Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday- a find on Ebay!

Image of Marburg in Queensland 1908
Researching your ancestors' communities can be very rewarding. 
The above image is a photograph I purchased on Ebay, which hows of the town of Marburg in Queensland in 1908. The large building picturedon the left, centre,  is the hotel which was licensed in 1907 to my great great grandmother, Hannah Morrison, in 1908 after her husband John, a prominent Sydney Rail Carriage Builder lost his fortune in the late 1890's due to the cancellation of a government contract. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

They Witnessed our Family History - Witnesses as Sources of Information

They Witnessed our Family History

Image in The Public Domain ©©

Our ancestors did not live in isolation. Just about every significant event in their lives was witnessed by other people. Births were witnessed, Godparents acted as witnesses for babies of family and friends. When our forebears married, their ceremonies required witnesses to the occurrence. Death certificates and other legal documents were required to be witnessed. Family circumstances which might have been witnessed include births, deaths, marriages, divorces, Wills, applications to purchase land, immigration and naturalisation records. Even criminal ancestors employed witnesses to testify to their character in court appearances, (usually in the desperate hope that they might avoid punishment). Witnesses were a crucial part of our ancestors' lives. 

Witnesses at the Trial of suspected Salem Witch Mary Wolcott Image Wikimedia©©

Our past, our history and our family history has been well witnessed and the names and testimonies of witnesses are a valuable legacy for us to explore. The significance of these testimonies is much greater than merely names on paper. People who certified our ancestors' legal documents and witnessed their meaningful life moments, were often people who were close to them. They were   family friends or relations - brothers, sisters, parents or cousins. Often witnesses will be the people, when researched, who provide crucial evidence for, or hold vital clues to, unraveling family stories. It is well worth not overlooking the people who personally witnessed our ancestors' lives as a source of information about our ancestors.

The names of witnesses can assist in confirming the identity of an ancestor. This can be especially helpful when you have a forebear with a common name.  Researching the people who witnessed important events in your ancestors' lives can add 'meat to the bare bones' of their stories. In the following examples, I hope to show how researching those who witnessed the lives of my own ancestors has significantly augmented my understanding of their life stories.

Mary Williams - Witness Mary Bird

I have never found a marriage certificate for my third great grandparents, convict Michael Frayne and Mary Williams. I suspect that they were never legally married. Mary stated on several documents that she was born in Singleton, in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales in about 1845, however, I have been unable to find evidence of her birth in Singleton nor a marriage to Michael Frayne. I have a marriage certificate for Michael Frayne and his first wife Bridget Donelly on February 8, 1858 at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. Bridget Frayne died in Singleton on August 29, 1864.

In 1861, in Singleton, a woman named Mary Williams married a James Buckley. I have determined this to be my Mary Williams by process of elimination. Her mother Mary Bird gave consent for her daughter, a minor to marry. Although my Mary's parents are reported to be Mary Kelly and Joseph Williams, I believe Mary Bird and Mary Kelly to be one and the same person. In  March, 1865, Mary Williams gave birth to a son named Michael. Again, the witness was a Mary Bird so I know that this Mary Williams is the same person who married James Buckley four years before having a son in her maiden name. Since James Buckley was alive in 1865, I must assume that this child was not his. There is a world of difference, however,  between believing and proving beyond doubt that you have the correct ancestor. Witnesses can provide evidence or they can provide clues. In this case I found significant clues in a news article of 1864. It is not evidence but it affords an enticing new line of research for me.

A news article in The Maitland Mercury and  Hunter River General Adviser on Thursday 25th August 1864, reveals that Michael Frayne was charged with a breach of the Publican's Act, for allowing disorderly conduct to take place in his licensed public -house. A witness claimed that I saw four women there in the parlour, one was lying drunk on the sofa and another was a little the worse for liquor. This witness suggested that at least one of the women was a prostitute. A second witness, Fanny Dawson countered this evidence by stating that she herself was at Mr Frayne's house last Saturday evening; a girl named Betsy Bird was there, also Mrs Buckley and Ruth Rose. They were not drunk. 

As soon as I read this news item several names stood out immediately, those being Buckley and Bird. These were both surnames on the certificates I had collected. Mary Bird was the witness to the birth of a baby boy to a Mary Williams in March of 1865. Mary Bird was also named as a witness and significantly, the mother of Mary Williams on the occasion of her marriage to James Buckley in 1861. A likely synopsis begins to materialise.....If my two time great grandmother Mary Williams married James Buckley, there is a distinct possibility that she was the same Mrs Buckley in the news item, stated to be present in the public house of Michael Frayne, especially as searching has failed to find any other Mrs Buckley in the area in 1864. My hunch is that Betsy Bird may have been Mary's step or half sister. It is entirely plausible that Mary, then with the married name of  Buckley, was acquainted with Michael Frayne just prior to the death of his wife Bridget in 1864, Coincidentally, or not, she gave birth to a baby named Michael (no father named) whilst still legally married to James Buckley in 1865. Of course it may just be a strange coincidence that my 3 times great grandfather's name was Michael.... and it is still just in the 'hunch' stage of research but......Since Mary Buckley (Williams) did not divorce her husband James and there no record of his death, then this would account for there existing no marriage record for my three times great grandparents. Mary would have still legally been married to James Buckley. It could also feasibly be the reason that Michael and Mary left Singleton and went to live in Brisbane, Queensland as 'husband and wife', before their daughter and my great great grandmother Sarah was born in 1868.

The incidence of the surnames Bird and Buckley appearing in connection with Michael Frayne could in fact be coincidence, but at the very least, the appearance of the names of people who witnessed an episode in my third great grandfather's life, has presented significant incentive for further research.... and in the meantime, I have a most intriguing speculation!

Mary Bird witness to the marriage of Mary Williams and James Buckley

Edward Joseph Weston -Witness Christopher Bauer

Edward Joseph Weston is my great great grandfather on my maternal side of my family tree. He married Sarah Frayne, the daughter of the same Michael Frayne and Mary Williams mentioned above. Edward Weston was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, to Edward Weston and Mary Ann Turner. After the death of his father, young Edward aged 10, with his mother left England in 1870, bound for Maryborough, Queensland. They arrived on board the ship, Flying Cloud in August 1870. 

From a letter to Edward, 'Teddy' from his Aunt Ann Manton Weston in London, it seems that Mary either traveled to Australia with the intention to marry, or that she met her future husband soon after arriving in their new homeland. Aunt Ann Weston, in her letter, sent after September 5, 1870, instructed 'Teddy' to be a good boy for the man soon to be his new father. The name of Mary Ann's future husband was not mentioned in the letter (I often wish that my ancestors  were more forthcoming in the information they provided....) and despite a search for a marriage using both Mary Ann's maiden name of Turner and married name Weston no marriage was found.

Edward Weston is a reasonably common name, so when searching the digitalised newspapers on the National Library of Australia's website, TROVE, I limited my search to Queensland and Maryborough, where I knew the family had resided. My search resulted in numerous news accounts regarding the name Edward Weston which gave me cause to believe that my ancestor's name appeared in the newspaper quite regularly with regard to court appearances. My family were not the only Westons in Maryborough, however, and Edward himself was most unhelpful in never using his middle name, so when I found the name Edward Weston reported in the Maryborough Chronicle, I had no evidence that this person was in fact, my great great grandfather until I discovered someone who witnessed first hand Edward's misfortunes.

The compelling clue which enabled me to verify that the news reports I had found on Trove, were related to my two times great grandfather, appeared in the form of a witness named Christopher Bauer. The man named Bauer appeared more than once as a witness for Edward Weston  when he was charged with various offences. Then with good fortune, one single news report generously informed me that the witness, Christopher Bauer, was Edward's step-father! If I could prove a marriage between Edward's mother Mary Ann and Christopher Bauer, I would have the evidence to prove that this was my seemingly wayward Weston ancestor.

