Friday, November 23, 2012

A Photograph found in a Second Hand Shop in Morpeth...

A Photograph found in a Second Hand Shop in Morpeth - Who was Joan Mary Dolahenty?

The Photograph I found in Morpeth

The Maitland and District Family History Fair held on Sunday, October 12, 2012 was a much anticipated event for me as I have a branch of convict family whom I have traced to the Maitland/ Singleton/ Patrick Plains area.

Maitland is a city in the lower Hunter Valley, approximately a 166 km drive from Sydney. Evidence of my FRAYNE, WILLIAMS  and KELLY convict ancestors can be found in this area from the 1840's (possibly earlier), and with the prospect of having a number of regional family History Societies accessible on one day, I set off in search of more information about my law breaking ancestors. I might add, that my ancestor, Joseph Williams  who married (or didn't) Mary Kelly, has been solidly embedded in the footings of a stubborn brick wall.

Once at the Fair, and after purchasing too many books, journals and other family history paraphernalia, enjoying a chat with Ben Mercer from Inside History Magazine and seeing a few other familiar faces such as Kerry Farmer, I filled out an application form to join a group known as Convict Connections which is an interest group of the Genealogical Society of Queensland and I proudly purchased a 'Convict Aristocracy' T-Shirt. Then, leaving details of my illusive convict 5 time great grandparents, Joseph Williams and Mary Kelly with the very helpful ladies who were efficiently manning the Maitland District and Family History Society table, I set off to the nearby historic town of Morpeth for afternoon tea.

One of my favourite pastimes when travelling, is to browse second hand and antique stores. I enjoy finding old photographs, which, if they have names written on the back, I purchase, with the intention of 'finding their families'. I also have a large collection of photographs which I call my 'lost children'. These are beautiful photos of babies and children with no identifying names or dates, but which I cannot bear to leave behind. I have written an earlier blog post about this photograph collection.

In a second hand shop, in Morpeth, I found the above photograph of a beautiful baby. On the back of the photo postcard was written  in cursive handwriting, ' Joan Mary Dolahenty, 7 1/2 months.' Feeling that the lovely photograph of baby Joan Mary deserved to be returned to a family member. I took it home.

And so my search for Joan Mary began.....

A google search immediately resulted in my finding that a Dominican Sister by the name of  Joan Mary Dolahenty (Mary Bonaventure) had passed away in 2009 in St Joseph's Home, Sandgate, Newcastle. Since Newcastle is a large coastal city and port not too far from the river port town of Morpeth I felt at once that I had found the person in my baby photograph, however, I embarked upon the necessary research for evidence to prove this true.  Immediately studying the photograph of the older Joan Mary Dolahenty, Dominican Sister,  which was on the Dominican website, I could see  that there was undoubtedly a resemblance to the image of the baby in my photograph. 

Joan Mary Dolahenty, according to the Dominican Sisters' obituary, was born in West Maitland, on May, 27, 1921, the eldest child of parents Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty. Her siblings were named as Geoffrey and Dympna. This confirmed that there was a family by the name of Dolahenty in the Maitland area and that they had a daughter named Joan Mary. Every family historian knows that families often have more than one family member of the same name so before I jumped to a very tempting conclusion, more research was required. To find evidence that the baby in my photograph was  indeed the same person as Sister Joan Mary Bonaventure, a Dominican nun, I needed to find out as much as I could about the photograph itself and significantly attempt to date the photograph at around 1922.  I am not an expert with regard to dating photographs, and at a glance, I could find little of use to help me identify the age of this picture. The photograph was almost certainly taken in a studio, however there is little in the way of a clue as to the date except for a chair leg. There are no identifying hairstyles or clothing trends. The dress worn by Joan Mary, although a beautifully crafted lace gown may have been handed down from another family member. It does not bear the fashionable pin tucks of many baby dresses in the 1920's. The baby has bare feet and so no style of baby shoes are available to assist in dating the photograph. Postcard photographs were popular in the early 20th century, however this postcard appears not to have been posted as it bears no dated postage stamp.

After exhausting the usual methods of dating a photograph,  I turned to the Kodak watermark on the rear of the postcard photograph. Researching the history of Kodak Australia, I discovered that it is possible to date a photograph by its watermark. Below are pictured  Kodak Australia watermarks including one which matched the one on my own photograph.

Kodak Australia watermark 1950's onward

Kodak Australia watermark date unknown

The Watermark on my Photograph with a diamond in each corner.

Kodak watermark known to be used in 1922 and 1923 with a distinguishing DIAMOND each corner

I had a definite date for my photograph now, as the watermark on the back of the postcard matched the one used by the Kodak film company in the early 1920's, with a diamond in each of the four corners. The date of my photograph of Joan Mary Dolahenty matched exactly the age of Sister Joan Mary ( Dolahenty) Bonaventure. 

