This evening I rediscovered a small stack of family papers, mostly relating to my grandmother Lorna’s family. Lorna Walker, nÈe McAuley – I posted a scrap of video of Lorna a month or so ago. Each person on the family tree has notes scribbled against his or her name that suggest fascinating little stories. Lorna’s mother was Mary Maud Judge: “from New England area, went from Gira (?) to Inverell in a covered wagon as a child. Didn’t like Peter (brother-in-law)”. Lorna’s father was Patrick Phillip, who had 9 siblings. His family was Catholic and didn’t like his marrying a protestant, especially Mary Maud, who was not good enough for him. His brother Peter was a violinist who died of drink, and this was used (by Mary Maud?) as a threat against my grandmother’s brother Jim when he became a poet. William, the eldest brother, cleared out as a teenager but turned up again as an adult, although the family always doubted that he was really who he claimed to be. Patrick’s mother was a “grim type” and her brother James Lalor was (more’s the pity) not the James Lalor of the Eureka Stockade.

Black and white photo of a nun
Mother Mary Catherine McAuley, Jill’s great great great great aunt

The jewel of the family tree crown, though, is my great great great great aunt, Catherine Elizabeth McAuley, who became Mother Mary Catherine McAuley when she founded the Sisters of Mercy. My family notes (in Lorna’s hand I think) state that she started a refuge home for girls, and that the Archbishop insisted she must become a nun to run it. So she did. They were the first walking nuns, nuns who left their convents to visit and care for the poor, a kind of early social worker, according to the this history of her. Thanks to the glory of Google I also know that her best friend and some other Sisters went to Chicago in 1846 and started a girls’ school which is still running, and is called McAuley. There are 10,000 Sisters of Mercy worldwide today. Isn’t that awesome! My great great great great auntie! In 1990 she was even declared venerable by the pope. “Venerable recognizes a person’s heroic virtue and sanctity.” If they decide she performed miracles, which I imagine would be stretching things a little, but if they did, she could become a saint.

I love finding stories.

[update: I think we’ll say that my ancestors claimed to be related to Catherine McAuley. Who knows. Perhaps my ancestors just grabbed the McAuley name and history as groovy accessories for a new life in Australia. See the comments for relentless detail.]

29 thoughts on “family stories

  1. Jill

    I still have no idea how Catherine’s brother William’s descendants ended up in Australia. Actually Catherine didn’t have a brother William, though that’s what my scrawled family tree says, William Montgomery McAuley, my great great great grandfather. She had a brother named James William, though, and a brother-in-law named William Macauley (!) who married her sister Mary. Mary and her husband died young though (Mary of tuberculosis) and their children were raised by Catherine and James William. Real stories get complicated fast. James’s descendants seem to have ended up in Canada and Ohio, but I suppose my ancestors are actually Mary and the other William’s offspring.

    I give up. Genealogy isn’t my current calling.

    1. kellie BIDEN

      hello there ive been doing some family reasearch and William Mcauley was my Grandmothers Great grandfather

      1. Marie Abbott

        Im interested in knowing if your William McAuley was born in 1920? His fathers name is the same and his Mothers name was Mildred Jeanette Doherty. Please contact me, Thank You, Marie

      2. Marie Abbott

        Thank You so much for contacting me. May I ask how you found this and maybe give me some hints I may follow up on? I dont think they were related to Cathrine but who knows. I never knew my father or any of his family, due to a divorce from my Mother. Hope to hear from you again, Marie

        1. Jill

          I was told about the family link to Catherine McAuley by my grandmother, Lorna McAuley, who died over 20 years ago. But if you read all the comments on this thread, you’ll see it’s probably a family yarn passed down for a few generations, rather than fact.

  2. Jill


    My family tree shows Willam McAuley, apparently Catherine’s brother but more likely her sister Mary’s husband, and his son is Peter. Peter married Ann and their son Patrick was Lorna’s father.

    Look. The Irish government kindly set up the Ireland-Australia transportation database as a present to Australia on its bicentennial or something. Searching that, I find a Peter McAuley who was transported to Australia from Dublin in 1839, when he was twenty. His real name was Thos Leonard though, in which case he wouldn’t have been a relation of Catherine’s.

    But then again, Patrick wasn’t born till 1880. Peter would have been a very old father if it was the same man.

    Sigh. I suppose the family tree’s not entirely accurate however you look at it. I might as well continue to claim Catherine as a relative though. Probably need her to balance out the robbers.

    1. Marie Abbott

      Hi, Your comment about the robbers made me smile!! My Mother never spoke of my real father. When she did, she told me he was a drunk. She also told me that William Edgar McAuley born 1920, broke into a party store which was attached to a post office. This attachment ment he committed a Federal offense, sending him to Jackson prison!! Hope you can get a smile also! Marie

  3. Jill

    OK, so nobody’s going to be interested in this except me and maybe my family, but that’s OK.

