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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, 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.






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