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.

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?

Wednesday’s Handy Research Hint #2

If you happen to have someone royal, titled or landed gentry in your family, you have no doubt referred to Burke’s Peerage at some point or another.  Burke’s Peerage is a subscription site – you can subscribe to the latest edition for £80.00 a year or buy a 48 hour window of browsing time in the most recent editions (107th).  You can do an initial search for free but to view more detail in your results, you need to hand over your credit card!

Where else can you access this information?  has two historic editions available – Burke’s Peerage Baronetage and Knightage – 1881 and Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary, Vol 2 (1865)   Again, both of these volumes lurk behind a subscription paywall.

It’s often available from libraries but, as is the case of State Library Victoria, you need to request to see the editions from either onsite or offsite storage and they may not be the edition that is old or new enough to address your query.

Online resources always worth checking for older editions of books is Google Books @ – there a search for Burke’s Peerage will bring up digitised versions held in libraries anywhere in the world: this entry comes from a library in California – Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, Volume 10; Volume 12

There is an alternative, thanks to New Zealander, Darryl Lundy, whose 17 years of work can be accessed on The  Darryl keeps adding new and correcting existing information as it becomes available. There is no charge, no subscription to buy, just a search function to use – and off you go!  Thank you Darryl for, as you describe it, being ‘somewhat eccentric’ in putting together a great resource. Happy hunting, folks!

Darryl Lundy (retrieved from