Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A full life at sea

The voyage of the Persia from Plymouth to Brisbane in 1861 was considered a good one in that "only" 20 of the 454 emigrants who embarked died en route. The Moreton Bay Courier reported that "on the whole they had been well treated and well cared for on the passage—every one of them speaking in the highest commendation alike of captain (Smyth), doctor, and chief officer."

The doctor in question was Surgeon-Superintendent Clarence Chapman. The Surgeon-Superintendent was to responsible for the welfare of the immigrants as the agent of the ship's hirer (in this case, the Queensland Goverment). In theory at least, Dr Chapman had the authority to over-rule Captain Smyth in circumstances where the business interests of the ship's owners conflicted with the needs of the people on board.

In some cases, the Surgeon-Superintendent was supported by a Matron who took principal responsibility for "women's issues" with a particular focus on the moral well-being of the single women.

To ensure the Surgeon-Superintendent carried out his duties with due care and attention, his fee was based upon the number of "statute adults" disembarked alive at the end of the journey. For delivering 438 persons including 4 born at sea, Chapman would probably have earned £387.10.0 (since children were paid as fractions).

It would not have been easy to secure the services of a suitably qualified and experienced medical practitioner prepared to be on call for more than 400 patients 24 hours a day for up to 100 days in very challenging conditions. In an ordinary voyage, he might need to deal with difficult births, various infectious "fevers", the consequences of poor nutrition and questionable hygiene, and have to perform surgery for accidental injuries. Hiring the "wrong" man as Surgeon-Superintendent could have literally fatal consequences.

Unless a young doctor undertook the role as a means of moving to the colonies to begin a new life, he faced another 100 day journey home before he could resume his usual practice. Little wonder then that migration agents needed to devise ever more elaborate schemes to make it attractive for a proven man to undertake more than one trip.

In this respect, the immigrants of the Persia were very well served. In 1861, Dr Chapman was making his sixth voyage from England to Australia in just eight years.

  • July 1854 Plantagenet 247 adults and 72 children (1 death) to Sydney
  • April 1855 Speedy 302 adults and 114 children (2 deaths) to Sydney
  • July 1856 Ben Nevis 269 adults and 65 children (no deaths) to NSW
  • September 1857 Admiral Lyons 371 adults and 77 children (12 deaths) to NSW
  • December 1858 John and Lucy 334 adults and 59 children (no deaths) to Melbourne

From The Sydney Morning Herald 16 Sept 1857

Dr Chapman had not lazed away 1859-60 at home. He sailed aboard the Euxine carrying the wives and families of soldiers to India. In a 101 day journey, only one of 224 adults was lost, but 74 of the 238 children who boarded the vessel on 14 October 1859 did not complete the journey to be reunited with their fathers.

When the Persia sailed from Brisbane for China in December 1861, Dr Chapman remained on board. He served as Surgeon-Superintendent when she transported a large group of indentured labourers to Georgetown (Guyana) to work as cane cutters.

After his eventual return to England, Clarence Chapman undertook at least three four more voyages to Australia. He arrived in Port Adelaide aboard the Mary Shepherd in April 1863, then in Sydney on the Castle Eden in November 1864, and sailed into Sydney once again on 14 October 1865 aboard the Venilia.

In July of 1870, Clarence Chapman was commended in the Melbourne press for his work in bring more than 400 new settlers to Victoria aboard the Corona

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

New insight into an early arrival

Until a few days ago, I believed that our 3xgreat grandmother Margaret HEATHWOOD arrived in Queensland on December 3 1861. That is the date written at the top of the passenger list of the Persia, and so it is the one included in the index created by the Queensland State Archives.

The recent availability on-line of the images of many passenger lists for voyages to Moreton Bay provides an ideal opportunity to revisit some things that we thought we knew. And it is proving a very interesting exercise.

The second last line of the list for the Persia includes a surprising reference to "Arrived Port Curtis".

