Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Double Wedding Overlooked: It Pays to Cross Reference.

A Double Wedding in the Family - overlooked!

With the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton injecting a spark of romance in to our lives, I thought it an appropriate time to talk about weddings. In particular I would like to mention the value of recording dates, cross referencing dates.

Like most family historians, I have a large collection of certificates - birth, marriage, death, baptism and so on. So many dates! It is quite overwhelming. naturally, I record all dates, as I confirm them, on my family tree. Something, however, I did not always do was to compare dates to see if they matched. Before I introduced my system of cross referencing dates for events in family groups, I had overlooked a significant event in my family - a double wedding.

The photograph, above right, from a New Zealand newspaper clip ( not the wedding to which I refer but a lovely example of another double wedding in our family) shows the double wedding of my husband's half great aunts, Mary and her sister Betty White. I don't have a date for this wedding yet, although I'm certain that a relative in New Zealand will be able to tell me as I am in contact with a descendant of Betty's marriage to Erik William Pawsey, one of the bridegrooms shown in this photograph.

It is not uncommon to find double weddings occurring with siblings as the brides or grooms on your family tree, however, along my journey into my own family history, I recently discovered that I had been quite unaware that there occurred an even more more unusual double wedding in my own family - involving a mother and daughter. My great great grandmother and my great great great grandmother were married in a double wedding ceremony, a fact which I had been quite unaware of and which I was most excited to discover!

many years ago, I had sent away for the marriage certificate of my great great grandmother, Sarah Frayne to Edward Joseph Weston, in the days when the Queensland State Archives stored and supplied historical BDM certificates. I knew the date of their marriage to be December, 24, 1884.

Sarah was the daughter of a convict named Michael Frayne (sometimes spelled Frane or Frame) from Dublin, Ireland and Mary Williams who was reportedly born in Singleton, NSW. ( No birth record has been located). Sarah was born in Edward Street, Brisbane in 1868 and her father Michael died when she was aged 10 years, in 1878. Whilst having much success in tracing my Frayne convict ancestors (there were more than one!) I have had considerable difficulty in finding out much about my g g g grandmother, Mary Williams.

Some years ago I had found a marriage in 1884, in Maryborough, between a widower, named James Shevelling and a widow by the name of Mary Frame. I suspected that the bride in this marriage might be my 3 times great grandmother although Mary's age was too young to be my great great grandmother. Of course every family historian quickly learns to be aware of just how fluctuating our ancestors ages can be - especially when it suits them! ( Just look at census forms!).

Even though I believed that this was a second marriage for my 3 times great grandmother Mary Frayne [Williams], I had never found a marriage between her and my convict g g g grandfather, Michael Frayne or a birth record for Mary, so there was no concrete evidence to support my theory. I duly recorded this marriage as a 'possible family event', recording the date as well but did not add the marriage to the family tree. Probably because I was so excited that I might have found my first ever clue as to who Mary's parents were from this new marriage certificate I overlooked something extremely relevant and something which would provide a vital clue when it became obvious to me.

My lovely surprise came when I began sorting through and attempting to catalogue all of my my birth, death and marriage certificates. Out of interest, largely to discover how many of my ancestors' birth, marriage or death dates matched those of other family members, I began a spread sheet catalogue of dates for each family on my tree.

I cannot express the sheer thrill I felt when I suddenly realised that the marriage of my 2 times great grandmother Sarah Frayne to Edward Weston not only took place in the same year and on the exact date of the marriage of Mary Frame and James Shevelling, but that the wedding was obviously a double wedding which took place in the home of Mr Bath at Bazaar Street, Maryborough according to the rights of the Presbyterian Church. My 3 times great grandmother, Mary Williams and her only daughter, Sarah Frayne had shared a double wedding. Perhaps even more exciting was that I had added now another generation to my family tree as on the marriage certificate of Mary and james Shevelling, Mary's parents were named as Joseph Williams and Mary Jane Kelly. (although that is quite another story!).

With my spread sheets now completed and updated regularly as I receive new certificates, I have easily discovered ancestors who share birthdays, marriages and death dates. I can see as far back to the 1400's who shared significant dates with myself and my children.

In the case of the double wedding of my great great grandmother, Sarah and her mother, my great great great grandmother Mary, it proved to be much more than a pleasant surprise. The discovery of this double wedding led me to new branches on my ever growing family tree.

So now, back to my cross referencing. Who knows what other clues I might find from the past!

Monday, April 11, 2011

'Tin Trunk Hid a Story'- a $4 find.

