26 January 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 6 - So Far Away

Week 6 of the 52 Ancestors Challenge already? I have been loving every minute of trying to meet the challenges.
This week's challenge: So Far Away. Which ancestor is the farthest from you, either in distance or in time/generations? Which ancestor have you had to go the farthest away to research?

Far Away? Far East? As far as the east is from the west?

First I thought about the Far East - and I knew I had a few Ancestors who had served in the military and been based in India for a time. But I have already written about two military ancestors for this challenge, so wanted something new.

Then I thought... India is west from me, what is east? The answer of course is New Zealand! I have one family in my tree that has a New Zealand connection - and when they were in New Zealand, they were also far away from home.

Let me introduce you to The McAinsh family.

The "Ancestor" of the McAinsh family who is my link is Annie McAinsh - she is the wife of Charles Ure McLuckie, a first cousin 3 times removed (so she is the wife of the nephew of my great great grandmother - an obsure link, but a link none the less) - keep an eye out for the McLuckies in my blogs, I'm sure you'll hear about them more than once.

Annie is one of at least 9 children - 5 of whom were born in New Zealand between 1865 and 1872. Annie was born in New Zealand in 1868 - this is pretty soon (from a nation's perspective) after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 when New Zealand became a British Colony.

Annie's parents were James McAinsh and Catherine Robertson. They were born in Dunbartonshire Scotland but married in New Zealand in 1864.

James is listed on the electoral rolls of New Zealand - this meant he was a property owner. He is listed as a Baker or Master Baker in Scottish records after his return "home".

I'm not sure whether this is co-incidence or not, and may mean a bit of research when I'm in Scotland at the end of the year, but there seems to have been a McAinsh bakery in Edinburgh. (And that's me travelling Far Away to research my family...)

James and Catherine and their 5 children travelled back to Scotland in either 1872 or 1873 as their next 4 children were born in Scotland between 1873 and 1880.

When he died in 1898, James, who seemed to be a careful planner (though without a will) left a number of assets including bank accounts and insurance policies. He did not own the property he lived in when he passed away though - the 1895 valuation roll on Scotland's People list him as being a tenant/occupier paying rent of £15 a year.

Part of the Sheriff's Court Inventory for James McAinsh - Scotland's People

Annie is listed as the informant for the deaths of both her parents (James in 1898 and Catherine in 1904). She remained single until her early 40s when she married Charles Ure McLuckie in 1910 (he was about 15 years her junior) and she died in 1943.

So how did this family get So Far Away? Shipping records don't really start until after they returned to Scotland, but I have been able to put a reasonable estimate of their travel dates to New Zealand from the following "lucky break" - 'cause you never know what you might find if you don't try "hey bro"? (Sorry, that's my kiwi "roots" showing)

A google search (mcainsh dunedin baker) threw up an interesting snippet - a seemingly unrelated query on Rootsweb provided the following information:
Intentions to Marry, National Archives Wellington NZ, 
1864 Ref BDM 20/9 page 368 No 173; RG 1864/1648:
James McAINSH, Bachelor, Baker, 25, Res Dunedin 3 mo
Catherine ROBERTSON, Spinster, - , 25, Res Dunedin 1½ yrs
Date of Notice/Certificate June 4
By Revd D Meiklejohn in the house of Mrs JACKSON, widow, Maitland St

This Rootsweb question on who Mrs Jackson was gives us a precious look at "my" family. James and Catherine obviously did not travel from Scotland to New Zealand together (which was the way I had been leaning), Catherine was there first. It also tells me what James did in new Zealand and also what he likely did in Scotland before he moved.

Of course that takes me to what is called, on the Genealogy Do-Over Website, a BSO (a bright and shiny object that distracts you from what you want to achieve). I went looking for Reverend Meiklejohn. And found him in the Otago Daily on April 19 1864 - involved in laying the foundation stone of the Hanover Street Baptist Church Dunedin just a few months before James and Catherine's marriage took place.

Not only were my family So Far Away from home, but their whole established world in Scotland had turned on its head - they were starting out as a new family in a country just starting to get on its feet.

11 January 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 5 - Ploughing through

This week's #52Ancestors Challenge:

Week 5, Plowing through — We will likely be plowing through a lot of snow by this time. What ancestor had a lot of struggles to plow through? Or take it more literally… It’s up to you

The only plowing (ploughing) I could think of was agriculture - and which of my ancestors was an agricultural labourer. There were quite a few.

Of course, agricultural labourers were poor, unskilled folk - and this means that there are very few records about them. This makes it a little hard to write a blog about them. But I did find one who has a little bit of information.

