Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Accentuate The Positive Geneameme

2013 Accentuate The Positive Geneameme 

Thankyou to my good friend Jill Ball, better known in the genealogy world as Geniaus, for challenging bloggers to take stock of their genealogy discoveries for 2013. I, in particular, appreciate this challenge, since 2013 has not been what I consider a very productive blogging year for me. University studies and the joyous birth and sad passing of my beautiful grand daughter Primrose have taken precedence over my writing temporarily.
 I will choose the prompts which most fit my genealogical year and I am hoping that by taking up your challenge Jill, I might find that I did indeed achieve more than I think!

 An elusive ancestor I found -  Although I did not find any of those tricky ancestors who have been stubbornly eluding me, this year I did manage to place quite a few new relatives on the branches of  my family tree. Significantly, I discovered  many (actually many many) LEONARD/ MCDADE relatives who descend from the sister of my Scottish great grandfather. An exciting outcome from this find has been new friendships formed with lots of wonderful cousins who live in Illinois, America. Stubbornly, my most  elusive ancestors remain firmly embedded amongst my tangled roots. On the positive side, they are yet to be found, thus providing me with brick walls to demolish in 2014! 

 A precious family photo I found - In a trunk left to me by an elderly great aunt, is her wedding dress. The beautiful gold lace dress which she herself sewed, was worn for her second marriage to Major Alexander Wallace Johnston. The marriage took place at the Army Barracks in NSW where he had been stationed following his active involvement in World War 2. Very recently whilst cleaning out a storage cupboard, I discovered in a box, an old photograph frame which I had not even realised that I possessed. In the long white frame,to my delight, were three pictures of my great aunt's wedding and the dress which she wore to her wedding. (and I must confess, I HAVE tried the dress on!)

 photo sharnwhite ©

photo sharnwhite©

photo sharnwhite ©

photo sharnwhite ©

One other very exciting photograph I found was one discovered on a  School Facebook page for the first school I attended in Brisbane, Queensland. This class photograph, taken in my first year of school, was a significant find for me since all of my school photographs and many other childhood photos were lost in the 1974 Brisbane floods. I wasn't even certain that it was actually myself in the photograph until I noticed my 'peter pan' style collar and T- bar school shoes, both of which I recall disliking because no one else wore them. My mother had sewn my school uniform and preferred a pretty rounded collar to the usual pointed one that everyone else wore. I hated being different then, but now I treasure that peter pan collar because I might not have otherwise been able to recognise myself in the photograph! 

Me, aged 5 years second from the right.

 An important vital record I found -  The Queensland State Archives has put online some orphanage records and this year I dicovered my great great grandfather, John NERGER's name in the Reformatory School for Boys Index 1871-1900. To my surprise, I found that in 1876, at the age of 12 years, John was charged in the Brisbane Central Court with being 'neglected' and  was sentenced to five years on board the hulk, Proserpine. This hulk, moored in the Brisbane River at Lytton, , was previously used to house convicts. The record showed that my two times great grandfather had been in an orphanage prior to this 'sentence'.  A trip to Brisbane and the State Archives allowed me to search the original admittance registers of several orphanages, not yet available online. From these old records, I learned that John and his younger brother George Nerger were both admitted to the Diamantina Orphanage in Brisbane in 1873, aged 9 and 7 years. In 1876 when John was sent to the hulk, George, aged 9. was 'reclaimed by his mother', my great grandmother. Christiana Siegler had lost her husband Gottlieb Nerger in 1869, in Gympie, where the family had moved to from Toowoomba for the Gold Rush. Christiana's youngest son Herman Nerger died in 1870, aged one year, and in that same year Christiana remarried an Irishman named Michael Hogan. I was saddened to realise that at the time she placed her two boys from her first marriage in the Diamantina orphanage, my two times great grandmother had two more children to her second husband. She went on to have six children to Michael Hogan.

John Gotlieb NERGER

A newly found family member who shared my family history has been a third cousin who lives in Illinois, USA. My cousin found me through and my blog FamilyHistory4u . Together, we discovered that we share three times great grandparents who lived in Scotland. Since we subsequently connected via Facebook, I have been introduced to many more wonderful cousins in America and exchanged stories with them, both genealogical and about our family lives. We 'chat' on almost a daily basis and this connection and sharing has been one of the most joyous and rewarding outcomes of my journey into family history. In 2013, I have also been contacted by people unrelated to my family but who have generously shared stories about the ships my ancestors immigrated on, their home towns, and one very generous gentleman offered information about a garden in a family home in Ord, Scotland. Blogging has put me in touch with some wonderful people and taught me much about researching family history and history.

A genea surprise I received was being voted in the top 10 Australasian Rockstar Genealogists 2013, by fellow bloggers and readers of my newest blog Family Convictions - A Convict Ancestor  .  Alongside some well respected people in the genealogy world I felt most humbled by this award and very grateful.

My 2013 blog post I was particularly proud of was a post on my Family Convictions - A Convict Ancestor  blog, entitled 'Escape from Barrenjoey -  Customs House Boat Crew. This post in March of 2013 was a significant challenge to me as I learned that my great great great grandfather, Michael Frayne, had been one of the five convicts who constructed the stone steps which still today provide the long and winding climb up the steep Barrenjoey Headland to the lighthouse. He was given this arduous task as punishment for escaping from the customs house station in a long boat. 
 After making this discovery I could not resist the 45 minute climb to the top of Barrenjoey Headland, to walk in my g g g grandfather's  footsteps. The climb was was quite a feat as I had only just recovered from a debilitating bout of pleurisy for which I was hospitalised. It is amazing what ancestor hunters will do to follow the path of an forebear. 

Walking in the footsteps of my ancestor ©

My 2013 blog that that received a large number of hits or comments was a post which I wrote in November of 2013 on Scottish Valuation Rolls on my FamilyHistory4u blog. This post described what the Valuation Rolls are and what they can tell us about ancestors and their lives through the mid to late 1800's and early 1900's. Although 2013 has not been as prolific as usual a year of geneablogging for me, I was pleased that my research was able to help others with their own searching. My favourite posts are always the ones which involve historical research. I enjoy learning about the past and in particular discovering ways to find out how our ancestors fitted into our historical past.

