Archive for January, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 4 – Home

January 28th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

This week’s challenge is to describe the home we grew up in. This is much easier for me as my parents stayed in the same place for the whole of their married life. Not like their gypsy daughter!

We moved there shortly after my brother was born and I was still a young child. Before that we had been living in a small place behind some family friends.  It was in one of Brisbane’s western suburbs, on the side of a very steep hill and backed onto bushland. The house itself was just a smallish, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom basic home of the 1950s.

My most vivid memories however are not so much of the house itself but of the wildlife that used to be there in the 1950s and1960s. Today people don’t believe me when I say that I had to fight (scare) off the bandicoots before I could go to the old thunder box in the backyard at night. There was an owl that used to live in the tree outside my window and often scared the life out of me. Or the night I turned the light on to see heaps of green tree frogs plastered to the outside of my window – I think I screamed the house down!

We used to hand feed the kookaburras, routinely kill snakes in the backyard, sometimes even the front yard and I can still remember crying when a carpet snake got into our budgie cage. We never did find out what happened to the guinea pigs. If we were lucky the odd wallaby or two would wander in or jump past. And let’s not forget the possums!

At the bottom of the hill there was an open creek (long since filled in as it used to flood all those living below) but we used to love collecting tadpoles, fishing and yabbying not to mention swimming on hot days. Kids growing up in that area now wouldn’t even realise that you could, once upon a time, do those activities in their street.

We don’t have many photos, although I am sure that Mum must have a photo somewhere of the old house. I must ask her next time I am in Brisbane. The house is still there and surrounded by more modern homes but it has been added to and probably changed inside as well. When Dad died, Mum sold the house to live somewhere where it wasn’t so hard to look after the yard and garden. It was, sadly, the end of an era.

My Ancestor Approved Award

January 25th, 2011

I am honoured and delighted to have been nominated for the Ancestor Approved Award by both Kerrie Farmer and Judy Webster.

The Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou to acknowledge genealogy blogs that are ‘full of tips and tricks as well as funny and heartwarming stories’. Recipients are asked to list ten surprising, humbling or enlightening aspects of their research, and to pass on the award to ten other researchers. Here are my lists.

Aspects of My Research

1. Given that I first started doing my family history in 1977 I am surprised that I am still doing it in 2011!

2. Over the last 30 plus years I have made many genealogy friends and have learnt lots of wonderful things from them and I thank all of them

3. I also have discovered many long lost family members on all of my family lines and it has been fun sharing and exchanging information.

4. My research has also meant that I now know a lot more about the history of Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Canada and the USA. You can’t do genealogy without also looking at the historical times in which our ancestors lived.

5. Genealogy has also taught me how small a world it is – my partner’s family comes from the same village in Staffordshire that my mother’s family comes from – what are the chances of that 150 odd years down the track?

6. None of my families were wealthy or famous but they led interesting lives and I have been fortunate to find them documented in various government records – it’s just lucky I went looking for them in asylums and prisons otherwise I might have missed all the good stuff!

7. Embracing the new social media of Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Nings and so on has meant even more genealogy friends to share information with and long lost family members are finding me through my website and other media. It is truly a great time for family history.

8. I am humbled that so many people follow me and read my blogs and provide comments and other feedback – often when you are writing, you wonder if anyone ever reads it so thanks to everyone who have encouraged me in this brave new world.

9. I have been fortunate in that for most of my working life, I was able to advance genealogy through my work in various libraries and archives throughout Australia – there aren’t that many people that truly love their work.

10 I have left my favourite aspect to last – Serendipity – where would we be without it? How many of us have found our ancestors in the most unlikely of places? It is why you should look for them everywhere and probably why I still haven’t finished doing my family history yet.

My Nominated Blogs

Many of my favourite blogs have already received an Ancestor Approved Award so I have tried not to duplicate and to list some lesser known blogs that should be more widely read. I have also kept the list to Australasia.

