Monday, May 4, 2015

A Guide to ordering Victorian Inquest Records

This summary to ordering Victorian Inquest Records was the first page of my recent assignment for the Society of Australian Genealogists Certificate Course in Genealogical Research.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cards from the Front

Card sent to Mabel, James, Eva & Lloyd Pilgrim
in 1916  from Melville Geyer (aka Mick)
My Grandmother, Eva Pilgrim, was a little girl when she received cards from her Uncles from the other side of the World.
"May 5th 1916
My Dear Sister Brother Eva Son (Lloyd)
My Letters are coming to ?? I received another letter from you today ?? to hear from you and to know that you are all well and trust that these few lines will find you all enjoying the best of Health as they leave me at present.  I am still in France having a good time.  I am glad to hear that you have plenty of hay this year. I am longing to see the Nips son must be a trick now. I think that it would be better if the Boys that are getting married came and answered their countrys call and helped their pals instead of hanging back. Ern is anxious to come isn’t he and would if Lloyd ever thinks of coming it’s not a bad job after all said and done.  Letter to follow. Love from your loving brother Mick"

Melville Geyer (known as Mick) was the first of the Geyer brothers to leave for World War 1.  You can read more about Mick here.

Ernest Geyer

"23 . 9 . 1916

Dear Mabel,
Just a photo of myself, hoping you are quite well as I am at present.  There is no news at present so that is the reason of my short note.

Best of Love from Ern"

It is interesting to note that this short note was written on the same day that Ern was charged with "Disobeying in such away as to show wilful defiance of authority and lawful commands given personally by his superior officer"

You can read more about Ern here

To Eva With Love From Uncle Lloyd
Undated "silk" embroidered card

1917 card from Lloyd Geyer

France 18 July 17
"Dear Mabel & Jim
Just a few lines to let you know that I am quite well hoping you are all the same.  This Card is for Eva.  Well the other day we had a visit from the King, It was at our sports and he seemed quite pleased with the events.  We are living in another rotten Village now I don't know how long we will be here I hop it won't be to long.  If we want to buy anything we have to pay double the amount that the Tommies pay for them.  A lot of the Villages......."

Unfortunately, I do not have the second part of the note but I know from the handwriting that the card was written by Lloyd as the initial words and writing are identical to those written here.

1918 card from Lloyd Geyer

"France 18/10/18

Dear Mabel Jim and Kiddies
This Card for Eva, XXXXXXX
Just a few cards to let you know that I am quite well hoping these few lines finds you all the same I also received a very welcom letter from you dated 18/7/18 and was very pleased to hear from you.  I have not got that stripe yet but I suppose it will come through some
day.  It is hard luck getting the codlin moth in the apples.  What Church was it that got knocked about you did not tell me.  Tell Jim from one who knows that he is better off where he is, it is not bond over here.  It gets
me down at times.  I have sent the buckle home so you can write to Mother for it, I sent it this week so it will be home by xmas.  We are having very funny weather over here rain one day, and sunshine the next.  I met
Charlie Paterson over here, his father had the....."

Totally off topic this week as Anzac Day
 - Click to see more Sepia Saturday Posts

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Never Assume! Always Confirm!

OH NO! Anyone who has copied from my tree on Ancestry is wrong!  I've checked, and EVERYONE (over 20 trees) have the wrong immigration details for Donald Scott! Mine included!!  I wonder how many others will pick up the error?

In preparation for a research trip to UK next year, I am going back through my information to confirm the details held.  Over the years, additional information is now available online.

I have always wondered why my Great Great Grandfather Donald Scott came to Australia to be a poor farmer, when his family, who remained in Scotland, were wealthy compared to most.  His father, Adam Bisset Scott, was a tailor and owned at least 3 properties in Leith, with one of these properties being 3 units.

Everyone (including myself) had determined from the Public Record Office website that Donald had arrived at Port Phillip (Victoria, Australia) aboard the Sappho in 1852.

Unassisted Passenger Detail - Source
This put his year of birth at approximately 1833.  This aligned to the information in the Marriage and Death Certificates and also the birth certificate of his children, which all indicated a year of birth of 1832.(even though his baptism records show his birth year as 1829).

Donald married later in life, at age 48, and his wife Mary Ann (Polly) was 25 years younger.   I wondered if he had deliberately changed his year of birth so he didn't seem quite as old as he really was?

