Women and work

So often in family history, it is the women who are hard to trace.

  1. What types of occupations did your female ancestors and relatives have? Did they work in the same jobs before and after marriage?
  2. Were women in your family employed in the same occupation over several generations? What socio/economic factors contributed to this?
  3. Were any of the single/widowed females in your family the sole breadwinners? Did they own or operate a business?
  4. What resources have you found useful for researching women in the workforce? Have you found any women with interesting occupations?

Many of our answers covered more than one question this week, so I am just going to write under one heading

Working women in your family

There were no doubt some @BadBridget among the immigrants/emigrants but equally many worked hard to set themselves up in independence. Also they were often the leaders in Irish migration – unlike other countries!

Margaret: quite a few of mine signed the 1893 Suffrage Petition including my grandma and great grandma

Lots of nuns in our Catholic families most of whom became teachers, was a respectable alternative to marriage, one unmarried sister usually stayed at home to care for elderly parents until death

Nuns had occupations when married women had to stay home. I guess that was the choice.

Dara found ‘Histories’ about the convent that described a Nun’s character and life in great detail. Lovely find

Margaret R said you have just reminded me we have some great Nun’s records in our family. One died basically of working too hard caring for those suffering from influenza in 1918. @iwikiwichick and I found her grave.

Sharn’s great aunt test flew spitfires in Hampshire during WW2

Paula’s great grandmother worked in the jute mills in Dundee. Dundee and particularly Lochee at that time was very much dominated by females. As they could earn more it was sometimes the men who stayed at home.

  • Famberry’s great grandmother had to work farmland to look after 3 children and 2 adopted children, after her husband died. Survived by selling parts of the land. (An acre for £4).
  • Jane:  Eliza operated the lighthouse with her husband from 1884 to 1886 when he died unexpectedly and then on her own to 1887 when she died age 59. She had had a hard life – grew up in a Buckinghamshire workhouse after effectively being orphaned … Mother died a year after her father was transported to Australia
  • Frances: One of my 3x great-grandmothers has been referred to as a baby farmer! She has taken in an illegitimate child and was paid for her upkeep. But there’s no evidence of baby farming, just the one little girl rebelhand.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/a-c…
  • KLor: my grandmother had such beautiful skin she was hired as a model to sell soap. Pre-TV, this involved sitting on a chair on a conveyor belt as people looked at her through the shop window.
  • Lena: In Germany there was the female teacher celibacy from 1880 to 1919. Teachers were public officials. When they married they lost their entitlement for their pension.
  • Fran: most of the UK census data for my female ancestors have no roles before or after marriage so it is very had to say. For the generation before me, my mother and aunts kept working in sewing factories after marriage. I always had the latest bathers.
  • Sue A: Women’s work is under recorded on UK censuses before and after marriage. Earlier census more likely to record women’s occupation, later ones enumerators were instructed not to. Lots of female ag labs vanished as a result
  • Mr Cassmob’s ancestor was in the news and police gazettes for being drunk and disorderly. She was a Famine Orphan so perhaps a form of PTSD?
  • Sylvia: Textile weavers in 19thC Lancashire cotton mills. My mother was able to break away & became a teacher.
  • Pauleen: I have single cousins who were in the army or similar, but not married women. Mum worked as a volunteer aircraft spotter. cassmobfamilyhistory.com/2020/04/25/vol…
  • Sharn: My g g g grandmother a free Irish woman married to a convict ran a brothel in Phillip Street in Sydney. She was frequently arrested and in the news
  • Paula: In my family tree widows seemed to marry again fairly quickly. In some cases gaining a few extra children to look after in the process.
  • Sue: My great grandfather died in Nov 1914, one month after his son was born. His wife then worked the farm with her chn for many years, then moved between her three girls houses in Longford and Hobart
dghchocolatier / Pixabay

Carmel: a widowed gt gt grandmother migrated with 3 young sons and established a farm, the purchase of the land was in her name.

Karen: My great grandmother’s husband deserted her and left her to look after several children on her own. I don’t know how she survived. Bit of a mystery.

ANZ: Yes so many women had a hard time when their husbands disappeared – one of mine waited 20 years before declaring him dead and taking over the property

Pauleen: My 2xgreat grandmother Bridget McSharry nee Furlong worked as a boarding house keeper after her husband died or disappeared. Financially challenging times. My great grandmother Emily Melvin supported her husband after his bankruptcy and jail.

