Blog post

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas is the season for lending

Most years I try to make a charitable donation at Christmas. This year I’ve done something a little different. I’ve made a small loan to help a group of Kenyans obtain low-cost seeds and training that will move them beyond subsistence farming. When the loan is repaid I will be able to redirect it to help others.

I made the loan via the Genealogists for Families team on Kiva. Kiva is a not-for-profit lending platform aimed at alleviating poverty. The Genealogists for Families team was started by Judy Webster because “we care about families (past, present and future)”. You can read more about the team here.

Please join us!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two hours in the library

AMHERST HOSPITAL FETE, 1871. (1871, December 4). Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875), p. 219. Retrieved December 21, 2011, from

I had today off work and was without my children for most of the day. This close to Christmas there’s a lot I could or should have been doing…. but instead I made a flying visit to the National Library of Australia. I try to keep note of things I want to check or refer to at the library for when I have a chance to go there. I reviewed my notes and did a little preparation the night before. Although I only had two hours there I think I made good use of my limited time.

Last night I pre-ordered Amherst District Hospital 1859 to 1933 : the outcome of compassion by Bea. Brewster. It was waiting for me when I got to the library this morning. I wanted to find out more about conditions in the hospital where my ancestors had been treated. The sort of information I hoped to find was included in the book, although I haven’t had a chance to digest the material yet. 

One thing I did notice was that the publication included a drawing of the annual Amherst Hospital fete (1871) – a quick search of Trove turned up the cited article. The article claimed that the procession included almost 1,000 men, 300 of them mounted, dressed up in what sounds like a quite astonishing array of costumes. My great-grandfather (then aged 7) was treated in the hospital for an injury earlier that year – I wonder if he was at the fete?

I also checked my research plan* for finding James Bennett’s (1831-???) death. My last firm sighting of him was in 1883 – being checked out “cured” from Amherst Hospital, as it happens. I’ve also got a newspaper mention of him in 1896 when his wife died that I think indicates he was alive. She was referred to as “wife of” rather than “widow of”. I checked:

  • Victorian probate indexes beyond 1925 (up to 1925 is available online)
  • Victorian inquest indexes

No luck there, but at least now I know that I’ve looked. I was going to make my way through some local directories to see if I could find him and when he dropped out. I decided against attempting that this morning, as there was at least one other James Bennett living nearby and I wanted to collect more information to distinguish between them first.

I then turned my attention to two of my great-great grandparents whose burial place I knew from death records but I hadn’t ever checked for cemetery records. I found that the cemetery has a database online but I wondered if the microfiche at the library had more information. It didn’t, the information was exactly the same. Another case of well now I know.

The vast majority of my known relatives came to Victoria, but I was aware that early church records for New South Wales were available on microfilm at the library. Last night I checked my database for any early New South Wales birth deaths or marriages and found two that looked like good candidates. I’m not used to microfilm (on rolls). For some reason most of the records I’ve looked at have been on microfiche (flat sheets). I’m not sure if I could have kept going with genealogy if it was the other way around as the microfilm whizzing by made me feel quite nauseous! I worked out how the records were arranged and managed to find my target before I started feeling too woozy.

A little advance planning paid off. I think I got good value from my flying visit!


* “Research plan” is a bit glorified for a page with a few dot points but it did have the heading “Research plan” and (and this is important) I was able to find it when I wanted it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bad news–Victorian passenger list images no longer on Ancestry

I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings.

I recently found that I could no longer access images for passenger lists to Victoria, Australia on Ancestry. I asked Ancestry where these images had gone and was advised that "The images were placed on the site by mistake for a couple of days, and were removed afterward".

So, no more Victorian passenger list images.

The Ancestry indexes which remain give a little more information than the free indexes on the PROV website, but not much. Certainly not enough to show which people were travelling as a family group.

I'm not so sure about the "couple of days" claim... I think they may have a funny idea of what a "couple of days" means. I've often been taken to task for using the word "couple" when I mean anything other than two, but I've never used the word to describe a quantity greater than all my fingers and toes together…

The presence of these images was one of the deciding factors when I was considering whether to take out an Ancestry subscription for the first time in late 2010. It's frustrating to know that the digital images exist but I can't see them, even through a paid site. Very disappointing. I hope that whatever arrangements are needed can be worked out and they reappear somewhere soon.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bad smelling fat and putrid bones

My ancestor Daniel Miller Couper, a butcher, gives every impression of being a respectable citizen. Well, almost every impression.

I knew there was an 1887 newspaper article that discussed the offensive state of his butcher shop and slaughter yard as I had seen reference to it in a local history book. Sadly, the issue of the South Bourke and Mornington Journal I needed wasn’t available at the National Library of Australia.

The good news is that the State Library of Victoria has funded the addition of a number of Victorian titles to the Trove newspaper collection. Now I can access the newspapers I’ve been wanting, and they are a goldmine for me. Here is the text of the the article in question:

Shire Council Meetings
Oakleigh Shire Council

Thursday, December 1, 1887

“Received. From J. Colville, Secretary, Central Board of Health, forwarding copies of the following reports by an Inspector of the Board relative to butchers' premises at Oakleigh:--"1 Report of John Taylor, relative to D. Couper, butcher, Broadwood street, Oakleigh. Visited this day (24th November); accumulation of manure; two pig-styes with boarded floors in an offensive State; coppers and boiling sheds in an offensive state; accumulation of bad smelling fat, putrid bones and and generally in an offensive State." Slaughter yard about quarter of a mile from the shop; quantity of manure with blood and offal exposed in an offensive state

“In reference to Couper's case some improvements had been made, and he had reasons to believe that in a very short time the premises would be in a proper sanitary condition.-- Mr. Leonard moved that the local inspector draw up a report on both matters and forward same to the Central Board.-Seconded by Mr. Lavidge and carried.”

Source: Shire Council Meetings. (1887, December 7). South Bourke and Mornington Journal (Richmond, Vic. : 1872 - 1920), p. 3 Edition: WEEKLY.. Retrieved November 5, 2011, from

This sort of thing wasn’t so unusual. Other butchers were also pulled up for similar offences.

There is a lot more about the state of hygiene in the area in general, and I have some ideas brewing about research I want to do (so frustrated that I am at present an “internet-only” genie) and maybe even papers I want to write (not sure if that will ever happen)… but for now I am trying to be systematic about digging out all the relevant newspaper articles and putting together a timeline.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Australian Federal Electoral Rolls – revisited

iStock_000013655340XSmallBack in February 2010 I was making heavy use of the Australian Electoral Rolls on Ancestry. Until you have slogged through polling place after polling place on microfiche, I don’t think you can appreciate how wonderful it is to be able to type in a name and see the person you’re looking for pop up in not only an unexpected polling place, but a different electorate.

You kids today have it so easy…

Expanded coverage

My use of the electoral rolls is likely to pick up again (not that I have finished entering all the data I downloaded last time!) now that Ancestry have expanded their coverage of Australian Electoral Rolls all the way up to 1980.

There’s something a little eerie about having the electoral rolls go so far. It’s in my lifetime! Although I was still a long way off voting, I have found my parents on the roll and it’s funny knowing that I was part of that household.

How old to vote?

The expansion of Ancestry’s holdings to 1980 raised a question for me. In what year was the voting age in Australia lowered from 21 to 18?

Unfortunately, the metadata on Ancestry is very poor. Changes to voting requirements and eligibility over time are skimmed over with the years that changes occurred mentioned in only vague terms. They don’t mention the voting age at all!

