Tuesday, 28 May 2013


I made an exciting discovery about Joseph Dickinson (who I have written about before) on Ancestry, way back on Australia Day. Thanks to the banner on Ancestry for prompting me to search the convict records again that day. I don't even know what made me put his name in to search, as I had seen nothing in my 20+ years research to suggest he might have been a convict. But search I did - and results I found ! 

I haven't been able to find much about his trial or the crime. On his certificate of freedom (27 September 1841) along with the description of his numerous tattoos and the revelation that he had red hair and bluish eyes are the words "stealing a box". What sort of box ? what was in the box ? Or what was the box made out of ? There must have been something surely to make this a crime worthy of transportation. Perhaps it was nothing at all - just a way to send tradespeople to the new country - using any minor misdemeanour as an excuse. Joseph was a plasterer and so was his father before him. I would imagine plasterers would have been quite sort after in the burgeoning building trade.

We have all heard about people transported for crimes such as taking a loaf of bread, stealing blankets - objects which in reality are simply necessities of life. My other convict Mary Brown stole a couple of pairs of shoes with her friend Mary Cannon. (Actually I think my Mary was the accomplice not the mastermind). But a box ? It must have had some value - to Joseph to entice him to steal it, and to the owner who felt wronged by its loss and their desire to have it returned and the thief bought to justice. I will find out more, eventually.

Anyway, Joseph was sentenced at Westminster 30 January 1834, and sailed 11 April 1834 from London arriving in Sydney on the "Surry", one of 260 convicts on 17 August, 

 The Sydney Monitor (NSW 1828 - 1838) Wednesday 20 August 1834 page 2 article32146993-3-001

but still lying in stream on 23 August. The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 - 1838), Saturday 23 August 1834, page 2 article/32147026 .

On the 1837 muster Joseph is assigned to T A Murray and located in the Goulburn district. He was granted a ticket of leave in 1838, and his certificate of freedom 27 September 1841. I haven't found an application to marry, although he must have married Ann Blackman about this time. He appears in the New South Wales, Gaol Description & Entrance Books 1818-1930 for Goulburn Gaol. He served two months imprisonment from 31 March to 28 May 1850, though I'm not sure what for. 

From reading copies of The Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (NSW : 1848 - 1859) on Trove, to try and discover his crime, I discovered that T A Murray had property in the Lake George area. This all ties in with Joseph's other records and backs up the birthplace of his daughter Sarah, which is written on her marriage certificate (although no record of that birth seems to exist anywhere else). Apart from this scrape with the law, Joseph's only other appearances in court in Australia were where he was a witness rather than an offender. Some of these are mentioned here .

Perhaps I should try the convict records with all my hard to find people, in case they too are hiding a secret.

This post forms part of Trove Tuesday as suggested by Amy, from Branches, Leaves & Pollen .

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A Lottery Win

Inspired by my discoveries last week in the expanded collection of Illawarra newspapers available on Trove, I have been search for other people who resided in the area. I found a little article which mentioned the younger sister of Alice Halsey the child bride from an earlier post.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW 1842 - 1954) Tuesday 8 November 1910 page 11 article15165214-7-001

Carrie was the 13 year old witness to her sister's marriage in 1880, and married herself three years later to David Owen. Here she is, the wife of a miner winning the Eight Hour Art Union prize. A tiara valued at £500.

I wonder what she thought. Did she wear it ? Did they keep it ? If they did, does the family still have it ? Or did they sell it ? Did it make a change to their lives ?

I learned something else, as I researched this post. In 1910 the Labor Government introduced a national currency to Australia. Up until then it had been made up of all sorts. The private banks had issued paper money denominated in pounds as far back as 1817. Earlier than that foreign currency was used, or goods were traded - rum being acceptable currency. Australia's first coinage was issued in 1813 in New South Wales by punching out the middle of a Spanish dollar. This produced two coins. The holey dollar was worth five shillings sterling, and the dump (the piece from the middle) one shilling and three pence. They were only able to be used in New South Wales. Pound coins, sovereigns and half sovereigns came later. In the lead up to Federation the currency in the colonies was made up of British silver and copper coins, Australian minted sovereigns (worth £1), half sovereigns, locally minted copper trade tokens (although these were suppressed by 1881) and private bank notes. Wikipedia has lots more information about this.

I found an article about the new money on Trove in The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 2 December 1910, page 6. It is quite wordy, so I have just used the link instead of the whole article.

The new national currency was based on an Australian pound, made up of 20 shillings, and each shilling made up of 12 pence. It was fixed, as it had been since colonisation, to the value of British sterling; so pound for pound. The Reserve Bank of Australia has a great inflation calculator on their website. According to their calculation with inflation £500 would be worth $AUD61783 today. This doesn't take into account what the mineral worth of a piece of jewellery such as this might be though. 

