Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Sunday, 24 June 2018

SIMPSON family - John Pierce and Sarah Ann Simpson

Today I went to the Melbourne General Cemetery and visited my SIMPSON ancestors, John and Sarah Ann. They are my 3x great grandparents. Here I am standing at their grave.
Melbourne General Cemetery - C of E Section

As I only started research about the Simpsons last week, there are huge holes still to fill in my knowledge about who they were and what they did. But I'll tell you what I know so far.

JOHN PIERCE SIMPSON and his wife SARAH ANN WALLWORTH were both born in the late 1830's. They emigrated to Australia from Liverpool on the ship "Southern Ocean" and arrived in Melbourne on 23 August 1863, with two children in tow: Charlotte, aged 4, (my 2x great grandmother) and Mary Alicia, an infant.

In Melbourne, they had more children:
SARAH ANN Simpson born 1865.
JOHN EDMOND Simpson born 1867. Died 6 months old.
THOMAS Simpson born 1869.
VICTORIA Simpson born 1871.
CAROLINE Simpson born 1874.
AMELIASimpson born 1876. Died 9 months old.
ADA MAUD Simpson born 1878. Died 3 months old.
LOUISA Simpson born 1880. 
JOSEPH HENRY PIERCE Simpson born 1883.

Due to the various spellings of Sarah Ann's Maiden name, some of these births are yet to be confirmed as belonging to these Simpsons, so take care if you are adding them to your tree!

However we know for sure that Victoria, Ada Maude and Amelia belong as they are buried in this grave with their parents.

The photo is hard to read, so I will transcribe the words here:

"In loving memory of VICTORIA THOMAS, beloved wife of David J. Thomas, daughter of J.P. & S.A. SIMPSON who died Oct 26th 1906 aged 35 years. 'Gone but not forgotten.' 

Also AMELIA SIMPSON who died March 1st 1877 Aged 9 months.

Also ADA MAUD SIMPSON who died Sept. 5th 1878 Aged 3 months.

Also SARAH ANN, mother of above and loved wife of J.P. SIMPSON, died March 16th, 1915, Aged 76 years.

Also JOHN P. SIMPSON, beloved husband and father of the above, died 3rd May 1916, Aged 79 years.

We may also surmise that LOUISE SIMPSON is correct because there is a shield at the foot of the grave dedicated "to my dear mother and father" from Louie, 1916.

The flower symbolism carved into the headstone touched my heart.

The two Daffodils, which bloom in Spring, represent rebirth and new life, and probably represent the parents John and Sarah Ann as they are full-blown flowers.

The three smaller flowers with five heart shaped petals I believe are primroses which represent youth and so signify the three children of the couple. The two babies are represented standing up while the fuller grown primrose lying to the left represents Victoria, who lived until she was 35.

The Fern means humility and sincerity. I find the whole thing very touching and thoughtful, and I look forward to finding out more about Louisa who arranged the whole thing to be made.
Melbourne General Cemetery gate

One last thing, if you wish to use my photographs or quote me, you need my permission to do so. Contact me at the email address below.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Rescue boat Alwyn Tamo

Today I went to Hastings, Victoria and accidentally stumbled upon a piece of my family history.

I had been told that there was a rescue boat named after Alwyn Tamo, one of the people in my family tree.  But I hadn't registered the fact that Hastings was the place where the boat was usually docked. I got such a delightful surprise walking in the salty sea air. There was the Alwyn Tamo right in front of me!

The Alwyn Tamo at Hastings
Alwyn Tamo married the grandson of Ellen Tamo nee Clarke, whose death and burial records still elude our family historians. Ellen was the sister of my great great grandfather Patrick Clarke.  Ellen had a son called Joseph Tamo. Joseph's son, William Tamo married Alwyn. Her maiden name was Templeton.

I believe William Tamo and Alwyn Templeton married later in life and lived in nearby Warneet.

Look on the black windows for the name.
The $300,000 rescue boat was named after Alwyn Tamo because she monitored  the Westernport Safety Council radio for 20 years. The christening of the catamaran was reported in a local newspaper, the Mornington News in March 2011. The boat was christened with champagne in Hastings by local MPs and water police.

For all of you who want a detailed description of the boat, head to the Volunteer Marine Rescue Mornington website:

A wonderful surprise for me.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

James Salter Armstrong - my article in Ancestor magazine

I am proud to announce that the Genealogical Society of Victoria has published an an article of mine in their June 2016 quarterly journal "Ancestor". The article is called "I am known as Snowy" and relates the life story of my great great uncle, James Salter Armstrong. He was an amazing character who survived his ship being torpedoed on the way to Gallipoli, and a long sojourn at the Western Front during WW1. Although I have only conveyed a fraction of his life experiences, I hope I have done him some justice.

I would like to thank Hugh Williams, who helped me research the 21st Battalion. We found out Hugh's father and Snowy Armstrong probably stood 10 ft away from each other when they enlisted. I am in awe of Hugh's military knowledge and his passion which shows in his wonderful museum.
My thanks also go to Edie Wandin from the Kerang Historical Society, who helped me research Snowy's life in Kerang.
Thanks also to Colin Heggen, who researched Snowy as obsessively as I did, in order to publish his book "Kerang Soldiers of the Queen". Colin unselfishly shared his research with me and we solved a few mysteries for each other.
Finally, I would love to thank my family, who put up with reading endless rewrites, verbal brainstorming, and many "isn't this interesting?" moments when it probably wasn't. I love you all and thank you.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

57 Fyans Street, Chilwell - our family's heritage

After a hundred years on this planet, my mother’s childhood home is being moved to a new location. So I thought I would put down a few of my memories that were created there, at 57 Fyans Street, Chilwell, (now Newtown in Geelong). My Grampa bought the property from his brother and lived there from the 1940s until he died in 1978.

