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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In genealogy, the smallest discoveries can make your day

One of the great things about genealogy is that sometimes the smallest of discoveries can make your day. 

As I've been tidying up my database, I've been looking again at many of the first birth, death and marriage certificates that I obtained. I'm spotting details that escaped my notice at the time, but which are are now tying up loose ends, or giving me new leads to follow. Every one of them, although minor, is exciting to me in it's own way.

More children?!
Here's an example of what I mean. In addition to their two living children, Robert Couper (1825-1898) and Isabella Miller (c1826-1908) had two deceased sons and one deceased daughter by 1856. Why did I not enter that into my database? 

As it happens I had already identified two of these young children, born in Scotland, who I supposed must have died before the family came to Australia as they weren't on the ship and don't show up in Australian records. This little piece of information confirms my theory. It also adds a place in my database for the other son who I haven't (yet?) been able to find in records. I don't know if he was born in Scotland or in Australia. While sad to see the level of infant mortality, it is somehow comforting to think that in a small way this nameless child is not forgotten.

Relatives in Australia?!
Another morsel of information that I had somehow overlooked was on the 1867 marriage certificate of my ancestors James Black (c1835-1896) and Frances Gertrude Lewis (c1836-1899). One of the witnesses had the surname Lewis. Did Frances have relatives living in Australia?! To give myself some credit, I had entered that fact in my database, it just hadn't sunk into my mind. When I rediscovered the signature a few days ago I was determined to work it out. This is what it looks like:

Can you make out the first name of the top witness? I sought help on Twitter. I think I must have picked the wrong time of day, or possibly of year, as I had only one reply (thanks Bobby) but no answer. I thought I knew what some of the letters were, and what others could be, but I couldn't make out a name. 

Success came when I started running wildcard searches over the Australian birth, death and marriage indexes on I didn't get it first try, but finally an exact search for Min* Lewis gave me the name. Minchin Lewis. Not a name I had heard of before, but all the lumps and bumps in the signature fit. He doesn't seem to be a brother for Frances as I had hoped, I will have to go back further to find out if he was related. The thing that struck me is that both Minchin and Frances named their first born sons James Abbott. Coincidence? 

Still more work to do, but this little achievement made my day!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

There's a first time for everything

I don't know if I should admit this. After 20+ years of genealogy research (on and off) I recently placed my first ever order for a film from the LDS Family History Library!

In the past there have been a number of things that stopped me from taking that step. When I first started out, I had no idea of the FHL's existence. Then having discovered it, I felt a level of discomfort at the idea of using the result of someone else's religious beliefs and practices, which I don't share, in pursuit of a hobby. This is no reflection of the Family History Center in Canberra (or anywhere else for that matter) as I had heard only good things about them.

Having gotten over that feeling of timidity and even making a visit to the local Family History Center quite some years ago to check things out, I still never felt the need to order any film. I had plenty of material to be getting on with by post(!), at the National Library of Australia, and later on the internet.

More recently, a few factors have come together that have changed the situation for me:

  1. My loosely defined research goal is to follow the life of Elizabeth Tregonning (1858-1952). In looking for relevant sources I have found some that are most readily available to me via the Family History Library. 
  2. I have only very recently discovered that I can have the films sent to my local genealogy society, which is ten minutes closer to home than the local Family History Center. It may not sound like much, but when negotiating with my husband about minding our two under-fives while I'm swanning about genealogising, an extra 10 minutes of travel time each way makes a big difference.
  3. Finally, the big one, I can order the films online. I think this is only possible in a few countries, so I feel very fortunate. It makes a huge difference because it saves me from making an extra trip in order to order the film in the first place (see point 2 above).
I put in my first order in about two weeks ago. The film I wanted had to be placed on backorder, but the delay wasn't long and I've now had notification that it has shipped. I'm really looking forward to actually viewing my first ever FHL microfilm sometime in the New Year. I'm sure this film order will be the first of many.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Exploring the PRONI wills online - what I found and how I found it

I love it when a routine genealogy search suddenly takes me into new territory.

A little under two weeks ago, Shauna Hicks tweeted about the launch of Northern Irish wills online. The information was free, and the will copy books were digitised. Although I have done little with the Irish portions of my family tree, I had to have a look.

I tried my Irish family names in the surname field, with some success. I then turned my attention to the other search options. I typed the surname "Stannus" into the "Full Abstract" field and was rewarded with twenty records. Most were cases of people who lived in "Stannus place", but a few had a Stannus family member appointed as executor.

As I scanned the surnames, and hovered over the descriptions for more detail, one entry on the front page jumped out at me. The name was Margaretta Mercer Mack, and she had appointed Catharine Stannus of Belfast, widow, as her executrix. Catharine Stannus, nee Mack, was my GGG grandmother and I know little about her. An index entry for Irish marriages on the FamilySearch beta site gives her father's name as Robert (having a look at that film is on my ever growing to-do list) but that's the limit of my knowledge.

Genealogy happy dance! Margaretta was Catharine's unmarried sister, previously unknown to me! Not only that, the will named several other siblings as beneficiaries. Well, sort of beneficiaries, but I think I will save that for another post.

Now I am left with more leads to follow up, pages and pages of wills to transcribe, and a useful tip to share: Don't limit yourself to entering surnames only in the surname field. You never know what new territory you may get to explore.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The adventures of a DNA newbie - part two - the kit arrives

A dog barks.

A glimpse of a yellow shirt, passing by the window.

A package on the doorstep.

Me, jumping around in excitement saying "It's mine! It's mine!" while my husband reads the description of goods, with some suspicion, "SYNTHETIC PLASTIC TUBE AND INERT BUFFER."

The DNA kit from 23andMe has arrived! 

I'm impressed with how quickly it got here. It shipped from the USA on Friday (my time) and landed on my doorstep first thing Monday morning. Great job, DHL Express!

Inside the package I found a return envelope, detailed instructions, and a nice green package containing the testing kit. I notice that the "Collect by" date marked on the box is June 2011, so I don't really have a year to use the kit as suggested by the marketing of the $99 special. Never mind, I was planning on using the kit well before then.

Next step: Psych myself up to start spitting!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 - Christmas Cards - December 4

Each year my family would send and receive a modest number of Christmas cards. The cards that we received would be displayed on whatever surface was available, usually starting with the top of the television. Now there's something I will have to explain to my children! Yes, once upon a time, back in the olden days, televisions were housed in wooden boxes that could be used as a surface for decorative items.

Along with the Christmas cards we would receive a few photocopied family newsletters packed with information about their activities for the year. We would hear about academic or sporting successes, career successes or failures, medical procedures, new relationships and breakups. We would wonder how widely they were distributing this sometimes very personal information!

There's something else I should add to my list of things to ask Dad about - do we have a stash of those old Christmas newsletters our relatives used to send? Genealogically, they're a treasure trove.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, hosted by Geneabloggers

Friday, December 3, 2010

This that and the other

There is so little I can think of to say about our Christmas ornaments, I thought I'd skip the Advent Calendar for today and instead keep up the blogging momentum with a quick update on my genealogy activities.
  • I've had some really good correspondence with other researchers on various branches of my tree lately. As a result I have quite a bit of new data to add.
  • The DNA kit from 23andMe has shipped. Now I have to wait for it to make it's way across the sea. I wonder how long it will take? 
  • I am seriously considering changing genealogy software, which is not a move I take lightly. I love my current software, but unfortunately, I have noticed a glitch that I can't live with. It's not likely to be corrected any time soon as the developer is concentrating on the next version. I know I will have to do a big clean-up and lots of checking in the new software, which will probably be TMG. It's frustrating when I have so much momentum up in my research right now, but it has to be done.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 - Christmas Foods - December 2

In last year's advent calendar, I wrote about eating a traditional (cold climate) Christmas lunch in the midst of an Australian summer.

