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.

5 comments on “Paddy Connel and his three sons

  1. Pauleen 6 December 2013 11:28 am

    hi Carole, Definitely an intriguing story and a wild ancestor -how did he keep track of the 48, or 50 if he made the goal, kids.

    Your research proves the importance of learning about the records in the places where our ancestors live. It would never occur to me to think Kolo and Connel were the same.


  2. Dulcie Stewart 16 December 2013 1:21 pm

    Hi Carole, Wilkes was actually in Fiji in 1840 and not 1843.

    Charles, William, Philip, James and Lavenia Connor could be the grandchildren of Paddy Connel and not his children.
    Since leaving Fiji, Wilkes received a letter David Whippy updating him on what had happened in Fiji up to 1841 since he left – in it Whippy mentions that Paddy had died in April 1841. On your family tree you have Lavenia’s birth as 1843.

    In one of the Land Claims Commission reports I read (can’t remember if it was William or Charles Connor’s claims but most probably it was William) William/Charles said his father was William.

    On the O’Connor family tree diagram that you mention, how it has three names as the same generation – William, Charles and Philip. I think the William written on the tree should be one generation down and is the son of William Connor (brother of Charles, Philip and James).

    On William O’Connor’s marriage certificate to Mere Moreton 16 May 1898, his parents are listed as William O’Connor and Sofaia Watinotosiki. His age is listed as “about 35”, so born circa 1863.

    I have been able to confirm via Diana Billings nee Simpson that the William O’Connor listed on the O’Connor family tree is the same as the William O’Connor who married Mere Moreton. Mere/Mary was Diana’s grandmother and had a son with a Simpson before she married William O’Connor.

    In Adventurous Spirits by John Young, William Connor (Charles Connor’s brother) is living in Levuka in 1862. And in the Land Claims Commission report LC91, Charles Connor signed papers in 1860.

    So the William O’Connor listed on the tree can’t be of the same generation if he was about ‘about 35’ in 1898.

    In my research I have come across only four children of Paddy’s (apart from the 48 children he mentions to Wilkes). One son Brown went to Manila in 1831 with Captain Eagleston and returned to Rewa in 1832. Another (no name given) was an overseer for the collection of beche-de-mer – in one of the smoke houses. And then during Wilkes expedition, his two youngest sons are mentioned (again no names given).

    l’ll compile my research with sources and will send you a copy.

  3. Ross 27 December 2013 6:42 am

    Hello Carole,

    In case you have not found it yet. There is a pertinent notice in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser on Nov 27, 1808. No 256. Patrick Connell is listed as one of 11 men who have “received permits to leave the colony to join the “General Wellesley” at the Feejee Islands” in the brig ‘Trial’.
    This excerpt is found on page 193 of the Journal of William Lockerby and other papers.

    I hope this helps.

  4. Carole 28 December 2013 8:53 pm

    Thanks Ross, I have a notice from the December 4 issue, which gives a shorter list for the General Wellesley, I wonder why!

  5. Carole 28 December 2013 9:25 pm

    Dulcie, I don’t think Lavenia was Paddy’s daughter, I think she was his granddaughter through his son William, who I believe died in 1884. I don’t yet have the death registration for William. The William who married Mere Morton in 1898 was this William’s son. It was common for names to repeat through the generations, but I am using the records that I have found to build the story and not the hand-drawn chart. I apologise if I didn’t explain myself properly in the post, I wrote it some time ago and decided it was time to publish.

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