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Author looking to Newfoundland for help filling out Australian pioneer’s family tree

In 2016, Susan Kennedy published "On the Prospect" for the centenary celebrations of the small Australian township of Seaspray. It contained a chapter on Patrick Coady Buckley.
In 2016, Susan Kennedy published "On the Prospect" for the centenary celebrations of the small Australian township of Seaspray. It contained a chapter on Patrick Coady Buckley. - Contributed

Puzzle pieces from the past

MARYSTOWN, N.L. — Most people in this province have never heard about the connection between 19th century Australian pioneer Patrick Coady Buckley and how a portion of his fortune wound up in Newfoundland after he died.

Susan Kennedy hopes some may have, though. 

Patrick Coady Buckley
Patrick Coady Buckley

Intrigued by the man’s story, Kennedy, a retired teacher who lives in Sale, in the Australian state of Victoria, is digging deep into his life and trying to figure out the puzzle of his roots.

“It’s like a jigsaw, really,” she told The Southern Gazette on Monday, Dec. 3.

“I’m sort of piecing this jigsaw together, just out of interest really, and hopefully put it into a book.”

It’s not the first time Kennedy has written about Patrick Coady Buckley. In 2016, she published a book called On the Prospect for the centenary celebrations of the small Australian township of Seaspray. Patrick Coady Buckley’s homestead was located on a hill overlooking the site where the town would eventually spring up. The book included a chapter on him.

Humble beginnings

Buckley’s life got off to a pretty inauspicious start, according to Kennedy’s book.

Buckley’s parents – Tobias Coady, from Kilkenny, and Eleanor Collins – were married in Dublin, Ireland in 1809. In 1815, however, Eleanor was convicted of stealing from her employer and sentenced to seven years transportation to the British penal colony at New South Wales.

“I’ve actually got the court record of her trial,” Kennedy said, whose first teaching post was in Seaspray.

Patrick was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1816, while his mother was in prison in Dublin awaiting transportation. Two years later, they arrived in Sydney on the convict ship Canada. Tobias and the couple’s other child, a daughter named Anne, stayed behind.

In New South Wales, Eleanor would meet and marry Edmund Buckley, rearing Patrick in an area known as Prospect. They had no children together.

In adulthood, like his stepfather, Patrick Coady Buckley established himself as a pastoralist, a sheep and cattle farmer.

In the early 1840s, when he was in his late twenties, he headed southward to a newly settled district called Gippsland in Victoria. On the coast, he claimed a 53,000-acre piece of unoccupied Crown land, initially calling his new “squatting run” Coadyvale before later changing it to Prospect, as well.

“He was very successful and a very good rearer of stock, he bred very well, he put up very extensive buildings in his homestead and he employed a lot of people,” Kennedy said.

Newfoundland cousins

Patrick Coady Buckley died of diphtheria at Prospect, on June 12, 1872, aged 55, with an estate worth around £63,000, nearly $12 million Canadian today, adjusted for inflation, and without a will.

A decade-long process then started to investigate and execute the dispersal of his fortune, which would diminish significantly in the process.

A search to find out whether Patrick Coady Buckley had any living relatives ultimately concluded nine claimants were legitimate first cousins of the Australian pioneer, including two from Newfoundland. 

One was Patrick Coady of Burin. The other was Ellen Tobin, previously Maher, married to John Tobin. Documents Kennedy found about her suggest they were living near or in St. John’s.

“In one of the newspaper reports that I read about it, it said that most of those nine cousins were of poor circumstance, so it would have been a lot of money to them,” Kennedy said of the inheritances they received from Patrick Coady Buckley’s estate.

Kennedy’s quest

Using DNA testing from a descendant of one of the other nine cousins, who was from Australia, Kennedy thought she might have discovered that Tobias Coady, Patrick Coady Buckley’s father, wound up in Prince Edward Island. A sample from an ancestor of Tobias Coady living in Ottawa wasn’t a match, however.

“I was devastated,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s quest now is to find the other eight cousins and hopes the story or names may ring a bell with some Coady or Tobin genealogists in this province.

“The end product for me might be to track down all of these nine because if they were first cousins to Patrick Coady Buckley, then it means they were the children of his parents’ siblings,” she said. “Then I’m sort of just going to try to get back to putting his family together.”

Looking into the past is just something Kennedy said she loves to do.

“I’m very interested in genealogy, and I’ve done my mother’s Scottish genealogy, and I guess just pawing through these records is an amazing pastime for me and I enjoy it,” she said.

Anyone with information to share with Kennedy, she can be reached by email at

Patrick Coady and Ellen Tobin

Patrick Coady was living in Burin in the early 1880s when Patrick Coady Buckley’s estate was finalised and shared. Kennedy has found several records of the birth and marriage of several Patrick Coadys in Newfoundland. A Patrick Coady of Burin, carpenter, died in 1882 leaving his estate to his children, no mention of a wife. A Patrick Coady (carpenter) married Mary Anne Gloady in 1858 in St John’s. Kennedy also has census documents from 1921, 1927, 1935, 1945 in which there were several Coady families listed as living in the Burin area, including Spanish Room. Unfortunately, there are no earlier census documents for this area. So those Coadys listed could be the next generation from Patrick Coady. Kennedy has also found a death of a Sgt. Patrick Coady in 1888 at St John’s, Newfoundland, a native of Kilkenny.

Ellen Tobin (nee Maher) was also living in Newfoundland in the early 1880s. She was born in Gowran, Kilkenny, Ireland in 1836 and after immigrating to Newfoundland, married John Tobin in St. John’s in 1850. They were both very young. They only had one child, James Tobin, who subsequently married Jane Coady.

Kennedy is interested in communicating with anyone who feels a connection with her information and their own genealogical research.

Australian squatters and their runs

Patrick Coady Buckley was a 19th century Australian “squatter” with many “runs” of land.

What exactly does that mean?

According to Wikipedia, as it pertains to Australian history, a squatter was usually a man – a free settler or an ex-convict – who occupied a large tract of Crown land for the purpose of grazing livestock without legal title to the property.

The land was called a run.

Early on in the European settlement of Australia, the term carried a negative connotation, but that would change in time.

Government in New South Wales initially opposed the practice, but as it became more common in the mid-1830s, it was accepted and regulated.

Squatters became known as some of the richest men in the colony. With that, the term began to denote a person of high social standing with large livestock grazing operations.

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