That completely inappropriate hot roast lunch is still a big part of what Christmas is about for me, but there is one other food that was a regular feature whenever we had a large gathering of family - Christmas and other occasions. It was my Mum's pavlova.

Any Australian or New Zealander would be very familiar with the pavlova. It's a dessert with a meringue base, topped with cream and garnished with fruit.

My Mum made her pavlovas from scratch, not from a premix "Egg". Usually she would make two. One, I thought of as the adults' pavlova. The fruit topping made it almost a health food, so far as I was concerned. The other was the kids' pavlova. Instead of fruit, my mother topped the kids pav with a smashed up Peppermint crisp.

I have my mother's recipe, but I've never made it. I really should try to some day. I think I'd like to inherit her reputation as the pavlova queen!

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, hosted by Geneabloggers

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 - Christmas Tree - December 1

The Christmas tree that dominates my childhood memories was tall and bushy. Although it was an artificial metallic one, it was beautiful. The silvery tinsel branches shimmered and the baubles stood out like jewels. I didn't understand it when one year my mother said that the tree's time had come, we needed something new.

Before I sat down to write this post, I dug out a few pictures of that lovely tree. 

Sadly, the photographic evidence does not do my memory justice. The tree is smaller than I recall. Not tiny, but small enough that it is almost obscured in the photos by a child standing in front of it. The silvery tinsel is duller than my memory would have it. The branches.. well, they look like they could put a running child's eye out. The baubles, although there, are not quite as plentiful as I imagined.

Looking at those old photos of myself and my siblings (who wouldn't appreciate me posting picures of them here) there is something else that strikes me about the picture of us sitting around that tree...

It's the joy, shining from our faces.

The photographic evidence confirms it - that tree was beautiful!

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories, hosted by Geneabloggers

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The adventures of a DNA newbie - part one - buying the kit

Yesterday I was considering whether or not I should take up the 23andMe $99 (+ $60 subscription + $67 postage) offer on DNA testing.

I had concerns about the "personal genome subscription", but I was tempted. With a bit of egging on from Carole (both in comments and on twitter), I decided that the best way to stop the temptation was to give in to it. I bought the kit! The purchase process was simple enough. So far so good.

Don't get me wrong. I still don't like 23andMe's pricing model. Not at all. Thank you to Bobby for the link to a discussion forum on the topic. It seems I'm not the only one. If they maintain this new pricing model, I think 23andMe will seriously lose value to genealogy users - starting one year from now when this first batch of people on the new pricing structure decides whether to keep or drop their subscription.

So, I'm going into this with my eyes open at least as far as pricing is concerned and taking the view that this is a one year experiment, and I can live with that. (Note to self: remember to cancel after a year!!)

The rest is a great adventure which I'm very excited about!

More when the kit arrives...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Should I jump in the gene-pool? Input needed!

OK, I don't have much time to make up my mind because 23andMe's $99 (plus $60 plus hefty postage) deal ends today!

I've been too-ing and fro-ing in my mind about whether I should do it. The main issue for me is the conditions around the "personal genome service". Under the special offer, you have to pay a subscription of $5/month for a year. This subscription gets you access to any updates, and emails about new matches for a year.

Did you sign up? Did you read the fine print?

Here's the thing... if you cancel the subscription you not only miss out on emails regarding new matches, you also cannot seek out new matches yourself, and other people signing up later won't see you. I emailed 23andMe to check my interpretation and got this reply:
"If you cancel your subscription after the one year commitment, you will not show up in new relatives Relative Finder list nor will you see them in yours." 
All credit to them for a quick and unambiguous reply, but the fact remains, no matter how big 23andMe say the database is, you don't necessarily have access to that many other people nor they to you.

I would be much more comfortable with a model similar to most genealogy sites where you could see other matches but only initiate contact if you had a current subscription.

However - and this is where I'm underinformed and would appreciate input from someone knowledgeable - it seems you can download your raw data and presumably use it elsewhere. From what I can see that's pretty straightforward so far as the male line is concerned and if I thought I could convince my Dad to give me a vial of spit for Christmas then I think I could live with that. But, if it's me that does the test is there anywhere that I could use mitochondrial and more particularly the "relative finder" results?

Comments appreciated!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Obituary, Arthur Milne Lee

I am lucky enough to have access to a real family history treasure chest. Over coming weeks I plan on sharing its contents with you as I rediscover what's inside.

I was recently asked if the "treasure chest" pictured above is the actual container that holds the documents I'm describing. Yes, it is. The dimensions of the box are near enough to 25cm x 15cm x 10cm. There is a keyhole on the front, but no key. It's lucky the box wasn't locked when we got it!

The next item I find in my treasure chest is an obituary, from an unknown newspaper. The date is not printed on the item, but it bears the handwritten notation "2/8/56".

The subject of the obituary is Arthur Milne Lee, my great grandfather. Like most of the items in this treasure chest, I noted the family details when I first saw it all those years ago, but did little more than that. This document has quite a bit to follow up on. I have evidence that at least two other Lee family members worked for Arnall & Jackson - a firm of printers and stationers. That is definitely a company I would like to find out more about. There is no mention in the clipping of Arthur's involvement with the Freemasons.

A resident of Oakleigh for over 70 years, Arthur Milne Lee passed away peacefully at his home, 12 Rugby road, on Thursday, July 19.
Mr Lee was survived by his wife, Jessie, daughter Edna (Mrs F. Orr), sons Leslie, Fred and Jack, and eight grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Phyllis (Mrs R. Davenport).
Mr Lee was born in Colac and came to live with his parents in Oakleigh 74 years ago. Edu­cated at Oakleigh State School, he was presented with the Mayor's prize for the dux of the school in 1891. (The late Cr. J. Davey was Mayor at the time).
As a youth he played cricket for Oakleigh and won the tro­phies for the best batting and best bowling averages in the one season.
Early in his career Mr Lee worked in Oakleigh with Mr Lucas and Mr T. G. Newton. In 1901 he joined the well-known printing, publishing and station­ery firm of Arnall & Jackson, of Melbourne. As a traveller, his connections were mainly with municipal authorities. He was probably more widely known among Victorian Town Clerks and Shire Secretaries than any other commercial personality. He was still employed by the firm at the time of his death.
Following a service at 12 Rugby road by Rev. Ball, of the South Yarra Church of Christ, the large funeral cortege left for Springvale Crematorium on Friday, July 20.

If you have a connection with this family, then please get in touch with me via comments or use the email address on the "About me" page. I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Can you help date this photo?

Here are six strapping men that I would like to date. The man at the back right in particular has caught my eye. Before you jump to conclusions, remember, I am a married woman and this is a genealogy blog. The only type of dating I am interested in is finding out when this picture was taken! You may be able to help.

The photo comes from the collection of another French family researcher, who has given his permission for me to post it here. He's as keen to find out about the man at the back right as I am, as this man may be our shared ancestor. Click the picture for a closer look.

