IN SEARCH OF MARK COLEMAN - THE PAPER CHASE


On receiving my great-great-grandmother, Dinah Davidson's death certificate (1876) I saw that her father was Mark Coleman, farmer, and her mother was Mary Ann, maiden name Byrnes. This was to lead me into a wonderful adventure. Who were Mark and Mary Ann Coleman? Mark Coleman seemed to me to be a not so common name, and as I examined the indexes that were only in fiche or film format at the time, I found this was so. Even so, the time period was early enough not to hold any extra information, even if I did obtain the certificates.

As it so happened I was browsing through Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 1 index, and noticed Mark's name under Melbourne assaults, riots and threats ( chapter 22, pages 330 - 331 ). Private Mark Colman (sic) 80th Regiment, who had charge of the brick kiln, gave evidence. It would seem a prisoner who was drunk had come to his hut and asked his wife for money and grog and behaved very improperly. The prisoner received 50 lashes for this incident. Another reference to Mark and his status was in Volume 3 where Mark and Mary had their son Thomas baptised and then were witnesses to a marriage. He is mentioned again in Volume 7.

Next step was to read How to Trace your Military Ancestors by Peter Stanley. This gave me the location of records of the 80th Regiment of Foot, 1836 - 1845. This was the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) in the State Library of Victoria, microfilm reels 3880 - 3884, detailing the muster rolls, pay and beer money, as well as locations. Also detailed here was that Mark Coleman, No. 308, embarked for the Australian Colonies on 13th August 1836 and disembarked on the 28th February 1837 after several entries of being in the Australian Colonies, he is said to be in Port Phillip. How lucky was I that this contained information about lowly privates.

The 1841 census of Port Phillip was also important. The family was mentioned as living in South Melbourne; two adults and three children, one of whom was born in the colony.

Another book was a revelation here. Early Church Records of Burials at the Old Melbourne Cemetery, Franklin Street (Victoria Market Site) by Bernard Grayden, told me that Mark died on 15th July 1846 and was buried on 16th July 1846. He was 48 years old and was a Chelsea Out Pensioner. It also had details of two of his children. All this was great, but nothing confirmed Mark or Mary's age or birthplace. There were no official records, although the burial record from St. James's Church of England, Melbourne does say his age and Regiment.

I was then to pursue English records and a Military researcher, which led me to him being born in Arlington, Sussex, England in 1797. He enlisted in the Army in 1818 and I obtained a list of postings from this time until his discharge in 1840, including about 10 years in Malta and Corfu. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall with brown hair and grey eyes. Their daughter Dinah was born in 1834 in Lancashire, England and another daughter, Caroline, ten days before they departed for the Colonies aboard a ship escorting convicts. I cannot imagine what that voyage would have been like for Mary with the children. Nothing is known about Mary.

Contributed by Barbara Hawkins ( PPPG Member No. 990 )


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