My ancestor John McDade on the 1895 Scottish Valuation Roll

A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was Pinterest. I have been making use of Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook for some time with regard to genealogical social networking. Although I have had a number of Pinterest interest boards, including one entitled Australian History, since 2012, I have only recently begun using Pinterest as a social media tool for my family history. I have now added genealogy related Pinterest Boards entitled  Family History, My Scottish Heritage, Things Irish, Family History Blogs, Genealogy Blogs and Convicts - A Convict Ancestor. In case anyone would like to have a peek at my many Pinterest boards, my user name on Pinterest is sharnwhite.

A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which which I learned something - Although I have not yet taken the leap and participated in a Google Plus hangout, I have watched a number of very interesting hangouts, in particular, those conducted by Jill Ball and Julie Goucher. From these I have discovered new websites and genealogical societies, sources and ideas which I have added to my exciting  'look forward to exploring' list for 2014.

I taught a friend how to find Scottish genealogy records and  I showed several friends how to begin researching their family history. Through my adventures in geneablogging in 2013 I presented tips and advice through my anecdotes on how to research convict ancestry, Scottish ancestry and local history amongst other topics.

A journal/magazine article I had published - Apart from my blog posts, I had nothing published in 2013, however, I have several magazine articles in the pipeline and two very interesting books I am researching. I will offer a hint.... one involves correspondence with the Hyderbad Falaknuma Palace Historian, a journal written in 1948 by General Peter El Edroos,( head of the Nizam of Hyderabad's army) and gun stay tuned!

The Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad

An exciting Archive I visited was the Queensland State Archives in Brisbane. As much of my family history research centres on Queensland, especially, Maryborough (1871 onward), Toowoomba, Dalby and Drayton (1852 onward), and Brisbane, I never seem to be able to visit this repository of wonderful records of the past, nearly often enough. This year I was fortunate to make three trips north to undertake research at the Qld State Archives. The QSA has many records online and is always on my list of things to do when I visit my home city of Brisbane.

Queensland State Archives 

A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed - This year I returned to studying history through the University of New England so I read quite a significant number of history books, although I must admit that most books I read tend to have a genealogical or historical flavour. My favourite books in 2013 included The Kelly Gang Unmasked by Ian McFarlane, Ned Kelly- a short life by Ian Jones, The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees and Breaking the Bank by Carol Baxter. 

A geneadventure I enjoyed was a trip to Toowoomba to research my German ancestors. Whilst there I joined the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society. Making use of rate notices as well as old topographical maps, on this 2013 trip, I found the land which my great great great grandfather, Gottlieb Nerger purchased and farmed in the 1850's and 1860's before the lure of the Gold Rush took him to Gympie. 

My great great great grandfather's land in Toowoomba ©
Another positive I would like to share is that I have realised that it is not the frequency with which I blog that is important. It is more the passion I have for genealogy and history that is significant as this is the motivating force behind my desire to share what I discover, through my blogs. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and positive New Year filled with exciting family 'finds'. I look forward in 2014, to meeting in person more of my wonderful geneablogging friends.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

'The very Touch of a Letter....'

Monday, December 21, 2009

'The very touch of the letter was as if you had all taken me into your arms.' Anais Nin 1903-77: letter to Henry Miller, 6th August, 1932

What love and comfort, a letter from James MCDADE's mother Elizabeth, pictured left, must have brought him as he bravely endured the horrors of war. I can only imagine the joy and relief a letter from their son would have brought to my great grandparents, John and Elizabeth as they waited for news of him, in their home in Cumbernauld, Scotland. letters are a wealth of information. Throughout the years they have delivered good tidings, sad news, the happy announcement of a birth and news of the death of a parent. They tell of the trials and triumphs of long voyages far from home, send news of safe arrivals, describe the horrors of war and extraordinary tales of comradeship. Letters pass on recipes, exchange knitting patterns, offer heart felt apologies, carry forth declarations of love, reveal secrets; treasured emotions all tucked inside an envelope and sent around the world to loved ones awaiting contact.

Letters, for the family historian are a wonderful portal to the past. They provide the human stories behind names and dates on the family tree. Words, written by hand, and from the heart, are an irreplaceable wealth of information. They tell us where our ancestors lived, who their friends were and how they lived their lives. Letters reveal much about the personality of an ancestor, his or her degree of literacy and sometimes just tell some jolly rollicking yarns. A death certificate is able to provide us with a date and cause of death, but a letter written to a relative provides a window through which we are privileged to view the emotions and reality of deaths, births, marriages, illness and the daily life of our predecessors. The humble letter is a window to the past.

My family members don't appear to have been prolific letter writers. Unlike myself, perhaps they were just not prolific hoarders. Of course, there is the very strong possibility, that in my family, letters were not preserved in order to hide some 'tiny' untruths! If my family had kept letters, I might have discovered earlier, that a very grand old family Welsh Castle does exist, but definitely not in my family! A letter might have saved me from years of searching for the grandfather in the Royal Welsh Fencibles.. who wasn't! These stories were myths, created to carefully guard well kept family secrets. ( I understand the desire for secrecy, and I do admit that the Royal Welsh Fencibles does sound a touch nicer than jail!) I might have discovered that letters were sent to Australia from Northumberland and Nottinghamshire and not from Wales where contrary to family tales, we have no ancestors at all. Not one! Disappointingly, no Fencibles, no Castle, no Welsh ancestors!

I know that letters arrived from America in the 1980's, and that, had they not been destroyed, they would have informed me that my grandfather's youngest brother, Alexander, was not a brother at all, but actually a nephew. He was the son of my grandfather's younger sister Mary by the husband of his older sister Maggie, (phew!). I would have known the reason that the entire family left Scotland and came to live in Australia (family 'scandals' are a popular reason for emigration!) and why poor Maggie and her straying husband emigrated to America to have no contact with their family for over 40 years. A letter might have told me that my grandfather on my mother's side was not a politician but instead, a bit of a rogue - quite possibly why there are no surviving letters ! How much easier my job would have been if letters had been stored away for me to read.