57 Fyans Street Chilwell
In the Lounge room was an old brick fireplace with a gas heater put in.  The ceilings were incredibly tall and the walls had a high picture rail, from which hung heavy etched mirrors on chains.

Grampa had painted the doors and walls of the house many times over. He was at one stage a painter by trade. However due to his dislike of removing paint, he always simply added the new layer without taking off the old.  Consequently, the lounge room door and door jambs were so thick with glossy layers of lead paint, that you could easily press a fingernail into it and leave a quarter inch deep fingernail imprint.  The doors simply could not close properly because of the paint thickness. However, you could achieve a complete vacuum seal of the room if you wished. You simply jammed the two paint layers together, and the door would stick fast. In fact, separating the door from the door jamb was a problem for me as a child, as I wasn’t strong enough to break the paint vacuum seal. It was stronger than Tupperware. Stronger than Superglue.  When you finally broke the seal, the paint made the loudest squeaky sucking noise in protest. If you were so unfortunate as to have to break the seal and go out of the Lounge room, the blast of artic air rushing down the hallway was enough to rocket you to wherever you were going. In a hurry.

Grampa also applied his "never mind the old stuff" theory to carpet.  Many layers of carpet were installed over top of each other. There were family rumours that Grampa had planted cash between the layers, and also behind the fireplace. After he died, there were searches conducted.

In the corner of the Lounge room beside the sticky door was the black and white tv set, and in front of Grampa’s chair was the pouffe ball that my Mum had bought him as a footrest.  It was made of gray vinyl with a burgundy top, on which was printed in white names of popular tv shows of the time, such as Bonanza, Gunsmoke and 77 Sunset Strip. The pouffe ball was always referred to as “the poof” and I always wondered why the grownups snickered whenever it was mentioned.

One memorable evening in the late 1960’s, with my brothers and me in our pyjamas and dressing gowns, we were sat in front of the old black and white with a small bag of Twisties each, the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. I sat on the pouffe ball. We watched Johnny Farnham singing live “Sadie the Cleaning Lady”.  We also watched John Williamson sing “Old Man Emu”.  It was cutting edge stuff and according to the host, who may have been Bert Newton, just so indicative of how Australian performers could be as good as their counterparts from overseas. This was revelatory, apparently. However, my childish self couldn’t see why we shouldn’t be as good as overseas entertainers. At that point we were still suffering from the cultural cringe. Convict hangover I suppose. Paul Hogan hadn’t come along yet to teach us that Aussies were okay just as they were. And Twisties don’t taste as good now as they did then either. Times move on.

I have lots more memories of 57 Fyans Street Chilwell.  My Mum can tell you about the ghostly hand that appeared and crossed that very same Lounge Room in front of many witnesses.  I lived in that house several times during my lifetime.  I will never think of that place without remembering my dear wonderful Grampa.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Cobram and the Man with Two Names Part Two

Me at the gates of Cobram cemetery - January 2016.

Cobram and the man with two names

While searching for the siblings of my gg grandmother Louisa Clarke, I finally lucked onto the burial of her brother JOHN in Cobram, Victoria in 1931. 

I have had some success in finding Louisa's brother Robert and his descendants who moved to Queensland from Victoria. As the eldest of five children, Robert must have been a father-figure for his younger siblings. I have found Robert mentioned as parent a few times, including on Louisa's marriage certificate.

The youngest of the five siblings, JOHN was born in Chewton, Victoria in 1875.  John's birth details list Elizabeth Armstrong as his mother. John was named after his maternal grandfather, who is the John Armstrong I wrote about in my recent blog; the black African man who came to Adelaide in the late 1840's. 

During their lifetimes, all of the siblings of this family changed their surnames to some form of either Armstrong or Salter (both being their mother Elizabeth's maiden names.  Armstrong is her birth name and Salter is her step-father's name. Elizabeth used the surname Salter primarily until the day she died.)
John's death details lists his mother as Elizabeth Salter (still correctly) and his father as Robert Armstrong (actually his brother who moved to Queensland.) John's age is listed as 54 but he would have been nearer 56. The Death Place was Cobram in 1931. The name as shown is JOHN ARMSTRONG.

Cobram Cemetery gates
JOHN's burial in 1931 at Cobram Cemetery was under two names, John Armstrong and George Saulter. Both names are listed under the same burial registration. Until we found this burial record we had no idea that John also used the name George Salter. 

Unfortunately there is no record of exactly where JOHN aka George is buried within the Cobram Cemetery. The plot is unknown, the section is unknown and there is no headstone.

This is all the information I have for John.  He was born in Chewton and died and was buried in Cobram.  What happened in between? 

Somewhere around here, John Armstrong aka George Salter is buried.

