Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
A lot of options: North Allerton, South Allerton, South Allington, Alvington, Aller, Northallerton in Yorkshire.. and none of these increasingly unlikely options can be definitively ruled out.
So, to William’s father Elias; could he be the keystone in this mystery? Well, I had hoped he might, for quite some time. Now I only find Elias to be a nuisance as great as his son.
Will the real Elias MORTIMER please stand up?
In the 1841 Census of England and Wales, William, Johannah and their four daughters all appear. This little ray of hope I was very thankful for, given that many of my family branches had left England and Ireland long before this important opportunity for tracking had materialised. In the Census return however William and co are shown to be living not in Devon or Winchester, but St. Leonards, Sussex. Why were they there?
According to the Census, Johannah and her daughters were all born in Sussex. ARGHH!!
Given that civil registrations had begun in 1837, there was a chance that Willy and family were among those who did the right thing and had their children registered where born in 1837 and beyond. BZZT, wrong. Or at least, I haven’t found the right record yet. It was probably too much to ask for, especially since only one daughter (Mary Jemima) could possibly have fit into the required time frame. Bugger! (yes, this is yet another one of those important technical terms used in genealogical research).
So far, Parish records have turned up little, although that might have something to do with being limited by distance and to Familysearch.org and the few other scraps of viable sources that venture forth onto the Weird Wild Web.
Having done a search for the name Elias MORTIMER in as many sources as I could find, I’ve come across several individuals who I thought might potentially be a brother to William and son to Elias and only one early enough to qualify as the man himself (c1761 North Bovey, Devon). It’s going out on a limb to draw links between Elias and his namesakes, but Elias isn’t exactly the most common name, and it never did appear to have been a common one, so what could it hurt to check? Interestingly, the candidates live only in: Devon, Sussex and further a field in Wales. They do occasionally appear listed as MORTIMOR or MORTIMORE, but then so does William in both his daughters marriage certificates and in Sydney Morning Herald marriage notices.
Searching for MORTIMER and BLACKALL candidates has so far proved fruitless in English results. In Australia, it’s been slightly better record-wise, but not by much. I know that William and family were living in Dixon Street, Sydney, not long after establishing themselves in their new country. I am familiar enough with Dixon Street today. It’s the heart of Sydney’s Chinatown, and somehow I don’t think trees dripping in gold and guardant dragons clutching spheres are what the MORTIMER family had come to know in their day.
Australia had been both cruel and kind to the MORTIMER family. Late in life, William was described as a gentleman of Independent means, whilst on the other hand, Johannah had fallen pregnant a further three times, in 1843, 1846 and 1848, with none of those children surviving their first year.
Starting in 1850 and on through onto 1854, all four of the surviving MORTIMER children grew into womanhood and married. Matilda, the eldest daughter married James MARSHALL, a mystery man from Manchester in 1850. Johanna married in 1851 and then again, moving to Queensland with her husband William LANGFORD. Harriet married in 1852 and remarried in 1861, finding herself with her husband Austin ABBOTT in the thick of the California gold rush, settling in Tuolumne County. Finally, in 1854 Mary married Simon ONSLOW, and the pair lived variously in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales.
This wild and unkempt early branch of my family had an adventurous spirit and a grand touch of wanderlust. They ventured from one side of the Earth to its antipodes and explored many points on the Australian map in the ensuing generations. It annoys me that I cannot as yet dig further back into their and my history, but as is the case with any good genealogist – I love a good challenge.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
When I had begun my research I knew a good few things about my paternal grandfather, Jack PATTEN (1905-1957). I knew that he had written and published the first Aboriginal newspaper, the "Abo Call", had led the Cummeragunja walk-off in 1939, had been arrested and labelled variously a NAZI and communist in the Sydney press, and that his father had been a tracker with the police force in West Wyalong for 30 years. There was plenty more that my Dad had shared with me, along with my Nan, but those listed above were the key points to granddad's life and they would provide the platform for my further research.
Since beginning my research into Jack's history I've found mention of the man in more than 50 books, and have been lucky enough to dig up a treasure trove of stories in sources ranging from oral accounts and newspapers, to scholarly papers and military records.
Some of the key elements to Jack's life that I've collated is shared with the public here, on a dedicated website: Remembering Jack Patten.
