Letter Z challenge

Throughout this diploma course, I have had to zigzag across oceans, around countries and within states to find information for my assignments.

We had the chance to zigzag through the library databases at UTAS, whether it was using Ancestry Library edition or the British Newspapers or finding scholarly articles for our assignments.

We were lucky with the fantastic lectures and resources given to us by the organizers of each unit within the diploma. We learnt about the value of primary and secondary sources as well as referencing even though this was updated for each unit.

I thought I knew a lot about researching family history when I started this diploma but my eyes have been opened to the value of doing more than just names, dates and places in my software database.

So it is now time for a sleep (maybe a short nap only) before I start updating my resources list on this blog and organizing my research both online and in folders or filing cabinets.

Thank you all for participating in this challenge over the last couple of years.


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

letter Z

Letter T challenge

Now that I have my DNA results and I have uploaded them to gedmatch, I need to work out the


Here are some words I have seen but need to find out what they mean. It is like a totally new language.

  • Autosomal
  • centimorgans
  • admixture
  • phasing
  • X-DNA, Y-DNA, mtDNA
  • haplogroup
  • SNPs
  • types F2, V2,V3
  • chromosome browser

Once I have done a 1:1 comparison, what makes a person the best possible connection?

I know that one of the columns relates to generations that person is away from me. They would certainly be the easiest to find on my tree.

I looked in Gedmatch and they had some Beginner Guides so I looked at the following video (nearly 45 minutes) which I found very interesting.

The video then sent me to a genetic genealogist blog that included this chart showing the number of cMs between different relationships. Think this might come in handy when trying to work out how many generations people might be on my family tree database at home.

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


letter T

Letter R challenge

They’re in! They arrived this morning!


My DNA results arrived this morning. Was I surprised with any of the results? Well…. yes I was. Below are the ethnicity results for myself, my mother and my father.

Other regions were:

  • Sue: Europe West, Great Britain, Iberian Peninsula, Europe East, European Jewish and Finland/NW Russia
  • Mum: Scandinavia, Great Britain, Iberian Peninsula and Europe East
  • Dad: Scandinavia, Great Britain, European Jewish, Iberian Peninsula, Europe East and Asia Central

Mum’s and mine were about what I thought they would be – Ireland,  Great Britain and Western Europe.

But the greatest surprise was dad’s results. I thought he would have some Pacific Islander DNA as he is supposedly 1/16th Samoan. Maybe this DNA comes through the Asia Central trace but that is <1% so nearly negligible.

The next thing I did was to upload the raw DNA data to Gedmatch. These are the gedmatch numbers in case one of my readers makes a connection.

  • Sue A702006
  • Dad A380974
  • Mum A141289

The letter A in the front means they were from Ancestry DNA. I have already had someone email me through Ancestry saying her husband, who was adopted, is a match to me but only very small.

Readers: If you have had your DNA done, were there any surprises in your results?


Letter P challenge

Another unit I have been doing at UTAS is called

Photo Essay

Whenever I write a blog post I try to include at least one image that relates to the topic of the post. But this unit taught me more about telling stories using images and captions.

I always thought a caption was like the little description underneath an image or the title of the image, but in this unit a caption was between one and three sentences per image.

We had to decide on the story-line for our photo-essay, take photos using the new skills we learned in the first few weeks and then write captions for the images we were using.

As this unit could be used as part of the Family History course, and many students who took part in the first Intro to Family History unit are nearly at the stage of graduating in August next year, I decided to make that the theme for my photo-essay.

I saved my photo essay as a powerpoint and have uploaded it here for you to look at. It hasn’t been marked yet by UTAS markers, so I wonder what they will think of it.

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

letter P

Annotated map

As part of the Place, Image and Object course we had to create an annotated map relating to our family history. It could be a town, a house or even a room in a house. The idea was to build layers on your map.

As I am not an arty person, I decided to go with technology and used Prezi. It was a few years since I had used this tool so had to do a bit of a run through first to make sure I was using it well.

Here is the final result:


I decided to look at the homes around Hobart that were important to us as a family. So began with the grandparents in Sandy Bay and West Hobart, then our family homes in Glenorchy and Lindisfarne and finally my home as an adult in Seven Mile Beach.

