It’s Kathern, not Catherine.

It's Kathern, not Catherine | Alex Inspired

There are three Catherine Goldens in our family.

That’s right, three.

  • Great Grandmamma Catherine Golden I
    (nee McKinnon)
    Who favoured the pet name, “Kitty” and enjoyed her Sargon.
  • Aunt Catherine Golden II
    Granddaughter of Catherine Golden I
    Who preferred “Cathy” in grade school, gaining grandpa’s disapproval – earning her his new name “Annie-Loonie”. We really don’t call her Annie-Loonie. Although… “Aunty Annie-Loonie” IS pretty funny.
  • Cousin Catherine McKay (nee Golden) III
    Great granddaughter of Catherine Golden I and niece to Catherine Golden II
    Whom we lovingly refer to as, “Little Cath” as she is, the littlest.

There are also four Thomas Goldens, but I’ll save that for another day.

Alas, this is where the “Catherine Business” gets really interesting.

Great Grandmama Golden (I) was a McKinnon, and had an older brother named James Valentine (fancy that), who was married to Clara Mae McKinnon. Together they had one daughter named,”Catherine”.

Or so we assumed.

Many of the records on ancestry list a daughter being born in 1907 to Clara and James. Various spellings range from Catherine, Katherine and Kathryn.

Well guess what?

It’s Kathern, not Catherine. 

And this was no easy discovery. After a years of searching, I actually had given up looking for this relative. Ancestry was no use, Google was no use and I couldn’t find anything about this woman in our family archives.

It wasn’t until this year, during Christmas to be exact, I discovered a letter dated from 2000 (actually it was a fax, in a box of Christmas Decorations). This fax, was from the company “International Genealogical Search”, looking for heirs to “The Estate of Kathern M. McKinnon, Manhattan, New York”.

You’ve got to be shitting me!

Immediately I abandoned project Christmas, jumped on the computer and Googled “Kathern McKinnon, New York”, my fingers speeding along the keys while yelling into oblivion:


So I don’t leave you in suspense, no one inherited anything… that I know of.

Anyway, this was a pretty valuable piece of information on a few fronts: we finally had the correct spelling of her name, along with her middle name (Mae) and an entire copy of the McKinnon Family Tree. I decided to start digging with where she was born, which would have been Minneapolis Minnesota.

Just to put everything into perspective, Kathern was my Grandpa’s 1st cousin, and they would have only been a few years apart in age. Here’s what I’ discovered.

  • Katherine was born November 15th, 1907
  • Her Father died when she was only 12 years old
  • She Graduated from West High School, Minneapolis in 1926
  • She enrolled at the University of Minnesota – her yearbook picture is below.

Kathern McKinnon Yearbook from University of Minnesota - 1930 | Alex Inspired - It's Kathern not Catherine

After exhausting records on Ancestry, I went back to good ol’ Google for some help. After searching page by page, I found a link to a book titled: “Consistency and Change in Behavior Manifestations: As Observed in a Group of Sixteen Children During a Five Year Period” by Kathern Mae McKinnon, New York, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1942.


Consistency and Change in Behavior Manifestations: As Observed in a Group of Sixteen Children During a Five Year Period - Kathern McKinnon | Alex Inspired

My next step? Contacting Columbia University of course.

I emailed the Archives at Columbia and was put in touch with someone named Jocelyn, she was great and extremely helpful – we even chatted on the phone. Jocelyn sent me several documents, which included Kathern’s Appointment Card detailing her teaching career at Columbia University.

Kathern McKinnon Appointment card for Columbia University | Alex Inspired - It's Kathern not Catherine

This appointment card also details Kathern’s time as a student at Columbia. I sent this to “Little Cath” to look at, and here’s what she had to say.

The initial recipe card had her middle degree from Columbia handwritten as (A.N).  If you look at her designations in these course outlines (which are type written), it is A.M.  At Columbia (and other Ivy league Schools), they use the Latin designation for degrees so A.M, is Artium Magister; which for us is Master of Arts (M.A.).  Since she went on to study a PhD in psychology, my guess was that it was in psychology as well.

Slowly I started following Kathern’s Educational Trail, and here is what I have discovered… I also almost fell off my chair when I saw “Harvard” spelled out in front of me.


  • 1930 – University of Minnesota, Bachelor of Science
  • 1934 – Teachers College, Columbia University, Master of Arts
  • 1941 – PhD. Columbia University (Child Development)
  • 1943 – Harvard University Graduate School of Education – Doctoral Study
  • 1944 – Psychoanalytic Institute in Boston
  • 1945 – 1946  Harvard University  (no information listed for Field)

Work & Play:

  • 1934 – 1940 – Lincoln School, Teachers College – Columbia University
  • 1937 – 1938 – Teacher’s College, Columbia University, Child Development
  • 1939 – University of Tennessee Summer Courses, Child Development
  • 1940 – 1941 – Horace Mann High School, Assistant Psychologist
  • 1942 – 1947 – Director of Counselling Services – Newton Public Schools (New York)
  • 1942 – 1946 – Instructor – Teachers College, Columbia University, Summer Sessions
  • 1946- 1947 – Lecturer on Educational Psychology – Harvard University Graduate School of Education
  • 1947 – 1948 – Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) Assistant Professor -Department of Psychology, Clinical and Child Psychology
  • 1948 – Onward – Hunter College, Professor of Psychology (or so my trail ended)


  • American Psychological Association – Fellow in Clinical Division
  • Massachusetts Society for Clinical Psychologists – Board of Directors (1946-1947)
  • Kappa Delta Pi
  • Pi Lambda Theta

Kathern McKinnon's Biographical Information from Michigan State College | Alex Inspired

Can we just all agree that she was an accomplished brain bucket?

I have to add, Kathern’s story really reminds me of the movie, “Mona Lisa Smile“. And for the record, Julia Roberts’ character’s name was “Katherine”. Weird, right? Kathern’s qualifications and experience would have been extremely cutting edge for a woman, during this time period.

Here’s an amazing Family Tie:

Catherine (II) and Catherine (III) are extremely similar to Kathern.

Kathern obtained her PhD in Psychology (Columbia University), Catherine (III) obtained her PhD in Philosophy (Department of Medical Science, McMaster University) and both Kathern and Catherine (II) have a Bachelor of Education, specializing in primary grades.

To quote Catherine (III) – “Teaching is an innate ability in the Golden lineage”. We have so many teachers in the family, I am in complete agreement.

Although I do have quite a bit of information regarding our newly discovered relative, I feel like I have a lot more digging to do.

If anyone out there in interweb-land knew her, please leave a comment! I would love to hear from you. Perhaps you were a student, colleague, or friend – it would be so amazing to learn more about such a fascinating family member.

Dr. Kathern Mckinnon's Resignation 1948 | Alex Inspired

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