Monday, May 21, 2012

Off on a Tangent...the search for the Godparents.

After a quarter of a century searching for the actual birthplace within Tipperary of my Bourke ancestors, with absolutely no success, I have had to turn my attention sideways and look for other means by which I may be able to find at least a hint as to the location of the elusive birthplace. The past week has been spent chasing down the families of the individuals who were named as sponsors (or Godparents) at the baptisms of my Bourkes during the period 1841-1852, at either St. Francis Catholic Church, Melbourne, or at Kilmore.
 The old  Kilmore newspapers now available on the brilliant 'Trove' website often published very informative obituaries, and it was not uncommon to find an actual birthplace within Ireland named.Of course, this wasn't the case with my Bourkes...when Judith Meehan Bourke died her birthplace was simply noted as 'Tipperary', and when her husband John Bourke had died in Kilmore in 1853 his passing was not noted in any newspaper that I have yet seen. Many other Kilmoreites had their birthplaces noted, however, and I was hoping that if I could find a relationship between my John and Judith Bourke and the people that they chose to sponsor their babies, I might be able to snag a clue as to their  origins.

   For a person to be chosen to be a Godparent for a child suggests either a family relationship or one based on close friendship. Judith Meehan was pregnant on board the ship 'Duchess of Northumberland' in 1841, and gave birth several months after her arrival. The two people chosen to be Godparents would have had to be either related, from the same place in Ireland or fellow travellers on the same ship. In the case of baby Michael Bourke, who was born on October8, 1841, and baptised at St. Francis on October 11, 1841, his sponsors were Patrick Meehan and Catherine Donovan. Patrick Meehan was his Uncle, the brother of Judith Meehan Bourke, and Catherine Donovan is still a mystery.

My great-great grandfather, Patrick Bourke, was the next child to arrive. Born on July 20, 1843, baby Paddy was baptised at St. Francis on July 30, 1843. His sponsors were Daniel Hennessy and Judith Dwyer.
  This relationship with the Dwyer family was the start of a common theme, with five Dwyers in all being nominated as sponsors to Bourke children...Judith, Patrick, Margaret, Edward and Winefred. There were also two Ryans- Patrick and Mary- and a Hennessy, Long  and Bourke. Because of there being so many Dwyer representatives, I decided to investigate their family goodness...what a tangle to sort out!
  Like my Bourkes, the Dwyers arrived from Tipperary in the early 1840s, then moved up to  Kilmore to settle small farms on what was known as 'Old Survey'. An initial search revealed several large families of Dwyers who were pioneers of the Kilmore district, and to complicate things a little more, some used the 'O' prefix to become 'O'Dwyer', or alternated between the two names.

  I was lucky that my Paddy Bourke's Godmother was named Judith Dwyer as this first name was uncommon enough to make it easier for me to track her amongst all the other Dwyers. Following are my findings as I delved amongst the ins and outs of the Kilmore Dwyers...


Five Dwyers were named as sponsors of Bourke babies at their baptisms...surely there must have been either a family connection or a common bond from back in Ireland! Researching these Dwyers proved to be very problematic, as not only were there dozens around the Kilmore area, but also many Dwyers did not have their parents named on their death certificates. Thus deprived of the most common means by which to sort them all into family groups, I had to turn to wills and newspapers, and slowly the dynamics of the Kilmore Dwyers began to evolve. Matters were not helped any by various members adding an ‘O’ to the front of their name, and then switching between ‘O’Dwyer’ and ‘Dwyer’ at will.

The names of the Dwyer sponsors were Judith, Edward, Patrick, Margaret and Winnifred. Thankfully the name ‘Judith Dwyer’ was very uncommon, and she was found on board the ship Gilmore arriving at Port Phillip on December 24, 1841, alongside eighteen other Dwyers from Tipperary! The Dwyers were grouped as follows:


Michael Dwyer/ 29/ labourer/RC/neither reads or writes/from Tipperary/b c. 1819

Catherine Dwyer/25/housekeeper/RC/neither/from Tipperary/ b c. 1816

Single Men:

John Dwyer/23/labourer/RC/both reads & writes/ from Tipperary/ b c, 1818

Thomas Dwyer/28/labourer/RC/both/Tipperary/b c. 1813

Edmond Dwyer/20/labourer/RC/Tipperary/b c. 1821

Cornelius Dwyer/28/labourer/RC/Tipperary/b c. 1813

Matthew Dwyer/22/labourer/RC/Tipperary/ b c. 1819

Patrick Dwyer/25/labourer/RC/Tipperary/b c. 1816

William Dwyer/24/labourer/RC/Tipperary/b c. 1817

Single Women.

