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.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 6 Land Records

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 WebsterSharn WhiteCassmob, 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

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

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:


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 5 Family Stories

February 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). 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:

Anne Week 5 Family Stories

Sharon Week 5 Family Stories

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards

Week 5 Family Stories

One of the first things I did after getting hooked on genealogy back in the late 70s, was to visit as many of my elderly relatives as I could. I jotted down the bits and pieces of information they gave me, copied photographs and documents and filed it all away in my manilla folders in my filing cabinets. Now as I work my way through the dozens and dozens of folders, weeding and scanning to reduce the size of my family history records and also to make backup copies and to more easily pass the information on to other family members, I realise that I probably should have asked more and different questions and I should have made more fulsome notes. But that is nearly 40 years of hindsight and we quite often cannot go back to revisit those interviews.

Even after all that time, there are some family stories that I can remember easily. My grandfather’s cousin was Doris Eileen Manville nee Maher and everyone called her Aunty Dorrie. She was good friends with my grandmother Kathleen May Gunderson nee Carnegie so we saw a lot of Aunty Dorrie and her husband Stan Manville. When I started researching she was 71 years old with a good memory and she lived to 99 years. It was from her that I learnt most about my Gunderson and Johnston families .

Her best family story was regarding my great great grandfather Adam Johnston. His wife was Maria Jeffers who was Dorrie’s much loved grandmother. While Dorrie could tell me about Maria, she was always reluctant to talk about Adam but she did tell me that he had simply disappeared having been taken by a crocodile in Oxley Creek which runs into the Brisbane River. I had been having trouble finding a death certificate for Adam but I did not really think it was because of a crocodile. Still I looked into it and there was no inquest and without an exact date it was not possible to check newspapers back then. I even investigated crocodiles in the Brisbane area but could not come up with any evidence of any in the river.

So I guessed that Adam had deserted Maria at some point and had subsequently been dropped from the family history. It was not until 1987 that I stumbled across a reference to Adam in Brisbane prison records and found out that he had deserted the family and failed to pay maintenance and was subsequently sentenced to gaol time. Local court records gave me lots of information on Adam and Maria and some of their public fights and I could see why Dorrie’s generation did not want to talk about it and would have preferred to keep it secret from the next generations. Family stories often have some truth in them and it is a matter of working out the relevant pieces of information.

On my mother’s side of the family there is the story of how her father Henry Price participated in the capture of German New Guinea in World War One. I sent away for Henry’s army record and after a lengthy (9 months) wait I eventually received a two page letter outlining his brief military service. I have previously written about Henry Price’s military service (read it here) but briefly he was part of the Kennedy Regiment that was sent to New Guinea at the start of the war. He was on board the Kanowna whose crew mutinied and they were all eventually sent back to Townsville.  Most of the Kennedy Regiment reenlisted and were sent to Gallipoli but Henry decided he had had enough of military service and stayed on in Townsville. Again there was an element of truth in the family story but not the complete story.

Sometimes family stories can have you looking in all the wrong places. Max’s grandfather Henry Spencer was older than his wife Ada Barwick nee Jarvis and the family story was that he had had another family in England before he came out to Australia. Ada and Henry separated when Max’s father was young and the family lost contact with him and no one knew when or where he had died. The family had lived in Tasmania and South Australia and we looked in both those places and Victoria for Henry’s death without any success. We wondered if he had gone back to England and we also tried to find the family that he was supposed to have had over there.

The truth was that Henry had come out to Queensland as a single man, married twice in Queensland with families to both women and after the death of his second wife moved to Tasmania where he met Ada, a young widow with two children. I had not thought to look for him in Queensland and only stumbled on his death in Ancestry when they listed BDM indexes for the various states. These days it is easier to accidentally find people by simply searching huge databases for them. Once we had his death certificate we could then trace all the step siblings but for a while we were looking for him in all the wrong places because of the family story.

It is definitely worth contacting older relatives and noting any family stories and anecdotes but like any resource, family stories need to be checked and proven against other records. In Adam and Maria’s case it led to a wealth of information in court and prison records which gave me details not found elsewhere. Military records may be quite different from what the family remembers and all too often, those who returned home from war were reluctant to talk about it so a more complete picture may be in the official record. Certificates are probably the records that surprise us most often, revealing unknown marriages or children not to mention incorrect parents names on death certificates and so on. If you still have some elderly relatives out there, now is the time to have a chat and capture those family stories!


