Friday, 16 January 2015

Hello 2015 and a visit to the State Records Office

Yes, yes, I am aware that it is now 16 days into 2015 but the truth is between finishing my Masters, getting the results - I passed of course - Christmas, New Year and the beginning of this week; I kind of just collapsed. In a heap. And did a whole lot of nothing. Well, if nothing is defined as eating too much, drinking too much and reading a whole lot of novels.

But thanks to Janelle, over at Janelle's Family Tree Addiction, I was back into the swing of things by the 13th. You see Janelle was lovely enough to organise a day trip and tour of the State Records Office at Kingswood. So spurred into productivity I preordered 4 probate packs but didn't think about what further I might want to look at. One can only be so organised when one is still off in the land of novels and general laziness.

The tour of the archives lasted about an hour and was a brilliant look at the masses of buildings, shelvings and infrastructure needed to house the State Archives and the Government Document Repository. We got a peek also at some of the things the Conservators are working on at the moment and I have to say, theirs is quite a task. Stuck together parchment, crumbling paper, water damage, general age. I was good. I didn't make a single joke about Librarian's Lung or Anthrax.

Then a quick lunch and onto the reading room where my Probate Packets were waiting for me. It is interesting to see all the goods and chattels listed for valuation. Death duties may be an unfair tax but gee it made for excellent family history resources. In ggreat grandmother Julia's there were a couple of letters hinting perhaps at a little family dispute. Julia, you see left everything to be divided equally amongst her four surviving daughters, three from the first marriage and one from her second. One son at least appears to have not been a happy chappy about this. Looking at my grandfather's was just heartbreaking and I think perhaps in hindsight something I should have left alone for another twenty years. It has been filed away with the newspaper reports.

The Probate Packets of great grandfather James Muffett and the convict Robert Bird, progenitor of the Bird line; while interesting; held no surprises. I was left with at least three more hours of prime research time. The choices, the choices!

I eventually decided to order up the Deceased Estate file for Robert Muffett and the Administration file for Rosevale School. Now the Deceased Estate file was a nice look into farm life in the late 19th Century. But the School file. THE SCHOOL FILE.

An absolute treasure trove. I only had time for a cursory look through the hundreds of pages of correspondence, memos, lease agreements and reports but it is a glorious thing. And this, see this:

That would be a copy of Robert Muffett's Will from the School File. THE SCHOOL FILE. Ahem yes. I need to spend some quality time with that file to see what other gems it does possess.

Overall I would call my first visit to the State Records Office a success and I am now keeping a spreadsheet of all the files I want a look at for future visits. (It is a work in progress of course)

This may be the impetus I need to get my driver's license and finally join the ranks of actual grown ups. Or I might just decide that 6 hours on public transport makes for excellent reading time.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Is this thing on?

Um hello. Yes, it has been awhile, but my Masters project was submitted last week and suddenly my time is once again my own. Well except for job hunting and hausfrau-ing, the latter of which I am unbelievably terrible at.  It runs in the family ;)

Of course now that I am ready to pick up my research again I have found myself in a bit of a pickle. My notes are in absolute chaos and I cannot remember exactly what it was I was working on. Not to mention the build up of untagged and unfiled documents and photos. And my favourite genealogy program; The Master Genealogist becoming obsolete.

Where should one start?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Is it really July?

The year has been creeping away from me. Not much genealogy has been done in the past few months as I have been head down and concentrating on my Master's but with recent contact from various relatives and a couple of weeks break I am enthusiastic and ready to dive in again

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Family History and Writing

Last night I attended a 2 hour session on Writing Interesting Family Histories by Carol Baxter at Hornsby Library.

Carol is a fabulous speaker and the information she imparts is invaluable. Her intent is to encourage and help family historians break away from the habit of listing dry facts and dates and instead create engaging narratives, to write histories. I just wanted to hug her, because she encourages people to do all the things that, due to my history training, I am almost desperate for people to do: read widely, understand the context and properly cite your bloody sources!

I know the gentleman sitting behind me will probably ignore the latter message [oh the snarky comments I could make about some of the overheard conversations and audience questions] but if even half the audience internalises these 3 things as the take home message, I shall be happy.

So, what was my take home message? How to approach the happy medium in writing. I have spent so long in academia that when I write, I often default to academese. I know I write well. In an academic setting. I want to broaden my horizons so to speak. Be able to engage with a different kind of audience. Learn not to shun adjectives as superfluous.

In any case, Carol's advice on approach, structure and prose has give me a lot to think about and a way in which to start.  Annotated timelines here I come!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Trove Tuesday: Highway Robberies on the Great Northern Road

Well it appears I may have found the antecedent to that bushranger anecdote passed along by my father:

"HIGHWAY ROBBERIES ON THE GREAT NORTHERN ROAD."The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893) 22 Dec 1863: 3. Web. 26 Feb 2014 <>
Mrs Friend being Mary Maria Friend (nee Baker), my 4th Great Grandmother and the outlaw she met none other than Captain Thunderbolt or at least someone purporting to be him.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Family Anecdotes and Gossip

I often joke that I am related in someway to half the people in the town that I grew up in, and with my maternal grandmother's family having been in the region since the 1840s it is pretty true. So it is no surprise that when Mum and Dad came to visit this weekend Dad had plenty of family anecdotes and gossip to share. He'd been to have his hair cut and the barber is his second cousin.

They talked a lot it seems about their mutual great-grandmother Julia Christiana Boss later Winter then Bird. I have a bit of a fascination with this part of the family due to the lashings of scandal that make life interesting. In any case I now have the following tidbits:
  • Julia was, according to our cousin, born in Australian waters and as such was an Australian Citizen. Now this is something I have been having trouble proving, she is not listed as one of the births on the Commodore Perry.
  • The family was questioned as enemy aliens during WWI. As such I really hope I can find the file!
  • Julia was a staunch Nazi supporter. This I already knew, Dad has a Nazi pin tucked away in his box of family bits that belonged to Julia. We can only be glad that she died in '37 given the rest of the family's stance on the matter. 
  • Julia owned a lot of property around town. It will be interesting I think to start looking at land records, Dad is keen to map out exactly who owned what so it looks like another father-daughter history project is in the works (we seem to do a lot of those)
  • Julia was not a very nice person. Ok so this is a cleaned up version of how she is generally described by the family. Let's just say I am yet to hear anything complementary. Although the Nazi thing is kind of a clue there.
Dad also remembered hearing that someone in his mother's line had been mixed up with a local bushranger. The reference to Captain Thunderbolt on the Michael Caton episode of Who Do You Think You Are? reminded him. Tantalising, but given the number of relatives we have and the plethora of 'local' bushrangers, not that easy to trace. Still, I like a challenge.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

I think they swam

because I'm not having any luck finding an arrival for Patrick Lynch (b.1832, Ireland d. 1891, NSW) his wife Bridget nee McGraie/McGrail or his children Mary (b. 1856, Scotland?) and John (b. 1857, Scotland?). I have a marriage record for 1855 in Scotland and a birth record for a daughter Annie in 1859 in Wellington NSW but between that...

Yeah. They swam.