Helen: Running a ‘house of ill fame’ (a most interesting woman to research!)

Dara: Wow! One of my great-grandfather’s cousins – all the daughters were on the game. very sad, all due to poverty, left me with very many ‘DNA cousins’ who don’t know their paternal line.

  • Sharn: My great grandmother’s husband ran off with a bar maid. She took over their green grocery store in the Valley, Brisbane. She claimed to be the first female fruiterer in Brisbane.
  • Jennifer: I know of one single breadwinner. My gg gfather’s sister was school mistress in Scotland, following the tradition of position being filled by family members. First her grandfather, then her father, followed by 2 brothers. She took over when a brother died
  • Pauleen: My 3xgreat g’mother Catherine Happ inherited her family’s hundreds year old Bavarian inn. Of course her husband then became the official innkeeper.
  • Margaret R: When my grandmother was widowed with 6 children, some still preschool, it seemed mainly they survived by using the bit of land they had for a cow they milked, and growing lots of vegetables
  • Dara: On my Mam’s side, they continued with ‘the shop’ after their husband died. My grandfather, who knew he had a weak heart, reopened a shop with my Granny before he died, so she would have an income afterwards
  • Hilary: my gt grandfather’s brother died before his wife who I believe ran a fruit and vegetable shop looking at the records it was probably her business rather than his
  • Shauna: Sadly a number of my female ancestors were widowed and they usually fell on hard times or remarried quickly. Mostly my families were poor so no businesses to run.
  • Sharn: My 3rd great aunt was widowed when she had a 4 year old son. She worked first as a tailoress and later owned and operated a green grocery store in Ipswich Suffolk. Her sister my ancestor also widowed came to Australia
  • Sharn: My Scottish females all worked in the cotton industry in Glasgow because that was what was near the coal mines their husbands worked in
  • Dara: My great-grandmother was a musician, after her first husband died. She played piano and violin at the silent movies. Initially she probably had to take it up to pay for their keep, but there is certainly less pleasant work. Unusually, there is a census record that she worked outside the home after (2nd) marriage.
  • Famberry: Mainly nursing but one relative worked in a cake/tea shop, which explains my love of cakes.
klimkin / Pixabay

Shauna: My great grandmother was a deaconess in her church but she was only referred to as Mrs Thomas Price in the annual reports

Sue: One of my great great great grandmothers had a boarding lodge in Evandale and there was mention of a murder there in 1861 nla.gov.au/nla.news-artic…

Shauna: When I joined the Queensland Public Service in March 1974 men were still moaning about how women were now getting equal pay. Somehow they thought I should have been in the typing pool.

Helen: Australian women in the Commonwealth Public Service had to give up their jobs once they married until 1966! Outrageous!

  • Margaret B: It was my generation! My cousin retired from teaching at 55. Then she went back as a relief teacher. But she had plenty to occupy herself. I retired at 50 and have never been busier. Just don’t get paid for my work.
  • Paula: My ancestors took whatever jobs they could find. Sometimes that might involve leaving home. It’s only recent generations who have had choices I think
  • Shauna: My mother worked at Freer’s Chips (not far from where we lived) Fridays were wonderful when she came home with a mega big bag of chips that somehow never made it into packets
  • Jill: My mother worked in the Post Office in the country as a telephonist. When she moved to Sydney she worked in the GPO.
  • Pauleen: Working as dressmakers was common between female siblings. Occupations were frequently determined by the family’s circumstances eg if they had a farm or a business. With large families extra income was helpful. Education beyond primary school a luxury.
  • Shauna: Coming from a long line of miners, jobs were mostly to do with the mines, tin in Cornwall and coal in the Midlands. It is easy to see why Australia was attractive to emigrants
  • Carmel: Once my grandmother’s husband died in the 1919 flu she had to give up the farm and work in casual jobs to support her 6 children, milking a cow and had the young boys sell the milk, later in life always worked a housekeeper for Catholic priests
  • Daniel: I’d say Farmer’s Wife is all I had seen… I had a few domestic servants, some kept it on after they married but farmer’s wife is primarily what I’d seen.
  • Jane: Mainly ‘unpaid domestic duties’ or equivalent after marriage … otherwise, lace makers, servants …
  • Shauna: I think farmer’s wives probably did everything – worked the farm, looked after the kids, did the housework and everything else – a hard life then as now – my farmer went insolvent after his wife died and the kids were split up
  • Margaret: My cousins worked as nurses, teachers and dental nurses. One served in WWII. Those that had children gave up working, those who didn’t worked until they retired.
  • Dara: A significant number of my mother’s female ancestors had a grocery shop. Of course, they were always labeled the ‘wife of a XX’ in official records

Sue: One of my Irish convict ancestors said she was a nursemaid on her convict records but naturally didn’t follow that once she was here in Tasmania

Pauleen: I’ve seen some early Irish immigrants get jobs as nursemaids, presumably because of being older children in big families – don’t imagine all had been employed in the “big houses” before they left.