Cobram Cemetery.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Thursday, 7 January 2016

John Armstrong - It don't matter

When I say the name "JOHN ARMSTRONG" to you, what kind of image of the man does it conjure up? For me the name Armstrong is Scottish.  Now add in that he was born in 1800, and died in 1850 in Adelaide, South Australia.  You could surmise that he was a traveller, an adventurer, perhaps drawn to the gold rush in that area when the state was very young. His occupation was a stoker, perhaps on the very ship in which he travelled to Australia. We know that many crew members jumped ship at locations where gold was found. What is your picture of John Armstrong so far?

SLSA: B 1134
Adelaide ca. 1850.  Drawing by Samuel Calvert. State Library of South Australia.

Now add to your picture that he married a young Scottish widow with an infant daughter in 1842. How do you picture him now? Finally, add in your picture that he was buried in Adelaide by the government in 1850.  We could surmise that he didn't "strike it rich" if his wife couldn't afford his burial. Now add in that he was a black African man. Wait, what?

Pre-conceptions. Mine. Armstrong = Scottish = white. I had lived with my preconceptions of a Scottish John Armstrong for a long time. As you research a person in your family tree, you can live with your own preconceived ideas for years sometimes. I got the shock of my life when I was proved so unutterably wrong.  John Armstrong was a black African man, and our family had inherited his black skin.

Previous generations of our family had very dark skin, so we have always known that there was black ancestry somewhere back in the mists of time.  We knew, for example, that John Armstrong's daughter Elizabeth had married an African man, (the elusive Sims Cummis that I have written about so many times on this blog). We have a photograph of one of Elizabeth and Sim’s children, who I discovered had the nickname “Snowy” because of his beautiful chocolatey dark skin.  Their daughter was nicknamed "Blossom" for the same reason (she was my great great grandmother). We had all presumed our family’s dark skin came from their father, Sims.  But we have no absolute proof that Sims was dark-skinned. All we know about Sims for sure is that he too was born in Africa. That fact by itself doesn’t prove that our family’s dark skin was inherited from him.

Fast forward now until I discovered a John Armstrong mentioned in an Adelaide newspaper dated 1841, describing John and his mate as "two African blacks".  I was astonished. Could this be my John Armstrong? The chances of him being my John Armstrong were good, as the population of South Australia was exploding but still only about 10,000 at the time.  John Armstrong is a common name though, and there was one other John Armstrong in Adelaide at the time.  I discovered him again in another newspaper article, this time, described as "a man of colour". Further investigation proved that yes, this particular John Armstrong was indeed my 4x great grandfather. I had made a massive, incorrect, culturally stereotyped assumption about the name Armstrong.

Although I hate the racist description in the newspaper, I am in some ways grateful for it.  It is a reflection of its own time. Without that description “two African blacks” I never would have gotten the whole clear picture of John Armstrong.  Without it, I would never have understood the full implication of the harsh realities that John Armstrong encountered over his lifetime. And the newspaper descriptions are proof enough that our family’s dark skin was inherited from Snowy’s maternal grandfather, the black African John Armstrong. (Whether his father Sims had dark skin too is yet to be verified, although it does seem likely.)

But this whole incident taught me the hardest lesson any genealogist can learn.

Keep clear what are facts in your research and only work from there.  Never make the arrogant mistake of assumption. Be on the lookout for your cultural stereotypes that are so insidious, you don’t even know that they exist. Our ancestors were individuals, and they made unique choices, so every research option must be explored in order to honour their individuality. 

Next week, John Armstrong makes his choices in Adelaide in 1840.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

PS. Recent DNA evidence shows that our African roots stem from Mali, Benin/Togo, and Senegal.

 Image from State Library of South Australia: B1134

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Poor Mr. Minton and the Drunken Mayor of Melbourne in 1865

Thomas Minton minding his own business runs into the drunken Mayor of Melbourne, Mr. Wragge in 1865.

The Mayor of Melbourne has got himself into a mess with Thomas Minton.

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately.  I have been researching the Minton family for some good friends of ours. Amongst my travels, I discovered this little gem in Trove.  I don't know if this newspaper article belongs to any members of the particular branch I am researching, but I hope so! This is just too good to pass up.

22 July 1865. 

VICTORIA. The Mayor of Melbourne has got himself into a mess. 

The Herald says:-" Shortly before the rising of the City Court on the 12th instant Mr. Thomas Sarsfield Minton, nephew of Captain Minton, an old colonist, applied to the Bench to know if a charge of vagrancy, which had been preferred against him by Mr. Wragge, Mayor of Melbourne, on the previous night, was going to be heard. Mr. Sturt replied that there was no case of that description on the charge sheet against him. Mr. Minton then asked to be allowed to state under what circumstances the charge had taken place, as he had suffered a most uncalled for indignity. The Bench, however, refused to hear him, and so far the matter dropped. 

The officers of the police, however, inquired from their subordinates, and from their statement and Mr. Minton's, it appears that he (Mr. Minton), about 20 minutes past 11 o'clock, on Tuesday night, while walking towards the Melbourne terminus, saw a man being pitched forcibly from a door of a house into the street, but he did not take any notice of the affair until the "eliminated" individual came up, and exclaimed, "Ho! Policeman," at the same time clapping him on the back. Mr. Minton replied that he was not a policeman, whereupon he was asked who he was. He declined to answer, and his questioner then said, "I am Mayor of Melbourne, and I have a right to know what every vagabond does who roams about at this hour of the night," or words to that effect. Mr. Minton replied the he did not believe him, but he was quickly undeceived by being given into the custody of Sergeant Robinson on a charge of vagrancy, and was taken to the watch-house.