Now my attention has turned primarily to my great grandfather, a much more elusive fellow, Jack PATTEN Snr. His story is an equally interesting one, but there are a number of gaps to fill and they are probably going to take a few more years to satisfy my curiosity enough that I might better construct the book(s) I'm writing.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I've always had a pretty good grasp of my Koori ancestry. I grew up in Northern NSW, in touch with family who speak our native tongue, who taught me to hunt for my own food, and filled my head with occasional stories of my ancestors. I knew that my grandfather had been a great political figure of the 1930's, and that he had fought for Indigenous rights, and had served in WWII. I knew that my Great great grandmother's traditional name had been Lahndrigan, and that she had worked for the aristocratic Ogilvie family, at Baryulgil Castle on the upper Clarence River. Knowing so much was wonderful, but I still wanted to know more.
My mother's side of the tree however was a totally different kettle of fish. Mum had been raised in an orphanage in Sydney, along with her younger sister, and as it turns out, she wasn't even 100% sure of her family's last name.
I grew up sharing my mother's belief that she had been abandoned by her family. Instead, upon having acquired a copy of her birth certificate, we found that both her parents had been quite ill, and that they had both died in the same year when mum was the age of 5, and possibly after having separated from each other. Having later found a photograph of the inner city shack that her parents had called a home in the 1940's it was easy to also understand how both my maternal grandparents had become so gravely ill.
I still didn't know anything really about my mum's family. I also wanted to know a lot more about where my paternal grandfather came from, and about his people in the south, living on the Murray River. So many mysteries, where was I to start?
The registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in NSW had provided me the first clues I had been seeking and they helped greatly in the second wave of sleuthing as well. I first obtained my mother's birth certificate. This gave me not only my mother's true surname, of FISHER (rather than SMITH), but it also gave me my maternal grandparents names: Urca MCNAMARA and Horace FISHER. This provided me with the opportunity to search the online index to find evidence of some of my mother's other siblings, if there were to be any.
I also then purchased a copy of Horace and Urca's marriage and death certificates. What the certificates were able to tell me was rather confusing, and perhaps slightly confronting. Urca had died in 1950, the same year as her husband, Horace. She died in Orange NSW, and he died in Sydney. However, on Urca's death certificate, her spouse was listed as John SMITH. I was quick to consider that this John SMITH may have been my mother's stepfather, hence why she had grown up with the SMITH surname, and why she remembered visiting her father in hospital, knowing him only as Jack SMITH. On Urca's death certificate it also showed that John SMITH had listed my mother and her two siblings (a brother and a sister) as their children, and not those of Urca alone.
This was all very well and good. It all made some sense, even if it opened up a few more questions. Well, that's what I thought until I had seen the NSW Electoral Rolls and found both Horace FISHER and Jack SMITH variously living at the same residence, at the same time. Was there an affair? Were they the same guy? I have no idea, and I'm still puzzled.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Five days a week I'm given three hours of dead time. Commuting to my job takes 1.5 hours each way, and that is time that I could easily find wasted, if not for the convenience that mobile devices can now bring the genealogist on the go. Ipod, iphone, android, netbooks and laptops - each and every one of them are brilliant tools with which to not only fill your dead time with, but are a means to push your genealogical productivity through the roof.
For example, let's say you've got 30 minutes to kill, waiting for an appointment, or like me you spend a lot of time on public transport. Firstly, the night before, you hook your ipod or other digital music player into itunes on your computer, and you download and perhaps subscribe to one of the many podcasts that are dedicated to genealogy. My primary interest is in Australian genealogy and history, but as a starter I'd definitely recommend "The Genealogy Guys" or "Genealogy Gems." Neither of these podcasts is focused on Australian records, but as a introduction to research methodology, the community, news, North American and occasional global sources both are great places in which to start (more on these in another post).
So, morning comes, and you disconnect your ipod one it is fully charged, and you find yourself at some point in the day with some time to kill. I do suggest that you listen to such podcasts when you really do have no distractions, or you're likely to miss something interesting simply by being distracted.
In addition to your favourite podcasts, I also recommend that you consider taking with you a mobile version of your family tree. Because when you're at a library, family history centre or anywhere else for that matter, if you need quick access to your database, accessing it via a small device that resides inside your pocket, is going to a be a lot better than having to haul around a large notebook, or page after page of family group sheets. Besides, if you're using a device that allows you the freedom of reading your entire family tree database, you're also more than likely able to access free wireless internet hotspots at academic institutions and greasy fast food chains and be able to search the web and access your email without waiting for a library computer to be free.
Notebooks are helpful - but the alternatives are going to save you both time and money in the long run, despite any initial outlay.