Fortunately, this lack of information had bothered me enough in 2010 that I sought out the answers myself and wrote about it in this blog:

Australian Federal Electoral Rolls - part 1
Australian Federal Electoral Rolls - part 2

Part one provides a summary of the information and a link to the Australian Electoral Commission's Australian Electoral History page. Part two describes how I was using the electoral roll at the time.

Referring back to my earlier posts, I see that the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1973. This means that I could use the electoral rolls to narrow down the birth year of people who born up to about 1962, who would first appear on the roll as 18 year olds in 1980.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Ancestors' Geneameme

Geniaus is on a geneameme (her term) creating roll! I’m a bit late in joining this one as I only arrived home from a holiday on Saturday night.

She says:

“I invite anyone with an interest in genealogy to participate. If you don't have a blog and wish to participate you can send your responses to me in an email and I will pop them into a blog post on the GeniMates blog. Please let me know when you participate by a comment on this post or by email and I'll collate a list of responses on this blog.

“It would be appreciated if genealogists would let the meme run its course before copying and republishing it with alterations and amendments.”

Here’s my response:

The Ancestors' Geneameme

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item.

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors
    (About 100 for whom I have both a first and last name, with varying degrees of certainty)
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents
    (I would like to. I have photos for seven out of eight. If anyone has a photo that is or even might be James Henry French 1849-1915 who lived in the Avoca, Victoria region, please please please get in touch!)
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist
  6. Met all four of my grandparents
    (This is not possible as all of my grandparents are deceased. I met three of them. My paternal grandfather died before I was born)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents
    (Again, not possible, but I would have liked to!)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor
  9. Bear an ancestor's given name/s
    (I do bear an ancestral surname)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12. Have an ancestor from Continental Europe
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer
    (Probably – my neglected Irish ancestors are described as farmers)
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings
    (I think some of them did – I haven’t looked into those records yet) 
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man - minister, priest, rabbi
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginning with Z
  23. Have an ancestor born on 25th December
    (my great-great grandfather William Tregonning was baptised on 25 December 1825)
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year's Day
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines
    (Not that I know of. Someone once told me that my Carey ancestors descend from Anne Boleyn's sister. I’ve never bothered looking into it until about ten seconds ago when I Googled and found this. So there we have it – I descend from Henry VIII Smile with tongue out)
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
    (I have original marriage certificates of some of my great-grandparents so I’ve seen their actual signatures)
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university
    (No – I was the first generation to attend university)
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence
    (Not that I know of – but if I do I would like to know about it)
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime
  35. Have shared an ancestor's story online or in a magazine (Tell us where) (Bits and pieces on this blog)
  36. Have published a family history online or in print (Details please)
  37. Have visited an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries
  38. Still have an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family
  39. Have a  family bible from the 19th Century
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday–A life in pictures–Marjorie Lloyd Stannus

Marjorie Lloyd Stannus

Marjorie Lloyd Stannus (1911-1984)

Perhaps just a few words...

Marjorie Lloyd Stannus was my Nanna. She was warm and fun – Nanna and Pa were the grandparents who could be counted on to spoil us!

I think it fascinating to see a person represented across their life span. I have often thought about putting together a collage like the one above for some of my ancestors – but it seemed like too much work. Then I revisited Picasa and was impressed with how well the facial recognition did. All but the youngest baby photo were correctly identified by Picasa as belonging to the same person. I created the collage above using Picasa’s collage function – it took about a minute. I would like to do more “Life in Pictures” posts, but there will only be a few. In most cases I’m glad if I even have one photo of my relatives and ancestors.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Tech-Savvy Genealogist Meme–extended remix

Geniaus created The Tech-Savvy Genealogist Meme. She came up with 50 items.  John Newmark at the TransylvanianDutch blog expanded the list to 80 (items were renumbered), and also reworded two of her entries. His additions are marked by a (*).

The instructions are:

The list should be annotated in the following manner:

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Feel free to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad 
2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
*3. Use a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader for genealogy related purposes [My tablet functions as an e-reader]
4. Have used Skype or Google Video Chat to for genealogy purposes
5. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor's home
6. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree
*7. Use multiple genealogy software programs because they each have different functionalities.
8. Have a Twitter account
9. Tweet daily
10. Have a genealogy blog [This one]
11. Have more than one genealogy blog
12. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic
13. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise  [I’m a member but I’ve never really taken to it so I would not describe myself as an active member]
14. Have a Facebook Account
15. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook
16. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page
17. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society
18. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site [Love Trove!]
*19. Have added content to a Person Page on Fold3 (formerly Footnote)
20. Have registered a domain name []
21. Post regularly to Google+ [although not all that frequently]
*22. Have participated in a genealogy-related Google+ hangout
23. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers [This one]
*24. Have a blog listed on Cyndi's List
25. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project
*26. Have converted a family audiotape to digital [Don’t have any]
*27. Have converted a family videotape to digital [Don’t have any]
*28. Have converted family movies pre-dating videotape to digital [Don’t have any]
29. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner
30. Can code a webpage in .html
*31. Can code a webpage in .html using Notepad (or any other text-only software)
*32. Can write scripts for your webpage in at least one programming language
*33. Can write scripts for your webpage in multiple programming languages
34. Own a smartphone
35. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
*36. Have a local library card that offers you home access to online databases, and you use that access. [If the National Library of Australia counts as a local library… it is in the same city, after all.]

37. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures
38. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival
*39. Have hosted a genealogy blog carnival [Does the Australia day event count as a carnival or a meme?]
40. Use an Internet Browser that didn’t come installed on your computer
41. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
42. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
43. Have a personal genealogy website [Had my first genealogy web page 10 or so years ago, a free page hosted by Rootsweb. Now I have my own site at]
44. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive
45. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
*46. Have tweeted during a family reunion
47. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files [I’m well on the way but there are still too many gaps to claim I’ve scanned them all]
48. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs
49. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry [only Ancestry]
50. Own a netbook [it’s lying neglected now that I have a tablet]
51. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes

52. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit
53. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget
54. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
55. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening [That’s how I motivate myself to do the ironing! If Lisa Louise Cooke ever gives it up, my family will be getting about in crumpled clothes.]
56. Backup your files to a portable hard drive [But not as often as I should]
57. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite
58. Know about RootsTech
59. Have listened to a BlogTalk radio session about genealogy
60. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud
61. Schedule regular email backups [I should get on to this]
62. Have contributed to the FamilySearch Wiki
63. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs [Well on the way, but I have a better scanner now so I am redoing them]
64. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format
*65. Brought a USB device to a microfilm repository so you could download instead of print. [That’s so old school. I upload to Dropbox so they sync straight my home computer.]
*66. Have a wearable USB device containing important files. (Watch, keychain necklace, etc)
*67. Created a map on Google Maps plotting ancestral homes or businesses.
*68. Recorded the GPS coordinates for a tombstone, or ancestral home
*69. Edited the Wikipedia entry for an ancestor, or their kin
*70. Created an entry at FindAGrave for a person
*71. Created an entry at FindAGrave for a cemetery
*72. Uploaded the MediaWiki software (or TikiWiki, or PhpWiki) to your family website.
*73. Have downloaded a video (for genealogical purposes) from YouTube or other streaming video site using, or in some other fashion
*74. Have transferred a video from a DVR to your computer for genealogical purposes
*75. Have participated in a ScanFest
*76. Have started a Genealogy-related meme at least one other geneablogger participated in.
*77. Have started a Genealogy-related weekly blogging theme other geneabloggers participated in.
*78. Have used Photoshop (or other editing software) to ‘clean up’ an old family photo
*79. Done digital scrapbooking
*80. Printed out a satellite photo from Google Maps of a cemetery, and marked where a tombstone was located on it.

