Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Who was Catherine Corry?

When I was a small boy, I thought that (great) Aunty Corry had a very strange name. I said so to my grandmother, who told me that Corry was part of her name too; and that of Aunty Vi; and Uncle Tommy and even Uncle Henry. Who was the woman with such an influence that five of her grandchildren were given her name?

I have previously written about our 3xgreat grandmother Catherine CORRY having been born at sea on 9 September 1852 as the SS Rajahgopaul neared the (then) colony of New South Wales.

But the connection between that birth and the person we know to be our ancestor is by no means straight-forward.

We know that Catherine married Henry SUDDABY in Bundaberg on 21 March 1876. Their first child, Thomas Henry, was born at Cooranga Creek in the District of Darling Downs North, on New Years Day 1877. It was five weeks before Henry travelled into Dalby to register the birth. On the form he indicated that Catherine was 26 years old and had been born at Margathy in County Armagh, Ireland.

Catherine had a second child, William, on 26 April 1878 and she died seven days later (3 May). William lived for just two weeks after his mother's death (d 15 May 1878). The registration of Catherine's death lists her parents as James CURRIE and Mary O'DONNELL.

There is no record of either of these "parents" in Australia. Nor is there any record of migration by Catherine from Co Armagh either alone or as part of a family. I have been unable to locate any place in Armagh, or elsewhere in Ireland, with a name resembling Margathy. The lives of the family from the Rajahgopaul, on the other hand, are well documented and consistent.

All of the apparently incorrect information came from Henry Suddaby. You might argue that a man who had lost a young wife and been left with a toddler and a (dying) baby had every excuse for being an unreliable witness in May 1878; but that leaves the February 1877 errors to be explained.

I conclude either that Henry was unaware of his wife's family and origins, or that he deliberately concealed them.

Was Catherine estranged from her family? Had she kept the truth from her husband; or did he know it and supported her by keeping a secret beyond the grave?

One possible explanation is that the Catherine born on the Rajahgopaul was the child of Anthony CORRY and Catherine KENNY of Killmurray, Co Clare. Like her sisters Maria and Honora, she was almost certainly Roman Catholic.

Henry SUDDABY (and his brother John, who accompanied him to Australia) had been christened in the Church of England Parish of Eastrington, Yorkshire.

Whatever the truth, such matters were of no interest to little Thomas Henry SUDDABY. Left without a mother at eighteen months of age, he then lost his father three days after his fifth birthday. Tom must have had precious little to remember either of his parents as he grew up, but he held onto a name — Catherine CORRY.

Tom's first child with Jane DAVIES in 1897 was named Olive May. After that, he gave each of five children, boy or girl, the same second name — Corry. Today, I don't think that is strange at all.

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