O is for Obituaries and Death Notices

Following on from N is for New Zealand, I particularly wanted to share the death notices and obituaries of Hugh and Elizabeth LENNON when they died in NZ in 1910 and 1917 respectively.

Hugh died first on Oct 26th 1910 at Mary Ann’s home.

How lucky was I to find such a detailed death notice which positively confirmed I had found the right Hugh LENNON?
Someone in the family had a strong sense of family history to write this death notice.
Hugh LENNON’s entry in the Burial Register of Waikomiti (now Waikamete) Cemetery in Auckland

When Elizabeth died 7 years later at her son, Williams’s home, a wonderfully complimentary obituary was published in the local Auckland newspaper.

I was thrilled to find this obituary showing readers how respected Hugh and Elizabeth were in their new country of NZ

This obituary was very informative and enabled me to find out how respected Hugh and Elizabeth were considered by the community; I was so proud of them. The phrase “one daughter, Mrs Mabe, Sydney” was great new information as it never occurred to me that the family might have moved to Sydney. So that lead to more research!

Marianne and George had 6 children, all born in NZ. They were :-

  1. Louise Frances (1887-1890)
  2. Bertha Elizabeth (1889-1917)
  3. George Henry (1890-1892)
  4. Rose/Rosa (1894-1976)
  5. Walter (1895-1968)
  6. Dorothy Irene (1896-1943)

My research showed that Mary Anne moved to Sydney with her daughters, Bertha, Rose/Rosa and Dorothy during WW1; I don’t know if she followed them or they all went together. Judging by various BDM notices in Sydney and Auckland it seems she separated from George and one of their sons, Walter appears to have stayed with his father.

Bertha was married in Sydney in 1915 and had a child but tragically was killed in a car accident in 1917 (the year her grandmother died in NZ). Rose/Rosa also married in Sydney during WW1 and had 3 children. The youngest child, Dorothy married in 1919 in Sydney. All the girls and their mother, Mary Anne who died in 1924 are buried in different Sydney Cemeteries. Their brother, Walter appears to have lived many years in NZ and was buried with his father, George and perhaps his wife in an Auckland cemetery.

Again, if you are a descendant of Hugh and Elizabeth and Mary Anne and George; email me for more information.

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N is for New Zealand

To my surprise in 2016, I came across a passenger list that suggested that another of the missing brothers (Hugh) of my great great grandfather, William had emigrated to New Zealand in 1883.  I had never known we had family in Ireland nor in New Zealand.

In fact, it was only when I only started to research my family’s history in the mid 80’s that I became aware where I came from but sadly, by then my parents were dead and it was too late to ask questions. This information was also unknown to my family in Ireland just as they didn’t know they had family in Australia till I contacted them in 2015 when I wrote to every LENNON and MAGEE in the British Telecom White Pages.  I think I must come from a long line of poor letter writers; myself included.

Hugh’s birth was listed in his father’s Missal as being 19 Dec 1830[i] presumably on Craigaroddan as the family had been there since at least 1796.  Some of the land was still owned by family in 2015.  Hugh was one of 3 siblings to serve as a sailor either in the Merchant Navy or in the Royal Navy.  The earliest reference I can find to Hugh’s Merchant Navy service was in 1848 and the last crew list, I found him on was in 1880.  See S is for Seamen and Sailors for more information.

I presume he must have found something to like about New Zealand and persuaded his family to emigrate from Portaferry.

Hugh (1830-1910) and his wife, Elizabeth (1838-1917) EDWARDS had been married on 4th Feb 1856 at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Portaferry. Elizabeth was from Dundalk in County Louth[ii]; perhaps, she had a sister as a Letitia EDWARDS married James LENNON from Killydressy.  Although, I have recently noticed that there was a William EDWARDS who had land on Craigaroddan.  Note to self, go back and check that out properly.

Obituary of Elizabeth EDWARDS LENNON

Elizabeth is listed on the Westmeath’s passenger list[iii] as arriving in Auckland, New Zealand in May 1893 with their 3 children:-

Mary Anne who was 27 years old (also spelt at Marianne, Marion and Marian)

Hugh who was 14 years old

William Henry who was 11 years old

1883 Passenger List for the Westmeath taking migrants to NZ

I guess the children were very different in age due to their father being away a lot or perhaps Elizabeth suffered many miscarriages.  It must have been so hard for the wives of Merchant and Royal Navy men being on their own for months at a time and not knowing where their husband was and if he was even still alive.  I wonder how they managed for money?

The Westmeath was a steamer chartered by Shaw Savill for the NZ service. The NZ Maritime index[iv] states that ‘the voyage took 62 days and was plagued with engine trouble”.  Hugh isn’t listed on the passenger list so perhaps he was part of the crew or he had already settled in NZ.  So another brave LENNON wife who travelled to the other side of the world with her children. 

Sadly, young Hugh died later that year when he was only 14 years from Tubercular Meningitis.

Only a few years after arriving in NZ in 1886, Mary Anne (1856-1924) married George Edwin (1859-1921) MABE, also a sailor and her descendants seem to be mainly in Australia – I haven’t yet found any living in NZ but I’ve very happy to be corrected.

Marianne and George had 6 children, all born in NZ. They were :-

  1. Louise Frances (1887-1890)
  2. Bertha Elizabeth (1889-1917)
  3. George Henry (1890-1892)
  4. Rose/Rosa (1894-1976)
  5. Walter (1895-1968)
  6. Dorothy Irene (1896-1943)

William Henry married Edith May (1882-1951) RYAN in 1901 in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland and they had a daughter, Letitia Rose (1902-1951) LENNON. She was known by both Lettie and Rose. She may have had 3 sons but I can’t find their details and perhaps adopted another 2 children but I don’t full confirmation of that theory yet.

Edith appears to have run a midwifery home as I found Birth notices that thanks Mrs Lennon for her support and it’s an address that I found for Edith in other documents.

I do have more information on Hugh’s descendants which I don’t have room for here but if you are a descendant, then I am more than happy to share my research with you, just email me at geniejen3@gmail.com.

[i] Catholic Missal given to William (1788-1867) LENNON by his eldest son, Patrick (1823- ) in 1851 and is held in the family in Portaferry.

[ii] Obituary – Ohinemuri Gazette, April 11th 1917 (Papers Past NZ)

[iii] Westmeath Passenger list

[iv] Available online

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M is for Melbourne and MERRON

M is for Melbourne

My MAGEE’s and LENNON’s all emigrated to Melbourne in the colony of New South Wales which encompassed the whole east coast of what became known as Australia in 1901.  After much discussion during the 1890’s, the colonies finally agreed to federate and we became citizens of Australia in 1901.

This image shows how the governance of Australia changed over time

Victoria’s coast, bays and rivers were explored from 1797 by various survey parties and some of the reports were positive regarding future settlement depending on which part of the country they surveyed. In 1803, the Governor of New South Wales sent a party of 300 convicts to settle the area but their commander wasn’t happy with the availability of water so went on to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) and set up the city of Hobart.

More explorers came overland from Sydney looking for good land and water. In 1834, Edward Henty set up an unauthorised sheep run in the area of Western Victoria bringing sheep over from Tasmania.  In 1835, John Batman, a farmer and business man set up in what is now Geelong and in Melbourne as did John Fawkner. 

The citizen set up a Separation Association from 1840 but it was 10 years before the colony became self governing and was called Victoria.[i]

The Port Philip District (now Melbourne) was founded on the Yarra River. All Australia’s capitals were founded on rivers -obviously due to the need for a water supply. In 1850, the colony became independent of New South Wales and was named Victoria and you can easily guess who the town was named after.

When Margaret MAGEE LENNON arrived in 1870, the population of Melbourne was estimated to be 200,000 (the number depends on the researcher’s definition of the boundaries of Melbourne and it’s suburbs).  In 1851, when it became the colony of Victoria, it was estimated to be only 23,000; so you can see the huge growth that had taken place during the Gold Rush.

Melbourne has been Australia’s 2nd biggest city after Sydney but in March this year, the statisticians found there was only a 200,000 difference in population between those capitals.

Melbourne and Victoria grew rapidly in the 1850’s as the news of the gold rush spread around the world. People came from everywhere to try their luck.  As a result of the money that flowed thru the state because of the gold rush, Melbourne has some lovely Victorian buildings.

1900 Postcard of the Melbourne Exhibition Hall built in 1880
1890 Victorian Parliament House which was built in 1855 and still in use today
Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
Melbourne Public Library now known as the State Library of Victoria built 1879 – 1873 and still use today. It has the most beautiful domed reading room called the La Trobe Reading Room.

M is also for MERRON

My MERRON family is yet another brickwall. I’m surrounded by brickwalls with my LENNON and MAGEE families! 

My great great grandfather, William (1825-1907) LENNON’s second sister, Rose married John MERRON in 1870 at St Patrick’s Catholic church in the parish of Ballyphilip in Portaferry.

