Monday, January 25, 2021

From the Archives - Australia Day Post 2011

I penned this post ten years ago and am reposting it with a few extra phrases typed in this colour.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shifty Ancestors in The Lucky Country

Thanks to Shelley from Twigs of Yore for setting this Australia Day Challenge. Shelley will be putting together all the responses to the challenge and posting them on her website. I look forward to some illuminating reading from those with Australian links.

Meanwhile I have been procrastinating about which document from which of my convict ancestors I will share. Should it be something from Elizabeth Phipp's shady past or should I share something from one of her partners James Westbrook or William Magick?  I don't know which of these gentlemen is my ancestor as they seemed to fall in and out of favour with Elizabeth. Who was she with when she conceived James Westbrook/Magick my first direct ancestor born in Australia?

The Challenge

Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don't have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia.

Because it deals with three of my ancestors I am going to share an English document from 1812. I have earlier documents that tell of Births, Deaths and Marriages but this document is several pages long, quotes actual words spoken by my ancestors and gives information on the lives they led in London that caused them to be transported to Australia.

What is the document?

The document I have is a faded photocopy of part of Old Bailey Proceedings, 16th September 1812 in which JAMES WESTBROOK ELIZABETH PHIPPS SUSANNAH PHIPPS , and  SAMUEL WESTBROOK , were indicted for feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of  Joseph Covington , about the hour of eight in the forenoon, on the 1st of April , and stealing therein, eighteen gowns, value 3 l. seven petticoats, value 1 l. six pair of blankets, value 3 l. a feather bed, value 3 l. a bolster, value 5 s. two pillows, value 5 s. a time-piece, value 6 l. a silver cup, value 1 l. and five yards of muslin, value 5 s. the property of  Joseph Covington .

As there are copyright restrictions on the reproduction of this document I am only pasting a snip.

Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?

Some time last century, using microform resources at The State Library of New South Wales, I identified my convict ancestors Elizabeth Phipps and James Westbrook. On a trip to the UK in 2004 I spent time at various institutions trying to discover more about them and other ancestors from the Old Country. As part of that visit I visited the stunning National Archives at Kew armed with a list of my forebears and the ships that bore them to Australia.

Mr Geniaus and I were quite bewildered during our one day at this august institution but we managed to find a number of treasures including the transcript of the Phipps/Westbrook trial. How we managed to find the transcript I cannot remember! Today I can find a digital copy of that same transcript from the comfort of my home by searching The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913 online. The typed transcript is, however, much easier to read, do take a look as it is an interesting story.

The highlight of that day was handling the surgeon's journal for the journey my ancestor Patrick Curry made on the Hooghley. Sadly I did not take photographs of the entries that told of Patrick's episodes of scurvy and their treatment.

Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

A reading of the document will tell its story but it told me more than just a story; reading the spoken words of my ancestors from 200 years ago gave me spine tingles. It also gave me more facts and background on my ancestors.

1. I learnt the name of my 4th Great-grandmother, Susannah Phipps (nee Harris) and have been able to find her BDM details.

2. I learnt that James had a brother 
Samuel Westbrook.

3. Reading Elizabeth's defence tells me that she spoke quite well and coherently. "On the morning that Mrs. Covington left town, she called me down stairs, between six and seven. She said, where is your mother? Why does not she live at home? Mrs. Covington gave me a five-pound note, and two lace caps. I was rather fearful. I would not take them until I went up to Westbrook. I was to deliver them to my mother in Fetter-lane, where she then was. They all deal in stolen property. The things that were moved out of the place were my own."

4. I was able to identify the places of residence of my ancestors in London and have put them on a list to find on my next trip. One such place 
Woods Buildings (now demolished) was a haunt of Jack the Ripper. I have since visited the area in which the family lived in Golden Lane.

5. I learnt the Elizabeth and James knew each other and were probably living in a common law marriage before they were transported. Another researcher claims they were married and had a child before Elizabeth was transported but the only evidence I can find to support this is from the transcript "The child with them had the key". I now think the child may have been Elizabeth's younger sister and that Elizabeth was pregnant while waiting for transportation.
6. I surmise that Ann Price was Samuel Westbrook's woman as she gave him an alibi.

Elizabeth, James, Susannah and Samuel also got a mention in The Criminal recorder:or, Biographical sketches of notorious public characters, including murderers, traitors, pirates, mutineers, incendiaries ... and other noted persons who have suffered the sentence of the law for criminal offenses ; embracing a variety of curious and singular cases, anecdotes, &c, Volume 2 (Google eBook). The British Newspapers collection on FindMyPast has has many mentions of Elizabeth, James and accomplices.

