Mixing my metaphors: Macadamias and Glass Slippers

Queensland nuts or Macadamias on the tree. Image from wikipedia.

Queensland nuts or Macadamias on the tree. Image from wikipedia.

Growing up as a child in Queensland, we had a large Queensland nut tree in our back garden.  Now known as macadamias, these nuts make you work hard to get to their delicious centres (unless you buy them stripped bare). First you have to work through the hard protective casing around the nut, unless it’s so ripened that the exterior has turned brown and ready to fall off. Then you are still left with the rock-hard shell itself. This is no dainty nut, ready to be cracked with a graceful pair of nut crackers on the Christmas table. No, you need a hammer, the perfect spot in the concrete path and a firm stroke and a good aim for the seam in the shell. Hit too hard and you’ll demolish the nut itself, hit too softly and that delicious nut will continue to elude you. Or you just use your grandfather’s vice from “under the house”.

It struck me last night that’s a pretty good analogy to some family history research, especially the focus I’ve had lately on exploring all things relating to the little barque, Florentia, on which my ancestor Mary O’Brien may have arrived in 1853.

I’ve collected as much possible information as I can including:

Passengers lists from three archives: Tasmanian Archives in Hobart; State Records of New South Wales in Kingswood, Sydney; and Queensland State Archives in Brisbane. A few were available online but there were offline ones as well (thanks to the Unlock the Past cruise I was already going to those places – good timing)

Official Correspondence at the same archives between the various authorities: Colonial Secretary, Immigration Board, Immigration Agent, Brisbane Resident and the Police Magistrate for Brisbane.

News stories from Trove and also the British and Irish newspapers on Find My Past which were largely unproductive, as was a check of the Welsh newspapers online.

JSTOR articles available with my National Library of Australia card, again unproductive.

I’ve compared the data squeezed from each source and analysed places of origin and relations in the colony.

What did I learn?

Length of the voyage and on-board disputes

I already knew this ship had taken an inordinate, and unusual, amount of time to reach Moreton Bay: 156 days or 23 weeks. They’d had an unscheduled stop in Hobart Town after 19+ weeks at sea, because they’d been loaded with only 20 weeks of provisions. Surely all on board must have been getting anxious before they reached Hobart – after all they’d been rationed since passing the Cape of Good Hope.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 11 May 1853, reported a Brisbane story of 22 April: “The Florentia is the next immigrant vessel for this place, and she may now be considered fully due”. Initially I thought this was code for wondering if the ship had been lost, especially as it had only spoken two other vessels[i], both in the early weeks of the voyage. However by the time of the story, the news of the ship’s arrival in Hobart had already been published.

Unsurprisingly the Immigration Board who mustered the passengers in Moreton Bay on 29 April reportedly found the “state of the ship does not appear to be very cleanly.[ii]

As alluded to in the newspapers, the local Immigration Board is now engaged in the investigation of certain charges against the ship’s officers, but what their nature or justice may be remains a mystery”[iii]and “some of the proceedings of the voyage are likely to furnish employment for that mysterious body the ‘Unholy Inquisition.’ We hear that the Surgeon-Superintendent does not appear to be culpable, but more sinned against than sinning. Will the Inquisition stifle this affair also?” [iv]

These newspaper references and the length of the voyage gave me hope that the official correspondence would provide some clues to this enquiry, and indeed it did…but I will keep this for a separate story. The newspaper reporter seems to have been correct in his assumption, too, that the mystery would be stifled. Nothing further is reported in any of the newspapers on Trove, as far as I could find, and as I’ve mentioned nothing in the British, Welsh or Irish newspapers, at least by the ship’s name.

 Mortality and the long voyage

There is contradictory evidence as to how many died on the voyage as well as how many births there were.  The summary information for the Florentia in Hobart lists 9 deaths: 1 married woman, 3 single women, 1 boy under 14, 3 girls under 14 and one infant. In fact the infant was, as far as I can tell a stillborn child. However by the time the ship reached Brisbane, they were reporting 12 births and 17 deaths.[v] It is entirely possible (probable) that four passengers died between Hobart and Moreton Bay as the total number of passengers falls from 249 to 245. This would still leave an anomaly of four deaths, which would reconcile with the additional four births, though not necessarily the same children[vi].

These figures are representative but without a breakdown of the additional deaths cannot be entirely accurate.

These figures are representative but without a breakdown of the additional deaths cannot be entirely accurate.

The most tragic aspect of the deaths is that those people’s names remain unrecorded. One can deduce that two married women died, simply by looking at the details for families, so presumably one died on the final phase of the journey. As the parents’ names are stated for the children in each family, the mothers’ names are revealed even though they are not listed on the manifests as “died on the voyage”, which I’ve seen on other ships. The two married women were Mary Massy (family from Limerick) and Cath Ryan (family from Tipperary).

