I started researching my family tree in 2009 with my Mum. After her Dad passed away, we both felt a little bit lost and wanted to find out more about our family history. I was living at home at the time, so we subscribed to Ancestry and started making trips to Register House in Edinburgh to the ScotlandsPeople Centre. We made a good team! Of course, in the early days we made a few mistakes (no, we’re not related to Charlemagne like the rabbit hole “Hints” suggested). We picked up a few incorrect certificates but we also made one small step for genealogists, one giant leap for Mum and I.
Who Was John Carey?
John Carey was my 4x Great Grandfather. We found him in the census transcriptions on Ancestry with a very odd looking birth, “German Occan British Subject”. Did this mean he was born at sea? His marriage was too early to indicate who his parents were and we couldn’t find a death certificate for him. He seemed to vanish after 1851. So where did he come from? Where did he go?
Mum had a “eureka!” moment in Register House (a quiet “eureka” in the beautiful round room where we sat on computers next to each other). A baptism for John Cairy in the parish he was living in on the 1841 and 1851 census, Inveresk and Musselburgh. It told us that his parents were Robert Cairy and Marion Touch, but perhaps the most important part of this find was his father’s occupation. Robert was a private in the 42nd Regiment. Could this explain why John was born at sea? There was a month between John’s birth and his baptism, so being born at sea might make sense!
The 42nd Regiment
I studied history in school and at the time I was looking at college courses so I could go back to university to study history. However, I had no knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars other than it was about the time period that John was born in 1812. I’d never heard of the 42nd Regiment! Who were they? Where were their battles?
This was where we both dusted off our Alice shoes and headed down the rabbit hole looking for any information on who the 42nd Regiment were. The 42nd Regiment of Foot was their full title and they were later to become The Blackwatch. How funny! When I was about 10 years old, I used to wear a floppy hat (90s fashion…) that was in Blackwatch tartan! We had no idea at the time so an absolutely crazy coincidence. Maybe I need to buy a new one and add it to my Alice wardrobe.
We began looking into the 42nd Regiment of Foot but I didn’t know anything about Robert’s military career. When did he sign up? What campaigns was he involved in? Did he survive his time in the military? If so, when did he retire?
Robert was a difficult cat to find though. Carey was the name that had passed down through the later generations. Cairy was on John’s baptism. Kerry was on Robert’s marriage to Marion Touch. Three different versions of Robert’s surname. So a search on The National Archives to see what we could find…
No Carey, Cairy or Kerry came up in the searches. Where are you Robert? So I searched for the 42nd Regiment and up popped Robert Carry of the 42nd Regiment of Foot, born in CLAMONOUGH, Westmeath. Irish! Well that perhaps made us a little more excited. His military record was held by FindMyPast. Excellent, I’d just need to pay to view this certificate to find out more.
Robert Carey and The Battle of Waterloo
Now, I am going to come back to Robert in a later blog with more detail and citations. What I will say is that from the baptism for Robert’s son, John, I was able to find out not only was his father serving in the 42nd Regiment of Foot during the Napoleonic Wars, he was injured at quite a few major battles. He was wounded at Corunna (A Coruña), in Spain, Toulouse in France and most exciting of all, Waterloo! Now even I had heard of the Battle of Waterloo! It explained why John was born on the German Ocean, or the North Sea as we know it now. Women went on campaign with their husbands at this point in history.
This new information was very bittersweet. My Mum’s Dad (aka my Pops) was a HUGE fan of the Sharpe series, both the books and the TV series. He would have loved knowing that one of his direct ancestors was part of these stories, in the thick of it! He was in the Peninsular Wars and he was at Waterloo. We’d found this information a little too late to share with him. So now ALL the family I know who descend from Robert Carey are told immediately about his military service .
John Carey and DNA
Finding John’s baptism was one of our greatest finds when I was working with my Mum. She deserves a gold star for that one! Even better was when I sent back my AncestryDNA test in 2016. From there I found one of my new favourite family members, my online Sherlock to my Watson (or vice versa), a cousin living in Australia. Together we have been working on our trees piecing together our shared history, involving new DNA cousins and sharing the story of Robert Carey to cousins around the world! I feel cheated we never managed to share this all with Pops, but I have gained a whole new branch of my tree who I am beyond grateful for! I love them to bits even though we’ve never met. We’re cousins, we’re family and we share the DNA of an incredible man, Private Robert Carey and of course his son, John Carey.