Reading The Northern Miner: human tragedy and stories

The other afternoon I was reading The Northern Miner newspaper from Charters Towers, an old mining town in North Queensland where one branch of my family had lived for some decades. I had ordered the microfilm in on an inter-library loan from the National Library of Australia to follow up some information on a friend’s family history.

I was focused on a particular month in 1947 and what struck me afresh was just how full of human misery a newspaper can be. This sometimes seems to be more obvious decades ago when it was reported more graphically.

It also struck me that this is perhaps the one down side to Trove, though I absolutely love it in all other respects. By not sitting in a library and turning page after page on a microfilm, we lose the broader sense of what was happening in that place and at that time. We also lose a sense of perspective on how that particular editor and newspaper handled their news stories, what they focused on, and their general credibility. You also lose the sense of how they structured their paper, and where particular news features are placed. Sure, we could browse any edition on Trove, but do we really do that?

So here’s my abbreviated misery list from one mere month in a country newspaper:

  • A Rockhampton woman jumped off a bridge into a river clutching her 14 month old baby to her chest. The baby’s body was recovered, the mother’s had not been. What tragedies lay behind this story?
  • A child’s arm was caught in a milking machine
  • A railway shunter was severely injured in an shunting accident (one of the most dangerous occupations, believe it or not)
  • A Javanese child stowed away on a plane and was found alive and wrapped around the landing gear when it landed in Darwin –he lived
  • A literally feral 7 year old child was found by the Salvation Army (place unidentified). He had been rejected by his parents because he was believed to have been swapped at birth. He had lived in their shed in the back yard with no clothes, toys or training and minimal human contact. He was responding well to the Salvos treatment. One family history you would not want to find.
  • A “Negro” woman had been enslaved by her employer, a “society woman” for 30 years: “reparation” for having a child to the employer’s husband. The court ordered payment of 30 years wages and a jail sentence which was revoked because the employer had otherwise been a very Christian woman
  • Inter-racial, inter-religious massacres in India

And one for the Darwinites: Darwin had no dentist and a man had to fly to Adelaide for treatment. And yes, we do have dentists now but the need/desire to fly interstate for some significant medical treatment still exists.

And a “good news” item: the wonder drug Streptomycin was to be mass produced.

Most of these stories were found easily on Trove and are reported in newspapers around Australia, demonstrating that you may find the stories you want well beyond the confines of the local newspaper.

So there we have it, what sad and tragic family stories lie behind each and every one of these news items.

Beyond the Internet Geneameme

Following on my posts about the changes in family history over the past 25 years I thought it would be good to look at family history resources beyond the internet and how we use them today. I’ve built up a list of 60 resources or activities that take our research beyond the digitised records (much as I do love them!). It will be interesting to see which resources people are using most, and perhaps tip off new researchers on just how much is hiding in archives. To draw up my list I’ve used my own experience and referred to Judy Webster’s Tips for Queensland research and the PROV’s book Private Lives, Public Records. New researchers might also be interested in the Unlock the Past book It’s not all online by Shauna Hicks.[i]

Overseas researchers may want to add to the list or replace items with ones relevant to their own research. Remember this is all about locating information from sources not on the internet (with a couple of small exceptions). Please add your responses to the comments and I’ll put up a consolidated list in due course.

As usual the process is as follows:

Beyond the Internet Geneameme[ii]