Margaret R: Have just remembered a very sad tale about a 2X great-aunt who was ‘licensed out’ from a children’s home when her father deserted, and she was horribly abused. Court case was in Trove. As a child she would have been doing domestic work.

Jennifer: My grandmother worked in a factory until she was 70. They gave her a retirement send off when she reached retirement age. She went back to work next day saying she had no intention of retiring.

pasja1000 / Pixabay
  • ANZ: I’m not sure what my ancestors did in the 18th and 19th centuries. Bur Elizabeth Phipps was a Cotton Spinner in London prior to transportation in 1813.
  • Helen: Unfortunately one of my female ancestors has all sorts of records associated with her that list dressmaker/laundress (police record, industrial school records), so I do know
  • Karen: Domestic servants and later homemakers, mostly. Some farmers’ wives. My great grandmother’s sister was a printmaker/artist’s model. I think their mother had a small shop but still trying to find out about that.
  • Sharn: My great great grandmother gave up nursing to accompany her wayward tenor singing husband on piano. I don’t imagine her parents were pleased
  • Carmel: several were farmers’ wives but would only have been ready for this 365 day a year role if they had grown up on a farm themselves. My mother worked in a small town shop before becoming a farmer’s wife.
  • ANZ: I’ve done a little research on a relative who was a nurse, did private nursing in Italy before the First World War, then came back to work in England. She’s a fascinating character. Involved in London theatre as well
  • Margaret R: My Aunty was a nurse, but I have found her very hard to research. In electoral rolls she is mostly listed as spinster, only occasionally as a nurse!
  • Pauleen: There’s similarity between my women ancestors and relatives: railway gatekeepers , station Mistresses, dressmakers or embroidery/lacemaking, farmer’s daughters and shop assistants in family business
  • Jennifer: Most of my female ancestors were domestic servants. My gg grandmother took in washing, even though I’m sure she had enough of her own. She had 11 children at the time! Her husband described her to his family as a “good hardworking wife”
  • Fran: Servants, factory workers, dressmaker, drapers apprentice, Ag lab. Nothing that exciting except for Mabel Dawson who worked on the stage in shows. Played instruments.
  • Sue: Know mum worked as a clerical assistant sending out Hydro accounts before marriage, then did lots of volunteer work with the Girl Guides
Skitterphoto / Pixabay

Resources to use

  • Wonderful to visit museums and see just how some occupations were carried out and the conditions they worked under.
  • Paula visited the Verdant Works museum and seeing the type of work her great granny would have done in the jute factories and the life she would have lead was really fascinating
  • I have found odd things in the @ArchivesNZ & @PapersPastNZ by just searching a name. Eg teachers, nurses and public servants.
  • When it comes to women and work in our families we have to be very lateral in our searching – there are opportunities out there, but they’re not just the routine paths necessarily.
  • Margaret has a book she won about NZ Colonial Businesswomen. Written by a NZer now elsewhere.
  • Maggie mentioned a fascinating insight into female businessowners is Catherine Bishop’s Women Mean Business: Colonial businesswomen in New Zealand otago.ac.nz/press/books/ot…
  • Sharn has only one book about female ancestors’ occupations and that is Margaret Ward’s book Female Occupations
  • Similar answers to last week: academic articles, published diaries & letters (both personal and to papers) often give an interesting insight into what life was like. Insights into more recent women’s lives from oral history collections. My ancestors were dull!
  • Karen recommends Trove, Ancestry.com, NSW State Archives, Local libraries, State libraries, National Trust properties. Most interesting is probably artist’s model and printmaker.
  • Sharn found this article written by The Social Historian to be interesting thesocialhistorian.com/womens-occupat…
  • Sue mentioned some convict employment records are now available online in the Tasmanian Names Index

