Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

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...

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The tabloid press, 1871 style

 Francis B. Davidson's Sydney Morning Herald, dated Friday July 28, 1871.

The Sydney Morning Herald in 1871. 

I've been lucky enough to get my hands on two newspapers that were printed in 1871.  They are dated July 28 and 29, and these yellowed and slightly musty papers are treasures to me. I thought I'd tell you some of the wonderful olde worlde things that are printed in it.

For Friday, July 28, 1871, Francis B. Davidson has scrawled his name across the Sydney Morning Herald mast head in bold India ink.   Looks like Frank was sick of someone taking his newspaper and has laid claim to it.  It was his twopence that paid for it, after all.

The front page contains nearly a whole column devoted to "THE AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT", claiming it is the only ointment made in the colony that is worth being patented.  Miracles of medicinal healing occur upon the use of this stuff, healing "old wounds, chafings, sunburns, cracked lips and hands, sore heads, broken chilblains, soft corns, excoriations &c."

SORE EYES are cured instantaneously.
STIFFNESS OF JOINTS is got rid of by one application.
BUNIONS are soon removed.
INTERNAL PILES - only try it.

Bunions and piles are soon gone with this wonder ointment.
Horse breeders and dairy producers are exhorted to use it on their animals.  "In fact, no householder, squatter, mechanic, large establishment of any description should be without this AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT. as its virtues are so useful and varied that it requires a trial to be BELIEVED."

We have some idea of what this amazing cure-all looks like too.  "THE AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT IS OF A PURE GREEN COLOUR" - the natural extract of the "wild plants indigenous to the colony" and it is "guaranteed from all poisonous qualities." Lucky it's free of all poisonous qualities.

The ointment is not genuine unless its label is stamped with a star in blue ink. "This ointment is not a mere catchpenny to gull the public" either. 

Eight testimonials follow; letters from satisfied customers, including one from John Williams, from the Metropolitan Hotel, cnr. King and Castlereagh Streets, Sydney (now part of the Sydney CBD - look it up - some of the buildings are still there.) You can read it below.

The Metropolitan Hotel testimonial- I wonder if it cures hangovers?

After nearly a full page length column devoted to the wondrous AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT, there is a small space left at the bottom of the page, in which the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald has, in his wisdom, chosen to fill with
advertisements for "HENRY'S COLONIAL OINTMENT" and "STEEDMAN'S SOOTHING POWDERS".  I kid you not.
The editor of the Sydney Morning Herald
should be fired for this one.
Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus