End of family history course

Howland Family Chart - How George Bush, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Smith are Related

the JoshMeister via Compfight

What a great nine weeks I have just spent over the summer holidays!

Thanks to Cathie Fall from Sorell School for mentioning she was going to do this course, so I thought, why not.

I have certainly learnt a lot especially about writing sources, being organized and creating research logs. Now whenever I go to the archives I have a purpose and I stick to it, instead of being sidetracked by lots of other things I might find. I also use my iPad more when researching. I have the Google docs app on there through my Google drive which then syncs when I am at home.

Over the next few weeks while we still have access to the MyLO area and the discussions, I will be creating an HSP105 page with lots of links sorted into various categories. With over 10000 posts to look through, it should make interesting work.

Readers: What was the best part of this course?

Voyages by William SMITH

As part of assessment task 3, I have created a table of the whaling voyages of William SMITH prior to 1877. Have also included the sources. As you can see, I am having trouble filling in the gaps of his earliest voyages.

I couldn’t find crew agreements for the blank spaces in the chart, so will need to check further sources from the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau based at Australian National University in Canberra.


On board ship Left ship Ship Role on board Captain Source
    Venus     MB2/33/1/403 1856-1878
    Offley     MB2/33/1/301 1856-1879
    Grecian/Frances/Friends??     MB2/33/1/170 1857-1864
  25 Jan 1858 Calypso Seaman McFARLANE MB 2/33/1/54 1856-1863
    Prince Regent     MB2/33/1/333
    Flying Childers     MB2/33/1/146
  Mar 1860 Maid of Erin 2nd mate REYNOLDS MB 2/33/1/250
15 Mar 1860 16 Feb 1861 Waterwitch Seaman   MB 2/33/1/417
23 Feb 1861 Apr 1862 Highlander 2nd mate Henry EDMONDS MB2/33/1/194
24 May 1862   Southern Cross 3rd mate William MANSFIELD MB 2/33/1/374
5 Jan 1864 28 Dec 1866 Maid of Erin 2nd mate Henry EDMONDS MB 2/33/1/250
28 Dec 1866 31 Jan 1868 Maid of Erin Chief mate William GAFFEN MB 2/33/1/250
16 Oct 1868 Apr 1870 Maid of Erin Chief mate Thomas SHELTON MB 2/33/1/250
9 Apr 1870 12 Dec 1870 Maid of Erin Master William SMITH MB 2/33/1/250
2 Jan 1871 26 Oct 1871 Maid of Erin Master William SMITH MB 2/33/1/250
  May 1873 Maid of Erin Master William SMITH MB 2/33/1/250
15 Jul 1873 1874 Othello Chief Mate Edward COPPING MB 2/33/1/310
2 Nov 1874 6 Jun 1876 Othello Chief mate Edward COPPING MB 2/33/1/310
16 Jun 1876 Sep 1877 Flying Childers Chief mate   MB2/33/1/146

 Readers: Do you think including a table like this should be acceptable for the scholarly writing of our task 3?

Using a blog for family history

I was asked by Dianne Snowden, co-ordinator of the family history course, to present about using a blog with family history. I decided to create a video showing how I am using my new blog which was begun just for this course.

If after watching the video, you want to leave a comment, here is how to do it.

At the bottom of the post is the area labelled Posted in, Tagged, Leave a comment or a number of comments etc. Click on Leave a comment and fill in the information needed. Your name, email address (This isn’t published) your comment then the anti-spam word(s) you can see and finally the big button post comment. Your comment wont appear immediately as I moderate them all before publishing them to the blog.

Want to create your own blog?

There are many platforms for blogging including:

Readers: How are you going to present your research to other members of your family? Scrapbook, family reunion, blog, video or  …….

First results back for interview

Dad on verandah at Goulburn StreetWe have received our marks back for the first assessment task which was the interview. This is what I handed in.

Interview of Robert Alan WYATT by Suzanne WYATT on 28 December 2014

Interview location: Dining room of interviewee’s house in Howrah, Tasmania

Relationship of interviewee to you: Father

Sue: Where and when were you born?

