52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 17 Court Records

June 4th, 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 Webster, Sharn White, Cassmob, Anne, 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 Week 14 Cemetery Records Week 15 Civil Registration and Certificates Week 16 Naturalization and Citizenship Records

Week 17 Court Records
Court records are one of my favourite types of records probably because I have found so much of my family history in them. There are all kinds of courts from higher courts such as the Supreme and District Courts to the local courts of petty sessions plus there are licensing courts, mining warden’s courts, traffic courts, police courts. Terminology and court names vary over time and within the various Australian colonies/states and territories which is why I tend to simply use the generic term court records.

It is timely that this topic came up this week as last month I gave a talk at the Genealogical Society of Queensland annual seminar on court records using some of my own family examples. You can read about the seminar here and the presentation is on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations.

Court records in general are not indexed although there may be individual indexes within each register. The easiest way to find out if an ancestor did make a court appearance is finding a reference in newspapers via Trove. This will give a date and place which can then be followed up at the State Archives which is where court records end up for research purposes. Another place for a serendipity find are police gazettes which are available for searching in findmypast.com.au and Ancestry.com.au have NSW police gazettes.

In the talk mentioned above, I used examples from newspapers from Trove and Papers Past (New Zealand), police gazettes and court of petty session records to show examples from my Finn, Johnston and Trevaskis families. I will not repeat those examples here but will instead highlight my great great grandmother’s story.

Aase Gunderson was Norwegian and came out to Queensland with her husband Anders and two young sons, both of whom died on the voyage out in 1873. Aose gave birth to four more children here,twin boys, another son and a daughter. One of the twin boys died aged five weeks but the surviving twin and the other son married and had children. I have never been able to learn what happened to the daughter but I suspect she died young too. If so, within the space of a few years Aase had lost four children and moved from her Norwegian home and family to the other side of the world.

The young family had a farm at Yengarie near Maryborough, QLD but must have found it hard as they sold up and moved to Brisbane in the early 1880s. On 31 October 1885 Aase was charged with seriously assaulting their landlord, William Trieschmann. The family rented a room in Trieschmann’s house and on the evening of 22 October he stated that Aase hit him over the head with a piece of firewood several times without any provocation. Trieschmann’s wife and daughter both corroborated his evidence. There is a quite detailed account in the Brisbane Courier on 31 Oct 1885 in Trove.

The only reason they could give for Aase’s actions were that they had reported her to Inspector Marlow on 19 October 1885 for cruelty to three puppies. Also Mrs. Trieschmann had summonsed Aase for making use of obscene language but the case had been dismissed.

Aase said nothing in her own defence and even refused a Norwegian translator so obviously she was still not fluent in the English language. William Trieschmann eventually dropped the charges. Aase was granted bail as this newspaper report shows (Brisbane Courier 7 Nov 1885 in Trove). It Brisbane Courier 7 Nov 1885 Osie Gundersonmust have been very hard for her husband to find the money and the surety. How traumatic was her brief stay in gaol and her experience with the police and the court, places where probably no one else spoke her language?

I have looked at the newspaper reports and read the court depositions but at no time did Aase explain her actions. There must have been more to the story as I cannot see why anyone would pick up a piece of wood and start hitting their landlord over the head without any provocation. Why didn’t Aase use the Norwegian translator? Why didn’t she tell her side of the story? Why did Trieschmann drop the charges? So many questions and probably we will never know the answers.

Aase died five years later aged 45 years from heart disease. Her two sons were 12 and 10 years old and she had lived in Queensland almost 17 years. Heart disease or a broken heart?

The court records and newspapers all recorded her name as Osie but the Norwegian spelling was Aase so perhaps the spelling reflects how the name was pronounced. What I really found sad was that her death was registered under the name of Mary so at some point she had given up using her Norwegian name. Whenever I think about my great great grandmother it is always with sadness as she had so much sorrow and hardship within her short life.

Court records can tell us a lot about our ancestors if we are lucky enough to find them but the records can raise more questions for which there are no answers. Crimes and circumstances vary but court records are definitely worth following up if you catch a glimpse (or two) of your family in other sources such as newspapers and police gazettes. Boring ancestors do not leave exciting records and I am so glad my ancestors were anything but boring.

