A Thankyou to the Captain...

As an avid Trovite, I love reading the old newspapers (as so many of us do). And yet, I am still amazed at the very cool stuff you can find in the old newspapers. Take for instance one of my recent finds. A friend asked me to see what I could find on the “Lord Raglan” 1854 voyage to South Australia. So after some general Googling to find out the basic details (the ship left Plymouth, Devon 16 July 1854, and arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on 23 October 1854), I found a copy of the original passenger list on the State Library of South Australia website. I also found references to it on the Passengers in History site, and The Ships List. Anyway so then I headed off to Trove , and I came up with a thankyou message that the passengers had written to the Captain of the Lord Raglan ship, and they put it publicly in the the newspaper. How cool is that? It’s great to know that Captain Flanagan and his crew looked after their passengers on the long voyage to a new life. Another newspaper entry I found relating to the Lord Raglan, quotes the following … The fine new ship Lord Raglan, 923 tons register, Captain Flanagan, for Adelaide, and the Appoline, of 500 tons, for Melbourne, having embarked their respective complements of emigrants from the Government dept, at Plymouth, sailed on Sunday. The Lord Raglan belongs to Messrs. W. Nicholson and Sons, of Sunderland, and has been fitted up on a most excellent plan, the result of the experience of Captain Lean, R.N., the Government emigration officer in London. Among other advantages, one-third of each bed can be turned up from the sides of the ship, so as to admit of a free passage two feet...

31 Ways to Make the Most of National Family History Month...

August is here, which means Australia and New Zealand’s National Family History Month is here. The launch has happened, the events are underway, and you may well have attended a talk or two already. While there’s over 200 events scheduled, unfortunately not everyone is able to attend onsite events for various reasons, but even so there are still plenty of ways you can celebrate and be involved with National Family History Month. First up I do have to give big a shout-out to my good geniefriend Shauna Hicks, who originally came up with this idea of having a 31 ideas list few years ago for National Family History Month. And I must say I loved it. I even printed out the list, and ticked them off as I did them. This list is not a copy of Shauna’s but rather one that I’ve made up, but click on her name above for even more suggestions. Have a read through the list, see what you’d like to achieve, and count what you’ve done at the end of the month. You might be surprised. Contact a genealogy, family history or historial society near you Visit your local State Archives or library Write your life story (or at least begin it!) (click here for some topic suggestions) Interview a relative about their life story Hold a family reunion (it doesn’t have to be a big one, even a catchup with a reli or two) Attend a family or local history talk, seminar or information session Label some family photos Scan some of your photos Most genies I know have “piles of paperwork” (myself included). So filing is a must. However filing is never a fun job, but do it in small doses, and it’s...

Listen and Learn With Genealogy Podcasts...

So you’re doing genealogy, and you’d like to learn more about history and family history, but you don’t have a lot of spare time, right? Have you discovered podcasts? I’m guessing a few hands went up, but most of you are saying “no” as you read this. Some of you might not even know what they are (stick with me as I’ll explain). Anyway podcasts are a fabulous way to learn – not just for genealogy, but any topic. They are simply audio recordings that you can listen to on your computer, iPad or Smartphone, and there are literally thousands of them – all history and genealogy related – and waiting for you to listen to whenever you choose. With podcasts you can listen interviews with genealogy peeps, information on coming events, reports on past events, reviews on products, and hear plenty of general genealogy news. Below are just a few of the more well-known genealogy-related podcasts. Note, they are all free to listen to. And no you don’t need a subscription. Just click on the ‘listen’ or ‘play’ button, and start listening. If you have a iPad, or iPhone, most you can download from iTunes. ——————————- Extreme Genes Extreme Genes is a weekly radio show and podcast about family history. Host Scott Fisher keeps you informed on the latest in family history research around the world, and talks to people about amazing things that have happened while they were doing family history research.   Family Tree Magazine Podcast Hear about the best genealogy tools and tips directly from Family Tree Magazine’s editors and experts! Each month you are taken behind the scenes to learn more about genealogy topics from the Family Tree magazine, books, courses and more. Each episode features interviews with genealogy...

Britain’s Playing Card Tax...

Anyone who is vaguely familiar with British social history will be aware that they have had some “different” (by that, yes I mean rather odd) taxes over the years. Take for instance the Hearth Tax in which you paid based on the number of fireplaces in your house, the Window Tax was the same but was based on the number of windows you had. The Clock Tax, the Candle Tax, the Soap Tax, even a Beard Tax are others just to mention a few – and all were used as a means to raise funds for the government of the day. But here we’re talking about a tax on Playing Cards. Yes, truly. The humble deck of cards was taxed (not forgetting dice as well). In reality they had been taxed since the late 1500s, but in 1710 the English Government dramatically raised the taxes on them, which the manufacturer was then liable for. As the rate of tax was equivalent to 12 times the price of a cheap pack of cards, you can imagine that there were forgeries. But in a bid to prevent this, each manufacturer had their own ‘mark’, and would hand stamp their mark on the Ace of Spades to show that it was a legit version. Still, as the taxes were excessive, forgeries happened. And while creating forgeries of playing cards doesn’t sound too drastic, if you were caught making them the result was hanging. While the tax itself is surprising enough, what’s even more surprising is that tax continued through until 1960. That’s 250 years! Incredible. So if you are lucky enough to have an old deck of cards, take a closer look at it. Check out the maker, and in particular have a close...