Anne Dwyer/22/house servant/Protestant/reads/Tipperary/ b c. 1819

Catherine Dwyer/18/house servant/RC/both/ Tipperary/ b c. 1823

Mary Dwyer/29/house servant/RC/reads/Tipperary/ b c. 1812

Nancy Dwyer/17/nurse maid/RC/reads/Tipperary/b c. 1824

Judy Dwyer/26/nurse maid/ RC/reads/Tipperary/ b c. 1815

Ellen Dwyer/18/nurse maid/ RC/neither/Tipperary/ b c. 1823

Mary Dwyer/20/ nurse maid/RC/neither/Tipperary/ b c. 1821

Winifred Dwyer/15/nurse maid/reads/Tipperary/ b c. 1826

There was also a Margaret Bourke on board the ship Gilmore:

Margaret Bourke/22/house servant/RC/both/Tipperary/ b c. 1819

NOTE: An unknown Margaret Bourke was the sponsor of Edmund/Edward Bourke in 1847(although I find it hardly unlikely- given the shortage of women in 1840s Victoria - that a 22 year old Irish girl would be still unmarried six years after her arrival in the Colony)

Starting with Judith Dwyer, I found only one who married in the accepted period:

1844: Judith Dwyer married Arthur Finnigan/Finnegan, St. Frances R.C, Melbourne. Arthur’s death certificate from 1896 gave his parents as Owen Finnegan and Margaret McDonnell, and his birth year as c. 1822.

Arthur Finnegan emigrated from Tipperary to Melbourne in 1841 on board the ship ‘Neptune’, aged 20. He was a Catholic, and could neither read nor write.

Just like the Bourkes, Dwyers and many other Irish families arriving at Port Phillip in the early 1840s, Arthur Finnegan remained in Melbourne for several years working to pay off his bounty and trying to raise some money to buy or lease a holding. And just like the Bourkes and Dwyers, he soon headed to the new settlement at Kilmore and started to farm and raise a family.

Not everything went to plan... on February 6, 1851, the terrible event known as “Black Thursday” took place- a catastrophic fire that swept though Victoria and claimed 12 lives and over a million head of sheep and thousands of head of cattle. Kilmore and its surrounds did not escape. A witness to the fire, writing in the local paper in 1898, stated “Arthur Finnegan was the heaviest sufferer, he having lost all...” It must have been soul destroying to see the hard toil of the last few years totally destroyed within minutes as the fire swept through. At least Arthur and his wife and small children were unharmed, and they started to rebuild their lives on their small farm.

Owen Finnegan born December 2, 1845, Melbourne. Baptised St.Frances Church, Melbourne, December 15, 1845. Sponsors John Dwyer and Maria Dugan. Died 1876, Hay, NSW. No record found for a marriage.

John Finnegan born February 17, 1847, Kilmore. Baptised February 28, 1847. Sponsors Patrick Meehan and Winefred Dwyer. John married Mary Ann Brown, daughter of William Brown, in 1888, at Hay, NSW. The couple had three children:- John Finnigan born 1888, Hay; George Finnigan born 1891, Hay; and Johanna Finnegan born 1892, Hay.

John Finnigan’s wife Mary died in 1894, leaving children aged six, three and two. John himself died three years later in 1897, leaving John,9; George 6 and daughter Johanna only 5. John had been a cab proprietor at Hay at the time of his death.

I think I have located middle child, George Finnigan, and I am afraid the story is not a happy one:

An accident, which resulted fatally, occurred at Lewisham railway station yesterday. The victim was George Henry Finnigan, aged 18, who left Sydeny to go home by train. When drawing into the Lewisham Station, Finnigan got up and walked to the rear platform of the car, and either attempted to alight while the train was moving, or fell from the platform. The next that was seen of him he was on the rails. It was found that one leg had almost been severed from the body. Finnigan was removed to the hospital, where death took place two hours later."
-    Above: Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, August 31, 1909.

