Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Please put great grandpa back on the correct tree....

Some years ago I traced my husband's MacDonald ancestors on the Isle of Skye back to the McKenneth Kings. An older family member had travelled to Scotland many years before and had begun the search for the MacDonald ancestry and I continued her well researched work. My husband, David, is also related to the Stewart Kings, through a second marriage of his ancestor John, Lord of the Isles and this lineage has been thoroughly researched, well documented and supported through Burke's Peerage. Imagine my horror, to discover on no less than nine family trees tracing branches of our Mathew MacDonald's family, all with an identical mistake. My husband's great grandfather, Mathew MacDonald ( seated in the photograph above) was the son of Charles MacDonald of Ord, the 13th progenitor of the Clanranald branch of MacDonalds. His mother remains unknown to us but his paternity is well documented through letters from Scotland from his half brother, Keith Norman MacDonald, a doctor and well known composer of Scottish reels and Jigs in the late1800's. Mathew's father, Charles MacDonald of Ord, married Anne McLeod of Gesto in 1828, some 18 years after Matthew's birth. Nine out of ten trees on tracing the ancestors of Mathew MacDonald, have Mathew's step-mother, Anne as his mother.

The owners of these trees put the wrong mother on Mathew's tree, and they have also gone to a great deal of trouble to trace her lineage, and although extremely interesting, it does not belong on this family tree. I contacted the owners of the trees, and so far have heard from only one, who was happy that I had corrected their mistake. Mathew MacDonald does not descend from the McLeod's of Gesto, as these trees suggest. I am hoping that through this blog, someone might see that this information is incorrect, and straighten out the maternal branch of my husband's great grandfather's tree. Pictured right is Charles macdonald, son of Mathew and grandson of Charles of Ord with his wife Mary Maguire and children. is an excellent source of reference for family historians however, with regard to ancestry Trees, extreme caution needs to be employed before copying information from unsourced trees. Never copy anything unsourced!! Contact the owner of a tree and ask where the information came from. Check the information yourself to verify its source and validity. Family anecdotes, though delightfully entertaining, can be notoriously misleading and need to be thoroughly researched and verified. I was told by several MacDonald aunts, that Mathew MacDonald had sailed to Australia on a ship named 'The Mary Jane' and that my husband's grandmother ( Mary Jane) was named after the ship. I spent quite a lot of time searching for the wrong ship! Mathew and his wife Mary McPherson, in fact, arrived on board the 'William Nicol' as part of the Dunmore Lang emigration scheme. Persistence, patience and accuracy is important when researching the family tree. Research is slow, there is no changing the fact, but accuracy is rewarding.

I will soon be posting the fascinating ancestry of Mathew MacDonald on my family blog site

Monday, December 6, 2010

'A photograph is not only an image,... an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace...' Susan Sontag 1977

Sharing family photographs

I sent the Birthday Card pictured right, to my sister in August this year. I loved the cute photograph of the twins. What a surprise I received when I collected my October issue of Family Tree, to find the very same photograph, reversed, and proudly adorning the cover of the magazine!

I was hoping that I would find out who the little twin girls were, however, the inside cover simply said: 'Twin girls in London, enjoying a day in the park on their push scooters.'

Aside from my finding this to be an amazing coincidence, I was reminded of how many family photographs end up in places other than the possession of the family. Too often I have found other people's family photos, their precious memories, in antique and second hand stores. Many of them have no writing on the back so are impossible to identify. Several years ago I found a family's entire collection of photographs, which had been sold as part of a deceased state, in a second hand store. The family's surname was Fenton which is a name in my husband's family. I would have loved to have 'saved' this collection to keep it together, however there was a hefty price tag attached to each of the the pictures and so, sadly, they remained in the store. In this instance, hundreds of family snapshots have been lost to future generations because they were not passed on to someone in the family. Perhaps there was no one to leave them to, but if they had been shared with other family members, their fate may have been otherwise. For those of us who partake in the satisfying quest for our ancestors, and for everyone for whom the internet has made the sharing of family photographs much easier, the loss of these family treasures becomes less likely.

Last week, I discovered a photograph of my great great grandfather, John Gottlieb Nargar (Nerger) on a tree on I had never seen an image of him before and so of course was most excited. I had also never met the relative who owns the photograph so would have been unlikely to have ever known what great great grandfather John Gottlieb looked like if the picture hadn't been generously shared on this genealogy website.

So often, in families, one member inherits a collection of old family photographs and unless there are copies made and shared amongst other famly members, it is more than likely that several generations later, they will be difficult to find or lost forever, as in the case of the Fenton family's photos, which ended up for sale, in a second hand store. I have been extremely fortunate in that most relatives whom I have discovered through tracing my family tree, have been mst generous in sharing copies of family photographs with me. I am happy to share my own phtographs, of course. It is surely every genealogist's dream to inherit the family history in photographic images, however it is important to share family portraits to ensure their longevity.

I was approached recently, by the Centenary Suburbs Historical Society in Brisbane, Queensland with a request to share with them, photographs of my great grandparents, Hugh and Sarah White whose farm 'Carrig-Na-Gule' was situated at Seventeen Mile Rocks. Often the society conducts talks and displays about the pioneers of this area and when a member found my family photographs on my blog, she asked if I would be happy to share some of the images of the past with them. The photograph on the right, taken from the front verandah of the home on "Carrig-Na-Gule' ( named after the flax farm which the family owned in County Tyrone, Ireland), shows a shed which the Centenary Suburbs Historical society believe once housed a biplane glider in which a Thomas McLeod made the first observed flight in a ' heavier than air' machine in Queensland.

Even though this attempt at flight, which is pictured below right, took place prior to my great grandparents purchase of the property, I was thrilled to find an invitation to the 100th anniversary of this event in my mailbox. Not only will a plaque be unveiled on the very land that my ancestors owned but the photograph at the top of the invitation shows my great grandfather's farmland at Seventeen Mile Rocks. The picture was taken when the previous owners of the land, the Belz family lived there but that takes nothing away from the excitement of seeing an image of the land which my family farmed. below left is a photograph of Hugh and Sarah White on their farm Carrig-Na-Gule at Seventeen Mile Rocks.

For a number of years, I have been collecting old photographs of 'lost' families and in particular 'lost' children. Some, I have managed to reunite happily with family members who are thrilled to have never before seen images of ancestors. Others have been safely placed in an acid free photograph album, patiently waiting for me to find the time to trace their family history.

'Finding' the child in the photograph on the right, is my next project. The baby pictured, is 1 year old Mary or May Theodora Marsh. The portrait was taken in Southampton, England, so I will begin by searching birth and census records to find her. The photograph was found in NSW so she possibly had relatives in Australia to whom the picture was sent.

Pictured below, are some of my 'lost children' waiting for homes. Perhaps someone will recognise an ancestor or a relative and contact me.

Right is Mary (May)
Theodora marsh 1 yr.

Eugene Percy

Mary Ann Holyland

Monday, November 22, 2010

'Presented to Mr James Boyd by the teacher on the Emigrant Ship Australia..."