By searching marriages under the groom's name of Bauer, I discovered that a Mary Ann 'Thorner' had married German born Christopher Bauer on December 2, 1870, four months after arriving in Maryborough. Her parents were named as Joseph and Mary Turner, which were the names of my Mary Ann's parents  and her birthplace and year was the same also in Ipswich, Suffolk, England. There was no doubt that I had found my Mary Ann's marriage. Despite a letter from England indicating that Mary Ann was to marry, the marriage had been difficult to find because her maiden name was misrecorded as Thorner instead of Turner.

Edward, it appears, was a touch too fond of the drink. He was employed as a general labourer, in various capacities, which was somewhat in contrast to his Weston ancestors who were generations of London doctors in Middlesex, London. He appeared too frequently in the Maryborough and other district courts, charged with drunkenness and assault under the influence, and his witness was usually his step-father. A patient man it appears was Christopher Bauer, even reported to have visited the home of one of Edward's assault victims, George Pitt, who was not happy with the attention young Edward Weston was paying to his daughter. Poor Christopher, on this occasion,  was beaten with a fence paling, by Pitt, and all three men ended up in court. Patience had worn thin by the time Edward was 29 and his step father appears to have reached his limits with the incorrigible step son. On July 20, 1883, Christopher Bauer had his step son charged with ungentlemanly language almost amounting to threats, according to the Maryborough Chronicle, which reported the trial. Edward's Witness had turned accuser however, he had provided me with all the evidence I needed to significantly enhance my  story of my great great grandfather's early years. It also went a long way towards explaining he reason that his son Fraser left him at the Goodna Mental Aylum (which treated alchoholism) in 1925 with no contact or forwarding address!

There are references to court appearances for one Edward Weston after his marriage to Sarah Frayne, for use of obscene language and drunkeness, however, without the known name of a witness I cannot verify that this is my great great grandfather (although his reputation by now has preceded him well and truly.. so I have my strong suspicions and little doubt!)

Edward Joseph Weston ©

Christiana Siegler and Gottlieb Nerger - Witness Johan George Haug

Christiana Siegler, born 18th December, 1840, in Beutelsbach, Baden-Weurttemberg, Germany, is my third great grandmother. Christiana arrived in Brisbane, Queensland on board the La Rochelle on August 15,  1863 with her 17 year old brother Gottlob. On the 19th of September, just a little over a month  after her arrival in Australia, Christiana Siegler married Prussian born Gottlieb Nerger in 1863, in Drayton, Queensland. Gottlieb had arrived in 1852 aboard the Caesar Godeffroy and was a good deal older than Christiana. Since the birth date of my great great grandfather, John Gottlieb Nerger, was January 9, 1964, only four months after Gottlieb and Christiana married, it is apparent that Christiana was pregnant when she arrived in Australia. Gottlieb and Christiana could not know each other previously since they came from different origins, so the question sat unanswered.... how did they meet and marry so quickly? It was only after researching the witnesses of the marriage, that I was able to fill in the missing chapter of this story. One of the witnesses was a Johan George Haug. Investigating in more depth,  I discovered that Johan Haug arrived in Brisbane, Queensland in 1855 from Germany. Johan was a schaefer or shepherd, as was Gottlieb Nerger and as both German speaking shepherds settled in Drayton on the Darling Downs within a few years of each other, they would certainly have become acquainted. The crucial piece of inforamtion which explained how Christiana and Gottlieb met was that Johan George Haug came to Australia from the same village in Germany as Christiana Siegler lived in with her family. The next thing to examine was the possibility that he knew the Siegler family.

A search of the passenger list from the ship,  La Rochelle, on which Christiana and her brother Gottlob Sigler aged 17, travelled, shows Johan's wife Friederike and their two sons, Johan Heorge Jnr and Rahel journeying to accompany their husband and father in Australia. Accompanying Mrs Haug on the ship was Christiana and her brother Gottlob Sigler who were travelling alone. Christiana's parents, Johannes and Anna Siegler had lost five of their eight chldren so perhaps they believed that their two elder children could begin a better life in Australia. One daughter, Pauline Margarethe remained behind in Beutelsbach, too young to travel. Christiana's parents had been applying to immigrate to America for some time but had not been successful.

In 1862, the year prior to her journey to Australia, Christiana Sigler gave birth to a baby girl, Sophie Johanna who lived only a short time. This also could have been the motivation for sending their daughter to Australia for a new life. Armed with this knowledge, naturally my mind has been spinning with possibilities. Was Christiana having an affair with a married man in the small village the family lived in? Did her family consider her suitor unsuitable? With the information I discovered through this witness, it is feasible to surmise that the Siegler family asked Mrs Haug to supervise their 22 year old daughter during the long voyage to Australia with her 17 year old brother. Perhaps Friederike Haug herself, suggested that the older Siegler children accompany her to the new land where her husband had spent three years making a new life for his family. Christiana would have undoubtedly been regarded as help for Mrs Haug with her children during the long voyage. The passenger manifest for this journey made by the La Rochelle shows the Haugs and Sieglers travelling together and with this connection established between the Haug and the Siegler families in Beutelsbach, it is not inconceivable that Johan Haug arranged a marriage between Christiana Siegler and Gottlieb Nerger. Did Mrs Haug know that the young woman had fallen pregnant either on the voyage or just prior to leaving Germany? I will never know the exact details of the situation, however, I have the threads of a story to expand upon, purely because I researched Johan George Haug who acted as a witness to the marriage of my three times great grandmother, Christiana Siegler and Gottlieb Nerger.

[A son, my two times great grandfather, named, John (Johan) Gottlieb Nerger was born in Drayton, on January 9, (my birthday), 1864 and was claimed by Gottlieb to be his own child. The couple had two more children, George (probably named for Johan George Haug) and Hermann, before Gottlieb's untimely death along with his baby son Hermann, at the Gympie Gold Fields in September 1869] 

John Gottlieb Nerger 9/01/1864

William White: Witnesses Thomas White and John Watters

Searching for the Wills of ancestors can be challenging if they possessed a common name. The Will of Esther Drusilla Lloyd was simple to locate thanks to her uncommon middle name, however, finding her husband William Lloyd's last testimony was  more challenging.  Unless you know an address or some identifying information about an ancestor, then searching for the Will of Tom Jones or William Williams, is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. When I searched the Will Calendars on the PRONI website for a Will for my great great grandfather William White, I did not know when he had died or whether he has died in Londonderry or County Tyrone. It was only was the name of one Witness to his Will which identified him from the many William Whites who wrote a Last Will and Testimony in Northern Ireland. Without the crucial name of a witness which I recognised, I would not have been able to prove that I had the correct document. The only information I had was the name William White (from his son Hugh's marriage certificate) and a few family stories. I had no names for any other children besides my great grandfather, Hugh, and not even a name for William's wife.

While I was growing up, my paternal grandmother Jemima Florence McDade (White) , was fond of telling me stories about her childhood on the family flax farm in Brookend, County Tyrone. As a child, I was completely mesmerized by her tales. Unfortunately, among the anecdotes of near drownings in flax bogs and other more exciting adventure tales that were my preference, I neglected to notice the names of any ancestors. When I discovered that my grandmother's father, Hugh Eston White had been born in County Derry, and not Tyrone as I had believed, I had no way of knowing whether my White ancestry originated in Londonderry or Tyrone. The only story of my grandmother's that remained fixed in my memory and which included any names, was one which told me that ' two generations of Whites had married two generations of Watters.' This story included only the first names Anna White and John Watters.

Through my blog I had been contacted by a Watters relative from Tamnavalley in County Tyrone, who informed me that both his mother and grandmother had been Whites who married into his County Tyrone Watters family. His parents were in fact, the same Anna White and John Watters that my grandmother had mentioned. This person and I had no way of really understanding exactly how we were related however, other than that my White family had married into his Watters family. He did not know much of the White family history so I still did not know whether my twice great grandfather, William White had ever lived in County Tyrone. But I did discover that it was my grandmother's first cousin Anna White who had had married John Watters.