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

  1. Looked at microfiche for BDM indexes which go beyond the online search dates.
  2. Talked to elderly relatives about your family history.
  3. Obtained old family photos from relatives.
  4. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-grandparent.
  5. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-great-grandparent.
  6. Seen/held a baptism or marriage document in a church, church archive or microfilm.
  7. Seen your ancestor’s name in some other form of church record eg kirk session, communion rolls.
  8. Used any microfilm from an LDS family history centre for your research.
  9. Researched using a microfilm other than a parish register (LDS family history centre/other).
  10. Used cemetery burial records to learn more about your relative’s burial.
  11. Used funeral director’s registers to learn more about your relative’s burial.
  12. Visited all your great-grandparents’ grave sites.
  13. Visited all your great-great-grandparents’ grave sites.
  14. Recorded the details on your ancestors’ gravestones and photographed them.
  15. Obtained a great-grandparent’s will/probate documents.
  16. Obtained a great-great grandparent’s will/probate documents.
  17. Found a death certificate among will documents.
  18. Followed up in the official records, something found on the internet.
  19. Obtained a copy of your immigrant ancestors’ original shipping records.
  20. Found an immigration nomination record for your immigrant ancestor[iii].
  21. Found old images of your ancestor’s place of origin (online or other).
  22. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor’s place of residence.
  23. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor’s place of origin.
  24. Read your ancestor’s school admission records.
  25. Researched the school history for your grandparents.
  26. Read a court case involving an ancestor (online newspapers don’t count for this).
  27. Read about an ancestor’s divorce case in the archives.
  28. Have seen an ancestor’s war medals.
  29. Have an ancestor’s military record (not a digitised copy eg WWII).
  30. Read a war diary or equivalent for an ancestor’s battle.
  31. Seen an ancestor’s/relative’s war grave.
  32. Read all/part of the history of an ancestor’s military unit (battalion/ship etc).
  33. Seen your ancestor’s name on an original land map.
  34. Found land selection documents for your immigrant ancestor/s.
  35. Found other land documents for your ancestor (home/abroad)
  36. Located land maps or equivalent for your ancestor’s place of origin.
  37. Used contemporaneous gazetteers or directories to learn about your ancestors’ places.
  38. Found your ancestor’s name in a Post Office directory of the time.
  39. Used local government sewerage maps (yes, seriously!) for an ancestor’s street.
  40. Read an inquest report for an ancestor/relative (online/archives).
  41. Read an ancestor’s/relative’s hospital admission.
  42. Researched a company file if your family owned a business.
  43. Looked up any of your ancestor’s local government rate books or valuation records.
  44. Researched occupation records for your ancestor/s (railway, police, teacher etc).
  45. Researched an ancestor’s adoption.
  46. Researched an ancestor’s insolvency.
  47. Found a convict ancestor’s passport or certificate of freedom.
  48. Found a convict ancestor’s shipping record.
  49. Found an ancestor’s gaol admission register.
  50. Found a licencing record for an ancestor (brands, publican, etc).
  51. Found an ancestor’s mining lease/licence.
  52. Found an ancestor’s name on a petition to government.
  53. Read your ancestor’s citizenship document.
  54. Read about your ancestor in an undigitised regional newspaper.
  55. Visited a local history library/museum relevant to your family.
  56. Looked up your ancestor’s name in the Old Age Pension records.
  57. Researched your ancestor or relative in Benevolent Asylum/Workhouse records.
  58. Researched an ancestor’s/relative’s mental health records.
  59. Looked for your family in a genealogical publication of any sort (but not online remember).
  60. Contributed family information to a genealogical publication.

[i] I do not receive any remuneration from any of these people or organisations. I’ve just found them to be helpful in my own research.

[ii] The Geneameme is a new term coined by Geniaus.

[iii] Pastkeys’ indexes to NSW Immigration Deposit Journals 1853-1900 might be helpful as a starter.

Tombstone Tuesday: the rewards of outback cemeteries: Winton, Queensland

Winton cemetery early morning

Are there any family historians who aren’t addicted to cemeteries? While many people find them depressing or scary, we seem to relish browsing the stones, or when short of time, launching a search mission worthy of the military. For some reason my husband always finds “my” stones in any given cemetery, no matter how we divvy up the quadrants in the first instance.

The gravestone of Agnes and Elias Mellick in Winton cemetery. Elias's date of death is incorrect.

But that’s all by the by. Today I wanted to highlight the amazing information that’s part and parcel of most outback cemeteries in Australia but in particular Winton in Outback Queensland, home of Waltzing Matilda (unless you come from Kynuna up the road which also lays claim to our most famous song).

We visited Winton cemetery again a few months ago en route to Brisbane as I wanted another look at my grandfather’s aunt’s grave. Agnes Mellick and her husband Elias Mellick owned a store in Winton for many years and are both buried in this cemetery.

Denis Scannell from County Kerry, Ireland

However their gravestone comes with a warning: not only do they have two stones because the stonemason (or family) made a mistake with one, the second one is also incorrect. Elias’s obituary is in The Longreach Leader on 8 October 1926 as well as The Brisbane Courier, The Queenslander and The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.Very strangely while his siblings get a mention by name, his wife and children do not.

