Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Trans Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge 2014 – The Story Behind Jack Russell

April 23rd, 2014

Each year Kintalk (Auckland Libraries) issues their Trans Tasman ANZAC Day blog challenge and I always take the opportunity to participate and tell the story of one of my military ancestors. This year my military ancestor is Jack Russell but there are no Russell’s in the family. How and why are two questions that leap to mind and there is a simple answer – Jack Russell was a pseudonym that our ancestor used to join the AIF in WW1. He was underage but the truth was only revealed towards the end of the war.

Thomas Henry Alphonsus Spencer was born in Brisbane in 1899 but moved with his family to South Australia. In 1914 he was in the employ of Messrs Simpson and Son as a tinsmith at Gawler Place, Adelaide and was living with a Mr Boase in Adelaide while his parents (father and step mother) were living at Laura. Thomas ran away from the Boase family on 25 May with another boy leaving a letter indicating that they were heading for Queensland. An inquiry from his father Henry Spencer, in the South Australian Police Gazette, describes Thomas as 15 years old, 5 ft 5 ins tall, thin build, fair complexion, brown hair, grey eyes, medium nose and stoops slightly when walking. Towards the end of Jun 1914 there is a follow up notice saying that Henry had heard from his son.

We catch up with Thomas the following year when he enlisted in the AIF on 22 Apr 1915 in Keswick, South Australia as Jack Russell. In Nov 1915 he was sent to Gallipoli, then a year later on to France  in Nov 1916. By 1918 the army had become aware of the real identity of Jack Russell. In Feb 1918 his father Henry Spencer was asked to send a copy of Thomas’ birth certificate. Henry also advised that he had tried to find Thomas but did not know what name he had enlisted under. He knew from a Chaplain McKenzie that Thomas had gone to Egypt. Henry said that he would have willingly let him enlist had he known and he hoped that everything would turn out alright.

To confirm Thomas’ real identity, Henry Spencer had to sign a statutory declaration confirming that the correct name of Trooper Jack Russell, No 1275, 9th/3rd Light Horse was his son Thomas Henry Adolphus Spencer born in 1899 in Queensland. Henry also declared that his son had run away from his apprenticeship and he supposed Thomas had enlisted under the assumed name so that he could not trace him. There was also a statutory declaration from Thomas’ landlord, John Boase stating that Thomas had made his home with him for some years owing to the fact that there were differences between father and son and that Thomas’ mother was deceased. Boase also stated he was receiving a pay allotment of 4/- per diem from Jack Russell and he asked to be kept informed about what was happening to Thomas.

A court martial in London followed in May 1918 and Jack Russell/Thomas Henry Adolphus Spencer was sentenced to 14 days field punishment. A statutory declaration was also signed by Thomas stating that he was indeed Jack Russell and that he had enlisted on 22 Apr 1915 and that he gave his age as 19 instead of his real age of 16 years. He then went back to France and returned to Australia in 1919.

As a veteran of WW1, Thomas obviously felt the need to serve his country again in WW2. This time he enlisted in Maryborough, QLD under the name of Alfred (previously Alphonsus) Thomas Henry Spencer on 28 May 1940 and served in the AIF until 27 Feb 1942. The following day he joined the CMF and served between 28 Feb 1942 and 11 Jan 1946 with 163 days overseas and the remainder of the time in Australia. He had been wounded in action in the Middle East in Apr 1941 with gun shot wounds to both ankles and this probably explains his medically unfit discharge from the AIF and his reenlistment in the CMF in 1942.

For his service in WW1 Thomas received the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. For his service in WW2 he received the 1939/45 Star, the Africa Star, the Pacific Star, the Defence Medal and the 1939/45 War Medal . Personal correspondence on his attestation file/s indicates that he also received medals from France and Spain. On one of his attestation forms he put that he had seen foreign service in Spanish Morocco. His file/s have been combined and digitised by the National Archives of Australia.

After WW2 he seems to have preferred to use the name Alfred Spencer but his various names do not take away from the fact that he served in both World Wars. I do not know how many soldiers did this but it can not have been many. His half brother Charles Douglas Spencer (the subject of my ANZAC Day blog in 2011) won the Military Medal in WW2 and his story appears here. Due to family issues, it is unlikely that the two half brothers knew each other but I can not help wondering if perhaps they did meet up in Libya where they both saw action. More research might answer that question in the future. Until then, lest we forget.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 13 Personal Names and Surnames

April 18th, 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 six bloggers who are taking up the challenge from time to time 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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmobAnne, Campaspe Library and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land Records Week 7 Local Histories Week 8 Diaries Week 9 Inquest Records Week 10 Occupation Records Week 11 Newspapers Week 12 Gazetteers

Week 13 Personal Names and Surnames

Readers might be wondering how personal names and surnames fits into a genealogical records blogging theme. I have been lucky with my own research to have unusual personal names and surnames which have given me clues to follow or helped to confirm relationships.

This is probably most obvious with my maiden surname of Gunderson which is Norwegian. Certificates, immigration and naturalization records all confirmed the Norwegian ancestry. Then it was a crash course in patronymics to help me go further back in Norway and I eventually ended up in 1688 in the parish of Seljord in the county of Telemark.

