Wednesday, September 28, 2016

European Settlement & Pastoralism at Kunderang

Each time I visit Armidale I always head straight to the bookshops to see if there are any new local history publications. Last week I was not disappointed.

Bob Harden's book European Settlement & Pastoralism at Kunderang Upper Macleay River, 1840-1960 was on the shelf. I always go straight to the index and look up the Armidale families who have connections to my husband's extended family. A quick inspection discovered Brennan, Waters, Dawson, Sewell and Bell. I parted with $64.99 and purchased the 430 A4 page hardcover book.

Bob stated that his objectives were "to provide a coherent account of European settlement and pastoralism at Kunderang in the upper Macleay River, with particular emphasis on who the settlers were, how they lived and how they carried out their pastoral endeavours" (p. 10)

He has definitely achieved his objectives. The book has been meticulously researched and is a wonderful history of the gorge country. Each landholder's connection to the area is discussed and referenced in detail and a map has been produced for each family detailing the location of their leases and purchases.

My only disappointment is that the areas of Enmore and Long Point fall outside the specific area researched in the book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Trove Tuesday - Carrington Handicap

My nanna would always tell me stories whenever we visited her place. It's a shame now I can't recall them all. However, I do vividly remember her telling me that her father Michael Ryan was a good runner and often ran in races in  Sydney. Her future father-in-law Harry Dawson was his coach.

I've often searched on Trove without luck for some evidence to support this story.

Earlier in the week I think I may have hit the jackpot. The difficulty was knowing exactly what to search for in Trove. I was browsing for something totally unrelated when I saw an article about a Carrington Handicap. I now had the possible name of a race.

The following advertisement from 1888 indicates that professional footraces (or at least some of them) in Sydney were worth winning.

Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 1888, p. 2

A search for Carrington Handicap and Ryan in the period 1886-1895 (years selected as likely years he would be running) produced many results. Unfortunately the Sydney Morning Herald only gives the initials for a man's christian name. There are many entries for a M. Ryan. I hope I am not wrong in assuming that this man is my great grandfather Michael Ryan.

Sydney Morning Herald Thursday 2nd April 1891, p. 8 

In this race, Ryan the favourite finished third after winning his first, second and third rounds. Hopefully I'll be able to discover more about the running successes of Michael Ryan.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Paying rent for over 100 years

This story was originally printed in The Peninsula Observer (year unknown). The author's permission is given to reprint here.

Cambridge Street in the 1970s

Whenever I walk down Cambridge Street, Rozelle, I recall being told about Great Granny Ryan. Great Granny Ryan loved a beautiful teaset which she had seen in a shop. She scrimped and saved until the day finally came, when she could buy that set. She carefully carried home her pride and joy but coming down the hill in Cambridge Street, she slipped and fell and her beautiful teaset rolled down the hill, ending in a broken heap at the bottom. I always felt so close to Great Granny when I looked down Cambridge Street.

Great Granny Ryan was born Mary O'Halloran (Halloran). She had arrived in Brisbane in the early 1860s from Roscrea in Ireland. She had two sisters and a brother John. Mary married John Charles Ryan in St Stephen's, Brisbane on 1st June 1864. Her husband was born in Portlaw, County Waterford, Ireland and he too arrived in Queensland in the 1860s.

Two sons, Michael and James and a daughter, Mary, were born and for sixteen years the family lived on the Darling downs where John Ryan was caretaker of a large property. Meanwhile John Ryan's brother-in-law, John O'Sullivan, the husband of Margaret O'Halloran, had been living at 23 Cambridge Street since 1882.

John O'Sullivan was a merchant for W H Ariel & Co., General Merchants of 335 Kent Street, Sydney. The O'Sullivan's had two daughters but no sons. Knowing that the two Ryan boys were looking for work, O'Sullivan invited the family to Sydney and offered jobs in the grocery business.

In 1883 the Ryan family took up residence at 23 Cambridge Street, while the O'Sullivans moved to 118 Terry Street. John Ryan continued to live there until his death on 15th November, 1910, Mary had died in 1895. The older son Michael Ryan married Sarah Ogden, of 21 Victoria Road, on 9th October, 1890. Michael and Sarah lived at 25 Cambridge Street, the other half of the semi-detached building.

John O'Sullivan continued to prosper. He owned a nice house in the 'country' at George Street (now Oxford Street), Smithfield. In 1906 this house was empty, so O'Sullivan invited Sarah and Michael with their growing family to live at Smithfield. Their youngest daughter Elsie was born there.

Next in line for 25 Cambridge Street, was James Ryan and wife Ellen, while his father and sister still lived at No. 23.