Documents such as divorce papers and shipping records and even photographs provide some useful information, but the letter remains the family historian's best friend. Letters are rich in detail, they are a part of the real fabric of life in the past and sometimes they are more importantly, proof of identity,and a key to unlocking the past, as in the case of my husband David's great, great grandfather.

David's side of the family, fortunately were both prolific writers and horders. Such a treasure trove for me! There are letters from Bedfordshire, England to the BEARD family, some from South Africa from Polly Brown (nee Beard) to her family in the Gippsland area of Victoria, letters from Kent, England to the DUNSTER family who settled in the Kiama area in NSW, letters from New Zealand to the WHITE family that tell of farming life on the Canterbury Plains and the most important a letter of all which proves a family story of Royal connections.

Mathew MACDONALD, great, great grandfather of David White, was born in about 1812 in Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland. There has been no birth record found for him, although this has been well checked. Family lore says that he was born on his grandfather Alexander MacDonald's farm, Gillin Farm on the Isle of Skye. His death certificate states that his father was Charles MacDonald of Ord, David's father, Brian was proud to tell everyone that he was descended from the great Lord John of the Isles through Charles of Ord. There is no marriage record for Mathew to Mary McPherson who travelled with him on the ship 'William Nichol' to Sydney, Australia, in 1837. It is only from a letter to Mathew, when he was almost 90 years old from a half brother in Scotland, that we can verify this ancestry. The author of the letter, Keith Norman MacDonald was a well known musician and writer of Scottish Reels and Spreys, as well as being a medical doctor. He was also the son of Charles MacDonald of Ord House, Ord, on the Isle of Skye, by his wife Anne McLeod who he married in 1828 and therefore a half brother to Mathew. In his letter, Keith referred to Mathew as his brother and informed him that 'their' father, Charles was buried in the churchyard of Kilmore, as were both his mother, Anne and Mathew's mother. So here was proof that Keith and Mathew were half brothers and that Mathew was the son of Charles MacDonald of Ord, whose ancestry is well documented, not only back to John, Lord of the Isles but to the Royal Stewart Kings and the McKenneth Kings. Unfortunately the letter did not tell us who Mathew's mother was. The letter also revealed that Mathew's wife, Mary McPherson, was a nanny to Keith and the other MacDonald children and that Keith still remembered her fondly. It is obvious that Keith's letter was in reply to a letter from Mathew and that this had been Mathew's first contact with his family since leaving Scotland some 60 years earlier. We might deduce from this that Mathew had a falling out with his father, possibly over his relationship with Mary McPherson. Keith Norman's letter describes beautifully, the scenery in Skye that Mathew might have wistfully recalled and offers colourful character sketches of local identities. This letter is a valuable document, without which, David's MacDonald ancestry could not have been traced back to Scottish Royalty. The photograph above, pictures Mathew and Mary (McPherson) MacDonald with their children, at their farm at Crookwell which is still in the MacDonald family today. It is sad to think that Mathew and Mary had no contact with their families for so many years and one wonders whether old age prompted Mathew to write to his half brother. It is a blessing that he did, for without that letter the Royal MacDonald connection would have been lost with the passing of time.

Some years ago, in a clean out, I threw away a bundle of letters from my mother and from friends. Now, I regret that I do not have those precious letters, the contents of which are lost forever. As for the MacDade 'scandal' previously mentioned (hardly a scandal worth mentioning these days!) the letters from Maggie in America were also thrown away and with them any hope of finding her three daughters.

Letters, for most people are now a thing of the past. I do receive several typed 'news letters' from friends who live overseas or in other parts of the country. Although these are, strictly speaking, letters, they are missing that special touch of a hand written personal letter. They are 'speaking' to many and not just to me. I am fortunate enough not to have to wait long weeks or even months for news of a loved one at war or to learn of the death of a family member. I can contact instantly on Skype, relatives in London and New York and not only speak to them but see them as well. My sister and I correspond by telephone or by email daily. Our emails are a record of our daily lives. They concern our families, the antics of our pets, the swapping of recipes, gossip and news of family and friends. Often our emails are quite silly and sometimes very humorous and they give us great pleasure. Then we press the delete button on our computers and any record of our conversation is lost. No one is going to find old deleted emails nicely tied with ribbon in a drawer one day in the future.

Now, I have to admit, that I am not likely to take up letter writing as I am quite comfortable living in an age of instant communication. I have, however, come to appreciate the value of communications of the past to the preservation of history, whether it be world, local or family history.

In keeping with technology, through my blog entries, I hope that my stories will be written from the heart, for the future. I am trusting that somewhere out there in cyberspace, my good tidings and recipes and family stories and even some secrets will be discovered by someone who will appreciate them and perhaps even discover a family tree through them. These blogs are a record of lives past and present. They are my 'letters'.

'Letters of thanks, letters from banks, Letters of joy from girl and boy, Receipted bills and invitations To inspect new stock or to visit relations, And applications for situations, And timid lovers' declarations, And gossip, gossip from all the nations. W. H. Auden 1907-73: 'Night Mail' 1936

'A Self Made Man May Prefer a Self Made Name'

Friday, November 6, 2009

'A self made Man may prefer a self made name.' Learned Hand (1872-1961)

'What's in a name.' wrote William Shakespeare in 1595 in his play Romeo and Juliet. Clearly he had encountered as much difficulty in tracing his elusive ancestors as I have during the past 11 years. 'A Rose by any other name' may smell as sweet but let me assure you will not be as easy to find!

In 1998 I embarked on my first search for my roots. After sending away for the marriage certificate of my great grandmother Barbara Lena Heberling to John Nargar in Maryborough, I thought that my search would be simple. Both surnames were unusual and so, I assumed, would be easy to trace. Nothing could have prepared me for the surprises that lay in wait for me, or for the amount of 'detecting' that was to be required of me.

I knew that the Heberling family had come from Switzerland and I knew roughly the year in which the family could have arrived, from a five generation photograph taken in 1955, in which my great grandmother was turning 88. I estimated her birth to be in approximately 1867 as the newspaper clipping said she was 8 years old when she arrived, ( I was new to family history and as yet unaware of the importance of checking the facts) so I guessed the arrival to be in the year 1875.