Despite these vagaries the stones I’m attracted to are the ones that list the person’s birthplace. I often reflect on whether there are families left in the home country who wonder what happened to their son/brother/etc and if they wonder where they are buried. Well I guess there’s no one of the first generation left in most cases, but surely there must be some family researchers overseas who seek to find their lost family members in Australia, just as we do in reverse.

The tragedies of early Queensland pioneers are there for all to see: young men killed in riding accidents, innumerable infant deaths, people dying far from their homes and families, women dying incredibly young, often in childbirth.

Harold L G Johnson killed by lightning.

Winton’s cemetery includes people born in all corners of the globe: France, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Ireland, England, New Zealand, Switzerland, China, Jericho, Scotland, Norway, San Francisco, Germany, Poland, Columbia, Mexico, Malta, San Diego, South Africa.

The names and places can be obtained by ordering in the burial register on microfilm from the LDS church: 1363800 Winton Cemetery register (1890-1920) or 1364060 Item 4 is a transcription of these records. Alternatively if you’re visiting the Waltzing Matilda centre in Winton you can view the transcripts in the Museum. The registers may also tell you their age, occupation and cause of death (information varies depending on the time frame).

John (d1887) and Alice (d1891) children of James and Elizabeth McDonald. Alice is indexed as MacDonald in the Qld BDMs

Winton Cemetery also has a very interesting War Graves section. Unfortunately by the time we got to that, the dust and dried grasses had got to me and I departed in fits of sneezes which lasted for hours. Such are the hazards for determined family historians.

By the way I would love to hear from any Mellick descendants who might come across this blog.

John Hudson born Castleacre Norfolk

Winton war graves

Relief from the Build Up and a reminder of the Wet

Over the last week Darwin has had some fantastic storms complete with thunder, lightning and very heavy rains….a harbinger of the Wet Season to come. This morning it was pelting down outside and blowing several metres under the roofline and through the doors. The plants love it, and will thrive from the bursts of rain over the past week, the first rain we’ve had for months (or has there been the odd sprinkle?).

Mind you, Darwin has looked pretty good this Dry Season…we had such a big Wet last year the vegetation didn’t turn brown until August. The rain here has to be seen to be believed if you’ve never lived in the tropics: huge black clouds billow through the sky and pick up speed with the wind. Meanwhile the birds are feasting on new leaves and blossoms, there seems to be white cockatoos everywhere, and the parrots are getting drunk on the umbrella tree blossoms. Time to bring out my camera….

On Saturday we went for a long drive with the family in a convoy of 4WDs, a nearly-400km round trip just for a family BBQ…go figure. The blokes went fishing for a while with the small people who were very proud to catch (and release) a couple of small barramundi, as well as the excitement of seeing some big crocs languishing in the river. En route home we stopped to inspect a new site and as we made the return sector the heavens opened and the road turned into a red-dirt floodway adding a bit of adventure to a fairly routine drive. The speed of the transformation was pretty impressive I must say.

We Darwinites have been concerned that we were in for a long unrelieved Build Up this year after a blissfully cool and delightful Dry Season (April-June) and a record Wet Season last year (December-ish to April). Why do we hate the Build Up so much? Well the humidity soars, the temperature stays around 35C during the day and usually doesn’t fall much below 28 or 29 even overnight. There’s a good reason this season is called Mango Madness. Firstly the mangoes are in full fruit so the mango-lovers are in heaven but unfortunately this is accompanied by short tempers and “crazy” behaviour as the weather gets to everyone. The tiniest thing can set put tempers on edge…sort of like road rage without the road. It is a better these days than it once would have been – at least now we have the option of air-conditioning in our houses, cars and offices. It does make me wonder how I coped with Port Moresby all those years ago when the only thing that was air-conditioned was the office.

But right now, with the rain having run of out puff, and a rain-cooled breeze blowing it’s absolutely delightful. A reminder of just why we love the Wet!

Now back to the family history trail….

52 weeks of personal genealogy and history: week 42: favourite school subject(s)

The topic for Week 42 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Favorite School Subject. What was your favorite subject in school and why? Was it also your best subject?

There are times when school seems so long ago and far away. When we’re in school everything about it seems so intense and important which of course it is, with the fundamental knowledge blocks being pivotal. However what’s really important, long-term, is the process of learning to learn. With that acquired we can always move on and learn new subjects and new skills throughout our lives.