James Henry Trevaskis and Elizabeth Rosewarne are my GG grandparents and both were from Cornwall. Anyone with Cornish ancestry will know that the prefixes Tre (a settlement or homestead) and Ros/Rose (heath or moor) are common to Cornish surnames. James Henry and Elizabeth named their only daughter, my great grandmother, Dorcas and this is a name that appears in many generations of my Cornish ancestry. It is a Greek name and Dorcas was a disciple who lived at Joppa and is referenced in the New Testament.

Going further back in time I have a direct ancestor Hannibal Trevaskis who married a Zenobia Penglase in St Hilary Cornwall in 1731. Hannibal is a personal name that was carried down a number of family lines while Zenobia was not so popular. It certainly beats looking for John or William or Mary or Elizabeth.

So what do unusual names tell us?

Zenobia was a 3rd century Queen of the Palmyrene empire in Syria who led a famous revolt against the Roman empire. She went on to conquer Egypt and expelled the Romans from there too. After ruling Egypt for five years she was beaten and taken as hostage to Rome.  Zenobia is believed to have died shortly after this ca 275. Yet her name lived on and my ancestress was given the name in 1703 in Cornwall. I find that fascinating.

Hannibal was a name I was more familiar with having learnt at school about a general named Hannibal who led his elephants over the Italian alps. Funny how some bits of information stick in our minds even years later. To refresh my memory, Wikipedia states that Hannibal was a Punic Carthaginian military commander born 247 BC and died ca 182 BC. He is considered one of the greatest military generals of antiquity and reading about his various battles is fascinating and he did have 38 war elephants in the second Punic war!

A question that springs to mind is why were Cornish parents giving their children ancient names of military people in the early 18th century? Wikipedia has an interesting section on Cornish surnames but nothing that really explains given names at that time. The Cornwall Council website has a interesting  time line of Cornish history but again nothing that explains the fascination with old military leaders, both male and female. British History Online has Magna Britannia Vol 3 Cornwall and there are some very interesting parish histories in that volume. I may never really know why my ancestors were named Hannibal and Zenobia in the early 1700s but I have learnt a lot of Cornish history trying to find out why.

If you have a really unusual surname then it may be useful to have a look at the Guild of One Name Studies. There are over 2,600 people researching over 8,400 surnames and their variations. One of my unusual names is Peplow and I have been in contact with the person doing the one name study and while they have lots of names and families, none of them tie in with my particular Peplow brick wall. I know the county she was from via the 1841 census but she had died by the time of the 1851 census so perhaps she will always be a mystery.

There are traditional naming patterns in Scotland but my Scottish ancestors do not seem to have followed them but that can be a useful way to trace some families. Scotland’s People has a useful help page on Scottish names, abbreviations and naming patterns.

Have a look at the given or personal names in your family tree. Are there any unusual ones or names handed down through the generations? What about unusual surnames? Why not investigate the origins and history of the names and learn more about the times in which they lived? My research on Cornwall and Norway has given me a greater understanding of those cultures and why my ancestors chose to emigrate to Australia.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 12 Gazetteers

April 9th, 2014

This blog challenge is to stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 by focusing 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 six bloggers who are taking up the challenge from time to time 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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmobAnne, Campaspe Library and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land Records Week 7 Local Histories Week 8 Diaries Week 9 Inquest Records Week 10 Occupation Records Week 11 Newspapers

Week 12 Gazetteers

What is a gazetteer? A simple definition is that it is a publication which lists geographical places in alphabetical order plus giving some descriptive background information on the place. Not all that exciting as usually there is no detailed information on our ancestors but gazetteers can provide good background on where and how our ancestors lived and why they may have decided to move or emigrate to Australia.

Gazetteers can also be called by other names and perhaps Samuel Lewis’s topographical dictionaries are a perfect example. Back in the late 1970s I used his publications at the State Library of Queensland but today we can easily find them online for free. Researching does not get any easier than this! No excuse not to follow up this tip.

Lewis published topographical dictionaries for Ireland in 1837, Scotland in 1846, England in 1848 and Wales in 1849. These years are particularly apt for Australians researching their UK ancestors as most of our ancestors came out either before or after those descriptions of our ancestral places were published.

My Irish ancestor Adam Johnston arrived in Brisbane in 1861 and after a lot of research I finally discovered he was born in Bailieborough in County Cavan, Ireland. Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland is in three volumes on the Ask About Ireland website. The entry for Bailieborough describes it as a market town and parish partly in County Meath but mostly in County Cavan, just over 42 miles north west of Dublin.

It had a population of 10,480 with 1085 in the town which consisted on one street with 165 houses. The land is described as generally of good quality with various grains growing and there are several bogs in the area. My Johnston family were Methodists here in Queensland and it is interesting to read that the Wesleyan Methodists had a place of worship in Bailieborough and divine service was performed every alternate Sunday. There was a parochial school, three public schools and 13 private schools. Adam was illiterate so obviously he did not get the opportunity for schooling despite the number of schools in the parish.

