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My passion is genealogy and family history. I host a podcast about Australian family history, Genies Down Under. In my day job, I work as a lecturer and a researcher in higher education, teaching pre-service teachers.

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Thursday, 7 January 2021

Finding family history facts in the DARNdest of places

There are so many sources to find family history information ... old letters, certificates, conversations with relatives, the list goes on. Over the last few days I dug out a very old craft project that I started over 20 years ago - a candlewicking quilt that I began sewing in the 1990s. 

In an old calico bag, along with a bunch of quilt squares that might one day become a whole quilt, I found my paternal grandmother's old embroidery hoop that had been given to me many years ago as a memory of her.  For those not familiar with the tools of embroidery,  fabric is stretched between two hoops to hold the fabric taut, making it easier for the embroiderer to hold and sew the fabric. The fabric is stretched between two hoops, the outer hoop being slightly larger than the inner hoop.

My paternal grandmother, Ellen Mary/Maria KENELLEY, became Ellen (Nellie) NORTHCOTE when she married my paternal grandfather in 1930. She was born in in the nineteenth century, in 1893, she died in the twentieth century, in 1985, and is remembered today in the twenty-first century. She used to call embroidery "handiwork". Her embroidery hoops were used by her when she was a young woman, in the early 1900s.

To record her ownership of these hoops, she recorded her name and address on them. On the outer rim of the large hoop and on the inner rim of the small hoop, my grandmother had written her full name and the address of her childhood home:

Ellen Mary Margaret Kenelley, Killea, Renwick St, Drummoyne


Killea was the name her parents gave to the house where she lived much of her early life: 26 Renwick St, Drummoyne. This house was named after the town of Killea (near Templemore) in County Tipperary, Ireland, where her father, William Joseph Kenelley, was born in 1860. He had travelled to Australia in 1888. He met his wife-to-be, Margaret Anne BUTLER, in Sydney and they married at St Augustus Catholic Church in Balmain in 1890. Margaret was from Doolough (near the town of Kilmihil) in County Clare and she had arrived in Australia in 1880. After they married, William and Margaret Kenelley made their home in Drummoyne and owned a number of houses in Renwick St, Drummoyne. One of these homes was 26 Renwick St, Drummoyne, also known as "Killea". 

26 Renwick St, Drummoyne
(Photo taken by Maria Northcote, 22 February 2020)

Although I had previously found out this information a few years before about the name of her childhood home in Renwick St, Drummoyne, it was still nice to see it recorded in such a quirky location. Thanks, Grandma, for speaking to me through your handiwork tool, down through the ages.

I think the sweetest thing of all about this discovery is the little shamrock she has drawn at the beginning of her name and at the end of her address. It shows how connected she felt to her parents' home country.

Ellen KENELLEY, around 1910

As my grandmother's embroidery hoops show, family history facts can be found in the darndest of places.

๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€

Friday, 24 April 2020

Tribute to Squadron no. 22 (City of Sydney) and Carew Joseph Trevor NORTHCOTE

To commemorate Anzac Day in 2020, I would like to make a tribute to my father, Carew Joseph Trevor NORTHCOTE, and the No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron of the Citizen Air Force in Australia, which was formed on 20 April 1936. My Dad belonged to Squadron no. 22 when he was in the Citizen Air Force in the 1950s.

In 2019 I visited the memorial plaque of Squadron no. 22 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, with friends Dot and Cathy.

No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron plaque

The plaque was made in the same year that my Dad died, 2002, and it was dedicated on 16 March 2003 at a ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial.

For more information about the no. 22 Squadron, go to:
No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron - Plaque details and location
No. 22 Squadron - History 
No. 22 Squadron (RAAF), 77 Strike Wing, 1st Tactical Air Force - SW Pacific, Virtual War Memorial Australia 
No. 22 Squadron, Australian War Memorial
No. 22 Squadron (RAF),  Australian War Memorial
No. 22 Squadron RAAF, Wikipedia 

Dad often spoke of his time in the airforce. He especially enjoyed the friendship with his mates, the travel between airforce bases as well as working on the planes. Dad's specialty was working on the electrical instruments and meters that were used in to fly the planes. His time in the airforce left him with a lifelong love of planes, flying and airports.

Dad at Daley Waters Airport, 1955

Darwin airbase, 1955

Dad at Pearce Airbase, Perth, with machine gun bullets for a Vampire plane

Refuelling with portable pump at Woomera, en route to Darwin, 1955

Earlier this year, I purchased a replica of a patch from Dad's Airforce squadron - Squadron 22.

Rest in peace, Dad.

Friday, 10 April 2020

My Dad, one of Lorraine Dawson's Dancing Darlings

A rainy afternoon in isolation came in handy for scanning in some old framed photos that emerged from Mum's garage a few months ago … this was one of them ...

