Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Sweet Angel

A Sweet Angel

This grave does not relate to my own family, however this beautiful headstone, which I discovered whilst on holidays recently in the Cooroy cemetery in Queensland moved me. I felt quite sad for the family of the young child who had died. Her name was Gwendoline ( the rest of the writing is difficult to read but it looks like Gwendoline Anne Larsel?) and she died on the 24th June in 1925 aged only 3 1/2 years. She must have been very much loved. I couldn't resist taking photographs of the sweet angel headstone.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Friday Family Finds..

Today is Friday and the end of the week is drawing near. A thought occured to me this morning (which is quite something given that I am tired by this part of the week!). I have never taken the time to examine at the end of each week just what discoveries I have made. My family tree has evolved over many years without any account of exactly when I found each of the ancestors. I do have records of all of my sources but many are not dated and so do not remind me of when I discovered them. I feel that it would be interesting to keep an account of my weekly 'finds'. My challenge to myself is to sit down each Friday and to take note of at least three major things I have achieved for that week.

This is the first account of my weekly journey in Family History. These are some discoveries I made in the week beginning Monday 7 february, 2011.

1. I discovered the above photograph of my great great grandfather, Edward Joseph Weston, on, on the tree of a cousin I have never met. I have never seen a picture of my g g grandfather Edward Joseph before, however the resemblance to my maternal grandmother is striking. Edward arrived in Maryborough in 1870, as a child, accompanying his mother Mary Ann (Turner) on board the ship 'Flying Cloud'. I have been researching my Weston family for a long time and before this week, Edward Joseph was a name on my tree. Seeing this picture of him has really made him feel like a real person. This was a special find as my mother and grandmother lost all of their family photographs in a house fire when my mother was a teenager. Seeing Edward Joseph almost took my breath away. A great 'find' to take note of on this Friday. Now I would like to find out how the photograph got torn in half. I hope he didn't upset g g g grandma!

2. After writing a blog recently, about an ancestor of my husband, (about whom I found fabulous information, in a book purchased in a secondhand bookstore), I googled the ancestor's name, Charles of Ord. I had, of course googled him in previous years, but not since the Trove ( digitalised Australian newspapers) site came online. On the very first page I discovered a news article from the Sydney Morning Herald dated 22 March 1871, which informed me that Margaret Anne Macdonald, daughter of the late Charles Macdonald of Ord, Skye, Scotland, was married at the residence of the Presbyterian minister at Coonamble, NSW, Australia. She married a Godfrey Bosville MacKinnon on the 2 March, 1871.

Margaret Anne was the half sister of my husband's g g grandfather, Mathew MacDonald ( the family in Australia use a capital 'D' in MacDonald) and we had never known that she also had immigrated to Australia. Mathew was born in 1812 to Charles of Ord and mother unknown (as yet). Margaret Anne was born in 1839 to a different mother, Anne MacLeod. Mathew had no contact with his family after arriving in Australia in 1837 with his wife Mary MacPherson, who had been the nanny to Mathew's half siblings. From letters to Mathew in his late 80's it is clear that he had not known his half sister, born two years after he left the Isle of Skye in Scotland, was also living in the country that he had made his home. An exciting 'find' and one has already set me on the trail of Margaret Anne's descendants here in Australia.

3. I found a new McDade/Gibson relative in Queensland this week through my blog . A photograph of my great grandmother, Elizabeth (Gibson) McDade ( pictured right), had caught her eye and she recalled seeing a similar picture in her mother's collection of family photographs and wondered whether we were connected. It turns out that we are related, and just today organised a three way phone call to have a chat about our ancestors. I am very excited as I always love to find new relatives and to exchange stories.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Fortunate Find: An Ancestor in a Bookstore.

Of Surprise: 'O wonderful, wonderful and most wonderful!' William Shakespeare

Whilst on holiday in Queensland recently, I visited the town of Eumundi, inland from Noosa, which is famous amongst tourist and locals alike, for its Markets. I chose to visit on a day when the market place was closed as Eumundi is a pretty little town when quiet and boasts a wonderful art gallery, some scrumptious places to eat and best of all a huge Berkleow Bookstore, situated in an a heritage building. This is a store which carries new and secondhand books of all kinds and I had plans for an afternoon of browsing.

