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.



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 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 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:


Genealogy Aspirations 2014

December 23rd, 2013

This year has gone incredibly fast! It has been busy with settling into our new home on Bribie Island and doing some travel as usual. Regular readers will know that I like to review my genealogy goals at the end of a year and to set myself some new genealogy goals for the coming year. So how did I go with my Genealogy Aspirations 2013?

The five aspirations (in brief) were:

1. As I unpack to identify and list tasks to help keep my goal of scanning and rehousing photographs and family heirlooms progressing. I’m happy to say that I did manage to do some scanning and rehousing but it always takes longer to do than you think.

2. The Burstow one name study – to get organised so that I can answer any queries from others interested in the name and to set up my profile on the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS) website. I managed to set up some spreadsheets for the UK census and some other miscellaneous records in Australia and I received one query on the name via the GOONS website.

3. My Norwegian ancestors (the Gunderson line goes back to 1688) – researching more about their culture and where they came from. Sadly, this was the aspiration that got away!

4. As we now live on Bribie Island across from where my Scottish ancestors (Carnegie) were oyster farmers in Pumicestone Passage, to re-look at their files. I have been re-looking at this family and discovered new information. I’ve been asked to speak about the family’s history at the March 2014 meeting of the Bribie Island Historical Society so that will definitely focus my thoughts as I prepare for the talk.


5. Finally to get back to blogging on a more regular basis – both my SHHE Genie Rambles blog and my Diary of an Australian Genealogist were a bit haphazard in 2012. Again I was not as active here as I would have liked but I really did achieve this goal during National Family History Month (NFHM). I was the new voluntary national co-ordinator and I suspect that is where a lot of my spare time went this year. One big plus here was that Diary of an Australian Genealogist was selected by the National Library of Australia to be archived into Pandora, accessed via the archived web sites section of Trove which was a thrill and an honour.


As usual there were other genealogy related things that arose during the year to capture my attention. Perhaps the most time consuming (outside of NFHM) were two new research guides for Unlock the Past which are due out in January 2014, just in time for the fourth UTP genealogy cruise. I also attended a number of meetings in Canberra of the National Archives of Australia‘s advisory committee for the centenary of World War One and it has been really interesting being part of that committee and I am looking forward to the 2014 meetings.


Now to my Genealogy Aspirations for 2014


1. I have to keep the scanning of photographs and documents at the top of the list (I am very much an out of sight out of mind person). Now that we live in Paradise and all its distractions, I do not want to be tied down to any fixed timetable but perhaps three hours  a week, which would be 156 hours for the year. That might even finish the job!


2. My Burstow one name study will continue (one name studies are actually never ending) but one thing I do want to try this coming year is to do some family reconstructions if I can. It is not an essential part of a one name study but one that intrigues me, especially for the name here in Australia.


3. Each year I try and focus on at least one of my families so in 2014 it will be my Irish families (Finn and Fegan from Wicklow; Jeffers from Armagh and Johnston from Cavan). There are lots of new resources for Ireland so maybe I can finally push these lines further back or at least learn more about the families they left behind when they came to Australia.


4. As well as new resources, there are new ways of doing genealogy and catching up with long lost relatives. My friend Geniaus has started having Google+ hangouts but so far I’ve been hesitant to join in as I’m not that techy but like all new things it is just a matter of learning how to do them! Often easier said than done. So 2014 will be my year to try (and probably like) some of these new social media events.


5. I am not sure if organising National Family History Month on a voluntary basis is a personal aspiration but it will take up my time and I do want to make it even more successful than 2013, so I have included it here. Although it is only during the month of August, there is lots of planning and organising through out the year. Plus it is a great chance to work with my genealogy friends and colleagues to help spread the word about the joys of chasing your ancestors!


My 2014 genealogy aspirations are listed – wish me luck!





31 Activities for NFHM (researchers) – The Final 16!

August 28th, 2013

For National Family History Month 2013 I created a list of 31 activities for researchers to do. My blog for the first 15 activities is here.