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 4 Memorial Cards

January 28th, 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). 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 four 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 this week:

Anne Memorial Cards

Sharon Memorial Cards

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations)

Week 4 Memorial Cards

There is only one memorial card in my family history records but I have seen lots of memorial cards in other family collections. So why include memorial  cards in this blog challenge? The one in my family was loaned to me by my mother’s aunt back in the late 1970s so I am not sure now if the original still exists as Aunty Ivy died some years ago. But I have my copy and it started me on a search for what happened to an 11 year old boy who fell off his horse in Charters Towers in North Queensland in 1900.

The photo of Sydney Herbert White on the memorial card is the only one in existence, to my knowledge.  It is not a great photo or copy, as the original was not in good condition but the words Deeply Mourned and the verse that accompanies it reveal the family’s grief following the accident.

I wondered it there might have been an inquest into his death and I found a handwritten account with numerous witness statements at the Queensland State Archives. My great grandparents Herbert William White and Dorcas White nee Trevaskis both gave statements which told me more about Sydney, their eldest child.  He had been riding to see his grandmother Elizabeth Guy (formerly Trevaskis nee Rosewarne) when the horse was spooked and he was thrown off. Witnesses gave two accounts – one there was a dog and two there was a pile of rags but whichever it was, Sydney fell heavily and was taken to Mrs Guy’s, his grandmother’s house and a doctor and his father were sent for. His mother was already at her mother’s place. Sadly Sydney died shortly after his father arrived from what the doctor diagnosed as a broken neck.

If Aunty Ivy had not kept a copy of the memorial card, I might never have fully looked into Sydney’s death as he was my grandmother’s sibling and I tended back then to only spend money on certificates if it was a direct line or I needed more information on the family to go back further.  Of course these days we would head straight to Trove to see if we could find something on an 11 year old boy’s death.

And sure enough, Trove did not disappoint. By putting “Sydney Herbert White” as a search term there are two direct hits which now tell me even more than I previously learnt from the inquest. There is a paragraph published after the funeral. Like the inquest, it is sad reading – ‘A large number of the little boy’s fellow scholars at the Sandy Creek Sunday School testified their regard by following the funeral’.  The account was published in the North Queensland Register on 3 December 1900. The following week the same newspaper reported at length on the inquest, basically giving shortened versions of the various witness statements.

Back in the 1970s I did find a newspaper account of the accident in the New Eagle on 1 December 1900 but that microfilm has not yet been digitised. So remember not everything is in Trove yet. Perhaps we all need to rediscover our microform skills?

Sydney was buried in the Charters Towers cemetery and his grieving parents erected a tombstone in his memory. The verse again shows their grief – ‘as the ivy clings to the oak, so our memory shall cling to thee’.  I have visited the grave and taken a photo for the family history.  Sydney has not been forgotten and although his life was short, he left many records behind.

This blog challenge is all about revisiting my older research to see if there are any new records and information. Yet again I am amazed at how much more I have learnt about one event. Even if you do not have any memorial cards (although you should definitely ask older family members), there are probably children in your families who died young. Maybe you can find out more about their short lives by paying Trove (or Papers Past if you have New Zealand ancestors) a quick visit.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations)

January 21st, 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). 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 two 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 and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Sharon – Probates (wills and administrations), Judy Webster 10 Tips for Wills, Intestacies and Probates

Links to Week 1 Military Medals, Week 2 Internal Migration

Week 3 Probates (wills and administration)

Not too many of my ancestors left wills and even if they did, it was usually a  basic will leaving everything to their spouse. However you should always look for a will or an intestacy (administration) just in case there is something interesting to find.

My great great grandmother Elizabeth Rosewarne married twice and had children to both James Henry Trevaskis and George Guy. When she died in 1904, her will caused some ill feeling in the family as it only named her two sons James Henry Guy and George Guy. Her daughter Dorcas Trevaskis and son John Trevaskis were not mentioned and they individually visited a solicitor with their suspicions about the will. The executors were their two half brothers and the beneficiaries under the will. The executors eventually gave consent for Dorcas and John to examine the will and no further action was noted on file.

Now before you all start thinking that perhaps Elizabeth was a very wealthy woman, she was not but just over £535 was a sizeable estate for that time. Elizabeth had some mining homestead leases with improvements, furniture, horses, buggy and carts, money in two Australian Joint Stock Bank fixed deposit accounts and 40 mixed fowls. This inventory gave me the exact location of their mining leases and I would never have known about the fowls if the estate had not been so detailed.

Administration of an intestate estate can also lead to the discovery of detailed lists of property and personal effects. I have previously written about the estate of my great grandfather Thomas Price but it is worth referring back to it because it is one of the most detailed lists I have ever seen. Coincidentally it was an Australia Day blog challenge in 2012 so perhaps it is appropriate to remember him again on the approach to Australia Day 2014. Wealth for Toil was about his last job before his accidental death at the Wee MacGregor mine in far north Queensland. He died intestate and the Public Curator administered his estate, hence the incredibly detailed list of effects in his tent at the time of his death. I still get a bit teary every time I read this blog thinking about his lonely life.

