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EXPLORE YOUR PAST, ENRICH YOUR FUTURE

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finding gold in the education records Expert Q&A dating family photos what our ancestors’ death certificates can really tell us Win! unlock the past’s history & genealogy 2011 Dame Nellie Melba the 150th anniversary of an Aussie icon

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May – June 2011


Upcoming Major Events… 2011 UNLOCK THE PA ST EXPOS

Unlock the Past

EXPOs

Each expo features a wide ranging exhibition and two streams of presentations from experts over two days – Friday and Saturday

New South Wales Expo 2011 (Coffs Harbour) 3-4 June Queensland Expo 2011 (Cairns) 24-25 June South Australia - Victo rian Border Expo 2011 (Mt Gambi er) 22-23 July Victorian Expo 2011 (G eelong) 2-3 September For further information on Unlock the Past Expos vis it www.unlockthepast.com .au/expos

Special Events 2011-12 Researching and Writing History Seminars Adelaide - Friday-Saturday 13-14 May as part of About Time: South Australia’s History Festival

Combine a relaxing cruise with a great conference program New Zealand - Australia 21 November to 5 December 2011

• 14 days from Auckland to Sydney with eight • •

port stops in between Featuring Irish, Scottish and Google Your Family Tree themes along with a varied general interest program A high quality international team of presenters from Scotland, the US, New Zealand and Australia

Book early for the best prices and cabins! For further information on our Conference-Cruises visit www.unlockthepast.com.au/cruises

Other states under consideration

War Comes to Australia Seminar WWII 70th Anniversary 1942-2012 16 Feb 2012 at Sydney

War Comes to Australia Tour WWII 70th Anniversary 1942-2012 17-22 Feb 2012 to Darwin and the region south

For further information on Unlock the Past Special Events visit www.unlockthepast.com.au/specialevents

For more upcoming events near you visit www.unlockthepast.com.au

For more upcoming events near you visit www.unlockthepast.com.au

www.unlockthepast.com.au

inquiries@unlockthepast.com.au (08) 8395 7476


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our family

EXPLORE YOUR PAST, ENRICH YOUR FUTURE

PO Box 406 Erskineville NSW 2043 Australia EDITOR Cassie Mercer cass@insidehistory.com.au

COVER IMAGE

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DESIGNERS Rohana Archer Coral Chum Little Branch Annie Nguyen EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS Brad Argent Shane Carmody Else Churchill Michael Flynn Megan Gibson Alice Johnson Barbara Hall Shauna Hicks Dan Lynch Peter Macinnis Annie Payne Helen Smith Jayne Shrimpton Sue Thompson

SUBMISSIONS Inside History welcomes feature submissions. For guidelines, contact the editor SUBSCRIPTIONS See page 71 or subscribe online at www.insidehistory.com.au DISTRIBUTED BY Gordon and Gotch Australia

Dame Nellie Melba as Rosina in The Barber of Seville. Courtesy Pamela, Lady Vestey Turn to page 42 to learn more about Australia’s first superstar

Inside History (ISSN 1838-5044) is published six times a year by Cassie Mercer (ABN 13 353 848 961) PO Box 406 Erskineville NSW 2043 Australia. Views expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the publisher. Copyright 2011 by Cassie Mercer and Inside History. All rights reserved.

PRINTED BY Ligare Pty Ltd 138 Bonds Road Riverwood NSW 2210


Contents

on the cover

ISSUE 4, MAY-JUNE 2011

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Ask our experts Jayne Shrimpton dates treasured family photos for two Inside History readers

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Conduct most unbecoming How the Queensland Education Department records proved a goldmine for one genealogist

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What really caused their death? Those few words on an Entry of Death certificate can reveal so much more

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Melba Celebrate the 150th anniversary of an Aussie superstar loved the world over

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Expert help is at hand Win one of five copies of Unlock the Past’s History and Genealogy 2011

your family

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Our living legacy Introducing a new project that helps preserve your past for future generations

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Just the girl you want Searching for an elusive maiden name? Here, 10 tips to help you solve the mystery

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Everybody’s cruisin’ now Why relaxing on a luxury liner can further your family tree research!

