Friday, 28 February 2014

A Special Gift.

I’d been trying to come up with a topic all month but wasn’t having any luck until a couple of days ago. I was catching up on a TV show when inspiration struck – My Great Great Grandmother Novie.

In January, my family and I went on holidays to Hawaii for two weeks. My Maternal Grandparents – Mum’s Dad & Step-Mother – managed to fly over from Texas and spend a week with us in Hawaii. Grandad is now 83 and my Grandmother is in her early 70’s. They’ve both had some health issues the past few years so we were very lucky they were able to make the trip. Before the holidays, we knew that they were looking to move out of their house and into a retirement village. Their house is quite big and was getting hard to manage with just the two of them living there…and 3 very active little dogs as well. They also wanted to make the decision about moving into a retirement village while they still could, and not have someone else make the decision for them. A couple of weeks after our holiday, they actually found a house in the retirement village they want to live in and are signing the papers today.

Anyway, the night my Grandparents arrived in Honolulu, my Grandad gave me something very special. His Grandmother, my Great Great Grandmother Novie’s sugar bowl and butter dish. I had never seen these before, nor was I expecting anything at all, so I was very surprised and very honoured to be given them. He actually said “out of all the grandchildren, you’ll probably appreciate them the most” and I sure will!

Butter Dish

Sugar Bowl

So, who was my Great Great Grandmother Novie?

Novie Leona Swindell
Approx. 1901, Texas, USA.
Novie Leona Swindell was born in 1874, in Morgan County, Alabama to parents James Webb Swindell & Elizabeth Roberts. Currently I only know of one sibling that she had; a brother, Erbie Milton Swindell born in 1880. In 1894, Novie married Charles Rufus Thompson. They had six children together – Ethel, Pearl, Roy, Claude, Velma & Robert. Ethel was my Great Grandmother. Between 1897 and 1901, after having two children they moved to Texas. 

Thompson's: Charles, Ethel, Roy, Novie & Pearl.
Approx. 1901, Texas, USA.
Something that I hadn’t known about Novie & Charles until my Grandad told me that week was that at some point they separated. My Grandad doesn’t remember having much to do with Charles who moved to New Mexico. Novie lived with Ethel & her family when my Grandad was little to help with the cooking and cleaning. Novie died on the 19th of March, 1949 in Corsicana, Texas.

I wonder what Novie would think if she knew her butter dish and sugar bowl had made it all the way to Brisbane, Australia? I will treasure them with all my heart, and when I have children, I hope they will too.

Until next time genea-friends.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Pioneer Papers

I should have been writing this month's post about organizing genealogical photographs.  I have been visiting my mother for the past several days.  We were planning to work through some of the family photos, but didn't end up getting to that.

Last time I was here, we started sorting the photos into separate boxes for individuals and families.  We will then scan them.  We have hours worth of photos to organize and scan, so I am already planning my next trip.

Instead of organization, Pioneer Papers...
One fascinating set of records that my mom has spent a lot of time researching is the Indian Pioneer Papers.  Many details of the lives of people in what is now Oklahoma are found in these files. When she did her original research, my mother found the papers on microfiche at the Family History Center at the LDS church in my home town.  Now, all of these interviews are available online at University of Oklahoma Western History Collections.  As I was  looking through the Pioneer Papers, with my mom, we found an interesting example about Mrs. Joe LeFlore.  Not only does the interview provide us with the names of Joe's parents (David McCurtain and Rebecka Krebbs McCurtain) and her husband (Felix LeFlore), it gives insight to the educational system of the Choctaw tribe from the time of removal (Trail of Tears, 1830s), through the Civil War and to the turn of the 20th century.

A Woman Named Joe

I was able to find a picture online of New Hope Female Academy with some of the students and staff.

And just for fun, here is a picture of Wheelock Academy, another Choctaw girls school that my great- grandmother and grandmother attended.  Although these Choctaw tribal/missionary schools were not perfect -- for example, they forbid students to speak Choctaw-- many former students have recounted positive academic memories, in contrast to some of the horror stories that young students of other tribes experienced at government schools.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

My Favorite Virginia Genealogy Resource

The first successful English settlement in the new continent called America began in 1607 at what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia on a spit of land at the mouth of the James River. Everyone is likely aware that settlement was known as Jamestown. By the 1630s English settlements dominated the eastern portion of the Virginia Peninsula, though Indians still attacked intermittently.  Middle Plantation was established in 1638 halfway between the James and York rivers on high ground. By 1699 Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg in honor of the English king, William III, and replaced Jamestown as capital of the colony. The College of William and Mary began holding its first classes in temporary quarters at Williamsburg in 1694.

Print of the Bodleian Plate, depicting the colonial architecture of Williamsburg, Virginia. 
The plate, discovered in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, was critical to the reconstruction of Williamsburg 
in the early-mid 20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The College of William and Mary includes the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. The institute publishes a wonderful resource for history buffs and genealogists entitled William and Mary Quarterly, which began publication in 1892. Chronologically it ranges from the first Old World-New World contacts to about 1820. The focus is North America and includes articles about all disciplines.

