My husband Greg’s great great grandparents John Plowright (1831 – 1910) and Margaret Plowright nee Smyth (1834 – 1897) were married in 1855. They had six children, the youngest born in 1872. In 1881 they adopted a child named Frederick Harold Plowright. I have not found his birth certificate, and until recently I did not know how he was related to the Plowright family. Until 1929 there was no formal adoption process in Victoria and so there was no directly relevant documentary material from 1881 to establish a relationship.

Frederick Harold Plowright 1881 – 1929, photograph in the collection of his grandson J P

In 2018 J P, grandson of Frederick Plowright, took a DNA test. This showed that he was related to the descendants of John and Margaret Plowright but that his grandfather was not the son of John and Margaret.

I used a DNA Painter analysis tool called ‘What are the Odds?’ to estimate where J P stood in the family tree and so how Frederick Harold might be related. The tool calculates where somebody probably fits in the family tree based on the amount of DNA they share with people about whose position in the tree you have complete confidence. The tool predicted that the best hypothesis is that J P was the great grandchild of James Henry Plowright, one of the sons of John and Margaret Plowright, and that his grandfather Frederick was a half-sibling to the other children of James Henry.

In short, it appears very likely that Frederick was adopted by his paternal grandparents.

Using the What are the odds (WATO) tool from DNA Painter to calculate how J P might be related to his Plowright cousins. Hypothesis 5 is the most likely and is indicated with a red *. J P’s grandfather’s most probable position in the family tree is indicated with a green *.

The Avoca Mail reported on 28 June 1881 that Elizabeth Ann Cooke brought an affiliation case against James Henry Plowright. This is a legal proceeding, usually initiated by an unwed mother, claiming legal recognition that a particular man is the father of her child. It was often associated with a claim for financial support.

AVOCA POLICE COURT. Monday, June 28th, 1881. (Before C. W. Carr, Esq., P.M.)

Elizabeth Ann Cooke v. James Henry Plowright. — This was an affiliation case, and Mr Matthews, who appeared for the plaintiff, asked that it might be postponed to allow it to be arranged out of court. The case was accordingly postponed by mutual consent for one week.

Avoca Mail 28 June 1881

A week later the case had been settled, presumably by the parents of James Henry Plowright agreeing to adopt the child:

AVOCA POLICE COURT. Monday, July 4th, 1881. Before W. Goodshaw, Esq., J.P.

E. A. Cooke v. J. H. Plowright. — Mr Matthews, for the plaintiff, stated that the case (adjourned from last court) had been settled

Avoca Mail 5 July 1881

Elizabeth Ann Onthong was born in 1862 in Avoca, Victoria, to Thomas Onthong and Bridget Onthong nee Fogarty. The family later used the surname Cook or Cooke. Elizabeth was the fourth of six children; she had four brothers, none of whom apparently married or had children, and one sister, Mary Ann, who married and had children.

J P shares DNA with descendants of Mary Ann

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