But what of the children who succumbed on the voyage, or the single women? Sadly, there is no mention of their names anywhere. I wonder if their families ever learnt what happened to them.

With my East Clare database which covers the period 1848-1870, the mortality rate was 1%, very low. On this voyage, the overall rate was 5%, with females being the most at risk category. Girls under 14 were particularly vulnerable, with a 6.98% mortality, and likely more depending on the deaths between Hobart and Moreton Bay. It’s tempting to conclude that this would, in large part, have been down to the reduced provisions, including the lack of water mentioned in passenger complaints, and reiterated in the Immigration Board’s enquiry.[vii] Of itself the long voyage should not have had such an impact but the ship was also a former convict-ship and was probably not as well equipped as some later ones, or as suitable for general emigration.

If ever there was a voyage when one might wish for a copy of the Surgeon’s journal, this would be one of them. Among the SRNSW documents is a letter which indicates that the surgeon’s diary was forwarded to the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners[viii] but sadly it does not appear in the lists of extant diaries on the UK National Archives site. There is also no mention of a passenger diary extant for this voyage in the Log of Logs.

The prince and the glass slipper

My hope from this research voyage was that I’d find any clues at all to suggest there were unassisted passengers on this voyage, and any kind of reference to Mary and her sister. Unfortunately my quest was futile. I know a lot about this ship’s voyage but am none the wiser about Mary. Perhaps my family tree is indeed a Queensland Nut or Macadamia tree…it’s certainly keeping me on my toes.

I’m left feeling like the prince who went from house to house trying to squeeze the glass slipper on each young woman’s foot hoping to find the beautiful girl who’d stolen his heart. I suppose by now I should know better than believe in fairy stories.

 Who was mentioned in the documents? What was the scandal? Come back for the second instalment.

A readable and informative reference book on the conditions of voyages is Robin Haines’ book “Life and death in the age of sail”.[ix] I can highly recommend it to provide a solid understanding of the health aspects of migration.

 

[i] Free Trader, for New York, and the American ship Great Britain. Moreton Bay Courier, 30 April 1853, page 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710533

[ii] Moreton Bay Courier 30 April 1853, page 3.

[iii] Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1853, page 2 supplement.

[iv] Moreton Bay Courier 30 April 1853, page 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710533

[v] Empire, 10 May 1853 page 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61324080.

[vi] The newspaper reports that 12 of the deaths were children.

[vii] SRNSW 53/1419 in batch 53/5645. Immigration Board at Brisbane to the Agent for Immigration, 19 May 1853. The Board comprised Messrs Wickham, Duncan and Swift.

[viii] SRNSW 53/8264.  Agent for Immigration to the Colonial Secretary for forwarding, dated 15 September 1853.

[ix] Life and Death in the Age of Sail. Haines, R. UNSW Press, Sydney 2003

Australia Day 2014: C’mon Aussie Compilation

I promised no flag-waving.

I promised no flag-waving.

There’s been a great response to my impromptu Australia Day 2014 geneameme “C’mon Aussie”. I had intended it to be quick and easy given quite a few people are preparing for next week’s Unlock the Past Cruise. However, judging on people’s comments, it’s obvious that it wasn’t quite the quick outing I envisaged. It caught me by surprise too, especially the info on the length of voyages which I hadn’t looked at this way before.

The diversity of responses has been amazing and I’ve been pleased to see a couple of links to our Indigenous Australians. From all the lands on earth earth we come indeed though even now our UK heritage is evident.

Please, if I’ve missed you from my comments, twitter or Google+, do let me know so I can add your post to the list with my apologies. There’s some great ideas among the responses for presenting your ancestral information, so why not enjoy your Australia Day public holiday and have a look at a few.

All blogs are in alpha order except for Shelley from Twigs of Yore who initiated the concept in 2011. Helen Smith picked up the baton in 2013 and hopefully next year someone else might come up with an innovative idea, unless Shelley wants to return to the fray.

Twigs of Yore by Shelley

A Rebel Hand by Franc

Ancestor Chaser by Kerryn

Anglers Rest by Julie

Anne’s Family History by Anne

Exploring Family by Maureen

Family Stories: Photographs and Memories by Diane

Family History across the Seas by Pauleen

Gathering Dust by Sharon

Genealogically Speaking by Caitlin

Genealogy’s Star by James Tanner in the US (apologies for the late addition)

GeniAus by Jill

Jax Trax by Jackie

Jenniiblog by Jenni

Kylie’s Genes by Kylie

Leafing through Linda’s Tree by Linda

Shauna Hicks History Enterprises by Shauna

Strong Foundations by Sharon

That Moment in Time by Crissouli

The Genealogy Bug by Sharon

The Tree of Me by Sharon

Watson & Cannet Genealogy by Michelle

Thank you to each and every one of you for joining in the fun, and to those readers who’ve left comments.

