She Ran Away With Her Music Teacher

Catherine Anne Parker, my 3X great aunt, was born about 1813 in Passage West, County Cork, Ireland, probably the fourth daughter and twelfth child of Richard Neville Parker and Margaret Skottowe. The Parkers were a prominent Passage West family, but by the 19th century were no longer financially well off, a situation probably exacerbated by the eventual birth of 14 children to Richard and Margaret. A number of these children emigrated to Australia and New Zealand, but the fate of Catherine Anne remained a mystery for many years.

Waterview, the house in Passage West where Catherine Anne was born

Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland[1] records her husband as Charles Jackson; other sources give his name as Charles or Francis Geary Jackson. But all the family sources agree that Jackson was her music master and that she ran away with him.

Catherine Anne Parker m. Charles Jackson 29 July 1835 at Monkstown Church against the advice and consent of her family.[2]

Cath. Parker & Francis Jackson  1835.[3]

The distinctive name of “Francis Geary Jackson” eventually broke down this particular brick wall. A simple Google search led to two bankruptcy notices in the London Gazette. The Francis Geary Jackson described here was certainly a music teacher, so the search for Catherine moved from Ireland to England.

Francis Geary Jackson, a music teacher, a bankrupt. 2 references. Of No. 50 Burr Street, Lower East Smithfield, Middlesex and then Mile-town, Sheerness, Kent. (London Gazette, 13th June, 1845)

 In the matter of the petition of Francis Geary Jackson, formerly of No. 50, Burr street, Lower East Smithfield, in the county of Middlesex, Teacher of Music, afterwards of Mile-town, Sheerness, in the county of Kent, and late of Blue-town, Sheerness, aforesaid, Organist, Teacher of Music and Musical Instruments, an insolvent debtor. (London Gazette 27 June 1845)

Tying in with this, the 1841 census for England revealed Francis Jackson, Professor of Music, born in Ireland, living in what appears to be a multiple family dwelling in Burr Street in the Parish of St. Botolph Without Aldgate in the Borough of Tower Hamlets in London. With him are Catherine, also born in Ireland, and a daughter, Frances, 5, Michael, 3, and Catherine, 4 months. Frances and Michael were born in Ireland; the baby, Catherine, in Middlesex. No birth registrations have been found for any of these children.

In 1851, the family is indeed living, as the Gazette suggests, on the High Street in Sheerness, Kent. Francis is described as an organist, 40 years of age and Catherine is aged 38. Michael has disappeared and there is an additional son, Frank, aged 9, born in Sheerness. No trace has been found of Michael, but although there appears to be no birth registration for Frank, there is a baptismal record.

Baptised Dec 24th 1843. Frank, son of Francis Geary & Catherine Ann Jackson. Abode: Banks Town. Occupation: Professor of Music. [4]

In 1853, Francis, described as a “musician,” sailed on the “Northumberland” from London to New York City, arriving there on August 13th of that year, declaring his intention to become a resident of the United States. [5] Exactly three years later, on August 21st, 1856, Catherine, Catherine Anne, 15, and Frank, aged 12, arrived in New York on the same ship.[6]

The family would not be together in the new country long, as on December 23rd, 1857, Francis died of tuberculosis in what was probably a tenement building for the poor at 89 Bleecker Street in New York. He was buried in a cemetery on Long Island.[7]

No further reliable sighting has been found of Catherine and her children. The likelihood is that, if they survived, they eked out a precarious existence in the lower east side of New York, amongst the poorest immigrants. A suitable warning for young women who were tempted to run away with ineligible, but presumably attractive, music teachers.


[1] Burke, Bernard. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland. New ed. London: Harrison, 1912, p. 552.

[2] Genealogical Notes in private hands in Ireland.

[3] Casey, Albert Eugene. O’Kief, Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher and Upper Blackwater in Ireland. Birmingham, AL: Knocknagree Historical Fund, 1952–1971, vol. 4, p. 256.

[4] Register of Baptisms in the Parish of Minster, Isle of Sheppey, Kent. Family History Library Film #1866702 Item 3.

[5] Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving in New York, New York, 1820–1897. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Microfilm Series: M237. Microfilm Roll: Roll 130; Line: 24; List Number: 822. Available:

[6] Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving in New York, New York, 1820–1897. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Microfilm Series: M237. Microfilm Roll: Roll 165; Line: 7; List Number: 832.

[7] Manhattan Death Registers, 1795-1865. Family History Library Film #447560.

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