Something to ponder…..

Searching for the parents and birth details of one Amelia Johnson, my Trove explorations today turned up this entry from The Mercury newspaper in 1863.

JOHNSON.—August 10th, at her residence, Collins-
street, Mrs. Johnson, of a daughter, the 17th child; the
united ages of the parents, 113 years.

That’s something to think about – 17 children isn’t entirely unheard of, but the calculation of the ages of the parents is something to wonder at;  if Dad is 63, mum is 50…. Either way, its a remarkable achievement for the time.

Family Notices (1863, August 22). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from

Doesn’t quite live up to this claim:



A Geneagift …… or How to Spend a Weekend Chasing New Relations!

Just recently, and quite out of the blue, I received a message on Ancestry from a total stranger.  Often messages through Ancestry are “I think I’m related to you, can I have your research???”

Not this one.

This lovely stranger told me that she had been ‘tidying up’ the research on her husband’s tree and had come across a common link to my DNA tree (one where I have nothing other than names and dates of birth and death) She explained the connection and where there was common ground, and gave me a little insight into the people concerned.  She was apologetic that she didn’t have more to offer on my direct line, but gave me carte blanche to use any of her photos and research that might help me flesh out my family.

To say I was surprised and grateful is an understatement.  I spent a good few hours checking out what she was offering and, of course, it led me down all sorts of byways and trails, extending and exploring lines I had neglected.

Her gift had led me to examine this particular branch of my family more closely.  The connection she offered was one by marriage into my line – so her husband and I share cousins in common. There were a couple of pictures of family members that could reasonably fit to enhance my family story.

Her prompt to investigate this line has led me all over the ‘countryside’ today – I have been looking at war records, streetscapes, cemetery records, newspapers, electoral rolls, BDM indexes and Honours lists.  It’s been quite a journey.

I have returned her gift with a gift of my own.

In that exploration, I had found birth notices for three of those cousins in common that give clear dates of birth instead of the approximations we both had recorded, based on their deaths. These births were outside of the current historical disclosure period, so no BDM index search would have turned them up.

I also discovered a wonderful resource about which I had hitherto been unaware – The University of New South Wales – Australians at War Film Archive.  Within this I discovered 5 hours of video interview with Victor Albert Dey OAM.  Victor was my 3rd Cousin 1R.  I sat transfixed for hours, watching him speak about his family and his early life.  I couldn’t believe how much he reminded me of my brother.

Image from UNSW – Australians at War Film Archive

I haven’t been game to search the Archive to see if there are any other interviews of family members …. I would never see daylight again! This is a wonderful resource that offers a first hand view of the wartime experience of ordinary Australians as well as what life was like in ‘the olden days’.  To hear Victor speak of his mother, Dora Blanche Gertrude Dey (nee Welch) gave me a picture of a woman that, despite her still being alive in my lifetime, I had never met.

Thank you, Jan, for your very special geneagift.

I’m paying it forward to anyone who reads this – if you are an oral historian in the making, perhaps studying the Diploma at UTAS, or just curious to hear first hand what life was life for Australians living through a wartime experience, I commend the Australians at War Film Archive to you.

Crazy Month of May 2020 meme: Pandemic experiences

The wonderful Pauleen Cass is at it again, challenging her readers and fellow bloggers to sit back and have a think (and write) about the past month and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.  Many institutions have been encouraging us to document our experience so that others in the future can see how we have coped or not coped.  So, in for a penny…..

Pauleen’s questions:

What are you most grateful for during this covid-19 crisis?

I find I am grateful that I am warm, dry and not in need of support to survive.  So many people have found themselves challenged by the loss of income, employment, a safe and secure place to live – just for once, when life threw curve balls at us, I am in a secure place.

What have you missed most during the full or partial lock-down?

Not being able to be with my family when it counted – significant birthdays, funerals for friends and relatives.

Has your hobby sustained you during this time?

The garden gives – monster potatoes for warm winter dinners!

Reading and gardening have kept my mind and body occupied.  Funnily enough, with plenty of time to spend on genealogy, I have not taken advantage of this as I found I couldn’t concentrate too well. My writing has screamed to halt – I was regularly posting in the #52ancestors52weeks blogging challenge and that has fallen by the wayside. I’ve spent more time pulling weeds instead!


