I was fortunate enough to attend two reunions this weekend, in both cases with friends I’ve known half my life or more. This set me thinking about our ancestors and their friends. When we find a ‘visitor’ or ‘boarder’ staying with our ancestors in a 19th century census, how much effort do we put into trying to track down who that visitor was?
A child might well turn out to be a grandchild (or niece or nephew), and their surname might provide the clue to what happened to missing children or siblings. Often the boarder or visitor is a relative. Just as today, when visiting or moving to a new location, it might be convenient to stay with a family connection. Or perhaps the visitor was a work colleague.
Sometimes we don’t know the reason why the boarder is staying in that particular family home, but they continue to be present at census after census. One such person in my family history is Ralph MORT. In the 1851 census, Ralph and his younger sister Ann were lodging with the family of William and Maria KELLETT, in Preston, Lancashire (England). William was my 3g.grandfather, and in the 1851 census William was listed as a coal carter and Ralph MORT was a (railway) engine driver, so perhaps they knew each other through work. That is the nearest I have found to a possible explanation for their connection.
In the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses, Ralph (without his sister Ann) continued to live with the KELLETT family. William KELLETT died in 1883 and his wife Maria in 1889. In the 1891 census, Ralph was listed as the head of the household, living at that same address with KELLETT relatives. In 1901 (again same address) 81-year-old Ralph is back to being a boarder with a KELLETT son as head of the household.
When I ordered a copy of the 1889 will of Maria KELLETT, I had a sinking feeling as I deciphered the names of her heirs. I had never heard of the children that were named and the children that I knew about were not mentioned. I thought I must have the wrong Maria KELLETT – until I interpreted the signature of a witness – Ralph MORT. It was the confirmation I needed that in fact I had the right will and so a number of new children to research as relatives.
Ralph Mort – long-time friend or a branch of the family not yet connected? (Ralph’s will unfortunately does not answer that question.) Either way for me “and Ralph Mort” is like the full stop at the end of this family sentence. He is also an example of why it is worth paying attention to the various lodgers and visitors listed with our families on census nights.
How disappointing it is to order a marriage certificate for your genealogy research, and when you receive it, find some of the fields blank. In the case of marriage certificates in NSW,all hope is not necessarily lost.
The First Fleet landed in what was to become Sydney on 26th January 1788 and the first marriage took place soon after. (The first baptism and death registered for the new colony actually occurred en route to Australia, in 1787.)
Britain had claimed all the are from 133 degrees east to 135 degrees east for the new colony of New South Wales. That western boundary line passes roughly down the middle of the Australian continent, to the east it included New Zealand and beyond. All this area was originally administered as part of the colony of New South Wales. Boundaries and borders changed over time, and new colonies were created out of land that was previously NSW.
But back to those marriages. The earliest baptisms, marriages and burials in the colony of New South Wales were recorded in the church records. On 1st March 1856 Civil Registration was established in NSW, meaning that the government began administering the registration of births, marriages and deaths, and issuing certificates. The Registry began acquiring the church records.
Between 1856 and 1895, some details (such as details of the parents of bride and groom), were recorded in the church marriage documents but not in the official Registry documents. In 1912 Registry staff began collecting these additional details and adding them into the Registry copies, but the process was never completed.
Most of the surviving 19th century church records have now been filmed and made available as part of the ‘Church and Parish Registers Joint Copy Project’, conducted by the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG), the State Library of NSW and the National Library of Australia. In addition many church records have been filmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – check out the Library Catalogue on FamilySearch.
So if you obtain a copy of a marriage certificate which has the parents’ details blank, it would be a good idea to check out the corresponding church marriage record. Often the information was recorded there, but just not transferred into the copy held by the NSW Registry.
Preparing for a class this week I had another look at Trove. Trove is an initiative of the National Library of Australia, designed to “provide a single point of access to the resources of the deep web”, focused on Australia and Australians. Trove’s byline is “one search … a wealth of information”.
