Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Geneameme

Things have finally quietened down enough for me to have time to fill in the Christmas Geneameme


1. Do you have any special Xmas traditions in your family?
Eating too much…

2. Is church attendance an important part of your Christmas celebrations and do you go the evening before or on Xmas Day?

3. Did/do you or your children/grandchildren believe in Santa?
What do you mean "believe" in Santa… are you suggesting he's not real?

4. Do you go carolling in your neighbourhood?
Not a done thing in Sydney – a pity, it would be nice

5. What’s your favourite Christmas music?
We load the CD player with a combination of carols by the choir of King's college, "modern" Xmas music (the Christmas songs people have made hits of) and German Christmas music, to remind me of the nine months I lived there which included a Christmas

6. What’s your favourite Christmas carol?
Little Drummer Boy

7. Do you have a special Xmas movie/book you like to watch/read?
It's a Wonderful Life.  We watch it about every two years

8. Does your family do individual gifts, gifts for littlies only, Secret Santa (aka Kris Kringle)?
Individual gifts, but of low value

9. Is your main Christmas meal indoors or outdoors, at home or away?
Christmas Lunch is always here, in my dining room.  No one else will take a turn – it's always up to me (grumble, grumble, grumble)

10. What do you eat as your main course for the Christmas meal?
It varies.  We've often had turkey, last year we had pork, and this year I'm fed up with doing the lot so am providing cold meat and salad (remember, it's hot here).  My husband isn't happy about that so he is doing some seafood on the BBQ to add to the cold meat and salad ("Well, if you don't want cold lunch you can cook something yourself…"). 

Two years ago was fun as I had planned and catered for the full traditional blow out and broke my foot one week before Xmas  My husband, who until that time had never done any cooking, had to cook an entire Xmas dinner (I did prepare a spreadsheet for him with timings, like 12:35 put on water for veg; 12:45 put veg in boiling water…)

11. Do you have a special recipe you use for Xmas?

12. Does Christmas pudding feature on the Xmas menu? Is it your recipe or one you inherited?
Definitely, but nowadays I'm afraid it is a purchased Pudding

13. Do you have any other special Christmas foods? What are they?
We like to have croissants for Xmas breakfast.  Not traditional, I know, but it’s something we do

14. Do you give home-made food/craft for gifts at Christmas?

15. Do you return to your family for Xmas or vice versa?
Everyone comes to me (see question 9)

16. Is your Christmas celebrated differently from your childhood ones? If yes, how does it differ?
Definitely different.  As a kid it was always spent with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle and cousins.  Everyone used to dress up in the best clothes.  It was special & magical then.  Whereas now I just see it as a lot of hard work.

17. How do you celebrate Xmas with your friends? Lunch? Pre-Xmas outings? Drop-ins?
Various pre-Xmas functions

18. Do you decorate your house with lights? A little or a lot?
Just a few in the bushes in the backyard where we can see them when we are relaxing in the evening

19. Is your neighbourhood a “Xmas lights” tour venue?
No, fortunately.

20. Does your family attend Carols by Candlelight singalongs/concerts? Where?

21. Have any of your Christmases been spent camping (unlikely for our northern-hemisphere friends)?
No.  I love camping, but don't think Xmas would be right that way

22. Is Christmas spent at your home, with family or at a holiday venue?
At home usually, though for two years we did go to a self-catering resort where I could put on a cold meat & salad lunch and relatives came to join us (see, I still had to cater…)

23. Do you have snow for Christmas where you live?
Not here, but it did snow the one Xmas I spent in Munich

24. Do you have a Christmas tree every year?
Yes – even the year I broke my foot carrying down the decorations to get ready to put up the tree.  That year my son had to decorate the tree with me acting as remote control from the sofa.

