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.


Looking at the Irish & Immigration with GSQ

July 1st, 2013

I’m back home after attending the Genealogical Society of Queensland‘s annual seminar in Brisbane. This year the theme was Irish in the morning and Immigration in the afternoon. It was the first genealogy seminar I’ve been to since February (which is almost like a drought for me) and it was good to be back chatting to old friends and swapping information.

The day started with Dr Jennifer Harrison talking about 19th century Irish arrivals in Queensland and Jennifer’s slides were available as a handout. After a brief look at the history of Irish emigration (I was surprised that 85% went to North America and only 15% to Australian and New Zealand, I would have thought more down under as we all seem to have at least one Irish ancestor), Jennifer pointed out that not everyone came direct to Queensland and it was a good reminder of the trans Tasman link and also inter-colonial movement. However, there were a number of immigration schemes in the 1860s which did bring Irish direct to Queensland including the Queensland Immigration Society run by Bishop Quinn. Also of interest were the History & Society series on Irish counties published by Geography Publications, Dublin. To finish there was a brief mention of St Patrick’s day and past parades.

Next session was Saadia Thomson-Dwyer talking on Irish in the Archives and I think Saadia mentioned just about every series held in Queensland State Archives as they can be found in most records including immigration, occupational records, wills and intestacies, prisons, hospital records and so on. I was particularly interested in the Imperial Pensions 1898-1912 for various country towns in Queensland.

The final session before lunch was Val Blomer from the Convict Connections group of GSQ talking about deliberate arson by Irish women in order to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). I was fascinated by the number of times Val reported that the reason they had committed the crime was to join a father, mother or other family member already in VDL. I suppose you can see transportation as a means of emigration especially if they didn’t fit the criteria for the various emigration schemes. Val had a handout summarising her talk.

During lunch I managed to chat with Stephanie Ryan, genealogy librarian at State Library of Queensland, Helen Smith an Unlock the Past regular speaker, and various other old friends and time went very quickly.

After lunch Greg Cope from National Archives of Australia, Brisbane office gave a very interesting talk on immigration journeys using five case studies. The first was Joseph Gantz the inventor of the Volkswagen and I found his story fascinating. Other stories were Ernest Sung Wee, Bas Lie, Wolf Klaphake and Princess Ubangi, an African pygmy woman which was another really interesting story. NAA’s Destination Australia website is the place to go for post WW2 migrant stories and you can even add your own (if applicable). Greg gave out a handout of his slides.

Dave Obee was next with a talk on Destination America and how to research people who went to the United States and Canada and this was of interest to me as I have a couple of ancestors who went to both places although their children came to Queensland. I was struck by how much Dave’s talk was mirroring my own. For example using subscription sites and the need to do multiple searches on spelling variations and I particularly liked his ‘check the original image not just the index’. How true! Dave had a handout which summarised his talk.

My talk on 19thC immigration and where to look was the last session and as usual I have put the slides up on the Resources page of my website. Scroll down to Presentations. To highlight some of the difficulties in locating people, I used examples from my own family history (my Carnegie, Gunderson, Rosewarne and Trevaskis families) and how I finally found the name of the ship, or at least found possibilities to follow up. I have one ancestor whose arrival is still a bit of a mystery.

It was a great day and went very quickly. The goodie bag had the program, a notebook and pencil, an Ancestry.com.au handy magnifier, a bookmark from Queensland State Archives, and brochures from NAA and a Vroom badge highlighting another NAA iniative which I suspect not too many people know about. Other brochures I picked up included the Adopt a Digger project, Unlock the Past’s 4th genealogy cruise brochure, Gould Genealogy & History leaflets, State Library of Queensland’s what’s on catalogue and Inside History‘s postcard. It is good to see sponsors supporting genealogy seminars like this.

As usual I’ve now got a list of things to follow up and I’m sure all the other attendees have too. Thanks to GSQ for the smooth organisation on the day which also included morning and afternoon tea and a delicious lunch. Can’t wait for the next one!


What Are You Reading For Genealogy?

December 8th, 2010

On the recent Unlock The Past history and genealogy roadshow, I gave a presentation on Where Else Can I Look, It’s Not All On The Internet which looked at a range of ideas. The handout for that talk, and the others I gave, is on the Resources page of my website (just scroll down).

This post is an extension of that talk in that I am looking at publications by individuals, an idea I didn’t include in the presentation. Over the last few months I have been given copies of books to review and usually they get published in whatever magazine and only readers of those magazines are aware of the books. This time I have created a Book Reviews section on my Resources page and will also post them there.

There are currently two book reviews and both were great reads and on totally different subject areas. Neither was directly related to my own family history research, but both added context and background not to mention ideas to further my own research. They were:

  • Lois Sabine, editor, Dr William Bell’s “The Settlers’ Guide” or Modern Domestic Medicine and Surgery Windsor NSW 1849 – review Dec 2010
  • Kay F Gassan and Judith A Grimes, Tall Ships on the River: Flying Cloud Queensland Voyages 1862-1870 – review Dec 2010

I will let the reviews speak for themselves. There are lots of publications that while not of direct interest to us, may still be worthwhile looking through for ideas or background information on what our ancestors lives were really like.