A $4 Find in a Secondhand Bookstore

A Copy of the Diary

written by





Right: The Ship 'Great Britain' on which Mother Mary Paul Mulquin sailed to Australia in 1873.

Whilst rummaging through a secondhand bookstore recently, as I am commonly apt to do, I discovered a plastic sleeve containing a hard bound typed manuscript bearing the price tag of a mere $4. As I reached inside the plastic sleeve I felt my excitement growing as I saw a document entitled, 'A Copy of the Diary of Mother Mary Paul Mulquin' on board the 'Great Britain' 1873.' I can never resist an exciting 'find' and though I realised that this was only a copy of the diary, I made my purchase,already curious to discover what I could about Mother Mary Paul Mulquin and her Diary.

After a brief read through the copy of the diary, I could see that it appeared capably written and significantly, that it contained a great deal of interesting information about the 1873 voyage to Australia, of the ship Great Britain.

Right: The first entry in Mother Mary Paul Mulquin's Diary

Not wasting a moment when I arrived home, I began to read the diary in depth. Mother Mary Paul Mulquin's quaint style of writing proved to be a fascinating and most compelling story. The Catholic Sister's use of language was masterful and her entertaining and descriptive writing kept me reading late into the night. Such lovely use of words, as those I have reproduced in the diary excerpts below, transported me back in time, to the world in which Mother Mary Paul Mulquin and her fellow sisters lived, more than 140 years ago. Her words gave me more than a mere glimpse but rather, generously permitted me to share the every pleasure and pain of her meticulously recorded long voyage from Ireland to Australia.

The diary was fascinating and detailed, from the very first passage. The excitement felt by Mother Mary Paul Mulquin was infectious and one could not help but admire the courage of this nun and her fellow religious sisters as they embarked on their journey to a brave new world. Her emotions are conveyed through her every word.

'We started from our loved convent and sisters at 11 a.m. Oct., 22nd (Wednesday) and met at the terminus a throng of relatives and others, such as was rarely if ever, seen before on a like occasion.'

'we felt the novelty of the scene, and resolved at whatever cost, to brave every other danger after breaking ties so near and dear.'

On reaching Dublin, which was the first stop on her journey to England, (where she was to depart for Australia), Mother Mary Paul Mulquin wrote,

'Everyone was so kind, so like our own sisters at home...M Vincent served the sausages, while S.M. Clare who is remarkably like our dear sister Ignatius helped us to veal cutlets and at the end of the table stood a round of beef, after doing justice to all we had apple pie, jelly, wine of various sorts, in fact everything - served in elegant style.'

The more I read of Mother Mary Paul's diary, the more I was irresistibly drawn into her life through her poetic and wonderfully descriptive account of her journey. The following are just a few excerpts from the diary, which I found to be delightful anecdotes detailing the voyage on the Great Britain.

'We have a nice piano in the Ladies' cabin, and some very finished performers in singing and music favour us with their execution.'

'..the bell rang for dinner and we sallied through passages, ascended steep flights of stairs to the saloon a beautiful, lighted apartment, with mirrors all around and tables laden with every variety of viands - a range of every coloured glasses suspended from the ceiling, the seats covered with crimson velvet, and everything that luxury could invent to make the meal agreeable.'

Right: The Dining Saloon as described in the Diary with its crimson velvet seats.

'A harp gave forth its notes very sweetly on deck, the moon shone beautifully so our party took a turn after tea and a more delicious scene could hardly be imagined - all so still -'

The manner in which the author of this diary greeted every trial on board the ship Great Britain revealed her great strength of character, her deep faith and her marvellous sense of humour.

'Walking on deck today is difficult enough. Sliding to the edge at every step, and falling about in all directions, getting up and down stairs is a dangerous business, we sometimes fall back and again on our noses - so anyone to see us would think we were the worse for wear after dinner.'

'It is difficult enough at other times as the vessel dips on both sides - then it is a real novel sight - trying to keep your place. ....I was thrown from the end of the Ladies' cabin into the bathroom, on my back and could not rise for some time - the door burst open by the fall and M. Patrick thinking that I was doing it intentionally began to laugh at the disaster, but instantly she was taken off her feet and pitched to the opposite side while others were laid flat on the corridor - so to see us all getting into the saloon for meals, staggering and holding seats for balance would cause general merriment.'

Right: The deck of the ship 'Great Britain'

After reading Mother Mary Paul Mulquin's extraordinarily detailed account of the voyage of the Great Britain, I found myself compelled to find out more about this brave Nun who left Limerick in Ireland to travel to Australia in 1873.