  • Carmel mentioned there is an excellent collection of letters by female emigrants to Aust, NZ in the AJCP via Trove where many of them describe their working conditions. Letterbooks of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society, 1862 – 1882 nla.gov.au/nla.obj-77025
  • Tara mentioned one of the general resources I found on life in Dublin – you might have seen it before Dublin 1756-1847 logainm.ie/Eolas/Data/IHT…
  • Fran: Many roles talked about today have women doing jobs that “don’t count”. If you are interested in following this up a place to start is “If Women Counted” by Marilyn Warning. It’s regarded as the “founding document” of the discipline of feminist economics.
  • Another from Carmel: “If women counted” by Marilyn Waring available on Archive.org
  • Tara: the @BadBridget podcast (worth listening to) acknowledges that and the role of women’s remittances in assisting migration of other family members and maintaining/supporting remaining family noted.
  • Pauleen: Electoral rolls after franchise, news stories about their community activities, marriage certificates, parish registers, oral history, heirlooms (sewing machine), Post Office directories, books about type of work and conditions
  • Maggie: Margaret Ward’s book, Female Occupations: Women’s Employment 1850-1950, is a useful resource for understanding various jobs women undertook to earn a living
  • Shauna: government gazettes are a useful resources for tracing female teachers or anyone working in a government position. Each Australian state published their own and digitised copies can be found online
  • Helen: I downloaded a dataset of probate records from @PRO_Vic, extracted subset of records for occupation ‘farmer’, then analysed ratio of female to male (no surprises). I like seeing the big picture. Hence earlier question
  • Fran: Many mothers and grandmothers served in WW2 in both the army and the RAAF – many records can be found at the National Archives of Australia

  • Many people mentioned Visible Farmer website https://www.visiblefarmer.com/
  • Maggie: I’ve come across lots of advertisements in newspapers for women offering services, dressmaking, laundering, etc. Great way to find out how they earned a living
  • Sue: Maybe we need to look more carefully at marriage certificates and census/electoral roll to see if the women are more than spinster or full age or minor age and add to their profiles on Ancestry or our trees
  • Margaret B: When the family were in Scotland there were a few servants both domestic and agricultural according to the Census. Some were very young when they left home. And some were still working when quite old.
  • Helen: On my GGG grandmother’s probate record she is described as a farmer, I think because farm land was owned in her name. Whether she was involved with farming I don’t know. Her death cert said ‘spinster’ but the probate told another story.
  • Fran: I do have a few female head of households in UK & Wales census data however they do not seem to have different roles than before. Might be the husbands are just away.
  • Sue: University of Sydney have a research group about women and work sydney.edu.au/business/our-r…
  • Sue: Information from International Labour Organization about women and work, more what is happening now but looks at all countries ilo.org/infostories/en…
  • Sue: Some interesting reading about history of women and work in the US but would be similar to industrialised nations around the world brookings.edu/essay/the-hist…
  • Helen: For some nurses in the family I’ve found evidence of their having taken nursing exams in @TroveAustralia
Berzin / Pixabay

Some great comments and conversations

Helen: Recently did a family history project for a friend and I was DETERMINED to fill in the considerable blanks for the women (and I always search for evidence for babies born and died between censuses in UK research, which so many leave out in Ancestry trees).

Pauleen: Isn’t it interesting how one person’s comments triggers off memories or thoughts of our own families.

Jennifer: Sure is. I’ve been thinking about all my frustrations with bank managers over the years.

Pauleen: You can readily see how women whose husbands weren’t as egalitarian would have potential problems especially if they were divorced or deserted, even today.

Jennifer: I experienced it up until recently as a business owner partnered with my husband. In the end I did all the bank negotiations. Had to convince the bank that, yes I may be female, but yes I do know what I’m talking about. as I’d done all financials for 3 decades

Tara: Very struck by today’s discussion that ANZ women seemed to have greater public knowledge/acknowledgement of their economic role than their European sisters.

Shauna: I’ve done a lot of reading on baby farmers and backyard abortionists – that reveals just how desperate some women were and how other women took advantage/helped them out

Fran: When I think about owning a business many of my male ancestors were watchmakers and lived above the shop. Perhaps the family (wives & daughters) did plenty of unpaid work serving in the shop. So hard to know unless someone wrote a journal or perhaps a letter.

Tara: really difficult to tell in Ireland, often marriage records removed any ref to woman’s occupation (respectability), knowledge after marriage often oral. English ancestors, only one had known occupation after marriage: Inn keeper.