Here are the final 16 activities:

16 Attend or listen to a webinar
There has been little time for this luxury but one site that I like to check out is Legacy Family Tree webinars. I use Legacy software for my own family history but their webinars are on all kinds of topics (mostly US but there are generic and UK topics too). They are free to listen to live or you can watch them for free up to seven days after the live event. I find after the event is sometimes best as the US times are not always a good fit with Australian time! Watching and listening to them on my laptop at home is easy and I find webinars a great way to learn. You can see upcoming seminars and also archived seminars on the website. I’ve just noticed that two of my favourite presenters are coming up – Dear MYRTLE and Thomas MacEntee – so I’ve just put them into my diary!

17 Read a family history blog
I do this all the time as I have a number of people who I follow on a semi regular basis depending on time. If you are unfamiliar with blogs you might want to look at Inside History Magazine‘s article by Jill Ball on 50 Genealogy Blogs You Need to Read in 2013 – some of my favourites are there too.

18 Start your own genealogy blog writing stories about individual ancestors or families
There is free software that allows you to do this. I used Google Blogger to set up my Diary of an Australian Genealogist and I found that fairly easy to use and of course you learn more as you go along. If you don’t want to put your stories online yet, don’t let that stop you from at least writing them in the first place.

19 Have another look at that brick wall – construct a time line of known facts and relook at everything
I find that time lines help me to see any gaps in what I know or what I have looked at. Also write down all the possible spelling variations for any given names or surnames and then ask someone else how they would spell it. Use wildcards. Have you got all the relevant certificates? What about any new resources either online or in print? With new online resources I’ve slowly solved my brick walls but I still have one GG grandfather who doesn’t want to be found! Read Still Looking for James Henry Trevaskis here.

20 Did your ancestors own land?
Land records can be more than just knowing they owned a particular portion of land in a parish. The land files on my GG grandfather John Finn contained numerous personal letters between him and the Lands Department which have invaluable details about the family’s struggle to keep their farm against all kinds of hardships. I would never have found that information elsewhere.

21 Did they leave probate records?
Not many of my people had detailed wills but I did find interesting information in administration files including married names of daughters, addresses and so on. When my GG grandfather Thomas Price died at a mining site away from this family, I was very pleased that his estate was handled by the then Public Curator. The wealth of information in that file was hard to believe and you can read some of the details in my blog Wealth for Toil – Thomas Price.

22 What about their school years – was it one school or did they move around?
If you live in Queensland you are lucky as the Queensland Family History Society have indexed a lot of the school admission registers and school histories and have published their indexes on CD. The indexes are also available through Findmypast Australasia too. I have found lots of information on my Queensland families and was even surprised to find my own name as a list of pupils who attended Bardon State School was included in the school’s 50th anniversary book and indexed by QFHS!

23 Visit your local newsagent and see what genealogy and family history magazines they have. Australian Family Tree Connections http://www.aftc.com.au/ and Inside History Magazine http://www.insidehistory.com.au/ are both sponsors of NFHM
I was surprised to find five newsagents on Bribie Island and I did find both Inside History Magazine and Australian Family Tree Connections as well as a selection of UK magazines. The only trouble is if I see a magazine and it has topics that I’m interested in, then I don’t always resist the temptation to buy myself a new magazine! Of course the local library also has genealogy magazines but you have to be quick to get the latest issues.

24 Subscription databases such as Ancestry and Findmypast are often available at your local council library or your genealogy library – book a session time and see what you can discover. Both are sponsors of NFHM
The content of both of these sites just keeps on getting better and better with new material going online all the time. Every time I use either database I find something new. I once heard a talk by Jan Gow, a noted New Zealand genealogist, on doing genealogy in your pyjamas and it’s true – an at home subscription (or pay as you go) allows you to do it whenever you want and you don’t have to stop just because the library is closing. Of course you do have to remember to go to bed!