How I 'found' James Boyd in a Second Hand Book Store

I almost overlooked the little book entitled "History of England', as it sat on the dusty shelf of a second hand book store. With a faded dark green cover, it sat, tucked in between the large colourful picture books in the 'British Isles' section of the store. Because it appeared to be very old, it aroused my curiosity at once. As soon as I opened the front cover, I realised that I had discovered a treasure. Written in pencil in beautiful flourishing handwriting, were the following words:

" Presented to Mr James Boyd by the Teacher on board the Emigrant Ship Australia as a small token of esteem and as a testimonial of his good conduct on board the ship, and also in appreciation of his amicable character and .... and obliging disposition .... Signature .... June 11th 1853."

On the opposite inside cover page, had been written at at a later date, in blue ink, "To Connie Boyd From Mother." I knew at once that I had to buy the book and could hardly believe that the price was only $5.50. It seemed to be true that 'what is one man's rubbish is another man's treasure.

It happened that whoever had priced the small history book had not seen the transcription inside it, so, instead of placing it amongst the rare books, had accidentally put it in the general part of the book store. I had found a bargain and this book is most surely one of my most treasured purchases. The book entitled, 'History of England' was an Educational Book, Historical Series No. 1, published in London in 1852 by The Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. In the book, illustrating the text, are fold out maps. Especially interesting, is a fold out Royal family history beginning with King John, father of Henry 1 (pictured below left).

Most of the pages of the small book are yellowed and obviously well read. The musty smell that comes with age, makes me love this book even more. Intrigued by the inscription written inside the front cover of the book, I set out at once to discover who James Boyd was, and to learn something of his life. As I began my search for the original owner of my book, I wondered how this special treasure that had been thoughtfully presented to young James on his arrival in Australia, had ended up on a shelf in a book store rather than being cherished by a family.

My first task was to find a passenger list for the ship Australia. I discovered that this ship had arrived in Sydney from England, on June 11, 1853, the same date on which the inscription was written in the book. At the NSW State Library, I found the passenger list for the ship Australia. On the list were the Boyd family from Templecrone, County Donegal in Ireland. Adam Boyd ( born in County Donegal) aged 43 and his wife Mary aged 41 (born in County Leitrim) travelled to Australia with their nine children, Elizabeth 22, Mary Jane 20, James 19, Margaret 17, William 15, Anne 13, Robert 11, Adam 9 and Susan, 7 years. The passenger list stated that Adam Boyd, senior, was an agricultural labourer. Now, some years later, has put the Unassisted NSW Passenger List 1828-1898 online and this record can be found on this site.

I was very excited to have found James and his family and, importantly, to have verified the validity of the message in the front cover of the book. I had established from the passenger list that James Boyd, owner of the book I had purchased, was born in Templecrone, County Donegal, Ireland, in about 1834. I also knew the approximate date of birth for his parents, Adam and Mary, and his 8 siblings from the passenger list. The next step was to discover where the Boyd family had settled in Australia. Since I knew that the family had arrived in Sydney, I searched the NSW electoral rolls. On the NSW Australian Historical Electoral Rolls 1842-1864, I found Adam Boyd living in the Kiama area at Broughton Vale (years 1855-6).

The 1872 Broughton's Creek Post office Directory ( pictured right) lists the following entries for members of the Boyd family: Adam Boyd - Farmer, Broughton Vale, Boroughton's Creek; Hugh - Farmer, Jasper's Mount, Broughton's Creek; Daniel Boyd- Farmer, Jasper's Mount, Brouhgton's Creek; James Boyd- Farmer, Broughton's Vale. Broughton's Creek; Robert Boyd- Farmer, Broughton's Creek; Robert H - Farmer, Broughton's Creek; William - Farmer, Broughton's Creek.

A search of the NSW Historical Births Deaths and Marriages found the deaths of James parents, Adam and Mary Boyd in 1879 and 1875 respectively. A death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald ( courtesy of Trove) also reported that Mary died on "October 5, 1875, at her residence, Broughton Vale, the beloved wife of Adam Boyd, Esq, JP, and Mayor of Broughton Vale, late of County Leitrim, Ireland, aged 70 years". A death certificate revealed that Mary Boyd was born Mary Whitten, in about 1812 to parents, William Whitten and Elizabeth Stevenson. her husband, Adam Boyd was born in County Leitrim in Templecrone, County Donegal, Ireland to parents Daniel Boyd and Mary Virtue.

Now that I had discovered who James Boyd was, I decided to try to trace the person named 'Connie Boyd' who was the later recipient of the 'History of England' book. I found a marriage for James Boyd to Eliza Ann Walker, in Kiama in the year 1886 and then set about searching for children born to this couple. I hoped to find Connie amongst them, or amongst their descendants. James and Eliza Ann Boyd had the following children - Adam J. W 1868, Mary Ann 1870, Eliza Jane 1871, Robert Erwin 1875, Maggie Caroline Susannah 1878, William Albert 1880, Frederick E 1882 and George Leslie 1887. After searching for the marriages and children of each of James' sons and daughters, I was still no closer to finding Connie Boyd the previous owner of the book I had purchased.

Having found no 'Connie' amongst the descendants of James Boyd, I searched for marriages for all of James' siblings however I was unable to find Connie Boyd. Assuming that 'Connie' was a shortened version of the name Constance, I searched the NSW electoral rolls without success and a search for a death and marriage also failed to find any sign of Connie Boyd. One Constance Boyd in Stockton, Newcastle, NSW, proved disappointingly, to be no relation to the Boyd family who had arrived on the ship 'Australia' in 1853.

Because online searches of historical births cut off at 1909 in NSW, I looked for deaths of possible children of James Boyd and his siblings. The person named Connie Boyd, whose mother had presented James' book to, however, still managed to elude me. I searched the NSW electoral rolls for Constance Boyd but with no result. Finally, widening my search to variations of the name Constance (and by now, thinking that perhaps Connie might be my mystery book owner's real name), I searched and .... I found Connie Boyd. On the 1936 and 1937 electoral roll Connie Heather Boyd resided with her parents, Daniel Wesley ( farmer) and Maggie Caroline Susannah Boyd, at Main Road, Dapto, NSW. Connie's mother, Maggie was the fifth of James and Eliza Boyd's children. Her father Daniel Wesley, was the second child of James' sister Mary Jane Boyd and her husband Daniel Boyd. Connie's parents were first cousins and Connie was both the grand daughter and great neice of James Boyd. My next goal was to attempt to find the descendants of James and his grand daughter, Connie, the two owners of my now cherished little book. The more history that I discovered about the book the more I treasured it.

I easily found a marriage for Connie (now that I was searching under Connie and not Constance as I had previously done). She married John Frederick Miller in 1945 in Wollongong, NSW, however when I looked for her death I discovered that Connie had married more than once, as she died in 1975 in Wollongong under the surname of Halls not Miller. The 1949 electoral roll shows Connie Miller living at 263 Princess Highway, Dapto near Wollongong where she had married John Frederick Miller four years earlier.