Why should family historians and genealogists care about the William and Mary Quarterly? Here’s one page from the table of contents of the July 1904, issue:

Index page from a William and Mary Quarterly

We should care because it’s loaded with 122 years of useful information. The trick is finding exactly the information you need. That’s when the Earl Gregg Swem Library’s Special Collections Database becomes very helpful. Some of the content is digitized, but not all. When something I am looking for has not yet been made available in an online format, I Google the issue specifics. I’ve found the issues I need on’s Card Catalog, eBay, Google Play, available for sale at used bookstores through Amazon or ABE Books or I look it up on WorldCat and find the nearest library with a copy. I hope I’ve been able to help you discover a new source to use when tracing your Virginia ancestors.

I'll be attending the Fairfax Genealogical Society's Annual Spring Conference on 28-29 March 2014. I hope to see some of you there.

I'm using #WWGenealogy when tweeting about this collaboration project on Twitter (@TweetTRnT).

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Global Reach of the Old Bailey Online, thanks to the Collaboration of Academic Historians

Academic historians have done genealogists a huge favour by making the records of London’s central criminal court, the Old Bailey, available online free of charge for non-commercial use.

The website is a product of many years of collaboration between the Universities of Hertfordshire and Sheffield and the Open University, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Big Lottery Fund. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913, published shortly after the court sessions contain accounts of trials, are the core resource. In addition to images of the Proceedings with full transcripts, there is extensive background information and useful search and statistical tools.



Transportation of criminals is one reason that the Old Bailey Proceedings Online (OBPO) has global relevance to family history research. Are you thinking Aussie convicts?

The relevant information page on OBPO tells me that transportation to America started in 1718 and ended in 1776 at the commencement of the American War of Independence. For a while there wasn’t anywhere to send convicts sentenced to transportation, so prisons and prison ships (hulks) served as destinations. In 1787 transportation to Australia started, and in 1857 all transportation ceased.

That got me wondering how many people were sentenced to transportation to America and Australia and how it varied over time. Using the statistics tool I extracted the annual transportation sentences and present the information as a graph.

Annual number of transportation sentences at the Old Bailey
Source: Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.1, 15 February 2014), Tabulating year where punishment category is transportation, between 1718 and 1857. Counting by punishment.

The Proceedings only tells us what punishment was imposed, not whether it was actually carried out. Appeals, commutation of sentence, and death are reasons why a prisoner might not have boarded a ship.

The trail accounts include everything from highway robbery to pick-pocketing. A couple of convicts sharing my surname, but sadly probably not related to me, were Thomas Adams and Catherine Adams.


Thomas Adams, highway robbery, transported to America

Two cases, tried on 3 July 1772, involved Thomas Adams:

On the 17 May 1772, three men robbed John Grant, who gave evidence that
“one of them presented a pistol to me, and demanded my money, another took my silver buckles”. 
One of the robbers, Richard Burton gave evidence against his fellows, Thomas Adams alias Stanley and John Waters. He told the court that Waters took the money and Adams took the buckles, which were afterwards sold by one Jones. His presence was corroborated by him being able to relate a conversation between other witnesses about a nervous horse.

On the evening of 16 May 1772 Hannah Sherman accompanied her mistress, Mrs. Abigail Harper walking home from Chelsea. Three men, Thomas Adams, Edward Jones and Richard Burton, stopped the two women. Adams held a pistol to Hannah’s head and said, “Your money, your money, madam! or I will blow out your brains”. The men took Abigail’s distinctive watch, black mode cloak and linen cap. The following evening the three men dined at Elizabeth Siday’s room. She heard them talking about the robbery, and the watch chain was left in her room. On 18 May Jones pawned the watch. The pawnbroker recognized the watch from a newspaper advertisement and reported it to the magistrate Sir John Fielding.  The cloak was found in the possession of Frances Palmer who claimed a young man who she laid with gave it to her, and she was acquitted. In this case, Burton again testified against the other two robbers. Thomas’ defense was that Burton had held up the women. Six people gave evidence of Thomas Adams’ good character.

In both cases Thomas Adams was found guilty and sentenced to death, as were Edward Jones and John Waters. Richard Burton was not tried, which begs a few questions!

The 8 July 1772 issue of Ordinary of Newgate's Account, a publication for popular consumption, tells us that the King respited the death sentences for Thomas and his fellows on 1 July.

All three are named in a contract, dated 22 July 1772, between the justices and shipping merchants. The contract obliges the shipping merchant to transport the convicts
“to some of his Majesty’s colonies and plantations in America as soon as conveniently may be and do and shall procure from the Governor or Chief Custom House Officer of the place whereunto they shall be sent an authentic certificate of their landing there”. 
The term of transportation was 14 years.


Catherine Adams, larceny, transported to Australia

On 24 November 1851 Catherine Adams was convicted of pick-pocketing a watch worth £5 from John Oxenford on 10 November. The theft was witnessed by John Oxenford’s companion Alice M’Keller. Catherine’s accomplice, an unknown woman to whom she passed the watch, escaped capture. The trial account contains a fair bit of information on the victim and witness, but only records Catherine’s name, age of 21, and her sentence of 7 years transportation.

