Monday, December 31, 2012

Accentuate the Positive 2012 Geneameme

Accentuate the Positive - 2012 Geneameme

Thankyou to fellow geneablogger and friend "Geniaus" aka Jill Ball, for creating her wonderful end of year geneameme.     In a year which has been extremely busy, but as always, genealogically exciting, Jill's genememe provides geneabloggers with an opportunity to look back on the genea- year and to reflect on our 2012 unearthings, detections, locations, authentications, experimentations, calculations and if fortunate, our verifications.  2012 has been an exceptionally significant year for me as my eldest daughter and her husband extended the family tree by one tiny beautiful baby branch! So here is my 2012 POSITIVE Geneameme!

1. An elusive ancestor I found was Berthrum GAIR, also spelled Barthrum (which could have been a Latin spelling for his name). Berthrum was born in 1579, in Morpeth, Northumberland, England. My Gair line of ancestors had been resting with Roger Gair born in 1742 in Northumberland, for some years and it was only this year that I made a substantial breakthrough which led me on the trail of my 9 th great grandfather Berthrum, of whom I must say, I have become quite fond. In 1599, at the age of 20 years, Berthrum married Eliza LAWSONN. Berthrum was a Bailiff of Morpeth. He was a law enforcer similar to a sheriff and from records I have found through the National Archives, his duties would have included the enforcing of County Court judgements.

2. A precious family photo I found was a photograph of my great great grandfather, John Gottlieb NERGER. I discovered this photograph through a connection on and this was a most exciting find because family anecdotes had reported that ALL photographs of my Swiss born g g grandmother Barbara Lena Häberling and her Australian born (from German parents) husband John NERGER were destroyed in a backyard bonfire after their deaths! NOT the kind of family tale one likes to hear. The surname NERGER was later changer to NARGAR to make it sound less German.

The photograph of John Gottlieb NERGER

3. An ancestor's grave I found was a very exciting find. Although not actually the grave of an ancestor, the grave pictured below is of a tombstone erected by my convict great great uncle, Laurence FRAYNE on Norfolk Island in memory of his good friend and fellow convict, William Storey. Laurence (also spelled Lawrence) Frayne was the only convict to leave a detailed and well written account of the harsh punishment received by the Norfolk Island convicts. This document is held in the Colonial Papers in the Mitchell Library in Sydney.  Laurence Frayne disappeared from the Maitland area in 1846 and it is unknown what became of him. I would like to think that this man who was sentenced to 7 years in Dublin, Ireland for stealing a piece of rope at the age of 17 years and who repeatedly attempted to escape the harsh treatment he received in the Penal System in the Australian colonies, finally did escape to make a new identity for himself and to live out the rest of his life in peace. This grave is a most tangible reminder of my g g uncle's existence.

The grave in the Kingston Cemetery, Norfolk Island erected by Laurence Frayne

4. An important vital record I found was a record which I discovered in November of 2012 in the Queensland State Archives. A basic search for the name John NERGER, resulted in a find in the 
Reformatory School for Boys Index, 1871-1906. To say I was surprised to find my two times great grandfather in a reformatory school record, would be an understatement, however, when I saw the actual document and performed further research, a story most distressing unfolded before my eyes. John Nerger, was sentenced to 5 years in the Brisbane 'reformatory school' for being 'Neglected'. He was 12 years old at the time of his sentence and the record stated that he had been in an orphanage. Since his mother had quickly remarried after the death of John's Prussian born father, Gottlieb Nerger, and had four more children, there seemed to be no explanation as to why my gentle great great grandfather, a breeder of prize canaries in his later life and a timber cutter, would have been placed in an orphanage. His full brother George, two years his junior was brought up with his mother, step father and half siblings. A much more distressing discovery awaited me as I researched the history of Westbrook Reformatory School and learned that at the time of young John's 'sentence', the school was an old convict hulk named the Prosperpine, which was moored in the Brisbane River. I found the heartbreaking to read the record which showed that John, spent a full 5 years on board this hulk. The positive side of this discovery is that I have a full description of my two times great grandfather as a 12 year old boy and now a great deal more fascinating research ahead of me as I endeavour to discover which orphanage he was placed in and at what age. 

5. A newly found member who shared my family history was a third cousin who lives in Chicago, Illinois, USA. This cousin who descends from the youngest sister of my great grandfather, John MCDADE, from Glasgow, Scotland, contacted me through my blog. We are now firm friends on Facebook and I have also come to know, her siblings and another cousin who lives in another part of Illinois. Agnes McDade, their Great Grandmother, immigrated to America and lost contact with her brother, my great grandfather, John. We have come full circle now, exchanging photographs and family stories and discovering that we share similar personality traits, especially our sense of humour!

6. A genea surprise I received was whilst in Toowoomba recently and visiting the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society, I discovered that several of the very kind ladies who volunteer there, had found a newspaper item from 1864, which led me, with the help of old maps, to find the land which my three times great grandfather, Gottlieb NERGER purchased in 1860 in Drayton, Toowoomba. I had not known that he had owned a farm so this was exciting news indeed and as I was in the city of Toowoomba, Qld, I went in search of the land and walked upon it.

Part of the land which was my g g g grandfather's farm in Jellicoe Street Toowoomba.
(now part of the land is a park) ©

One other particularly exciting genealogical surprise for me in 2012, was having my blog FamilyHistory4u  named as one of the 50 top Genealogy Blogs in Inside History Magazine. Appreciation of the hours of research and writing which contributes to each and every blog is always a great thrill for me.

7. My 2012 blog posts that I was particularly proud of were two of the posts I wrote for the 2012 Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge composed by Cassmob (Pauleen). Two posts, in particular, challenged me to commit myself to some considerable research on topics which both interested me and about which I wanted to gain some insight into. These posts were, 'N for Negative Evidence' and 'R for Relationships - Confusing Cousins. Hopefully, through my blog posts, I helped to clear up a few misunderstandings for others and as for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the research and the writing. 

8. My blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was, a post which I published on Jine 3, 2012, entitled, "Brick Wall Blunder - Cognomen Erratum". This particular post related to understanding records and avoiding mistakes. The topic of the cursed brick wall enticed around 20,000 views, which for my little  blog is something of a record. It was this post which inspired me to set up my Brick Walls Facebook page (which I must admit I have not had as much time as I would like to administer... so here's to more time for Brick Walls in 2013)

9. A genealogical tool I enjoyed using was my Flip Pal scanner. Oh the joy of seemlessly scanning large maps and documents which once upon a pre Flip Pal time I would have sticky taped together. I could do an advertisement for Flip Pal....I'm THAT impressed!