Today when checking details, the original passenger list is now available on Ancestry, which is how I realised that I (and everyone else on Ancestry) had made an error!  We had incorrectly "assumed" that we had the correct Donald Scott as he was the only one listed!

Sappho Passenger Manifest 1852
My immediate thought was "that looks like a family but Donald was single"!   It didn't take me long to confirm that the Donald Scott, who arrived on the Sappho was not my Great Great Grandfather. In addition to their names being the same, there were many similarities between the two of them (mothers name, age, occupation/s, for a time they lived in a similar area).  I was very annoyed at myself that I had many records and newspaper reports that I now know relate to the incorrect "Donald Scott" attached to my tree (and I apologise to anyone who has copied my tree).

So back to the immigration records I went!  So many years later, I now know from a letter that his wife wrote, that he was known as "Dan" (the same as his grandfather) so did not limit my searching to "Donald" this time.

There were now 7 different potential immigration records so I went back over my research again to look for "clues"

  • The death certificate indicates that Donald had been in the Australian colony for 40 years (so arrived in 1852) but it is also showed "England" as place of birth rather than "Scotland".  How could family members make such a mistake?  Hypothesis: Maybe he had moved to England prior to coming to Australia?
  • 1841 Scottish Census showed that he resided with his family in Scotland but no occupation (so no help)
  • 1851 Census (looking for an occupation or something to link to immigration records)  - After hours of searching all UK census records and discounting many potential people, I have been unable to local Donald/Daniel Scott.  Hypothesis:  Maybe he had left UK prior to 1851 census?
I got quite excited when I found convict Daniel Scott (age 19), who had been transported to Australia for a 10 year sentence in 1848.  All the dates seemed to fit.  Our Donald/Daniel Scott disappears between 1842-1877 so maybe this is the reason why?


Unfortunately, I soon realised that this was unlikely to be our ancestor as  the convict conduct records indicate that Braintree in Essex was his native place and not Scotland.  However I could not find any record of this convict dying or leaving Tasmania.

Although I have narrowed down to 3 potential immigration records, I cannot confirm or prove them so Donald Scott is now one of three ancestors, who I cannot confirm how and when they arrived in Australia.  Hopefully I can locate additional information when I visit Scotland!


Mary Ann (Polly) and Donald (Dan) Scott with their children -
Tom, Jane, Eliza, Elsie, Christian and William
 You can also read more about Donald Scott here.

Monday, April 6, 2015

When I was Young

Thank you Alona from lonetester HQ for prompting a geneameme to record memories from our youth.

1. Do you (or your parents) have any memorabilia from when you were a baby?

Mum kept my Infant Welfare book.
I was born 6 weeks premature and weighed 6 pound 2 ounces.  It seems that I must have been a healthy baby and allowed out of hospital as my first weigh in at the Infant Welfare Centre was a fortnight after I was born.

2.  Do you know if you were named after anyone?

"Sharon" was the name of a character on a popular radio series at the time.  Mum and Dad liked the name but cannot remember the name of the program now.  According to the Australian National Film and Sound Archive, there was a series called The Beauty Makers with a character named "Sharon" so maybe this is it?

3.  And do you know of any other names your parents might have named you?


4.  What is your earliest memory?

I seem to remember sitting on a blanket playing.  There is a footpath not far away.  Mum yells at me and hits something out of my hand.

I told Mum about this memory years ago and she could not believe that it was true.  When I was about two years old, she found me sitting and playing with a can, which had a redback spider in it. She panicked, yelled and hit the can out of my hand!

Mum was always so calm and patient and didn't yell at us kids so maybe I remember this as I was scared because it was the first time that I heard her yell?

5.  Did you parent/s (or older siblings) read, sing or tell stories to you?  Do you remember any of these?

We grew up reading and I remember going to the library to get books as I had read every book in the Primary School by Grade 4!  We had Golden Books from a young age too.  I am sure that Mum would have read to us but unfortunately I do not remember it.
My Grandmother sent me this in 1977.
At each click of the button it shows a
different scene of Italy in the viewfinder.

6.  When you were young, do you remember what it was that you wanted to grow up to be?

From a young age (when I was in primary school), I wanted to travel around the world, which was inspired by my grandmother, who sent me postcards and gifts from her travels around the world. You can read about some of them here.

