Sunday, 17 August 2014

Genealogy Learning Activities

I've added a page to my blog, Genealogy Learning Activities.  This is a list of genealogy learning activities I have participated in.  I regularly watch webinars, videos and Hangouts on Air about a range of genealogy topics & have decided to start sharing these.
Over the last 2 days I have been watching hangouts & reading discussions about using Excel for genealogy.  I have learnt how genealogists use Excel to make research logs, to do lists, simple timelines & timelines to answer specific questions.

I started to use Excel for genealogy to create databases of baptisms.  I have been researching family surnames in Sussex lately & decided to make a database for baptisms for each surname that I am researching.  I thought that recording all instances of a surname would be more beneficial than simply identifying events of known ancestors.  This will enable me to reconstruct family groups as I continue my research. 

I watched Lisa Alzo's webinar Research Recharge: Turning Old Clues into New Leads on Legacy Family Tree Webinars & she discussed using research logs.  She showed an example of Thomas MacEntee's genealogy research log, which is a free Excel spreadsheet available at  

DearMYRTLE has been focusing on using Excel for genealogy in her Wacky Wednesday Hangouts on Air this month.  On August 12th's Wacky Wednesday hangout, More Excel for Genealogy, +Julie Goucher shared her presentation on how she uses Excel for research logs & to do lists.  Julie has made this video, as well as a copy of her Excel research log spreadsheet & her presentation on how she uses them on her blog, Anglers Rest.

I have never used a research log before as I didn't need one, but earlier this year I had a few months when I didn't have the time to research.  When I did have the time to continue, I found it hard to pick up where I'd left off.  Using a research log would have helped a lot in this situation.

Another potential use for Excel would be in creating timelines for my ancestors.  I have found a few good examples of how people have used them for this purpose & I can see how they would be beneficial to me.  Jenny Lanctot discusses how she uses Excel for simple timelines & also how she uses timelines to answer specific questions in her blog, Are My Roots Showing?.

How do you use Excel in your genealogy research?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Family Search Indexing

Well, I'm almost a week late but I have contributed to Family Search's Indexing efforts.  I have spent the weekend catching up on +DearMYRTLE's GeneaSleepOver - Worldwide Indexing Events.  There was plenty of demonstrations of live indexing.  In the past I have transcribed for FreeBMD but I found this to be quite tricky.  From the demonstrations, Family Search indexing seemed much more straightforward.

I have been indexing Australia,Tasmania - Burial and Cremation Orders - 1873-1986 & so far I have completed 5 batches.  Hopefully I haven't made too many mistakes!

Monday, 7 July 2014

The New NSW BDM Online Index

I have been using the new NSW BDM Online Index (Lifelink) today & I have to say I miss not having the district show up in search results.  In the past it has really helped me to identify the correct parents / family group in birth searches.  I hope it comes back.

This reminded me that I had missed GeniAUS's HOA about LifeLink from 2 weeks ago so I headed over there & watched it.  There is some good discussion about the issues with the new search facility & some of the workarounds.

I do like the idea of being able to group search results by spelling variants via Family Name.

Thanks for the tip to use the old online search facility +Jill Ball.  It took a bit of searching but I have the links & I'm bookmarking them, the Births & Deaths search page & the Marriage Search page.

Just to compare the results of searches, I tried a marriage search using the same parameters in both search facilities (using the *e / e* workaround that +Jill Ball suggested for the new search facility) & there was a huge difference - there were about 40 results in the new search compared to over 350 results in the old search.  This did give me an idea though, & I tried using only * in the bride's surname field & this produced many more results.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

John Henry Fleming & the Myall Creek Massacre

Recently I read an article in Inside History magazine (May-June 2014 edition, Issue 22), Justice Eraded, Justice Denied, about one of my indirect ancestors, John Henry Fleming.  John Henry was the son of Henry Fleming, one of the earliest free colonists, and Elizabeth Hall, my 5th great grandparents.  He was also the brother of Mary Ann Fleming, my 4th great grandmother.

This article revealed John Henry Fleming’s involvement as the ringleader of the Myall Creek massacre (1838), in which 28 Aboriginal men, women and children were murdered.