By this time, the penal system was rather keen on keeping track of prisoners, so there are a number of other records of Catherine Adams. Both the Home Office (some digital downloads available from The National Archives and indexed by Ancestry) and colonial authorities kept records. In addition to her name, the date and location of her trial, and the name of the transport ship after arrival in the penal colony, unequivocally identify her.

The Convict Transportation Register records that Catherine embarked the ship “Sir Robert Seppings” on 17 March 1852 as one of 220 female convicts bound for Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania. The ‘Indents of Female Convicts’, recorded on arrival in Tasmania on 8 July 1852, tells us Catherine was a plain laundress, but also notes “2 years on the Town”, and names her relations as Michael, parents John and Sarah, and siblings John, Eliza, Harriet, Emma and Sophia, all resident at Kentish Town (Middlesex, England). Although her marital status is given as married, the ‘on the Town’ comment often alluded to prostitution. On 18 October 1852 Catherine applied for permission to marry fellow convict John Asbury, which was recommended on 6 April 1853. The marriage took place on 2 May 1853 at St George’s church, Hobart. In contrast to the earlier indents record, Catherine’s status is given as a spinster. The Conduct Register lists the services or employment of convicts, and other events. The latest entry, dated 10 October 1854, notes a recommendation for a conditional pardon, granted by the Home Office on 23 November 1854.

Old Bailey Trails:
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 18 February 2014), June 1772, trial of THOMAS ADAMS, alias STANLEY JOHN WATERS (t17720603-17).
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 18 February 2014), June 1772, trial of THOMAS ADAMS EDWARD JONES FRANCES PALMER (t17720603-10).
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 16 February 2014), November 1851, trial of CATHERINE ADAMS (t18511124-32).

Copyright 2014 Sue Adams

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Drawing a Blank? What do you do when you find nothing?

It is my turn here again at Worldwide Genealogy, and I will admit, although I've been ruminating on possible topics for the past week I have persisted in drawing an absolute blank.

It struck me then that this is a topic in and of itself. We have all reached the point in our research where we find nothing and how we approach this can be the difference between a temporary brickwall and a complete stop. So I thought I'd share a few of the things I do when faced with the frustrating experience of no results.

Take a broader view. Sometimes research blanks are the result of the whole 'missing the forest for the trees thing.' The cluster genealogy approach can be a good one - looking at friends, neighbours and associates - so can branching out into local history. Read about the area in which your person lived, they might have a sentence or two about your person or they could spark something. If nothing else, they will give you an insight into the life of your person. I'm an advocate of more general histories for the same reason. To take the Australian example, the experiences of convict ancestors will make no sense if you don't look not only at Australian history generally but that of Britain.

Newspapers. Ok, so this is related to taking the broader view. I don't mean those specific searches we all do scouring the pages for a certain name or event, but a general browse of newspapers of the period. What didn't make it into the history books but could be effecting your 'blank.' Fire, Flood, Act of God?

Google it. No really. It's not the be all and end all of research tools but mix up your keywords and have a look. The same goes for library catalogues. Gems are to be found in amongst the manure.

Talk about it. Whether you blog or just dump it all out on friends and family, a fresh set of eyes can make all the difference. A warning though, sometimes this can result in your wanting to beat relatives over the head as they blithely reply with "oh I know that... such and such married such and such... I've got a letter..."

Set it aside. No, I don't mean giving up. Archives and Libraries are always working on finding aids, collection cataloguing and making new things available to the public. Digital databases are adding more records all the time. Come back in six months and try again.

There are of course circumstances when there simply is nothing to be found. Hard to accept but sometimes we will just never know.

Just cruisin' - genealogy at sea.

As some readers know, quite a few Aussie and Kiwi geneabloggers were on the high seas in February. No, we weren’t just hanging out together, sipping daiquiris and sunning ourselves by the pool…or playing at pirates. Quite the contrary, for there was little time for such frivolities.

Voyager in Sydney on a disappointingly grey day of departure.

We were participating in the 4th Unlock the Past Cruise, which was really a genealogy conference at sea. Over the decades I’ve been adamant, and prejudiced, in my “bah, humbug” attitude to cruising in general, so how ironic that not only did I take the plunge, but on one of the biggest ships sailing in Australian waters at present, Voyager of the Seas. It just shows what the peer pressure of meeting blogging mates in real life can encourage you to do, not to mention the appeal of 9 days talking genealogy without people’s eyes glazing over. 

As the company will be running a few cruises in the northern hemisphere over the coming 12-18 months, my comments may be of interest to others on the far side of the world. Of course this company isn’t the only one that does genealogy conference cruises, but they are the only one I’ve experienced.
So as a first-time cruiser and conference-attender at sea, how did I find this experience?