On arriving at the lock-up the clerk, as usual, asked what was the charge. Robinson looked bewildered, but said he had no charge against Mr. Minton ; but the high civic functionary who had given Mr. Minton into custody would not be satisfied, and charged that gentleman with vagrancy. The watch-house clerk declined to take the charge, and stated his reasons for doing so, for the information of his officers, in the most lucid manner, in a book kept for such purposes. The reasons were, we need scarcely say, the reverse of creditable to the Mayor.

We are informed that proceedings at law have been commenced to recover damages for false imprisonment. The Age of 14th inst states: -We learn that an action has been commenced against Mr Wragge, the Mayor of Melbourne, by a Mr T. S. Minton, for false imprisonment. Damages are laid at £2000. It seems that, on Tuesday night, Mr Wragge having been elected a life member of the Victorian Poultry Society, the convivialities upon the occasion were prolonged to a rather late hour, and that upon returning home, his Worship, laboring under some extraordinary misapprehension, gave Mr. Minton into custody as a rogue and a vagabond. The watchhouse clerk, perceiving that Mr. Wragge was strangely at fault, refused to enter the charge, and nothing further was done until the following morning, when Mr. Minton put in an appearance at the police court, but was told there was nothing against him. He then gave his solicitor instructions to proceed in the manner we have indicated.

Who knew that the Victorian Poultry Society could be so rambunctious?

Historically and hysterically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

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APA citation
VICTORIA. (1865, July 22). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899), p. 7 Edition: MORNING.. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Stephen Tamo's brother, Pietro TAMO

Pietro Tamo and Alice Kendall in Daylesford, Victoria in the 1870's.

I've written a little about Stephen Tamo and his wife Ellen Tamo nee Clarke.  Ellen is the sister of my great great grandfather Patrick Clarke (1866-1902).

The reason we are so interested in Ellen Clarke is that we have no death records or burial records. She just disappears sometime between 1892 and 1895 as far as all the researchers in our family are concerned.  (Serendipitously, Patrick's wife, Louisa Salter, also has a sister called Ellen who also disappears. I spend a lot of time searching for Ellens and Nellies and Nells and Helens.)

In an effort to discover Ellen's burial under her married name Tamo, I started investigating Trove, the digitised newspaper section of the National Library of Australia.  What came up was a wealth of newspaper articles under the name Tamo, but for Stephen's brother's family.

Stephen and Pietro Tamo were born in Switzerland in the late 1830's.  After emigrating, Stephen settled in Geelong and Pietro settled in Daylesford, Victoria, and I gather (but I could be wrong) that Pietro was fairly affluent and had something to do with the mines there in 1869.  More of that to be researched.  He also married in 1869, to Alice Kendall, an Englishwoman.

They had 7 children together.  I could list all their children, but it is easier if you just read the death notice I found for Alice that summarises the children and their lives. It appeared in The Argus on 18 July, 1927 in the Family Notices section as below:

Although Alice lived to a ripe old age, unfortunately her husband Pietro did not.  He died in Daylesford in 1880, 47 years before her, at the age of 43. Although I can't find anything (so far) in the newspaper to mark Pietro's passing, I did find a photo of a memorial to him erected recently by his great grandsons. What a lovely tribute to him. We could all wish for as much.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

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Tuesday, 10 November 2015


About two weeks ago I wrote about some Clarke descendants. 

This is part of the article I wrote:  "Just to make sure it is REALLY hard to figure out my family tree, I've discovered that some cousins married the same bloke.

My great great grandfather Patrick Clarke (who married Louisa Salter) had three brothers and three sisters. One of his sister's names was Johanna Clarke, who married Edward William Kellaway.  One of their children was SARAH ELLEN KELLAWAY, called Nellie.

Another of Patrick's sisters was Ellen Clarke who married Stephen Tamo.  One of their daughters was ALICE OLIVE TAMO.

So Nellie Kellaway and Alice Tamo are first cousins........."

Then I added: "I discovered Nellie's burial in 1915 in the Williamstown Cemetery and Fred's burial there 42 years later in 1957."

Today I went to Williamstown Cemetery and found their grave.

Fred and Nellie reunited in death 42 years later.

Fred was buried with his first wife Sarah Ellen (known as Nellie), 42 years after she died.  His second wife Alice must have watched him being buried in 1957 with double feelings of grief as she also remembered the death of her cousin Nellie.

Four years later in 1961, Alice dies. She is cremated and her plaque is on the memorial wall at Altona Cemetery.

Friday, 30 October 2015

James Ward Clarke b. 1884 d. 1884

James Ward Clark b. 1884 d. 1884

I was poking through the Geelong Eastern Cemetery records recently looking for burial records of the Tamo clan. I found a grave with four people in it.  One person was Stephen Tamo's first wife Agnes, buried with their baby daughter Agnes Smail Tamo. Elizabeth, Stephen Tamo and Ellen Clarke's infant daughter makes three. And also buried in this grave was a James Ward Clarke.