Fortunately my husband shares my passion for books and whilst he browsed the architecture, art and gardening sections of the store, I headed straight for the history and local history area. It wasn't long before my pile of 'must haves' began to grow. I discovered a book about the history of the Kenmore Presbyterian Church which I had attended in Brisbane as a teenager and in which I was married; a book about the English Lakes District written by William Wordsworth, for a friend (whose ancestor was Wordsworth's housekeeper and who had a child whose paternity is as yet unknown.. so you can imagine there interesting speculation in the family), and a copy of Cicero's speech in his famous first trial, for my Roman history obsessed son (who may have to brush up on his Latin since that is the language in which the book is written... may I remind you that it is the thought that counts!).
In the Scottish, Irish and Welsh section of the store, a small blue cover attracted my attention and I took down from the shelf a book entitled 'Skye The Island and its Legends'. Closer inspection revealed that the book was written by a lady named Otta F. Swire, who was described, on the inside of the front cover of the dust jacket, as coming ' from an old Skye family and a resident of Skye.' The book is a second edition, published in 1961. There is a foreword which includes the following words by the author who wrote, ' I am among those who love Skye and so I want to write for my children some of the old Skye stories which I heard from my mother and many of which she, in turn, heard from a great aunt who was born over 160 years ago on 18 April, 1799. That they may be of interest to all, I have threaded these stories, as well as many which are better known, on the roads of Skye, as on a necklace.'

And if those words, which sang lyrically to me, were not enough to entice me into a purchase, the fact that my husband's great great grandfather, Mathew MacDonald had set sail from the Isle of Skye, bound for NSW, Australia, in 1837, made it a certainty that the little book of stories about Skye travelled home with me to Sydney. I admit that I was also beguiled by the handwritten inscription inside the book which said, ' To Jenny, A'm askin yi to dance ken?, Mervyn.'

I did not read this book while I was away, because I had joined the local Sunshine Coast libraries and had ambitiously borrowed far too many books about local history to possibly read in the time available to me. Even after I returned home I did not have the time to look at the book but rather placed it behind the glass doors of my bookshelves saving it for a spare moment when I could peruse it.

I cannot describe the surprise I received, when I finally did take the small hardcover copy of 'Skye, The Island and its Legends' from the shelf. I chose a moment in which I would not be disturbed and seated myself comfortably with a cup of tea to look at it. As I scanned the index I was not surprised to see the name MacDonald there, since the clans of this well known Scottish family trace back to Lord John of the Isles and the McKenneth Kings before him. One would expect a mention about the MacDonalds, McLeods and several other highland families in such a book. What almost made me drop my teacup, was the name Charles of Ord.

Charles MacDonald, of Ord, was my husband David's paternal great great great grandfather and the father of Mathew MacDonald, and a MacDonald about whom we had little information. In this little book, purchased completely unaware that it contained any connection to family, I discovered five pages dedicated to stories about Charles MacDonald of Ord and his grandfather Alexander MacDonald of Drimindarach. Mathew's father Charles MacDonald, is mentioned at length in another book entitled 'A Summer in Skye' written by Alexander Smith, a Scottish writer and poet who travelled throughout the Isle, staying frequently at Ord House with Mathew's father, to whom the Smith referred as M'Laird and M'Ian. Alexander Smith married, Flora MacDonald daughter of Charles of Ord at Ord house in 1857. Flora was the half sister of Mathew and was so named, for her famous relative, Flora MacDonald who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Otta F Swire mentions the novel 'A Summer in Skye' in her own book. Whilst we, as a family, have quite a reasonable amount of historical information regarding the MacDonalds of Sleat, the fascinating oral narratives which this author and native of the Isle of Skye has added to our knowledge about the MacDonalds, is quite original and very exciting. We had already known that Alexander MacDonald, an earlier progenitor of the clan, and grandfather of Charles of Ord, had been involved in the uprising of 1745, in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and subsequently his lands had been forfeited by the Crown. The tale of Alexander using a sledge hammer to break in the great doors of Carlisle Castle is well documented, however, that Alexander had 'taken to the hills' as an outlaw of the crown where he married, that his son had been born in the hills and that his baptism had been performed there by a priest who risked his life to do so was something that we had not read in history books and information which we greatly appreciated.