I am fascinated by the life of Elizabeth Phipps and was thrilled when I came across the transcript that told me so much about her and her environment in early 18th century London. Elizabeth, widow of William Magick, died as a respectable married woman in Richmond, NSW on August 8, 1869.

Due to the deeds of my ten shifty convict ancestors (and a few who were upright citizens) Australia was ordained as my birth place. 

As I celebrate Australia Day I will reflect on the courage and determination of past generations who triumphed over a harsh environment. I thank them for their contributions to to our nation and for paving the way for my family to live a charmed life in The Lucky Country.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Chester Creek Murders

I published this review on my Librarything account and, this morning thought I should add it to Amazon, the place where I purchased it. Sadly I am not able to post a review there because I haven't reached the minimum spend to gain permission to write a review! As I am gagged on Amazon I am sharing my review here.

As a member of the Nathan Dylan Goodwin Fan Club with many other genealogists I have been anxiously waiting for the debut of this work. Now that I have read it I am disappointed that I will have to wait for Nathan to recharge his batteries and research and write another tale.

This book was Nathan's best work yet. It is an improvement on his other works on so many levels. I have been critical of the covers for Nathan's earlier books but I loved this one, it set the scene for a real page-turner that held my attention from the first to the last word.

Between the covers I found a believable story populated with interesting characters and many story lines that ended with a couple of cliff-hangers allowing for future works in the series. I felt for the main character Maddie, owner of a genetic genealogy firm who, in spite of issues in her personal life, was able to rally and support her team in identifying through DNA the serai killer in a cold case.

As a genealogist I appreciated the detailed description of the methodologies used to solve the case. Nathan who is an Englishman must have been on a steep learning curve as he learnt about all the resources during the research for the book. To his credit he deferred to some of the top genealogists in the US for assistance. For this Aussie with little knowledge of US resources reading this book gave me a sugar-coated way of learning more on that subject.

I loved that the work was set in the geneamecca of Salt Lake City, a place I have visited on many occasions. Nathan's descriptions of the weather and the areas around Salt Lake were spot on. I noted that he named one of his characters, Kenyatta. Was that a nod to US genealogist Kenyatta Berry? One of the homes he described in South Jordan sounded similar to a genealogists's home I have visited there! Those who haven't been to Salt Lake will get an accurate picture of the place from reading this story.

This work is easy to read with many descriptive phrases. Nathan's prose in US English lends authority to the story and made the characters more believable. Nathan's writing has certainly developed since his first novel.

This book was unputdownable, a riveting story combined with a lesson in genealogy research and a discussion of issues facing family historians.

Highly recommended for family historians, those who love a good mystery and people inquisitive about DNA.

I read the eBook version of this work from Amazon that was priced at just $AU7.50 - great value for 4 hours entertainment, I look forward to the arrival of my hard copy that I will read at a more leisurely pace.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The naughtiest girl again

 I wrote this article that was published in The St Vincent's College Annual at the end of 2003 after I had returned to my Alma Mater as a member of staff.  St Vincent's or Vinnies was established in 1958.

After recently reading a history of the College I was reminded of my little article which I located on my hard drive. I am sharing it to my blog in case my descendants may wish to read it in future years as my blog is preserved here on The Australian Web Archive on Trove

The naughtiest girl again

Returning to my Alma Mater nearly fifty years after my Mother deposited me in the care of the Sisters of Charity, as a five-year old in 1954, has been quite an experience. I am still the naughty girl who left Vinnies in 1965 with a reference from Sister Reparata that stated “With maturity Jill is capable of doing well”. I returned, a gray-haired matron, who has gained physical but not mental maturity.  I did leave St. Vincents, however, instilled with strong values that have guided me throughout my life.

Facade of the College on Victoria Street

Ghosts from the past leap out to grab me as I turn corners, memories of characters and events are sparked by random comments from colleagues. The School Library, my workplace this year, sits over the site of the grotto where we were photographed as infants and where we climbed and played during breaks. I remember the fuss when an infant mate, Helen, knocked over and smashed the statue of Our Lady and the distress of her father, the local delicatessen owner, who had to pay for an expensive replacement.