My task thus was to read possibly all of the 127 Wills written by men named William White in Northern Ireland, within the time frame in which I was searching, in the hope that I would find a Will for my own William. On page six of the results in my PRONI Wills Calendar search for William White, and in the fifty-second Will I opened and read, I found a name of a Witness to the Will which literally jumped off the page!  As I read the following words, 'my son in law John Watters of Tamnavalley', I knew I had struck GOLD. Even William's naming of his son Hugh in the Will would have been insufficient information for me to identify him, since Hugh's unusual middle name of Eston was not mentioned. As Hugh was unmarried at the time of his father's death no spouse's name was included. I knew from my new Watters cousin in County Tyrone, that the Watters family lived in Tamnavalley so the name of this Witness was all I needed to verify that the Will was written by my great great grandfather, William White.

My great great grandfather's Will named all of his children, their spouses, their places of abode in Northern Ireland, Canada and the USA and even gave me names of grandchildren. I have since gone on to research all of the people mentioned in the Will and prove beyond doubt that I have the correct Will. The Will itself, was a treasure trove of information and but for the name mentioned to me as a child, of John Watters, and his witnessing of the Will of my great great grandfather, his father in law, I might never have found a wealth of information about my twice great grandfather, William White of Brookend, County Tyrone who married a County Londonderry girl and lived in Magherafelt, Derry where my great grandfather Hugh was born in 1866.

Hugh Eston White, son of William White ©

The people who knew your ancestors can be crucial keys to unlocking their stories. One can never overestimate the importance of the people who witnessed ancestors' real life events. These folk were there, on the spot, acting as eye witnesses to many important details regarding day to day occurrences and significant events in your ancestors' lives. They are sometimes the only people who can  reveal significant extracts of your family history.

The Peasant Wedding Peter Breugel the Elder Image Wikimedia ©©

Friday, September 19, 2014


One Lovely Blog Award

I have been nominated for the ONE LOVELY BLOG award by the very talented Debra Watkins of the Pocket Full of Family Memories blog. Thank you Debra for taking the time to read my blog FamilyHistory4u and for deeming it worthy of this award. I am most grateful and at the same time humbled. I must recommend that if you haven't yet read Debra's  blog to visit via the above link. I am certain you will enjoy her fascinating stories and her beautifully presented blog.
It is always rewarding to know that other writers appreciate one's writing and for that reason, awards such as this are a wonderful way in which to show our appreciation as bloggers for the effort that others put into their blogs. It is also an excellent opportunity to share and showcase other blogs that we enjoy reading and follow ourselves.  

Here are the Rules for The One Lovely Blog Award.

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to that blog.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire, or as many as you can think of.
4. Contact your bloggers to let them know you have tagged them for The One Lovely Blog Award.

Image Sharn White ©

 Seven Things about Me

1. I Love to Write

Since I was a child I have loved to write. When other children in my school classes were groaning at the thought of writing an essay, or composition as we then called the stories we wrote, I was already far away in my own world of  imaginative thoughts. I wrote fictional stories and poetry mainly, but also kept diaries from a young age. Unfortunately, I no longer still have any of these childhood anecdotes, as my mother, who had early Alzheimer's Disease (in her 40's) threw them away, unaware of what she was doing. My mother was my inspiration when it came to writing. She impressed upon me her own love of writing and language, as well as her creative imagination. I wrote stories in my spare time and filled note books, complete with illustrations. Drawing and painting were my next great love. My mother was my greatest fan when it came to my stories, often contributing with her own ingenious ideas for plots. Together we fashioned some fabulous fictional characters and colluded over melodramatic and marvelous story lines. It is my passion for writing that enticed me into blogging in 2009. 
My beautiful mother was my inspiration. Image SharnWhite ©

2. I am a History Fan!

My father was a keen history buff and I feel certain I inherited his infectious passion for history. My favourite school subjects were Ancient History and Art History and I have continued that love of the past into my adult life. I have studied Ancient History at university and I am currently studying a history degree through a university, off campus,(although I may end up holding a record for the world's oldest university student at the rate I am going...) I especially enjoy Australian Colonial history and in particular Convict history, possibly because this ties in well with my family history. I am quite fascinated by Medieval history as well and have a large and ever growing collection of medieval history books. I love nothing more than to trace my family back to the Middle Ages and beyond. I suppose really I am curious about anything from the past.

3. Genealogy is an Obsession of Mine

I have more than one hobby so it is difficult to find enough time to research my family history. Many late nights are the result of limited time, but I delight in following clues and unearthing ancestors. Whenever I find new forebears, it is never enough to just know their names and dates of birth, death and marriages. I am compelled to research the places where they lived and to place their lives within the historical context of the times in which they lived. These diversions often mean that instead of finding ancestors, I am off researching in depth things or places that related to the life of an ancestor, such as a heritage listed water mill in Lincolnshire, UK, a butter factory in Cooroy, Queensland,  an old house that was once a hospital  operated by a nursing great great great aunt, an 1870's rail carriage built by a great great grandfather, a family sheep farm and the graves of ancestors. Family history connects us individually to our collective world history and it is that aspect which makes history become personal and relevant. Although family history digs up the past, one of the most exciting aspects of it is connecting with and meeting new relatives in the present. Through my family history, I have many new cousins, both near and far who have become my best friends. Last but not by any means least, the genealogy community is a generous and very friendly place to be a part of. I have made some exceptionally good friends through  associating with generous and caring people worldwide who share my passion for family history.

4. I Have Lyme Disease

This is not an aspect of my life, that I find easy to speak about, however, with recent controversy raising its head yet again in Australia, regarding the existence of Lyme Disease, I feel it is now time for me to speak about my own experience.  Far from being in any way  'poor me' related, my comments are my way of raising awareness about the existence of this debilitating Tick born illness. I hope also, to show, that despite handicaps in life, one can still achieve, maybe not every goal but many. I have been listening to the 'Lyme Disease does not exist in Australia'  argument for 21 years since I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (with a positive Western Blot test which had been sent to the USA). I spent two months in intensive care and a year in and out of hospital, so desperately ill that I wasn't expected to survive. I wrote letters to my children, expecting not to see them grow up. When I became ill, I presented with encephalitis, myocarditis, neurological problems, partial paralysis, swollen joints, breathlessness to the point that I couldn't walk, and many other symptoms. Lyme Disease is often referred to as The Great Imitator! It is not a pleasant disease. What makes it more difficult to deal with is the lack of help available for sufferers in Australia. 

I spent five years in total, bedridden, on oxygen unable to walk. With the help of two exceptional doctors who believed in Lyme Disease, and who were willing to experiment with unconventional treatments, I began to slowly improve. I was unable to have the recommended anti-biotic treatment for Lyme Disease as I had anapylactic reactions to all anti-biotics. Before my diagnosis I spent a long time being taken to many specialists whose reactions to my symptoms included (quote) "You are obviously a frustrated housewife. Go home and quit your bitching".  It was a frustrating time, not just medically, but for my family as well. The youngest of my four children was only three years old and the eldest eleven. They had to do without my mothering significantly, for seven years, I was fortunate that I had and still have an amazing and supportive husband and the most courageous and resilient children any mother could be fortunate enough to be blessed with. Well, apart from one inventive child who decided that cooking mince with banana sauce could be a regular contribution! 

I find it most concerning to see that little has changed regarding medical opinions in the 21 years since my diagnosis. I have lost friends to Lyme Disease in that time because they were denied medical treatment. Many doctors who might be tempted to treat the disease feel they must refuse, because of the risk of being struck off the medial register. These days I am, for the most part, well,  and I maintain the attitude that Lyme Disease will not stop me from doing the things I most love. I travel, although I often end up spending weeks if not months bedridden with fatigue, arthritis, severe vertigo and neurological symptoms when I return. My Lyme Disease riddled immune system has caused  my body to attack my own organs. So I am missing a few - but nothing so far that will deter me from living life to the fullest. I suffer, as do many Lyme patients, from dyslexia so it may seem strange that I have chosen to follow my passion for writing combined with history in my blogging. My blogs may not be published as often as I would wish but when one has to edit every word  because each one is completely jumbled or missing the first letter, writing  anything is time consuming. Writing, for anyone with Lyme Disease, is a mammoth task. Writing, for me is made more complicated by the fact that my blogs are always very wordy. Despite this, I love blogging and I am most honoured that my blog posts are enjoyed by others and my hope is that everyone who reads post this might make just one other person aware of Lyme Disease. AND I AM EXTREMELY GRATEFUL TO MY FRIENDS WHO KINDLY EDIT MY POSTS... WITHOUT THEM I WOULD NOT HAVE A 'ONE LOVELY BLOG' AT ALL.

