Catholic Records: The QUESNELL Family in Cape Town

“Put it out there in the universe, and the universe will provide” is a common expression here in Northern California. However, in matters genealogical, I prefer to entrust my difficult-to-resolve long-distance requests to a skilled researcher. Anne Clarkson in Cape Town has combed the Cape Archives to locate records about my husband’s maternal family. Recently, while working on another client’s ancestry, she found records about the paternal side of my husband’s family in an unexpected place — St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral.

St Marys - Cape Town - 1862

St. Mary’s Cathedral – Cape Town – ca. 1862

My own research had found the civil record of the marriage of Richard John QUESNELL and Caroline Jane MCGARRY in Cape Town in 1862, and their deaths in Port Nolloth in 1917 and 1914, respectively. In addition, the 1877 baptism of their son Joseph Robert, my husband’s grandfather, and the marriages of three daughters were listed in the records of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Port Nolloth. Based on the latter findings, I had assumed that the family’s religious affiliation was Anglican.

However, the records that Anne found show that Richard and Caroline had been associated with the Catholic Church from the time of their marriage until their move to Port Nolloth. This shouldn’t have surprised me. Caroline was born in Ireland and, as a Catholic, she would have been expected to marry and baptize her children in that religion. In addition to Richard and Caroline’s marriage record, there are baptism records for five daughters, not just the three whose marriages I had found.

Why the change of affiliation to Anglican? Port Nolloth was a small community. There might have been no Catholic church there when the family arrived. St. Andrew’s might have been the best — or only — alternative. At any rate, given the additional records from Cape Town, I am now reasonably sure that the family group is complete.

Family of Richard John QUESNELL (1836 – 1917)
& Caroline Jane MCGARRY (ca. 1837 – 1914)
Married 6 Jan 1862

1) Elizabeth (b. 26 Sep 1862)

2) Caroline Jane (b. 17 Sep 1865)

3) Elizabeth Mary (baptized as Mary) (b. 18 Mar 1869)

4) Harriet Annie (baptized as Harriet Ann) (b. 4 Apr 1873)

5) Wilhelmina Rebecca (baptized as Rebecca Maria) (b. 25 Jun 1875)

6) Joseph Robert (b. 5 Nov 1877)

The universe may have “provided” these records, but I prefer to give credit to Anne’s excellent memory of a surname that she had only seen in passing.

Research Notes

The full name of the cathedral as given on the church’s website is St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish – Cathedral Church of Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt. According to the history of the church on the site, the formal name derives from the painted altarpiece “Flight into Egypt” which was brought to Cape Town in 1805 by three Dutch priests.

Construction on the cathedral was begun in 1840 under Bishop Patrick Raymond GRIFFITH, and the building was dedicated in 1851. The drawing above shows the church around the time of the bishop’s death in June 1862.

The civil marriage record for Richard and Caroline does give St. Mary’s as the location, but without indicating that it was a Catholic church. I was unable to find any microfilmed records for a church in Cape Town by that name so consigned a further search into the matter to a later time. Without Anne’s discovery, this task might still be on my To Do list

Attending an Anglican church probably would not have met with the approval of Thomas GRIMLEY, who became bishop of St. Mary’s Cathedral in June 1862 and who baptized Richard and Caroline’s oldest child, Elizabeth, in September of that year. After listing the dates of birth and baptism and the names of the parents and godparents, he inserted the Latin words pater hereticus (“heretic father”) in the final column, as if the Reformation had taken place only the day before.

This entry was posted in GRIFFITH, GRIMLEY, MCGARRY, QUESNELL and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Catholic Records: The QUESNELL Family in Cape Town

  1. Betsy Shafer says:

    oh good! a heretic in the family . . . livens things up . . . that is certainly an inspiring ‘universe [and researcher with good memory] provides’ story! – b

  2. Christine says:

    Could one assume the first born Elizabeth 26 Sep 1862 died as there is another Elizabeth 18 March 1869. This is an amazing piece of research well done to all involved.

  3. Pingback: Finding A Daughter: Caroline Jane QUESNELL (b. 1865) | QUESNELL & POOLE Families in South Africa

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