St Vincent's College Infants at The Grotto - 1956

 Looking out the window I spy a tennis court which is now a swimming pool.  As youngsters we watched in awe as the school champion, Karen Krantzke, blitzed her opponents there. I see the garden where we harvested a shrub which produced a red rash when rubbed on the skin. We were hoping to convince the nuns that we had German Measles and have the school closed down for a time. When I hear the girls in PD/H/PE dancing to disco music I am reminded of marching. In the sixties we marched (sometimes up and down Rockwall Crescent and Victoria Street) to the strains of band music played over a crackly gramophone. Being vertically challenged I spent five years marching down the back with the youngest members of the College.

The arrival of technology has caused a metamorphosis in my infants classrooms, they now house the IT department. The beautiful new primary school where, in 1958, we wore slippers to protect the polished floors is gone, so too is the 1960’s science block where one of the few lay teachers, Mrs. Kennedy, conducted her experiments.

 I have worked in libraries since leaving St. Vincents. No doubt my affinity with libraries was developed through the time I spent in the Study Hall (Library) when I was regularly ejected from class for talking or, as Sister Dymphna said, “tittering and foostering”. The “private execution” (elocution) lessons I had with Miss Quoyle each week also encouraged my love of talking. 

I would definitely be more suited to the style of education at St. Vincents today where students are encouraged to actively participate in class discussions. Although I rarely read a set text and we were not allowed to touch the treasured tomes on the library shelves, I left Vinnies with a love of reading which I have tried to imbue in our students this year. Thankfully our students have a broad range of young adult literature at their disposal whilst I had to make do with Blyton’s “The naughtiest girl” series.

Vinnies girls in 2003 had access to a wide range of books

 Boarders at Vinnies have always added a special dimension to College Life by giving city slicker students an insight into rural life.  However, life for sixties boarders was very strict with all outgoing mail being censored by the nuns. Under no circumstances were the boarders allowed to go up the street. Thus my role, as a carrier of contraband, was vital to the girls’ quality of life. Most days I left the College with a blazer stuffed with outgoing, uncensored mail and a shopping list to procure on the way home. Thanks to my efforts the boarders had lipsticks and lollies.

Boarders - 1965 - we all wore fawn pinafores over our uniforms 

As we arrived and left Vinnies each day we “had to pay a visit” to the College Chapel. Although there was no video surveillance in my time the spies in the adjoining convent always knew if some harried student had overlooked her visit. The College Chapel was the focus of our life with Friday Benediction and regular compulsory Confessions.

Our entrance to the school with the chapel on the left - woe betide those who didn't pay a visit

Posed outside the Chapel on First Communion Day

 St. Vincents is responsible for my best friend's two left  feet. Each Friday, in our ballroom dancing lessons in the hall, Leonie my partner, who was tall, had to take the part of the boy. School dances were with Waverley boys and nuns patrolling the grounds with torches, Speech Nights with students in white dresses, rare films of Missions in Fiji, school fetes and singing lessons all took place in the College hall. My choir years were spent in the “crows” a group of those who could not sing in tune. Facial expression earned me a place in the middle of the front row for the eisteddfod on the condition that no sound issued from my lips.

With Leonie, my dancing partner

 Twenty-first century girls at St. Vincents have a lot in common with their sixties sisters.  They are creative in their interpretations of College rules and are a bright and courteous bunch with a strong sense of social justice. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time the College equipped the Class of 1965 with a fine education, a caring attitude, a belief that women can do anything. 

As I sat on the stage at the 2003 Speech Day I reflected on my days on the College and realised that “Flow’rs and sunshine” did cheer my pathway at Vinnies or, as Sister Mark would have said, am I “looking at the past through rose-coloured spectacles?”

 The “naughtiest girl” came back to Vinnies again in 2003 and she had a ball.

 Jill Ball (nee Curry – Leaving Certificate 1965)

St Vincents College - Class of '65

Head of Information Services (shared)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Few Days in the Geneacave

 My focus recently has been on living family. The twelve grandchildren have been on school and university holidays so we have been spending time at the beach, playing games, having too much fast food and reminiscing with them. One granddaughter introduced me to the Duolingo App for French, we had so many giggles as I progressed through the first few levels. I am continuing with this just a few minutes a day. It's amazing how much I remember of my schoolgirl French from over 50 years ago.

Family Fun

After a busy weekend we find ourselves with a relatively quiet week. 

I have retreated to my geneacave to catch up on several commitments on my list. I am feeling rather virtuous as I am avoiding temptation and sticking to those things I must do. 