I have been unable, as yet to trace any direct descendants of James Boyd through his daughter, Maggie Caroline Susannah or his grand daughter, Connie, but will continue to try to trace descendants through James other children. I am pleased to have learned about the boy who travelled to Australia in 1853 on board the ship 'Australia' and who was given the gift of a small history book as a token of the ship's teacher's esteem and appreciation.

The story does not end here. The book has travelled from England to Australia and is a valuable part of the Boyd family history and significantly, a treasured piece of evidence in the history of New South Wales. I will make certain that it is left in safe hands so that it will become accessible to everyone.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Frederick Watkins Diary Friday October 19 1885

Frederick Watkins was born in Ashwater, County Devon, England on October 25 1865. He wrote this diary as a record of his journey by ship to Australia in 1885. Frederick was one of 10 children born to Thomas Watkins and Elizabeth Ann Crabb, both born in Devon. This is his diary entry for the day that he boarded the ship 'Victor'. Frederick arrived in Maryborough, Queensland, in January 1886. here is his diary continued...

Friday Morning October 9th, 1885

I was in a good heart to be off for Queensland. All though I enjoyed my self at the home at Blackwall - for I look it nearly as home. I used to help wash the dishes with the girls and young men. Well, I left London for gravesend at 11 o'clock by the Victor when she had come to graves end and then we entered the [Silhet?] at one o'clock which when we had got in was left for our journey the same boat towed us out and at the light house (more there) dropped anchor. it is very fine weather there is land on each side of us which is very grand to see, we are anchored Saturday 10th.

Sunday October 11th

This is Sunday and a good rough morning. we started at 7 o'clock morn. I have had a good round of sickness the waves are coming in over the deck very fast the men and women are all sick today the waves are sweeping over the men one on the other we passed Dover at 3.30 had it rough from the north (dizziness) Got at easting 6.30 Had a good prayer meeting tonight.

Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday I was sick oh so sick if you could see me you would say I was not going to live so far as Queensland but after all my sickness I enjoy the sea for to see the fish is most delightfull We have left all the English coast. I shall be glad when we get to maryborough The food is so funny you can't think but it is not bad sort of stuff for they that like it Today it has been fine The people are enjoying themselves but me, poor me s done right up for the want of food, I do not know what the end will be if I do not alter, I am sitting in my favourite place that is in the sheeps pens this is where I sit every day as I have given you some hints of the last 4 days

Family Recipe Friday

Family Recipes

Whilst cleaning out some boxes in my garage recently, I came accross a small old address book. When I opened the well used little book, I was surprised to find that it contained, not addresses, but a collection of receipes written by my great aunt Dorothy, who was born in 1910 and died in 2001. I am not sure how the notebook came to be in my possesssion but as I read through the hand written recipes I noticed that my aunt had dated each one and in many cases written the name of the person from whom she had acquired the recipe.

Looking at the left slanted writing, I realised that I had never known that my great aunt was left handed like myself. When I got to know her well, she was a widow of advancing years who did little cooking. I did not ever sample the recipes in the litttle notebook, however, I can now imagine the dinner parties, that she must have hosted, being the wife of an army Major. Reading through her obviously much used, recipe book (food stains on a page are always the sign of a much loved and well used recipe), I realised that my aunt must have had an adventurous love of cooking. The recipes, which date from 1941 to 1975, were a collection of warm and hearty foods as well as quite exotic foods, many of which were boldly unusual for the 1940's and especially for the war years. This possibly reflected that great aunt Dorothy's husband Alexander had served in Malaysia and Japan in the Australian Army, during the second world war. Living in Asia, my great aunt had experienced new and interesting dishes which she herself cooked.

As well as dating the recipes, my great aunt had very kindly (for me) written where she was living at the time. I now have record of her whereabouts between 1941 and 1975 when the entries in the recipe book ceased. I did not know this aunt very well, since, for most of my life she lived either abroad or in a different state to myself. Through her recipe book and through her cooking, I feel that I am getting better acquainted with this interesting lady.

It was after watching the movie, Julie/Julia that my interest in blogging blossomed. I have always been an avid reader and writer however, it seems appropriate, now, that through a film about two women, years apart in age, who shared a love of cooking, one writing a French Cook book and the other younger woman blogging about the same book, that I am blogging about my great aunt, whose love of cooking shines through her own recipe book.

I want to discover, now, who was Sally Mann, who gave my great aunt a recipe for Ice Cream ( 17-6-46) when she lived in Sydney NSW. I am intrigued as to more about M Bishop, who passed on to my great aunt a recipe for Chocolate Pudding on July 7 1975 at Surfer's Paradise in Queensland. Sue Hing's recipe for glazed carrots was written in the little book 0n September, 9, 1960 in Taiping, Malaya (Malasia) along with other recipes from people in America. I can see a new journey for me ahead tracing the origins of these recipes.

I am determined, also, to try to cook some of the recipes from the small note book where my aunt has left not only a legacy of delicious food for me to cook, but a narrative of her life and her friends. The first recipe that I have decided to attempt, is a Banana Queen Pudding dated, 6-11-1948, Sydney. It sounds scrumptious and I am certain that my family will love it.

Reading through this book of old recipes has brought back to me so many memories of foods lovingly cooked by my mother and grandmother.

I have found several recipes in this book which my great aunt must have passed on to my mother and which I still make today. It makes the dishes much more special to know where they came from.

Food always seems to conjure some special memories. memories of Christmases with special food lovingly and festively prepared. Memories of birthdays with decoratively iced cakes. My memories of my paternal grandmother are very much asssociated with her wonderful Irish dishes such as Irish Bap which was greatly appreciated by all of her grandchildren. Only two weeks ago, I kindly recived by mail from an aunt, some of this grandmother's most loved recipes, including that of her Irish Bap. I am planning to cook it soon, along with her delicious Caramel Custard and Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream, 'Paddington Heights' Pumpkin Scones and Scottish Shortbread, (a recipe given to her by her mother-in law from Glasgow Scotland). My family may have to join a gym or take up running, as I blaze a trail through my old family recipes but I have no doubt that through these lovingly cooked meals, delicious desserts and cakes and I am going to come to better know my ancestors. Move over Julie/Julia!
P.S. I'll let you know how I fair with the Banana Queen Pudding and I am going to get started straight away, on my own hand written recipe book to pass on to my children.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Family Wedding Photographs

Family Wedding Photos

Family photographs which celebrate family events such as weddings are important social documents for family historians. As well as recording events which shaped the lives of the families who we are researching, wedding photos can provide us with a pictorial narrative about family relationships and so much more. Wedding photographs make an important statement about the social context within which the family existed, for example, whether the family was wealthy, of a working class or perhaps an ethnic background. Wedding photographs are also a relevant representation of social change, fashion, the places where and the way in which our forebears lived.

