Monday, April 25, 2016

In Flanders Fields....

In Flanders fields the poppies grow, Between the crosses row on row....

On or about the 26th of October, 1917. These were the words  which officially described the death of Private Ralph Gair , Service Number 203219, of the Northumberland Fusiliers (1/6th and 1/4th) who was killed in action at Ypres in Flanders at the age of 25 years. Information regarding his death can be found on FindmyPast in the GRO war deaths, army and other ranks, 1914 -1921 record set entitled British Nationals Armed Force Deaths 1796 - 2005.   Ralph Gair was my first cousin three times removed. This Anzac Day, 2014, rather than writing about an Australian military ancestor, I have chosen to remember this cousin from Northumberland, England,  who was killed during active service during World War One. 

Ralph Gair was born in 1892 to Ralph senior, the brother of my great great grandmother, Hannah Tait Gair.  Hannah whose married name  was Morrison. Hannah, along with her husband John Morrison,  was a pioneer of Cooroy in Queensland, Australia and was living in Australia in 1917, when her nephew Ralph was killed at Passchendaele in Belgium. His memorial as a soldier missing, killed in action, is in the Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, Belgium. Information about Tyn Cot and other World War One memorials for soldiers in the 4th Territorial Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers can be found here.

Tyn Cot Memorial Foto: Johan S 17:12, 1 December 2006 (UTC) Reproduced under Creative Commons ©© Wikipedia

The UK Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901 - 1929 shows that Ralph's personal effects following his death, were sent to his widow Gertrude Isabella Spark (known as Isabella), whom he had married in Newcastle Upon Tyne in 1916. Ralph was killed in action barely a year after he married Isabella. I can only imagine the distress Isabella Gair suffered on receiving the news that her loved one had been killed on foreign soil and would not be returning home.

Image taken by Brooks during the Battle of Broodseinde, showing a group of soldiers of the 8th East Yorkshire Regiment moving up to the front, silhouetted against the skyline.Wikipedia ©©

The Army Museum website is an excellent resource for family historians researching UK soldiers, from the Army register of effects.

Ralph Gair's Receipt for Attestation which is listed as a British Army Pension record on, shows that in May of 1916, prior to his marriage, he was in the 6th battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Ralph Gair's attestation form would have been completed at the time he enlisted and is dated May 8, 1916. Some interesting sources of information online regarding  British Attestation forms can be found here, (British) and here (Australian).
Ralph Gair, as a member of both the 6th and 4th Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers, participated in the following battles:

Battle of the Somme 1916 - This occurred in France from July 1 to November 18, 1916 on both sides of the River Somme. Information about this battle can be found via this link.

Battle of Somme, Image Wikipedia ©©

Battle of Arras 1917 April  9 - May 16, 1917

Third Battle of Ypres also known as The Battle of Passchendaele July to November 1917

Image taken at Chateau Wood near Hooge, Ypres October 29, 1917  Wikipedia ©©

Ralph Gair's wife Isabella never remarried and died carrying his name in Spetember of 1965, almost 48 years after his death in the First World War.


Flanders Poppies Image Wikipedia ©©

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Aprol A to Z Challenge Beedle, a Bellman and a Bard

B is for a Beedle, a Belman and a Bard

I am running a little behind schedule in the April A-Z blogging challenge, however, I have a wonderful excuse, which is the birth  seven days ago of a beautiful new grandson. I am completely besotted with all 9 lb 11 oz and 59 cm of him! But a new baby in the family does mean for this Oma, less time for blogging and more time for cuddles so for my 'B' post today, I am linking here to a blog that I wrote in 2011 entitled "A Beedle, a Bellman and a Bard". I belive it is worth resurrecting a post from time to time if  the information contained within is still relevant. This particular post shows how and what I discovered about my 6th great grandfather, Edward Manton through a search of Google books.  For those who have read my post in the past, I hope you will enjoy the revisit and for those who are new to my blog I hope you are inspired to search google books for information about your ancestors. And now....grandmother 'duties' beckon.....

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A -Z 2016 Family History

A For Abbreviations and Acronyms

Image Wikipedia ©©

If the above image looks like something you view regularly, then there is a good chance that you are a genealogist! Family history records are filled with abbreviations and acronyms and until you becaome familiar with or have references for at hand, these often confusing terms can make researching your ancestors quite a challenge. Finding the abbr. (abbreviation) Ad.D or Ad.M or ds. on a record might leave you scratching your head, until you discover out that they are abbreviations for adopted daughter, adopted mother and deaths.  Family history research reveals a wealth of abbreviated language and one almost needs to be a linguist to decipher various records. Having a list of references at hand can be the key to translating the many abbreviations and acronyms used on the documents you read and understanding your ancestors' lives.