Bob: I was born in Hobart at a private hospital in Goulbourn Street and my mother’s name was Irene Ellen Gertrude WYATT nee SMITH. My father William Alan WYATT deserted my mother when I was only a few days old.

I was put in the care of Mrs Ellen Sarah AVERY. She was the mother of a friend of my father Keith Henry AVERY and we lived at 160 Goulbourn Street, West Hobart.

Sue: Did you always live in Goulbourn Street or did you move at all?

Bob: No I always lived at Goulbourn Street. Harry often told me that I was probably a saviour to his mother because she had lost a son and a daughter in 1929 and 1930 to diphtheria and I was a saviour to her to actually be looked after.

I think I was pretty well spoilt because I can’t remember much about my early childhood but I was told that I was put on the verandah at Goulbourn Street. Mum had a dog – by the way I called Mrs Avery Mum and my mother Mummy. Mum used to look after me and I was just put on the verandah on a rug and they had a big dog – a collie dog I think – called Bosun and if I crawled towards the steps or anything, Bosun would get in the way and stop me. But of course I don’t remember anything about that – I was only told that.

Sue: OK so you were living with Uncle Harry and his mum, so where was your Mummy living?

Bob: She was living at a hotel where she worked. At that stage it would have been Heathorns Hotel at the lower end of Liverpool Street – that’s been demolished now – then she worked at Albion Hotel in Elizabeth Street. That’s also been demolished.

Reflective Statement

This part of the interview was significant for my research as I didn’t realise dad actually lived with the AVERY family. I knew he had a lot to do with them, but not to actually be living at their house during his childhood. I have a photo of dad on a rug as a baby and now realise that would be what he was talking about in the interview.

I found it interesting that he called his mother mummy and Mrs AVERY mum. I had occasionally heard him use mum and mummy before but had never known the significance of it.

By interviewing dad, he also gave lots of information such as full names, addresses and years which will help with telling the story in my family history research.

The interview was valuable in that it was the first time I had run a formal interview with regard to my family history. I generally have a chit chat when looking at a photo and then jot down notes when I get home. But actually formalizing it, organizing the questions and allowing the interviewee to go off on a tangent sometimes, means I now have a record of them actually speaking. I can listen to that at any time in the future and perhaps find further areas to research that they mentioned – such as when dad mentioned diphtheria and the demolishing of the hotels.

I will definitely be using the interview technique when researching for my main project on the SMITH family in future weeks of this course.

These are the comments I received and the mark – I was pretty pleased with the result.

Excellent work, Suzanne. Your interview is well-structured and your questions are clear and pertinent. You have gleaned some significant family memories and gathered some important clues to future research.

Your Reflective Statement is very good and weaves together the past and present with an eye on the future. You have demonstrated a knowledge of key family history principles.

Goulburn Street rather than Goulbourn?

Score 16/20

To hear the full interview, check out my previous post.

My research plan

Mapping with Hyde
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Brian Moore via Compfight

So we are now over halfway through the family history course and we have had to put together a research plan. This is interesting because I usually just go to the archives, search through things I want to and go off on tangents if needed. But having listened to Dianne, it is important to have a plan that you can follow. So here it is:

My Research Aim:

To create historical timeline of Captain William SMITH’s life as a whaler. To do this

  • find out the names of the ships he was on and the dates (PS 1,2 and 4)
  • where the ships voyages were (PS1)
  • his role on each ship (PS1)
  • life on board the ships (PS3) (SS1 and 2)

Hopefully  find out his Samoan name by finding out when he was given the name William SMITH.

Primary Sources:

  1. Marine board records of ship’s voyages – government record
  2. Application for master of foreign vessel certificate – government record
  3. Newspapers of the times – shipping news and articles about voyages – newspaper record
  4. Images of ships he served on

Secondary sources (if any):

  1. Susan Chamberlain thesis about early whaling in Hobart Town – public record
  2. Books about whaling around Tasmania from the 1850′s to the 1890′s – public record
  3. My relatives including Glenn (who I will be interviewing) and Kim – great grandsons of William
  4. I am wondering if there might be records at the Australian Maritime Museum?