The clothes worn by the people in wedding photographs reflect much about fashion and the times in which they lived. Weddings are a special event for all families to which 'best' clothing was, and still is, worn. Wedding photographs from the two World War periods or the Great Depression are a reflection of how our families fared during these times of great hardship. The clothes worn by the Bride and Groom, provide vital information which helps us to define who a person was and much about them. From the wedding photograph pictured right, taken in Lancashire, in 1917, during World War 1, we have an immediate pictorial narrative about this couple. The groom, Bill Eckerley is wearing an army uniform. Research finds that he is a Private in the A.O.C. ( Army Ordinance Corps). The bride, Winifred Agnes Quinn is wearing day clothing as many women did during the war years when there was a shortage of money and materials. The fuller skirt and jacket which was fashionable in the pre 1918 years (after which, skirts became straighter) records this young bride as a fashionable young woman of her time. The photograph is taken in a studio, indicating that there was sufficient money to be spent on an official wedding portrait.

The wedding picture of Stanley Galik and his bride Mel, (below right) taken in 1945 in Norfolk England where Stanley was stationed is typical of many war time wedding photographs. There was a shortage of money and weddings were often arranged in haste as partners were sent off into battle.

Day clothing and uniforms were typical apparel for a wedding in England during World war 2. These two wedding photographs are a pictorial record of changing fashions as we see the women's skirts become shorter and straighter and the groom's uniform tells us that he served in the Navy.

Not only are wedding photographs, a significant record of the social and economic lives of our families, but they also make an important statement about the people in them. There is a saying that' clothes define the person'. Often the clothing worn in a wedding photograph defines who the wearer is. In the photograph, below right, in which I am Flower Girl (1958) I can see that my aunt felt confident enough about herself to wear a daringly (for the times) fitting wedding dress. Knowing that my grandmother was a wonderfully talented seamstress, I know that the wedding dress would have been hand made by her. My own mother made the little flower dress dress for myself. There is a certain psychology to 'reading' family photographs, and in particular, wedding photos are a wonderful insight into how our ancestors and relatives perceived themselves. A less confident bride may have worn a looser fitting gown.

Celebrations such as weddings are times when many family members gather together and are quite often the only pictorial record of many relatives and ancestors. They have, therefore, a significant place in the recording of our family history and are important resource material for anyone researching family history.

If you are fortunate, your family wedding photographs may have names written on the back to enable you to identify the people in the pictures and the place where your ancestor was married.
The wedding photograph, below right, is a treasured record of the wedding of my parents who married in 1954. Since they both died fairly young, I cannot ask them about their special day, however, I have a beautiful pictorial narrative of this family celebration, where the guests are dressed in their best clothing and the ladies in the fashion of the 1950's, are wearing hats. My mother sewed her wedding gown and veil and my grandmother made the bridesmaid's dresses as both girls were sisters of my father. I know from writing on the back of the photograph (written by a great aunt who sent the picture to another relative) that the marriage took place at St Paul's Church, St Paul's Terrace, Brisbane and that the reception was held at 'Whytecliffe'.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Frederick Watkin's Diary Tuesday October 4, 1885

Tuesday October 6 1885
[page] 2. Up from bed this morning at 5.30 washed and dressed and then I went up in the street for a walk after which was something to be seen Ragged Boys and Girls as well as a lot of men and women
I continued untill Friday looking and running about enjoying myself very well

Sunday, October 31, 2010

'What sort of Diary should I like mine to be?' Virginia Wolfe 1882-1941

The Diary of Frederick Watkins' journey from England to Australia 1885

Diaries are an irreplaceable source of information about ancestors. Unfortunately, as far as I know, none of my own forebears were committed keepers of journals.

Today, in a bookstore, I found a bound copy of the diary written by Frederick Watkins. I purchased the document for $10. The first diary entry, pictured above, states that he was born on November 25, 1865 and is 21 years. The diary begins on October 4, 1885 and is a day by day account of this young man's trip from home, first by train and then the voyage by ship. The diary concludes at the end of Frederick's first day spent in Maryborough, Queensland.

I will post interesting pieces of Frederick Watkin's writing in my blogs as his words are a poignant insight into every part of the long voyage to Australia from sleeping, bathing, washing of clothes, discomforts, illness and the sights and experiences he lived through on his journey. Now, my challenge is to find out who Frederick Watkins was, and to perhaps trace some descendants who might be interested in the diary. This is 21 year old Frederick's first diary entry:

'1885 To Queensland Page one. [Born 25 Nov 1865 Aged 21 years] My Voyage and life to Maryborough Queensland x Monday October 4th Left Butleigh 7,30 to Glastonbury Station at 8.35 left in third class carriage for Waterloo arrived at 3 o'clock .....then to Fenchurch Street by cab Took train to Black-wall arrived at 4 o'clock which after a long day's ride was very tired and weary and in with a lot of strange people made me ..... [worse?] I took some tea at the home at 5 o'clock then out looking about for some time to the ships and boats which was a lot of excitement

all though it is raining we stayed in London for some time then to bed there were about 200 or more to sleep This has been a day of very lonely hours All though I enjoyed the country ride. I am afraid you will never read this queer writing'

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Middle Names and Family History

What's in a [Middle] Name? (Apologies to Shakespeare)

A Lighthearted look at Middle names

When you named your child, how did you choose a middle name for him or her? Whilst you spent hours happily perusing books of popular baby names, did you spare a thought for family historians of the future? Did you give the child an unusual or unique name, that would be easy for the genealogy enthusiast in your family, to find? 'Fessenden', for example shows up particularly well in a search of census records, and Verily Mary Christmas is quite an excellent choice for the electoral roll. Did you name the babe for your parents, or choose an old traditional family name? Perhaps you had a particular fondness for an aunt or uncle and named your child for them? I, myself, considered naming my first born after great aunt Esther Driscilla, in the hope that she might leave her vast riches to me in appreciation, however, I doubt that my son would have thought any amount of money could make up for being named Fergus Druscilla!

This blog is not named 'Monday Middle Names' just because it happens to be a Monday. There is a point to be made about awkward middle names and Mondays. I, for one, know what it is like to have the misfortune of being burdened with an unusual family middle name which, although may be a useful search tool for a family genealogist one day in years to come, has had a most unfortunate effect upon myself. In fact, I have been so traumatised by my own middle name that when it came to naming my children, I gave them all three names. Just in case they didn't like two of them! Well, except for my son, who has four and that was only because as I stepped up to the counter to register him, I panicked that he might not like the three names I had chosen and in a moment of madness added the name of the baby who had been ahead of me in the registry office queue. How do you tell your child that you named him after a perfect stranger in queue? In any case, Rahij is a lovely old Urdu name and goes well with Fergus, and I'm sure if I search hard enough amongst my Scottish, Irish and Swiss ancestors I will find an Urduan relative somewhere.

I was named after an aunt whose birthday I happen to share. If I had known that my appearance on that day would inevitably mean my sharing her middle name as well as her birthday, I might have timed my arrival better. Whenever I complained about the name as a child I was told to be proud of it since it was an old Scottish name. The middle name didn't really become such a big problem until I was at Bardon State School, when my second grade teacher, Mr Digby (I can't vouch for my spelling and you'll soon understand why) asked me if I was born on a Monday. At the tender age of 6, I knew that 'Mondays child is fair of face', and I was tempted to say 'yes', but because I was ' bonny and blithe and good and gay' I was also truthful. 'No Sir,' I replied, hoping he wouldn't be disappointed, 'I was born on a Sunday'.