In 1916 the street numbers changed in Balmain/Rozelle so the building became No. 19 and 21.

James and Ellen Ryan's daughter Mabel Ellen married William Acheson in 1914 and continued to live at 21 Cambridge Street, until her death in 1964. Sons James (Jim) and William (Bill) Acheson continued to live there.

The families of the brothers, Michael and James Ryan, had no contact with my family since Michael's death in 1940. One day I being Michael's granddaughter, went in search of 'cousins' in Cambridge Street. A neighbour told me that Acheson's lived in 'that' house, but no one was at home. I quickly drew a family tree and pushed it under the  door.

Soon I received a lovely letter from James (Jim), so for the next few years I visited him often. We would sit and talk, remembering the old days and planning a tea party when the time came to celebrate one hundred years of paying rent. Sadly, Jim died in 1977, four years short of the planned centenary celebration, but his brother Bill continued to live there.

Soon afterwards I was transferred away from Sydney but on my return in 1997, I once again visited Cambridge Street. As I walked down the hill, I envisaged a short plump Irish woman, her face beaming with delight, carrying carefully something in her arms. I had a vision of her tripping and falling heavily to the ground as her precious tea-set, lay smashed on Cambridge Street. Poor Great Granny Ryan.

Coming back to the present, I hurried to No 21. I knocked on the door. It was opened by Bill who still lives there. Yes, the family is still in residence! John Ryan's family has been paying rent for 115 YEARS!

Claire Dawson

Family at the Cambridge Street houses in the 1970s.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trove Tuesday - Mr Spatch's Recollections

I haven't blogged much this year as I seem to be spending all my out of work hours finishing more work. However, I managed to spend some time searching Trove over Easter and found this gem from The Glen Innes Examiner on Thursday 8th February 1923.

The Glen Innes Examiner Thursday 8th February 1923, p. 4

The Early Days
First Child on Clarevaulx
Drew First Wheat
Mr Spatch's Recollections

With a surprisingly clear memory and a particularly active body for his seventy years of life, Mr William Spatch sen - father of Mr W. Spatch of Bald Nob - is a very interesting human link with the early days of this district.

Mr Spatch was born on Clarevaulx Station, Captain Philip Ditman, stood as his godfather - a distinction he might well have prized, since the baby Spatch was the first white child born on the station. The parents were employed on the property, and so were themselves amongst the very earliest pioneers of the district. Mr Spatch recalls as a boy, that his father possessed a bullock dray and ten bullocks, and thus, as things went in those days, was passing rich even more than Goldsmith's parson on £40 a year.


The old veteran gives interesting impressions of early Glen-Innes. He recalls clearly the first store - where Mackenzie's now stands, also "Johnny Davidson's" blacksmith's shop, near the site of Tattersell's. He tells, too, of the first hotel (Regan's), the predecessor of the (Central) and depicts the gold old Australian hitching post which stood in front, consisting of a massive peppermint stump with horse shoes attached there to.


In due course Mr Spatch became a teamster, gaining a lot of experience as "off-sider" to Messrs. Maxwell and Robert Hutton, who travelled on the Grafton road for many years. Mr Spatch drew the foundation stone for the original Holy Trinity Church, built by Rev J. H. Johnson, B.A., in 1868. These stones came from close to Dunbar's, on the Grafton road, He also drew the first load of wheat gristed at Henderson's flour mill (in the Mill Paddock). This was grown by the late William Gould, at Stonehenge. For many years, Mr Spatch plied between Glen Innes and Grafton - long before there was cutting on the road. Teams travelled down via the Guy Fawkes and returned up Newton Boyd, until in due course the road was put through by Houlson. The teamster's life in those days was essentially one of the open air, and for seven years on end Mr Spatch never once slept outdoors. As an example of prevailing conditions in this matter of wages, it is interesting to record that for over four years he was employed as a bullock-driver at Stonehenge at the rate of 4/- a week!


Vivid recollections of hordes of aboriginals in the district are also retrained by Mr Spatch. On Blanket Day (May 24) when the Queen's bounty was manifested in the distribution of blankets to the natives, he recalls seeing as many as 500, men, women and children, making from Glen Innes toward their camping grounds at Ben Lomond, and stringing themselves out along the track for three miles. As a boy he also saw Thunderbolt, and camped with him at the foot of the Big Hill, while he was acquainted with Thunderbolt's brother, Robert Ward, who was shepherd on Stonehenge for nearly 30 years and often provided shelter for Fred.

The Glen Innes Examiner Thursday 8th February 1923, p. 4

What to do next? Although there are many leads to investigate from this article, here are my top four.