25 Check out the Gould Genealogy & History online catalogue and be ready when the family ask what you want for Christmas/birthday etc. Another sponsor of NFHM
Whenever family say ‘what do you want for your birthday’ I can never think of anything but in recent years I’ve gotten smarter and there is usually some book or CD that I want from Gould Genealogy & History. They have an extensive range on just about everything genealogy related so make sure you give your family the URL!

26 Explore the new FamilySearch and perhaps do one of their tutorials. Also a sponsor of NFHM
FamilySearch is continually being updated and you really do need to keep checking and rechecking. I love all the digitised records that are being added so make sure you don’t miss them. Scroll down to the Browse by Location section and the bottom of the Home Page and then browse the collections – you might be surprised what is there and it’s free access. The Learning Centre is also worth looking at (find it under the Get Help link) and I often use the Library catalogue and wiki to see what is available for areas that I am interested in.

27 Join Trove and correct newspaper text after you make that exciting family discovery
My love affair with Trove shows no sign of fading away and only the other day I discovered that the Ipswich Times is being added and there were references to John Finn and his celebrated arson case – the articles aren’t online yet as they are still going through the process but I gave my email address and they will contact me when the article is totally online. How fantastic is that! When I do find articles on my family I put tags on, add them to my lists and correct the text. Saves me having to do the searches again, especially if it wasn’t easy to find in the first instance.

28 Plan to attend the next AFFHO congress in Canberra in 2015 http://www.congress2015.org.au/
I wouldn’t even think of missing the 2015 Congress: Generations Meeting Across Time in Canberra as it will be a great place to hear good speakers on all kinds of topics not to mention all the trade displays where it is easy to spend money with all their tempting goods. But for me the best part of attending Congress is catching up with all my genealogy friends and colleagues from around Australia, New Zealand and overseas. I’ve registered my interest in attending and I submitted two papers for consideration in the program so fingers crossed.

29 Make sure all your photos are identified (both print copies and online) and explore Picasa‘s facial recognition capability
This is an ongoing project for me as I am slowly scanning and identifying where I can my mother’s old photos and albums plus trying to tag and caption all the digital photos we take. I found using Picasa’s facial recognition technology easy to use and it certainly helped me to group identify lots of family members once I put in the key information on who people were.

30 Make a start on writing up your family history or perhaps just one family’s stories
Another one of my ongoing projects with drafts done for all my major families. I just need to stop looking for that last bit of information and finish them!

31 Start planning a family reunion or a family gathering
We’ve had a few over the years but I’m thinking of having another one for Mum’s 80th birthday next year. She is the last of her generation and there are still a few of her nieces and nephews around. My brother and I are the youngest of that generation and many of our cousins are in their 70s so getting everyone together could prove a bit challenging but worthwhile.

Well that’s the end of my 31 activities for researchers in National Family History Month 2013. But many of them are long term projects and can’t be done in a single day. I hope they have given you some ideas to further your own research during August and into the future. NFHM will be August 2014 so stay tuned for updates (I volunteered to be the national coordinator again)!





World War One & the brothers Finn

April 24th, 2013

As usual I am participating in Kintalk‘s (Auckland City Libraries) annual Trans Tasman ANZAC day blog challenge. This year I am featuring my father’s three great uncles Robert, John and Denis Patrick Finn who enlisted in World War One. Although all three returned to Australia, I believe that the experience changed them and their lives were totally different from what they might have been had not war intervened.

John and Sarah Finn emigrated from County Wicklow, Ireland in 1882 to Queensland with their eldest son Robert. Another son James was born on the voyage and a further eight children were born in Queensland, Australia.