10. A genealogy conference from which I learned something from was - I always learn something from every single conference I attend! In 2012, there was more than one genealogy conference from which I came away with considerable new knowledge. One excellent conference was the 13th Australasian Heraldry and Genealogy Congress, held in Adelaide in March 2012. Apart from the enormous amount of fascinating of information I received (especially regarding forensic DNA - fabulous!) , I enjoyed a wonderful time with a fantastic group of 'beaded' geneabloggers, who are always happily visible at conferences bedecked in bright plastic genea beads! (Thanks to geniaus for those wonderful New Orleans beads. Plastic they may be but I treasure them!) The single most valuable thing I have discovered at genealogy conferences.congresses/fairs, is that there are many wonderful friendships to be made amongst the generous and enthusiastic people who attend these events in a shared pursuit for knowledge.

11. I taught a friend how to research her house history. I have completed a number of local house histories which will be appearing on the website of my local historical society and in their second book. 

12.A genealogy book that taught me something new was ( there are too many to name here, but one stands out in my mind). Carole Riley published a book through Unlock the Past, the topic of which was Australian Land Records. I found her book to be an excellent source of information and extremely well illustrated and easy to understand.

13.It was exciting to finally meet and to put faces to many names I know so well online, ( please forgive me if I leave out your name as I met SO MANY of my online friends in 2012 that I am bound to leave someone out), Judy Webster, Helen V Smith, Kerry Farmer, Shauna Hicks, Alona Tester, Tanya Honey, Pauleen Cass, Kylie Willison, Chris Wright, Seonaid Theresa Harvey Lewis, Rosemary Koppitke,  Audrey Collins, Ben and Cassie Mercer, and many more. A very special day was spent in Adelaide with Judy Webster and Helen Smith when we journeyed together to the 'German' town of Hahndorf, near Adelaide, followed by an exceptional sunset coffee at Glenelg. Nothing to do with genealogy but a wonderful day to remember.

2012 was a very positive genealogy year for me. I made many exciting discoveries, I extended the branches of my family tree and that of my husband's. I visited the Ellis Island Immigration museum while I was in new York visiting my new grand daughter. I had the hair raising experience of  setting off from NY to Hyde Park on the wrong bus (a long story) ... in search of a large model of the yacht "Warrior" which sits in the Vanderbilt Mansion and which belonged to my great uncle in the 1930's AND I was rewarded with a private tour of the mansion AND a visit behind the scenes to actually see up close and photograph the model (not usually permitted). I found the land and graves of ancestors and visited these places and monuments. The most momentous 'find' for me in 2012, was the finding of third cousins ( I can work out the exact relationship now thanks to my blog!) who live in the state of Illinois in America. Despite that prior to 2012 none of us knew of each others' existence, we have now become firm friends on Facebook. We have shared family photographs and families stories. 

Model of the Warrior in Frederick Vanderbilt's bedroom ©

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new and genealogically prosperous year. Thank you for your friendship. I look forward to another year of journeying into the past and although I am returning to my studies in 2013, I am determined to keep blogging! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My 2012 Christmas Geneameme

2012 Geneameme - We Wish you a Merry Christmas

Thankyou to Pauleen (cassmob) of the Family Across the Seas Blog for her kind effort in putting together a Christmas Geneameme. Christmas is a time of the year so much centred on family, so what better a time to think about the traditions and activities which were a part of your own life growing up as well as your own family now. So below is my personal Geneameme in answer to Pauleen's questions.

1. Do you have any special Christmas traditions in your family. 
Growing up in Queensland, Christmas time was often spent at the Sunshine coast where my maternal grandmother lived. Christmas lunch was cold meats and salads galore and my mother's home baked Christmas cake, pudding and fruit mince pies with a special brandy sauce. When we spent Christmas day with my Irish maternal grandmother who lived at Paddington Heights, in Brisbane, Christmas lunch was a hot traditional lunch and always followed by her unforgettable home made ice cream with a Christmas pudding made from a recipe which came with her family from Ireland when they arrived in Australia in 1912. 

Now that I have my own family, we have carried on the tradition of having a cold Christmas lunch which suits the hot Australian climate much better than a hot meal. We bake the ham and roast the meats on Christmas Eve to place sliced on platters on Christmas day which are accompanied by lots of different salads. Dessert has become quite a tradition since my daughters spent a Christmas in New York some years ago. They always make a traditional Pumpkin Pie. We have many allergies to foods in our family so we don't have a Christmas pudding made from mixed fruit. Along with the pumpkin pie we have a dessert called Plum Clafouti, ( our version of a plum pudding) always baked by Siobhan, Pavlova ( it IS an Australian tradition!) a big fruit platter with all the delicious Summer fruits and berries on it as well as a Gingerbread House which is demolished throughout the afternoon. When my children were younger, we were dragged out of bed before 5 am to 'see what Santa has brought'. (Hmm I never would have guessed!) 
We play Christmas carols as we bake and there is a lot of laughter in the kitchen!
One tradition that we have in my home is the decorating of the Christmas tree. We play Christmas carols while we decorate the tree. Each year we try to think of a theme for the tree.
An important tradition in my family is to give to someone less fortunate each Christmas. We buy gifts for children who will not receive anything for Christmas and each Christmas we think together of someone to help. At Christmas time we have sponsored children through World Vision. This Christmas, as we did last year we will all make a loan through an organisation called Kiva. 

2. Is Church attendance an important part of you Christmas celebrations and do you go the evening before or on Christmas day?
My children attended Catholic Schools so Church attendance was always an important part of our Christmas. I love Midnight Mass and then when arriving home having fruit mince pies and listening to Christmas carols. there was so much excitement in the air. It's a wonder anyone got to sleep at all. Going to Church on Christmas day at Mass was always a favourite with my children as all the children were invited up onto the alter to see the baby Jesus who had been placed in his crib in the manger. 

