The O’Keeffe Family – Post 4

So Who Is Ellen Mary O’Keeffe?

I had no idea where to start with this question – so I did what all good super-sleuths do when they need info – I “Googled” the name – and to my immense surprise, the answer was just sitting there waiting for me to find it. This is what I found.

Headstone - Ellen Mary (Nellie) O'Keeffe

Nellie O’KEEFFE, sister, born Loterville County Cork, accidentally drowned Bromelton 27 Oct 1890 aged 18 years.

Whoa Nellie! What do we have here? So Ellen Mary is known as “Nellie” and she’s from a place in County Cork called Loterville. Fantastic. But also sad. So young to die – at only 18! And what a terrible death. But now at least I have some idea about where the family might have come from in Ireland, so that was very exciting!

Dr. Google couldn’t help me out this time though – Googling Loterville drew a complete blank for a place name. I tried various spellings, to no avail. Oh well, file that bit of info away for later…..

So where to from here? It seems the O’Keeffe family were from County Cork, and that agreed with what Uncle John had said – that they were from Fermoy. And now I know that Great Grandfather Edward didn’t come out here by himself – he had a least one sister? with him. They arrived before 1890, and that Nellie was born c. 1872. All good clues. Time to hit up “Trove” and see if anything comes up there.


Ellen O'Keeffe - Drowned at BromeltonNellie O'Keeffe - Death Notice

Oh wow – what a terrible story. Poor Nellie – I can’t imagine how awful it must have been for everyone there that day. But at least the article said some very nice things about her – and provided more valuable clues. When I saw the Death Notice, I saw for the first time a name that no-one else had ever seen in my immediate family – the name of my Great Great Grandfather – William O’Keeffe. No mention of any mother though, so I immediately thought the worst and presumed that William’s wife (and the children’s mother) was dead. The family had been in the country for about 10 years, and they had for a time lived in Ipswich. Ellen also had a sister who worked at the station too. This time the article said she was born in Goterville – but that place name also drew a blank.

So they had arrived around 1880. That would be a good place to start looking for a Shipping record. William, and at least 3 children that I know of.


The O’Keeffe Family – Post 3

So Where Did Edward O’Keeffe Come From? And Why?

Part of why I got interested in doing genealogy was to find out when my ancestors came to Australia, and more importantly, why. Many years ago, my father gave me a handwritten family tree of his family, the Wilds, which went back to Henry Kable & Susannah Holmes – First Fleet Convicts. So it wasn’t hard to figure our why they were here –  they were at His Majesty’s Pleasure! But what about the others; the one’s that had decided to come here themselves. What was the reason for making that momentous decision to travel half way around the world?

Mum’s brother, Uncle John, had a bit of an interest in family history. I knew that he had made a trip to Ireland and had been to Fermoy. Back in the early 2000’s, he was going to stop and stay the night at Mum’s, on one of his many treks south from Brisbane to Melbourne and Tasmania to visit his kids. So I asked Mum to ask him what he’d found out, so I could do a bit more research. The upshot was that it seemed that Uncle John hadn’t really found out anything very much – and during the trip had managed to lose some papers that Aunty Judy had given him that she had salvaged out of their father’s possessions when he died (their mother Gladys had told Judy to throw it all in the bin, but she squirreled a few things away). Judy said that John must have left them behind in a hotel room. What I wouldn’t give to know what those papers were (deep sigh). Anyway, Mum gave me this note that John wrote for her, of what he knew:

Note from Uncle John

Who was Ellen Mary O’Keeffe? I wanted to know about Edward Snr – what was this all about? Who was this 18 year old girl that had drowned? I suppose she must be a relative of some sort with that name. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, so I just filed it away with all my stuff and didn’t look at it for the next 10 years. In hindsight, it’s extremely lucky that I didn’t chuck it (which did cross my mind), as this piece of paper became the key to me unlocking the whole O’Keeffe saga.




The O’Keeffe Family – Post 2

Edward O’Keeffe & Ada Agnes Doyle – My Mother’s Grandparents – Their brief time together and the birth of their 7 Children.