Their youngest son Denis Patrick Finn was the first of the Finn brothers to enlist on 19 September 1915 in Brisbane. Denis was 19 years old and single and working as a labourer at the time of his enlistment. He joined the 52nd Battalion. Denis was wounded in action in France and was the only Finn brother to become a prisoner of war in Germany. In September 1916 he sent his sister Sarah Jane Jewsbury a postcard:
Dear Sister
Just a postcard to let you know that I am getting on very well and my wound is nearly better. I am at a German Camp here, you can send me anything you like at the address on the other side in full. We get no money here so you can tell Kitty to send me a pound or so. Good bye, best love to all. Tell Kitty to write.
Signed Denis

Denis was also mentioned in despatches (not dated) for bravery under fire and it is probably at this time that he was wounded. In 1923 Denis married and had two children but the marriage did not last and by the early 1930s Denis had been convicted of a number or petty crimes. He was also using the alias Johan Romanoff and perhaps this was someone who he had met in the prison camp or at some other point during the war.

Denis seems to have disappeared after that and I’m still to trace when and where he died.

Robert Finn, the eldest son was the next to enlist on 12 February 1916 in Cairns and he joined the 9th Battalion. Prior to that he was working as a miner at Wolfram in Queensland and was still single at 36 years of age. Like Denis, Robert was also sent to France and returned to Australia on 18 July 1919. Robert never married and died in Mount Morgan hospital in 1953 but prior to his death he was living in Bouldercombe, another mining town in Queensland.

John Finn was the third brother to enlist on 10 June 1916 in Brisbane. He was also single, working as a labourer and 26 years old. He too saw service in France and returned to Australia on 2 June 1919. Like his older brother Robert, John never married and spent time working on the sugar cane plantations in north Queensland. John died in Cairns in 1967 and had been living at Trinity Bay.

All three brothers received the 1914-18 Star Medal, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for their service overseas.

Why did Robert and John never marry? Were they just confirmed bachelors or did the war change how they viewed their world? Why did they live so far away from their family? Would Denis have turned to petty crime if he had not gone to war or not spent time in a prisoner of war camp? Not only did the war impact on the brothers but it also must have impacted on their father and their siblings. My grandmother would never talk about her mother’s family so I will probably never know but as more and more records are digitised and made more easily accessible I can continue to slowly piece together their stories.

Lest we forget.


Surname Saturday Meme: Names, Places and Most Wanted Faces

November 17th, 2011

As a regular reader of Geniaus‘ blogs, I often find myself (lately) doing memes. Sometimes they are created by Geniaus and sometimes she has picked up memes from fellow bloggers. This is one of the latter, and it is a really useful way to advertise the primary surnames we are researching. I have already had considerable success with relatives finding me via my own blogs, so this meme instantly appealed to me.

On his Destination Austin Family Blog Thomas MacEntee has revived Craig Manson of GeneaBlogie’s meme from 2009. Thomas says “Why so? Well this meme actually helps the genealogy blogger create “surname bait” for other researchers to find out on Google and other search engines.”

I’m a bit behind in responding to the challenge as it is a busy (or busier) time for me at present but that won’t detract from the results I am hoping for, which may be next week, next year or even in a few years time. As Geniaus said, it has also made me reflect on my direct ancestors again as it is a while since I revisited some of those lines (having started in 1977) and more recently I have been doing my partner’s families. Plus there are so many more resources available now I really should revisit all family lines.

The instructions for this meme are very simple (although they are US centric) but simply adjust them slightly to include Country, state or county or whatever is relevant for your ancestors.

How The Meme Works

To participate, do the following at your own blog and post a link in the comments of Thomas’ post:

1. List your surnames in alphabetical order as follows:

[SURNAME]: State/Province (county/subdivision), date range
as in:

AUSTIN surname: New York (Jefferson County, Lewis County, St. Lawrence County), 1830-present; Rhode Island (Kent County, Washington County), 1638-1830

2. At the end, list your Most Wanted Ancestor with details!

Shauna’s Names, Places and Most Wanted Faces

Following are the surnames of my Great-Great Grandparents

CARNEGIE surname: Scotland (Angus, Montrose) 1786-1875; Australia (New South Wales, Grafton, Queensland, Brisbane, Toorbul) 1875-present