Report on GSQ annual genealogy seminar day 26 May 2014

May 29th, 2014

This is an annual event hosted by the Genealogical Society of Queensland (GSQ) that I have had the privilege of speaking at over the years, much easier now that I am living closer to Brisbane. Even if I was not speaking, I would still attend as the speakers are usually good with topics that interest me. This year was no different. Speakers included Dr Jennifer Harrison, Helen Smith, Stephanie Ryan from State Library of Queensland (SLQ), Jane Wassall from Queensland State Archives (QSA)and myself. Each speaker gave two talks. So ten talks in a day which reminded me a little of being on an Unlock the Past cruise. A little bit of brain overload at the end of the day but most speakers had handouts and my two talks are on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations.

It is a bit like a one day conference as you register and collect your name tag and show bag at the front desk on arrival. Inside the show bag were the usual flyers, pencils, bookmarks etc but also a copy of GSQ’s journal Generation and a copy of their Queenslanders Pioneer Families 1859-1901 which is a 159 page book with lots of mini family biographies. I already had one so it will make a nice present for someone. During the day lucky door prizes provided by sponsors were drawn at all breaks. So great value before the talks even started!

First was Dr Jennifer Harrison talking about convict records and in particular explaining the different pardons, tickets of leave and certificates of freedom. Next was Helen Smith on document analysis which I had heard on the UTP cruise in February but it is always good to hear talks again as you absorb more information or it means more to you as you understand the topic more. After an excellent morning tea (how can you go past scones, cream and jam) Stephanie Ryan spoke about the biographical information you can find from persons called before government committees and the SLQ has an online index and guide to those resources here. I was next looking at the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) and what is now indexed, digitised and online but a lot of those 10,000 reels of microfilm are still in microfilm format! Last talk before lunch was Jane Wassall on school files at the QSA which was a trip down memory lane for me as they were some of my favourite records when I worked there. The QSA Brief Guide 18 on School Records is an excellent way of learning what is held for schools and how to find it.

Lunch was a selection of sandwiches and hot savouries which were popular and filling. As first speaker after lunch I was worried that a few might nod off. Also during lunch the winner of the Joan Reese Memorial Short Story Writing competition was announced. Then it was my turn again with a talk on what you can find on your ancestors in court of petty session and other court records. Copies of both my talks are on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations. Next was Jenny on land orders and immigration schemes and meeting the criteria of the schemes probably explains why our ancestors ages went up and down! Helen Smith followed with part two of her document analysis talk this time illustrating how software programs such as Clooz and Evidentia can help us with our research and analysing documents.

After another yummy afternoon tea (jam drops and other biscuits) it was time for the final two talks. Stephanie spoke about the pre 1859 NSW Colonial Secretary’s correspondence which relates to Queensland. I remember using this on microfilm when I worked at the John Oxley Library so it is really good to see that they have been indexing it and starting to put the index online. Great if you have early pre separation Queenslanders and the online guide and index is here. Final talk was Jane talking about a variety of records held at QSA with World War One connections. It really is amazing what you can find at the archives.

Sponsors for the day were Ancestry.com.au, Findmypast.com.au, Gould Genealogy & History, National Archives of Australia, Queensland State Archives and State Library of Queensland. GSQ, QSA, SLQ, Boolarong Press and Guild of One Name Studies all had display tables and I saw quite a few  people buying books. I took the opportunity to renew my subscription to History Queensland a magazine all about Queensland published by Boolarong which I obviously forgot to renew during our big move last year.

When the GSQ President had finished thanking all the sponsors, volunteers who did a marvelous job with the set up and catering and the speakers I slipped quietly out as I wanted to drive back to Bribie Island before it got dark.  I am happy to say Brisbane traffic was not too bad and I managed to find my way into and out of the tunnel under the Brisbane River and made it home just on 5.30pm and the setting sun. Great day and already looking forward to next year’s seminar.

