Trove Tuesday: James Morton of Ballymena, County Antrim and Grafton, NSW.

My East Clare Emigrants blog has been neglected since the cruise but today I was determined to add a story, and the one I’d selected was about Mary Ann Morton, nee Massy. One thing led to another, as it does, and eventually I also followed up her husband, James Morton. An Irishman born in Ballymena, County Antrim he didn’t fit on the other blog so his story makes a good one for Trove Tuesday, despite the less pleasant aspects of his history on Australia’s frontier. Perhaps he was pre-conditioned by his service with the New York Rifles in the Mexican War of 1847. Which goes to show how Trove can help our American cousins as well as the Aussies. I did like that he had known Fred Ward, aka the bushranger Thunderbolt. Apart from the confronting aspects, wouldn’t you like a family obituary with this much detail, though yet again, puzzlingly, there is no detailed mention of family.

DEATH OF MR. J. MORTON. (1924, March 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16142344

DEATH OF MR. J. MORTON. (1924, March 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 14. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16142344

But this obituary is incredibly complex and talks of the conflict between the Aborigines and white settlers on the frontiers of Australia in those early days. The language, and more so, the behaviours are confronting but are a part of our history.

A Great Old Pioneer. (1924, March 18). The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW : 1886 - 1942), p. 4. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125965563

A Great Old Pioneer. (1924, March 18). The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW : 1886 – 1942), p. 4. Retrieved March 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125965563

Continued from the Obituary above.

Continued from the Obituary above.

U is for Urana and Ubud

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which), but sometimes like today it involves a simple travelogue as well.

U is for Urana (New South Wales, Australia)

Urana's Soldiers Memorial Hall, another type of war memorial. © P Cass 2004

My 2xgreat-grandmother Mary O’Brien from County Clare, and her sister Bridget, reportedly travelled to Australia together around 1852-53. Bridget’s death certificate indicates she had spent one year in Queensland so it appears they both came to Queensland first to settle and work. However Bridget then moved to New South Wales, though the reason why is unknown. It does seem strange that she left her sister behind to move a further 1500kms away. Perhaps she’d already met her husband-to-be and went interstate to join him. Like Mary, the story is that they met their future husbands on the voyage over, a not uncommon tale. Unfortunately as I can find no record of their arrival I can’t even begin to verify or reject the story.

A typical Australian country shed with corrugated iron and a windmill overlooks the lake at Urana. © P Cass 2004

Bridget apparently married John Widdup in Albury on the NSW-Victoria border around 1858 (not on the NSW indices) and around 1864 they moved from there to Urana in the Riverina district between the two great rivers, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee. In 1866 the town had been in existence for seven years and had two hotels, the Urana and the Royal, several dwellings, “a post and telegraph station, two large stores, a police station and a lock up, and a church”.[1] The stores serviced the squatters as well as the shepherds and boundary riders who managed their stock.[2] Even in 1872, the town’s population was only 100 people with a periodic influx of shearers. I do find it interesting that both Bridget and her sister Mary chose to live their Australian lives in fairly small communities, perhaps drawing on their experience is the distant townland of Ballykelly, Parish of Kilseily.

John Widdup was the town’s pound keeper, responsible for wandering stock, but he also played an important role as Chairman of the Board in the establishment of the Urana School. Bridget was no doubt kept busy with their large family. Oral history also suggests she may have been a local midwife.

Bridget O'Brien Widdup is buried with her daughter Louisa Luckie in the Catholic Section of the Urana Cemetery. © P Cass 2004

John died in Urana on 29 February 1876, aged 48 years though strangely his death is unrecorded in the registration books. He was buried in the Church of England section of the Urana cemetery. Although united in life, they were not united in death as his wife Bridget lies in the Roman Catholic section. Their religious separation in death makes me suspect that religion was a major issue in their marriage.

The Widdup family settled permanently in Urana, and nearby areas including Narrandera, and to this day there are family members living in the area.

U is for Ubud (Bali)

Bali is just a hop, skip and jump from Darwin so it tends to be a short-stay holiday for many Darwinites. Due to its general reputation as a young Aussies’ party place, Bali had never been on my travel list until we came here to live. There’s so much more to Bali than partying, and I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface but the stand-out features are the friendliness of the people and their focus on religious practices.

Ubud is perfect for “chilling out” as you can do a bit of browsing, but also enjoy the cooler weather that comes with being in the mountains. Ubud is the setting of the Love segment in the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love, but personally I haven’t seen any Brazilian eye-candy hanging around.

We both love the gardens, tropical flowers and statues so I thought I’d just include a slideshow of some of these (but you get the Urana ones first).

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H hops into Hughenden, Herston, Hastings Point and H ships

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

H is for Hughenden

Hughenden is a small town on the road between Mt Isa and Charters Towers and Townsville. We’ve visited in passing a few times but I can’t say I feel any empathy or true understanding of it…perhaps the most noticeable feature is this stretch of road is ancient dinosaur country and the locals are making the most of this tourism opportunity.

Hughenden's main drag. I love those old country pubs with their imposing presence.

