No new posts for a while

Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

Sorry I haven’t written any new posts, including #52ancestors, on this blog for the last couple of months. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing family history research.

One of the students who had recently completed the Diploma of Family History offered to run some sessions on using WordPress for creating a family history website. I decided to have a go even though Edublogs also uses WordPress but I am using blocks rather than the visual editor I am used to in Edublogs.

I started a new blog that is dedicated just to biographies of my direct grandparents. So far I have written about:

Maternal:

Working on great grandmother Julia Charlotte Chandler at the moment

Paternal:

Will be finding it difficult to write on further paternal grandparents as little is known about them. Trying to connect with relatives through DNA who might be able to give me more information.

I might eventually extend this new blog to biographies of other relatives but I still have quite a few of my maternal ancestors to write about yet.

Readers: How do you share information about your ancestors with your relatives?

Trying sea journey

Mary Dixon nee Pickering was a very strong woman who travelled from London to Tasmania, a three month journey over seas and oceans, when she was pregnant with my great great grandmother Anne Dixon. Mary and her husband David also had a child under three years old with them.

Through possible DNA matches, it appears both David and Mary lived and met near Hull in East Riding of Yorkshire. I have found possible births matching them both in Hull area at the right time period.

So far there is no marriage record found but on the arrivals index held at the Tasmanian Archives and found online through Libraries Tasmania, there is one married male adult, one married female adult and one female child under 3 arriving under the name David Dixon, aged 24 and a farm servant.  Source CB7/9/1/1/ page 15 – TAHO

They were supposedly 45 bounty immigrants on board (but I think children were counted twice under age and sex) and David and his family went to the property of Mr Stevenson at Curramore near Launceston. The date of the application for bounty immigrants was 22 June 1840 and they arrived in Launceston from London on the ship Andromeda on 30 August 1841. Four months later my great great grandmother was born.

It was in 1840 when the assignment system for convicts was changed to a probation system. Settlers now didn’t have convicts assigned to them immediately so many needed to have skilled farm servants, blacksmiths etc brought over from England to work their farms. Working as a farm servant or shepherd could be difficult in Van Diemens Land (VDL) at that time with many reports of attack by bushrangers, escaped convicts or aboriginals. Mary, who was three months pregnant, and her two young daughters were involved in one robbery incident early in their time in VDL as mentioned in this newspaper report.

Over the next 11 years four more children were born to the couple Eliza Rachel in 1843, Hannah 1846, Thomas 1850 and Sarah 1852. Sadly Sarah only lived three weeks and died of influenza in mid December in Evandale where the family were now living.

In 1853, there was a David Dixon departing on the ship Clarence to Melbourne from Launceston. I could only find one David Dixon residing in Tasmania at that time, so am assuming he is my great great great grandfather. Elizabeth Dixon, the eldest daughter, was married in 1862 near Ballarat in Victoria so maybe this is where David headed to.

By 1869, David had either disappeared maybe to the goldfields of Victoria or had died and Mary was now considering herself a widow. She had a double wedding with her daughter Hannah. Mary Dickson married George Histead who was a widower, while Hannah Dickson married Jesse Lloyd a bachelor. The event took place at the manse in Evandale. Richard Burton, the husband of Rachel, was also there as a witness.

After 14 years of her second marriage, Mary Istead died age 69 in Perth, Tasmania in 1883 from inflammation of the lungs, and two years later George followed with death from disease of the liver.

 

Dawsons and disaster

The Dawson surname is a new find in my father’s tree. We thought his grandfather was Robert Edward Smith, son of a half Samoan whaling captain William Smith who I have done a lot of research on. But neither dad nor I had any Polynesian ethnicity, while all dad’s cousins on the Smith side did. I tested another Smith relative who came down the line of a sibling of Robert Edward. Dad and I didn’t match her at all yet all dad’s Smith cousins did.