Thanks to Geniaus (and John) for a great meme!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten years ago today – remembering 9/11

Ten years ago today it was a beautiful, sunny day in Christchurch, New Zealand. I was nearing the end of a holiday with my sister and my fiancé. We had spent the previous fortnight travelling New Zealand in a hired car, finding our accommodation as we went along.

Two weeks wasn’t long enough to see even our limited itinerary and I didn’t want to waste a minute of our last days there. When I emerged from the shower ready to go and found my fiancé and sister glued to the television, I reacted with impatience.  My fiancé was a news junkie. I knew he had felt disconnected from the world on our trip, but seriously… what news could be so important that it held up our holiday?

Then I saw what had happened overnight in New York.

I have scheduled this post to coincide with the approximate time that I saw the news, on the morning of September 12, New Zealand time, several hours after the events had taken place. Ten years ago at this moment I was stunned. Like the rest of the world I was mesmerised and horrified by the news footage, not quite able to take it in.

We were outside of Australia, yet in a country where we felt very safe. Even news reports about the imminent failure of our airline hadn’t worried us (Ansett stopped flying the first time just three hours after we landed at home). We didn’t know anyone likely to be in New York, but we mourned the thousands. We watched the news for a while that morning but it was still the same limited footage repeating with no new information coming through. We spent the rest of the day quietly, exploring Christchurch.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in the USA when the planes hit, let alone in New York. The stories were heartbreaking.

I have written this post to mark the day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

99 Things Genealogy Meme – Aussie style

Geniaus has ‘dinkumised’ (see end of post for explanation*) the ‘99 Things Genealogy Meme’ that Kinexxions put together in 2009, and has thrown open the challenge to both Australian and foreign bloggers to join in.

It sounds like fun!

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Here is my contribution:

  1. Belong to a genealogical society.
  2. Joined the Australian Genealogists group on Genealogy Wise
  3. Transcribed records.
  4. Uploaded headstone pictures to Find-A-Grave or a similar site.
  5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents)
  6. Joined Facebook.
  7. Cleaned up a run-down cemetery.
  8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group.
  9. Attended a genealogy conference.
  10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.
  11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
  12. Joined the Society of Australian Genealogists.
  13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
  14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.
  15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.
  16. Talked to dead ancestors.
  17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
  18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants.
  19. Cold called a distant relative.
  20. Posted messages on a surname message board.
  21. Uploaded a gedcom file to the internet.
  22. Googled my name.
  23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness.
  24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.
  25. Have been paid to do genealogical research.
  26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research.
  27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.
  28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals.
  29. Responded to messages on a message board.
  30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion.
  31. Participated in a genealogy meme.
  32. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks, etc.).
  33. Performed a record lookup.
  34. Took a genealogy seminar cruise.
  35. Am convinced that a relative must have arrived here from outer space.
  36. Found a disturbing family secret.
  37. Told others about a disturbing family secret.
  38. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking).
  39. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby.
  40. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person.
  41. Taught someone else how to find their roots.
  42. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure.
  43. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology.
    (No! Bring it on!!)
  44. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.
    (We haven’t met in person though, does that count?)
  45. Disproved a family myth through research.
  46. Got a family member to let you copy photos.
  47. Used a digital camera to “copy” photos or records.
  48. Translated a record from a foreign language.
    (I found someone else to do it for me)
  49. Found an immigrant ancestor’s passenger arrival record.
  50. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer.
  51. Used microfiche.
  52. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. 
  53. Used Google+ for genealogy.
  54. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors.
  55. Taught a class in genealogy.
  56. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.
  57. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century.
  58. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century.
  59. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents.
  60. Found an ancestor on the Australian Electoral Rolls
  61. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer.
  62. Have found relevant articles on Trove.
  63. Own a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
  64. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research.
  65. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.
  66. Visited the National Library of Australia.
  67. Have an ancestor who came to Australia as a ten pound pom.
  68. Have an ancestor who fought at Gallipoli.
  69. Taken a photograph of an ancestor’s tombstone.
  70. Can read a church record in Latin.
  71. Have an ancestor who changed his/her name.
    (If I have an ancestor who changed their name I’d like to find them, but I don’t wish for an ancestor who changed their name)
  72. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list.
  73. Created a family website.
  74. Have a genealogy blog.
  75. Was overwhelmed by the amount of family information received from someone.
  76. Have broken through at least one brick wall.
  77. Done genealogy research at the War Memorial in Canberra.
    (Seems a bit silly that I haven’t since I live in the same city… but there you go…)
  78. Borrowed microfilm from the Family History Library through a local Family History Center.
    (Almost, I borrowed it through a local family history society. I don’t mind who I borrow it through, so long as I can borrow it)
  79. Found an ancestor in the Ryerson index.
    (No, but I have found relatives)
  80. Have visited the National Archives of Australia.
  81. Have an ancestor who served in the Boer War.
  82. Use maps in my genealogy research.
  83. Have a convict ancestor who was transported from the UK.
    (I don’t mind either way, so long as I have the proof)
  84. Found a bigamist amongst the ancestors.
  85. Visited the National Archives in Kew.
  86. Visited St. Catherine's House in London to find family records.
  87. Taken an online genealogy course.
  88. Consistently cite my sources.
    (You’re not going to check this, are you?)
  89. Visited a foreign country (i.e. one I don't live in) in search of ancestors.
  90. Can locate any document in my research files within a few minutes. (See 88)
  91. Have an ancestor who was married four times (or more).
  92. Made a rubbing of an ancestors gravestone.
    (That would be naughty)
  93. Followed genealogists on Twitter.
  94. Published a family history book (on one of my families).
  95. Learned of the death of a fairly close relative through research.
  96. Offended a family member with my research.
    (Not that I know of… perhaps I’m just insensitive…)
  97. Reunited someone with precious family photos or artifacts.
    (I hope she’s looking after it)
  98. Have a paid subscription to a genealogy database.
  99. Edited records on Trove.


* ‘dinkumised’ will immediately be understood by any dinkum Aussie to be derived from the word ‘dinkum’ - which the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1992 defines as a colloquial expression meaning ‘genuine, right’. Australian’s will further understand that the genuine or rightness referred to is most frequently used in reference to the Australian-ness of the item being described. So, when Geniaus says she has ‘dinkumised’ the list she means that she has made it genuinely Australian.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Changing genealogy software – how it’s going

I recently mentioned that I’m changing genealogy software. Three weeks on, I’m still happy that I made the right decision.

The most surprising thing to me has been feeling like a newbie! I’m used to being very proficient in the software I use – not expert, but better than average. I knew there would be a learning curve but I didn’t anticipate the newbie feeling that came with it. I’ve got a lot of clicking on menu items and trying things out to do!

The transfer itself was reasonably smooth. I found that 232 people had been detached from their parents on import. I think this was due to a flaw in the GEDCOM export for some (but not all?!) of the people in my old database. Fortunately I had an error listing which told me who the people affected were, and their parent families. It took me about 1.5 hours to link everyone up again. That was not how I wanted to spend my time, but not the end of the world, either.