Never having heard of James Ward Clarke before, I set about researching.  He was buried on 13 June 1884, at the Geelong Eastern Cemetery. I found his birth details in the index.  Year: 1884, the same year he died.  So James Ward Clarke was an infant.  Mother's name: Johanna Clarke.

Johanna Clarke is Ellen Clarke's sister.

Father's name: unknown

So Johanna refused to name the baby's daddy but with such a specific name as James Ward Clarke I figured there was a strong likelihood that the daddy's name was James Ward.  Was there a James Ward in Geelong at that time?

There certainly was.

Now I must preface all this research about James Ward with the disclaimer that the only basis I have for searching him is the baby's name.  There's no real proof.  But here is what I have found out:

James Ward was born in Geelong in 1863 (Johanna was born in 1864.)  His father was Michael Ward and his mother was Ann Holt. This made James 21 years old and Johanna 20 years old when baby James Ward Clarke was born and died in 1884.

My search turned to Trove and the Geelong Advertiser, in 1884, the year the baby died.  I didn't find the baby's death notice.  What I found was that James' father Michael Ward had died in December of that year.  What a tragic year that would have been for James!  His son James Ward Clarke died in June 1884, and his father Michael Ward died six months later in December 1884.

Next I searched the death index for James Ward, and was surprised to find that he died  on 1 October 1887, just three years later.  He was only 25 years old.  I wondered why such a young man died, and in what circumstances. I went back to Trove and found James Ward's death notice in the Geelong Advertiser.

I also wondered what Johanna had been doing at that time.  I found out...Johanna had married Edward William Kellaway on 11 June 1887.  So James Ward had died only three months after her marriage to somebody else.

I go back to the Geelong Eastern Cemetery once more and find the burial of James and his father Michael and his mother Ann all in the same Roman Catholic grave.  Ann had died only two years after her son.

Next step - go to PROV and see if there was an inquest into James Ward's death.  Any other suggestions or comments from readers gratefully received.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus.

Thanks to Tania Shalders for providing the Kellaway marriage date information.
Citation for James Ward death notice:
Citation for Michael Ward death notice:

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Clarke Descendants

Just to make sure it is REALLY hard to figure out my family tree, I've discovered that some cousins married the same bloke.

My great great grandfather Patrick Clarke (who married Louisa Salter) had three brothers and three sisters. One of his sister's names was Johanna Clarke, who married Edward William Kellaway.  One of their children was SARAH ELLEN KELLAWAY, called Nellie.

Another of Patrick's sisters was Ellen Clarke who married Stephen Tamo.  One of their daughters was ALICE OLIVE TAMO.

So Nellie Kellaway and Alice Tamo are first cousins. My great grandmother (Gran) is another first cousin of theirs.

 I found the marriage of Nellie Kellaway to a FREDERICK GEORGE ANDREWS in 1909. Electoral Rolls describe Fred's occupation as being a Railway employee. Unfortunately in 1915 at the age of 27, Nellie died, leaving behind Fred and four small children. Fred describes her death as being "a patient sufferer at rest", and thanks are given to the doctor in the Williamstown Advertiser.

A year later in 1916, an "IN MEMORIUM" piece is put in the paper by her husband Fred, mother Johanna, brother, sister and cousins, one of them being ALICE TAMO.

I discovered Nellie's burial in 1915 in the Williamstown Cemetery and Fred's burial there 42 years later in 1957.

Later on in my search I found the marriage of Alice Tamo to FREDERICK GEORGE ANDREWS in 1917.   I must admit it took me a while to twig that Alice had married her cousin's widower, and I guess she must have taken on the raising of her four small cousins once removed too.  A look at the Electoral Rolls at this time seems to confirm it - this Fred Andrews is also a Railway employee.

Alice dies in 1961, and is cremated and buried in Altona.
I don't know if Fred and Alice had children as the historical birth index stops at 1914.  But I do hope they were happy, raising Nellie's children and spending the next 40 years together.

Historically yours
Valerius Copernicus

Memorial article:
Death Notices:

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Ellen Tamo nee Clarke

Firstly, let me thank all those people who have expressed their love and concern for me whilst I have been so sick with pneumonia for the last two weeks. While I've been stuck in bed, I've tried to do a little more investigating.  So here's what I found out....

My great great aunt Ellen Clarke married Stephen TAMO in 1876 and lived in Malop Street, Geelong.

A court case was reported in the Geelong Advertiser in October 1885.  The article was called "Life in Malop Street East."

Three women who also resided in Malop St. east were the defendants.  One of them was called Mrs. Jessie McDonald who was charged with being the "occupier of a house frequented by idle and disorderly persons, having no lawful visible means of support."  In 1885 terms, running a brothel.

A couple of local constables had been given the duty of observing the house, and gave evidence. Constable Croucher deposed that he had seen quite a few men get admitted to the house, and named many of the men's names.  He had visited the house sometimes in the company of Constable Overend, and even had a glass of beer there. Mr. Toohey the prosecutor mentions that " it is usual for constables when going into these kind of houses to be asked to shout."  Mr. Dwyer responds incredulously "At two shillings a bottle?"  Constable Croucher says "The woman asked me to shout beer."  Constable Croucher also mentions in his evidence that he knows the neighbours around the house (including my TAMO relatives) and a Mrs. Miller, who seems to be the main complainant.