FAGAN surname: Ireland (Wicklow, Rathdrum, Glasnarget) 1861-present

FINN surname: Ireland (Wicklow, Rathdrum, Avoca) 1841-1882; Australia (Queensland, Brisbane) 1882-present

GUNDERSON surname: Norway (Telemark County, Seljord) 1688-1873; Australia (Queensland, Brisbane) 1873-present

HALVORSDATTER surname: Norway (Telemark County, Seljord) 1811-present

JEFFERS surname: Ireland (Armagh, Portadown) 1844-present

JOHNSTON surname: Ireland (Cavan, Bailieborough, Knockbride) 1803-1861; Australia (Queensland, Brisbane, Mackay) 1861-present

JUDGE surname: England (Northamptonshire, Croughton, Brackley) 1799-present

POLLARD surname: England (Northamptonshire, Croughton, Brackley) 1799-present

PRICE surname: England (Staffordshire, Wednesbury, West Bromwich) 1789-1878; Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Charters Towers, Brisbane) 1878-present

ROSEWARNE surname: England (Cornwall, St Hilary Breage) 1582-present

SILK surname: England (Staffordshire, Wednesbury) 1740-present

SWEATMAN surname: England (Oxfordshire, Deddington) 1798-present

TITT surname: England (Wiltshire, Wylie, Bishopstrow) 1549-present

TREVASKIS surname: England (Cornwall, St Hilary, Ludgvan) 1698-1861; Australia (South Australia, Moonta, Queensland, Copperfield, Charters Towers) 1861-present

WHITE surname: England (Wiltshire, Pitton & Farley) 1640-1883; Australia (Queensland, Charters Towers, Brisbane) 1883-present

Most Wanted Ancestor: I’ve just recently found mine – Elizabeth JUDGE who was really a POLLARD (story here) but I’m happy to have any additional information on any of the above!


Researching Irish Ancestors

March 17th, 2011

Last year for St Patrick’s Day I wrote a blog Letters Home – My Irish Families (6 Mar 2010). It reunited me with three distant lines of my Jeffers family of Portadown, Ireland which was exciting for all of us. This year my tribute to St Patrick’s Day will be sharing some of my favourite Irish websites and resources.

For anyone who is just starting their family history, I have an article How Do I Start Tracing My Family History: A Brief Introduction which readers might find useful.

One of the hardest things I’ve found in tracing my own Irish ancestors is trying to establish where they actually came from in Ireland. For example, with my gg grandfather Adam Johnston I ended up buying all of his children’s birth certificates so that I could pinpoint where he was from. Listed below is a table showing each child, Adam’s surname and place of birth as listed on each certificate. Note the variations in spelling of each.

James 1865 & Sarah Jane 1867 - Adam Johnston, Co Cavan Ireland

William 1868 – Adam Johnston Coy Cavan Ireland

Margaret 1873 – Adam Johnson, Cavan Ulster Ireland

Margaret 1876 – Ballyborough Cavan Ireland

Elizabeth 1879 & Maria 1882 - Adam Johnston, Kenningstown/Keningstown, County Cavan, Ireland

Adam John 1884 – Adam Johnston, Cavan, Ireland

Adam’s death certificate 1900 had Caragn, Ireland and from his siblings’ certificates I also picked up Knockbride, Cavan. His brothers Thomas, William and James and sister Elizabeth all came out to Queensland as well so sometimes if you can’t find the information on your direct line, it can be worthwhile to follow siblings as well.

From this I knew it was County Cavan, with particular places Ballyborough, Kenningstown/Keningstown and Knockbride. Looking at a map soon revealed that the places were really Bailieborough, Canningstown and Knockbride all close together in County Cavan. But without the evidence from the certificates I might have had a hard time narrowing down a common surname like Johnson/Johnston/Johnstone. Variations in the surname were found on all lines of the family in Queensland.

When I first started looking for my Irish families in 1977, it was very hard with lots of letter writing but with the Internet and Google, it can be a lot easier. More and more records are being indexed and placed online, often for a fee, so I still live in hope that I will be able to progress some of my Irish lines further back.

