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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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Saturday, 24 November 2012

So, that's what they looked like?

After searching through the NSW Police Gazette recently 1854–1930, I found quite a few references to some of my ancestors who were listed under the following types of entries

  • missing persons/ missing friends
  • people who had had items stolen
  • criminals who had been apprehended

One of the aspects of the NSW Police Gazettes that is so useful for anyone who ever had ancestors in NSW is that the information is provided about "the lives of people on both sides of the law". In other words, people who had committed crimes as well as people who were victims of crime.

Here are a couple of references I found to my ancestors under the "Missing Friends" section:

24 March 1926:
Missing, since the 13th instant from her home, 7 Connemarra-street, Bexley, - LUCY NORTHCOTE, 50 years of age, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, medium complexion, black hair, turning grey, blue eyes; dressed in a striped Fuji de luxe dress, black hat and black shoes and stockings; has been despondent of late. Information to her husband at the above address.


Missing since 2nd August 1925, from his home, Murralong-avenue, Five Dock, - ALFRED JAMES NORTHCOTT, 50 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, medium build, fair complexion, brown hair, and moustache, grey eyes; dressed in dark tweed trousers, double-breasted navy-blue coat, dark nigger-brown boots and  a brown felt hat; a labourer; a bachelor. Informration to his mother, Margaret Northcott, at the above address.
[apologies for the politically incorrect description of Alfred's boots]

The Police Gazettes can be accessed and searched through Ancestry.com.au. If you don't have paid subscription access to Ancestry, you can access it through computers at some libraries, archives offices and family history centres. Or, you can buy them from Gould Genealogy for about AUD$40.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Can my dead people to talk to your dead people?

Well, I suppose they can't really talk to each other! Even so, maybe we can do the talking for them now that they're gone.

I've decided to take the lead of Janelle Collins in her first blog post titled, Just starting out with the ancestor list, so many of them!!, and share some of the names of my ancestors in the hope that you and I may be able to help each other in our family research.

Here is my first attempt to share a bunch of names of some of my long-time-dead and not-so-long-dead ancestors with you, along with a few pics. If you recognise any of them, I'd love to hear from you. Let my ancestors talk to your ancestors, through this blog:)

Below are a list of some of my English ancestors who were living, marrying, working, dying in Winterborne Whitechurch in Dorset. Some some of them went off to live in Holywell, Flintshire in Wales around 1865 and some of these migrated to Australia:

Joseph Kingsbury (born 1789ish, Winterborne  Whitechurch, Dorset - died 1866, Dorset County Hospital Holy Trinity Dorchester)
George Kingsbury (born 1814ish, Winterborne Whitechurch, Dorset)
William Henry Kingsbury (born c.1817,  Winterborne Whitechurch, Dorset - c. 1890)
James Kingsbury (born 1821,  Winterborne Whitechurch, Dorset )
George Kingsbury (born c.1843, Winterborne Whitechurch - died 1910 in Mostyn, Wales, Holywell, Flintshire)
James Walter Kingsbury (born 1867, Ysciefiog, Holywell in the County of Flint in Wales - died 1945, Beverly Hills, Sydney, NSW, Australia)

Bessie Jane Kingsbury (born 1870, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales)

George Kingsbury (born 1873, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales - died 1938 in Flintshire, Wales)

Mary Kingsbury (born 1875, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales)

Louisa Kingsbury (born c. 1875, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales)

Sarah Kingsbury (born 1880, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales - died 1880, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales)

Sarah Kingsbury (born 1881, Holywell, Flintshire, Wales - died 1967 in Blackpool England, as Sarah (Sally) Abbiss)

Essie Kingsbury (born 1891, Sydney, NSW - died 1938, as Essie Weidemier, Sydney, NSW)

Mary Elizabeth KINGSBURY (born 1900, Balmain, Sydney, NSW - died 1943, Auburn, Sydney, NSW, as Mary Brodie )
Lily Ann Kingsbury (born Rozelle, Sydney, NSW 1902 - died 1996, Ryde, Sydney NSW, as Lily Ann Walters)

James Thomas KINGSBURY (born 1905, Balmain, Sydney, NSW - died 1905, Merton St, Balmain, Sydney, NSW)

So, do you think any of your dead ancestors spoke to any of my dead ancestors? Did they cross paths, do you think? Did they share a bus seat, a tram seat or a footpath? I can't help but wonder.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Merry Month of May Music Meme by Maria

I couldn't resist responding to Pauline's meme challenge for the merry month of May  and following on in the inspirational footsteps of Jill Ball's challenge for the merry month of May ... here is my contribution ...

