The Durham Diaspora

Temiskaming Shores, Ontario

For a long time, I would be told that I was just like my father. I certainly look like Dad, but the comparisons between us went deeper than that. We both loved music and to explore the world and there were odd coincidences along the way, like Dad leaving Stockton as a teenager to work for Sainsbury’s in London and me going from home to Dad’s home town at 24 in order to work on a new store opening for Sainsbury’s.

I’m proud to be like Dad; he worked hard to provide for his family and instilled in me the value of a good day’s work, whilst encouraging me to be ambitious for myself and to seize opportunities when they arise. These are values I’m attempting to build in my own children. There is a restlessness in me, which might be why I currently find myself living just outside Liverpool having grown up in Surrey, or why I almost moved to the Netherlands at the age of 23 (an idea shelved, ultimately permanently, because of a promotion at work). Dad had worked in Germany for the NAFFI for a decade and explored Europe extensively.

The more I look into our family tree, the more convinced I am that there is something in the ‘Coates DNA’ that makes us inveterate wanderers. The most spectacular example of that is the lives of Thomas Coates and his children.

Thomas was born in Coldstream, Scotland, but like his brother Adam, had moved south to the then-booming County Durham region. Unlike Adam, Thomas didn’t make his way in the coal mines; he was listed as a Mariner in the 1881 Census. He and Ann were married in 1848 in Sunderland and had 10 children, at least seven of whom moved away from Wearside.

Two of Thomas and Ann’s daughters married local men and raised families of their own and almost nothing is known of their first child, William, who may have died in infancy, but their other children certainly spread their wings!

There are three distinct branches of the Coates family tree in differing parts of Australia, particularly in Queensland and Victoria. These will be discussed in future posts. Two of the daughters moved to Canada post-marriage which means that, while I potentially have relatives in North America, they don’t share my surname. Research into these families is at an early stage but the picture above, of Temiskaming Shores, Ontario is a nod to them.

Another son, Scott Marsh Coates, became a preacher in Yorkshire.

And then there’s my great-great-grandfather, Thomas junior. He certainly left Sunderland, but perhaps lacked the wanderlust of many of his siblings, given that he eventually made his home in Stockton-on-Tees, around 30 miles south of his birthplace. While I am grateful to Thomas for this in many ways, his choice to stay in the North-East stands out somewhat, especially against the decisions made by some of his siblings. We’ll explore both my immediate family and what happened to those who emigrated, in due course.