February 19th, 2014
This blog challenge is to stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 by focussing on a different kind of genealogical record each week. I wanted a challenge that reflected my own archival background as well as my own genealogy interests and there are probably lots of other records that I could have included. The challenge has an Australian focus but most of these records will be found just about anywhere in the genealogy world.
The 52 different types of genealogical records I finally decided on are listed in no particular order (each week will be a random surprise). Originally I planned to do this over 52 weeks but I now realise that I have to factor in travel and illness so it will continue a little bit over a year. Anyone is welcome to do all or part of this blogging challenge. Let me know if you are participating and I will put a link to your post under each week’s challenge.
So far I know of five bloggers who are taking up the challenge and I have put links to their individual entries at the end of each week’s blog if they have submitted something for that week. Thanks Judy Webster, Sharn White, Cassmob, Anne and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!
Also participating in this blog challenge:
Anne Week 6 Land Records
Sharon Week 6 Land Records
Week 6 Land Records
My families were not big land owners and only and only three of my great great grandfathers took up land selections in Queensland. The State Archives is the repository to look for original land records and in Queensland we are lucky that the records have been name indexed for the major series. Even better the files have not been culled in any way and therefore provide a wealth of information. In the example that I am going to use, the land selection file even included personal letters from my ancestor to the Department.
John and Sarah Finn immigrated to Queensland from County Wicklow with their young son Robert and another son James Joseph was born on board the Mairi Bhan on the voyage out in 1882. Another daughter Rose Anna was born in Brisbane in 1884 but her birth was not registered until 1886 by which time the family were living in Nambour, north of Brisbane. This is a reminder that some births and deaths may not have been registered until sometime after the event.
On 2 March 1886 John Finn applied to select a farm of 160 acres, portion 8V in the parish of Maroochy, county of Canning. The purchase price was £1 10s per acre making the annual rental £3 6s 8d. At the time of selection the land was described as very rough terrain covered with dense scrub which made farming the selection difficult.
Adding to this difficulty was the fact that the weather was exceptionally rainy after John moved onto the land. In a series of letters that John wrote to the Chief Commissioner of Lands we can easily imagine the troubles that John experienced in trying to make a success of his farm.
In a letter dated 8 May 1890 to the Chief Commissioner of Lands John asked for more time to pay the annual rental as his crops of corn and potatoes had failed owing to the rainy weather. He had been unsuccessful in obtaining work elsewhere. Another letter dated 9 June 1890 reveals that the family were still struggling to make a success of the farm. In this letter John stated that he suffered a broken limb seven months ago and was now just starting to return to his full strength. The injury must have been quite serious as he sold all his cattle in order to feed his wife and six children as well as pay the person that looked after him during his incapacity.
A further letter dated 25 August 1890 shows that John was planning to leave the selection for a few months in order to go and get a job elsewhere. In order to make sure that his selection was not forfeited, John promised that one or two of his children would visit the homestead each week. This situation was acceptable to the Chief Commissioner of Lands.
The Bailiff of Crown Lands inspected the selection on 23 April 1891 and reported that the land was used for grazing and the cultivation of fruit and vegetables.
The improvements on the selection included a house of slabs, sawn timber, iron roof and 3 rooms, outbuildings, enclosed garden, rail fence and gate plus partly cleared scrub. This was sufficient to fulfil the conditions necessary before a Deed of Grant could issue. Consequently on 10 September 1891 John Finn paid £4 17s 6d the final balance owing on his farm and the Deed of Grant issued on 31 October 1891. John sold the farm in February 1892.
While living at Petrie’s Creek John and Sarah had three more children. They were Mary in 1886, Sarah Jane in 1888, and John born in 1890. Another daughter Margaret Anne was born in the Caboolture area in 1892 before the family moved to northern New South Wales where their last three children were born – Thomas Ambrose in 1895, Denis Patrick in 1898 and Kathleen Gertrude in 1900. Sarah died 15 months later, aged only 40 years old and leaving a very young family. But that is another story.
Not all land files have personal correspondence in them but you will usually find the application forms (including an ancestor’s signature), maps or sketches of the portion and reports on what the improvements to the land are. In this example I found out a lot of details about the family’s life that I would not have found elsewhere. For example, I know that John and Sarah Finn were living in a three room house with six children, John badly broke his leg in late 1889 and that wet weather led to his failed corn and potato crops. They were only on the land for six years but thanks to the land file I have a very clear understanding of what their life was like during those six difficult years.
Land records are worth looking for even if you do not think the family was on the land. I only expected to find one of my great great grandfathers on a land selection, the other two were happy surprises although neither stayed for very long. So check any indexes in case there is a happy surprise waiting for you too.
The major national and state archives in Australia and New Zealand are:
- Archives New Zealand
- National Archives of Australia
- Queensland State Archives
- State Record Office New South Wales
- Public Record Office Victoria
- Tasmania Archive and Heritage Office
- State Records Office South Australia
- State Records Office Western Australia
- Northern Territory Archives Service
- Territory Records Office