The treasure in Trove

I discovered two nights ago that Trove had started to load digitised versions of my local newspaper The Northern Star onto its website. I am very excited to see this because many of my father’s ancestors have lived in the area covered by this newspaper since the 1870s and 1880s when they moved from Kangaloon and Marshall Mount in Southern NSW.

I have inherited a few copies of marriage notices and the like from my Nan who either collected them herself or inherited them over the years, but there are many events that I have to discover for myself and this task has now become so much easier.

To be honest, I was so excited to see The Northern Star appear that I really didn’t know where to start and just threw names in almost randomly to see what results appeared. (Not really what an efficient reference librarian should do). Tonight I have been trying to be more efficient and have already found something unexpected.

I did a search for my 2x great grandfather Hugh KIRKLAND and found an article from 1911 regarding the death of someone described as one of his employees.

SUDDEN DEATH. (1911, September 11). Northern Star
(Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved November
9, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72431616

The employee unfortunately passed away very quickly one day over just a couple of hours. I am particularly interested in this article because the employee is described as “an Indian”.My husband’s parents are both from India, (we tend to describe him as Anglo-Indian with quite a bit of Portugeuse ancestry), and although we have neighbours who are of Indian descent and have been here for many years, I did not expect to find my farming 2x great grandfather employing men from India. I obviously have a lot to learn!

The article is very brief and warrants further research to discover the results of the autopsy. I would also like to find out more about Maffra and where he came from if possible. As this newspaper has not been completely uploaded to Trove yet I may have to be patient for a little longer. I will be though, because a great deal of it is already there.

I finally have a face for the name

I recently came into contact with the husband of a distant cousin who has been extremely generous in sharing what he and his wife have discovered about this line of our family. I believe he is extremely generous because as I haven’t been doing my own family research for very long, I don’t have a great deal to share. We have however been able to consult each other about some outstanding and/or contradictory facts that we have both discovered.

The contact was initiated when I emailed the Milton-Ulladulla Family History Society to see if they had any information, preferably containing photos, of my 2xgreat grandfather James Simmons who was a Mayor in the area in the late 1880s. Within a day of contacting them they gave me the email address of my newly-discovered relatives. Since then we have shared many emails, one of which contained a portrait of James that we believe, and this needs further investigation, came from “The Australian Men of Mark”.

I was very excited to finally ‘see’ James. Not only for myself, but also for my grandmother who had never seen a photo, or portrait of him. James was the son of George (SYMONS) SIMMONS and Sarah TUCKERMAN, and was born on 28 Sep 1849 on the Clyde River. James was the eldest of 11 children born to George and Sarah and would achieve enough kudos to gain an entry in the “The Australian Men of Mark” that I am yet to see apart from the portrait. (When I found out on the weekend that he was in this publication I excitedly went to work this week to look at the 2 volumes of the above we have in our Library, to sadly discover that of course he is in one of the ‘other’ versions of Volume 2. Luckily I have another wonderful lady in Milton-Ulladulla trying to track down a copy for me. I may find it yet!!)

James moved with his parents to Ulladulla when he was very young, about 3, and farmed with his father until George died in 1874 leaving Sarah with 11 children, the youngest of which was only 1. He was an auctioneer for 2 years until becoming a farmer again on the adjoining farm ‘Washburton’ that he and his siblings had inherited from Sarah’s mother, Sarah TUCKERMAN in 1870. (James’ mother Sarah had immigrated with her parents William and Sarah TUCKERMAN from Washburton, Devon, England in 1839. )

Apart from being Mayor of Ulladulla for four years in 1886-87 and 1891-92, he was, according to a publication called Meet the Pioneers by Joanne Ewin, “a steadfast supporter of the Henry Parkes Government and Free Trade”. He was also a champion ploughman winning many prizes at Milton Shows, and seemed to be at the forefront of farming technology as he “had a modern cheese plant and cream separator worked by steam power”.

James married twice. His first marriage was to Frances Mary LUCK (1854-1878), they had no children. His second marriage was to Eliza WENTWORTH in (1855-1916) and they had 7 children, 6 surviving to adulthood. (My grandmother’s father Victor Rex SIMMONS was their youngest child, born in 1898. Another son was Milton SIMMONS whose story is also on this blog.)