·        Spending time with fellow obsessives talking and learning genealogy.
·        Meeting my virtual mates from blogging in real-life, knowing their family stories but getting to know them as friends.
·        Hearing excellent speakers both international and national. I live tucked away in Australia’s Top End so I don’t get many chances to listen to knowledgeable speakers so this was a real treat for me. I think it’s important not to underestimate our national speakers too, as they have a wealth of knowledge. 
  • Aussie speaker and geneablogger,
    Jill Ball aka Geniaus
     - a dynamic, enthusiastic and informative speaker.
    A Down Under focus meant there was lots of expertise on our specific research issues and the overseas speakers provided the knowledge on our ancestors’ places of origin, and tech tools that assist us with our research.
  •  A wide array of topics in session streams to choose from – more than an on-land conference.
  •  The geneabloggers had their own support group from the start, recognising each other even in the check-in queues…the power of social media!
  • The panel sessions and the informally structured genea-readers session gave people a chance to share in a way that’s not really possible in a teacher-learner presentation model. These were a great idea.

  •  A competitive price compared with a just-cruisin’ cabin cost made it a viable expense.
  •  Having shore days to offset the sea days with a full conference program - it was great to only have an evening session on those days.
  • Meeting new friends at my dinner table and having nine evenings to get to know them…lovely people all: Cathy, Dot, Marlene and Thomas.
The Ethics Panel moderated by Jill Ball: Pauleen Cass, Kirsty Grey and Maria Northcote.


·        The session streams inevitably, and unavoidably, end up with clashing topics, both (or all three) of which you’d like to hear. Not so much a weakness as a conference fact of life.
·        The density of the program was both a strength and weakness, as it left little time for general socialising, chilling out or just meeting other genies.
·        I missed the usual conference informal get-togethers over coffee or lunch. I suppose this is inevitable on a ship which needs to provide safety over hot drinks especially. It also made it difficult to find people you might have been looking for to share common research interests etc.
·        While the geneabloggers were successful in meeting others, some attendees mentioned they had difficulty making friends/contacts except via their dinner table companions or happenstance cabin companions (if they elected to share).
·        The structured table settings and tea-breaks reduced the opportunities for informal meetings but the UTP lanyards were a great clue to invite yourself to sit at a table with others over lunch.
·        The ship’s haphazard internet connection meant that I ended up writing my blog posts at night then posting them as soon as we arrived in port so I could use my mobile wi-fi dongle.

Sailing out of Hobart: only one more conference day left.
Would I do a genealogy cruise again?

I was surprised that I didn’t find the scale of the ship particularly annoying – whether that would be true if I’d had to spend time with the masses I don’t know. I do know my grandchildren would have loved the DreamWorks characters on board, and I thoroughly enjoyed my AWOL activity of seeing the ice-show.

My cabin was very comfortable and I’d elected not to share – I’m getting too set in my ways for that, and since my sleep patterns are haphazard it just didn’t seem fair to someone else. If you want to read my posts on the cruise this link will take you there.

My criteria for another cruise?

Who are the speakers and what are the topics being covered? You do need to be aware that as these are planned well in advance so speakers’ personal lives and health may result in changes or cancellations.
Are any of my geneablogging mates going along? This gave such an easy entrée to conference cruising that I’d be looking for that again.

How is that money tree in the garden growing? Now I’m retired I weigh up the benefits of one travel experience against another. Where will I get the best value from my travel dollar? It may not be on a conference cruise at all, if there are higher priorities on my bucket list.

What ports will we be visiting? Ironically one of the things I liked about this cruise was that I’d been to all the ports before several times. It meant that I didn’t feel any pressure to rush from pillar to post while on shore as well as having a heavy conference commitment. I was also able to meet up with friends or new cousins in port, or visit an archive. Having said that, if I was doing another, the ports of call would be more important for me.

Disclaimer: These comments are my own perspective on the cruise even though I was an official blogger and speaker on the cruise. My comments are not intended as an advertising promo for Unlock the Past, merely to give others some insight into genealogy conference cruising so they can make informed choices. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Playing with FamilySearch Family Tree

My choice of subject for this month, is Family Tree on I work with many on learning about the Family Tree as well as using it, so I have heard a lot of mixed feeling about a global tree that everyone can work on together.
Why would one want to work on a community tree? Lots of good reasons, finding new family, learning information you did not know before, finding pictures of family that you did not have, companionship over tearing down a brick wall, and accomplishing so much more.
A negative I frequently hears is "you have to learn to play nicely with people who don’t agree with you". There is a solution, if you don’t agree, the one can show the sources and proofs that a fact is true wins. Do I sound like your mother who was questioning you and your brother when ya’all were called in after a squabble?
For those of you new or who haven’t started using it yet, I will share just a little and then point you in the direction of the wonderful videos that have been made by FamilySearch to assist everyone in using the program correctly. I REALLY recommend it so you don’t end up deleting a treasured family member. Holy smoke! I did that following the wrong person’s advice, since that moment in time, FamilySearch has put in some safe guards. Whew!
I have found many people don't know to go beyond 'search' when using They don't know how to find the collections or that the 'learn' at the introduction of a collection is invaluable source of information. It will tell you what is included in the collections. My illustration is numbered 1 - 5. If you scroll down from the top of 1 to 2, then you can choose a country, 3. choose your place you want to search, 4. your collection, and 5. learn more to find out what is in the collection.
Hope this helps.

 This link will tell you more about the FamilySearch Wiki.