My favourite school subjects were different in primary school and high school because in the latter I moved into a science stream. English was probably the common denominator between them both.

So in primary school I really enjoyed social studies/geography because I loved learning about places around the world, their people and their features. My mother was always interested in geography and travel so I guess this may have rubbed off. We also had an influx of post war migrants into our parish school in my early years in primary. They came from many countries in Europe: Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Malta and the Netherlands. At various religious ceremonies they would wear traditional dress which added colour, vibrancy and a sense of the world beyond Brisbane. The opportunity to learn about difference in culture and language was a defining aspect of my childhood.

In secondary school I guess my favourite subject was probably Maths II once I figured out what it was all about..which did take quite a while. On reflection I think what I liked about Maths II was the problem solving aspect: not unlike pursuing a family history puzzle. Of course because it was a subject I liked I was fairly good at it, but never having used it since, I’ve pretty much forgotten all I learned.

Despite my comment about German in my “teachers” post recently, I enjoyed opening the door into another language and it has certainly been a significant benefit in my family history research, despite my very rusty skills. One of my wishes is that I was bilingual in any language: fantasy-land in some ways but possible if I put as much energy into that as I do to family history 🙂 One can dream!

The observant reader will notice that none of my science subjects feature here, which simply proves I should have been more lateral in my subject choices.

Personalising electoral roll searches: surprises found and caution needed

Shelley over at Twigs of Yore blog has recently posted about Ancestry’s expanded Australian electoral rolls. Her points made me sit up and think, because frankly I’ve not bothered to look for the people for whom I “know” the details (including myself). This has been a bit silly given I’ve posted about the great uses of electoral rolls in relation to the street where I grew up here and here, though for those posts I was using Findmypast and World Vital Records.

We do tend to think that our ancestors’ electoral details are correct…even if we know we might not be so attentive ourselves. Why do we expect something different from our ancestors? The joy of looking at the microfilms of the original Queensland rolls, for example, is that they are annotated when someone’s residence is challenged, or they move to another electorate or die.

Personalising my search revealed some interesting anomalies likely to cause future descendants and family historians to scratch their hands in puzzlement.

Example 1:

My parents-in-law appear in rural Victoria in 1949, rural NSW in 1954 then reappear in 1980 in Rockhampton Queensland. In another 50 or 100 years will anyone know where those missing years were spent?

Even if they know the family were in Papua New Guinea, they won’t find them in the Genealogical index to Australians and other expatriates in Papua New Guinea 1888-1975 because I’ve been unable to find any reference there, even though I know there were BDM notices in the papers. Which reminds me: I want to suggest to the Trove people that the Post Courier newspaper be digitised given just how many Australians had links there.

Nor will they know that my mother-in-law was a teacher almost all her life, because on the early rolls her occupation is shown as “home duties” and in the 1980 roll she was a teacher’s aide (being then largely in retirement).

Example 2:

My father lived on the same block of land all his life, but soon after I was born the land was sub-divided and another house built. The electoral rolls continue to show my parents at my grandparents’ address more than five years after they’d moved into their own home.

My father’s occupation throughout his entire presence on the electoral rolls remains the same. While he remained with the Railways all his life, his actual job changed. Descendants in years to come will have no idea what he really did, or that his occupation (numbertaker, not undertaker) was actually quite hazardous.

Have you ever thought to change your occupation if your address remains unchanged? Would the Electoral Office even modify it if you asked?

Example 3:

My own presence on the roll, like that of my husband and in-laws is delayed by living in Papua New Guinea for a number of years. If descendants don’t get my birth or marriage certificate they are likely to think I’m much younger than I am…perhaps not a bad thing J

My husband’s bland “admin officer” occupation camouflages his real skills and work experience: much depends on what mind-set we’re in when we fill out the form. Do you descendants a favour, and give a precise title.

As with my mother-in-law, my occupation reflects a particular point of my life and disguises entirely that I was in paid employment most of my adult life. However, that might be remedied on later rolls because we’ve moved around a bit. I wonder what I put down when we’d just moved to Darwin? I just might have to visit the Darwin Electoral Office to look at the online rolls.