Pauleen: Similar here Tara. I love that my Irish 2xgreat g’mother from Co Clare put “farmer” on the electoral roll here. Fair enough too – she’d helped to clear the land and establish the farm while he worked on the railways.

Tara: Some of the oral histories I collected for my thesis last year recorded the sheer amount of farm work their mother’s did. It would be more accurate to describe these women as farmers in their own right. Often father absent (cattle dealer, champion ploughman)

Sharn: When my great grandmother married Tara they lived on a banana farm. She always called herself a farmer

Tara: I wonder what the difference was Sharn – from the records I’ve seen, those oral histories, and my own family, that attitude wouldn’t have been common in Ireland. Perhaps more liberated from Victorian notions of “respectability”

Karen: One of my late grandfathers was proud that his wife did not have to work. He felt women going to work was a problem. Many women in the 1950s automatically lost their jobs when they became pregnant. Attitudes have changed.

Pauleen: Back in the day men sometimes saw it as a negative reflection on their earning capacity if their wives had to go out to work. Potential study and careers were sacrificed.

Pauleen: Married or single or widowed or deserted, paid employment or not, they were almost always involved in volunteer community or church activities as well as home dressmaking/knitting etc. Their hands were never idle. And the responsibility for large families

Paula: My female ancestors were in poorly paid work. Jute workers , bleachfield workers (I didn’t know what that was), pottery worker, farm labourer, domestic servant. After marriage it was all about having and looking after children. Some big families.

Pauleen: I imagine they’d have suffered some ill health after some of those jobs especially bleachfield workers.

Allie: Based on the Irish linen industry, I -think- a bleachfield worker laid cloth out to bleach in the sun. Some chemicals were involved, particularly later on, but I’m not sure if that was part of the same job. There’s a bleach green in our local folk park nmni.com/our-museums/Ul…

Fran: I think that some times it was the “place” they lived that meant they were employed in the same occupation. They may have moved to places with jobs in the industrial rev. period. Lack of transport meant you worked locations near to where you lived. I assume it depends how poor they are & opportunities available. Have found related families moved over time so having relatives at the new place would help get jobs, contacts for accommodations, etc. Though then the male role is usually dominant.

Readers: How do you find out about the lives of your female ancestors? What occupations have they had?

 

Why do family history?

Family history is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world. So why do you do family history?

Here are this week’s questions we discussed in the #ANZAncestryTime chat.

  1. What prompted you to start FH research and when? Any exciting, surprising, sad, or shocking discoveries?
  2. Have you researched offline as well as online? What do you treasure most about your research?
  3. Did you inherit any FH research, family stories or photos? Did you take the information as given or verify it? Have cousin connections expanded your research?
  4. Why is it important to you to learn about ancestors and their places? Has having immigrant ancestors been important to your quest? Does FH benefit to your family and/or the community?
Free-Photos / Pixabay

