In the beginning…
Like pulling a thread in a jumper, today’s story unravelled from one of marital disharmony to a wider East Clare migration story.
From the Australian Town and Country Journal, page 38: Mrs Bridget Reeves comes from Kilfane near Broadford County Clare, is 56 years of age and married her husband, Edmund Samuel Reeves (a widower) in St Mary’s Church Sydney in April 1855. She is seeking a judicial separation from her husband (a formality which would have been relatively unusual in those days). I believe that Kilfane is an error and should have been Kilbane, a townland in Killokennedy parish which is tied with Kilseily RC parish.
From the Indexes to the Victorian Divorce Cause Books, Volume 1, 1861-1884 (VPRS 5335) it seems Bridget went on to divorce Samuel formally. However I would want to pursue this at the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) to be absolutely certain. This is an extract from the indexes:
VPRS 5335, PROV, Index to Divorce Cause Books 1861-1884
Trove comes to the fore, giving some clues about their failed marriage. The article is a long one and worth reading. Bridget is charged with threatening to burn down her husband’s house and witnesses indicate he had previously been violent.
From here it was a logical progression to see if I could pin down their marriage in Sydney, and the births of their children, for which I used a mix of Ancestry records and NSW BDM indexes.
At first I had some difficulty locating their marriage but I believe this is it:
REEVE John S to CAHILL Bridget (NSW 120/1855 120/1855 V1855120 101).
Using wildcards, and narrowing the date search to April 1855, is an interim confirmation of the correct marriage. There are two ways to confirm this: purchase the certificate or check the marriage microfilms for NSW in that period.
I found the following children’s births by searching parents’ names:
- Annie b abt 1856 Married Matthew Carr 1878/2011; died 1934 buried Sale 4 Feb 1934 aged 78 years.
- Susan b abt 1859 died 1868 Vic buried Sale, Vic 1 Feb 1868 aged 9 years.
- Elizabeth b abt 1865 d 1942, Preston, Vic (married Cowan?)
- Edw Samuel b abt 1865 died 1936, Auburn, Vic
- Patrick Edmund b 1865 Stratford, Vic/25246, died Sunbury Vic/23740
- Julia b abt 1865 died 1937, Hawthorn, Vic
- Ellen b 1867 Victoria/5058 Stratford died 1871, buried Sale 1 Oct 1871, aged 5.
- Alice M b 1868 NSW
- Sarah b 1869 Vic/12016 Stratford
- Thomas b 1870 Vic/26591 (possibly Thomas Henry died 1944 Ringwood)
- Susan b 1873 Vic/6025 Stratford,Vic} may be the same as #12.
- Mary Susan b abt 1877 died 1933 Carnegie Vic}
This exceeds the number of children stated in the original article and there are three with similar estimated birth years, based on age at death. If we assume that the two deceased children were not included, and that Susan and Mary Susan are one and the same, then we have nine children and Susan would be the 11 year-old mentioned. Direct family members would want to clarify these ambiguities.
I next turned my attention to Bridget’s arrival and since she married in Sydney I started in New South Wales. This is an extract of the relevant entry for the ship Ellenborough, arriving Sydney 12 October 1853.
NSW Immigration microfilm (online) 2137 (4/4791) page 8.
Although there were 400 immigrants on board, Bridget was unusual among the Irish women of this era, in that she could both read and write. Perhaps that gave her confidence, too, when she sued to formally separate from her husband.
Bridget states that she came from Glenomer (Glenomera) Co Clare which fits with what we know of her from the initial article. Her emigration was also typical of the Irish I’ve researched: she was accompanied by another woman, Bridget Garvey, from Glenomera and she may have known some of the five other East Clare women on board before she sailed. So far, it also seems she probably led the family’s migration, something that’s atypical for other ethnic groups.
It seems that Bridget and her husband moved from New South Wales to the Gippsland area of Victoria in or near the town of Stratford not long after their marriage.
There is an interesting article on Trove which refers to Samuel Reeves, a private of the Royal Artillery, and his wife, Bridget Reeves as witnesses to a court case. To know whether this relates to our couple, or another, more details would be needed about Samuel’s career at the time.
Bridget died 25 September 1885 and was buried in Sale Cemetery, Victoria on 27 September 1885, aged 66 years – she had aged 8 years since 1885. Thanks to Find a Grave, her gravestone is pictured here. Although the image is difficult to read, by searching the cemetery’s burial register in conjunction with this is become apparent that ultimately Bridget had not been alone in Australia. From the Find a Grave information, Bridget is buried with her siblings Ann (bur 18/7/1882, 37 yrs) and Patrick (bur 1/8/1872, 38 yrs) and also her mother, Julia (bur 19/5/1885, 95 yrs). Unfortunately the Kilseily parish records, available on microfilm via the LDS church, do not commence until after the birth of all Julia’s children however there are a number of instances where witnesses may be her children: if correct it seems likely the Cahills may well have been related to the Vaughan family of Lisroe.
Ironically Bridget’s mother, Julia Cahill, was blessed with a longevity which escaped some of her children, having an estimated YOB of 1790. Her funeral notice ties her to another son, Edmund, living in Briagolong in the Gippsland District of Victoria.
Edmund Cahill, died on 24 June 1921 and was buried in the Briagolong Cemetery: his gravestone can be see on Billion Graves here. His obituary will be in a subsequent post.
The unravelling threads of the research jumper will be the topic of further posts.