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Orphan Number: 4012
Orphan: Catherine MURPHY
Mother:MURPHY, Catherine
Father:MURPHY, Thomas
Mother's ship:
Father's ship:
Age when admitted:3yrs
Date admitted:9 Oct 1828
Date discharged:17 Jul 1840
Institution(s):Queens Orphan School
Discharged to: Mr Haig, Hobart
Remarks: father in Launceston, mother Ticket of Leave in prison
References: SWD24p86, 28, CSO5/86/1885


This orphan has been claimed by: Bernard Besselink

Catherine Murphy was born in 1825 in Van Diemans Land, probably Hobart. Her mother was Catherine Burns (ship, the Morley), a convict sentenced for forgery - probably Irish, but convicted in England. It appears that Burns was always in trouble.  Her children were placed in the orphanage because she was in prison and perhaps the father did not want them.

 Her father was Thomas Murphy, probably a convict but no evidence has been found for this. There is evidence that Catherine and Thomas had split up in about 1827 (there is a newspaper report of an adulterous relationship by Burns). As the school record shows, Thomas was in Launceston. She had one sibling, an older sister, Mary, also at the orphanage. 

As the record shows, Catherine was discharged in 1840 at the age of 15: but not to her mother (later Mary was). Six years later, at the age of 21, in 1846, she married William Seacombe. This is believed to have been an alias of John Drane, a convict 15 years older. He had absconded a number of times and may have married her during one of these times, but he did have a ticket of leave in 1846. (This is based on the writings of Ken Drane, a descendent). It may also have been a marriage to an actual convict William Seacombe who was in VDL, and they separated.  Assuming, she did marry John Drane (or co-habitate), her life continued as follows (if this is not her, there is no other trace of her).  From about 1852 to 1862, the Dranes lived and farmed at Glencoe in the Fingal Valley near Falmouth VDL. She had 7 children while living in Van Diemans Land. In 1862, the family moved to Gippsland in the colony of Victoria and selected land. Three more children were born in Victoria.

Catherine apparently used the false maiden name of Seers or Sayers: supposedly to hide her Irish background and her mother's connection (but was it because she was already married and not divorced?)  Strangely or not so, it is believed Catherine and John returned to Hobart in 1886 to marry as Catherine Seers and John Drane. There is a marriage record of this union.

Catherine died in Victorian in 1907 from bronchitis and heart failure. She had been widowed for 16 years. Her tombstone is in Traralgon Cemetery Victoria, combined with her husband's. Her religion was Church of England, probably as the orphanage was run by the C of E, even though her mother was probably Catholic. Her husband was C of E.

On her death certificate, her mother is stated to be unknown and her father as John Seers. Why would no one know her mother's name?  Interestingly, some of her children's names are William, Thomas, Catherine and Mary.  A mystery ending for a woman who had a difficult life.

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Site last updated June 2017