My Price family came from West Bromwich in Staffordshire and Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of England in 1848 is available on the British History Online website. West Bromwich is a town and parish about six miles from Birmingham and in 1841 there were 26,121 inhabitants. The parish comprises nearly 6000 acres with about two thirds of the cultivated land arable and the remainder pasture. A considerable portion of land is occupied with buildings, collieries and brick-yards. It is a very old town and its history is given along with its rapid development as a manufacturing centre from the early 19th century. One of the reasons given for its rise was its coal and ironstone mines and this fits with my ancestors working as miners.

Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Scotland is also on the British History Online website and my Carnegie ancestors were from the town of Montrose in Scotland. It was a Royal Burgh, a seaport and a parish with 15,096 inhabitants, 72 miles north of Edinburgh.  The principal manufactures carried on were the spinning of flax and weaving and again this is consistent with occupations given in the census. There were five mills for spinning linen yarn, four driven by steam-engines of 120-horse power and one driven by water. Schools, churches, the dispensary and lunatic asylum are all described and it gives a good description of the town my great great great grandparents left in 1865, not quite 20 years after Lewis’s publication. No doubt during that time the town increased its population and manufacturing greatly.

There is also a Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Wales on the British History Online website but I do not have any Welsh ancestors to provide a personal example.

Online gazetteers can be found by using a portal site such as Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet. This site has dozens of categories but you can find gazetteers in the Maps and Geography section and then select the Locality Specific option to find resources quickly for your research areas. Genuki is a similar portal site for the UK and there is a category for Gazetteers.

By researching the places our ancestors left we may gain an insight into why they left . It can also help us to imagine what life was like for them living in those places at that time. Maps are useful to show where a place is but gazetteers give a much more descriptive look at places and can explain why our ancestors had certain occupations. Context is important in family history research and with so many gazetteers online there is no excuse for not checking them out and seeing what they can add to your research. Happy gazetteering!


National Family History Month August 2014

April 4th, 2014

Last year I was the national voluntary coordinator of National Family History Month which is held annually in August in Australia and New Zealand and I have agreed to do it again in 2014. Behind the scenes activities included liaising with sponsors, organising the launch, maintaining the website, ensuring events are added to the web calendar, liaising with event holders, answering queries and most importantly, publicity and promotion to ensure that we get as many events as possible and that everyone knows about what is happening in their own areas.

Last year I added the concept of prizes for participating genealogy societies and this year I have extended the prizes to both genealogy societies and individuals. NFHM does not have its own blog so I use my website for major updates like this and my Diary of an Australian Genealogist for brief updates and promotion. There is a NFHM Facebook page and we are currently trying to reach 1000 Likes. Why not help us out!

I have just sent off a report to AFFHO (Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations) on progress to date for NFHM 2014 and it is time to start our publicity campaign. NFHM is an AFFHO initiative to promote genealogy and family history in Australasia and was started in 2006 as a week and changed to a month in 2013. More information is on the NFHM website Home page.

Major sponsors for 2014 are AFFHO, Ancestry.com.au and FamilySearch and the National Archives of Australia have agreed to host the launch again, something they have done since 2006. Without our major sponsors it would be very hard to keep NFHM going and we thank them for their generosity and support.

Prize sponsors this year has expanded and we welcome NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies, MyHeritage and the National Institute of Genealogical Studies to NFHM. We also welcome previous sponsors Australian Family Tree Connections, Findmypast.com.au, genEbooks, Gould Genealogy and History, Inside History Magazine, Shauna Hicks History Enterprises and Unlock the Past.

I am also pleased to announce that our major sponsors have donated prizes too. AFFHO has allocated two conference registrations for two lucky people to attend Congress 2015 in Canberra next year. The program with the theme Generations Meeting Across Time is sensational with great speakers and talks, definitely not to be missed! Early bird registration is now open. Ancestry.com.au have donated ten individual subscriptions and FamilySearch have a tablet prize.

Details of the competitions and prize draws will be announced closer to August but for now check out the list of prizes on offer on the NFHM Sponsors and Supporters page.

It would be great if everyone could encourage their local genealogy and family history society to do an event in August. It could be as simple as renaming the August monthly meeting to NFHM monthly meeting or having one of the library days as an open day for NFHM. Public libraries, archives, historical societies, museums and anyone interested in genealogy and family history are welcome to have an event in August. This year we even have a category for online events. It is easy to add an event, simply click on the link and provide all the details, not forgetting time of event.

My next task is to start contacting key organisations for genealogy and family history societies, libraries, archives, historical societies and museums for assistance in sending out the NFHM 2014 flyer which is also available from the NFHM Home page. The flyer can be used to help promote your events and if you are stuck for ideas, have a look at the 2013 list of events which is also available from the NFHM Home page.

Please join me and AFFHO in making NFHM 2014 our biggest and most successful August ever!


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 11 Newspapers

March 25th, 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 six 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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmobAnne, Campaspe Library and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Cassmob Week 11

Anne Week 11 (for finding military exemptions in newspapers)

Sharon Week 11

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land RecordsWeek 7 Local Histories Week 8 Diaries Week 9 Inquest Records Week 10 Occupation Records

Week 11 Newspapers

This week’s topic is almost too easy and I could probably write pages and pages and give innumerable examples. So what I will do is highlight how digitised newspapers can lead to new discoveries about our ancestors beyond the usual births, deaths and marriages.