The newest features on FamilySearch Family tree are:
The ability to search from the person on the tree by clicking on the link “search records” under: Research Help which will include the person’s information in the search.
The new Memories link at the top, when clicked on, shows how many documents, pictures or stories have been added.

There is also a link at the top labeled Sources, which when clicked on, takes you to the sources listed. If you click on the source, you will see a link to the source as well as why it was added.

There is the ability to generate reports by clicking on the one of the labels in the box call Print.

There is also a thing called Life Sketch above the person’s details.
 Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings did a wonderful job showing how to use this.

Now the videos…
The route to learn more through videos is not intuitive.
1. You click on “Get Help” on the upper left hand corner of the page. A drop down appears, now you will choose Learning Center Video Courses. Don’t get distracted by all the wonderful courses and videos; we are going to do one more step.
2. In the Search Box type “Family Tree”. This will then give you all the helps with Family Tree you can use to make it a pleasant experience.

I hope this has been a pleasant journey, and invite you join me on Family Tree. I trust the owners of FamilySearch to do as they promise: to preserve the stories, pictures, and genealogy for generations to come. They are dedicated.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Family History Show and Tell

I can't believe a month has already gone by since my first post on this wonderful blog! I was overwhelmed with the response to my post last month on Family History is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.  This blog's readers were very generous with their comments - thank you so much.

This month, I want to "Show and Tell" you some of my family history "finds" from my paternal grandmother's family, the Gurneys of South London.  I don't mean records from births, marriages, and death certificates or other documents such as baptism records and censor returns.  Or even transcripts of gravestones of ancestors long since passed on. Instead, I want to Show and Tell you some of my collection of artifacts from the Gurneys and show you how our ancestors lived their lives according to their times.

Some artifacts I was given after my grandmother passed away 30 years ago - when I was very new to family history - others I was given by "internet cousins" - distantly related cousins who I found on the internet on various genealogy forums.  Other artifacts I found lurking in various places on the internet - including that well-known auction site.  It has certainly helped that many of my paternal ancestors were publicans - and so left behind various artifacts to be either handed down through the generations; or abandoned and put up for sale on the internet...  It's these treasures that bring the past to life - that my ancestors were once living, breathing people with dreams and aspirations much as my own are today.

So, my post today is a Show and Tell of various Gurney family history treasures.

Lilly Gurney's bible

Flyleaf of Lillie/Lilly Gurney's personal bible - my great-grandmother.  She was the tragic bride in my last post -  Family History is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get  - she died exactly 9 months after her marriage, 7 days after giving birth to my grandmother.  The pencil writing of "16 Cicada Rd, Wandsworth" was one of the childhood homes of my grandmother - this text is in my grandmother's handwriting.  She must have kept and used her mother's bible as her own. The bible is now in my care.

Lilly Gurney

Photograph of Lilly Gurney (nee Gurney).  By the size of the leg-of-mutton sleeves of her dress, this was taken sometime between 1895 and her death in 1900.

Lilly Gurney

Memorial card to Lilly Gurney.  This card was kept by one of Lilly's brothers, Charles Swain Gurney, and then passed down to his unmarried daughter, Muriel, (my grandmother's first cousin - neither knew about each other in my grandmother's lifetime), who gave it to another "internet cousin" (who is, I think, my 4th cousin) in 1999.  My 4th cousin then sent me a digital image of it. So, this (and the other memorial cards below) came to me via the internet but is the card of a direct ancestor of mine.

Matilda Jane Gurney nee Leader

Memorial card to Matilda Jane Gurney (nee Leader) - mother of Lilly.  A remarkable woman, she had at least 14 children (possibly more who didn't survive infancy) and had emigrated to Australia in the 1850s where she had at least three children, before returning home to England (via Jersey) where she had the rest of her children.

Matilda Jane Gurney nee Leader
Photograph of Matilda Jane Gurney (nee Leader) taken sometime in the 1900s.  She is also the elderly lady sitting next to the groom in the wedding photo on my post on Family History is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. 

James Swain Gurney

Memorial card to James Swain Gurney - Lilly's father and Matilda's husband.  He died at a young age of 48 - after fathering at least 14 children and having lived in Australia, Jersey and London.  I have often wondered how Matilda coped after he died, but he was from such a large family, who all lived in the same area, that they probably all helped out (my previous post explained about the inter-relationship between all the Gurneys).

