John Kirkpatrick(?)


John and Mary Kirkpatrick

John and Mary Kirkpatrick


Memorial Card – John Kirkpatrick

Mary Mewett’s mother was born Veronica Mary Kirkpatrick, daughter of John Kirkpatrick and his wife Mary (maiden name McNamara), on 15 October 1899

Now it turns out that there is some doubt as to the real identity of our Mary’s grandfather, John Kirkpatrick. When researching Mary’s family history back in 1973, I wrote away to the registry of births, deaths and marriages in Melbourne for John Kirkpatrick’s birth certificate. What they sent me was a photocopy of the birth registration of James Kirkpatrick born on 1 April 1871 at 23 Coote Street, Emerald Hill (now South Melbourne), son of James, laborer, aged 33, born in Scotland, and Euphemia (maiden name Gordon) aged 28, born in Scotland. There was listed an older son Thomas, aged 4, and a daughter Euphemia, aged 18 months.

At the time I assumed that the son James later adopted the given name of John because there was confusion between father and son, or some other reason.

The above information ties in with grandfather John’s marriage certificate when he was married to Mary McNamara on 6 November 1893 at St Mary’s Catholic Church, West Melbourne. He gave his birthplace as Buckhurst Street, South Melbourne, occupation wheat smelterman, aged 23, parents: James Kirkpatrick and Euphemia Gordon.

Going back further, a photocopy of John’s parents’ marriage certificate shows they were married at the Geelong registry office 22 December, 1865. He was James Ferguson KILPATRICK, laborer, aged 28, born in Scotland, son of Thomas Kilpatrick and his wife Jane (maiden name Ferguson). James’ wife Euphemia Gordon was a servant, aged 21, born in Scotland, daughter of William Gordon, cotton spinner, and Jane Gordon (maiden name Smith).

The names Kilpatrick and Kirkpatrick are interchangeable. There is no problem there.

Now the revelation: there is doubt that John was the son of James and Euphemia Kirkpatrick. The Victoria registry has a website on which I have searched the historical indexes and obtained for a fee, “images” of the original registration documents. But there is no registration record of the birth of John Kirkpatrick to James and Euphemia.

John died on 26 August 1900 when riding his bicycle down Spencer Street, Melbourne, and details of the death registration were: occupation: miller; aged: 29; son of James Kirkpatrick, mother “unknown”, married to Mary McNamara, children: Euphemia Mary 5 years (Kitty), James Joseph 4 years (Jim), Ann Eileen (Lanna – Sister Aurea SJ) 2 years, Veronica Mary (Mary’s mother) 10 months. A copy of the inquest into John’s sudden death gives no clue as to his real identity.

Now, Kitty (Euphemia Mary) was seemingly named after John’s mother, and Jim (James Joseph) was named after John’s father, strange when you think that they were not his natural or legal parents. How do I know this?

When John died in 1900 a remembrance card was printed (see photo) and it gave his birthdate as 15 December, 1870.  Remember that baby James was born 1 April 1871, which means that the mother was already pregnant with baby James when John was supposed to have been born in December 1870. A shock for this researcher came when it was found that the baby James Kirkpatrick died on the day he was born, after 5 hours. So my thought back in 1973 that John was actually James was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Remember that James’ birth registration for 1 April, 1871, included the names of previous children Thomas and Euphemia but there was no mention of John.

When another daughter, Jane, was born 23 February 1873 at Buckhurst Street, Emerald Hill, to James and Euphemia, listed on the registration were Thomas 7 years, Euphemia 3 years, James deceased, but no mention of John.

When a second James Kirkpatrick was born 2 November, 1876, at 172 Buckhurst Street, Emerald Hill, to James and Euphemia, other children listed in the registration were Thomas 8 years, Euphemia 5 years, James deceased, Jane 2 years, but no mention of John.

The mother Euphemia Kirkpatrick died under tragic circumstances (there is a copy of the inquest) at Scotia Street, Hotham (North Melbourne) on 9 February 1889. Her death registration listed her children: Euphemia 20 years, Jane 16, Thomas deceased, James 14. Here again, no mention of John.

The father James remarried 24 December, 1890, to Elizabeth Bennie, at Gipps Street, East Melbourne, and the marriage registration gave his children as three living, two dead (they would have been Euphemia, Jane and James, living, and Thomas and baby James dead).

When father James died 2 December 1919, the death registration listed Thomas dead, Euphemia 49, Jane 44 and James 32 . Again, no mention of John.

Any suggestion that the second James (born 1876) might have been John is erroneous. He would have turned 17 just four days before the date of John’s marriage and the age difference between Mary McNamara, aged 23, and the teenager James would have been obvious.  James survived beyond 15 December 1870, date of John’s death, and lived on until 1958.

It is interesting to note that on his marriage certificate John’s birthplace is listed as Buckhurst Street, South Melbourne, and that is where Jane and James were born (see above). How did John come by this misinformation that he was born in Buckhurst Street.  If John were innocent/ignorant of his true identity then the place of his birth might have been on the say-so of father James. If John was aware of his true identity but did not wish to reveal it, then I guess that he knew by word of mouth young James’ and Jane’s birthplace and assumed it for himself.

Why did he name his daughter Euphemia Mary after the mother and his son James after the father if he was aware that he himself was not their son?

And, why did the father James come to Mary the widow after John’s death and urge her not to bring the Kirkpatrick children up as Catholics? She showed him the door as any good Catholic would have done! Why would the father show concern for their religious upbringing when he knew the children were not really his grandchildren?

Does the marriage register at St Marys Catholic Church in West Melbourne carry any marginal note referring to the absence of a birth certificate for John Kirkpatrick or lack of a baptism certificate in his name?

Why was John Kirkpatrick buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery on 28 August 1900 in a Church of England section, compartment GG, “private” grave 715 where Thomas O’Brien, aged 25, had already been buried on 22 January 1890. Was John, in fact, related to Thomas O’Brien? Why was John not buried with his supposed mother Euphemia who was buried in the Presbyterian section, compartment O, grave 1395 on 10 February 1889, aged 42.

If I am persuaded that John Kirkpatrick believed that he was a son of father James and mother Euphemia, then I can only conclude that he was adopted or taken in by the Kirkpatricks when a young child and that they did not reveal his true identity to him. I assume that they were poor working class and not really financially able to feed another mouth at that time.  That they were prompted by the loss of their baby James in 1871 to take in somebody else’s baby when they already had Thomas and Euphemia seems unlikely unless John’s mother was an unmarried mother, possibly a relative or close friend of James and Euphemia. Or an unmarried girl friend of father James!

If John knew his true identity but did not wish to reveal it to Mary McNamara and her family, then he might have adopted the family name of his friends Jane and James Kirkpatrick, their parents’ names and the birthplace of Buckhurst Street. At the time of John’s marriage, Jane was 20 years of age, James just 17; it is possible that Jane was a close friend. But how did John convince the priest at St Mary’s Church that he was John Kirkpatrick without a birth certificate or baptism certificate to show.

So many questions, so few answered.

John Kirkpatrick remained so named, his bride, later his widow, carried the name, and so did the four children. His grandchild, Jim Kirkpatrick of Hurstbridge, still carries the name. We accept that the man known as John Kirkpatrick was the husband of Mary McNamara, father of children Euphemia Mary, James Joseph, Ann Eileen and Veronica Mary, and grandfather of Jimmy Kirkpatrick and John and Mary Walsh.

Until we know who his true parents were, we will have to be satisfied that the family tree stops there with John, Mary Mewett’s grandfather.

Alan Mewett.


Published in: on February 14, 2018 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

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