Dad also had a person in his DNA matches that was a 1st or 2nd cousin but we had no idea where he linked in. He wasn’t on dad’s paternal side as we have a half brother to dad tested and any matches with both of them will be the paternal side. So this high match must be maternal, but he doesn’t match any of dad’s Smith cousins, so who is he? I checked his tree back to his  great grandparents – Alexander and Hannah Dawson  nee Sutton. Lots of dad’s matches come through this couple or their siblings. So which of Alexander and Hannah’s sons is going to be my dad’s grandfather? I am still not exactly sure but have it down to three possibilities.

But how does the Dawson family feature in a post about a disaster? My post from last week was about my great great grandfather Thomas Somers, a miner in the North East of Tasmania; the Dawsons were miners on the West coast of Tasmania.

West Coast mining

The west coast of Tasmania but particularly the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area, has some areas still not explored by humans; you can only get in there by boat, very few walking tracks and you would need to bash through scrub to get anywhere. But the mining area around Queenstown and Zeehan does have road linkages unless snowed in. There is an airport at Strahan but only small planes. There are many mines in the district but the most famous is the Mount Lyell Mines in Queenstown. It is here where a huge disaster happened in 1912 and members of my Dawson family were involved. In total 170 men entered the mine that morning and 42 did not come out alive. Luckily my relatives did. When rescuing the miners, the company had to wait for more smoke helmets to be steamered over Bass Strait from Melbourne taking a bit over 13 hours.

Dawson involvement

Dad’s great grandfather Alexander Dawson died in 1901 but he also had a son called Alexander. In 1909 when dad’s mother was born on Bruny Island, Tasmania, Alexander Dawson was still living in Queenstown as a single man. In 1912 he married Sarah Jane Hawkins Griffiths and in mid September, their first child Alexander Charles was born. He died three weeks later on 7th October. Only 5 days after his son’s death,  Alexander was involved in the fire at Mt Lyell Mines. He had only been working in the mine for about a year.

Alexander Dawson deposition about 1912 Mt Lyell mining disaster

Here is the first newspaper report of the fire including names of those rescued. The next day another report also mentions that Alexander’s younger brother Henry is also one of those still entombed. At 3.30 on Wednesday 16 October, Harry Dawson walked out of the mine. According to the newspaper article:

Henry Dawson appeared to be very weak as he walked from the drive to the change house.

Also mentioned in the 16 October paper was that Alexander Dawson and Albert William Dawson were alive on the 1000ft level in the number 40 stope.

A comment about the Dawson brothers in the same newspaper article:

The Dawson brothers, both comparatively lads, are spoken of as maintaining great cheerfulness all through the awful ordeal that was experienced from Saturday through Wednesday.

These three Dawson brothers are the possibles for being my father’s grandfather. Albert born about 1883, Alexander born 1884 and Henry born 1891. My dad’s grandmother was born in 1889, so age wise she could have been seeing any one of the three Dawson brothers. I will have to keep checking the DNA matches to try and prove which one is most likely but dad has a match of 346 cMs across 17 segments with a grandson of Alexander and a match of 136cMs across 6 segments with a great granddaughter of Henry.

Lottah – town of prosperity

Looking at the occupation of many of my  direct male relatives, I find that farmer and miner were the most common. Those who were miners were either in the north east of Tasmania or on the west coast of Tasmania. This week I will look at one person in the north east where you can find a trail of the tin dragon between Launceston and St Helens.

Tin was the main mineral found in this area of Tasmania but there was some gold and coal as well. By the mid 1870’s, there were over a dozen towns built up around tin mining. The most important of these was Derby and the Briseis Tin Mine which closed in 1956. But in 1929, there was a terrible mining disaster in Derby.

In the 1870’s, tin was fetching £40 – £50 per ton. In 1927 it was up to £297/18/11 but a year later had dropped to £227/11 per ton. Prosperous tin mining was now in decline.

Personal memories

Whenever our family stayed at St Helens for holidays, we would always head to Derby for the day to look over the school house museum and check out the history of mining in the area at the tin mine centre. Or we would  check out Gould Country and the Blue Tier, bashing our way through ferns and scrub to where dad thought some mining equipment, especially stampers, could be found.