Sometimes we look for probate records in the hope that they will solve some family mystery. Late last year I discovered that my great great grandmother Helen Carnegie and her second husband Charles Wademore Chick both left wills in New South Wales where Charles had died in 1929. He left everything (a sizable estate of £4018 including real estate and an insurance policy) to Helen and she returned to Queensland where she died in 1946. Helen updated her will in 1933 leaving everything to her sister Clara Bishop or if she predeceased Helen, everything was to go to her nephew Clara’s son, John Carnegie Davis. My mystery remains – why did she not mention her son James Carnegie who was my great grandfather?

So probate records can fill in missing information on a family, or provide details that would not be found anywhere else or they may just raise more questions. Either way, it is definitely worth checking (usually the records are at the State Archives) to see if there was a will or an intestacy. Remember to widen your search time period as not all estates were wrapped up shortly after death. It may only occur after the death of both partners. There may not be any probate records to find but you will never know unless you look.


52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 2 Internal Migration

January 14th, 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). 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. Happy researching Shauna Hicks

Week 2 Internal Migration

Technically internal migration is not a category of records but it is such an important part of our family history research as our ancestors moved around a lot more than we think. Many did not just come to Australia and stay in the one place. We can discover their movements from a number of different sources as my own examples will demonstrate.

Having started researching my family history back in the 1970s when certificates were a lot cheaper (although I was not earning that much either back then) I made it a practice to buy the certificates of the siblings of my direct ancestors if I was having trouble tracing the family. This practice paid off for a number of my families.

Adam Johnston and Maria Jeffers married in Brisbane in 1864 and had nine children. My own direct ancestor was their seventh child Elizabeth Johnston who was born at South Pine, north of Brisbane. I had trouble locating the family in that area so I started buying the other children’s birth certificates.  The first four children James, Sarah Jane, William and Selina were all born in Brisbane and my big surprise came when I bought the next certificate. Fifth child, daughter Margaret was born in Stanthorpe down near the New South Wales border. Another daughter Margaret was also born in Stanthorpe and that sent me looking for a death certificate for the first Margaret.  My ancestor Elizabeth was their next child born at South Pine so by then they had left Stanthorpe. The eighth child Maria was also born at South Pine while the ninth and last child Adam John was born at Sherwood on the other side of Brisbane.

What prompted their move and stay in Stanthorpe for at least four years? This is where occupation on a certificate comes in handy. Adam Johnston had become a tin miner and was trying his luck on the tin fields of Stanthorpe in the 1870s. Had I not purchased all of the children’s birth certificates this period in their lives would have remained unknown (to me) as I have found no other evidence of it elsewhere.

It is a similar story with my Price family. Thomas and Elizabeth Price arrived as newlyweds in Sydney in 1878 and obviously they were not sure where they wanted to settle. They had ten children (big families help when tracing ancestors movements) and the children were as follows: Solomon was born at Caleula, William at Orange, Thomas at Parramatta, Elizabeth Ann at Kiama, Clara at Broughton Creek, Henry at Nattai (all more or less south of Sydney), then George was born at Bundanba (now Bundamba) west of Brisbane, a still born child was born in Bundaberg and the last two Herbert Leslie and Annie Lewis were born in Charters Towers in far north Queensland.

In just under twenty years Thomas and Elizabeth Price had moved up and down the east coast of Australia and without those birth certificates I would not have known about all the family moves.

My final example is my Trevaskis family. James Henry Trevaskis arrived in Moonta, South Australia with his wife Ann and three children. After his wife died, he married my direct ancestor Elizabeth Rosewarne and they had my great grandmother Dorcas Trevaskis in Moonta. Their next son John Trevaskis was born in Copperfield, Queensland  and I would love to know how they made that incredible trip from South Australia, presumably through western New South Wales and up through Queensland. Dorcas married in Charters Towers and died in Brisbane but the wording ‘late of Charters Towers’ on her tombstone makes the link back there. So sometimes there are also clues to internal migration in records such as funeral notices, obituaries and monumental inscriptions.

One way I track these internal movements in a family is to use a time chart where I put all known dates and places for an individual (or a family) in a timeline and often this will help me see a discrepancy or that I am missing a key piece of information. Are you really sure that your ancestors did not move around after they arrived in Australia?

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Sharon (Tree of Me blog) Internal Migration

Judy Webster Internal Migration

Cassmob Internal Migration


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