1. Song(s)/Music from your childhood: Mama Mia, by Abba
2. Song(s)/ Musos from your teenage years: Skyhooks, Beatles, Angels, Bruce Springsteen
3. First live concert you attended: Police at the Sydney showground
4. Songs your parents sang along to: Anything rock and roll and whoever sang "The Green Green Grass of Home"
5. Song(s)/Music your grandparents sang/played: Any "old" songs. Can't remember the details except for the tune of a lovely soft lullaby my old grandfather used to sing to me when I was nodding off to sleep
6. Did your family have sing-a-longs at home or a neighbours: Not that I can remember, apart from hymns at Mass on Sundays
7. Did you have a musical instrument at home: Yes, a piano that I can't remember anyone playing. We also had a few old plastic recorders in drawers and a guitar when I was older that my brother picked up and played by ear (I was very jealous).
8. What instruments do you play (if any): Attempted to play the guitar for a few years with little success.
9. What instruments do you wish you could play: Guitar!
10. Do you/did you play in a band or orchestra: No, never.
11. Do you/did you sing in a choir: I didn't sing in an official choir but have the claim to fame of singing solo at the Opera House in an eisteddfod our class attended when I was in Grade 3. The song I sang (we all sang the same song) was "Once I Saw a Little Bird go Hop Hop Hop".
12. Music you were married to: Ave Maria (Schubert)
13. Romantic music memories: Louis Prima, Free concerts in Victoria Park in Sydney in the late 1970s (Dragon, Angels, Split Enz), Lots of Aussie music at the Three Weeds Hotel (Rose, Shamrock and Thistle) at Rozelle
14. Favourite music genre(s): Mainly 1950s, 1940s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s
15. Favourite classical music: Strauss, Shubert
16. Favourite opera/light opera: Can't think of one right now that I really love
17. Favourite musical: Not that keen on musicals
18. Favourite pop: Abba, always
19. Favourite world/ethnic: Gypsy Kings, Warren Fahey - great Aussie musical icon, Sirocco, Irish folk music and ballads
20. Favourite jazz:  1940s
21. Favourite country or folk: The Seekers, John Denver
22. Favourite movie/show musical: Grease
23. Favourite sounds tracks: Sound track from these movies: High Fidelity and Pirate Radio
24. What music do you like to dance to: 1950s, 1960s, 1970s
25. What dances did you do as a teenager: The Bump, Twist, Barn Dances, Nut Bush City Limits, Disco (sadly)
26. Do you use music for caller ID on your mobile: Yes, theme from the Flight of the Conchords
27. What songs do you use for caller ID: None

28. What songs do your children like or listen to: Don't have any (children, that is)
29. Favourite live music concerts as an adult: Abba impersonators, Aerosmith, Ross Ryan

30. Silly music memories from your family: Dancing around the house to "Fever" being played on a 45 record on an old gramophone
31. Silliest song you can think of: Chicken Dance song
32. Pet hate in music/singing: Vibrato female singers
33. A song that captures family history for you: Family Tree by the group Venice

34. If you could only play 5 albums (assume no iPods or mp3) for the rest of your life, what would they be:


Songs of the Protest Era
Songs of Protest CD Cover Art CD music music CDs songs album

John Lennon, Imagine

Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits

35. Favourite artists (go ahead and list as many as you like): Mary Black, Bruce Springsteen, Killing Heidi, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, Abba, Tom Jones, The Monkees, Hoodoo Gurus, Johnny Cash, The Carpenters, Rod Stewart, Billy Bragg, Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

How to conduct a good family history interview

This weekend, I'm going to have an opportunity to interview a few family members about days gone by. Since these family members are my elders, I'm hoping to ask them what life was like in their neck of the woods around the 1940s and 1950s.

Here are a few of the questions, I plan to use.

  • What are your memories of this holiday (see photo above)?
  • Were there any stories that were passed down through the generations?
  • What was your family's favourite food?
  • What did you all do on the weekend?
  • What did you learn from your grandparents? your parents?
  • What did your family do on Christmas Day?
  • What is your saddest/ funniest/ earliest/ most exciting memory?
  • What was your mother/ father/ grandmother/ grandfather like as a person? How do you think they would like to be remembered? What is it you miss about them the most?
  • Are there any treasured family photos that you can tell me about or share with me?
  • Did you have any pets? If so, what can you remember about them?
  • What made your family laugh?

Does anyone else have any other suggestions for good questions or conversation starters?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Which uniform is that?