3. Did you or your children/grandchildren believe in Santa?
I believed in Santa as a child but when I had my own children, I decided that it was better not to lie to them. FORTUNATELY, my husband didn't agree and I am so glad that they grew up with Santa. My children were very creative and every single Christmas they ALL four of them left Santa a letter and a list of questions (usually very long). And every single year Santa kindly replied (in very scrawly writing co- incidentally in a very similar style to my own!) and answered EVERY question. I have all those letters and we often pull them out and have a good laugh. "What are the name of your children Santa?" "What is Mrs Clause's favourite colour?" "Which is your favourite reindeer?" "Do you wear socks Santa?" "What do you wear the rest of the year?"  I'm betting that none of YOU know what Santa's attire is when it's not Christmas.....My first grandchild is only 7 1/2 months old but I hope she will grow up believing in Santa as well.... and I will definitely be suggesting she write to him!!!!!!

4. Do you go carolling in your area? The suburb where I live has a Carols by Candlelight event every year and I have often attended, candle in hand,  but I have never been carolling in the street. My children and I have often gathered together on Christmas Eve with guitars, flutes, piano, banjos etc and played and sung Christmas carols. I have CD's of Christmas carols playing in my home for all of December. LOUDLY! I like to get into the Christmas spirit.

5.What's your favourite Christmas music? I come from a very musical family. I love Christmas carols in general. I have a CD playing right now...  "All I want for Christmas"  sung by Mariah Carey, which was a hit in one of my favourite Christmas movies, "Love Actually". 

6. What is your favourite Christmas Carol? I think my favourite carol would be "When a Child is Born", especially when sung by Il Divo. I also love a Christmas song called "This is Christmas" sung by Kate Ceberano and Ronan Keating. It is a beautiful song. 

7. Do you have a special Christmas movie/book you like to watch/ read?  I had a special Christmas story book as a child and so did my children. it was called "The Night before Christmas". "Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..." 

8. Does your family give individual gifts, gifts for the littlies only, Secret Santa, (aka Kris Kringle)?
When my children were at primary school, it was a tradition for each class to give Kris Kringle gifts. That was a highlight in their year. At home they had Santa sacks with presents from Santa and a wrapped gift from us. Now we all give each other gifts. I found it hard to give up the Santa sack tradition, although I am pleased that they finally realised that really Santa didn't spend a lot more money on them that I did!

9. Is your main Christmas meal indoors or outdoors, at home or away?
For many years, as my children grew up we shared Christmas with a large extended family ( up to 60 people) and we never had Christmas lunch at our own home. For the past few years we have had a smaller Christmas in our home. We have our main meal in the middle of the day but have delicious nibbles put out all morning. We have bought a large table now which seats the whole family plus partners. 

Answered in question 1.(Christmas Food.)

14. Do you give home-made food/craft for gifts at Christmas?
I used to give home made gifts but find I no longer have the time to bake, sew or make gifts. Sad really. One year I hand painted lovely jars and filled them with home made biscuits. Another Christmas I made hand made writing paper (I even made the paper!) and decorated it with each person's initials and flowers painted on it. When my children were younger we made calendars which they drew and painted on each month, although two years of that task and they rebelled! I used to do quite a lot of silk screening so I made gifts which I silk screened original pictures onto or T-shirts with silk screened artworks on. These days I buy all my gifts but at least one daughter has carried on my tradition (yes you guessed it - Siobhan - who made the gingerbread Christmas tree decorations). She bakes beautiful shortbread and gingerbread or cakes to give as gifts to her friends. I used to bake gingerbread decorations each year for the Christmas tree until one year my son, Hamish made himself very sick when he ate every decoration in one sitting!  

2012 gIngerbread cookie decorations

15. Do you return to your family for Christmas or vice versa?
Both of my parents passed away quite some years ago in Brisbane, Queensland, sadly. My children do not remember spending Christmas with them. We spent a few Christmas days with one of my sisters when she lived in Sydney at Hunter's Hill. Those were very special Christmas days. Each Christmas is spent with members of my husband's family. 

16. Is your Christmas celebrated differently from your childhood ones? If yes, how does it differ? 
My childhood Christmases were almost always spent away from home since my maternal grandmother lived at Maroochydore, a beach on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. My cousins and I always performed musical items for our parents and grandparents at a pre Christmas gathering. often my father who was a brilliant pianist would join in as well as my uncle who played the clarinet and saxophone.  My sisters and I practised harmonised songs to sing. Christmas was always very musical.
My children are convinced that it has been my dream to have them perform together playing musical instruments and singing. ( Well you can't say I didn't try!) The only time they do this is at Christmas and I love hearing them. it reminds me of my own Christmases as a child.

17. How do you celebrate Christmas with your friends?
The street where I live, until recently every year had a Christmas street party. Everyone took along something on a plate and drinks. It was a wonderful way to meet new people in the street. We tend to celebrate Christmas more with family than with friends, although there are usually a few Christmas 'drinks' or parties to attend. I try to meet up with friends for coffee before Christmas to catch up on 'news'.

18. Do you decorate the house with lights? A little or a lot?
I decorate the inside of the house and decorating the Christmas tree has been a special tradition involving Christmas carols and plenty of fun. 

19. Is your neighbourhood a 'Christmas Lights" tour venue?
My own neighbourhood is not one where many people put lights on their houses but  a neighbouring suburb attracts thousands of visitors to view the amazing streets of Christmas lights every Christmas. I love to drive by and have a look. Some of the homes have a 'wishing well' to donate money for charities. 

20. Does your family attend Carols by candlelight singalong/concerts?
When my children were younger we always went to Carols by candlelight events. My suburb has one every year held in The Village Green (a large park). A nearby Seventh Day Adventist Hospital conducts  carols by Candlelight evening each December which my youngest daughter Briallen, has sung at. 

21. Have any of your Christmases been spent camping?
Camping is a popular way to holiday in the great outdoors of Australia and although I have camped many times as  child I have never spent a Christmas camping.

22. Is Christmas spent at your home, with family or at a holiday venue?
At home or at the home of a family member.

23. Do you have snow for Christmas where you live?
In Australia, Christmas occurs in the Summer season so it is usually very hot weather. The backyard swimming pool is very popular on Christmas day! One of my daughters' favourite Christmases was spent in New Jersey, USA a few years ago when there was a heavy snowfall. They built a snowman in the front yard and ice skated in Central park. My daughter, Rhiannon now lives in new York so perhaps she will see snow for Christmas.