There were three funeral notices in the Sydney Morning Herald in relation to poor George's death:-
" FINNIGAN- The friends of John Finnigan are kindly invited to attend the funeral of his late beloved brother George Henry, to leave his late residence, Glenmore House, 66 Victoria Street, Lewisham, this afternoon, at 2 o'clock, for Lewisham Station, thence Necropolis."

" FINNIGAN- The friends of Mr and Mrs Con Buckley are kindly invited to attend the funeral of their late beloved friend George Henry Finnigan, to leave the residence Glenmore House, 66 Victoria Street, Lewisham..."

"FINNIGAN- The friends of William John and Joseph Buckley are invited to attend the funeral of their late dearly beloved friend George Finnigan...."
- Sydney Morning Herald, September 1, 1909.

( NOTE: I am not yet sure what the relationship was between the young Finnegan boys and The Buckley family who placed the above notices in the Sydney Morning Herald after George’s tragic death. They were a family consisting of brothers Con, Joe (Joseph William), John (Jack) and William (Will)...more research is needed.)

  Margaret Finnegan, daughter of Judith Dwyer and Arthur Finnegan, was born August 23, 1851, and baptised August 31, both events taking place at Kilmore. She married farmer Jeremiah Bradley in 1876 and had three sons and two daughters. After Jeremiah died she married John Dunphy, and had one daughter. Thus far I have only found three children born in Margaret’s first marriage- Mary Ellen in 1876; Margaret Hannah in 1883 and Jeremiah in 1885.

Margaret died October 1926, Lancefield, aged 75. The Kilmore Free Press of November 4, 1926, reported:

" Our Lancefield contemporary on Friday contains the following: The death occurred at Lancefield on Wednesday night of Mrs Margaret Dunphy, relict of the late Mr John Dunphy. Deceased was 75 years of age, had only been ill from the Friday previous, and although she rallied in the early tages of her illness, it was evident on Monday night that the end was near. She lasted until 7:30 pm on Wednesday, when she passed away peacefully in the presence of family and friends. the late Mrs Dunphy, who was held in high esteem throughout the district, was born in Kilmore and had resided in Lancefield for the past 56 years. She was twice married, her first husband being Jeremiah Bradley , by whom she had a family of three sons and two daughters. The members of the family are Mrs Mitchell (Yarraweyah). James (NZ), Jack (deceased), Mrs Richter (Murrumbeena) and Jeremiah, who is visiting Lancefield from New Zealand. Of the second marriage there was one issue, Mrs W ('Kitty') Kirk."

  Margaret Finnegan Dunphy had been a widow since 1918. Her husband John was 80 when he died in December 1918. According to his obituary published in the Kilmore Free Press on December 26, 1918, he was a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, arriving on the sailing vessell MacDuff in June 1878.

Johanna/Anna Finnegan born c. 1853. Died 1896, Preston, 43 years.

Winifred Finnegan born c. 1857. Died 1935, Prahran, aged 78. A brief notice was published in the Kilmore Free Press after Winifred's death:
The death occurred at Murrumbeena last week of a native of Kilmore in the person of Miss Winnie Finnegan. Deceased, who was 75 years of age, spent her girlhood days in Kilmore, where her father carried on farming. Mrs Richter, of Murrumbeena, Mrs J Mitchell of Yarraweyah and Mrs W. Kirk of Beulah are nieces."  -KFP, July 11, 1935.

Judith Dwyer Finnegan died at Prahran in 1900, aged 80.Her parents were given as John Dwyer and Johanna Bourke.

The details of Judith Dwyer Finnegan's death certificate were as follows:
Died: February 1, 1900, at 5 Alpha Street, Prahran.
Johanna Finnegan, housewife, 80 years,
Cause of death: General debility, asthenia.
Parents: John Dwyer, farmer, and Johanna Burke.
Informant: W. Finnegan, daughter, 5 Alpha Street, Windsor.
Buried: St. Kilda Cemetery, February 3, 1900.
Born: Tipperary, Ireland, 58 years in Victoria.
Married: Arthur Finnegan, in Melbourne, aged "about 24".
Issue: Owen dead; John dead; Margaret 50; Johanna dead; Winifred 49.

