Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Above The Fold

Today I had the honour of meeting Aussie author and screenwriter, Peter Yeldham, at Tuggerah Library as he launched his latest novel 'Above The Fold'. I first discovered his writing when I found his book The Currency Lads, about two boys in 1830's Sydney. Early Australian historical fiction is my favourite genre, and this book is wonderful, as are all of his novels. Each one teaches me about a period in history or historical figures that I didn't know much about previously. He was an engaging speaker, and signed my copy which is next on the very tall "to read" pile.

I'm particularly looking forward to reading this novel as Peter's character is a journalist covering issues such as the British nuclear testing in South Australia, which my grandmother's brother was involved in as a Squadron Leader for the Royal Australian Air Force. Uncle Geoffrey Tuck was ordered by the British to fly through the mushroom clouds and follow their drift. He refused to let his men do this, but followed orders himself, and died only a few years later from a rare form of cancer. I'll be writing more about this war hero in the near future.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Love over time is the same

I just love this picture. It just goes to show that our ancestors weren't all stuffy and serious all the time, even if their photos make it look like they were (well, maybe some actually were, but that's their problem). I wonder what they'd make of the silly faces we pull nowadays for our phone cameras.

Love doesn't change over time, just how we record it.

From the Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches Facebook page

Sign here

I've recently discovered a new addition to Ancestry, the New South Wales Land Grants 1788 - 1963. They are provided to Ancestry through the awesome State Records NSW. Much as I love visiting their facility, it's great to not have to trek to Kingswood, and be able to look these records up from my lounge room. I have several ancestors and their partners who received land grants, including Thomas Dixon, Richard Brownlow, Esther Spencer, James Brackenreg, and Joseph Bigge. These records are fantastic for helping me figure out exactly where these parcels of land were, and other little snippets of information. Eg, one of my ancestors (Esther's daughter and my 4x great grandmother) was born Mary Ann Spencer. Spencer was her mother's surname, and even though she had Thomas Stubbs as her partner and father of her child, because they weren't married Mary Ann was christened as a Spencer. Thomas does get a mention on the christening record, though. So Mary Ann grew up and married Charles James Brackenreg, named after his father, James Brackenreg, who was a soldier on the Second Fleet. Charles was almost always known as James, which makes it nice and confusing of course. These land grant records showed me two things that I love: one is that Mary Ann was known as Marian, and secondly, these grants were all signed by the Purchaser, so now I have actual signatures for some of my people!! By comparing the signatures on land grants to Charles James and grants to James, I could tell that the grant was to the same man, the son of the soldier, because the signature was the same on each record. I find it thrilling to see these people's names hand written on the page. It really brings them to life for me. I was happy to see Marian's name as that, to help differentiate her from her daughter-in-law who was also Mary Ann, but also to know that she had a pet name within the family, like a lot of us do.

Esther wasn't literate, as far as I can tell, and/or maybe they didn't ask for the spouse's signature on documents back in the 1830's, so I've never seen anything signed by her. I would love to have faces to put to these names, but sadly they had all died before photography took hold. Having their signatures is the next best thing!

Charles James Brackenreg 1797 - 1878

Thomas Dixon 1801 - 1847

Richard Brownlow 1794 - 1845
Joseph Bigge 1768 - 1833

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

This ends all world confusion - well, about the British Isles at least

I've often wondered about which label was the correct one when describing various countries or groups of countries in the British Isles, and thanks to the Grammar Girl Facebook page there's an easy to follow diagram.

In a nutshell:

The Channel Islands are Guernsey and Jersey.
The Crown Dependencies are the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands (above).
Great Britain is a combination of England, Scotland and Wales.
The United Kingdom is Great Britain plus Northern Ireland.
The British Islands are the United Kingdom plus the Crown Dependencies.
Ireland consists of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The British Isles is all of the above!


The British Government were a busy lot when you also add in their British Overseas Territories of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands. On top of that they also have the 53 Commonwealth of Nations countries (usually ex-territories), which includes Australia and Botswana among many others.

So in case you were you know!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

One lovely nomination, and an interview with a Genie Down Under

In early September I was thrilled to be included in Geniaus Jill Ball's nominations for the One Lovely Blog award. Thanks Jill! I haven't had time to nominate others as we've been away for 3 weeks touring NSW in a campervan during the school holidays - travelling 5,000 kilometres!! I'm creating a separate blog for our family travels, which of course includes many cemetery visits, even if none of my people are buried there. The cemeteries I photographed this trip will be coming up on this blog, but the travel photos and maps will be on the new one.