Trove itself was first released in May 2009 however some parts of the collections have been available for years, perhaps under other titles. Now they are brought together under a single search. Some are the results of digitisation projects undertaken by the National Library of Australia (perhaps in conjunction with others), but others are links into other collections (such as Open Library or Google Books).
You can log in to the site, in order to personalise the way you search and results found. You can create and save your own lists of useful items, list libraries you are affiliated with, tag or comment (on books, photographs,etc), correct electronically generated newspaper text – and more.
A recent survey showed that about half the users of Trove are family historians (equal to all the other categories combined). There is good reason for that – Trove provides access to information invaluable to family historians who want more than just names and dates.
The Australian newspaper digitisation project has been underway since 2007, making available newspapers published in Australia from 1803 to 1954, covering a range of titles from every state and territory. Now this collection is accessed via Trove. Family historians can search for articles about a family name of interest, or the first reports of a new settlement, ships’ passengers named on their arrival – or anything else you can think of. Searches can be narrowed by location, date, publication, article category – or even whether or not the article is illustrated.
Newspapers often reported on distant events, if those stories were deemed likely to be of interest to readers. In “The Canberra Times” of 1946 I found an article reporting on a fire at the home of my grandparents in the northern suburbs of Sydney. (A reminder not to be too hasty to narrow the location of the search.)
The “Pictures and photos” collection within Trove includes even more than the Picture Australia collection. Family historians might search for an ancestor by name or a historic photograph of the town where they lived, or even photos of an event witnessed by a family member.
The “Books, journals, magazines, articles” collection provides access to the full text of some books (those held in collections like Project Gutenberg and Open Library). In addition users can search by subject or title for a book, and then find out which libraries in Australia hold that book. Such books can then be ordered by inter-library loan to the user’s local library – often even when the holding library is not itself a lending library.
“Archived websites” provides access to the Pandora collection, in which the National Library has been archiving Australian websites since 1996 – thus perhaps providing access even to pages no longer on the web. (I found a 2001 obituary of an ancestor published in an architecture magazine.) (If you don’t find the page you want in Pandora, also have a look at The Wayback machine.)
Other headings on the Trove gateway provide access to “Diaries, letters, Archives”, Maps, “Music, sound and video” and “About people and organisations”.
This is indeed a treasure trove of information, easily and freely available to anyone prepared to look.
I attended a family funeral today and such occasions prompt thoughts about others “no longer with us”.
In the eulogy we heard about the life of the deceased as well as how they touched the lives of those present. The wake afterwards prompted lots of “do you remember” stories. We looked at old photos and shared recent family photos. We promised to get together before the occasion is another funeral.
Somehow a funeral or wake doesn’t seem the occasion to be taking notes. (I will however be recording tonight what I remember that I learned today.)
The occasion set me thinking about records associated with deaths. Not only death certificates or inquests, but also newspaper announcements of deaths and funerals, as well as obituaries and memorials, monumental inscriptions and cemetery records.
Undertakers / Funeral Directors records can be a source of information not often tapped by family historians. Newspaper death and funeral notices often name the undertaker, and large libraries and genealogy societies often hold Undertakers Records amongst their collections.
Last year I was able to spend some time in the Family Records Centre of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. That society has a wonderful collection of Undertakers Records (which can be borrowed by members). This was one entry I recorded in my notebook from the records of C.H. Barker Ltd, Funeral Directors, Onehunga, Auckland, funeral records 1943-1979.
WARD, James Louis d 9-Apr-1947. Residence Milford. Age 79. Mangere Cemetery. Father: James WARD, Mother: Louisa TOOP, Spouse: Harriett RICHES
Another entry I recorded that day was from a 1999 funeral – too recent for me to be allowed to obtain a death certificate.
Registering a death in New Zealand (and in many other places, including Australia) involves filling out forms including about the parents and birth of the deceased. Undertakers books are a source of such information that is often overlooked by genealogists.
So tonight I am sitting thinking about family members “no longer with us”.
I was searching today through the “Chelsea Pensioners” records on the website FindMyPast.co.uk These are the records of men pensioned out of the British Army, and the records will cover 1760-1913. (Corresponding to The National Archives documents in WO97).