Starting research

  • Tara: I grew up with oral tradition of “tracing” ancestry. My uncle had done some research before on his paternal line. Conversation with friend got me started on all 4 lines. Discoveries, tragedy, royalty, murder, madness, adventure!
  • Pauleen: It’s easy to discount the oral histories people give you but conversely they actually knew these people so often the data would be accurate- just needed checking. LOl re the letters and no one escaping!
  • Karen: A distant cousin who had done extensive research on the family told me about an ancestor who sang in concerts on a ship to Australia. I wanted to find out more about her. Many exciting, surprising, sad and shocking discoveries on both sides of the family.
  • Jennifer: When I first started family history I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought I would just do a little research for a couple of weeks and that would be it. Famous last words. As I said I had no idea!  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without family history to keep me busy
  • Pauleen: LOL! I doubt any of us foresaw how it would come to take over our lives. But how rewarding is it?! I didn’t even consider that 30+ years later I’d still be at – and people ask “Aren’t you finished yet?”
  • Margaret: I found my great aunt was a victim of bigamy in Williamstown, went off the rails and started drinking. Her children were “sentenced” to Industrial School for 7 years. She went to an asylum where she died of pulmonary consumption
  • Sharn: BIGGEST surprise for me was that my mother’s surname was made up by her grandfather. THAT took some research. he deserted a wife and child
  • Soc OPS: After years of saying to Mum that it would be easy to trace her family tree because of her uncommon maiden name (Atcherley), a particularly interesting episode of WDYTYA? in 2007 finally prompted me to find out if my assertion was true.
  • Sandra: The main discovery was finding who was my dad’s father was. Went from a missing branch to quite a tangled tree. Dad was a very quiet man and never really talked about family. You could sense sadness so never pushed it. He said he had a letter and photo but had lost it and once gave a very generic name to put us off. Not sure if mum knew. Have only told siblings.
  • Sue: Started in my teens in the 70s by asking questions to add to a tree for school work
  • Sharn: A most surprising discovery for me was that my g uncle from NZ living in England had an MI5 file on him. I have the thick file and he has proven to be a very interesting character
  • Pauleen: My first genimates were age-contemporaries of my mother’s and both had gone to the same secondary school mum & I had attended. I learned so much from how they documented research, especially narrative format. Didn’t always agree with conclusions though 😉
  • Jennifer: When I first started researching my family history it was only to find out about my fathers parents. He was an orphan and his parents were never discussed in our family. My father said his parents had no family. I found they both had a huge family.
  • Betsey: Great joy at finding some wonderful family links to Robert Burns who was not just a family friend but wrote Banks & Braes of Bonnie Doon and Young Peggy about my 3x Great Grand Aunt Margret ‘Peggy’ Kennedy of Daljarroch. Gavin Hamilton was married to her aunt
  • Sharn: All I started out looking for back in the 90’s was the age my g grandmother was when she came to Australia from Switzerland. Little did I know..
  • Jennifer: One of my earliest finds was that my father’s parents died within 6 weeks of each other. Causes of death not connected There were 12 children. My father was youngest. I wrote about my reaction to this news. There have been many surprises along the way, I found I had 50 first cousins from Dad’s family who were previously unknown to me
  • Pauleen: The absolute saddest story I’ve discovered was the tragic death of my great-grandmother Julia Gavin Kunkel. Her husband died 6 weeks later on Xmas Day.
  • Sharn: possibly the saddest discovery I made in Qld school records was that my g g grandfather was put in an orphanage at 9 after his mother remarried. At 12 he was ‘sentenced’ to 5 years on a hulk in the Brisbane River for being ‘neglected’.
  • Margaret: My mother started before I was born in the 1940s. I grew up with it. Always been interested in history (even though I did science)
christels / Pixabay
  • Sharn: After being told I had Welsh ancestry, a welsh castle in the family and family members who were Welsh Guards I named two of my four children with Welsh names, Surprise – DNA says differently.
  • Carmel: surprise was that I had lived in the house built by my ancestors until I was 9. They built the small farm dwelling in 1858 from local stone and mud from the creek, my father added a bathroom and sleepout
  • Sandra: I become interested in family history in year 5 at school. We had to do our family tree for a project and I only really had half a tree. Became a mission to find the other half
  • Daniel: Simultaneously getting my school set up ready for the day. I started my Family History journey back in 2017 as a way of hopefully getting the answers to questions that we couldn’t answer!
  • Pauleen: I think my main curiosity was about my Kunkel surname. I knew it was Germanic but nothing else. My research obsession started in Sept 1986 when I came across an info stand by @GSQPresident at a Heritage Show in Brisbane. Dad always said if they were Kunkels, then we were related – he wasn’t far wrong. There are more later immigrants now post WWII. Back in those days Qld BDM were very date-limited. Letters to people with the name gave an oral history
  • Jill: I learnt that I had indigenous ancestry. So proud that my connection to this land goes back tens of thousands of years.
  • Hilary: I think the trigger for me was finding some certificates in a case that had belonged to my husband’s grandfather
  • Mairead: I heard early on we had some Italian ancestors- was exciting to find out from a cousin that our ancestor was actually from southern Switzerland but spoke Italian- have been there since
  • Shauna: Watching Roots the television series in 1977.
  • Sue: Surprising was mums paper trail back to 1800s relates perfectly to DNA testing but dad’s paper trail completely incorrect since DNA testing.
  • Carmel: the death of my 101 yr old mother in 2013, finding her story dictated to a grandchild in 1992 and my retirement from paid work
  • Mairead: My parents died young (when I was 8 and 15) so I started some family history in my early 30s just to find out some basics.
  • Sharn: My grandmother was Irish and I grew up with her wonderful stories about her home in Ireland. That sparked my interest but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I began to ask her questions.
  • Fran: I started earnestly about 10 years ago when I decided it was a hobby that would combine my interest in blogging, technology and history. Plus be great for retirement.
  • Pauleen: Every story I discover about my family -ancestors and kin – is a treasure to me. It reveals them as real people with diverse life experiences. I’ve been hooked since Day 1.
  • Jennifer: I was introduced to family history when a relative asked me to help her organise a reunion for my inlaws’ family and then suggest I start to research my own family
  • Sharn: I was told my great grandparents were Swiss but a strange comment by an elderly great aunt in 1996 made me search online for my family. I discovered my ancestry was Swiss and German. and then I caught a serious genealogy bug
  • Brooke: I think I started doing #FamilyHistory research after my nan died. I’ve learned that starting #FamilyHistory BEFORE the oldies die is a much better idea.
  • Jill: In 1988 – Australia’s Bicentennial Year and the year my grandmother died I started thinking about and recording my personal and #familyhistory. So many exciting discoveries along the way. Finding that some of my ancestors were #convicts transported to #Australia wasn’t a surprise but I was surprised that there were ten of them
MemoryCatcher / Pixabay