For example, I know little about my Finn and Fegan families from County Wicklow. John Finn (son of Francis Finn and Rosa Beakey) was born ca 1856 at Ballygannon, County Wicklow and married Sarah Fegan in Rathdrum, Wicklow on 29 May 1879. Sarah (daughter of Robert Fegan and Sarah Kane?) was born ca 1862 at Glasnarget, County Wicklow. They arrived in Queensland, Australia in 1882 with their son Robert Finn born 1880 and another son James Joseph Finn born on board the Mairi Bhan during the voyage. Nothing is known about my Finn family in Ireland apart from these brief facts.

I advertise my research interests and an Australian site is the Online Irish Names Research Directory maintained by Graham Jaunay. He also maintains lists for other countries and I like to advertise widely as you just never know who will see your listing.

Another very useful Australian site is the National Library of Australia and in particular its eResources. This is a free service available to all Australians who register for an eResources card. Of particular interest to those with Irish ancestors is free access at home to the Irish Newspapers Archive via the eResources card. This is the largest online database of Irish newspapers in the world and dates from 1763 to the present including out of print titles. There are too many titles to list here but definitely worth a look.

To assist others I have listed some of my favourite Irish websites. They are listed in no particular order as some may be more relevant to your research than others.

Genuki UK and Ireland Genealogy

National Archives of Ireland

Public Record Office Northern Ireland

National Library of Ireland

Census of Ireland 1901 & 1911 (online free)

Ireland GenWeb Project

Irish Ancestors

Irish Family History Foundation

Irish Roots Cafe

The IreAtlas Townlands Database

Topographical Dictionary of Ireland

Ask About Ireland – Griffiths Valuation (free)

Ireland Genealogy Project & Ireland Genealogy Project Archives

Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) – gateway site to many other Irish sites

I encourage everyone to take the time to explore them as there is lots of advice and research tips on all of them. There are many other websites that can be useful for Irish research but the above are some of the sites I use on a regular basis. If readers have a particular Irish favourite not listed here, please share – who knows one of them might just have my Irish ancestors lurking on them!


Letters Home – My Irish Families

March 6th, 2010

This week’s blog is my contribution to the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture, 18th edition

With four gg grandparents born in Ireland it is no wonder that I am interested in Irish heritage and culture. Of the four it is only my gg grandmother Maria Jeffers who gives me any real insight into her life back in Ireland. However, I will also outline the other Irish gg grandparents just in case someone else is interested in those families.

Maria Jeffers arrived in Brisbane in 1864. Maria (daughter of Isaac Jeffers and Harriet Ballantyne) was born in Portadown, County Armagh in 1844. Maria came to Queensland, Australia on board the Legion of Honour in 1864. She married Adam Johnston (see below) in 1864 in Brisbane, Queensland. In later life she had a close friend Abraham Francis and she is seen with him in this photograph.Abraham Francis and Maria Jeffers

Of my four Irish ancestors, Maria Jeffers is the only one known to have kept contact with her family back in Ireland. A few surviving letters to and from one of her brothers who stayed in Portadown confirms this. The letters were in poor condition with pages and pieces missing and had been given to one of Maria’s grandsons on a collateral line who kindly let me photocopy them many years ago.

One of my father’s elderly cousins also said that Maria wrote to a brother in the USA but we had no proof until I recently received an email from someone in the USA descended from that brother. We are now exchanging information and pooling what we know on the family in Portadown.

The first letter I have is undated but seems to be re-establishing contact, possibly ca 1904.

Dear Maria

Just a line to say I got your letter all right. Am glad to hear from you would be well pleased to hear from you at any time, perhaps you will come over and see us all. If so, I would give you a good reception, and would keep you as long as you liked or in fact altogether.

