Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

There is nothing more satisfying than starting with a blank canvas and after working hard and putting in the time and effort into searching for information, finally receiving a result is much akin to winning a competition.  Like most other branches on my tree, I hardly knew anything about my Grandma’s side of the family (the Flynns) and my first step was to work backwards.  Eventually I made my way back to my Great x 3 Grandfather, John Flynn and whilst looking upon his headstone I was amazed to read the words “Corporal of  H.M. 49th Regiment” thus discovering his military background.

Corporal John Flynn

Born on 12 February 1824 in Cahir in Ireland, at the age of 21 he enlisted into the 3rd Regiment of the Army.  His occupation was noted as being a painter and glazier.  He remained in this Regiment until 6 April 1854 when he was transferred to the 49th Regiment.  A year later (on 1 December 1855) he was promoted to Corporal.  John remained in the 49th Regiment up until age 32 when he was discharged with a pension on 17 March 1857. 

His 12 year service in the military included three years spent in Malta, 5 1/2 in Turkey and 7 1/2 years fighting in Crimea (it was in Crimea that he received a gun shot wound in the thigh).  Receiving the Crimean medal and three clasps for Sebastopol, John was described as having good character and even received one good conduct badge.  He stood at 5’ 9 1/8” high, was fair in complexion, had fair hair and grey eyes. 

It was during his time in the army that John met Catherine Foley, a widow whose deceased husband may have also been a soldier.  Their first son, William James Flynn (my Great-Great Grandfather) was born on 9 April 1855 in Queenstown, Ireland and it wasn’t until 4 June 1855 that John and Catherine were married in Clonmel. 

Many years later (on 8 April 1858 in Clogheen), Catherine gave birth to a daughter who they named Mary Ann.  Their third child John soon followed and was born on 12 June 1860 in Fermoy. 

The Enrolled Pensioner Guards consisted of former soldiers who had served in the military for a number of years.  After being discharged from the army, many soldiers received pensions for long service, good conduct, wounds or commendable service.  During the time the colony of Western Australia was being established, a few also received the offer to join the Enrolled Pensioner Guards.  Being a part of the Guards would mean helping out with the enforcement of order within the new colony.  The offer was quite lucrative.  The Guards would receive a pension, their families were able to join them and they were further enticed by the prospect of receiving land in the new colony. 

John Flynn was one of many who took up the offer to become a Guard and on 16 March 1862 he left Portland in England with his family on the ship “Norwood”.  Whilst at sea, on 2 June 1862, their third son Edwin was born.  Seven days later, on 9 June 1862, the Flynn family arrived in Fremantle. 

As a means to house the Pensioner Guards and their families, convicts were set to work in 1863 to build the Pensioner Guard Barracks at the head of St George’s Terrace.  Upon its completion the barracks contained 120 rooms, a hospital, magazine and other facilities.  The Barracks stood proudly in this spot for numerous years until most of the building was demolished in 1966 to make way for the Mitchell Freeway.  Today, all that remains of this historical building is the arch.

The Barracks' Arch

Whilst in Western Australia, John and Catherine went on to have several other children.  Samuel Henry Flynn was born on 14 November 1865, Robert George Flynn was born on 6 April 1867 and Michael Flynn was born on 3 June 1869.  Sadly, they also had to endure death when their third child, John Flynn passed away on 9 October 1865 at five years of age.  It is possible that he may have died of typhoid fever.

On 8 October 1874, the last part of the Pensioner Guard offer was completed when John was granted some land in Perth.  Town lot Y119 was an acre in size and was bordered by John Street on the north, Hardinge Street on the south, town lot Y120 on the west and town lot Y118 on the east.  Back then Hardinge Street started and ran along, eventually becoming James Street.  Sometime in the future however the name was no longer used and the street once referred to as Hardinge Street officially became a part of James Street.  Today, the Flynn property would have been a part of the suburb of Northbridge. 