On the rear of the photo a handwritten note says:

B. French
R. Marshall
J. French Snr

H. Trickey
P. Trickey
J. Marshall


The photo's owner is confident that B. French is his ancestor, Albert Edward "Bert" French (1887-1958). The photo was in Albert's collection and was first seen by other family members after his spouse's death in 1983. The writing was already on the photo at that time, but it is not known who made the identification, or when.

We want to work out who "J. French Snr", standing at the back right, is. There were four generations of the family named James French in Victoria, Australia. There was only one John we know of who is believed to have died before the likely time period of this photo, and no other known  J names. We think this is most probably one of our James Frenchs. But which one?
  • James William French (c1824 - 1896)  
  • James Henry French (1849 - 1915)       - son of James William, father of Bert
  • James Thomas French (1880 - 1965)    - Bert's older brother
  • James William French (1913 - 1965)     - son of James Thomas 
The most likely candidates, given the apparent age of Bert, are James Henry (our shared ancestor) and James Thomas. The family lived in the Avoca, Victoria, region which is around 250 km (150 miles) from Ouyen, Victoria, where the photo was taken. Do you know any of these men? Have any tips or suggestions for dating the photo? Perhaps you are a Trickey or a Marshall descendant who is just as interested in this photo as we are? Even if you stumble onto this page a long time after it's publication, please get in touch! Leave a comment, or contact me via my details on the "About me" page.

UPDATE - 6 April 2011
The photo has been more widely circulated among French family members for comment. As a result, P and H Trickey have been identified as Percy (c1903-1937) and Harold (c1904-1936). Given that they appear to be older than 10-11 years of age in the photo, this dates the photo after 1915, when James Henry French died. We believe that the man in the photo is therefore James Thomas French.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

History and Genealogy 2010 Roadshow - Canberra

Yesterday I attended the Unlock the Past History and Genealogy Roadshow here in Canberra. I had been looking forward to this event, as it was a rare (for me) chance to get out and among people while in pursuit of my family tree. I not only took the day off work, but took the evening off family! That's actually kind of momentous for me.

My day started with a minor hiccough. When I looked at my map I discovered that the venue was not the hotel I had been thinking of. It was ten minutes further away from home. On arrival, the car parks were already full and it took me a while to find a suitable parking spot. I walked into the first session mildly late, and feeling flustered.

First up I had a choice of hearing Rosemary Koppittke talk about, or Cora Num discussing "Irish research in the electronic age". It was a difficult decision, but I chose the FindMyPast session. I have recently taken out a monthly subscription to in order to give the site a proper chance. I think that the search tips Rosemary provided may just make all the difference for me. I hope that FindMyPast will add more information to their site on how to search effectively there.

Next up was a choice between Louise St Denis with "Can I Learn Everything I Need About Records and Research Strategies Online? Genealogical Education from a Distance..." and Tom Foley with "Treasures of the National Library of Australia". In her blog post, Shauna Hicks expressed surprise that so many Canberrans attended the National Library session as we would "almost live at the library". Before I had little children that was true for me. I can't speak for all attendees, but I was interested in this talk precisely because I spend so much of my research time at the Library. Imagine if I missed out on something fantastic that I could have accessed so easily?

After a short break the late afternoon sessions began. It seems that a choice between Dan Lynch, the author of Google Your Family Tree and the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra (HAGSOC) was no choice at all. The HAGSOC speech was cancelled as the overwhelming majority of attendees chose to sit in on Dan Lynch's talk. And no wonder. Dan's style was immediately engaging, and he conveyed his information clearly. For me, Dan's speech was the highlight of the day. Although this session only covered the basics, and I thought I had the basics pretty well covered, I still picked up plenty of ideas. I bought a copy of the book between sessions and look forward to making my way through it and trying things out for myself.

The next session presented me with another difficult choice: Shauna Hicks with "Archives you may not know - but should!", or Cora Num with "How Did They Get Here?: Locating Shipping and Immigration Records". I decided to hear Shauna speak - but not before dashing out to my car to get a jacket, as the air conditioning was uncomfortably cold. Shauna spoke well and introduced the audience to archives large and small, and portals for finding out about them.

Dinner time arrived. I was pleased when Shauna joined me as I had "met" her on twitter but not in real life. It was good to have a chance to meet her in person. Also joining us was one of the very few other younger attendees - who, it turned out, reads this blog! Although I know from the page statistics that a few people out there must read this blog, it still came as something of a (pleasant!) surprise to meet one of them.

The evening sessions held more difficult choices. Either "FindMyPast UK and AU" with Elaine Collins and Rosemary Kopittke or "I Found It Once, Why Can’t I Find It Again!" with Louise St Denis. Then, either "Google Your Family Tree: Images and Video" with Dan Lynch or "ScotlandsPeople: the place to launch your Scottish research" with Rosemary Kopittke.

As I had already heard a discussion of, I went to Louise St Denis' session. It was good to see that the majority of attendees in that session already cited their sources.

Finally came a choice between hearing Dan Lynch again, or learning about ScotlandsPeople. It was another hard choice, but Dan Lynch had whetted my appetite for Google tips! This time I'm not sure I picked up quite so much. In some cities, I gather, the Roadshow extends over two days and Dan Lynch gives four different speeches. As the population of Canberra is smaller, the Roadshow here was a one day event. This second speech was more of a whirlwind tour of the three other speeches and, although I enjoyed it, I think I would have preferred to hear a full speech on one topic.

During the day I bought a few other books, and was lucky enough to win one of the early registration prizes. I also signed up with HAGSOC again, after a lapse of 15 years. Aside from the chilly air conditioning, the only other thing that I would have changed about the organisation of the event would have been to provide water and tea/coffee facilities for attendees, rather than having to purchase drinks from the bistro.

And that was it!

The roadshow still has a few more stops, and from what I saw I can recommend the event to anyone thinking of attending, assuming of course that the presenters don't collapse with exhaustion before they get there...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Roadshow, here I come!

In the past year I've managed to get to the library for research just twice. Imagine how excited I am to have  registered for Unlock the Past's History and Genealogy 2010 Roadshow, in Canberra next Monday.

The program looks great, with two speeches to choose from at each of six speaking sessions. There is something of interest to me at every session. In most cases I will have a very hard time deciding which to attend. If only I was two people!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Catching up

I've just had a week away on a family holiday. A good time was had by all, despite the cold and rain.

Last time I went away, I made good progress on data entry in the evenings. This time, I didn't get quite so much done. I'm now trying to catch up on correspondence with my genealogy contacts, and all the data entry from new finds.

If I owe you a message, and I'm not in touch in the next week or so, please send me a gentle reminder...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Burial Rights

I am lucky enough to have access to a real family history treasure chest. Over coming weeks I plan on sharing its contents with you as I rediscover what's inside.
It pays to re-examine documents. As I make my way through the treasure chest, I am trying to give each document the time and thought it deserves. This week re-examination of a right of burial has lead to the discovery of new (to me) family members, new information on known family members, and leads to further information.

Here it is. A certificate of right of burial purchased for one pound, dated 17 November 1881 (on reverse of paper shown). A piece of paper that was handled by my great-great grandfather, John Lee (1822-1905), almost 130 years ago!