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day,
Is Bonny and Blithe and Good and Gay'.

Born on a Sunday?' a puzzled Mr Digby exclaimed. 'Why then is your middle name Monday?'
Why, oh why, did Mr Bigby want this conversation. Wasn't it bad enough just to have been given my horrible old Scottish middle name. Now I was going to have to tell entire class what it was. There was no escaping it. MrBigby was awaiting an answer. 'It's not Monday, Sir,' I squeaked, 'It's Monda.' I waited for the laughter, but no one laughed! Well, not until Mr Bigby continued, 'Well, you have been writing Monday for the past two years.' 'Sharna-Lee Monday MacDade, that's what you've been writing.' A curse on that name. Right at that very moment a bird flew into the classroom and pooped on my head. I can't recall which was most embarrassing, the fact that I had mis-spelled my middle name for 2 years or the bird poop! But the incident did nothing to endear my middle name to me. These days I don't so much mind having 'an old Scottish' middle name, however, in all of my research of Scottish ancestors, I have never come across the name Monda anywhere.

If you were particularly thoughtful of the future family historian, you perhaps followed the Scottish tradition of giving your offspring family surnames as middle names? My Scottish forebears were most helpful by giving their children middle names which were the maiden surnames of maternal mothers and grandmothers? My great grandparents gave their first four children the middle name Gibson. My great grandmother was a Gibson. Then came along my grandfather to be given the middle name Hamilton. If I had been a boy, I was to have the middle name Hamilton. Most of my cousins, male and female have the middle name of Hamilton. 'Who was a Hamilton?' I hear you ask. Well, as it turns out, he was the doctor in Cumbernauld, Scotland, who delivered my grandfather. They ran out of maternal surnames to use. Best to check who you are naming the children after. I'm sure Dr Hamilton was a lovely man. I hope so because generations later, a large number of my family are named after him. great grandmother, Elizabeth's sister was Margaret Campbell Gibson. She was named after their maternal grandmother Margaret Campbell. That's how it was with my Scottish ancestors. William Holme Cameron. Mother was a Holme. Wallace Dalkieth Morrison. His mother a Dalkieth. Too easy! Well, except for the Hamilton thing!

The English were quite fond of using surnames as middle names as well. The English, however tended to keep passing the same name down for many generations. Manton was the middle name which helped me to trace my Westons from Middlesex. I traced it back to the 1780's where I found the first Edward Weston, of many generations of Edward Westons, had maried an Elizabeth Manton. It's nice to know where your middle name comes from if it is an old family name. I should know! The middle names of ancestors such as Elizabeth Dixon Mallows, Rex Morley Hoyes, Alexander Gilmour McDade, Sarah Campbell McDairmid and James Berry Hoyes made the trail the trail of ancestors more easily identifyable. Recently I discovered that a friend's two ancestors were first cousins, because Emma Woodland married a James Woodland Searle. This middle name was a clue to solving a very old mystery in the family. Never under-estimate the importance of a middle name.

Naming traditions are not so much in fashion these days as they once were. This is possibly a good thing for some children who will no longer be weighed down with the burden of carrying Aunt Esmerelda's or Uncle Horrice's names into the future (or Monda). But it does make the job more difficult for genealogists in the years to come. How much more confusing will be the task for for the family historian as they try to trace names such as Addison, Maddison, Emerson, Harper, Taylor for girls and Hunter, Jackson, Franklin, Knox and MacArthur for boys, all very trendy but in most cases with no connection to family.

So, spare a thought for those who will be on the hunt for family in the future. Consider giving your children middle names which will make it easy to identify ancestors and relatives in records. From my own experience, I can promise you that your daughter, Grace will survive the childhood trauma of having the middle name of of Shuffelbottom if that happened to be your maiden surname. If you feel guilty about giving your child a middle name such as Long, Short, Humperdink, Butcher or Carbonara, just think of how much easier it will for them to be found one day in a census or on a school list. And like me, they can keep it to themselves until they are old enough to appreciate the significance of a 'family' name (unless, of course, Mr Bigby is still teaching). My son has my maiden surname as one of his [many] middle names. He doesn't use all of his names and I am the first to admit that perhaps I did overdo the middle name thing. But who can blame me. At least I am the only person on the Queensland School registers with the middle name of 'Monday'. At least, I will be easy to find one day.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

'Master, master, old news! And such news as you never heard of.' William Shakespeare [The Taming of the Shrew]

Newspapers and family history

Hail! the digitalisation of newspapers. Not only is it fascinating to read 'old' news but for family historians, newspapers are a treasure trove of information about family members. Online newspaper archives have saved me hours of travelling and made searching so much easier. Although (it is fitting to say this immediately following 'follow a library' day), I absolutely adore libraries, I do have to admit that a search of the London Times, online, has made my search for ancestors in the UK so much easier.

[I would never suggest that an online search facility for newspapers could ever replace the good old library. Whether it is the smell of 'cut grass', 'mould', 'history', or whatever else it is that attracts one to libraries or archives.. I just love them. In fact, my children have to physically restrict me when walking walk past any library, just to prevent me from entering.] I digress... back to my topic of newspapers [which, I must add have been digitalised for the most part, by our wonderful libraries.]

The stories of my ancestors have been become more personal and so much more interesting through the chronicles of 'news' I have collected from newspapers. There is a wealth of information that newspapers can provide, about the everyday happenings, adventures, affairs (literally) and escapades in the lives of our ancestors. The photograph above, from the Brisbane Courier Mail in 1954, is the only picture that I have of my parent's marriage. This is much more than just a picture, as it tells me that my parents' wedding reception was held at a place called Whytecliffe. Since both of my parents died quite young, I would never have known this. Thanks to this newspaper photograph , I have since researched Whytecliffe to discover that it was was a beautiful home which was taken over by the military during the second world war for use as barracks for the WAAAF and then used for wedding receptions after the war had ended.

On my paternal side of the family, it is common knowledge that my great grandfather, John McDade, was killed by a falling branch as he walked through a park on his way home from work. He actually died the next day, after a hospital sent him home declaring him fit and well. But as family lore states, 'well', he was not the next morning. His obituary does not tell this story, however I was fortunate to have a reliable first hand account from my grandfather. From my maternal side of the family, I have no oral accounts of anything, so I have been reliant upon documents such as marriage and death certificates for information. Despite having received from New Zealand, a copy of the death certificate for my 2 time great grandfather, James Berry Hoyes, I had no idea that he, also, had been involved in an unfortunate accident until I searched the New Zealand National Library's digitalised newspaper site On entering the name James Berry Hoyes, I discovered a number of headings, including 'Old Man Killed', Casualties', and 'Fatalities'. The Evening Post, on
December, 24, 1910, reported that James had been fatally struck by a bicycle as he alighted from a tram in Queen Street near Fort Street at 3 pm on that afternoon. The Hawera and Normanby Star reported that James was aged 76 years old and was a resident of Devonport.
This news article also explained that he had succumbed to injuries at 5.30 pm and added that the 'cyclist had 'received a nasty tumble.' The Poverty Bay Herald also ran the story and added the further information that named the cyclist as a Mr Bush and with a more personal touch the journalist from this newspaper reported that James Berry Hoyes was on his way to buy his wife a bonnet for Christmas. Thanks to these newspaper reports, I was able to learn so much more about the sad and untimely death of my great great grandfather.