Excuse writing bad pen

With love from all to all

James Jeffers

Another letter from James dated 30 Jan 1904 from Cabra, Tandragee includes more family information including the exchange of Christmas cards. Snippets include:

We have none of photos just, this weather is gloomy and dark, but in a few weeks when it brightens up, we will get them all taken, and will send you a copy as soon as possible.

My second wife has two daughters, will send them too, I have no great news to tell you of, except we are buying out our farm off the landlord at about 160 pounds sterling.

The names of the two girls are Minnie she eldest about 18 years of age and Annie about 14 years.

Minnie would willingly correspond with Maria is she cared to do so but in writing address put Minnie Calvin. NB Maria was Maria’s youngest daughter born 1882.

In another letter dated 2 April 1906 James gives some information on changes to the area since Maria left in 1864. Snippets include:

There are a great many changes here since you went away all the old neighbours are either dead or left long ago. John Woods is living (where Willie Brann lived) married one Bella Moore but he is dating long ago. All the other old neighbours are all away, the most of them dead. Mary King is still living in Richhill yet, she goes about the country with a pack and she has gathered money.

The old mill has gone to ruin not a soul living about it now. Mr Orr’s have left the course.

In a letter dated 9 March 1910 written by James’ wife Ellen, Maria is informed of the death of her brother James. The handwriting and spelling is very bad but snippets include:

We did not expect it he was just ill from Friday to Monday the docter ……thought it was influanzea and turned to newmonia on the lungs the minister was here

I wont beelong behind my James then we will meet to part no more the children are all with me yet I have it hard with them but will do what I can to Albert is left school I will do it for his father’s sake. They want the farm sold but it was so far in debt nothing is left when the first wife died the place was sunk in debt……..

In an undated letter, Ellen Jeffers now living at 96 Park Road, Portadown wrote to Maria complaining about no letters being received and her poor health and how much she missed James. Bad handwriting and poor spelling make it hard to understand Ellen plus she seems to be rambling at times. Snippets include:

I herd harriet was married in America sarah will bee in a sad truble she expected them home she com down and stoped with me a day and a night

Albert is got so wild I cant guide him harriet is not much …. I often want them to right you there is no love in them I don’t no how they will do when they lose me the one wont help the other

Another letter dated 2 Dec 1910 from Ellen indicates that she is not well again, still missing James and that she has included a photo of him with the letter. Sadly that photo doesn’t seem to have survived or no one knew who it was when going through Maria’s things after she died in 1930. However I have a copy of one photo of two girls believed to be Minnie and Annie Calvin, James two step-daughters. It is inscribed ‘to Auntie from Minnie’.

I am really grateful that these few letters have survived and it lets me know that Maria did make contact with her family again although after an absence of almost forty years. I wonder why she did after such a long time – what prompted her to make the effort to reconnect?

My other Irish gg grandparents are briefly outlined below and I am always happy to share information with family members.

Adam Johnston (husband of Maria Jeffers, son of James Johnston and Sarah McElwain) was born in 1842 in Knockbride, County Cavan and he arrived in Queensland, Australia with his brother James on board the Mangerton in 1861. Adam and Maria had nine children but separated sometime in the 1880s and Adam had a relationship with Mary Tyrell and had another three children before his death in 1900. Numerous members of the Johnston family from Knockbride also came to Queensland and there are many descendants actively tracing the family. A number of meetings have been held in the last twelve months to pool information and to sort out the various lines and how they connect.

John Finn (son of Francis Finn and Rosa Beakey) was born ca 1856 at Ballygannon, County Wicklow married Sarah Fegan in Rathdrum, Wicklow on 29 May 1879. Sarah (daughter of Robert Fegan and Sarah ?) was born ca 1862 at Glasnarget, County Wicklow. They arrived in Queensland, Australia in 1882 with their son Robert Finn born 1880 and another son James Joseph Finn born on board the Mairi Bhan during the voyage. Nothing is known about the Finn family in Ireland apart from these brief facts.

If anyone has more information on the families above, I would love to hear from you and expand my knowledge of my Irish heritage and culture.


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