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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, 30 April 2016

Summary: Blogging from A-Z Challenge

This is the first A-Z genie challenge that I actually finished, the Blogging from A-Z Challenge (April 2016)

If you're interested in reading a few stories about the quirky antics of my ancestors, here is a collection of 26 blogposts to choose from:

A is for Aloysius
B is for Bankruptcy in Bourke
C is for Chameleon
D is for droves of diverse ancestors
E is for elegant and ever-so-cheeky
F is for Five Dock
G is for the giant cabbage of Gulgong
H is for hats, quirky hats
I is for interesting
J is for journey of a lifetime
K is for Kennealy and Kelly
L is for love in the graveyard
M is for a magazine reunion
N is for Nevertire
O is for O'Reilly and O'Riley
P is for pins in the feet as a wake-up call
Q is for quarrying in Paradise, Purgatory and Hellhole
R is for riding from Bourke to Sydney
S is for strange occupations
T is for tram conductress
U is for up a shark's ^!@%
V is for Victa lawnmower
W is for wild Irish hair
X is for a couple of X-chromosomes
Y is for Ysciefiog
Z is for zzzZZZzzz and letting sleeping beds lie

The twenty-sixth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - Z is for zzzZZZzzz and letting sleeping beds lie

I was stumped for what to include in this final post for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. So, I resorted to the Macquarie Concise Dictionary (1998, edited by A. Delbridge and J. Bernard) for some ideas. On the final page of z words, I found a definition for zzz which is described as "a conventional representation of sleep or the sound of snoring, used especially by cartoonists" (p. 1376).

So, this is quirky ancestor story I have about Z, zzz and an old bed.

Z is for zzzZZZzzz  and letting sleeping beds lie.

During the late 1890s and the early to mid 1900s, many of my maternal grandmother's family members lived in a few different houses on Renwick St in Drummoyne, a suburb of Sydney. The story goes that, when the family needed to do a bit of cleaning up, they decided to throw out a load of old furniture they no longer wanted, including an old iron bed. At the time, it must have been difficult to get rid of big household rubbish, like old bits of furniture.

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/scrapyard-recycling-dump-garbage-70908/ (Creative Commons licence)

Instead of removing the rubbish from the premises and taking it to the local tip, they decided to bury it all instead, including an entire iron bed.

So, if you live somewhere on Renwick Street, Drummoyne in Sydney, you may not have to dig too deep in the backyard to find an old iron bedhead

Source: http://cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/g/gracey/preview/fldr_2004_08_27/file000637373065.jpg (Creative Commons licence)

Thanks for following my posts in the April 2016 A-Z Blogging Challenge and thanks for your comments.

Friday, 29 April 2016

The twenty-fifth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - Y is for Ysciefiog

This is the quirky name of a small rural town in the County of Flint in Wales. According to Wikipedia, the word "Ysciefiog" means "a place where elder trees grow". My great-grandfather was born there mid-summer on 11 June 1867, as shown on his birth certificate:

James Walter KINGSBURY with daughter, Essie
About 1894

A few photos taken by me when I visited the town in June 2012.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The twenty-fourth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - X is for a couple of X-chromosomes

I have two, my mother has two, my sister has two, my aunties all have two, both of my grandmothers had two, my great-grandmothers had two, my great aunts all had two ...

In fact, all of my female ancestors had two ... two x chromosomes.

Here are a few of my female ancestors ... thanks to them all for their contributions to our family.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The twenty-third step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - W is for wild Irish hair

Wild Irish hair ... something I have inherited from my Irish ancestors. When I spent some time in Ireland a few years ago, the wildness seemed to increase in intensity!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The twenty-second step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - V is for Victa lawnmower

The sound of a Victa lawnmower makes me think of many Saturdays and Sundays at my childhood home and at my granparents' homes. My Dear Old Dad must have put in a lot of hours mowing lawns in his life - his own and others.

Carew NORTHCOTE mowing his parents' lawn at Five Dock, early 1960s

Rest in peace, Dad.

Monday, 25 April 2016

The twenty-first step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - U is for up a shark's ^!@%

Please don't read this blogpost if you are offended by slightly off language. I'm having trouble finding a topic for U in the A-Z series of my quirky ancestor antics. So, I'm going to rely on an older blogpost I wrote in 2011. It's about debt collection, a shark and the titanic. Leave this blog now if you are concerned about the use of impolite phrases.

debt collector
Source: http://thebluediamondgallery.com/d/debt-collector.html (Creative Commons Licence)

File:Shark fish chondrichthyes.jpg

RMS Titanic 3.jpg

Apparently one of my great-uncles had a habit of leaving home from time to time. He would stay away for extended periods - sometimes months at a time. Whatever he did while he was away often ended with a loan shark visiting the home of his long-suffering wife. As you can imagine, she would get a little annoyed with the visits from these debt collectors.

One of the stories that passed down through our family's oral history is an incident when yet another loan shark knocked on her door to collect repayment for her husband's away-from-home antics. He asked where her husband was. His wife replied by using one of her infamous, classic sayings, "He's up a shark's arse, looking for the titanic!" I'm not sure if a door slam followed this response but I reckon it probably did.

Sometimes I think I look at my ancestors' antics through rose-coloured glasses, or maybe even sepia-coloured glasses. I think I may even romaticise them a little from time to time, especially when I try to work out what their lives were like by looking at photographs which can only show me a selected snapshot of how they lived. The not-so-good and not-so-ideal snippets of their lives don't always survive through the ages.