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Contents 16 63 63

An American perspective Is genealogy really any different in the US?

your history 48

Appointed on merit New research by historian Michael Flynn sheds light on Governor Arthur Phillip’s life in London

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Where the wild things are The monsters that had our ancestors terrified!

your heritage 46

A collection of riches The State Library of Victoria opens its doors

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Savouring the past NSW’s Hunter Valley is more than just wine

columnists

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Way back when Historical events and happenings

13 Platform News from the history and genealogy world

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Move away from the desk! Megan Gibson on how to get organised

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What’s on Events you won’t want to miss

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Thoughts from abroad Else Churchill invites you to celebrate 100 years of the Society of Genealogists

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The book shelf The latest and greatest to hit the shops

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One picture…1000 memories The story behind the image

regulars 7

Ed’s letter

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Postie’s here! Your thoughts, your say

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Bob’s your uncle Network with other descendants

offers 70

A little piece of history Win a copy of Notorious Australian Women

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Subscribe to Inside History And get 25% off books at Blurb!


editor’s letter

How time flies! We’re already halfway through the year and have four issues under our belt here at Inside History. And what an issue we have for you this time, starting with our wonderfully talented covergirl, Dame Nellie Melba . It’s 150 years since the birth of Australia’s first superstar, and throughout her stellar career she championed many technological firsts in the music industry. Read more on page 42. It’s been terrific featuring historian Michael Flynn’s research on the First Fleet over the past three issues of Inside History. In the last of our four-part series, Michael writes about the family history of Arthur Phillip — new research into the would-be governor’s life in London reveals some surprising finds about his siblings and parents. Turn to page 48 to read the latest. We have a terrific article by Brad Argent, on the best ways to find an elusive maiden name of your ancestor. Turn to page 38 to read about Brad’s top 10 tips. And we’re thrilled to bring you the expertise of Jayne Shrimpton, all the way from the UK. Jayne is a professional dress historian and picture specialist, with an MA in the History of Art (Dress). On page 16 of this issue, she helps two readers date family photographs . It makes for terrific reading! As does Helen Smith’s article on death certificates , and what extra information you can glean from them. Turn to page 34 for her helpful hints, and a fascinating glossary of some of the more unusual medical terms you may come across in your research. Perhaps you’re tracking a teacher in the family? Jane Harding tells of the treasure trove of information she found in education department records on her great grandparents as she traced their lives in Queensland. Not to mention a love story — learn more on page 30. And there’s been some wonderful finds along the way as we’ve researched articles. For instance, did you know that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria visited Australia in the 1890s? Read what he thought of the country on page 12. Plus there’s pages of terrific tips, and stories to help you with your family tree research. Remember to keep telling us what you like about Inside History, and what you’d like to read about. You can contact me at cass@insidehistory.com.au or at the address on page 4.


our family

This issue we asked our contributors… What prompted you to start researching your family?

Else Churchill

Thoughts from Abroad, page 29 I began researching my family when I started training as a professional genealogist. With a surname like Churchill it’s inevitable that you get curious, and I can at least now definitely answer “No” when I’m asked if I’m related to the famous Churchills!

Jayne Shrimpton

Ask our experts, page 16 I only have a small family: both parents have passed away and only one aunt from their generation is still living, so I’m trying to record her memories and stories, to acquire firsthand information about the past that can be passed on to my children.

Helen Smith

What really caused their death?, page 34 My family history addiction began in 1986, when my mother unhappily said she had never known her grandfather, George Howard Busby. The thrill of discovery has meant I’ve never stopped researching the family tree.

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letters

EXPLORE YOUR PAST, ENRICH YOUR FUTURE

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AnzAc AliAses: hoW to fInD your man In the recorDs The Kelly gAng: a famIly reunIon of a DIfferent kInD

Win

Tips for TrAcing early IrIsh convIcts

st y Pa ! dM Fin $350 su bs

experT Q & A mIlItary specIal

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REDISCOVERING FAMILY HEIRLOOMS

I have recently moved from my home of 60 years into a retirement village and a number of old family keepsakes were uncovered in the process. The youngest of seven children, I shared my home with three of my brothers for 30-odd years and naturally their possessions are here, too. I kept their war medals and the letters and postcards they sent from Europe during World War I. Thank you for your article, “Keepsakes for the future”, in issue 3, on preserving such articles — I would hate to see items like our family’s lost to old age. — Clair Smith, Balmain, NSW

BREAKING NEW GROUND

Congratulations on the article “The cockney’s commodore” in issue 3, exploring the early life of Governor Arthur Phillip. Michael Flynn’s research showed me a different side to our country’s former governor — I certainly didn’t know about his working class upbringing. Another great article — thank you. — Phillip Dodds, Geelong, VIC

BOWLED OVER!