Researching online and offline

  • Tara: Have researched in local and national archives here and abroad as well as online. I love challenge of problem-solving and the satisfaction of discovery and story-telling with family
  • Karen: Mainly online, but also at libraries (especially State Library of Queensland, and State Library of New South Wales) I treasure gaining a better understanding of history in general and how my ancestors fit into the picture. Things I learnt about at school (e.g. Eureka/Gold Rush) ended up being directly relevant to me. We had no idea of the connection previously. And then all the pieces of the puzzle come together. We start to understand why people behaved the way they did, why they kept secrets.
  • Margaret: I am lucky in that my nephew has caught the bug and will carry on my research when I can’t. He is getting all my papers, books, etc. We consult but work independently to verify what we are doing
  • Jennifer: When I first started there was no online research. It was all done by attending archives, societies etc. I loved in person research and still do on the rare occasion I get to do it.
  • Pauleen: I agree. I’m conflicted because I also like being able to do it from home and online, but my first love is going back to the primary documents and being able to hold them. I just don’t get to do it as often. Can’t believe how rarely I get to the archives now.
  • Fran: Even I like to go to archives, etc. I started doing both when I started. I find that “places” lead you down different paths compared to searching online. How can you not be impressed with seeing the original document?
  • Margaret: No online when I started helping my mother in the 1950s. When I travelled overseas in the 1980s I would drop into registries and buy certificates for her, spend time looking at records. Melbourne was a favourite one. Now it has to be online
  • Sharn: I began researching before the internet and everything was written in notebooks. In about 1996 I started researching online after a long illness. I recall the thrill of receiving certificates in the mail after a long wait
  • Pauleen: My instant reaction is “no”. I doubt they even realise so much of what Ancestry etc have online comes from Archives, societies etc. I’m so grateful to have started offline. As I started back in 1986 all my research was done offline in libraries, archives, books or microfilms. I learnt so much doing it this way. I was lucky to have some paternal family certificates to help me get started.
  • Hilary: going to the Archives has brought up some great records things like settlement examinations which are not digitised yet
  • Brooke: Offline research is increasing now, although I still treasure those early family trees I scribbled down listening to Grandma (maternal). My husband opened an Ancestry account about 15 years ago & I kind of took it over. As I keep learning, from you lovely folks, doing webinars, etc, I find more resources that are offline. Also, I see the gaps in my research can only be filled with offline info (eg, asylum records at State Archives)
kropekk_pl / Pixabay
  • Jennifer: Mostly I treasure my ancestors. I now understand the sacrifices they made many years ago in the hope of having a better life. These sacrifices have given me the great life that I have in Australia
  • Soc OPS: Yes, I’ve visited archives in Northampton, Stafford and Shrewsbury plus The National Archives, and obtained copies of documents from other places. I love the detective work, and the excitement of handling documents that are hundreds of years old!
  • Pauleen: I remember being so excited when I found a ?xgreatgrandfather’s signature back in the 1700s on an LDS microfilm. Offline research made you work harder think more, and appreciate it more IMO.
  • Hilary: whilst researching offline brings rewards I love online community for sharing discussion and discoveries
  • Jennifer: I treasure all the official documents and photos that I’ve come across through research or have been given. It distresses me that I have nobody to pass them on to. But that’s another subject for another week
  • Mairead: Thanks to a cousin, I had the info to go find our village in Ticino, and the old family home in Jersey.
  • Carmel: Have been to local history group in Riverton, SA , SA genealogy, SA State Library. Unfortunately I live in Qld so have to balance my interstate visits to 5 siblings in Sth Aust with offline research time
  • Fran: I treasure the little snippets I find. I am not a big brick wall destroyer. I like seeing the story between birth and death rather than adding another 100 people added to my tree. Another electoral roll record makes me happy
  • Sandra: I have and still research offline. The most interesting time was the first time looking at microfilm. The lower parts of the images were black. They were German church records from Litchefelde.
  • Sue: In the 80s I organized family reunions and wrote the tree out on butchers paper for people to add more info for me to then add to my basic computer program I had at home
  • Fran: Yes both off & online. I think that those new to family history, like me, are lucky that there is so much available. Without the big hunt at the archives I am sure I do not appreciate the material as much as totally offline researchers did
  • Pauleen: The thing I treasure more about my research is bringing the families “back to life” for current descendants and sharing something about their lives. It’s the stories that turn them into real people and Trove has revealed so many unexpected and hidden event
  • Sue: I used Tasmanian archives for years, microfilms and card catalogues including researching convicts for people overseas. Charged them the cost of stamps to send them the paperwork.
  • Shauna: yes so much so that I changed careers and became a librarian and an archivist. I had really good lunch hours
PourquoiPas / Pixabay