I’m off to look at my packing for the cruise!

Climbing your family’s gum tree – or Moreton Bay Fig

I promised no flag-waving.

I promised no flag-waving.

Earlier this week I posed a geneameme challenge to encourage Aussie bloggers to celebrate Australia Day 2014. It’s been great to see all the responses so far, which I’ll collate and post early next week. Meanwhile here’s my own response to the challenge.Since my roots go deep in Queensland soil, perhaps my family tree should be a Moreton Bay fig.

My first ancestor who arrived in Australia is: Now likely to be Mary O’Brien but previously was the Kent family from Sandon who arrived on the General Hewitt in December 1854,

I have Australian Royalty (tell us who, how many and which Fleet they arrived with): No royalty in my gene pool though Mr Cassmob can claim a couple, one Irish and one English (a Pentonvillean).

I’m an Aussie mongrel, my ancestors came to Oz from: Ireland, England, Scotland and Germany.

Did any of your ancestors arrive under their own financial steam? Not as far as I can determine, unless George Kunkel didn’t swim after all. Otherwise I have assisted and nominated passengers. Mary O’Brien’s fare may have been paid for her, if I have the correct voyage, as she’s not among the assisted immigrants.

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

How many ancestors came as singles? Three (George Kunkel, William Partridge and Mary O’Brien, though her sister travelled with her)

How many came as couples? None

How many came as family groups? Six: two Sherry families (a year apart), the Kents (Herts), Gavins (Dublin), Melvins (Leith) and McCorkindales (Glasgow).

Did one person lead the way and others follow? The McCorkindale sons Duncan and Peter arrived in Sydney in 1900 and Peter later moved to Brisbane. Ten years later their mother and siblings arrived in Brisbane. With my O’Brien family there is a typical Irish chain migration with a younger sibling following the older ones, and from one generation to the next (nieces and nephews).

What’s the longest journey they took to get here? Assuming my Mary O’Brien did arrive on the Florentia, then her voyage was the longest at 5.5 months. Somewhat bizarrely in researching this question I’ve discovered that five of my immigrant groups took either 106 or 107 days, even though their arrival years, and decades, were quite different. My five-month old grandfather had the luck of the Irish as his journey only took 49 days in 1884 on the British-India ship, the Almora.

The Almora, 1883. Image from John Oxley Library, SLQ. Negative number: 43560, out of copyright.

The Almora, 1883. Image from John Oxley Library, SLQ. Negative number: 43560, out of copyright.

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place? None in my own family tree, unless George Kunkel travelled via the UK or USA. However I’ve seen it in other families I research – immigration records offer great clues to this.

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive? All my direct ancestors arrived in the Moreton Bay colony, later Queensland.

Did they settle and remain in one state/colony? With one exception they all remained in Queensland. My Melvin great-grandfather moved to Sydney late in life (after the death of his second wife, Emily). He’d been in Queensland for forty odd years.

Image from Wikimedia, under Creative Commons.

Regional map of Queensland. Image from Wikimedia, under Creative Commons.

 Did they stay in one town or move around? My ancestors were a mob of gad-abouts. The railway work would explain a great deal, but even some of the self-employed moved around. Only two families stayed put to any extent: the Kents and Partridges in Ipswich.

Do you have any First Australians in your tree? No

Were any self-employed? Yes, my Kunkels (at times), Melvins and possibly Partridge.

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in? The railway is my number one industry with merchant seamen in close pursuit.  Stephen Gillespie Melvin had been a merchant seaman and ship’s steward.  He owned confectionery businesses/pastry shops in Ipswich, Charters Towers and Sydney. He also dabbled, unsuccessfully, in mining. George Kunkel tried his hand at running a boarding house and also had a “highly operative sausage machine” in Ipswich, as well as selling meat to the miners at Talloom gold fields. The family later had a farm at Murphys Creek, Qld. William Partridge was a carpenter and a sometime undertaker.

 Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation? I’m the first Kunkel, and the first McSherry, in my direct family line to have no employment with Queensland Rail. There are still a few Kunkels involved in farming. I do wish someone still worked as a confectioner though.

The Aorangi: my SGM sailed on its maiden voyage. Painting by Gregory, C. Dickson . Image from State Library of Victoria http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182145878

The Aorangi: my SGM sailed on its maiden voyage. Painting by Gregory, C. Dickson . Image from State Library of Victoria http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182145878

Did any of your ancestors leave Australia and go “home”? None made a permanent return that I know of. My Stephen Melvin made regular trips back to England and Scotland for business and to see the brother who remained there.

NOW IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

What’s your State of Origin? Queensland. (Yes, I’m a banana bender…go the mighty Maroons!)