It is extremely unlikely that the whole complement of more than 400 immigrants would have sailed on to Central Queensland after berthing in Brisbane. Was the Persia one of the first vessels to enter Queensland through Torres Strait so that its first landfall was not Moreton Bay as I had assumed?

A search through The Moreton Bay Courier for December (and then November) 1861 revealed that the answer was "no" and "yes". After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, the Persia had followed the conventional route south of Australia but then by-passed Port Phillip, Port Jackson and Moreton Bay and sailed directly on to Port Curtis. She dropped anchor off the township of Gladstone in the morning of Saturday 16 November 1861.

Approximately half of the immigrants disembarked there and secured employment in the surrounding districts. It was reported that agents for employers in Rockhampton were offering a £10 premium on annual wages to induce servant girls to move on from Gladstone where the going rate was only £25 per annum plus board and lodgings.

Margaret HEATHWOOD was apparently unmoved by these offers and she was among those (mainly Irish) immigrants who remained on board for the trip south to Moreton Bay arriving to begin her new life, as I had always known, on 3 December.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

What will you do when you grow up?

Many trees show evidence of a link across generations in the activities they carried out. Aristocratic families passed rich lands to their descendents. Newly-emerged captains of industries and commerce bequeathed factories and emporia to the next generation. Artisans passed the skills of the family trade from parents to children.

In one branch of our family, the connection is not so obvious. Across four generations, our COLEY ancestors worked in different aspects of a single industry—transport— as new technologies transformed the ways in which people and goods were moved.

Philemon (our 3xgreat grandfather) was employed on the great canals that carried industrial goods throughout the midlands. Although Philemon's father is unknown, his step-father (Richard Holloway) is listed in the 1841 census as a "Boatman".

When Philemon and Sylvia brought the family to Australia, they probably believed that they had left that life behind them as they set themselves up in agriculture. Their son Philemon Lewis (our 2xgreat grandfather) followed his father on the land but when economic conditions changed, he sought employment with the railways.

Great grandfather Alexander Clarence took a job as a conductor with the Brisbane Tramways that lasted throughout his working life.

Our grandfather, Ronald Alexander, pursued a number of careers in a full life, but for a significant period worked as a booking clerk with Australian National Airways.

Very few of us fully understand the images and impressions that we absorb as children and the impact they may have on our later lives. The experiences of the COLEY family in transport suggests they can be stronger than we might think.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Tragedy closer to home

In an earlier post, Born on the high seas, I described a little of the privations suffered by immigrants and, as an example, referred to the terrible death toll on the SS Corona in November and December of 1883. No fewer than twelve children less than 1 year old died on that voyage.

Today the Queensland State Archives released significant enhancements to their Index to Registers of Immigrant Ships' Arrivals 1848-1912. This prompted me to revisit some of what I thought to be settled parts of our tree, in case there was something new.

A high priority was to look for an image of the passenger list for the Corona. My previous study of the arrival of our 2xgreat grandmother Jane DAVIES had been limited to transcripts.

What I found was the explanation for why we had never been able to locate details of Jane's half-sister, Mary living in Queensland. Little Mary DAVIES was one of the dozen infants who did not reach Moreton Bay.

Just as our ancestors' stories are never finished, neither are our searches.

A solitary vice?

I have spent quite some time over the past week contributing to the new site being established at Stack Exchange. Genealogy and Family History is described as "Q&A for expert genealogists and people interested in genealogy or family history". The site is now in public beta which means procedures are not yet fixed but all are welcome to give it a try.

profile for Fortiter at Genealogy and Family History, Q&A for expert genealogists and people interested in genealogy or family history

The early discussions have caused me to reflect on a number of fundamentals about what I do and how I go about it. Among the issues kicked around have been:

  • What are the differences between genealogy and family history?
  • Why do genealogists use the same terminology as historians, but with different meanings?
  • If you consider yourself a family historian, which discipline do you adopt?
  • When does information become evidence?
  • What is the significance or the value of an unsuccessful search?