In comparison, when I heard this story, which apparently was a family favourite for many years before I was born, I couldn't help but take those rose-coloured and sepia-coloured glasses right off and laugh.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The twentieth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - T is for tram conductress

One of my great aunts, Sarah "Sally" KINGSBURY, was the first female tram conductresses in Blackpool, England. Apparently, she loved this job and it suited her outgoing personality.

Sarah (aka Sally) KINGSBURY
22 September 1881 - 10 July 1967

Thanks to my long-lost cousin, David Kay in the UK, who informed me about this aspect of Sally's interesting life.

For other posts about the woman known as Aunty Sally in our family's history, see:

Can your dead people talk to my dead people?
Which uniform is that?

Friday, 22 April 2016

The ninteenth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - S is for strange occupations

Have you ever heard of jobs that involved putting bladders in balls or tongues in tins?

In their younger days, both of my grandmothers were the proud owners of these jobs.

I won't rewrite my earlier blogpost on this topic but I'll provide the link below

Tongues in tins and bladders in balls

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The eighteenth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - R is for riding from Bourke to Sydney

A few years after a terrible heatwave in NSW that struck Bourke people very badly, one of my great-uncles, Walter John NORTHCOTE, and three of his mates decided to ride pushbikes from Bourke to Sydney at the height of summer in January 1899. Walter ran a bike shop in Bourke so at least he would have had good access to suitable bikes. It seems the purpose of the ride was "to see the country". Talk about a tough ride!

Source: The Bourke Banner18 January 1899

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The seventeenth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - Q is for quarrying in Paradise, Purgatory and Hellhole

One of my great-great grandfathers, Patrick FLEMING, was a quarryman. He quarried the golden sandstone of Sydney in the 1860s and 1870s.

Sydney sandstone
Source of graphics: Wikipedia Commons*

After marrying Ellen or Eleanor TORPY in Windgap, County Kilkenny, Ireland on 3 February 1853, he arrived in Sydney with his new wife some time at the end of 1853. Although he was described as a farm labourer on his shipping records, he spent most of his life working as a quarryman in the quarries in Pyrmont, especially in the 1860s and 1870s.

Patrick was mentioned in an article I found in The Sydney Morning Herald that was published on Monday 27 Sept 1869.

Excerpt from article in the The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 27 Sept 1869. 

This article explained how a man named Richard Guilfoyle was killed during a rock fall at one of the Pyrmont quarries that Patrick Fleming was leasing, with Richard Dunn. The article describes the location of the quarry as being near the Blackwattle Swamp Bridge. Based on my analysis of some old maps, I think that the quarry where he worked may have been close to where the quarry known as Purgatory was located, near the Blackwattle Swamp Bridge.

However, when I recently contacted Shirley Fitzgerald, an historian who had conducted a vast amount of research about the streets of Sydney, she suggested that the Blackwattle Swamp Bridge was near the present day Bridge Road. The quarry known as Purgatory was the closest to this area but Shirley explained that there were several quarries in 1869 that were dotted along the area near the Blackwattle Swamp Bridge up to Quarry Street, and Patrick could have worked at any of these. The three well known quarries, called Purgatory, Hellhole and Paradise, seemed to have been in operation after 1869, according to Shirley Fitzgerald, so my ancestor may not have worked in any of these three famous quarries but he certainly worked nearby either Purgatory, Hellhole and Paradise!

Paradise Quarry, Pyrmont

Patrick FLEMING died on 12 October 1880 at Little Abercrombie St, Sydney (Chippendale) and was buried at the Catholic Cemetery in Petersham although this cemetery has since been closed.

I hope he's in Paradise now.

Patrick FLEMING funeral notices, The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 Oct 1880

Patrick FLEMING funeral notices The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1880

Other blogposts about Patrick FLEMING:
Death in a Pyrmont quarry
Rock throwing, seafaring, gamekeeping, Purgatory-working great-great grandfathers 

* Sources of sandstone graphics above:

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The sixteenth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - P is for pins in the feet as a wake-up call

Here's a quirky way to wake up an old bloke after he's had a bit too much to drink the night before. One of my ancestors, who will remain nameless in this blogpost, was known to use a few dressmaker pins to gently prick her old Dad's toes which were sticking out from under a blanket when he was due to get up for work the morning after a big night. This is not necessarily recommended for modern families:)

I suppose alarm clocks weren't that easy to come by in the past.

So the story goes ...

The fifteenth step in my A-Z of quirky ancestor antics - O is for O'Reilly and O'Riley

Oops, I almost missed this one.

For me, O reminds me of another quirky mystery associated with my family's surnames.

Although her maiden name appears to be RILEY in most documentation I have found about her so far, my great-grandmother's youngest son, Leo NORTHCOTE, always explained how his mother would sign her name with the "biggest O she could find" as Margaret O' RILEY or O'REILLY.

Two mysteries ....

  1. Why was she signing her name using her maiden name instead of her married surname, NORTHCOTE after she was married? Perhaps Leo was referring to the time before she was married.
  2. Why was she signing her maiden name with an O when most records I can find about her family record the surname as RILEY, REILLY or RIELY.

However, there were three records I have found where the O is used but all of these were informed by her son, Leo, or his wife or son, whom he had presumably told the story about her signing her name with "the biggest O she could find".

Leo’s mother was recorded as “Margaret O’Reilly” on his marriage certificate in 1930 and on his death certificate in 1970 she was also recorded with an O at the beginning of her maiden name. Also, on Margaret's death certificate, completed by her son Leo, her father is recorded as Thomas O’Riley.

Excerpt from Margaret's death certificate, 1927, where her parents' names are recorded

Excerpt from Leo's marriage certificate, 1930, where his parents' names are recorded

Excerpt from Leo's death certificate, 1970, where his parents' names are recorded

Leo and his mother, Margaret