyer had been to the same school as my father, Mount St Mary’s College, a Jesuit establishment at Spinkhill, near Sheffield. John was fairly certain that other male members of the family had gone to the same school, possibly some of our own generation.
I looked at the entries for the school on www.FriendsReunited.com and found the name of Russell Egan-Wyer. I sent him a message through the site and his wife Pam replied. Russell is indeed of our own generation and is a second cousin.
Pam gave me an introduction to George Egan-Wyer, son of Terence, a cousin of my father and therefore our first cousin once removed. George had been researching the family history for sometime and had gathered quite a lot of information which he sent to me, plus some photographs.
In compiling this family history, I have verified the notes from my father and from George and drawn on memories of what my father had said in years long past. I was able to talk with Barbara Joan about her memories of what her mother and THE AUNTS had spoken about. Peggy, daughter of Uncle Owen, and her niece Cecilia contributed information on the family legend.
This work has required many hours of research spread over 15 years as more data has become available on the internet, leading me towards my conclusions. Perhaps, in time, there will be even more information which will allow me to verify my suppositions and conclusions.
I had given my aunt a copy of the early results in 2009 but sadly she died in 2016. I am sorry that neither she, my father nor aunt Moira are able to read this extended history.
It now includes not only the story of Captain Patrick Eyer but also those who I have identified as possibly being his father and probably his grandfather.
Through my research I have learnt a new respect for my ancestors. I have developed great admiration for Ellen Wyer, née Shannahan, as she led the life of an army wife in India, moving from army base to army base, with several children.
I think I have identified Ellen’s siblings, and her father, John Shannahan, who served many years in the army in India.
And I think that both his and Patrick Wyer’s long service in India was amazing.
If you would like to know more about what life would have been like for Patrick and Ellen and their children in India, I can recommend the following:
“Sahib The British Soldier in India 1750 – 1914” by Richard Holmes, published by Harper Collins,
“Following the Drum The Lives of Army Wives and Daughters Past and Present” by Annabel Venning, published by Headline.
I believe that our ancestors and genetics play a much larger part in our life than we give them credit for doing.
I think that my brother, John Jefferys, who looks a lot like Patrick, has inherited his love of seeing foreign places and his ability to function in hot weather, not just from his great grandfather, Patrick Wyer as we originally thought but also from his 2nd and 3rd great grandfathers.
And I have more understanding of my own nomadic tendencies even though they have been confined to England. Researching my family history has given me a far greater sense of my roots, of belonging.
My aunt, Barbara Joan’s phone call in 2004 not only started me researching her maternal family, the Wyers and Egan-Wyers and her paternal family, the Jefferys, but led to me becoming a genealogist, researching the family history of many other people, giving them a sense of their roots as well.
In the ensuing fifteen years I learnt that the official documents which family historians rely on, the birth and baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials and the censuses cannot always be relied upon. They are only as good as the knowledge and memory of the person giving the information. I have uncovered both innocent mistakes and attempts to deliberately hide certain facts or circumstances.
For one client over four successive censuses, their ancestor gave his place of birth as Ireland, England, At Sea and finally ‘Don’t Know’. It wasn’t helpful.
It is my experience gained as a genealogist over 15 years which has allowed me to make the suppositions and to formulate the hypothesis contained in this family history, one which the naive family historian embarking on fulfilling her aunt’s request in 2004 would never have dreamt of but one which I, now an experienced genealogist, believe to be a valid hypothesis.
I am grateful to my brother John (known as JJ Globetrotter) for his encouragement and patience while I researched this history and sought his views on various theories. His comments and suggestions were helpful. And I thank him for proof reading this final version.
If you have any questions, comments or information to add to this family history, please do not hesitate to contact me at the email address below.
née Jefferys, great granddaughter of Patrick and Ellen Wyer