But the big question that has been exercising my mind is "How collaborative can family history be?".

I know we all enjoy participation in meetings of our local societies, attending conferences and engaging in on-line conversation. But isn't the real work of a family historian done when inhaling paper dust in a reading room or bathed in the late-night glow of your computer screen.

There can be a real challenge in puzzle-solving to break a chink in someone else's brickwall, but the feeling is just not the same as with one of your own. Tales of my great aunt Ermentrude are a source of endless fascination, but your relatives are really not all that interesting.

On the other hand, there are occasions when another family historian mentions a way he or she approached a particular problem, a new resource or a novel technique that immediately sparks thoughts of how you can do the same to move your own research forward. Then it does not matter that you have no real interest in birth registration in nineteenth century Patagonia because that person is discussing something of value in a context that you are passionate about.

Perhaps that is why there are so many Family History blogs that no one person can possibly read them all on a regular basis. And why Stack Exchange: Genealogy and Family History has attracted 350 members in two weeks; all eager to build their own expertise by helping others find answers to their problems.

Many questions posted to date (and there have been more than 150) have been through a series of edits to get them into a form that maximises value for both the person who asked and future readers. They are not perfect yet, but the purpose of beta is to learn.

Has participation in this new site convinced me of the value of collaborative genealogy? Well, I am still happiest at my desk poring, jotting and typing in blissful solitude, but there can be no doubt that working the right "others" can certainly enhance my efforts. Especially if they bring the type of expertise and relevant experience that this group is assembling.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Not my reality

I freely confess that I enjoy watching the Who do you think you are television series. I like the British original, I loved the local SBS version, and I even watch the American episodes.

But I was concerned to read a piece that referred to the series as forming part of the continuing passion for reality television.

Reality? The shows are entertaining and, at times, quite informative but they have nothing to do with the real world of how I do family history.

How many of the celebrity hosts who began by chatting to a close family member encountered anyone who said any of the following?

  • Why on earth would you be interested in all that?
  • They will still be dead when you finish, you know.
  • There were a lot of photos, but who knows where they are now.
  • Mum and Dad didn't talk about that much.
  • But what if you find someone awful in our past?

Then they fire up the website of this.season.sponsor.com and search on-line resources. Have you noticed that each ancestor's details appear in exactly the order they are needed? No-one ever has a cousin of the same name to confound the issue. There is no such thing as a variant spelling after the sixteenth century.

Next it is off to the archives to view the few(?) sources that have not yet been captured for viewing over the interwebs. The microfilm or packet of fiche that is needed is always available and there is never a wait to use the good reader. When the document is found (amazingly always near the beginning of the roll) there is not a single frame that is skewed, out of focus, too dark or shows a torn page.

And then we have the segment that really irks me. In the field, at a site significant to the history, we meet a local expert who offers some general background before opening the envelope to reveal a "document we found". Most of us can only dream of that.

Somewhere in the vaults of the producers there must be a whole lot of preliminary research on the family history of actors, sportsmen and other celebrities whose tale did not make it to air. I wonder would it be worse to be told that the program would not proceed because the evidence needed cannot be whipped up in the required timeframe, or that there are plenty of documents to show that your family was really ordinary and boring?

Which gives me an idea for the next big hit. Watch our for the 2013 series of Why do you think we care?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Once in a generation?

Dick Eastman posted a response to the current fascination with finding family relationships between feuding american politicians. I cannot imagine too many Australians being all that interested to learn that Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot were sixth cousins, but you never know.

The aspect of Dick's article that did interest me was that in order to do some back of the envelope calculations, he wrote Let's assume that there is a new generation born every twenty-five years.

I have no dispute with any of the arithmetic and have used the same approximation myself in the past. It is almost certainly valid when dealing with whole populations, but how well does it apply to a single family (namely, ours)?