They had 4 children:-

Margaret (1871-     )

Mary Jane (1873-     ) when family was on townland Ballymarter

William (1875-    )

Rose (1878-      )

They were all baptised in the church in which their parents married.

The family is still living together in the 1901 Irish census on the townland of Ballymartin[i].  None of the children are married at this time.

NB According to Place Names of Northern Ireland[ii] the townland of Ballymarter and Ballymartin are names for the same townland so the MERRON’s were in the same place/farm from at least 1873 to 1901. But what happened then? If you are a descendant, please consider putting me out of my misery and email me at geniejen3@gmail.com.

X 1901 Irish Census http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1901/Down/Quintin/Ballymartin/1232431/

[ii] Hughes, AJ and Hannan, RJ (1992)  Place names of Northern Ireland, Volume Two, County Down 11, The Ards, Queen’s University of Belfast, Dept of Celtic,

[i] Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Melbourne

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L is for LENNON and it’s various spellings

There are many spelling of most surnames in official records from the 1700 and 1800’s as many people didn’t know how to read and write.  So their names were spelled as the official hearing the words, thought the surname should be spelt.  Add into that, the accent of the first person being interpreted by the official and you can’t be surprised that there were variations in spelling.

For some reason, my LENNON family seems to have had less trouble with the spelling of their name that some of my other family lines although I have commonly come across LANNON, LENON and LEMON.

Somewhere (but I can’t find the reference today, LENNON could also be spelt as:-









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K is for Killydressy LENNON’s

I wrote in C is for Catholic Missal the following:-

Interestingly, the missal records the births and deaths of the children and grandchildren of my great great great grandparents, William (1788-1867) LENNON and Rose (1798-1888) MASON but then goes on in later years to also record the deaths of the Killydressy LENNON’s in Ireland and in Queensland.  Back in 2015, when we were in Portaferry, no one had been able to link the families of those 2 townlands and yet they are both represented in the missal.

I also wrote in C is for Craigaroddan that

There were LENNON’s living on a number of other townlands in the same parish and adjacent parishes. The LENNON families I’ve found were on Corrock(Corrig), Ballynickle (Ballynichol,) Killydressy, Ballywierd, Ballyquintin, Bankmore, Ballyrusley and Derry (spelling as found on documents). As yet, I haven’t been able to link them together and it would have helped if they hadn’t all used the same group of forenames.

I know you can’t read it but this family tree represents all the LENNON’s I’ve found in Portaferry but sadly, I haven’t been able to link them together.

I did some research on the Killydressy LENNON’s in order to see why the missal recorded both families but so far, I haven’t made a connection.  I went a bit further when I discovered some of them also came out to Australia and had settled in the tropics in northern Queensland.

These 2 pages represent the deaths of the Killydressy LENNON as recorded in my ggg grandfather, William’s Catholic Missal. Note several of the events occurred in Aust yet none are recorded of my family in Aust or Hugh’s family in NZ. You can tell who were the better letter writers. I note that the first entries tell us that “William came home June 1913” and then “William went away October 23 1913”. I wonder who recorded that news? At this stage i assume that William is the son of James and Letitia who lived in Cairns.

Finding a relationship between the 2 families won’t be easy as the Catholic Parish Registers in Portaferry didn’t start till 1843 and there is a paucity of the records prior to that.  Maybe, a cousin may discover they have some records from before that period and let me know; I live in hope! Could d there be another family bible or missal somewhere?

Of course, DNA tests may help in the future.  I have tested with 2 companies and so far, have only found one match  who was also descended from the Craigaroddan LENNON’s but none with links to the Killydressy LENNON’s.  My match is a descendant of Hugh (1830-1910) who went to NZ; see N is for New Zealand.

Map of Australia showing the state of Queensland and the towns of Cairns and Charters Towers near Townsville

James LENNON and Letitia Edwards of the townland of Killydressy had 6 sons and a daughter. I was surprised to find that 3 of their sons emigrated to Queensland in the 1880’s and in 1892.  They were William, Patrick and Thomas.  William’s death certificate indicates he must have arrived around 1885 when he was 27 years.  Patrick must have come with William or at a similar time but sadly, he was killed in Charters Towers in 1892 when the charge he was setting up in the Day Dawn mine exploded.

1892 Death Certificate of Patrick LENNON in Charters Towers (Qld)

Thomas came out in 1892 according to passenger lists and also lived in Cairns as did William.

As a mother, I can imagine how hard it must have been for their parents to say goodbye to their 3 sons and not long after, eventually get the news that Patrick had died so tragically. My research indicates that the other 2 brothers settled in Cairns on the coast of northern Queensland.

When we were in Portaferry in 2015, we met the well known local historian, Gerard LENNON and a descendant of the Killydressy LENNON’s who had some months before, welcomed descendants of those men from Queensland.  I hope we can make contact one day and see what we can work out about our joint history.

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J is for my GG grandfather, William’s jobs

Today’s post is about the jobs my great great grandfather, William (1825-1907) LENNON had in his lifetime. I’m taking the information mainly from BDM certificates of his family. In some cases, he wasn’t the informant so how accurate the description is depends on how well the rest of the family knew their father.

1862Had a Spirit LicencePortaferryDownpatrick Recorder, 27 Sept 1862
1864FarmerCraigaroddanGriffith’s Valuation
1866Labourer Dau, Mary’s Birth certificate
1872CarterDoncaster, MelbourneSon, Hugh’s Birth certificate
1874Farmer & CarterDoncaster, MelbourneSon, John’s Death certificate
1874CarterDoncaster, MelbourneDau, Agnes’ Birth certificate
1875LabourerSandhurst, Bendigo, Vic.Dau, Agnes’s Death certificate
1883LabourerMelbourneDau, Susan’s Death certificate
1883LabourerHotham (Nth Melbourne)Dau, Mary’s Death certificate
1887FiremanHotham (Nth Melbourne)Dau, Rose’s Death certificate
1923StokerMelbourneSon, Thomas’ Death certificate
1935Gas Stoker in Gas worksMelbourneDau, Margaret’s Death certificate
1950Gas Works employeeMelbourneDau, Agnes’ Death certificate

Gosh, collecting the information for this table was a depressing exercise. William’s wife, Margaret died in 1880 after having delivered 10 children, 2 of whom they had buried before her death. The youngest was only 4 years old when Margaret died and in the next 7 years, William would bury another 3 grown unmarried daughters who were working as dressmakers and tailoresses – perhaps from home and looking after the younger children. How did William keep going? And who looked after the youngest children while he worked once his 3 daughter’s died?

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I is for India

My great great grandfather, William (1825-1907) LENNON who migrated to Melbourne in Australia was one of 10 children to William (1788-1867) LENNON and Rose (1798-1888) MASON.

They had 7 sons and 3 daughters and you can see from the following list that many of them seemed to be adventurous and great travellers.

  1. Patrick (1823-    ) LENNON was born on 15 Oct 1823.
  • William* (1825-1907) LENNON was born on 19 Feb 1825.  William and Margaret* (1837-1880) MAGEE MAGEE were married on 20 Jun 1852 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip, Portaferry. They both died in Melbourne.
  • Mary (1827-     ) LENNON was born on 24 Feb 1827.  Mary and James FITZSIMONS were married in 1854 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip. This family of nine disappeared from records after 1882.  Where did they move to?
  • John (1829-    ) LENNON was born on 9 Feb 1829. From 1845 or 1854, he worked as a Seaman.
  • Hugh (1830-1910) LENNON was born on 19 Dec 1830 at Craigaroddan.  Hugh and Elizabeth (1838-1917) EDWARDS were married on 4 Feb 1856 at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Ballyphillip. Hugh was a sailor with the Merchant Navy from a young age. They both died in New Zealand.
  • James (1833-1860) LENNON was born on 28 Jan 1833. He died of Dysentery on 20 Apr 1859/1860 at the age of 27 in Bombay, India. He served in the military in the 95th Regiment of Foot in India.
  • Thomas (1834-1868) LENNON was born on 7 Nov 1834. He was drowned on 18 Jun 1868 at the age of 33 in Calcutta, India while working as a carpenter on board the Genie.
  • Rose (1837- ) LENNON was born on 27 Nov 1837 in Craigaroddan.  Rose and John (1841- ) MERRON were married on 29 Sep 1870 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip.  They and their 4 children last appeared in the 1901 Irish census in Ballymartin, Portaferry.
  1. Margaret (1841-1901) LENNON was born in Jan 1840. In 1901, she worked as a Seamstress on Craigaroddan. Margaret died of Heart disease on 30 May 1901 at the age of 61 in Portaferry and is buried in the family grave in Ballytrustan graveyard.
  • Henry (1844-1933) LENNON was born on 2 Mar 1844. He was christened on 4 Mar 1844 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip, Portaferry, Co. Down, Ireland. Henry worked as a Farmer on Craigaroddan, Portaferry, Co Down, Northern Ireland. He died of Influenza and Pneumonia on 8 Mar 1933 at the age of 89 in Craigaroddan.   Henry and Mary Ann (1854-1933) FALLOONA were married on 3 Jun 1873 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip. John MERRON & Cecilia FALLOONA witnessed the marriage.  Mary Ann was the daughter of Patrick FALLOONA and Ellen FALLOONA. She was christened on 15 Apr 1854 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip and lived in Derry townland.. She died of Influenza, Pneumonia on 14 Mar 1933 at the age of 79 in Craigaroddan, Co Down, Northern Ireland.