I’ve just finished flicking through my copy of issue 3 and I wanted to write a quick note to compliment you on your photographic celebration of International

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y Da ’s en ear o m e ry W t al yes on m t I ro na s f er hef t n c f I Ity s o br ar le ye ce 00 ur 1 ✳ o ✳

Women’s Day in “A century of change”. The selection of photographs were superb. I hadn’t realised Bega had a women’s cricket team. My mother spent some time there as a girl — I wonder if she ever went along to team try-outs? — Barbara Johnson, Bardon, QLD

HAPPY SHOPPER

Inside History is a terrific magazine, full of varied articles and a lovely design. I’m so glad I found it in my local newsagent! — Lesley Carr, Modbury, SA Congratulations to our competition winners from issue 2! ◆ D. Finnigan from Hornsby Heights, NSW, won the book package from the National Library of Australia. ◆ N. Taylor from Glen Innes, NSW, won a copy of First Fleet Artist: George Raper’s Birds & Plants of Australia Turn to pages 66 and 70 for more great prizes!

✳ Each issue our star letter will receive a great prize just for writing in. This month, Clair Smith wins a 12-month subscription to Inside History for herself or a friend, valued at $63!

Like us on facebook.com/InsideHistoryMagazine

Join us at twitter.com/insidehistory

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May-Jun 2011

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platform

One for the diary

The fun of the fair Returning on the back of last year’s stellar conference, the 2011 New Zealand Family History Fair promises to be an exciting date on the genealogical calendar. Some of the familiar industry faces making an appearance include the teams from Find My Past, Ancestry, FamilySearch and Paperspast. The theme for this year is, “Growing and Conserving your Family Tree”, and the host of exhibitors, seminars, help desks and discussions will all be geared towards helping you achieve just that. To be held in Hamilton on August 26–27, this is an exhibition that really caters for everyone, with accommodation packages, ample parking and local tours for any non-genealogically minded spouses. MORE www.nzfamilyhistoryfair.org.nz

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Words Alice Johnson Photography Edmond Archer, Courtesy Sunday Night, Channel Seven

This year the Museum of Chinese Australia will host one of the most comprehensive explorations of Chinese Australian history and culture. Dragon Tails is a conference which provides fresh and thoughtful discussion on the state of Australian Chinese history, addressing issues such as the current challenges faced by researchers and the growing understandings of Australian Chinese pasts. The events program is due to be finalised later in the year and will engage a range of current Australian and international scholars, while the social events calendar is set to include tours of local heritage sites. MORE www.dragontails.com.au


What’s in a name? Lost Diggers found Ashley Eskins, Head of Military History at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, described the Lost Diggers collection of photographs as one the most important discoveries of the First World War. Some 3000 soldier portraits were recently found dusty and abandoned in a French barn, documenting possibly the final days for many Allied and Australian troops. The portraits are poignant and full of character, offering a rare glimpse of the people behind the wartime statistics. Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program, which discovered the photos, is calling for people to help identify the men in these incredible visual histories. Could your ancestor be among them? Check out Sunday Night’s Facebook page to see if you can help. MORE www.facebook.com/ lostdiggers

More than 3000 WWI photographs, including this one, have been discovered in France

A newly revised product to keep an eye out for is the latest version of Surname Atlas. A visual treat for anyone with British genealogy, Surname Atlas is an interactive CD-Rom that allows you to plot distribution maps for the 400,000 surnames found in the 1881 census of England, Scotland and Wales. Discover their likely geographic origins, or the popularity of forenames over history, all by simply typing in the name and clicking enter. MORE www.one-name.org/sales.html

Obituaries online Few other sources offer us such a concise and reflective summary of lives gone by than that of an obituary. For family historians these research gold mines are now just a few clicks away. Obituaries Australia is a digital collection of obituaries historically published in our country’s newspapers, journals, magazines and bulletins. Hosted by the National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University, obituaries can be browsed within a range of categories, including name, year, cause of death or occupation. Obituaries Australia invites submissions for any published obituaries for inclusion in the growing database. MORE http://oa.anu.edu.au