NOTE: Like my own Judith Meehan, Judith Dwyer Finnegan several times had her name recorded as ‘Johanna’, and even once as ‘Julia’ and once as ‘Anna’. The inter-changeability of ‘Johanna’ and ‘Judith’ seems to be quite common in the early to mid 19th century.

This ‘BURKE’ name of Judith/Johanna’s mother leaps out at me as a possible tie-in with my own Bourke family, and a reason as to why she was chosen to be a sponsor of my great-great grandfather, Paddy Bourke. HOWEVER, of course things are not ever that simple when it comes to my Bourke family, and Judith Dwyer Finnegan’s known siblings give their parents’ names as John Dwyer and Johanna Comans/Commans on their respective death certificates.

 That completes my research into Judith/Johanna Dwyer, the Tipperary girl who stood next to the baby Paddy Bourke in St. Francis Church on a winter's day in 1843, making the oaths as required to be his Godmother. Unfortunately there was no mention in the Kilmore papers, or on her death certificate, as to her actual birthplace. The naming of a Burke as her mother was a bonus, even though further research into her known siblings all came up with the name 'Comans' as their mother's name. There was no option but to press on with the next Dwyer on the shipping list of the 'Gilmore'...Ellen Dwyer.


There were only two marriages for an Ellen Dwyer between 1841 and 1851:-

1843: Ellen Dwyer married Thomas Collins

1843: Ellen Dwyer married Richard Leahy.

Early church records show the following details:

Both marriages were conducted at the St Francis Catholic Church, Melbourne:-

1. Richard Leahy and Ellen Dwyer, both members of the Catholic Church, residents of Melbourne, were married on August 15, 1843. Witnesses to the marriage were Edward Leahy and Mary Dwyer, the latter signing her name with a cross.

Ellen and Richard Leahy’s family were:

Mary Leahy born July 8, 1844, Melbourne. Sponsors were John Duggan and Catherine Dwyer.

William Leahy born April 25, 1846, Kilmore. Sponsors were Patrick Dwyer and Margaret Bourke.

Alicia LEHY born May 7, 1848, Kilmore. No sponsors given.

Richard Leahy born November 29, 1851, Kilmore. Sponsors Edmund Dwyer and Winifred Dwyer.

I favour this Ellen Dwyer as being the one who immigrated on board the ship ‘Gilmour’ in late 1841 because of the association with Kilmore as well as the familiar names appearing as sponsors to her children.

I cannot locate a death certificate for Ellen Dwyer Leahy. Several family trees on state that she died c. 1852, and that her husband Richard remarried a woman named Margaret O’Callaghan in the same year. I cannot find any trace of these events, despite extensive searching under various spellings and name combinations.

The Ancestry trees state that Richard and his family moved to Howlong, where Richard died in 1892. They also attribute a daughter named Johanna to Richard’s second marriage to Margaret O’Callaghan. According to these trees, Ellen Dwyer’s son Richard Leahy died in the Temora district in 1905 (an entry in the NSW death index corresponds with this- Richard Leahy died 1905,Temora district, son of Richard and Ellen)

Daughter Alice Leahy gave birth to an illegitimate daughter named Ellen Mary Leahy in Kilmore in c.1872. The family moved to the Howlong district of NSW soon after. In an article about Ellen Mary Leahy’s death by suicide in 1889, aged only 17 years, there is reference to a younger sister. This makes me wonder if Ellen was being brought up as a child of Richard Leahy Jnr, who had married Margaret O’Hara in 1874. As well as having four sons ( Richard James born 1875; Christopher P. Born 1881; William F born 1884 and Alfred E born 1886), they also had a daughter, Rosanna Leahy, born in 1879.

(NOTE: There is a record for Alice Leahy’s death at Collingwood in 1898, aged 48, parents Richard Leahy and Ellen Dwyer.)