What changes have you seen in your life over May 2020?

May has been no different to April nor to parts of March as I was in voluntary isolation from the outset.  I can now buy toilet paper though!

Have you been exercising more or less?

If you consider gardening to be exercise then definitely more!

Has the refrigerator been your friend or foe?

Neither – the pantry with its biscuits and cake ingredients – now that’s another thing altogether!

Have you been participating in virtual gatherings with friends or family?

Once, in  Zoom hookup for a significant birthday.

Have you taken up new hobbies during the lockdowns?


I have been studying online with UTAS for some years now and that has continued uninterrupted – no time to develop new hobbies!

Are you cooking or gardening more?

Gardening more – absolutely.  We’ve had rain and the weeds  are

Baking banana bread – one for me and one for the house mate!

outpacing the plants that are meant to be there! Some long overdue fencing has gone in around my veggie garden and that has led to some extra landscaping, planting and gardening adventures.

Cooking – just occasionally for more than one and sharing those meals.

Have you shopped more or less? Online or offline?

Food and grocery shopping has been more or less as normal except that our local farmers market has been closed, so no Sunday market.

Online – probably more as the reading habit needed feeding and Book Club was cancelled.

What have you found to be the strangest change to your life?

Having a Telemed appointment with my GP

Have you found the changes and experience stressful/anxious/worrying?

For someone like me who has anxiety issues, you’d think this would have kicked off lots of issues however it hasn’t.  I like being with myself and not having to deal with people, crowds, crowded spaces, aggressive behavior and awkward social situations.

How have the closures affected your local community?

Living in a small town that is heavily reliant on tourist trade, the retail and accommodation providers are suffering.  The town thrives on its volunteer workforce and they have all been hamstrung by these closures.  Significant events have been cancelled, others just squeaking in with online options to keep spirits up but there are many who are finding it hard to manage their impatience to get the town back on its feet.

Have in-person meetings been replaced with virtual meetings via Zoom, Skype etc?

In the past, a cohort of Victorian based UTAS students met infrequently in person, however May has seen the start of regular catch-ups via Zoom.  This has proved to be quite a successful way of sharing experiences and skills with each other until such time as our research visits/trips can be restarted.

Do you enjoy the virtual meeting format?


Are you working from home instead of in your usual place of work?

Not a worker.

Have your habits changed over the past months?

Time to marvel at the wildlife – this moth was HUGE!

I’d say no as a first reaction, but if I look carefully at myself and how I would normally spend my time, I would have to say that I have actually spent less time at the computer and more in the open air. Thank goodness for a half acre garden.

Have you had to cancel travel plans for pleasure or family?

Yes – firstly, a conference I was to attend was cancelled, then my plan for a trip overseas that was supposed to happen in late April scotched, and now my plans to attend graduation in Hobart and to visit my brother have been thwarted ….. and I was considering the UK in November and that’s off the agenda too!

Do you think you’ll be able to travel in 2020?

I hope so – even if its only across the state to visit a friend who has been ill.

Have you/others been wearing masks when out and about in your area?

I haven’t resorted to masks although I have seen others who have – but often they have not been residents of this district – they’ve been citysiders who have come out into the country for a breath of fresh air.

Will you change your lifestyle after this experience?

I hope that this experience will have led to more people demonstrating compassionate behaviors and respecting those people who have been at the ‘pointy end’ right through this.  I am less likely to spend time in the city unless it’s unavoidable as I am relishing the space and the quiet and the lack of frantic pressured ‘keeping up with the latest’ consumerism that has driven our society for so long.  I will be extra vigilant on the roads as the wildlife has become used to getting the land back. I’m saving my close contact hugs for the people in my life that really matter.

Why don’t you join with Pauleen and other bloggers and create your own Covid-19 pandemic reflections? This is the link to Pauline’s blog post on Crazy Month of May 2020

Wednesday’s Handy Research hint #3

International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March prompted me to think about ways in which family historians can find out about their female ancestors.  Women often disappear from formal records – and their stories remain often untold yet they often lead complex and varied lives. Not all records are on paper!