5. I Love Books

You might notice that I didn't say 'reading'. My zeal for reading closely matches my enthusiasm for family history and history however, I said books because I am a collector as well as a reader of books. I suspect that I will never have time in my lifetime to read the many books I have. I have bookshelves groaning under the descriptive weight of my bounteous books, and tsundokus (a wonderful Japanese word for piles of unread books) reposing by my bed. I cannot walk past a book store. I love the smell of books, the touch of the paper and the allurement of the covers. Sometimes one simply does have to choose a book by its cover! My largest collection by far, is of history books but I collect children's classics, books about places and gardens and architecture and antiqarian books that take my fancy.

Image available under Creative Commons License ©©
6. I could not live without Social Media!

Social Media, in my opinion, is the best thing invented, in my father's words, 'since sliced bread'. Every day, on Facebook I am able to 'talk' to my family and friends who live far away from me. I am constantly moved by the kind gestures I see posted, and the positivity that is spread around the world. Just this week I joined a group of people posting 'happy flowers', (a picture of a flower each day simply to spread good cheer). There are of course, negative aspects of all social media but I try to overlook negativity. For me, the positives far outweigh any antagonism. I keep in touch with events occurring in the world and in the genealogy community as they happen, via Twitter. I find this a wonderfully informative media platform. I choose wisely whom I follow and the resources available through this social medium are boundless. Google Plus is another of my favourite social media platforms, although I have yet to make the quantum leap into the world of Google Hangouts. I will get there, Jill Ball! Google Plus introduced me to an annual event called the Google Plus Photographic Walk. This increasingly popular gathering was launched in 2011. I attended the very first Google Plus Walk in Sydney and proudly donned my Google T-Shirt to walk around the city  of Sydney in a groups, photographing buildings, the Botanic Gardens, the  beautiful Harbour among other things, whilst receiving helpful tips about photography on the way. Eager photographers use everything from a smart phone to expensive cameras but all are welcome. In 2012 I completed the Google Plus walk in Adelaide since I was attending  the 13 th Genealogy and Heraldry Congress there at the time. On both walks I was accompanied by my geni friend Carole Riley who is as keen a photographer as I am. 

7.  I am a Keen Photographer! (see above).

Pauleen Cass, who was on the 4th Unlock The Past Cruise in February this year with myself and about 200 other genealogy and history buffs, will attest to my obsession for taking photographs (which possibly equally matches her own enthusiam). An example of our collective craziness when it comes to snapping photos, was while walking the foreshore of Hobart. Suddenly we both stopped and with a simultaneous  'oh look!' from both of us, we headed wordlessly across the street. I turned to Pauleen and asked, " Are you heading toward the boats or that seagull in the puddle?"  "Seagull" was her quick reply.... Well, it was a great reflection photo! We could easily have missed our cruise ship so distracted were we then by some crab pots.....

My Seagull Photograph,Image Sharn White ©


There are far more than fifteen blogs which I admire and some of those have already been nominated for The One Lovely Blog Award. Here are my nominations:

    The following quote is an example of Jacqi Steven's engaging style of writing, which makes her blog so easy and enjoyable to read, " There are two kinds of genealogical research: the reasonably exhaustive search and the wild goose chase. Sometimes, you can't know which one is which until it is all over." 

    Helen's blog posts are always well researched and brimming with fascinating information. A must read. 

    I have followed Nancy Marguerite Anderson's captivating Hudson's Bay Fur trade blog for some years. Nancy began writing about her ancestor Alexander Caulfield Anderson and his expeditions but her blog has evolved and in it she describes the lives of many people, places and events  connected to the fur trade in Canada. This blog is well worth reading.

4. Andrea's Ancestors - If you are interested in some fascinating information about DNA, then this is here well researched and  comprehensively written blog for you. 

An interesting blog about the lives of 89 men listed on the town of Newquay War Memorial in Cornwall. Of you have an interest in WW1 then you will enjoy reading this well researched blog.

    Anne Young has written about many topics on her family history blog. Her lovely style of writing and her excellent pictures demonstrate how to research your family history. A great read.

Titles like 'Nan's lemon Butter' and 'Granite Town - Links with Sydney Harbour Bridge won't disappoint when you read Diane Hewson's well researched and entertaining blog. This is a blog I have followed for some time and I highly recommend it. 

    Catherine Crout-Habel, founder of this blog, passed away in July of this year.  Catherine has been sorely missed in the genealogy community. Catherine's daughter, Kirrily is continuing in her mother's footsteps with her own unique voice. I would like to wish Kirrily well and to honour her mother with The One Lovely Blog Award.

    Frances Owen's blog,  began as the tracing of her ancestor convict, Nicholas Delaney. This has been one of my favourite blogs for some years. Frances has since broadened her always fascinating blog to include a wider range of genealogy topics. A must read!

    A beautifully presented and very informative blog, especially if you have New Zealand ancestors as I do. Whether you have NZ ancestry or not, this blog is well researched and well worth reading. 
     I discovered Pat Spears genealogy blog when looking for tips on how to research my Swiss ancestors, although this is just one interesting topic that this resourceful blogger covers. Pat writes her blog to share her family stories, successes, techniques and to share resources with others. 

     This blog is an excellent resource if you have Scottish or irish ancestors. Although it often focuses on American Scots-Irish, there are some really interesting information which might assist you in your search for Scottish and Irish forebears.

      Donna is a professional genealogist specialising in Irish ancestry. Her blog is a must read for those with Irish ancestors.

      Maria Northcote's blog is another I have followed for a long time. Maria's eye catching titles and well research blogs are always a great read.

    Another blog on my list of favourites is Jackie Van Bergen's extremely well researched and well written and informative blog. A recommended and always interesting read. 

I know I have left out some of my very favourite blogs, however, some have been nominated by others and limiting my nominations to 15 was a difficult task. Thankyou again Debra for thinking enough of my blog to nominate me for this lovely award which I very much appreciate. 
I will notify these 15 blog owners as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


'It's a Grand Mistake to Think of Being Great...' Benjamin Franklin with apologies for borrowing only an exerpt of his quote.

This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. 

GRAND UNCLE  noun Another name for Great Uncle   (British Dictionary)

Have you ever found a distant relative and had difficulty in determining whether he or she is a third cousin once removed or a first cousin three times removed? One only needs to peruse numerous online family history discussions, to discover collective confusion about how to calculate family relationships based upon a common ancestor. As a family historian, when compiling your family tree it is important to familiarise yourself with family relationships and to understand the terms which accompany them. A number of family history programs will provide those calculations for you, to assist you in determining who is a first or second cousin, a first cousin once,  twice or thrice removed, or whether your relative is a 5 times great aunt or a 5 times great grand aunt.. Because terminologies used by family history websites and programs vary, you can resolve any confusion by acquainting yourself family relationships.

  Image State Library Qld In Public Domain. Wikimedia

There are numerous family relationship charts available online, to help you to understand and determine your confusing family relationships. I find it practical to keep several of these charts on hand to familiarise myself with cousin, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, step, half and the general befuddlement of all family relationships. It has put an end to nights lying awake, almost pulling my hair out whilst trying to  contemplate the exact nature of relationship between myself and the daughter of a daughter of the brother of a four times great grandmother. You might be wondering why I think it essential at all to understand distant kinships. And I can only admit by my own confession, that, one day, like myself, you just might be caught out, describing your relationship to an uncle incorrectly, on an international television program... and by jove you will wish you had made more of an effort. (For more on my misadventure, read on...)

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.