In Australia we are lucky that the National Library of Australia has developed Trove and this is a portal to a wide range of resources as well as digitised newspapers. It is now simply a matter of doing a keyword search on a person’s name, narrowing the results by using the decade filter and perhaps also narrowing down further to one newspaper (or any of the other filters or combinations of).

For example, by entering “John Finn” in the search field I can now easily locate the report in the Brisbane Courier on his alleged crime of arson. (Tip – the use of quotation marks keeps the two words together and reduces the number of hits). Back in the late 1980s I found John in the Brisbane prison register indexes and then had to search the newspaper on microfilm to get more details of the alleged crime. Now that the newspaper is digitised and online, I can tag the item in Trove and add it to a list of items found in newspapers that I am compiling on my Finn family.

Tagging and listing are two features within Trove that are very useful for family historians as it can help to pull all your search results on a family together. It is simple to obtain a Trove account and then you can tag, list, comment, correct newspaper text and so on. These options are available on the top left hand menu area. How can it help? Well the search for “John Finn” as well as returning hits under Newspapers, also returns a hit under Lists so anyone searching for the same name or family will be able to see my list and hopefully contact me. This can be quite useful in tracing collateral lines of families that have grown apart over the decades. If you want you can also make your lists private and then no one else will see it.

It is important to remember that not all newspapers have been digitised yet and placed online. I have a fantastic article on the alleged arson case that was published in the Sunday Truth and it even has sketches of John Finn and his daughter Mary Finn, my great grandmother. This is the only image I have of John and it is only available on microfilm at the moment. What I did not find years ago were the two reports of the case in the Queensland Times but I have now found them easily via  Trove.

Papers Past is the New Zealand equivalent and again I have found useful snippets on families, usually in the police and court sections. Once you have these details of date and place you can then follow up in the Archives New Zealand to see if there is more information in the court and prison records. It does not have to be a major crime, there are lots of drunk and disorderly entries  and other lesser crimes.

I have also easily found obituaries and these were hard to find on microfilm as they could appear quite some time after a death. If you are lucky an obituary may include a photograph. For example, Thomas Stephen Burstow was a former mayor of Toowoomba and a Freemason and when he died there were numerous articles in Queensland newspapers. As he was sick for some time prior to his death, the obituary appeared in the Brisbane Courier the day after his death and included a photograph of him in his Freemasonry regalia which I had not seen previously.

Newspapers also reported on local sporting and community events  and you may be able to find information on your families that help to flesh out their daily lives. It can be time consuming as it is easy to be sidetracked by looking at advertisements, photographs or just reading the news of the day.  On the recent Unlock the Past genealogy cruise I did a presentation about Online Newspapers and you can see the slides on the Resources page of my website. Scroll down to Presentations. There are links in the presentation to overseas historic newspapers online as well as e-resources at the National Library of Australia.

Whenever I have a few spare moments, I try and do a Trove search on one of my family lines and I am rarely disappointed. There is so much to find and as it is continually being added to, you need to remember to redo your searches from time to time. Why not do a search now and let me know any big success stories! Good luck.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 10 Occupation Records

March 17th, 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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmob, Anne and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Campaspe Library Week 10

Sharon Week 10

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land Records Week 7 Local Histories Week 8 Diaries Week 9 Inquest Records

Week 10 Occupation Records

This week’s topic looks at occupations and sometimes what our ancestors did for a living can lead to all kinds of documentation depending on what their job or profession was. I am going to look at my great great great grandfather John Carnegie who was an oysterman. I originally thought that it would be very hard to find out anything about oyster farming.

I knew from land records that John had selected to land selections on Pumicestone Passage near Toorbul and those files revealed that he had a house, garden and orchard on the land. Other documents told me he was an oyster farmer. For many occupations you need a government license so a good starting place is the government gazettes.

For Queensland these are freely available online at Text Queensland: Queensland’s Past Online for the period 1859 to 1900. A search revealed a number of references to Carnegie. For example, in the  Queensland Government Gazette for 16 March 1901 there is a list of licenses issued under The Oysters Act of 1886. In this instance it is a four column table listing employees, licensees, the names of their boats and the number of their license during the month of February 1901. J Carnegie is listed as the employee (this could be John or even his grandson James – it is always hard to know when only an initial is used), Mrs Davis is the licensee (this is probably his married daughter Clara), the name of their boat is the Clara and the number is 45.

Licenses were usually granted on an annual basis so it is possible to check each year for any variations. It is especially useful to know the start and end dates as these can often pin point when someone moves into an area or starts up in the job and when they retire, die or move elsewhere. Although reading government legislation can be a little dry and boring, it can be useful to learn what type of records were required to be kept under the Act and to then learn if those records have survived or were published in the Gazettes or elsewhere.

Where an occupation was monitored by the Government, there can also be annual reports published in Votes and Proceedings which are normally located at the State Library or possibly the State Archives. A search of these publications for the period 1884-1891 and 1900 revealed a number of references to John Carnegie. For example, in 1884 John held two banks north of Ninghi Creek and the inspector wrote that John ‘has gone to extraordinary labour on his selection digging drains and embankments. He has about 500 bags on it’. In 1885 it was reported that he had approximately 1000 bags.