After months of fruitless searches on the internet, I decided to start again and rethink a new strategy. I began to suspect that the name Heberling may have been for some reason, changed on arrival in Australia. I had heard from a friend that his grandparents had shortened a long Hungarian surname to anglicise it. Then there was the tale of a non english speaking immigrant, who, when told by the the clerk on arrival in Australia, to 'make his mark', misunderstood and literally adopted the surname Mark! Suddenly, I remembered from the German language I had learned at school, that the letter 'a' with two dots above it (an umlaut) was pronounced as 'e' would be in English. Thus Haberling with a umlaut above the 'a' would be pronounced Heberling.

Another search of the passenger lists from Hamburg through me with the Haberling family who arrived in Maryborough Queensland in 1871 aboard the ship 'The Reichstag'. I found my great grandmother Barbara Lena aged 4 years (not 8) with her sisters Rosetta, Amalie, Bertha and Herminnie. Her father Jacob was a boot maker and he, his wife Anna Barbara and daughters had come from Zurich. These records had been provided by the Maryborough District Family History Society (MDFHS).

My search for the Haberlings spread its wings with the help of the Archives in Zurich (I had to seriously brush up on my German as the Archive replies were in written in that language) and also through the MDFHS. I now have a Haberling family tree that goes back to 1520 and sideways to Germany and the USA.

' Now,' I thought, ' this is easy'. And I set off in search of the Nargar family. Alas, there seemed to be no Nargars anywhere in the world! The birth certificate of my great grandfather showed that his father Gottlieb Nargar was born in Prussia and his mother Christiana Siegler, in Weuttemberg, Germany. The German lessons now being pursuing with a passion were to prove very useful.

I had never known that I had a German background. Perhaps around a decade after the end of WW 2, it was still a sensitive subject to this side of my family and so never spoken of. My mother had 'persuaded' my sister and I to study the German language at school despite our protests that French was much prettier!. "You won't regret this,' our unrelenting mother replied."German is the language of the future!". If my mother had known then how useful this language would prove to me in the future I am certain she would have been thrilled but I do believe it was the only thing that she could think of to say, at the time, without admitting to having a German heritage. My mother's prediction proved not quite true. But for me, my knowledge of German became literally the language that, in 'the future', enabled me to travel back into the past.

I worked on the principle that if the letter 'e' had been the key to finding my Haberling family then I would start with the same letter and work from there. I found a similar German name of Nerger and I reasoned that my great great grandfather, probably named Gottlieb Nerger, a German immigrant arriving on the 'Caeser Goddfrey" in 1853,would gave pronounced the letter 'e' as 'ay'. The clerk would have thought 'ay' was the letter 'a' thus Nerger became Nargar. The name Nerger has appeared as Nurjur on one child's birth certificate and as Narjar on another because of the language barrier between the german speaking immigrant and the clerks who recorded the passenger's name, births and mariages. I was correct in assuming the name was Nerger however the change had nothing to do with mispelling by a clerk. I was to discover much later that it had been changed for yet unknown reasons by my great grandfather, John. My great grandmother's surname Siegler was recorded on a number of documents differently as well, as Segler and Seglen and even her christian name was recorded as Christina, Christine, Anna and Christiana. I discovered that she was born Christiana Siegler, arrived in Brisbane on the 'La Rochelle' in 1863 as Seglier but that her parents were married under the name of Segler. I began to realise the significance of names and name changes when searching into the past.

Little did I realise that even my own maiden surname of MacDade had been altered, but for quite an different reason again. I was told as a child, NEVER to leave out the 'a' to distinguuish the protestant Scottish surname MacDade from the Irish catholic surname of McDade. (to my grandmother who hailed from Northern protestant Ireland I am certain that this was an important detail). I had often admonished my father for being lazy and using McDade. When I began to search for the MacDades in Scotland I found that there weren't any MacDades! In fact, it seemed there were no MacDades anywhere at all! They were all McDade. 'Perhaps my great grandparents were the last MacDades,' I proudly thought. When I found a catholic marriage of a John McDade and an Elizabeth Gibson, the names of my great grandparents, I put it away regarding it as the 'wrong' one. On a trip to Scotland, years later, armed with my research, my 'MacDade' aunt visited the General record Office in Edinburgh. She was so excited that she phoned me from Scotland to tell me that I had in fact found the right marriage all those years ago, and that we were, in fact, MCDADEs and in her words, ' We are catholics after all!'

My grandmother, born in Co Tyrone, Ireland, who had maried Colin Hamilton McDade (pictured above)from Glasgow, Scotland, had 'popped' the 'a ' into the surname to make it look less catholic. How I laughed. I myself had married a catholic man as had one of my two sisters. In fact more than half of my grandmother's grandchildren were attending catholic schools. From this discovery it was a short hop, step back to the late 1700's when my catholic Irish ancestor, James McDade moved to Scotland from Ireland. In Scotland in the 1800's, I added to my family tree, MacDairmids also spelled McDermid, McCleary that has appeared as Mc Clury and McClure, Moore with and without the 'e' and Andrew Smith formerly Antonios Ustila! "What's in a name?' Shakespeare asked. Where do I start!

Today the use of Mc and Mac can be a source of considerable confusion to the family historian. In the case of my husband David's MacDonalds from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, they have dispersed all over the world becoming McDonalds, McDonnels and MacDonalds just to name a few. The MacDonald ancestry is well documented however, going back to John, Lord of the Isles and the Scottish Kings and before them to the ancient Irish Kings.

On my Hoyes side of the family,( the 'Welsh side' of the family who we discovered were from Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire), ( always remain somewhat dubious of the 'we have a Welsh Castle in our background or the' your grandfather was in the Royal Welsh Fencibles' family boasts until you have verified them) there have been quite a number of interesting name changes, for a number of different reasons (some yet to be discovered!) ...Great uncle Rex Morley Hoyes, for example, left New Zealand and went to England where he added a hyphen (Morley-Hoyes) and then an extra Morley (Morley-Morley) not to mention a title that is quite a puzzle. At least Rex's grandmother, my great great grandmother Elizabeth Morley would be pleased to see her own maiden surname being carried on! My mother was born a Reece-Hoyes, the 'Reece' having been added to the Hoyes name to change it yet again. I spent many years trying to find my grandfather, who was Rex's half brother. That was quite a challenge as had changed his name from Reece- Hoyes to O'Dare. We are still trying to work that one out!