There seems to be a lot of different accusations flying around, including that the constabulary got drunk and did some name calling.  All the men who were named were incredibly surprised to find out that the house was, in fact, a brothel.  Not one of them had gone for an improper purpose.  Some had just gone to find others and happened to be there.

One of the men named was interesting to me.  His name was Henry Martini, and one of the girls goes into the bedroom with him and calls out, referring to him as Jack. A Jack Martini was well known to our family, but I don't know if this man is the same Jack Martini. Anyway, Martini deposed that the police were lying and he didn't know that the defendant's house was a bad place.

Mr. Pardey J.P. states that he "cannot see any reason why such a large number of respectable young men should have been brought here and accused of being idle and disorderly persons.  They have been ruthlessly and unmercifully brought to the court to try and prove a case for the police."

The bench decides that the case has not been proven that the people who frequented the house were not idle and disorderly. The court then turns its attention to Mrs. McDonald.

Constable Croucher swears that he had a conversation with Jessie McDonald, telling him that she was making a good living with the other two girls.

Mrs. Miller, the main complainant, was blind and lived with her daughter near the McDonald house, and had often been woken by drunken men banging on her door asking for Jessie.  Mrs. Miller said: "Mrs. Tamo lives near me; she is a respectable person."

Stephen Tamo deposed: "that he resided close to the defendant's house for eleven years.  He had no reason to complain of the conduct of Mrs. McDonald.  He had a family, among whom were daughters.  To Mr. Toohey - He had seen a man and woman sitting in the house when he went there to complain of some fowls having been poisoned.  He had never heard any rows in the defendant's house.  He did not know if the house was a brothel.  The defendant, he believed, was the wife of Jimmy Whitely.  He knew Whitely for six or seven years.  He had frequently seen him in Geelong.  He had signed a petition stating that he did not consider the defendant's house a nuisance."

James Whitely then deposed that he was a butcher and married to Jessie, supported his wife and had a house for her.  There seems to be more to the story though. "To Mr. Toohey - I have been working at Allen's for five weeks.  I reside at Tamo's.  I was married to the defendant by Mr. Couves this morning.  In the presence of Mr. Tamo and the girl Giles [one of the other defendants]. I slept at the defendant's house last night.  I do not know what is being done in the house, but I have been supporting the defendant."

Confusingly, the court rules that despite it's previous decision that no disorderly conduct was proven and the people were not idle and disorderly, Mrs. Jessie McDonald is guilty of being the occupier of such a house.

The court is immediately notified that the case would be appealed.

This isn't the end of the story however, Less than two weeks later, Ellen Tamo would take proceedings against Jessie McDonald for using insulting words in a public place.  More on that in the next article.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Trove Citations
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST. (1885, October 13). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926), p. 4. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from
MLA citation
"LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST." Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926) 13 Oct 1885: 4. Web. 24 Oct 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1885 'LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926), 13 October, p. 4, viewed 24 October, 2015,
Wikipedia citation

{{cite news |url= |title=LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST. |newspaper=[[Geelong Advertiser |Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926)]] |location=Vic. |date=13 October 1885 |accessdate=24 October 2015 |page=4 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

Friday, 9 October 2015

What's in a name?

If you haven't already gathered by now, my genealogical passion centres around the puzzle of one particular branch of my mother's family tree.

My great great great grandmother was born Elizabeth Armstrong in Adelaide, South Australia in 1842.  When Elizabeth was about 8, her father John Armstrong (a black African man) died. A year later, her mother Janet (a Scotswoman) married James Salter (an Englishman) and so Elizabeth's new surname was SALTER.

The new blended family moved to Chewton, Victoria shortly after the wedding, in early response to the goldrush in the Forest Creek area.

Elizabeth Salter grew up and married a miner, named Sims CUMIS.  Sims' birthplace is listed as the Cape of Good Hope, Sth. Africa, so he is also potentially dark skinned.  The couple married in 1864 in Chewton and over a period of ten years had five children; Robert, Louisa, Ellen, James and John.

All five children were given the surname of their father, (spelled either COMES or CUMMIS as per their birth certificates). The last child was born in 1875 with that name. But as the children grew, they rejected the CUMIS name and adopted different surnames, either Armstrong or Salter, their mother's maiden surnames. And despite their marriage and five children, Elizabeth was primarily known as Salter, not her married name of Cumis until the day she died.

In fact, at her death inquest in 1896 it is noted by witness Henry Matthews that:

                      I have seen the body now lying dead and identify it as that of Elizabeth Cummis otherwise known as Elizabeth Salter.  I have known her between 5 and 6 years.

Chewton policeman Constable Luke swears:

                    That at 2.21 pm today Elizibeth Comas, otherwise known as Elizibeth Salter, aged 50 years died in her hut at Chewton.

Her death is also reported in the local newspaper, the Mount Alexander Mail:

                     An old identity of Chewton, named Elizabeth Cumas, but better known as Elizabeth Salter, died suddenly at her hut on Sunday afternoon at 2.30 o'clock.

I have written previously about Elizabeth's different surnames in the article "Elizabeth gives me a headache."

Their children all reject the CUMIS name they were born with too.

Robert Armstrong Comes dismissed the Comes and became Robert Armstrong.  He married in Chewton, moved to Charlton in Victoria, and eventually moved his family to Queensland.