By 1886 John held three banks north of Ninghi Creek and Mr Carr, the inspector again reported that John had gone to considerable trouble with the cultivation of his oyster banks. When John was informed about whelk tingle in Pumicestone Passage, John with his children Clara aged 14 years and James aged 6 years (really his grandson although the inspector would not have known this), collected several cwt of whelk tingles off his banks. John also had stones and stakes laid down for the catchment of spat.

In 1888 John Carnegie and other oystermen in the area were reported to have a large amount of cultivation but few marketable oysters. This was because of a borer, or whelk tingle, which was very plentiful in Ninghi Creek. The whelk tingle pierces and kills young oysters and this was one of the reasons why John’s oyster business started to fail.

Unfortunately there was no more detailed information in the Votes and Proceedings but I did manage to locate a map at the Queensland State Archives showing the location of the oyster leases. This allowed me to know exactly where John’s three banks were located, just off shore from his land selections (which were probably partly under water at high tide).

Another useful place to pick up information is newspapers and a keyword search for oysters, Pumicestone, Carnegie and other key words returned a number of useful hits in Trove. Although there may not be direct reference to my ancestor in some of the articles, the references are still useful in understanding the wider context of the industry in the area.

Most of us have ancestors who had all kinds of different occupations so pick one and then see how much you can find out about that particular person and the job they did. Once you have done that, do the same with another occupation and you may be amazed at how much you can find. I really like having teachers in the family as education records are usually easy to find in State Archives. It really is a matter of thinking what kind of records would be created and where would those records be if they still survive. Anything associated with government may be recorded in government publications like the Gazettes and Votes and Proceedings or in the State Archives.

It may not be so easy to trace people who worked in private businesses or companies but those employers may still have been registered with the government and you may be able to trace those histories. Post Office Directories and Almanacs can also be used to trace smaller businesses and some of these are online. For example, Sands Sydney, Suburban and Country Commercial Directories are free online (and there are other useful Sydney resources free online at the City of Sydney Archives), South Australia at the State Library of South Australia, Pughs Almanacs for Queensland at Text Queensland and Western Australia at the State Library of Western Australia. A Google search will often locate these types of resources.

If your ancestor was in a union then the Australian Trade Union Archives website may be worth looking at.  Another useful website for business records is the Guide to Australian Business Records.

Occupations is actually a huge topic but I hope that this blog post has given you some idea of what questions to ask and where to look to find out more about your ancestors’ occupations.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 9 Inquest Records

March 10th, 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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmob, Anne and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Campaspe Library Week 9

Sharon Week 9

Anne Week 9

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land Records Week 7 Local Histories Week 8 Diaries

Week 9 Inquest Records

An inquest is held when someone dies in an accident, or has not been seen by a doctor for some time or if they have died in an institution such as an asylum or prison. In some ways I am lucky as many of my ancestors died in accidents or in institutions and the inquest has given me more information on the family.

I touched on this in Week 4 when I did Memorial Cards – my example was Sydney Herbert White and there had been an inquest into his death. I will not repeat that here as there are lots of other examples that I can use.

John Henry Gunderson, aged 39 years, was found lying unconscious at the foot of the back steps of his house on the Thompson Estate in Brisbane on 23 May 1932. He was taken by ambulance to the Mater Hospital but he died before arriving there. The post mortem certificate in the inquest file gave cause of death as a cerebral haemorrhage and syncope (natural causes). Also in the file were witness statements from the local police constable William Charles Fuge, the widow Violet Maud Gunderson and a neighbour Austin Patrick Walsh.  So even if you do not have an inquest into an ancestor, you may find they were a witness but unfortunately witnesses are not usually indexed by name.

I find the witness statements the most interesting and where you are most likely to find information not recorded elsewhere. The neighbour Austin Walsh in his statement said he was alerted to John’s collapse by another neighbour Mrs Flanders who first saw him lying there. When he went over he saw that John was unconscious and called the ambulance and it was he who went in the ambulance with John to the hospital. He recalled the doctor on arrival saying that ‘life was extinct’.

Violet Gunderson told the inquest that her husband was not a very strong man but he never complained about being ill and that it was probably five years since he had last seen a doctor. On that occasion John wanted to join the Foresters Lodge but the doctor told him he could not pass him as he had a leaky valve of the heart. On the morning of John’s collapse, Violet had left home early to do some errands and returned home just after her husband had been found. She saw him lying there and the ambulance arrived shortly after. Violet did not go with her husband as she had a young baby to look after. Austin Walsh returned from the hospital and told Violet that John had died just as they arrived at the hospital.

Violet also gave personal details such as John’s date and place of birth, his parents names including his mother’s maiden name and father’s occupation.  Also details of their marriage and that there was only one child from the marriage, a daughter Iris Merle aged 5 months. He was a teetotaller, he was not a returned soldier, he was not in receipt of a pension, he had no property or money but did have two insurance policies. The first was with Metropolitan Life Assurance Co  but Violet did not know for how much and the second with Mutual Life and Citizens for £10 5s.

Violet was left a young widow with a baby and very little monetary support. Not only did she have to deal with her grief at losing her husband so early but she would also have been left wondering how she would continue to support herself and child.

