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!