In search of my Weston family (no name changes there at least) I found the name Frame/ Frain/ Frane which finally turned out to be Frayne! Spelling mistakes made somehow in the context of my colonial Irish /Australian history perhaps? Or was it that he, as a convict, attempted to remake himself a number of times?

Sometimes a look at the history behind a surname will help to determine its 'correct' spelling. 'Correct' may not be the correct way to view the spelling of names given that many ancestors who were illiterate quite probably did not know how to spell their own name. In the case of immigrants who were unable to write, a clerk given the task, often had to guess the spelling. Once a name was mispelled on a passenger list, for example, some people just chose to keep the new name. A new name, a new country and a new start in life! My Frayne family (before their fall from grace as 'Dublin burglars' -and yes there were more than one - burglar that is!) descended from the surname Freyne or de Freyne, The Baron de Freyne from France, so I am told. It's a great story and it might be true but before I go passing the name Freyne on to any grandchildren I will need to verify that tale!

'What's in a name, 'Shakespeare asked? A good number of self made men , new beginnings, hidden pasts and well kept secrets, and some simple spelling mistakes, I suspect! That and some very interesting tales still waiting to be told. To be continued....... Sharn

Scottish Valuation Rolls - What can they tell us about Ancestors?

Scottish Valuation Rolls - What They Tell Us About Ancestors

Scottish Valuation Roll 1915 - John McDade

Every document on which we discover the name of an ancestor is a significant asset to family history research. Each individual piece of information gathered, helps to piece together a more complete picture of our ancestors' lives. 

If you are a family historian who is interested only in collecting names and dates for your family tree, then Valuation Rolls will probably be of little concern to you. If, like myself, you seek to put 'flesh on the bones' of each and every ancestor, then the unique information that these records offer, will I warn, cajole you into many late nights of researching. Scottish Valuation Rolls are available online on the Scotlands People website for the years, 1895, 1905, 1915 and 1920. Valuation Rolls from 1856-7 and 1957-8 are fully digitalised and although not online, are available for searching in the reading room at the National Archives of Scotland (NAS). Valuation Rolls not yet digitalised, but which are indexed, can also be searched at the Archives. For the rolls not yet indexed, the search process is a time consuming one which involves looking through many volumes of records, and for this reason, the National Archives of Scotland does not undertake searches on behalf of applicants. The following websites offer excellent explanations of the Scottish Valuation Rolls:

National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh

A Short History of Scottish Tax and Valuation Rolls

Scottish Land Tax Rolls date from around 1645.  These inventories listed the owners of landed estates and recorded  the assessed  value of their land.  Compiled on an irregular basis, these rolls allowed for the established of tax collection on land ownership in Scotland from 1679 onward. Hearth Tax Rolls introduced in 1691, imposed a tax on anyone who owned a hearth, (this included kilns) . Owners of households and the amount of tax paid is listed on these rolls, although hospitals and the poor were exempted from Hearth Taxes. A fascinating list of taxes, arranged by county and burgh were introduced in Scotland from 1748 through to the end of the 18th century. These taxes provide a wealth of exceptional information about ancestors, the dwellings they lived in and their lifestyles. Such taxes and valuation rolls include, Window Tax Rolls(1748 which was a tax on the number of windows in a dwelling, Male Servant Tax Rolls 1777, Shop Tax Rolls (1785) , Horse Tax Rolls (1785), Female Servant Tax Rolls (1785), Carriage Tax Rolls (1785), Cart Tax Rolls (1785), Clock and Watch Tax Rolls (1797), Farm Horse Tax Rolls (1797) and Dog Tax Rolls (1797). Despite limited information on the actual records themselves, finding ancestors on tax rolls in itself can be quite informative. Discovering that an ancestor was wealthy enough to possess several watches or clocks or that a forebear could afford to pay 5 shillings per year in tax for each non working dog they owned, contributes substantial evidence of their social and economic circumstances. Many of these rolls have survived and are searchable online through the Scotlands Places website by means of a subscription.

In 1854, The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, introduced a means of systematic assessment of all property in Scotland. A Valuation Roll was produced each year and sent to Register House in Edinburgh. 

Horse and Carriage Tax Roll

Scottish Hearth Roll 1691-1695 for Denny showing my ancestor Robert Gilmour

What are Valuation Rolls? 

Prior to the Lands Valuation Act of 1854 in Scotland, land taxes contained only the names of land owners and little or no information concerning tenants or occupiers of properties. The Lands Valuation Act was significant in that it authorised assessors to gather information regarding every house, building and piece of land in every county and parliamentary burgh in Scotland. These rolls, compiled annually from 1854 to 1988, listed the name of the owner of the property, the property type, the occupier and the valued amount of rate paid. Other family members do not appear on valuation rolls, however there is a treasure of other information which can be found in these rolls for family historians researching Scottish ancestors.

What else can be found in Valuation Rolls?

If you have Scottish ancestors, the property valuation records can be an invaluable source of information which may not be found anywhere else. Unlike birth, death and marriage certificates, which often do not give a precise address, valuation rolls list not only a complete address, but also the type and description of the building a forebear inhabited, ( ie house, shop, church, factory), whether your ancestor owned or rented the property and the rateable value of the property based on the amount of rent paid per year. This information along with a comparison of rents paid and dwellings occupied by neighbours of ancestors, offers a considerable perspective of the social and economic situation of  the communities in which forebears lived and worked. Valuation Rolls also provide evidence of addresses for years between the census records.

