Searching for siblings of Richard Whalan(father Whelan),born Australia 1856

+1 vote

I have found his grave at Rookwood,Sydney,but there are two other people unknown to me on the headstone.There are actually four altogether,one is not listed.The two unknowns are Stephen O'Brien and Catherine Benson.Richard had five older siblings.

in Genealogy Help by Peter Phelan G2G1 (1.2k points)

3 Answers

+2 votes

Hi Peter,

Checking the NSW BMD, a Catherine Benson (nee Whalan) who died in Sydney in 1894 married a Charles Benson in Sydney 1870.  Catherine's parents are listed as Richard and Mary which makes me think that Richard B: 1856 is probably Catherine's brother and their father and mother were Richard Whelan and Mary.  As I can't see a suitable marriage in NSW BMD for Richard and Mary nor can I see a suitable birth for Catherine they maybe transportees or immigrants?  NSW BMD records referenced below...






by Wombat Allen G2G6 Mach 2 (22.2k points)
Hello Wombat,
I answered your message on 1/4 but thru "noreply".Thanks very much for your replies.This is a mystery to me,the Richard I'm looking for was born at Menangle,NSW in May1856(B/Cert),five siblings living,none dead.However his fathers' name was Thomas Whelan,mother Catherine,wife Elizabeth(B,N/Zeal),both parents born Ireland(Elizabeths' mother was Mary Donoghue).The date of death of Catherine is 1894,aged 67(on the headstone),but that's about the only thing that seems to match.
The Whellan would have been Whelan for sure,but Richard was born as Whalan(simple difference in pronunciation),lived all his life as Whalan,his son Thomas Lawrence Phelan my grandfather(also born as Whalan),changed Richards name to Phelan exactly one month after his death in 1913(D/Cert),yet the name on the headstone is Whelan!!-it's crazy.To make it worse,the headstone was paid for by the other family listed,O'Brien.
This is going to take a lot longer than I thought,but it's certainly interesting.

Peter Phelan
Hi Peter,
If you can share more details from the headstone maybe the connection between the surnames will come to light.
HOWEVER, I think you may have got the wrong grave as the Richard Whelan buried, with Catherine Benson, was born 1869 died 1913 buried 26 Oct 1913 according to the cemetery records ( )
Those cemetery records also show that Stephen O'Brien (AaD: 30@1882), Roy O'Brien (AaD: 7m@1899), Michael Cummoud (AaD: 1@1800) and Joseph Irving (AaD: 10d@1882) are buried in adjacent plots and not the same plot as Catherine & Richard.

By the way, have you checked the NSW BMD (link provided before) as there are lots of apparent relatives for your grandfather shown (inc brothers with wives and children).
G'day again Wombat,

Thanks very much for sticking with this.I knew that the O'Briens are in 219,however there is a common boundary around  219/20 with a single headstone at the centre line.I have double checked all my papers and everything matches,Reg.nos/father,mother/dates etc.,a strange coincidence with two of that name dying on the same day??
I could not find the other one on bdm,how did you find those adjacent names?
The cemetery office is closed until 10/4,I'll call them and check the location they gave me.I've got a lot to learn about this stuff,could you tell me how you found the relatives,brothers,wives?

Watch this space!


Peter Phelan
+2 votes

Peter, To add to my earlier info...

There was a convict transported to Australia called Richard Whellan you might want to check (


Richd. Whellan Richd. Whellan, one of 289 convicts transported on the Neptune, 18 April 1849 Ireland, Wicklow 18th April, 1849 Van Diemen's Land. [Originally for Cape of Good Hope, however due to anti-convict sentiment, ship eventually sailed for Van Diemen's Land.]

You might be lucky enough to have Australian royalty amongst your ancestors? :))

by Wombat Allen G2G6 Mach 2 (22.2k points)
+2 votes
Search TROVE

Newspaper Notices say Catherine Benson was MOTHER of Mrs Wilkes, Mrs O' Brien, Thomas and Richard Whalan.

i.e. Mrs. O'Brien is a sister of Richard Whalan (Whelan / Phelan) died 1913.

Catherine Benson and Richard Whalan buried Whelan (BDM Phelan) are mother and son ???   His parents are Thomas Whelan / Whalan and Catherine Walsh. Thomas Whalan appears to have died 1868.

Richard Whalan born 1856 died 1913 aged about 57 (age 44 recorded at Cemetery is nonsense).

Catherine's surname Benson means she must have remarried.

You need the 1870 Whalan / Benson marriage certificate and Catherine's 1894 death certificate.   Catherine's 1894 death certificate should indicate if she married both Thomas Whalan and Charles Benson ???

Ellen Whalen (daughter of Thomas and Catherine) married 1876 Samuel Hickling Wilkes who died in 1926.

TROVE says Stephen O'Brien died December 1882 aged 30 or 39 was brother-in-law of Samuel H. Wilkes - i.e. - he married a daughter of Thomas and Catherine.
Well so much for computers!....I spent about an hour answering this earlier today,got back to it about ten minutes ago,moved the mouse 'somewhere' and that was the end of that.It was too detailed to go over,so thank you very much for your time and info,some new,some confirmed.

The REAL breakthrough came with your comment on the 'two Richards' in that Rookwood grave,the great sticking point in the whole story,with me being too busy on other matters(like work),to tidy things up with Rookwood.A work in progress.

Thanks again,


Peter Phelan

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