It wasn’t until I did the evaluation and reflection that I realised so much of it related to travelling and how the homes were there to come back to after spending time overseas or on holidays.


Where is Isabella in the census?

August is National Family History Month and Tuesday I head to the local library for an hour and a half session on resources in the Tasmanian library setup and perhaps more in just the Sorell library.

But Tuesday is an important night in Australia. It only comes once every five years. We the citizens have the chance to fill in our census form and become part of the statistics of people in Australia. We mention names and addresses, numbers in family, religion, wages and many other bits of info that will help the government plan better for education, health, transport etc in Australia.

Alex Daw has set up a challenge for Aussie family history bloggers during the month of August. Our first post is due this week and relates to a census.

As most of my English ancestors arrived in Australia pre 1851 census, I am trying to find more info about their families by using the 1841 census.

My one problem person so far is Isabella Watkins. If you have been reading my blog recently, you will know I am doing the University of Tasmania Diploma of Family History course and one unit was on a convict ancestor. I chose Isabella.

According to convict records, Isabella was tried on 29 March 1841 at Surrey Assizes and sentenced to seven years transportation. She arrived in Hobart Town on 10 October 1841. My problem was when did she actually leave England?

According to one website the ship left England on 14 June 1841. Another website says 23 June 1841.

My first task was to find out when the actual census night was in England that year. Found that – 6 June 1841. So she should still be in England according to the dates when the ship supposedly sailed. So why can’t I find Isabella in the 1841 census? Why were there two different sailing dates?

If she was convicted in March and the ship sailed in June, where was she held in between those dates?

Next step was newspaper records trying to find where and when the ship docked in London. I have not been able to find her on any prison records for that time so maybe the ship was at anchor from March to June until all the female convicts were finally on board. She might have gone directly to the ship after being sentenced. The county of Surrey borders on the river Thames and the Custom’s House, where the ships would need to come in to pay customs and duties, was about a kilometre from the main Surrey Assizes.

  • First record is entering outward for loading at the Customs House in London on April 12. [1]
  • Second record is of a Dorothy Woodhead being delivered to the ship at Woolwich from her prison in Derby. This meant the ship was in Woolwich on the 2nd June or earlier. [2]
  • Third record was vessel cleared outwards with cargo (presumably the convict women) from the Customs House on June 4. [3]
  • Fourth record was the ship sailing from Gravesend on June 18. [4]
  • Fifth record was arriving from the river (Thames) at Deal on June 23. [5]

From these reports the ship was docked in Woolwich by 2nd June with female convicts arriving at any time after April 12. So on the night of the census, Isabella was sailing down the Thames on her way to Gravesend.

More questions to find answers for:

  1. Would she now be considered not an English person as she had left its shores on her way to Van Diemen’s Land and Australia?
  2. Would they have filled in the census on the boat and delivered it at their first port of call eg Gravesend?

Newspaper sources

[1]  The Standard (London, England), Tuesday, April 13, 1841; Issue 5247. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.

[2] The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), Wednesday, June 2, 1841; Issue 5682. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[3] The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Saturday, June 5, 1841; Issue 22317. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[4] The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Saturday, June 19, 1841; Issue 22329. British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[5] The Standard (London, England), Thursday, June 24, 1841; Issue 5309. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900.

Using images in family history

How often do you find out everything shown in an image when adding it to your family history tree or scrapbook?

This course is now getting to the fun part of dating images. It is suggested that you start by taking one image and trying to read it carefully. Find out everything you can by studying it in all its fine details.

Remember back in the beginner Intro to Family History course, where we were told to do exactly that with a document?

Formal analysis looks at colour, lines, space, mass and scale. This is looking at the visual effect of the image and how the image is composed.

Contextual analysis looks more at the historical or cultural aspect of the image. This includes who took it, what type of image, why was it made etc. Often this is pure speculation and you need to ask more questions of the owner.

So I am going to test this out by using one of my photos relating to my family history.


Formal Analysis

Two young girls facing the photographer. One standing upright beside a piece of furniture, the other sitting sideways with one leg tucked under the other on top of the piece of furniture. The image has been coloured with the older child in a pink frock and the younger in a green frock. Both frocks are knee high and simplistic in design with small collars and short sleeves.