25. Is your Christmas tree a live tree (potted/harvested) or an imitation?
We now have a fake tree.  I wish we could have a real one again, as the smell is so fantastic, but my husband says it's too much fuss. (see photo of this year's tree)

26. Do you have special Xmas tree decorations?
Yes.  I buy one or two new ones each year.  Some of them are particularly special, like the ones I bought in Munich

27. Which is more important to your family, Christmas or Thanksgiving?
Christmas.  This is Australia – no Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gamekeepers in Warwickshire

The recent release by Ancestry of Warwickshire Occupational an Quarter Sessions meant that I found something about my 4xg-grandfather Thomas Moore and his father, John Moore.  The family lived in Preston Bagot in the picture-postcard manor house there.  As far as I knew they were just farmers, but now I know that they were also gamekeepers, appointed by the Lord of the Manor – William Mills in the case of Thomas and John Mills in the case of Thomas's father.  This gave them the "power and authority to kill the Hares Pheasants Partridges and all and singular other the Game upon the said Manor".  I believe the family had lived in Rowington before they moved to Preston Bagot.  John Moore had married Martha Oldham of Wasperton in 1775, and their son Thomas married Elizabeth Anchor in 1807.  Their daughter Sarah (my 3x g-grandmother) was the family member who came to Australia with her sister Martha and Martha's husband, Michael Steel, in 1845. Sarah married John Highett in Van Diemen's Land the following year.
Preston Bagot Manor House

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maps from the City of Sydney Archives

It's been a long time since I posted anything on my blog, having been tied up on a jury for 6 weeks and then having spent the last 2 weeks trying to catch up, but at last, here we are

The value of maps for genealogists has often been overlooked.  One of the fantastic sources of maps for NSW is the "Historical Atlas of Sydney", put online by the City of Sydney Archives. (

The maps on this site are not limited to just maps of the Sydney Central Business District, but also include maps of some of the suburbs of Sydney.  The detail in some of these maps is fantastic.  Just look at this extract from a Fire Underwriter's plan dating sometime between 1917 and 1939.  James Greenhalgh did not live in the City, but his business, Greenhalgh's Pty Ltd, had an office at 9 Phillip St.  This map shows me the size and exact location of the building that his business occupied.

Map courtesy City of Sydney Archives


In another map, this one of the Rocks & Foreshore Resumption, we can see the property (146 Cumberland St) where my great-grandfather, John Lawrence Gibbons, and his family lived at the time.  The map identifies that the property was owned by A.M. Caraher and F.J. Gillespie and that a couple of doors up, on the corner of Long's Lane was a Hotel.  I know from the Sand's Directory that this was the Erin-go-Bragh hotel.

Map courtesy City of Sydney Archives

The maps included on this site are
·        City Section Survey Plans, 1833
·        Francis W Sheilds Plan of Sydney, 1845
·        City Detail Sheets, 1855
·        Trigonometrical Survey of Sydney, 1855-1865
·        Doves Plans of Sydney, 1880
·        Atlas of the Suburbs of Sydney, ca 1885
·        Rygate & West's Plans of Sydney, 1887
·        The Rocks and Foreshore Resumption, c1900
·        Royal Commission for the improvement of the City of Sydney and its Suburbs, 1909
·        Fire Underwriters' Plans of Sydney, ca 1917-1939
·        Civic Survey, 1938-1950
·        Planning Scheme Maps, 1945+
·        Town Plans, 1946-1948
·        Aerial Survey of the City of Sydney, 1949
·        City Building Surveyor's Detail Sheets, ca 1956
·        City Boundaries and Wards, 1842-2004
·        Other Maps - 19th, 20th, and 21st Century

As you can see, some of them (like the Atlas of the Suburbs of Sydney) are not just of the Central Business District.  
If you have any connection to Sydney I suggest you have a look at this fantastic collection 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Transportation and Tickets of Leave

I just finished reading Chris Paton's "Lost: Transportation" article in the June edition of Your Family Tree (or Your Family History as it is branded here in Australia).  Very interesting, and I bet there are more than a few Australians who didn't know that convicted felons were transported to America before the War of Independence (not genealogists, of course ).  But there would be even more Australians (and perhaps Chris, too) who did not know that after America ceased to be a potential destination to off-load these convicts, the British Government decided to use West Africa as a place of transportation. 