At a date as yet unknown, and maybe it will stay that way, James and Eliza moved with their children to Knockrow and then Brooklet in Northern NSW. Without any documented reasons, my newly-discovered relative and I are surmising that they moved for the cheaper land and perceived greater opportunities. I still have a lot of research to do on the family in regards to exactly where they lived and what they farmed, but do know that James and Eliza are buried in the cemetery of the town where I live. (This is a little bizarre, as I keep finding ancestors buried in the town we now live in, where neither my husband or I were born or grew up!)

James passed away suddenly in 1912. Eliza followed a few years later in 1916, awaiting news of a son missing from a battle in the Somme in France, Milton SIMMONS, and another son, Rupert Wesley SIMMONS, who had apparently being captured by the Germans during World War I.

Until the day when I can travel to Sydney to do further research of probate and land records I will have to be content with my recently acquired portrait of James. I am impatient though, now I want one of Eliza!

My Hetherington ancestors from Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

I’ve decided I would like to blog more often, rather than wondering about whether it is of interest to anyone else. So, if it is interesting to me, I’m going to yack about it. Hopefully it will be of interest to someone else too!

My Mum’s maiden name is HETHERINGTON, and until recently we all assumed that the Hetherington’s were from England. Not quite, it would seem, they were from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. I was excited when I discovered this because they were the first, and even now the only, ancestors I have from Northern Ireland.

Through shipping records I could see that my 3xgreat grandfather Noble HETHERINGTON came to Australia in 1863 when he was 57. He is listed in the records as a Widower, and as travelling with his daughter Ann (27), son George (my 2xgreat grandfather, aged 24), his wife Jane and their first child John (aged less than 1).

I have spent most of time researching my direct ancestors, but there is only so far you can go via the web, and without visiting local repositories of historical information. I would love to be able to discover all the details myself, (must be the reference librarian gene in me!), but I finally decided I should give in and ask for some help from the professional service provided by the Family History Centre at the Kiama Local Library. They provided me with a huge packet of information that included many pieces of information I am still digesting, 4 months later! One thing that did stand out was that Noble, Ann and George were assisted in their move to Australia by another daughter of Noble’s,  Mary who emigrated 7 years earlier.

My discovery earlier this week however, completely surprised me, although I think I probably should have expected it considering where and when these ancestors of mine headed to Oz. Looking at the fantastic Fermanagh GOLD Members Genealogy Pages which I found trawling through RootsWeb.com mailing lists, I found a transcription of a Lowtherstown Workhouse record from 1847 which suggest that Noble’s eldest children, Mary, Thomas and Ann were “placed” in the workhouse, without their parents. There is no “release” date, and I have done no further research to try to find out when they left the workhouse, but can only imagine the horror that was their life inside – hopefully it wasn’t any worse outside…

Mary, as I already knew, had come to Australia and sponsored her father and siblings to emigrate too. With Mary on that trip came Thomas, who until now I hadn’t paid much attention to until I realised he had been in Lowtherstown Workhouse too – I don’t know why, but somehow this made him more real to me. I know what became of Noble, he passed away in Gerringong 10 years later, and presumably was a little more comfortable than he had been previously.

Noble’s daughter Ann who accompanied him from Nth Ireland I was very curious about now, and decided to see if she had married. By the time she reached Australia she was nearly 28, so I wondered if she had married at all, but quickly found that she had married Charles WILEY in Kiama in 1868. They had 2 sons, Joseph and Samuel, and when I found that, I felt a little more hopeful that she had had a happier life for coming to Australia. I was extremely surprised to make my next discovery, that Ann is buried in the cemetery of the town I live in. I checked this a few times, but here she was! I haven’t been there yet to take my own photo, as I only discovered this in earlier this week in the dead of night, (and I think I will try to go without my small children who could fall down the numerous bunny holes that also litter this cemetery), but think it would be very funny if she is lying close to where my father’s great grandparents are buried – the ones who indirectly started me in earnest on this adventure.

2011 Australia Day – the earliest documents of my Australian ancestors

Shelley from Twigs of Yore has suggested an alternative way of celebrating Australia Day for genealogists. Shelley issued an invitation to: Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don’t have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia.

