Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Colemans & Dwyers: The Marriage of Mary and Andrew


This is the third post in a series about my Coleman and Dwyer ancestors.

St Francis Catholic Church in Melbourne, where Mary and Andrew wed.

 In the last two posts, I discussed the Irish origins of the Dwyer and Coleman families, and where they lived in Australia and Tasmania after leaving Ireland.  This brings us to Andrew Coleman and Mary Dwyer, my great-great-grandparents.  

Mary Dwyer and Andrew Coleman were married in Melbourne in 1885.  Their marriage certificate reveals that at the time of the union, Mary was 23 years old, working as a servant and living in Hotham.  The mention of Hotham is a little confusing because there is a mountainous ski destination called Hotham several hours northeast of Melbourne.  However, it seems more likely that Hotham in this circumstance refers to a neighborhood in North Melbourne called Hotham Hill, located near Royal Park and the University of Melbourne.  Making matters more confusing, both Mary and Andrew list their residence at Lonsdale Street, which is south of Hotham Hill and closer to the Yarra River.  Lonsdale Street is a busy thoroughfare that runs east-west through Melbourne.  Here you will find shops, churches, high-rise offices, Melbourne’s Parliament building and the Supreme Court.  In the late 1800s, it was also the site of Melbourne’s most infamous brothel.

On her marriage license, Mary describes her father, John Dwyer, as a laborer.  Andrew says that his father was a shoemaker.  Andrew Coleman was age 26 at the time of the marriage and working as a wheelwright, someone who builds or repairs wheels for carriages.  The priest who officiated at St. Francis Catholic Church in Melbourne was Michael McKernan.  The witnesses who signed the marriage certificate were Sylvester Blackburne and someone by the last name of Byrne (likely Walter).  Neither of the witnesses were relatives, so far as we know.

The registration paperwork for the Coleman/Dwyer marriage.


Andrew and Mary Coleman had three children:

i.               KATHLEEN MELDON COLEMAN, born 1886 in Melbourne; died February 27, 1970 in Fallbrook, California.  She married George Beck (formerly Gerhardus Beukenkamp).
ii.              ALBERT COLEMAN, born 1887 in Melbourne, died 1895 in Melbourne
iii.            MARGARET COLEMAN, born 1888 in Melbourne

I should mention that until undertaking this research, none of us had ever heard that Kathleen’s middle name was Meldon.  However, it appears repeatedly in the records of her youth, including sometimes being listed as her first name.  This is still a big mystery, since Meldon is neither a popular given name in Australia, nor a family name so far as we know.  

Albert died as boy of about eight years old, and is buried in Footscray Cemetery’s plot 218, with his mother, Mary Dwyer Coleman.  The cemetery is located in the suburb of Footscray, just west of Melbourne.  The graves are unmarked.

Margaret went by the nickname Maggie.  Her fate is somewhat unclear to us.  We know that she was alive in October 1905, as she gave a statement to the coroner upon her mother’s death.  After that, we have no further record of her.  I cannot find either a marriage or death record for her.  My suspicion is that she died sometime between 1905 and 1919, when Kathleen immigrated to America.  Had she been alive after 1919, it seems certain that the sisters would have been in touch with each other, but no photos or correspondence exist.  It’s also worth mentioning that Kathleen almost certainly named her eldest child, born in 1922, after her sister.

The tragedy of losing young Albert was just the beginning of bad times for the Colemans, sadly.  In the next post, I'll discuss the fate of Mary and Andrew.

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