Saturday, 20 July 2013

Have you read it all?

In a recent post, I stated that I knew that Jane Davies traveled to Queensland with three sisters. To be entirely honest, that is both a simplification and an exaggeration.

It is a simplification because the passenger list for the Corona includes others. The document shows that the party included her father (John), step-mother (Elizabeth), brother (William) and half-sister (Mary, who died on the voyage).

The exaggeration is because that page of the list actually does not show Ellen. And I "know" that she came, only after having exhausted all avenues for confirming my original inference that the oldest daughter was not part of the family emigration. I scoured UK census and marriage records for confirmation that Ellen did not travel.

Eventually, I admitted defeat on my left-behind theory and returned to examine the passenger list more carefully. A line-by-line review of every page revealed that while Ellen was not listed as part of the family group, she was included elsewhere among the single women. (And, of course, her surname is recorded as Davis.)

It seems that the passenger list was intended to reflect the organisation of the passengers on the ship not their family relationships. So perhaps I should say that Jane, Susannah and Sarah arrived with their sister Ellen, rather than traveled with her.

And the lesson to be learned? Read the whole of every document carefully. The first piece of relevant information that you find may not be only important evidence it contains.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

For the loss of a letter

When our 2xgreat grandmother Jane Davies arrived in Queensland, she traveled with her three sisters: Ellen, Susannah and Sarah.

Until recently, I knew little more about them than their names and ages upon embarkation. In particular, I knew nothing of their married names.

There was, however, a brute force approach to finding that information. Since they were young women in 1885, it was probable that they had married before 1905 and died before 1975. It should be possible to generate a list of all marriages in Queensland by women with their names (in the relevant period) and then to investigate the registration of deaths for each one identified. Anyone listed as having the correct parents (John and Jane) was very likely to be our great-aunt.

Although the technique was a little tedious, it bore fruit. I was able to identify the married names of both Ellen and Susannah in a relatively short time; but Sarah remained elusive.

Then another source gave me a name for Sarah's husband and the opportunity to check why I had not been able to locate them earlier. At the marriage, Sarah Davies had been listed as Sarah Davis. It was not a deliberate name change because at the birth of each child, Sarah's maiden name was spelled as expected. I had been thwarted by a simple slip of the pen.

Image courtesy of Idea go /

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Are good manners a barrier to genealogy?

Until the 1960s, it was unthinkable that any well-brought-up child would use the given name of an adult in conversation. You learned very early that the proper way to address your parent's friends was as Mr and Mrs Brown.

Of course, if the visitors were well known to the family and you saw them often, you might be invited to call them Uncle Fred and Aunt Gladys. And therein lies the problem.

Over the years I think I managed to sort out the distinction between my "real" uncles and those who had a courtesy title (for want of a better description); but what happens if I am reviewing some old letters that contain a reference to Uncle Bill.

Should I look for a link to an actual blood-relation of the distant cousin who penned the note (someone who might also be in our tree) or just his father's good friend from the tennis club?

I am a great believer in FAN genealogy (tracking friends, associates and neighbours of our ancestors) but when children spoke of them with the same title they used for their parents' siblings, it can be quite a challenge.

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