That was the only unexpected hitch, and the most serious one. The other hitches were all expected…

My main challenges now include:

  • Deciding how to handle all the witnesses to other people’s events. Genbox had a “witness” feature, Family Historian doesn’t, so I will have to re-input that information… but how? For now I’m taking my time about it, reading up on forum posts and other internet discussion to see how people handle witnesses in software without “witness” features before I commit to an approach.
    Any comments on how others do this would be welcome.
  • Adding details back into the source information. In most cases all the critical information transferred, but there are a few instances – mostly references to BDM index entries – where the detail, such as it was, didn’t seem to come over.
  • Hooking up all my multimedia properly. This isn’t the fault of my software, I’ve obviously rearranged things without telling my database about it! Broken links are a bit more obvious in Family Historian and to some extent can be batch fixed. Again, I’m taking my time about this and trying things out before I rush in.
  • Correcting errors in my information. Again, these are clearly not the fault of my software. With a slightly different view I’m spotting little errors that, I guess, used to be like part of the furniture to me.

The best surprise about Family Historian is its amazing capacity to query your data. I knew that its querying was good when I bought it, but as I’ve played with it more I’ve been thrilled with its ability to set up complex queries that run in a flash. I’m also realising just how customisable many of its other features are.

So yes, there was a little pain but I think the gain has been worth it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Analysis of a second cousin DNA match

Recently, one of my known cousins took a DNA test with Family Tree DNA. He’s a half second cousin to me. We have a great-grandfather in common but descend from different wives. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the results and figuring out what they reveal.

Direct comparison

The DNA test came back as a match, showing us as predicted second cousins with a range of second to third cousins. Spot on. We have a total of 141 cM in common over 20 segments of shared DNA, with the longest block being 33 cM.

Here is FTDNA’s representation of where my known cousin and I are half identical (only half due to the other half of our DNA coming from the other parent). Our shared segments of DNA are marked in yellowy-orange. Only segments of at least 5 cM are shown in this view.


This tells me that half of those yellowy-orange areas of my DNA came to me from our shared great-grandfather.

I think that’s a pretty cool thing to know.

Matches in common

My cousin has confirmed our relationship as second cousins in Family Tree DNA, and I can now see who we match common. I have 63 matches in total on Family Tree DNA, three of whom also match my known cousin.

I can add our matches in common to the comparison. One match shares a segment of DNA in common with both myself and my known cousin. The other two must obviously match my known cousin elsewhere, and I assume that they match each other at the location shown, although it’s possible they don’t. I think it would be reasonable to pencil that location of my DNA in as (half) coming from my great-grandfather.


Our three matches in common are unfortunately predicted to be fairly distant cousins so I’m not optimistic that we will work out our connection. I do hope to contact each of them before too long and tell them which branch of my tree our common ancestor falls in, though. Perhaps I will be proved wrong. That would be good!

Matches not in common

Finally I looked at anyone who matched at the same location as my known cousin, but wasn’t a match in common with him.

Unfortunately the relevant segments for the people who met these conditions were quite small. I can’t draw the conclusion I had hoped to – that my common ancestor with these people is on my mother’s side. Because the segments are only small, they may be related to my known cousin but not meet FTDNA’s threshold for declaring someone a match.

Here’s an example of a comparison of my known cousin with another of my matches (who doesn’t match him) that almost shows what I was hoping to find. This time segments of 3cM and larger are showing, as this match didn’t share any segments of 5cM or more with my known cousin:


All in all, I think this new information has given me a few edge pieces of the DNA jigsaw puzzle.

Is there anything else I could have drawn from this or should have considered?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Colours of the 1830s

Australian Dress Register - Tartan Skirt

Australian Dress Register – Tartan Skirt

You never know what you’ll find on the web even as you go about the most mundane task. Today at work, while looking for something completely different, I stumbled across the Australian Dress Register. The site which is by the PowerHouse Museum in Sydney seems to have been around for a few years, but it was new to me. The purpose of the site is document men's women's and children's dress from or relating to New South Wales up to 1945.

I was immediately captivated – but couldn’t stop and browse as I was at work. Poking around history and genealogy sites isn’t part of my job description. I’ve had a chance to look at the site now and I think it would be of great interest to readers of this blog.

Each of the garments shown has extensive notes on it’s provenance, construction, and some genealogical details about the owner.

The skirt above was made by a woman named Sarah Thomas en route to Australia in 1838. I have never put much thought into what colour my ancestors clothes would have been but I wouldn’t have guessed pink, purple and green.

There’s are plenty more items of clothing to look at on the site, which I am sure would be of interest beyond New South Wales, plus videos about how to photograph clothing and how to dress a mannequin, among others.

Well worth a look.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Changes at my family tree site,

This post is for the benefit of visitors to my family tree website,

I am changing the way I manage the site, flowing on from my change in desktop software.

You probably won’t notice any difference, but if you have created bookmarks or saved links to particular individuals they may no longer point to the same person. Aside from a brief disruption as I make the transition, this should be the only negative.

Allowing myself time for the unexpected, I hope to have the first upload from my new software in place by the end of the weekend.

Advantages of these changes for you will be:

Immediately -

  • More information included generally as more of the information from my database transfers in.
  • More deceased people visible eg people born 200 year ago for whom I have no birth or death date, thanks to more accurate setting of living flags.
  • The automatically generated part of the “what’s new” page should show what’s actually new.
  • More frequent updates with more information added on each occasion.

Longer term -

  • Inclusion of information on “Witnesses” to events.
  • Improved source citations (after initial loss of detail in some cases). 
  • Less use of “est” dates. 

Now everyone cross your fingers that all goes to plan!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An ending, and a new beginning


I've made a big decision. I’m leaving the one I love. After indecision and agonising, I'm changing genealogy software. This isn't something I take lightly as I still remember how much work it was the last time I changed (from TMG to Genbox) nearly seven years ago.

I've been thinking about it for some time but, perversely, it was Kerry Scott's post Why It Doesn't Matter Which Genealogy Software You Use way back in February that gave me the final push I needed.

That post had stayed in the back of my mind and as I agonised over the idea of changing, I went back and reread it. I thought it would persuade me to stick with what I had. No! As I read, I realized that the thing that was holding me back from changing was that I placed too high a priority on all the things I love (and will miss!) about Genbox, but things have changed, and they are no longer so relevant.

You see, in the last seven years the way I research has changed. The internet allows me to find more records, more quickly. I have always liked to trace down at least a few generations from my ancestors, but over seven years I have pushed back a few generations and 'tracing down' now involves different types of records, most notably census records.

Features that were a high priority for me seven years ago, aren’t so much now. Kerry's post helped me to realise that I will live without the special features I love. While desirable, they are not essential. Thanks Kerry for the perspective!

So having more objectively considered which features will best suit my needs, and after much experimentation and consideration, I have decided to switch to Family Historian.

Factors that weighed in on my decision:

  • It appears that the product is still being actively developed. They recently put out a call for more beta testers for the upcoming version 5.
  • Using GEDCOM as a native format means that I have a better idea of will go through when I upload to my family data site. I can also edit the file myself in word or even Excel if I want which makes the initial clean up much quicker and easier.
  • Ancestral Sources, a free program designed to work with Family Historian, allows form based data entry for census and baptism records, with more records types coming. I find census records in particular very time-consuming to enter.
  • Alternatively, merging in other GEDCOMs seems to work well, opening up the possibility of using something like Geves (described previously) for focused data collection on a branch and then importing and merging. I wouldn’t want to merge on a wider scale. My early tests looked promising.
  • Auto-citation feature where you designate a source to be added to anything you add, until you tell it to stop. Genbox also does this and it’s something I would prefer to keep.
  • I can live with less granularity to the source citations (Genbox allows you to set different sources for date, place, details etc of an event). So far as achieving quality citations goes, I think I’ll follow Randy Seaver’s lead and use freeform text. Again, I’ve experimented with this a bit already and I’m sure it will improve the sources that go onto the website – which is the public face of my database. This wasn’t a concern seven years ago! 
  • Multimedia capabilities look promising - I need to explore that more.