17 Reasons Why Family History is Good for You...

If you’re a die-hard family historian, this post isn’t for you. Why? Because you already know how awesome researching is, and in reality you’re probably like me, and can’t understand why everyone isn’t in to it. Alas, they aren’t so. So for everyone else, let me give you some reasons (my own personal ones at that), as to WHY I believe family history is good for you. But feel free to chip in with others if you have more. THE SKILLS You’ll become the king or queen of organisation (well, that’s the theory anyway). As researchers we acquire so much information (often in paper form as well as electronic form), all of which needs a good filing system to keep it retrievable. So over time you WILL learn to become organised. You have to. Geography. Yes, seriously. I promise you you will get a whole lot better at geography (at least in the areas your ancestors came from) And history. You will learn history. After all you have to know what happened where in the world to put your family history in context If your family is from a foreign (non-English speaking) country, you will amaze yourself by learning enough of the language to be able to read genealogical documents. And for other words and phrases we always have Google Translate and Babel Fish to help if needed After spending weeks scrolling through census, parish records and wills, you’ll be 100% proficient at reading anyone’s handwriting! After all those census enumerators and parish priests certainly gave us a challenge You’ll learn new words like “taphophilia“, “centimorgan” and “ahnentafel“ Not to mention understanding the “ye olde” language, medical and occupational terms that were used back in the day. (Thank goodness for...

2 Months Until Alaska … Are you Ready?...

The months are flying by, and there’s now just two months until we set sail on Unlock the Past’s 14th cruise to Alaska.  61 days allowing for the timezone changes. If you need proof … check my countdown app … So after flying to Seattle, Washington, USA and having a full-on genealogy seminar the day before … we’ll be boarding on the 7th of September. Myself and all the other geneacruisers then get 7 fun-filled days of genealogy learning combined with seeing the incredible sights that Alaska has to offer. Don’t you think that’s an awesome combination? The itinerary takes us from Seattle, to the Inside Passage, to Juneau, Skagway, and Tracy Arm, then to Victoria, Canada before we head back to Seattle. The ship we’re cruising on is the magnificent Explorer of the Seas from Royal Caribbean. Great ship, and great conference room facilities. So we have a great ship, great itinerary, and trust me it’ll be a great conference as the range of conference presenters is incredible. THE PRESENTERS Susan Brook (USA) – Chasing Your Ancestors Dick Eastman (USA) – Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter Dr Janet Few (England) – The History Interpreter Dr Maurice Gleeson (England) – DNA and Family Tree Research Jan Gow (New Zealand) – Hooked on Genealogy Tours Caroline Gurney (England) – Historical Research Services Shauna Hicks (Australia) – Shauna Hicks History Enterprises Cyndi Ingle (USA) – Cyndi’s List Eric Kopittke (Australia) – German Family Matters Rosemary Kopittke (Australia) – Rosemary Kopittke Genealogy Kae Lewis (USA / New Zealand) – Goldrush Online Mike Murray (Australia) – Time Trackers Michelle Patient (New Zealand) – The Patient Genie Pat Richley-Erickson (USA) – Dear Myrtle Teri Schaller (USA) – History Speaks, a division of Mile High Transcripts...

The “Fitzjames”, South Australia’s Floating Prison...

A largely unknown piece of South Australia’s history is the fact that there was a prison ship (or hulk) anchored just off of Port Adelaide at Largs Bay. While we’ve heard of them in the UK, who knew that Australia had them too? In 1876, the ‘Fitzjames’ a ship of 1,200 tons,  was purchased by the South Australian Government from Mr Donaldson in Melbourne, and cost them £2,800. It was bought with the intention to use it as a quarantine ship. There’s more about this in the Evening Journal, 15 April 1876 … “She will be moored near the North Arm, and will be used for patients while the cottage on Torrens Island will be fitted up and set apart for the convalescents. In view of the large influx of population to the colony it is important to have ample quarantine accommodation and the arrangements are now in progress will secure this without the delay which would be caused by waiting for the erection of suitable buildings.” However by 1880 and through until 1891, the ‘Fitzjames’ served as a “Reformatory” for over 100 young boys aged from 8 through to 16. From the Evening Journal dated 11 June 1879  … “… if the hulk Fitzjames were not required for quarantine purposes after the buildings on Torrens Island were completed the Government would consider the advisability of converting her into a training-ship for Reformatory boys” The first boys to call the Fitzjames home, were ones transferred from the Boys’ Reformatory at Magill in March 1880. Some had committed serious crimes, while others were guilty of petty theft, or simply deemed uncontrollable. The inspection reports which you’ll find in the newspapers, generally give a fairly favourable report, as well as giving an idea of what...

15 Reasons That Genealogy is Like Gardening...

I am what I call a “potter” gardener. I don’t mind getting out there on a nice day, and just pottering around, doing a big of weeding, pruning, planting new plants, finding others that I don’t remember planting and so on. And it was while I spent some time outside doing some gardening recently and getting some important vitamin D in as well … it occurred to me that gardening is rather like genealogy,  and not just because they both involve trees. So here’s what I came up with … Like gardening, your tree is NEVER finished Both involve LOTS of digging Like gardening, from time to time you do have to prune branches off your tree There’s no doubt about it … both gardening ad family tree-ing take time Like weeding, every little you can do helps you see results Like gardening, it’s super exciting when you discover something new – something you didn’t know existed Not sure about you, but I love colour, both in my garden, and in my family history. And as researchers we love those colourful characters don’t we! Like gardening, from little things big things grow (well that’s the theory, and it sometimes works)! Start with a name or two … and in time you’ll have a family tree Like actual trees, some family trees are spread wide, while others are narrow but tall (more direct line type trees) When gardening you’ll come across different soil types. Some nice and soft, others like clay hard or with lots of rocks. Obviously when planting there, they take more effort and more time to nurture what grows there. This reminds me of brickwall. it’s do-able, but they take a lot more time and effort. There...

The Origin of Mother’s Day in Australia...

Mrs Janet Heyden from Leichhardt, New South Wales is not a name that you’re likely to recognise, but her name goes down in history as the person who introduced gift giving for Mother’s Day. In 1924, Mrs Heyden was concerned about the lonely, and forgotten mothers in Sydney’s Newington State Hospital when she visited an old friend regularly. So she started a campaign throughout Sydney asking for donations so she could buy presents for these old ladies. Newspapers took up the appeal helping to spread the word, while she made personal requests to many of Sydney’s leading businesses. The response was incredible with donations ranging from talcum powder and soap, to scarves and mittens, as well as confectionery and fruit gifts. Janet is quoted as saying “The late Alderman Dyer, who was Mayor of Leichhardt, used to drive me around to the old mothers of the district with my gift parcels. For seven years in succession the appeal through the newspapers made sure that hundreds of mothers who would otherwise have been forgotten received a Mother’s Day gift, today, of course, a gift for mother is just a natural thing.” Mrs Heyden continued to visit the lonely and forgotten mothers in Newington right up until her death in 1960. It was then her daughter spoke of her mother’s disappointed by the commercialism of Mother’s Day and the loss of it’s original meaning … but she figured that “commercial interest provided publicity which reminded people of the occasion.” So just to be clear, Janet Heyden, wasn’t the founder of Mother’s Day, as technically it already existed, but it was quite different to what we understand it to be these days. The credit of the ‘founder’ of Mother’s Day goes to Miss Annie Jarvis from Philadelphia....

Australia’s Motorcycle Chariot Race...

Chariots are something from the Roman era, and not something to you associate (or see) these days, or even in the relatively recent past. But back in 1920s-1930s chariot motorcycle racing was a thing. Yes, for real! And Australia even got in on the act. I recently saw the photo above, on the History in Pictures Facebook page, and couldn’t believe what I saw. Two men in Roman style outfits, in chariots, with two motorbikes pulling them along. The caption read “Motorcycle Chariot Race in New South Wales, Australia, 1936”.  I was intrigued, I wanted to know if this was for real, so I headed to Trove. Sure enough, the motorcycle chariot race did happen. It was one of many events that were held at Sydney Showgrounds for the New South Wales Police Carnival on Saturday, 29 February 1936. With an estimated crowd of 50,000 this was AN EVENT!! Here’s just some of the articles I found on Trove about it … And to top it off there’s even a short video up on YouTube of the race. The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) have a great write up about the NSW Police Carnival day, together with a longer video showing more of the events, which is totally worth watching. Check that out here. And for the record, there was going to be two heats (two laps each), but a third was needed to determine the winner: Heat 1: Constable J. T. Riley 1, Constable Langham 2. Time, 59 3-5. Heat 2: Constable Langham 1, Constable Riley 2. Time, 60 2-5. Heat 3: Constable Riley 1, Constable Langham 2. Time, 1.1¾. So from seeing a very cool random vintage photo online, to a history lesson … what’s not to love...