Thursday, 19 November 2015

Just Added to My Genealogy Wish List - Silesia Map Guides

I came across this new & promising resource while I was catching up on my blog reading - Volume 53 of the Map Guide to German Parish Registers: Kingdom of Prussia, Province of Silesia, RB Liegnitz. I have several Lutheran ancestors from this area &, not really knowing how to proceed with my research, I could definitely use a helpful resource.

According to the publishers, this book:

  • Identifies the parish where an ancestor worshipped based on where they lived
  • Gives the FHL microfilm number for the family’s parish records
  • Identifies nearly every city, town, and place that included residents
  • Visually identifies church parishes for Lutherans & Catholics in each district
  • Identifies adjoining parishes in case an ancestor attended an alternate parish
  • Aids in area searches, particularly across district or regional borders
  • Provides visual identification of search areas in which to look for a family
  • Helps in determining proximity of one area to another
  • Aids in determining reasonable distances of travel from one area to another
  • Identifies population centres in each parish
  • Identifies archives, repositories, and other resources
  • Aids in identification of the location of minority religions

Definitely on my wish list!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Wonders of Social Media

Leaving work today, the crossing lady told me to visit the Family History Group of Bathurst's Facebook page so that I could see photos of my newly restored Curran's graves posted there. How amazing is it that we live in a world / time that's made it possible for such a chain of events to happen!

Graves sinking into each other. Photo from Family History Group of Bathurst's Facebook page.

According to the page, the graves had been sinking into each other.  A new plinth was built to stabilise the graves and place the headstones upon.  This work was done by volunteers.  These are the graves of my 3rd great grandparents & their son.  I can't begin to express how grateful I am to the person who told me about it (because I probably wouldn't know about it if she hadn't told me) & to the people who have restored the graves. :)

Restored graves on new plinth. Photo from Family History Group of Bathurst's Facebook page.

I'm looking forward to visiting these graves during the Christmas holidays.  I want to get a closer look at gravestone inscriptions & the design on the cross.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Results Vs Expected Ethnicity Results

I received my Ancestry DNA results a few days ago.  Some of the ethnicity results were surprising, especially in light of the information I have on my constructed family tree & the countries of origin of my ancestors.  I decided to compare my ancestors’ countries of origin to my Ancestry DNA ethnicity results.  I chose to look at my 3rd great grandparents for this analysis because this generation was the most recent & ‘purest’ in terms of ethnicity; of my 32 3rd great grandparents, 31 were of a single ethnicity, e.g. Irish, English, Prussian. Only one ancestor was mixed, the son of a Welsh father & and English mother.

3rd Great Grandparents – Ethnicity / Country of Origin (based on constructed family tree)

Paternal Grandfather’s Side
Ahnentafel No.
Ancestor Surname
Country of Origin
Paternal Grandmother’s Side
Maternal Grandfather’s Side
Maternal Grandmother’s Side

Ethnicity Results - Ancestry DNA Vs Documented Country of Origins

Expected Ethnicity Results based on Constructed Family Tree:

Irish – 19%
European West – 19%
Great Britain (England) – 55%
Great Britain (including Scotland & Wales) – 62%

Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Results:

European – 98%
Ireland – 38%
Scandanavian – 26%
Europe West – 24%
Trace Regions
Europe East – 4%
Great Britain – 2%

The Irish portion of my DNA is easily explained.  However, I was surprised at the percentage, given that about 18% of my 3rd great grandparents were Irish.  Although I guess approximately 62% of my 3rd great grandparents on my paternal grandfather’s side were Irish.

European West would cover my Prussian / German heritage.  Almost half of my mother’s ancestry is Prussian, & ¾ of my 3rd great grandparents on my maternal grandmother’s side are Prussian.

The Scandanavian section of my DNA was surprising, but early Scandanavians migrated to modern-day eastern Germany & Poland (which overlaps with European West).  Vikings also inhabited parts of Ireland in later centuries.