Mum knew very little about her father’s parents. All she really passed on to me was that her father, Edward Montague*, had been born in Burnie, Tasmania, and that his father (also Edward) had emigrated from Ireland, but she didn’t know when or under what circumstances. She thought that Edward Snr was from Fermoy in Ireland, and worked on the railways in Tasmania, prior to moving to Tenterfield. She knew that her Grandfather had died at quite a young age, leaving a widow and seven children – her father being the oldest at just 13 years of age. Young Edward had to leave school to help support the family. Edward Snr’s widow was Ada Agnes (nee Doyle). Mum didn’t really know much about the Doyle family –  I don’t remember her ever telling me the name of Ada’s father, or any of her brothers or sisters, but she did tell me that Grandmother Ada’s mother was Annie Doyle. Mum also told me that Ada had lived to a ripe-old age, cared for by her widowed/spinster daughters over Manly way.

So there wasn’t really much to get started with! After getting Edward Montague’s Death Certificate from NSW BD&M, which confirmed that his parents were Edward O’Keeffe and Ada Agnes Doyle, I then wanted to get his Birth Certificate. This was my first hurdle! Tasmania does not have a nicely indexed, searchable data base like NSW has – so it was off to the library! (I believe that this has now changed though and many records are available – for free! – online).

Lucky for me, I knew that Edward was born in 1898, so his birth was recorded in a Series called the “Tasmanian Pioneers Index 1803-1899” which was available to search (on microfiche!) at the library. That gave me a reference number, which allowed me to order the certificate. That certificate also provided me with other information – most importantly that Ada & Edward had married in July 1897, in Sydney – more on that later.

Birth Certificate - Edward Montague O'Keeffe

Record No. 1229

I also remember Mum saying that Ada and Edward moved/lived up and down the railway line, from Burnie to Zeehan – but that Ada always made sure she was in a “town” when it came time to give birth. So Edward Montague was born in Burnie, Bernard Aloysius in Zeehan, Eileen Mary in Strahan, John Arthur in Lyell, and I haven’t been able to find records for Marie and Elsie – but the first 4 being born in different towns seems to bear out Mum’s recollection.


Emu Bay Railway Map – By Cyril Singleton (Aust. Rail. Hist. Soc. Bulletin 11/1961) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Seventh and last child, William Tasman, was born in Tenterfield. I’m not sure when Edward and Ada moved there with the family, but it must have been between the birth of Elsie in 1908 and William in 1912. What I came to learn through researching and talking to my newly discovered 2nd Cousin 1 Removed (Roz Scharf), was that they moved to Tenterfield because Edward Snr was very ill with Tuberculosis, and I presume they had to get away from the cold and wet of the West Coast of Tasmania. The warmer, drier climate of Western NSW would be much more conducive to Edward’s health. And why Tenterfield? Because that’s where Edward’s youngest brother Lawrence  (Roz’s Grandfather) was living, and running a Pub. So it seems “Larry”, as he was known, took in his brother Edward and family, until Edward Snr’s untimely death at the age of 45 in 1912 – just 3 months after the birth of his youngest child. Certainly I believe that this time with his Uncle Larry in Tenterfield is where my Grandfather got his first taste of working in Pubs – which was to become his lifelong profession, and funnily enough, the profession of his 6 brothers and sisters. Every single one of them became a Publican.

So Ada was a widow at 37, with 7 children, the youngest just a baby of 3 months. What an awful predicament.

Just to Recap on Ada and Edward’s Marriage. I have come to the conclusion that they were never formally married. Edward Montague’s Birth Registration in 1898 in Tasmania (above) shows that they were married in 1897 in Sydney. Brother William’s Birth Certificate in 1912 in NSW (below) quite clearly states that they were married on the “23rd June 1897, Guildford Junction, Tasmania”. SO when they are in Tasmania, they say they were married in NSW, and when they are in NSW, they say they were married in Tasmania. Searches of BD&M’s in both States reveal no records exist for a marriage. If you have 7 children and stay together until one of you dies – that’s as good as a marriage to me. Who was ever to know?? They didn’t count on me coming along 120 years later. PS You can see the location of Guildford Junction on the Emu Bay Railway map above. Probably seemed like as good a place as any to “marry” 😉

Birth Certificate - William Tasman O'Keeffe

Birth Certificate of William O’Keeffe – youngest child of Ada & Edward – note that it contains the names of all the other children (with Marie referred to as Minnie), as well as the “Marriage” date of the parents.