My first Internet search was of the National Library of Australia's website to find out whether its holdings included the original diary written by this Catholic Sister from Limerick in Ireland. It was immediately obvious to me, that Mother Mary Mulquin must have been a person of considerable interest, as amongst the library's holdings I discovered 'Biographical cuttings on Mother Mary Paul Mulquin, Limerick nun sailed to Australia in 1873, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals.'

A biographical entry in the online Australian Dictionary of Biography (author Kathleen Dunlop Kane) informed me that the sister's name was Katherine Mulquin, that she was born in Limerick in 1842 and died in Australia in 1930. I also discovered several articles written about Mother Mary Paul Mulquin on a site dedicated to the Friends of St Kilda cemetery as well as the Presentation College, Windsor, Melbourne Victoria.

From these websites, I learned that Presentation Convent Windsor, a school in Melbourne, Victoria, was established in 1873 'on the arrival of seven Presentation Sisters from Ireland.'[1] The governments of Australia in 1872, deemed it financially impossible to continue to support Catholic Schools, thus rendering them unable to survive whilst staffed by lay people. The Parish priest at St Mary's, East St Kilda, one Father Corbett quickly wrote a letter to the Presentation Convent in Limerick requesting urgent assistance with the education of Melbourne's growing population of Catholic students. The letter began, 'Dear Reverend Mother. From the ends of the earth I write to you for help....'[2] Along with six other nuns, Mother Mary Paul Mulquin embarked on the long journey to Melbourne, Australia leaving Liverpool, England in September of 1873 and arriving in Port Melbourne on December, 21, 1873. Mother Mary Paul spoke French and Italian fluently and being very fond of music, introduced her pupils to a curriculum which favoured the arts, manners, letter writing and social graces. When the emphasis on academic education for women became essential with the University of Melbourne allowing the admission of women in 1881, Mother Mary Paul, was able to adapt to the change in educational trend and 'examinations began to take precedence over accomplishments.'[3]

On a personal note, I discovered that Mother Mary Paul Mulquin was born, Katherine Mulquin, in 1842, in Adare, Limerick, Ireland, to parents John Mulquin, a farmer and his wife Catherine (maiden surname Sheehy). John and Catherine Mulquin were comfortably well off enough to provide their daughter with a good education at the Faithful Companions of Jesus Convent, Laurel Hill, Limerick. In 1863, aged 21 years, Katherine was professed in the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a nun, adopting the religious name of Mary Paul.

Having discovered information about Mother Mary Paul Mulquin, her family, background and place of origin, I then conducted a google search to find out more about the sister's life in Australia, with the group of the Sisters of Presentation from the Limerick Convent. My very first find was a most exciting discovery on the Trove website. A feature article published in the Australian Women's weekly regarding the 100 year Centenary of Presentation College,a school in Windsor, Victoria, in 1973, not only included much biographical information about Mother Mary Paul Mulquin but significantly, revealed the amazing circumstances in which the original diary was discovered.

Right: The Presentation Convent, Windsor, Victoria. Now known as Presentation College.

The diary written by Mother Mary Paul Mulquin, is amongst a collection of letters, photographs and newspaper cuttings which the Presentation College, Windsor now holds in its archives. Some years after the death of Mother Mary Paul, in 1930, two sisters at the presentation Convent were given the task of cleaning out an old tin trunk. As Sister Mary Kavanagh sorted through the contents of the trunk, she became increasingly more fascinated.She described the trunk as 'a miniature museum.'[4] Amongst the items discovered in the trunk which had belonged to Mother Mary Paul Mulquin was the diary which described her voyage to Australia in 1873.

Right: The clipping from the Women's Weekly, from the Trove website, dated November, 28, 1973, which tells of the accidental discovery of Mother Mary Paul Mulquin's Diary.

Right: Eva Anderson who died at age three. her father was unable to remain in the family homeand sold it to the Catholic Church. The house became the first Presentation School in Australia.

From all accounts it is obvious that Mother Mary Paul Mulquin was an intelligent and deeply spiritual woman. Her strength of character, her courage and conviction is evident through her dedication to education and her willingness to leave her homeland to travel a great distance to found a school to educate catholic girls. Mother Mary Paul remained as Superior of the College until 1899 and remained at the Windsor Convent where she died on February, 10 th 1930.


  2. Australian Dictionary of Biography - online Edition (Mulquin, Katherine (1842-1930), Biographical Entry.



Thursday, April 7, 2011

Never leave a stone..or a page unturned.

