Paddy Connel and his three sons

Wainunu RiverPaddy Connel, by his own admission, was “so much in the habit of lying that he hardly now knew when he told the truth…”. He claimed to Commodore Wilkes in 1843 that he had fathered 48 children and was trying for an even 50, thus assuring his fame.

In researching my own family in Fiji I came across a ‘three brothers’ story. My g-g-grandmother was Lavenia O’Connor, and the stories are that her father was William O’Connor, or Connor. One story I’d seen on the internet when I first started researching my family was that this William had changed his name from Patrick (or Paddy) Connel.

I contacted an O’Connor descendant who said that there were three brothers – Charles, William and Philip, who all arrived from New South Wales, which was then still a penal colony. She didn’t think that my Lavenia was part of this family because she was not included on the chart that she had, which included mostly sons. I suspect this chart was for land inheritance purposes rather than genealogy, as many of the family branches ended with words about there being no land entitlement. Land is very important in Fiji.

My research into Land Claims Commission reports has given me other ideas. When Fiji was ceded to Britain in 1874 one of the first things the new British government did was to ensure that all the whites claiming to own land actually did so, and the reports of the Commission are available at the National Archives of Fiji. Charlie Connor owned the most land of the Connors, in Kadavu, and some of his brothers settled there with him, including a fourth one, James. In one of the reports he mentions his father by name: Patrick.

I have concluded that there were more than three brothers, and they were born in Fiji to Paddy Connel. The Fijian language ends every word with a vowel, and names were changed to suit so they would have left the L off the end of the name and spelled it ‘Kono’, as it is spelled in some of the birth and death registrations.

Incidently, Lavenia married Samuel Whippy, the eldest legitimate son of David Whippy, a native of Nantucket. Commodore Wilkes found him very useful and trustworthy, and made him Acting American Consul (I may have that title wrong, I’m working from memory). David Whippy looked after a lot of the children of white settlers who lost their fathers, including my own Riley ancestor, I suspect. He may have looked out for the children of Paddy Connel as well.