I didn’t have a hard choice to make about who I would focus on for this post. My 3rd great grandfather George SIMMONS/SYMONS arrived in Australia as a convict in 1840 and has, so far, provided me with the earliest  documented evidence of my Australian ancestors.

What is the document?

The document I have is an article from the North Devon Journal, dated 18 April 1839, describing the trial and sentencing of George SYMONS for stealing a pair of shoes. The condition of the article makes it very hard to read and is not worth including an image of here. I have transcribed it though, and have included most of it below.

“The grand jury having found a true bill against George Symons, aged 16, for a felony, the prisoner was arraigned, charged with stealing on the 22nd day of March last, one pair shoes, the property of John Hartnoll, from the smack ‘Flora’ lying at the quay. The prisoner pleaded “not guilty.”…The first witness was John Hartnoll; the prosecutor; (I) am master of the smack ‘Flora;’ she was lying at Barnstaple quay on the 22nd March; I was on board during the day; left a her a little after one o’clock; left a pair of shoes in the companion; the prisoner was on board, but he is not in my employ, nor had he any business there, but I have often seen him about the quay, and he is in the habit of going aboard vessels; I returned a little after two; prisoner was not there then; I found my shoes missing immediately; in the course of the following Monday, I saw my shoes at the house of Tucker, in Back Lane(?), on the feet of a man named Fagan; I took the shoes from Fagan and gave them to Chanter, the constable.

Susannah Smith; keep a pawnbroker’s shop in Barnstaple; know the prisoner; in the afternoon of the 22nd March, he came to my shop to pledge a pair of shoes; I advanced 8__(??) upon them, and he came again some time after with a person to purchase the shoes, but he did not buy them because they did not suit him; he afterwards came gain with Elizabeth Fagan, and she bought them; the boy returned the ticket, and woman paid me 8 ½ _(?).

Elizabeth Fagan; I was at Tucker’s lodging house on Friday, 22nd March; know the prisoner; saw him at Tucker’s; bought a pawn ticket of(sic) him for 6d(?); he went with me to Mrs Smith’s pawn shop for the shoes; I paid her 8 ½d, and she gave me the shoes; I carried them home, and my husband put them on this feet and wore them.

Joseph Fagan; received a pair of shoes from my wife on Friday, 22nd March; wore them until Monday, when Mr Hartnoll came, and said the shoes were his, and I took them off and cleaned them, and gave them to him.

William Chanter, policeman, produced the shoes; and the prosecutor identified them.

The prisoner declined to say any thing in his defence.

The Recorder summed up, and the jury without hesitation found the prisoner guilty.”

Not particularly conclusive testimony from the witnesses, but as the “prisoner” declined to comment it is hard to form an opinion other than the  “guilty” that was given.

Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?

I had trouble initially tracking down where George SIMMONS had appeared from, because it turned out he was originally known as George SYMONS. As I traced back through my paternal grandmother’s ancestors, I was looking for her maiden name SIMMONS. I found her grandfather James SIMMONS through NSW BDM certificates, but could find no trace of the George SIMMONS listed on his baptism certificate. Using the NSW BDM index search I tried all sorts of combinations of searches and in one late night act entered “S*” as a search phrase for the surname and the first names George and Sarah (TUCKERMAN) which I had from James’ baptism cert, and up popped SYMONS. (Of course once I had done this and got a result I wondered why I hadn’t tried it sooner!) From there George SYMONS’ convict and Australian story unfolded.

Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

Once I had discovered I had an ancestor with a convict past, I was determined to find out if George had been recorded speaking in his defence. Unfortunately as you have seen above he did not, but I was still thrilled to receive the copy of the article from the North Devon Record Office who I contacted for research assistance when I could not find online access to the sources I needed.

George and Sarah settled near Milton/Ulladulla and had 11 children. George died when he was 49 and was listed as a farmer on his death certificate. His youngest child was 1 at the time of his death, and Sarah died only 6 years later. George and Sarah’s deaths’ at relatively young ages, and with young children left without parents, makes you consider some of the hardships our early Australian ancestors endured, and appreciate those that have paved the way for us.