I had always assumed that the same James Berry Hoyes had immigrated to New Zealand for religious reasons given that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were part of the missionary group, the Albertlanders, however, as I mentioned in a previous story, the London Gazette, provided me with a new motive for the family's move. James Berry Hoyes, a miller from Houghton, Lincolnshire, was declared bankrupt in October of 1862, the year before he left England for the new colony of New Zealand. This news makes me appreciate all the more, the impressive way in which he made such a success of his life in new Zealand

It is often quite seemingly insignificant fragments of information that one finds reported in newspapers that fill in some missing gaps or provide us with a more accurate picture of someone from the past. From a search of the national Library of Australia's Trove website, I have discovered that my 2 times great grandfather, John Gottlieb Nargar [Nerger], who lived in Maryborough, was a keen breeder of finches. He entered his birds in a number of agricultural shows, the results of which were printed in The Queenslander and The Brisbane Courier Mail in the early 1900's. I now have a quite different picture in my mind of my tough, strict, German timber-getter, great great grandfather. He was a gentle nurturer of tiny birds. I see that there was a devoted and caring side of him now. Each, small morsel of information we can gather about our ancestors helps to make them become more real to us.

My Morrison great great great grandparents came to Sydney, Australia in 1878. I knew little of their lives except that they, for some reason relocated to Queensland in the 1900's and died in a town called Cooroy in 1927. They are Pioneers of Cooroy. Since the launch of the National Library's Trove site I have slowly built up a truly amazing story of my 3 times great grandfather, John Morrison from Aberdeen, Scotland. From articles in The Sydney Morning Herald I have ascertained that he was a well respected builder in Sydney, having built a number of impressive projects for architects such as Blackett Bros and others. (The Blackett brothers were the sons of colonial architect Edmund Blackett). Chapter House which adjoins St Andrew's Cathedral was built by John Morrison, builder, of Strathfield. John also built the Strathfield Council Chambers, St Enoch's Presbyterian Church at Newtown, Burwood Presbyterian Church and a large number of villas and homes all around Sydney. Advertisements in the SMH show the whereabouts of his construction sites as do advertisements and tenders for for tradesmen for his projects.

The Sydney Morning Herald also led me to discover that in 1890, John Morrison was contracted by the NSW government to build a large number of rail carriages. I discovered through newspaper articles that he had a large tram and rail carriage building works at Strathfield Station, where the Tafe College now stands. By all accounts, the evidence from newspaper reports showed this man to be a most successful and productive citizen of Sydney. Then, according to advertisements in 1895 in the SMH, John Morrison lost everything he had worked hard to achieve. Large advertisements in the SMH, announced that household goods and carriage works equipment would be sold at auction.
The reason for the sale was reported to have been the cancellation of an order of 180 rail carriages which the NSW government had ordered. Because of this, John Morrison was ruined. Reading the list of furniture and personal items in the newspaper almost brought me to tears. How devastated must my 3 times great grandparents have been to lose their beautiful things. They had two grand pianos, top quality furniture and paintings by renowned artists, jewellery designed by well known jewellers and ladies riding equipment. These advertisements for the auction of the Morrison's personal possessions illustrated the lifestyle they had become accustomed to, living with their 10 children, in the beautiful leafy suburb of Strathfield.

Through the Brisbane Courier Mail, I followed John Morrison's journey to Ipswich, Queensland where it was reported that he acquired the position of foreman in the South Eastern Railway Works. The social pages of the same newspaper reported holidays that the Morrison family members went on, especially several of their daughters who became nurses and one a matron of her own hospital in Cooroy. A delicious little tidbit of gossip such as the following report in the Brisbane Courier Mail, November 30, 1925, which announced that ' Nurse Vinna Morrison (Cooroy Hospital) left by this morning's mail for Sydney and Cobar', sent me on a search for the reason that Vinna would have travelled to Cobar. There I found another Morrison daughter, Inez, also a nurse and a whole new line of family.

The Morrison family deserve an entire blog of their own and so I will leave them for now, except to say that when the NSW State Rail Museum at Thirlemere opens after its huge renovation, in March of 2011, I will be there, with bells on to see several of my 3 times great grandfather's rail carriages, beautifully restored. ( His first carriage unrestored pictured right at Thirlemere).

You don't need to have a builder or a finch collector in the family, to find your ancestors in newspapers. In fact, if your forebears engaged in any criminal activities, you can be certain that they will appear somewhere in a newspaper . I might have believed forever that my Irish convict great great grandfather, Michael Frayne had reformed himself and become a model citizen had he not appeared so frequently in so many newspapers engaging in such wicked acts as to entice a man to his home on the pretence of selling a bed, drugging the fellow and stealing his wallet and money. Michael and his first wife Bridget, appeared so many times in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Maitland Mercury and the Brisbane Courier Mail, with detailed accounts of their wicked escapades, that I was left with no illusions as to the unfortunate character of this particular ancestor (who I must proclaim that I do not resemble in the least!).

My great uncle was hit by a car at the age of seven, in Toowoomba in Queensland. Now in his 90's, he does not recall the incident and but for the newspaper report in 1924, the family would never had known. My maternal grandfather rode a motorbike in the 1920's. I know this because of the number of fines he received for speeding, that were published in the Brisbane Courier Mail. My Irish paternal grandparents were well respected members of the Darling Downs farming community and received a hearty and musical farewell by the townsfolk of Kaimkillenbun in 1920. The article in the Dalby Herald details the recitations and songs that were sung at an afternoon reception in their honour.

The adventures of my great uncle Rex Morley Hoyes, with MI5 and the Nizam of Hyderabad, his illegal gun running and trial for bribery and corruption, not to mention his escapades with Australian pilot Sidney Cotton or WW11 double agent, Eddie Chapman, his home, Marwell Hall once owned by King Henry VIII and huge steam yacht 'Warrior 11', his numerous divorces, name changes and a mysterious title, along with a speed boat with the racy name of 'Miss x' would all have been lost to me, but for the fascinating availability of online searches of digitalised newspapers. Thanks to the London Times, I know the very address where great Uncle Rex conducted his affair in 1933, with Lady Waleran, and the details of the two divorces which followed this pubic disclosure.

Newspapers occupy an irreplaceable place in family history research. The information found in news reports can trace and colour the lives of our ancestors in a way that is beyond the imagination.

'Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.' Will Rogers 1879-1935: in the new York Times 1923

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Five Generations

Five Generations

'Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations'.

On a warm October afternoon in 1955, many family members gathered together in Maryborough, Queensland, to celebrate the 88th birthday of Barbara Lena Nargar (nee Häberling). It was a special day for the tiny Swiss born lady, but not only because it was her birthday. In the same year, 1955, she had became a proud great-great grandmother and the eldest of five generations of family who were all together on this day in her honour.