1. Archives Outside: A meeting place for people who manage archival collections (State Records New South Wales)

2. Carole’s Canvas (great blogs with photos!)

3. Gould Genealogy & History News (for all the latest news)

4. Hunting Ancestors (across the Tasman)

5. Inside History Magazine (great new genealogy & history magazine)

6. genealogy(always interesting blogs)

7. Ancestors Within (a little bit different)

8. Unlock the Past (Poll & Brickwall blogs in particular)

9. Irish Wattle: Exploring Australia’s Irish Ancestry

10. History From The Heart (personal stories)

Australia Day 2011 My Earliest Documents

January 25th, 2011

This is my contribution to the Australia Day blogging theme suggested by Twigs of Yore celebrating our earliest connections and documents in Australia.

By the time my son was born, I had been tracing my own family history for ten years and I knew that my earliest ancestors arrived in the early 1860s and later. I was deeply disappointed that I didn’t have any convicts having studied early Australian history at university. That early period of our history is fascinating and I wanted to have been part of it.

At some point I decided to start looking into my son’s family history ie his father’s side and I knew from my mother in law that they were half Danish and half English and that they had settled around the Gympie area in the 1860s. So I wasn’t expecting any convicts to suddenly pop up and surprise me.

I clearly remember the day when I collected the mail out of the letter box and it contained a number of NSW certificates – as I had worked my way backwards through his ancestors I learned that the English miner John Barrow Atkinson’s wife Emma Jane Bullen had been born on the goldfields of Victoria.  Her parents Henry Bullen and Georgiana Evans had married in Sydney in 1853. As I worked back through each generation it still didn’t dawn on me that there might be convicts until I realised Georgiana Evans had been born in Sydney in 1829. When I got that certificate of baptism (pre civil registration and in the days before genealogy kits on microfilm) I knew there had to be convicts. I was so excited.

Georgiana’s parents were Samuel Evans and Emma Walker and they married in 1826 in Sydney. Samuel was a convict who had been convicted of having forged notes in his possession in Monmouth and was sentenced to transportation for 14 years in 1818. Emma was the daughter of convict Richard Walker who was convicted in London of having a forged banknote in his possession. He was sentenced in 1813 to transportation for 14 years.

I have told their story in my Society of Australian Genealogists Diploma of Historical Studies 1992 thesis From Iron Chains to Gold Bars: The Story of the Walker family and its descendants including the Evans, Potter, Bullen and Atkinson families, 1814-1941 available on my website (scroll down).  

All of the various certificates, newspaper articles and convict and other government documents that I have collected over the years have helped me to fill out the details of their lives.

Australia Day for me has always been about European settlement and our convict origins and I am so glad that I am the mother of someone who has convict heritage!

Online Genealogy Courses

January 24th, 2011

Last year while on the Unlock the Past history and genealogy roadshow I met and got to know Louise St Denis, Director of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS). On the New Zealand part of the trip I also met up with Kerrie Farmer, the new Director, Australian Studies (NIGS).

As part of the roadshow, attendees were able to sign up for a free course on Methodology and mine starts in February. I am really looking forward to participating.

Below is a press release from NIGS which I have been asked to promote via my blog. It mentions Kerrie’s appointment as Director, Australian Studies and that there are new Australian courses on offer.

(Toronto January 22, 2011) Louise St. Denis, Managing Director of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, has just announced the new Australian Records Certificate courses which are now available at <>. The Institute offers courses via distance education, using the Internet. This allows students to study at their own pace, at the time and place convenient for them.

Last November, Louise visited many cities in Australia and New Zealand as part of the ‘Unlock the Past’ History and Genealogy Roadshow. At that Roadshow, Louise announced the appointment of Kerry Farmer as Director, Australian Studies, with the company.

The first course to be offered is “Australia: Births, Deaths and Marriages”, which will start on February 7, 2011. More courses covering the range of Australian records will become available as the year progresses.

For those undertaking another certificate program (for example, in English or Irish records), various elective courses will also be available, some covering a broad spectrum of Australian records but in less detail. Any of the courses can also be taken independently.