Melbourne General Cemetery, "Certificate of Right of Burial in the Melbourne General Cemetery",
No. 62, made out to John Lee.

My first reaction was to check my database to see where John Lee had been buried. He was buried in Oakleigh Cemetery, not in Melbourne General Cemetery. I then checked my database for any burials in Melbourne General Cemetery. I was surprised to see that only one family member is known to be buried there, Joseph Lee, one of John Lee's sons. However he passed away in 1905 so was not necessarily buried (or the only one buried) in the plot.

Melbourne General Cemetery doesn't have a searchable database online, so I sent a request to the cemetery for information. I was very pleased when I got a reply just a few days later.

Buried in the plot were:
  • Lee, George K aged 21 buried 18.11.1881
  • Bowell, Robert aged 82 buried 17.11.1899
  • Bowell, Elizabeth aged 84 buried 05.02.1901
George King Lee (1861-1881) was another of John Lee's sons, so that made sense. But who were Robert and Elizabeth Bowell?

Armed with names, ages and death years, I searched for and found Robert and Elizabeth's death index entries. Elizabeth Bowell was John Lee's elder sister, previously unknown to me. I then looked for a marriage record for Elizabeth Lee and Robert Bowell and was lucky enough to find one, complete with an image of the marriage register, on Ancestry. They had been married in London in 1848.

Aside from the date and place of the marriage, the marriage register entry gave me two useful pieces of information. Firstly, that her father Joseph Lee was dead and secondly that Elizabeth hadn't been born in London, as had the rest of her family (or at least those I knew) but was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire.

I wondered if I might find them in any of the UK censuses.

Success! I found Elizabeth Bowell and it was better than I had hoped as her mother Jane was also in the house. This gave me a birth place and birth year for her mother, which I didn't previously have, and told me that she was still alive in 1851.

After some unsuccessful attempts, I decided to make searching for any Bowell children a bit easier, and I bought Elizabeth's Bowell's death certificate. Australian death certificates can be very informative. This one was no exception - but it showed that Elizabeth and Robert were childless. They arrived in Australia in around 1861.

In summary...
So, this Right of Burial document looked pretty dull when I was a newbie, but now it has lead me to a new sister for my g-g Grandfather, her husband, a new location where the family lived, has narrowed down some dates and filled in some of the blanks on my g-g-g grandparents and given me a lot of leads for the family generally that I have still to follow up on. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Twigs branches out (or 'The dangers of internet shopping')

A few weeks ago I went internet shopping. Literally. I bought myself a website.

As if I don't already have enough to do, now I have to tend to it! That's what impulse buying on the internet gets you.

Actually, I gave it quite a bit of thought before I jumped in. Recently I have been exchanging more information with other researchers - which has been great - but the experience has left me wishing for a better way of sharing. 

I created the site using TNG ('The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding') software. I know that Geniaus has a site driven by TNG that she seems very happy with, and that BobbyFamilyTree has one also. Having looked at the details of the software it sounded very much like what I was after. It wasn't the only option I investigated. The thing that struck me was that people who said they used TNG almost invariably followed up with "and love it".

So, was born. I've spent the last week or two playing with a little customisation, nothing too tricky, and trying to streamline the process of data transfer from my desktop program onto the site. I've also set things up so that a little custom "T" icon will appear in the web address box or on tabs. I put one on this blog, too, now that I know how to do it. 

CSS and GEDCOM and favicons, oh my!  

Now I have started letting a few family members in, and the reaction so far has been great. It's still a work in progress. The next step is to start getting more documents and photos up, more relatives in, and to continue checking through my note fields for anything that I would prefer wasn't in a more public forum that my desktop software.

At present, the site is available to registered users only. I want to get more feedback from family members who may contribute information on their preferences before I (perhaps) throw the gates open. I could arrange a peek inside for people known to me who are curious - drop me a line if that's you.

So yes, it's more for me to do, but I think I'm going to love it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Piano

I am lucky enough to have access to a real family history treasure chest. Over coming weeks I plan on sharing its contents with you as I rediscover what's inside.
I definately under-appreciated this document when I first explored the box. I'm not sure I even remember seeing it before at all. It's a guarantee on my great-grandfather, Arthur Milne Lee's, piano! 

Guarantee on a piano, Allen and Co Pty Ltd, made out to Arthur M Lee, 31 July 1931

The most obvious thing I learned from re-examination of this document is... they had a piano. The Zenker and Schultes Piano No. 3455, to be precise. Another thing that I noticed is that they called their house in Rugby Road, "Yarilla". This is new information for me. Although I've had access to this document for 20+ years, I haven't entered the house name "Yarilla" in my database until now.

The warranty document also tells me that they appreciated a bargain! How do I know this? With a quick search on the National Library of Australia's wonderful Trove website I found this advertisement published earlier in the same month:

The Argus, 8 July 1931, p18
via the National Library of Australia Australian Newspaper website, here.

It certainly looks like the piano was on sale when they bought it!

I wonder whatever became of that piano?

Are you related to this family?  
Sure, you could grab the images and run, but it would be much nicer if you got in touch. Please contact me at the email address on the about page, or leave a comment!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How I made the new banner, step by step

Greta Koehl at Greta's Genealogy Bog asked me how I made the new banner on this blog.

Here's what I did, step by step. Let me know if you follow these steps to create something similar! But not too similar, cos this is my look now, OK?

Step by step
First I found a font that suited me. It took a bit of searching, but eventually I hit gold at My starting point in Photoshop Elements looked like this:

It was a bit lightweight for what I had in mind, so I made the text bold. I also wanted more dimension to the text, so I used layer styles to add a bevel to the layer and a thin stroke outline in black.

Next I added a pattern adjustment layer and picked a nice woodgrain pattern. I set the layer to 'overlay' and used the text layer as a clipping mask. That made a big difference because it meant that the pattern applied only to the raised bit, not the stroke.

I wasn't happy with the colour so added a brown colour fill adjustment layer to the clipping group - again I liked the look of the 'overlay' setting the best. Then a green colour adjustment layer and I used the layer mask to pick out the leaves. I've just upgraded to Photoshop Elements 9 which has layer masks included - woohoo! - but there are plenty of plugins around that add the feature to earlier versions.

My layers palette looked like this:

And the final product (in case anyone reads this in the future and I have changed the design again) looked like this:
Ta da!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A new look for Twigs of Yore

I've just updated the look of my blog.

I used Blogger's template designer and customised it until it was somewhere near what I had in mind. I didn't quite get there, but I think I can live with most of the compromises I made. The only one that really annoys me is the faint border around each image. If someone could tell me how to get rid of that, it would be much appreciated.

I've tried to keep the elements I liked and had good feedback on with the previous design - a clean style with the text easily readable (larger, serif font), and not too much clutter.

The biggest change is the banner. I'm rather pleased with it, if I do say so myself.

What do you think?!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Marriage Certificates

I am lucky enough to have access to a real family history treasure chest. Over coming weeks I plan on sharing its contents with you as I rediscover what's inside.
Although I was not experienced in genealogy when I first explored the box, I could definately appreciate the genealogical value of the original marriage certificates inside. As well as my grandparent's own marriage certificate, the box contained marriage certificates for two sets of my great-grandparents. I'm sure there are plenty of people who wish they could have that sort of head start! Don't worry, information on my other branches was much more sparse!