Abraham Channon - born c1816 in Devonshire England and died June 5, 1876 in Camden NSW Australia.

Calling him an "ancestor" is a bit of a stretch. I have him in my tree in case my nephews ever become interested in their family history. Abraham is the great, great, great grandfather of my sister's former husband. Anyway, he's in my tree, so I'm calling him an ancestor (or "collateral" as Amy Johnson Crow refers to them No Story Too Small)

We first meet Abraham in the 1841 census. He is living in "Back Lane" of the Silverton area of Devon with his father Robert, mother Jane (Cotterill) and brother Robert. All 3 men are listed as Ag. Lab.

Very shortly after the census, Abraham makes his way to Plymouth where he boards the barque "Lady Kennaway" as an Assisted (bounty) Immigrant heading to NSW. It seems all the passengers on the ship have had their passage paid for by a Mr Thomas Walker. As an adult male, Abraham's bounty was £19. He was coming to Australia as a Farm Servant and was "Protestant".

Lady Kennaway arrives in Sydney in October 1841. It was a piece of luck these bounty ships arrived - just a few weeks before there was a discussion in the NSW Legislative Council about how the Government was going to pay for all the bountied immigrants that had been approved Australasian Chronicle 23 Sept 1841 (and Mr Thomas Walker who paid Abraham's passage to Australia is mentioned).

Abraham married Margery Dunbar by banns on 3 May 1842 in the parish of Narrellan NSW (which we now know as Narellan - without the double 'r'). The witnesses (John Dunbar and Bessy Furry - which I think should be Fury - were both from Vermont NSW - which is in the same region)

By 1848 Abraham and Margery (also known as Marjorie and Margaret) had 3 daughters - Jane, Eleanor(Ellen) and Rebecca. On Rebecca's baptism certificate it says that Abraham was a farmer and his abode is listed as Vermont NSW.

On this 1848 map from the National Library of Australia, you can see Vermont clearly listed and is shown as being owned by WC Wentworth 1848 map of Cumberland County NSW. Right next to this property is one called Westwood owned by H McArthur. WC Wentworth is a well known figure of NSW history and H McArthur may well be a MacArthur - another well known NSW family.

In the 1851/52 NSW Electoral roll, Abraham - who is eligible to vote, a big step up in the world - is listed as a leaseholder at Vermont.

He dies in 1876 and has enough so he can leave a will. Probate is granted to Edward Fury (his son-in-law) and Margaret Channon and lists...
Goods sworn £170. He left his wife his farm at Westwood (see map above), his cattle, horses, household furniture and farming utensils. On her death everything was to be sold:
£30 was to go to his daughter Ellen for her kind care, £40 to go to Edward Fury for a debt owed, with the rest to be split equally between his 3 daughters, Jane Fury, Ellen Channon and Rebecca Bellingham.

Abraham obviously moves up in the world - from having, pretty much, nothing and with virtually no prospects for the future, his life ends "quite well". He Ploughed through the hardships to find good soil.

8 January 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 4 - Closest to my Birthday

So this is 4 "weeks" into the 52 week challenge - 1/13th of the way through. This week's challenge seemed simple enough at first....

Week 4, Closest to your birthday — Not too much to think about here. What ancestor has the birthday closest to yours? (I mean in terms of month and day, not the year)

Right, so pick the person whose birth day is the same as mine - That would be Jane Dobson born on September 6 1820.

Jane was the daughter of Thomas Dobson and Mary Middlemass. She was baptised on July 15, 1821 as a Roman Catholic in the Tynemouth and North Shields Chapel. She is a sister of my great, great, great grandfather.

But that's all I know about her. I can't find her on the 1841 census in the UK. She could have passed away, married, immigrated - anything at all.

So on to the next closest date September 5 and Francis Kilmartin. She is my 2nd cousin twice removed. I have a date of birth in Scotland and a death date in Canada. That's it, no other information. No story there.

Christina Boyle Martin September 8. First cousin once removed. Birth date check, Death date check. Any other information - negative. Move on

Jack Crawford September 4. Husband of a 2nd cousin once removed. Nope

Mary Dobson? Nada

John McDonald? Moving right along...

Catherine Kilmartin, sister of Francis? nothing

John Millar? sigh

Thomas Dempsey September 9. First cousin once removed. Again nothing.

Only Names in my Tree
It's all very sad really. So many people on my family tree are just names with a date or two and no background information to make them real. A few of them have "interesting" parents or grandparents.

We all know there's more to family history than just names and dates. What it is that makes a person come to life?

Vital Statistics is not where it's at. I am going to have to add Social History to my bag of tricks and get some information about what what happening when and where my ancestors were alive.