My great-grandfather McSherry and his family lived in Hughenden for several years when he was an inspector with the railways. My grandfather McSherry was also working here with the railway when he met my grandmother who lived in Charters Towers. How they came to meet I don’t know, but I’ve always assumed (yes, I know!) it was through her family’s refreshment rooms in Charters Towers. I’ve heard the Melvins also had railway refreshment rooms but I’ve found no evidence whatsoever of that, so I’m assuming it was probably a furphy, albeit a credible one.

On our last visit the people at the Visitor Centre were very helpful and tried to put me in touch with the local historian who wasn’t available. This H post reminds me that I’ve still not followed this up….the “to do” list is growing with each letter.

H is for Herston

Clydesdale c1900 John Oxley Library image, copyright expired. This was the convent during my school years.

School days, school days, good old golden rule days! My school and parish church were both “over the border” into the Brisbane suburb of Herston. Neither the church nor the school remain, replaced by a post-Vatican II church of simple architecture, while the old building shared by church and school have disappeared into memory…another job on my “to do” list is find a photo. Time, it’s always time, that catches us out.  I talked quite a lot about the school here so I won’t repeat myself in this post.

One thing of relevance to family historians: if you find your relative has been buried from St Joan of Arc church Herston and are wondering why…it’s because the priests were the curates for the hospital, and some people either converted at the last minute or came back to the church. I recall singing as part of the school choir at any number of funerals, many with no connection to the parish.

The other interesting aspect to Herston parish was the influx of European immigrants in the 1950s and especially the Dutch migrants. Don’t ask me why so many came to Herston, because I really don’t know, but as a result of the numbers, we ended up with Dutch priests for a number of years. Recently I commented on the fact that Family Search has digitised parish registers from the Netherlands: an invaluable resource for Australians with Dutch ancestry.

H is for Hastings Point

View south from Hastings Point

Hastings Point is part personal history and part travelogue. An inconspicuous mark on a map but for our family it’s been a special part of our story, filled with memories and fun times, shared over the years with friends and children’s friends. We have always camped as close to the beach as possible which means that the strong wind bent every tent pole we had. After a day of down-time from the normal rush of urban life with busy jobs and children, we’d take to exploring the rock waterholes which might conceal all manner of marine life. The area off the point is a marine park so there was usually plenty to see on these mini-expeditions and there was always the fun (perhaps less so for the feet) of navigating from one rock to the other. Most of the time there was a small spa-sized pool near the rocks which made the perfect spot for lolling around, unless you were mad keen to get into the surf, which swimming across the creek first, or wading, carefully avoiding the oyster-shelled rocks. On the southern side of the Point the surf near the rocks could be quite fierce and not all that safe for swimming unless you were a strong swimmer or out on a board.

Google Earth aerial view of Hastings Point, New South Wales

Each visit the path of the creek would have changed with tidal and weather conditions so you never knew what you’d find. One visit the creek would have a lovely sandy bank which might luminesce at night time as you walked up to the toilet block. Another time there’d be little sand on the bank and you’d be dodging around the rocks. One visit we even found a low tide mini-aquarium of marine life in a tiny pool in the creek…great fun.

Hastings Point was where we went to see Halley’s Comet uncontaminated by urban lights. Our viewing was much better on an early visit than on the date they’d say it would be optimal.

This aerial view from Google Earth shows some of the beauty of the place. Time was when the northern approach to Hastings was equally beautiful, driving through native bush of banksias. Sadly much has been altered with the bush replaced by resorts.

If you’d like to know a little more about this wonderful place you may wish to read a couple of my posts from last year, here and here.

H is for H-named ships

A ship called Hotspur, but is it the one which brought the Irish immigrants? State Library of Queensland Negative number: 63060, copyright expired.

I have done some research into emigrants from east County Clare, Ireland to Australia. When I was looking at the names yesterday I realised a number of these immigrants arrived on ships whose names started with the letter H. So here’s to them…name of ship (year) [number of east Clare people on board]. You can see the increase in numbers in the 1860s with the American Civil War.

Humbolt (1852) [4]; Himalaya (1855) [3]; Hilton (1855) [2]; Herald of the Morning (1858) [9]; Hornet (1859) [3]; Hotspur (1863) [26]; Himalaya (1865) [6]; and Hornet (1865) [15]

The original source for this data came from the Board’s Immigrant Lists from State Records NSW. The east Clare data has been extracted from my own database.

Today’s A to Z 2012 recommendation:

Somebody has to say it…I love this woman’s bolshie attitude. Her position is set out clearly and logically on her topic of the day. She reminds me of a friend and former colleague of mine.

Thoughts on “Farewell My Children” by Dr Richard Reid: Irish migration to Australia 1848-1870

If you have Irish ancestry in Australia, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ve referred to an index of Irish Assisted Immigrants to New South Wales (NSW) 1848-1870, available in most family history libraries around Australia.  I doubt I was alone in thinking, when I first used the index, that this was another very comprehensive genealogy-related index. In fact, it was a by-product of Dr Richard Reid’s doctoral thesis, awarded in 1992 by the Australian National University, the topic of which was Aspects of Irish Assisted Emigration to New South Wales 1848-1870. This thesis can only be read on-site at ANU.