James Swain Gurney - East Dulwich Hotel

James Swain Gurney started adulthood as a bricklayer.  In May 1855 he and his wife Matilda left Southampton on the ship “Lloyds” bound for Botany Bay, Australia, on an assisted passage, arriving August 1855.  Family legend (retold by my Australian cousin, Barbara) has it that he went to Australia to help build Fort Denison in Sydney harbour - the fort was rebuilt during the Crimean War to protect Australia from Russian attack.  After returning home to England a few years later (bringing back with them at least 3 children!), James went on to becoming a licensed victualler (publican) in pubs initially in Jersey, and then in Nunhead, Peckham and Camberwell.  Above is an 1880 year calender for the pub, the East Dulwich Hotel, where he died a few years later.  The calender shows that James Swain Gurney was brewing his own stout - "Gurney's Invalid Stout... 3s per dozen Imperial pints... Recommended by the medical profession"

Coronation Dinner 1902

Much faded now, you can just make out the hand-writing "Mrs Gurney" and the second line of "St Mary's".  This was Matilda Gurney's invitation to a local dinner held in honour of King Edward VII's coronation.  Many towns and villages held these dinners for their residents.  This was given to Matilda either because she was an aged widow of the parish, or it was a Masonic dinner.  James Swain Gurney was a freemason - so perhaps this was a Masonic dinner and she was invited as his widow.  I love the instructions to bring your own knife and fork!   Not least because it implies there was to be no pudding and presumably the venue provided the plates.  However, this dinner did not take actually place.  Edward VII's coronation was to be held on 26 June 1902, but two days before, he succumbed to appendicitis.  In an extremely risky operation (an operation which, at that time, killed the majority of its patients), Edward VII had the infected pus-filled appendix drained.  Two weeks later he was pronounced to be out of danger.  His re-scheduled coronation took place, finally, on 9th August 1902.  So Matilda's dinner could never have taken place - on the day the dinner was scheduled, the nation was awaiting anxiously to see if their king would survive his operation.  I expect that had the dinner taken place, then this invitation would have been handed into the organisers and thrown away - so hundred years later we would never have found out that people had to take their own knifes and forks to a community's coronation dinner!  This document is testimony to the fact that you should never take any family history document at their face value.  Sometimes there are other stories behind what you might have thought to be "fact"! 

With the exception of the bible and Lilly's photo, the above images are artifacts which my grandmother's cousin had kept until her death in the early 2000s.  They came to me via another Gurney cousin (my 4th cousin) who was also researching her Gurney family history.  However, the images below are of objects in my personal care.

The three silver spoons shown below (and a silver meat dish not shown in the photos) came to me after my grandmother's death 30 years ago.  The meat dish (which I have very vague recollections of seeing on my grandmother's sideboard in the 1960s and 1970s) and one of the spoons has the initials "JMG".  It made perfect sense that this was the initials of "James and Matilda Gurney".  But, until 10 years ago, this was only a "best guess" on my behalf.  But yet again, my grandmother's aged cousin, Muriel, came to my rescue.  She too had various items of silverware with the exact same initials engraved on them.  So my meat dish and spoon were part of a very large dinner service owned by James Swain and Matilda Jane Gurney.  I would imagine that on Matilda's death in 1915, my grandmother and Muriel (Matilda's granddaughters) were given their items. Therefore other members of the family would have been given the rest of the service - I expect sometime I'll discover some more items of it on the internet!

Silver spoons London 1820
The top spoon has the initials "JMA" - it is a whooping 12 inches (one foot) long.  The middle spoon has the initials "WMH" and is of a normal serving-spoon size.  The bottom spoon is James and Matilda Gurney's (initials "JMG") and also of normal serving-spoon size.  They are all in perfect excellent condition with few marks - my camera does not do justice to them.

Silver spoon London 1820
JMA: I do not have any ancestor on my paternal line with the surname starting with "A".  This spoon's hallmark shows that it was made by the silver-smith RP in London in the 1820s.

Silver spoon London 1820
WMH: I do not have any ancestor on my paternal line with the surname starting with "H".  This spoon's hallmark shows that it was made by the silver-smith GW in London  in the 1820s. 

Silver spoon
JMG: James Swain and Matilda Jane Gurney's spoon.  This must have been part of a large set including meat dishes and salvers.

The first two spoons are a total mystery.  They came from my grandmother's house but could have been from my grandfather (Cole's)  family. To add to the mix, my grandmother was brought up by her father's childless sisters.  One sister, Rose Gurney, was married to a James Sayers, so these spoons could have come from her husband's family.  The initials, and the dates of the spoons, currently make no sense in any of my paternal family lines.  No-one in my family has the correct final initial as their surname from the same time as the hallmarks - or, in fact, at any time.  Maybe one day I'll discover who they belonged to!

Rosina Gurney
Rosina ("Rose") Sayer (nee Gurney) with my grandmother - aged between 2 and 3 - so taken in circa 1902/1903.  Rose was John Gurney's sister so therefore my grandmother's aunt.  One of the two aunts who brought up my grandmother - the other being Alice - who I remember when she was a very old lady in the 1970s.

My next Show and Tell is a whiskey bottle from John Gurney's pub - purchased a couple of months ago from that well known auction site.  John ran various pubs in South London from time of his first marriage to Lilly Gurney in the Glengall Tavern in Peckham in 1899, until approximately the 1920s/30s.

Star and Garter, St Anns Hill
The label reads: "J Gurney, Wine and Spirit Merchant, Star and Garter, St Anne's Hill, Wandsworth.

Star and Garter, St Anns Hill
John Gurney standing in the doorway of the Star and Garter - approximately the 1910s.  The pub was on the corner of a road "Ridgmount Road" - the childhood home of my grandfather Cole - my grandmother and grandfather being childhood sweethearts who met and played together on the streets of Wandsworth, South London.