How I found Uncle Rex's home in 'Country Life'.

Last week I wrote a blog about the unexpected and fortuitous way in which we often find things genealogical.. I also wrote a blog recently about church kneelers, which was inspired by an article in a 2010 issue of the English magazine, Country Life. I have an English friend who has over the years passed on to me old copies of this beautiful magazine. Now I subscribe to it myself not only because I enjoy the magazine, but for genealogical purposes. It is a weekly magazine which, in addition to some most informative written articles and photographic images, advertises the sale of homes throughout the UK. Now, to set things straight, I am not in the market for a 15th century country house in England, although I have been known to be mesmerized by the glossy pictures of these historic homes, some manor houses, other vicarages, rectaries and churches. Many of them are Grade 1 and 2 heritage listed, and while some are picturesquely situated in the surrounds of hundreds of rolling green acres, or the hilly beauty of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter's Lakes District, others are bordered by leafy green and heavily wooded forests from which one expects Robin Hood to appear with his band of merry men. Some of my favourite properties are dramatically perched on a steep hill or clifftop overlooking the bright blue waters of Cornwall.

The significant reason that I enjoy looking at Country Life, is that it gives me a glimpse of the places and the counties where my ancestors lived in Britain. Not all of my forbears, of course, in fact for the better part, very few of my ancestors, were privileged to dwell in grand manor homes, but through the images in Country Life I am able to acquire a familiarity with the different counties in England, many of which show the surrounding countryside.

When it comes to my ancestors who worked as 'Ag 'Labs' (agricultural labourers), and I do have a fair few of those, I am able to gain an understanding of the land on which they toiled. For those who lived and worked in villages I have a collection of emotive visual images of the actual places and counties where they came from. I find it reassuring to understand the appearance of the the counties, towns and villages where my ancestors lived and worked. When I can mentally picture the places of my ancestry, the ancestors become much more real to me.

Last week, my husband, who was reading the latest issue of Country Life, announced that he always hoped to see my great Uncle Rex's grand country estate Marwell Hall as he looked through each magazine. Since this stately home in Hampshire, once belonged to the Bishop of Winchester and then King Henry the VIII, (who presented it to the Seymour family) and because it is now a part of the Zoological Park, I thought it unlikely that we would see an advertisement for this particular home in our magazine. Or so I thought...

I sometimes search E-Bay for documents and magazine articles, postcards etc and have been quite fortunate in the past to find things relating to the subject of my family history searches. As unlikely a place to discover things genealogical as it may seem, I have purchased in the past, postcards as well as several 18th century documents relating to Marwell Hall on that very site. My husband's comment set me to thinking, and so, the very next morning, I searched on E-Bay for 'Marwell Hall Country Life'. I am not certain whether I am perhaps the only person in the world looking for things related to Marwell Hall or whether I was simply lucky, but, I found a 1963 advertisement for the sale of the estate from an old issue of Country Life and as you can see by the images here, I purchased it.

I have many images of Marwell Hall from the outside, however, I was excited to see this particular one, as it presents a view of the interior of the home. This advertisement was also an exciting find because I previously had known that Marwell Hall was sold in 1959 to a John Blunt and then again in 1967 to John Knowles who turned the estate into a wonderful Zoological Park, making the home available for weddings and other functions. (See my blog about the history of Marwell Hall at ) however, I was unaware that Marwell was sold in 1963. I am quite interested in the history of this home and so now the hunt will assuredly be on to discover who purchased marwell Hall in 1963. One discovery always seems to lead to another search!

I must away. My latest issue of Country Life has just arrived and who knows......

Friday, April 1, 2011

How the Title of a Blog Knocked Down a Brick Wall...

Blogging has proved more useful than I imagined.... or as the title was going to be....'Looking for my Married Couples.'

It never ceases to amaze me how genealogy puzzles can be solved in the most unexpected ways. I have discovered information unexpectedly, in books, been contacted by distant relatives from far off places with information to share and even parked beside a cemetery where I unexpectedly discovered the graves of my husband's ancestors. Recently, however, I resolved an eight year long search, simply by trying to think of a witty title for a blog post. I blasted my way through my brick wall just by thinking of a title! And if I do say so, I am rather pleased with myself! I realise now, after writing blogs about lateral thinking, name variations and looking outside the box, that I should have seen the solution to this puzzle earlier, but with so many branches on the tree, some things invariably get overlooked.