Now that the decision is made I’ve no regrets and am very excited by the change. I’m looking forward to learning more about my new software!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New treasure on Trove – Oakleigh Leader

This evening an item came up in my Google reader which made me exclaim a delighted “Oh!”.


One of the many great features of the Trove site is all the RSS feeds. As all of my immigrant ancestors settled in Victoria, I have signed up to the RSS feed for newly added titles from that State. It has been fantastic seeing more and more newspaper names relating to regional areas appearing.

This one in particular made me sit up and take notice because my COUPER branch had a long history in the Oakleigh area, being some of the earliest pioneers and also sitting on council. They also have the sad distinction of the known first burial in Oakleigh Cemetery – Christina Couper was buried there on 11 December 1860, aged just 7.

Naturally I jumped right in. A search on COUPER gave me 69 hits. Many of them were advertising for “Dr Couper-Johnson”, and not likely to be of interest to me. When I eliminated those I still had 22 results. Sadly, 21 of those results are still undergoing quality control so I can’t see them!

The one result I can see is notes from an Oakleigh Shire Council meeting, where my butcher ancestor’s request to renew his slaughtering licence was considered, but postponed. I will have to do a manual search for meeting notes for the next month to see what happened. I know that he continued as a butcher for many more years, so presumably he got the licence but there must have been a reason for consideration of the request to be postponed.


OAKLEIGH SHIRE COUNCIL. (1888, December 22). Oakleigh Leader (North Brighton, Vic. : 1888 - 1902), p. 7. Retrieved August 4, 2011, from

I must remember to search on Cowper and other variations as well.

Moving on there were tantalising glimpses of promising articles which were in the results but not yet viewable. Like this one:


What sad event?! What was his role in it?

There were also several mentions of a D.Couper in Court of Petty Sessions reports. I will just have to wait and see what they contain.

Something to look forward to!

Friday, July 29, 2011

It’s my Blogiversary? Oh yes, it’s my Blogiversary!

Thanks to Ginisology for the happy blogiversary message! I’m a bit snowed under with non-genealogy matters at present so the day could easily have passed me by.

Who would have thought that my little blog could be two years old already… they grow up so fast…

Happy Blogiversary, me!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to make fabulous cousin connections on Ancestry

So you want to make fabulous cousin connections on Ancestry?

I’ve had great success in making fabulous cousin connections on Ancestry. My distant cousins have told me old family stories, sent me documents and photos, suggested places I might look and people I might ask for more information and they have remembered me and contacted me again later. I am holding off on contacting any more of my wonderful distant cousins in order to avoid information overload.

Since this happy situation doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone, I thought I’d share some of the things that have worked for me. Some of what I say may seem counterintuitive. Like… source citations don’t matter (actually they do, but not in the way you think). Bear with me!

Disclosure: I have no connection with Ancestry other than as a paying customer. I am not suggesting that you should, or should not, join Ancestry. While some of my suggestions are specific to, others are applicable to any genealogy site where you can search family trees and contact the owner.

If you build it…

…they probably won’t come. Build it anyway. Your family tree, that is. Put it on Ancestry. This can be accomplished by exporting from your desktop software to GEDCOM. You will need a skeleton family tree (birth, death and marriage details) for your direct ancestors and at least a few generations of their descendants. Take the usual precautions about removing living people.  Source citations don’t matter, so don’t bother exporting them.

[Gasp! What did she just say?!]

The thing is, you’re putting your tree on Ancestry as a tool, not a publication. I found that my attempts to upload source citations to Ancestry mangled them unacceptably. They cluttered the place up distracting from what I actually wanted and needed to see. They were hard-going to maintain with Ancestry’s horrible source management interface. It wasn’t worth the effort.

If stepping out sans citations embarrasses you, set the tree to Private. You will still be able to do most of what I suggest, although it may assist in establishing a rapport with other members if they can see some of your information. You can change your mind later. I did.

Here are a few reasons for members to put their tree on Ancestry:

  • Other members may contact you. This hasn’t happened to me very often but it is possible.
  • It’s easier to fill out the search forms. As you start typing, Ancestry will offer you a drop down list of ancestors from your tree to choose from. Just click a name, and all the search fields are filled for you.
  • You can avail yourself of the member connect features (I’ll talk more about this).

I have quite a bit more to say, so I think I will break here and make this post a multi-part one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Two more courses completed

I’ve just finished up the coursework and exams for two more National Institute for Genealogical Studies courses. They were “Social Media for the Wise Genealogist” and “Australia: Births, Deaths and Marriages”.

I signed up for the social media course when it was offered for free. I picked up a bit from the course, not a huge amount, but then I am fairly well immersed in various kinds of social media for genealogy already. It would be a good course to give an overview to someone starting out in genealogy, or in social media, an idea of the range of opportunities there are for online interaction and what you might gain from it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend all of the sites and services discussed in the course as the best in their class, but then there’s a lot of personal preference in that.

The Australia: Births, Deaths and Marriages course is for me part of the Australian certificate – basic level, which I signed up to after winning a hefty discount voucher as a door prize. It can also be taken as a stand-alone course. The reading material for this course (prepared by Kerry Farmer) was very thorough and will be an excellent reference. While I was familiar with birth, death and marriage sources for Victoria, I had only superficial knowledge of the other States. I will definitely refer to the course notes before heading too far into research in other States and Territories, if my research leads me that way, as there is a lot of variation in how this information can be accessed between States.

I found that doing two courses at once I had no concern about whether I could complete the work in time. However, I also found that by the end I was tired of the amount of writing involved and as a result cut back on blogging, writing to other researchers, twittering – anything text based! So, my apologies to the people I have neglected. Lesson learnt. In future I will only do one course at a time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grandma and Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit tokenThis is a random memory that I had to put somewhere…

Many years ago, I played a game of Trivial Pursuit with Grandma. As sometimes happens, we struck a run of questions on a particular topic. Grandma had no trouble with this particular topic at all.

Of course, I knew she was better placed to answer trivial historical questions than I was. Many of them were from her lifetime. Still, it seemed odd to me that she would be so knowledgeable about early 2oth century Australian boxers! Yes, boxers. Not the dogs, not the underwear (at least not that she ever told me about), but people who punch each other.

I asked her how she did so well on those questions. Was she a closet boxing fan? The simple answer was that she knew the people in the questions. If only I could remember now who they were and just what she told me! All I recall is that all her answers were along the lines of “well so-and-so lived down the road from me and I used to see them at…”.

I guess if I want to pursue this trivia further I will have to dig out the relevant edition of Trivial Pursuit and start flipping through the cards... What’s the Evidence Explained source citation for that?!

If only I had taken note of what she said at the time. I might have been able to tell Sharon something about Jimmy Semmens

Monday, June 13, 2011

Life in the clouds and across the Galaxy


Like Geniaus and Tanya Honey, I have recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy tab. Geniaus started the ball rolling as she was the one who alerted us that they were selling for the bargain price of $299, unlocked. I had thought about buying an iPad, but the price and the size deterred me. The Galaxy tab, being quite a bit cheaper and just a bit smaller, was exactly what I wanted!

Geniaus has written describing the applications and uses she has for her galaxy tab here, and Tanya Honey has followed suit here. This post describes my set-up starting at the more general which will apply to almost any modern machine or device, and then going on to a few things I have liked on the android platform (the Galaxy tab in particular).