Only three years after receiving his land, on 23 January 1877, John Flynn passed away.  He was only 52 years of age and was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta Cemetery along with his young son, John. 

The Flynn family gravesite.


12 thoughts on “John Flynn

  1. Troy Flynn says:

    Hi, My name is Troy Flynn and I have been told by my Aunty (geaneology guru) that I am a descendant of Corporal John Flynn. The interesting thing though, I was always told he arrived in Fremantle with only one child William. I am positive we are talking about the same person because all other facts from the military records match up.

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Troy! I’ve always assumed that all the children went with John and Mary Ann simply because of their young age and the fact that most people have one of the sons (Edwin Flynn) as being born at sea. However, I also double checked the Convicts to Australia website under the Norwood ( and it actually only lists William. Your Aunty could very well be right! They all ended up here eventually but I suppose the question is when and did they travel with other family members. Very interesting! And something defintely worth looking into. Out of curiosity, which child of John Flynn do you descend from?

      1. Troy Flynn says:

        Hi Jess,
        Thanks for the reply. We descend from Robert Flynn. My Pop was one of many of Robert’s children and my Pop himself had 6 children. We mostly live SOR. My Aunty has researched further back, I believe as far back as the 1400’s. I will try to find out some more detail. Troy

      2. Jess says:

        No worries, Troy. I’ve just had a look at my family tree and one of John’s sons (also named John Flynn) died on 9 October 1865 at age 5. If the other children weren’t on the Norwood with William and their parents, they would’ve had to have arrived by this date at the latest.

    2. Pam Maltby says:

      Troy Flynn from Ipswich??

  2. Richard (Ray) Flynn says:

    The youngest of the seven children was Michael Flynn. He was my great grandfather. Michael married Ella Phoebe Rowan. Their son, Reuben Michael, was my grandfather. Reuben immigrated to the United States as a young man. He married Ethel Harbottle Dean. Grandma was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on 1906 to James Dean and Marion Maud Harbottle. She was a young child when she came to the U.S. with her family. My understanding is that she met Reuben at a get-together for Aussies in Salt Lake City. They had three sons. The eldest is my father, Richard Rowan Flynn.

    I am anxious to someday visit Perth as well as Cahir, Tipperary, Ireland (birthplace of John Flynn).

    I loved reading your information and would love to hear more.

    Richard Jeffrey Flynn (call me Ray)

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Ray,

      It’s lovely to hear from one of the U.S. Flynn cousins and I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post on John Flynn. 🙂 The post is a bit outdated now so I should really rewrite it. If you ever do come to Perth, let me know and I’ll have to try and organise a Flynn reunion. I’m sure your Aussie cousins would love to meet you. 🙂

  3. Lorraine Fisher says:

    Hi Jess,
    I am the ‘aunty’ that Troy refers to. Unfortunately, in my limited research I didn’t get back further than Cahir. I did find that Catherine and her sister were orphaned and were taken in by a Quaker family named Parker. In some records she appears as Catherine Parker. Her father was Hugh Foley. John’s parents may have been James and Mary. Our late Aunty Olive Flynn Austin (daughter of Robert) told us that John joined the British Army and his father immediately bought his way out again. It happened twice before his father disowned him. In 2006 I went to Cahir, but didn’t know where to look for genealogy whilst there. At least I know what the town is like. lol A cousin named Bill Green and his wife Judy went to Ireland and did manage to find more info than I. kind regards

    1. Jess says:

      Hi Lorraine,
      Thank you for your comment and the additional information. That’s the first I’ve heard of the British Army story with regards to John Flynn! I haven’t been able to trace his line very far back either. I find Irish family history very difficult! Lovely to hear from a distant cousin. Thanks again for making contact. 🙂

  4. Lorraine Fisher says:

    I once saw a photo of a large group of Flynns, all dressed in matching shirts, somewhere in Utah.

    1. Jess says:

      How wonderful! We don’t have very many photos of the older Flynns. There’s a couple of John and even with William James Flynn (his son and my ancestor) there’s only one that I know of.

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