I think that what I didn't appreciate, until now, is the feeling of holding in your own hands an original document that your long-gone ancestors had held before you. Although I love the ability to download digital images of all sorts of things, it's not quite the same as seeing the documents 'in person'.

I've scanned these before, but at a time when computer storage space was at a premium. Now that storage is a bit cheaper, I'm rescanning them in colour to try to capture some of the feeling of the originals, for any family members who want to see them.

Here is the marriage certificate of Arthur Stannus and May Black, in 1908. 
Marriage certificate of Arthur Stannus and May Black, Victoria, Australia, 1908
And the other for Arthur Milne Lee and Jessie Isabella Couper, a little earlier, in 1904.
Marriage certificate of Arthur Milne Lee and Jessie Isabella Couper, Victoria, Australia, 1904

Are you related to these families?  
Sure, you could grab the images and run, but it would be much nicer if you got in touch. Please contact me at the email address on the about page, or leave a comment!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Using newspaper images from Trove

Copyright is a concern when publishing information on the web, or anywhere for that matter.

Users of the National Library of Australia's Australian Newspapers website may be interested to know that the Library says "Yes it is OK to do[sic] use the images on Wikipedia and other websites". They suggest that the item be sourced with the persistant identifier (a special link to the article located on the left of the page).

Details here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Real Treasure Chest

Pictured above is my treasure chest. A slightly beaten up metal box. I collected it from my Dad's house today and have to take it back once I'm finished with it, lest I'm accused by my siblings of heirloom snatching!

My four year old son was very interested in my treasure chest... at first. He was not so impressed when I let him look inside and he discovered that it was "just paper". That's not treasure at all in the eyes of a four year old.

I have a slightly different view. 

This box holds my maternal grandparents' family papers. It contains all sorts of odds and ends relating to the family over the last 100 years. It's been many years since I looked in this box, and I am sure I failed to appreciate the value of at least some of the items inside. I intend to share my finds over coming Thursdays as I rediscover the contents of my treasure chest!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

They got me

Who got me? Ancestry. At long last, I've taken out an annual subscription. I'm now on the UK Heritage Plus package.

In the past, when I've wanted to use Ancestry's databases, I've gone to the library or a couple of times a year I've taken what I think of as a 'hit and run' membership... join on a monthly plan, download all I can for a month, then cancel! I'm still catching up on the data entry from an electoral roll download binge in 2007.

Over time, the number of collections of use to me has increased until finally, I've succumbed. No more 'hit and run' memberships for me, at least not in the next year. The major draw cards are the (horribly transcribed) UK census collection, the Australian birth, death and marriage indexes (even with the flaws identified by Geniaus), Victoria Australia passenger records (thanks to Rachel for telling me how to access the images), Australian electoral rolls, London Parish Records, and most recently the England and Wales National Probate Calendar.

While some of these are available elsewhere online and usually with better transcriptions, they are on pay per view sites, or don't include images. I'm sure that other collections that will be of interest to me when I take my time and have a closer look.

Already, I can tell that the way I use Ancestry has changed. I've had a few good finds that I probably wouldn't have made if I was under time pressure to get all the information I could download in a month.

Any suggestions as to what, on Ancestry, an Australian whose ancestors mostly arrived from the UK in the 1850s, give or take, should take a closer look at?!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Spring has sprung!

Spring has sprung, and the wattle is in bloom.

It's starting to look a lot like spring here in Canberra. Our back fence is topped by a bright display of wattle from our neighbour's yard. 

I'm not sure that we are completely clear of winter illnesses, but I'm certainly hoping we are!

More soon...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Winter chills

It's been a long winter. Canberra winters are known for their chill and this year has been no exception. My family has suffered repeated (or constant? It's getting hard to tell the difference) respiratory infections. While no-one has been at death's door, caring for a sick toddler while I've been ill myself has been draining.

Hence, I've been a bit quiet on the blog (and Twitter) lately.

Now that it's mid-August, the end of winter is in sight! I hope to resume normal service shortly.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's my Blogiversary!

One year ago today I started this blog.

Happy Blogiversary, "Twigs of Yore"!

My stated intention was to write up bits of my research in order to practice writing and to actually get some of my hard work written up. In my next blog post, Chasing a BLACK sheep, I wrote up the story of my great-great-grandfather, James Black's death. After that... there was not so much writing up. Instead, I mostly wrote about whatever (connected with genealogy) I was doing or thinking about at the time.

The only other post that I consider to be a written up family story was An Elderly Woman's Sudden Death which described the death of James Black's wife, my great-great grandmother, Frances Gertrude Lewis. I was quite pleased with that one. I think in many ways it's my favourite post for the year.

So much for my stated intention.

I wondered when I started blogging if I would keep it up. So far so good! Over the last year I've published 56 posts, or just over one a week on average.

Along the way I've made discoveries, played with photos, joined in memes, done a little study, reorganised my files, raved about the Australian Newspapers collection on Trove, and started reading many, many more genealogy blogs than I used to.

I have found that there have been two main unexpected benefits of writing this blog.

The first is the motivation it provides to keep doing the research, and to do it properly. I find it very easy to lose focus and just muck around with my database or poke around in some data collection, without making real progress. Writing the blog has helped me to keep on track, to think through the next step more carefully, and where possible to actually take it. After all, I need something to write about and week after week of "didn't do much, just mucked around" would have been a bit embarrassing.

The other benefit is the interaction with other bloggers. This is a benefit I had read about before I started. To my surprise, all the things that people have said about there being a friendly helpful community of geneabloggers out there were true.

So, thank you to all who have visited my blog over the past year, and I hope to "see" you again through the next year!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Maintaining contact with other researchers

In the course of genealogy research, we (hopefully!) get in touch with other people interested in our families.

Once the initial exchange of information has occurred, maintaining that contact can be hard. Like any relationship, you have to work at it. If neither of you are actively researching that family at the time, there's not much to write about. Weeks become months, months become years, and email addresses change. Fortunately I have not yet written to someone after a break only to discover that they have passed away.

The other complexity when several people are interested in the same family is that some are in touch with each other, others aren't, and what with half-siblings their interests don't overlap by much. Writing to every one of them separately when you find some new information, or there is something you want to ask, is time consuming and could bother people whose interest isn't quite as strong as yours.

Then, there are the people that you can't give your full attention to at the time when they contact you. Guess what - if you put information on the Internet, it doesn't automatically drop to the bottom of search results when you are busy. People just keep on finding it!

A few years ago I had a steady trickle of contacts from other researchers interested in my Stannus family. At the same time, I was starting my own family. I didn't have the time to communicate with them as I would have liked. I felt bad that my shifting priorities meant that someone could be missing out on information I had, and just as worried that I might miss out on getting a copy of something fabulous!

My solution was to create a Yahoo! Group. If you are not familiar with such creatures, they function like a mailing list with an archive, but also have space for file uploads (a pitiful 100MB) and photos (a plentiful 100GB) and a few other features, and they're free. I set the group up so that it's listed in the Yahoo! Groups directory, but the contents can be viewed only by group members. Any new members must have my approval to join. Messages and file uploads are not moderated, but they could be if there was any problem.

I invited my Stannus family contacts (they refer to themselves collectively as Stannii) to join the group and was pleased when most of them accepted. The group currently has eight members located in four(?) different countries.

It may be an old-fashioned solution compared to some of the possibilities on the web today - there are no genealogy specific features - but I'm very pleased with how it has worked.