This blog post is the first of my contributions to the A -Z 2016 Blog Challenge .  For this week's challenge I am posting some links to references and resources regarding abbreviations and acronyms that I have found useful in my own research. Most of the following resources can be accessed online, through archives, libraries, organisations and blogs. I have also included links to some catalogues and books.

Along the genealogy journey you will encounter records containing commonly used abbreviations  for names, places, occupations, relationships between family memebers, medical conditions and legal terms, to name a few examples. A better understanding of the present accepted codes of abbreviations and acronyms as well as those unfamiliar and confusing ones in the past will enable you to make the most of the information you find on census, births, marriage, death, military, legal and other documents.

I hope these links will provide you with some understanding of the common and even not so common genealogical abbreviations and acronyms that can be road blocks on your genealogical journey. You are welcome to share any helpful references of your own that are not listed below.




Sunday, March 27, 2016

BIRTH PEDIGREE CHART - some genealogy fun!


A new craze has swept through the genealogy world over the past week or so, attributed to J Paul Hawthorne. His colour birth pedigree chart has become a bigger 'hit' than adult colouring books. It is an excellent way to visualise our ethnic backgrounds and I have finally done my own  colour pedigree chart. I am planning to do another one to take in further generations since I think it would look much more colourful. Many thanks to Paul for sharing his creative idea with the rest of we genies who can't resist some fun! 

I found it an interesting excercise to compare my colour pedigree chart with my autosomal DNA ethnicity. 

Below is my autosomal DNA ethnicity. Taking into consideration that my paternal line of Scots McDades originated in Ireland, I think my colour chart reflects my DNA origins quite well.

35 % Ireland
31 % East European
13 % Great Britain
9  % Scandinavia
5  % West European

My 5 generation colour pedigree chart

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Making Mary MIne - Finding Evidence

Making Mary Mine - Finding Evidence

A McDade ancestor. Photo courtesy of Betsy Martin Dooley ©©

This blog post is about the way in which I found evidence to prove that a family in the 1851 Scottish census was mine. 

Online records made available by organisations such as, FindmyPast, My Heritage and FamilySearch, have made researching family history much easier, especially when researching from a distance. Easy access however, does not automatically equate with thorough research.  As records are digitised and made available worldwide, the family historian needs to keep in mind that information is not FACT until it is proven to be evidence through diligent research. In this blog post I hope to illustrate how I conducted an exhaustive genealogical search and over time, turned information into evidence and prove a generation of my MCDADE family was mine. 

My grandfather Colin Hamilton MCDADE, born Cumbernauld, Glasgow, 1901

My maiden name was McDade, and my paternal Scottish line of family was one of the first that I attempted to trace when I began researching my family history some years ago. Diligent research is a key element of family history. Since prior to the digital age, finding records relating to the 'wrong' person has always been a natural part of the genealogy journey and now with a wealth of records easily accessed online, we have the opportunity to examine 'wrong' records even more frequently. By 'wrong' I mean records which do not relate to our own family and in the absence of carefully conducted research, wrong records and wrong people can easily end up on the wrong family tree.

Image Wikimedia  permissiom granted under Creative Commons Lic.©©

I spent a long time searching unsuccessfully for my great great great grandparents, James and Catherine (McCleary) McDade in Scotland, in the 1851 census.  I knew that the family had moved from Ireland to Scotland and were settled in Glasgow by 1850, since their youngest child was born in Dunbartonshire on August 11, 1850. My McDade ancestors were most likely victims of the 1845 - 1852 Potato Famine, which was the cause of a great surge of emigration from Ireland during this period.

The Great Irish Famine 'an Gorta Mor' by artist James Mahony Image Wikipedia ©©

I had documented each and every McDade family in the 1851 Census along with variations of surname spellings which  included MCDAID, MCDEAD, MCDAD, MCDEADE, MCDAVIT, MCDOD.  I concluded my search with a research log of families in the 1851 Scottish census who were NOT mine, although one family was similar enough to warrant further research. A MCDEAD family I found had at its head,  a father named James and children with the same names as my family, but a mother named Marg't. As much as I would have liked to have assumed that the name was a mistake and popped the jolly lot of them on to my family tree, as my three times great grandparents and great great uncles and aunts, I could not do so without finding evidence that they were really my ancestors.

Image Wikimedia ©©

Confusing and contradictory information such as variations of the spelling of names, the unreliability of given ages, as well as mistakes on original documents and in transcriptions, are just some of the factors which make researching family history so challenging but undoubtedly more interesting. It is also why diligent research, research logs and cross-checking is a necessary part of researching family history.

