1. Mary Ann Byrnes – Godfrey Christian-Tiearney

Under Construction

Mary Ann Byrnes, the eldest of Jim & Mary Ann Byrnes‘ 15 children, and her husband Godfrey Tiearney known as Christian, were the grandparents of my husband David John Christian. Although he grew up in Sydney, David always knew that he had relatives in Wollongong. Unfortunately his grandmother Mary Ann had died the year after he was born and so a lot of family connections were almost lost, by the time David came “back” to live down in Wollongong in 1971 as a Steelworks Metallurgical University Trainee.

Arthur James Byrnes 1

Photo courtesy of John Tippin

Mary Elizabeth Smith (Byrnes) 19th dec 1919

Mary Elizabeth Smith (Byrnes) 19th dec 1919 – wife of Arthur James “Jim” Byrnes – courtesy of John Tippin


Jim and Mary Elizabeth Byrnes‘ daughter Mary Ann Byrnes married Godfrey Tiearney known as Christian.

Godfrey worked on construction projects at various places in NSW, and thus after their 1923 marriage, Mary Ann left Wollongong and never lived there again. They had three children, John Godfrey “Jack”Christian, Barney Christian and Rosemary Christian. The family moved around a lot, and their sons would tell their own children stories of their youth, including the 1930’s depression years.

Godfrey died … and Mary Ann’s final years were spent on the Central Coast – coincidentally  near where her ancestors Peter Hibbs and his daughter Sarah Hibbs had lived, a century or so earlier. Grandson David John Christian was a baby at the time of Mary Ann’s death and so has no personal memories of her, although an older cousin, Danny, has some recollections of visiting her home on the Central Coast.

cb15c457-0589-4da8-9f66-bc54b81a2d93 Christian Tiearney family

Mary Anne Tiearney – Christian nee Byrnes with her husband Godfrey, and their sons Barney at left, John “Jack”at rear, and daughter Rosemary (Farrell) in front

Some information on Mary Ann and Godfrey’s descendants :

  • John Godfrey “Jack” Tiearney known as Christian – and called “Bill” by his Byrnes relations
    • Jack married Eunice Adele Green of the Greenwich boat building family – there were two children …
      • David John Christian – apparently Jack wanted to call his son Godfrey after his father, but Eunice objected  – initially David was a metallurgist and later worked in IT
        • married Thirroul local  Kerrie Anne Adamsa descendant of  pioneer Northern Illawarra Hicks – McKenzie – Joy and Callcott families – like David, Kerrie was also a First Fleet descendant,  (ie John Small, Mary Parker, James Bradley) – and was also a metallurgist and a former local council alderman/councillor
          • they have a daughter
      • a daughter
  • “Barney” Tiearney known as Christian
    • Barney married Kathleen O’Grady without realising that they were both descendants of Peter Hibbs, they were fourth cousins in fact – there were 3 children – a son and two daughters
  • Rosemary Tiearney known as Christian
    • Rosemary married widowed Temora Lawyer, James Farrell, and bore him  a son – however they were not close to James’ children by his late wife – so little is known of Rosemary’s step children and their families

None of Mary Ann’s descendants lived in Wollongong until 1971 when her grandson David John Christian moved down to work after leaving school,  and also to study at Wollongong University College, later Wollongong University. Forty years on, David seems unlikely to leave the Illawarra – and since 1997 he has been researching his Family histories. He was fortunate that the Hibbs and Green ancestors had already been well documented. However, for years there was quite a mystery over Godfrey’s father, Thomas Aron Tiearney,  and his mother Rosetta Charlotte Roberts.

There were some details available for Godfrey’s mother Rosetta Charlotte Roberts, who had come out from England to Melbourne, Australia as a young child in 1888 on the SS Iberia, accompanying  her aunt Harriett Roberts. Then in Melbourne, in 1897 Rosetta  had borne a child, Godfrey Tiearney, to Thomas Aron Tiearney, American born who was then a resident of South Africa. It was said that they had married in South Africa, and then Thomas had died at sea.

However it is now fairly clear that Thomas and Rosetta had probably never married at all – within the year Thomas was married to Elizabeth Cecilia (Harris?) in South Africa, and the first of their three children was born. He never returned to America nor Australia before his death in WWI in 1915.

Later Rosetta married  John (Bernard) Walsh in 1902 in Victoria. There was another child, Bernard John Walsh, born in 1903, and then Rosetta died of pneumonia at Richmond, Victoria, several weeks  after  Bernard‘s birth. Godfrey was taken in and raised by Rosetta‘s aunt, Harriett Roberts and her husband John Christian. John had been a Norwegian …. who was originally named Johannes Christiansen, including at their 1889 marriage. On his naturalisation in Australia, Johannes anglicised his name to John Christian. Godfrey‘s half brother Bernard John Walsh was raised in his father’s Walsh family. There had been little or no contact between the families of Godfrey and Bernard John Walsh.

For years, Godfrey retained the Tiearney name legally, but was called Godfrey Christian, ie Godfrey Tiearney known as Christian. He’d married Mary Ann Byrnes as Tiearney and the three children she bore him, John Godfrey “Jack”, “Barney” and Rosemary, were all in the same situation. Legally they were all “Tiearney“,  but were known as “Christian“. At some point the situation was legalised and Jack had a piece of paper saying he was “John Godfrey Tiearney Known as Christian”. It was certainly confusing for Jack‘s wife, Eunice Adele Green – however their own children were legally “Christian“, with no mention of Tiearney. Although David and his sister seem to have been aware for years that there was a Tiearney connection in there somewhere. And to add to it all, the Byrnes relations called Jack by the name “Bill“.

No wonder “Sailing on the Hibbs Line” author Allen Maunder had little or no chance of tracking Jack down in Sanctuary Point, to where he and wife Eunice had retired in 1985. They had left the home they had built in Mona Vale in the mid 1960′s, which was after their earlier years in the Guildford house, that had come to them from Jack’s family in the 1950‘s.

I, too found the Tiearney-Christian saga all very confusing for years – in fact David seemed to have been the only one in his immediate family to be able to get his head around it all until very recently. And for years, David had been trying  to put together the pieces of the puzzle of his American born great grandfather Thomas Aron Tiearney. Since 2013, and especially with his DNA results, there have some great in-roads – see Answers to the Thomas Aron Tiearney Mystery.


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