It's not a busy group. New messages and posted material are infrequent. But, every so often, someone has a spurt of activity... and then someone else will think to contribute one or two more items... and over time the resources we have shared are building up. There are now 55 images of family photos, headstones, paintings, and locations that most of us may otherwise have never seen. One member of the group has been particularly fortunate in the material passed down to her through the generations, and generous in sharing, so special thanks to her if she happens to read this!

How do you maintain contact with other researchers?

Are you a Stannus family researcher? Please contact me at the email address on the about page so we can work out if we're connected!

Friday, July 9, 2010

What I Do

Thomas MacEntree at Geneabloggers has started up a new meme where you list the technology you use for genealogy.

Here's my "What I Do":

  • Hardware:  3.5 year old AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5200+ 2613 Mhz 2GB RAM; ancient Dell Inspiron laptop; Asus EEE Netbook.  Considering an upgrade to my desktop system as it's starting to crash now that I'm putting heavier photo editing demands on it.
  • External storage:  CDs and DVDs; External hard drive
  • Online storage:  Dropbox (free) which I have synced to all the computers mentioned above and my iPhone.
  • Backup:  Dropbox; DVDs; External hard drive. Oh yes, and hard copy. Not that I'd want to start re-entering.
  • Firewall:  Yes I do thanks
  • Virus protection:  Yes I do thanks
  • Spyware:  I hope not! I have antispyware software.
  • Printer:  Canon Pixma MP470 all-in-one. I'm considering if I want a flashy flatbed scanner, as I'm really enjoying learning to do photo restoration.
  • Phone:  Landline and iPhone
  • Mobile media:  iPhone
  • Music player:   iPhone
  • Car audio:  Ummm... the radio and CD player that came with the car... nothing special... can't say I use it for genealogy
  • eBook Reader:  Don't use one
  • Browser:  Firefox (and Safari on iPhone)
  • Blog:  Blogger
  • RSS:  Google reader
  • FTP: -
  • Text editor:  Microsoft Word 2002. I'll upgrade from 2002 at home when they upgrade from 2003 at work. I can't change what they have at work, so I'd rather not know what might be possible with more recent software. The computers at work are frustrating enough as it is! I also have OpenOffice.
  • Graphics:  Photoshop Elements 7 + Grants Tools (and a few other plug-ins). It occurs to me that when my son starts school he'll be eligible for student pricing. That takes the price of Photoshop CS5 from over $1000 to under $200 (Australian). Very tempting...
  • Screen capture:  Vista's built-in snipping tool, which I only stumbled on by accident. Type "snipping tool" into the search box on the Start menu to find it.
  • Social bookmarking:  Diigo (free), but I'm not using it socially.
  • Social profile: -
  • URL shortener: -
  • Office suite:  Microsoft Office Professional 2002. I also have OpenOffice (free).
  • E-mail:  Via my ISP; hotmail; gmail
  • Calendar:  Calengoo on my iPhone, which syncs with Google calendar
  • Accounting:  Had an excel spreadsheet but then I saw how much I was spending on genealogy so I stopped using it. 
  • PDF generator:  CutePDF, but it usually fails when creating larger genealogy charts. I guess you get what you pay for. Haven't got around to looking for other options. I'll take note of what others say in their meme submissions.
  • Genealogy tools:  Gensmarts - in particular the "customise records" feature when I've found a new resource.
  • Other tech stuff:  iPhone - for all the amazing non-phone things it can do! Roboform to manage all those passwords. Toodledo on the iPhone for my to-do list (free, also accessible by web). Starting to use Evernote (free - desktop and iPhone versions) for note taking and research planning. Wacom pen tablet for photo editing. Yahoo! groups which deserves a post of its own to tell you about what I've done there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Drawing on other disciplines

Think of your family as a disease. They infect web pages and database records.

Think of individually opening and inspecting all those web pages and database records as a gold standard diagnostic test. The test is great, but you can't check every single page and record, can you?

What you need is a screening test to pick out the most likely candidates. You can administer the test via a search engine or the database search tools. Your job is to come up with the most appropriate screening test. One that identifies as many cases of the disease as possible, without overloading you with pages that have similar but unrelated symptoms (or family names!).

In medicine, the ability of a screening test to pick up all true cases is called its sensitivity, and it's ability to pick up only true cases is its specificity.

So how can this help us when we are looking for records relating to our family?

Ideally, a medical screening test should be both sensitive and specific - that is it should pick up all true cases, and not too much else. You don't want anyone with the disease to go undiagnosed, but you don't want to subject healthy people to diagnostic tests that may be uncomfortable, embarrassing, or even dangerous. Unfortunately, in a screening test there is always a trade-off between sensitivity and specificity. Otherwise it wouldn't be a screening test, it would be the diagnosis!

The same ideas apply when coming up with search terms to find your family. It's useful to remember that trade-off, and to think about the result you want to achieve.

I started thinking along these lines as I was testing out search terms for use in google alerts last week. Having blogged about a find I made while doing so, I was asked in the chat session for a course I'm doing about how I was setting up my searches. As I blathered on (I fear I did blather) part of my mind was thinking how much easier it would be to properly describe what I was doing, if only I could talk about what I was hoping to achieve in terms of the sensitivity and specificity of my search results.

Now I can.

So... I was trying out google searches for suitability as google alerts. If you are going to create a screening test, you need to know WHY you are screening. What do you hope to find? What are the repercussions if you don't identify every single case?

My reason for creating the alerts is to see new material about my family, even though I may not be actively researching that part of the tree. The impact of missing relevant pages through the alerts is low. I'm likely to come across them when I get around to researching that part of the family. I don't want to wade through irrelevant results each day, and I don't mind creating lots and lot and lots of alerts.

In other words, I'm more concerned about the specificity of my search results than the sensitivity. It would be different if I was looking for my family in a census. I would be much more concerned about finding every relevant record and may have to sacrifice specificity in order to pick up spelling and transcription variations. Fortunately, in genealogy unlike medicine you can usually run lots of population screening tests!

How does this help?

Knowing why you are doing a search makes all the difference to knowing what search terms will get you a good result. I knew that from my starting point of a search on "couper", I wanted a big increase in specificity but didn't mind if I lost sensitivity.

Google these days seems to search on word variations for you, even without using "~" in front of a word. If I had wanted to increase the sensitivity of my test I could ask google to search on multiple names using | between words, which acts as "or". That is, "Couper|Cooper|Coupar|Cowper" will give me 100 million plus results, compared to 5.8 million with "Couper" alone.

There are plenty of ways I can increase specificity of the search. Any additional information on the family might do the trick. The more unique to the family, and the more likely to be mentioned when discussing the family, the better.

Some ideas are place names, street addresses, family member's first names, occupations, employers, year ranges (use ".." for the date range that should appear on the page eg "1850..1935".) All these things can be used to increase the specificity of the search. "Genealogy" or "~genealogy" will also help narrow the results down.

When I searched on Couper and the place name Oakleigh, about 1 million results were returned, with a relevant result that I would want appear in alerts on the front page. I also see that google has added in variations for "couper", giving me an unwanted increase in sensitivity. Suddenly, Oakleigh looks like the place to buy and sell "Mini Cooper S coupe"s which isn't my interest at all!