Do you still live there? Not for the past 17 years, though we plan to return there in a year or so. I’m a maroon boomerang.

Where was your favourite Aussie holiday place as a child? Magnetic Island off Townsville.

Any special place(s) you like to holiday now? In Australia, Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, Lennox Heads in NSW or quick trips to Kakadu in the NT.

 Share your favourite spot in Oz: Camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW is one of them…so many choices. Perhaps also the mid-north coast of Western Australia –their beaches are spectacular, which is quite a concession from a Queenslander.

Whale sharks are amazingly huge but gentle creatures. Image from Shutterstock.com

Whale sharks are amazingly huge but gentle creatures. Image from Shutterstock.com

 Any great Aussie adventure you’ve had? Swimming with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef.

What’s on your Australian holiday bucket list?  Doing another driving tour of Tassie, and revisiting Uluru and the coast of Western Australia.

How do you celebrate Australia Day? Usually writing an Australia Day challenge response and maybe something casual with family…very unpatriotic.

I thought this post would be quick and easy, but it turned out there was quite a bit to research after all.

A billabong along the way -beautiful reflections

The Top End in the Wet Season.

Australia Day Challenge 2014: C’mon Aussie

I promised no flag-waving.

I promised no flag-waving.

G’day cobbers, how’re you going? Hope you’re feeling grouse. Australia Day is coming up so it’s time for another dinkum-Aussie challenge. Since quite a few of us are gearing up for the next Unlock the Past cruise, I thought I’d make it a quick and easy geneameme for those who wish to participate, eh.

Let’s see how deep your roots go into our Aussie soil. Do you have Australian Royalty?

If for you Australia Day is Survival Day, tell us your family’s story and show up our Johnny-come-lately status.

The geneameme comes in two parts: one to test whether your family is ridgey-didge and the second to show us how Australia runs in your veins, without any flag-waving and tattoo-wearing. Shout it out, be proud and make everyone wish they lived in this wide brown land of ours.

Feel free to add and subtract and even add a short story at the end. The world’s your oyster, so have a go! C’mon Aussie C’mon C’mon.

092 Termite mounds and gum tree copyCLIMBING YOUR FAMILY’S GUM TREE

My first ancestor to arrive in Australia was:

I have Australian Royalty (tell us who, how many and which Fleet they arrived with):

I’m an Aussie mongrel, my ancestors came to Oz from:

Did any of your ancestors arrive under their own financial steam?

How many ancestors came as singles?

How many came as couples?

How many came as family groups?

Did one person lead the way and others follow?

What’s the longest journey they took to get here?

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place?

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive?

Did they settle and remain in one state/colony?

Did they stay in one town or move around?

Do you have any First Australians in your tree?

Were any self-employed?

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in?

Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation?

Did any of your ancestors leave Australia and go “home”?

NOW IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

What’s your State of Origin?

Do you still live there?

Where was your favourite Aussie holiday place as a child?

Any special place you like to holiday now?

Share your favourite spot in Oz:

Any great Aussie adventure you’ve had?

What’s on your Australian holiday bucket list?

How do you celebrate Australia Day?

I’ve just realised that entirely coincidentally I came up with 26 questions for 26 January…how bizarre is that!

Feel free to post your responses any time in the coming week and I’ll collate them on the Australia Day holiday. Please leave a message about your post in the comments (WP.com doesn’t like linky lists). Otherwise use twitter tag #ozday2014. Thanks for joining in mate.

Thanks to Rebel Hand for inspiring me for the midnight inspiration to set up this challenge, following in the 2013 steps of Helen Smith and Shelley from Twigs of Yore in 2012 and 2011. ( Psst, there’s still scope for someone else to add another, non-geneameme, challenge for the day).

Book of Me: Home is where the heart is.

Book of meThe prompt for week 20 in the 15 month series of Book of Me is “Home”: Home means different things to different people, so this week we are going to explore what it means to us: What does it feel like? How do you recognise it? What makes it home -people, place, time. This will be a long post I fear, so get comfortable with a coffee or tea.

This is something I’ve pondered generally over a long time, in the context of my own life but also for my emigrant ancestors. Were they ever truly at home in Australia or did they still think of their places of birth as home? Did they hanker for grey skies, old buildings, green fields? Of course these are answers I’ll never have since there are no diaries to read, no letters and no oral history touching on the topic.

My own sense of home is sometimes elusive. We are empty nesters and our “children” have established their own homes. They are family but they are no longer part of “home” except inasmuch they live in the same city.Peter and Springer low

The core of “home” for me is my husband, Mr Cassmob. We’ve been together so long it’s almost impossible to imagine home without him, though that will be a reality one or other of us will have to face one day, hopefully far in the future. Another part of home on a daily basis is our very indulged fluffy tabby cat, Springer. Certainly both of us felt a gap in our lives when he went missing for seven weeks last year. He has, I suppose, become a surrogate “child”: he even gracefully returns our affections – when it suits him – occasionally.