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your family

Ask our experts How many precious photos in your collection are undated? Here, dress historian Jayne Shrimpton timelines two family images for Inside History

Mystery birthdate

Q

For three years I have been trying to ascertain the origins of my great, great grandmother, Theana Davis, who was baptised in Victoria, and lived and died in Tasmania. Discrepancies in her baptism, marriage and death certificates show a birthdate of anywhere between 1849 and 1858. I am fortunate to have many photographs of Theana in my possession, but all are undated. Can you help to determine how old Theana could be in the photos? Vicki Hilder, Lancefield, VIC

A

Jayne Shrimpton says This beautiful studio photograph of Theana (above) is dateable broadly to c1869–75. During the 1870s three-quarter length compositions like this largely superseded the typical full-length composition of the 1860s and this sort of pose, showing a female subject leaning on the back of a chair, was especially popular at the time. Another photograph submitted by Vicki, similar to this, shows a fulllength composition, the complete view showing a

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modest bustle projection at the back of the skirt: this feature and the two alternative compositions could suggest a turn of decade date for the two photographs and may possibly indicate that they were taken to celebrate Theana’s 21st birthday. This means a birth date of closer to 1849. In this photo Theana is dressed in a sumptuous velvet overdress or casaque, which she wears as an outdoor garment, although it may have been interchangeable for indoors and outdoors, to some extent. The fringe trimming the bodice yoke and wide sleeves was especially fashionable around the turn of the 1860s. Her ensemble also includes stylish outdoor accessories — an attractive hat and leather gloves — while at her throat is a white jabot or frill. Dressing formally for a studio photograph was a matter of personal choice — an alternative to wearing conventional indoor clothing and one which allowed the display of more items from an enviable wardrobe! Her long pendant earrings would have been very fashionable in the late 1860s and early-mid 1870s. During the second half of the 1860s, as hairstyles rose progressively higher, the ears became exposed and drop earrings came into vogue. These remained the height of fashion for around 10 years, until the later 1870s when hair often covered the ears again and earrings were no longer appropriate


ornaments. Theana’s hair is drawn fashionably off her face and is dressed into a full chignon at the back of her head enclosed in a caul or hair net. These nets for containing the hair were fashionable mainly with younger women and were usually made of dark or coloured chenille or silk. They are sometimes seen in photographs of this period, when elaborate hairstyles generally involved masses of heavy hair — often artificial hair, as well as the lady’s own — and the net (or snood) offered an attractive method of keeping the hairstyle or coiffure in place. Also very striking here is Theana’s stylish hat. Of course we only get to see hats on our ancestors when they chose to wear them for a photograph: otherwise headwear is often featured in fashion plates of the period and was described in great detail in the fashion pages of Victorian magazines. Women always wore hats or bonnets when in public, neat hats being more alluring than matronly bonnets and therefore popular with younger women. They perched jauntily on top of the head at this date, so as not to disturb the hair, and the variety of styles introduced during the late 1860s and 1870s were enormous, reflecting the diversity and elaboration of dress at that time. This hat is rather small with a plain base, as was usual, but is transformed with artful decoration in the form of feathers — curling ostrich feathers and a tall aigrette plume — and cleverly folded fabric.

A big day out

Q

This lovely photograph (above right) of a family outing was taken in Hampshire, southern England. I’d love to know more about it and what information you can glean from it. Kate Kelly, Coffs Harbour, NSW

A

Jayne Shrimpton says Whereas the earliest photographs surviving in today’s family collections tend to be formal studio portraits, many 20th-century pictures are casual snapshots taken outdoors by amateur photographers. Those dating from the interwar period and later are very common and show family members and friends in relaxed poses at home and out and about, enjoying their leisure time. Some helpful details may be handwritten on the back, but often these modest photographic prints are unmarked and give no information about who is depicted, where they are