(Please excuse the messy numbering here – WordPress isn’t very helpful with numbering lists even though I brought it over from Word correctly set out nor is it helpful with justifying both sides of text)

It must have been a huge sorrow for William and Rose to lose 2 sons in India in just eight years; so far, I haven’t been able to find out anything about where they were buried or if they left families behind in Portaferry.

William and Rose’s sixth child, James enlisted in the 95th Regiment of Foot and died of Dysentery in Bombay in 1858.  This was the time of the First War of Independence or as more commonly known in Britain as the Indian Rebellion (Wikipedia states “Its name is contested, and it is variously described as the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and the First War of Independence.[i]  I can’t find any records of his service yet, so I don’t know if he was fighting in that war. The BBC has a great article too [ii]

1859 Death of James LENNON in Bombay (now known as Mumbai). NB there is a discrepancy here between the official record here and the entry in the Catholic Missal below.
This page in the family’s Catholic Missal records the death of my ggg grandfather and the deaths of 2 of his sons with Rose MASON

Some years later in 1868, their seventh child, Thomas was serving on the Genie as the carpenter and is listed in the Register of Deceased Seamen as having drowned in Calcutta. 

1868 Drowning death of Thomas LENNON in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata)

Brother Hugh sailed the world for some years but in the 1883, his wife and 3 children sailed to NZ (see N is for New Zealand).  I wonder how long it took for the news of the deaths to get back to their parents and siblings in Craigaroddan?

One more brother, John (1829-     ) entered the Merchant Navy alongside Hugh and Thomas.  I don’t know where John ended up yet – give me a break, how many John LENNON’s must there be in the world apart from the famous Beatle? 

The frustrating thing in researching Irish ancestors is that once they left Ireland, their birthplace was rarely recorded as the actual town/village in which they were born but the general term “Irish” or “Ireland” was given.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rebellion_of_1857

[ii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/indian_rebellion_01.shtml

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H is for Hospital – Melbourne Lying In Hosptial

My great great grandmother, Margaret MAGEE LENNON travelled to Melbourne with her 6 children in 1870 and she went on to add to the family in Victoria. On the 22nd Oct. 1871, she had her 7th child, John Alexander. 

I assume that she had the first six children at home or on Craigaroddan in Portaferry but this time she is recorded in the Admissions Book of Melbourne Lying In Hospital which was “a benevolent institution dependent on donations and subscriptions from the successful and comfortably-off sector of society”.[i]   John Alexander only lived for 3 years as he died of Croup while they were living on Bulleen Road in the Borough of Kew (Melbourne) and his death certificate says he was buried at AirHill Cemetery at St John’s Catholic church in Mitcham and my research indicates that this cemetery was built over when the current St John’s church was built.

1871 Details of Margaret’s admission into the Melbourne Lying in Hospital and the rapid birth of John
In the last column, it was noted that she had been transferred to Yarra Bend Asylum

If I’m reading the page correctly, Margaret was admitted on the 20th Oct and delivered John in half an hour on the 22nd. Oh dear, poor woman.  Things went further wrong, when she was diagnosed with mania (Puerperal Mania) and 6 days later sent to the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum, oh dear again (there will be a specific post about Margaret and her admissions to Yarra Bend in Y is for Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum).  There is no mention of what happened to John in the admission books of either institution.

1874 Death of John Alexander LENNON in Melbourne

This hospital was established in 1856 and was known as the Melbourne Lying Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases of Women and Children and was the forerunner of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne today. There is an excellent website with lots of information about this hospital and the timeline is particularly interesting.

After writing the last sentence, I went back to check for the details of the website I had used to include in this post but I couldn’t find the digitised Admission Registers that I found online only a few years ago. I eventually found an index prepared by volunteers with no association with the hospital; this contained a statement that the online registers have been taken down (no reason given) and are now in the possession of the Public Record Office of Victoria (my second favourite archives).

So now, once you’ve located your ancestor in the Index to Royal Women’s Hospital (formerly Melbourne Lying-In Hospital, Midwifery Book No. 1 (1856-Mar.1879) you will then have to go to PROV to consult the actual books.

[i] www.thewomens.org.au/about/our-history

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G is for Graveyards and Griffith’s Valuation

I know of 3 Catholic graveyards/cemeteries around Portaferry (if there are more, do let me know); there is a beautiful one beside St Patrick’s Catholic church in the parish of Ballyphilip which we visited in 2015. It has the most amazing view from it’s high position overlooking Strangford Lough – the weather was pleasant when we were there but I imagine it would be very cold in winter.

My cousin told me of a lovely tradition they have at St Patrick’s where on Cemetery Sunday, people stand by the graves of their ancestors while the priest leads them in prayer.  What a great way to recognise your family history.

1975 Description of St Patrick’s, Ballyphilip graveyard (Gravestone Inscription Vol 13)

The earliest graves of our Craigaroddan LENNON ancestors are to be found (not easily I gather) in the neglected Ballytrustan graveyard. Luckily, in 1975, the Ulster-Scot Historical Foundation of Belfast published a series of Gravestone Inscriptions and Volume 13[i] which I bought several years ago second hand covers half of the Barony of Ards which includes the area around Portaferry.  The gate photographed at the top of my blog is the gate of the Ballytrustan graveyard looking over the farm outside.

The following transcription from Gravestone Inscriptions Vol 13, Co Down is full of genealogical data – I was so thrilled to find this and later receive a picture of the actual stone from my cousin.

Three LENNON graves in Ballytrustan graveyard. The seven listed in the first entry are my ancestors. I don’t know if the other 2 are related to me, yet. One day perhaps I will find out.
1975 Description of Ballytrustan(Gravestone Inscription Vol 13)

Another graveyard which I didn’t visit in 2015 but saw mentioned on one of Portaferry’s Fb pages recently is at Ballygalget which is very close to the town of Portaferry.

Ballygalget parish church and graveyard (Google Maps 2021)

[i] Gravestone Inscriptions, Vol. 13, Barony of Ards (1975) Comp. RSJ Clarke, Ulster-Scot Historical Foundation


Griffith’s Valuation is the nearest thing Ireland has to a census of the mid to late 1800’s.  Mr Griffith was instructed to collect information on every farm, either tenanted or owned and property in cities and towns to enable the government to calculate the Poor Rate.  This was done between 1848 and 1864.  The organisation of such a survey of the whole of Ireland in that time period is mind boggling as it is a list of every parish and every townland within each parish in Ireland.

The survey of the area around Portaferry was published in 1864 and lists every tenant and landowner, how much of their land was arable and how much was taken up with buildings  and from that information, the Poor Rate was calculated.  While it doesn’t contain any info about families, it at least gives you the name of the head of the family at that time, so is very useful for finding exactly where your family was farming.

The survey is available FREE at Ask About Ireland

Under V is for Valuation Revision Books, I will show you how you can trace the ownership of your family’s land over 6 decades.

A few years ago, I constructed the following rough map of the townland of Craigaroddan in 1864 from the official Griffith’s map, showing the different parcels of land and who was working that land at that time.

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F is also for FITZSIMONS

This post is about one of my brickwalls so any help you can offer will be gratefully received.

My great great grandfather, William (1825-1907) LENNON had 3 sisters and 2 of them are brickwalls as are 2 of his brothers. Where did they go? This post is about his sister, Mary who married in Portaferry and had 7 children there with her husband, James FITZSIMONS and then they just disappear. This is what I’ve found out so far.

In common with many of the Co Down townlands, there are alternate spellings of Tullycarnan such as Tullycharmon, Tullyharmon. I have used the one written by the priest at the time of the marriage or baptism.

I. Mary (1827-     ) LENNON was born on 24 Feb 1827 to William LENNON and Rose MASON.[1] She married James FITZSIMONS in 1854 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphilip, Portaferry.[2] Robert MASON (probably from Craigaroddan), and Anne LENNON (don’t know where she fits in yet) witnessed the marriage.[3]

1854 Jan 6th Marriage of Mary LENNON and James FITZSIMONS in St Patrick’s Catholic Church in parish of Ballyphilip in Portaferry

So far, I have a very large brickwall with this family as I have not been able to trace them after the births of their children. I can’t find any death records I can use as proof of either of the parents’ demise. Nor can I find marriages or death records for the children and I can’t find the family in the 1901 or 1911 Irish census. So I would greatly appreciate any help readers can give me.