24.Do you have a Christmas tree every year?
Absolutely! We have made it a tradition in my family to think of a theme for the tree each year. That does mean that we have collected a lot of decorations but we do recycle and it is amazing how easily you can turn the simplest thing into a decoration. this year the theme is 'French Rustic'. We have used lots of hessian for bows on the tree and natural decorations, keeping the colour scheme simple - natural and white with a touch of silver. Last year our theme was 'birds' and the year before that it was 'a winter wonderland'. 

25. Is your tree a live tree or an imitation?
There is nothing more 'christmasy'  than the smell of a fresh pine tree at Christmas but unfortunately I and several of my children are allergic to pine trees so our tree has to be an imitation tree. I have tried to make sure it is as realistic as possible. As a child our tree was always real. (I sneezed a lot at Christmas!) and we used to drive to the Glasshouse Mountains and cut down a small tree from the pine plantations. I'm sure now, looking back that those trees were not meant to be taken by the public but that night time excursion was always a highlight of my growing up. I guess I'm a bona fide Christmas tree thief! Not surprising seeing I have 5 convicts in my past.......

26. Do you have special Christmas tree decorations? 
See question 25.

27. What is more important to your family, Christmas or Thanksgiving?
In Australia we don't celebrate Thanksgiving so Christmas is very important as a time for families to celebrate together. Since I have become good friends with new found cousins (third) in America, however, Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new meaning for me! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Photograph found in a Second Hand Shop in Morpeth...

A Photograph found in a Second Hand Shop in Morpeth - Who was Joan Mary Dolahenty?

The Photograph I found in Morpeth

The Maitland and District Family History Fair held on Sunday, October 12, 2012 was a much anticipated event for me as I have a branch of convict family whom I have traced to the Maitland/ Singleton/ Patrick Plains area.

Maitland is a city in the lower Hunter Valley, approximately a 166 km drive from Sydney. Evidence of my FRAYNE, WILLIAMS  and KELLY convict ancestors can be found in this area from the 1840's (possibly earlier), and with the prospect of having a number of regional family History Societies accessible on one day, I set off in search of more information about my law breaking ancestors. I might add, that my ancestor, Joseph Williams  who married (or didn't) Mary Kelly, has been solidly embedded in the footings of a stubborn brick wall.

Once at the Fair, and after purchasing too many books, journals and other family history paraphernalia, enjoying a chat with Ben Mercer from Inside History Magazine and seeing a few other familiar faces such as Kerry Farmer, I filled out an application form to join a group known as Convict Connections which is an interest group of the Genealogical Society of Queensland and I proudly purchased a 'Convict Aristocracy' T-Shirt. Then, leaving details of my illusive convict 5 time great grandparents, Joseph Williams and Mary Kelly with the very helpful ladies who were efficiently manning the Maitland District and Family History Society table, I set off to the nearby historic town of Morpeth for afternoon tea.

One of my favourite pastimes when travelling, is to browse second hand and antique stores. I enjoy finding old photographs, which, if they have names written on the back, I purchase, with the intention of 'finding their families'. I also have a large collection of photographs which I call my 'lost children'. These are beautiful photos of babies and children with no identifying names or dates, but which I cannot bear to leave behind. I have written an earlier blog post about this photograph collection.

In a second hand shop, in Morpeth, I found the above photograph of a beautiful baby. On the back of the photo postcard was written  in cursive handwriting, ' Joan Mary Dolahenty, 7 1/2 months.' Feeling that the lovely photograph of baby Joan Mary deserved to be returned to a family member. I took it home.

And so my search for Joan Mary began.....

A google search immediately resulted in my finding that a Dominican Sister by the name of  Joan Mary Dolahenty (Mary Bonaventure) had passed away in 2009 in St Joseph's Home, Sandgate, Newcastle. Since Newcastle is a large coastal city and port not too far from the river port town of Morpeth I felt at once that I had found the person in my baby photograph, however, I embarked upon the necessary research for evidence to prove this true.  Immediately studying the photograph of the older Joan Mary Dolahenty, Dominican Sister,  which was on the Dominican website, I could see  that there was undoubtedly a resemblance to the image of the baby in my photograph. 

Joan Mary Dolahenty, according to the Dominican Sisters' obituary, was born in West Maitland, on May, 27, 1921, the eldest child of parents Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty. Her siblings were named as Geoffrey and Dympna. This confirmed that there was a family by the name of Dolahenty in the Maitland area and that they had a daughter named Joan Mary. Every family historian knows that families often have more than one family member of the same name so before I jumped to a very tempting conclusion, more research was required. To find evidence that the baby in my photograph was  indeed the same person as Sister Joan Mary Bonaventure, a Dominican nun, I needed to find out as much as I could about the photograph itself and significantly attempt to date the photograph at around 1922.  I am not an expert with regard to dating photographs, and at a glance, I could find little of use to help me identify the age of this picture. The photograph was almost certainly taken in a studio, however there is little in the way of a clue as to the date except for a chair leg. There are no identifying hairstyles or clothing trends. The dress worn by Joan Mary, although a beautifully crafted lace gown may have been handed down from another family member. It does not bear the fashionable pin tucks of many baby dresses in the 1920's. The baby has bare feet and so no style of baby shoes are available to assist in dating the photograph. Postcard photographs were popular in the early 20th century, however this postcard appears not to have been posted as it bears no dated postage stamp.

After exhausting the usual methods of dating a photograph,  I turned to the Kodak watermark on the rear of the postcard photograph. Researching the history of Kodak Australia, I discovered that it is possible to date a photograph by its watermark. Below are pictured  Kodak Australia watermarks including one which matched the one on my own photograph.

Kodak Australia watermark 1950's onward

Kodak Australia watermark date unknown

The Watermark on my Photograph with a diamond in each corner.

Kodak watermark known to be used in 1922 and 1923 with a distinguishing DIAMOND each corner

I had a definite date for my photograph now, as the watermark on the back of the postcard matched the one used by the Kodak film company in the early 1920's, with a diamond in each of the four corners. The date of my photograph of Joan Mary Dolahenty matched exactly the age of Sister Joan Mary ( Dolahenty) Bonaventure. 

When I researched the photographer named on the rear of the photograph, I discovered from the Australian trade Union Archives, that Sidney Riley was a founding member of the Professional Photographers Association which was first registered in Sydney in 1912. His studio operated in Rozelle, Sydney from 1910 to 1946. 

Sr Mary Joan Dolahenty OP
(Mary Bonaventure) 
  died 28 July 2009

Satisfied that I had exhausted my investigation of any photographic evidence, I returned to research the life of Sister Joan Mary Bonaventure, in an attempt to link her to the baby photograph. My 'feeling' was that Sister Joan Bonaventure was one and the same Joan Mary Dolahenty as the baby in my photograph. I had the link to the Maitland area, having found the photograph in Morpeth.  I had the definite facial resemblance between Sister Bonaventure and baby Joan Mary. I had a photograph which was dated at the right time to match Sister Joan Dolahenty (Bonaventure). Experience has taught me, however, that information and most certainly a hunch, is not the same thing as evidence. I now set out to collect negative evidence, by proving that there was no other person who could possibly be my baby, Joan Mary Dolahenty. 

I re read the Dominican Sisters' obituary for clues.

'After attending school at St Mary's, Maitland, Joan entered the community on 19th March, 1942, and was professed as Sr M Bonaventure on 8th December, 1943. Sister ministered in Mayfield Newcastle, Camberwell Melbourne, Tamworth, Carina Brisbane, Waratah Newcastle and the Solomon Islands.' [Exerpt from the Obituary on the Dominican Sisters Website]

A search of the Australian Electoral Rolls on found only one Joan Mary Dolahenty, in Australia. In 1943 Joan Mary Dolahenty lived in West Maitland, her address being the Dominican Convent and her occupation, that of a teacher.

Dominican Convent, West Maitland  Electoral Roll search for Joan Mary Dolahenty

 The results above show that Joan Mary Dolahenty taught in the places mentioned in her obituary. In the absence of any other person with the name Joan Mary Dolahenty, together with the photograph being dated to match the age of Sister Joan Mary Dolahenty Bonaventure; with the connection to the Maitland area and the uncanny resemblance between baby Joan Mary and Sister Bonaventure, I was satisfied that they were one and the same person. 

So, with a little effort, I had discovered that 'my' baby Joan Mary Dolahenty, had grown up to become a Sister in the Dominican Order of Nuns and a teacher. Her obituary informed me that Joan Mary was ' a most talented person...a scholar, teacher counsellor, researcher, artist, dressmaker and musician.'

The Australian Electoral Rolls told me the story of Joan Mary's whereabouts throughout her life. She spent much of the 1940's to the 1960's in Melbourne, Victoria teaching, living in 289 Riversdale Road. In a  search for Dominican Sisters in Camberwell, I discovered St Dominic's catholic Church situated at 822 Riversdale Road. 

St Dominic's Church Riversdale Road

From a Camberwell Local Heritage Study [  ], I discovered that the Dominican Church at 822 Riversdale Road, Camberwell was associated with an Estate called Holyrood at 812 Riversdale, which in 1925 became St Dominic's Priory. The same study listed number 815 Riversdale Road as Siena Convent and College, which was started by four pioneering Dominican Sisters from West Maitland who arrived at the Priory in Melbourne on August 12, 1926. Siena College was officially blessed and opened December 17, 1939. The college opened its doors to students on February, 2, 1940 with an enrolment of 13 children. Joan Mary Dolahenty remained in Melbourne teaching until the 1970's after which she appears on the Electoral Roll in the Brisbane suburb of Carina. In 1980 Joan Mary is listed on the Electoral Roll as a Psychologist, living at the Rosary Convent, Waratah, Newcastle, a school for children who were deaf.

Siena College, Camberwell, Melbourne

Rosary Convent, Newcastle

In the Siena College newsletter, dated August 21, 2009 I found the following obituary, indicating that a Sister Joan Dolahenty had been a member of the Dominican community and undoubtably had taught  at this catholic school. below is the obituary notice which appeared in the Siena College newsletter.

Another member of our Dominican Community – 
Sister Joan Dolahenty OP (EA) (M. Bonaventure). 
Joan was an exceptionally talented woman: scholar,
educator, researcher, counsellor, artist, dress maker 
and musician.  She was the first superior of our 
Solomon Island mission, and began there a lifelong 
concern for its people, and for justice for all. 
After a long period of illness, Joan died 10
2009, in her 68
 year as a Dominican.  She will be 
sadly missed by her sister Dympna RSJ and her 
Dominican Sisters, the people of the Solomons and 
those she ministered with and among in Australia.  

Now that I had found out something of the life of Joan Mary Dolahenty, I set out to find a family member to whom I might give the lovely baby photograph. Joan's sister Dympna, I knew from the above obituary would not have produced offspring, she being a Sister in the order of the St Josephite nuns (RSJ). That left Joan Mary's brother Geoffrey Dolahenty whom I hoped had married and had descendants whom I could return the photograph to. 

It did not take me long to discover that the Dolahenty family were devout Catholics, with all three children of Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty entering religious orders. Joan Mary working as a teacher and Dympna becoming the Principal of several Catholic Schools.  Geoffrey Augustine Dolahenty was born on July 17, 1924, according to a  website dedicated to the history of Marcellin College, Randwick where known as Brother Alfred, Geoffrey  took up his first teaching post at the age of only 18 years in 1942 and where he taught for 18 years. Brother Alfred also taught at St Joseph's College at Hunters Hill in Sydney and passed away at St Gregory's College, Campbelltown in 1997, much loved by his ex pupils. According to the Marcellin History, Geoffrey Augustine Dolahenty was ' gifted with a remarkable talent for the disciplines of mathematics and physics.'

Marcellin College, Randwick

Below is the biography of Geoffrey Augustine Dolahenty which I found on the History of the Marcellin College website.

Br Alfred Dolahenty

Br Alfred was born in Maitland in 1924, the middle one of three children.  As a child he was very lively with an inquisitive and inventive mind.
In the 1940 Leaving Certificate Br Alfred was placed first in NSW in physics and third in Mathematics.  At University he pursued studies in Maths, English, Latin, French and Greek.
Br Alfred loved his sport and developed into a very good fast bowler in cricket and had a single digit handicap in golf.
His students had a strong sense of respect and loyalty for Br Alfred.  They found him to be a challenging teacher, a man of very deep wisdom, a good listener and advisor.
About 1970 Br Alfred and three others produced a new, very different Religious Education program for senior students.  It was a winner.
Br Alfred came to St Gregory’s in 1983.  He was the Senior Maths teacher.  Some of his students gained top places in H.S.C. for Maths.
Brother developed blood circulation problems in his legs.  This caused great pain and made him less mobile. But, he wanted to keep teaching.  He went to class in a wheelchair then on a golf buggy.  Then, as Brother’s health worsened the 4 unit Maths group was taught in Br Alfred’s bedroom.
Br Alfred died here at St Gregory’s in 1997 aged 72.

 I realised that I would need to look further afield for family members as neither Joan Mary, nor her siblings had any direct descendants. I began with the parents of Joan Mary Dolahenty, who had been named in her obituary as Thomas and Josephine. Through a search for siblings of Thomas or Josephine I hoped to find descendants with whom the photograph might find a home.

Searching for Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty, I found Thomas Augustine Dolahenty, accountant and Josephine Dolahenty  (home duties), living at 37 Church Street, West Maitland in 1936, 1937, 1943, 1947 and 1954. The Maitland City Council website lists the burial of Thomas Augustine Dolahenty as being on the 28/09/1918 at the Campbells Hill Cemetery, Maitland. This website lists quite a few Dolahenty burials so I began a search for relatives beyond the siblings of Joan Mary.  

Campbells Hill Cemetery where a number of Dolahenty family members are buried.

Searching and I found that Thomas Augustine Dolahenty was born in 1884 in Armidale, NSW,  to parents John and Ellen Mary Dolahenty. Ellen was born Ellen Mary Ronan, in 1848 in Singleton, NSW. Her parents were Michael and Mary Ronan. Thomas Dolahenty and Ellen Ronan married in Patrick Plains in 1875.

Ellen died in 1899 aged 55 years and is buried in the Roman Catholic Section of Campbells Hill Cemetery pictured above.
 John and Ellen had the following children:

Patrick Michael. born 1877, Maitland, NSW
John Joseph born 1881, Maitland East, NSW 
Martin William born 1883, Armidale, NSW
*Thomas Augustine born 1884, Armidale, NSW
Francis Alphonsus born 1888, Maitland, NSW
Joseph Vincent born 1890, Maitland, NSW
Leo A born 1893, Maitland, NSW

The next logical step was to discover whether any of Thomas Dolahenty's siblings ( uncles of Joan Mary Dolahenty) had descendants.

The eldest of Thomas and Josephine Dolahenty's sons, Patrick Michael, died in 1895 in East Maitland aged 18 years. No descendants.
John Joseph Dolahenty died in 1901, in West Maitland, aged 20 years, buried Campbells Hill cemetery. No descendants.
Martin William Dolahenty died the same year in which he was born. No descendants.
Francis A Dolahenty  No information found.
Joseph Vincent Dolahenty married Eileen Rourke in 1915 and died in Drummoyne, Sydney. Descendants found.
Leo Alphonsus married Kathleen A O'Hara in 1915 in West Maitland.

I have traced a descendant of Joseph Vincent Dolahenty, cousin  to Joan Mary Dolahenty, the baby in my photograph.   Hopefully, in the near future the beautiful picture of baby Joan Mary Dolahenty, below, will be placed on a branch of her family tree.

Joan Mary Dolahenty 1921-2009

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Census Records -Whether Deaf, Dumb or Blind?"

'Whether Deaf, Dumb or Blind', Imbecile, Idiot or Lunatic - Understanding the Census Records

Pin Making

Every family historian knows the tremendous value of census records. It is from these records that we discover vital information about our ancestors. We discover where, and in what circumstances they lived, what their occupations were, and how many children they had. Notably, we might discover  their age and where an ancestor was born. This is crucial information which assists in tracing family further generations back in time.  Census records allow us to place our ancestors into the social and economic context of the world which they inhabited. More importantly, it is when we take the bare bones of information provided on a census record and place it along side the social, economic and political events occurring at the time of the census taking, that we begin to understand the world in which ancestors lived, and our ancestors themselves.  Setting the scene for our forebears' lives is what metamorphoses names into real people.

One needs to look beyond the census information

On UK census records, and first introduced in the 1851 census, there appears a column,  which contains vital  information regarding disabilities our ancestors may have experienced. This column, headed, 'Whether Deaf, Dumb or Blind' which appears far right,  on the census page is often overlooked in our enthusiasm to discover names, places, dates and occupations. What is also of exceptional significance for historical research, is the social overview of a nation and society, which we are afforded by the statistical analysis of  information  provided by our ancestors on  census forms, with particular regard to health conditions and disability, (included on census forms from 1850 onward in the US census and 1851 onward in the UK).

A national census has been conducted in Britain every 10 years since 1841 (with the exception of the War years). Earlier censuses exist, however they were not well organised, were dependant upon local co-ordination,  and information is scant. 

On June 6, 1841 the first national census conducted in the UK, collected the following information about each household member present in the household on the night: Address, Number of Rooms, Name, Age, Gender, Occupation, Whether born in the County or Elsewhere.  

Information requested on the 1841 census was minimal, but has been of vital importance to both historians and family historians. The US introduced a national census in 1790, following the American Revolution and has since  conducted 22 decennial national population censuses since that year. For the purpose of this blog post I will concentrate on the UK census for my examples, however, the essence of my post applies beyond the UK census.


The March, 30, 1851 census, introduced a significant new collection of data on the census form.  In a column headed 'Whether Deaf, Dumb or Blind'  the first attempt was made to gather national information about the numbers of people affected by these disabilities. Whilst this was by no means a method of determining all afflictions or disabilities, it  was undoubtedly a significant attempt  to compile national data about disability within the British population and it is exceptional and fascinating information for historians and genealogists alike. The information compiled in this census and those which followed, has not only enlightened us to conditions which our ancestors or members of their families suffered, but it has enabled statisticians to collate information about the overall health and social circumstances of our forebears. Through examination of the distribution of these conditions and the ages at which these disabilities occurred, information is now available  which attempts to understand the causes, dispersion of, and the impact of blindness and deafness upon the British population since 1851.  Studies have been conducted to determine  the causes of these afflictions, and includes influences such as age, whether disabilities were congenital or caused by disease (as in Ireland during the Potato famine [ 1845-1852] when there was an epidemic of opthalmia [inflammation of the eye which can result in blindness]), or fascinatingly, even whether disabilities were the result of intermarriage between family members. 

The Potato famine in Ireland caused an epidemic of  opthalmia.