Louisa used the name Louisa Salter when she married in Geelong and one of her descendants is me. Her nickname was Blossom because of her dark skin.  Her married name was Louisa Clarke.

Ellen -we are still investigating and have no definite clues as to her  (see my previous blog on this search.) At this stage we theorise that she married and changed her name. Louisa's daughter was called Ellen.

James became James Salter Armstrong, moved to Kerang and served at Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War 1.  His nickname was "Snowy" in that ironical Australian way because of his dark skin. One of Robert's sons, named James after his uncle, sadly died at the Western Front.

John used the name Armstrong but his burial details in Cobram state: also known as George Saulter. Trying to find more details in Cobram.

 No-one knows what happened to Sims after the birth of his last child in 1875. We do know he also used the name William instead of Sims. We have no death certificate for him. Nothing. The puzzle is this: WHY did the wife and children of Sims Cummis reject his name?

Historically Yours,
Valerius Copernicus
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
ITEMS OF NEWS. (1896, June 2). Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), p. 2. Retrieved October 10, 2015, from
MLA citation
"ITEMS OF NEWS." Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917) 2 Jun 1896: 2. Web. 10 Oct 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1896 'ITEMS OF NEWS.', Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), 2 June, p. 2, viewed 10 October, 2015,
Wikipedia citation
{{cite news |url= |title=ITEMS OF NEWS. |newspaper=[[Mount Alexander Mail |Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917)]] |location=Vic. |date=2 June 1896 |accessdate=10 October 2015 |page=2 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Harriet Cadwallader nee Sloane 1839 - 1920

Welcome to Robert Armstrong's descendants!  

You are descendants of Elizabeth Salter's son Robert, and I am a descendant of Elizabeth Salter's daughter Louisa.

Today I thought I would write an overview of Elizabeth Salter's older half sister, Harriet. Harriet and Elizabeth shared the same mother JANET.

Harriet SLOANE was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1839, the same year her parents and (probably) her older brother John came to Australia from Scotland.  I have written about the ship, the Katherine Stewart Forbes which the family travelled out in.  It is possible that Janet was pregnant with Harriet on the voyage.  Harriet's father died and then her mother Janet married John ARMSTRONG, giving birth to Elizabeth in Adelaide in 1842.

In late 1851/early 1852, Janet moved her family to Chewton near Castlemaine in Victoria in response to the gold rush in the Forest Creek/Mount Alexander area.

In Chewton, Harriet married William CADWALLADER, the local Blacksmith in 1857.  William Cadwallader bought land in the first land sale in Chewton in April 1860. The Cadwalladers went on to have six children who were all born in Chewton.  Their names were Sarah, Janet, William Sloane, Emily, Harriet and William Robert Cadwallader.   Sadly, William Sloane Cadwallader died at the age of 11 months, and was buried in Chewton Cemetery on 13 January 1865. His Death Notice appeared in the Mount Alexander Mail:

 As the Cadwallader family grew more prosperous, William also bought land in Talbot/Amherst about 70km west of Chewton.  He eventually died and was buried there in 1885.

Harriet and Elizabeth's mother Janet died in 1887 and was buried with her 11 month old grandson in Chewton.  A decade later, Elizabeth would also be buried in this grave.

Harriet moved to Bendigo, and lived until she was 81 years old.  She died in 1920 and was buried in Bendigo Cemetery.

 Thanks to Trove for allowing the reproduction of the article on William Sloane Cadwallader's death, cited as below:
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
Family Notices. (1865, January 16). Mount Alexander Mail(Vic. : 1854 - 1917), p. 2. Retrieved October 4, 2015, from
MLA citation
"Family Notices." Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917) 16 Jan 1865: 2. Web. 4 Oct 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1865 'Family Notices.', Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), 16 January, p. 2, viewed 4 October, 2015,
Wikipedia citation
{{cite news |url= |title=Family Notices. |newspaper=[[Mount Alexander Mail |Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917)]] |location=Vic. |date=16 January 1865 |accessdate=4 October 2015 |page=2 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Crying at a computer keyboard

This afternoon I spent some minutes sitting at a computer keyboard and crying. The other members of the Genealogical Society of Victoria around me were not intrusive.  They had perhaps seen this kind of reaction before from other people who research their family history. How anyone can think the subject is dry and dull is beyond me.

My research on my family member James Salter Armstrong has led me in recent days to his brother Robert, who is also my great great uncle.  Robert Armstrong named his son after his brother and so James Ernest Armstrong was born in 1894.

This unfortunately made James Ernest Armstrong the perfect age to enlist in the First World War.

James enlisted in Queensland at the age of 21 years and 9 months, and was allocated to the 42nd battalion.
The Colour patch of the 42nd Battalion,
primarily men who enlisted in Queensland.

Looking at his military papers is just so personal.  You get a physical description of the person (5ft. 10 in., medium complexion, brown eyes, black hair)  and you see their signature committing themselves to their fate with the AIF. You see their nominated next of kin's name and know how hard they must have hoped that they would never need to be contacted. In James' case, he nominated his father Robert.

My inexpert reading of his military papers shows that James spent time in England training.  He caught the flu in October and got sick with Mumps in December 1916, spending two weeks in hospital on that occasion.  He eventually got to France on 23 February 1917, and was killed three days later. 

I suddenly realise that his Uncle James was in the same part of France at exactly the same time. The elder James had reduced his actual age of 43 to be admitted to the AIF
and had by this stage already survived his ship being torpedoed and Gallipoli. Eventually, he would be gassed at Ypres and repatriated to Australia.  How would he have felt when he was told his nephew and namesake had been killed?

The volunteer researchers at the GSV advise me to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and I found the younger James, buried not in Belgium as I had been told but in France near Armentiers.

James Ernest Armstrong was killed in action on 26 February 1917. He is buried at Cite Bon-Jean Military Cemetery : Armentiers. His death reported by Rev. A. J. Davidson.

On the website, amongst the photographs of the cemetery are papers about grave locations and matters of bureaucracy for the cemetery.  Dry stuff, until I see the page that shows the wording on his grave stone as chosen by his father Robert.

"But a boy who died for his country"

This is when I wept.

monument australia website:

42nd Battalion Roll of Honour is located at:
Ann Street, ANZAC Square, Shrine of Remembrance Crypt, Brisbane, 4000

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Find My Past is free until 9pm tonight (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia time)

If you enjoy family history research, then now is a good time to jump onto Find My Past.  They are holding a free weekend so you can sample what they offer. Find My Past is somewhat like Ancestry that most Australians know. 

I logged on to Find My Past yesterday to look for the wedding certificate of Janet Row and Robert Sloan from the 1820's in Scotland. And a deluge happened. That marriage certificate led back via the Find My Past hints for another four generations over three family tree branches. I suddenly had ancestors in the late 1600s!

The Find My Past hint function is fabulous for finding information quickly.  Don't make the mistake though, of thinking that's all you need to do, end of story,  No. Due diligence is required to follow through with proof that the information you obtained so easily is absolutely correct.  

So here's what I found on Find My Past, especially for Bob and Sandra. Boring to everyone else so fee free to skip over. 

These are Janet Row's parents.

Robert Row b. 1762 married 
Margaret Wands b. 1763 
on 5 Sep 1790.

It looks like this Robert Row might have married his own cousin.  Robert Row's parents were:
 Robert Row b. 1730
and Elizabeth Wands b. 1721  They married 11 Nov 1752.

Margaret Wands' parents were:
William Wands and Euphan Berrie. No hints there.

OK so now back to Janet's grandfather Robert Row born in 1730.
His mother was Janet Carrick.
His father is listed both as Andrew Rue and Robert Row.

Janet Carrick's father was John Carrick.

OK now back to Elizabeth Wands b. 1721.
Her father was Archibald Wands b. 1683.
Her mother was Anne Fergusson.  They married 10 Feb 1705.
Archibald Wands' father was John Wand (no 'S')

Anne Fergusson's parents were Donald Fergusson and Bettie Haward.

It all seems pretty right from the hints I chose but as I said, it needs to be proven meticulously. Bob and Sandra, I know you probably already have most if not all of that information. How does that sit with your research, does it agree? Let me know. 

For our branch of the Armstrong clan in Queensland via Robert, these are also your ancestors.  Now you can see where Robert's name came from. His grandmother Janet's father, grandfather, great grandfather and husband all had the name Robert.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus.

Valerius Copernicus is now on Geneabloggers!

My little blog Valerius Copernicus is gathering momentum and has been featured on the Geneabloggers website as a new Genealogy blog.   Here is the hyperlink below:

Cool, hey?

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Thursday, 17 September 2015

I'm telling the truth from a certain point of view

Why do people lie on marriage certificates?

Patrick and Louisa were my great great grandparents.  When they got married in the Geelong Registry Office in 1886, the details supplied to the Registrar were almost a complete work of fiction on the Bride's part.

First, Louisa's surname SALTER is not the name she was born with, but a name she used instead of her birth surname.  None of the family ever used their father's surname. Why this happened at all is my reason for doing genealogy...I just don't know.

Next, her age.  She declares she is 21 but by my calculations she is only 18. Louisa's whole family always puts their age up by a couple of years- why? This happens consistently with this family, it is a consistent thing that they all play fast and loose with their birth years. Do they all know they are out by two years?

 Her husband Patrick was only 20 years old (which is true) and needed written consent of "the Guardian of the Bridegroom." Unfortunately it doesn't say who that was. It may have been his elder sister Ellen and her husband who witnessed the union.

(Louisa is three months' pregnant with their daughter, whom they will call Ellen.  Both Patrick and Louisa each have a sister named Ellen and a brother named John.)

Then Louisa states her parents' names.  Her mother is put as Elizabeth Salter which is kind of true. But Louisa's father's name is a complete fabrication.  She submits the name Robert Salter.  Robert was her eldest brother's name, and he didn't use the name Salter.

What are they trying to avoid?
What was so shameful about their father that they reject him wholesale?
I will find out if it kills me.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Saturday, 12 September 2015

David Hicks: Menlough Castle

Menlough Castle is my husband Jon's ancestral home.  Jon's cousin is the current Lord Blake and Jon is next in line for the title. The lineage can be seen in Burke's Peerage or Debrett's under Blake of Menlough.

Click the link below to read David Hicks fascinating retell of  the history of Menlough Castle.  One day I will take our children there.


David Hicks: Menlough Castle: Menlough Castle  Co. Galway   Picture from the National Library of Ireland (Above) The ancient ancestral home of the Blake Fami...