I was shocked to learn that one of my ancestors was not only involved in this incident, but was identified as the ringleader.

The next issue of Inside History magazine, due out in July, will focus on the aftermath of the massacre.

Another article in this issue, Exploring Australia’s Oldest Church, mentioned John Henry Fleming’s maternal grandfather, George Hall, who was one of the founders of Australia’s oldest surviving European church, Ebenezer church.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Australia Day Challenge 2014: C’mon Aussie

Pauleen Cass of Family History Across the Seas blog has set a geneameme challenge for Australia Day.  She wants to see how deep your roots go into our Aussie soil.  It is supposed to be quick & easy, but it has taken me all day, all night, & now into the next morning to complete it – I guess this just goes to show my research (& software databases) aren’t as organised as they should be!  Jackie from Jax Trax you are so lucky that you did an "Arrivals" table - I spent a long time writing an informal one to refer to.

The geneameme comes in two parts: one to test whether your family is ridgey-didge and the second to show us how Australia runs in your veins, without any flag-waving and tattoo-wearing. Shout it out, be proud and make everyone wish they lived in this wide brown land of ours.If for you Australia Day is Survival Day, tell us your family’s story and show up our Johnny-come-lately status.Feel free to add and subtract and even add a short story at the end. The world’s your oyster, so have a go! C’mon Aussie C’mon C’mon. - Pauline Cass.
Here is my response:


My first ancestor to arrive in Australia was: I’m not 100% sure which order the First Fleet ships arrived in, but according to sources the Alexander arrived first, so my first ancestor was William Douglass, per Alexander, which arrived at Botany Bay on 19 January, 1788.

I have Australian Royalty (tell us who, how many and which Fleet they arrived with): I have 3 ancestors who arrived on the First Fleeters & one on the Third Fleet.  William Douglass, Alexander; John Nichols, Scarborough, First Fleet; Mary Groves, Prince of Wales, First Fleet; & William Bailey, Matilda, Third Fleet. 

These are my 18 direct line convicts (only the first three are from my mother's side):

John Nichols                                     Scarborough  (First Fleet)          1788
Ann Pugh                                           Earl Cornwallis                            1801

Alexander Philp                                 Globe                                           1819

William Bailey                                    Matilda (Third Fleet)                   1791
Ann Archer                                          Indispensible                              1796

Mary Holland                                       Indispensable                             1796
Thomas Cooper                                 Barwell                                         1798

Samuel Perkins                                  Pitt                                                1792 ?
Eleanor Williams                                Britannia III                                   1798

John Anthony Fernance                    General Hewitt                             1814

Matthew Thompson                           General Hewitt                             1814

William Douglass                               Alexander (First Fleet)                1788
Mary Groves                                       Prince of Wales (First Fleet)      1788

Daniel Jurd                                         Perseus                                        1802

William Guyatt                                    Earl St Vincent                             1820
Mary Mullally                                       Elizabeth II                                    1828

Michael Sweeney                              Rodney                                          1853
Mary McQueen / McQuain                Martin Luther                                1852

Where I have listed a convict immediately after another convict, e.g. John Nichols & Ann Pugh, indicates a couple who married.  As you can see almost all of my convicts married other convicts!  Of the four who didn’t, two were already married before they were convicted & transported.  Only two married non-convicts, both of who were currency lasses & the daughters of convicts.

I’m an Aussie mongrel, my ancestors came to Oz from: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany & Prussia.

Did any of your ancestors arrive under their own financial steam? Yes.  All of my German & Prussian ancestors paid for their own passage, arriving in SA from mid 1840s – mid 1850s.  There are some ancestors who arrived in SA & WA that I’m not sure whether were assisted or not.  George Hall arrived in NSW with his family as a free settler on Coromandel in 1802.  William Edwards arrived with his family in WA on Rockingham in 1830 as a settler. I have a few other ancestors that I know of, but I’m still tracing several.   