The most fascinating stories related to my husband's MacDonald ancestor, Charles MacDonald of Ord. Otta F Swire claims that he was called 'Old Ord'. We knew that Charles had fought for the Crown in the West Indies, Ireland and at the battle of Waterloo, ironically two generations after his grandfather had lost his lands after he stood against the Crown. What was particularly interesting to us, however, was this author's claim that my husband's g g g grandfather, Charles real 'title to fame in Skye .. is chiefly the Ord Palm.'

Pictured above right, is Ord House where Charles of Ord lived and where Mathew MacDonald met his sweetheart Mary McPherson before they emigrated to Australia as part of the Dunmore Lang immigration scheme. Today the house is a B & B and one day we hope to stay in this ancestral home for a holiday on the Isle of Skye.

This is the anecdote that Otta F Swire tells about my husband's ancestor. It is a simple story, but one which has completely fascinated us and one which was never passed down to us because Mathew had fallen out of favour with his father Charles of Ord, over his marriage ( Mary McPherson was the nanny to Mathew's half siblings and most likely was considered an unsuitable wife). After after arriving in Australia in 1837, sadly, Mathew had no further contact with his father, so it was very exciting to discover this wonderful story.

'A man named Murdo, who had worked for him [Charles of Ord] for many years, emigrated to New Zealand with his family in 1863. On arrival there he collected a number of seeds of a palm which he particularly admired, called, I am told, the Cabbage tree ( it is not the Cabbage Palm of South America) and sent them to 'Old Ord'. Some of these seeds were planted in the old walled garden at Ord and some were sent to the Botanical Gardens at Kew. Those sent to Kew died from frost but two of those planted at Ord had luck in three mild winters while young and they flourished and are still to be seen, being, as far as is known, the only specimens ever grown in the open in Britain.They are now [1961] at eighty years old, well grown trees about fifteen to twenty feet high. Every seventh year they flower and become a mass of deep creamy blossom, so heavily scented that not only the whole garden but the house some little distance away appears temporarily transported to the tropics'....

We found the following piece of information imparted by author Otta F Swire, about Charles of Ord, most interesting.

'Old Ord is said to have possessed the first fixed bath (with hot and cold running water) in Skye; the old bath made of lead and with right-angle corners like a box, which remained in use until 1950 was well worth a visit. But apart from Ord House, that corner of Skye seems to have been very backward in Old Ord's day. 'Black' kitchens were still usual, and his eldest son, {Charles' eldest son] who had a great dislike of women with thick ankles, used, if he met any while riding in the district, to order them off the road.'

We believe that although Mathew was the eldest son of Charles, that the son referred to may not have been Mathew, but rather, Alexander, the first son of Charles' marriage to Anne McLeod of Gesto in 1828. Mathew was born in about 1812 and his mother's name is unknown to us. Through letters to Mathew in his very old age from his half brother, Keith Norman MacDonald, a son of Charles of Ord and Anne McLeod, we discovered that Mathew's mother was buried near Charles but no mention was made unfortunately of her name.

Right is pictured Mathew MacDonald [seated] and Mary MacDonald (McPherson) [seated] and their children at his farm 'Temple Hill' near Crookwell. The farm is still in the MacDonald family today.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ancestor Approved Award

I would like to express my appreciation for the generous nomination put forward for the Ancestor Approved Award, by Lisa Wallen Logsden. This award was initiated by Leslie Ann Ballou as a way of recognising the research and effort that is the backbone of genealogical blogging. Thankyou for the nomination. It is much appreciated to know that others take the time to enjoy what one writes about the lives of ancestors and their stories.

As a recipient of this award I must undertake to write ten things which surprise, humble and enlighten me in the course of my genealogical research and I will also enjoy passing on this award to ten genealogy bloggers whose anecdotes I have enjoyed reading.