This story begins with an idea I had to write a blog about one of my most frustrating brick walls. It involved my great great great grandparents in Scotland whose names were FEARNS and COUPLES. While typing the title of the blog, I thought to be clever and make a play of the surname Couples. Unable to resist a pun, I wrote the title, 'Looking for my married Couples'. Clever, perhaps, but it didn't really convey what I was writing about so I simply added a slash and a name variation for effect, which came to mind on a whim. The title now read, 'Looking for my married Couples/Cupples. But then the historian came out in me and I felt compelled to stick to the truth. I had never actually searched for the surname Cupples so as I deleted the' /Cupples' from my title, I consoled myself by thinking, 'what a silly name Cupples is anyway. It decided that it didn't even look like a proper name. and I began to write my blog. Then an idea would not leave me alone.

I googled the name Cupples to see if there was anyone with that surname. As an ever growing number of CUPPLES message boards appeared on my computer screen, I thought. 'What if my Mary Ann actually HAD been a Cupples and not a Couples? It was not a name variation I had simply never thought of. I had been trying to be clever with a blog title but suddenly it seemed perfectly possible that,despite all documents spelling the name with an 'ou', that perhaps spelling was not one of my ancestors' strongest attributes. All thoughts of my blog flew out the window and, (checking the balance of my credit card), I headed immediately to Scotlands People to search for my Mary Ann Couples/Cupples.

From the marriage certificate of my Scottish great great grandparents, James Gibson and Mary Fearns, I knew that the names of Mary's parents were George Fearns and Mary Ann Couples, but I had never been able to find a marriage record, or births for my three times great grandparents, George Fearns or Mary Ann Couples. The name Fearns appears as Ferns, Farnes and Ferrans on other primary documents so I had searched several variations of the name Fearns, with no success. Possibly because the word couples is so well used in the English language, I hadn't resorted to variations of this surname in my searches previously. That was about to change.

My first search for Mary Ann Cupples in the Old Parish Records, Births & Christenings 1583-1854, on the Scotlands People website, came up with nothing. Recalling that people named Mary Ann sometimes use just one of the names, I searched again using Mary Cupples and this time my search resulted in one hit. The Mary Cupples that I found was born in Falkirk Stirling in 1821. My Mary Ann's daughter Mary Fearns was born in Falkirk, Stirling and I felt this was more than coincidence. Mary Ann Cupples was born to Alexander Cupples and Elizabeth Shaw. I had to fight the immediate feeling of kinship I was forming, until I had proof that I had found the right family.

Next I searched for a marriage for Mary Cupples guessing it to be around 1840-1845. This time there were three results between 1583 and 1854. I discovered that Mary Ann Cupples married Robert James Gray in 1836, George FARRIN on June 3, 1841, and James MCMORY in 1846, all marriages occurring in Falkirk, Stirling in Scotland.

I became more convinced that this was my Mary Ann Couples/Cupples after I re-examined the death certificate of her daughter Mary. Mary's surname at the time of her death in 1913 was Gilmour and her parents names were given as George Ferran and Mary Ann Couples.

Using the new spelling of Cupples, I searched the LDS IGI and where I connected with others who were researching Alexander Cupples and Elizabeth Shaw. It became clear that not only had I found my Mary Ann, but I had collected a whole lot of extra family who descended from her children from her first marriage to Robert James Gray and her third marriage to Robert McMurray ( McMory on the marriage record).

Alexander Cupples, my four times great grandfather, was born in County Down, Ireland in 1787 to Alexander (1744) and Agnes Cupples. Elizabeth Shaw, his wife, was born on November 3, 1786 in Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, Scotland to parents James Shaw and Elspeth Arthur. Alexander and Elizabeth were married in Cumbernauld March 3, 1809. They had the following children:

Agnes 1810 born Cumbernauld

Robert 1812 ditto

John 1814 ditto

James 1816 ditto

Mary Ann 1821 born Falkirk, Stirling

Jean 1826 Falkirk Stirling

Alexander 1828 Falkirk Stirling

I have now traced my Cupples family back to County Down in Ireland and found the eight siblings of my four times great grandfather, Alexander Cupples. I have researched their marriages and children and even followed the journey of my four times great uncle, Samuel Cupples to America, where he built a large Romanesque mansion in St Louis which is now on the American heritage register.

Thanks to my creative thinking for a blog title, I now have Scottish Arthur and Shaw ancestors to find, and I am looking forward with anticipation to learning much more about my fascinating Cupples family.

I set out to write a blog about brick walls and missing 'Couples' and instead I found myself adding a whole new branch of Cupples to my family tree. What amazing twists and turns I have encountered on this journey into family history.