Monday, 18 June 2012

Born on the high seas

My analysis of our ancestors' country of origin based on where individuals were born obscured the fact that two of them did not have a place of birth in the usual sense. Each was born after her parents left their old home, but before they arrived in Australia.

Sailing halfway across the world during the nineteenth century was a hazardous undertaking for anyone, but there were particular risks for children.

In November 1883, the SS Corona left Plymouth bound for Queensland with 407 souls on board. There were five births during the 115 day voyage but only 394 disembarked in Queensland. Of the 13 deaths, 12 were infants and children.

Perhaps we can judge the suitability of the vessel for carrying young families by the fact that, just 18 years earlier, the Corona had been used to transport convicts and their guards to Western Australia.

Corona in Australian waters ca 1888
(Collection of State Library of South Australia)

Nevertheless, two families of our forebears set out on a perilous voyage to begin a new life while expecting another child.

Anthony CORRY and Catherine KENNY (4xgreat grandparents) left their home in Co Clare with five children and set sail from Plymouth on 25 May 1852 aboard the SS Rajahgopaul. Their daughter Catherine was born on 9 September, 2 days before landing in Moreton Bay.

Emily, the daughter of James FINLAY and Mary CREASE (3xgreat grandparents), was given the middle name Waroonga after the ship on which she was born on 6 May 1887. Her parents and three-year old sister had left London a month earlier after travelling from Scotland and the growing family would not reach Brisbane for another four weeks.

Although they shared a quirk of birth, Catherine and Emily had very different lives in Queensland.

Emily and Alfred NOYES had 7 children and although she died relatively young (not quite 40), Emily saw the wedding of her daughter Doreen to Alexander COLEY (our great grandparents).

Catherine died at only 25 after losing her second child with Henry SUDDABY. Their first son, our 2xgreat grandfather Thomas, was just 16 months old at the time. We remember the Corry name largely through the efforts of Tom to recognise the mother he barely knew. But that is a tale for another time.

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