What surprised me even more was that only 2% of my DNA is from Great Britain.  More than 50% of my 3rd great grandparents were English.  All of my 3rd GG on my maternal grandfather’s side were English & ¾ of my 3rd GG on my paternal grandmother’s side were English.

So, what conclusions can I draw from these results?  Overall the majority of the DNA passed on to me by my father was Irish, while at least half of the DNA passed on to me by my mother was western European (Prussian / German).  The next largest chunk of ethnicity is Scandanavian, which really could have originated from either side through Irish / Prussian descendancy.  Very little of their English DNA was passed down to me.

After reading Sharon Muffett’s post about her Ancestry DNA results on her blog gathering dust, & how she has converted these results to Family Tree DNA, my next step is to transfer my results to FTDNA & compare the ethnicity results from Ancestry DNA & Family Tree DNA.

Then, maybe, just maybe, I might be able to convince some relatives to have their DNA tested.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Mary McQuain - Founders & Survivors: Storylines / Mugshots Website

While researching Michael Sweeney on the TAHO website I came across the Founders & Survivors: Storylines website.  I didn't find much information on Michael Sweeney, but I did find a lot about his wife, Mary McQuain, who is my 3rd great grandmother.  One of the best parts of this website is the option to 'Make a Face', which allows you to create a face for your convict.  It works much like a police Indenti-kit,  It begins with a randomly-generated image, but has a series of options that lets you alter the features of the face to match the description listed on their convict indent (Tasmanian convict indents have detailed descriptions).  I had trouble saving my created face but I used a screen-capture program to save the image.

Thanks to the Mugshots section of this website I have been able to create the image below as well as access 'locations' for Mary - a timeline of where she was at certain points & who she was assigned to :)

Could this be what Mary McQuain looked like?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

So That's Why There Are 5 Johanns in One of my Families!

I've been catching up on my unread blogs on Feedly & came across an interesting article on German naming traditions.  The post was written by Diane Haddad for Ancestry Insider, Family Tree Magazine's blog.  This article explained why German families gave their children the same first names.

I know that some of my German ancestors named all of their sons Johann.  In one family there is a Johann Friedrich Erdmann, Johann Gottlob, Johann Carl Heinrich and Johann Carl Friedrich.  The feminine version, Johanne, was also very popular amongst my ancestors. In another family group there is Johanne Caroline, Johanne Salome & Johanne Auguste.  This is further confused by the fact that their brother is called Johann Christian, their mother Johanne Christiane & their father Johann Gottlieb!

Apparently German children were given two names.  Boys were commonly baptised as Johannes or Johann.  It is the second name, the Rufname, that they were known by.  So in my second family group example from above, the members of the family would be known as: Christiane (mum), Gottlieb (dad), Caroline, Salome & Auguste (sisters) & Christian (brother).  I wonder how that works with the other siblings though, as there are still some conflicts in this family group.  The other siblings are Caroline Christiane, Eleanore Ernestine, Marie Elisabeth, Ernest Gottlieb, Gottlieb Traugott, & Ernst Wilhelm - still results in more than one Christiane & Gottlieb.  I had just assumed that they were known by both names.  This naming tradition may help to explain why, generations later, family members where still known by their middle names, which I had thought was just a family 'quirk'.

Another tradition in German-speaking areas was to name children for one of their baptismal sponsors. The most common patterns used is similar to Scottish naming traditions.  Sons were named in the following order / pattern:

  • First born, named after paternal grandfather
  • Second born, named after maternal grandfather
  • Third born, named after father of the child
  • Fourth (& any further born), named after uncles of the child.
The same patterns applied to daughters - first born named after paternal grandmother, second born named after maternal grandmother, third born named after mother, fourth & successive named after aunts.  I will have to have a closer look at my ancestors to see if they followed this tradition, & then I might be able to have a guess at unknown parents & siblings!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Some Webpages I've Found Useful for Reading the Irish Catholic Parish Registers

Two websites that I have found helpful so far in reading the registers are:

Irish Genealogy Tool Kit Website, Latin in Irish Catholic Parish Registers
This page has terms you are likely to come across when reading the birth, marriage & death registers. Begin tracing your Irish ancestry, Latin names in English
This website has a list of Irish names written in Latin, to help you decipher the names you will come across.  Beneath this list there is also an explanation of the rules of Latin, e.g. :James son of James should read: Jacobus filius Jacobi"; male names that end in o add 'nis, Hugonis.