Both have long white socks with Mary Jane type shoes. Behind the younger child is a vase of flowers and a draped curtain. The older child is standing on a rug in front of the piece of furniture (maybe a desk). The two girls are centred in the image with the light coming from the right hand side of the camera, giving a bit of shadow on the left side of the girls’ faces when looking as the photographer.

Contextual analysis

These two young girls are my aunts – the eldest is Iris who died about three weeks after my mother was born in 1934. The youngest is Margaret who is still alive. The image is a studio portrait from Brunton and Easton in Elizabeth Street, Hobart. It is framed on cardboard with the studio name included.

I have a second black and white copy of exactly the same image on a postcard with room for both correspondence and address. On the back of that copy is written the names and ages of the girls when this photo was taken. It is written in the handwriting of my grandmother (their mother) so Iris was aged 8 years 4 months and Margaret 4 years 8 months. This means the portrait was made in December 1932. Maybe this was a Christmas portrait with the girls in their new clothes and shoes.

Readers: Anything else you could add to my analysis of this photo?

Houses of Correction

In London, prisoners were put in a detentional prison after they had been committed by a magistrate. Some of these were: Middlesex House of Detention at Clerkenwell, Newgate and Horsemonger Lane Jail

Once you had been convicted you were sent to a different prison depending upon the length of your sentence. If you had a short term of punishment, you went to City House of Correction, Middlesex Houses of Correction or Surrey House of Correction.

But if you were convicted to some form of penal servitude or transportation you could be sent to Pentonville or Millbank prisons, Female Convict Prison at Brixton or the Hulks at Woolwich.[1]

The Brixton or Surrey House of Correction is probably where Isabella was sent after conviction. According to Henry Mayhew, writing in 1862,

“… that, despite its standing in the healthiest situation, the old Surrey House of Correction was one of the unhealthiest of all the London prisons”.[2]

Like many prisons it was overcrowded, often 3 to a cell which was not well ventilated, thus causing lots of sickness and fever. It was at the Brixton where the treadmill was first setup as a form of punishment.[3]

The exercise yard though was not gravel; instead prisoners were surrounded by grass and flower beds.[4]

Brixton Wash house - unknown source

Brixton Wash house – unknown source

Let us now compare this to Isabella’s incarceration at the Launceston House of Correction.

The factory opened in 1834 and was built as an octagonal plan. Between 80 and 100 women were able to live and work there comfortably but by 1842 when Isabella was there, over 250 women and their children were living in crowded conditions.[5]

With such crowding, behaviour of the women could change as happened on 22nd October 1842, a few months after Isabella had left.[6]

Extract from Launceston Examiner , 22 October 1842, p. 4

Extract from Launceston Examiner , 22 October 1842, p. 4

In a report written by La Trobe at the end of 1846 he mentions the female factory has two mess rooms and three wards each able to accommodate 30 women. Separate apartments were being built but they could not be made into solitary ones. There was also a hospital which had room for 7 women. There were three sheds used for washing and spinning which I assume would be used as punishment for those women sent in by local magistrates.[7]

At the time of his visit to the Launceston Female Factory the personnel running it were a medical officer, a schoolmistress, a superintendent, two matrons, one clerk and one gatekeeper. They were looking after 75 needlewomen, 17 women nursing children, 10 servants, 4 sick, 8 washing and 9 using wool.[8]

Maybe after spending time in the various female houses of correction both in London and Launceston, Isabella decided that marriage and a chance to have her own family would be a better way of leading her life.


[1] Mayhew, Henry, and John Binny. The Criminal Prisons of London, and Scenes of Prison Life. London, England: Griffen, Bohn and Company, 1862, p 82 viewed 12 June 2016. https://archive.org/details/cu31924024894481.