This blog is still on a military theme ...

One of my great-grandfather's sisters was Sarah (aka Sally) KINGSBURY. She was born in 1881 in Flintshire, Wales and died in 1967 in Blackpool England.

Her first husband was Samuel BUXTON. They married in Fylde, Lancashire in 1902. At the time of her marriage, Sarah was about 20. I think this photo may have been on her wedding day or soon after. I guess that the man in the chair is Samuel BUXTON. If I knew what uniform he was wearing, I thought that I may be able to work out what war he was in.

At the bottom right corner of the photograph, the photographer's name or the photographic studio is named as Ellis Wolstenholme, Wellington Studio, Blackpool.  On other sites on the internet, the address of this photographic studios is described as “Wellington Studio, Opp Central Pier, Blackpool”. This photographic studio seems to have been in business from 1881 to at least 1939.

I believe that by 1923, Sarah had had at least four children, possibly five, with Samuel BUXTON but they had parted company. By this time she had met William ABBISS with whom she spent the rest of his life, until he died in 1956, one year after they were married. Sarah finally married William the year that her former husband, Samuel BUXTON, died in 1955.

The photo below of Sarah (Sally) in later years, probably with William ABBISS, seems to have been taken when she was about 50 years of age in about 1931.

Does anyone recognise the type of uniform the soldier is wearing in the first photo in this blog? I would be grateful for any ideas.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Thanks to you ... Thomas Patrick Butler (1894-1917)

With Anzac Day just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to honour one of my ancestors who lost his life in the first world war.

Thomas Patrick Butler was born in Sydney in 1894. He was the second son of Thomas Butler (from County Clare, Ireland) and Catherine Heraty (from County Mayo, Ireland) who married in Balmain in Sydney in 1892.

Thomas signed up on 23 December 1915, just before Christmas. He listed his next of kin as his mother, Catherine Butler (nee Heraty). Details from his service record include:

  • Service number: 5334
  • Rank: Corporal
  • Unit: 55th Battalion (Infantry)
  • Service: Australian Army
  • Conflict: 1914-1918
  • Date of death: 10 March 1917
  • Cause of death: Died of wounds
  • Cemetery or memorial details: Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, France
  • War Grave Register notes: BUTLER, Cpl. Thomas Patrick, 5334. 55th Bn. Australian Inf. Died of wounds 10th March, 1917. Age 23. Son of Thomas and Catherine Butler, of Barnsbury Grove, Dulwich Hill, New South Wales. Native of Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales. VI. C. 37.
  • Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army
Thomas' signature on his signing up papers:

On 4 March 1917 he was admitted to hospital with wounds to his left side (breast, leg and arm) that he had suffered on 28 February 1917.

He died in France on 10 March 1917 when he was only 23 years of age.

His death is recorded on page 14 of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 14 April 1917. Hi sname is listed under the Roll of Honour.

His death was also recorded in the  Sydney Morning Herald on page 12 on Saturday 9 March 1918, under the Active Service section. There were two notices, one by his mother and father, and one by his brothers and sisters. Note that this notice includes reference to two of his other brothers, John and Jack, who were also on active service.

Although Thomas was buried overseas in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, France, there is a memorial plaque to Thomas on the grave of his parents at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney.

He is honoured on the Roll of Honour on the Australian War Memorial site, under the entry Thomas Patrick Butler.

Thomas was the son of my great-grandmother's brother. I can only imagine what hell he went through for us future descendants.

Walking in their footsteps Part 8: Bourke Cemetery

Bourke cemetery was so much bigger than I expected. All types of graves, all types of people, all types of religions. Here are a few that caught my eye ...

Fred Hollows (192901993) was a well-known ophthalmologist who helped restore the sight of many people in Australia and overseas. His grave is very moving to see, along with the tributes that are found at the cemetery to his great work.

Graves of the early Afghan camel drivers ...

These are the ones I find particularly sad - the ones without names, graves broken by time, the graves with a simple iron cross, graves with a simple wooden fence, graves just labelled with "Mum" and "Dad", side-by-side.. 

Walking in their footsteps Part 7: Bourke Churches

I have been very slack about finishing this series of blogposts, so here goes ...

This post shows the few churches that I could find in my recent trip to Bourke in January.

Catholic Church, Bourke (now)

 Catholic Church, Bourke (then, earlier in the 1900s)

 Seventh Day Adventist Church, Bourke

Anglican Church, Bourke

Walking in their footsteps Part 8: Bourke Cemetery

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Walking in their footsteps Part 6: Bourke Hotels

Central Australian Hotel

This hotel was originally built in 1884 but burnt down and was rebuilt in the 1930s. It still resembles the old photos to an extent.