In saying this though, I couldn't actually find a death entry for my parish, so I don't know how helpful those tips are yet.

Also, Irish Catholic Church Registers: Bog Latin & Other Demons by James R Reilly at had a Sampler of Latin terms, given names & abbreviations found in Sacramental Registers was helpful.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

National Library of Ireland's Roman Catholic Registers

Well, the Roman Catholic registers haven't been online for long but I've already made my first discovery!  Granted, I knew the parish, & the townland, & it was only a few pages into the microfilm, but I've managed to translate most of the entries.  Some of the other siblings will be just as easy to find, but some of the siblings were born before this register started in 1849.  Finding other Irish relatives won't be anywhere as easy because at best I have a county, & one I just have 'Ireland'.

Here is my first discovery:

5 Dec 1850 - Bap Hannam f Michaelis Curran + Anna Mulheron de Derryreel
Translated 5 Dec 1850 Baptism of Hannah, daughter of Michael Curran & Anna Mulheron of Derryreel.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Postcards from Egypt, WW1

This is one of the postcards that I referred to in my earlier post.  An unknown soldier sent several of these to my great grandmother while he was in Egypt.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

#AFFHO Congress 2015 - Part 5

Day Four of AFFHO Congress 2015
I forgot to mention Day 3’s lunchtime keynote address by Grace Karskens, Men, Women, Sex and Desire: Family History on Australia’s First Frontier.  In this talk, Grace presented some of the findings of her research on relationships, marriage & families in the early community of Castlereagh, on the Nepean River in NSW.  Wow!  The relationships & events that Grace shared reminded me of the plotlines on The Bold & the Beautiful – talk about complicated & scandalous!  It’s absolutely incredible that the details of some of the lives of the early settlers can be reconstructed to give us such an insight.

I began the final day of the conference by listening to Paul Milner’s talk, Digging for Gold - Locating British Miners and their Records.  I have some Cornish miners who migrated to South Australia & continued mining.  I learnt from Paul that Cornwall mines were hard rock mines – tin & copper (fingers crossed that I’ve remembered that right).  The conditions in hard rock & coal mines were quite different – the size of the mine that was being worked in, the dangers involved, etc.  Paul discussed the history of mining in Britain, the conditions that miners (soft rock & hard rock) miners worked in, the records that were created & where to locate them.  He pointed us towards a range of online & printed resources to learn more about mining & the definitions of technical & colloquial terms that we might come across.  My favourite quote from this session was: if there’s a hole in the ground, you’ll find a Cornish miner at the bottom of it.

Next up was A General and Indiscriminate Stigma - the Irish Famine Orphans, 1848–1850, presented by Cheryl Mongan.  The Irish Famine Orphans were young girls  (generally between the ages of 14 – 19) from the workhouses of Ireland who came to Australia as part of the Earl Grey scheme.  The Earl Grey scheme bought over 4000 young Irish females, who had been left orphaned by the Great Famine of Ireland, to Australia to work as indentured domestic servants.  Most were orphans in the true sense, but others were termed ‘orphans’ if their parent/s were alive but unable to look after them.  These girls were often met with criticism & prejudice; they were considered disobedient, untrained & unsuited for domestic service.  Cheryl spoke about the experiences of the Irish Famine Orphans and how many of them overcame the prejudice & hardships to establish successful families of their own.  Some of the descendants of these girls come together for the annual commemorative service at the Great Famine Memorial at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney or Famine Rock at Williamstown in Victoria.  Irish researchers have been working to unite families with their distant Australian relatives – which reminds me, the last time I checked the Irish Famine Orphan Database, there was a contact name from Ireland Reaching Out listed with my ancestor that I need to email.