Surprised: This one is easy as I am constantly surprised and amazed by many things on my journey in family history research.

1. I am surprised by the generosity of everyone involved in family history research. The time they give freely, the information they are only too happy to share and the friendliness of everyone is amazing.

2. I have been quite surprised by many of my discoveries. Surname variations has been a source of intriguing surprise to me, as I researched my family tree. The varied range of reasons for surname changes has been surprising, amusing and informative.

3. Thinking that I was a late generation Australian, I was extremely surprised to discover that I had convict roots, and even more astonished to find myself putting five convict ancestors on my tree.

4. I have been surprised by my new passionate interest in world history, which arose from connecting forebears to the historical times in which they lived. The desire to understand how and where they lived, what they did for a living and why they lived where they did or immigrated has made me so much more informed and connected to, not only my own history but to history itself. Alfred the Great suddenly becomes much more of a 'real' character when one discovers that he is a direct ancestor of your husband. The highland clearances in Scotland are substantially more relevant when one has a great great grandfather who arrived in Australia as a result of this huge movement of people to the other side of the world.

5. I have been very much surprised, amused ( and occasionally shocked) when family stories which have been handed down through generations of family unquestioned, turn out to be elaborate fabrications, invented to cover a multitude of sins, crimes and misdemeanors. Some of these discoveries, surprisingly make the best topics to write about.

Enlightened: My research has inevitably enlightened me in many ways.

6. I have developed a greater capacity for reasoning and logical thinking, necessary when ciphering through the many or few clues left behind by ancestors, in order to find and identify them.

7. I have learned to be patient and thorough in my research. There is no such thing as an 'instant' family tree.

8. Enlightenment comes with learning. I have been fortunate to have learned so much about people, both ordinary and extraordinary, about how people lived and worked throughout different historical periods,. I have learned how to decipher old handwriting and about naming patterns in different cultures. I have been educated in how to use libraries and archives, Most satisfyingly.. I have finally learned that even the most practised archivist can also rewind the micro-fiche machine the wrong way! It is not just me.

Humbled: researching my family history and writing bout my journey and my ancestors' many and varied stories has definitely made me feel more humbled.

9. I have been humbled by the beautiful comments left by complete strangers who have taken the time to read my blogs. Not only does this feedback encourage me to keep going, but I am constantly amazed at the emotions that other feel about the stories of my ancestors. I am truly humbled and touched by this generosity on the part of others.

10. I have been absolutely humbled by the lives of my ancestors themselves. Many of their stories involve tremendous courage, hardship, sadness, determination, perseverance, positivity and selflessness. Nothing happens in my life, that I cannot look to a forebear to for encouragement, strength or resolve. I believe that one needs to look backwards in order to move forward and in looking backward to my ancestors and through telling their stories I could not possibly feel other than humbled and unpretentious.

The blogs which I have nominated to receive this award are as follows:

  1. A Light that Shines Again

  2. Candle in the Window

  3. All in the family

  4. Aussiemandas

  5. The Tree of Me

  6. Heritage Happens

  7. "Generations

  8. The Turning of Generations

  9. The Professional Descendant

  10. ABT UNK

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Finding Ancestors in Unexpected places

How the 2011 Queensland Flood led me to my Ancestors

I recently spent a month in my home state of Queensland, staying on the Sunshine Coast, north of the capital city of Brisbane. 2010 was an extrememly wet year for Queensland, and January, 2011 was even wetter with heavy rainfall which resulted in flooding in over 75% of the state. I had a number of family members personally affected by these devastating floods which made worldwide news. I watched, as the suburb I grew up in called Jindalee, once again suffered dreadfully as it had done when I lived there in the 1974 floods.

Of course, all of this rain did not make for a great beach holiday and from our balcony on the beachfront in Mooloolaba, we watched the usually calm north facing beach forced to bear the brunt of huge waves,and murky brown water filled with debris washed out from flooded rivers from as far south as the Brisbane river.