The articles mention Ellen as being in the company of a nine year old sister just prior to her drowning herself, which puts Rosanna Leahy at the correct age. Some articles also name Ellen’s father as being successful farmer Richard Leahy. Her death certificate gives her mother as Alice Leahy, with no father’s name given.

 The suicide of such a young girl received extensive coverage from newspapers Australia-wide, and
many of these articles can be read on the Trove newspaper site.

2. The other Ellen Dwyer married Thomas Collins of Dandenong on November 10, 1843. Their witnesses were John Hopkins and Mary Hopkins. They settled at Gardiner’s Creek, Victoria, and their children were as follows:

Mary Anne Collins born October 25, 1844, Gardiner’s Creek. Baptised Melbourne. Sponsors Thomas Ryan and Mary Ryan.

Thomas Collins born July 8, 1846, Gardiners Creek. Baptised Melbourne. Sponsors Mary Geary and Robert Vas_____

William Collins born November 11, 1847, Gardiner’s Creek. Baptised Melbourne. Sponsors Francis and Bridget Allen.

John Collins born December 23, 1849, Colac. No sponsors named.

Ellen Dwyer and her husband Thomas Collins lived in the Colac district for many years. Ellen died there in 1881 aged 58, the daughter of Patrick Dwyer and Ann Splaine, according to her death record. Her husband Thomas died in 1891, aged 75, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Collins. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that this is the family of the Ellen Dwyer we are looking for.

Looking at both couples and their families, it was the Ellen Dwyer Leahy who ended up in Kilmore( like most of the other Dwyers and Bourkes who arrived 1840-42 from Tipperary)who is most likely to belong to the Dwyer family that is linked with my Bourkes. Because I cannot locate a death certificate for her, and therefore miss out on the opportunity to reveal a birthplace, I finished my research on Ellen Dwyer here.

  The next sibling to look for is MARY DWYER:


There were several Mary Dwyers marrying in Victoria in the several years following the Gilmore’s arrival in December 1841:

Mary Dwyer married John Duggan at St. Francis Catholic Church on January 6, 1842. Witnesses Judith Dwyer and Cornelius Dwyer (both signed their name with a cross)

Mary Dwyer, of Melbourne, married John Carey, of Woodstock, on November 30, 1844, at St, Francis, Melbourne, Witnesses were Michael Dwyer and Bridget Hickey(?)

Mary Dwyer married Thomas Flaherty in February 1844. Witnesses were John Findlay and Ann Dwyer. Both Mary and Ann signed with a cross.

Mary Dwyer married John Gorman at Kilmore on June 3, 1853. Witnesses Michael Dwyer and Bridget Dwyer.

I thought that the most likely Mary Dwyer to belong to us was the first Mary Dwyer who married John Duggan(who also arrived on the ship ‘Gilmore’ in December 1841),due to the Judith Dwyer who witnessed her marriage, so I traced her family first. Mary and her husband John had the following children.

John Duggan born January 3, 1843, Melbourne. Sponsors Winifred Dwyer and William ___all

Honora Duggan born December 10, 1844, Kilmore. Sponsors _____ Hickey and Mary Dwyer

Catherine Doogan born October 8, 1846, Kilmore. Sponsors John Griffin and Margaret Skahan.

Bridget Duggan born 27 July, 1848, Kilmore. Sponsors William Ryan and Margaret Ryan.

Unnamed child b 1856 Kilmore

Johanna Duggan b 1857, Kilmore

An extensive Ancestry tree also has the following children attributed to Mary Dwyer and John Duggan:

Annie Duggan born Bacchus Marsh 1848. Died 1915. Married John Crow, 1867. Large family.

Mary Duggan born 1850, Bacchus Marsh; died 1940. Married Ernest Honig.

Ellen Duggan born 1852.Died1871.

William James Duggan born 1856 (most likely the unnamed baby in the birth index) Died 1943.

Patrick Duggan born 1859; died 1940.

Roderick Thomas Duggan born 1859.

James Andrew Duggan born 1864. Died 1956.

Mary Duggan’s death certificate states that she died at Kilmore in 1911 at the age of 90, putting her year of birth at c. 1821. Her father’s name was given as William Dwyer, no mother given, and her birthplace as Thurles, Tipperary.
 These details were at odds to what I knew about the Dwyers I was chasing- ie father William Dwyer as opposed to John Dwyer- so I turned to the Mary Dwyer who had married Thomas Flaherty....