The final presentation I attended at the conference was by Michelle Nichols, Discovering the Hidden Riches in Public Libraries: Fostering Family History in Local Studies Collections.  I got two things from this session – that Hawkesbury Library serves as a model for other local libraries to provide access to & promote their local collections; & that I need to visit Hawkesbury library because my great grandmother’s family lived in the area, at & around St Albans, from about the 1830s to the 1980s.

The local library’s holdings can support family history & local community research.  Resources can include local government records, historical photos & maps of the area, & local & family histories – resources relating to that specific community & the families who lived there.  I have used Blacktown’s local history collection, at least what I have seen on the shelf, but perhaps there are many other records at the library that I’m not aware of.  I know that I haven’t seen any church & cemetery records, or historical maps & photos.  Local libraries should be promoting their local history collections, even if it’s just by a webpage that outlines the materials that are available & how to access them.  Being able to access some of these records online would also be a bonus.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Michelle mention some of the family history resources that her library has, particularly the Jurd family history book, To Live on in the Hearts & Minds of Descendants is to Never Die by Peter Newman.  This book is about my 5th great grandfather, Daniel Jurd, who married Elizabeth Douglas, & their descendants.  I have that book & I can attest to just how large, & heavy, the book is!  I was also intrigued when Michelle showed an image of something that was written from a soldier, or to a soldier, in WW1 to an Olive who lived in the area – I could swear that was my great grandmother, but I didn’t know anything about her knowing a soldier in WW1.  I wish I had taken a quick picture of it because last week I got a pile of photos from Olive’s daughter, my grandmother, & inside was an envelope with postcards from an unnamed soldier in WW1 to my great grandmother.

I have been making a list of books that I wanted to look at since last year – these books could help me break my biggest brick wall – Helena Lindner - & the closest place to access them was at the National Library in Canberra.  I had limited time in Canberra, having to be back in Sydney & up bright & early to go back to work on Tuesday, so I decided to leave the conference a bit early so that I could go to the National Library.  This unfortunately meant that I had to miss the afternoon session I had planned to attend, Cora Num’s lunchtime keynote address on using online newspapers, & also the panel discussion L  However, I got to read through the information in the relevant books so I have a possible new lead.

I absolutely loved being at the conference – getting the opportunity to listen to speakers in person, the information that was presented – basically being immersed in genealogical learning for 4 days straight!  It was also great to be able to meet other geneabloggers, some of who I know, or know of, from the online community.  Jill Ball, you were especially welcoming & introduced me to quite a few other people J.  I bought a few resources & I have many new research areas to follow up.  The only downside was how incredibly exhausted I was after each day, & not feeling well enough to catch up with fellow HSP105 UTAS students at the dinner on Sunday night L.

I know that I will definitely be attending Congress in Sydney in 2018!  

Sunday, 12 April 2015

#AFFHO Congress 2015 - Part 4

Day Three of AFFHO Congress 2015
Sunday began with Kerry Farmer’s talk, Migration Schemes to Australia.  Migration schemes were schemes where financial incentives, often subsidised passage, were offered to encourage migrants from the British Isles to come to Australia, instead of the US & Canada which were cheaper alternatives.  Different migration schemes were in place at different times during the 19th & 20th centuries.  Different schemes had different selection criteria to attract desirable immigrants - those with certain skills, in particular age groups or in required occupations.  The number & type of immigrant could be controlled as needed by varying the assistance or incentive & the selection criteria.  Kerry outlined some of the different migration schemes that have been in place, both before & after federation – who the immigrants were, why they were desirable at the time, what incentives were offered, how the scheme was financed, and where to find further information.