I will be mostly using my tablet at home, or at the library, and so will be on wifi most of the time. Although I wanted the freedom to connect from anywhere, but only occasionally, I was reluctant to pay for mobile data access at the prices I had seen. Then I came across TPGs pay-as-you-go plan which is intended specifically for this sort of use. For no contract and $1 a month (yes, $1) I get inexpensive calls (which I don’t intend to make on the Galaxy tab anyway) and a modest allowance of data per month. If I go over my data allowance, even a long way over, it’s no big deal. It’s only 2.75c for each extra MB.

Setting up data access wasn’t as easy as it might have been. I found the information I needed here, but it was a remark in the comments about keeping one field blank that finally got everything working for me. Since then, I’ve had no problem at all. I would seriously consider ditching my current phone plan when the contract is up in favour of this plan as I rarely make mobile phone calls anyway.

Cloud services

I have a Windows 7 PC, an iPhone and now the Galaxy tab, which is an android. Despite being on three different operating systems, I want a seamless experience across my devices. The good news is that I (largely) have it. There are many cloud services on offer that allow you to synchronise information from one or more machines with “the cloud”. If this is unfamiliar to you, it’s not as scary as it sounds. I use the cloud services below for both genealogy and for general use.

Google calendar is, as the names suggests, Google's web calendar application. Most calendar applications on the iPhone and android systems will synchronise with a Google calendar. Enter a date on one device and it’s there on another. Easy and free.

Toodledo is a free web based to-do site. The interface on the web site itself is full-featured (even more so if you paid for the premium version), but rather clunky. However, many ‘to-do’ applications synchronise with the site. I switch between to-do apps on my iPhone all the time but on the Galaxy I rather like Ultimate To-Do list and I actual prefer the clean interface of the mobile phone version to the tablet version. If you use the link above and take a paid subscription, I will get a few months of premium membership too. There’s no advantage or disadvantage to you that I’m aware of.

Dropbox is a file synchronisation/backup service. With this I can access my genealogy documents from anywhere on any of my devices. I can also upload directly to my Dropbox account from any machine connected to the internet. No USB? No problem. I just upload whatever I have scanned at the library straight to my Dropbox and it syncs onto my home computer. A 2GB account is free - you and I will both get 250MB extra if you use the link above. Please do!

A similar service is SugarSync. I’m still deciding how I want to use it, but I am getting to like it even better than Dropbox, if that is possible! SugarSync offers 5GB of space for free and it’s paid plans cost less than Dropbox’s. It allows you to sync any folder on your computer; you don’t have to rearrange your files to suit the service. Another nice feature is the android app automatically syncs any pictures you take with your device’s camera. The main disadvantage compared to Dropbox is that it doesn’t seem to be supported by as many other apps. If you sign up for a free account using the link above, you and I will both get 500MB of extra space. Another please do!

LastPass is a password manager. I have user accounts with so many sites, it’s not funny. For the most part I have broken away from using a few “standard” passwords and now have a unique and complex password for each site I visit. I find LastPass to be easy to use and very light on system resources (unlike the password manager I formerly used). Installation on the PC is easy. Installation on the iPhone and Android less so – it involves some complex manoeuvrers to install bookmarklets which then don’t work particularly quickly… but it can be done, the bookmarklets do work, and best of all it’s free. (Are you detecting a theme here?)

Evernote is a free notetaking app that syncs between multiple machines and has clever handwriting recognition features. To be honest, I never quite found my feet with Evernote. Then a few months ago I discovered Microsoft’s OneNote which is also a notetaking application, which syncs with Microsoft’s SkyDrive (25GB of free space for everyone!) but it has a bit more structure to it. I didn’t quite “get” it at first but once I did, I loved it. I’ve been using it for all my genealogy note taking and research logging ever since. Unfortunately it’s not quite as cloudy (yet) as other cloud services. There is an iPhone app but it’s only available in the USA. Instead I am using MobileNoter SE which is third party OneNote file viewer. I make new notes when I’m out and about in Evernote, which I can then sync to OneNote via a little converter app on the MobileNoter website. It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Other apps

I’ll try to be less long winded! I’m talking about android applications here, but most are available on iPhone or iPad as well.

Genealogy - I am happy enough with FamilyBee as a viewer for my genealogy file. It plays nicely with Dropbox and there are no complicated file conversions to traverse, other than exporting my database to GEDCOM. While you can’t edit the information you can save notes and images for later.

Books – I have the LibraryThing scanner app, which makes it possible to sit on the floor and catalogue a pile of books to my LibraryThing account. I am finally starting to put my LibraryThing account to use. I also have the Amazon Kindle app and have downloaded my first eBook. I didn’t think I’d like reading from a screen but the Galaxy tab is a similar size to a paperback novel and it’s actually quite comfortable to read on. I could get used to this. That one-click ordering button looks like a dangerous thing, especially on a touch screen!

Weather – It’s got to be Pocket Weather AU which takes it’s feed direct from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and includes those radar maps which have let me know on plenty of occasions if I should hurry home before the storm gets worse, or if I should wait for 10 minutes by which time it will all be done. I have the small version of the accompanying widget on the home screen of my tablet, so I can see at a glance just how cold I’m going to be today. Now that I think about it, that definitely doesn’t get me out the door any quicker in the morning…

Games – Although instant entertainment to hand to the kids can be very useful, I’m reluctant to let them think they can play with the tablet too often. It’s mine! All mine!! So, I have Angry Birds for emergency use and also a free app that is actually intended for small children, Kid Mode. Kid Mode locks up most functions so your kids can’t alter your device by accident. It gives them age appropriate games and activities that are purportedly educational.

Battery – Like Tanya, I found a battery widget I liked that gives me a more accurate indication of how much power I have left. Last but definitely not least, to extend my running time between charges I have installed JuiceDefender. It’s great! There’s a free version but I upgraded all the way to Ultimate. It manages your wifi, data network and even cellular connections intelligently according the the parameters you set which can include different schedules for day/evening and for week/weekend (you say which days are your weekend). It’s very clever and has worked very well for me.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sharing blog posts

I love reading “best of” posts. I always discover something new and interesting that I might otherwise have missed out on. I also see a lot of great posts myself that I wonder if other people have noticed! However, I don’t have time to create “best of” posts myself.

Browsing google reader, I noticed a new feature advertised. It’s now possible to add a widget to you blog that displays posts that you have “shared”. It sounds to me like a great and simple way of sending a little link-love to posts I found useful or enjoyed.

My “sharing” of posts in google reader has been erratic up until now. In future I will be clicking that button more often, I’m sure. Please scroll down and look to the right to check out my new widget, displaying blog posts I’ve most recently shared. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

All is calm, all is quiet

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately. Behind the scenes, I’ve been steadily plodding away.

  • I have now had two cousins who found me through my online tree at and have been trying to fill in a bit of detail about their branches. I still have more conversations to have with them.
  • I’ve been sending off contact invitations to other 23andMe members. I find that I get 1-2 responses per batch of 5 invitations. We exchange a few messages but so far I have not worked out my connection with anyone. One day it will happen.
  • I’m taking 2 courses of genealogy study at the moment and have fallen a little behind in the coursework due to a few family commitments that came up.

So between data entry, writing to other researchers and writing up the weekly assignment answers I’ve been feeling all written out. Actually, I started writing any number of blog posts but never quite had the energy to finish them.

Subjects that I only got half way through writing about include:

  • How my grandmother knew all the questions on a particular topic, when we played Trivial Pursuit with her.
  • Tips for making great cousin connections on Ancestry.
  • My life in the cloud and across the galaxy – how I’ve set up my new Galaxy tab with particular reference to cloud computing services.
  • School – then and now.