Now, if cousins aren't confusing enough, family historians invariably encounter other relatives on a grand scale. Some relatives... if you perchance to descend from Nobility... are undeniably grand, but there is still that perpetual genealogical pettifog concerning uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews and whether or not they are great or grand... or both! And it is this very confusion between grand and great which recently caused me to execute a grand familial faux pas, whereby I called an uncle by less than the number of greats he deserved. Of course, no one would be the wiser regarding my error, but for my broadcasting it here in this blog post, however, as a researcher I believe that my mistakes can become learning tools which might assist others their own research.

In Australia, the word grand is not commonly applied to uncles and aunts, nieces or nephews. The only grand relatives I possess, are the parents of my parents and the children of my children - grandparents and grandchildren. As for my great aunts and uncles, no matter how much they have notions of grandeur, and despite Ancestry.com's dedication to confusing me, they remain as great family members. After saying this, I must admit that I personally, have come to regard the use of the term 'grand' for uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, as quite useful for genealogical purposes, however, the use of different terminologies can lend itself to some frustration unless you understand them.

Ancestry.com bestows the nomenclature, grand, upon my uncles and aunts on my public tree. Since Ancestry.com is an American based company, I assumed that the use of Grand, was a specifically American terminology for Great. GREAT, according to dictionaries, is indeed interchangeable with GRAND for the siblings of grandparents, however, my many and widely dispersed American cousins have assured me, that my McDade kin in the USA have for generations been GREAT but definitely not GRAND. Intrigued by the origins of the now, in my mind, 'Great Grand Debate', I turned to Irish, Scottish and English genea-friends for help. To  further muddle my mind, they  have all unanimously confirmed that their British and Irish aunts and uncles may be great but not one is the slightest bit grand.

Recently I was confronted with a great/grand conundrum after taking part in the filming of an episode of a television series, where throughout the filming I referred to a convict relative as my great great great uncle. The episode focused in part on the second penal settlement on Norfolk Island and in particular on a convict, to whom I am related.  I have also referred to the same convict in my blogs as my great great great great uncle or 3rd great uncle. Lawrence Frayne was the brother of my convict three times great grandfather, Michael Frayne. No doubt those who have conscientiously studied their relationship charts will note my error immediately! In hindsight, (which always makes its appearance far too late) I see now that I did not give the relationship the thought that it deserved. Nor had I taken the time to determine accurately the relationship. Sometimes, however, it is not until we are actually confronted with a reason to do so, that we bother to to calculate family relationships correctly. Everyone is a cousin or an uncle and in a busy life with limited research time, that seems to suffice!

After filming and during the editing of the episode, I was asked to confirm the relationship with my uncle, as there appeared to the show's researchers to be some confusion. They had determined me to be the great great great grand niece of my convict relative, whereas I, (a family historian who should have known better), had referred to him as my great great great uncle. Although I had on my late nights awake, given a great, perhaps even grand deal of thought to my cousins, I had sadly neglected the aunts and uncles on my family tree. After a number of emails back and forth, further confusing everyone, I consulted relationship charts, several of which seemed to disagree. Finally, I drew up my own chart for my 3rd great grandfather, Michael Frayne and beside him, his brother, Lawrence... and discovered my error!  I found that I am indeed the three times great grand niece of Lawrence Frayne. If I do not wish to use the term grand, then I am this convict's four times great or great great great great niece. I have no idea how many times throughout two days of filming I called Lawrence Frayne my three times great uncle but all I can say is,,,,thank heavens for editing! 

My Great Grandmother Florence Reece-Hoyes nee Morrison. She looks rather grand I think!


Grandparents (the parents of your parents) are afforded the prefix GRAND not great. What I had forgotten, WITH REGARDS TO MY UNCLE, crucially, was that grandparents always have the prefix GRAND, which effectively means great. So when it comes to the siblings of grandparents GREAT and GRAND  MEANS THE SAME THING. Your GRANDfather 's brother is your GREAT Uncle or your GRAND Uncle.

Family relationships would be so much simpler if we had greatparents and great uncles or grandparents and grand uncles. GREAT and GRAND both signify a generation above your parents. So GREAT GREAT or GREAT GRAND would indicate two generations above your parents. Confusion often results from the interchangeable terms great and grand.

I have traced one branch of my Swiss family back to my 11th great grandfather, Christian Häberling, born in Zurich in 1527. Because the 'grand' in grandfather is interchangeable with 'great', my 11 times GREAT GRANDFATHER, in fact, possesses the equivalent of 12 GREATS. (11 greats + 1 grand)

From this logic comes the calculation that the brother of my 11 times great grandfather would also have 12 greats and therefore be my 12 times great uncle.  If I use the term GRAND to replace great, then the brother of my 11 times great grandfather is my 11 times great grand uncle.  The brother of my 3 times great grandfather is both  my 4 times great uncle and my 3 times great grand uncle.  Because of the confusion caused by the difference in the number of greats between grandparents and great uncles and aunts, I can see why Ancestry finds it much simpler to apply grand to  relatives sideways on your tree. 

Image Sharn WHite © My great grandmother in Glasgow Scotland and my great/grand uncle John McDade

In a recent discussion about the use of great or grand for aunts and uncles, genea-friend Kirsty Gray gave me the following excellent advice for remembering greats and grands. 'You have to be grand before you are great'.

I have decided that like the term GRAND. It seems logical to use when calculating relationships for genealogical purposes because grandparents and their siblings have the same number of greats plus one grand. The brother of my three times great grandfather is then my three times great grand uncle.

If you prefer to use GREAT for uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews, you simply need to remember to add one extra great for the grand that is your grandparent. The brother of my three times great grandfather  in this case, is my four times great uncle.


GRANDPARENT-----------------------------GRAND UNCLE


GRANDPARENT-----------------------------GREAT UNCLE

Image Wikimedia Creative Commons ©©

After an exchange of several confusing but ultimately humourous emails between myself and the film company, I reached the conclusion that I was not, as I had believed myself to be, the  great great great niece of Lawrence Frayne. He is of course, still my uncle, however, I had embezzled him of one great!  My direct ancestor Michael Frayne, is my three times great grandfather, therefore, I am the three times great grand niece of his brother OR, alternatively, I am his 4 times great niece. For the purpose of the tv series we went with great great great grand niece. And now...it is time to revisit my old blogs to correct my blunder of familial bond and restore my uncle to one extra measure of greatness.

My error was that I had simply overlooked the significance of GREAT and GRAND and not taken the time to carefully determine this relationship accurately. I have learned from my mistake and now, having thoroughly familiarised myself with ALL relationships on my family tree,  will surely save myself from other stressful situations.  Then again, I take comfort from the words of  Bram Stoker who said in Dracula, 'We learn from failure not from success'.

Frustration.. Image Wikimedia COmmons


The origins of the usage of grand and great for relatives vary according to place, culture and language. The English language has evolved through time from Celtic, Germanic, Roman, Scandinavian and Norman influences.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are several theories as to the origin of the word GRAND in English.  The notion of a grand parent appeared around the 13th century in France and is believed is to be derived from the Old French words grand or graund, meaning of the highest rank. Grandfather in Old French was grand-pere. The word grand  in English could also have its origins in the Latin word grandis, meaning important or great. The Old English word great, implying big also has a similar sound and meaning  to the Dutch and Germanic words of similar meaning, groot and gross. In German a grandfather is Großvater. Great grandfather is der Urgroßvater. The word Gross or Groß means great or large, while the prefix 'ur' can mean ancestral or original.
In Anglo-Saxon English. the word for father was faeder, grandfather was ealdfaeder, great grandfather was known by the term pridda faeder, which quite literally translated as third father.
In Old English the prefixes used for grandparents were ealde (old) and ieldra (older).

In the 13th and 14th centuries grandsire became a more accepted name for a grandfather. The use of grandfather and grandmother is considered to have appeared in England in the 14th and 15th centuries to replace the term grandsire.

My  Irish Great Grandparents or Sheantuismitheoiraimorímór  Image Sharn White©

Friday, August 22, 2014

Genealogy Photo Challenge 2014

Genealogy Photo Challenge 2014 for World Photo Day 

The Family Curator has issued a challenge to genealogists and family historians around the world to celebrate World Photo Day by creating a photograph which blends pictures of the past and the present in a single photo. Thankyou to Pauleen  for her Genealogy Photo Challenge blog post which reminded me to delve through my photographs to find something suitable for this challenge. 

