Thursday, June 26, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 20 - Mining Records

Shauna has chosen Mining Records for her topic in Week 20 of her 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records.  This is a topic about which I know little as none of my ancestors seem to have caught the mining bug and followed the gold - they were mostly farmers with a scatter of trades such as carpenters, plasterers and millers.  My father's family didn't arrive in Australia until a few years before the First World War, so they missed the major gold rushes in Australia completely.
Reflecting upon her own mining ancestors, Shauna tells us that "although miners can be difficult to trace because they moved around, with persistence you can trace them through certificates, children’s school records, newspapers, hospital records and so on. If you cannot find anything on a miner direct, try other family members including their wife, children and don’t forget siblings. Follow up all clues and hopefully you will learn more about your mining ancestors."
Thanks Shauna, I look forward to next weeks topic.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Discovering ANZACs

The National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand are working together to build a new website, Discovering Anzacs. This website will have a unique profile of every Anzac who enlisted in World War I, linked to their service record. You can help tell the story of Australia and New Zealand during the war by building on profiles and adding your own family stories, photos or details of their service. The Discovering Anzacs website will be launched mid-July.
The site is asking for help to build a very personal history of World War I and at the same time, discover what happened in Australia and New Zealand during the war. Subscribe to Their mailing list to keep up-to-date on the development of the Discovering Anzacs website.
Links on the webpage allow you to transcribe records to make them more searchable, help identify soldiers, and add your tribute to those who served in World War I.  You can find your relative, tell your family story, and upload personal photographs and letters.
Keep your eyes on the site as it develops and contribute details about your WW1 soldiers to help build this fantastic resource which is another of the wonderful projects commemorating 100 years since the start of World War 1.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 19 - Family Bibles

Shauna has chosen family bibles for this week's topic.  She tells us that "family bibles can be useful resources for family history and they can connect us through the generations. If you are lucky enough to have one in the family records, why not think about why and how it has come to be in the family and are there plans in place to ensure that it continues to be handed down the generations still to come."
For all my family I have only ever seen information copied from one bible, which was given to me by a relative on my father's side of my family.  She photocopied the pages for me several years ago, and they were a great resource to have.  Her grandmother had spent some time carefully noting on its blank pages not just family births, marriages and deaths but also significant family events such as major travels, accidents and illnesses, and children leaving home to find work elsewhere.  Sadly she has since passed away and I have no idea what became of the old bible - I hope someone is cherishing it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 18 - Almanacs

Shauna has chosen Almanacs as her topic for Week 18.  Shauna loves almanacs "as they are similar to directories and newspapers with lots of different information, lists of names and interesting advertisements. Once upon a time we might have used print copies if they were not too fragile or more likely it would have been microfiche or microfilm. This made them less easy to use (in my opinion) but now we have many almanacs digitised by Archive Digital Books Australasia for sale or in libraries, some are available through and some are even online for free."

Personally I have had mixed success searching almanacs for information on my family history, but have occasionally come across a reference to a family member or an advertisement for a business.  These are always exciting to find but almanacs can also be another way to find out about local and national events that influenced an ancestors life.  Almanacs are a resource not to be dismissed and, as Shauna pointed out, now that many are digitised and available through various sources they are even easier to use than ever.  Living in the country I find anything available online is a big boost to me as getting into the city to access the records offices and repositories is a challenge.

Thanks Shauna, it will be interesting to see what you have chosen for us next time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What's in a Name?

At least for purposes of research, just about every genealogist rues the ancestor whose last name is common, and therefore hard to trace, and rejoices in their ancestors with more unusual names. While an unusual surname undeniably can make genealogical research easier, it doesn’t corner the market on interesting and informative origins.  In Western Europe, surnames first came about in Medieval times as civilizations grew larger and it became necessary to distinguish between people.
Sometimes, names were based on occupation: a blacksmith may have been “John le Smith” (John the Smith) which became, over the generations, “Smith,” and a person named Appleby lived by or tended the apple orchard. Celebrity Robin Leach’s ancestor was probably a physician (because in medieval times, physicians used leeches to bleed people). Actor Christopher Reeve’s ancestor, the one to first take the surname, was most likely a sheriff, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s early medieval ancestor probably tended a park.Other surnames were based on location: an Acker, which comes from “acre,” lived near a field, and a Hall lived in or worked in a hall of a Medieval nobleman’s house. And it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what a forebear named Young or Strong or Gray looked like.Higher social status surnames are more rare today — how many Rothschilds (from the German “red shield”) did you go to school with? — and lower status ones fairly common. Lower social status people were also sometimes given unfortunate names by others, such as “Tew” (Welsh for “fat”) or “Dullard,” which means a hard or conceited man.And in many parts of the world surnames derived from men’s names. A person named Robertson is descended from someone who was the “son of Robert,” and a MacDonald is from a Scottish “son of Donald.” Armenian names of this sort generally end in “-ian,” Polish ones in “-ski,” and Irish ones are put together a little differently, starting with the prefix “Fitz-.”In Spanish-speaking parts of the world, people often take both their mother and father’s surnames. And some families still use family or “house” names that are not surnames at all, like the royal Windsors or Plantagenets.Asian surnames have different stories. Most of the approximately 100,000 Japanese surnames in use today only date from 1868 and the Meiji Restoration, when surnames were mandated for the first time. There are just a few hundred common Chinese surnames, and 20 of them (which reflect an entire clan or were adopted by nobles) are shared by half the population. There are about 250 Korean surnames, three of them comprising almost half the Korean population, and just about 100 Vietnamese ones, with three making up 60 percent of all names in that country.More than 2,600 members at the UK-based Guild of One-Name Studies devote their genealogical research to about 8,400 “one-name studies,” meaning they study everything known about a particular surname, whether the people they research are related biologically or linked to other family trees they are studying. Focusing in on a family surname can be a useful way to break through a genealogical brick wall, and most guild members are easy to reach and willing to share information (generally they ask, in return, for you to share your data on a name).
My own ancestry is a mix of very common surnames (Green, Clark), slightly less common (Argent, Pike, Hart, Mulholland) and some more unusual ones (Pummeroy, Beseler, Farckens, McGoverin).  Each presents their own challenges.
Thanks to Ancestry for their blog entry on surnames.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 17 - Court Records