A photographer from the Brisbane Courier Mail was present to record and celebrate the wonderful day when five generations of mothers and daughters were together. Since I was only eight months old and the baby in the photograph above, I do not recall the party, however, it is a wonderful treasure to have this photograph of my mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother and myself pictured together. I kept this yellowed clipping from the Courier Mail in a 'treasure' box when I was a child and it is this same picture which led me to become interested in family history many years ago. Barbara Nargar, my 2 times great grandmother, was the first family member whose ancestry I set off in search of. Sadly, she died on October 30, 1957, two years after this photograph was taken and before I was old enough to know my 'little nana' as she was called. (Barbara Lena is pictured seated front right). From the script accompanying the photograph, I knew the year in which my 2 times great grandmother was born, however, my search for her arrival was somewhat misled, by her age being given as eight years when she arrived. She was, in fact, four years of age - but what is the journey in genealogy about without a few challenges thrown in!

Born, Barbara Lena Häberling, she was the second youngest child of Jacob Häberling, a bootmaker, and his wife Anna (Bosshard) from Zurich in Switzerland. Jacob and Anna Häberling departed from Hamburg, Germany and arrived in Maryborough, Queensland Australia on board the Reichstag in 1871. Travelling with their parents were their 5 surviving daughters, Rosine (14), Amalie Dorothy (9), Bertha Martha (7), Barbara Lena (4)and Herminnie Adele (2). Two children, Jacob and Rosetta had died in Switzerland before the family departed for Australia to make a new life for themselves.

Although I have successfully traced the Häberling family as far back as 1520 in Switzerland, I will leave that story for another day and write about the five generations of women pictured above. Barbara was a clever girl who spoke five languages, German and French amongst them. She worked as a court translator in Maryborough. Her talent for languages would have been a useful skill, as Maryborough was a popular destination for immigrants in the 1800's. On December 31, 1884, Barbara Lena Häberling married John Gottlieb Nerger [later changed to Nargar]. The couple first lived at Bazaar Street, Maryborough, near Brennan & Geraghty's General Store, which is now a National Trust Museum. John was away from home quite a lot as he worked as a timber getter at Tinana. Eventually Barbara settled in Howard Street, in a little home which she nostalgically named 'Zurich' and where she lived until her death in 1957.

The second eldest of Barbara and John's five children was my great grandmother, Lillie Herminnie Nargar, pictured back left in the photograph. Lillie was born in Maryborough on October 1, 1888. She married William Joseph Weston on the 23rd of August, 1907. They settled on a sugar cane and banana farm at Bauple not far from Maryborough. Lillie and William had three children, Hilda Lillian, Mervyn William and Dorothy May. Lillie was a strong woman and her faith and involvement in the Baptist church, saw her through some very difficult times. In about 1920, the family moved to Brisbane where they ran a fruit shop in Fortitude Valley. Not long after this move, William took up with another woman, whom he left Lillie for and who he later married. Lillie was left on her own with three children under the age of 11 and a fruit shop to run by herself. She became a well known and respected figure in Brisbane as the first woman to own and operate a green grocery store. During the Second World War, Lillie used her knowledge of the land to help the war effort by joining the Women's Land Army. Lillie eventually remarried, but sadly she died of cancer in July of 1966. My great grandmother, Lillie was a wonderfully caring role model for me as a child and I loved to visit her home at Lutwych to play in her rose garden.

Hilda Lillian Weston, my grandmother, was born on the 9 th of July, 1908. (She is standing at the rear on the right of the photograph). Hilda married Ian Cuthbert Reece-Hoyes in Brisbane in 1929. My mother, their only child, was born on the 24 th of September, 1931. Hilda and Ian took their young baby daughter to live in Auckland New Zealand when she was only a few months old. The marriage was not a happy one and Hilda divorced my grandfather in 1933 in New Zealand. Hilda was a champion figure skater on ice, and toured new Zealand, performing publically. Life was difficult with a young child to rear on her own and so Hilda returned to Brisbane, Queensland in 1936 where she lived with her mother Lillie so that she could work to support her young daughter, Alwynne Jean,( my mother) pictured right in New Zealand aged 5 years. Hilda Lillian died on the 4 th of September, 1992 aged 84.

My mother, Alwynne Jean Reece-Hoyes never really knew her father, Ian. Her stepfather, David Andrew Schmith became her role model and she retained a close relationship with him until his death in his 80's. Dave, as she called, him adopted Alwynne when she was 10 years old, although she always insisted that her name was Reece-Hoyes. Alwynne married Colin John MacDade in March, 1954 and I was the first of their three daughters. She was a dedicated music teacher and a devoted mother to her daughters, who were the focus of her life. Family was very important to my mother, and we made quite a few journeys to Maryborough to visit our relatives. Tragically, Alwynne became ill with Alzheimers Disease in her early forties and died on the 29 th of October 1995, having not recognised her family for more than thirteen years.

Pictured right, are three generations of family, my grandmother, Hilda Lillian, my mother, Alwynne Jean and myself, (and sister) at Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast where Hilda lived when I was growing up in Brisbane. This photograph was taken in about 1960.

My journey into family history began with a photograph entitled 'Five Generations'. The photograph may have inspired my passion for genealogy, however, the strong, self reliant and loving women in the picture, are my inspiration in life - my brave great great grandmother who brought five children accross the world to make a better life for them, my great grandmother, who raised her children and ran a business on her own and proudly wore the uniform of the land Army during World War II, my grandmother, with whom I spent all of my school holidays, and who shared my great love of books and reading, and my mother, who always put others before herself and sadly did not live to know her grandchildren.

Pictured right, are myself, my mother and my sisters, standing on the steps of the house named 'Zurich' in Howard Street Maryborough. With us is one of Barbara Lena's daughters, Elsie and her husband who lived in the house after Barbara died. This is the last trip we made to Maryborough before my mother became ill.

I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,

And leaping from place to place
Over oblivion.

Thomas Hardy 1840-1928 'Heredity' 1917

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Norwegian Naming Patterns

This blog is for anyone planning to trace Norwegian ancestors. Before you set off on your journey to 'grow' your Gulbrandsen, Olsen, Petersen, Henriksen, Elstad or Hansen family tree way back to the Viking days - be prepared for a challenge! The surname by which you know your Norwegian family, very likely, only dates back to the early 1900's. Prior to 1923, there were no fixed Norwegian surnames. Compulsory surnames were introduced in Norway between 1923 and 1925. Before the early 20th century, most Norwegian families, especially rural families, did not use surnames or family names in the way that we understand surnames, which is to identify patrilineal or matrilineal kinship or lineage.

The Norwegian tradition of naming was a patronymic system, derived from the father's name, but unlike other naming systems, a family name or surname, was not passed on from one generation to the next, to identify lineage or bloodline. This is where the difficulty lies in tracing Norwegian ancestry and why Norwegian naming patterns can be described as nothing short of a family historian's worst nightmare. So, unlike your MacDonalds from Scotland, your Jenkinsons from England, or your Sieglers from Germany, your Norwegian Håkonsen family cannot be traced backwards by its surname before the early 20th century. Fortunately for anyone hoping to research a Norwegian family tree, the Norwegian authorities have kept excellent records, however it is important to understand Norwegian naming practices, if you are to successfully trace your ancestry in Norway.