My childhood home.

My childhood home.

After spending all my younger years years in one house, , our own family has moved house eleven times, some houses being but passing phases, others being our home for long periods. While I’ve loved living in each of our houses, the house itself does not define home, except for the duration we live there. If we return for a drive-by it’s out of curiosity to see what’s changed and especially to look at the garden. So I guess we have to add the garden to a sense of home. It may be a townhouse block or a larger suburban block, but the plants and birds who visit become part of our feeling of home. And in every house, a cat has been part of our home.29 bally st 7 front

There is really only one house for which I feel nostalgic and that’s my my grandparents’ house which I visited daily as a child. I think it was the indulgence and exploration that made it so irresistable. That is perhaps the home of “time”, a special place in memory and affection.

Other than husband and cat, the constants of home are the belongings we treasure and take with us from house to house. Always a core of books, special items and “treasures” we’ve acquired wherever we’ve lived or travelled. Very little has any real commercial value, but they reflect our lives. It’s hard to imagine our home without them, though that is something that has to be considered when living with the annual risk of cyclones. Perhaps that’s why my cyclone emergency packing pays minimal attention to clothes, linen and other practicalities. It’s interesting to ponder what I would take with me to define home if we were to spend an extended time overseas.

DSC_0272 (2)

Is “home” a specific place for me? For a long time Brisbane was home, as I’d known no other. That changed when I went to live in Papua New Guinea after we married, the transition to a new sense of home being surprisingly speedy. Returning to PNG in 2012, there was a real sense of being home again: the familiarity of place and people. We feel the same every time our plane lands in Cairns because the density of the tropical ranges evoke PNG so clearly. Now, each place we live imprints itself on mind and emotion.

DSC_0368

My parents didn’t own a car until I was in my late teens so Brisbane was a series of disjointed images rather like map segments stuck together. Flying in regularly, my vision of it changed: the serpentine Brisbane River wound its way through the city; the hills enclosing the city and the red-roofed houses seemed so obvious.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Brisbane is kookaburras laughing, magpies warbling and lorikeets drunk on nectar. The sound of cicadas on a hot summer’s day. The different flowers and plants of this sub-tropical town: perhaps the best of both “worlds”.Billabong2

DSC_1100The Top End will remain with me for its very different geography and vegetation, and its wide open spaces. The drama of the Wet Season with its fierce electrical storms and torrential rains. The inability to swim in those magnificently turquoise waters (crocodiles, stingers, sharks etc). The tropical beauty of a bush billabong. The peep-peep of the crimson finches in our yard, the flash of colour from a rainbow bee-eater, the strangled laugh of the northern kookaburra, the speed of a whistling kite as it snatches a sausage.

All these places become part of my history of “home” as we move around.

Near Renner Springs NT

Near Renner Springs NT

What remains unchanged is my core sense of Australia as home. Whenever we return from a trip overseas it’s the wide, bright blue skies that strike me first and the vivid colours so different from the northern hemisphere. The sense of space when travelling through our much-mythologised outback. The sound of surf breaking on the vast white sands of our beaches. A huge sky emblazoned with the southern stars and the Southern Cross marking their transition through the night. Its bizarre animals and magnificent native flora. Dorothy Mackellar’s poem, My Country, though a little old-fashioned in style, sums it up well in essence.

So what is truly home for me? On a daily basis it’s Mr Cassmob, the cat, our books and belongings, the garden and its flowers and birds. The house structure is important but only while we live there. Underpinning it all is the sense of place: the affiliation with the land and landscape of Australia in all its manifestations.Birds better

Sepia Saturday 193: Splendid Isolation

Sepia Sat 193This week’s Sepia Saturday image took me back to the days when my Dad and I used to go fishing off Magnetic Island. Not quite alone and isolated but a sense of being cut off from the world…as evidenced by the fact I have no photos.

Splendid isolation or not

My image, on the other hand, couldn’t be further from the sea and a boat but it reveals the same sense of isolation: a woman, her dog and her horse in the bush, mustering. Until you pay close attention to the photo. I’m not sure, but I think she’s checking her mobile phone! So perhaps not quite so isolated after all, though I’m sure there are plenty of times away from mobile range when she’s out mustering. And just to show images can lie, off to the left is a waiting ute.

Visiting speaker to Darwin: Susie Zada. What did I learn?

The Dry Season in Darwin brings interstate visitors with family links to the Territory and one of the bonuses is that some of them are expert family history presenters. Today we had the privilege of once again hearing Susie Zada, a dynamic and experienced family historian and professional researcher.  I first heard Susie speak a couple of years ago, gaining great tips about using, of all things, sewerage records.