What is exciting news for family historians with an Irish background is that in mid-2011 Richard released Farewell My Children – a book based largely on his thesis. I bought a copy at this year’s Shamrock in the Bush because I’d already read the thesis and I was desperately keen to have my own copy of this benchmark work. Read it, you won’t regret it!

You might be thinking that if this started life as an academic publication it will be too “heavy” and too difficult to read. Not at all! The topics are clearly presented throughout and add greatly to our understanding of our ancestors’ emigration experiences. What I most like about Farewell My Children, and Richard’s historical writing in general, is that he illuminates the topic with specific examples. This personalises the history revealing the nuances at the grassroots level as well as the bigger picture. Another feature of Richard’s work is that he views Ireland as an entity not just Eire or Northern Ireland. While the focus is on Irish migration to Australia, it would also offer a comparative understanding to anyone whose Irish ancestors migrated to North America –after all they are quite likely to have distant family in Australia –it’s surprising how family sometimes took divergent migration paths.

There are multiple strands in the book which address the emigration experience:

1.   The emigration process

If you’ve found it difficult to get your head around the nuts and bolts of how your ancestors obtained their government assisted passage, and what evidence they had to supply, you will find it here.

The practicalities of the Remittance Regulations[i] are also dealt with, including their occasional manipulation by representatives in Ireland and Australia.

2.  The journey to Australia and experience on arrival

The complex and careful management of the immigrants is highlighted. It is pertinent to note the difference between the Australian journey and that of many migrant experiences to North America. It may have been a much longer journey, but the government was particularly attentive to its immigrants. A further benefit of this is the wonderful detail available in the bureaucratic records and especially the Board’s Immigrants Lists where they survive.

3.   Who were the migrants?

Do you ever wonder how typical your Irish family really was? Richard talks about the characteristics of the immigrants, their literacy and skills, age and gender balance as well as their marital status. This is a fascinating insight into the differences between Irish and other immigrants.

4.   Clonoulty, Co Tipperary

The book and thesis train the research lens on the emigrants from Clonoulty. If you have ancestors from there, you will find this chapter especially useful.

5.  The poor of Ireland

The book talks in detail about the Irish Famine Orphan migration from Ireland’s workhouses, which is relevant to our family as my husband’s ancestor was a Famine Orphan. It’s pertinent to note that not all were actually orphans.

Wives and children of convicts also come under this heading as they were often impoverished by the breadwinner’s transportation. (Dr Perry McIntyre’s recent book Free passage : the reunion of Irish convicts and their families in Australia, 1788-1852 is also a must-read for anyone whose family fits this category).
6.   Donegal Relief Fund

When I read the thesis I had no reason to be particularly concerned about Donegal so I only skimmed this section. In the meantime I’ve learned my son-in-law’s paternal ancestry is tied into this migration from Donegal, so I found this chapter especially interesting.[ii

7.  Remittances and chain migration

Remittances played a key role in the chains of Irish migration in families and friendship groups and are what led me to Richard’s thesis in 2004. This was the link between this broader Irish research and my own East Clare research focused on Broadford, Parish of Kilseily where the parish priest and some key representatives in Australia appear to have manipulated the system to ensure a positive migration outcome for East Clare people.

It’s no doubt obvious that I regard this book as the door to Dr Reid’s benchmark research on Irish migration to Australia. I for one am very grateful this research made the transition from academic thesis to an accessible book I can keep on my shelves. There are any number of reasons why Richard’s book is particularly relevant to my own research (especially East Clare migration) but I’m confident that anyone with Irish ancestry, or others, would be able to add to their understanding of the migration experience by reading it. Dr Reid’s history-writing style has made him one of my own “history heroes”. In my library his book sits beside Oceans of Consolation by David Fitzpatrick and Robin Haines’ Life and Death in the Age of Sail.

With such significant and informative content Farewell my Children should become a prime resource for Irish family historians and anyone with an interest in Australian migration. If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for yourself, print out the book details and leave it lying around as a “hint” for the family gift-givers. Don’t forget, too, that if you live near a large reference library you can have the book sent on inter-library loan from the National Library of Australia.

If you are interested in Irish migration you might also be interested in the small Visible Immigrants series which are collaborative publications: their content vastly outweighs their slight appearance.

Visible women : female immigrants in colonial Australia / edited by Eric Richards

Poor Australian immigrants in the nineteenth century / edited by Eric Richards
Neglected sources for the history of Australian immigration / Eric Richards, Richard Reid & David Fitzpatrick

Disclosure: I have not been asked to comment on this book, nor did I receive any remuneration for promoting it. It stands entirely on its own merits.


[i] The Index to the NSW Immigration Deposit Journals 1853-1900 produced by Pastkeys is a valuable entry-point to the remittances at a name level.

[ii] A complementary source is the wonderful information on the Donegal Genealogy Resources webpage