A Different Kind of DNA Talk, presented by Colleen Fitzpatrick, presented some information that I was already familiar with, however Colleen used some analogies that really strengthened my understandings of DNA.  The analogy she made between our DNA & manuscripts that were hand-copied was probably the strongest – the more a manuscript was copied, the more likely there was to be a mistake, just like when DNA is copied from parent to child.  She also introduced me to cladograms, which are visual representations of Y-DNA results that show how individuals are related.

Perry McIntyre’s second presentation was ‘The infernal villain will be sent away’: Convict Case Studies from the National Archives of Ireland, Dublin.  Perry told us about the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers in the National Archives of Ireland, which are the equivalent of Australia’s Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence.  This resource is currently being digitised but most of the documents have been transcribed, meaning they are searchable by keywords & names.  To illustrate how CSORP can help us in our research, Perry presented some case studies of people that came to the attention of the authorities for their criminal activities.

After lunch I attended Pauleen Cass’ talk, Harness the Power of Blogging for Your Research or Your One Place Study.  To illustrate how blogging gives genealogists unique opportunities to bring descendants from a particular group of emigrants together, Pauleen presented two case studies from her own research that focused on migration networks: one from Ireland & one from Germany.

The final talk for the day was Bring Your Ancestors to Life: Using Court of Petty Session Records, presented by Shauna Hicks.  Shauna uses the term ‘petty sessions’ as an umbrella term for a wide range of court administered records.  These records were usually for minor criminal offences but the Court could also sit as Small Debts Courts, Police Courts, Licensing Courts, Children’s Courts & Coroners Courts.  Different colonies / states used named their Courts differently & also had variations in the Court’s responsibilities over time.  Shauna used Queenland’s State Archives to show the wide range of a court’s responsibilities & what types of records can be found.  Most State Archives have an online guide to the court records they hold. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

#AFFHO Congress 2015 - Part 3

Day Two of AFFHO Congress 2015
I missed the morning sessions on Saturday as I wasn’t feeling very well that morning.  I had been planning on going to Pauleen Cass’ talk The Marriage of Local and Family History – A Bridge to the Past, & Paul Milner’s Scotland - Maps and Gazetteers for Research.

So my first presentation for the day was by Jenny Joyce, The UK Gazettes – A Treasure Trove of Information for Family History.  Jenny used a variety of examples from the gazettes to illustrate the range of resources that are in the gazettes & how they can help you research ancestors, events & the social history of an area.  She also demonstrated how to access the gazettes online.

I attended the lunchtime session, Volunteering at The National Archives, by Roger Kershaw.  He presented an interesting list of the social, emotional & work-related benefits of being a volunteer at the archives.  Roger also displayed some data that showed how many hours were spent on a project by volunteers & compared it to how long it would have taken a paid employee to complete the same work & how much it would have cost the archives to pay that employee.  What can be achieved by volunteers (the whole ‘crowdsourcing’ concept) is staggering!  It costs almost nothing & is done in a fraction of the time, allowing more resources to be accessed by anyone online.

The afternoon keynote address was by Richard Reid, If You Ever Go Across the Sea to Ireland: Realities of 19th Century Ireland.  I have ancestors from several Irish counties.  Richard really put the scope of emigration from north-west Donegal to NSW from 1859 - 1865 into perspective.  My 3rd great grandfather emigrated from this area in 1861.  The richness of his descriptions of the conditions in Dunfanaghy & the wider area of Cloughaneely inspired me to buy his book, Farewell my Children so that I could learn more about the area specifically & emigration from Ireland around this time in general.

Kerry Farmer’s talk was Learn More from Autosomal & X-Chromosome DNA.  I had my DNA tested about 2 years ago but I haven’t really been able to do anything with it so far.  After listening to Kerry’s talk, I know that if I can get my parents’ DNA tested it will help me determine where segments of my autosomal DNA came from, & then I will be better able to determine how Family Finder matches on Family Tree DNA are related to me by using triangulation and phasing.  The idea of using GEDmatch to create a Lazarus kit for an untested direct ancestor is intriguing.  Again, if I’m able to test my parent/s’ DNA, I’ll be able to use GEDmatch to its fullest potential.  Unfortunately, people aren’t always comfortable ‘giving away’ their DNA for testing.  Kerry’s book, DNA for Genealogists, has just been newly revised & released, so I’m looking forward to using it & her website to look further into my DNA results & see what else I can learn.