1. Where specifically is Clarevaulx? (I know the location of Stonehenge.)
2. Who was Captain Philip Ditman?
3. Read Hauling the loads - A history of Australia's working horses and bullocks by Malcolm J Kennedy. (All I need to do is take it off my bookshelf and make time to read it.)
4. Next time I travel from Glen Innes to Grafton, take a good look at the country and admire the work of these pioneer teamsters.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Criminal Ancestors?

Yesterday I received an email from Aoife O'Connor, a PhD student with Sheffield University based in Dublin. Aoife is hoping to contact genealogists and family historians with criminal ancestors to fill in a survey or take part in an interview to assist with her research.

Aoife's message is printed below with her permission. 

A Criminal Ancestor 

Are you descended from convict ancestors transported far from home or did great, great, great uncle John end up in court for squabbling with the neighbours?  If your ancestor was a hardened criminal, a victim of a miscarriage of justice, a political prisoner, or in court for not paying their dog licence a new study is looking to hear from you.

Criminals in the family have always fascinated family historians and it seems more of us are discovering more of them all of the time.  The digitisation of the records of the criminal justice system and newspapers are bringing to light a side of our ancestors that may have previously been kept secret.  

The crimes themselves range from the minor, even amusing, to the serious, and tragic.  From a few cows wandering unsupervised along a country lane resulting in an appearance at the petty sessions court and a 2 shilling fine, to a young girl stealing some lace and being transported for 7 years to Australia, a sentence which really meant a lifetime exiled from her native land.  A young boy imprisoned for vagrancy.  A rebel.  A highwayman.  A murderer.   

The documents which record their crimes often have amazingly rich details not found in birth, marriage, or even census records.  From prison registers we can get physical descriptions of someone who lived long before the invention of photography, we can learn their height, weight, eye and hair colour, and any distinguishing scars or features such as tattoos.   From newspaper accounts of trials we hear their voices as they give evidence.   

But how do we feel when we come across an ancestor who broke the law?  And how do they shape how we view our family’s history?  Is a criminal ancestor someone to be ashamed of, to celebrate, or part of a larger story?  What do their crimes, and the punishments they received tell us about them as people, and about the time and society they lived in?  You can help provide the answers. 

As part of the Digital Panopticon project, Aoife O Connor of the University of Sheffield wants to hear from family historians across the globe who have discovered ancestors who were connected to a crime.  She is conducting short anonymous online surveys.

Aoife is based in Dublin, Ireland and is studying for her PhD part-time.  Her own family history includes, among others, one ancestor aged 18 imprisoned in 1821 for thirteen days on suspicion of stealing a frame saw (the same ancestor was fined for excise duty evasion to the tune of £12 10 shillings in 1838), and another who was fined two shillings at the Petty Sessions Court on the 24 December 1855 for driving a horse and cart with no reins.   

Why not fill in the survey or contact Aoife for an interview?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

1916 marriage of Richard Cecil Dawson and Dorothy Davies-Gilbert

After a very meagre year researching and blogging the holidays are here and it's time to make amends. The first thing I did today was to take a month's subscription to The British Newspaper Archive.

My first find today was the reporting of the marriage of Richard Cecil Dawson to Dorothy Davies-Gilbert on 31st July 1916.  Richard was my great grandfather's first cousin.

Sussex Agricultural Express, Friday 4 August 19196, p.  4.

Of note is the fact that their honeymoon was held at the Lake House at Highclere.  A search on google maps reveals two lakes, Duncs Mere and Milford Lake just to the north of Highclere. 

Highclere nowadays is famous as  Downton Abbey is filmed there. For some time Richard (Dick) Dawson was The Earl of Carnarvon's horse trainer. Most of his early successes were with horses owned by the Earl. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why I love genealogy

I am currently reading Elliot Perlman's The Street Sweeper. A passage early on in the book resonated with me.

"History can provide comfort in difficult or even turbulent and traumatic times. It shows us what our species has been through before and that we survived. It can help to know we've made it through more than one dark age. And history is vitally important because perhaps as much as, if not more than biology, the past owns us and however much we think we can, we cannot escape it. If you only knew how close you are to people who seem so far from would astonish you.

Also, it's a way of honouring those who came before us. We can tell their stories. Wouldn't you want someone to tell your story? Ultimately, it's the best proof there is that we mattered. And what else is life from the time you were born but a struggle to matter, at least to someone?"

There are so many stories to tell about our ancestors to show that we do honour them and that  they do matter. Some ancestor's stories have yet to be uncovered, others have much to tell. I wonder what story I will uncover next?