Most inquests are also reported in the newspaper and John’s death was reported in the Courier Mail. The information was basically what was included in the inquest file only in brief.  This is where a search of Trove can be useful in finding information on accidental or sudden deaths in the family. Once the date and place of death is known it is easy to then go to the relevant State Archives and look for an inquest file or register.

As this example shows, the witnesses statements usually give an account of a person’s last moments as well as giving personal and biographical information that may not be found elsewhere.  As I mentioned at the start, I have numerous inquest files in my family records. Some of these are on direct ancestors but I also look for inquests on collateral lines and their descendants as these may also give family background.

Most State Archives have online guides to inquest records and some may even have online indexes so these should be consulted in the first instance. Also Trove may be useful in determining a date and place of death or inquest but also follow up with the archival record as well.  Why not look for some inquest records in your families, you may be surprised.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 8 Diaries

March 3rd, 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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmobAnne and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Sharon Week 8

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land Records Week 7 Local Histories

Week 8 Diaries

I love diaries as they can provide so much information on a family, daily life or a trip or whatever. But sadly there are no diaries in my own immediate family records. But this does not mean that we should not look for other people’s diaries in areas that were relevant to our own ancestors.

The obvious example here is shipboard diaries – what happened to one person on a voyage probably also happened to others on board. Nicholson’s Log of Logs is a great resource to find the location of shipboard diaries and I was lucky enough to find an entry for the Mairi Bhan. This was the ship which my Irish ancestors John and Sarah Finn and their young son James came out to Queensland on in 1882. The diary was in private hands and when I contacted the family, they very generously gave me a copy of the diary.

On 29 August 1882 they all went on board the Mairi Bhan and by the next afternoon the diarist was sea sick. The next day he reported that nearly all were sick and some were wishing they had never set out. By about 3 September the diarist was feeling less ill and he started reporting sightings or porpoises, flying fish, birds and other sailing ships.

Events on board were also recorded such as fights or disputes between the passengers, concerts in the evening, the weather and in particular the wind as that impacted on how far they sailed, and routine events such as eating, washing and mending clothes.

Births and deaths on board were also noted. A number of babies and children died and were buried at sea. Two babies were also born on board, one of them on the diarist’s birthday. It just so happens that the baby born on his birthday was the son of my John and Sarah Finn! Coincidence is everywhere with family history. It also made me realise that Sarah was about 7 months pregnant when she boarded and endured all that seasickness at the beginning of the voyage, not to mention having to go up and down the ladder every day to go on deck.

As they neared the tropics, the weather became increasingly hot and most of the entries report on the weather, what the sailing was like, and as boredom set in there were more instances of disputes between some of the passengers. On 26 September 1882 the diarist got up at 4.00am to watch a beautiful comet and some of the sailors said that there had not been such a large comet since 1868. Thanks to Google and Wikipedia, I was able to identify it as the Great Comet of 1882 (it is identified by a series of numbers rather than a person’s name). I hope my ancestors also managed to see it and perhaps this is a family trait as I have always been fascinated by the night time sky and have often got up to watch for comets and shooting stars.

As they continued sailing south, the weather became colder and they started to see whales, sharks, albatrosses, and other birds which the diarist said looked beautiful flying around the ship. The rougher seas meant that people were again sea sick but the strong winds also meant that they made good progress. Finally, on the morning of 26 November they saw land in the distance and by the afternoon they could easily see Moreton Lighthouse. On 28 November they  boarded the steamer Kate to be taken into Brisbane and it was a ‘grand parting when we left the ship. They fired three rounds out of the cannon and there was plenty of cheering’.

They were 91 days at sea and the diarist made an entry for every day so I have a day by day account of what the voyage was like for my own great great grandparents. It would have been slightly different for them, especially after the baby was born, but they would still have seen  and experienced the same weather and day to day sailing highs and lows.

There are all kinds of diaries, some more detailed than others. I also try to find personal accounts of areas where my families lived and recently I have started to look for military unit histories and diaries to supplement what I have found in army dossiers. If you have never thought of exploring these types of records before, why not try and find a shipboard diary for an ancestor’s voyage. You may be pleasantly surprised.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 Week 7 – Local Histories

February 26th, 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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmob, Anne and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Sharon Week 7

Cassmob Week7

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land Records

Week 7 Local Histories

Local history often goes hand in hand with family history as our ancestors were very much a part of the communities in which they lived. I have always looked for local histories for areas they lived in and this also includes any church or school histories or anniversary celebrations. Quite often there has been direct references to my families and if I am lucky, a relevant photo or two.

However like all resources, anything we find in a published history should still be checked for accuracy. Many older histories do not cite their sources and it can be very hard to trace where a particular story has come from. In one instance, locals told me not to buy the local history because there were so many mistakes in it (which was a bit sad as I am sure that a lot of hard work went into producing the publication). I still purchased the book as there were lots of references to my families but there was no bibliography, no footnotes or end notes, no list of sources and the index was more a contents list. The acknowledgements was a long list of people and I suspect that the book was written more from an anecdotal perspective than a records perspective.