How many ancestors came as singles?  Very few, now I’ve spent the day analysing them for this blog post.  Three sets of 3rd great grandparents.  I have two widows, Susannah Belshire & Elizabeth Ketch, (both 4th great grandmothers) who arrived with their child/ren, & one widower, Edward Blanch (a 4th great grandfather).  I also have an ancestor who appears to have been pregnant when she arrived in South Australia (whether she was pregnant when she boarded the ship isn’t clear), one of the sets of 3rd great grandparents already mentioned.

How many came as couples?  None

How many came as family groups?  18 of my ancestors arrived as a married couple with children.  There 2 family groups that I haven’t been able to trace – the Vonthien / Vonthein / von Tien / von Tein family, & the Lindner family.

Did one person lead the way and others follow?  Only a few seem to have, but I haven’t traced all of my ancestor’s siblings.  Daniel Curran (3rd great grandfather) arrived on his own, but other siblings appear to have followed him, though some of them seem to have later travelled to the US.  Bridget McCann (3rd great grandmother) arrived with her sister.  My 3rd great grandfather, James Blanch’s whole (& very large sibling-wise) family seem to have immigrated to NSW.  The older siblings came with their own wives & children on the same ship & were followed by the younger, unmarried siblings with their elderly father a few months later.

What’s the longest journey they took to get here?  I honestly haven’t researched enough to know how long each journey took.  It was probably the early Prussian immigrants.  They were Lutherans who were trying to escape their homeland for religious reasons, & I know that some of them were stranded in a German port for months.  They had travelled from their Prussian village to Hamburg to make their voyage, & their permission to emigrate was revoked & then regranted, meaning that they had to reorganise their transport to Australia.

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place?  As far as I know, only the Prussians.  Most arrived via a German port.

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive?  Most of my ancestors arrived in NSW.  I have three groups who arrived free in WA during the 1830’s & 1840’s, two convicts who were sent to Tasmania.  All of my German & Prussian immigrants seem to have arrived in South Australia.

Did they settle and remain in one state/colony?  Most of my ancestors did arrive & remain in the same state.  One ancestor from WA moved to Tasmania.  Several of my German / Prussian ancestors migrated from SA to NSW through Victoria.

Did they stay in one town or move around?  Some of my ancestors moved up & down regional New South Wales before settling, mostly farmers.  My SA ancestors moved all around that state.  Some others stayed around Sydney.

Do you have any First Australians in your tree?  Does this mean Aboriginals?  No.

Were any self-employed?  Several ancestors were farmers / landholders.  Daniel Curran, being a publican, was self-employed.  His son was a self-employed coachbuilder.  His grandson, my grandfather, was a bit of an entrepreneur, owning a few businesses during his life.

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in?  Most were farmers, a few carpenters, miners, a nursemaid, and a needleworker.  I have a two enlisted soldiers from the earlier days of the colonies – Joseph Fleming, a sergeant with the NSW Corps, arrived in NSW on William and Ann in 1791; James Telford, a private in the enrolled pensioner guard, arrived in WA on Ramilies in 1854. Two police constables – completely different sides of the tree & sides of Australia.  A postmaster, mail carrier, & sanitary inspector.  I also have a publican & a coachbuilder. One direct line teacher (her son was also a teacher).

Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation?  My father is an electrician by trade & his father was an electrical fitter.  My maternal grandfather was an orchardist & his ancestors were all farmers.  My 2nd great grandmother, Catherine Whitelock Curran was a teacher, as was one of her sons & I am a teacher, but almost 50 years went by before I became a teacher, & I didn’t even know she existed until a year ago.  What is coincidental though, is that another of Catherine’s sons was a teacher while another was a journalist – my son is studying Journalism at University.

Did any of your ancestors leave Australia and go “home”?  Not one of them!

What’s your State of Origin?  NSW

Do you still live there?  Yes

Where was your favourite Aussie holiday place as a child?  Probably Terrigal, visiting my grandfather.

Any special place you like to holiday now?  I haven’t travelled enough yet to have a special holiday place.

Share your favourite spot in Oz: Ditto above.

Any great Aussie adventure you’ve had?  None yet, hopefully there are lots to come.