In my search for James and Catherine MCDADE in the 1851 Scottish census, I found  MCDADE families with a mother named Catherine but no father named James, and I found many fathers named James but with no spouse named Catherine.  There were families with children of the same names and similar ages as those in my family but none of these MCDADE families or even those with variations of  this surname seemed to be  a perfect match for the family I was searching for. I discovered a lot of negative evidence which showed who was NOT my family and I hit a BRICK WALL. The one thing that that enabled me to find my family eventually, was the research log that I kept of those families who were NOT mine. I recorded my negative evidence and it was only becaue I did so that I found my family eventually.

...But for a log book of negative evidence, a niggling suspicion which would not go away and a great deal of research, I would never have discovered the whereabouts of my McDade ancestors...  

Image Sharn White ©

...I began with a hunch....

In my log of negative finds resulting from my search of the 1851 Scottish census was a family who spelled their surname as MCDEAD. This family had some startling similarities to my own family, but with a significant difference, in that the mother's name was Marg't (Margaret) and not Catherine. At first I had outright dismissed the family since I knew that the mother of my four known McDADE children was named Catherine McCleary (with variations such as McClure and McAleer). She was named on all of the four childrens' marriage and death records along with her husband James McDade. Her name was given as Catherine on all of the children's marriage records as well as on the birth record for the youngest McDade child born in 1850 in Dunbartonshire, Glasgow. This evidence eliminated the likelihood of a previous wife named Margaret for James McDade and the fact that Catherine gave birth to a child belonging to James in 1850 was proof that she should have appreared as his wife on the 1851 Scottish census.

It was not difficult for me to imagine an error in the recording of Catherine's name as Marg't. It would have been simple  to assume this and claim the MCDEAD family plus three older children as mine, but I knew that further research was necessary to find substantial evidence. 

Below is are the details of the MCDADE family I knew to be mine in the 1861 census, living at the Garscube Colliery, New Kilpatrick, Scotland. I have highlighted the similarities to the  MCDEAD family that I found in the 1851 census.

James MCDADE 60   Born Ireland, Coal Miner
Catherine              58    Born Ireland
James                   23    Born Ireland 1838, Coal MIner
John                     20    Born Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, Scotland, 1842
Sarah                   16    Born Bridge of Weir, Renfrew, Scotland 1845 
Charles                8      Born 1850, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Here is the MCDEAD family that I found living at the Netherton Colliery, New Kilpatrick in the 1851 census, in which the mother's name is Marg't. The highlighted similarities to my own family may indicate why I felt the need to further research this family. I had a feeling that they were mine but more proof was needed than the names and birthplaces of four children.

James       MCDEAD   45   Born Ireland, Coal Miner 
Marg't               40               Born Ireland
Mary                 17               Born Ireland
Patrick               23              Born Ireland, Coal Miner
Andrew             19              Born Ireland, Coal Miner
James                14             Born Ireland, Coal Miner 1837
John                  11             Born Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, Scotland Coal Miner 1843
Sarah                  8             Born Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, Scotland 1843
Charles               8 Mths    Born  1850 Dunbartonshire, Scotland

I had a hunch...
                                      but that's not evidence

Since the mother's name in the MCDEAD family in the 1851 census was not Catherine and the surname was spelled differently to my MCDADE, I needed evidence to prove this either WAS or WAS NOT my family. I devised a new research strategy which began with a list of WHAT I KNEW.

... I made a list of 
              the information I already had...

  • James McDade and his wife Catherine McCleary/McClure/McLure/McAleer  (I wish that our ancestors had known how to spell their surnames) were born in Ireland acording to census and death records. 
  • The family was living in  Scotland by 1850 since this was the year that their youngest child Charles was born in Dunbartonshire.
  •  James and Catherine were both born between 1801 and 1806, although Catherine's age varied on census and her death record.  [My three times great grandmother Catherine McDade appears to have been rather reticent about her age. By some illusion of eternal youth, between 1851 and 1891, records show Catherine McDade aging a mere ten years!]
  • James and Catherine McDade had four children living with them at the time of the 1861 census.1. James (Born in Ireland in 1838, according to census, marriage and death records) 2. John (born in Bridge of Weir, Scotland in 1842, according to census, marriage and death records). 3.Sarah (born in Bridge of Weir, Scotland in 1845 according to Census, marriage and death records), 4. Charles (born in Dunbartonshire, Scotland in 1850 (according to a birth and baptism record, census, marriage and death records). 
  • James, John, Sarah and Charles were the correct children for James and Catherine. I had documented the major events in their lives ( birth and or marriage, death, census) and proved beyond reasonable doubt that these were my relatives. Descendants from two of these children and my three times great grandparents have also been matched to me through DNA testing. 
  • James and Catherine McDade's address in the 1861 census was the Garscube Colliery, New Kilpatrick.  James was a coal miner as were sons James and John. Daughter Sarah was a steam loom weaver. Charles aged 10 was a scholar.
  • James and Catherine McDade lived in East Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire in June 1850 at the time of the birth of their son Charles.
  •  Charles McDade's baptism record from the Glasgow Immaculate Church shows he was was born on August 11, 1850 and baptised the following day on August 12. He would have been 7 1/2  months old at the time of the 1851 census. 
  • In the 1851 Scottish census  I found 19 Catherine McDades (including surname variations). Subtracting those who were too young, I was left with two Catherines by the name of  MCDADE, two of the surname MCDEAD and two Catherine MCDODs. Although several had children of similar or the same names, none of these Catherines had a husband named James. 
  • In the 1851 Scottish census there were five possible matches for James McDade, aged between 40 and 55 (based on his age in the 1861 and 1871 census). None matched my James MCDADE being widowed, single or having no spouse named Catherine. A wider search for James MCDADE using a variety of search methods, all possible name variations and with no age range, resulted in 45 possible matches. Not one James had a wife named Catherine.

... I examined my information
                      and concluded...

I had no doubt I had the correct family from the 1861 census onward and I thought it highly unlikely that the family had popped back to potato famine stricken Ireland to show off the new baby at the time of the 1851 census. This family should NOT have been missing!

My MCDADE family seemed to be  missing from the 1851 census. Image Wikimedia ©©

armed with my list...
                 I searched again...

It was easy to imagine a tired enumerator, trekking up and down  the streets of Glasgow, , at the end of March, when the weather might have been still chilly, recording the same names over and over again, household after household. John, James, Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth..... It was not difficult to see how he, or the person responsible for copying the census data into an enumeration book, might write a name as Marg't instead of Catherine. In theory, this was a very plausible conjecture, but to prove my rationale accurate, I needed to conduct an exhaustive search  for EVIDENCE.

what is NOT there... 
                can show you what IS....

I began my new search with the information I had. Charles MCDADE, the youngest child of James and Catherine, was born in August of 1850 and by that reckoning, should have been been around seven and a half months of age on census day, March 30, 1851. A search of the 1851 Scottish census found no infant under the age of three years named Charles MCDADE. A wider search under surname variations resulted in only one match. The the only possible match for him was Charles MCDEAD, the 8 month old son of James and Marg't. The same James and Marg't I had found and dismissed.

The 'wrong' family I had found in the 1851 census and previously filed in my log of negative evidence, was the ONLY family with the surname or variation of MCDADE (MCDEAD) with a son under three years of age.  My Charles MCDADE would have been 13 days short of 8  months old on March 30, 1851. This Charles MCDEAD was listed in the census as being 8 months old. 

The absence of any evidence of any other baby named Charles MCDADE or a variation of that surname in the 1851 census, strongly supported my theory that this family was mine. On its own, however,  this information was still speculation until I proved it to be evidence.

finding the evidence....

To prove that the MCDEAD family I had found in the 1851 census were my MCDADES  somehow I would have to connect the three older children of James and Marg't MCDEAD to James and Catherine MCDADE. The four youngerMCDEAD children already matched my own family.

when there are no records...
                       you take another path....

In the absence of birth records from Ireland, I set out to search for marriages of Mary, Patrick and Andrew MCDEAD since marriage records provide the names of parents of the bride and groom. To find out if my James and Catherine MCDADE had older children, I had to search for the marriages of every Mary, Patrick and Andrew MCDADE or variation of this surname within a calculated timeframe, based on their ages.  I chose Mary to begin my search with.  

Could I make Mary mine? Image Wikimedia ©©

I searched for possible marriages for Mary MCDADE, including surname variations and wildcards in my searches. The 1851 census record had recorded Mary MCDEAD's birthplace as Ireland and dated it around 1835-1836, which prompted a search for a marriage in Scotland between 1853 and 1866 when she would have been aged 18 years to 30 years of age.

My search for a marriage for Mary MCDADE between 1855 and 1866 on the Scotlands People website resulted in 19 matches. None of the brides had parents named James and Catherine McCLure, McCleary/ McAleer.

A second search for a marriage between 1855 and 1866 for Mary MCDEAD resulted in 5 matches. , the most likely one being Mary MCDEAD who married Peter O'Brien in 1855 in New Kilpatrick. I had a MATCH!  Mary's parents were named as James MCDADE, Coal Miner, and Catherine MCLURE. McCLure was a variation of Catherine's surname that was familiar to me since it had appeared on the marriages of several of her four children already known to me.

If I could prove that this Mary was the daughter of my three times great grandparents, James and Catherine MCDADE, I would have made an accidental but significant discovery. On her marriage record, Mary McDead stated her birth place to be ARTEA, COUNTY TYRONE, IRELAND. If Mary was mine, she had just told me the birthplace of my MCDADE ancestors!

Image Wikipedia ©©

making mary mine...

I knew MCCLURE, the name of Mary's mother, was used by my McDade family as a variation of Catherine's maiden surname and in fact I do not know which of the many variations of her name is actually the correct name. I am not sure my ancestors did either!  It appears frequently as MCCLURE, MCLURE, MCCLEARY and MCALEER.  Catherine McClure appeared to be the correct mother of Mary to make her mine, however, because of the inconsistency in the spelling of Catherine's maiden name, I could not accept this as evidence that THIS Mary was the daughter of MY Catherine.  I was definitely gathering an increasing amount of information which appeared to support my belief that James and Catherine MCDADE had at least one older child and that the MCDEAD family I had found in the 1851 census might indeed be the correct family albeit the wrong name for Catherine.

The spelling of Catherine's name as MCCLURE sent me in search for more evidence that this was MY Catherine McCleary/ McClure/ McAleer on Mary's marriage record. The witnesses to her marriage held no clues for me as I did not recognise the names John MORRISON or Alexander PATERSON.

Elizabeth GIBSON, wife of  my great grandfather John MCDADE, son of James and Catherine.

re-examining the information I had...

I re-examined the information I had previously gathered about James and Catherine MCDADE, bearing in mind that when I had researched in the past, I was not looking for older children named Mary, Patrick and Andrew.  My hope was that there was something relevant I had missed in my research in  the early days of family history research when I did not always extend my searches to the streets, neighbourhoods and wider locations to look for family members.

 I am now an enthusiast of researching FANS, a term I believe was coined by genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills. This is also referred to as cluster searching. It involves looking at the people associated with your ancestors. I have found that the people who witnessed the significant events in my ancestors' lives can be most useful in helping me to confirm the identity of my ancestors. Witnesses to marriages tended to be people close to family, such as siblings, cousins or neighbours or friends. Now, I set out to search for people associated with the MCDEAD family, in the hope that I might find some evidence or confirmation that Mary belonged to my own MCDADE family.

I began my search with census records and looked at the entire neighbourhood of New Kilpatrick where  James and Catherine McDade lived in 1861. This was not something I had done previously. Family members often remained close by each other and I knew that as coal miners my McDade ancestors tended to work at the same mines. Something to bear in mind is that when you find a census record transcription on and if you do not look at the original record, you can miss significant names of neighbours. It often pays to view the pages before and after the one on which you find ancestors on a census record.

As soon as I looked at the census page following the one on which I found James and Catherine McDade in 1861, I realised that my earlier search had missed something significant.

finding what I had missed...

In  the street where James and Catherine McDade lived at the Garscube Colliery at the time of the 1861 census, and living RIGHT NEXT DOOR  was a coal miner named ANDREW MCDADE. Andrew was 26 years old and born in Ireland. This close proximity suggested a relationship with James and Catherine McDade. He was living with his wife Martha, daughter Sarah 3 years, and son James 4 months. Sarah's birthplace was Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire and James was born in Dunbartonshire.

A quick search for a marriage found Andrew MCDEAD  (address New Kilpatrick) marrying Martha MULVENAN ( Bridge of Weir) on October 25, 1858. Andrew's parents were... DRUM ROLL.... James MCDEAD, coal miner, and Catherine MCALEER. I knew this had to be the same parents as those for Mary but once again the spelling variation of Catherine's maiden surname frustrated me. I just needed to find a name, a clue.. something evidential that would connect Andrew and Mary to my James and Catherine MCDADE.

looking at the next generation.....

Although I believed that Mary and Andrew were brother and sister and children of my third great grandparents James and Catherine  McDade, I still did not have suffficient evidence to place the MCDEAD family I had found in the 1851 census on my family tree. I could find nothing about the third child, Patrick so I began to look at the next generation. I had researched the children of  James, John , Sarah and Charles MCDADE. I knew the names of their children and generations beyond. Now I turned to the children of Mary MCDEAD and Peter O'BRIEN in the wild hope of finding a conncetion to my MCDADEs.

making mary mine...

mary MCDEAD and Peter O'BRIEN had nine children. I began with a search for a marriage for the eldest of Mary's nine children in the hope of finding evidence of a relationship with James and Catherine McDade.

Mary eldest child Edward O'BRIEN , married Mary COLLINS in 1887 in St James, Renfrew.  Mary's name was spelled as MCDEAD on the record. Mary on the record,  had 'made her mark' and not signed her name suggesting that she could not write.  This was often the reason for variations of spelling in in family surnames. The witnesses at Edward's marriage were JOHN MCDADE and Elizabeth COLLINS. John McDade could very well have been Edwards uncle or cousin but the name John McDade was too a common a name to prove who he was. What  witness John McDade did propose to me was that Mary's surname might be spelled MCDADE as well as MCDEAD.

Edward had a daughter born in 1888, and he named her Mary MCDADE O'Brien. This name for Mary's grandaughter confirmed that Mary MCDEAD's surname was spelled by her own family as MCDADE.

steps in the right direction.....
                                   ...yet still not enough evidence

Looking at Mary MCDEAD's son, Edward O'Brien took me on an unexpected journey to in my quest to prove that  Mary was the daughter of James and Catherine MCDADE. The evidence at first sat quietly unobserved on the page of a record for the second marriage of Edward O'Brien, son of Mary McDead and Peter O'Brien. THEN THE NAMES OF THE WITNESSES JUMPED JOYFULLY OFF THE PAGE AT ME. 

On September 22, 1893, Edward O'Brien, a widower of four months, married Elizabeth STEEL at the Maryhill Catholic Church, Lanarkshire. (This was the same church in which my great great grandfather, John McDade, the grandson  of James and Catherine married Elizabeth Gibson the following year in 1894. I don't believe in co-incidences...)

Elizabeth Gibson married John McDade in 1894. They were my great grandparents.

our ancestors'lives were witnessed...

Every important event in our lives is witnessed by other people, often those who are closest to us. Our ancestors were no different. Friends, neighbours and relatives of our ancestors were witnesses to the marriages, births and deaths  and the names of those witnesses can so often narrate a story that we might never otherwise know. So it was with Mary's story.

The WITNESSES on her son Edward O'Brien's marriage record were finally the EVIDENCE  I needed in my search to prove beyond doubt that my three times great grandparents James and Catherine MCDADE had a daughter named Mary. Edward's marriage was witnessed by AGNES MCDADE and MARTIN LEONARD. These names are very significant to me.

The great grandaughter of Agnes and Martin Leonard contacted me some years ago from the USA and I have travelled to Chicago three times in the past year to visit and to meet many  cousins who are descendants of those two witnesses!  Agnes was my great grandfather John McDade's youngest sister. She was my great grand aunt. The witnesses at Edward O'Brien's wedding in 1893, were his first cousin and her fiance. I know for certain we are related and DNA testing in 2015 confirmed the relationship.

Agnes McDade and Martin Leonard married in the Maryhill Catholic Church in June 1894. Agnes was the youngest child of my great great grandparents John MCDADE and Margaret BONNAR and the great grand daughter of James MCDADE and Catherine MCCLURE/ MCCLEARY/ MCALEER. She was the sister of my great grandfather John MCDADE who immigrated to Australia in 1923 with his family. Agnes and Martin Leonard had already emigrated to Illinois before my own great grandparents left for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

 Agnes McDade and her fiance Martin Leonard provided me with irrefutable evidence to state with confidence that my three times great grandparents, James and Catherine McDade had a daughter named Mary. More importantly I knew that she was the same Mary who was in the 1851 census with her mother incorrectly named as Marg't. I now know that  the neighbour of James and Catherine McDade in the 1861 census named Andrew was also their son. I am still searching for Patrick.

 I had suspected that for some time that my three times great grandmother's name was recorded on the 1851 census incorrectly as Marg't and that the family named MCDEAD that I had filed away safely in my log of negative evidence, were my MCDADE ancestors. All I needed was evidence and it came from the least expected source. Agnes McDade and Martin Leonard had an important story to tell me.

That the descendants of Agnes and Martin Leonard who live in Illinois, USA, had contacted me a few years ago and that I had visited them and become the best of friends with them, just makes this find even more AMAZING! It's just wonderful proof to me that our ancestors still have stories to tell.

And best of all,

mary is mine...

Aussie and American Descendants of Agnes MacDade and John McDade  in Chicago 2015 

Cousins reuinite in Chicago, August 2015. desendants of Agnes McDade  (Illinois) and John McDade ( Australia)


Scottish Birth, Baptism, Death and Marriage Records
Scottish Census Records
Scotlands People

Monday, February 15, 2016


Seeking Identity  and Sharing our Stories- A Rootstech Message

Josh and Naomi Davis of the Love Taza Blog. Keynote Speakers at Rootstech16

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we do our Family History? What  inspires our curiosity about the Past? What motivates us to collect names of People from the past and the Places they came from?  The PAST, the PEOPLE and the PLACES we research are intrinsic components of our identity.

