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.
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 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 – Showing Region of “Montague” top left.