* Montague – Edward Jnr’s middle name – quite possibly comes from the “historic” area name for the part of the country where the family were living in Tasmania. It was very fashionable in the 18th/early 19th Century to name children after the place they were born. Hence also why youngest child William probably had “Tasman” as a middle name – as a tribute to the place that the family had lived, but had to leave because of Edward Snr’s ill health. And I’ve just had another thought! Perhaps second son Bernard was named after the town of Burnie? You never know! Well, they wouldn’t have called him Zeehan…..

1865 Historic Map of Western Tasmania

1865 Historic Map of Western Tasmania – Showing Region of “Montague” top left.

The O’Keeffe Family – Post 1

The Early Years – My First Foray Into Researching Mum’s Family – Her Birth

My mother, Gwendoline O’Keeffe, was born on the 14th March 1929 at “Ardee” Private Hospital in North Sydney, to Edward Montague & Gladys Evelyn Gwendoline O’Keeffe (nee Clugston). Mum was never called Gwendoline – she was always called Lurline (or Lurl for short). This situation came about because her father was not present at her birth. Apparently he was extremely busy in his employment, so much so that he could not travel back to Sydney for the birth. Edward was working in Canberra, which at the time was a fledgling city, with a few buildings sitting out in the middle of nowhere. The “Hotel Canberra” where he was employed in charge of the Food & Beverage Staff, had been expanded from it’s original incarnation as “Hostel No. 1”. It was built to house Politicians when the Federal Parliament moved to Canberra from Melbourne in 1927, and received it’s Liquor License in 1928. Mum said her father was there when the hotel served the first legal glass of beer to be served in Canberra (although I think there had been plenty of illegal ones before then). Late in 1929, the hotel would become home to Prime Minister James Scullin, who refused to live at The Lodge and preferred to live at the hotel when Parliament was sitting.

Edward O'Keeffe and Staff, Hotel Canberra, c1929

Note the dirt! Edward Montague O’Keeffe – front and center – & Staff. Very dapper!

Gladys gave birth in Sydney and sent a telegram to her husband, announcing that they had a daughter (they already had a son John born in 1925) and that she was to be named Gwendoline. Edward sent word back that he didn’t like the name, and that the baby would be named Lurline. Too late! The birth had already been registered in the name Gwendoline, but Edward got his way and Mum was in fact always known as Lurline. She complained often that her parents had 2 chances to name her and still couldn’t come up with anything decent! I asked a few times “why Lurl?” and Mum didn’t know. But I was to find the answer later in my search. A short time after Mum’s birth Gladys, with 4 y.o John and baby Lurline, moved to Canberra, where 4 years later in 1933 baby Judith Anne was born to round out the family. I always thought that it was a bit odd that Nana didn’t give John and Mum a middle name, but gave one to Judy?






First blog post

So this is where it starts – with me. Caroline Jane Wild (b. 1964). They say with tracing your Family Tree that you start with yourself and just work backwards through what you know, gathering documentation along the way to verify whatever you can. I have been collecting documents – Births, Deaths & Marriages – in a very haphazard way for nearly 20 years. Following the death of my mother in 2012, I decided that I really needed to “get my act together” and document as much as I could. The ever-evolving internet has made the task very much easier than it would have been, even 20 years ago when I started collecting. So armed with a few certificates and the odd handwritten note and some photos, I decided to get serious about it. This blog is an attempt to explain what I have done, and what I have learned. I think my own mother would be amazed at the things I’ve found. It’s such a pity she’s not here to see it. I’m not expecting that anyone will ever read this – but if you do, please excuse the fact that it will probably be written like a diary – a bit  like I’m talking to myself. I think I will blog this one family at a time. So let’s start with Mum – and the O’Keeffes.