After completing some basic research, the following Mary is definitely ours...Mary Dwyer married Thomas Flaherty in February, 1846, at St. Francis Church, Melbourne. Witnesses were John Findlay and Ann Dwyer.

Two children were born to Mary and Thomas:

Simon Flaherty born February 3, 1847, Kilmore. Sponsors Edmund Dwyer and Anne Dwyer. This baptism was on the same day as the baptism of John Finnigan, the baby of Judith Dwyer, Mary’s sister. Simon died in Beechworth in 1901, aged 54.

Johanna Flaherty born February 7, 1849, at Kilmore. Baptised February 24, 1849, St. Francis, Melbourne. Sponsor was Winifred Dwyer.
Johanna Flaherty, daughter of Mary Dwyer, married Edmund Francis Kennedy on 17 February, 1874, at Kilmore. Witnesses to the marriage were Michael Kennedy and Johanna Finegan ( who was her cousin, Johanna Finnegan, Judith Dwyer's daughter)

From the Victorian death index, it is seen that this Mary is definitely a member of the right group, as her parents are given as John Dwyer and Johanna...Mary Flaherty died 1879, aged 59, born c. 1814, daughter of John Dwyer and Johanna.
 That deals with  three Dwyer sisters- Judith, Ellen and Mary....Winifred's turn to be investigated...

Winifred was only in her mid-teens when the Gilmore arrived in 1841, so I did not expect to find her getting married in the early 1840s like her sisters. There were two records for Winifred Dwyers marrying in 1854-

Winifred Dwyer married James Clarke

Winifred Dwyer married James Noonan

Both of these families settled at Kilmore and raised families. Firstly, the Clarkes:

I can locate four children born to Winifred Dwyer and James Clarke:

Patrick Clarke born 1864, Kilmore

Edmund Clarke born 1866, Kilmore

Mary Clarke born 1867, Kilmore

Winifred Clarke born 1872, Kilmore.

James Clarke was a wealthy landowner and councilman for Kilmore. He died on 26 August, 1882, at his Mount William farm. His wife Winifred survived him by 22 years.

The death index shows that Winifred Dwyer Clarke died in Kilmore in 1904, aged 70 years, and was the daughter of Edmund Dwyer.Her father rules her out as being a sister to Judith, Ellen and Mary, so we turn to the Winifred Dwyer who married James Noonan...

I purchased online the marriage certificate of Winifred Clarke and James Noonan, and was absolutely gobsmacked at the total lack of information contained on it. I have always sung the praises of Victorian certificates whilst smugly turning my nose up at NSW marriage certificates that quite often failed to record information re. parents, birthplaces and other crucial details. This certificate from Kilmore did nothing but record the parties' names - Winifred Dwyer, spinster, and James Noonan, bachelor- and the date- 22 February, 1854. Absolutely nothing else...there is more information available in Early Church records that there was on this civil registration certificate!

Winifred Dwyer Noonan's death certificate is the document that proves that she is the sister of Judith, Ellen and Mary..her parents were given as John Dwyer and Johanna Coman.
Winifred Dwyer and James Noonan had the following children:

Johanna Noonan born 1855, Kilmore. Died 1874, aged 19.

Catherine Winifred Noonan born 1856. Married 1879 to George Thomas Mutton. Died 1886.

John Joseph Noonan born 1859. Died 1888.

Annie Philomena Noonan born 1861. Died 1941.

James Francis Noonan born 1868. Died 1911.

Winifred died in December 1869, leaving behind her five children, including her last child, James, who was still a baby. Her husband remarried, as was the usual practice, four years after Winifred’s death. His second wife was Margaret McNally, and they were married on May 14, 1874. A further ten children were added to the Noonan family by this second marriage.

James Noonan died on 22 February, 1898, at Echuca, having outlived only two of the five children that he had with Winifred Dwyer.

There we have a family dynamic for the sisters of the Dwyer family that I was looking for...the next blog entry concerns the search for the Dwyer brothers.

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