Sunday, 15 March 2015

HSP105 Introduction to Family History at UTAS

Well, it was a busy two months spent doing the Introduction to Family History course (UTAS) over the Christmas holidays, but I got to learn a lot about the experiences of teachers in early NSW (1881 - 1933).  For our third assessment task we were asked to write a research report. I decided to research my 2nd great grandmother's teaching career.  

Catherine is one of my favourite ancestors.  She is the only teacher among my direct ancestors &, being a teacher myself, this makes me identify strongly with her.  Some drop of teaching blood must have been passed on through Catherine to me!  She is also the daughter of an Irish Famine Orphan who came to Australia as part of the Earl Grey scheme.  She also seems to have been very close to her children; several of her children lived with her throughout their lives, or in the second house she owned next door to her own, & after the sudden death of her son (my great grandfather), his widow & young son (my grandfather) came to live with Catherine.

I had three main aims:
  • In which areas & schools did Catherine teach?
  • During what time period did she teach?
  • What was her life as a teacher like?

I was able to discover that Catherine Curran (nee Whitelock) started her career in 1881 at the age of 14 ¾, when she began her training as a pupil teacher.  She also attended Hurlestone Training School, a residential training school for women, from 1886 - 1887.  She was promoted to, or ‘instructed to act’ as, Mistress of Greta Infants in 1890.  She taught at Greta Infants from 1890 – 1892, Milltown Infants (which was later renamed South Bathurst) from 1892 – 1908, and South Goulburn Infants from 1908 – 1920.  The majority of her career was spent teaching in the Bathurst area before she was appointed to Arncliffe West Infants in 1920.  Catherine retired from teaching in 1931, the day before her 65th birthday.

Looking through the documents in school files at State Records NSW showed me what her life was like as a teacher / mistress of Infants.  There was such a range of documents that she filled out, from recommending whether a teacher in her Infants department should be granted sick leave to liaising with the Department of Education about the need for more furniture or repairs to the school.

I researched the history of education in NSW & learnt about how teachers were trained, teacher-pupil ratios & class sizes, teacher examinations, & the promotion system & school inspections.

I was able to access digital copies of the education curriculum from 1905 – 1928, which gave me an idea of the curriculum Catherine would have taught.

The following blog posts / websites helped with my research:

I feel like I have gotten to know Catherine so well through this research report.  As a bonus, I have copies of multiple documents that she hand-wrote as well as her signature.  I also now know that she was known as Kate, not Catherine.


  1. How smart that you were able to combine two interests. You could present this at a genealogy, education or library conference somewhere. How about that?

    1. Wow, hadn't even thought about that possibility or that I had managed to merge my work life with my genie life!

  2. Thanks for your post - I wish I had thought to do the course

    1. There were a lot of people who did the course (or at least that started the course) - 1500 was mentioned early on - so I wouldn't be surprised if it was run again in the future, Helen.