7.  Did you have a favourite teacher at school?

I can remember vividly the teachers that I didn't like!

8.  How did you get to school?

We went to a number of different schools so it depended where we lived.   We walked to Primary School but High School was the school bus for the majority of the time.  I would always read on the bus.

9.  What games did playtime involve?

  • Hopscotch
  • Elastics
  • Ropes - there were ropes strung up in the pine trees that you would balance and swing on (they would be considered totally unsafe today)
  • Climbing Tree - I remember having to write lines on the blackboard all recess "I will not climb trees".  After school, I had to climb the tree again to get my school jumper (which was a flag at the top of the pine tree) so I would not be in trouble when I got home!
  • Basketball
  • Poisonball - I often won as was small and quick and seemed to be able to easily avoid the ball, which was thrown at full force by those at either side of the court.
10.  Did you have a cubby house?

Not really.  We made our own "cubby houses" in a variety of locations.  In the bush down the road, we rested sticks against a big tree and covered with branches and leaves.  Under the house (yes, with the spiders) we dug out an area and brought in toys and things to be a "cubby house".   In the "haunted" shack next door to the beach house, that we weren't supposed to go in! We also played under the local bridge near the river.

11.  What was something you remember from an early family holiday?

Most of our school holidays were at the Beach House.  I could write a book about them!  I only remember one holiday that was not at the Beach House or camping.  We stayed in units at Cooma with family friends (so the dads could go fishing at Adaminaby).  Us kids were playing at a nearby park when a man approached us and wanted us to go back to his cabin at the caravan park.  As the eldest child, I was aware of "stranger danger" and gathered all the kids together and told them that we needed to go back to where we were staying.   I immediately told mum, who reported it to the police. I described the man (I can still remember that he was wearing a football jumper).  It matched the description of a criminal, who had escaped from a local jail!  

12.  What is a memory from one of your childhood birthday's or Christmas?

I would have been 5 years old and remember being woken up by a noise and bells (which I was certain was Santa's sleigh on the roof).  I heard my bedroom door open but kept my eyes tightly closed as I did not want Santa to know that I was awake or he may not leave a present!  I got a bike with a bell on it from Santa that year!

I always wondered why we received less toys from Santa than the other kids at school, especially when I had been so good all year!

We always received one toy, an item of clothing, a book and stocking of lollies.  However all the other kids seemed to get more than one toy!

Christmas 1975 -  Wearing our new Christmas Clothing with our Christmas Toys.
I am on the right with "Chrissy Doll".  When a button on her back was turned, her pony tail would be
retracted and go short.  A button on her belly button was pushed to make the pony tail grow long again.

13.  What childhood injuries do you remember?

Thankfully, I have had no notable injuries (I am lucky enough to have never broken a bone).  However,  I had epilepsy as a child and often had grand mal seizures, which could result in bruises and such when I fell.  However I soon realised the warning signs so could make sure that I warned mum and was seated in a safe location when a seizure occurred.

14.  What was your first pet?

I remember Rex very well.  I followed him everywhere..............even through a hole in the fence and out into the street and down by the river!

I started to copy him and cock my leg.  The doctor told mum that I needed a sister or brother!

Left:  1967 - Mum and I with puppy Rex.  I am already staring at him
Right: 1968 - Rex and I at Quambatook.  I hope that I am not eating his food!

15. Did your grandparents, or older relatives tell you stories of "when I was young..?"

Mum & Dad often told us stories.  When I started high school,  I started to develop an interest in family history and would ask questions and write down the answers.

16. What was entertainment when I was young?

We made our own fun.  We could be out all day as long as we were home before it got dark!   I am surprised I am still here with some of the things that we did!

If it was raining and we had to stay indoors then we would play board games and cards.

17.  Do you remember what it was like when your family got a new fangled invention?

In 1976 dad came home with a colour television to watch the Olympics.  We thought it was wonderful but you could not compare it to today.  It was primarily tones of pink, orange and green!

18.  Did your family have a TV?  Was it b&w or colour?  And how many channels did you get?

As above.  I don't remember how many channels that it had.  I do remember the baby sitter watching number 96 and we had to go to bed!

I also remember watching The Sullivans and getting really upset when John died.  Mum tried to tell me that he wasn't really dead and it was acting but I didn't understand as I had seen him killed!  How naive we were to the kids of today!