    I found records of Patrick McAuley, my great grandfather. He was born in 1880, as Lorna’s notes say. His father was Peter Hiley or Miley McAuley and his mother was Anne Lalor, just as my family tree says. Peter and Anne were married in 1865. There is no record of Anne or Peter having been born in New South Wales. I suppose that means Peter could have been the convict who was transported, in which case he may or may not have been Catherine McAuley’s nephew.

    Patrick McAuley married Mary Maud Judge in 1909, in Petersham in New South Wales.

  4. RonaldJamesMcAuley

    McAuley & Lalor families had properties in Queensland. Sons stayed on the stations and daughters were sent to a convent school in Sydney. McAuleys originaly from County Cork. Most McAuleys migrated to USA. First of the McAuley family to Australia was with an Irish Guard regiment,property in Queensland received as payment . Patrick sold his share to his bothers and moved to Sydney. He described himself as a Gentleman. Made a lot of money during the depression buying up peoples houses etc. as they went broke he was also a member of the New Guard. Patrick. & Mary had 3 children John, Lorna & James. Both boys went to Fort Street High School and all three attended Sydney University. John did Law & Arts and then upset his father by becoming an Anglican Priest instead of a Solicitor. He also served as Senior Chaplin Southern Command in the Australian Army.
    James & Lorna you will know their history. James visited Ireland when he was looking into the family history and told me the name was originaly Auley from Denmark and came to Ireland as mercinaries. Much the same way as McAuley came to Australia. John was the only childto visit the family property in Queensland with his father Patrick. I have a photo of them on horse back in full riding gear. Im told there was a gun on the wall with a notch carved for every man it had shot.

  5. Ana Martinez


    my mother is a McAuley and a direct descendant of Catherine McAuley. Her father, (James) and his family have always lived in Dublin, Ireland although I do not know if other brothers or sisters emigrated.
    James McAuley was interred in Ballykinlar Concentration Camp in Northern Ireland in 1921 by the British Army. Information on this camp can be found under the BBC.CO.UK website under the section dealing with Northern Ireland.
    James McAuley married Annie Gilmore from Drumsue in Antrim , Co.Down and they had 5 children. He died of cancer in 1948.

  6. Patrick McAuley

    My great uncle Patrick was born in Antrim c. 1880 brother James. I wonder

  7. Jill Walker Rettberg

    I love how people are finding this page and seeing how they may, perhaps, be related. And Cousin Ron, I can’t believe i didn’t respond to your comment long ago. I’m going to write and ask you for a copy of that photo. Your version sounds much nicer than my database-driven conspiracy theory.

  8. Mary Reynolds

    Hi Jill, This is how William McAuley got to Australia. William was a nephew of Catherine Mc Auley. He was one of the 5 children of Mary McAuley- Catherine’s sister. Mary married a doctor Dr. William Macauley who was a surgeon in the Royal Hospetal, Kilmainham, Dublin. Mary died in August of 1827 of tubercolosis. Two years later, William died. Catherine adopted all 5 children, Mary Teresa, Catherine, James and Robert and Willie.All except Willie died young and all of tubercolosis. They all predeceased Catherine and none of them had family of their own. Willie was the youngest He was a difficult person to advise ( he was affectionatelt referred to as wild Willie)His uncle James ( Catherine’s brother)became tired of his behaviour and he entered him as midshipman in a vessel that was sailing round the world. He was given up for lost. He made contact years later from Australia. Catherine had died by then but he spoke affectionately of her and was able to recall childhood memories of her

  9. Sarah

    My family are Mcauley’s that moved from Ireland to Autralia after 1840 but before 1857. I’m not really to sure on this side of my family but, we have a William McAuley married to Ellen McGowan in 1840, both from Co. Clare and married in Cork. No relation at all?

  10. Karyn Sweitzer

    Hello; My father (Michael McAuley) was born to Michael McAuley (Ireland) and Nellie Stephenson (England) in Chicago, Illinois in 1911. They had a falling-out and he was taken on the road by Michael’s (father’s) sister, who was a nurse. She left him with a family in Iowa ( the Gambels), then she died and he was raised by that family in Iowa. He knew that his parents re-united and went on to have 6 more children, whom my father never met or knew. My father has since passed and I, his daughter, am trying to piece this family tree together. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Thank you, Karyn Sweitzer

  11. Michael O'Neill

    I’m also a decendant of Sister Catherine McAuley. My Great Great Grandmother was Mary Maud McAuley, daughter of Peter Miley McAuley. I was under the idea that William McAuley was a convict that sailed from the U.K and arrived in Australia in 1831 aboard the ship “Bussh Mercht”. He Married Ann Fox on the 13 September 1839.