Dad was dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy in the photo above. He looks about 6 or 7 in this photo, so it was probably taken about 1938 or 1939. 

Dad's father was a tailor and often created amazing costumes for him to wear as a young child. apparently he loved dressing up in these costumes and attending fancy dress events. Dad was a member of Lorraine Dawson's Dancing Darlings.

Source of public domain image: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C397589

In a pile of old documents, we found an old program for one of the events he entered. He is listed as item no. 4, "Dream House", in the second part of the show.

By 1949 when he was a teenager, Dad was still performing. This is a photo of Dad playing a devil (in the red costume on the left) in a concert, on 19 December 1949.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Who on earth is William MONTGOMERY?

This blogpost is just a place to record a weird little thing I found out recently, along with a lot of questions and, as always, a list of possibilities to investigate in the future.

So, here's some background information about one of my great-grandfathers, who I tend to refer to as Walter William NORTHCOTE or "the mystery man".

My mystery great-grandfather used many first names but he always used the same surname. His varied names were recorded on a variety of records that were left behind after he died in 1888. After his death, various forms of his first name were also recorded on the marriage and death certificates of his children.
  • Walter NORTHCOTE, 1872 (Gerigeree Creek), recorded on a list of unclaimed letters in the New South Wales Government Gazette
  • William NORTHCOTE, 1876 (Bodangora Creek), recorded on his son's (Alfred) birth certificate
  • William NORTHCOTE, 1878 & 1880 (Warialda), on NSW land grant records
  • Walter Henry NORTHCOTE, 1879 (Dubbo), recorded on his son's (Carew) birth certificate
  • Walter Henry NORTHCOTE, 1881 (Warren), recorded on his son's (Percival) birth certificate
  • Walter H NORTHCOTE, 1881-1882 (Macquarie River, Gillwarna), recorded on Dubbo electoral roll
  • William NORTHCOTE, 1883 (Dubbo), recorded in Police Gazette, auctioneer's licence
  • Walter NORTHCOTE, 1884 (Girilambone), recorded on his son's (Arthur) birth certificate
  • Walter Stafford NORTHCOTE, 1886 (Bourke), recorded on insolvency files
  • George Bede NORTHCOTE, 1887 (Bourke), recorded on son's (Leo) birth certificate
  • William Walter NORTHCOTE, 1888 (Bourke), recorded on his death certificate 
  • William Walter NORTHCOTE, 1888 (Bourke), recorded on Bourke cemetery records 
  • Walter William NORTHCOTE, 1904, recorded on son's (William Montgomery) marriage certificate
  • Walter John NORTHCOTE, 1910, recorded on his son's (Carew) marriage certificate
  • William Walter NORTHCOTE, 1927, recorded on his wife's (Margaret) death certificate
  • Walter NORTHCOTE, 1930, recorded on his son's (Leo) marriage certificate
  • Walter William NORTHCOTE, 1933, recorded on his son's (William Montgomery) marriage certificate
  • Walter John NORTHCOTE, 1954, recorded by on his son's (Walter John) death certificate
  • William Walter NORTHCOTE, 1970, recorded on his son's (Leo) marriage certificate
Apart from making it very difficult to research this ancestor with at least six (William, Walter, Henry, George, Bede, John) different first names, creatively ordered on many documents, I have been asking a question for almost 30 years, why did he change his first name so often? Did he have something to hide? Was he just casual with the truth? Was he just adopting new names as he felt like it?

Together with his wife, my great-grandmother, Margaret RILEY, they gave their 7 sons some interesting names:
  1. Walter John NORTHCOTE, born in 1871 at Bodangora, near Wellington
  2. William Montgomery NORTHCOTE, born in 1875 at Mitchell Creek or Bodangora, near Wellington
  3. Alfred Joseph NORTHCOTE, born in 1876 at Bodangora Creek, near Wellington
  4. Aloysius Carew Standish NORTHCOTE, born in 1879 at Dubbo
  5. Percival Phil Ernest NORTHCOTE, born in 1881 at Warren
  6. Arthur Francis NORTHCOTE, born in 1884 at Girilambone
  7. George Bede (aka Leo Bertie Bede) NORTHCOTE, born in 1887 at Bourke
According to our verbal family history, this family of NORTHCOTEs worked along the train line, as it was opening up between Orange and Bourke during the 1870s and 1880s.