What’s on your Australian holiday bucket list?  Um, everywhere!

How do you celebrate Australia Day?  I don’t do anything special on Australia Day.  I remember as a child we’d spend the day in Darling Harbour.

Doing this challenge has made me realise how many of my relatives made sacrifices to come to our country for a new life with better opportunities.  Even the convicts, once they had earned their freedom, had a new life with better opportunities.  I especially admire my ancestor who arrived on her own, pregnant, in SA.  How difficult life must have been to take on the challenge of coming to Australia, but she too was rewarded with a new life, a husband & family, & opportunities galore.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Why You Should Never Take Information On Even Official Records At Face Value

Recently I obtained a copy of my grandmother’s death certificate.  She died in 1968.  Because I was quite familiar with her & her family, I noticed straight away that some of the information was not accurate.  The death certificate incorrectly listed her name, her father, her mother’s name, & the name of her first husband.  Applying what I have learnt about the GPS to this information, I can understand why the information wasn’t accurate.

At an initial analysis, the evidence seems quite strong.  It is direct & in some respects it is primary – it is provided by someone with reasonably close knowledge near the time of the event:

1.                  Direct Vs Indirect – The death certificate provides direct evidence of her name, the identity of her father, her mother’s name & the name of her first husband.
2.                  Primary Vs Secondary – Time-wise this information is primary, as it was provided near the time of the event.  You could also conclude that it is primary as the informant, being her husband, should have reasonably close knowledge of her parents, & former husband, particularly as they had known each other for a long time (decades) before they were married.

Thankfully I have other sources that give correct information, such as my grandmother’s birth certificate, her marriage certificate, my mother’s own birth & marriage certificate, & my mother’s & my own personal knowledge.  Plus my own developing ability to analyse the evidence.

1.                  Direct Vs Indirect Evidence – I have several other sources that contradict this particular information.  They also provide direct evidence.
2.                  Primary Vs Secondary Information – The death certificate provides secondary information about my grandmother’s date of birth, parent’s names, names of spouses, names of children.  This means it has to be evaluated based on who provided the information, whether he was an eyewitness to the events & how closely this evidence correlates with other available sources.  As already stated, the informant was her husband, but they had only been married for about 2 years. 
a.      Name - He may have given her name as Glady instead of Gladys because that is what he called her, or it may have been a miscommunication.
b.      Father’s Name – The informant gave her stepfather’s name instead of her father.  Her father had died almost 30 years earlier, my grandmother may have even referred to her stepfather as ‘dad’.  I can understand why her husband made a mistake with her father’s name.
c.      Mother’s Name – My grandmother’s mother’s (great grandmother’s) surname was Luhrs.  Her parents changed the name to Lewis (to avoid the stigma surrounding a German surname) in 1922, but my great grandmother married in 1921, before the family’s surname was changed.  Her marriage certificate states her surname as Luhrs (at least her first marriage, I haven’t checked the second marriage).  It would be reasonable for the informant to assume that my grandmother’s name was Lewis, seeing as her parents had been known by Lewis since 1922 & she died in 1968.
d.      First Husband – I can totally understand why the informant gave the name of her first husband as John Barnes – everybody called him John Barnes, even me.  However, on his marriage & birth certificates his name is actually Harold John Barnes.
3.                  Correlating the Contradictory Information- there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that disproves the contradictory information contained in this death certificate.  I’ve also correlated the contradictory information in the above points.

So I guess the moral of this is to use the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard).  If you encounter this type of problem, make sure you have other relevant sources.  Consider the evidence.  Correlate the conflicting evidence.  Come to a reasonably sound conclusion. If someone else obtained the certificate, they may very well take the information at face value, particularly since it is an official BDM record.  They don’t have the information that I have, nor do have the benefit of knowing about the circumstances surrounding these events.

I hope I haven’t missed any thing too important, it’s the first time I’ve tried to use the GPS, or elements of it, in a blog post.

Btw, I went NSW Parramatta Registry Office to have it amended & will pick up a correct copy in a few days.  My mother will be very happy to see her mother’s accurate death certificate. J