“In the 1940s hair was still worn quite long, dressed in soft waves and pinned back off the face. By 1950 fashion would dictate shorter styles.” located and when the photograph was taken. In order to understand the significance of these images, we need to try to identify them using visual clues, especially clothing styles and any vehicles, buildings, streets or landscapes that may occur in the scene. The women are wearing the recognisable fashions of the 1940s, expressed here in their jacket and coat with wide, padded shoulders, and hemlines worn just below the knees. Their hairstyles are also typical of the 1940s, when women’s hair was worn quite long, dressed in soft waves and pinned back off the face. By 1950/1951 fashion would dictate shorter hairstyles. The presence of a motor car also offers significant evidence. The car has been identified by the excellent Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society (www.svvs.org) as a Ford Prefect E93A Saloon, built possibly in 1945. The number plate is largely obscured but the partially seen “M” denotes Middlesex County Council registration between 1920 and 1965: if the preceding letter were visible it would have positively confirmed the year of manufacture. This photo is a wonderful keepsake of family enjoying a run in the car!  ✳ Jayne Shrimpton is a professional dress historian and image specialist who analyses and lectures about old family photographs and paintings. Her new book, How to Get The Most From Family Pictures (SoG, approx. A$20) is out now. MORE www.jayneshrimpton.co.uk

Do you have a family photo you’d like dated? Send a high-quality scan of the front and back of the image to cass@insidehistory.com.au and we’ll pass them along to Jayne for her expert help

Inside History

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your family

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tips for finding

just the girl you want Are you trying to trace a female ancestor who seems determined to stay hidden in the records? Brad Argent, content director for Ancestry.com.au, offers his advice for tracking down the maiden name of your elusive lady…

A

S FAMILY HISTORIANS we face many and varied challenges, but one stumbling block we all hit is the mystery woman. Known only as “Great Nanna Johnson” or “Great Great Aunt May” these women can be something of an enigma. When we go looking for the evidence of who they were before their marriage, we occasionally draw a blank as no marriage certificate can be found. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you overcome the challenge presented by a mystery woman, and hopefully they’ll get you “just the girl you want”.

1

ASK AROUND Start your search offline. Never underestimate the amount of information sitting in the minds of those around you. Does anyone in the family know the maiden name or recall other family names that could be associated with your mystery woman?

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LOOK AT HOME Is there a family member with a house full of memorabilia, or maybe a stray shoebox or two?

I never cease to be amazed at what lies hiding in the bottom of random broom closets. A stray birthday card, wedding invitations, funeral cards, details on the backs of photos, notes on postcards and letters, or even an old diary, could point you to that elusive maiden name. The inside covers of old books can also contain hints, and possibly an old address. Also check related collections at Ancestry.com.au, including public member photos and documents — there’s almost 30 million of these on the site. Even if you come up empty-handed, a good rummage through the detritus of your family’s history is always therapeutic.

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RESEARCH THE CHURCH Now it’s time to get serious. Prior to Federation, individual States were often hit and miss with civil registration of our vital records. This isn’t a comment on the role of our registries — if they received the paperwork then it’s in their records. But when you leave it up to men to fill in and file paperwork, well… 

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Previous page Dulcie Catherine Garner (née Argent), Brad Argent’s paternal great aunt. The photograph from the 1940s was discovered by asking family members for leads (see tip one) Left Three-year-old Rhonda Argent (née Emery), Brad’s mother. This image came to light when he was rummaging through one of those random broom closets (see tip two) Opposite, from left Rhonda Emery, Nita Emery (Brad’s grandmother), and Evelyn Higgins (née Hatton), Nita’s sister-in-law. Nita is holding Evelyn’s son, Raymond Higgins. Brad had trouble discovering Evelyn’s maiden name until he stumbled upon an online family tree (see tip four). This gave him the information needed to identify Evelyn and Raymond in the photograph

However, church records and registers (parish registers) may well hold all the details you need. Start with the church in which you believe the marriage took place — people usually got married close to where they were born or where they settled so start there, but you may have to expand your search. There are no hard-and-fast rules in relation to church recordkeeping in Australia – some are stored locally, some centrally, some are kept with the minister. You’ll need to ask around, often multiple times.

4

CHECK ONLINE FAMILY TREES The number of family trees online is growing exponentially, so get searching: you may discover that someone else has already jotted down a maiden name for your target. But be warned – you will want to reconstruct the research done by the person who put the tree online to be certain it’s the right maiden name and the right woman. Remember: online trees are just a signpost that might point you in the right direction — they are not a substitute for your own research!