Houses, like all buildings, are constantly altered and adapted over time, for families and their changing needs and purposes. Every home is the heart of the family and as such is the keeper of memories. As a home changes and people move in and out of it, the house becomes an archive of collective memory. I am pleased to take this opportunity to tell just a snippet of this home's narrative.

My first home was at 24 Crescent Avenue in Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland in Australia. My parents built a brand new house in a newer suburb when I was seven years old but the home at Enoggera has always remained significant as the source of my earliest important childhood memories.

 While on holidays in Queensland, several  trips down memory lane, have found me driving past my first family home. Over the years since I lived in the house, it has undergone some significant alterations.


The home pictured above, was built in the 1950's, as a two bedroom weatherboard house with a brick base at the front but was higher at the rear with timber slats, in typical Queensland style. Shown in the photo below (and above in the 2000 and 2014 photographs) are the cassia trees which my mother planted along the side boundary fence. Now, in late 2014, these trees have been removed.

Rear of the house 1960's

During the seven years during the 1950's and 1960's when I lived in the home at Enoggera, it was painted a pale grey/green colour. It had a balcony with an ornate wrought iron railing and wide brick stairs at the front of the house. 

The balcony at the front of the house ©

The fence was made of wire and white timber with white metal gates. Image Sharn White ©


In 2000, when I saw my first home, I was surprised to see that it had changed considerably from the time when I had lived in it as a young child. New owners had modernised the house, enlarging it and replacing the brick balcony with a timber deck at the front. The window to the living room was the very same window however, as when I had lived there decades earlier. I recall climbing upon our lounge to watch through that window for the ice cream van. The colour scheme was vastly different with its bright yellow weatherboards and blue trimmed windows. What had seemed to me as a young child to be an enormous backyard had been reduced in size by a new extension to the rear of the house. 

My first home in 2000 Image SharnWhite 


The latest view of my first home made me wonder if I had driven along the wrong street! It wasn't just that the colour scheme had altered but the roof line had changed significantly and the house bore little resemblance to the one I had lived in. It was only the brick base that was still recognizable from the past. The roof which had been a hip roof now looked very different with new gables. The 1950's built house had gone full circle and even back in history with its new transformation,  giving it the appearance of a  home reminiscent of the 1920's. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Knocking down Northern Irish Brick Walls using Wills.

"In the name of God, Amen, I William White of Brookend, Arboe... declare this to be my last Will and Testimony" and... Who was Sarah Jane Thompson?

Jemima Florence White -  daughter of Sarah Jane Thompson and Hugh Eston WHite,  grand daughter of William White and great grand daughter of Samuel Clarke  

BREAKING NEWS: Not one, but two seemingly impenetrable Northern Irish Brick walls have recently crumbled through the finding of Wills of ancestors.

As anyone with Irish or Northern Irish ancestry will attest, the journey towards finding Irish and Northern Irish ancestors has long been fraught with difficulty. Despite websites such as Emerald Ancestors, Ancestry Ireland, FindmyPast IrelandThe Ulster Foundation, and Irish Origins, just to name a few, my Northern Irish ancestry was not easy to trace until I recently found the Wills of Northern Irish ancestors.  PRONI, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland must be congratulated for its project to digitalise Will Calendars. The records attached to the website's facility for searching Will Calendars were updated in March 2014, to cover the period 1858-1965. Will transcripts have been digitalised and images are currently available for Londonderry 1858-1899, Belfast 1858-1909, and Armagh 1858-1918. If you haven't visited the PRONI website for a while, it may be well worthwhile conducting a new search.

The discovery of the Last Will and Testimony of my great great grandfather, William White of Brookend, County Tyrone and also the Will of my three times great Grandfather Samuel Clarke of Ballycomlargy in County Londonderry, threw wide open, a window to my Northern Irish ancestry. Samuel Clarke's Will was kindly sent me to me by a previously unknown Irish cousin who found me through Ancestry.com. It is now available for me to download on the Proni website as well. I have also recently found the Will of my great great grandfather, William White on the PRONI website. Prior to reading the contents of these Wills, I knew frustratingly little about my County Tyrone and Londonderry ancestors.
Hugh Eston White, son of William White of Brookend and Sarah Jane (Thompson) grand daughter of Samuel Clarke of Ballycomlargy


Wills are an invaluable resource for family historians. Depending on the detail included in your ancestor's Will, you may find singularly exclusive information concerning such assets as land, farms, businesses and homes owned by ancestors. Will Calendars inform you of the date of death of an ancestor as well as when Probate was proved. Wills also disclose which family member inherited the family property. This is especially meaningful information if you are interested in a history of the land or house. Wills also importantly detail where an ancestor lived. In the writing of a Will, one of my Northern Irish ancestors helpfully provided a most detailed description of the location of his farm in Ballyblagh, Omagh. He named the roads between which it lay, the river which ran through it, its acreage, a description of the house and farm buildings, and even the number of cows he owned. This is particularly useful data since I am researching from Australia and therefore unable to search the land registry in Belfast in person.

Wills often include the occupations of ancestors and the employment of other family members. Other particulars of interest which may be listed are family possessions. These may range from details of farm equipment, household items and furniture to  personal items such as jewelry. If you have any precious family heirlooms in your family, it just might be that an ancestor's Will could provide the clue to tracing its origin. I have established the provenance of a family eternity ring through its mention in three generations of Northern Irish Wills. If you are fortunate enough to have had a particularly loquacious ancestor, his or her Will might make mention of  such personal items as a family bible, books, a piano, special items of furniture, or every day things including beds, bedding and even brushes and combs! Wills can provide much or meager information, depending upon the writer. I have found progenitors' Wills which are so devoid of detail as to straightforwardly  'leave all my belongings to my wife', and others which are an indubitable bounty of information.

Wills often include the names of spouses and children and often, significantly, married names of daughters. Frequently the writer of a Will names grandchildren and other relatives or family friends. Depending upon the amount of information a person has chosen to include in his or her Will, it may disclose places of residence of relatives and the names of their spouses. Sometimes a Will is a veritable wealth of information you would not find anywhere else. One example of information likely to be found only in a Will, are the names of  children born outside a marriage.  I have one Northern Irish ancestor  who kindly included the name of his 'illegitimate' son in his Will, thereby informing me of a previously unknown branch of family to trace. It is doubly rewarding to discover that an ancestor of the wandering kind was charitable enough to provide in his Will for offspring of a liaison. Not only do you learn that he was a fairly decent chap, but importantly, he has divulged to you a possibly well kept  a family secret.

A wonderfully wordy Will might furnish you with crucial clues regarding the whereabouts of  other descendants of your ancestors. When family members immigrated to different countries, they frequently lost contact over several generations. As a consequence, later generations may have no knowledge of their whereabouts. Much research time can be saved if your ancestor benevolently imparts this information in a Will. In my great great grandfather William White's last testament, he generously bequeathed me much valuable information regarding  the countries, cities, towns and addresses to which each of his offspring had immigrated, as well as affirming the addresses of several daughters who had remained in Northern Ireland.

It is important to note that there can also be misleading omissions in Wills. For varying reasons,  the name of one or more offspring might be absent, as was the case in the Last Will and Testament of  my three times great grandfather, Samuel Clarke. The absence of a crucial name in his Will generated a perplexing mystery for the Irish branch of my Clarke family, although it was this very omission which eventually  brought two branches of our family together.


The Last Will and Testimony of my three times great grandfather, Samuel Clarke, was discovered not by myself, but by someone in Ireland who I now know to be my third cousin. We both descend from Samuel Clarke, (1808-1889), a farmer of  Ballycomlargy, Londonderry, in Northern Ireland. My cousin found me while attempting to solve a family mystery. Samuel Clarke's Will had named a granddaughter, Sarah Jane Thompson, but inexplicably, had made no mention of who her parents were. Although Samuel named his children in his will, he had no daughters with the married name of Thompson and none of his children had a daughter named Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane Thompson, although stated in the Will to be Samuel's granddaughter, did not appear to fit into the Clarke family anywhere and her identity remained a mystery to the family in Ireland until the search led to my Ancestry Tree.