The mean value for the birthdates of our direct ancestors (and of a descendent) are set out below.

Generation of    Mean birth yearDuration
3xgreat grandparents1837 28 years
2xgreat grandparents187530 years
Great grandparents190525 years
Grandparents193025 years
Our parents195526 years
Ourselves198127 years
Our children2008 

Which might appear to be a very long way of saying "Guess what, Dick Eastman was exactly right in his working assumption and you just wasted an hour." But as always the important learning lies in the working out rather than the answer.

Mean values are a very limited property of a set of numbers. They do not reveal that the range of ages within a generation can be as much as the duration of the generation. Should we speak of a group of ancestors as "a generation" when the range of their births and deaths is so great that there life experiences must have been very different?

In particular, what does it mean that two of our 3xgreat grandparents were born after one of our 2xgreat grandparents. That is a tale for another time.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Making a date

According to the top of this page, today is the 16th of October. We have no doubt that tomorrow will be the 17th and that yesterday was the 15th. But yesterday was also the 430th anniversary of October 5 1582 — the day that never was.

In 1582, people (who owned a calendar and could read it) went to bed on the evening of October 4 and woke on October 15. Pope Gregory had decreed that the way dates were recorded needed to change to bring the human calendar back into line with the seasons. If nothing was done, eventually Christmas would be celebrated in the middle of summer, which would surely mark the end of civilisation as he knew it.

If your iPhone has trouble coping with the beginning and end of daylight saving time each year, imagine the difficulty of rolling out an update for every calendar in the whole world.

Not the whole world, as it turned out, because this was the time of the Reformation and in most protestant nations a new calendar promoted by the pope was rejected out of hand. If you have ancestors from Ulster, you will understand exactly how people reacted.

Nevertheless this was not just another papist conspiracy. There was sound astronomy underlying the decision and eventually the rest of the western world fell into line by selecting a day on which dates marked on the old style (Julian) calendar would be skipped. This occurred in 1752 in Britain but not until 1917 in Russia.

If that change had not been made, today would have been October 3 so the 430th anniversary of the 5th would be the day after tomorrow instead of yesterday. This highlights both the arbitrary nature of any calendar and the difficulties of getting it slightly wrong.

There is nothing inherently superior in our way of recording dates. Many other cultures maintain perfectly serviceable calendars that are not based on the Julian or Gregorian models. But any system needs to be internally consistent. Pope Gregory wanted to celebrate feast days for saints on fixed days in sequence with Easter observations held at times determined by the equinox. With the old style calendar, he could not get both right at the same time.

Apart from occasional arguments about the need to add a leap second for astronomers and physicists, there appears no need to make any further change to the system devised by Gregory's advisers. Which is just as well, because I need more time to come to terms with pre-1752 dates.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Wurst or Windsor Sausage? Erasing the Hun

When our KUHN and CRAMER ancestors came to Queensland, they were part of a wave of germanic immigration actively encouraged by the colonial authorities. Although it was made plain that they were not "British", the continental Europeans were well received. After all, the Queen had taken a German husband.

Rich detail can be seen in the on-line presentation Immigration Stories: The Germans by the Queensland State Archives.

Relationships between the communities changed at the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 and deteriorated further as the Great War progressed. Individuals with obviously germanic names or strong accents fell under (usually groundless) suspicion of aiding the enemy and 2,940 German and Austrian men were interned in ten different camps under the provisions of The War Precautions Act 1914.

It is a widely-held belief that "all the German place names" or at least very many of them were altered to more appropriate British titles. Certainly there were examples known to our family that make this claim plausible.

The township of Engelsburg where our COLEY ancestors would have shopped for supplies and obtained their news between trips to the major centre of Ipswich was renamed Kalbar in 1916. Gramzow, originally named for the ancestral village in Uckermark, became Carbrook at approximately the same time.