The final session I attended for the day was Remembering and Commemorating our Ancestors by Perry McIntyre.  Perry stated that family historians & historians need to work together to construct a balanced written history.  She also showed images of a range of memorials & discussed how & why these memorials were erected to commemorate our ancestors & pivotal events in social history such as the Irish Famine & the diaspora.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

#AFFHO Congress 2015 - Part 2

Day One of AFFHO Congress 2015 continued . . .
Roger Kershaw gave the after-lunch keynote address, Tracing Free Emigrants to Australasia.  His talk explained the records held by The National Archives (TNA) in the UK relating to a variety of government assisted schemes to encourage emigration to Australia & New Zealand.

Carol Baxter’s presentation, Help! Which Information is Correct? Tried-and-True Strategies for Determining Historical Truth, was so energetic & engaging.  It had me thinking about primary & secondary sources that are used in genealogy research.  This concept caused a lot of confusion & anxiety for many people who participated in UTAS’s Introduction to Family History unit over the summer; it also sparked a lot of discussion between the students, which was a good thing.  Carol analyses information sources in three ways: by its source, the information contained & the evidence it gives.  She categorises sources as original, derivative or authored work; information as primary, secondary or undetermined; & evidence as direct, indirect or negative.  Something Carol said that really resonated with me was to listen to a document’s voice when you weigh its evidence to help you determine whether the source is primary, secondary or undetermined.

I decided to go to Helen Smith’s presentation on The English Workhouse & its Records thinking that it might give me more insight into an ancestor’s experiences in an Irish workhouse.  Part way through the presentation I remembered that I had another ancestor who was in an English workhouse with some of her children after her husband had left the parish to avoid debtor’s prison.  In fact, several sources state that she died in Ticehurst Union Workhouse in Sussex in 1832.  However Helen’s talk, & further research into the Ticehurst Union Workhouse, shed doubt on this – this workhouse wasn’t built until 1835.  Helen discussed the social & political conditions that led to the formation of union workhouses, how people were admitted into the workhouse, what their life was like inside the workhouse & how people could leave the workhouse.  She also described what kinds of records are available for workhouses & where to find them.  Helen’s talk gave me some new avenues to research - now I just need to formulate a research plan (or several).

Monday, 6 April 2015

#AFFHO Congress 2015 - Part 1

I had a brilliant time at AFFHO Congress 2015 at Canberra last week.  I attended a lot of genealogy sessions, bought some books & met some fellow geneabloggers.  I got to hear some presenters that I have really been looking forward to & I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the talks by many other presenters who I didn't know much about before Congress, apart from reading their interviews with the official Congress bloggers, Jill BallPauleen Cass & Shauna Hicks.

Although it was only a week ago, so much has happened since then that I wish I had taken the time to write down my thoughts during the conference about the different talks I attended.  I stayed with my son when I was in Canberra, & this was the first time I have been to visit him since he moved to Canberra for university 2 years ago, so I spent as much time with him as possible.  I was also surprisingly exhausted each night during the conference.  When I got back to Sydney, the last few days of Term 1 with my class were jam-packed, & I went to pick up my new puppy from the airport on Good Friday.  I have been living in puppy bliss since then  J

So this blog post about the conference won't be as comprehensive as it could have been. 

Day One of AFFHO Congress 2015
This was the first time I used my mobile phone as an alarm clock – I have to say that it wasn’t very effective.  About the only thing I think to take with me was my own alarm, which is very persistent & loud & will keep yelling at me for an hour straight no matter how many times I hit snooze.  I missed the Opening Address (in fact I missed all of the morning key note addresses), which I firmly blame on iPhone’s alarm.  Seriously though, my alarm clock will probably be the first thing I pack from now on.