My final Show and Tell is the image below is a happy family photo.  Or is it?  Does the camera always tell the truth or does the camera lie?

Star and Garter, St Anns Hill
My grandmother aged about 10, with her father John ("Jack") Gurney and his second wife - Emma Nelly Gurney (nee Tipping) with their child, John Gurney. Photograph taken circa 1910, and possibly taken inside the Star and Garter.

Do you notice that little John's eyes have been scratched out?  A childish prank of my grandmother's.  Little John was the bane of my grandmother's childhood and teased her mercilessly.  He died aged 16 in the early 1920s - I don't think my grandmother shed any tears over her brother's death. Little John's mother, Nelly, was the wicked stepmother of this story making my grandmother's life a misery - and she encouraged her son John in joining in with the mischief-making. With the release of the 1901 and the 1911 census, the records confirm family legend that it was Rose who brought up my grandmother, as my grandmother was living with her auntie and her husband, but not her father at the time of the censuses.

Look again at the picture of John and Lilly Gurney's wedding on my post Family History is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.  Do you see the lady standing at the left edge of the photo with her body turned into the bride and groom.  I like to think that she's glaring at Lilly - for this is a thwarted Emma Nelly Tipping - having just lost John Gurney to his cousin, Lilly Gurney.  But she did end up with John, but with the burden of Lilly's unwanted motherless child.

And that's my post for this month - my Show and Tell of the Gurney family of South London.  I look forward to sharing with you more of my discoveries over the coming months - see you next time on this blog on 18th March 2014. In the meantime, you can catch me on my blog Essex Voices Past or on twitter @EssexVoicesPast

Postscript: I remember my grandmother as a distant woman who had little interest in me and my childhood.  She had her favourites - and set great store by those who were the eldest - and I was the youngest child of her youngest child - so of little consequence to her.  Never purposely mean, but never kind either. I do not remember any cuddles or sitting on her knee or reading story books with her.  Looking at these photos and retelling the tragedy of her birth and the hardship of her childhood makes me understand why she was thus so. Family history ain't always rosy and that box of chocolates sometimes contains a bitter-sweet memory.

© Essex Voices Past 2014

Monday, 17 February 2014

That Ol' Newspaper

We as family historians and genealogists, spend hours, weeks, months and years researching our ancestral & collateral lines.  We look for documents that will tell us who our 3x or more great grand parents are, who their parents were and their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins on down and across the lines to get a better idea of the people, whose DNA we walk around with in our blood.

Sometimes all we have are facts to go on.  We find out when they were born, when they died, where they lived, who they married, and who they birthed.  As genealogists, we build stories around the information we have.  We read about the history of the towns they lived in, we look for leads as to who the neighbors were, and what organizations they may have belonged to, and where they might have worked.  We want to know what churches they went to and if they even went to school.  Who were these people that we call our ancestors?

I spend much of my time carving, molding, forming, putting skin upon the bones of my ancestors and as if I were a god, breathing life into them so I can see them, feel them, and know them.  One of the resources I use regularly are old newspapers. Newspapers have been key for me in building my ancestor's lives.  I have lost count as to how many articles I have found through online newspapers and indexes.  Some newspaper articles, I have had to order through libraries, and historical archives for a small copying and mailing fee.  It has been well worth my efforts.

Some of the databases I use are:

4. Newspapers
5. Library of Congress
6.  and Googling newspaper archives where lots of other sites pop up.

I recently searched for my maternal great great grandfather William H. Cully and found that he sold or gave 100 acres of land to his son George Cully months before he died.  Seeing this gave me a clearer picture as to why George didn't receive land in the probate records after his father passed and why his other children did along with my Great Grandfather Ambrose Cully.  It is the little details that make the stories clearer.

New Berne Weekly Journal, 11 March 1902, Page 4
Another example is that my father Walter Porter was an entertainer and active in politics in Los Angeles, California before I was born.  My mother Betty was right there with him participating in civic and political affairs as I have always known her to be.  This article adds to the wealth of information I have received over time.  My parents are no longer living, so to have these articles have helped me to hone in on their lives in Los Angeles and what specific events and people they knew while they were there.

My Parents, Wally & Betty Porter w/Atty. Billy G. Mills

There is so much information one can find by researching online for newspapers.  If you are unsure where to look, start with my list.  Going to your search engine is one of the other great ways to find newspapers that you can immediately search or to find indexes to where you can go to order the information you need on your ancestors.  I would type in the city, county, state, country, etc with newspaper archives, etc., and you will soon be on your way to making great discoveries.  

Let's breathe life into the one's that came before us.  You will discover that they lived fascinating lives.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Hook. Line. Sinker. Reel ‘em in!

I’ll come clean right off, I am addicted to my techy toys.  I do have an ongoing love/hate relationship with them, no matter - - I.  AM.  ADDICTED.

Traveling the way we do, living the life of a nomad for months on end, my addiction to my techy toys continues, and (hopefully) enhances our life style.  My techy tool chest contains, my lap top, my internet connection device (an air card), my digital camera(s), iPhone, iPad, scanners (flat bed and sheet scanner too), printer, I even have a projector for the computer.