[2] ibid, p 174 viewed 12 June 2016

[3] ibid, p 174 viewed 12 June 2016

[4] ibid, p 185 viewed 12 June 2016

[5] http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/index.php/convict-institutions/female-factories/launceston-ff

[6] Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), 22 October 1842, p. 4. (EVENING), viewed 12 Jun 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4058541

[7] Brand, Ian, Charles Joseph Latrobe, Michael Sprod, and James Boyd. The Convict Probation System, Van Diemen’s Land 1839-1854: A Study of the Probation System of Convict Discipline, Together with C.J. La Trobe’s 1847 Report on Its Operation and the 1845 Report of James Boyd on the Probation Station at Darlington, Maria Island. Hobart: Blubber Head Press, 1990. p 200

[8] ibid, p 134

Readers: Did you have any female convicts stay in a house of correction either in London or Australia? Why were they there?

Is she a convict?

For this very long post I am going to you walk you through how I researched one of my convict women. I will look at certain documents and if she is a convict will write further posts about her convict records.

I am going to try finding out information about Martha VIRCOE who married John BOYD in 1842. I have already proven this in my family history research. They are my great great great grandparents.

Why do I think Martha is a convict? She has signed her marriage certificate with an x – her mark meaning she was not a very literate person and could not sign her own name.

UPDATE – Having spoken to Dianne Snowden while at the female factory Open Day last Sunday, she mentioned that many people in VDL would have been illiterate and used a mark so it is not necessarily a sign of a convict. Finding a marriage permission record definitely is though.

Source: TAHO RGD37/1/2 no 1739/1842 District of Avoca, marriage Boyd, Vircoe

boyd vico marr 1842

My next step is to use the Tasmanian names index to find out more records about Martha.

So I put in the surname only of Vircoe and up come the following possibilities



I can see the first three relate to my Martha – Virgoe for the next three – could this be a different spelling? – maybe a brother also out as a convict? Don’t check it out now but put it on the to do list for later on.

I can see she was a convict from the second result on the image. I know if a person married while still serving a sentence as a convict, they needed permission to do this. So where is the marriage permission page? Maybe it is a spelling variation – maybe look up Boyd instead and see if I can find it there.

As you can see from the image I started by using just Boyd within all the results of the Tasmanian name index, then I used the filters on the left to find just marriage permissions then I filtered again to the years 1840-1843. There she is with the surname Vico.


By clicking on the image to the left of her name, the following appears. I have used the snipping tool to make the two separate images. One is the header of the page, the other is the actual marriage permission for Martha.



So reading the information on these two snips, the marriage permission for Martha Virco (new spelling), police number 18 on the ship Hindostan was sent to the Muster Master on June 15 1842, then sent on to the Secretary on 15 August 1842. The decision made was approved provided the clergyman is satisfied with evidence added??

Her husband-to-be John Boyd was a free man with no police number. Maybe he was also a convict but had served his sentence and now considered free. But that will be something to follow up on later.

Source: TAHO, CON52/1/2 p16 marriage permission Martha Virco

So question 1 of my research plan is now answered – Yes Martha VIRCOE (VIRCO) (VICO) was a convict.

Next step to look at her convict records to fill out more information about her life as a convict.

How will I record all this information?

I have created a convict profile from looking at Susan Hood’s book about transcribing Tasmanian convict records. I will be able to use this profile for each separate convict in my tree.


Tasmanian convict records

Old Timey Music

Creative Commons License Don Gunn via Compfight

You are researching a convict who was transported to Tasmania (VDL). You have heard of the Tasmanian Names Index via LINC website, but how do you use it?

Like all good repositories, there is a help page that takes you through how to search using the index. This page includes a video showing how to use the filters and records when searching. There is also a quick start guide to look at. I would recommend watching the video as it will help with your searching and make it more efficient. I just spent some time watching it and learned some things to help with refining my search and saving the records.

Let’s now get more specific about convict records.

Again there are two family history pages to look at to help with convict records.

The first one is a convict portal which is linked to a map of Tasmania. Links on the map take you to specific places related to convicts in Tasmania eg probation stations, female factories, depots etc. Beside the map are links to other useful convict websites (not necessarily Tasmanian):

The second page explains all the different convict related records available for Tasmanian records. Most of these are digitized but not necessarily found by using the Tasmanian Names Index.

My next post will be more details about Tasmanian convict records especially those in the archive section rather than the Tasmanian Names Index.

Readers: What have you found interesting so far about researching a convict whether in Tasmania or another Australia state?