The exercise was a spectacular failure, mainly due to the high death rates due to tropical disease and the tendency of  the convicts to escape (often as crew on the slaving ships).  Thanks (at least in part) to this failure the Government then decided to start a colony in New South Wales.

For any who want to read more about this little known episode in transportation, Emma Christopher's book A Merciless Place should satisfy their curiosity.  A review of the book can be found at

Chris also rather simplified his description of the Ticket of Leave system, but which a convict whose sentence had not expired could effectively be "out on parole".  The rules and regulations regarding the issuing of Tickets of Leave varied over time and from Governor to Governor, as did the amount of time the convict had to serve before being eligible to receive one.  These periods could be as short as two to three years at some periods.

There were some periods where no Tickets of Leave were issued, and male convicts seem far more likely than females to be granted one.  A terrific explanation of the Ticket of Leave system by Sid Hammell can be read at

For what it's worth, I have five convict and only one of them, Cordelia Knight who was transported for life, ever seems to have been granted a Ticket of Leave.  It was revoked 20 years later after she ran away, but she was given a Conditional Pardon shortly afterwards.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why you REALLY shouldn't rely on just the IGI

We've all heard often enough that we shouldn't be satisfied with just finding an entry in the IGI (or on Familysearch, as they now seem to prefer to be called), but should actually go and check the relevant parish register or Bishop's Transcript.  Here are a couple of real-life examples of why it really is important that you do so.

1.  Familysearch shows me the baptism of Mary Ann Bell, daughter of Charles Bell & Ann Stewart, on 23 Jan 1809 in Newburn, Northumberland.  It also says that she was born on 19 Feb 1809.  However, when I look at the Bishop's Transcript for Newburn (available as images on Familysearch) I get the additional information that she is "1st daughter of Charles Bell, pitman, native of this parish by his wife Ann Stewart native of St Nicholas Newcastle-Tyne".  Some parishes contain even more information, such as with the baptism on 10 Dec 1809 in Cockfield, Co. Durham, of Margaret Parkin "born March 26 bap Dec 10 1809, 7th  d[aughte]r [of] Geo Parkin Pitman by his wife Anne d[aughte]r [of ] James Hodgson, Mason, Na[tive of]: Staindrop".  In one step you not only have the father's occupation, the mother, her maiden name and where she is from,  but also the name of her father.  This information is not shown in the extracted information in Familysearch.

2. I found the marriage of my husband's ancestor, Stephen Breaks (or Briggs) to Ann Daglish on 2 May 1778 in Tanfield, Co. Durham.  I looked in Familysearch and found an Anne Daglish, baptised 6 Nov 1737, the daughter of George Daglish.  This would make her 31 when she married, but that seemed feasible.  With the help of Familysearch I built up the following little family

George Daglish m Mary Fairlee or Fairlace 9 Nov 1735 in Tanfield.  They had the following children:
                  1. Ann Daglish bap 6 Nov 1737
                    2. James Daglish bap 3 Dec 1739
                    3. George Daglish bap 17 May 1741.

Looks great, doesn't it.  But the problem came when I checked the Bishop's Transcripts.  Ann (my Ann, as I had thought), was buried on 5 Sep 1741.  That meant she couldn't have gone on to marry Stephen Breaks in 1778. 

This is one of the big dangers of the IGI in that it rarely shows deaths or burials.  How many others are chasing the wrong tree because they never checked the original parish register or BT?

Incidentally, I've never managed to find the right Ann Daglish, but I'll keep looking...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Victorian Early Church Records DVD

I recently purchased a copy of the new brand new data DVD from Births Deaths & Marriages in Victoria called "Victoria's Early Church Records".  I eagerly put it into the DVD drive on my computer and tried to run it.  A command box flashed up on the screen and closed before I could see anything on it.

