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?

Regatta Day

As a child I can remember often being taken to the Hobart Regatta in February. We would hop on the tram at Glenorchy then walk to the regatta grounds.

As a family we would sit on the banks of the Domain and watch the boat racing, the slippery pole events, the rowing events and of course visit all the stalls and entertainment. We would eat our picnic lunch but also get a sausage on a stick and fairy floss. I loved going on the chairs that would swing wide out; maybe that’s why I also love rollercoasters.

Mum would often go when she was a child as her father Henry Lewis England was very interested in the boats.

I used to catch a tram with my dad from Sandy Bay to near the city hall and then walk to the regatta ground. Mum and Margaret used to come later after mum had cooked something for lunch, scones, cakes etc. We sat at the same spot every regatta day so relatives would come and leave their baskets of food and go and look at the stalls. There were plenty of side shows like the motorcycles in cages and boxing stalls as well as roundabouts, wave riders, lots of boats etc on the river, grease on bars at the river front, swimming from Rosny to the ground.

Mum’s oldest sister Iris would also go when she was alive and before mum was born. So it was definitely a family occasion.

Henry, Hannah, Iris and Margaret at Hobart Regatta about 1929



Henry, Hannah, Margaret and Phyllis about 1938

I notice everyone is wearing hats when they go out to the regatta. No slip, slop, slap then just normal commonsense.

Talking to dad he remembers

I went to the regatta by tram to the bottom of Liverpool St and then walked over to the ground. I remember going on the Ocean Wave which was a large circular seat and you were told to keep your legs out straight. Then they pushed the seat around and up and down. There was an old man that sharpened knives and scissors usually near the railway station. I went with Mum. I think I got some Fairy Floss but nothing else. Mum used to take me to lunch at the CWA tent, scones, jam and cream.

These memories are very different from what happened at early regattas.

History of regattas in Hobart

Being a city on the Derwent River, there have always been lots of boat races from the time of settlement in 1803.

  • 1824 – two ships racing over a period of time – who won the most races?
  • 1825 – letter to the editor about having regattas now and then in Launceston (north/south rivalry started early)
  • 1827 – a great Marine Assembly but not one inhabitant invited
  • 1831 – February – Great race between 11 boats mentioned in the Mercury – trouble at the start – was the keel of the winner longer than allowed?
  • 1831 – Kings birthday on 22 August – big yacht race and regatta – fantastic description of crowds and events
  • 1832 – prisoners on public works allowed a holyday for the Queen’s birthday and  regatta but not those on the chain gangs, great description of the boats, winners and arguments about money for winners
  • 1834 – a regatta dinner was held and many toasts given including to the Whale Fishery – the great source of our National Wealth
  • 1838 – 1 December – Sir John Franklin, Governor of Van Diemens Land, gives up a portion of the Government Domain near the gardens which is jutting out into the Derwent River so the public can participate more in the future regattas.  VDL resident writing about the regatta to a friend in England. Special date for this regatta.

The Centenary Regatta February 1938

Mum and her family attended this as shown by the second image above, but there were many memorable events at this regatta all mentioned in the local papers.

Readers: Do you and/or your family go to any big regattas or big events in your local town? How long have they been going? What do you enjoy most about them?

Organizing for #52ancestors in 2020

geralt / Pixabay

I didn’t do very well in either 2018 or 2019 writing posts about my ancestors. But in 2020, I plan to be very organized and complete at least two posts each month. Luckily, Amy Johnson Crow has already published what the theme will be for every week of the year.

Here are the first two months and my idea of what I could write about:

Week 1 (Jan. 1-7): Fresh Start – any of my convicts starting a new life in Australia
Week 2 (Jan. 8-14): Favorite Photo – check my collection for a great photo
Week 3 (Jan. 15-21): Long Line – perhaps the Colgrave family who I have found resources for back to 1604
Week 4 (Jan. 22-28): Close to Home – about my dad
Week 5 (Jan. 29-Feb. 4): So Far Away – another convict story or my Uncle Mike from Poland

Week 6 (Feb. 5-11): Same Name – will have to check my database
Week 7 (Feb. 12-18): Favourite Discovery – record at Donegal archive for Rebecca Jackson
Week 8 (Feb. 19-25): Prosperity – mining in NE Tasmania
Week 9 (Feb. 26-Mar. 3): Disaster – Dawson relatives at Mt Lyell mine disaster

Readers: Which two topics would you most like to read about? I will then make sure I write those posts.


Mum reminiscing

Boxing Day here so mum, dad and I went out for lunch at Live Eat Moonah. This is a franchise owned by my cousin Kelli who turned 46 today. We had a great healthy meal, but had to be home by 1pm ready for the start of the Sydney Hobart yacht race which mum likes to watch every year.

On the way home, mum told us that her father took her to watch the very first race 74 years ago when she was a child about 11 years old. Nearly every morning once the race began, they would walk from Grosvenor Street in Sandy Bay to Princes Park in Battery Point to watch the boats come in. They would only go down when he knew some boats would be arriving.

Her father Henry Lewis England loved boating and would often take mum and her sister fishing off Sandy Bay beach.

Mum couldn’t remember much more about the yacht race other than they didn’t take any food with them and they were there when the last boat came in.  Dad piped in from behind me in the car with his memories of that race. He knew it was the ship Wayfarer that came in last nine days after the race started. He thought the ship was from Launceston and only did a leisurely cruise rather than racing hard.

Looking at reports in newspapers on Trove, the first official race in 1945 had lots of problems. Some of these still happen now 75 years on.

  • Two ships went ‘missing’
  • Gales across Bass Strait
  • Becalmed near Hobart

Comparison of Sydney Hobart with Fasnet race held off Isle of Wight in England

In August 1945, there was discussion on having a race in 1945.


The race has begun with 9 yachts taking part.

First casualty of the race was Archina.

Bad weather slowed the race but a Tasmanian yacht is in the lead

Two yachts are missing

One yacht reappears near entrance to Storm Bay

Rani crosses the line at 1.45am on 2 January 1946 to win the race and handicap honours.

Discussion about race becoming an annual event.

Should it also become a Hobart to Sydney race sometimes?

The placings – only Wayfarer to arrive

The last yacht has finally arrived after sheltering in Port Arthur11 days after start of the race.

Mum and dad’s memories were fairly accurate considering it happened 75 years ago when they were both children.

Readers: Have you or one of your family members taken part in a big yachting race? Have you been at the start or finish of a yachting race?

Using DNA Painter

Over the last year or so I have been dabbling with the chromosome maps in DNA Painter, but today I decided to import a GEDCOM from my Wyatt family tree on Ancestry and start using the Fan tree.

Once the data was in there, I could quickly see a couple of things.

My tree completeness:

This shows how many grandparents I have found so far in my research. I can see I have quite a lot to find that are only a few generations back. I am hoping that DNA testing of mum and dad will help with solving some of those missing people.

How many grandparents I still need to find

My Fan tree created by uploading GEDCOM data.

This shows in a more visual way where the people are that I need to research. As you can see, I need to do more work on my father’s side. But the problem is the DNA matches I have for dad are all in the 4th cousin plus further back on his paternal side. On his maternal side, I have a few births and baptisms with different father’s names.

Visual showing where I need to research the ancestors


Readers: Have you tried using DNA Painter or have you created charts like these using your own software or another website online?