The following list will give you an idea of the research I have done in my quest to find this LENNON/FITZSIMONS family (and to kill them off as we genealogists like to do!).

In 1877, there is a death record for a 50yr old Mary FITZSIMONS in the Newtownards Registration District which in some years included the area around Portaferry but there is no exact location on irishgenealogy.ie. Again, I can’t find same record on NIDirect.

In 1901 records, I found a death certificate for the death of a Mary FITZSIMONS on Tullycarnan near Ardglass. Would you believe, there are 2 Tullycarnan’s – one near Portaferry where the children were born and one over the Strangford Lough and south of Strangford. So I can’t yet prove this is the right death.

Some of the things I’ve found out about James’ life include:-

In 1869, James was working as a farmer in Tullycharmon, Portaferry[4] and signed his daughter, Margaret’s birth certificate with an X.

In 1864, a James FITZSIMONS leased 17 acres on Tullycarnon in the parish of Ballyphilip and rented out a couple of houses on the land and presumably lived in the 3rd house on the land. As this is given as the birthplace of most of the children in the parish register, I am convinced that this is the man who married Mary (1827-     ) LENNON.

1882 – The land James rented from Andrew NUGENT on Tullycarnon, Portaferry was transferred to John CAUGHEY according to the Valuation Revision books.  Interesting, that it didn’t go to his sons or perhaps one of his daughter’s married a Caughey. I found a marriage record for an Eliza FITZSIMONS to a John CAUGHEY IN Portaferry in 1859.  But James’ Eliza wasn’t born till 1873 so perhaps a sister of his? However, after another extensive search I cannot yet find the family anywhere in the world – nor their deaths anywhere. (July 2018)

I can’t find a death for James in Co. Down in that period unless he was born in 1800 which seems unlikely when his last child wasn’t born till 1873.  So did the family emigrate or did they move over to Tullycarnan nr Ardglass? There is a James FITZSIMONS and family on the other Tullycarnan but it seems a stretch to think that they are the same family.

Mary and James had 7 children born either on the townlands, Tullycarnon or Tievishilly

  • William (1854-    ) FITZSIMONS was born about 1854 on Tullyharmon, Portaferry [1] and he was christened on 9 Dec 1854 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip.[2] His baptismal sponsors were ames and Rose LENNON.  I don’t have any proof but they could be 2 of Mary’s younger siblings.  Query: Did William marry a Miss WRIGHT and died and was buried in 1918 in Belfast? Found his gravestone on Billion Graves and saw his death certificate on irishgenealogy.ie but no indication if this William came from Portaferry.
1854 Dec 9th Baptism of first son of Mary LENNON and James FITZSIMONS at St Patrick’s Catholic church in parish of Ballyphilip in Portaferry
  • Rose (1857- ) FITZSIMONS was born about 1857 on Tieveshilly, Portaferry[3] and she was christened on 20 Jan 1857 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphilip, Portaferry.[4] [5] On IrishGenealogy.ie, I checked out 4 marriages for Rose and as they supplied the images, I was able to check both the father’s name and her location and none of them were a match.  Years checked were 1881, 1898, 1902, 1905.
1857 Baptism of first daughter, Rose of Mary LENNON and James FITZSIMONS at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in parish of Ballyphilip in Portaferry

Marianne (1861- ) FITZSIMONS was born about 1861 on Tullyharmon, Portaferry and she was christened on 17 May 1861 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphilip, Portaferry[6]. I found a marriage for a James McCONN and a Mary Anne FITZSIMONS in 1880 in District of Clough where both parties were living at Ballykinler. This certificate also stated that her father was James and deceased but I don’t know if that is true. So still no convincing evidence that this is the right family for Marianne.

  • Thomas (1863- ) FITZSIMONS was born about 1863 on Tullyharmon, Portaferry and he was christened on 20 Jul 1863 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphilip, Portaferry.[7] On IrishGenealogy.ie, I checked out 3 marriages for Thomas and as they supplied the images, I was able to check both the father’s name and his location and none of them were a match.  Years checked were 1895, 1903, 1915.
  • James (1866- ) FITZSIMONS was born on 17 May 1866 on Tullyharmon [8] and he was christened on 22 May 1866 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphilip, Portaferry.[9] [10] On IrishGenealogy.ie, I checked out 11 marriages for James and as they supplied the images, I was able to check both the father’s name and his location and none of them were a match.  Years checked were 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1893, 1894, 1896, 1897, 1906, 1904 and 1903.

1901 census – I’ve found a James FITZSIMONS (farmer) age 30 living with his wife, Rose and 2 young children living on the townland of Tullycarnon in the parish of Ardglass.  This parish is over the Lough and south of Strangford.  So, not the same Tullycarnan he was born on!! Is it the same family? Somehow, I doubt it.

In 1901, I found the death of a James FITZSIMONS in New York and the parents’ names were correct. So, very excitedly, I then checked the 1900 US Census and found him and his young family but his birthdate was given as Jan 1867 and our James was baptised in May 1866 but of course, a mistake may have been made with this date. (FMP) I checked NIDirect and found a birth registration for a James born to a John and Mary FITZSIMONS on 18th Jan 1867 in Belfast but can’t find our James’ birth registration but luckily, I already had the record of his baptism in Portaferry. So I haven’t found a member of our FITZSIMON’S family in the US after all. That was a disappointing result.

In 1917, I found the death of a soldier in WW1 in Flanders, a James FITZSIMONS born in Portaferry (My Heritage) and there is further information in (FMP British Army Service Records 1914-1920).  He was married to Catherine of Ann St. Portaferry and they had 6 children, Jane, James, George, Sarah, Andrew and William – all under 15 yrs.  His father was dead, his mother was Mary and was also in Ann St, he had a brother, Thomas (36) and sisters, Jane, Mary and Georgina. All this was recorded in his service record after his death.  I found him in a family tree on Ancestry which claimed he was born in 1879 and his father was George.  So not one of ours either (July 2018)

  • Margaret (1869-    ) FITZSIMONS was born on 31 Mar 1869 in Tullycharmon[11] and she was christened on 4 Apr 1869 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip, Portaferry.[12] [13] 1869 One of Margaret’s baptismal sponsors was a Rose LENNON who could have been her mother’s sister or her maternal grandmother

Ellen (1873-    ) FITZSIMONS was born on 13 Aug 1873 in Tullycarnan [14] and she was christened on 18 Aug 1873 in St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Ballyphillip, Portaferry.[15]  1873 One of Ellen’s baptismal sponsors was a Margaret LENNON – possibly

[1]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015).

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[4]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[5]. Baptism records –  http://www.rootsireland.ie.

[6]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[7]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[8]. Births & Baptisms – Ireland 1620-1881 ((Family Search – Transcription).

[9]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[10]. Baptism records –  http://www.rootsireland.ie.

[11]. Birth Certificate.

[12]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s,  Northern Ireland (online Nati Library of Ireland 2015).

[13]. Baptism records –  http://www.rootsireland.ie.

[14]. Births & Baptisms – Ireland 1620-1881 ((Family Search – Transcription).

[15]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s,  Northern Ireland (online Nati Library of Ireland 2015).

[1]. Email – Cousin LENNON 23 July 2015.

[2]. Marriage register – St Patricks, Portaferry (FMP).

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Birth Certificate – Daughter.

[5]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015).

[6]. Ibid.

[7]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[8]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[9]. Baptism records –  http://www.rootsireland.ie.

[10]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[11]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[12]. Births & Baptisms – Ireland 1620-1881 ((Family Search – Transcription).

[13]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s, Catholic church (online National Library of Ireland 2015)

[14]. Baptism records –  http://www.rootsireland.ie.

[15]. Birth Certificate.

[16]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s,  Northern Ireland (online Nati Library of Ireland 2015).

[17]. Baptism records –  http://www.rootsireland.ie.

[18]. Births & Baptisms – Ireland 1620-1881 ((Family Search – Transcription).

[19]. Baptism Register – Ballyphilip parish, Portaferry, St Patrick’s,  Northern Ireland (online Nati Library of Ireland 2015).

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F is for Freeholders’ Registers and Poll Books

The Freeholders’ Registers and Poll Books will be very useful to you if you are lucky enough to find your ancestor’s name in there as I did for 1821. These are a very rare record of some of the men who lived in Ireland from the 1700’s. They have been digitised by PRONI and are available online for FREE. It seems to me that the Irish are very generous with providing online access to many records when most other countries make you pay for access (Australia’s digitised newspapers at the National Library of Australia (TROVE) is another valuable exemption). I imagine it’s very good for overseas tourism too.