Using Police Gazettes

November 19th, 2009

In some ways this is a continuation of last week’s entry in that it relates to my talk on Convicts & Criminals this Saturday at the Mulwala Family History Expo. I had finished my presentation and was doing a final run through to see that it worked and realised I had forgotten Police Gazettes.

When I was doing all my criminal research in Queensland back in the 80s, Police Gazettes were actually closed to public access and one couldn’t even see them. Now twenty years later I can buy digitised copies of them courtesy of Archive CD books or even see them online through the World Vital Records Australasia site for a fee. Makes you wonder what all the fuss was about back then.

Anyway, because I did my research the hard way, I have lots of references to police, court and prison records for a number of my relatives. Putting these names into the online indexes brings up surprising results, a bit like the results for newspaper searches that I mentioned last week, only not so explainable.

Another one of my g g grandfather’s did some gaol time for a range of crimes including drunkenness, obscene language, wife desertion, assault etc. Now there is no reference to him in the Qld Police Gazette for the year in which this all happened and I am not sure why. One of the things I found in the Colonial Secretary’s correspondence was a handwritten letter from him requesting a remission of his sentence and he outlined all the things my g g grandmother had done wrong including adultery and naming the other party. Mind you, all this action was going on while they were living in a tent with ten children on the railway line at Beenleigh.

A policeman was sent out to investigate my ancestor’s claims and the policeman’s report makes very interesting reading and doesn’t paint too flattering a picture of my ancestor. There was one part of the policeman’s report that I found disturbing when the policeman said “on 24th October last his wife summonsed Johnson for assault – the case was dismissed as the wife was not injured and the correction was not more than a husband is entitled by law to exercise”. I wonder what law that was and yes, I know, it was Queensland!

However, I did pick up a reference to him in the Police Gazettes post his gaol time. In 1895 he served one month’s imprisonment in Roma for threatening language. It was under the name Adam Johnson, not Johnston, but I knew it was still my guy who I had lost track of after his release from gaol in 1887 and before his death in Mackay in 1900.

How did I know it was him? He was described as 51 years old, native of Ireland, 5ft 6ins, medium build, fresh complexion, light brown hair, and hazel eyes. In the remarks it said he was bald with a long scar on the right side of his head which matched the description back in 1887 but now he had also lost his two upper front teeth and he had a fresh lump behind his right ear. I actually named my son after this guy but that’s another story!

So now I know he was out Roma way in 1895 and recently I was contacted by one of my collateral cousins who was all excited for me. She is also researching the family and we share information and she informed me that my Adam had partnered up with another woman (but no evidence of marriage or none found yet) and had another three children before he died in 1900.

We are going to get together in Brisbane in December and swap information. I suppose it really is too late to change my son’s name but at least he can claim a colourful ancestor. Nothing worse than ancestors who lived a good life, they didn’t leave exciting records behind!

The point of this blog, do use Police Gazettes as an easy way into your family’s criminal past (if you are that lucky) and don’t forget that Police Gazettes also mention police, missing persons, victims of crime and other community affairs such as hotel licensing etc. So definitely worth a look. BUT don’t neglect going back to original records where you can, because there might be more information and possibly even information that never made it into the Police Gazettes. Good hunting!

Mining and Criminal Records in Queensland

November 5th, 2009

In 1992 I successfully completed the Diploma in Historical Studies at the Society of Australian Genealogists. It was the end of an annus horribilus year, my son turned five, my then husband had major cancer surgery followed by chemotherapy, I was working full time at the John Oxley Library while nursing my husband at home and for relaxation I thought I would do the Diploma. Looking back I can almost laugh but at the time the Diploma kept me focussed. Therefore these two theses mean a lot to me and having salvaged them from a Word Perfect format into Word although losing some formatting and style, they are both still readable and informative. The illustrations are not in the document and I will have to scan them and attach separately. Also since 1992 my research has progressed, and some of the questions in my thesis I have now answered. Ideally I will do a sequel but not today. So in the meantime, I have put my two 1992 research theses under Resources on my website. I hope someone finds Criminal Records: A Guide to Sources in Queensland and From Iron Chains to Gold Bars: A History of the Walker Family including the Evans, Potter, Bullen and Atkinson Families, 1814-1941 useful and interesting.