As a textile artist and someone who has an interest in historic textiles, I find that women’s stories can be quite often tied up in family textile heirlooms.  One of the most interesting collections of published material about women is the documenting of quilt history.  In the USA, around the time of the Bicentennial, this began with the Quilt Index – which can be found here. 

In the US, many states recorded and published their own special quilt history and with it, the stories of the pioneer women who had made them.  Historic quilt documentation is a very different way to understand the early pioneer experience of women and the story often begins in their home countries before they even set foot on American soil.

An example of US Quilt histories: Gathered in Time: Utah Quilts and their Makers Settlement to 1950 (From the author’s collection)

In Australia, the National Quilt Register  is now hosted by the National Wool Museum, Geelong but began life as a project as part of the Pioneer Women’s Hut Museum in Tumbarumba, NSW. Quilts tell the story of their makers and those stories are collected on the registery – it’s worth a look to see if your family’s quilts are there. The Pioneer Women’s Hut Museum is well worth a visit to gain some understanding of the lives of women in rural Australia.

Not all quilts stay with the family – one quilt historian relates the tale of finding the most exquisite velvet and brocade quilt on the street as it had been consigned to the rubbish.  She beat the garbage collectors to it with minutes to spare and saved a beautiful piece from permanent loss!

Dated 1740, this sampler contains letters of the alphabet, numerals, a religious quote and some classic sampler embroidery motifs and is finished with some bargello stitching.

The header picture to this blog is an image of the remains of a child’s embroidery sampler dated 1740. At one point, it was deemed beyond (and not worth) saving by a retail picture framer and was to be consigned to the rag bag, but I intervened and today it lies in a nice safe museum standard storage box.  It’s story is complex and I’m still not entirely sure as to which one of my Banks antecedents was responsible, but it was deemed important enough for it to accompany the family when they relocated from Liverpool to New Zealand and then to Australia in the mid 1800’s.

Antique shops, charity and Op shops and of course, garage sales can hide the secret women’s history on their shelves and in broken boxes.  A fashion in quilts and embroidery and, later, as a fundraising idea, the embroidered piece made by a collective of women, whether family or friends tells its own story of place and time as well as documenting the fashionable colours, types of fabrics in vogue and relative skills of the makers.

What story had this wonderful white linen and lace tablecloth to tell?  Rescued from a garage sale, I couldn’t let it go to waste or to someone who might not appreciate the story it hides.  Dated in 1903, it features a group of seemingly unrelated embroidered names.  It’s a project for a rainy day to photograph all the signature blocks and write a full description of the piece and cast the results into the ether as a resource for others  with which to connect. If you have an Alice E Weston in your family or perhaps you know where the Royal Sailors Rest is, please get in touch!

Signature (or shilling) quilts were widely used as fund raising mechanisms during the First World War.  Historical societies are often the repositories of such items and are worth checking in your local area for the names found thereon. This WW1 quilt is housed in Williamstown Historical Society  Museum in Melbourne and there’s lots of names to be found here! Church groups also used the signature quilt as a means of fund raising – this example from the Heidelberg Scots Church dates from 1895/96 and the Society is looking to identify relatives of signatories.

I have the privilege to be the current custodian of the family Honiton lace bridal veil (more of the story here  and here). I know that my grandmother wore it at her wedding and just recently, I discovered a wedding description of a relative which included a comment that she wore a Honiton lace veil loaned to her by a cousin.  Given the time frame (1920’s) and the image accompanying the report in the Table Talk newspaper, I believe this is the first time I have found a reference to the use of the veil by someone other than my grandmother.

Little clues like these about a family heirloom can build more of a background to the lives of those women, and the ties and relationships that bind and build a family history.

The countdown is on – Beyond BMDs

I know we are all distracted by RootsTech2020 and the upcoming announcement that there will be a RootsTechLondon2020 but, closer to home, we can still do some learning and networking as well.

There are just 5 days left to pre-book and save for this one day seminar focusing on English research. I can’t imagine there are too many of us here in Oz that don’t have a connection to the UK in some form or another, so get your skates on folks, and get some expert help and advice!

I’m going to the Melbourne event – will I see you there?