Searching for Catherine (Part 2)

I didn’t feel comfortable finishing my last post part way through the story of Catherine. I did so because I was conscious of the word limit. I would like to keep my posts shorter so that people can read them without feeling overwhelmed or pressed for time. In retrospect, I’m glad I did. Henry was beginning to take over a post that was meant to be primarily about Catherine. While Henry’s motives are still to be resolved, there is plenty more I had to say about Catherine and it may have been lost.

Enter Trove. To me, Trove is a repository of old Australian newspapers. There’s other stuff on there as well but I read the old newspapers and search for my ancestors within there dusty, digitilised pages. Trove is where I found Catherine.

I love family history. I love discovering who came before who. I love working out who married who, who the ancestors parents were. For me it’s like a treasure hunt with no end. For the rest of my family it is a pile of dry data with no meaning and nothing to hold their interest. While the facts are necessary, it’s the fleshing out of people’s lives that makes them real and interesting. When you’re lucky, you’ll find these people in the newspapers and you’ll begin to have a sense of who they are and what they meant to other people.

So I searched for Catherine. On 19th June 1875, there is a fantastic article in the Brisbane Courier which details the arrival of the Naval Brigade, the ship that Catherine and her family sailed to Australia on. The township of Townsville had been expecting the arrival of the ship for days. Two ships arrived and were mistaken for the Naval Brigade amidst much fanfare. There was disappointment at the delay of Naval Brigade. You can feel the disappointment on the part of the town’s people. Why were they so excited? The ship brought unmarried girls to the colony.  The correspondent mentions that they are much needed domestic help. I’m sure they also increased a slim marriage mart. “The immigrants were all from Ireland and a fine sample of the sons and daughters of Erin.”

In Jan 1885, The Queenslander reports that she has been awarded 600 pounds from her late husband’s estate. In March of that same year, she is in court against a servant who was paid three months salary in advance but did only two days work. After the death of her husband, Catherine had the finances to employ someone to help her with her two children and whatever other responsibilities she had. Nor was she a pushover.

Catherine had three brothers who arrived with her in Townsville. Two of them, Michael and John died in the 1890’s. Michael died in 1889. In 1891, the following memorial was placed by Catherine in the Northern Miner:

In sad and loving memory of my dearest
brother, Michael Claffey, mailman,
who was killed at Greenvale Station on
October 16, 1889. Inserted by his loving
sister, Mrs Catherine Barker.

Weep not for me my friends so dear,
For I am not dead but sleeping here,
I was not yours but God’s alone,
He loved me best and took me home.

At her death in 1945, The Daily News includes notices from two of her children: Eleanor Barker and James Arnold. Both describe her as a dearly loved mother. Although she left her son James in Queensland when she moved to Victoria with Henry, nearly fifty years later he remembers her and calls her dearly loved. Eleanor’s entry includes the names of her children and grandchildren who remember her fondly. “We’ll always remember you smiling; you’ll be smiling when we meet again.”

The West Australian includes memorials that mention the majority of her children. She is described as a wonderful mother. It is hear I have the sense of a woman who managed to stay connected with her families that resulted from three marriages and were spread out from one end of the country to the other. These articles also include information that pad out the members of this family. I learn who married who and what children they had. I see where they are living in 1945 and, in some instances, their occupations.

What surprises me most is the references to her son, Samuel Michael in the newspapers and records. While his father was John Barker, at some point Samuel (or Sammie) decided to adopt the surname of his stepfather, Henry Scarlett. So, too, did Phoebe. Their elder sister, Eleanor (or Lilly) kept her father’s name.

Samuel died in 1945 as well, six months after his mother. He appears to have not been married and to have lived near his mother most of his life. He is fondly remembered by his nieces and nephews. This is a family who were engaged with one another and had strong relationships.

If you haven’t searched through Trove, you should. And be patient. There are treasures to be found. For instance, today I found letters by Catherine’s children, Phoebe and William (Willie), to Aunt Mary. The children were subscribers to the Silver Chain Foundation that collected silver shillings from the subscribers that went to help unfortunate children. In 1905, there is a letter from Phoebe where she describes their garden and how she grows vegetables and flowers.  She thanks Aunt Mary for her and Willie’s membership cards and  hopes “the poor children will have a good treat at Christmastime”.

Go take a look. You never know what you’ll find.

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1 Response to Searching for Catherine (Part 2)

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

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