Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Catherine the Conundrum

This isn't going to be a normal blog post, where I detail interesting or exciting stories I have discovered whilst climbing my family tree or travelling through my ancestor's lives. This blog post is dedicated to a particular person in my tree who is a complete mystery. 


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Catherine Queenan was born on 12 March 1863 to Martin and Barbara Queenan (née Coyle). I don't know where exactly Catherine was born, but she was baptised on 5 April 1863 at St Cuthbert's Roman Catholic Church, North Shields. Five of Catherine's siblings were also baptised at St Cuthbert's, North Shields, and as these particular siblings were born in the Murton area of Northumberland, I think I am safe to presume that Catherine was also born there.

Catherine's baptism is in Latin, as customary for Catholic registers at the time. Her Latin name is Catharina.

As far as I'm aware, Catherine was the fourth child born to Martin and Barbara, the fourth of a total of thirteen children.

One of the most confusing (and slightly annoying!) things about this particular family, is the way in which their surname changed throughout the years. They are Queenan for the first few years in England, which then named to Quanan, Quinan, Quinin, with the final product being Quinnin. Martin Queenan's brother later went by McQueen. I have also found this family under the name Quin. 


Catherine's baptism in Latin.
The only record I have found which shows
she actually existed.

The only record I have of Catherine's existence is her baptism. There is no birth or death registration at all. As she was baptised in North Shields, Catherine's birth should fall under the Tynemouth district - but alas, there is no birth or death registered for her at all. 

Sadly, Martin and Barbara lost a good number of their children in early infancy. These children were mostly buried at Cowpen near Blyth, in the Roman Catholic church there. I can find no burial of a Catherine Queenan or any variations of that name.

Going back over the lack of civil registration documents for Catherine, it actually turns out that Martin and Barbara were already in the habit of not registering their children. The Queenan's first two children were registered where they were born. Then came Martin born in 1861, not registered; the above Catherine born in 1863, not registered; and then Ellen/Helen/Eleanor born in 1865, not registered. The latter died in 1871, but her death was registered.

The next child born to Martin and Barbara was Jane, born in 1867. She was registered under Jane Quinin. Thankfully, every child after was registered. 

I'm quite conscious of the fact that perhaps Catherine was not the name she used. Martin and Barbara had another daughter in early 1871, who was baptised as Birgitta - Latin for Bridget. The 1871 census was taken shortly after, and it is quite clear that the new baby is named Bridget. Then ten years later in the 1881 census, there is a Barbara in Bridget's place! The newly re-christened Barbara goes about her life as a domestic servant, then marries and has children, and sadly dies in childbirth at the age of 33. I have been able to trace her through the years. 

I wondered if anyone had any ideas about Catherine? I think I need fresh eyes to look over this, as I believe my eyes are growing weary to it. It would be fantastic if something could be found, for the sake of closure. I am almost absolutely certain that Catherine died in infancy, like so many of her siblings - I just can't find the proof.

Thank you for reading! 

Until next week...