The History Police were doing their regular spot check on the records of ancestry.com. They did random samples on any Family History that appeared to be unverified, unsubstantiated or plain unbelievable.
"Here's one" said Arthur. This family had a series of John's over several generations in the 19th century, in the Snowy Mountains town of Tumut. All of the John's died by accident.
- John L. arrived in the Colony in 1824 and was drowned in the Tumut River on Nov. 1, 1872, aged 68 years. There was an Engagement family picnic on a hot day when John and 4 of his adult sons went in for a dip. Several of the sons were alluvial miners. They would not have survived in their work if they could not swim, but they were unable to save their father. Maybe he had a heart attack or stroke but the official Death Certificate said: Accidental death by drowning. Present also at this picnic was his daughter Catherine 19 years old.
- John H. was killed by a fall from a hose in 1882. He had been married to Catherine only 6 years and had 3 daughters Mary, Alice and Dora.
- In 1887 Catherine married John O'Regan, who died only 5 years later in 1892. Ancestry. com said that this John 3 was also thrown from a horse.
Now all these deaths sounded a bit suspicious. What part, if any, did Catherine play in these 3 deaths?
The History Police went straight to the official Death Certificate. John (2) was listed as being thrown from a horse.
John H. was an experienced landowner with the horse as his daily means of working on his sheep station. Being "thrown
from a horse" seemed unlikely, but maybe he had hit his head on a rock.
John O'Regan (3) seemed too much of a coincidence. Who had given these details to ancestry.com? Probably a
well-intentioned but ill-informed descendant. The History Police found that the Death Certificate in fact listed
"dysentery" as the cause of death. Another family myth busted. Catherine's name was no longer "the black widow"
but a courageous daughter and wife. As a widow, she raised her 4 daughters, the youngest Ella being the only child of John O'Regan (3). Catherine went into the hotel business in Goulburn, Camden and Wollongong.
It took over 100 years but the good name of Catherine was restored to her family. Another success for the History Police whose motto is:
"The original documents tell the truth!"
Frances Coll © 18-4-12