Where census records state the occupation of an ancestor, the valuation rolls list not only occupations but most significantly, you may very well find the name of the company which employed your ancestor, or the name of a business owned by an ancestor, or the name of a farm on which they worked. If your Scottish ancestor happened to be a coal miner, like quite a few of mine were, knowing the name of the company and the mine in which they worked, is an extraordinary find. There are some extremely helpful websites which offer information about Scottish mines, work conditions, living conditions, details of accidents which occurred in particular mines as well as details concerning housing and living conditions for miners and mine employees. The Scottish Valuation Rolls provide a window into the past which offers a glimpse as to how ancestors really lived.  Two such websites well worth exploring if you have Scottish mining ancestors are: 

The Scottish Mining Website
WARNING: Once you enter the above site... you may not leave for some time! It is extremely interesting. 

My Great Grandparents and what  the Scottish Valuation Rolls added to my Research

My Great Grandmother Elizabeth Gibson McDade 1915 and son John, a coal miner in Scotland

On my paternal McDade branch of the family tree, I come from at least five generations of Scottish miners, including my grandfather, who was a miner before he came to Australia in 1923. 
My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade was born in Cumbernauld, in the district of Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Scotland in 1901. I have written in previous blogs about the significance of place and the way in which understanding the places from which our ancestors come, becomes an integral part of our heritage and our identity. 

The 1901 Scottish Census shows my great grandparents, John and Elizabeth McDade living in Roadside Street in Cumbernauld with the first three of their children, John (1894), Margaret (1896) and Andrew (1899). When I was a child and unwise to my grandfather's sense of humour, I loved his entertaining tale of being born 'roadside' in Cumbernauld. I spent my childhood years envisaging his birth on the side of a road. [ Mind you, this was not entirely implausible in my family. I have a maternal great aunt whose birth certificate states that she was indeed born, 'by the side of the road'  in 1910, Bauple, near Maryborough, in Queensland. My great grandfather, fearing his pregnant wife would not make it to the nearest doctor, left her by the roadside, on little more than a dirt track, and rushed away in his horse and buggy to find help. On his return with the doctor, he discovered that my great grandmother had given birth by herself. But that is another story entirely!] 

Colin Hamilton McDade after arriving in Australia

The most relevant information for family historians with regard to ancestors, (after collecting names and dates), is where they lived, what they did for a living and how they lived. 
Prior to searching the Scottish Valuation Rolls of 1895, 1905, 1915 and 1920, on the Scotlands people website, I had made use of census records as well as birth, marriage and death certificates to find information about my Scottish ancestors. Although one old window tax record had enlightened me as to how many windows a certain Campbell of Argyle ancestor possessed in his home, it was the Scottish Valuation Rolls which set me on a concrete journey of discovery about the types of homes and the living conditions in which my McDade great grandparents lived, as well as places in which they worked.  

The addresses and movements of ancestors can be traced by a number of means. Census data collected every 10 years provides reliable places of residence, however, census records do not account for moves within the decade between censuses. Marriage records, death records and birth records for children do not always afford dependable information, especially with regard to addresses, since births are often recorded in places other then the family home. 

John McDade, born in 1872, in New Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire, was, as his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him had been, a coal miner.  He married Elizabeth Gibson in the Roman Catholic Church, Maryhill, Lanarkshire on the 4th of January, 1894. Between the year of their marriage 1894, and 1899, from birth records of children, I had several addresses for the family in Renfrewshire. From the 1901 census I knew the family then lived in Cumbernauld but the address was given vaguely as 'Roadside'. [To put your mind at ease, and before you despair that my great grandparents were entirely destitute, there is a street in Cumbernauld called Roadside Street.]

I had an address also for John and Elizabeth McDade from the 1911 Census Record which showed my great grandparents living at 7 Watson Street Uddingston, Bothwell, Lanarkshire. This corresponded with the address on the birth certificate of their 8th child, Robert born in 1911. The last known address for this family was listed on their immigration papers in 1922, as 3 Woodlands Terrace, Bothwell, Lanarkshire. 
Main Street Uddingston
So, although I had a number of addresses of places where my great grandparents had lived in 1894 when they married, in 1901 and  1911 from the census records and 1922 from immigration documents, I had little meaningful information about the way in which this family lived or the places in which they worked. 

A search of the Valuation Roll for 1895 found 35 men by the name of John McDade. Many could be eliminated as not being my great grandfather from their occupations. I knew that my great grandfather was a miner. My real complication for me in the 1895 valuation roll was the number of family members I had with the name John. I had a great and a great great grandfather both named John McDade as well as a number of uncles and cousins not only by the same name, but all miners.  On this particular roll it was impossible  for me to determine without doubt which one was my great grandfather, however,  I did find my two times great grandfather as the occupier of number 48 Double Rows, Thorniewoods, Uddingston, Bothwell. 

The rent which he paid per year for this house at the age of 53 years, was 4 pounds 6 shillings. The significant piece of information on this roll was the name of the mining company which employed my great great grandfather. John McDade worked for the Haughhead Mining Company Ltd. 

In the 1905 Valuation Roll I found 32 John McDades. Once again I eliminated those with the wrong occupation, however it was still difficult to determine which was my relative. The last known addresses I had for John were in Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire in 1901 and 7 Watson Street, Uddingston, Bothwell, County Lanarkshire from the 1911 census.

Searching the 1915 Valuation Roll I discovered 41 men with the name John McDade, spread over a number of counties, and with a range of occupations. To my great delight I found my great grandfather living still at the same address as in the 1911 census,  7 Watson Street, Uddingston.  His occupation was given as a miner and he was recorded as paying 11 pounds 10 shillings per year to the owner of the house, one George Copeland, a joiner. The most significant piece of information on the valuation Roll for me, was the name of my great grandfather's employer. He was employed by The Haughhead Coal Company Ltd.  This was a crucial discovery since many records have survived which describe  details regarding the living, working and health conditions of miners in individual mines.

