Letter A challenge

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I used to spend hours in the local archives in Tasmania before they started digitizing the records. I was part of RAOGK (Random Acts Of Genealogical Kindness) and would research convicts for anyone who asked me through my email or rootsweb mailing lists.

Much of the research for my great great grandfather Captain William Smith needs to be done at the Tasmanian archives – looking at lots of Marine Board records. While visiting Samoa a few years ago, I went to their archives to look for birth records of William Smith who is half Samoan. I was very concerned to see the original record books were just kept in storage in a room, not temperature regulated and that I didn’t need to use gloves when touching the original documents. Some of them were crumbling under my hand when I tried to turn the pages that were stuck together by heat and dampness.

When researching my great great grandmother Rebecca Jackson while I was travelling in Ireland, I visited the Donegal county archives in Lifford to have a look at local court records. I found lots of interesting information there about the offences that caused Rebecca to be sent to Van Diemen’s Land as a convict in 1847. Here is a link to all archives in Ireland.

Readers: Please leave a comment about something beginning with A that relates to your family history or your research.

letter A

49 thoughts on “Letter A challenge

    • In amongst all of that I discount the impact of criminals, those who changed their names to avoid consequences, runaways and other colourful characters.

      • Charles, an interesting observation for me was that many years ago I was trying to learn French before an O/S trip. My teacher told me that I speak French with a German accent. While in France, I was asked if I was German. Then about 3 years ago I learned that one side of my mum’s family were German, Something we’d never been told. It really has me wondering about genetics.

        • Margaret,

          I’ve just found the family whose surname my grand father may have used as the source of his new surname. In that family I have found to date 4 other Charles Wheelers. Amazing !

      • Charles, do you have your grandfather’s original surname before he changed it to Wheeler?? I have a friend whose Grandfather changed his surname to that of a business family in the town where he lived; supposedly because he was ashamed that his sister had marred the family name by having a child out of wedlock

        • Margaret he was a Scammell. I was approached by a Scammell researcher about 5 years ago. I then tracked down a note in the SMH published in 1925 by my grand mother’s solicitor warning that legal proceedings for divorce would proceed if ……………….. did not appear. There both names were published. The original Scammell name and the adjusted Wheeler name. It was known by no one else in the family. It was all hush hush as many family things are.

      • What a find that was Charles!!
        So you are really a Scammell. Unusual name. Does that make it easier to research?

        • The family aren’t keen on being Scammells. It has a dodgey ring to it. Actually the story behind “Wheeler” is more catchy, takes longer to outline and is less supportable with evidence.

          As for the Scammell story I got a lot from the Scammell folk and I’ve investigated a bit.

      • Well the good thing about genealogy is that you can research all the facts, then put them back in their little box for safe keeping, and keep the name you grew up with. 🙂

        • I can and will. Now that I think I know the “Wheeler” hypothesis I’ve tracked down 4 more Charles Wheelers that have links to the Scammells and Bells who were my gg grandmother’s family. Interesting.

  1. Atkin
    The surname of one of my great grandfathers, handed down through the family as my father’s and brother’s middle name. The ancestors were passionate there be no ‘s’ on the end. Wonder why.

  2. My husband is a descendant of the AVERY family – A VERY interesting family. The original AVERY settler arrived as a convict with Lieutenant Governor David Collins in 1804. After serving his sentence he was given a land grant but in the 1820s was found guilty of sheep stealing and sent to Macquarie Harbour. One of his sons, William, and grandson, George, worked for Samuel Page driving mail and passenger coaches from Launceston to Hobart. George Avery drove the carriage containing the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited Tasmania in 1867.

  3. I have been sorting through every family name group to ensure my lists are accurate and then I’m taking a new gedcom across to a new home dB. I was deep into my wife’s ANDERSON line when I stumbled upon the name Rowe from Cornwall. The Rowe line is one of my major family lines. As a result of this, a new convict arose, who came on the Scarborough in 1788. The Anderson’s with their dodgy folk, multiple marriages and mental health issues threw up another interesting puzzle as I now pursue whether a link in the 18th century unites mine and my wife’s family a lot earlier than we did.

  4. I should have had “A” leap out at me. The post above this came easily. In 1974 I began college and met a fellow who became a good mate whose surname was “Arnold”. My maternal grand mother’s surname was Arnold. It all began, and continues. Just one question after another.

  5. Aware
    On starting to become interested in my ancestors, I have learnt so much about their lives. So many stories that I would never have been aware of, if I hadn’t started that initial search

  6. Aquaintances!
    It’s lovely to see here names familiar to me from Introduction to Family History. My new ‘extended family’, our common link being genealogy.

  7. Analysis – ANALYSE all your data before ACCEPTING it as fact otherwise you may have spent too many hours on ASSUMING what you found is true. Ancestry.com contributors don’t always use sources so you can verify their information. After doing the course at the beginning of the year this has become my mantra.
    Cheers, Marilyn.


    How very important is to be accurate when researching genealogy. We have all seen the posts on ancestry.com where the child has been born a hundred years after the mother died!

    Having done the Introduction to Family History, I am even more pedantic about having accurate references for my research.

