Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Grave Situation

Working full-time and bringing up a family doesn't leave me with much time to indulge in my love of family history. I figure I will be able to research 'til my hearts content in the years to come when the children have left home.
But for now, I grab the moments when I can.

On the weekend, my eldest stepson had a soccer game in Camden. We had to be there an hour early so the boys have time to warm-up together.
Normally my husband & I use this time to find a lovely cafe to indulge our other passion - coffee and banana bread with my youngest stepson.

This weekend though, I claimed as family history time.

St John's Anglican Church in Camden is home to many of my ancestors.

We spent a lovely hour roaming around the old headstones searching for family names.

I came away with about 20 photographs and a few new leads.

I faced the usual problems of the modern family historian during my visit.

Firstly, the church was very firmly and definitely closed to the public. So browsing inside was not an option.

Secondly, many of the headstones and graves were suffering from neglect and weathering.

Broken plaques, headstones falling over and graves starting to cave in. Many of the graves had lost their headstones completely.

So although I found a lot of family names, I didn't find the couple of headstones I really wanted to find.

However our visit was too brief.

There was no time to visit St Paul's and no time to drive by Camden Park House - the home of John and Elizabeth Macarthur (it's only open for viewing on the second last weekend of September as it is still privately owned by the Macarthur family).

We saw the signs for Macarthur Park and Cobbity as we drove past...and promised ourselves another visit soon to the beautiful Camden cowpastures!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Michelle Higgs Family History Books

Michelle Higgs has written two books to help those of us researching our family histories.

'Tracing Your Servant Ancestors' provides detailed information about the day to day life of servants as well as sources for research.

"This book is ideal for anyone with a servant in their family tree. It will also appeal to anyone interested in delving into Victorian social history".

Higgs also has a book titled 'Tracing Your Medical Ancestors' that gives doctors, nurses and hospitals the same treatment.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Births, Deaths and Marriages

When you wake up one morning with the bright idea that you want to research your family history, little do you realise where the journey will take you!

A little curiosity can lead to a major, time-consuming obsession that spans decades of your life and introduces you to far-flung cousins.

But how to get started?

In Australia, the best way to get up and running is to check out the Birth, Death & Marriage (BDM) websites (see links below). Many of them have search facilites with options to buy certificates.

It is easy to get caught up in side branches and it is easy to mix up generations and cousins.
Many early Australian families used the same family names generation after generation as well as across generations. So be wary of making assumptions!

And keep your notes well organised, so that you know which information has been confirmed by certificate and which information is based on specualtive searches.

Victoria: Justice Victoria BDM
South Australia: Geneology SA
Western Australia: Dept of Attorney General BDM
Queensland: Justice Services BDM
Tasmania: Justice Family History (unfortunately they do not have an online search facility)
Northern Territory: Justice Historical Mircofiche Indexes 
ACT: ACT Government Indexes

There is also a specific site for people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage wishing to trace their family history called Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Treasure Trove

The National Library of Australia has a fabulous website where the avid family historian can search newspapers, books, pictures, maps, diaries, organisations and other archived materials.

It is called Trove.

You can search for names in the hope of finding BDM notices in the papers and if you're lucky, other news articles (i.e. sporting achievements, political activism, business openings, criminal activity etc) if they were active in their local communities.

Searching for an address can reveal a lot about a house - who lived there in the past, old pics and neighbourhood issues.

Recently the naming of a local bridge had me stumped. I searched Trove and found the most incredible information about the woman concerned. Numerous newspaper articles about her life, her obituary and then a whole list of pics from a local museum where her family had donated many of her items for prosperity. It was amazing to have all this information at my fingertips. And I now use her bridge with far greater appreciation and respect!

If you're fortunate enough to have ancestors who left journals, diaries and letters behind then Trove is the place for you.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Gardener's Gamble by Helen Laidlaw

I'm very excited and pleased to promote this book about the Dawson Family from my (distant) cousin Helen Laidlaw.

Helen has devoted over 20 years to researching, collating and writing this wonderful story of our ancestor John Dawson.

As a 15 year old, John emigrated to Australia with his family on board the Canton. Lucky for us, he kept a journal which Helen has used as the bedrock for her family history research.

"This story is true and has never been told before....The life-stories of the children of a Lincolnshire gardener and his wife, who migrated in 1835 to Australia, explore the social history of the colony in the 19th century. The varied histories of the four brothers and five sisters range from employment by the Macarthurs of Camden NSW to the goldfields of Victoria; from pardoned convicts to the most selsct circles of Sydney; from a Melbourne merchant's mansion to a selector's property in the Riverina; from the Quaker community to the lawyer who defended Breaker Morant during the Boer War; and from Federation to World War I." (Introduction pg 7)

My direct line of descendants, Mary & George Coker are featured in chapter 11.

Helen has generously included hundreds of colour photos, copies of certificates and artwork in her beautifully presented book.

The book was launched in January 2011. Susan Gervay has kindly written a blog to celebrate the occasion.

The Gardener's Gamble can be purchased through Helen's webpage or from
Camden Historical Museum, 40 John St, Camden NSWDymocks, Shop 27 The Grove, 174 Military Rd, Neutral Bay NSW
Dymocks, 68 Kinghorn St, Nowra NSW
Fullers Bookshop, 131 Collins St, Hobart TAS
Fullers Bookshop & ABC Centre, 93 St Johns St, Launceston TAS
Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW
Jennie's Book Nook, Centrepoint Arcade, Kiama NSWLady Denman Heritage Complex, Huskisson NSW National Library of Australia Bookshop, Parkes Place, Canberra ACT
The Museum of Sydney Bookshop, Bridge & Phillip Sts, Sydney NSW
Our Bookshop and Cafe, 103 Queen St, Berry NSWState Library of NSW, Library shop, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Australia Day

An interesting idea from a fellow blogger Wealth for Toil

"To participate, choose someone who lived in Australia (preferably one of your ancestors) and tell us how they toiled. Your post should include:
  1. What was their occupation?
  2. What information do you have about the individual’s work, or about the occupation in general?
  3. The story of the person, focussing on their occupation; or
    The story of the occupation, using the person as an example.

Responses may be as long or short as you like, and as narrow or broad as you wish."

Friday, 9 September 2011

Family Tree

Mundia is a branch of that allows you to create a family tree that automatically provides links with other trees that share your details.

You can type in your tree yourself or you can import your gedcom tree. You can contact other people who share the same ancestors and you can search the database for names.

The usual cautions apply.

Names and dates may differ from tree to tree.
The same mistakes can get copied from one tree to the next.
Any new information or connections should be added to your own tree with care.
Anyone still living should be treated as a 'private' connection until you have their permission to go public.

The help function is not very useful so far and saving photos to individual profiles is exhausting! 
But overall, my experience on Mundia has been absorbing and rather obsessive! I've found a distant cousin on a branch that was very light on and another distant cousin had posted some great photos of headstones and churches for our ancestors.

You can also download an app for your iphone. This has been great when travelling. You can show family members and compare notes. And when you find yourself wandering around yet another cemetery, you have all the names, dates and places at your fingertips!