52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 12 Gazetteers

April 9th, 2014

This blog challenge is to stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 by focusing on a different kind of genealogical record each week. I wanted a challenge that reflected my own archival background as well as my own genealogy interests and there are probably lots of other records that I could have included. The challenge has an Australian focus but most of these records will be found just about anywhere in the genealogy world.

The 52 different types of genealogical records I finally decided on are listed in no particular order (each week will be a random surprise). Originally I planned to do this over 52 weeks but I now realise that I have to factor in travel and illness so it will continue a little bit over a year. Anyone is welcome to do all or part of this blogging challenge.  Let me know if you are participating and I will put a link to your post under each week’s challenge.

So far I know of six bloggers who are taking up the challenge from time to time and I have put links to their individual entries at the end of each week’s blog if they have submitted something for that week. Thanks Judy WebsterSharn WhiteCassmobAnne, Campaspe Library and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

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

Week 12 Gazetteers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

February 3rd, 2014

This blog challenge is to stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 by focussing on a different kind of genealogical record each week. I wanted a challenge that reflected my own archival background as well as my own genealogy interests and there are probably lots of other records that I could have included. The challenge has an Australian focus but most of these records will be found just about anywhere in the genealogy world.

The 52 different types of genealogical records I finally decided on are listed in no particular order (each week will be a random surprise). Anyone is welcome to do all or part of this blogging challenge.  Let me know if you are participating and I will put a link to your post under each week’s challenge.

So far I know of five bloggers who are taking up the challenge and I have put links to their individual entries at the end of each week’s blog if they have submitted something for that week. Thanks Judy WebsterSharn WhiteCassmob, Anne and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Anne Week 5 Family Stories

Sharon Week 5 Family Stories

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

Week 5 Family Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

January 14th, 2014

This blog challenge is to stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 by focussing on a different kind of genealogical record each week. I wanted a challenge that reflected my own archival background as well as my own genealogy interests and there are probably lots of other records that I could have included. The challenge has an Australian focus but most of these records will be found just about anywhere in the genealogy world.

The 52 different types of genealogical records I finally decided on are listed in no particular order (each week will be a random surprise). Anyone is welcome to do all or part of this blogging challenge.  Let me know if you are participating and I will put a link to your post under each week’s challenge. Happy researching Shauna Hicks

Week 2 Internal Migration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Sharon (Tree of Me blog) Internal Migration

Judy Webster Internal Migration

Cassmob Internal Migration


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!





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!


Advertising Your Genealogy Research Online

May 18th, 2010

Back on 4 December 2009 I wrote a blog titled Serendipity or Advertising Your Ancestors which described how various ‘relatives’ had contacted me after reading something that I had written. This is a follow up to that blog and it confirms that it pays to advertise your genealogy research interests.

Since then I have written many blogs on a range of topics using my own families to either tell their stories or to highlight how I have found information on them. To inspire others to have the same success, I will highlight two of my magic moments over the last few months.

Most recently, on 24 April 2010, I wrote about Tasman Jarvis – An Original ANZAC and this led to a distant relative adding a very moving comment to the blog. Her comments made me very pleased and proud that I had told Tasman’s story as my tribute to ANZAC Day. She wrote:

As an English woman having only lived in Australia since 1985, ANZAC day has never meant anything to me as in England we always remembered those lost in the War, on the 11th November. In the last two days I have discovered that I have dozens of relatives living in Tasmania all descendants of Sophia and James Gunyon, who were transported to Tasmania in 1828. I have only to-day, 30th April discovered that a very distant cousin of mine, Tasman Jarvis was killed at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. ANZAC day will never be the same for me from now onwards. Thank you for your interesting and moving page. I feel very emotional to know about Tasman Jarvis and his family and hope that one day I might meet some of their descendants. Sophia Gunyon was the sister of my ggggrandfather John Robinson of England.

Letters Home – My Irish Families was written on 6 March 2010 as part of my contribution to the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture, 18th edition. In this blog I wrote about the few surviving letters between my gg grandmother Maria Jeffers and her family back home in Ireland. This has been hugely successful. I have been contacted by my Gunderson cousins who I hadn’t heard from in years and we have exchanged information on our families and updated that branch of the family. One of them wrote the following comments:

Thanks Shauna for this great information on our mutual grandmother Maria Jeffers. We are the mirror counterparts of two trees – the Johnstons and the Gundersons. I must start following your advice and record all my mother’s ’stories’ for future generations. Hope to stay in touch and share more of our family history.

Even more exciting I was contacted by a direct descendant of Maria’s brother James who she was corresponding with in the early 1900s. His excitement at finding my blog on the internet is obvious in his comments:

I have some goose pimples running along my back at the moment. 10 Years ago I went to Portadown to find some family heritage. I took my father Kerry. Story is My great grandfather’s name is James Jeffers. We went to the church where he was married and it seems his father was Isaac and his mother was Harriet.

I am blown away!!!! I was reading the rest of your Blog talking about Albert. My Grandfather Albert was from Tandragee, His mother died and his father remarried. His Father James Died. The Albert in your letter is My Grandfather.He had an older brother Moses who was about 10 years older.

Can you please send me your contact details it would be great to talk to you.

I have been trying to find the Jeffers family in Ireland and through my blog I discover that they are now in Sydney! I was only in Sydney a few weeks ago. How good would it have been to meet in person and swap information? For now we will  get to know each other through email and telephone but I really would have liked to have seen his face when he receives copies of those family letters mentioning his own direct ancestors.

There are many places to post blogs and it is not necessary to have your own website. I encourage everyone to think about blogging their family stories and don’t forget to let others know your success stories!


Finding Ancestors in Church Publications

April 16th, 2010

Since December 2009 I have been writing a monthly article on Finding Ancestors in Church Publications for Australian Family Tree Connections (AFTC). Parts 1-3 are now available online on Unlock the Past to make the articles more accessible.

Church publications include regular newsletters, newspapers, journals, histories, directories, biographies and so on. They don’t include original records such as parish registers as these are not usually published. Although I mostly talk about published material, I do sometimes refer to original records if they are of interest.

Thomas and Elizabeth Price_0001

Briefly in Part 1 ( AFTC December 2009) I discussed some of the ways my own family history research has been enriched by information found in various church publications over the years. I give examples from my Price family in Charters Towers, my Johnston family from Sherwood in Brisbane,  and the Burstow family from Toowoomba, Queensland. The photograph at right is Thomas and Elizabeth Price (my great grandparents) who were members of the Charters Towers Ryan Street Baptist Church in Queensland.

In Part 2 (AFTC January 2010) I gave an overview of how researchers could find church publications in archives and libraries and what kind of records to search such as directories and almanacs. I also gave an example of how to search on the National Library of Australia’s online catalogue TROVE for church publications.

Part 3 (AFTC February 2010) focuses on using brief guides and finding aids and highlights resources in Queensland. I also highlight some of the digitised resources available on CD ROM through Gould Genealogy & History using the Centenary History of the Presbyterian Church in NSW as an example.

Subsequent parts of the series will be put online with a two month delay between publishing in AFTC and going online at Unlock the Past. Parts 4-5 are currently available in Australian Family Tree Connections March and April 2010 respectively.

If you have also had success using Church publications please let me know as I love success stories.

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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