The first presentation I attended was by Simon Fowler, ‘Shovelling Out Paupers’: Researching Assisted Emigration in English Archives.  It was a good introduction to the conference, as I hadn’t ever attended a genealogy event before.

Next up was Paul Milner’s Buried Treasures – What’s in the English Parish Chest.  I have heard of the mystical ‘Parish Chest’ before but to be honest, I didn’t know that it was particularly useful or accessible, so I hadn’t really looked into it.  I had seen Paul’s book of the same name publicised a few days before through Gould Genealogy’s newsletter, but didn’t give it too much thought for the same reasons mentioned previously.  Before the talk had even finished, I was convinced that I absolutely have to access parish chests because they are a veritable treasure trove of information.  A lot of the records have to do with providing welfare to the poor or needy as the parish of settlement was responsible for the welfare & old-age care of it members.  Other records include:

  • vestry minutes;
  • churchwarden accounts which list the expenditures of the church;
  • parish lists, which may list all the inhabitants in the parish or just those who participated in a parish function;
  • local militia lists, which may contain the names of all men in the parish who are eligible for militia service, or just those who actually served; &
  • parish charities.

Paul was such a casual but engaging speaker - I think I could happily listen to him talk on almost any genealogy-related topic.

This blog post will have to be broken into several posts.

Btw, I loved the Congress app!  It made organising my schedule & knowing where I had to go & when I had to be there so much easier.  I’m even using it now to help me write this blog post J

Sunday, 15 March 2015

HSP105 Introduction to Family History at UTAS

Well, it was a busy two months spent doing the Introduction to Family History course (UTAS) over the Christmas holidays, but I got to learn a lot about the experiences of teachers in early NSW (1881 - 1933).  For our third assessment task we were asked to write a research report. I decided to research my 2nd great grandmother's teaching career.  

Catherine is one of my favourite ancestors.  She is the only teacher among my direct ancestors &, being a teacher myself, this makes me identify strongly with her.  Some drop of teaching blood must have been passed on through Catherine to me!  She is also the daughter of an Irish Famine Orphan who came to Australia as part of the Earl Grey scheme.  She also seems to have been very close to her children; several of her children lived with her throughout their lives, or in the second house she owned next door to her own, & after the sudden death of her son (my great grandfather), his widow & young son (my grandfather) came to live with Catherine.

I had three main aims:
  • In which areas & schools did Catherine teach?
  • During what time period did she teach?
  • What was her life as a teacher like?

I was able to discover that Catherine Curran (nee Whitelock) started her career in 1881 at the age of 14 ¾, when she began her training as a pupil teacher.  She also attended Hurlestone Training School, a residential training school for women, from 1886 - 1887.  She was promoted to, or ‘instructed to act’ as, Mistress of Greta Infants in 1890.  She taught at Greta Infants from 1890 – 1892, Milltown Infants (which was later renamed South Bathurst) from 1892 – 1908, and South Goulburn Infants from 1908 – 1920.  The majority of her career was spent teaching in the Bathurst area before she was appointed to Arncliffe West Infants in 1920.  Catherine retired from teaching in 1931, the day before her 65th birthday.

Looking through the documents in school files at State Records NSW showed me what her life was like as a teacher / mistress of Infants.  There was such a range of documents that she filled out, from recommending whether a teacher in her Infants department should be granted sick leave to liaising with the Department of Education about the need for more furniture or repairs to the school.

I researched the history of education in NSW & learnt about how teachers were trained, teacher-pupil ratios & class sizes, teacher examinations, & the promotion system & school inspections.

I was able to access digital copies of the education curriculum from 1905 – 1928, which gave me an idea of the curriculum Catherine would have taught.

The following blog posts / websites helped with my research:

I feel like I have gotten to know Catherine so well through this research report.  As a bonus, I have copies of multiple documents that she hand-wrote as well as her signature.  I also now know that she was known as Kate, not Catherine.