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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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Friday, 13 January 2012

Walking in their footsteps Part 1: Kelso, Bathurst, Orange

After having returned from a 1500km trip across five days into the outback of western NSW, I can now say that I have walked in more than a few of my ancestors' footsteps. What a feeling it was!

Whiling away the hours in the car, singing the "I've been everywhere, man" song with inserts of all the places we travelled through, made us realise how quirky some of the town names in NSW are:

Cooranbong, Lapstone, Glenbrook, Blaxland, Warrimo, Valley Heights, Springwood, Faulconbridge, Linden, Woodford, Hazelbrook, Lawson, Bullaburra, Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Medlow Bath, Blackheath, Mount Victoria, Little Hartley, Hartley, Old Bowenfels, Lithgow, Bathurst, Kelso, Clear Creek, Lucknow, Wellwood, Orange, Molong, Cundumbul, Neurea, Wellington, Bodangora, Geurie, Wongarbon, Dubbo, Narromine, Mungeribah, Trangie, Gin Gin, Nevertire, Gillawarrina, Warren, Mullengudgery, Warrigal, Nyngan, Girilambone, Coolabah, Byrock, Mulga Creek, Bourke, Collie, Gilgandra, Mendooran, Dunedoo, Uarbry, Cassilis, Borambil, Merriwa, Gungai, Sandy Hollow, Denman, Jerry’s Plains, Warkworth, Belford, Branxton, Cessnock, Mulbring, Freemans Waterhole

Here are some of the highlights of Part 1 of the journey which includes these locations: Kelso, Clear Creek, Bathurst, Lucknow and Orange

Cottage of Content Hotel, Kelso

It was moving to find the spot where I think the Cottage of Content pub was located at Kelso, near Bathurst, where my ex-convict Irish great-great grandfather was a publican in 1850-1851. Originally it was located in Stephen St, Kelso. The only current street sounded even close to this address was Stephen Lane in Kelso. Since the pub was described as being close to the river, across from the town of Bathurst, this spot in Stephens Lane, Kelso seemed as close as I was going to get to being sure about where this old hotel would have been located over 150 years ago.

Old home located at the bend in Stephens Lane, near the river, at Kelso, NSW

Holy Trinity Church Cemetery, Kelso

I was quite sad to stand at the grave of my great-great-uncle, John RILEY, in the Holy Trinity Church graveyard at Kelso. John RILEY born in 1844 or 1845 in Kelso. He was the second child born to parents, Thomas RILEY (the Cottage of Content publican, ex-convict) and Harriet LICET/ LYSAGHT. Sadly, he committed suicide at this very cemetery on 21 February in 1923 when he was about 78 years of age. I still don't know why he did this. What a sad place to die and what a sad way to die. He was buried on 22 February 1923. His wife, Sarah RILEY (nee BONHAM), is buried in the grave with him. She died some years later in 1955 at the age of 95 years old.

Clear Creek, near Kelso

I had always wanted to go to the town where my great-grandmother was born on 23 April 1843. It is a tiny little locality with a creek running through it, a few kilometres out of Kelso. She was the first child of Thomas RILEY and Harriet LICET/ LYSAGHT. Margaret's baptism records from St Michael's Catholic Church at Bathurst record her birth location as Clear Creek.

Clear Creek, near Kelso

St Michael's Catholic Church, Bathurst

Back in 1841, my great-great grandfather, Thomas RILEY, married Harriet LICET/ LYSAGHT on 27 November. Thomas was still an indentured convict at the time and didn't receive his certificate of freedom until the year after their marriage. Although the marriage was the beginning of a better life of soon-to-be-had freedom for Thomas, it was a different story for his wife, Harriet, who died in her mid forties after giving birth to at least eleven children and suffering the consequences of her husband's violent temper along the way.

More to come in later blogposts. Just had to share these snippets of my trip today.


  1. I really like the way you have combined a map, a document and a photograph about each of the places you have been to. I look forward to the following posts.

  2. What a great trip Maria! And I imagine this is just a tiny fraction of what you got up to. Look forward to reading more.

  3. My convict ancestors too came from Wellington, Bathurst, Lucknow, Lewis Ponds, Guyong, Nyngan and Iron Bark (now Stuart Town)from 1823.Shame not more information was saved from this time, especially from the goldfields where many of my lot would have passed away. You have done a fabulous blog. Congrats

  4. I may be wrong, but I think the St Michael's Church in that era was in Kelso, not Bathurst.
    I'm looking for it also.

    thanks Neil.

  5. Thanks for this idea, Neil. Hadn't heard of a St Michael's at Kelso before.

  6. Thank you for this blog. My great x 2 grandfather, Charles Bell, was the licensee of the Cottage of Content in 1860. Wonderful if we could find a sketch or description of it, and thanks for suggesting its location. Thanks, Kaye

  7. Thanks for your comment. Looks like our ancestors were crossing each others paths! It seems that your ancestor must have worked as the licensee of the Cottage of Content after my ancestor. As far as I can tell, I think my ancestor finished at the Cottage of Content around 1851-1852. Do you have any further information about the Cottage of Content?