“Freeholders were men who either owned their land outright or who held it in a lease for the duration of their life, or the lives of other people named in the lease. The freeholders’ records application includes pre-1840 freeholders’ registers and poll books”.[i]

Between 1727 and 1793 only Protestants were allowed to vote in England and Ireland providing they met the financial requirements – this meant that Catholics, Quakers and Presbyterian’s were excluded. In 1793, the law changed so that both Catholic and Protestants could vote but they had to meet the rules of franchise which was having a lease on land or owning land valued at over 40 shillings. That improvement ended in 1829 when the franchise level was increased from 40 shillings to £10, which of course, cut out many of the smaller farmers. Another disincentive till 1872, was that the voter had to stand and declare who they were voting for, which of course, favoured the landowners as the tenant farmer couldn’t afford to upset their landlord and lose their precious tenancy.

When tenant farmers, signed a lease to farm a section on a townland, they either signed for a set period of time (often only a year) or they signed for the length of 1 – 3 people’s lives.

1821 List of Freeholder’s from Barony of Ards, Co. Down including all the LENNON men farming on townlands around Portaferry. The blue arrow shows my gggg grandfather, William LENNON

This is an image of the Free holders’ Register Roll for townlands around Portaferry in 1821 and among the columns of this document, there is one entitled “LIVES”. Some tenants used the name of their own landlord e.g. Dorothy WARING MAXWELL, some used a royal personage and most used family members. Apparently, the use of royaltly was because it was easy to prove whether or not they had died. Whereas, using family names could make it difficult to ascertain if they were dead or alive if they had emigrated.

I can see that William LENNON of Craigaroddan signed his lease for the lives of William, James and Henry LENNON, presumably his sons. I assume this William is my 4 x great grandfather who lived till 1833. On the other hand, it could by my 3 x great grandfather, also William who was to marry Rose MASON the following year, but my bet is on the older of the two as I imagine the land wouldn’t have gone to my 3 x great grandfather till his father died in 1833.

Some of the more unusual names were Prince Adolph Frederick, Duke of Sussex, Princess Charlotte of Wales and the Duke of Clarence.

More information on Irish Land Records can be found at FamilySearch following a search for “Irish Land Records”.

[i] PRONI’s Guide to the Freeholders records https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/about-freeholders-records

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E is for Emigration to Melbourne

I’ve found a couple of advertisements for Free and Assisted Passages from Ireland to Melbourne which Margaret and William may have seen in the local newspapers; perhaps this type of advertisement have influenced their decision to emigrate to Australia.

When I was looking on TROVE for information on Assisted Passages for migration to Melbourne, I found quite a few articles discussing whether or not it was a good idea and helpful for the growth of Melbourne and also address the imbalance of the sexes. The following editorial was in a country newspaper and was warning about the bad effects of such a migration scheme.

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D is for Derry (townland) and also for DENVIR

Derry is a townland not far from Craigaroddan and I’m fairly sure it’s where my great great grandmother, Margaret MAGEE lived till her marriage in 1852 to William LENNON.

The blue circle marks the townland of Derry near Portaferry

I believe she was the daughter of James (1802-1876) MAGEE and grand daughter of John MAGEE[i] for the following reasons:-

  • I know from her Victorian Death certificate in 1880 that her father was James MAGEE and in fact, she was the informant on his Death certificate a few years before she died herself.
  • John MAGEE as noted above was listed on the Freeholder’s Roll on the townland of Derry in 1813.
  • The other clues are that on the St Patrick’s, Ballyphilip Marriage register for Margaret’s marriage in 1852 to William LENNON, the place of abode was given as Derry but the priest only ever included 1 place of abode for any couple so that’s not 100% proof. But it’s a strong possibility as I believe that William was from Craigroddan.
  • Then on the Griffith’s Valuation (1864) for Derry, there is a James MAGEE leasing 22 acres from Andrew Nugent.  In 1863, James left for Melbourne with his daughter, Susan (1840-1912) and son, Patrick (1842-1863) but the lease for the land wasn’t transferred to a Mr McCausland till 1872.  Perhaps another son stayed behind, worked the land and died or emigrated too?
  • When my great great grandfather, James MAGEE died in Melbourne in 1876, Margaret and her sister Susan were the only children listed as living with brothers, John, John and (not readable) were listed as deceased.
1876 Death certificate of my great great great grandfather, James (1802-1876) MAGEE in Melbourne, Victoria

If you’ve never to buy a Victorian death certificate (in Australia, BDM records are registered in the state the event happened and therefore you must purchase certificates from the relevant state), you are really missing out.  They have the most amazing amount of genealogical data on them.

I learnt from James’ death certificate that his mother was Margaret DANVER (probably DENVIR) and sadly, that is all I know at this point.  I can’t think of any record in existence that would help so I’d love to hear from descendants of DENVIR’s who lived in Portaferry.

[i] John was registered on the townland of Derry as a Freeholder ie he could vote (See F is for Freeholder’s Roll)

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C is also for Catholic Missal

We don’t have a family bible that I know about but we do have a Catholic Missal in the possession of my cousin in Portaferry.  A Catholic Missal contains all the reading for masses of the church year and prayers used at various other services during the year. I imagine it must have been an expensive gift as they weren’t cheap in the 20th century.

1851 The gift of Patrick LENNON to his affectionate father, William LENNON, May 19th (J Gay)

According to the inscription, it was a gift in 1851 from my great grandfather, William (1825-1909?)’s older brother, Patrick (1823-    ) to their father, William (1788-1867).  I cannot yet locate where Patrick ended up – he didn’t inherit the lease to the land when his father died in 1867, so he was either dead or had emigrated to shores unknown. 

The Catholic parish registers which didn’t start in Ballyphilip till 1843 don’t record any marriages for him or the births of any of his children.  The Catholic registers generally only recorded Baptisms and Marriages as both of those are sacraments in the Catholic church which burials aren’t. 

However, in the early years the priest of St Patrick’s recorded burials including that of “Funeral of Pat LENNON’s wife, Derry” in Jan 1844. Sadly, that is hardly conclusive that it is our Patrick given how many LENNON families there were in Portaferry and the townlands around.

1843 St Patrick’s Parish register, Ballyphilip, Portaferrry (J. Gay)

I do wonder if the missal was a parting gift before Patrick left for somewhere else, perhaps after the death of his wife.  Are there any descendants of Patrick out there, I would love to know his story.

Interestingly, the missal records the births and deaths of the children of my great great great grandparents, William (1788-1867) LENNON and Rose (1798-1888) MASON but then goes on in later years to record the deaths of the Craigaroddan ones as well as the Killydressy LENNON’s. At the time, when we were in Portaferry in 2015, no one had been able to link the families of those 2 townlands and yet they are both represented in the missal. What a mystery.

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C is for Craigaroddan

Ireland’s land was divided for administrative purposes into Provinces, Counties, Baronies, Parishes and Townlands.  If your ancestors lived on farm land as many of mine did, you really need to find the Townland name to improve your search results.

My LENNON ancestors are to be found in the records as living on Craigaroddan townland in 1796[i] and family still have some of that land today. 

Map of the townlands around the town of Portaferry showing Craigaroddan townland

Craigaroddan is a townland in the parish of Ballyphilip near the town of Portaferry which is on the Ards Peninsula, only 50 mins by car south of Belfast. 

One of my kind LENNON cousins took us to one of the 2 houses and land on Craigaroddan that my ggg grandfather and my gg grandfather, both William’s leased in 1864. It’s in a sad state now but still gives an indication of how the family lived on Craigaroddan.

The Griffith’s Valuation[ii] of 1864 surveyed every land and lease holder in each townland of Ireland for the purposes of collecting taxes and I have constructed a map to show who lived where on Craigaroddan at that time. See G is for Griffith’s Valuation post.

There are numerous spellings of any townland; some of the Craigaroddan ones are Creggrodan, Criggroddan, Craigiridan, Craigarodden, Crainngroden, Carigaroddin.[iii]

From documents I have found there are other spellings such as Craggyraden, Craigaradden, Craigaroddin, Craigyrodden.  All these spellings make for interesting challenges when researching.  Today it is officially spelt “Craigaroddan”.

Craigaroddan Road in 2015

There were LENNON’s living on a number of other townlands in the same parish and adjacent parishes. The LENNON families I’ve found were on Corrock(Corrig), Ballynickle (Ballynichol,) Killydressy, Ballywierd, Ballyquintin, Bankmore, Ballyrusley and Derry (spelling as found on documents). As yet, I haven’t been able to link them together and it would have helped if they hadn’t all used the same group of forenames.

[i] Catholic Qualification Rolls

[ii] Griffith’s Valuation

[iii] Hughes, AJ & Hannan, RJ. (1992); Place names of Northern Ireland, Vol.2 County Down 11, The Ards. The Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast, p.46

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B is for Ballyphilip Parish

All of Ireland is divided into parishes both Catholic (known as Catholic parishes) and Church of Ireland (known as Civil parishes).  Around Portaferry, where my LENNNON, MAGEE and MASON ancestors were born, the Catholic and the Church of Ireland (Civil) parish was called Ballyphilip.

The Catholic church for Ballyphilip is called St Patrick’s with an adjoining graveyard and a wonderful view over Strangford Lough.

St Patrick’s Catholic church in Portaferry in Co. Down (J. Gay)

There were further Catholic parishes within a few miles of Ballyphilip and they were Witter, Ballytrustan, Ballygalget and Castleboy.  Some parishes have more than one church, so if you are researching in the area, you might find all births and marriages in one register or there might be individual registers for each church.

All of the parish registers are now available online at Family Search (free), FindMyPast (subscription needed) and National Library of Ireland (free)

I was only able to confirm where in Ireland my LENNON’s and MAGEE’s were born when in the 2010, one Irish researcher from the Yahoo Co. Down email group kindly collected our requests from around the world and every Tues drove to Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast and used her knowledge of the microfilmed registers (which were then only available in the PRONI archives) and the local area. In the intervening years since then, the National Library of Ireland (NLI) which had scanned the registers several years ago onto microfilm; have since about 2016 scanned the microfilms and put them up on their site gratis and given them to Family Search also at no cost. 

1854 William LENNON and Margaret MAGEE’s Marriage recorded in St Patrick’s

This is a tremendous boost to Irish research as we don’t have the huge expense of having to travel vast distances to PRONI (if you live on the other side of the world). I would like to say here that on my one visit to PRONI in 2015, the archivists were extra helpful and welcoming.  Each researcher was given a one on one interview before starting their research to help them with their research plan; it was outstanding service. I’ve not experienced that level of service in any other archive.

List of Church records for the parish of Ballyphilip (Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of Ireland) from PRONI”s Guide to Church Records

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A is for Alumbagh

My great great grandmother, Margaret MAGEE LENNON sailed to Australia with her 6 children, William, Margaret, Thomas, Susan, Rose and Mary in 1870.  The passenger list notes that her “Husband was in the colony”[i] Thomas, who was 8 years old, was to become my great grandfather. The family travelled on the Alumbagh which left Plymouth on 30th July 1870 and docked in Melbourne on Oct 30th 1870.  The Alumbagh was carrying 412 immigrants and only 1 cabin passenger.  Also, Margaret was not just joining her husband but also her father, James (1802-1876) MAGEE and her sister, Susan (1833-1912) who had arrived in Melbourne in 1863 on the Bates Family. Their brother, Patrick (1842-1863) was also on that boat but tragically, he drowned in the Avoca River, NE of Melbourne while working as a shepherd only a few months after their arrival.

Passenger List of the BATES FAMILY with the MCGEE’s on board
Margaret MAGEE LENNON and 5 of her children
William LENNON at 12 years was regarded as a single man

There were a number of reports of the Alumbagh’s arrival in the Melbourne newspapers.


Alumbagh, ship, 1,137 tons, John G. Lowe, from London via Plymouth 1st August, with 412 Government immigrants, W. H. Pearse, M.D., surgeon superintendent. Holmes, White, and Co., agents. (The Argus, Mon 31 Oct 1870)

Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Tuesday 8 November 1870, page 4 TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1870.

The hiring of the Government immigrants who arrived here per ship Alumbagh, took place yesterday, at the Immigration depot. The six cooks were hired at about £30 a year; the 11 general servants got from £20 to £26 per annum; the nursemaids from £15 a year to 7s. per week, and the eight needlewomen and housemaids the same. Four farm girls remained unhired.

Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Wednesday 2 November 1870, page 4  WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 1870.

Mr. Lesley A. Moody, immigration agent, and Mr. D. W. Gossett, senior immigration officer, went on board the ship Alumbagh yesterday, and conducted the usual official inspection of ship and passengers, The vessel was afterwards towed to the Breakwater, Williamstown, and the single women were landed, but there being scarcely sufficient depth of water for her, she was towed out to the bay again, The immigrants who were landed were taken up to Melbourne by rail.

I am greatly in awe of my great great grandmother for travelling to Australia in that era with 6 children under 12 years. The Alumbagh left Plymouth on 30th July 1870 for an estimated journey of 140 days but it was much quicker than that being only 90 days.  Leaving from Plymouth meant Margaret and the children had taken another ship either from Portaferry, Co. Down or had travelled by ship or road to Belfast to get to Plymouth.

The Alumbagh (State Library of South Australia PRG 1373/9/70)

The men and women of Portaferry at that time were small business owners, farm labourers, house keepers, a few farmers and many seamen so I imagine that travelling to Plymouth wasn’t something Margaret was used to but she would have heard of plenty of the men’s experiences. The only family name on the passenger list was a Peggy MCGEE with 2 children, Henry (10) and Mary A. (9) and but I can’t find them anywhere in Australia or have I only checked Victoria?????????

I checked the Australian State and National Libraries catalogues (Why is it so hard to find the Catalogue button on State Library websites? For heaven’s sake, that’s the main reason you go to the Library sites) for a diary of a passenger on any trip on the Alumbagh in that time but couldn’t find anything.  Further searching resulted in finding a reference to one at the National Library of NZ.  The catalogue entry showed it was in an article published in the Journal of the Auckland Waikato Historical Journal (1985). It was a summary of a diary by the great grandson, William GRAY of the diarist, John GRAY, originally of Belfast.  I emailed to ask if they have a NZ version of our Copies Direct service about the cost of a copy and to my delight, they emailed the article in a couple of days at no cost. 

The Belfast GRAY family, William, his wife and infant son, John travelled to NZ on the Alumbagh 5 years after Margaret travelled to Melbourne but I imagine not much had changed in that time. This time the ship had been hired by the New Zealand Government instead of the Victorian government who had specified the amount of rations, the number of lifeboats, the filling of the position of Surgeon Superintendent and the installation of a distilling apparatus for converting saltwater into fresh (I wasn’t aware this technology was available at that time).  John’s diary tells of paying £2:10 for their mattress and equipment; all up he spent £40 to ready the family for the journey.

“As soon as the passengers boarded the ship, each emigrant was put into a mess of eight or ten persons under a captain”.  This person received the rations for the group and the role was rotated thru the men in the mess.  John “thought the provisions were very good, though often spoilt in the cooking and that they were fortunate that canned goods were available. The tinned carrots and onions did a great deal to help the meal”. John’s great grandson wrote in his article that many passengers, if they could afford it, would bring some jam, pickles or molasses.  They were given fresh bread every morning (so there must have been a bakery on board) and milk made from tinned cream was handed out at 7.30 am every day. John apparently discussed food a lot in his diary, that is hardly surprising as it becomes very important in this kind of situation such as being in hospital or prison. However, he commented that the children didn’t fair so well as there was never enough arrowroot or sago for them.

The married women prepared the meals and the men cleaned up the table and floor and the lavatories – fairly egalitarian/ fair division of work. 

William’s article tells us that there was “an immense amount of washing, cleaning and holystoning to do and that his great grandfather being a carpenter was expected to help the sailors repairing the yardarm or one of the boats damaged in a storm“. I haven’t seen this expectation of work in the diaries I’ve read of people travelling to Melbourne on board the Sultana (check out the post) A Handful of Sultanas).  In fact in 2 of the people whose diaries I’ve read, record how bored they were on the journey.

This voyage certainly had many more deaths than on the Alumbagh in 1870.  During the 1985 voyage; they lost 15 children, mainly from measles and poor food, a few adults.  Several babies were born.

William says “There was not much spare time on the ship, although the passengers were up by 6 a.m.”. There was school for those children of suitable age and some emigrants used the time well by learning to read but Gray’s little boy was too young to attend the school. All the bedding had to be brought on deck twice a week and the emigrants’ quarters were inspected by the Captain and Surgeon.  It certainly sounds like it was mostly a well organised trip.

The male passengers were also required to be rostered for 2 x 4 hours watches overnight (again, I hadn’t heard of this before).  The man on watch had to keep an eye out for fire breaking out, icebergs and attend to anyone taken ill.  Like in most immigration ships in the 19th Century, the steerage passengers were locked down during a bad storm – can’t imagine anything much worse apart from giving birth during the voyage.

NB  The 1985 journal Auckland Waikato Historical Journal is held by the National Library of New Zealand.  The author of the article was Murray GRAY and the diary is believed to be in private hands.

[i] Passenger List for the Alumbagh (PROV)

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Introduction and Welcome

In completing this blogging challenge this month I plan to write up all I’ve gleaned over 30+ years of research into my Co. Down family, the LENNON’s and the MAGEE’s. Mind you because so many Irish records have been made available in the last 6 years or so, a lot of it has come more recently.

Also I was lucky to find cousins still living in Portaferry in 2015 and being able to visit with a few of them has been a tremendous help and they continue to be generous with answering my emails.

Portaferry is in Northern Ireland and very close to Scotland. I haven’t found any direct ancestors who migrated there for work but I’ve seen other Portaferry families move over there for work.