You have to admire these  visiting guest speakers to the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory: the attendees get maximum bang for their buck with back-to-back presentations, and if they’re quick, a slice of Elaine’s delicious fruit cake for morning tea.

Susie’s topics today include a new spin on some old favourites like researching house and land records for our ancestors and the fantastic records and databases of the Geelong and District Historical Society and the Bellarine Historical Society in Victoria.

Susie also spoke about the abundance of records, and indexes, available through the State Records Authority of New South Wales, though with abundant warnings regarding the site’s offer to order a photocopy for $15 per page, rather than pursue the data the old fashioned way, via microfilms, which enable you to scan and/or print the page at minimal cost. Equally important from my point of view is that going to the microfilms lets you peruse the adjacent pages, not just focus on your own specific entry.

Warnings about the $15 tempt-trap for the buy-it-now researcher, could equally well be replaced with caveat emptor or RTBM (read the bloody manual!). Susie strongly recommended that we ALWAYS read what is contained within a database, and how it works/whether wildcards can be used etc.

Another warning was to read, read and read some more about the background history applicable to your ancestors, their place in Australia and where they came from, so that you understand the context.

Over the course of the morning a vast number of resources were mentioned which were new to novice researchers, and well worth investigating to round out your family history. The slides which listed her recommendations were helpful and good guides. However the slides which set out to show particular documents were, in my opinion, close to useless. Even with distance glasses, and having used many similar records I couldn’t make out what on earth was on some. It would be great if the image could be cropped to focus on the particular entry, making it a more useful learning and information tool.

Susie comes into her own when talking about heritage studies and the history of houses, and had a couple of great examples. Her final presentation focused on the value of casting a doubting eye over everything we’re told, and read, and regularly reviewing our past discoveries, certificates etc. She told a couple of hilarious stories about how family stories are tweaked to fit popular sensibilities and I loved the story of one of her convicts in particular, not to mention her mother’s response.

I’m not sure that I agree with her assessment that “family history=the stories” while “genealogy=the science of family history, and where to prove the stories” but the genealogy vs family history debate is one that’s unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

I’ve adopted Susie’s tip about using the ~ symbol in conjunction with a “enclosed set words” to find words within ~20 words of each other. The tilda symbol is one that Shauna Hicks recommends but I hadn’t realised (or had forgotten?) that combined with a set of words in inverted commas, those words would not need to be a phrase rather a combination of words that need to be close to each other. I’ll be using it for my Partridge ancestor in Ipswich to get around all those annoying feathered creatures that come up in a Trove search: So “Partridge Ipswich” ~20.

For me, the discovery of the day was Susie’s recommendation about the “geeky” combined search site for the WWI record finder. It’s so cool to be able to see the entire service record for a relative and pick out which document you want within it.

I also liked the Wraggelabs population browser, which lets you slide the button through the years, producing population data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics. Those so minded can then document the data into a spreadsheet and prepare a graph as Susie did  – a very clear way of seeing the huge gender disparity on the goldfields, for example. You could have a ton of fun with this tool!

When Mr Cassmob gets into his own family history, the online Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works sewerage maps at PROV are bound to be helpful for his Melbourne-based ancestors.

Why not take Susie’s advice and move beyond your comfort zone: it’s the only way to learn more about your ancestry and to expand your knowledge and skills….and you never know, it might not be as scary as you fear. Good advice!

All in all a morning well spent with someone who really knows their stuff.

My tip: if you own a tablet, take it with you to talks like this, as it lets you follow up the links on the spot and see exactly what’s being talked about.

FYI: If you want to read more about my own list of offline resources you can click on this link and work your way through my Beyond the Internet posts from last year.

Finding Irish ancestors: Part 1 – In the new land

Oh for a leprechaun to tell you where your Irish ancestors originated.

Now anyone who’s researched Irish ancestors will know just how unpredictable this process can be. So much depends on serendipity in the form of timelines –when your family was born or died, where they lived, how much money they had (or more likely didn’t have), when they emigrated, etc. You then need to mix serendipity with a large dollop of lateral thinking to see how many side paths you can travel to tease out the information.

So this is my (incomplete) guide to starting on your Irish family. I’m more than happy for other Irish researchers to add their “two bob’s worth” as each path provides different challenges opportunities.

Locating their place

Most importantly, you can’t just go find your Irish rellies without having a clue where they lived in Ireland, and unfortunately the name of the county is unlikely to serve either, unless you’ve got an exceptionally rare name. What you ideally need is the parish, village or townland. You also need to be able to translate what you see on paper to an Irish accent, as so many of our ancestors from the mid-19th century were illiterate and relied on an independent person to spell what they were telling them. For much the same reason you can’t assume that the spelling will always be consistent. It does tend to get a bit “chicken-and-egg” but you need that place.

So where to start?