By now, you might be wondering how a flood helped me to find ancestors. I have mentioned in previous blogs that a family anecdote states that a great grandfather of mine was washed out to sea at Ballina in northern NSW in 1930, however do not get your hopes up - he did not wash up on the beach at Mooloolaba in 2011. When the flood water finally subsided from some of the roads around us, but we were still cut off from Brisbane and the south of the Sunshine Coast, my husband and I ventured on a drive north to visit the grave of my great great grandparents, John and Hannah Morrison, in the town of Cooroy. We had cleaned the headstone the previous year whilst on holidays and were eager to see how it looked after a year.

Finding many roads still cut off by flood water, we ended up in a small town called Pomona north west of Cooroy and about 30 minutes drive from Noosa Heads. There to our surprise, we discovered the Noosa Musuem and out of curiosity we decided to have a look inside.

There was one lady on duty in the Museum, which is housed in the original old Noosa Council Chambers, which amazingly operated as such until the 1980's. The museum's holdings appeared extensive and included a wonderful and precious room dedicated to the native people of the area, called the Gubi Gubi people (often mistakenly called Kabi Kabi).

The heritage building which now houses an amazing exhibition of the past,is pictured at the top of this page on the brochure for the Noosa Museum.

As we browsed through the rooms holding a variety of displays, I found a small display of material relating to Cooroy. I learned that the town of Cooroy, where my great great grandparents were pioneers, was named after Mount Cooroy, originally spelled Coorooey which was derived from the aboriginal word kurui meaning possum. As I read more about the history of the nearby town of Cooroy, a name in the writing below a photograph lept out at me. It was Morrison. I held my breath as I gazed on the first photograph I have ever seen of my great grandmother and her sisters, standing on the front verandah of the private hospital which they operated at 50 Maple Street, Cooroy. It is also the first time that any of my family have seen a picture of the hospital itself.

Although we had visited the Cooroy Noosa Genealogical Society, we had found this most precious image of our family in the tiny town of Pomona simply by accident. Flood water had determined our journey that day and had we not been forced to take this detour, I might never have found this treasured photograph. This is the only photograph of any of the Morrison family and I simply cannot believe my good fortune.

Hearing my shrieks of excitement the lady in charge of the museum came running ( I am certain, intent on quietening me). When she learned of my discovery, she also became very excited and proceeded to drag large folders of photographs out of a storeroom. We sat down, the three of us, and poured through each huge folder. This time it was the kind lady in the museum who shrieked as she discovered another photograph of the hospital, showing its location in the town. I had known about the hospital run by the Nurses Morrison and Matron Morrison (my great aunt) which was officially called St Margaret's hospital. Amongst locals, the hospital was affectionately called Matron Morrison's hospital.

In another folder, filled with loose papers, I discovered a story written by a Cooroy resident reminiscing about Matron Morrison. It seems that the hospital had a row of mature date palms growing at the side of the building which attracted bats in large numbers. The matron's kindness, which was well known, did not extend to bats, which she detested according to the narrator of the story, as she used to request that several of the town's male residents 'shoo' the noisy bats away or to just'shoot the pests'. Her reasoning was always that they disturbed her patients!

In a 2010 blog, I had mentioned that my great great grandfather, John Morrison had been an owner of the butter factory in Cooroy. Below is the photograph which I took several years ago of the butter factory, which was converted into an arts centre in 2010.

When I mentioned the butter factory and the picture I had taken, a great smile broke over the face of my new friend who worked voluntarily in the museum. 'You won't have seen a picture of the original factory, then?' she aked.

She disappeared into her back room of surprises, and reappeared with yet another huge folder. From it she produced proudly, the photograph below, below right, of the first timber butter factory built in Cooroy in 1910, which was replaced by the brick factory in my photograph, in 1930. The factory which my great great grandfather was involved with was the earlier timber one and I now have a copy of that picture as well, which is shown below.

P.S. You might be pleased to know thatwe did finally make it to Cooroy cemetery, where we found the headstone of my great great grandparents, pioneers of Cooroy, John and Hannah Morrison, in as good condition as we had left it the previous year ( pictured below right).