So how many other places must have had their names altered in this wave of patriotic fervour? The Australian Bureau of Statistics provides a full list extracted from Year Book Australia 1926 and the detail is surprising.

In Queensland there are only twelve locations to be added to the two with which our family has an association.

Original name From 1916Postcode (2012)
BergenMurra Murra4353
BergensideNeuve4353
BismarckMaclagan4352
EngelsburgKalbar4309
FahleyKilbirni(e)4354
GehrkevaleMount Mort4340
GramzowCarbrook4130
HapsburgKowbi4660
HessenburgIngoldsby4343
KirchheimHaigslea4306
MurdenFrenchton4311
RoesslerApplethorpe4378
StegehtWoongoolba4207
TeutoburgWitta4552

The changes occurred between July and October 1916 and comparison with modern maps indicates that a number of the old names have come back into local use.

Perhaps the earliest change in Australia took place in May 1915 on the Richmond River, northern New South Wales where the township of German Creek became Empire Vale. There were only two more changes (at Germanton and German's Hill) in the whole of NSW for the rest of the war.

There were more than 60 placename changes listed for South Australia, the other major centre of germanic settlement in Australia. Does this discrepancy reflect the fact that the immigrants were able to name fewer places in Queensland (and so there were not so many to change) or a greater acceptance among northerners that the name of the mountain nearby was not a slur on your honour as a citizen of the Empire?

Evidence suggests that any public demand for these changes was selective. Teutoberg (north of Brisbane) was altered but the township south of Brisbane from which that community had moved remained Bethania. Perhaps the latter sounded "less German" or more biblical to English ears.

While there was certainly anti-german sentiment during the war years, the extent of the changes to placenames was not so great as is commonly believed. On the other hand, no patriotic Australian could possibly buy and eat wurst.

So in Queensland, sausage followed the lead of the British Royal Family and changed its name to Windsor. Its cousins in other states adopted other names including devon, belgium, polony and fritz (those rebel South Australians!). What is it they say about the first casualty of war?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Lost in translation

Like many Australians of my generation, I have an uneasy relationship with what were called "foreign languages" (but are now LOTE, Languages other than English). Fifty years ago, the inclusion of the study of German in my schooling was explained by the fact that "you like chemistry, so a knowledge of German will help there". (Latin was assumed not to need justification.)

I recall two occasions during my time at university when I extracted information from a German chemistry journal — not because I needed the content, but to demonstrate that I could do so. At the time, I did not believe that this justified five years of anguish at school.

Today, with my Deutsch-Englisch dictionary (purchased for 27 shillings in 1965) beside me, I actually regret not making more effort to master the language that can help me to uncover a significant part of our heritage. As in all learning, motivation is crucial.

Fortunately, the modern mono-lingual family historian can call upon the services of Google Translate when an intractable problem arises.

In running general searches for Gramzow, I came across a passage that seemed to be about a town in Australia that was named after the home of the KÜHNs in Prussia. Der Name ist eine √úbertragung von Gramzow in der Uckermark.

I thought that I had made a reasonable translation but turned to the machine for confirmation. I was shocked when the output did not mention Gramzow at all. Then came the realisation that the software tries to translate every word; including the placenames. A quick reference to the instructions showed how to mark proper nouns and the tool could be run again with much happier results.

The text confirmed that, until 1916, the locality south east of Brisbane city now known as Carbrook was named Gramzow. This is yet more evidence of the impact on the Fassifern, Logan and Lockyer Valleys of the people who left Uckermark in the middle of the nineteenth century for a new life in Queensland.

It has not escaped my notice that, once again, I was almost tripped up by the intricacies of a language (albeit a programming language in this case). However, I am learning to love translation from German.

What is the significance of 1916 in the change of name from Gramzow to Carbrook? That is a topic for another day.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Late wedding date

Every family tree contains individuals and events that might be considered scandalous or amusing according to the bias of the observer. One of these snippets can form the starting point for a conversation that might engage family members who find the more scholarly aspects of genealogical research uninteresting.