My computer is running a 64-bit version of Windows 7, so I tried it on my husband's 32-bit version.  Same thing happened.  I contacted the department who had created the CD and explained I was having trouble and they replied "There is a possibility that the DVD is having problems with the reasonably new operating system.  However it should work on the 32 bit version."  Quite apart from the fact that there is nothing new about Windows 7 (it was released in 2009), I had already told them that it didn't work on the 32-bit version either.  And someone else I knew also had the same problem with the 32-bit version of Windows 7.  Their only response was that we should return the DVD and get a replacement.  But that probably wouldn't work either.

Well I didn't want to give up so I have spent ages figuring out what was happening.  Here is the answer/solution:

1. The file launch.bat that automatically starts up is checking for the pre-requisites.  If there was a problem you will see an HTML page telling you that something is missing.  If you don't see anything then you can assume you have all the prerequisite software.

2. Then navigate to the CD on your computer via Windows explorer (or whichever way you like to navigate).  Go to the directory app.  In it you will find a file called DVDsearchgen.jar which you should double click.  This will start up the application as advertised in the brochure enclosed with the CD.

3. The search works ok, and you can select a record ok to see the details, but when you click the view image button, the image that is displayed is of low resolution, but it is displayed with a weird aspect ratio.  You have to fiddle around with the window to get an image that is at the correct aspect ratio (and therefore looks like legible English) and use the slider on the bottom of the screen to increase the size enough to read it.  You cannot make the window wide enough to see the whole line from the register or you will muck up the aspect ratio again.

4. There appears to be no way to print the image.

So, in summary, I think this is a very badly executed CD, which is disappointing as I waited a long time for it, paid a lot of money for it, and the data in it could be very useful to me.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

AFFHO Congress Days 3 & 4

There was no time last night to blog about the day’s talks as it was the Conference Dinner.  So I will just cover some of the highlights of the last two days.
I went to a talk by Roger Kershaw of the National Archives of the UK about tracing convicts in the National Archives.  Disappointingly I realised almost as soon as he started that I had already heard this talk as a podcast as I recognised the name John Jobson.  The positive side is that it was so full of good information that I hadn’t deleted the podcast as I intended to listen to it again and make notes.  So now I’ve had the chance to make notes, and it was a good talk.
I also went to a second talk by Roger about the National Archives web site, and the new catalogue, which is available now, but is not the default way to search the catalogue, however it will be in a couple of weeks.  The contents of Documents online can already be accessed through the new catalogue, but the old way of accessing it will be turned off on the 23rd of April.  The other thing that was new to me was their media centre.  I have long had a link to their podcasts from my iGoogle page, so didn’t realise this media centre existed, or that it contains videos as well as podcasts.
Another good talk was by Todd Knowles on the Tax Records of England.  He talked about estate duty records, hearth tax, window tax and many more.  Although I did know these records existed, I didn’t realise that they had been filmed and are available through the FHL.
But far and away the highlight of the conference for me has been Colleen Fitzpatrick’s talks.  I have already mentioned her talk on the unidentified child from the Titanic, but I attended two of her other talks.  One was Forensic Genealogy: CSI meets Roots.  This was about getting information out of old photos – looking beyond the clothes and the mount and discovering all sorts of interesting things.  This is the subject of one of her books which I bought, so I am looking forward to reading it.  The final talk of hers that I attended was The Curious Case of James-Jake Smithers-Gray in which she described the search for a man known only to his Australian children as John Henderson Grey.  They knew this wasn’t his real name, but with Colleen’s help tracked down his true identity (James W Smithers) and many of the details of his life.  It was the kind of story that if a novel had been written it wouldn’t have been believed.
The conference has been a great opportunity to catch up with many people, some of whom I see only rarely, and to meet others, who I will hopefully see again.  It has also been a great learning opportunity, with plenty of entertainment.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