Since the iPad came into my life, I use the lap top as some would use a desk top, meaning it rarely gets used out of the stick built home or the RV (Tana).  The iPad is my go to town, in the truck, rolling again, toy of choice. I use it to stay in touch, email, social media, I can surf the web.  I have a war chest of apps that are specific to our nomadic life, there are apps for everything (of course there are, as we all giggle).  Campgrounds, national parks, weather, and navigation.  I use my iPad every time we leave home or the campground.  I depend on my navigation app.  Really depend on it!

Ah, but, we are a genealogy/researching blog, so, how does this relate?

Easy, and it is called FAMILIES.  The app for iToys and Android.  There are different versions, no, they do not cross platforms, if you change from the iToy to the Android system, you will need to repurchase for your new device.  There it is, up in the right hand top corner - - Families, the app.

Families is an app developed to work with the computer data base Legacy.  Now, for transparency, there are quite a few genealogy/family history apps that will take your data from Legacy (or RootsMagic and/or other data bases you may use).  I have tried some of them.  The data base transferred and was useable in several of the apps I tried.  However, for me, and this is HUGE for me, many of the other apps did not treat multimedia well.  Many times I only had access to one image per person in my data base.  Some people in my data base have a lot more than one image.  I love to tell stories and a person’s life story by images.  Yep, I am addicted to images too.

Families allows me to have the majority of my images and multimedia files available on my iPad.  There are a few, very few, files that have not transferred, I believe these are due to the size of those files.  I have a list to review, and I will, eventually (so much to do, so little time, how wonderful is that?)

Families will allow you to input on your iPad and then transfer back to Legacy on your computer.  I don’t do that, I only do input on my computer. I made a rule for myself many years ago to do input only on one device or one computer, no matter how many devices held copies of my data base..  I’ll fess up, keeping them in sync is not my strong point.  Yes, I know about Dropbox and other great cloud capabilities.  I just personally feel safer with this rule in place and following it always.  It is what works for me.

So, how do I use Families?

Families is great for spur of the moment research, like when I am miles from home and realize I am very near the cemetery where ggggguncle John is buried and I have no photo of his headstone, or I just want to pay a visit. I can use the data base to help refresh my memory on the specifics.  I try to have maps of cemeteries attached to the data base. Oh, has this been a boon.  I don’t know why, but, so many of the rural cemeteries, I seem to lose connectivity - wink wink.  I don’t need an internet connection to show me where the cemetery is, IF I have a map attached as multimedia.

I use Families for spur of the moment library research.  Say I find myself in a small town where ancestors lived and died and I desire their obituaries, Families has the information.  I can walk into a library, pull up my family tree on the app and reference what data I do have on the family, checking and rechecking as I pull microfilm, find obituaries and make copies (sometimes I even make those copies WITH the iPad).

Yes I do research this way. Our nomadic life style has a way of providing some wonderful surprising opportunities for research. We broke down in Seaside Oregon last year.  During our unplanned extended stay there I was able to visit the local cemetery, photograph a number of headstones and go to the local library and find 6 obituaries.  Research on the fly, err, roll.

Below an obituary, Walter Stuart, I found and captured with the iPad while we were broken down in Seaside Oregon last summer.

However, the most useful purpose for Families for me is the ability to pull up the data base and the thousands of images I have attached. You want cousin bate. This. Is. It. You want a way to quietly HOOK the next generation. This. Is. It. Pull up gggrampas multimedia events and show them photos of gggrampa as a baby. Hook. Line. Sinker. This. Is. It.  My hubs, aka Man, knows I have the data bases and images on the iToys and he will lead a family discussion right back to Families and the iToys.  Many times we have been enjoying a discussion with cousins or grandchildren and we find ourselves pulling out the iToys and “showing” images.  The iPad size is perfect. Pass it around. The images look soooo good.

Hook.  The family, father and parents, mother and parents, child.  A glimpse of the multimedia, one photo of each.

Line. Looking at the individual, the facts and a image icon row.

Sinker. Open the image line row and here are SOME of the photos for Lorena.  I have more for her than will fit on the screen (what a shame, eh??)

Reel em in!  This. Is. It. Just one of the photos in Lorena's multimedia collection.  Even those with very little interest in "research" LOVE photos!  Everyone LOVES photos!

The last time I showed off Families to extended family I had the undivided attention of some young teens.  They were fascinated by the photos I showed them of their mom and grandmother.  They were equally as fascinated by the notes I could share with them, stories, if you will, of their heritage.

Yep, I set the hook, line and sinker and I reeled them in.  It was so much fun!

How do you use your techy toys and apps?  Do you reel em in?  Tell us how you do - -

* The required disclaimers:  I am a patron of both Legacy and Families.  I paid for my copies.  Neither has asked me to review their products.  I will receive nothing in return for my review.  I did recently win a copy of Legacy 8 and the downloadable PDF book file from a Legacy Webinar.  I ran a contest on Reflections and gave the free copy away, as I had already paid for my upgrade to Legacy 8.

** This post came about as an offshoot of several social media discussions I have participated in.