  12. Ian George McAuley

    Hi, I too am told I am a descendant of the birth family of Catherine. My father Edward William and his brothers Ron & Roy were raised by their father George ?Morris(died?1945 in Lidcombe NSW).Their sister Joy was raised by Ruby Stack at ?Dubbo. That is the extent of my knowledge, If anyone can accurately join some ancestral dots I’d sure like to hear from you. Ian.

  13. RonaldJamesMcAuley

    William McAuley alias McCally transported from scottland to australia for life arrived in NSW 1st October 1834 abord the BENGAL MERCHANT. In 1846 a William McAuley migrated from Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) to Victoria. A bunch of his decendents are buried in Geelong Eastern Cemetery Victoria. 6 other McAuleys were transported 3 to Van diemens Land 3 to WA.In 1822 there are racords of a convict road gang working in Toongabbie NSW under a Overseer named McAULEY who is reputed to have been an Irish Soldier. On the 11th February 1822 he received a grant of 2000 acres of land. Irish soldiers were stationed at Morton Bay between 1824 and 1842 .Royal Irish Regiment 2nd Battalion. Irish regiments finaly returned home from Australia in 1871.

  14. Virginia Jackson

    My grandparents were Arthur and Jane McAuley of Goondiwindi, Qld (the Qld stations mentioned earlier). My mother Claire was their youngest of 7 and born in 1932. My mother would be John, James and Lorna’s 1st cousin and Patrick’s niece. She married in Qld but moved to Victoria in the 1950s where she raised her family.

  15. Deborah Lowe

    Mary Reynolds was right about my great great grandfather William Montgomery (Armstrong) McAuley, also known as “Wild Willie.” He was the nephew of Mother Catherine McAuley. He left London on the 26th December 1838 as a midshipman on on the Mary Catherine barque. There are copies of his letters in Dublin and USA and some with family members in Australia. By the time he found out that all his family was dead (except his uncle), all his inheritance (from his father”s family) was gone. His daughter Frances was Sister Mary Catherine at the Mercy Convent at Kyneton in Victoria.The Catholic Church/ Sisters of Mercy officially recognised William’s claims and offered free education to the eldest daughter/s of his relatives who bore the McAuley name. My own grandmother was to be one of them but her family declined. “Wild Willie” was buried in an unmarked grave in the NSW town of Bogan Gate and the nearby Sisters of Mercy erected a stone over the grave after they located it.

  16. Florence Tanner

    My great grandmother was from County Antrim her name was McAuley; she married a Connelly. My grandmother, their daughter, was Mary Frances Connelly. They were Catholics from Cushendall County Antrim Northern Ireland. They emigrated to US when Mary Frances was 10 years old. There are still many McAuleys in Cushenall. Wish I could find family members.

  17. Shirley McGlone

    I am also looking for the Catherine McAuley link within my family …. My paternal grandmother was suposedly Catherine McAuley’s great-great–grand-niece (?) … Her name : Hellen Boyle , born in Chicago and supposedly orphaned when young and raised in a convent in Dubuque, Iowa where she met my grandfather ( John F Deutsch )

    A sister to my grandmother was supposedly take to Nw York to live with a McAuley uncle who was in the banking business there.

    If ANYONE can shed some light … pro OR con , it would be great ! ( )

  18. Shirley McGlone

    I am also supposed to be related (via paternal grandmother ) to Mother Catherine McAuley …. My grandmother was orphaned and never spoke much about her past before her death in 1958… I am on a genealogy quest looking for any McAuley connection to our family while my one surviving aunt is still with us … I would LOVE to know more about what you have found about the Catherine McAuley descendents/ family history ….

    anything you can share would be greatly appreciated …
    Shirley Deutsch McGlone

    1. Mary Dennett

      I am very interested in investigating descendants of the McAuley family, especially those claiming relationship to Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. I already have a great deal of information and would be glad to verify the relationships of others who are seeking information

  19. Rosemary


    I am a descendent of William McAuley, Catherine’s nepher who ‘ran away to sea’ at 16 and landed in Colac, Victoria. He married and had 11 children, one of which was my grandmother. I have the family tree so maybe able to locate you within it.


  20. Rosemary

    my email is Rosemary

  21. Marie McAuley Abbott

    Looking for information on William Edgar McAuley born in Canada. May 17, 1885 in Windsor. Married to Mildred Doherty Born Jan.25, 1887. They had Dorthey ,Birney,Elizabeth, William and Richard. My father is William Edgar Jr born in 1920, died in Ca. in 1989. I never met my father or any of the McAuley side of the family. Would like to know if our families are all one family , or, 2different families. Thank You for any help!% Marie McAuley, born 1947

  22. Marie abbott

    Still looking for records for William Edgar McAuley. Father was born in 17?may1885 and his son of same name was born in 1920 and died in ca. Looking for burial sites, and any pictures



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