Sarah Jane Thompson sits elegantly on a paternal branch of my family tree, as my great grandmother, Sarah Jane White, nee Thompson. Sarah Jane immigrated to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in 1912 with her husband, my great grandfather, Hugh Eston White and their five children, one of whom was my grandmother Jemima Florence White. Sarah Jane Thompson's mother was the only offspring of Samuel Clarke not  named in his Will.

Contact between my cousin and I through Ancestry.com generated an exciting exchange of information which connected two branches of a family who lived on opposite sides of the world, each who had no previous knowledge of the other. There was a reason why Samuel Clarke's daughter was not mentioned in his Will but his granddaughter was named.

Samuel Clarke wrote his will in 1887. His daughter Sarah Jane Clarke, the eldest of his eight children, had predeceased her father, in 1873, at the age of 40 years. In his Last Will and Testimony Samuel Clarke mentioned only the names of his living offspring. He made provisions for one child of his deceased daughter because he himself had raised her. Sarah Jane Thompson's four older siblings had remained with their father, who remarried the same year that their mother died. Years later, with older generations of family gone and with them, any first hand knowledge of family history, Sarah Jane Thompson had become an enigma for my Irish Clarke cousins. On my side of the world, in Australia, I had no knowledge of my great grandmother's siblings or that I had Clarke relatives who were Clarke descendants in Northern Ireland. I know from the Will, that Sarah Jane was the only one of Sarah Jane Clarke's and Joseph Shaw Thompson's five children to be raised by her Clarke grandparents, after the death of her mother when she was a year old. My Irish cousin and I have now become friends, learning about each other's branch of our family, exchanging precious family photographs on Facebook and corresponding by email.

Title :Date of Death :22 October 1889
Surname :ClarkeDate of Grant :17 February 1890
Forename :SamuelReseal Date :
Registry :LondonderryEffects :Effects £189 10s.

I had no way of knowing, until I read Samuel Clarke's Will, that Sarah Jane had been separated from her siblings and lived with her mother's parents, following her mother's death. I had assumed that since her father had remarried quickly after his wife died, that she had been raised along with her siblings, by her step mother, Eliza. It is this type of personal family history, which if not passed on orally through generations of families, might only be discovered in a Will.

At the time that her grandfather Samuel Clarke wrote his Will, Sarah Jane was 12 years old. It is quite moving to read about the personal items that Samuel Clarke bequeathed his granddaughter. In addition to money, he listed items which he must have felt were important to her, including  a brush and comb set, a bed and items of bedding. He provided for her care after his death by one of his sons, her uncle John Clarke. John Clarke was named in Samuel Clarke's Will to inherit the family farm.  The carefully considered provisions made for his granddaughter in Samuel Clarke's Will, were a declaration of his love for her. It is a wonderful thing to see in writing, an emotional connection between ancestors. Samuel Clarke chose well, since the bond between Sarah Jane Thompson and her uncle John Clarke is demonstrated by the fact that he later in life, lived with her, her husband and her family at Brookend, County Tyrone. Quite often emotional interactions between ancestors are something abstract that we must imagine for ourselves. It is often only the words written in a letter or diary or a Will, that truly expose warmth and affection between forebears. Samuel passed away two years after writing his Last Will and Testimony and it is comforting to know from this Will, that he had provided for his granddaughter's care and her future. Often, it is information included in a Will, which can provide the ingredients for an authentic story about ancestors.

Sarah Jane White nee Thompson as a married woman at the White's Dairy Farm,  'Carrig-na-gule', Seventeen Mile Rocks, Qld

The information in the Last Will and Testimony of my three times great grandfather, Samuel Clarke of Ballycomlargy, Desertlyn, County Derry, set in motion, a journey to discovering four generations of Clarke family members. But for Samuel Clarke's Will, I would be still completely unaware that my great great grandmother, Sarah Jane Clarke, had seven siblings, or that her youngest daughter had been raised by her parents following her death. I might never have discovered my many cousins in Northern Ireland who like myself, descend from Samuel Clarke. Information found in Wills can provide valuable clues that might not be found anywhere else.


The 1887 Last Will and Testament of my great great grandfather, William White of Brookend, County Tyrone, provided me with the information I needed to crash through a brick wall which I had all but given up on. Credit for this find, must be afforded to the PRONI website. William White was the father of my great grandfather, Hugh Eston White, who married  the granddaughter of Samuel Clarke, Sarah Jane Thompson,  in 1896, in Woods Chapel, Magherafelt, Londonderry.

Looking across the land that was William and then Hugh White's farm in Brookend, Co. Tyrone


Prior to finding the Will of William White, I knew very little of my Northern Irish White family (who bear no relation to my husband's County Down Whites ......  we think!). I had nothing more than a possible sibling for my great grandfather and an anecdotal indication of a connection to a County Tyrone family named Watters.

In June of 1913, my paternal grandmother, pictured above top, arrived in  Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, aged 11 years. According to the passenger records for the ship Ayrshire, Jemima Florence White was travelling with her family. With her on the journey from Ireland to Australia were her father Hugh Eston White, her mother, Sarah Jane nee Thompson White, sister Violet Victoria Maud, 16, and brothers William Thomas aged 14, Samuel John Clarke, 12, and Andrew Hugh Thompson, the youngest child aged 7 years.

From his marriage certificate, I knew that my great grandfather, Hugh Eston White was born in County Londonderry in around 1866, and that his father's name was William White. Family anecdotes informed me that Hugh Eston White had departed County Tyrone, Northern Ireland because of ailing health, and that he relocated his family to a country with a warmer climate quite reluctantly, on his doctor's advice. My great grandfather, Hugh White and his family lived on a flax farm at Brookend, near Loch Neagh in County Tyrone before immigrating to Australia. I heard many stories from my grandmother as a child about her life on the farm named Carrig-na-gule' at Brookend. My grandmother's anecdotes never included the names of aunts or uncles or grandparents and as a child I did not think to inquire. I had little information about my Northern Irish White family.

Marriage records informed me that Hugh White was born in County Londonderry and that he married Sarah Jane Thompson in Woods Chapel, Magherafelt, in Derry. I had little difficulty in finding my great grandmother's Thompson family in the Griffith's Valuation and other Londonderry records.


The only information that I could find about my two times great grandfather, William White, was that he had married in County Londonderry and that his son Hugh, was born in this same county. Since Hugh and Sarah White had lived in County Tyrone, I had no idea whether my Whites originated in Londonderry or in County Tyrone. I had the name of my great grandfather William White, a wife named Matilda,  and that is where my knowledge of this family ended in Northern Ireland. Other clues, led nowhere. I had the name Matilda Junk, with whom my great grandfather Hugh was staying with in Londonderry, in the 1911 census, along with two of his five children. Despite harbouring a strong hunch that Matilda Junk's name was a clue, I was unable to find any information about who she was. ON the night of the 1911 census, Hugh's wife Sarah ( Thompson) was at home on the family farm at Brookend,  with the rest of their children and living with her was her uncle John Clarke. I also had the name Isabella White as a possible sister for my great grandfather, Hugh. Isabella White had married a Robert Orr of Lisnamorrow, and although I felt that she was Hugh's sibling, I was unable to substantiate this. The names Robert Orr, Matilda Junk, Isabella White and John Clarke should have been  keys to unlocking a door to the past, however, since my search was in Northern Ireland, they remained clues that did not lead to any evidence. To further complicate my instinct regarding Isabella White (Orr) , I was contacted by someone in Canada  who had an Isabella Brown ( nee White) on her husband's family tree, as the daughter of my William White of Brookend. Isabella Orr began looking less likely to be the sister of my great grandfather. 