To read a detailed description about a specific course, please go to our website at <>, click on the menu item “COURSES”, and click on “COURSES” again. Then click on “ALPHABETICAL LISTING” to make searching through over 60 courses being given in February a little easier!

To learn more about our instructors, please go to our site at <>, click on menu item “INSTITUTE”, then click on “FACULTY”, and click on the instructor’s name.

If you need more information, please call us toll-free in North America at 1-800-580-0165, or send us a message at <>.

You can enroll in these or other courses by simply going to the Institute’s website at <>, choosing the ones which interest you, and registering online.

About the National Institute for Genealogical Studies:

The Institute now offers over 150 courses in genealogical studies, including individual courses in the records of Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, and the United States.

If you are looking for a more formal educational training, the Institute does offer—in affiliation with the Continuing Education Unit of the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto—Certificate Programs in the records of Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, and the United States, as well as a Librarianship Certificate.

Louise St. Denis

Managing Director

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies



Toll-free in North America – 1.800.580.0165

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Week 3 Cars

January 19th, 2011

This week’s topic is one that I do have clear memories of.

As a teenager I wasn’t all that fussed on getting a driver’s license and in fact, I was in my early 20s before I obtained my first driver’s license. By then I was married and my husband had a blue volkswagen but we replaced it shortly after I got my license with a Honda Civic which I really loved. However that marriage didn’t last and sadly the car went with the ex and I was carless yet again.

I remarried a few years later and my husband was a sports car fan so we had a blue Celica hatchback which I now blame for my lower back pain. When our son was born I was the one who drove to work, dropping him off at kindy on the way and getting him in and out of the two door Celica was a strain on my back at the time. In  the afternoon I repeated the process and we did that for quite a few years as my husband did not want to trade in the Celica hatchback for a family car.

Then my husband was diagnosed with cancer and we traded the Celica in for a family car (it’s a long story) and we bought a red 4 door Ford Telstar which was much more family friendly. After surviving cancer my husband then bought himself another sports car, this time a Supra (all second hand of course) while I kept the Telstar.

This marriage also didn’t go the distance and I moved to Canberra taking the Telstar with me but there didn’t seem to be any point in having a family car without a family. So I bought my first ever car for myself. What did I buy? A very sexy midnight blue Mazda MX6 with sunroof and all the works. Talk about a mid life crisis but that car sure did attract some looks and not a few tried to drag me off at the lights!

As I approached my 50th birthday the mid life crisis had passed and I wondered if it was time to settle down. Plus I was finding it harder to get in and out of the low seats of the MX6. I had always wanted a BMW – don’t ask me why because I don’t know. So a few months after my 50th I went out and bought a second hand Beemer, a lovely light green colour that matched my nail polish that week (maybe I wasn’t quite grown up yet). The sales person told me that no one liked green cars and that was why this one was cheaper than other BMWs of the same age and make. When I pointed out that it perfectly matched my nail polish he simply looked at me as if I was strange. However I am not silly and did get it checked out by the RACV before I bought it.

I really love driving the BMW and it has travelled many kilometres with me and although I really should start to think about replacing it, I will be sad to part with it.

It’s funny how our cars are an integral part of our lives and represent different stages and events all with their own memories. I hadn’t really thought about it until doing this challenge. It has been interesting reflecting on my own life through events associated with the cars in my life!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Week 2 Winter

January 12th, 2011

Like Week 1 in this series 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History, I am finding it hard to remember things from my childhood. I simply cannot remember winter in Queensland although I was there for over 40 years which seems unbelievable.

However I think I didn’t really appreciate winter and the other seasons of the year until I went to live in Canberra in 1999. Canberra is a city where you do experience all the seasons and there is quite a difference between them. Autumn is the time when the foliage turns a brilliant red and golden hues before the leaves fall to the ground. In winter there are no leaves and everything looks quite dead (except for the pine trees), the days are short and you quite often wake up to the most amazing frosts on the ground which makes it look like it has snowed. Come spring, all the trees and other plants renew themselves and everything becomes green again and you know that winter is over. That first winter in Canberra it actually snowed for me and I remember talking to my mother on the telephone while standing on my balcony watching the snow fall!

