6 degrees etc….

We’ve all had that experience at one time or another where we meet someone who is connected to us far more closely than we realise.  It happened to me last night.

Over the last month, I have become involved with a group of people who are keen to see an aircraft accident at Mia Mia (Vic) that occurred 74 years ago appropriately memorialised.  The crash of Stinson aircraft claimed the life of my great uncle, Roy Fairfax Richardson along with the lives of nine others.  I have been researching the families of those killed in order to apprise them of the plans and to invite their participation in the commemoration.

Last week, some of the group met with Lisa Chesters MP at the proposed site for the memorial.  Photos were taken and the meeting was reported in the Midland Express.


L-R Rob Chapman (Campaspe LandCare), Lisa Chesters MP, self, Wendy Hulls (Mia Mia Mechanics Institute secretary)


Imagine my surprise when, at the AGM of the Maldon & Baringhup Agricultural Society, my fellow committee member Betty Taylor turned to me and said she had seen my name in the paper and then proceeded to tell me about her wartime experience boarding with one of the main witnesses to the crash.

The witness was one Mrs Govey – the local Redesdale post mistress and VOAC warden. It was her role to ‘spot’ the plane as it passed through and report to Bendigo that it was on its way.  Instead, on 31 January 1945, she reported that the plane had broken up in mid air and crashed on the Spring Plains property near Mia Mia.

Betty’s recollections of the time were crisp and sharp despite her youthful years at the time of the accident. We plan to get together and record her memories of that time very soon.

You never know what or who will turn up when you start to research a story. Six degrees….. hmmmm.

Last night, Betty’s 43 year contribution to the organisation and support of the Maldon & Baringhup Agricultural Society and its annual show were recognised with the presentation of her Life Membership. Betty is still an active committee member, steward and sponsor of the Show and continues to see the Show go from strength to strength.

Betty Taylor Life member
Ian Grenda (MBAS President) presenting Betty Taylor with her Life Membership medallion 

Making life easier….

Over the last few weeks I have undertaken the beginning of a genealogy make over – the study floor has been covered with all the detritus of years of research… printed pages, certificates, family group sheets, census records and electoral rolls; the list could go on and on.


I’ve discovered that I’m not all that good at building collections of bookmarks for the common search sites I use.  I have some reference lists but not all the various places I have found over time.  I rely on memory as to how to find a particular site or group of sites and head off into the unknown.  Sometimes this can be a blessing and, sometimes, a curse. I know its in there somewhere but no matter how I string the search terms together, it won’t appear!

I was delighted to find a note in my Twitter feed from the SuperGenie, Jill Ball (aka GeniAus)  where she had commented on the need for a ‘collection’ of all the sites where its possible to search online for your buried or cremated folk in Australia.

She has bravely undertaken to build a website collating all the online sources for searching for those that are now six feet under down under, hence the title of her new site: Six Feet Under Downunder

The site is currently under construction but is open to offers of suggestions for additions to the site.  Email suggestions for additions to Jill – she would love to hear from you.

Oh… and the progress on the makeover?  I have reduced that mess to 10 Binders – which works out to be over 250 family groups over 6 generations of just one family line.  There are still 7 other lines to complete!


Researching in the digital age….

There is no doubt that the plethora of digital resources, computer based genealogy programmes, subscription based websites and ways in which we can collect, photograph, interpret, record and store our family history stories has made significant differences to the ‘how, when, why and who’ of understanding our own family story.

On internet based discussion panels, I have often come across people asking “what is the best Family History software to use?” and of course, there have been many differing opinions and recommendations.

I have never seen anyone recommend a hard copy solution – ie: the good old fashioned paper and pencil solution!

In my family history classes, I always recommend the keeping of a hard copy paper file.  After all, we have books that have survived hundreds of years.  We don’t yet know what the life of a digital record is likely to be but as technology changes and improves, storage devices of twenty years ago are now almost impossibly inaccessible.

Yesterday, my research hit a stumbling block and it was those technological advances that were my downfall. Firstly, let me declare my computer platform allegiance – I am a MAC user.  My genie software of choice is Reunion.

Over the years of having belonged to the Genealogical Society of Victoria, I have taken advantage of the Society’s remarkable collection of digitised material and  purchased CD Roms of several different databases for use at home.  Invariably, these CDs were configured for use with Windows operating systems only.  This wasn’t an obstacle initially as I had access to a Windows based computer on which I could open and read these discs as required.

Imagine my distress when a very expensive CD I wished to use refused to cooperate with the computer.  The laptop in question was running on Windows 10 – the disc can be opened to be read initially but access to the data is unavailable as the manner in which it was created and the operating system requirements allowing it to be read are now redundant. The only thing that I could view were about 6 .jpg files and, even then, the OS on the laptop wasn’t all that happy.

In order to fully access the information on the CD, I now need to find someone who has a Windows based computer running an obsolete operating system!

I was not expecting that my new year’s planned genealogy makeover would result in me finding that all the digital resources I had invested in were now expensively redundant and possibly only good for making bird scaring devices for my fruit trees.

From: https://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/cds-best-way-to-get-rid-of-them/

Wedding Wednesday

Recently, the siblings and I have been sorting through our late mother’s belongings.  Mum has been gone for over two years now, but there are some things that can’t be rushed and this was one of them.

Having packed up the contents of her home before it was sold, much of it was boxed and stored, awaiting a time when we could make informed and objective decisions about what was to happen to everything.  Deciding who would have what and what would happen to the ‘unwanted’ stuff is always hard, especially if its difficult to let go.

A box containing paperwork, photos and other bits a bobs was one of the last we opened that day.  A fat, badly discoloured envelope was tossed on the table with the comment, “This is some sort of material or other, perhaps you know what it is, Rob?”

I did.

One of the few things I can remember Mum telling me about her wedding was that she didn’t wear white.  Her dress and veil were a very, very pale blue.  As soon as I saw the fabric in that envelope, I knew that it was a remnant of that day – a small, scrunched up morsel of that powder blue veil had survived.  Grubby and stained; falling apart in places: I teased it out to reveal a remnant of the edging still intact.

It was almost impossible to reveal the actual colour in the photograph …. the stains show up best!

When I was about to be married, we had talked about her dress.  It hadn’t survived the 22 or so years from her wedding day until mine; rather it had been repurposed, worn regularly and had probably found its way to an op shop.  It had gone well before I had shown any interest.  There hadn’t been any wedding photos on display in the house either, so none of us had had any idea as to what it had looked like.

Searching through those old photos uncovered some proof images of the wedding and that dress – they are black and white and so the dress appears white in all the images. That small fragment of tulle revealed the true colour worn by my mother on that day in Camberwell, Victoria, when her brother walked her down the aisle and gave her away.

jennifer_sheeran_wedding web
Jennifer Mary Stockfeld nee Sheeran on her wedding day – 28 November 1953



The Fat Man is Coming…..

It’s racing ever so quickly towards Christmas and I was prompted by a recent discovery about a relative to look at just what 25 December is to my bunch of twigs on the family tree.

How many of those ancestors were born on 25 December? Statistically there would have to be a few, surely?

Campbell George Daniel Beckham arrived on 25 December 1916 in New Zealand

Frances Cowell (known as Fanny) was born in Tasmania on 25 December 1844

and Aldegonda van Horenbeeke celebrated her first Christmas Day in Antwerp, Belgium in 1846.

Likely there are more than this – but this is a start…..

Baptisms and christenings could also have taken place this day – so another search using the “FIND” part of my genealogy software.

Elizabeth Sutton Beckham was baptised in the Anglican church, Mattishall Burgh, Norfolk UK in 1812

Joseph Robertson Tuer was christened in Bishopwearmouth, Durham UK in 1809

Mary Ann Welch was christened in St Botolph without Bishopgate church, London UK in 1841.

The Cowell family must have made quite an exhibition at the Independent Church in Tonbridge, Kent, UK when all seven of Timothy Cowell’s and Elizabeth Kirkby’s children were baptised on the same day.  John (16), Henry (14), William (12), Maria (11), Samuel (6), Elizabeth (4) and Joseph (1) were all welcomed into the church together on Christmas Day 1827.  Two more children were added to this family and by the early 1830’s, the entire family made the hazardous journey to Tasmania settling in the Fingal region.

Christina Jane Banks was baptised in the Claremont Chapel, Kirkdale in Walton on the Hill in 1831.

So far my research has not uncovered any engagements or marriages on this day – there’s always the chance that one will arise sooner or later.

So now we look to deaths – and there were a few…. too much turkey perhaps?

Ann Beckham was just 15 years old when she passed away in 1853 in Murghebuloc, Victoria.

Mary Richardson lived just 11 days – her christening record for 25 December records her as ‘dead’. Mary had been baptised at the Scotch Church in Stepney, Middlesex. Times were tough in 1782.

Dawson Fyers Duckworth Turner M.D. practised medicine widely in the UK before succumbing at age 71 in Guilford, Surrey in 1928.

Not all death events have been researched to specific dates so I’m sure there will be more.

What prompted me to think about this date was the discovery of the funeral and burial of 19 year old Elsie Irene Tippett being held on Christmas Day in 1913.  Elsie had passed away the day before. She and her family lived in Eaglehawk, Victoria, a small country town not far from Bendigo.


Elsie Irene Tippett Obit 1913

OBITUARY. (1913, December 25). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 7. Retrieved December 3, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article89957203


Such a quick interment might be surprising to some,  however, hot Australian summer conditions combined with little or no refrigeration facility in this regional area meant there was no time wasted in expediting burials. Elsie was interred in the Eaglehawk Cemetery in the family grave.

I use Reunion software for Mac.  To check on what events had taken place on the 25 December, I used “FIND” (on the left hand side of a family file window)  then selected the EVENTS field in the drop down menu under CONDITIONS.  The EVENTS list allows you to choose the appropriate event ie: Baptism, Christening, Birth etc. I modified the middle field to CONTAINS and in the next field typed ’25 DEC’.  Press FIND and your results will appear on the right hand side of your window.

After I had searched each specific event and recorded my results, I then checked for any missed events by using the search option “ANY PERSON FIELD” instead of specific events. Using this search option allows you to check for any new information and people that may have been overlooked.

Why don’t you have a look at your family and see how many December 25 events you can find?







Treading in their footsteps….

Amongst the London locations for births, christenings, marriages and burials of the Richardson, Fairfax and Welch families, one stood out as being quite different to the rest.

The church of St. Peter upon Cornhill only appeared as the baptismal location for both William Andrew Richardson (b1852) and his sister Ada Mary (b 1856) so far as I have been able to uncover. There may have been others in the family baptised here, but as yet those records have not come to light.

St Peter upon Cornhill is located on the corner of, not surprisingly, Cornhill and Gracechurch Street adjacent to the Leadenhall Market. At the time of the baptisms, David and Dorothy Fairfax Richardson were recorded as residing at No 3 Leadenhall Street – literally just across the road!

Interior view of Leadenhall Market

The house, if it was a house, is no longer there. Leadenhall Market buildings are still in use (although redeveloped in 1881 and after the time of the Richardson family’s residence there) and it’s possible that No 3 was built in a somewhat similar style – a shop at street level and residences above. David was, during the time they lived there (1852-56), still being identified as an ‘outfitter’. The site of No 3 has vanished under a modern development coupled with road widening in recent years.

The Church itself has an interesting history. Notably, it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London (1666)  to a design by Sir Christopher Wren and includes one of the finest examples of wooden screens to the nave. It was not part of Wren’s design, but installed at the insistence of the then vicar.

St Peters upon Cornhill carved wooden screen


St Peter upon Cornhill Baptismal Font

Not mentioned in the detail of the history of the church as can be found in Wikipedia  is the baptismal font. The Font is one of the oldest known and has a remarkable carved top which is removed by a complex series of pulleys attached to the church walls and ceiling.

This font is most certainly the one where William and Ada would have received their names and blessings in the presence of their parents and witnesses.

Detail of the carved wood cover.


The original stained glass windows survived the bombings of London during the Second World War as they were removed and stored away from potential damage as were those of many of the other churches in London.  Unlike many other churches in London, St Peter seems to have narrowly escaped a Victorian era makeover and remains one of the few churches that reflects the original design intentions of its architect.

It was quite coincidental and extremely fortuitous that my visit was timed with the church’s rare public opening time – it is no longer used for congregational worship instead it serves as a training facility and has only recently become accessible to the public. The Friends of the City Churches  work to keep many of London’s smaller churches open for public visiting including St Peter upon Cornhill thereby encouraging the respectful preservation of these historic locations. The guide’s knowledge of the building and its history helped greatly in placing our family in their time within its walls.

All images accompanying this article are original & copyright to R M Stockfeld 2018.