Any preferences for which should I finish writing first?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FamilyTreeDNA results – Matches

In the past year I have taken advantage of promotional prices and had my DNA tested with both 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA. My first post discussing my FamilyTreeDNA results is here.

When I first got my FamilyTreeDNA results back, I had about 30 matches. Now, a little under two months later I have 45 matches. This compares to 23andMe where the first time I looked I had 327 matches – a figure which has now risen to 455. However, of those 455 only 29 are ‘public’ matches. If I want to find out anything more about the others on 23andMe I can send out just 5 invitations to communicate per day and wait for a reply.

For each of my FTDNA matches I can see a name, estimated relationship and range, and some summary figures about how much DNA we have in common. I can also access a simple family tree, if my match has posted one, and a list of surnames.

I recognise several of the names on my match list as my public matches on 23andMe. This reassures me about the quality of the analysis for both companies, and that there hasn’t been a mix-up!

So far I have sent only two contact emails to my matches and have not had a reply to either of them. That’s a bit depressing since this is supposed to be the service where people are actually interested in replying to genealogy contacts! Still, it’s only two out of 45. I have plenty more to try.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Research update May 2011

PAINTING Stannus_Sketch-on-the-Cornish-coast Anthony Carey Stannus
“Sketch on the Cornish coast” oil on canvas - Arthur Carey Stannus

Slowly but surely, I’m making headway in my research. Last weekend I managed a quick research outing. I only had two item to look up, but the complication was that they were at different locations.

Bennett death
One of the annoying missing details in my tree is the death of my gg-grandfather James Bennett 1831-???. I recently confirmed that James Bennett was the son of Michael Job Bennett and Mary Ann Barnes but I still don’t know when or where he died.

The first item on my to-do list last weekend was to check The Avoca Mail newspaper to see if I could find a death notice for James’ wife, who died in 1896. Not all editions of the newspaper are filmed and the paper didn’t have birth, death and marriage columns with entries neatly listed by bolded surname. I was in luck - I found a mention of her death a few days after the event halfway down a dense column of text.

“Another old resident of the district passed away on Friday evening in the person of Mrs Bennett, wife of Mr Jas. Bennett, of Avoca. The deceased lady had been ailing for some time, so that her end was not altogether unexpected. The remains were interred in the Avoca cemetery on Saturday afternoon.”

The Avoca Mail [microform], 11 February 1896, evening edition, no page number, col 4.

This sounds to me as though James Bennett was still alive when his wife died. That being the case, it cuts 13 years off the time period I need to search for his death as I last have him alive in 1883. This gave me the confidence to later download a Victorian death certificate I’d had my eye on, but unfortunately it was not him. Goodbye $17.50. I’ll look for more clues before I try again.

Stannus marriage
The second item on my very short to-do list was to view the marriage certificate of my ggg-grandparents William Ephraim Stannus and Catherine Mack. I had previously seen their marriage information in an unpublished research manuscript that has circulated around the family. More recently, I had seen the information transcribed in the FamilySearch historical records. The film had been waiting for me for a few weeks so I had to get in to see it before it was sent back again.

I confirmed William and Catherine’s marriage details (Belfast, 22 August 1848) and also learned that Catherine’s father, Robert Mack, was a Merchant Taylor. I know very little about the Mack family – no doubt Robert’s occupation will be a big help when I decide to look for more.

I also learned that the witnesses to the marriage were Anthony Stannus and Eliza Mack. Anthony Stannus was most probably Anthony Carey Stannus, brother of the groom and a well-known artist. An example of his work is above. Eliza Mack was most probably Catherine’s sister Eliza.

All in all, a very satisfactory afternoon!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Trans Tasman ANZAC Day blogging – the full list

The Trans Tasman ANZAC Day genea-blogging posts are in.

After our successful Australia Day and Waitangi Day blogging challenges, Seonaid (@genebrarian) from the Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries suggested that we get together to hold a joint Australian and New Zealand blogging event for ANZAC Day (25 April).

Participants wrote about an Australian or New Zealander serviceman or woman’s family, and the impact war had on their family history.

Once again, we have had a great response with 22 posts provided by bloggers from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA. You might like to read Seonaid’s excellent review of this blogging event at the Kintalk blog. Following is the full list of posts she prepared, including post submitted to both Twigs of Yore and to Auckland Research Centre’s Facebook page.

If you are like me, you may have to read the posts in stages. The stories are heartbreaking.

Sarndra Wilson:- Private William PERREAU 40633 - returned serviceman and
Leonard Edward MOSS - plane was shot down in World War II on 28 August 1942

Wallace James Kirkpatrick:- Many KIRKPATRICK family members lost

Shauna Hicks:- Charles Douglas SPENCER - returned serviceman

Merron Riddiford:- Arthur Leonard HOLMES - killed in France in 1918

Sharon Brennan:- Alan Seabrook MITCHELL - killed over Munich on 2 October 1943

Michelle Patient:- Eric Hugh BARKER - killed at Messines Ridge, on the 7th June 1917

Anne Coppell:- A family changed by war

Helen Violet Smith:- George Howard BUSBY - returned serviceman

Julie Groucher:- Edward ELLIS - returned serviceman

Aillin O'Brien:- George Brown FULLERTON, DCM - died on 12 June 1917 from wounds received during the Battle of Messines and
Harold Heathcote Hayes CHAMBERS - died at Gallipoli of wounds received between 25 and 28 April 1915 and
Stanley CHAMBERS - killed in action, on September 23, at the Dardanelles

Margaret Gaffney: Peter Michael GAFFANAY - died 5 April 1918 from shell wounds to face and neck

Jill Ball:- John Bertram CHATFIELD - died 3 May 1917 Battlefield at Bullecourt

Alison:- Hugh O'BRIEN - killed in action 23 July 1916

Rosemary:- Reginald Sydney MERRETT - killed in action 9 April 1917

Cassmob:- William Rudolph KUNKEL - wounded and missing in action, presumed dead (Korea), on 16 November 1952

Shelley:- Aircraftman Leonard John Couper LEE - returned WWII serviceman (Japanese POW)

Tanya Honey:- James (Milton) SIMMONS - killed in action at Pozieres 29 July 1916

Vicky Kingdom:- Ernest Henry Noy and Leslie Cyril Noy - both died Battle of Bullecourt on 11th April 1917
and Noleen Sutton:- George Ogden - invalided home in 1917 and died in 1919 
You can read their blogs on the Auckland Library Facebook discussion page.

ANZAC Day has been and gone for this year. These posts will go towards remembering and recognising our servicemen and women, their families, and the hardships they faced - every day of the year.

Lest we forget.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ANZAC Day genea-blogging–preliminary roundup

After our successful Australia Day and Waitangi Day blogging challenges, Seonaid (@genebrarian) from the Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries suggested that we get together to hold a joint Australian and New Zealand blogging event for ANZAC Day (25 April).

Participants were to:

  • Write a blog post about an Australian or New Zealander serviceman or woman’s family, and the impact war had on their family history.
  • Publish their post by 25 April 2011
  • Post a comment with the URL on this blog, or under discussions on the Auckland Research Centre’s Facebook page.

As indicated on our first posts, all submissions will be listed in a summary posting on this blog and Auckland Libraries’ Kintalk blog by the end of April.

In the meantime… here are the links to the ANZAC Day submissions which were notified to this blog.