"+Couper Oakleigh" looks better, and "+Couper Oakleigh ~genealogy" even better again. Just a pity that so many of the results are me, one way or another!

So far I have only set up half a dozen alerts, but google will allow me 1000.

Do you draw on ideas from other fields? 

Note: In case you are wondering, I don't have any medical qualifications, but I do have a post-graduate qualification in Public Health.

Friday, June 18, 2010

First known burial in Oakleigh General Cemetery

I just found out that a plaque has been placed, commemorating the first known burial in Oakleigh General Cemetery. The person named, Christina Couper, was seven years old when she died in 1860, and happens to be my great-grand-aunt. Here's the media release. The release also mentions a booklet about the cemetery.

I've previously posted some pictures of the memorial park, on a Tombstone Tuesday post for Christina's nephew who was tragically killed when his horse bolted.

So, there are a few more to-do items for me. Get a photo of the plaque, and get a copy of that booklet!

I found the post when I was testing out search terms to set up a few more Google alerts. Looks like that search worked!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Another spur of the moment student

I was reading Geniaus' post, spur of the moment student, about how she signed up for a National Institute for Genealogical Studies course on "Australian and NZ Research".

Like Geniaus, I've been thinking for some time that I'd like to do some sort of genealogy study. I'm not sure how anything too formal would fit into my life at the moment though. It's hard for me to get time. So, the idea of a short course with little pressure, not too pricey, and specific to my research interests was very tempting...

So tempting, that I signed up too!

Friday, June 4, 2010

In defence of my honour!

Yesterday I read Tamura Jones' article about the MyHeritage Awards fiasco. I must say, I felt a little... besmirched.

For the record:
I am on that list and I received, and replied to, an email from MyHeritage prior to the list being published.

The email from MyHeritage included the following statement:
We were hoping to simply list you among the winners on our website, and to offer you a html badge to display on your website. There's no pressure with this, so if you don't want to have a badge on your site then you don't have to do that.
My interpretation of the message was that I could choose to participate or not. If I chose to participate, then they would send me a badge which I could choose to display, or not. There was no obligation. It was unclear if you had to reply to be included.

I did think it odd that they would send the email. Why not just issue the awards? Why seek permission to say you liked what someone was doing?

The thought crossed my mind that (although the message read very much like a form letter) I may have been contacted in advance because I had an email exchange with MyHeritage last November, initiated by them. They asked me what I thought of their site. Initally I ignored the message but they asked again - so I told them. I expressed some serious concerns arising from an incident a few years ago. I won't go into those concerns as in that November correspondence I felt that they took me seriously, looked into all that I said, and provided a plausible and possibly even reasonable explanation of what had happened.

After some thought, I replied and said that they could list me and send the badge code, but I may not display it.

When the list was published many of my favourites were included.Quite a few of them reacted with surprise at being listed. I don't doubt them. I wonder how widespread those emails actually were? It all seemed like a bit of fun, so long as you didn't take the name too seriously. My 'acceptance speech' post was intended to reflect that view. I decided to put up the badge for a while on the basis that, cynical marketing exercise or not, I thought there were many great blogs on the list. I've taken it down now that I've learnt what it may do to my reputation!

Can anyone recommend a good tarnish remover for the corners of my blog? ;-)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Data entry tally - June 2010

Back in February I described my backlog of 190 electronic files to process and enter into my database. To make myself actually enter all that data, I was going to report back regularly on my progress. So far I've only reported back once, but I have been diligently checking and recording my progress on the first of each month.

Today, the total number of files left to process is... (drum roll)... 225.


It just keeps getting bigger! On the other hand, the source list in my database is definately getting longer. I am entering a lot of data, but am accumulating information even more quickly! Better luck next month...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Night Genealogy Fun - Relationship Calculator

Every Saturday night Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings offers up a "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" challenge. Although it's Saturday night in Randy's time zone, it's already Sunday morning when the post is published here. As I don't get a chance to sit and blog until the evening, this is my Sunday Night Genealogy Fun!

The challenge this week is:

Genea-Musings: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun- your Relationship Calculator:

1) Open up the genealogy software program of your choice.

2) Think about two special people in your family tree (your parents? your spouse? a famous person? a distant cousin? yourself?).

3) Use the Relationship Calculator in the software to determine the relationship between the two special people. If you don't know where to find the Relationship Calculator, go to the Help button and find out. Follow the directions!

4) Tell us about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a comment to this post on my blog, or in a Note or comment on Facebook.

1) Yes, OK, software open. Genbox, if you're interested.

2) There are many special people in my tree, most of whom don't happen to be famous. I'm going to look at not one but a few, carefully selected cases:
a) The Australian author, Frank Hardy (Wikipedia entry).
b) A lady by the name of Agnes Carrey (c1824 - 1907).
c) Five people whose burials in Oakleigh Cemetery were authorised by my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Miller Couper.
3) The relationship calculator is easy to find. It's located in the Tools menu and is called "Relationship Calculator".

There are boxes for "First Person" and "Second Person". The boxes use predictive text, so as you start typing a name the rest of the name appears. If the name is too long, or too common, you can access a search box by double clicking. Beneath that there is a box called relationship which describes the relationship in general terms (father, brother etc) and a box called linkages that names the key individuals eg. the shared ancestor.

Using the Relationship Calculator I determined that:
a) Frank Hardy does not share a direct bloodline with me. He was the husband of my first cousin twice removed.  
b) Agnes Carrey is my first cousin five times removed. As she married her first cousin, she is also the wife of my third great-granduncle. Both relationships are listed.
c) The relationships of each of those five people to my great-great-grandfather were father-in-law, wife of father of wife, nephew, nephew of wife, and first cousin.
Genbox will only take descriptions without a direct bloodline so far, which is just as well as even "wife of father of wife" (father-in-law's second wife is another way of putting it) makes my head spin.

The other tool in Genbox to help you work out the relationship between people is the convergent chart. Like the relationship calculator, it gives you the option to plot only direct bloodlines, or any relationship. This was the feature that sold me on Genbox, years ago. When I trialled it, I was able for the first time to create a chart which showed the relationships in case c) above. Fantastic! I finally understood what was going on!

Unfortunately, the latest version (which hasn't been updated in quite some time, but I AM holding my breath for version 4!) seems to have developed a bug in the convergent chart when there are more than two or three people. Instead I was able to reproduce my result this evening by using one of the other chart types, limiting the scope to one or two generations from my key individuals, trimming off the extra people and right clicking to "reorganise chart". 

Chart: A visual representation of the relationships between Daniel Miller Couper, and the five people whose burials in Oakleigh Cemetery he authorised. Created using Genbox.

I could go on for hours about the unique features of Genbox that you mightn't see straight away (it can include source citations on charts!!!) but will save that for when version 4 finally comes out, whenever that may be.

4) See above.

That's my weekend over. Enjoy whatever is left of yours!

Update: I just noticed that the order of marriages in the chart for Caroline Jones is wrong. John Allsop should be the second marriage. The error was mine, I've fixed it in my database now.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Newspaper clipping puzzle solved

The puzzle
Back in January I found a clue to a mystery that although minor, had been puzzling me for some time. The mystery was the connection of a young man, mentioned in a newspaper death notice among my grandfather's papers, to my family. The young man had accidentally drowned overseas in the late 1970s.