I believed the tale of a several times great grandmother whose first task after giving birth was to get married fell into that category, but was deflated when my listener insisted that I had misinterpreted the calendar. I needed to learn about Lady Day.

The Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (25 March) was known as [Our] Lady['s] Day. Along with Midsummer Day (24 June), Michaelmas (29 September) and Christmas (25 December), it formed the Quarter Days that divided the year. Although our immediate assumption is that these days mark the end of each quarter year, until 1752 they were treated as beginnings.

In particular, Lady Day was regarded as the first day of the New Year. This meant that January and February fell at the end of the old year (except in Scotland, where the heathens insisted on celebrating January 1).

So in this chronological list of marriages in Doncaster, 11 February 1579 comes after 21 December 1579 but just a few weeks before 17 April 1580.

When this (pre-Gregorian) calendar was in use, it was not unusual for a wedding to be celebrated in May and the christening in February of the same year. Indeed, it would have been quite common.

With this new-found knowledge I have resolved to exercise great care in interpreting dates on any pre-1760 English records.

But does it alter my story?

The marriage I had identified took place late in the nineteenth century when the western calendar was in its modern form, so the facts are clear. Interpretation is, of course, another matter entirely.

Was the wedding delayed until after the birth by the young couple, their families, or the celebrant? One possibility is that the father/groom was employed elsewhere and unable to return in time for the ceremonies to occur in the customary sequence. Which suggests another line of investigation…

Footnote: While this has enabled me to learn more about a fascinating aspect of our history, I will probably continue to associate Lady Day with God Bless the Child rather than the calendar.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Grandfather was a wharfie.

What value should the family historian place on snippets of information passed along by relatives who preface their contribution with "I have always been told ..." or "Everybody knew that ..."?

From a very early age, I "knew" that our 2xgreat grandfather, Thomas Henry SUDDABY (who died a few years before my birth) had worked on the wharves. There were also vague references to his having been a "grammar school boy" with the unspoken suggestion that there must have been some financial catastrophe (or even a scandal) to explain such a fall in social standing.

In this case, there was more than a kernel of truth in each of the tales. However the implied connections that everyone was far too polite to make explicit could not have been further from the truth.

Reporting on T H Suddaby's time at Maryborough Grammar School and the loss of the family fortune must wait for another time. But this photograph shows him with a few of his wharfie mates at the Waterside Workers Federation National Conference circa 1912.

I suspect that Tom (dapper with his panama hat, front row) did not feel that he was slumming it in this company.

At the time Andrew Fisher (immediately behind Tom) had already served as Prime Minister of Australia and would do so again.

William Morris (Billy) Hughes (to Fisher's left in the paler suit) was also a member of Parliament but yet to attain the highest office.


In Australian English, a stevedore who manually handled cargo onto or off ships was known as a wharf-labourer, a wharf-lumper, or simply a wharfie.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Make a quick copy of this.

Who would have imagined that reading a few lines of text could prove so difficult?

Family Search has images from the Germany, Brandenburg and Posen Church Book Duplicates in which I have been able to find records of significant events in the lives of our Prussian ancestors at the turn of the eighteenth century. I was prepared for the fact that these documents would be in German (I studied that to Year 12), probably in old script (I had seen examples of that before), and perhaps not calligraphically immaculate (I have marked student essays). So how tough could it be?

Well, the record of the death of our 5xgreat grandmother Sophie GRÜNHAGEN on 7 July 1824 is proving to be a challenge.

I know this is "just the duplicate"; but the old monks from the scriptorium must be turning in their graves.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Lost streets

Despite its name, much of family history is actually concerned with geography. Knowing when your ancestors did something is much richer when you know also where the event took place.

Many of the documentary records that we use provide very detailed spatial information. Upon finding an address with house number and street name, the first thing that a modern family historian will do is to enter that information into Google Maps.