Anglers Rest: Edward Ellis

Alison, My Family Puzzles: Hugh O’Brien

Sharon, The Tree of Me: Alan Seabrook Mitchell

patientgenie, patientgenie: Eric Hugh Barker

Rosemary, Climbing the Family Rosebush: Reginald Sydney Merrett

cassmob, Family history across the seas: William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel

Shelley, Twigs of Yore: Leonard John Couper “Jack” Lee

Geniaus, Geniaus: John Bertram Chatfield

Tanya Honey, My genealogy Adventure: James (Milton) Simmons

Aillin, Australian Genealogy Journeys: George Brown Fullerton

Are you missing from the list? Did you post here, not at Kintalk? Please drop me a line (see the About me page for my email). I wouldn’t want to miss anyone.

I haven’t had the chance to read all of the posts yet, but those I have read were moving tributes, without exception. I think I will have to read the posts in stages, or it will be too much heartbreak to take in one hit.

Congratulations and thanks to all.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

ANZAC Day: Aircraftman Leonard John Couper Lee

My ancestors didn’t serve in Australia (or New Zealand's) military forces. My grandparents were of an age where they were too young for the first world war, too old for the second. I know of many people in my broader family tree who served, but none who lost their lives. My family seems to be remarkably fortunate in that its young men came home.

This doesn't mean that they, or their families, did not suffer hardship or were unaffected by the war. Let me tell you what I have learned about Uncle Jack.

Aircraftman Leonard John Couper Lee

PHOTO Jack Lee F41Leonard John Couper “Jack” Lee was my grandfather’s younger brother. Having years earlier been rejected for service (“undersized”) he enlisted with the R.A.A.F as a trainee electrician on 29 November 1940 for “the duration of the War and a period of 12 months thereafter”. Training started two weeks later, on 16 December 1940. He passed his final course on 22 August 1941 and was listed as an Electrical Fitter. His course assessment noted that he was a "Good type - young and well mannered - good appearance and speaks well."

Uncle Jack left Perth for Malaya on 10 October 1941, arriving on 20 October 1941 in the role of ground crew for R.A.A.F. No. 1 Squadron. He would have barely had time to find his feet in a Unit where it was acknowledged that efficiency and training had slipped, due to an outbreak of dysentery, before the Pacific War began.

No. 1 Squadron was the first to see action in the Pacific, shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 8 December 1841. The Squadron was forced to relocate from Kota Bharu, Malaya to Palembang, Sumatra, as Japanese forces advanced along the Malay peninsula, and again to Semplak, Java when Japanese paratroopers landed at Palembang.

Some of the Squadron were able to be evacuated, but 180 members remained.

After weeks of heavy bombing, and exhausting relocations, Uncle Jack was taken with the rest of his unit as a prisoner of war.

The Family’s Perspective

When Uncle Jack went to war, he left behind him parents, siblings, his extended family, and his young wife. What an anxious time it must have been, particularly as news of the treatment of Japanese prisoners of war filtered back to the Australian public.

I don’t know all the information the family may have had access to, but I do know they received the following communications, copied to his R.A.A.F. casualty file.

Reported Missing – new received 13 March 1942

Dear Madam,

This letter is to confirm the telegram from
this Department dated the 13th March, 1942, informing
you that your husband, Aircraftmen Class 1 L.J.Cooper Lee,
has been reported missing as a result of the invasion
of Java by the Japanese.

Although your husband has been reported
missing he is not necessarily killed or wounded and,
in view of this it may be of assistance to you in
your anxiety to know what action is taken to trace
missing members of the Air Force. I am, therefore,
forwarding herewith a leaflet which gives full
information concerning this matter. You will see
from the leaflet that any further information
received will be conveyed to you immediately.

I desire to extend to you the sincere
sympathy of the Department in the anxiety you are

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

Confirmed prisoner of war – news received 27 June 1943

Dear Madam,

I desire to confirm the telegram from this Department
dated 27th June, 1943, informing you that your husband,
Aircraftman Leonard John Cooper Lee, is a prisoner of war in
Japanese hands.

This information was received from the International
Red Cross Committee, Geneva, quoting Tokio information.
It is regretted that at present your husband’s
place of internment as a prisoner of war is not known in this

I am forwarding herewith a leaflet which has been
issued by the Australian Red Cross Society setting out the
procedure to be followed in sending communications to prisoners
of war in the Far East. Should you desire any further
information regarding the method of communicating with your
husband, it is suggested that you get in touch with the
Australian Red Cross Society, Spring Street, Melbourne, or
with any of its State bureaux.

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

Location determinednews received around end July 1943

Dear Madam,

I refer to previous communications concerning your husband, Aircraftman Leonard John Cooper Lee, who is a prisoner of war in Japanese hands.

I desire to inform you that information has now been received stating that your husband’s place of internment is in Java.

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

The above was dated 22 July 1943.

News? Or Propaganda? – News received around end July 1944

Dear Madam,

I refer to previous communications from this
Department concerning your husband, Aircraftman Leonard John
Cooper Lee.

I desire to inform you that your husband’s name
was mentioned in a radio broadcast from Batavia on the 30th
June, 1944.

The enemy radio announcer gave your husbands
correct name and also your address and a letter purporting
to have come from him was transmitted over the radio. The
following is the text of the letter as received in Australia :


“Dear Nora, Well another New Year is here and it finds
us still separated, but I am sincerely hoping and
trusting that we will be together before the next.
I wish you all the very best for your birthday of
this month and also send birthday greetings to Beth
and Mum. I have not had the good fortune to receive
any mail from you since the first lot came in, dated
June and July ‘42, but as I know you write regularly
I keep hoping and expect one of these days to receive
quite a lot. I am still fairly fit and as comfortable
as circumstances permit. I am working regularly each
day as a ...... and find that this helps to pass the
time away, which after all is the main thing. I sincerely
hope, sweetheart, that you are keeping well and not
worrying about me. I am hoping each day for ...... and
try to see the best side of things. I hope all things at
home are still running smoothly for you and that you
are enjoying the best of health. Please convey my love
to Aunt Helen, Joyce and all at home and tell them not
to worry as I am doing alright. Remember me to all
friends. Trusting that I will soon be home again and
sending you all my love, I remain your loving husband,
Jack. "

It is recommended that you should exercise some
reserve in accepting the contents of the letter. This may not
be entirely authentic in as much as it emanates from an enemy
source and does not come through the recognised International
channels for the distribution of information concerning
prisoners of war. Furthermore, the letter may have been
altered for propaganda purposes, as it was transmitted in
the course of a Japanese propaganda programme.

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

Followed by another letter late in November 1944 advising of a similar broadcast. Some of the names mentioned are familiar to me, others not – but I haven’t researched his wife’s family. Norma’s birthday was in January so the letter was broadcast many months later. What would the family have made of this news?

Coming home – News received early October 1945



Four years after he left for Malaya, Uncle Jack came home to his young wife. They raised children who eventually had children of their own. He passed away in 1995. My mother told me, when I was of an age to be learning about such things at school, that he had spent four years as a Japanese prisoner of war but it was something he never spoke about. I hate to imagine what he went through during almost four years of captivity.

So many young men and women didn’t come home.

Lest we forget.


Australian War Memorial,
1 Squadron RAAF | The Australian War Memorial, Second World War Unit History, accessed 22 April 2011.

NAA: A705, 166/24/623; LEE, Leonard John Cooper - (Sergeant); Service Number - 19824; File type - Casualty - Repatriation; Place - Java, Netherlands East Indies; Date - 8 March 1942

NAA: A9186, 1, images 219 to 227; RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 1 Squadron
Jul 25 - Feb 46

NAA: A9301, 19824; LEE LEONARD JOHN COUPER : Service Number - 19824 : Date of birth - 28 Oct 1912 : Place of birth - OAKLEIGH VIC : Place of enlistment - MELBOURNE : Next of Kin - LEE NORMA