Before we left I was interviewed my the lovely Maria Northcote, who is the genealogical genius behind the Genies Down Under podcasts. Maria's podcasts and blog feature all things genealogical, but with an Australian twist. This particular episode is 39+ minutes long, but my interview doesn't take up the whole amount of time. 

In late October last year Maria and I were lucky enough to be drawn from the ballot to do the Tank Stream Tour beneath the streets of Sydney's CBD . Here is Maria's blog post about the trip.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A day in 'The Big Smoke' - without the smoke

A few Sundays ago I had a fantastic day in Sydney, with a fellow (sister?) genie, my friend Suellen. We started off with at Hyde Park Barracks with a bit of a look around using their audioguide to help us learn about the various displays. We interrupted this with a tour run by the delightful Sydney Living Museums guide Amy Armour around The Mint building next door to the Barracks, where we learned all about how it used to be the southern wing of Governor Macquarie's Rum Hospital before it was used as a Mint.

In the foyer there's a machine to mint an oval-shaped design from, starting with a blank the size and colour of a 1 cent piece (remember them??!), you choose a design, roll the handle and out pops a little thingy that you can keep as a memento of your day at the Barracks. The four designs were: a rat (no thanks), a convict man, the broad arrow (convict symbol), or a design of the Barracks themselves. I chose the building, made two of them, and used them as earrings. Beware that if you choose the image of the convict man, when the hole punch goes through it does line up with his head, which I thought wasn't such a nice look on a man. Or a woman.

The staff were amused at my new fine art jewellery, so Amy took a photo, and now I'm now on their homepage! The new face of Hyde Park Barracks!! Well, until someone else has their photo taken anyway. Fleeting fame.

Amy's article mentions the husband of my ancestor, Esther Spencer. She married Joseph Bigg in 1822 in St Phillip's Church of England. Joseph came out with Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie on the Dromedary as their coachman in 1809. He drove the Governor on his tours of inspection to the Cowpastures in 1810, Bathurst in 1815, Mittagong and Goulburn in 1820, and assisted during the trips to Newcastle in 1818, and Van Dieman's Land, Newcastle, and Port Macquarie in 1821. He'd seen more of the colony than almost everyone in that time. While driving Elizabeth Macquarie in her curricle in George Street in October 1814 a child suddenly ran into the horses and was killed. There was a newspaper article in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser two days later which details the accident, but curiously, makes no mention of the driver or his important passenger, which is why it took me forever to find it on Trove. Elizabeth's PR team must have worked overtime to keep this news quiet.

Thankfully, the inquest gives a lot more information. 

At midday, on 6 October 1814, Joseph Bigg (1768-1833), the Macquaries' coachman, accidentally ran over and killed a small child, named Charles Thomas, in George Street, Sydney while Elizabeth Macquarie was a passenger in the coach. Biggs had observed a group of children playing in the street and had drawn his curricle to a halt. He then proceeded on again, little realising that one of the children had run under the vehicle.
When it was realised what had happened from the cries of the bystanders, Elizabeth Macquarie called out to Bigg to stop, dismounted immediately, and carried the injured child into the nearby Thomas family home. Dr. William Redfern was immediately sent for, however, he was unable to revive the child, and Charles Thomas died soon afterwards.
Eyewitness testimony at the coronial inquest chaired by J.W. Lewin cleared Joseph Bigg of any charge of negligence or recklessness in his driving. However, it should come as no surprise that as a consequence of the accident Elizabeth Macquarie suffered a severe nervous collapse and was confined to her bed for several weeks thereafter.

After lunch at the Barracks cafe we were lucky enough to gatecrash a private tour of St James' Anglican Church opposite the Barracks, in King Street. What a gorgeous building it is too. 

It was designed by convict architect (and forger) Francis Greenway, and a number of my forebears were christened and married there. The church website says: St James’ Church was constructed between 1819 and 1824. It is the oldest church building in the City of Sydney and has been in continuous use from its consecration on 11 February 1824 to the present.
This is the view from the Hyde Park Barracks, which is the eastern elevation of the church. The front faces north.

The altar with a gold-leaf lined dome above. Just stunning.
Our impromptu tour took in some of the marble memorials around the walls, then we took the stairs leading to the choir loft and bell pulling ropes, and it was such a beautiful view from up there. We were invited to the next level again, which houses the bells, but we were in a rush to get to the The Scots Church in Margaret Street, so we couldn't hang around any longer. An organised tour that includes the crypt and the bell tower is a must for me one day.