Once you are familiar with the Norwegian patronymic naming system, there are some excellent sources of Norwegian genealogical data online to help you to trace your family, such as the Norway Historical Data Centre ( ) and Norway Marriages, 1600's-1800's, which are available on (, My experience is, that without some idea of the Norwegian naming system, before you embark on your search, you might find yourself spending much more time cursing, than searching! Having a book of Norwegian/English translation on hand, will be useful as well, since the censuses on the Historical Data Centre website are written in Norwegian.


In ancient times, people in Norway were known only by a first name. Old Norse forenames were composed of two parts: a prefix and a suffix. There was a strict pattern to this system. Boys' names were constructed from a given list of prefixes and suffixes, and the same rule applied to the names for girls. Below are some examples of the most common prefixes and suffixes used to make up Norwegian names.

Male Prefixes

Alf, Arn, As, Berg, Bjorn, Bryn, Dag, Ei, Finn, Gaut, Geir, Gud, Halv, Har, Hen, Hjalm, Ing, Iv, Jard, Jarl, Jo, Jor, Jør, Kol, Lid, Lod, Magn, Malm, Mar, Mod, Nid, Nor, Odd, Orn, Os, Ragn, Reid, Ro, Se, Sig, Stein, Svein, Tor, Trygg, Ulf, Val, Ve, Tyg, Øy, Ås.

Male Suffixes

alf, ar, bein, bjørn, brand, dan, e, fast, finn, gar, geir, grim, id, ik, kjell, leif, leik, ljot, mund, mod, ne, odd, rød, stein, tor, ulf, ung, vald, vard, ve, vind, vor.

Examples of Norwegian Boys' Names:

Half/dan, Gud/brand, Bjørn/ar, Gunn/ar, Gul/brand (God's Sword, from gud meaning God and brand meaning sword).

Female Prefixes

Aud,Bjørg, Frid, Gull, Gunn, Heid, Hild, Inga, Mild, Møy, Mål, Rag, Sal, Sne, Sol, Svan, Unn, Yn.

Female Suffixes

borg, bjørg, frid, gerd, gunn, ild, møy, nild, rid, run, siv, unn, veig, vild.

Examples of Norwegian Girls' Names:

Gunn/ild, Bjørn/ild, Aud/berg, Rag/nild, Ingabjør

It was a popular tradition in Norway for parents to give children the names of ancient Kings, mythological figures, weapons and animals. The old Norse people believed that a child would be protected from evil if named after a brave figure such as a mighty warrior king, a sword or a fierce creature.

Examples of Norwegian forenames:

Halfdan was the name of King Halfdan the Black.
Gudbrand meant God's (God) sword (brand).

When Christianity was introduced to Norway, in about the 10th century, people began to give children 'Norwegianised' biblical names as well as the names of Saints.

Examples of 'Norwegianised' biblical names:

Johannes (John)

The giving of christian names for children in Norway usually followed a pattern:

  1. The first son was named after the paternal grandfather.
  2. The second son was named after the maternal grandfather.
  3. The third son was named after the paternal great grandfather.

  1. The first daughter was named after the maternal grandmother.
  2. The second daughter was named after the paternal grandmother.
  3. The third daughter was named after the maternal great grandmother.

Traditionally, the formula for the name given to a child was :

Christian name + father's name + appropriate suffix.


Henrik Gulbrandsen( son of Gulbrand Olsen) has a family. His first son would be named:

Gulbrand (christian name) + Henrik (father's name) + sen (suffix = son)

Henrik's first born son would be named Gulbrand Henriksen.

If Henrik had a daughter she would be named:

Ragnild (christian name) + Henrik ( father's name ) + datter (suffix = daughter)

Henrik's first born daughter would be named Ragnild Henriksdatter . (The name Ragnild would probably be the name of the child's maternal grandmother.)

Just to confuse matters more, it was not uncommon for children to assume the mother's 'family' name i.e. the name of her father. In Norway a wife was allowed to keep her father's name rather than to adopt the name of her husband. So if Henrik's wife was named Ingabjørg Evensdatter - her father being Even Tillesen- the children could be alternatively named Evensen and Evensdatter, instead of Henriksen and Henriksdatter. (datter is usually written in an abbreviated form as dttr i.e. Henriksdttr).

To illustrate the naming system, let us assume that Henrik Gulbrandsen and Ingabjørg Evensen had two sons and one daughter.

  1. Gulbrand
  2. Eiven
  3. Ragnild

Below are examples of the surnames that Henrik's children might have.

Example 1. Patronymic naming system

Henrik Gulbrandsen

Ingabjørg Gulbrandsen

Gulbrand Henricksen

Eiven Henriksen

Ragnild Henriksdttr

Example 2. Use of mother's surname:

Henrik Gulbrandsen

Ingabjørg Evensdatter

Henrik Evensen

Eiven Evensen

Ragnild Evensdatter

Now, just as you are probably quite confused enough, I will introduce you to Norwegian 'Farm Names'. Many Norwegian surnames that became fixed after 1925, were farm names. Farm names in Norway were adopted when a family worked and lived on a farm. The family often assumed the name of the farm instead of the father's or mother's name. Farm names are a very old tradition in Norway and most date back more than 200 years. Norwegian surnames which end in stad, set, heim, um, land, tveit or tvedt are always farm names. If Gulbrand Henriksen worked on a farm named Kolstad, his family would assume the 'surname' of Kolstad instead of Gulbrandsen. If the family moved to a farm of a different name they would usually assume the name of the new farm.

Example 3. Use of farm name:

Henrik Gulbrandsen Kolstad

Ingabjørg Evebsen Kolstad

Gulbrand Kolstad

Eiven Kolstad

Ragnild Kolstad

Farm names were registered so if your Norwegian surname is Kolstad or Elstad, you will possibly be able to locate the farm where your ancestors lived in Norway.

If you are now confused and thinking twice about doing the Norwegian family tree, don't be discouraged by the complicated Norwegian naming system. Tracing your family in Norway will be a most interesting although challenging project.

Some Tips for searching for Norwegian ancestors.

  1. Study the naming system until you are familiar with it.

  2. Use the naming system to try to work backwards eg. Ole Hanson's father would most likely have been named Hans Olsen if Ole was the eldest son. Ole's grandfather would most likely have been named Ole. If Magnus Hansen was your ancestor and you don't know his position in the family, don't dispair! You know his father's christian name was Hans.

  3. Search the Historical Baptisms for a Magnus Hansen born to a Hans around the date you believe to be the birth date.

  4. Search the Norwegian censuses.

  5. Search the Norwegian Marriage records as they will often tell you the names of both parents.

How to type the special characters in the Norwegian alphabet:

Æ - Press ALT while typing 0198

æ - Press ALT while typing 0230

Ø - Press ALT while typing 0216

ø - Press ALT while typing 0248

Å - Press ALT while typing 0197

å - Press ALT while typing 0229

Until the early 20th century Norwegian people (unless they were very wealthy or members of the clergy who sometimes did use surnames)