Here's my last hope - the last "closest to my birthday" ancestor who is not still alive.

Nicholas Stuart Dobson
Finally! I was starting to panic.

Nicholas was my great grandfather. Son of Thomas Dobson and Ellen Steward (the "tough old bird" from last week). Born in 1871 and Passed in 1950. He lived almost his whole life in Sunderland.

Sometime between the 1881 and 1891 censuses he became a Hairdresser. Later on in life he is listed as Master Hairdresser.

I'm not sure what it takes to become a master tradesman, but I'm sure skill and experience has a lot to do with it.

I once wrote to the Incorporated Guild of Hairdressers, Wigmakers and Perfumers in the UK to see if they had any records. (Apparently its been incorporated since 1900 and I'm sure Nicholas would have been a member). However, I never heard anything back.

60 years as a Hairdresser - that is something.

But there's more to Nicholas than just a pair of scissors.

Incorrectly Registered at Birth
Nicholas' mother Ellen registered his birth. She was unable to read or write. She obviously misunderstood the registrar's questions and when she was asked for name and gender, she gave her name and gender instead of her son's. It wasn't until a week later that Nicholas' father Thomas (who could read and write) made the correction for the records and changed it from a "daughter Ellen" to son Nicholas.

Imperial Yeomanry
At the age of 29 and with a wife and five children, Nicholas joined the Imperial Yeomanry 15th Company (Northumberland) 5th Battalion to fight in the Boer War in 1901 and 1902. He was a trooper.

Family Legend is that he was captured more than once by "the enemy" but escaped. According to the story, there sometimes weren't enough guards, so to stop the prisoners escaping they took their clothes. Apparently being naked wasn't enough to stop Nicholas and so off he went back to his unit.

I haven't been able to establish whether or not this story is true, but I sure hope it is.

Nicholas was awarded The Queen's South Africa (QSA) Medal Clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902. I have copies of those medals and I keep them with my father's and grandfather's WW2 medals.

On October 1st 1902, Nicholas, along with many others, was made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Newcastle Upon Tyne. This was "in recognition of his loyalty and devotion to the Throne and Empire in gallantly volunteering and serving with the British Army in the War in South Africa"

What an honour for a hairdresser from Sunderland

The presentation took place in the Town Hall on October 25th. "There was a large assemblage of ladies and gentlemen to witness the ceremony. The interior of the Hall had been appropriately decorated for the occasion".

There were 600 volunteers to be honoured and they had marched from various parts of the town to be there.

Of course there was a stirring speech from the Mayor. I like this part of the report best and will end today with this quote:

"And although the freedom of the city did not permit them to place a cow upon the Town moor - (laughter) - and the enjoyment in the morning of the milk therefrom, still, it gave them a higher and more distinguished honour than even the actual Freemen possessed, because as he said before their names would be inscribed in the scroll of fame, and those who came afterwards would recognise that they had ancestors who had done good service in their country's cause."

7 January 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 3 - Tough Woman

It's only January 6th, 2015, but I'm so excited about this challenge that I'm already doing Week 3's one.

This week the challenge theme is "Tough Woman"

Week 3, Tough woman — Who is a tough, strong woman in your family tree? Or what woman has been tough to research?

I think most families are made up of tough women, matriarchs who run the family no matter who is supposed to "wear the pants". You hear a lot of stories about mothers or grandmothers who had to be obeyed no matter what. So many women I could have written about - one of my grandmothers, or perhaps my great great grandmother (who apparently was a "tough old bird"), but as I started typing, the Tough Woman who really stood out was...

My Mother
My mother was a tough woman. She grew up in North East England in one of the famous port, coal mining and ship building areas of the UK. Born in 1935, she was only young when World War 2 commenced. She passed away in 1996.

The area where my mother's family lived suffered many bombing raids due to its significant role of building new ships and repairing damaged ones: BBC Legacies page

During the war she and her brothers were "evacuated" to the country. One family story was that her younger brother hated it and ran away back to the city.

I don't know how long the evacuation lasted, but apart from that, my mother and her brothers also stayed with their Aunt Meg for some time during the war (this according to some letters from 1942 written by my grandfather to this Aunt Meg)

In one letter it says "I am pleased to hear that Pauline's head is nearly better, let us hope that it will be completely better by the time I hear from you again"

Mum's father was in the RAF - how "tough" would it have been - father away, mother still in Sunderland, and being hurt in some way that it warranted being mentioned in a letter?

Another letter says "So Maureen has been to see the children, I hope that she did not fight while she was there or I would never forgive her if she did".

Apart from what that says about the family dynamics, it seems that my Mum didn't get to see her Mum (Maureen, who I was named after) much during this part of the war.