Those of us familiar with searching Australian WW1 service records have been spoilt by free and easy access to digitised records, not only information about where and when our military ancestors served, but including physical description, next-of-kin, previous occupations, date and place of birth and more. Such digitised Australian records can be found by searching the National Archives of Australia website.
Gradually now more digitised British service records are becoming available for those of us unable to visit the reading rooms in London. Amongst these, the subscription site FindMyPast (UK) has a number of military collections including the Royal Marine Medal Roll 1914-1920, Military Births, Marriages and Deaths – and now these British Army “Chelsea Pensioner Records”. The subscription site Ancestry.co.uk has WW1 service records and pension records. The National Archives (UK) website itself has an online database of Trafalgar Ancestors as well as Campaign Medals issued to WW1 merchant seamen on DocumentsOnline.
Many more military service records are available that are not yet online, but the above are some of the sources I’ve found useful. If we take the trouble to look, such digitised records make it much easier to find information about our military ancestors, even for those of us who live a long way from London.
More on pictures today. I’ve just been looking at PictureAustralia, an initiative of the National Library of Australia and others. PictureAustralia has been in existence for more than 10 years and is still growing as a source of images of “all aspects of Australiana”.
When possible I like to add photos to my family history – photos of people when possible, but also photos of buildings, graves, schools – whatever is relevant and will add interest. Relatives often have acccess to photos that I do not, but I like to look at archives and website collections of old photographs as well.
In the past, one of my favourite sources of such photos has been ArchivePix, the City of Sydney Archives digital photograph bank. This can be found under the “Image Galleries” link (under “History & Archives”) on the City of Sydney council website.
Today I searched PictureAustralia for “21 Buckingham Street” – where ancestors lived 130 years ago. What I found was a photo of terrace houses at 21-25 Great Buckingham Street, Redfern. The “Rights” published on the website advise that the photo can be saved or printed for private research, but permission must be sought if you wish to use it for other purposes. What is interesting is that the photo comes from the City of Sydney Archives, implying that PictureAustralia might be the gateway now for photos from that collection too.
Even individuals may now contribute photos via Flickr to PictureAustralia, allowing individuals to share &/or sell copies of their photos, or perhaps have theose photos “preserved for perpetuity” by picture curators.
An Advanced Search allows users “exact phrase” searching or to select the year or place of interest, or even to select a particular contributor. Looking at the list of Contributors suggests other possibilities to search – including photos from New Zealand.
Not only places but images of people can be found too: A photo entitled ‘BATTLER FROM DOWN UNDER MEETS “THE CHAMP” ‘ is described “Shows Sergeant Graeme Etherington, amateur middleweight boxer from Sydney, squaring off with Jack Dempsey” – interesting!
If a picture tells 1000 words, then what about moving pictures?
I’ve mentioned my ancestor (Leslie) Hay SIMPSON, who played the role of Ned Kelly in the 1934 film of When the Kellys Rode and then was lost at sea in 1937, soon after making the film Mystery Island on Lord Howe Island. The National Film & Sound Archive has many audiovisuals at http://aso.gov.au, including clips from Mystery Island. Hay Simpson can be seen in http://aso.gov.au/titles/features/mystery-island/clip2/ (he’s the drunk with the bottle).
However you don’t need an actor ancestor to find something interesting on film. World War 1 troops heading to the docks in Sydney can be seen in the 1915 footage at http://aso.gov.au/titles/historical/ww1-troops-embarkation/clip1/
Crowds at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 can be seen at http://aso.gov.au/titles/home-movies/farey-sydney-harbour-bridge/clip2/
Even educational resources are available. Excerpts from a documentary retelling the story of the Victorian gold rush can be seen at http://aso.gov.au/titles/tv/peachs-gold-eureka/clip1/
Have a look at the offerings on the Australian Screen website. Try entering a town or suburb name of interest, and see if there is historic film footage available. Think about the significant events in which ancestors might have been involved, and even if you can’t identify an ancestor, such historic footage gives you an opportunity to see things through their eyes – and isn’t that one of our goals of family history research?