IN THE NEW LAND

Certificates

Extract of death certificate for Ellen Gavin, my 2xgreat grandmother. Colony of Qld certificate 90520 purchased 14 November 1986.

One of the pluses, if your ancestors made the long voyage to Australia, is that you’ll likely be blessed with far more information than if they’d married or died anywhere else. How much is recorded depends on the knowledge of their immediate family but you may find: their place of birth, parents’ names, how long they’ve been in the colony/state, where they died, where they were buried, and a full list of children (useful to check out naming patterns).

So you’re looking for marriage certificates (for parent’s names and the person’s place of birth) and death certificates (ditto). If all they provide is “County XXXX” then you may have to search more widely:  try their children’s birth certificates as they too should tell you the parents’ place of marriage and age at marriage, and place of birth.

Of course all these strategies may not pay off if your ancestor constantly states only the county, but you’ll have a much better sense of whether they’re a reliable “witness” as you’ll be able to test for consistency of their other data. Many of mine were extremely consistent, but another of my Irish ancestors was all over the place when it came to ages but more informative about places.

Still stymied? If you know they had siblings who also emigrated, you may want to purchase the sibling’s certificate(s) as these may give you more information. This was the case with my Mary O’Brien Kunkel –it was her sister’s death certificate from New South Wales (over 1200kms away) that gave me their place of origin as Broadford, Co Clare.

Church registers

In my experience church records such as baptisms or marriages may give you an entirely different set of information from the official records (or at least more detail). This may be the very clue you’re looking for. Certainly in the case of my George Kunkel, it was the only place he mentioned his home town rather than just “Bavaria”. Why the Irish priest didn’t complete anything at all for George’s wife, Mary O’Brien, is anybody’s guess.

Johannah Wall from Rortlaw, Co Waterford, buried Roma, Qld

Don’t forget that if you are writing to the relevant church or archive, to send a donation along with your request.

Gravestones

If all else fails, or do it anyway, it is worth your while to look at your ancestor’s gravestones. I’ve seen occasions where the memorial inscriptions are the only place that a specific place of birth is mentioned. You can see some examples here.

Immigration records

Depending on where you live and when your ancestors migrated, you may find that your ancestor specifically mentioned their home parish, townland or village when interviewed on arrival. Alternatively they may say whether their parents are alive and where they are living. Any of these clues will help in your quest.  Once again you need to remember that the spelling may be the recorder’s interpretation of what was said. You might need to practice your Irish accents <grin>.

Oral History

Don’t discount the enormous potential value of oral history. With luck you may learn your ancestor’s home place but you may also learn the names of siblings in the new land and the old. My ancestors’ granddaughter was invaluable in terms of providing details of siblings’ married names (invaluable when you’re looking for O’Briens!). She also remembered that the place Mary O’Brien came from was Longford or something like that. Mary’s sister’s death certificate gave me their actual place –Broadford: hence the significance of checking out sibling’s certificates and oral history.

This wide variety of information will help you triangulate your ancestral details in the old country. Even having a batch of siblings’ names, will be of help to you in confirming the ancestral family once you’re back in Ireland.

Hospital and Benevolent Asylum registers

Sadly none of my ancestors’ cards name their place of birth so I thought I’d share this family one.

This may seem like a strange source, but if you think your ancestor had been in hospital or was in care at the end of their lives, this provides yet another possibility for learning their place of origin.

Memoriam Cards

Firstly thanks to Chris whose comment on the Clare facebook page reminded me of these.  Do you remember seeing those little black-edged cards with a holy picture and prayer on them? If so check them carefully as you never know what clues they offer including that those named may be relatives.

Other researchers should weigh in with their thoughts of what I’ve missed and/or what’s been successful for them. All comments are much appreciated.

Part 2 coming soon: Finding your Irish family in Ireland

Foreign Correspondence and why I am Australian

Spurred on by Kristin’s request for some Australian novels, I’ve recently been re-reading some of the novels on my Australian Reading List (and the additions in the comments). So far I’ve read A Town Like Alice, They’re a Weird Mob, Harland’s Half Acre and The True History of the Kelly Gang (can’t believe I read about Ned Kelly!). What’s particularly struck me is how strange it seems to read stories set in a geographical background that is familiar. Somehow reading “foreign” novels is normal, whereas a story set in my Australian hometown seems quite out of the ordinary. Perhaps more than anything it tells you of the cultural dysjunction with which we have traditionally lived.

The other day I picked up Foreign Correspondence by award-winning author and journalist/foreign correspondent, Geraldine Brooks. Geraldine grew up in Sydney in the 1960s and while there’s about a five year time difference from my own experience, so much of what she talks about is familiar. Her experience of living in Sydney’s western suburbs is so much starker than my own in Brisbane although the tightness of the community and a sense of its potential claustrophobia is similar. Much of Australia’s cultural attitudes of the 1960s come through in her writing, some overtly and other aspects more indirectly. She speaks too of the big events and issues of the era including the Vietnam war and the impact of Gough Whitlam’s election as Prime Minister.