In Brisbane’s semi tropical climate you don’t really see such a contrast between the seasons so I think my lack of memories is because so much of the year was the same only with summer being hotter and more humid.

One winter memory from my Brisbane childhood does stand out and that is because I was a very sickly child and suffered from bronchial asthma during my primary school years. I can’t remember how old I was (probably early 1960s) when one winter my doctor told my parents that they should buy me an electric blanket as it would keep me warm without the additional weight (and dust) of the blankets I usually had piled up on top of me. There was some debate because of the ‘expense’ so electric blankets must have been a relatively new product but my parents did end up buying me one and I used it for years. My health also improved and by my teenage years I had outgrown the asthma.

Nowadays I think we tend to use doonas more than electric blankets although some people still prefer the latter. I haven’t used one (except in motels when travelling) since I left home in 1975. Even in cold Canberra all I had was the doona, although a heavy duty one!

Winter here in Melbourne over the last 7 years has been relatively pleasant, not all that cold or wet due to the drought (which is now well and truly over). But Melbourne can have really cold December days so even though there are clear seasons here, there are often times when that is blurred. Sometimes you even have all 4 seasons in the one day!!

I am looking forward to Week 3 in this series – just hoping that it is on a topic that I can remember!

My 2011 Genealogy Aspirations

January 10th, 2011

It has taken me a little while to finally decide on what I want to focus on in 2011. My review of my 2010 aspirations made me realise I was really trying to  do too much in too many areas. The five key areas I have decided on are:

1. Write up my mother’s Price family history, including photographs and other illustrations in time for her 77th birthday

2. Learn more about DNA from a genealogy perspective and investigate my own DNA

3. Learn more about my Cornish ancestors – I already know the basics from parish registers and census records but not the history and culture of Cornwall

4. Continue to scan photographs and documents so that I have digital copies as well as original copies and maintain a backup regime for both

5. Conserve and preserve family heirlooms I have collected ensuring they are boxed and stored appropriately

Although there are only five items on the list, there is a lot of work that needs to be done for all five so I still need to be focussed to achieve these goals. Hopefully during the year I will also progress other areas of my family history as new information comes online, new indexes are made available or long lost relatives make contact.

2011 is going to be a great year for genealogy!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History – Week 1 New Year’s Day

January 3rd, 2011

Well I have just signed up for another 52 weeks of improving my genealogy skills with Geneabloggers. Last year’s theme was Better Genealogy and this year the theme is Personal Genealogy & History.

The first week is looking at New Year’s Day traditions in the family and sad to say I can’t remember any times we celebrated new year but we must have. I know every year my parents and younger brother and I used to go down to the Gold Coast and after my 12th birthday we had a caravan that we left down there. We used to travel down every weekend, especially in the summer months. So for New Year we would have been in a caravan park, and earlier it would have been a tent in a camping ground. But I can’t recall ever seeing the New Year in.

Even today I don’t really celebrate New Year – in fact this year I totally slept through it! When I have been in Brisbane for New Year and staying at New Farm, we would walk down to the river and watch the fireworks although we could see some of them from the second storey of our house.

One year in Melbourne we stayed overnight in the city and watched the fireworks but there were so many people it was a struggle just getting back to the hotel and we’ve never done it since. Strange  but I can’t remember any New Year parties in Canberra either.

I am an early riser and not into late nights at any time, so maybe I simply don’t attend New Year parties and celebrations – certainly while I think the fireworks are impressive, I do wonder what else the money could be spent on.

I am going to ask those close to me about their New Year memories just to see if I am totally forgetting something, but I suspect that it is not a tradition that I have ever really followed.

Week 1 has certainly got me thinking about my own personal genealogy & history- it’s a bit of a worry that I don’t seem to be able to remember anything!