People’s memories of an area will differ according to their individual perspectives but they should still be considered as these memories may not be recorded in any other source and may supplement the official records. For example, Clara Bishop (nee Carnegie) was my great great grandmother’s sister and Clara told a story to one of her nieces that was then published in a local history, From Spear to Musket 1879-1979 Caboolture Centenary: stories of the area once controlled by the Caboolture Divisional Board.

Clara’s first husband was Charles Davis and with him she had two sons Alexander (Alec) Thomas Davis and John Carnegie Davis. According to this account Alec died of black flu when it reached the isolated settlements along Pumicestone Passage shortly after World War One. Apparently the authorities in Caboolture refused to handle the body unless it was closely wrapped to prevent contagion and this was reported from several sources (but unfortunately these sources are not cited). Clara then sewed her son’s body in a sail and drove her spring cart along the bush track into Caboolture in the dead of night and left the body in Carmody’s buggy shed to await a doctor’s certificate. The writer goes on to say ‘that the buggy shed served as a morgue more than once, but that night it must have covered human grief and human courage beyond mortal measure’.

So how much of Clara’s story is true? She would have been remembering it many years later and the niece similarly would have been remembering what was said many years later again for the history. As other sources are referred to but not cited we cannot check them either. One obvious source to check is Alec’s death certificate.  He died in May 1919 aged 26 years with cause of death given as oedema of brain and a note that he had a skull injury a few months ago from shrapnel. There was a circular portion of his skull about two inches in diameter that was uncovered by bone and bulging and that he had a blow of his head shortly before his death but on the other side of his skull.

It appears that Alec received his head wound in the last months of the war and was sent home where he somehow hit his head again and this possibly aggravated his existing injuries leading to his death. Clara’s grief must have been two fold – she would have worried about Alec the whole time he was away at war and then to lose him shortly after his return must have been terrible for her. She probably did have to take his body into Caboolture because of Toorbul’s isolation.

A search of Trove in the Brisbane Courier in 1919 for black flu reveals no entries, although a search for influenza reveals many entries. There are reports in April and early May 1919 that Queensland is still clear of the epidemic so it is unlikely that Alec had the black flu when he died on 5 May and it is not mentioned on his death certificate. However after May 1919 there were influenza cases in Queensland and in retrospect perhaps his death became associated with the epidemic although in reality he died just before it began.

With access to today’s online resources we can revisit the stories in local histories and check for accuracy and supporting evidence. They say do not judge a book by its cover – so too do not accept the contents as fact without supporting evidence. There will probably be some elements of truth but the facts may also be obscured by the mists of time. Why not see if there is a local history (or two) written about the area where your ancestors lived? You might be surprised at what you discover.


The Future of Genealogy (as seen from Feb 2014)

February 24th, 2014

On the recent Unlock the Past genealogy cruise, Thomas MacEntee chaired a panel session looking at the future of genealogy. The panellists were myself (Shauna Hicks from Queensland, Mike Murray from Western Australia, Chris Paton from Scotland and Kirsty Gray from England. Thomas had a set of six questions which he put to each panellist.

This session was of great interest to me so even though I was on the panel, I tried to make notes of what everyone was saying to write up this report.

Question One

What was the most amazing development in the field of genealogy and family history for 2013?

I was the closest panellist to Thomas so the microphone and the option to answer first always fell to me. That was OK because I had seen the questions earlier and had prepared some notes whereas Kirsty had not seen the questions before and needed a little time to think about her answers. My response was increased usage of technology with webinars, Google hangouts etc allowing active participation from anywhere in the world. Genealogy and family history societies should make more use of this type of technology if they want to retain/increase their memberships and attract younger members.

Mike mentioned the growth of online records and that it was almost too easy now. Chris mentioned archives and genealogy and the use of structured searching in archives catalogues. He gave SCAN (Scottish Archives Network) as an example. Kirsty pointed out that there was more social networking, blogging and that this could be very collaborative. They obviously all said a bit more than that but those are the points that I noted down.

Question Two

Is there a “typical genealogist?” How would you describe the demographic of the genealogy consumer industry in Australia? Outside of Australia?

My response was that there is no typical genealogist, it ranges from old timers like me to Ancestry newbies. Plus there is also the other divide which is those who belong to societies and those who are by themselves online  and I thought that most were female and probably over 50 but we are seeing a few younger people. However I do not think societies are welcoming or meeting their needs so younger people are mostly online and using social media. The other mindset is that a lot of people want it all free or very cheap which is probably also a result of the aged demographic and reduced income dynamic.

Mike reported seeing more younger people in the west and suggested that it was because there are more IT options now to attract them. Chris agreed with me that there was no typical genealogist but they were probably over 50. He pointed out that membership of societies was shrinking and that most people now were doing their own research and only using professionals for problems or where they could not find something themselves. Kirsty said that in her areas (one name studies and one place studies) there were probably more men than women, people were interested in their own families and she did mention the word ‘eccentric’.

Question Three

Are there any setbacks or pushbacks you’ve seen over the past few years that are a cause for concern, especially when it comes to growth of the genealogy industry?

