Michael Coonan and his first wife Margaret Coonan had seven children in their ten years of marriage, born between 1845 and 1854. Only three survived to adulthood, with three sons and a baby daughter dying before their mother's own death in 1855.
The Coonan grave in Melbourne General Cemetery carries the details of these little lost Coonan children. The memorial inscription reads:
" Gloria in Excelsis Deo
in memory of his beloved wife
5 Jan 1855
age 28 yrs
also their beloved children
Catherine & Daniel
who died in infancy
died 12 Dec 1853 age 10 mths
died 19 Dec 1853 age 5 yrs 2 mths
Michael COONAN died 14 Mar 1873 age 53 yrs
Michael Francis COONAN
31 May 1893 age 38 yrs
& the latter's two infant children
Jeremiah Joseph & Edward James
also Mary COONAN
who died 31 Jul 1900 age 38 yrs
also Margaret BUTLER
died 25 Apr 1930 age 35 yrs."
Babies Catherine and Daniel died at a very young age, and since their deaths were before civil registration (1853), we will most likely never know the causes. Their entries in the burial registers of St. Francis Catholic Church, Melbourne,state that Catherine's age when she died in 1847 was 3 days, and Daniels's age in 1852 was 14 days. On their mother's 1855 death certificate, their ages at death were given by their father as being Catherine 9 days and Daniel 1 day. I tend to favour the ages given in the burial register, as Michael Coonan was trying to recall infant deaths years after they had occurred.
While we can't know the reasons for the deaths of babies Catherine and Daniel Coonan, brothers Michael and Patrick died within a week of each other in 1853, so I was able to obtain their death certificates.
Tragically, both little boys contracted measles in the summer of 1853.After six days of illness, ten month old Patrick died on December 12, 1853. His brother, Michael Coonan, died six days later, on December 18, 1853. Both boys were buried in the Old Melbourne Cemetery. The new Melbourne General Cemetery had opened in 1853, but the old burial ground that it was replacing did not close until 1854.
Although all four Coonan children had been buried in the Old Melbourne Cemetery, their names appeared on the monument that their father Michael Coonan placed on their mother's grave in the new cemetery.
Measles was first brought to Victoria (and Australia) by the ship Persian in 1850, but it did not assume epidemic proportions until 1853-54. I found death notices in the Argus for late 1853 recording measles as the cause of death for four children and an adult, although there were many more death notices for children in which the cause of death was not noted.
The death certificates for Patrick and Michael Coonan can be found earlier in this blog.