When I researched the photographer named on the rear of the photograph, I discovered from the Australian trade Union Archives, that Sidney Riley was a founding member of the Professional Photographers Association which was first registered in Sydney in 1912. His studio operated in Rozelle, Sydney from 1910 to 1946. 

Sr Mary Joan Dolahenty OP
(Mary Bonaventure) 
  died 28 July 2009

Satisfied that I had exhausted my investigation of any photographic evidence, I returned to research the life of Sister Joan Mary Bonaventure, in an attempt to link her to the baby photograph. My 'feeling' was that Sister Joan Bonaventure was one and the same Joan Mary Dolahenty as the baby in my photograph. I had the link to the Maitland area, having found the photograph in Morpeth.  I had the definite facial resemblance between Sister Bonaventure and baby Joan Mary. I had a photograph which was dated at the right time to match Sister Joan Dolahenty (Bonaventure). Experience has taught me, however, that information and most certainly a hunch, is not the same thing as evidence. I now set out to collect negative evidence, by proving that there was no other person who could possibly be my baby, Joan Mary Dolahenty. 

I re read the Dominican Sisters' obituary for clues.

'After attending school at St Mary's, Maitland, Joan entered the community on 19th March, 1942, and was professed as Sr M Bonaventure on 8th December, 1943. Sister ministered in Mayfield Newcastle, Camberwell Melbourne, Tamworth, Carina Brisbane, Waratah Newcastle and the Solomon Islands.' [Exerpt from the Obituary on the Dominican Sisters Website]

A search of the Australian Electoral Rolls on found only one Joan Mary Dolahenty, in Australia. In 1943 Joan Mary Dolahenty lived in West Maitland, her address being the Dominican Convent and her occupation, that of a teacher.

Dominican Convent, West Maitland  Electoral Roll search for Joan Mary Dolahenty

 The results above show that Joan Mary Dolahenty taught in the places mentioned in her obituary. In the absence of any other person with the name Joan Mary Dolahenty, together with the photograph being dated to match the age of Sister Joan Mary Dolahenty Bonaventure; with the connection to the Maitland area and the uncanny resemblance between baby Joan Mary and Sister Bonaventure, I was satisfied that they were one and the same person. 

So, with a little effort, I had discovered that 'my' baby Joan Mary Dolahenty, had grown up to become a Sister in the Dominican Order of Nuns and a teacher. Her obituary informed me that Joan Mary was ' a most talented person...a scholar, teacher counsellor, researcher, artist, dressmaker and musician.'

The Australian Electoral Rolls told me the story of Joan Mary's whereabouts throughout her life. She spent much of the 1940's to the 1960's in Melbourne, Victoria teaching, living in 289 Riversdale Road. In a  search for Dominican Sisters in Camberwell, I discovered St Dominic's catholic Church situated at 822 Riversdale Road. 

St Dominic's Church Riversdale Road

From a Camberwell Local Heritage Study [  ], I discovered that the Dominican Church at 822 Riversdale Road, Camberwell was associated with an Estate called Holyrood at 812 Riversdale, which in 1925 became St Dominic's Priory. The same study listed number 815 Riversdale Road as Siena Convent and College, which was started by four pioneering Dominican Sisters from West Maitland who arrived at the Priory in Melbourne on August 12, 1926. Siena College was officially blessed and opened December 17, 1939. The college opened its doors to students on February, 2, 1940 with an enrolment of 13 children. Joan Mary Dolahenty remained in Melbourne teaching until the 1970's after which she appears on the Electoral Roll in the Brisbane suburb of Carina. In 1980 Joan Mary is listed on the Electoral Roll as a Psychologist, living at the Rosary Convent, Waratah, Newcastle, a school for children who were deaf.

Siena College, Camberwell, Melbourne

Rosary Convent, Newcastle

In the Siena College newsletter, dated August 21, 2009 I found the following obituary, indicating that a Sister Joan Dolahenty had been a member of the Dominican community and undoubtably had taught  at this catholic school. below is the obituary notice which appeared in the Siena College newsletter.

Another member of our Dominican Community – 
Sister Joan Dolahenty OP (EA) (M. Bonaventure). 
Joan was an exceptionally talented woman: scholar,
educator, researcher, counsellor, artist, dress maker 
and musician.  She was the first superior of our 
Solomon Island mission, and began there a lifelong 
concern for its people, and for justice for all. 
After a long period of illness, Joan died 10
2009, in her 68
 year as a Dominican.  She will be 
sadly missed by her sister Dympna RSJ and her 
Dominican Sisters, the people of the Solomons and 
those she ministered with and among in Australia.  

Now that I had found out something of the life of Joan Mary Dolahenty, I set out to find a family member to whom I might give the lovely baby photograph. Joan's sister Dympna, I knew from the above obituary would not have produced offspring, she being a Sister in the order of the St Josephite nuns (RSJ). That left Joan Mary's brother Geoffrey Dolahenty whom I hoped had married and had descendants whom I could return the photograph to. 