My response was that societies are finding it hard to retain memberships and to stay viable they increase their membership fees, without offering new services to all their members (those at a distance can not always get to a stepped up education program or whatever in person) and this in turn tends to lead to even more members not rejoining. Some societies are aging and not looking at, or are unsuccessful in recruiting newer committee members and I can see some societies even folding within a decade or so.

Mike mentioned the standardisation of BDMs across Australia and how that has meant that some records that were previously available in some states are now restricted and the proof of identity issues are a block to professional researchers.  Chris highlighted that people forget that it is not all online and that you still need to look at the records, not just the indexes. He also mentioned declining society memberships and that crowd sourcing projects was a new way for societies to do big indexing projects. Kirsty commented that there are not as many volunteers now as many people are now busier tied to their mobile phones and other online demands.

Question Four

What role will media (television, print, online) continue to play in the genealogy field?

My response was that online will only continue to grow and societies who really embrace this will remain relevant. Print is slowly being replaced by ebooks etc but it still has a place due to the aged demographic at least for the next decade or so. Television is only really good for the big companies who can afford to advertise and it can give people a false impression on how easy and interesting family history can be.

Mike pointed out the big impact that WDYTYA has had on the interest in genealogy and that there was increased interest in DNA. He does not think much of social media and referred to it as ‘froth and bubble’ which I think annoyed some people in the audience as this cruise attracted quite a number of geneabloggers who are all into social media and how it can assist with your research and your genealogy business (if you have one). Chris agreed with the impact of WDYTYA and that it will continue to highlight genealogy until the next big thing comes along, and that the bubble will burst sometime. Kirsty said that WDYTYA had been phenomenal for societies in the UK but I am not sure that is the same for Australia.

Question Five

Five years from now, what will be the most popular method for the “newbies” to find genealogy and get hooked?

My response was probably online but I would also like to see archives and libraries still having a role – if people do not use them then chances are there will be staff cutbacks, reduced services etc. Although we often find after cutbacks more digitised resources available to all, not just those who can visit in person.

Mike said online also and that ‘apis’ would be used to tap into mass data from archives and libraries. Chris was totally honest and said ‘no bloody clue’ as the last five years had seen so much change but he did think that archives and libraries would be using more social media to reach their clients. Kirsty also said more social media networking for everyone and that it was a way for archives to advertise what they have for researchers.

Question Six

Over the next five years, what will be the biggest motivator or product or concept to propel genealogy forward?

Thomas was going to skip this question as it had been basically covered by the answers to the first five questions. However, this is where I wanted to promote NFHM so I was allowed to make my plea to those in the audience to support me as voluntary national coordinator. In Australia and New Zealand we have National Family History Month in August – it was a week from 2006 to 2012 but I increased it to a month in 2013 as a week is simply not long enough to get coverage across the country. I hope that NFHM will continue to grow and that should also be a central point for societies and other organisations to rally around and promote family history each year. They might even get some more members!

Questions from the Audience

The first question picked up on the fact that the panel was divided on the question of social media and its relevance so we were all asked about our own use of social media. I am a fan of Twitter but also use Google+ and Facebook and of course have two blogs, this one and Diary of an Australian Genealogist.

Mike confirmed that he did not use social media and that he felt it was more essential to get more family stories told and more apps developed. Chris pointed out there would be more interactive websites and gave the example of Scottish post office directories linked to maps.  He uses Twitter and Facebook but is not into Google +. Kirsty said we would see more personal websites and that it was important to use technology to leave something behind. She uses Google + and Skype.

The next question was about crowd sourcing and Chris said it was always important to have a back up. Another question concerned archives to be more collaborative with genealogists and Chris said some already were but others were still to see the light.

Another question concerned the use of social media for campaigns and I mentioned the Australian Save the Census campaign of a few years ago before social media and that it would be easier to do that type of thing now. Chris said that it did need serious coordination between groups to be really successful. Mike pointed out again that he did not find social media useful or relevant. Kirsty gave the example of the 1911 census which was released early and that government organisations are interested in what users think.

The final question was about volunteers and how hard it was to get people to do projects or to sit on committees. Chris pointed out that some indexing projects are just duplicating what has already been done by some of the big companies and Kirsty said it was important to show committees that a project will work. Her One Place Studies is totally online and world wide. Mike mentioned that WA now has a members only section and that has increased interest in the society. Chris said some societies put their records online for free so that they could attract world wide attention.

Unfortunately I did not note my own answers to the questions but the panel was in agreement over most things with the exception of the value of social media for research and business. I hope I have not misquoted anyone and it was a pity that I could not note everything that was said (but I just can not write that fast).

So what is the future of genealogy? Well I do not think we are all going to lose interest anytime soon (I started in 1977 so now into my 37th year of researching my family). Technology is obviously a major player and we will continue to see more digitised records and mega databases. Social media is definitely a big player too and I have numerous examples where I have been contacted by distant family members who have found me via my blogs and stories written about my ancestors. Thanks to technology we can communicate cheaply and easily in person via Skype, Facebook, Google hangouts  and email.

The responses from all of the panelists showed that there was not a great lot of difference between the various countries and technology and social media is bringing us all closer together. Thomas moderated the panel session expertly and I think everyone went away with a lot of thoughts going through their minds. I must make a note to revisit this blog post in five years time!!


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