    • Hi Kerry, I want to be sure that my tree is as accurate as I can make it, even if this means removing names if I find an uncertainty. I’d rather have integrity than hundreds of names.

      • Margaret,
        It is important. I have the new Mac Family software which points out mathematical and other awkward relationships with names and other anomalies. Obviously it doesn’t pick up links that are just “wrong” but it is a very good start. I’m enjoying playing with it.

      • you’re right Charles. I am amazed at the numbers in some peoples trees. A bit like those who have thousands of ‘friends’ on FB. I take those with a grain of salt. 🙂

  9. A.

    I know but it had to be said. I have spent many hours and dollars on the site. Love it and duslije at the same time. Its a complex relationship.

      • There are a multitude of similar sites but if you’re judgmental you’ll get good data. I started well before technology was around. Damn, I sound old.
        It was a painfully slow and expensive process then. You take the good with the bad. I believe in most things there were very few good old days!

    I have twin brothers who were adopted at birth. I was about six at the time. I remember going to school and telling my teacher and classmates that I had twin brothers. I was told: ” That’s impossible because your mother wasn’t pregnant. Indignant and with hands on hips I invited my teacher home that night to see my new twin brothers.
    When they turned 18 I helped them try to track down their birth family. We used Jigsaw and Triangle and within weeks they were found. At first it was a joyous reunion which later turned a little sour. That was my first experience and it led to many more journeys, mostly online and worldwide. I have at least 20 successes to date. I am very good at what I do and would like to make it a financially viable career. Trouble is, I cannot find anywhere that runs a professional course (to give me the paper qualifications.)
    As you read this, if any of you have a suggestion for me I would greatly appreciate it. It is a pity that I cannot find a suitable course but I know that I can get results. Do you think I should offer my services and ask for a reasonable financial return? How should I go about this? I would be interested in any opinions to help me on my journey. Thank you Sue for providing this challenge!

  11. Ages – what is in an age? well it may be time alone, it may be a period of time or it may be the age at which something occurred. All are relevant to our genealogy searches and all have the potential to tell us something new. In this way we may become of ‘age’! Just my musings for the day before I start on the never ending numbers of posts from my fellow “Writing My Family History” course. Happy days ahead.

  12. Hi it is the season of Advent. I love reading all your ‘A’ comments which also Answer some of my Ancestor searching questions. Great to see familiar names too. Merry Christmas to All Marg

  13. Australian Ancestors Are Always Awesome and they can be a bit elusive just like Grandma…….Her father deserted the family when she was about six months old…Her mother died when Grandma was three yrs old..It appears Grandma and her two half brothers may have lived with their Grandma…Their Grandma died when my Grandma was about ten yrs old…Next thing i know about my Grandma is when my mother was born..Then three years later Grandma married…This marriage did not last as two years later Grandma was with a half-chinese shearer with whm she had three children of which only one survived…..Grandma was killed in a sulky accident not long before her 40th birthday…There is more to this story, but I feel I have “rambled” on enough factually……Awesome???????

    • Interestingly Sam, many people get to know their deceased family better than they do their immediate family. Largely I guess because many painful or embarrassing stories still lay hidden during our lifetime.


    Not a surname, but the given name of my Canadian g-g-grandfather, Anderson CUMMINGS. He arrived at the Don River in NW Tasmania in the early 1850s along with 2 brothers, one of whom died tragically not long after. With his other brother and another Canadian man, he set up the Cummings Raymond Company sawmill, then a store, even built their own trading vessels. He married Joseph Raymond’s daughter. Sadly he died of phthisis at the age of 39, leaving his widow with 6 children and pregnant with the 7th. She outlived him by 50 years. The company morphed into Cummings Henry & Co, and was the beginning of the famous Don River Trading Company.

  15. ASK

    By asking questions to all family members, you obtain so many facts as well as stories. So beneficial to family history.

  16. Adventurous Ancestors:
    Having fun tracing one’s Ancestors around the World.
    From Aberdeen to the Americas to Afghanistan via Military Army Records.
    Then ‘Adventures in the Navy’ from postings to South America, Ankara, Antioch and Australia.
    One’s Ancestors certainly travelled in the 19th Century.
    Adding an Atlas or two to my Research Library.

  17. ASHBY
    The surname of my maternal grandfather who immigrated to Australia as a boy aged 13 with his family in 1911 from Staffordshire, UK. At that very young age he had started working in the coal mines, so his father decided he had to rescue his family from that miserable life and give them better opportunities in Sydney.
    Unfortunately, he wasn’t too long in Australia before he was heading back across the seas again after enlisting in 1916, fighting in Belgium and France in WWI. Although injured a few times, he survived the war and returned to Sydney and married my grandmother in 1931.
    They had 4 children together – 2 girls, followed by 2 boys, and he settled into life on the banks of the Parramatta river at Meadowbank working as a storeman and packer.
    In 1941 he enlisted again, but this time he did not leave Australia. This time he went to northern Queensland where he trained soldiers.
    He passed away in 1968 of lung cancer. I remember him as always being a very gentle man who loved his vegetable garden and a Sunday roast with his family.

  18. Thank you all very much for taking part in the letter A comment. I am loving the conversations happening between you all and I hope that each of you might be able to help another genealogist through this activity.

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