Our identity - who we are - is integral to how we perceive ourselves, as individuals, as members of families, communities, groups, cultures, nations and the ever increasingly globalized world in which we live. 
(See my past blog post)

I left the 2016 Rootstech Conference in Salt Lake City feeling that something momentous had occurred. People from 37 countries around the globe had come together to learn about researching family history, to share family stories, and to be a part of a global gathering of genealogists. To me, the greatness of Rootstech is that in much the same way that the Olympic Games does, this conference brings people together in a way that transcends common barriers in our global society.  Race, language and nationality infuse into a single  melting pot of  friendship and commonality at Rootstech. We are all as one, seeking our roots, learning new methods to research  and bonded in friendship by our collateral purpose. 

Rootstech Registration Image SharnWhite 

This year's keynote speakers impressed upon the Rootstech audience a compelling message - the importance of sharing stories. As a genealogy blogger, sharing stories about my ancestors is something I do regularly, however, at Rootstech this year, I realised that my own story is equally important to preserve for the future as are the tales of my forebears.  

Josh and Naomi Davis share their family stories through the blog Love Taza

Fortunate is a family historian who has been left journals or letters which bear witness to the stories of their ancestors' lives. After all, that is what family historians are seeking.  Understanding as much as possible about our ancestors' daily lives adds rich texture  and colour to their stories. For the most part it is not difficult to to compile a timeline of events in our ancestors' lives. Names and dates are important evidence of the existence of ancestors but it is the stories behind those facts that make family history come to life and feel real to us. Without stories passed down from one generation to the next, we can only surmise how our forebears felt on the important dates which marked their lives.

Naomi Davis "Imagine if Grandpa had Instagram?" Image SharnWhite

Unless an ancestor left us a diary or letters and such precious keepers of memories have survived the passage of time, his or her stories of our past are lost forever. As family historians we can try to piece stories of ancestors together as best we can, through photographs and through understanding the social and local history of the places where they lived. How much more meaningful would it be though, if we could hear our ancestors' tales from their own mouths or pens. Understanding what shaped the lives of our ancestors allows us to understand the  identity which we have inherited from family in the past.

Paula Williams Madison sharing her story of seeking her identity at Rootstech
We are privileged to live in an age of technology. Whether our stories are the ones we unearth about ancestors, or our own stories which we choose to pass on to future generations, we live in an age where technology has made the sharing and preserving stories so simple. 

Geneabloggers at Rootstech16 ... Blogging is a way of sharing stories

Social media allows us to instantly share moments of our lives with our families or a worldwide audience. How wonderful would it be if we could know how our ancestors really felt about momentous events in their lives such as when they undertook a long voyage to make a new life in a new land. Today we use twitter, google plus, facebook, instagram, pinterest and a host of other social media platforms to share moments of our lives with our families, friends and even with a worldwide audience if we so choose.

David Isay of StoryCorps, speaking about sharing stories 

In 2014, I took part in a blogging meme which was called The Book of Me. This 52 week blogging event was written in response to given prompts about my own life and included topics such as schools I attended, homes I lived in and so on. I completed only a small part of the challenge, however,  since attending Rootstech recently, I have been inspired to to revive The Book of Me, and to complete it. I grew up fascinated by the stories that my Irish grandmother told me about her childhood on a flax farm in Brookend, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and I do not want to miss the opportunity to leave my own stories and my own legacy.

My grandmother from County Tyrone... ( I wish I knew the story behind that beautiful hat!)

Sometimes as family historians, we become so engaged in searching for stories from the past that we forget the significance of our own lives to the future. I will continue to write and share the stories I discover about my forebears, however, Rootstech has reminded me to set some time aside for sharing my own stories. My anecdotes may be left quietly for my family or I may decide to share some of my stories with a wider audience. I have not yet decided the how of my sharing, but I have learned that I have a legacy to keave in the rich and colourful stories of my own life.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rootstech 16... I made it here.....

Rootstech16 The Arrival

After a 2 and a half hour delay sitting on the A380 aircraft, at Sydney International Airport, due to my Qantas flight having a malfunctioning water pump (no pump - no water or toilet), and a priority pass waiting at Dallas Fortworth Airport for em to rush me through Immigration to connect with my flight to Salt Lake City, I arrived last night feeling a little tired, though very excited to see snow! I met a very lovely fellow genealogist while sitting at Gate 19 at Terminal A at Dallas Airport. When I overheard her telling someone on her mobile phone that she had to be at the Convention Centre at 7.45 to go on a tour of the Provo Temple, I couldn't resist introducing myself when her phone call ended. Laura Hedgecock, and I chatted about Rootstech while we waited for our flight to Salt Lake City.  This morning morning it was and it was nice to recognise her friendly face when we gathered at the southern end of the SLC Convention Centre. 
It quickly turned out to be a gathering of old friends, with the arrival of Jill Ball aka Geniaus, Kirsty Gray, Audrey Collins and a few other familiar faces that I recognised from the online family history world.

Some of the Provo Touring Ambassadors from USA, England and Australia
The tour of the Provo Temple was fascinating. I have a Mormon Temple not far from where I live and I have to admit a certain curiosity has now been well satisfied. One could not help but feel a holy presence in the many beautiful rooms of the temple, each dedicated to a different purpose such as sealings (marriages and adoptions) and instruction. One could not help but admire the magnificent painted walls and ceilings in two of the instruction rooms. I can imagine that being seated there you would feel as though you were truly a part of God's creation of the world. 

The space for baptism of ancestors was awe inspiring. A huge font with stairs leading into the pool, supported by great sculptured oxen was impressive and elegant. 
The temple is a commanding reminder of the gift we have been afforded here on earth and for the eternal life.

Photos were not, of course, permitted inside the yet to be dedicated temple, however, the Rootstech Ambassadors on this tour had ample time to take photographs of the exterior of the temple with an added bonus for this Australian.... it was snowing! 
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Myself outside the Provo Temple in the snow

There was much chatter in the van on the way back to Salt lake City and most Ambassadors were eager to get back to go to Dear Myrt's lunch ast the Blue lemon or the Family History Library. I made it to pPat's lunch briefly but a credit card drama  took some hours to resolve.

The day was wonderfully finished off with a dinner for members of Commonwealth countries attending Rootstech. Australia, New Zealand, England and Canada were represented and by the noise and laughter coming from our two tables, , I would say we enjoyed a wonderful evening. A huge thankyou to Jill Ball aka Geniaus for organising this event again, 

Jill at the Commonwealth dinner. Image Sharn White

Jill Ball, (Australia) Audrey England) and myself in the official Provo Temple Photo. 
On to day two and registration !

Monday, January 18, 2016


Runaway Husband

RUNAWAY HUSBAND. (1925, September 21). The Telegraph(Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), p. 2 Edition: CITY EDITION. Retrieved January 18, 2016, from

Where better to unearth skeletons from the family closet, than the National Library of Australia's website, Trove!

I knew that my great grandfather, William Weston had left my great grandmother, Lillie Herminnie (nee Nargar) for another woman, and that as a single mother, she was forced to raise three young children on her own. Family anecdotes told me that Lillie became the first female to operate a green grocery store in Brisbane and that she was a familiar face at the early morning fruit markets in Brisbane in the 1920's. I have yet to confirm this. ( more searching on Trove ahead...)

Lillie's explanation to the family regarding  her husband's desertion was that 'the bright city lights went to his head'. From the above article, it is easy to see that sadly, it was young women that affected his sense of responsibility towards his family.

I am particularly fascinated, although I am certain that Lillie would not have been in the least amused that
'her husband collected around him a bevy of young ladies, whom he entertained in the shop and went out with at night.' 

William left Lillie and their children to make a new life with one of these young women. He went on to marry and have six more children, having little to do with the two daughters and a son from his first marriage.

Lillie ran her green grocery store in Fortitude Valley, very successfully and her children were well cared for with the help of a close family friend who, when I was growing up, I knew as Antie Gertie.

 Lillie was a determined woman. She joined the Women's Land Army during World War Two, aged in her fifties. With her valuable experience from her earlier life as a banana farmer in Bauple, outside of Maryborough, she was able to train younger women who worked on the land to replace  men who had gone to war.

She was a dedicated member of the Brisbane Baptist Tabernacle and a most generous and kind lady.  Lillie spent a great amount of her time in her 60's helping to raise funds for the Brisbane Women's Prison, of which Gertie  (Amelia, Gertrude Stewart nee Hansen) became the Chaplain.

As a child, I adored visiting my great grandmother at her home in Lutwyche in Brisbane. Lillie kept chickens and had the most wonderful garden which entertained me with its 'secret paths' and wondeful variety of flowers. Her roses were especially her pride and joy.

Lillie Herminnie Weston passed away from cancer, in 1966, aged 78. I was greatly affected by her death and as an adult, I am extremely proud of my hard working, determined great grandmother.

Lillie Herminnie Weston (Nargar) 1888 -1966