One of the great things about researching your family tree is the stories you come across. But there are stories to be found all over the place, if you know where to look. Ancestry’s Brad has been digging around local graveyards (pardon the pun), uncovering some wonderful stories that start with a headstone in a cemetery…
For most suburbanites, cemeteries are large well laid out affairs located on the outer reaches of the city or town, but what many don’t realise is that there might be a smaller, quainter, necropolis just around the corner.
Tucked away in the quiet back streets of the Inner-western Sydney suburb of Canterbury is a cemetery. Like many of the smaller suburban cemeteries still around today this one is attached to St. Paul’s Anglican Church – a beautiful building from 1859, designed by Edmund Blacket who was also responsible for the Great Hall at Sydney University.
Residing in this cemetery is the wonderfully named Strange Butson Hartigan, the third son of Reverend Edward and Elizabeth Florence Hartigan (nee Eyre). At the age of about 19 Strange left his 12 brothers and sisters and joined the West India Regiment, ultimately rising to the rank of Captain. A military life must have suited him as he pops up in the US Civil War records in the early 1860’s. At this point he is married to a music teacher, Ellen Sandars and living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 1865 he’s back in Ireland, this time marrying a Margaret O’Dea in Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland. What happened to his first wife, Ellen, is unknown, but it’s possible she died in the US. Strange and Margaret make their way to Australia later that same year and arrived in Sydney, via Adelaide, on February 22, 1866. Strange died 12 years later on October 10, 1878.
I’ve yet to find out about the life of Strange once he arrived here, whether he had children, when his wife died, etc. – I only recently stumbled upon his existence. But to think that 145 years ago a world weary ‘soldier of fortune’ came to spend his quiet years just around the corner from where I currently live is pretty awesome.
Take a closer look at your neighbourhood cemetery, there might be some strange things there too.
This article first appeared on The Inside History Magazine blog.