Her health in childhood affected her schooling and how she interacted with others. She speaks very much as one who couldn’t wait to leave Australia and see what the big wide world had to offer and until she reached adulthood, she used pen pals as her gateway to the world. Nearly 30 years later she wonders what happened to those “foreign correspondents”. She traces them in the US, Middle East and France ultimately concluding that in fact her early life was not quite as circumscribed as she thought and that despite her many successes, at the time of writing this story she gained satisfaction from living a life not unlike the village-based life of her former French pen friend.

Her experiences made me reflect on my own experiences. My suburb also had a significant post-war immigration with people from Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Malta….. They were recent immigrants and many of the adults spoke little English. Playing with their children taught me indirectly about different cultural attitudes, tolerance for others and the language challenges. We never really knew of their lives before they came to Australia but their very presence in our daily lives opened the world’s doors: a pivotal influence in my life. Like the author I also had pen friends- three in the USA at different times and one in Holland. Also like her I’ve sometimes wondered where life took them. (Are you out there Patsy Kiwala, Carole Dzurban, Connie Cundiff and Ria Fyn van Draat?)

Warriors at the Highlands Show, Goroka, PNG 1972.

Reading a book like this, which fits closely with one’s own experiences, raises questions about life differences. My first thought was that while I had always desperately wanted to travel, I never expected or wanted to live the life of an expatriate. Only one or two of our friends from university made the sea voyage to England to work, perhaps because many of us met our life partners at uni. It’s a paradox that when thinking of living “overseas” and the life of an expatriate, my focus remains on the UK. This is ironic because for nearly a decade I was an expatriate in Papua New Guinea, a country which was vastly different to anything that would have been experienced in Europe, despite its dominant Australian overlay. London would probably have been less of a shock.

With cheaper and faster flights world-wide it’s now common for our children’s generation to live and work overseas. Many parents (including us) have one or more children living at vast distances from them. Many  Australian young adults make the pilgrimage to live and work around the world. Most of them probably return eventually, but others live elsewhere for the rest of their lives: we are a peripatetic nation.

A centuries-old ghost gum in the East McDonnell Ranges, NT

There is a book by Nikki Gemmell called “Why you are Australian”, written to her children who had been growing up in London until the family made the reverse migration to Australia. Although some of it seems over the top or idealised, she does evoke so much about being Australian.

Why am I Australian? Apart from those five generations of Queenslanders who’ve gone before me, the reasons are based in country almost in the indigenous sense. When you return from overseas, the first thing that hits you is the light. The brightness of the colours almost hurts your eyes after the grey skies of northern countries. Perhaps that’s why the birds are so often colourful too –they have to compete. The sheer expanse of the sky and its vivid blue on its many clear days. The ocean of stars in the sky at night, spanned by the white haze of the Milky Way, more startling in the bush or over the desert. The Southern Cross tracking its way across the night sky spinning on its southerly axis.  The red desert colour, the roar of the ocean waves breaking on long stretches of white sand or the red beachside cliffs of north-western Australia. The starkness of our bush, and what foreigners see as its emptiness and isolation. Storm clouds over the Tropical north in the Wet Season, all sound and drama. The geological patterns stretching from shore to shore, across thousands of kilometres so that the country around Mt Isa will remind you of the Red Centre or parts of Western Australia. The ancient rock formations and the centuries-old ghost gums. For so long we saw ourselves as a young country when in reality we’re as old as time, deceived by the absence of buildings to declare man’s presence yet in caves around the country there’s ancient artgoing back thousands of years.

Floodplains, billabongs and aged melaleucas in the Wet.

I remember once a distant Irish cousin asking me if I was Australian or Irish. It was a genuine question but I confess I was both bewildered and astonished. For me it was a “no brainer”, I’m an Aussie through and through, much as I love visiting my ancestral places. You won’t (usually) find me beating the patriotic drum, flying a flag at every turn sets my teeth on edge, and those stickers saying “if you don’t love it, leave” make me want to scream (do they never criticise someone they love? I doubt it). But yes, I’m an Australian to my core. Funny how a book can make you want to declare your sense of belonging.

I wrote this story a week ago but hadn’t posted it. Last night soon after it was uploaded I was reading recent posts by a young Aussie blogger I follow at A Big Life.  Living in Bavaria she talks about being caught between two countries and the pull of home – the expatriate’s dilemma. Two of her reflective posts are here and here.

You can see other photos of the Top End of Australia on my Tropical Territory blog which shows just how beautiful this part of the country can be. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll have seen some of the magnificent east coast country.