Northern Ireland showing the Ards Peninsula and Portaferry

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A-Z Blogging Challenge – Theme Reveal

This year my A-Z Blogging Challenge is going to be about another maternal line of mine (last year, I did the HOUSE and SALWAY family from Somerset and their migration to Australia); this time, it’s the LENNON’s and MAGEE’s from Portaferry in Northern Ireland and their stories – some stayed and some emigrated to Australia and New Zealand.

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A handful of Sultanas (1857-1858)

A while back, I thought it would be interesting to read any shipboard diaries I could find of other passengers on the ships – the Sultana, Alumbagh, Hilton and Dockenden that my ancestors emigrated to Australia on in the 1800’s.

I searched the online catalogues of the State Libraries of Victoria, NSW and Queensland and didn’t find one related to the actual journeys undertaken by my ancestors but I did find a small number of diaries of voyages on the same ships a few years later.

I chose to look first at diaries of voyages on the Sultana which conveyed my HOUSE family to Sydney in 1855 and found a few of them in the library catalogues. I requested copies from the State Libraries using their Copies Direct service. I find this a most economical service and delivery of an email with a PDF was very quick. Yay, for librarians! I then spent several weeks transcribing the first diary which is about the voyage of the Sultana leaving from Liverpool on Christmas Eve, 1857 and arriving on 30th March 1858 into Melbourne. This was a very frustrating but nevertheless interesting exercise as the copy held by the library is a very poor photocopy of the original which the library has never see. It is also unfinished and stops abruptly the first night after they arrive in Melbourne (although the writer was impressed with “the width and Straightness of the streets”).

Because the cover page is missing, we don’t know who the author is; all we learn from the text is that he was a young Cornish man who worked on the family farm who was going out “to the Golden Land” to try his luck “being frustrated by his prospects at home”. Judging by the language used in the 14 foolscap pages, he had had a very good education. It was also written sometime after the voyage and there is no indication how much later it was completed or what he’d done in his life in Australia.

As I was finalising this post, I came across conflicting information about the Sultana with details such as the wrecking of the ship after my family came out in 1855 and before the journey which is the subject of this diary. Then I also realised that the tonnage of the Sultana‘s varied from 588 – 1600 tonnes – thankfully, the newspaper editors of the day included that number in the Shipping Intelligence notices reporting when the ship came into port.

Something didn’t add up. I went back and reread my research and then did some more and it seems that there were 5 ships called Sultana which came to Australia with cargo and/or emigrants between 1848 and 1866!! For some reason, I had imagined that there was only one ship of the same name at a particular time in history.

I used Trove, Roland Parsons’ Migrant ships for South Australia 1836-1866 and Tall Ships of the River; Sultana Voyages 1848 – 1866 by KF Gassan and JA Grimes for this review.

BuiltTonsYears it came to AustPortWreckedSourceCaptain
18443741848, 1849, 1850, 1853Gasson & Grimes
1849496/5881850, 1851, 1852, 1854, 1867Robe, SA 1857ParsonsMaitland, Tapper
1855Passenger List
?12041858, 1862, 1864, 1866Melbourne (Royal Mail)Valencia 1867Gasson & GrimesWilliams (1862)

?230/2801852, 1853 (2), 1854,Great Barrier Reef 1854Gasson & GrimesBerg, Schade, Skinner
1854775Convicts 1859
Gasson & GrimesSharp
This table shows the different Sultana’s that came out to Australia

For more information on the Sultana that brought my HOUSE family to Sydney in 1855, have a look at my S is for Sultana post from earlier this year.

I’ve now realised that transcribing diaries isn’t for the faint hearted; I’ve transcribed many a BMD record over the last 34 years but this was hard work. I tried using 2 screens on my laptop with the PDF of the diary open in one and my Word document in the other, but it didn’t work very well for me. So I used the Notes feature on my iPad and read the diary into it – this was a great help but I still needed to do a lot of editing when I transferred it to Word on my laptop to get anywhere near an accurate transcription. The only problem was that the the Notes programme put some weird editing setting into the document which continues to annoy me. Later, I printed each page and edited while looking at the PDF on my screen. For the final edit. I asked another family member to read out my transcription while I read the PDF on a TV screen ( I was surprised how easy it was to ready it from further away as I could see the shapes of some of the words more easily). So it was very much a learning experience.

One thing that comes thru the diaries is the monotony of life on board the ship. Another diarist mentioned that he was so bored that he took up looking after the Captain’s accounts and I don’t think any of the diarists were in steerage which presumably was a much worse experience. There is naturally talk of death and the sadness of watching the committing of the body to the deep, on this voyage there was only one death of a young man and the reaction of the writer was very moving.

So I now know that this diary was from a voyage on the largest Sultana (see the 4th line of the table above for it’s details) and not the one my family came out on. I have endeavoured to keep the punctuation, grammar and capitalization accurate to the original.

It has often occurred to me to commit to paper, some of the principal incidents & recollections of my life, since I left the home of my youth, not that I have anything so major or remarkable to relate as to be worth the perusal of strangers still there are some who I know will feel interested enough for my welfare to pass an idle hour in looking over what perhaps is scarcely worth the name of a journal.

In common with many others in my station, I got dissatisfied with my prospects at home and determined to try my fortune in Australia, after some difficulty and getting the needful outfit for the voyage owing to my Father being unwilling to part with me, (he having suddenly discovered that I was useful on the farm). I found myself on the eve of starting for the Golden Land with something over Forty pounds in my pocket – I will pass over the leave taking as briefly as possible, for although I did not think much of it at the time, that farewell was the Sadder to many an old Friend and kind Relatives – whatever may have been my worth or worthlessness to my friends and acquaintances my place was no doubt soon filled by others quite as well and the breach that my leaving made the circle soon healed.

I took a passage from Liverpool to Melbourne in the “Sultana” a large Ship of about 1600 Tons Register, in the same berth, there were several cornishmen, one a Mr. S. was an old friend, and also an old Chum, who had been to Australia twice before, and who was going out this time on a Mercantile Speculation, which I believe paid him well – it is but justice to say of him that he proved a judicious counsellor to a novice like myself as well as an agreeable Shipmate, by his advice we made some provisions for the voyage in the shape of hams, potatoes, chicken, jams and he having proved by experience that the Ship’s fare is anything but luxurious.  On the morning of Sunday the 21st of December 1857, we shook hands with my Uncle, and brother R and were slowly towed out of the dock into the Mersey, we had not gone more than two hundred yards when the hawser snapped in two, and we were left to the mercy of the wind which was blowing strong at the time.

I think I considered it rather an inauspicious commencement, but the propellers soon pulled away and the danger as well for us soon had the acceptance of those the four other barges and got safely to our anchorage on The Wirral and the [wind/storm] continuing we did not leave the River until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon of the 24th or Christmas eve rather a gloomy one I thought it the wind whistling in the rigging as we were slowly towed out against it, and the sun shedding a fitful light through the immense piles of cloud in the western sky – then came the last glimpses of Land.  Land that seemed doubly dear now when we were leaving it for years, probably to see it no more for some of us.  Most of the passengers however made some pretension to being Merry on Xmas Eve but the greater part made miserable failures, myself amongst the number, I was however congratulating myself on not being sick, as I had been dreadfully so on board the Steamer from Penzance to Liverpool, but stars alas my hopes in that respect were soon dispell’d, at about 3 o’clock on Christmas morning I was awoke with an intolerable nausea, and forthwith staggered on deck to throw the unmanageable portion of myself overboard in the scene that met my view on reaching the deck was such as I shall never forget, I should think there were about …….. persons arranged around the bulwarks, and lying on the deck in all considerable positions, and stages of sea sickness so I had the consolation (if such luck it might be termed) of having plenty of companions in trouble.  However daylight broke at last, which though it served to show us the wretched plight we were in, more plainly, brought some of our more fortunate companions on deck, some to render assistance, and some to laugh at the poor unfortunates, I must say that I found it anything but a laughing matter as I could scarcely taste anything for a fortnight, and should have been worse but for the kindness of Mr. S. who managed, to get some arrowroot & ……… for me, also some wine and some bottled porter, the porter was the only thing that seemed to put away the sickness, in the third week I managed to find my appetite but was not always so successful as to find something to eat, the sickness having given me dislike to biscuits that I never got over, however I got on with what the ship’s allowance, and an occasional dive into our provision chest.  I may also say that during this time that we had nothing but head winds, and were continually heal’d over one side or the other finally we came abreast of the Madeira Isles followed most of the time by large shoals of porpoises whose shallow movement through the troubled billows, used to be a source of some amusement as also the erratic movements of the flying fish whose sudden appearances would often cause exclamations of surprise from the passengers; as we came nearer the Line the weather became warmer and calmer, and we enjoyed the privilege of hearing the gospel preached by one of the Three Ministers who were on board and occasionally lecture on the Country we were steering to by the Rev P[oore] or Rev. B[inning].. Mr S. especially made some very good remarks on Colonial Life & the principal causes of success or failures of those who went there.