19.  Did your family move house when you were young?  Do you remember it?

Yes.  I have written about the many homes that I have lived here.

20.  Was your family involved in any natural disasters happening during your childhood (ie fire, flood, cyclone, earthquake etc)?

Thankfully not. However I have a still have a phobia about fire due to experiencing many fires when I was a child;
  • I do not remember but evidently woke mum and dad up and told them that the beach house lounge room was full of steam (but it was smoke) as there was a fire under the house due to embers from the fireplace.
  • We were woken in the middle of the night when the hardware shop across the road in Stratford caught fire and all the paint tins were exploding.
  • A house down the road from the beach house was on fire and there was panic that the kids were still inside (they weren't and had evacuated when they accidentally caused the fire).
  • Dad was driving us to Dargo and there was fire on either side of the road and fire engines everywhere.
21.  Is there any particular music that when you hear it, sparks a childhood memory?

We grew up with dad playing Slim Dusty, which I hated as a child but now enjoy.  

I also remember taping the Top 40 hits on the old tape recorder.  Then playing over and over again to write down the words.  I will never forget the words to The Time Warp!

22.  What is something that an older family member taught you to do?

Cooking scones with Nanna.  Gran taught me the names of many flowers in her garden.

23.  What are brands that you remember when you were a kid?

You are kidding aren't you!!!!!  Mum made most of our clothes and bought our jeans from Coles!  At High School,  I hated that we had daggy knitted school jumpers rather than bought jumpers.  On casual days I still wore uniform rather than my ill fitting Coles jeans!  How ungrateful I was!

24.  Did you used to collect anything?  

I think that I have always collected things.  My collection badge was the first badge that I remember receiving in Brownies. The collection was matchboxes, which I still have!  I also still have the tattoos from chewing gum!
I was very annoyed with Mum for throwing out my Agate collection.  (she thought it was an ice cream container of rocks!)

25.  Share your favourite childhood memory.

I have written about my favourite childhood memories of my Nanna here and here

Friday, March 27, 2015

Life on the farm

 "I loved driving the tractor"  Mavis Pilgrim

"We had a great farm at Winiam, with sheep, cows, horses, chooks, dogs and cats.

We had 8 to 10 cows to milk morning and night then separate the milk to get the cream for Mum to make butter and for us to put cream in the sponges, which we made to take to dances etc.and also to have for weekends as there was always lots of people at our place.   Dad used to bring in the travellers for a meal,  and we had lots of swaggies call in for a place to sleep (Dad would put them in a shed) and Mum would always give them a meal and sandwiches to take on their way as well as a big billy of tea.   We never had them inside tho......
Dorrie didn't like farm life much.  she couldn't wait to marry Bert Ridgewell so she could live in Nhill; but I loved it, especially helping with the cropping and harvesting then turning the sheaves of hay for the men to make the stack.  I loved driving the tractor,  and would go home when my shift finished about 2 hours, and Mum would have a lovely hot dinner waiting for me and BOY I was always hungry.

Fred used to think up good ideas and when Mum and Dad went to Nhill shopping every Friday (which was always the day for the country people to do the weekly shopping) and was 9 miles from our place; he would get in the blacksmith shop and make things.    Dad used to go off crook about the horses leaning on the fence to get grass from the other side;  so Fred and with my little bit of help made an electric fence and put it along the top of the fence, connected it up to a battery and we sat and waited for the horses, but they were slow so we went and got a sheaf of hay and dropped bits all the way down to the fence and threw the rest over,   that soon brought the horses and they leaned over to get the hay and Fred pulled a lever which gave them an electric shock;  they nearly knocked the fence right down but never had any trouble with them again.  We had to hurry and try and fix the fence before Dad got home,  and he always wondered why the horses didn't go near the fence again.   

Dad used to ask me to go and help him when he had to use the red hot coals for making the shoes for the horses,  my job was to pump the bellows;  a long handle which I pumped up and down while he held the iron horse shoes in the coals till they got red, then he would shape them with a big iron hammer on the anvil.