If we are fortunate, Street View will allow us to look for the ancestral home without ever setting foot outside our own front door.

Of course, there will be times when no match can be found in the Google Map database. Perhaps through wartime damage or more recent urban renewal, the old street has gone forever.

When confronted with this situation, I was about to close the file and move on when I decided to run the address through Google Search. Perhaps there might be a link to an old document that mentions it and other streets in the same neighbourhood that would allow me to identify a general area even if the precise location is unknown.

What I found was a magnificent service offered by the Glasgow Guide. On their website they have a table that cross-references "lost" or changed street names and their modern replacement or equivalent.

Armed with the knowledge that Ure Street has been renamed to Uist, I could easily go back to Google Maps and view the area. Even after more than a century of changes (and some obvious gentrification), it is possible to get a sense of what life might have been like tucked between the docks, the industrial estates and the main road.

How wonderful it would be if all local authorities were to make public a list of street changes. Thank you Glasgow Guide .

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Things you don't know you don't know

Long ago, I had a teacher who decried (then) modern schooling as simply "giving student's names for things they do not understand". In my own teaching I emphasised personal concept formation but always acknowledged the importance of having a label that allowed you to describe what you thought you knew. Today I have found a new name that will help me to sound far more learned.

The daily activities of a family historian are mainly about confronting his or her own ignorance. Each step backward in time or each new document type reveals as much about our own (mis)understanding of the world as it does about our ancestors.

Every day I learn something new. On most days it is something that I had not even imagined. In the now notorious terms used by Donald Rumsfeld, they are "unknown unknowns – [...] things we do not know we don't know."

Now, by courtesy of Deutsche Welle Word of the Week, I know that I am confronting my Bildungslücke, literally "education gap."

Bildungslücke are not obscure or arcane pieces of knowledge. They are those things that "everybody else" knows but you do not.

Have a conversation about popular culture with your children and you will quickly see that there are significant gaps in the assumed knowledge on both sides.

Each day you engage with genealogy, you are in a conversation across many generations. There are many things that your ancestors would have taken for granted as being common knowledge, but for you they are … well, they are Bildungslücke.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Parish Locator

For a family historian in Australia, the concepts of County and Parish can be puzzling. My primary schooling (half a century ago) left me with the vague notion that "England has Counties instead of States".

So the fact that our first land purchase was located in the County of Stanley was vaguely interesting but not a high priority for further investigation. I knew that a parish was a church organisational unit, so the fact that our home was within the Parish of Warner was (at the time) of no concern to me.

The need to engage with Parish Registers to track UK ancestors before 1837 demands a slightly more sophisticated understanding of a Parish as a civil administrative unit as well as its ecclesiastical role. But until recently, I have been operating on a seriously flawed understanding of the small size of each parish (at least when viewed from a Queensland perspective) and hence the vast number of them.

Enter Parloc3, a piece of software for locating parishes. This amazing tool not only lists all parishes "in existence at some [time] during the period from the mid 1500s to about 1837" but provides survey map references to enable you to locate them on a map.

If you know part of a name, ParLoc3 will generate a list of potential matches.

Enter a three letter abbreviation for a county (such as ERY) instead of a parish name and the software will display a list of all 265 Parishes within the East Riding of Yorkshire.

If you have indications that your ancestors may have been in two parishes and wonder whether this is possible, then Parloc will calculate their separation and allow you to decide that a man christened at Halesowen might easily have been married at Old Swinford.

In recent days I have been using ParLoc heavily to check (and correct) many of my English location references, but the problem that originally drove me to it was confusion over the origins in Barmby of our 4xgreat grandmother, Jane PASHLEY.

I now know that these two locations are approximately 22 kilometres (probably 8 hours walk) apart and that Jane's family came from the marshlands rather than the moors. While I am now very glad to have resolved this, I wonder if such fine details would have been interesting in Grade Six Social Studies in 1962?

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