 

Relatives in the North East at Lottah

But for my family history it was the area of the Blue Tier and Lottah township that was important as that is where my supposed great great grandfather Thomas Somers/Summers worked as a miner according to the birth certificate of my great grandmother Nellie Somers and her siblings. Georges Bay is now known as St Helens in the district of Portland.

The only time Thomas is mentioned in person is on the above certificate; the siblings certificates do not have a fathers name mentioned except Kate’s. So there is some confusion as to who might be the true father of Nellie’s siblings –  is it Thomas Somers or John West Clark? What happened in the four years between Nellie’s birth in 1889 and Kate’s in 1893? Why the name change for father?

  • Kate Clarke born 4 Feb 1893 parents as West Clarke and Alice O’Keefe Clarke then baptised as Kate Clarke on 28 March 1893 with parents John Clarke and Alice Clarke
  • William Henry Somers born 6 Dec 1894 but baptised as William Henry Clark on 28 Jan 1895 parents as Wes Clark and Alice Somers
  • Jessie May Somers born 15 May 1897 but baptised as Jessie May Clark on 14 Dec 1898 parents as John West Clark and Alice O’Keefe
  • Joseph Edward Somers born 30 Oct 1898 but baptised as Joseph Edward Clark on 14 Dec 1898 parents as John West Clark and Alice O’Keefe
  • Herbert Francis Somers born 4 Feb 1901 with mother as Alice Somers O’Keefe and her having been married in 1885 in Melbourne but no father for Herbert.

DNA has proved my father is related to William Henry Somers/Clark and at least four of his descendants as full 2nd cousins or 2C1R or the amount of cMs also mean they could be half cousins. So with Alice O’Keefe/Somers/Clark as the common parent we still can’t be sure of the fathers.

I can’t find any marriage for Alice O’Keefe to either Thomas Somers/Summers or John West Clark(e) in Melbourne or anywhere else in Australia.

According to Kate Crellin nee Clark’s death notice she had 4 sisters and 3 brothers. So who are Alice Clark, Mary Clark and Emily Clark? Who are their parents and where were they born?

Present day Lottah

Lottah nowadays is a ghost town, seen here in this ABC radio article. But at one point in time the wheel at the Anchor mine near Lottah was the largest in the world and the actual township had about 40 houses, hotels, churches, school and a thriving community.

 

All photos are copyrighted to my father.

Readers: Have any of your relatives been miners? Where and when?

Visiting National Archives in England

Whenever I travel to England, I try to get a lot of family history research done as well as touring the counties of my ancestors.

So while at the National Archives UK at Kew in 2005, I made a great discovery. It was the first time I had visited the archives so wanted to make the best use of my time there.  I asked for anything about John ENGLAND from Yorkshire.  After a while I was sent downstairs to the large document area. Not sure if this is still there or not.

They had found a document from York Castle about my great great grandfather’s crime which had him sent to Van Diemens Land back in 1846. I have written about John in a few other posts here, here and here.

This was an extremely long parchment document. I knew I wouldn’t have time to transcribe it there and then, so asked permission to make a copy using my ipad. It took 23 images to get the complete document as I unrolled it very carefully. The document was about a metre wide. Every 60-90cm or every 2-3 feet I would take a photo. I had only had my ipad for a short time, so the images came out very dark. When I was back in Australia, I adjusted the brightness so I could read the document more easily and saved those new images as well.

Here is one of the pages and below is the beginning of the transcription:

 

… Yorkshire to wit: The Jurors for our Lady the Queen upon their oath present that hereby to wit on the nineteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty six at the Parish of Rotherham in the West Riding of the County of York John Fullarton Esquire then being one of the Justices of our Lady the Queen assigned to keep the peace of the said Lady the Queen within the said West Riding of the County of York …

My convict’s name is not mentioned until the eleventh line of the document. Imagine having to transcribe 23 pages of said language. I might eventually get around to it. Some pages of the document also has other writing crossed over the original as seen in this image. There is virtually no punctuation in the entire document.

Readers: What is the most difficult document you have had to try and read? How successful were you?