GRO in England announces another 3 month online PDF trial

It’s amazing what you can learn from reading other genealogist’s blogs.  This week some of my blogs contained the great news that for the next 3 months, we can order PDF copies of Birth and Death certificates for only £6.    Check out the details here.

I am very excited that I can buy more certificates for my money.  Not that I think English certificates are expensive at £10 when I compare them to Australian certificates (remember you have to research BMD by state and order certificates by state).  There is no overall Australian BDM except on subscription sites and you still need to order certificates directly at each state’s BDM website.

I had great fun yesterday and ordered 4 death certificates I wanted and it cost me just under $AU42 as the exchange rate is very much in our favour now.

The only disadvantage is that you do have to wait for up to 5 days for the PDF unlike Victorian BDM where you get instant gratification. But it’s much better than waiting 2 or 3 weeks for the mail to be delivered.  Needless to say, I’m now checking my email regularly this week.

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Wonderful seminar

I thoroughly enjoyed the “Researching Abroad” seminar last week with guest speakers, Irish/Scottish genealogist, Chris Paton and German genealogist, Dirk Weisleder at the German club in the city. They and Unlock the Past staff travelled from Brisbane to Auckland, back to the eastern states and finished in Perth on the weekend.

From Dirk, I learnt a lot about the effect German history has on the availability of records today.  As my ancestors came from parts of Germany that came under the control of the East German government after WW2, I am in big trouble as genealogists don’t know where the records are or if they have been destroyed.  And of course, with the extensive WW2 bombing, many records from the 19th century that we might be looking for were destroyed.  He was also surprised how women predominate in genealogy in Australia whereas in Germany, the majority are male.

From Chris, I learnt about Scottish resources prior to 1800, I didn’t realise that the Scottish records, census and legal system is so completely different to that of England and Ireland.  While familiar with many of the Irish sites, he mentioned there were a couple I needed reminding about for future research.  Chris very kindly had set up a tinyurl for us to pick up his notes which I find really handy when you get home and try to remember the name of a particularly interesting site.

For me, a highlight of this type of event is the opportunity to talk to people who understand the passion that drives us.  It’s wonderful to be able to openly discuss my research without getting the usual bored looks. I’ve realised that I rarely find a genealogist who doesn’t have something interesting to say.

We are lucky that Unlock the Past were prepared to organise this Australia wide tour at an affordable price to give us the chance to hear international speakers.  I know we can watch webinars and aren’t they marvellous?  But there is something special about sitting in an audience and hearing them live.  Also when they aren’t talking, we had the usual opportunity to individually ask them questions and I think most of us took that opportunity.  I know I did on 3 occasions.

Alona loves to collect the photos of bloggers at these events and this was no exception.  I was thrilled to be part of such an august gathering – check out her Lonetester blog here to see her photos of the speakers, the event and the bloggers present.  Chris Paton has posted some great photos on his The Genes Blog about the Adelaide leg here

There was great info available from tables set up and staffed by the Pioneer Assoc, SAGHS, SLSA, Open Book Howden and Lutheran Archives

Thanks to Alan, Anthea and Alona for organising this event and to Rosemary and Eric Kopittke who travelled with the event all around the country and made sure that we were on time and organised on the day.


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Irish, Scottish and German family history research roadshow coming in August

I was honoured but surprised when I received an email last week from Unlock the Past’s Alan Phillips inviting me to be an Ambassador for the upcoming 2 day “Researching Abroad” seminar in August.  I am such an intermittent blogger that I never expected to be doing this along with my blogging heroes.

We are talking about a 1 or 2 day seminar focussed on the British Isles and German research in Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth.

But I am more than happy to promote this series of talks as I can genuinely recommend the wonderful Chris Paton as I heard him speak on a 2014 UTP Genealogy cruise.  I never expected to have the opportunity to hear him again so I am personally thrilled to have the opportunity. I follow Chris’ blog, The Genes Blog and invariably learn of a new Irish, Scottish or British resource to investigate.

Chris is very good at sharing his exceptional knowledge of Irish and Scottish family history research.  He is a professional genealogist who was born in Northern Ireland and lives now in Scotland. He is the author of the number of UTP titles about Scottish and Irish research.

I am looking forward to hearing Dirk Weissleder speak as I have German ancestry and no likely opportunity to travel there so I’m hoping to pick up some ideas from his talks. Today, I found an interview GeniAus (aka Jill Ball) did with him at Rootstech earlier this year which I recommend to you.

We are very fortunate that UTP and Gould Genealogy are prepared to give us the opportunity to hear these 2 International speakers in our capital cities and Auckland in NZ.  I think the price is very reasonable when you compare it to other offerings.  The 2 day ticket costs $87 or the 1 day ticket is $57.

As a  keen researcher in Adelaide, I was able to attend the 2 day DNA seminar org by UTP earlier this year at our German club.  It is at 223 Flinders St in the city (between Frome St and Hutt St) and is fairly convenient for those travelling into town by public transport.  I looked at the Adelaide Metro site and it looks like you can get off the Free City Loop bus in Hutt St. I found that car parking wasn’t difficult either.

Check out the  Adelaide programme and booking details online or check out the details of the event in other cities.

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What are the chances?


I’ve been researching in Northern Ireland for months now using the FAN (Friends, Associates, Neighbours) technique to build up a picture of the extended family.

I have James and Mary FITZSIMONS who married in Portaferry in 1854 and had their children on the townland of Tullcarnan/Tullyharmon from 1854 – 1873 but then they disappear from the records.  I can’t find the deaths of the parents or marriages of the children.  I’ve wondered if they migrated as at least 4 of Mary’s siblings did?

Last week, I thought I’d take a fresh look at this family.

After some research, I thought I had hit the jackpot and was preparing to get up and do the geneadance of joy when I realised there were some discrepancies between the info I had verified during previous searches and my newly discovered info.

I found a 1901 census record of the widowed mother, Mary living with a married daughter, whose name was the same as one of the daughters of the original family.  Then I backtracked and found the death of a James I thought was her husband a few years prior to the census.  Fantastic!! BUT ….

Then I looked more closely at the death certificate and realised that while the townland name was correct, it was actually on the other side of the Strangford Lough.  Portaferry is on the Ards Peninsula, south of Belfast and bordered by the beautiful Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.  Further research confirmed my suspicions that yes, there are 2 townlands in Co Down called Tullycarnan.


What are the chances that there were 2 FITZSIMONS families with parents of the same name both living on Tullycarnon but those townlands were on both sides of the Lough?  Or could it be that my FITZSIMONS lived on the one near Portaferry and then moved across the water to the one near Ardglass?  Or were there 2 families who accidentally were around the same age and just happened to live on the townlands of the same name?  My feeling is that the latter is true till I have further information.



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TROVE Tuesday – Australia Day

australia-1296727__340After watching the Australia Day celebrations last week, I started thinking about how Australia Day was celebrated in the past.  I didn’t remember any great fuss during my earlier years so I decided to consult TROVE to see how it was reported in 1950.




Mr Menzies might be surprised at how many flag and flag products are available now. Just check out the shopping catalogues that end up in our letter boxes every week.





1950 ‘”Celebrate Australia Day With Flags”‘, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), 26 January, p. 2. , viewed 31 Jan 2017,




Bordertown, S.A. 

I see that the Post Offices were open for 1 hour in the morning. It seems tennis matches were the main way of celebrating Australia Day in the towns around Bordertown.

1950 ‘PUBLIC HOLIDAY NEXT MONDAY’, Border Chronicle (Bordertown, SA : 1908 – 1950), 26 January, p. 1. , viewed 31 Jan 2017,




A very different Australia Day programme to the celebrations in 2017.


1950 ‘RADIO ROUNDABOUT’, News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 28 January, p. 5. , viewed 31 Jan 2017,
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Adelaide History & Genealogy Expo

Sept 2016

I was excited when the initial ads came out for the Expo. Firstly, it was in my state, secondly, it was affordable and thirdly, the weather wouldn’t be too hot.

Really, the word expo doesn’t do the 2 days justice as it was really a conference with a trade exhibition. The trade exhibition was well worth a number of visits over the 2 days. I had some useful discussions with a number of vendors and volunteer local and family history groups. Even all the SANFL football clubs were represented as they really value their history.photoThere was a wonderful smorgasbord of speakers to choose from. The hardest part was choosing which talk to attend as there were generally 5 concurrent sessions to choose from. Thankfully, a few were repeated but I still had to miss some topics I really wanted to hear. But that always happens.

I don’t know what is in the water in Queensland but most of my favourite speakers were Queenslanders. I particularly enjoyed Helen Smith’s talk on “Google, the Genealogist’s friend”, Shauna Hick’s talks on “Online newspapers – Trove from Aust and PapersPast from NZ”  and “Sporting Ancestors”.  Sadly,this one was only scheduled for 30 mins when 50 mins would have been better.  It was held in the corners of the Exhibition hall where it was difficult to hear over the noise from the exhibitors. I left another because I couldn’t hear and didn’t even try any on the second day.

Another Queenslander, Eric Kopittke’s lecture on the history of Germany was fascinating but pity it was only scheduled for 30 mins, it was definitely a 50 mins talk.  Sadly, I didn’t get to hear Rosemary Kopittke’s talks but I did see her being very busy making sure that the 2 days talks programme went smoothly.  Of course, I acknowledge that UTP as organisers had to make the difficult decision as to which talks to make 30 mins and which were in the 50 min slot and that must have been a nightmare.

I found the talk by one of the Archivists from the National Lutheran Archives (which is in Adelaide) really useful.  I’ve made my first visit today and what a welcoming and professional group they are.  And yes, I found a few interesting things eg my g grandmother’s birth and baptism dates weren’t listed in the Baptismal register beside her name and that of her parents whereas most of the other entries on the page had those details, why?

Although I’ve been using FMP for several years, I still found the presentation by FMP’s F. Brooker to be of great assistance.

This beginner blogger was encouraged by the wonderful Alona to accept my first blogger beads photo

and have my photo taken with the other bloggers attending.  It was quite daunting meeting a number of my blogging heroes.

All in all, a wonderful 2 day conference which was affordable; most are beyond my pocket. I hope that UTP do it again in a few years as we have so little here in the way of genealogy conferences.

Nearly 3 years ago, I was fortunate in being able to go on one of UTP’s genealogy cruises with a fantastic range of speakers and I highly recommend this way of going on holiday and attending a genealogy conference. Apart from the speakers program on “at sea” days, the chance to socialise with like minded people and enjoy the full benefits of a cruise was simply wonderful.

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NFHM Week 2

Week 2

For this week’s challenge, I thought it might be interesting to compare my ancestors’ occupations with those of their descendants in 2016.

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Irish farmland photographed by J Gay

There were a lot of labourers from many countries in a variety of industries among my ancestors, a few were farmers and several were sailors. One was a parish clerk.  Several were silk and cotton mill workers while a mid 19th century chemist was working among them in the northern mill towns.

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Taken at Styal Mill near Manchester by J Gay

One who had a trade was a lithographic printer in London, serving a 7 year apprenticeship starting in the late 1890’s.

Some were in the military outside of the World War periods.  One served for nearly 20 years in India with the British after the Indian Revolution and 2 others died in India while serving in the British army and Navy in the 1860’s.  At the same time, I’m sure the seller of spirits in Ireland had a lucrative business.

In one Irish port in the 19th and 20th centuries, many generations of ancestors were carpenters, joiners and ship’s carpenters.

A few of my female ancestors were small shopkeepers or sales assistants while a larger number were working from home as dressmakers or “sewers”.  One was listed in a census as a “muslin embroider”. Another one who was widowed in 1890 while pregnant with her 5th child, ran a Fruit and Veg shop with her teenage son and later was a Confectioner.  I really admire her strength as she never remarried and it was before the government provided widow’s pensions.

In 2016 the current generations include a couple of engineers (both women), a couple of librarians, a large number of teachers, a musician, a lawyer, an economist, a management consultant, a funeral director, some merchants, a carter and a number of nurses (both male and female).  We also have a book seller, a few salesmen, a stenographer, an actor, a marine biologist, a couple of secretaries, finance coordinator.  Some others are a paramedic, an accountant, a cabinet maker, a few school assistants, manager of a millinery department, a hairdresser, a storeman and a financial planner.

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National Family History Month

NFHM logo

Week 1

For the first time, I am attempting to participate in the National Family History Month challenge.  As I’m also completing the free online course “Genealogy: Researching your family tree” from the University of Strathclyde; it will be a challenge.  BTW I am enjoying this course, it is excellent for beginners but for those of us who have been at this game for a long time, we can always do with a refresher.

I came across this interesting census record while searching for someone else and it piqued my interest. It was an ecumenical household living in Warrenpoint, Co Down in the 1901 Irish census which I thought would have been unusual in that period. I wonder what other people think of my assumption.

aaaa1911The owner of the property was listed as James SAVAGE who was a retired merchant and looking after this one man were two servants.  James was Church of Ireland, while his “lady Housekeeper” Sara McFADDEN was Methodist and the domestic servant was Ellen BLACK who was Roman Catholic.

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Funeral Insurance

I was very fortunate to be able to spend a morning at PRONI in September.  It is without a doubt the most friendly and welcoming archive I’ve ever used.  The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is in a new purpose built building in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.  We were welcomed with great warmth by every staff member we encountered.  I particularly enjoyed the initial interview with an archivist offered to all new researchers which greatly helped me plan what resources to use.



I found one will which I found interesting and quirky.  In 1838 Hannah LENNON of Corrague near Portaferry, bequeathed one shilling to her son, John as “he having already received from me at different times Thirty pounds Stg”.  Mmm, mum wasn’t happy with him when she wrote her will. She left all her money and property to her daughter, Mary MAGUIRE, sons Thomas and Patrick and grandson James MURPHY.  She finished by instructing her executors to “finally I desire the Cow to be sold and all my funeral charges to be paid”.

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St Patrick’s Catholic Graveyard at Portaferry



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Famine in Ardrahan parish in Co Galway

Like many researchers I’ve been glued to the National Library of Ireland’s release of Catholic Parish registers this week. I am grateful and impressed they aren’t making any money out of it.

Today I’ve been looking at the parish of Ardrahan in Galway where one set of GG grandparents are reputed to be from. Sadly there weren’t many registers to digitise – there is a note at the end of the 1850 registers saying that in 1907, the 1850 – 1867 register was missing.

But the Marriage register 1843 – 1850 covers the famine and this is starkly reflected in the numbers of marriages which were solemnised each year as tabled below.

1845 – 16
1846 – 35
1847 – 15
1848 – 3
1849 – 6
1850 – 4

I understand that Co Galway was among the worst hit counties during the famine.

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