John, James, Frederick or Frederick Joseph
“Hey you there, What’s your name?”
“John Brady, Sir,”
Was this the first of many lies, my great, great grandfather would tell? His statement, at the time of his arrest, would hinder research and conceal his true identity for more than one hundred and sixty years. Even the constabulary didn’t really know who they had in custody. Sometimes John, other times James, but always Convict 3944. They had their man, and regardless of name, he was being transported.
“Brady, James Brady!” called the nurse, looking around for a response.
She could see four men, sitting cross-legged on the floor, each waiting with a look of bewilderment, as if their minds had shut down. Beside them stood a guard, appearing not to care if they responded or not. Slowly, he leaned forward and gestured to one of the men.
“You, get up!”
“Oh, sorry. Yes, that’s me,” came the reply.
This wasn’t the first time a name had been called, that went unanswered until prompted. Now, thousands of miles away from anyone that could confirm his true identity, he would need to accept that this was him now. Uncrossing his legs, his hands clasped the cold steel that anchored him to this reality. Getting to his feet, he wondered if somehow his real self was still at home in England, living the life he dreamt about every night. Slowly, he shuffled towards the waiting nurse.
“In the case of, stealing from a dwelling at York, John Brady, I find you guilty.” said the Judge.
Again, this alter ego John had stuffed up. “The real me would never have done the things they said I have done. If only I could get back to who I was always meant to be, and be free”, he thought to himself as he was led away from the dock for the second time in his life. A new convict number of 10021 would now identify the man, even if the man could not identify himself.
“Do you Mary, take Frederick Brady, to be your lawful wedded husband, so long as you both shall live?” he heard the preacher say.
He stared at the face of beauty that stood in front of him. Did she know who she was marrying? So many years as John or James had him struggling to grasp this new reality. Was this the alias needed to escape his criminal life, or the last attempt of a trapped man, to re-claim the true identity he had concealed for twenty years?
“I do,” she replied.
Whatever his name, ten years was all he would have with Mary, his wife. Death would cement his story in time, a saga of the truth and lies, chiselled in cold stone. Even his children would never know who he really was.
You may look at AKA and think, Also Known As. I see a lesson in frustration and incorrect assumptions, that built a mystery, just waiting to be solved.
“So how was this solved?” I hear you asking.
By 2015 the family tree had grown, each branch extending back way before its arrival in Australia. All, except the Brady nub, cut short and surrounded by an impenetrable wall. Assuming the recorded history was correct, John had been convicted in Liverpool, transported to Western Australia, then had taken on an alias to marry and escape his past. Adding to that, the family hand-me-down stories had him believed to be Irish, hailing from County Cork.
It was then, I tested my DNA. It took two years, of staring at the countless matches, each slowly connecting the branches, but one stood out. Not an exact fit, but with all of the confusion that surrounded our convict, was this another anomaly that we would have to accept? The maternal line of this one match, had a name that would change the family forever. Braddy, that’s right double-d, another variation to add to the long list of AKA’s that made up that man we all descend from.
Frederick’s extended family were looking for their missing ancestor. Now he had a name, and a home in the heart of London, where his family still live till this day.
“Frederick Brady, Englishman 1833 – 1886, do you hold any more secrets?” I asked out loud.
“Maybe…” I swear I heard someone reply.
Looking at where this fits in the broader family history, from my perspective is easy, Brady is the family name and solving this line was my biggest mystery. I have for twenty years focused on data and the solving of the puzzles laid before me, but dissemination of that data has been my downfall.
As we have learnt in this course, facts are not a compelling story. I found it rather refreshing to step away from my sermons on fact, and dabble in the realm of factual make-believe. For the last couple of years, I have struggled to post to my blog page because my mother’s voice rings in my ears, “If you have nothing good to say then say nothing at all.”
Maybe, it’s time for a new mind set of tell a story and they will listen if they want too.