We were fortunately not becalmed but a short time about the line, as the weather was very hot & the mercury standing at 108, but the extreme stillness of the water and the mirrorlike appearance was something worth seeing, and not soon forgotten, some amazing incidents took place about this time, such as the sailors making the preparations to receive Neptune on board and sundry threats about shaving the passengers one of whom, an Old Pilot made the pretence of seeing the line with a spyglass, and found several who were foolish enough to want to look through the glass at the wonderful line, our sailors too managed to get into the Store Room and broach the rum cask, and several of them got drunk and quarrelsome, and I think one was put in irons for a short time, we had however noting which might be termed murderous conduct.

After passing the line we were caught by the South east trades as they are termed which though not strong were pretty steady and our sailors were all busy in getting on as much light canvas as possible and it was certainly with feelings of pleasure that I watched the progress of the Noble Ship with every stitch of canvas spread to the breezes, now and then a little more wind would spring up and snap would go some of the shredding? sail boom which I believe afforded the passengers some amusement, while it chagrined the sailors our cruise brought us near the South American coast, and we saw a good many vessels when off the mouth of the River Plate [Rio De La Plata in Uruguay] but more than near enough to send letters home by although the hopes held out for doing so, induced a good many of the passengers to hurry below and hurriedly/hastily scribble a few lines to their friends, myself among the number. Some of the men noticed a shark following the vessel, and I believe got the Captain’s permission to catch it, they accordingly procured a strong hook and baited it with pork, and after a few preliminary surveys said shark thought it would do and seized it accordingly, he soon found he had made a grand mistake, for no sooner was it surrendered/surrounded that the shark was on the hook, then all hands prepared for action and when the word was given ran away forwards with the rope with such a will, that the shark came floundering in over the Stern, very much faster than pleasant I think, it was only a small one about 5 feet long, I think but showed a formidable set of teeth and a strong determination to use both these and it’s beak.  If it had this opportunity, the shark is very inferior eating though I believe some were curious enough to cut some steaks from him.

Our captain now considered it time to alter our course and steer in an easterly direction, and very soon we got colder weather again and stronger winds as well, the light sails had all to be taken down and replaced by heavy ones, and the albatross was generally to be seen starting up before us or following  Page 8  in our wake, and they looked to assist in relieving the monotony of the voyage, being fond of pork they often fell victim to their appetite and got a hook in their nose or rather throat, and were soon hauled on deck, such helpless poor things I never saw they did not attempt to escape or bite although some of them were very large ones and measuring more than eleven feet from tip to tip. The beak in some cases being seven inches in length, they were quite useless for food, and it seemed almost a pity to destroy them.

We had one death about this time, that of a young Man almost 20 years of age I should think he appeared to be suffering from a bowel complaint, and although he had a plenty of Doctoring gradually got worse and died. The burial at sea was one of the most solemn sights I ever witnessed, the wind was blowing a half a gale at the time, and the ship rolling so heavily that we Landsmen could not Stand on the poop without holding. And the Ministers the Rev’d. T. Binney could not read the service without being supported, I know I felt a cold shudder as the poor fellow glided off the board on which he was placed into the great Deep, although I know it matters but little where our bodies lie. I should like to lie somewhere and not be devoured by the Sharks which I felt sure were following us; I would here thankfully mention that we were providentially preserved from any contagious sickness all the way on our watery journey though we had Two or Three passengers who could scarcely bear to come on deck all the voyage, from the effects of sea sickness, And there was one little stranger who began it’s earthly career on the water (as Pat would have it?)

When passing the Meridian of the Cape of good Hope which was distant about 600 miles we were visited by a lot of beautiful little birds called cape pidgeons, they were about the size of a teal but the plumage resembled a pidgeon, soon after this we passed the Prince Edward Islands [SE of South Africa] and then the ………… but none of them near enough to be seen we however saw large quantities of birds which I was told indicated land at no great distance from our track.

Our captain gave order to catch strong westerly winds, got down to about 47° S.L.? where we had some snow and dozens of the passengers took this opportunity of being revenged on each other by snowballing till they were tired.  Our Doctor who (by the way was considered fond of a glass) had no sooner made his appearance on Deck, than, he was made a target off and received some very cold compliments, so much so that the officer had to interfere, and demand a cessation of hostilities, the water now, was only was very cold Indeed, and the wind increased to a gale, as by this time I had found my sea legs so used to take great delight to be on deck with overcoat and cravat on, watching progress of the ship, as she rolled on before it at the rate of 15 knots with only a close reef’d sail on her.  She did not appear to me to be going half so fast as the mighty waves were rolling in same direction, sometimes we should appear on the top of a mountain, and directly in a hollow so deep that the next wave appeared to be coming down over us, we did not however sustain any damage & although difficult to Steer before such a heavy sea. She only yawed once, when she came some Tons of water on the deck & the gangway to the Steerage being open, down it went in a torrent causing no small alarm to the passengers, some of whom were busy playing cards just under, and must certainly have a severe drenching. In the early part of March was passed somewhere, at no great distance from the Islands of Amsterdam and S. Pauls, & were gradually getting further north, as we soon found by the weather getting warmer.

By this time I confess I was heartily tired of the sea and would gladly exchanged it for any place worthy the name of Terra Firms, although some I know hold quite a contrary opinion, and are sorry to leave the Ship, for my part I was counting the days as one by one they passed away (too slowly I used to think) and wonder how long it would be before the cry of Land Ho would be heard; our private storm of hurricanes were nearly exhausted, so our fare [food?] was going worse the farther we went when we had arrived abreast of Cape Lewin[Leeuwin, WA], although distant some 300 miles and the sailors made a pretence of smelling the Land Breezes, which of course was a hoax, and not half so plausible as smelling icebergs which they sometimes professed to do, however in about a fortnight there was some real indication of land being near and on the last Saturday night we were at sea there was A good deal of talk about land being seen by some on the look out and in the middle of the night one of the passengers averred that he could see it plainly, so a good many of us got on deck to have the first look, and there certainly was something to be seen which had the appearance of Land but proved to be a fog Bank. Sunday Morning however the man with a glass in the tops just declared Land to be visible, distant about 18 or 20 miles on the Starboard bow, and soon after breakfast we had the satisfaction of having seeing the high Land about Cape Ottway (Cape Otway in Victoria) from the deck. I must say I felt truly thankful, and I trust joined fervently in the thanksgiving held on the poop that morning for the many mercies vouchsafed to us and the near prospect of once more standing on dry Land, from Cape Ottway to Port Phillip Heads a distance of about 50 miles we were close to the land all this time and had a fine view of the coast, in some places a bold cliff would present itself, and at others the shore was low and sandy and occasionally trees seemed to grow down to the waters edge, the wind being light our progress was very slow indeed so that it was about 2 o’clock on the afternoon of Monday when the pilot came on board, the Captain immediately gave up the command of the ship to him and about 5 o’clock in the evening we had the pleasure of entering into Port Phillip Bay the Land on either side of the entrance turned rather tame I thought, having the appearances of sand hills scantily covered with vegetation.  There is however a good Light House and Telegraph Station there and on the other side a sort of Island used as quarantine grounds, not far from which we anchored for the night, awaiting the inspection of the health officer his duty in our case was a very light one, and speedily got over, and about eight o’clock on Tuesday Morning we shaped our course up the bay, it being as calm or nearly so we made but little progress and had a fine opportunity of viewing the adjacent shores – which had the appearances of being pretty thickly timbered. I took notice to that there were plenty of crows flying about some relation I think to the carrion crow at home. There were also several gulls and cormorants swimming about and occasionally/randomly flying around us and following the Ship which no doubt they found very profitable.

Mr. S. now pointed out Mount Macedon distant some 40 miles over which is situated the Black forest of bushranging celebrity and many other places of note such as Geelong, St Kilda, Williamstown etc. Mr. S. had also the pleasure of taking up several bets that he won from the passengers and the Captain and officers as well, about 2 o’clock a fresh breeze sprung up so that about 5 o’clock we reached our anchorage off Sandridge [now Port Melbourne] we did not go ashore that night, but the next morning Mr S got a boat and took us and our luggage to the pier from there we hired a cab to take us onto Melbourne, a distance of about 2 Miles or so. I must say I experienced some strange emotions on setting my foot, gratitude to God for his tender mercies over me, not being forgotten I truly I found myself in rather poor plight for walking or running having been on Ship board rather more than 3 months, this being the 30th of March, we carried our things into the Temperance Hotel in Lonsdale Street, and there had a good look about us, Mr. S. cautioning me not to eat but sparingly for a few days, I think I underwent some strong temptation while looking at the good things of Melbourne.

I suppose I might state a few of my impressions as to the city itself, in the first place I was struck with the width and Straightness of the Streets which …………

Reminiscences 1857 Dec 21-1858 Mar 30 (1857-1858) MS13318, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria

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