Friday, 30 August 2013

Thomas Dixon's suicide attempt in 1847

Three of my male ancestors, all unrelated, committed suicide by way of their shaving razors. This is the story of one of them. The other two stories will follow.

My 4x great grandfather, Thomas Dixon, came to Tasmania aged about 20 from Raby, in Sunderland, England. He arrived in the early 1820’s to meet up with his half-brother George, and his brother Robert Dixon who was the Assistant Surveyor to John Oxley and who surveyed most of northern NSW & southern Qld. He came from a family of surveyors and astronomers, the most notable one being his great-uncle, Jeremiah Dixon, who was the British surveyor of the US Mason-Dixon Line fame.

For a few years Thomas was the licensee of the iconic Hope and Anchor Tavern that still stands on the corner of Macquarie St and Market Place in Hobart today. In 1825 he married Lincolnshire-born Helen Brownlow, and they moved to Sydney with their seven children in 1837, where he was recorded as a Spirit Merchant and opened a hay & grain store in George St Sydney, opposite the markets. This enterprise was in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Richard Brownlow. Helen died “after a lingering illness” in 1842, five years before Thomas’ death at age 46.

The NSW Government Gazette of 30 April 1847 has Thomas appointed by the Colonial Secretary to assist in revising the electoral lists, so he must have had some standing in Sydney at the time.

The incident happened like this: On 29 July 1847 he dined and then stayed overnight with a friend in Darlinghurst, Mr Thomas Bird. Thomas Bird was an architect, surveyor, and estate agent. Dixon was apparently uninclined to go to Sydney where there was a warrant out for him for striking a woman (details still to be uncovered despite many hours and even days of searching). Apparently he only drank “three glasses and a half of colonial ale” and although a man of few words, was in great spirits, discussing business with Mr Bird, after having been at the beach all day. Thomas’ 17-year-old son John was there very early the next morning when Mr Bird woke, saying that Thomas was going to cut his throat and that he had a razor in his pocket, and his cravat was off. John followed Thomas to the privy, where the act had was done. Thomas said “Let me finish myself – I’ll be transported”. They dressed his wounds and took him to the Infirmary, where Dr McEwan said in the inquest that “the windpipe was not cut, nor had any blood vessels of importance been touched. He never assigned any cause for having committed the act, nor did he make the slightest allusion to it.” The Doctor said that the wound wasn’t life-threatening, although he may have lost some blood at some time, although the “profuse suppuration consequent upon the wound” may have accelerated his death. The Doctor had reason to believe Thomas also “had some organic affection of the liver”. Possibly Thomas died from an infection from his own razor. He lingered for 17 days after the suicide attempt, leaving 3 sons and 3 daughters to mourn him. I presume he was buried with Ellen at the Devonshire Street Cemetery (still to be confirmed) as it was the one for Sydney-siders at the time.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Beware the postage rates from the NLA

On a bus trip to the State Records Office (NSW) last month I saw a woman with a pin on her lanyard and I got immediate badge-envy and decided I had to have one too. It says I (heart) Trove. I figured the National Library of Australia bookshop would sell it, but it wasn't on their website, so I emailed them to ask about it, and they added it to their online catalogue immediately. I was impressed with their prompt response.

They're only $3 each, so I ordered five of them, with certain friends in mind to send them to, and placed an online order. The postage was $17.00!!!!!!!!!!! For five little badges that would weigh less than a 10c coin each. When I queried this, I was told that they have a flat rate of postage: $7.00 for 1-4 items and $17.00 for 5+ items. This information wasn't anywhere to be found on the order page, only a choice between Parcel Post or Express Post.

Anyone who orders five huge hardcover books would be very pleased to get such good value postage, but for my tiny little things.....not happy, Jan. Next time I might just order four items.

I'll be interested to see how much the postage does actually cost. 

Photo courtesy of NLA bookshop

National Family History Month 2013 - geneameme especially for Jill Ball

  1. What are the titles and URLs of your genealogy blog/s?                                       Janelle's Family Tree Addiction 
  2. Do you have a wonderful "Cousin Bait" blog story? A link to a previous blog post might answer this question. This blog post was my very first, and I've had contact from several other relatives who found me when Googling their ancestor, so the whole reason for beginning the blog has paid off (insert wicked laugh here). 
  3. Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging? I started blogging initially to get my ancestor's names out there as "cousin bait" (tick), and now when I have something interesting happen or find out something fascinating related to my family or genealogy in general I think it would make a great blog post I'm inspired to write about it. I have a list of stories to be written, & not enough hours in the day to write them. Some are waiting on just that extra little elusive fact to complete the story. My blogging inspiration has come from Lisa Louise Cooke, who taught me how to set up a Blogger site on one of her podcasts, and also Jill Ball, who posts a little (or sometimes big) something almost every day. Jill's example has made me realise that I don't have to have a major article ready to write a post, it can be small and simple as well.
  4. How did you decide on your blog/s title/s? I wanted to reflect how much of an addiction this hobby really is.
  5. Do you ever blog from mobile devices? What are they? No, just the PC for now. I find it easier for flicking between articles, photos, and my tree to compile each post.
  6. How do you let others know when you have published a new post? Until 3 days ago, nothing, but this time my post wasn't specifically related to my family, just an experience on Ancestry & Family Tree Maker, so I put a link on the Australian Genealogy Facebook page.
  7. How long have you been blogging? Since May 2012, so still a newbie.
  8. What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog? I love being able to add tags, to make the central themes or people I mention easily searchable in Google. I also love to read other bloggers' posts, so a Follow By Email link is handy. I've found that these don't show up when I'm reading a blog from my preferred browser, Google Chrome, so occasionally I need to swap back to Internet Explorer 10 to use this feature.
  9. What is the purpose of your blog/s? Who is your intended audience? Cousin bait, and to inform and sometimes even entertain any readers. My audience is anyone who is interested in genealogy, particularly my own relatives. Especially whoever is the current custodian of a family bible I'd love to have a look at - whoever they might be!
  10. Which of your posts are you particularly proud of? This post is my favourite so far, as it is a story about my first convict ancestor to Australia, and the amazing life she led. I'm proud of her survival sills, to die age 80, having many children and grandchildren who were all upstanding citizens. This story went on to be published in a book of convict stories called Convicts Down Under, compiled by the wonderful Maria Northcote who is the creator of the Genies Down Under podcasts.
  11. How do you keep up with your blog reading? I read the overnight ones in bed of a morning on my iPhone while trying to avoid getting up, and the ones that arrive by email through the day I catch in an evening.
  12. What platform do you use for publishing your blog/s? Blogger. It's easy-peasy to use. (except the insert link feature).
  13. What new features would you like to see in your blogging software? An easier way to add a link. I seem to stuff it up (no idea why) even though I've read the instructions and watched how to do it on YouTube. Maybe it's a Chrome issue. Anyway, I'd like Blogger to notice that I'm adding a link and do the right thing with it automatically.
  14. Which of your posts has been the most popular with readers? Amazingly, my post of 3 days ago has had way more views than anything else, although only one comment so far (thanks Jill!). The higher hit rate might be because more people are aware of my blog now, not necessarily the content.
  15. Are you a sole blogger or do you contribute to a shared blog? Just me!
  16. How do you compose your blog posts? I have an idea or a bunch of facts to make a story from, then I write it straight to Blogger, with a million tabs open for fact checking and I make sure any photos I want to add are saved to my desktop for easy retrieval.
  17. Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related? If you wish please share their titles and URLs. No, genealogy is my life :) Not enough time for any other hobbies.
  18. Have you listed your blog/s at Geneabloggers? No, but I'll be submitting a request tonight. It doesn't show up when I search on the site.
  19. Which resources have helped you with your blogging? All the tools I use for research: Ancestry, FTM, FMP, Trove, Google, just to name a few.
  20. What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger? Articles don't have to be momentous to post. Just get started. Small is still good, and easier for followers to read.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Ancestry says one thing, Family Tree Maker says another

In my preparation to write to a newly found "cousin", Christie J, I was checking what relationship this man is to me. I'm related to him through his own family line (his grandfather was my 3x great-grandfather, Henry TUCK 1810-1890), as well as through his wife's family (her grandfather was my GG-grandfather, William Walter CLEAVE 1853-1932), both from the Mornington Peninsula area of Victoria.

Checking Ancestry, it tells me that Christie is my "second cousin, twice removed". Fair enough, seeing as we share his great-grandparents and I'm two generations younger than him in the family. So Ancestry recognises my relationship to him but not through his wife at all. In Family Tree Maker (latest version) the Relationship Calculator tells me that he's "the husband of my first cousin two times removed". So it bases our relationship on my connection to his wife, not my connection to him. The trees have been sync-ed (sunk?!) only today, so they're up-to-date and theoretically identical. So according to the FTM description Christie must be my first cousin twice removed, based on my relationship to his wife, compared to being my second cousin twice removed as per Ancestry's calcs.

As for my relationship to his wife, Valma, both Ancestry and FTM calculate it the same: that we're first cousins, two times removed. That's accurate, as we share her grandparents, and I'm two generations younger. No mention of my connection to her husband in their workings.

I'm sure I've confused you all with the cousins/removed explanations, but my point is that two different programs calculated totally different relationships for the same people, using the same data. Weird!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Family Tree Analyzer application

The latest Lost Cousins monthly newsletter by Peter Calver recommended an application that we can run over a GEDCOM file to find out all sorts of interesting facts and statistics about our families, such as a list of families ranked by how many children the parents had. My record is 19 children, although I'm aware of other people's families with many more than that, especially of there has been more than one marriage. These 19 were all from one couple. I bet she was tired!!

Anyway, I downloaded the app from and uploaded a copy of my latest GEDCOM file for it to scan. Lots of error codes come up, but apparently that's normal. The errors I AM interested in were where I had stuffed up and added people to my tree (or got a bit click-happy on Ancestry) where the dates don't fit, eg where a child was born more than 9 months after it's father died, if a child was born before the mother or father was 13, those aged over 120 years old at their death (highly unlikely!), and other errors that are physical impossibilities. Out of the 3000+ people in my file I have 51 issues to address and fix.

Give it a try and see what interesting things you come up with in your own family.

PS Sorry, can't make the web links work tonight. Tomorrow's problem :)