This month I have concentrated on researching some of my ancestors from Northern Ireland. On my maternal line I am descended from the Kennedy’s of County Tyrone.
Gilbert Kennedy was born about 1827, son of Thomas and Mary Kennedy near The Rock, County Tyrone, Ireland. I have not been able to locate surviving baptism records for the parish churches, in this area of Northern Ireland. I am continuing to research the Kennedy families in this part of Ireland and found some were still there in the 1901 Census.
On 3 February 1852, Gilbert married Ann Hunter at the Artrea parish church. Ann was the daughter of Robert and Jane Hunter of Ballyneill More, in County Londonderry.
In 1854 Gilbert and Ann Kennedy had a daughter who was named Elizabeth.
In 1856, Gilbert and Ann decided to emigrate to New South Wales. They traveled to Belfast where they took a boat to Liverpool and boarded the emigrant ship, Kate. The Kate left Plymouth in mid-September and arrived in Sydney two days before Christmas in 1856.
Advertisements appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald later that week stating that there were a number of Agricultural Labourers who had arrived by the ‘Kate’. It is believed that Gilbert and Ann Kennedy went to the Camden area to help with the summer harvest.
The Kennedy family were at Spring Creek, near Camden two years later when a daughter Mary Jane was born on 9 March 1858. They are believed to have been renting a farm there.
In 1860, a third daughter, named Mary Ann was born. In that same year their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, died from croup.
Another daughter, Isabella was born in 1862 followed by Martha in 1864. However, four-year-old Isabella drowned at Spring Creek in 1866. Soon afterward the family moved to Abbotsford, Picton. A son William James Kennedy was born at Abbottsford on 7 June 1866.
It was about this time that Gilbert Kennedy’s health started to decline and in February 1870 he was admitted to the Parramatta Asylum, where he remained until his death on 1 September 1903. The admission registers for this time period have not survived, to give us the medical reason for Gilbert’s admission. Gilbert was buried at Rookwood Church of England Cemetery, but there is no headstone. He is memorialized on his wife’s headstone at St Mark’s, Picton.
Parramatta Asylum was opened in 1849 in the old Female Factory. From the outset, it consisted of a free and a criminally insane division. By 1870 there were about eight hundred patients, over seven hundred being free. Although in 1885 a new hospital wing was completed, overcrowding was always a problem. Several photographs of Parramatta Asylum at the turn of the 20th Century can be viewed at the State Records website at http://www.records.nsw.gov.au . Because this Asylum was so much a part of my ancestor’s life, finding these photographs have been very helpful. An article in the Town and Country Journal, 12 August 1871 gave a detailed description of the establishment, which helped me put our Gilbert Kennedy’s life into context. The reporter mentions an inmate by the name of ‘Kennedy’, but further research showed he was a ‘William Francis Kennedy’ and not our ‘Gilbert Kennedy’. I have copies of surviving Asylum records relating to Gilbert, but they do not give a great insight into his ‘illness’.
In 1875, Mary Ann Kennedy, the second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died, of ‘disease of the throat.’ She was buried at St Mark’s, Picton aged 15 years.
Less than two years later Martha Kennedy, the fifth child and second surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy died of cancer. She was only 13 years of age. She is also buried at Picton.
On 23 March 1878, a joyous occasion was celebrated in the family, when ‘Margaret Jane’ the only surviving daughter of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy was married to James Baxter, in St Mark’s, Church of England, Picton. The following year a son was born to James and Margaret Baxter who was named ‘William James’.Nine children were born to James and Margaret Baxter over the next twenty years or more, all of whom survived. The youngest child, a son, was named ‘Ewart Gilbert’ in honour of his Grandfather Kennedy.
In 1894, William James Kennedy the only son of Gilbert and Ann Kennedy married Florence Emily Evans. They were to have twins, Myra, and William in 1896, followed by Stella in 1897 and Dorothy in 1899. This family resided at 73 Lincoln Street, Stanmore for over fifty years.
Ann Kennedy went to live with James and Margaret Baxter’s family in the late 1890s, until her own death in 1912. She is buried in St Mark’s Picton alongside her daughters Isabella, Mary Ann, and Martha. Headstones mark these graves.
James and Margaret Baxter are also buried here and a headstone marks the grave.