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NOTABLE NEIGHBOURS? Historically, families stuck together and it’s highly likely that the person you are looking

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for lived within cooee of their siblings and parents. Post office directories, such as the Sands Directories, often provide a layout of who is in the street, so it’s worth having a look at some of the nearby names and seeing if anything leaps out. Also look at property records as land was often passed within the extended family. More and more of this is coming online every day. Check with your local State Archive or Lands Department.

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SEARCH THE CHILDREN Birth records, particularly Australian ones, are the core of any family history research. However, apart from the obvious details they can also provide a wealth of other information. Middle names are a great example as they may have come from the mystery woman’s side of the family, or could even be her maiden name. This was quite common, particularly when the maiden name had some standing in the community, or when there were no male heirs to carry on a line. Baptism records can also include the name of a sponsor or godparent who was related to your mystery woman, so keep this in mind when you research church records. Children were often baptised in the same church in which their parents were married.


“Clues in the census records may point you to your ancestor’s past. If another adult of a different surname is listed with the family, it could be a parent or a younger sibling who’s helping with the kids.”

DIG AROUND THE FAMILY PLOT Families often remained together even after death. Cemetery and burial records may mention your mystery woman’s side of the family, and their cemetery plots may be close by. This is one of the benefits of visiting a cemetery; you can see who is buried nearby and make connections that you couldn’t make just by looking at a death certificate. Often a headstone is the only place a familial connection is recorded. Once you’ve found where the person is buried — check out Ancestry’s growing collection of cemetery transcriptions — arrange a visit to the cemetery. If you can’t get to the cemetery try the nearest family history society: many of them will photograph a headstone for a small fee.

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READ THE NEWSPAPER By now everyone should be aware of the fantastic digitised newspapers on Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au). Set aside some time to search through the obituaries, funeral announcements and death notices. These personal notices can hold valuable details, including the names of male siblings or cousins, whose surnames mirror her maiden name. Also look for wedding and engagement announcements. Do the same (plus birth announcements) for her children — if their grandparents are listed, you’ll have found her parents, too. Trove has solved more “mystery women” issues for me than any other source.

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GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING Once you have gathered some information on your femme mystérieuse revisit the storytellers in your family — the hints you’ve uncovered along the way will trigger memories and bring new information to the fore. 

MOVE FORWARD Clues in the census records may point you to your ancestor’s past. If another adult of a different surname is listed with the family, it could be an elderly parent or a younger sibling, who’s helping with the kids. Follow that person back through census records to see if he or she might be the clue you need to locate that missing maiden name. This approach can also work with the electoral rolls, but it requires a bit more “elbow grease”.

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✳ Australia’s leading family history website, Ancestry.com.au, contains more than 930 million records in its Australian and UK collections.

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Inverell District Family History Group Inc.

Invite you to attend the

NSW & ACT ASSOCIATION of FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETIES State Conference Date: 16, 17 and 18 September 2011 Place: Inverell NSW Venue: Inverell RSM Club Theme: Pioneering the Country Join fellow family historians for a weekend of learning and friendship as we discover more about researching the lives of our ancestors • Excellent speakers • Society and commercial trading tables • Family History Fair on the 16th — free entry on this day For more information contact: IDFHG Inc PO Box 367, Inverell 2360 Email: info@inverellfamilyhistory.org.au Website: www.inverellfamilyhistory.org.au


your family

An American perspective Genealogist and author Dan Lynch looks at the differences — or should that be the similarities? — in researching Australian and American family trees

O

N A recent trip to Australia I learnt a valuable lesson, and I’m still a bit embarrassed because it’s one we’re all supposed to know — especially if we consider ourselves family historians. Never assume anything! Now, I could try to explain it away with another catchphrase, “Never say never,” but I’ll move on by explaining how I travelled down this path of embarassment. Hopefully you’ll benefit from my public confession and avoid doing something similar. It’s important to note that I was born, raised, and still live in the United States — a fourth generation American of Irish and Italian descent. I’ve been working on my family history for more than 30 years and, like many others, have a few stubborn brick walls and many facts still awaiting my discovery. My first trip to Australia was in 2005 — a work trip that had nothing to do with family history and so I was here and gone within 10 days. But even with no family ties to Australia, I was intrigued to learn about the First Fleet and the history of the country. Did you spot my mistake? Not a single family member on either side of my tree has ever shared a story about distant cousins in Australia, so certainly it was safe to assume I had no family ties, right? Wrong! My second trip, in late 2010, was quite different, in that it was all about genealogy. I was invited to speak at a series of family history events sponsored by Unlock the Past. As the author of Google Your