Many years ago, my grandmother told me that 'two generations of Whites in County Tyrone, married tow generations of Watters'. For some reason this comment stayed with me and a I wrote about this in one of my blog posts. Not long afterwards, I was contacted by a man with the surname Watters, who lives in County Tyrone. He informed me that his mother had been a White who married a Watters and that his grandmother, Sarah Louisa White had also married a man named Watters. This revelation supported my grandmother's story, which was substantiated, when we discovered that his mother was my grandmother's first cousin. For the life of us, however, we could not work out where Sarah Louisa White fitted into my White family or exactly how we were related through her, beyond my family anecdote. We had no success researching, despite my cousin collecting parish records in Northern Ireland, and my researching online. No birth record could be been found for Sarah Louisa White and were unable to prove our connection. That is.... until I found the Will of William White.....


Although the death certificate of my great grandfather, Hugh Eston White states that his mother's name was Matilda, I have been not been to find any record of their marriage. Finding William White's Last Will and Testimony not only confirmed her name to be Matilda, but almost unbelievably, it handed me the names of all of their children and their spouses as well as the places where most of them had immigrated to. Places such as Allegheny City, Pittsburgh, Penn, USA and Toronto, Canada, suddenly became places where I might search for relatives.


My grandmother once told me that her father had never wished to leave Ireland, but had only done so because of ill health. When his doctor asked where he might choose to go he answered, "Canada". His doctor had been amused at his choice of a country as equally cold as Ireland and advised him otherwise. I have long wondered why he thought of Canada. Australia seemed to me to be the obvious choice, since the eldest brother of his wife Sarah, had earlier immigrated to the Darling Downs in Queensland. Reading William White's Will, my excitement could barely be contained. William White's daughter and Hugh's sister, Isabella Brown, had gone to Canada to live with her husband, Thomas Brown. And all at once before my eyes, the pieces of a puzzle began to fall into place. as  grandson, Hugh Orr,was mentioned as the son of Robert Orr of Lisnamorrow. This was the husband I had for the Isabella White on my tree. My contact in Canada and I have now pieced together that Isabella first married Robert Orr and after his death,  remarried Thomas Brown. They immigrated to Canada, leaving two of the Orr children in Tamnavalley, who joined their mother later, in Canada.  It turns out that we both have the correct Isabella White on our trees as Isabella Orr and Isabella Brown because she married both Robert Orr and Thomas Brown, but we might never have known this fact except for the information in Will.


Nothing could have quite prepared me for the thrill of finding Sarah Louisa Watters nee White,  in William White's Will. My cousin in Ireland and I had all but become resigned to the fact that we might never understand our relationship - and there it was right in front of me in William White's Will. 'to my daughter, Sarah Louisa Watters, married to John Watters of Tamnavalley...'
I had had thought that Sarah Louisa might be the sister of my great grandfather but until their father,William White confirmed this as evidence in his Will, it had remained nothing more than a hunch.


Prior to finding this Will, the only information I possessed, were the names of my great grandfather Hugh Eston White, and his father William White, the name Matilda as a possible mother and a potential sister named Isabella. All at once, this Will confirmed Matilda as my great great grandmother, Isabella as my great grandfather's sister, as well as six more sisters and two brothers. - Jemima, Matilda, (Isabella), Thomas, Annie, Robert, Eliza, Sarah Louisa, and Eleanor. To further discover the addresses where they lived, was astonishing. Finding one of these names in particular, has had immense meaning for my family. My grandmother's name, Jemima has been passed on to one of my daughters and one very special granddaughter, Primrose Jemima Florence [5/9/2014-6/9/2014], as middle names, and now that we have found an even earlier generation of namesake, for whom my grandmother was obviously named,  the name Jemima has assumed even greater significance.

Jemima Florence White (left with her sister Violet) was named after her paternal aunt Jemima White


Wills provide unique information about our ancestors' lives. I have found it interesting to discover that some of my Northern Irish ancestors who were farmers, owned more than one parcel of land or farm. Names mentioned in Wills can provide much needed evidence for the family historian, on which to base further research. The relatives and friends mentioned in Will, can become vital ingredients in  an authentic account of our ancestors' lives.

William White's Flax Farm, left to Hugh White and later the Quinn Farm Brookend, County Tyrone

Prior to finding the Wills of Samuel Clarke and William White, the name Matilda Junk meant little to me, other than that she was the person with whom my great grandfather was staying in Londonderry on the night of the 1911 census with two of his five children. After discovering that Matilda Junk, nee Clarke was my great great aunt in the Will of Samuel Clarke, I began to construct a story around the fact that Hugh Eston White and his son and daughter (my grandmother Jemima Florence were visiting Portstewart in Londonderry. If one takes the time to think about the everyday activities in the lives of ancestors, such as shopping, visiting a doctor or holidays, we can only understand their lives by placing them within historical context as well as researching the places they lived and visited. I could easily assume, that whenever the White children required new clothing or shoes or needed medical appointments, the family might have taken them to nearby Cookstown. Now that I know the family had relatives in Londonderry, I can ponder that they might have travelled a the larger commercial centre such as Londonderry for these errands, because they had relatives with whom to stay.

Portstewart, pictured below, is a seaside resort town in County Londonderry. The address at which Hugh White and his children were staying on the night of the 1911 census was 14 Victoria Terrace which was almost on the waterfront of Portstewart. I have deduced that there may be another reasonable explanation for why Hugh White was in Portstewart on the 1911 census night.
Portstewart, Londonderry

A search for the will of  Matilda's husband, John Campbell Junk, who died in 1893, showed me that John bequeathed to his wife and son Robert, his house and farms in Gortigal and his smaller farm in Ballyblagh, known as 'Paddy's Land.'  John ordered that yet another larger farm in Ballyblagh was to be sold to pay any off all debts. In the 1901 census Matilda, 58, Robert 19, and Minnie 17, were living on the farm at Gortigal. The address at which Hugh was staying along with Matilda Junk in 1911, 14 Victoria Terrace, Portstewart, overlooked the sandy two mile long beach known as the Strand. It is entirely possible, given his ill health, that perhaps my great grandfather was holidaying with his two young children at the seaside to recover. I am now able to begin to build a narrative of my family's life beyond their flax farm; a story founded on clues found in the Wills of ancestors.


Wills can be an exclusive source of names on which to base further research regarding your family and social network within which they lived. The names you find in a Will can be as momentous as an obvious missing piece of a puzzle, or as obscure as a mysterious cue to point you in a certain direction. There can be something to discover about your own ancestors and the places they lived and visited, through researching their relationships with other people who were a part of their lives. The people mentioned in Wills as executors, for example would have most likely been a relative, a close friend or business partner or perhaps even a godparent to an ancestor's child. Seeking knowledge about the relatives, friends and other people within an ancestor's social and community network can enhance and enrich your understanding of your own forebears and their personal and social relationships.

When I discovered, through Samuel Clarke's Will,  that Matilda Junk, who my great grandfather, Hugh White was staying with at the time of the 1911 census, was the aunt of his wife, Sarah Jane (Thompson), I thought about the importance of names in Wills and their significance as fragments of evidence. I began investigating the people mentioned in my ancestors' Wills. Matilda's husband, John, in his own Will, named his brother, the Reverend Thomas W. Junk, of Six Mile Cross, as executor of his will. In reading the Will of the Reverend Thomas William Junk, I discovered the names of his children and that he was the Minister of the Presbyterian Church at Sixmilecross, Omagh, County Tyrone. Since the Junks were cousins of both my White and Clarke families, by extending my knowledge to the lives of these relatives, I am gradually constructing a picture of the wider family community beyond my great and great great grandparents. Since they all lived within a reasonably close distance of each other, it is reasonable to think that my family visited the places in which relatives lived, therefore, these places and people become an authentic and compelling part of our ancestors' life stories.

The Presbyterian Church at Sixmilecross, Omagh where the brother in law of my twi times great aunt, was the minister.
My husband also descends from a family with the surname of White in Northern Ireland as I do. Family anecdotes place his White ancestors in County Antrim although I have not found any sign of  them there. I have a niggling hunch that they might be secretly lying low in County Down, so I'm off to search the Will Calendars on the PRONI website to test my rationale......