Why did I think there was a connection? Well, most obviously because the clipping was kept with family papers. It also mentioned that the young man had a grandparent known as "Couper" - which is one of my family names.

My apologies for being a little coy about naming names here. I have decided not to name the people, as some family members close to the deceased man may still be alive.

The clue
The clue I stumbled across was the burial place of the young man. It appears his body was returned home to Australia for burial, as he was buried in the same plot as one of my great-granduncles. Also in the plot was the relatively recent burial of a woman whose first name was a variation on the mother's name from the death notice and surname matched the son's surname. Always check who else is in the plot!!

It looked very much as though my great-granduncle was the "Couper" mentioned, the woman was his daughter and the young man his grandson. It all looked very promising, but I wanted a bit more certainty before I entered anything into my database.

The search
The dates were too recent for birth and marriage information (births and marriages in Victoria are currently only available up to 1908 and 1942 respectively). I had an subscription at the time so I checked out the Australian electoral rolls. I was hoping to find the mother living in her parent's house before marriage, then disappearing and neatly turning up in her husband's house with a new surname.

I didn't get quite what I had hoped for. I did find the couple, but when they first appeared on the electoral roll they already shared a surname and were living in her (supposed) parent's house. This was completely consistent with my theory. The only trouble was that all it really showed was that the couple seemed to have a close relationship with my great-granduncle.

I put the puzzle to the side for the time being.

The solution
A few days ago I finally found something that gave me the confidence to enter the relationships into my database. Like so much of the information I have found lately, it was thanks to the wonders of Trove! More years of newspapers have come on line since January. Enough years, that I found a marriage notice. It gave full names and parents for both partners and even had a photo of the happy couple!

If you haven't tried Trove, I encourage you to give it a shot, even if you're not Australian! So that there can be no excuses, here's the search box...

Let me know if you find anything!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My genealogy filing system - Part 3 - The decision

The decision is in. I am going to change my filing system.

I hope that this will prove to be a good decision, and not one that just comes from wanting something to do while I wait (im)patiently for some documents I've ordered! I think that it will be good. I have thought it through. As I mentioned in my earlier post, now is a good time to do it because I need to do some routine maintenance anyway.

My new system will work something like this...

Filing system
  • Documents will be filed according to family groups, sorted on the male surnames. This will hopefully minimise the need for duplication of documents.
  • I will file a person's records from birth up to (but not including) when they married/partnered, with their parent's family group. I will have some decisions to make about where to file information on people who eg lived a long and busy life but never partnered up with anyone. A person's records will include both documents I've found and my notes on searches undertaken, analysis and conclusions etc.
  • I will have a separate folder(s) for information on places, maybe occupations, or other information that could relate to many families.
  • I may also set up a separate folder for a few surnames where I have a lot of information on families that may not be related, or only distantly related.
  • I will also keep a folder for organisational information. eg expense tracking, database subscriptions, filing system details... !
Physical setup
  • Original copies - I will leave where they are in archival storage containers. No point moving these around if I don't have to, and I don't have so many original copies of documents that I wouldn't be able to find things.
  • Working copies - I will continue to use lever arch folders, but upgrade to more rigid ones. My pretty metallic purple ones looked lovely on the shelf at first, but quickly sagged under the weight of their contents.
  • Copies to be kept in copy safe sheet protectors.
  • I have found some extra wide tabbed dividers. Each surname will have one. Family groups will be marked out within the surname by an initial coloured sheet protector with summary information - as described below.
Colour coding
Family groups will be colour coded as follows.
  • No blood connection to me - blue
  • Blood connection (either partner) - green
  • Ancestor (either partner) - red
The first page for each family will be a sheet protector with a coloured strip down the side, with a printout of summary information on the family from my database. That printout will not be family group sheets. Instead, I am going to create a simple chart for each family. My genealogy software (Genbox) allows me to pick and choose what types of events to show on the chart, and to colour code names. It can include source citations on the chart output. So, I will be able to see all the same information as included on a family group sheet but in a format that I find easier to take in. I can put up an example of the output, if anyone is interested.

In addition, yellow in the surname folders will be for information that relates to all of that surname - such as information on the surname's origin, unproved connections, or whatever else I haven't thought of.

Hard drive organisation

Will mirror the system above of surnames and sub folders. Files will be named according to the following convention:


  • Date = year followed by month and day, if appropriate. eg today would be 20100518. The folder will then sort by date.
  • Event type = type of event the document primarily relates to. I will borrow GEDCOM tags for this where possible. eg BIRT, MARR, DEAT.
  • Document type = eg letter, image, transcript, register entry, newspaper clipping.... I will have to devise my own list of abbreviations to keep these a bit shorter. If anyone can direct me to such a list that would be appreciated.
  • Detail = citation details if relevant depending on the source. Could be an archive file number, page reference...
  • Description = a few words, if the file name isn't getting too long.
  • SourceID = S followed by the source number allocated by my software. So at least I can search for that if my system doesn't work as planned!! If there are documents that I haven't entered into the database, for whatever reason, I will see that from the file name and will be able to search for that type of file.
  • FamilyID = F followed by the ID number for the family allocated by my software. As a proxy for a name reference supposing that I often won't have enough space for that in details.
This seems to work quite well with the few test documents I've tried out. Mostly the file names are around 50 characters in length. Again, there are dozens of exceptions that I can think of but I will just have to work my way through those as I get to them.

Wow, I feel more organised already, and I've barely begun to set everything up!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Surname Saturday: Tregoning - Gwennap, Cornwall to Victoria

Surname Saturday is a daily blogging theme suggested on the geneabloggers site. I intend to use my Surname Saturday posts to highlight, briefly, each of my male great-great-grandparents and their families. All information presented should be considered a work in progress, requiring further research and verification.

William Tregoning

The surname Tregoning (or sometimes, Tregonning) is strongly associated with Cornwall. In 1841, 384 of the 400+ Tregonings in the England census were enumerated in Cornwall. Of these, 92 were in the civil parish of Gwennap.*

William Tregoning was among them. In 1841 he was 15 years old and like so many others living in Gwennap he was working as a copper miner. He lived in a household with his parents, John and Mary, and twelve other young Tregonings. I'm still in the process of confirming that they were all his siblings, but so far it appears the family had a remarkable infant survival rate.

William married Elizabeth Martin, the daughter of a stonemason, in May 1848 and later that year they had a son, William Henry Tregoning.

William, Elizabeth and their son remained in Gwennap long enough to be enumerated in the 1851 census, but only by a few months. In September they arrived in South Australia. I only recently found a transcription of the shipping record, and have yet to look up the original passenger list myself, or to try and learn more about their time in South Australia.

What I do know is that their stay in South Australia was not long. By 1855 they were living in Amherst, Victoria, looking for gold. Life could not have been easy. Three of their five children died young, and Elizabeth herself died in childbirth in 1860. My great-grandmother, also named Elizabeth, was just two years old when her mother passed away.

William remarried quickly. His new wife was another Elizabeth - Elizabeth Hill. The couple had one daughter, Mary Ellen Tregoning. The family remained in the Victorian goldfields area (Avoca), taking up farming. Elizabeth passed away in 1878, and William in 1887.

* Total census counts were taken from FindMyPast on 30 April 2010. Cornwall and Gwennap census counts were taken from FreeCEN. FreeCEN claims 100% coverage for Cornwall in 1841.

Please get in touch with me if you are connected to this family!