Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Colemans and Dwyers: Andrew Coleman

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

The location of Durban, South Africa is noted with an "A."

Continuing the story of my Coleman and Dwyer ancestors, I wanted to focus a little on Andrew Coleman. It was really the mystery of what happened to him that set me on the quest to discover more about this family in the first place. He was not in Melbourne with his family when Mary Dwyer Coleman committed suicide, and Kathleen Coleman’s deposition refers to his absence and the circumstances surrounding it. Here’s what we know.

Andrew Coleman left Australia in 1903 and went to South Africa, which we know from Kathleen’s statement to the coroner. It’s not clear what he was doing there, but Kathleen indicates that her father, “Meant to better his condition.” None of the information I’ve found at this point points to an occupation for Andrew in Africa. However, as I mentioned in my last post, we at least now know exact where Andrew was living. At the time of Mary’s death in 1905, he was living in Durban, on the northeast coast of South Africa.

The Durban History Museums website tells us about the population and primary occupation in Durban in the early 1900s.

In the early years of the twentieth century Durban's population level was relatively low. In 1900 the total population of the town was about 55,700 of whom 14,600 were African.

It seems that during the years of Andrew Coleman’s residency, areas of employment in this port city included dock work, coal storage, and servicing of incoming ships. Durban was also known for its beer production and beer halls.

Kathleen’s statement to the coroner in 1905 makes it clear that Andrew had not had the success he’d hoped for in South Africa. He had been out of touch for some time and hadn’t sent any money home to his family. From what Granny told us about Andrew Coleman being killed by Zulus, my first thought was that Andrew had probably died in Africa. However, I found a death record for him in Ballarat, Australia in 1941.

Andrew Coleman died on October 2, 1941 at the Benevolent Home in Ballarat. The cause of his death was listed as cardiac degeneration. He was 82 years old. On his death certificate, Andrew’s usual place of residence is listed as Trafalgar, although I’m not sure what that means. I cannot find a town named Trafalgar in the area, nor a Trafalgar Street in Ballarat. There is a city of Trafalgar located three hours drive southeast of Ballarat, but this seems quite far from Ballarat to be the correct location. There is a city called Trafalgar about a 90 minute drive south of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is possible that Andrew had settled there after his time in Durban, but we don't know.

On the death certificate, Andrew Coleman’s occupation is listed as “coach builder.” The certificate states that Andrew was married in Melbourne at age 26 to Mary Dwyer and was a widower at the time of his death. Where there is a space to list children, the only entry is this: "Mary, 52 years." This is perplexing. If Andrew had a child named Mary, this would make her date of birth 1888/1889. Andrew’s daughter Margaret was born in 1888 but we don’t believe she ever went by the name Mary. There are three possibilities here: (1) This inclusion of Mary is a mistake and he had no daughter by that name or of that age (2) The name is written incorrectly and should have been listed as Maggie (3) He had another daughter we are not aware of named Mary. As of now, this is a mystery. We do not know why Kathleen and Maggie are not listed, but an unknown child named Mary is listed.

It’s not clear when Andrew Coleman returned to Australia from South Africa, or what kind of relationship he had with Kathleen and Maggie after their mother’s death. We don’t believe that Kathleen was ever in communication with her father after going to America.

Next, I'll talk about Kathleen's emigration to America.

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