Family Tree (Gould Genealogy, $44.95), it was an opportunity for me to meet with hundreds of likeminded family history enthusiasts. For me, the experience was part history lesson, part geography quiz, part political debate, part sports education, and yes — part fun, too. The Unlock the Past events were coordinated in close partnerships with the genealogy societies in each state. The roadshow covered six cities in Australia and three in New Zealand, but I was only on hand for the Australian component: 31 presentations in 14 days. It took me more than a week to re-adjust to my own time zone upon my arrival back home, but I’ll never look at family history research the same way again.

SHARING HISTORY What struck me most about Australian genealogy were the similarities, not the differences. I’m not sure why I was expecting things to be that much different, but perhaps it was the 37 hours it took me — door to door — to get to my first hotel in Adelaide. Although a very distant country in terms of mileage, there are many parallels that exist between Australia and the United States from a genealogical perspective. Much like Australia, the US and Canada are essentially nations of immigrants and their descendants. While in Adelaide, I visited the Migration Museum. The displays were exceptional —

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Previous page Tashua Burial Ground, which dates back to 1766 Left Dan Lynch and his new-found Australian cousin, Guido Orsatti

both visual and interactive — and quickly gave me an understanding of the impact various ethnic groups had on the development of the country, as well as the time periods for their arrival. Irish, German, English, Italian, Greek, Dutch, and many others… it was strikingly similar to the feeling I have each time I visit Ellis Island in New York Harbour and see these same ethnic groups recorded among the arrivals to America. Another interesting parallel lies with the Native American Indians and Australia’s Indigenous population. The influence of the Aborigines is most evident in the place names throughout Australia — my favourite was Woolloomooloo in Sydney. The name reminds me of learning to spell the southern state of Mississippi in school. At home, I’m surrounded by Native American Indian place names. Even the name of the street I live on — Tashua Road — dates back to a local tribe of Native American Indians from the 1700s and likely much earlier. In the US, it’s common at conferences to meet someone who’s proud to be connected to a Mayflower passenger (1620) or has verified membership in the sons and daughters of the American Revolution — in both cases, the closest thing that might tie a family to American “royalty.” It was interesting to hear that similar pride from researchers who shared their connections to passengers from the First Fleet, but others even more proud to have connected to one of the 778 convicts to arrive as part of that first group. Another similarity exists with the historic church buildings that dot the landscape of each city, and the

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old cemeteries weren’t too hard to find either. I’m partial to old cemeteries — at home, a 1766 cemetery is just a 60-second walk from my front door. During the roadshow, two cemeteries in particular caught my eye — the East Perth Cemeteries in Western Australia, and Toowong Cemetery in Queensland. I happened upon the former by accident one evening and was disappointed it was completely fenced in and locked. I owe a special thanks to Sarah Murphy, Manager of Conservation and Stewardship at the National Trust, who graciously and on very short notice unlocked the gates and gave me and two colleagues a tour of the site. The greatest similarities, however, were talking with many individuals about their specific research. It seems no matter where we live, we struggle with the same genealogical challenges. Wishing we had started sooner, wishing we had asked questions and written things down, ancestors who changed the spellings of their surname for no apparent reason (as if having done so just to throw us off the trail). Birth, death, and marriage records, migration and passenger lists, church records, naturalisation papers — the sources we turn to appear to be universal. The need for good computer search skills also seems to be a common language we share.

NEW FRIENDS, OLD FRIENDS I mentioned in my opening paragraph that I didn’t have any family connections in Australia. Now I know this is going to seem as though I’ve scripted this for a magazine article, but thankfully I have about 200 witnesses to back up my story. On my last day of presenting, just before lunch, I answered a question from the audience about a Google search technique that can help generate clues for unknown maiden names. I demonstrated and explained the technique using the name of my Italian-born great grandmother – Anna Orsatti Ditoto. After lunch, a conference attendee approached me with an intriguing coincidence. He’d just left the restaurant and noticed the name badge of another guest who was competing in a lawn bowling tournament outside the conference. The nametag read “Guido Orsatti”. You can guess what comes next. With an hour before my final presentation was set to begin, I had just enough time to walk outside,