Data has been gathered demonstrating the relevance of demographics on disability ( ie interestingly, it has been shown from the 1851 and 1861 censuses that blindness was more prevalent in rural areas than in industrial and manufacturing towns and cities. (  One excellent source which reveals statistics regarding blindness in the UK is : A Vision of Britain Through Time:   

1861 National Statistics for Blindness

The number of blind persons enumerated in the UK in the 1861 census was 29,248. The breakdown of this data is as follows:
  • England and Wales - 19,352 [ an increase of 1046 persons blind since 1851 and 1 in every 1037 persons compared to 1 in 979 in 1851]
  • Scotland - 2820 [ 1 in every 1.086 persons compared to 3010 incidences or 1 in 960 persons in 1851]
  • Ireland - 6,879 [ 708 less than in 1851 ]
  • Islands to the British Seas - 197 [1 in every 728 persons and a decrease of 26 cases since 1851]

1851 National Statistics for Blindness

  • Blindness was found to be less prevalent in 1851 in the south western counties of Britain (Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall with 1 in 793 person affected. 
  • The eastern counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk show a lesser proportion of the population affected by blindness with the ratio of 1 in 902. 
  • The north western counties of Cheshire an Lancashire demonstrate a lesser rate of blindness with 1 in 1253 person affected.
  • York and West Riding the proportion of people reported to be blind was even less at 1 in 1296.
  • Durham showed 1 in every 1252,
  • The county of Bedfordshire, where the main employment for young persons was straw plaiting,  recorded the lowest ratio of people who were blind with numbers recorded as 1 in 1325 persons. 

More men were shown to be affected by blindness in both the 1851 and 1861 census

Age demonstrated that it played a significant role in the numbers of people suffering blindness with only 1/7 th of the population who were blind shown to be under the age of 20. 

Data analysed from  UK census records has demonstrated the ways in which  people who were deaf or blind, were supported, whether they were educated and what role social circumstances played in the opportunities that were at their disposal. 

Apart from being valuable information relating to our own families, this data collected on census records, has provided invaluable historical information which has assisted in providing for the needs of people with disabilities. 


On the bottom right, it indicates that Charles Saber, aged 49, is Blind.

The above sample of the 1851 census, shows one Charles SABER*, 49, (husband of Martha SAPBER, 53, a washerwoman), to be blind. The couple were living in St Mary's Islington with their son William Sapber aged 19 years who was a coal miner. The census enumerator did not record whether Charles had been 'Blind from Birth' and in the absence of that information we cannot assume that this was the case. A search for Charles Saber in the 1841 census would not tell us directly if he was blind since this information was not requested in that particular census however, if Charles was found to be employed in an occupation in 1841 which required good eyesight then we would have some indication of the age at which he became blind. To attempt to discover more about Charles' blindness it is necessary therefore to search for him in other census records for clues. 
* Charles Saber was not related to myself.

A search of the 1861 census, finds Charles, surname spelled SOPHER, ( another relevant family history W tip is to be Wary of surname spellings)  shows him to be aged 59 years, born in Chelmsford, Bedfordshire, address 358 Hayes Place, St Mary's Islington, living with his wife Martha (65) and in the column headed 'Whether deaf, Dumb or Blind' it states 'Blind'. Son William now aged 28 is still living with his parents and working as a labourer, undoubtedly to support them.  Charles SAFER died in January of 1870. Martha can  next be found in the 1871 census, living as a widow and an inmate of the Metropolitan Asylum in St Mary's Islington. The addition of new information in the 'Whether Deaf, Dumb or Blind' column,  in the 1871 census becomes an all important clue as to why Martha died in an asylum.

Charles Saber (spelled Sopher) in the 1861 census. 'Blind'

The 1871 UK census, held on April 2nd, extended the range of disabilities to include, 
Whether -
1. Deaf and Dumb 
2. Blind
3. Imbecile or Idiot
4. Lunatic

The additional information requested in the 1871 census is very relevant, particularly, if you have an ancestor who died in an Asylum as did  Charles Saber's wife Martha,  (under yet another spelling variation of the surname).  In the column headed 'Whether 1. deaf-and-Dumb 2. Blind 3. Imbecile or Idiot 4. Lunatic', there was no entry for Martha. Since Martha has not been reported to be an Imbecile, an Idiot or a Lunatic, it is more than likely that she died in the Asylum because she was a pauper (or in ill health or suffering alcoholism - for the many reasons people ended up in Asylums, see my blog post entitled 'Ancestors in Asylums').

Probably because of the numerous variations of spelling of this surname, I have not yet found Charles Saber in the 1841 census. Finding him  in 1841 and determining whether he was employed at that time, and what his employment was, might provide some evidence of when he lost his eyesight. Occupations can often be a clue to a disability suffered by an ancestor. Some understanding of what jobs required good eyesight and of those which were able to be performed by people with disabilities, for example, basket weaving, might be an indication that an person suffered eyesight problems or deafness.

 What can definitely be determined about the life of the Saber family from the census records and especially the last column which reports a disability, is that daily life must have been difficult for Charles and Martha coping with Charles' blindness and inability to work to support his family. Their son William would undoubtedly been responsible for supporting his parents for much of his adult life. Since the entry for Charles in the census records, does not state 'Blind from Birth', it might be assumed that he suffered an injury or an illness which resulted in his losing his precious eyesight, making it impossible for him to financially sustain his family. 

In the April 2, 1871 census,  Eliza ENGLISH, * was aged 56 years and living in the Keynsham Union Workhouse in the county of Gloucestershire in which she was born.  In the 'Whether' column provided to list  a disability, it was stated that Eliza was an 'Imbecile'. It is important to understand the terms, Imbecile, Idiot and Lunatic as they were defined at the time of the census taking. Until the 20th century, an Idiot was determined as being one who was of mental deficiency from birth, a person who was unable to take care of him or herself.  Being determined an Imbecile generally meant that a person was of diminished mental capability but that they could take some responsibility for their own self. This could have included a person with Downs Syndrome. Often Imbecile was defined as having the mental age of an infant. A Lunatic was defined as someone who sometimes was of good understanding and memory but at other time not. This would have undoubtedly referred to a number of mental illnesses including dementia. 
Note: The Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 redefined these definitions and 'feeble minded' replaced the term Idiot. Morally defective (as in criminal tendencies) was added to the disability column, which was also  also renamed as Infirmity.
* Eliza  English was not related to myself.

Keynsham Union Workhouse where Eliza resided 

From the above definitions it would appear that Eliza was of some diminished capability but possibly able to perform minimal tasks. Before making assumptions about ancestors from one census record, it is wise to check the weight of one finding against that of others. A search of the earlier 1861 census, shows Eliza English to be aged 45 years, living in the Keynsham Union Workhouse, as a 'pauper' and an 'imbecile'. however of note is that she was employed as a 'Pin Maker'.  It immediately becomes clear that  Eliza has at least the mental age of a small child since children as young as 6 years were known in the 1800's to be employed in the industry of pin making. We learn something more about Eliza's disability from collating her reported condition as an 'Imbecile' in 1871 and for the fact that she was able to be employed, though it be a simple task. 

Children making pins in the 1800's

Searching further back in the 1851 census, Eliza English can be found aged 30, living in Potter's Wood, Keynsham, living with her mother Hannah aged 79. Hannah is a widow and both mother and daughter are employed as 'Pin Headers'. No report is made of Eliza having a disability in the 1851 census, however, it was not uncommon for a family to fail to report this for fear of the stigma attached to mental illness. Ten years earlier, in 1841, Eliza, aged 20 years is living with her father Thomas, mother Hannah, and sister, Charlotte, aged 15. We have no way of knowing whether Eliza suffered a disability at the age of 20 years, except to note that she was not employed. 

Eliza was still living in the Keynsham Union Workhouse at the time of the 1881 census where she was described once again as an Imbecile and a Pauper. One can only guess as to what Eliza's disability was. There were few treatments available for Eliza who was presumably born with some considerable form of mental disability, other than care at home and then lodgement in an Asylum or Workhouse. These institutions were notorious for their miserable and horrifying conditions. In the 1800's, asylums were not facilities focused on helping people suffering from mental disorders. One can only imagine the distress of Eliza's mother Hannah, knowing that after her own death, an asylum was the only place where her daughter could reside.

In the case of sisters Jane and Hannah KIRK, who can be found recorded on the 1891 census, aged 28 and 26 years,  residing  with their parents Samuel and Sarah, on a farm in Ashover, Derbyshire,  their disability is recorded in the 'Whether Deaf, Dumb or Blind' column, as 'Deaf and Dumb'. How sad for Samuel and Sarah Kirk that both their daughters suffered this affliction at a time when little help was afforded them. being reported to be 'dumb' leads us to the conclusion that the sisters never learned to speak and therefore were most likely born deaf. To discover more about Jane and Hannah, we must look at other census records. Since Jane was reportedly born around 1863, the first census to search is the 1871 census. 

Jane and Hannah Kirk in the 1871 census

Jane and Hannah Kirk's story is a sad one especially for their parents, Samuel and Sarah. The 1871 census shows Samuel aged 45, working as a carter in Derbyshire and living with his wife Sarah aged 38 and children. Sarah would not have been able to work as she was the carer of not two but three daughters who were reported to be 'deaf and Dumb' on the census form.  Son James aged 11 in 1871 was a a scholar. Younger sister Sarah, aged 2 was deaf along with Jane aged 8, and Hannah aged 6 years. It is a terrible tragedy that this family had three daughters who were all profoundly deaf from birth. 

The  April 3, 1881 census unfolds the Kirk family tale further. Here we find Jane Kirk aged 18, Hannah aged 16, both reported to be 'deaf and dumb from birth'.  Sarah Jane Kirk is aged 12 years and is no longer reported to be deaf. Perhaps the enumerator had made a mistake ten years earlier. Brother James, aged 21 years is working a s a General Labourer as is father Samuel now 55. Another son has been born to Sarah and Samuel Kirk, named Richard who is not reported to be deaf.

In the 5, April, 1891 census,  Jane now aged 28, and her sister Hannah aged 26, are living with their parents on a farm where Samuel at 65 years of age is employed as a farm labourer. brother Richard William Kirk is now 16 and working alongside his father as a farm labourer. With two daughters, unable to hear or to speak, life must have been challenging for the Kirk family. Samuel was the sole supporter for the family with help possibly from sons James and Richard while they lived with the family. Samuel Kirk died in 1900, a death which would have meant an enormous loss to the Kirk family, both emotionally and financially. Sarah was left to care for her adult daughters, Jane and Hannah in a world where they could not hear or communicate effectively.

Looking at this painting of a young girl in the 1860's we might ponder the lives of Jane and Hannah Kirk.

In the 1901 census, Sarah Kirk is shown as the head of the household in the parish of All Saints, Ashover, in Derbyshire, living with her daughters Jane and Hannah.  With three women aged 68, 38, and 36 years in the home, none of whom were employed, one must suppose that they were dependent upon either sons and brothers James and Richard for financial support or that they were reliant upon parish charity for survival.

All Saints, Ashover, Derbyshire

Sarah Kirk died in 1911, leaving her 'deaf and dumb' daughters Jane and Hannah aged 48 and 46 years with no option but to be placed in an institution. These girls were fortunate to have had parents who cared  for them at home for as long as they were able, despite the financial burden this must have placed upon the family.

The 1911 census record shows Jane Kirk aged 46 (48) and her sister Hannah Kirk aged 46 years living in an institution at Chesterfield, Derbyshire.Both girls were single, having had no opportunity for marriage with their affliction. Although other inmates of the institution are shown to be employed in various jobs mainly connected to the cotton industry, (mill hands, flour sack menders, cotton mill winders), neither Jane nor Hannah are reported as working. The occupations of inmates in this workhouse,  which was not far from their home of Ashover, tells us much about the agricultural nature of the area of Derbyshire in which Jane and Hannah  grew up. It is entirely probable, tragically for these sisters, that their lack of hearing and importantly, speech, rendered them 'dumb' and unemployable in the eyes of those around them.  Jane and Hannah both died in their silent world in far from desirable conditions in the Chesterfield Workhouse.

The dreary Chesterfield Institution where Jane and Hannah Kirk lived out their days unable to hear or to speak

Another view of the Chesterfield Workhouse

These are merely a few examples of how disabilities impacted on the lives of people in the past. We can be grateful to census records which from the 1850's in the UK and the US, provide us with a window through which to glimpse the lives of those suffering impairments such as deafness, blindness, and mental health issues. This one column added to the census record has provided governments and organisations with crucial information which has aided the provision of facilities to help children such as Jane and Hannah Kirk to be educated and taught to communicate with others. Jane and Hannah were locked in a silent  and isolated world. But for the 'Whether Deaf, Dumb and Blind' information reported in a far right column, on the census records, Jane and Hannah's story, and thousands more like theirs,  would never have been told.