NORTHCOTE boys' birthplaces (1871-1887)

When I looked up the dates when the nearby train stations opened, the birth of their seven sons lined up with these dates:
  • Orange train station opened in 1877
  • Wellington (close to Bodangora) train station opened in 1880 (first three children born at Bodangora, near Wellington from 1871-1876)
  • Dubbo train station opened in 1881 (fourth child born at Dubbo in 1879)
  • Nevertire (close to Warren) opened in 1883 (fifth child born at Warren in 1881)
  • Girilambone train station opened in 1884 (sixth child born at Girilambone in 1884)
  • Bourke train station opened in 1885 (seventh child born at Bourke in 1887)

Opening years of train stations above sourced from: NSWrail.net (Main Western Line): https://www.nswrail.net/lines/show.php?name=NSW:main_west [accessed 14 September 2019]

Introducing William MONTGOMERY

A few weeks ago, I visited the NSW Archives at Kingswood in Sydney. I looked up a the Registers of applications for auctioneers', hawkers' and other licences. Because these records are not indexed, I browsed through the book, page-by-page. I was looking for a record of my great-grandfather who apparently worked as an auctioneer in 1883 in Dubbo, as recorded in the NSW Police Gazette. Although I didn't find my ancestor, I did find someone whose first and surnames were exactly the same as my great-grandfather's second son, William Montgomery NORTHCOTE. The man I found referred to in this index had the name of William MONTGOMERY and he was living and working in the same area near Wellington in NSW where my NORTHCOTE ancestors were living - that is, Mitchell's Creek, near Bodangora, not far from Wellington.

I found William MONTGOMERY in the 1872 and 1871 sections of the book below, Registers of applications for auctioneers', hawkers' and other licences (1865-1873).

I thought this was a bit of a coincidence that this man, William MONTGOMERY, was living in the same small area of NSW that my ancestors were living.

Yet more questions:

Was the NORTHCOTE family friends with William MONTGOMERY and his family in Mitchells Creek at Bodangora? Did they name their second son after him? Or was he a relative?

DNA questions

When I told this story to one of my genie friends, Janelle, she suggested that I consult my DNA results to find out more. "Were there any MONTGOMERYs in your DNA matches?" she asked me.

The short answer is YES! While the MONTGOMERY name only pops up at the 5-th-8th cousin level, it certainly comes up when I search for this name more than the NORTHCOTE surname comes up. I'm still not sure what this means but it sure is interesting.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Going back to 1902: Visiting the birthplace of my maternal grandmother, Lily KINGSBURY

Lily Ann KINGSBURY, my grandmother, was born on 25 November 1902 in an upstairs bedroom of no. 10 Red Lion St, a little terrace house in Balmain South (an area of Sydney now known as Rozelle). She lived in this home with her family for the first three years of her life.

10 Red Lion St, Rozelle
Source: Google Maps, 19 January 2019

Lily's father's name is recorded on the 1901 census as "Jas KINGSBURY" (James Walter KINGSBURY) who was living with three females. I think they were:

  1. his wife, Catherine KINGSBURY (nee CARRICK);
  2. his daughter, Essie KINGSBURY, born in 1891 (from his first marriage to Elizabeth CHESWORTH who died in 1893) 
  3. his daughter, Mary Elizabeth KINGSBURY, born in 1900.
The sister of Catherine KINGSBURY (nee CARRICK), Hannah STAPLES (nee CARRICK), was living next door with her husband, Edgar STAPLES, in no. 8 Red Lion St.

Excerpt from 1901 Australia Census

No. 8 and no. 10 Red Lion St are part of a set of terrace houses that were built in the 1880s, known as "Mary's row". The outside of each of these homes has probably not changed that much since they were built. Here is how they look now:

No. 8 Red Lion, Rozelle

No. 10 Red Lion St, Rozelle

Today, over 116 years later, three of Lily's descendants visited the terrace house where she was born. Along with my Mum (Lily's eldest daughter), my Aunty Mary (Lily's niece) and my Uncle Brian, we all visited the house and walked in the footsteps of our ancestors.  It was a very moving feeling to walk over the threshold of this house into the space where the KINGSBURY family lived over 100 years ago and where my lovely Grandma (my Mum's Mum and my Aunty Mary's Aunty Lil) was born.

The bottom floor was made up of two living rooms, a kitchen/laundry/toilet and a courtyard.

And the two bedrooms were upstairs. Lily KINGSBURY would have been born in one of these two bedrooms in 1902.

According to a few records I have found (1901 Census, Sands Directory of Sydney, Birth Certificate), it seems that the KINGSBURY family lived at no. 10 Red Lion St for about five years from 1901 through to 1905.  By June 1905, when Lily's brother, James Thomas KINGSBURY, was born, the family had moved to Merton St, Balmain South (now known as Rozelle).

Excerpt from 1901 Sands Directory, page 230

Excerpt from 1902 Sands Directory, page 232

Excerpt from 1903 Sands Directory, page 229

Excerpt from 1904 Sands Directory, page 226

Excerpt from 1905 Sands Directory, page 230

Thanks to a Google Alert that let me know that no. 10 Red Lion was available for rent, and thanks to the real estate agent who allowed us to look through the house this morning, we were able to walk back into the past to an important time in our family's history. We enjoyed walking on the floorboards, climbing the stairs, touching the doors and imagining the lives of our ancestors in this house.

Lily KINGSBURY as a young child

Essie KINGSBURY as a young child