Perhaps these findings will give you food for thought too, and make you, and me, be a little less confident about some of the details we find on the electoral rolls, especially if they contradict other sources. This is one case where we should be looking to the future as well as the past… and yet another good reason for writing our family stories. Thanks Shelley for triggering off this train of thought!

25 years of Family History: reflection and celebration: Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1, research in the “bad old/good old” days was very different. We’d probably all riot now if we were deprived of internet access to digitised records, Scotlandspeople, Findmypast, Ancestry, World Vital Records etc etc. We’ve all got used to the ready access to such a wide array of resources, many of which we would “never” have had a chance to look at: imagine, for example, trying to find someone in the Passenger Lists leaving the UK: 1890-1960 without actually knowing when they travelled.

Despite this, much was possible by visiting four different repositories of wonderful family history information. They were invaluable then but are equally relevant now: the “virtual world” of the internet means we can accomplish part of our research lists online and use these “real world” resources for documents etc which may never be digitised.

So my top four research venues then (and now) were:

  1.             Churches and church archives

I have to put this first because the information I obtained directly from the church or denominational archives, was pivotal to taking my families back through time. The marriage record for St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ipswich was the only place where my German ancestor’s place of birth was correctly documented – numerous birth certificates for his children had been unproductive. Similarly the Anglican Archives in Brisbane provided equivalent information on another early marriage. In both cases the information provided was significantly more comprehensive than that on the official marriage certificate. Church archives can be challenging places but I’ve had wonderful support from some. Read the story of how pivotal they were to my family here.

2.                 State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

SLQ was based in William Street in an old building and if my memory serves me, Shauna Hicks was one of the librarians on duty in those days. Historic newspapers were held on microfilm and so you would search for specific known events for your family eg obituaries, weddings, births, deaths, funerals and perhaps war service. No such joys as Trove with the ability to turn up completely random information about your family.

SLQ also had/has books of general historical relevance, especially for Qld families, as well as the indexes for births, deaths and marriages in Queensland. However, and this is a big one, the indexes had a very restricted time range making it a challenge to take your family back, or indeed forward. You had to become adept at using all possible resources to suss out further information – funeral directors’ records were especially helpful. At this stage you thanked heavens you were searching for uncommon names or had some clues about family background. I’d been lucky that my family is somewhat obsessive about keeping documentation and there were birth certificates held for both my paternal grandparents –invaluable clues

3.                 Queensland State Archives (QSA)

QSA was still housed in an old building next to Boggo Road Gaol when I first visited and signed up. There was limited support for researchers, certainly nothing like exists today, and there were no research guides. It took me quite a while to figure out how to find what I wanted and as I was working full-time my visits had to be limited to occasional flexitime days, but slowly the information built up.

The first time I visited QSA after they’d moved venues to Runcorn, around 1992, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. We had just returned from an overseas trip where I’d done quite a lot of family research in various British archives and repositories. QSA’s facility was cutting edge and far more user-friendly and modern. It continues to be a wonderful resource which well merits learning the ropes: this is where you can add more flesh to your family stories. Like most archives it now has an increasing array of digitised indexes making it so much easier to navigate than previously. But like anything worth having, some of its secrets require “mining” and persistence and repay your efforts, or at least eliminate possibilities.

4.                 Family History Centres of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormons)

I think I was a bit uncertain about my early visits to the family history centres, quite unnecessarily. I used the IGI here and also at GSQ but I mainly used the centres to order in and read parish registers, cemetery records, and census films (the only way they came in those days). I still regard these microfilms as a cornerstone of my research and will often order all available films for a particular parish overseas. But don’t forget to see what’s available for Australia as well.

If you haven’t visited them, or their local equivalent wherever you live, do give them a try: they will reward your efforts with new jigsaw pieces for your family history puzzle, and I”m convinced we all  love a good trail to follow!

25 years of Family History: reflection and celebration: Part 1

As I lay awake the other night the penny dropped that I had started my family history research in Sept/Oct 1986 so it’s currently the 25th anniversary of my family history trail. This “hobby” quickly became a fascination and then an obsession for me. It has kept me interested through all these years, reinvigorated and energised me, and cheered me up when I’ve felt despondent or at a loose end…and those brick walls have occasionally made me feel like climbing walls.

How and why did I start my family history?