In 1944, when Mum was just 9, a telegram was sent to the family - her father's plane was missing and after about a week a letter was received saying that he was now presumed dead.

A tough blow. I'm not sure how the family coped after that. It must have been hard.

When Mum was 17 she left NE England and headed for London to work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hackney. A young girl, hundreds of miles away from home.

She must have been tough though, 'cause by the end of that year (she was 18 by then), she was on a ship to Australia, venturing into the unknown to go and live with an uncle she had never met.

Just before she turned 19 she joined the Australian Army where she trained to be a Nursing Orderly. A tough occupation.

It got tougher though - during her service they thought she had TB and sent her to the Repatriation General Hospital in Corcord New South Wales. She was there for nearly a year. Mum didn't have (and never had) TB, but apparently that wasn't enough to get her back into "active service". Tough nut that she was, she kept her medical studies up during her stay at the Repat Hospital and progressed up the Nursing Orderly levels.

She was discharged as Medically Unfit from the Army in July 1956.

And this all before she was 21!

As I said, my mother was a tough woman.

6 January 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 2 - "King"

This week's challenge is "KING" and the suggested theme hints are:
Week 2, King — January 8 is Elvis’ birthday. January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Do either of these “Kings” remind you of an ancestor? Or, taken another way, do you have a connection to royalty? Did you ancestor flee from an oppressive king?

I don't have any link to Elvis or Martin Luther King - however, I always remember Elvis' birthday as it was the same day as a boyfriend I used to have - but that's a whole 'nother story.

I do have one person in my tree with the last name of King - Jean King who married Duncan Wright in Lecropt Perth Scotland on Nov 5th 1813. Jean and Duncan had 10 children that I've been able to find. Duncan was the brother of my great-great-great-great-grandfather. But that's all I know about Jean. No date of birth or date of death. Not really much to write a whole blog about, so then I tried something else.

I used the search function in my family tree programme and looked for anything that matched the description "king". 28 people popped up. When I checked the information on the first few, I couldn't see anything that was jumping out at me that used the term "king". So I restricted the search to males only with 19 results - again nothing about "king" jumping out.

But then the Lightbulb!

"Serving King and Country" is my theme this week. James Cruickshanks Geddes is my man.

James was born in Paisley Renfrew Scotland in 1889 and is my first cousin twice removed (1st cousin of my grandfather).

King Edward VII
James' first service to the king started on May 15, 1907 with the Royal Horse and Field Artillery. His age is listed as 18 years and 1 month. James was "Discharged by Purchase" on August 13, 1907 for the price of 10 pounds. With a total service of 91 days, it seems military life wasn't for him. (Note original post now edited says 31 days for service - because I can't count)

King George V
But then WW1 came along. James joins the Royal Field Artillery in 1914 as a driver and served in France. His total service is listed as 4 years and 100 days.

James was not the perfect soldier, there are 4 "crimes" listed on his record - 2 without reason:
March 19, 1915 - in the field - awarded 14 days FP1

14 days would have taken him to April 2, 1915. It seems by then the realities of war were really being felt and James didn't want to go back and fight.... as April 2, 1915 was also the date of his next "crime" in the field - awarded 7 days FP2.

He settled down for about 2 years and then gets himself in strife again:
March 23, 1917 - not complying with an order - awarded 7 days FP2

Then lastly
August 7, 1917 - making an improper reply to an NCO - awarded 7 days FP2

According to Wikipedia, FP stands for Field Punishment and was introduced after the abolition of flogging. You can read about it here:

James was discharged on March 15, 1919

In 1925 James immigrated to the USA and settled in New Jersey. His wife and son joined him in 1926. He worked at a Threadmill. In 1942 he is listed as working for Clark Thread Company which, via Wikipedia, was an offshoot of Clark Thread Company of Paisley Scotland (where James was born).

Then came WW2

King George VI (President Franklin D Roosevelt)
You would have expected James to be too old to serve, right? Not according to the USA. Men between the ages of 18 and 65 had to register for the Draft. What is known as the "Old Man's Registration" happened on April 27, 1942 and James duly registered for the Draft at the age of 53 (though 54 is listed on the registration card as he got his date of birth wrong by a year).

Click here to read about the Old Man's Registration

I don't think James ever served in WW2, but his son James may well have.
Just one in a long line of Ancestors who Served King and Country.

4 January 2015

#52Ancestors - week 1

I read today about a 52 week blog challenge - writing about a different ancestor every week. A link in the GeneaBloggers Daily newsletter took me to the blog No Story Too Small:

I'm going to give it a go and see if I can do it. Here are the challenges for January as listed on No Story Too Small:

Week 1, Fresh start

Week 2, King
Week 3, Tough woman
Week 4, Closest to your birthday
Week 5, Plowing through

Of course, the themes for each week are optional, but they are likely to help me actually think about people on my family tree.