As we come into the holiday season, and we all supposedly have more time to simply sit back and read, find yourself a new genealogy related publication, (library visit, Christmas present or whatever) and enjoy the experience. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading the two publications above and managed to add more items to my ever growing ‘to do’ research list!

Don’t forget to share your experiences – post a comment and tell us what your book choice was.

Happy reading and happy holidays!


Discovering Maritime Museums for Genealogy

August 30th, 2010

In my last blog I wrote about Discovering Immigration Museums for Genealogy. Closely related are Maritime Museums and Australia has quite a few and some with excellent online resources.

The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) is one that I frequently refer to in my talks on immigration because it has Vaughan Evans’ indexes searchable online for free. These can be found under Collections and Research, then Pictures of Ships in the Australian Trade and are for the following newspapers:

  • Illustrated Sydney News 1853-1889
  • Illustrated London News 1842-1891
  • Australasian Sketcher 1873-1889

There are also other links to sites to help you find an image or photograph of an ancestor’s ship. Links on the left hand side of the webpage lead to all kinds of useful information on Coastal Shipping, Convict Ships, First Fleet, Sailing Ships, Steamships and Passenger Liners and so on. This is definitely a must browse site for Australian immigration and shipping.

State based maritime museums can be useful and include the Queensland Maritime Museum which outlines its holdings and resources but there is little online. Similarly, the Melbourne Maritime Museum features the Polly Woodside, an 1885 tall ship now berthed permanently at the Museum but there is little in the way of online resources.

The Western Australian Museum – Maritime is located in Fremantle  as is the Shipwreck Galleries, another part of the Western Australian Museum. While both websites are worth looking at there is little in the way of online resources for research. The primary area for accessing information is via the Western Australian Museum website under Collections where there are sections on Maritime Archaeology and Maritime History.

The South Australian Maritime Museum has an interesting range of links to other sites including National Motor Museums if you are more interested in cars than ships. Under Collections the various areas of the Museum are outlined but there is no online searching available.

The Maritime Museum of Tasmania has a number of Themed Resources including Lighthouses, Shipwrecks, Whaling, Sailing Ship Adventures and so on. These link to a wide range of additional resources and are quite interesting to follow.

There are also regional maritime museums and recently on an Unlock The Past regional roadshow I had the opportunity to visit the Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum in New South Wales. Perhaps the easiest way to find these is to simply Google for the area you are interested in and use a term such as maritime.  Some of the maritime museums offer to do research on a paid research basis if you can’t personally visit.

If you are looking to learn more about your ancestors’ immigration to Australia and the ships they arrived on, then seek out maritime museums for additional information beyond the passenger list. Happy researching!


Discovering Immigration Museums For Genealogy

August 17th, 2010

When we want to find out about our ancestors immigration details we usually go to archives and libraries to research. An often overlooked resource are immigration museums or migration centres and we have some excellent examples in Australia.

The Immigration Museum in Melbourne always has both permanent and temporary exhibitions on display and currently there is Station Pier: Gateway to a New Life and Australia’s Muslim Cameleers to mention just two. These exhibitions highlight various aspects of Victoria’s immigration history. The Museum hosts related workshops, talks and other activities especially during school holidays.

The Museum also has a Discovery Centre with a section on Immigration including Family History Research which includes a very useful set of InfoSheets on post World War II migrant ships, Dutch migration to Australia and Researching Your Family History. There is a very useful Immigration to Victoria Timeline which examines each decade and has some very interesting bits and pieces of information including statistics. The Centre’s non lending library collection is also online so that you can plan a research visit.

The Migration Heritage Centre New South Wales (located at the Powerhouse Museum) has lots of interesting information on all aspects of migration from 1788 onwards. It has a timeline of Australian migration history which is very useful and broader than the Victorian timeline. I particularly liked the pages on A Place for the Friendless Female: Sydney’s Immigration Depot 1848-1886 (Hyde Park Barracks).

A wide range of cultures have individual online exhibitions including British child migrants, Italians, Estonians and other post WWII displaced persons, Sudanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and even German prisoners of war at Berrima. You could easily spend hours just reading the various stories. I was particularly interested in My Own Boss: Migrant Miners at Lightning Ridge as my own gg grandmother was there at one point in her life. There are some wonderful photos and background information that help me understand what it would have been like for my ancestor living at Lightning Ridge back then.

The Migration Museum in Adelaide is similar and has exhibitions, education programs and other activities. Its website is also worth browsing but it does not have as much resource material online as the others.

These are just three examples briefly outlining the type of background information that can be found to help you understand your ancestors migration to Australia. If you have not previously looked for immigration/migration museums, then I strongly encourage you to seek them out for where ever your ancestors migrated to. A UNESCO site called Migration Institutions is useful for locating some migration centres around the world but not all are listed here so you may still need to do  a Google search. If you do find some great migration sites please post a comment and share your discoveries.


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