In Sept/Oct 1986, I went to a heritage fair in Brisbane’s William Street. The Genealogical Society of Queensland had a stall to promote tracing one’s family history – something that was by no means as popular then as it is now. I’d always wondered about my German surname and where it came from within Germany. This seemed like the time to get started.

My children were in primary and secondary school and becoming rather self-sufficient. My husband was studying and occupied with that. We were both working full-time so that left me with an urge to do something with my spare time. Little did I know how this obsession would take over my life even though occasionally it has also had to take a back seat to family, work and volunteer priorities.

I joined GSQ soon after the heritage fair and became member # 166.

Family history societies seem to have gone out of fashion these days but that really can be to the detriment of family historians. These societies have so many relevant published books and family histories, funeral company records, indexes of all sorts (many of which are not published online) as well as access, these days, to published CDs and online subscription sites, not to mention lots of people with varied FH skills. In short they can be a gold mine.

GSQ also held regular family history training sessions given by experts like Jennifer Harrison, whose particular expertise is Irish family history. I was able to learn a lot from all these talks. As now, they had specialist sub-groups with a focus on various nationalities. Obviously I joined the German group which turned out to be somewhat counter-productive. In those days I was repeatedly, and incorrectly, told there were no German Catholics in Queensland and no Germans from Bavaria. My own family research plainly demonstrated this was incorrect, with my Kunkel ancestor from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria settling in Queensland as did others from the same village. Hence the title of my paper at the 2006 Family History Congress called “They weren’t all Lutherans”.

How did family history research differ in those days?

Well the biggest difference is that personal computers had not really entered most people’s worlds. Sure we used specialised programs sometimes at work, but for family history it was all first-hand research and a notebook (the original thing, with paper, not a small laptop). As a result I’ve probably become over-dependent on paper-based archiving of my research.

Apart from visits to GSQ my research was done in four places about which I’ll provide a summary in Part 2: I used them then and I still use them now (read Part 2 and see why):

  1. Churches and Church Archives
  2. State Library of Queensland (SLQ)
  3. Queensland State Archives (QSA)
  4. Family History Centres of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormons)

Of course all these paper-based researches are, and were, combined with on-the-ground research of the places where my ancestors lived and worked, and especially where they were buried. My children still hate cemeteries which they say smell of dead grass. Local history museums were also useful with the Crows Nest Folk Museum volunteers being especially helpful.

So is this just a story of how great things were in the “good old days”? Not at all.

I love the speed, convenience and accessibility that comes with being able to search records by name or place, accessing a huge variety of information irrespective of where it is in the world.

I love that indexing and computers can (but not always) make it easier to find family even when they’ve moved long distances.

I love the fact that I can do a lot of preliminary research before I get to a records repository to look at those documents which aren’t available online and have my family strands and research strategy untangled before I get onsite.

I also love that it’s so much easier to locate distant cousins around the world.

However I do think that some of the skills I learned pre-computers are absolutely invaluable and current family historians sometimes ignore these amazing options at the expense of their research. There’s also a tendency to think certificates are optional extras rather than essentials for one’s own direct line – my birthday, Xmas and Mother’s Day presents for many years were more certificates. Yes, we can’t afford them all, but if we can afford to use subscription sites we can almost certainly afford to buy the key certificates.

I love my family history research and can’t quite imagine my life without it.