watch a few minutes of lawn bowls and work up the courage to whisper to one of the officials, “Excuse me, is there a gentleman named Guido Orsatti here?” The result of this query was far better than anything Google had ever served up — within seconds I was shaking hands with a 71-year old Australian, but not just any Australian. An Italian immigrant born in a small village called Fara San Martino. The same village where my great grandmother’s father was born. Within minutes we were inspecting the names and dates on my laptop – Orsatti, De Cecco, D’Intino. Within a few hours, I was sitting at his dining table enjoying conversation and homemade pasta (yes, really) with Guido, his wife, sister, and sister-in-law. Strangely, it turns out his brother’s wife and I had traded several emails four years earlier about our common pursuit of the Orsatti line. We’re now reconnected and trying to determine the exact relationship, but it’s an amazing reminder to me that we should never rule anything out. Yes — many people did come to North America seeking new opportunities, but other family members went to Australia, Canada, South America or elsewhere. Of course, some stayed right where they were. I now plan to use many of the wonderful Australian resources I learned about to see if other ancestral cousins planted roots Down Under. I’d suggest you consider doing the same in reverse. Even if you, too, are sure you have no family in the US, it may help to research migration records for common surnames. Oh, there’s just one last piece to this story. As I was saying arrivederci to Guido, he asked if I might be able to help him reconnect with an old friend who had left Italy for America some 50 years earlier. “Of course,” I replied – there are only 310 million people in America, how hard could this be? Sadly, I was able to verify his friend died in 1997, but had lived just 10 minutes from my home. Turns out he was an architect who designed a nearby home owned by my friend’s family. Yes, it’s a small world! ✳ Dan Lynch is a professional genealogist, award-winning

author, and international speaker. He is the founder of Family Tree Brands, a consulting business focused on the worldwide market for genealogy products and services. His book, Google Your Family Tree, is published in Australia by Gould Genealogy (www.gould.com.au)

Inside History

Mar-Apr 2011

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Bushrangers, cross-dressers and escaped convicts — Kay Saunders’ latest book Notorious Australian Women takes a look at some of the less than conventional ladies of Australia’s past. Resourceful, cunning, ruthless or ambitious, these gals snubbed the cultural norms of the colony and forged their own paths — for wealth, equal rights or even just their basic freedoms. Inside History is giving away five copies of this fantastic book to some of our lucky readers. As Saunders explains in her interview (see page 13), when researching your family history, context is everything. Don’t miss out on a tell-tale glimpse into the colonial conditions women, and quite possibly your own ancestors, were faced with. To enter, send your name and contact details to Inside History, Notorious Australian Women Giveaway, PO Box 406 Erskineville NSW 2043 or email cass@insidehistory.com.au by 5pm, June 28, 2011.

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your family

One picture… …1000 memories In 1859 Alexander Stewart, farmer of Droughtag in Wigtonshire, Scotland, made the momentous decision to sell his farm and take his second wife Georgina and their children to Australia. As a token of respect the community collected the sum of £105, which was presented to him on his leaving. He was also given a cedar portable writing desk with a brass plaque inscribed with his name and year. The writing desk remains with the family via his daughter, Tomina, who married Andrew Barron of Toolambi, Victoria, in 1874. The writing desk stores letters, family documents, newspaper articles pertaining to the family and photos. Andrew and Tomina’s eldest son Robert became the custodian of the writing desk, and it has been handed down from father to son to the present day. On one occasion when we were sifting through the desk the drawer on the side was totally removed and to our delight and excitement a photo was found at the back. My then 80-year-old father in law, grandson of Tomina, had never seen the photo, right, which is a typical Victorian pose of Andrew and a pregnant Tomina. We always look at the photo and see a happy mother-to-be who had no idea that one day this photo would be a family treasure. — Erica Barron, Kenthurst, NSW

✳ Do you have a favourite family image you’d like to tell our readers about? We’d love to hear from you. Email a high-quality scan and the history behind the picture to cass@insidehistory.com.au and we’ll publish it here.

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Issue 4: May-Jun 2011  

Inside History is for people passionate about Australian and New Zealand genealogy, history and heritage. In our May/June edition (issue 4):...

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