Repositories and Records that I plan to use:

LINC Family History

Marine board – Application for Master Mariner’s certificate

Trove newspapers of the time

Maritime Museum – Susan Chamberlain thesis

Readers: How could I have improved this research plan?

Problem solving those brickwalls

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Paul Kelly via Compfight

Everyone hits a brickwall at some stage. Sometimes all you need to do is take a break and work on another family line.

But if you want to keep persevering you need to be strategic, methodical and do your homework. Develop a research plan with a specific aim. Draw up a timeline to see where the gaps are, that might then help to solve the problem. Re-examine how you got to this point in your research and maybe, go back to square one.

Tips for breaking down brickwalls

  1. Re-examine everything – try to get concrete evidence not just the knowledge of other people. Locate original records.
  2. Search all available sources -Passenger lists, military records, phone books. New records available all the time so re-check. Note sources used whether you got information or not.You don’t want to have to recheck if you have already read that source.
  3. Incorrect data – question and verify all the time. Transcription errors, hearsay, certificates – check for proof of everything, verify in two sources preferably in three
  4. Name variations – fluid and phonetic before 1850, some names Anglicised, used middle names, start a new life with different name, match details in a variety of sources, try alternate spellings, cross check by middle names, aliases
  5. Age variations – older to enlist, marrying someone older, didn’t know how old they were, age at death can be problem due to informant
  6. Collateral lines – broaden your search – siblings, parents, cousins, aunts etc can be key to unlocking your brickwall ancestor, wider view of history, put in context
  7. Finding family stories in newspapers- family notices, church activities, land sales, military etc
  8. Social history – how family lived and how different their world was, create a timeline, institutions and asylums
  9. Granny wouldn’t but Granny did – keep an open mind, birth under mothers maiden name, don’t make assumptions, don’t look at life through modern eyes
  10. Know your boundaries – local histories, geographic boundaries changed, research last known town your ancestor was in
  11. Create a timeline – date, type of record, location
  12. Other researchers and sharing your research – share with relatives, use other people’s research as a guide – verify it for yourself
  13. Ask for help – librarians, family history societies


Using maps in family history

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Katherine H via Compfight

Our second lecture this week was on the value of using maps in family history. I am very inquisitive regarding where my ancestors came from, so am always using Google Earth to pinpoint locations. As mentioned in the notes though, there can be some problems with place names and locations in the 21st century compared to those in the 19th century and further back.

This lecture was by Imogen Wegman who is a PhD candidate at UTas and is a landscape historian. Here are my notes.

Who do you believe?

  • The records or family knowledge or heirlooms
  • Using a map might help prove, disprove the information you have gathered

Place names

  • sometimes towns straddle borders
  • often change or move counties
  • often spelt phonetically until 1850’s
  • remember dialects or accents might change sound of name – use this British Library site to help with these
  • important to use map of the time period you are searching
  • also check landowners in lots of locations


  • often change – parishes, regions, counties
  • current English counties established since 1974
  • since 19th century, maps are more consistent and reliable
  • during war, borders change, eg what was Poland might now be Belarus

Looking for maps

When searching on internet, use keywords such as

  • historical maps county name
  • digitized maps county name
  • also check for enclosure (landowners names) and tithe maps
  • UK – ordnance survey map – National Library of Scotland

Places to find maps online – this list copied from the course Map Collections page – thanks to Imogen

For Australian searching

Trove Maps

Land Information Systems Tasmania (LIST) Map

NSW: Historical Land Records Viewer

Queensland: Mapping Research and History

Northern Territory: Historic Map Index

South Australia: Map Sites

Victoria: Land

Western Australia: Maps Online

(None are known for the Australian Capital Territory.)

University of Melbourne Map Collection – Geographic Links
This is a collection of Australian and international links.

United Kingdom and Ireland

National Library of Scotland (including England Ordnance Survey)

The Irish Ancestral Research Association: Maps


My Readers: Are there any other map collections you know of that might be useful for family historians? Maybe American or European collections?