We had an old cow shed and where we milked it was under cover but the yard was about 6 inches in mud in the winter;  old thatched roof of hay and Fred used to go sparrow hunting in the roof for their eggs as we would blow them and we also had a bird trap and would get the spriggies as we called them ; and ring their necks,  thread them on a wire and take them as well as the eggs into Nhill to the council to sell.  Good pocket money.  Also if we caught a fox, would sell its head too.     Uncle Ned had visitors from Melbourne staying there, they came to visit us one day and the kids wanted to see us milking as they had never been on a farm before; so they watched then asked if they could have a go so we said "Yes if you can get that one in the bail"   (It was the bull) well we all tried so hard but to no avail.   We did let them have a go at one of the quiet cows tho.   I think when the visitors told Mum we couldn't get the one in the bail to milk, and when she found out it was the bull.  it's the nearest we ever got to getting a belting.   Fred and I got the idea that it would be quicker if we got one each side of the cow to milk it and the poor thing was nearly dragged down with us milking it.  That didn't last long either as Mum saw us and that ended that idea.

When we had separated the milk ( by standing turning the handle of the separator) we had to feed the calves from a bucket, first put our finger in their mouths till they drank properly and gee they used to bite too;  then another brain wave on our part was to try and ride the calves before we would let them have their milk,  this we had to get Dorrie to help as she would not ride them she had to stand watching to see Mum or Dad wasn't around, didn't last long as we got caught out again.

Dad had a huge flower garden and vegie plot as well as fruit trees,  it was lovely and he had roses climbing all over little sheds but Mum told Marge( my cousin) and I not to go in the little shed as there could be snakes but we used to sneak in until Myrtle was in the garden and saw us coming so she popped in there and waited till we got near then made a hissing sound and we fell over each other getting away,  never went near there again.  Always wondered why Mum and Myrtle was laughing so much when we went and told them there was a snake we heard hissing in the shed.

Uncle Stanley (Mum's brother) and Auntie Molly lived about a mile away and I used to walk thro the paddocks to play with Marge,  as there was a big dam I had to pass Mum always told me not to go near it as there were big bull frogs and would pull me in if there were no grown-ups with me;  she was always afraid we would fall in it.  I used to take a big circle around it going and coming home, walked twice as far I think.   There were yabbies in it to and we all liked to go yabbying,  but I don't like them to eat.  Mum would have a bucket of water on the stove boiling and they would throw the yabbies in until they turned red then everyone would sit around the table shelling them ready to eat with salt, pepper and vinegar and bread and butter.   I wouldn't touch them tho.   At the dam sometimes we would sit with our feet in the edge of the water and when they would start to nibble our toes we would put the net under and pull our feet up and get them that way.

Uncle Stanley had 2 grey horses which they rode and Rita (Marge's sister who was the oldest) and Marge would ride to our top gate as we called it; then Dorrie and I would walk up our lane and Rita would get the horse near a post and we would get on and the 4 of us go to school like that.   Uncle Stanley said to just walk the horse but when we got over the hill Rita would make him canter.  Sometimes they would ride the other horse which was a bit more sprightly and Marge was always on the back and would put her toes under its flank and it would buck;   but thankfully we didn't fall off.  I sat in front of Rita, Dorrie behind her and Marge on the rump.

Those days the toilets were away up the back yard so it was my job to take Grandma by the hand to the toilet as she couldn't walk too good, but silly young me would always let her stand outside while I sat on, telling her I was just seeing if there were any spiders?  She thought I was good and always called me her little "ray of sunshine" as I would go and pick her a bunch of violets and minuette to put in her bedroom.  She would sit by our big open fire in the lounge and clean our boots after school as we had to walk before we got bikes etc and in the winter it was very muddy and we had 2 miles to go to school.

One day Mum wanted a chook to cook for tea but as the men had gone out in the paddocks, she didn't know what to do so I told her I would chop its head off, and as the axe was too heavy for me to hold by one hand I put the handle between my knees and held the blade part with the other hand,  BANG but not a clean cut and the chook squawked and I got a fright and away went the chook with its head half off spurting blood everywhere it went, with me chasing it hoping Mum didn't see as I thought she would be so cross,  however it ran out of blood I think and stopped so I was able to take it and finish the job and hang it to drain;  not that it needed draining much;  when I got inside Mum and Dorrie were in fits laughing as had been watching me through the window trying to catch the darn thing.   All was well and we had a nice tea.

Memories by my Great Aunty Mavis 

This post was inspired by Sepia Saturday.Click for more posts.