The Ancestors’ Geneameme challenge from Geniaus

Geniaus has set us another challenge with The Ancestors’ Geneameme. This is my response to the challenge.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist (he wasn’t but his 4th wife was)
  6. Met all four of my grandparents ( I was lucky enough to have three of them into my teens or beyond.)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents (all pre-deceased my arrival)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor (coincidentally though I knew it was similar)
  9. Bear an ancestor’s given name/s (not having an ancestral name was apparently intentional –ironically I’ve always felt like a Kate, a recurring family name on all sides: too late to bother changing it now)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (all branches except my German one).
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12.  Have an ancestor from Continental Europe (George Kunkel always said he was from Bavaria, not Germany)
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings (a few with centuries of property either leased or owned but not large land holdings)
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man – minister, priest, rabbi (with all those Catholics, no direct ancestors, and none in the Protestant denominations either that I’ve found though lots in one family serving as churchwardens, overseers of the poor etc)
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author (oh, how I wish)
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones (but try googling Partridge or Kent)
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z
  23. Have an ancestor born/died on 25th December (my great-grandfather died on Xmas Day, six weeks after his wife died. They left a large family orphaned ranging from 21 to 2)
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day (not a direct ancestor, but a few siblings)
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines (blue babies with Rh- blood, but no blue-blood royalty)
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (two: Scots Presbyterian on one side and Irish Catholic on the other)
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university (no, mine is the first university-educated generation as far as I know)
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence (he and a few others went to jail over perjury but released soon after appeals to the Qld Executive in relation to the court case)
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime (only minor events: one ancestor had his chickens stolen, as he was a butcher this would have been a hassle, another had his horse stolen. However one was a witness to an event in one of Qld’s first court cases which gave me new evidence on his own life.)
  35. Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine (I use my blog to tell some of my ancestor’s stories, have had the story of my great-grandmother’s rather gruesome death published in GSNT’s Progenitor magazine, and published a large number of short family histories as part of the Q150 projects with QFHS’s Founding Families, GSQ’s Queensland Pioneer Families 1859-1901 and Muster Roll, and TDDFHS’s Our Backyard, Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery.)
  36. Have published a family history online or in print (Grassroots Queenslanders: The Kunkel Family tells the story of the Kunkel family from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria and the O’Brien family from Ballykelly, Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland. It was published in 2003. Time for another?)
  37. Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries: I’ve lacked the courage to door-knock current owners of most family homes overseas while in situ but we have stood on the land and among the house ruins where ancestors lived in Ireland, Scotland and Bavaria. Writing in advance to visit the surviving homes is on my courage wish list: one in Hertfordshire, one in Stirlingshire. And whoops, I forgot my Kunkel ancestor’s house in Australia which dates from the 1870s and which I have visited.
  38. Still have an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family
  39. Have a family bible from the 19th Century (I know one exists but no idea where it went to before my grandmother died).
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible (again I could wish, and wish)


Text Queensland: a gold mine of information

Text Queensland is a new and exciting innovation which provides a “collection of full-text, searchable, digitised sources on Queensland Colonial and state history”[i]. I learnt about this a few days ago when I read an update on the John Oxley Library blog.

This is a wonderful site which will be invaluable to historians of all ilks who are interested in Queensland’s history. It has a great deal to offer family historians in terms of the background information we all need to understand the factors which affected our ancestors lives in Queensland and how certain issues affected them in the broader context. Understanding these wide influences can make us realise that what was happening to our families was not necessarily unique to them or it might show the opposite, that they were different from prevailing trends.

The site has several tabs and I was most excited to see the one labelled Theses as these are sometimes difficult to access unless one is able to visit a particular university’s library or has academic access to their resources. I simply searched for “Irish” and turned up over 20 theses which refer to this topic. Immediately I found one thesis that I’ve wanted to read for quite a while but never have the time to sit and peruse it when in Brisbane. That thesis is by M R Macginley “A study of Irish migration to, and settlement in, Queensland 1885-1912”. Another one I’ll be reading is about Robert Dunne, one of Queensland’s early bishops and previously a parish priest in the Toowoomba area where my ancestors lived. I’ve read Neil Byrne’s excellent book, Robert Dunne, Archbishop of Brisbane and found great quotes in there as well as references to his difficulties with the German Catholics on the Downs. While family historians may be intimidated by the thought of reading an academic thesis, they can take heart from the fact they are mostly clearly written with comparatively little jargon. Any phrases requiring specific expertise can be easily followed up. Given them a go, I promise they will reward the effort you put into them.

Another tab which bears close inspection is called Journals and includes the Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland. Again lots of topics of relevance to my family history.

The Books tab offers an array of books of relevance to Queensland’s history and I found quite a few from my own bookshelves on there.

The Queenslander tab takes you to Trove so you can limit your search to just that newspaper. However I could not find any reference to the 1909 images of early Queensland pioneers: something that will merit further investigation.

I didn’t find the Government Gazette tab as helpful I must admit and will probably stick to the digitised indexes provided by QFHS.

When you find something you would like to read it’s easy to read it on-screen page by page. If you want to download it you can but I did find that rather time-consuming as the files are quite large. I guess it depends on how much you want to keep a copy.

So many thanks to The University of Queensland, UQ Press and State Library of Queensland for this wonderful resource. I anticipate using it a lot.


[i] The description is provided on the website.