Week 1, Fresh Start is easy - and something I started just yesterday.....

Dad's Scottish of the family side, while research has been expensive from across the pond, for the most part it has been relatively "easy". Because I seem to be one of the few people in the known universe doing any research on this family, I don't have to sift through matched family trees and determine whether the information is correct. I have to do my own research, rely on my own detective skills, pay for my own certificates, talk to my own relatives etc. Any errors on Dad's side are my own.

Any smart matches suggested for my online trees for Dad's side are without fail, not matches. Even when someone has added "my" relatives to their tree, I find, after checking with them (or looking at their tree if it is public), that my relatives don't belong to them. Here are 2 examples:

A tree containing my Dad
I was matched with someone who had both my Dad and his mother on her tree - extremely unusual, but not entirely impossible (I have a 1/2 brother I have never met and who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth - maybe this tree belonged to him or his children? I could only hope). So I connect to this tree and do a quick look. The owner of the tree had the "wrong" parents for my grandmother. My Dad's mother is the only grandparent I have ever met, so I knew this other tree had incorrect information on it.

A quick check of the Scotland's People site (and a few dollars later) and I found that a girl of the same name as my Grandmother, born in the same district, born in the same year, with the parents listed by the other tree's owner was really the girl she was after. I also found this girl's marriage (of course not to my grandfather) and some of their children. I wrote (nicely I hope) to the owner of this matched tree with all the information and the certificate numbers so she could adjust her tree.

However, to end a long story, the owner of the other tree never changed her tree. She still has my Dad and Grandmother listed on her tree even though they don't belong. I eventually had to put a block on being matched to her tree.

The McLuckies
I am pretty protective of the McLuckie clan. There aren't that many of them about and many of them are "mine". One of my McLuckies married a Hunter. They had a son called Robert. Robert, according to the 1881 census, was married to a lady called Mary (They were living with his parents on the census, so that was the "easy" part). Do you have any idea how many Robert Hunters there are in Glasgow? (I have 10 in my tree just linked to this family).

Can you imagine trying to do online search for a marriage of a Robert Hunter when you have to pay to view every certificate to make sure you have the right Robert Hunter (checking parents on the certificate). I can't remember how many months it took me or how many dollars - but I know it was a LOT! I remember clearly the Eureka! moment when I finally found the right certificate on the Scotland's People website.

So now imagine you are matched to another tree that has this Robert in it and then the family going back through the McLuckie Clan. I was pretty excited. Again, this tree was public, so I went straight to it. They had "my" Robert married to the wrong Mary - wrong parents, wrong age, wrong country of birth. It was all just wrong - even the surname, though phonetically the same, was wrong.

I emailed the owner of the tree and asked if he could clarify his information. He told me that he'd added the info from someone else's tree a long time ago, had no idea where the info had come from and wasn't going to change it even after I emailed him back with the correct info (which would mean him having to delete all the McLuckie clan)

I was so disappointed - and again, I've had to block being matched with his tree 'cause it just frustrates/angers/saddens me.

Anyway, that has nothing to do with the topic of fresh start - but everything to do with a fresh start.

Dobson/Farleys - a fresh start
I too am guilty of adding information to my tree that someone else has "researched" - for my mother's English side. English/Welsh records are much harder to research (well for me anyway). While you can look up information on various websites, you can't actually view any of the BMD certificates online. You have to order them from the GRO. It is very expensive (over 9 pounds a certificate which currently equates to about $18 for me) and the wait is weeks. So when you get a few certificates that are for the wrong person 'cause you've had to guess which one to order given your limited budget, you pretty much give up and trust the distant relatives you've been in contact with have been diligent with their research and record keeping.

But lately I've not been satisfied with this.

A few weeks ago Thomas MacEntee said he was going to start his tree from scratch and post about how he was getting along in a Genealogy Do-over. I am going to do that with my Dobson/Farley families. Starting with my mother and her parents, I'm going to do all my own research, (with source information) and add back one person at a time. I started my new tree yesterday. As with Thomas's challenge, I'm not going to re-buy certificates I already have, but other than that, it is a fresh start. With a full-time job and 2 voluntary treasurer positions, it is going to be slow, but I will do it.

In November I will be in the USA (I've forgotten what visit number this will be - 8? 9?), but I think a week in Salt Lake City visiting the FamilySearch collections might be on the cards to help push me along.

Thanks Amy Johnson Crow for the inspiration