Still I daresay for a most of us today, an extra $60K would be a welcome windfall. I imagine it could have made quite a difference to  Carrie's family. Sadly she passed away only five years later. I hope if she kept it, that it was handed on to her only surviving daughter Ethel.

This post forms part of Trove Tuesday as suggested by Amy, from Branches, Leaves & Pollen .

Monday, 20 May 2013

A Generation of Detectives

The internet is a marvellous creation. 

When my Dad started tracing our family even microfiche or microfilmed records were scarce. This meant you had to GO to libraries or other repositories and read pages and pages often not finding anything you were looking for. For us, all the way over here in New Zealand, trying to learn more about our forebears and reconnect with family in the United Kingdom was a very long, often hit and miss experience. Dad spent his lunch break at the British Embassy studying electoral rolls and phone books. Eventually, he wrote to a selection of people with our surname in the area of Somerset from whence we came. Luckily, some of the people he wrote to were also researching the family and had a lost branch they didn't know how to reconnect. US !!!

When I started researching my daughter's father's family there was still no internet, but microfiche and microfilmed records were becoming more accessible. Distance was still a barrier though. I was researching Australian families while living in New Zealand. The microfiche Pioneer and Federation birth, death and marriage indexes for New South Wales were well used as I strove to piece together families - and then order certificates to hopefully confirm my guesses. So much easier when we moved back there for a bit.

Over the last twelve or so years, thanks to the internet I have been able to "meet" a number of cousins and other relatives all researching different parts of what is fast becoming a world family tree. 

A chance find on a message board (when I should have been working) lead to reconnecting two branches of my Nana's family. The connection had only been lost in the late 1960's and although we had looked into leads several times we just weren't sure how to take the next step. At least we had an idea who we were looking for though - they had no idea about us, so it was a big surprise for them. Between us we have grown the information on this branch massively. Along the way we have connected with others who share the same 3 x great grandparents, each with a wealth of research to share.

The biggest surprise for my Mum and myself, was the discovery that there were other members of my Nana's family living in New Zealand. Nana had emigrated here in 1929 to join her elder sister who had emigrated shortly after she married. She didn't seem to know much about earlier generations of her family - or at least if she did, she didn't share a lot. All of her grandparents had died before she was born - actually before her parents were married, and most of her mother's immediate family emigrated to the USA. I'm sure if she knew that her grandfather's elder sister had emigrated to New Zealand in the 1880's and that she had had cousins here, that she would have tried to contact them. Their names were completely unheard of by us until the last few years. But the revelation that some of them had lived in the same city as Nana and at the same time was a bit mind blowing.

None of us were aware of this at all - but there was obviously contact between them and the families still living in England because discovered in a photo album (last year) that made the journey from England to the USA in 1905 there is a photo of one of the "cousins' in New Zealand. There also seems to have been quite an admiration for one of those kiwi cousins, as there are seven other girls (six in one branch) in one branch who were bestowed her name, and slight variations of it - two even having her surname added as one of their christian names. Initially we thought perhaps it was the number one name of the time - but the added surname as a christian name kinda blew that out of the water.

It has been great growing the story of our family with this little bunch of detectives from all over the world. The discovering is still going on with families uncovered and reconnected in Scotland, England, New Zealand, USA, Australia so far. Our 3 x great grandparent agricultural labourers from a tiny village in Shropshire could never have imagined how their family would grow and travel across the globe.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A new branch to explore

So, opportunity presented itself to me last night in the form of a tweet about new editions of various newspapers having been digitised and made available on Trove . 

A lot of the titles were from New South Wales, and some even from the South Coast and Illawarra area. Too tempting, I couldn't help myself

Here is one of the gems I discovered, about a branch I don't know too much of. But I will be finding out more now that I have been re-inspired - watch this space.

The Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser (NSW 1863 - 1947) Saturday 20 April 1912 page 2 article102131970-3-001

John was part of a large Irish family which had arrived in the Illawarra in 1840. His sisters, the Mesdames James and R Gibson were married to brothers who had also emigrated separately, from Ireland in the 1860's. Mrs R Gibson is my daughter's 3 x great grandmother. And how great to get the married names of two other sisters - since this family seems to be indexed as IRVINE, IRVIN, and IRWIN on the bdms I have studied. Maybe soon I will be able to pinpoint some of the other family members.

From my little search just now on Trove, I think there may have been other members of the wider family who emigrated at the same time as John's parents, eldest sister and grandparents.

Check back soon, I'm saving some awesome ANZAC tidbits which mention the Gibson family for another post. Have to say that Trove is in my top ten favourite sites list, and getting pretty close to the top position.

This post forms part of Trove Tuesday as suggested by Amy, from Branches, Leaves & Pollen .