Yesterday I tried to catch up on emails and messages on social media. If I have failed to respond to you, please give me a gentle reminder.

I am preparing a presentation on my ancestor Elizabeth Phipps for the Hawkesbury Family History Group. Yesterday I spent half a day going over research done years ago and checking databases to see if I could discover any new facts to add to her story. As I need to update my website on the internet I devoted time to looking at some of Elizabeth's hundreds of descendants and finding dates and sources for their entries. I found several new third and fourth cousins to add to my database.

Today I have written my weekly blog post for our Local Family History Group at Lake Macquarie and followed that up with three short articles for their quarterly journal. I must admit that I cheated a bit and repurposed and updated a few posts from the GeniAus blog for the journal. I have so much material on this blog that it's a shame to let it languish in the archives.

I also need to write the January newsletter for the Lake Mac Group but needed a change of focus.

My next task was to think of The SAG and its Hang Out for members on Friday this week. I prepared an image using Canva for promotion of this regular members only event. Canva makes it so easy to create images that look reasonable.

Fuelled with a coffee (thanks Mr GeniAus) I am readyto prepost some comments to the prompts for tonights #ANZAncestryTime session using Tweetdeck.  With my poor keyboarding skills I find it less stressful to join the conversation early, then I can focus on responding to others' posts.

Last task of the day will be to take a look at a guest blog post about Librarything that I am preparing for a genealogy society.

My day will end with a dinner with one of our daughters. Waiting for me when she goes home is an interesting book, Joan makes history by Kate Greville. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2020 - The Responses

When I posted this challenge I was wondering what sort of responses would come my way. I wasn't at all surprised with the number of positive responses that were posted on our Genimates' blogs. We are a resilient mob! 

A consistent theme in the posts was Zoom, most of the respondents wrote about the value of this tool.  

An important aspect of any activity is reflection and evaluation. The Accentuate the Positive Geneameme provides an opportunity for this vital activity. It's never too late to join this challenge, if you wish to blog about your experiences you will find the discussion points here.

I am so grateful to those who participated in this challenge, thank you all for taking the time to play along. 

Please follow the links below to read the posts from genies in Australia and overseas and, if something they have written resonates with you, tell them by leaving a comment on their post. 

Alex Daw

Anne Young

Bobbie Eades

Dara McGivern

Jennifer Jones

Jill Ball (GeniAus)

Lilian Magill

Linda Stufflebean

Lisa Gorrell

Mel Hulbert

Patsy Daly

Pauleen Cass (Cassmob)

Robbie Stockfeld

Samantha John

Shauna Hicks

Sue Donaldson (ScotsSue)

If I have inadvertently missed any responses to the geneameme please notify me and I will rectifiy. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2020 - GeniAus

 It is gratifying to see how many fellow genies have responded to this year's Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2020. I will post a compilation with links to all those posts next week.

I have been mulling over my year and wondering if I can put a positive 
spin on 2020. I'll give it my best shot

BTW. I invite you to take part in this activity by responding to the following statements/questions in a blog post. Write as much or as little as you want and complete as many statements as you wish. If you wish to take part and don't have a blog email me your responses and I will post them here on the GeniAus blog.

Once you have done so please share your post's link in a comment on this post or to me via email to I will, 
later in January, compile a list of links to your contributions here on this blog.

Remember to Accentuate the Positive 
(Please delete the items that are not relevant to your situation.)

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was... 
All of my elusive ancestors are still in hiding but I have had quite a deal of success in locating distant cousins. It is so important when one is trying to identify DNA matches that one has as complete a tree as possible with branches extending every which way. Previously genealogists looked down on those who built large trees with little detail but now in the 21st century we realise  the value of this practice. 

2.  A great newspaper article I found was ... A whole series of articles. In April 2020 I participated in the 2020 #AtoZChallenge in which I shared stories about my maternal grandmother's paternal family. I found many articles from the ordinary to sensational that shed light on members of that family. I posted all of these articles on my blog in April 2020 starting with A is for Artie 

3. A geneajourney I planned but didn't take was ...  The Genealogy Show at which I was to present three talks was postponed until 2021. Although we had three overseas excursions planned I didn't have any trips planned that focussed solely on genealogy but I had planned hitting a few repositories when we had a week in London. We had also planned a tour commencing in Edinburgh that would have given me a chance to visit the archives there.