Uddingston today

In the 1920 Valuation Roll my McDade family were still dwelling at the same address in Watson Street but now the record showed that John McDade was employed by the Clydeside United Colliery Ltd, which operated under the management of Daniel Martin. The amount of rent paid for the house was now 6 Pounds Ten Shillings per year, which was less than in 1915, possibly due to economic difficulties after World War 1. Amongst my great grandfather's immigration documents I have since found a letter written by the above mentioned Daniel Martin, manager of the Clydside Colliery dated 18/12/1922.  He wrote of my great grandfather,

" It gives me great pleasure to testify that I have known Mr John McDade for the past five years during which time he has been employed underground at this Colliery. He is a steady sober and industrious workman and had been in every way an exemplary character signed Daniel Martin Colliery Manager"

From my searches of the Scottish Valuation Rolls I have established new lines of research which I have yet to pursue and  I have filled a number of gaps in information about places where my great grandfather and his family kived and worked. Although My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade was not named on the Valuation Roll, I havelearned something of his life also, since he worked in the same mines as his father and brothers until they left Scotland bound for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on board the ship Largs Bay in 1923, when they left behind their life as coal miners forever. 

Stay tuned for my NEXT BLOG which will be entitled  Scottish Mining Ancestors - How they Lived.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Bloggers' Geneameme

The Bloggers' Geneameme

Some of my fellow geneablogger friends....

Here is my post in response to Geniaus's 2013 geneabloggers' geneameme. Thank you Jill for once again creating an interesting compilation of questions designed to make 'we' bloggers think about our blogging and why we do it! And from me, a personal thankyou, for helping me to step out of 'essay' mode and back into blogging....

1. What are the titles and URL's of your genealogy blogs?
    I have four genealogy blogs.. one for my personal family history, another for exciting family history  'finds' and genealogy tips, a theme based blog (which sadly has been a little neglected of late) and my newest blog where I post my convict ancestor related jottings.
http:/   Better known as FamilyHistory4u

2. Do you have a wonderful 'cousin bait' story?
    I have written quite a few blog posts which have resulted in my being contacted by relatives. One of the reasons I decided to blog my family history, apart from my pure love of writing itself, was to connect with people related to me who might have information to share. Many of my posts have attracted interesting responses, and if not from actual relatives, from informative folk with generous offers of assistance.  Since writing a post entitled 'Music in the Blood' about my Scottish McDade ancestors, I have been in contact with many descendants of  Agnes McDade, sister of my great great grandfather, John McDade . Although these cousins all live in America, we have become good friends and exchange family stories and we now chat on a daily basis on Facebook.  The photograph below of my great grandmother, Elizabeth (Gibson) McDade, which I included in another post about the same family, connected me with a second cousin who recognised it as a similar photograph to one she herself had. We have exchanged much information since and discovered that family anecdotal 'evidence' can vary in most fascinating ways.

Elizabeth Gibson McDade in Glasgow

Other stories written on my blogs have resulted in the exchange of information with relatives both here in Australia and overseas in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany (my highschool and university study of the German language has proved to be useful), Switzerland, South America and New Zealand. One family history blog which I posted concerning MacDonalds of Skye, was read by an unrelated person in Ord on the Isle of Skye, who kindly described the family home (Ord House) to me and included a wonderful tale of two seeds of a particular palm tree which was sent as a gift to Ord House and to the Botanical Gardens in Kew from New Zealand. The palm tree did not survive in the gardens at Kew, however to my delight, my reader informed me that the large New Zealand palm still grows to this day in the walled garden at Ord House on Skye. It is fascinating snippets of our family history such as this which can be gleaned from responses to blog posts that makes blogging so rewarding.

Ord House - Ancestral Home of the Charles MacDonald of Ord

3. Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging.

Until 2009, I had not heard of blogging.  I had been researching my family history for many years, and I had collected a great deal of information, but until that year, I had put few family stories in writing. In late 2009 I went to the cinema to see the movie Julie/ Julia. This movie is the true story of well known cook named Julia Childs  (brilliantly played by Meryl Streep) and an ordinary young woman named Julie Powell ( Amy Adams) who decided to blog her way through 365 days of Julia Child's  recipe book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I found the movie to be an extraordinary story, and with my passion for writing ignited, I walked out of the theatre and announced that I was going to start a blog! That very night I googled 'blogging'. After a little research, I arrived at a choice between Wordpress or Blogger as mediums for my as yet ' undecided what to blog about'  blog.  Finding Blogger easier to use, I set up my blogger account and feeling very pleased with myself I sat back and thought, 'Now, what on earth will I blog about?"
I had never read a single blog. I had no idea what people even blogged about, apart from Julie Powell, and although I love to cook but I had no desire to repeat Julie's year long cooking exercise. Topics flew through my brain... art... books... a daily diary... Then suddenly I had one of those Eureka moments, much akin to breaking down a stubborn brick genealogical wall. I knew my blog had to be a Family History Blog and so was born my first blog.  

4. How did you decide on your blog's title?
    If I had my time over again, I would think up a much more creative name for my blog. I follow some other genealogy blogs with fabulous names. As a beginner blogger, in 2009,  I merely thought to connect the title with the topic. I now  have several non genealogy blogs (coming along slowly but surely) with more creative titles, such as Tales of Life and Teapots. I also have a new convict ancestry blog commenced this year with the title Family Convictions and another soon to be commenced genea blog entitled Traits and Traces which will display photographic likenesses between ancestors and modern family members.

5. Do you ever blog from mobile devices? What are they? 
   I find blogging from my home computer or my laptop much more Blogger friendly especially with regard to downloading photographs and having access to my huge store of scanned family documents. ( I do have back up copies on USBs but I rarely carry all my USBs around with me). Blogging as bloggers well know, is somewhat addictive ( which goes hand in hand exceedingly well with the addictive nature of family history research itself) so when I travel and invariably pick up an ancestral trail, (as family historians on holidays are wont to do) I need to be able to blog. When travelling, I blog using my Ipad and even my Iphone (though blogging on a smart phone should come with a warning that for one's eyesight,  blogging in small print is a health hazzard!).

6. How do you let others know when you have published a post?
    When I finish writing each blog post, I publish it easily via Blogger's 'share' facility. I publish all of my blogs on my Facebook wall, on Twitter and on Google Plus. I am also a member of a geneablogging Facebook Community so I can publish blog posts on that page as well as my own. I publish my blogs to share my family history and to connect with relatives as well as to share what I have learned with other family historians.

7. How long have you been blogging?
     I have been an avid blogger since 2009, although this year due to study in the  history and family history field, my blogging has had to take second place to essay writing.