If possible include the URL in your comment and I will then add to this post as a link for others to use.

Conducting your research

Dadaw 'n Me
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Miss Shari via Compfight

In the family history course this week, Dianne Snowden spoke to us about how to conduct our research. Here are the notes I made while listening to the video. I have also included a few links to sites on the net which might be helpful.

Remember to follow the basic principles for family history

Steps for conducting your researchElwell[1]

  1. Write down what you know
  2. Decide what you want to learn
  3. Choose a record or source of info
  4. Obtain and search the record
  5. Use and record what you have learned

Look for online finding aids to help with your research. Familysearch has many aids for helping with handwriting

Have an aim for each research task

  1. What do you hope to find out?
  2. Where are you going to look? – Repositories and records – Primary/secondary sources

Document your sources

  • Any statement of fact must have its own source
  • Sources will record location of the fact and also record details that might impact your evaluation of the fact

Tips for researching

  1. When searching, often better to put in less information
  2. Too many results, then refine search by adding more words
  3. Spellings in early records is flexible
  4. Names can be spelt many different ways
  5. Names can be changed
  6. Reading difficult handwriting, compare with sequence of letters you know.  Familysearch online help
  7. Never assume family relationship with person of same name
  8. Many records have similar info eg birth registration/church records, address in electoral roll/post office directory
  9. Children registered in Tasmania with f or m


Start with Chapman Codes but also keep your own list

Once you have info, you must then evaluate it.

  • Original source material generally more reliable
  • What processing has the source material undergone – eg transcribing which might not be accurate, re-copied from tree to tree
  • Truthfulness of record will depend on purpose and motivation of creators eg ages on marriage certificates, obituaries especially to cover convict records
  • Most reliable informants have first hand knowledge of events
  • Veracity and skill of record’s creator will have shaped content
  • Timeliness adds to a document’s credibility
  • All known records should be used
  • Case never closed on a genealogical conclusion.

When searching don’t just rely on Google as your search engine. You can also use customised search engines – often Google based. Try out some of these others: I put in Francis Colgrave (my gggrandfather) and found many resources I had never seen before

Genealogy in time

Cyndislist which has search engines for many countries of the world

Genealogy search help based on Google

 About.com has nine search engines to suggest

Digital trends gives some great sites to search

My readers: Which search engine or genealogy site have you used that gave lots of great information?

[1] Barry J Elwell Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering Your Family (Cedar Fort Publishing, 2012)

Getting ready to research

William SMITH and family

So I have now looked through the filing cabinet, folders, computer program to find everything I already have on William SMITH and his family. I have decided to put together two folders. There will be some duplicate items in them.

The first folder will be a storyline of William SMITH from his birth in 1840 through to his death in 1913. Included in this will be all his whaling journeys, marriage, family life and birth of children through to his death and burial. This is what I will be aiming to add to as my major research in the family history course.

The second folder will be about William SMITH and Sarah Ann TEDMAN family. Again lots of births, marriages and death with a separate pocket for each child born to them.

Readers: Are there any repositories and records you would recommend I search to find information about Captain William SMITH, master mariner?


Interview test run

Because I haven’t been able to organize a time to meet Glenn yet, I thought I had better do a test run of an interview with my father. I went through Paul Thompson’s questions, typed out a big long list of them chunked into areas like early family life, schooling, early adult life etc.

Before starting the interview I showed my dad the questions and said I would be asking about some of these things. I think that helped him know the sorts of things I wanted to get from the interview. It allowed him to chat for a while on a topic rather than giving just short, stilted answers.

To record the interview I took my iPad to mum and dad’s house and we sat in the dining/kitchen area while mum was in the lounge room watching the cricket and Sydney/Hobart yacht race. I had downloaded the app Soundcloud, which allows 180 minutes with their free version.

I recorded in two sections: first dad talked about his own life mentioning he had already written about a lot of these and they were on his computer if ever i needed them. The second and shorter section was dad talking about his parents and grandparents.

Here are the two recordings: