Searching for Catherine (part 1)

I love mysteries.  I don’t enjoy murder mysteries.  I don’t like crime thrillers.  However, I do love to entangle the puzzle that is the mysterious person who is hanging on a branch of your family tree.  They are surrounded by questions just waiting to be answered. I love to be the one to answer them. And I’m not above making use of someone else’s research to do so.  Always double checking of course.

Enter Catherine.  Catherine was the second wife of my great great grandfather, Henry George Scarlett.  Henry, a miner from Durham, England, emigrated to the Hunter Valley where he married Ellen Fuller.  Ellen was delightful as far as I can gather.  After having two children with Henry she lost interest and the next thing poor Henry knows is that Ellen is expecting another man’s child.  So they divorce.  Unfortunately for poor Henry, he is forced to leave his children with their mother as he does not have a house nor employment organised.

We next hear from Henry in Ballarat where he has married a Mrs Catherine Barker. The information I had passed down had no mention of second marriages for Henry.  Ellen went on to marry two others but in our family, Henry’s history died with his divorce. Through the wonder of the internet, I was contacted by a descendent of Henry and Catherine.  She had some details. I had some details. Neither had the full picture. That was several years and two moves ago. However, today I sat down and decided to work out Henry’s life and tackle the question of “who is Catherine Barker”.

It was known that Catherine had had several names.  It was believed that her maiden name was Claffey and that she had had several marriages perhaps to a man named Barker and another named Arnold.  The details were still to be flushed out. Using my Ancestry subscription and the Trove newspaper database, I think I have pieced it all together. Somewhat.

According to Jim Claffee (who’s webpage is at, Catherine Claffey arrived in Townsville, Queensland in June 1875 with her mother and siblings.  She was 12 years old and the family hailed from County Westmeath, Ireland. Her mother was Catherine (Kate) Claffey (nee Shiels), born abt 1828. Catherine’s siblings were Bridget, Michael, John, Anne, Patrick and Mary. Upon arrival, the family settled in Charters Towers.

In 1882, Catherine marries James Arnold. I found this out in a round about way. On the 16 Jan 1885, there appears a brief entry in The Northern Miner stating that a son was born to the wife of the late James Arnold. A further search found that on 20 August 1884, his widow, Catherine, was laying claim to his estate as he had died interstate.  There is an entry for the death of a James Arnold in Taree in 1884. It’s possible that this is the same James. Further searches on the Queensland database reveal that the couple also had a daughter, Catherine born in 1883.

On 26 December, 1885, Catherine married John Barker. Catherine and John had three children: Eleanor (known as Lil), Samuel Michael and Phoebe. Thank goodness for these children as they helped me track down Catherine in her later life. I’m not sure what happened to John Barker nor how Catherine and Henry met. In 1894, two John Barker’s died and another in 1897. Which is our John Barker? I don’t know.

On 1 June 1898, there is an entry in the Queensland Register announcing the marriage of Catherine and Henry, both of Charters Towers. I am assuming that after finding out about Ellen’s affair he left the Hunter Valley and headed north to Charters Towers. Here the questions begin again.  Why did Catherine agree to leave Charters Towers with Henry for Ballarat unmarried? It appears that they left with her three youngest children and, possibly her elder daughter, Catherine. From my research, it appears that her son, James Arnold, remained in Queensland.

1897 was also the year that the proceedings of Henry’s divorce from Ellen was heard in the courts. The decree absolute was published on 14 Oct 1897. Henry married Catherine in Ballarat on 18 Oct 1897. I doubt it is a coincidence. I assume that their marriage was published in the Queensland papers to reassure her family that he had followed through on his promise to her.

Their son, William Henry, was born in Ballarat in 1900. By 1906, Henry and Catherine are in Ravensthorpe, near Mt Desmond in Western Australia. In 1916, she’s still in Ravensthorpe but Henry has left. Why did he leave?

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2 Responses to Searching for Catherine (part 1)

  1. Margaret Hertweck says:

    It was with interest that I read your history of the Claffey family. Bridget Claffey, Catherine’s sister, is my Great grandmother. Bridget married John Leavy in August, 1875 at St Joseph on the Strand, Townsville.
    Margaret Hertweck.

  2. Pingback: The Wandering Miner | Laney's Past

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