AFFHO Congress 2012 Day 2

This morning started with a Plenary session by Jenny Higgins of the National Library of Australia talking about putting your ancestors into their social context.  She focused on the resources that the National Library has which can help with this, both in the library itself, in its eResources and (of course) on Trove.
When we all split up to go to our various sessions I went to a talk by Lesley Silvester.  It was called “New Methods for Old Records”, and in it she talked all about the PhD she has been working on and how she has had to convince traditional historians of the validity of genealogical sources and their value in historical research.  Her PhD is concentrating on the poor of Norwich in 1570, and it was a great illustration of just how many sources can survive for research into the poor, as opposed to the well-off.
Suzanne Maiden then talked to us about marriage contracts & marriage settlements from pre-medieval to the 1850s.  And she really did mean pre-medieval – there was an example of a marriage contract from Babylon in 2200 BC where if the woman wished to end the marriage the husband could drown her in the river, but if he wanted to end it he had to pay her 10 sheckels.  No equality in Ancient Babylon then!  I suppose it was inevitable that covering such a long period of time and many countries, not just the UK and Babylon, but Greece & Italy, and ancient Persian marriage contracts woven into rugs, that the talk would not be able to go into great detail on anything.  That was rather disappointing.  As I have looked at English marriage contracts before, I didn’t really learn anything from this talk (well, I learnt about the Babylonian situation, but not about England and Wales).  I guess that’s the way it happens sometimes – it is important to have talks aimed at different levels.
After lunch David Holman started off with a Plenary session entitled “Fascinating Facts & Figures from Five centuries”.  It was a humorous look at surnames, given names and occupations, primarily from Cornwall.
Next I attended another talk by Lesley Silvester – this one about putting the lives of Londoners into their social context.  Lots of good sources were discussed, including one or two I hadn’t used.  Those that I had used were very good sites, and it is always worthwhile having them bought to mind again.
Final talk for the day that I attended was Dan Poffenberger, talking about his incredibly confusing and convoluted family.  Not really a lot to learn from this talk except for the importance of speaking to older relatives while they are alive, but very amusing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

AFFHO Congress 2012 Day 1

Day one of the 2012 Genealogy Congress in Adelaide and the talks have gotten off to a good start.  The first talk was a keynote speaker, Colleen Fitzpatrick, talking about finding the identity of the unnamed child from the Titanic.  A fair-haired boy aged about 2 had been amongst the bodies recovered and not identified.  A Swedish family believed it was their relative and therefore in 2001 the grave had been opened and it was found that all that remained were three baby teeth and a small piece of wrist bone.  From that they were able to recover mitochondrial DNA which proved that the child could not have been the boy in question.  After a long investigation they finally managed to identify the child and give him a name.  She was a very good speaker and it was a fascinating topic.
Next session I attended was by Dan Poffenberger about reading old writing.  He focused on Secretary hand, and first went through the letters of the alphabet and the forms they took at in that style of handwriting. He then showed an example of a will and worked through most of it practicing reading the writing.  Although I have done a lot of palaeography work before, I still got a lot from his talk.  Again he was a very good speaker.
The afternoon started with another keynote speaker, Daniel Horowitz, whose talk was entitled How we preserve and share memories in the Digital Age.  This started as a discussion of the history of recorded information and methods of digitisation and storage of data.  But it quickly changed to what was essentially an advertisement for MyHeritage.
Next talk was Chris Watts discussing records for British Merchant Seamen.  Lots of information, but some of the slides were flicked over too quickly to allow me to make comprehensive notes.  But he has written the book My Ancestor was a Merchant Seaman which is part of my library, so I can check that for further information.  The main thing I got out of the talk were the large number of different records that have information about Merchant seamen.
Final speaker for the day was Shauna Hicks, talking about Ancestors in church records.  She was focusing not on parish registers, but on other records like church newsletter/newspapers & church histories.  Shauna is always a very knowledgeable speaker and I always learn something from her talks.  This reminded me that I really must look for the Alway family in the records of the Baptist Church and Salvation Army in Victoria.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Certificate in Genealogical Research

It has been a while since I last put a post in here as I have been busy working on gaining my Certificate in Genealogical Research with the Society of Australian Genealogists.  But that is all done now and I received a New Years 'present' in the form of notification that I have been awarded the Certificate and am eligible to go on to do their Diploma in Family Historical Studies if I should so wish.