Shauna has chosen Court Records for her topic for week 17.  She tells us that there are all kinds of courts from higher courts such as the Supreme and District Courts to the local courts of petty sessions plus there are licensing courts, mining warden’s courts, traffic courts, police courts. The terminology and court names vary over time and within the various Australian colonies/states and territories.
Court records in general are not indexed although there may be individual indexes within each register. The easiest way to find out if an ancestor did make a court appearance is finding a reference in newspapers via Trove. This will give a date and place which can then be followed up at the State Archives which is where court records end up for research purposes.
Using Trove, I have come across several court reports in newspapers which have mentioned my ancestors, all of which provide a fascinating insight into their lives.  The article on the left relates to a workers compensation application made by an employee of my ancestor Henry Mulholland after the poor man lost a hand in a farming accident. The amount of compensation for the loss of his hand was disputed, so the case went to court where eventually a sum was agreed upon.

Not all court records necessarily relate to criminal matters.  My Great Grandmother Eliza Pummeroy found herself widowed with 4 children under 5 years old when her husband died of pneumonia.  A month after the death of her husband she made an application for relief to the St Kilda court.  She was receiving 3 shillings a week from the local Ladies Benevolent Society and the court gave her 10 shillings from the poor-box.  Her children were committed to the Department with the recommendation they be handed back to their mother, and she struggled on.  I had already known that both her younger children, boys Alfred and William, were placed in an orphanage for several years and retrieved when she remarried, while she managed to keep the two girls, Alice and Edith (who was deaf and mute) with her.  Finding this article helped show just how desperate she must have been.  The article is dated Saturday 9th March 1901, and youngest son William (my grandfather) was born on the 6th January, so he was only a month old when his father died.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Savill Index

The State Library of South Australia has recently published on their website the Savill Index of The Advertiser Funeral Notices covering 1971 -1990 and then from 1997 to 2013.
From January 2001 Mr Gerald Savill began extracting and indexing funeral notices that were published in Adelaide’s major daily newspaper The Advertiser. In total he spent more than 300 days at the State Library of South Australia searching newspaper microfilms. The results of his work are now available online on the Library website as the Savill Index of The Advertiser Funeral Notices.  The Index is arranged alphabetically by surname, given name and on occasion given maiden name or nicknames.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Britain From Above

Launched in June 2006, Britain from Above presents the unique Aerofilms collection of aerial photographs, providing access to scans of glass prints and negatives drawn from the collection from 1919-2006. You can register (registration is free) to zoom into these amazing pictures, identify unlocated images, and share memories.  The collection is varied and includes urban, suburban, rural, coastal and industrial scenes, providing important evidence for understanding and managing the built and natural environments.
Over 7,700 new aerial photographs have been made available to view in the past few months, including over 1,500 snaps of Welsh cities such as Cardiff and Swansea.This brings the collection up to over 69,000 images.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

"On Platform One of Paddington Station in London, there is a statue of an unknown soldier; he’s reading a letter.  On the hundredth anniversary of the declaration of war – in this year crowded with official remembrance and ceremony – we’re inviting everyone to pause, take a moment or two, and write that letter.  All the letters the soldier receives will be published here, creating a new kind of war memorial – one made only of words."
New project 'Letter to an Unknown Soldier', created by Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger, is calling for family historians to compose a letter and add it to the website The letter can be inspired by the stories they have researched about family members involved in the First World War. All letters will be published online, alongside those of writers Stephen Fry, Andrew Motion, Sheila Hancock and Malorie Blackman. Letters can be submitted now and will be published starting on 28 June – a hundred years to the day since the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which marked the beginning of Europe’s descent into war. The website will remain open until the night of 4 August, the centenary of the outbreak of war. The entire collection will be archived online at The British Library and kept in perpetuity for generations to come.