The Scots Church was the venue for a talk by Heather Garnsey from the Society of Australian Genealogists (of which I am a member) on tracing our London ancestors. The talk was arranged by the Huguenot Society of Australia, who were very welcoming and friendly at the afternoon tea that followed. It was great to learn more resources that are available online, seeing that (sadly) a trip to the UK chasing my English, Irish and Scottish ancestors isn't going to happen for me any time soon.

We ended that part of the day with a few drinks at The Menzies Hotel near Wynyard, which finished the afternoon off nicely. I'm looking forward to another Sunday spent touring the city. If only that lottery win would speed up, then I could immerse myself in it every single day.

Monday, 18 August 2014

She did have a cute nose, though!

I found this funny piece while I was Troving the other day, searching for any snippets I could find about my ancestor, Esther Salamon/Spencer/Stubbs/Bigge. I'm not sure how useful it would actually be to have the capacity for looking around two opposite corners simultaneously. Maybe the excess alcohol helped. I couldn't find much about her elsewhere on Trove. One lady of the same name was charged with infanticide, so I hope it wasn't this damsel. Poor Jane.

Trove article from The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Saturday 12 May 1832

Thursday, 14 August 2014

No more stripping in the living room for me!

Recently I'd been contemplating buying the Victorian BDM indexes on CD-ROM (or however they come), because about half of my family originated from Victoria at some stage or other in the past 200 years. At over AU$200 each I wasn't in a hurry, but I was also sick of the online indexes, having to pay per search, with $5 pre-set spending limits, enter in my Visa number every time, etc, which was getting to be a pain. Then I saw a post on an Aussie genie Facebook page about the indexes being available with the Internet Archive and I just had to investigate. They are available as Full Text, HTTPS, and Torrent files. I chose to download them as Torrents, as I already use uTorrent for other things, so I'm familiar with it. This programme sucks them off the net (technical terminology which demonstrates my knowledge of how the internet works) in a csv format, and saves it all as a txt file. I'm OK with all that - it's just Excel jargon.

So I opened Excel, and (using a video off YouTube to refresh my memory of how to do the task) imported the txt files into Excel, and voila!, I now have my very own set of Vic BDM's!! Unfortunately, during the process of doing the transfer Excel did pop up with an error message, to which I said "Yeah, whatever, just get on with it" and accepted it, which has resulted in there being remarkably similar numbers of births, marriages, and deaths imported into my file. I know that some must have been left out because poor Excel couldn't cope with the whole lot, but I have still ended up with 1,048,576 births (1836 - 1920), 1,048,776 marriages (1836 - 1942), and 1,048,572 deaths (1836 - 1985), which *should* include almost all of my folk, if not all of them.

Screen shot of some of my results
So then the fun began! I sorted them all alphabetically by surname (can't help it, I work in a library) and I've been colouring my surnames in blue, and turning red the ones that I know for sure are mine. I could highlight them, copy and paste subsets into another Excel workbook so I can sort them further, and even have a list of registration numbers to use when I want to order a copy of the image from the Registry. Then I can tick them off once I have the document in my family file.

Prior to this discovery I've been taking screen shots of the Registry's results page, printing them out, and cutting them into little strips, to try and recreate some family groups within certain surnames. My husband remarks that I've been stripping again (he wishes!).

My 7yo geneapprentice, Georgia, helping match births to the relevant marriage of the parents

This is a perfectly fine method if you don't mind spending a lot of time on your knees the floor, and live without the fan operating to circulate the hot air around. In my mind, Excel is now the way to go. Thanks internet!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Canberra calling - March 2015

Well I'm back in the land of the living after 4 loooooooong months without the internet. We have NBN now, which is nice and fast, but I've realised that NBN Co couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery. (Not slander, just a statement of fact.)

One of my uncles held some money aside from his share of the sale of my grandparents' house about 15 years ago, which he's gifting to his nieces and nephews seeing as he has never had children of his own and he's now 82. When I heard about this I was moved to tears (which, to be fair, doesn't take much doing) and have resolved to use the gift towards furthering my genealogical knowledge and resources, like books and certificates, etc. I feel that getting more involved in my family tree is a fitting way to honour the gift. I'm sure my grandparents would approve, and as one of my strongest family history supporters my uncle is thrilled.

With that in mind I've booked myself into the next Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, being held in Canberra at the end of March 2015. I've wanted to go for a few years now, but the registration fee was a luxury, and the travel and accommodation on top of that put it out of reach. I've put my new-found wealth into a high-interest online savings account, and will save a few more dollars each week to pay for the accommodation, meals, etc. March feels like a long way away (nine months actually), but every day flies by (except 1-4pm on workdays - that drags haha), so it'll be here pretty fast. I've resolved to go, even if I have to sleep in my car, although I'm sure it won't come to that :) .

The list of speakers is fantastic and I can't wait to listen to their expertise. I've seen Kerry FarmerPaul Milner and Joshua Taylor speak at various conferences, and have heard Carol Baxter, US forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, SAG royalty Heather Garnsey, author and blogger Shauna Hicks, librarian Michelle Nichols, and Carol Riley speak on webinars or other podcasts/interviews, and I'm always impressed with how much they know, and how well they get that information across to listeners with varying levels of genealogical experience. All very inspiring.

As a Library Technician, I'm also going to the Librarian's Day, which is being held the day before the conference. I don't use my genie skills as much as I'd like in my current job, but who knows what the future holds. I may as well attend, seeing as I'll already be there.

I heard a rumour that the 2016 Congress will be held in Sydney, which is fantastic news seeing as I only live an hour away, so I'll be able to go each day. In the meantime I get to spend five full days in Canberra, which is still a plus. I'd love to hear from any other genies going in March. Can't wait!!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

G'day USA

I'm a big fan and a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG), and love to participate in their webinars, which are usually held each month. It's just like attending a speaker at a conference, but the venue is your home and the speaker is on your computer screen. The SAG have a mix of Aussie and overseas speakers, who are all very knowledgeable and inspirational. The next few months includes subjects such as goldfields research, English BDM's, and Sydney's cemeteries. Quite a variety!

We get a handout emailed at the end of each event, which summarises what we heard, and provides links to any websites mentioned, so we're not furiously writing notes instead of listening and learning. These webinars are $10 each, which is great, although you need to be a SAG member to register. Membership is $72, or $92 in the first year. So I figure that makes my webinars around $16 each, even if I never step foot in their door. Still cheap.

But now I've found some FREE webinars, run by the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society. They tend to run at 7pm their time, which converts to midday in Sydney time (at the moment = our daylight-saving time/summer), which is great for those days I'm not working. Their subjects over the next few months are probate records, DNA, and Irish research. Some are quite US-centric, and others have worldwide appeal. I'll certainly be registering for the DNA topic, to learn what all the fuss is about. Today's speaker was by genealogy royalty, Thomas MacEntee. The subject was Building a Research Toolbox, which covered things like organising your internet favourites/bookmarks, and a bit about Evernote, as well as lots more.

Legacy Family Tree webinars are also interesting, as well as free, which is great. They sometimes start at 7pm in the USA, which has been 5am Sydney time, and I don't think I could get out of bed that early unless the house was on fire! They run about 6 per month, and are archived for 7 days to watch for free (at a time that suits you, like not 5am). Members can watch older ones as part of their membership package. Their list covers webinars from some very well-known presenters and really interesting topics as far back as 2011. Their membership seem to be on special at the moment, at US$9.95 for a month, or US$49.95 annually, which gives access to their full back-catalogue.

To calculate when the webinar would start in your local time, this website is handy: Time Zone Converter. They even take daylight saving into account, which I am grateful for. Working out the time difference and taking into account both countries and their various time zones and daylight saving schedules would do my head in I think!

If you haven't joined a webinar before, they're easy-peasy. Don't be scared!! Near the details about the time & date, etc, will be a link to register with the organisation for that particular event. You'll be asked a few details like name & email address, maybe your suburb, and if there's a fee there will be a checkout process at this stage. They will send you a confirmation email, and another one the day and an hour before (from my experience, anyway), with a link to click to join up. Most organisations use the host GoToWebinar which needs you to download a little something (a programme??) prior to your first time so you can run their format. The SAG recommend signing in about 10 minutes early for your first ever webinar, where they run through what's involved. You can participate with or without a microphone &/or headset. If you want to ask a question (they usually have question time at the end), when you are prompted by the speaker you can ask your query by speaking to your microphone, and if you don't have one you can type your question in the panel to the side of the main display screen. If you get the opportunity to ask a question you can virtually raise your hand by clicking on the little hand, and then the facilitator will know you're waiting for your turn to speak. They'll un-mute you so you can ask your question/comment, and then mute you again ready for the next person when it's time. It's all really simple.

If you're more of a visual learner, YouTube has a short tutorial on how webinars work, using the GoToWebinar host in particular.

So if you're looking to expand your mental horizons, check out the webinars run by societies you may not have even given a thought to before. You might be surprised by the variety they offer.