During the 1890 flood

Carriers Arms Hotel

This hotel was built in 1879. When the hotel was almost 30 years old, one of my great uncles, Perc NORTHCOTE, worked at this hotel around 1906. I bet the colours it's painted now are a bit different from those used in its early days.

This was apparently the hotel where Henry Lawson wrote a few of his stories but he used to refer to the hotel as the Shearers Arms. His poem, When the 'Army' Prays for Watty, was supposedly to have been written about one hotel owners, Watty Braithwaite. The Cobb & Co Heritage Trail website suggests this story about the poem's origins:

"Apparently, the poem was inspired by a time when Lawson walked past the pub and noticed Watty lounging in an armchair on the verandah (his habitual position), oblivious to the sounds of the Salvation Army singing and praying nearby."

The Carrier's Arms was also one of the Cobb & Co agencies.

Port of Bourke Hotel

This hotel was next door to the bike shop that one of my uncles, Walter John NORTHCOTE, owned and ran in Bourke in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. He was trained as a wheelwright and worked with bikes and coaches around the areas of Bourke and Nyngan.

In one of its earlier times, it was known as the Royal Hotel and this name can still just be seen, like a ghost sign, on the side of the hotel.

In January 1899, my great uncle, Walter John NORTHCOTE, and some of his mates decided to ride their bicycles to Sydney. Even today, the trek from Sydney to Bourke is no mean feat, so riding bikes back in those days must have been seen as a pretty big trek indeed.

Unfortunately, just a few months after this great trek to Sydney and back, a massive fire broke out in the bike shop in 1899, which also damaged the hotel and the shop, Hacketts, next door to the bike shop.

Walking in their footsteps Part 7: Bourke Churches

Walking in their footsteps Part 5: Bourke

For as long as I can remember, stories of Bourke have been discussed in our home, especially by my father's family members. Although it's taken me half a lifetime to reach the place, even though I was born and bred just a casual ten hour drive away from this NSW outback town, I loved being in Bourke. Here are a few pics of our short stay in Bourke.

Back O'Bourke Exhibition Centre

I just have to start this blog entry with a short explanation of this great new exhibition centre. It's well worth the $ they ask for entry to view all the displays which superb. They use contemporary techniques to illustrate Bourke's history; full of colour, loads of old photos of people and places in the area, lots of fun multimedia and a theme of cheekiness in some of the displays as well.

On entry to the centre, Henry Lawson's words greet you: "If you know Bourke, you know Australia". I'm not sure how true that is for everone but one thing's for sure ... for me, I do feel just a little bit more whole now that I've been to the back of Bourke and back again.

Great place to stay - Bourke Riverside Motel

If you like history, antiques, quirkiness, comfy king sized beds and friendly hotel staff, this is the place to stay. Every room is different. Lovely gardens, good restaurant, right near the river. The pictures speak for themselves.

Darling River, Bourke

The river was huge when we visited Bourke - at a depth of 12.9 metres. The gum trees looked like they were standing in water up to their necks. It was so wide when we visited that it wasn't possible to see the other side of the river bank.

Court House

With two of my great grandparents having sat in this court for bankruptcy in 1886 and 1890, a visit to the court house in Bourke was a must. Sitting inside this majestic old building, where my ancestors would have sat 120 years ago, helped me understand more fully what their lives were like. When I told one of the locals about my great-grandparents going bankrupt in Bourke in the late 1800s, he said, "Who didn't in those days?" Again, being in the place they lived brought some context and background to my ideas of what happened to them. It must have been a challenging place to survive and I think they had to take whatever job they could get their hands on to feed their tribe of nine sons. When her husband died at the age of 45, my great grandmother, Margaret NORTHCOTE (nee RILEY), was left with a big family to support. As far as we know, she worked as a boarding house keeper, a nurse and a midwife to get by.

Bourke Hospital

This is one of the places my great-grandmother worked in the 1880s-1890s, in the days when Dr Sides worked at the hospital. She is recorded as a nurse in the Australasian Medical Directory & Handbook of 1896.

This photo was taken around the time that my great-grandmother worked at the hospital. And below are photos that I took when I visited the hospital grounds. Although the old hospital building was renovated in 2001, it still resembled its earlier facade.

This blogpost is going to get too long if I inlcude all the places we visited in Bourke. So ...

Next blogpost ... Walking in their footsteps Part 6: More Bourke