8. What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog?
    I have a similar layout for all of my blogs with a relevant but not overpowering background. I like to keep the background for my actual writing, undecorated and uncluttered. In the sidebar of a genealogy blog it is important to have a clearly visible way for readers to Follow the blog. On my blogs I have widgets for readers to follow through Blogger, Google Plus, via Email and Twitter. One of the unfortunate things about Blogger is that readers need to have a Google account in order to follow blogs and to leave comments. I find that more people follow on other social media sites such as Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook rather than the blog itself for this reason. People are able to leave comments or connect with me in a number of ways through the sharing of my blog posts on various social media sites. I also enjoy displaying any awards I receive for my writing on the sidebar of my blogs. Awards are controversial in the field of family history, however, I believe that it is always rewarding to have one's hard work appreciated by others and I love to see awards proudly displayed on other people's blogs.

9. What is the purpose of your blogs? Who is your intended audience?
     My genealogy blogs have a number of purposes. Firstly, I am recording my family history for myself and for family. Through my blogs, I am privileged to be able to connect with family members, many distant and whom otherwise I would never meet. Through these connections, I am fortunate to exchange valuable information and family anecdotes. Many of my blog posts are intended to provide information about how to research family history. My blog posts in last year's ' Family History Through the Alphabet' challenge was an excellent opportunity for me to research a variety of subjects and to pass on through my blogs what I had learned. Through my own experiences in researching family history, I hope that through my blogs I can pass on some helpful tips to others. A slightly more unusual purpose for blogging family history for me, is to 'return' photographs and family documents which I come across, to families to whom they belong. I have found and returned to families, several diaries, as well as a number of photographs and family documents.

10. Which of your posts are you particularly proud of?
       Someone commented to me recently that she had read some of my early blog posts and that I 'have come a long way'. This was intended as a compliment, however, I suspect that in my early blogging days I had much to learn. I am proud of my early posts however, as  most of these were anecdotes about ancestors and tributes to parents and grandparents. Those early blog posts may not be written as well as later posts, but are dear to my heart. Perhaps one post I am most proud of is the one that I posted in March, 2013, entitled 'Escape from Barrenjoey - Customs House Boat Crew.'  This post can be found on my newest blog at the following URL -
This post related a story about my convict great great grandfather, Michael Frayne and his escape from the Customs Bay House at Barrenjoey Head. A great deal of research contributed to my discovering that my g g grandfather was one of the five convicts who built the stone steps which lead all the way up to what is now a lighthouse at Barrenjoey head, Broken Bay. The customs house was built to enforce law and order in 1842, amidst widespread smuggling operations in the area north of Sydney. It was more than the written post that I was proud of, though, since having not long recovered from a serious episode of pleurisy, I managed to climb the convict steps, a gruelling 45 minute climb to walk in my ancestor's footsteps.

Climbing in my convict ancestor's footsteps..

11. How do you keep up with your blog reading?
        I enjoy reading about history and collecting history books, so I have a large library of resources at my disposal. I usually research a topic which interests me and take notes with a blog in mind. I always make a note of sources and page numbers as I read to refer to when writing. At the moment I am studying the Advanced Diploma of Local, Applied and Family History through  the University of New England so reading history books is an essential part of every day and blogging is having, for the time being, to take a bit of a back seat. With each topic I study however, comes numerous ideas for future blogs!

12. What platform do you use for publishing your blogs?
       I use Blogger for all of my blogs although I have tried Wordpress as well. I find that Blogger permits me to be more creative in my layout, however, I haven't really spent much time with other blogging platforms. Blogger's mobile Apps need improving, but on the whole I have been happy with Blogger.

13. What features would you like to see in your blogging software?
       I'm not sure if Blogger can help me but I need a proof reader! I am a terrible typist...

14. Which of your posts has been most popular with readers?
       My posts about reuniting photographs and diaries with families have been quite popular with readers. I think that every family historian loves this kind of feel good story.  Posts on my new blog about my convict ancestors have proven interesting to readers with convict ancestors. Recently I was approached as a direct result of these convict ancestor posts, by a large genealogy company with regard to some media opportunities, which is a most exciting reward for my blogging.

15. Are you a sole blogger or do you contribute to a shared blog?
       To date I am sole blogger but as a sole blogger I find it exciting to be an integral part of a larger blogging community.

16. How do you compose your blogs?
       I usually spend time thinking and reading about the topic about which I intend to write before actually beginning to write. I write directly on Blogger, although if a great deal of research is required, I will take notes to refer to as I write. I usually rewrite a few times before I am satisfied with my blog posts. My biggest failing is proof reading.... I need an editor. (though I am grateful to my friend Chris Goopy for keeping me on my toes).

17. Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related?
       I have a non genealogy blog in the making, entitled Tales of Life and Teapots which I intend to be an anecdotal creative writing blog.( Possibly a platform for launching several novels I have in progress....?)

18. Have you listed your blogs at Geneabloggers?
       Two are listed. Thanks for the reminder, Jill Ball to list the others.

19. What resources have helped you with your blogging?
       I use too many resources to list them all however they include books, local studies sections of libraries, local history centres, online resources such as digitalised newspapers and gazettes (Trove, PapersPast, London Times Archives) and Google Search. Google books and maps have proved very useful.  I have written several blog posts about different resources. I try to cite as many resources and sources as I can at the end of my blogs to help others in their research.

20. What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger?
       If you are contemplating blogging your family history, just start. Through blogging I have made many new and very special friends, with whom I share a love of family history and writing. I have met some of these online friends and I can recommend the blogging 'family' as being a fun, helpful and friendly community. I have learned so much more about my own family history through connecting with related people and through blogging, my research skills have improved tremendously. And best of all - bloggers wear beads! ( become a geneablogger and you will understand...)

Geneabloggers at a conference wearing identifying blogger beads...

21. The last word: an unexpected outcome of blogging.
        When I began blogging I did not have in mind making friends with other bloggers. One of the greatest joys I have discovered through blogging is the many friends I have made, both online and subsequently whom I have met in person. Some of those friends are pictured above in a group geneablogger photograph taken at a genealogy conference. I am most fortunate to be able to count Jill Ball, author of this interesting geneameme, as one of those good friends.