4.  I located an important record ... when I went beyond Trove and followed a reference at the bottom of a Trove article. I wrote about that here A Reference from Macarthur

5.  A newly found family member shared ... a virtual pair of secateurs. As a result of a comment on one of my 
#AtoZChallenge posts a new cousin pointed out a foreign branch in my tree which I excised and replaced with the correct branch.

6.  A geneasurprise I received was ... These are not in my hands yet but they are now with a family member. When my Aunt Kath died several years ago her step-family promised to give us Kath's collection of family slides and photos. Kath had a decent camera when I was a child and took many slides of family members before she married later in life. I can't wait to collect and digitise this collection. Thanks to Jo for returning these photos to our family.

7.   My 2020 social media post that I was particularly proud of was ... The first blog post I wrote for our local Family History Group, Entering the Blogisphere. Although this was an introductory post it marked an e
xciting venture for our Lake Macquarie Family History Group. I am so proud of the 44 posts I have written for that blog so far and thrilled that community members are reading the snippets of local history I share while learning about the existence of our Group. While few people comment on the blog we have had over 3.000 visits in just six months.

8.   I made a new genimate who... through the wonderful Friday Hang Outs hosted by SAG on zoom I got to meet many fellow members of this Society. Although I am a longterm member of this Group I hadn't communicated directly with many members. I have a  host of new genimates thanks to this initiative.

9.  A new piece of technology or skill I mastered was... It just has to be Zoom. We were fortunate in Lake Macquarie that an anonymous member donated a subscription to zoom so that we were able to maintain our program of meetings through 2020.

10. I joined... several new Facebook groups and followed more Facebook pages. I also found a few new cousins had public pages on Facebook - not a positive for them to share so carelessly 
but a positive for me as they give details of BMDs and other genealogical information. 

11. A genealogy education session or event from which I learnt something new was... Heather Garnsey's presentation The Triangle of Care. (A recording of this webinar may be available through SAG.)

A blog post that taught me something new was ... I always learn something from the techie posts Carmel Galvin posts on her Carmel's Corner Blog. I won't nominate one - you should read them all.

13. A DNA discovery I made was... Thanks to my double first cousin, Jane, who shared her spit I have identified many new 3rd and 4th cousins. Jane had tested for me with FTDNA years ago but our results from there have not been spectacular. This new test with Ancestry has delivered the goods.

14. I taught a genimate how to... hopefully the presentations I gave during 2020 taught someone, somewhere, something. I particularly enjoyed using Zoom to give one on one assistance to genimates with various applications.

15. A brick wall I demolished was ... The sledge hammer took a well earned rest this year.

16. A great site I visited was... I managed only one on site visit this year. Mr GeniAus and I had a successful excursion to NSW State Archives & Records. I was fearful of going out during the pandemic but I had a need to access a document for a presentation I was preparing for the SAG Irish Day. Thanks to the staff  I felt safe during my time at the site. I was made most welcome by Emily Hanna on the enquiries desk and one of the volunteers Judy.  
(The male who took over from Emily on the desk needed a dose of positivity and a course in customer relations.)

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was... From Distress to Deliverence by Stephen Gow is well written, well researched and beautifully presented. I blogged about it here

18. Zoom gave me an opportunity to... connect, communicate, learn and love.

19. I am excited for 2021 because... I live in Australia where Covid19 is well under control and we live in relative safety. 
We should be vaccinated  during the year and hopefully we will be able to attend geneaevents in person real soon.

20. Other positives I would like to share are.. I was gobsmacked and humbled when I received an invitation from Trove to participate in the launch of the new Trove. I shared the story here in A Decade of Digging. 

I have always been a bit of a bibliophile but my reading has dropped off over the years, Covid19 gave me time and an opportunity to return to reading in earnest. I am delighted that I was able to read 149 books during 2020. See them here on my Librarything Account

Finally 2020 was a difficult year as I had surgery in January that kept me off my feet for many months and Covid came along. Access to genimates,family history resources and activities during 2020 turned what could have been an annus horribilis into a very positive geneayear.

Monday, January 4, 2021

An Album of Trees

In preCovid days Mr GeniAus and I did quite a bit of globetrotting. I took thousands of photographs that included many images of trees, one species of which I am particularly fond is the family tree.

Following are a few of those snaps.

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

Brac Castle, Romania

Tauranga, New Zealand

Museum, Helsinki, Finland

Amakhala Lodge, South Africa

Museum, Adelaide, Australia

Chartwell, England

Penang, Malaysia


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