It did not take me long to discover that the Dolahenty family were devout Catholics, with all three children of Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty entering religious orders. Joan Mary working as a teacher and Dympna becoming the Principal of several Catholic Schools.  Geoffrey Augustine Dolahenty was born on July 17, 1924, according to a  website dedicated to the history of Marcellin College, Randwick where known as Brother Alfred, Geoffrey  took up his first teaching post at the age of only 18 years in 1942 and where he taught for 18 years. Brother Alfred also taught at St Joseph's College at Hunters Hill in Sydney and passed away at St Gregory's College, Campbelltown in 1997, much loved by his ex pupils. According to the Marcellin History, Geoffrey Augustine Dolahenty was ' gifted with a remarkable talent for the disciplines of mathematics and physics.'

Marcellin College, Randwick

Below is the biography of Geoffrey Augustine Dolahenty which I found on the History of the Marcellin College website.

Br Alfred Dolahenty

Br Alfred was born in Maitland in 1924, the middle one of three children.  As a child he was very lively with an inquisitive and inventive mind.
In the 1940 Leaving Certificate Br Alfred was placed first in NSW in physics and third in Mathematics.  At University he pursued studies in Maths, English, Latin, French and Greek.
Br Alfred loved his sport and developed into a very good fast bowler in cricket and had a single digit handicap in golf.
His students had a strong sense of respect and loyalty for Br Alfred.  They found him to be a challenging teacher, a man of very deep wisdom, a good listener and advisor.
About 1970 Br Alfred and three others produced a new, very different Religious Education program for senior students.  It was a winner.
Br Alfred came to St Gregory’s in 1983.  He was the Senior Maths teacher.  Some of his students gained top places in H.S.C. for Maths.
Brother developed blood circulation problems in his legs.  This caused great pain and made him less mobile. But, he wanted to keep teaching.  He went to class in a wheelchair then on a golf buggy.  Then, as Brother’s health worsened the 4 unit Maths group was taught in Br Alfred’s bedroom.
Br Alfred died here at St Gregory’s in 1997 aged 72.

 I realised that I would need to look further afield for family members as neither Joan Mary, nor her siblings had any direct descendants. I began with the parents of Joan Mary Dolahenty, who had been named in her obituary as Thomas and Josephine. Through a search for siblings of Thomas or Josephine I hoped to find descendants with whom the photograph might find a home.

Searching for Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty, I found Thomas Augustine Dolahenty, accountant and Josephine Dolahenty  (home duties), living at 37 Church Street, West Maitland in 1936, 1937, 1943, 1947 and 1954. The Maitland City Council website lists the burial of Thomas Augustine Dolahenty as being on the 28/09/1918 at the Campbells Hill Cemetery, Maitland. This website lists quite a few Dolahenty burials so I began a search for relatives beyond the siblings of Joan Mary.  

Campbells Hill Cemetery where a number of Dolahenty family members are buried.

Searching and I found that Thomas Augustine Dolahenty was born in 1884 in Armidale, NSW,  to parents John and Ellen Mary Dolahenty. Ellen was born Ellen Mary Ronan, in 1848 in Singleton, NSW. Her parents were Michael and Mary Ronan. Thomas Dolahenty and Ellen Ronan married in Patrick Plains in 1875.

Ellen died in 1899 aged 55 years and is buried in the Roman Catholic Section of Campbells Hill Cemetery pictured above.
 John and Ellen had the following children:

Patrick Michael. born 1877, Maitland, NSW
John Joseph born 1881, Maitland East, NSW 
Martin William born 1883, Armidale, NSW
*Thomas Augustine born 1884, Armidale, NSW
Francis Alphonsus born 1888, Maitland, NSW
Joseph Vincent born 1890, Maitland, NSW
Leo A born 1893, Maitland, NSW

The next logical step was to discover whether any of Thomas Dolahenty's siblings ( uncles of Joan Mary Dolahenty) had descendants.

The eldest of Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty's sons, Patrick Michael, died in 1895 in East Maitland aged 18 years. No descendants.
John Joseph Dolahenty died in 1901, in West Maitland, aged 20 years, buried Campbells Hill cemetery. No descendants.
Martin William Dolahenty died the same year in which he was born. No descendants.
Francis A Dolahenty  No information found.
Joseph Vincent Dolahenty married Eileen Rourke in 1915 and died in Drummoyne, Sydney. Descendants found.
Leo Alphonsus married Kathleen A O'Hara in 1915 in West Maitland.

I have traced a descendant of Joseph Vincent Dolahenty, cousin  to Joan Mary Dolahenty, the baby in my photograph.   Hopefully, in the near future the beautiful picture of baby Joan Mary Dolahenty, below, will be placed on a branch of her family tree.

Joan Mary Dolahenty 1921-2009