Connections, stories and cousins

  • Brooke:  Cousin & I were doing @utasfh Convict Ancestors at the same time. We debunked the “ancestor was a bushranger” myth as stated on Jen Willets site. It was almost disappointing.
  • Margaret: I have 32 family tree scrolls from my mother. I had papers, reports, albums, etc but they are gradually being taken to my nephew. He has got the 1805 New Testament in 2 volumes which I got from my aunt who got it from her father, etc. I question everything and try to find more than one source. The scrolls I am gradually checking with other sources as I enter them in my computer tree. One family story has not yet been verified, although DNA says it could be correct.
  • Soc OPS: Not from my immediate family, but early on I made contact with a distant cousin (with Atcherley as her third forename!) who’d been researching for 20 years and shared her gedcom. I used that as a reference but did my own research and shared my findings.
  • Mining the Past: I only have a few photos and the family tree I did with my mum in my teens. I researched just by following the records and have found a few children who died young that my mum clearly didn’t know about. Have found grains of truth in family stories.
  • Sharn: I was the first in my family that I know of to research our family history. I lost family photos in the 74 Brisbane floods so every photo someone sends me is very precious.
  • Hilary: my ONS (one name study) is a work in progress as I started with an Unsourced tree with the aim of verifying the information and building upon it always more to find
  • Sandra: We have a family tree book of my mum’s family but only from when they came to Australia to about 1983. I now have my mum and photos and documents. Over the years I have copied and scanned every old photo I could get my hands on.
  • Pauleen: Early in my research I got a great oral history from an elderly cousin who also put me in touch with other lines. I was able to verify the info via official records. The certificates I inherited certainly helped me get started, as did a very unusual surname. I had few stories even though I knew all my grandparents and two were immigrants – but they didn’t talk about it. I did meet some great-aunts, uncles & 2nd cousins.
  • Shauna: I was the first to be interested in the family history. Sadly hardly any photos on either side of my family. But I have managed to link up with cousins and share research and photos. Blogging is such wonderful cousin bait
  • Sharn: Through cousin connections I have pieced together the other half of family stories. Since 2015 each year I have been visiting a dear third cousin in Chicago who sadly passed away recently. We achieved so much in her ‘genealogy kitchen’
  • Shauna: The internet and digitised records has revolutionized genealogy and it’s wonderful to have friends all over the world #ANZAncestryTime But I think some have forgotten methodology and just use indexes and hunt names.
  • Sharn: I inherited a family history of my husband’s family that went back to William the Conqueror. Need I say more…. I have written a blog post about it
  • Daniel: I inherited quite a lot of dates and photos from my mum who got the info from my nan. I did try and verify because some bits were WAY off! My favourite things to have are old photos and I actually got a photo of my (very young at the time!) Paternal great grandparents. Little did I know it was actually their wedding photo! 😲
  • Jennifer: I’ve met many cousins mainly through my blog who have shared research, family search and photos. These new connections are very precious to me. I have ongoing relationships with many and with their families
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  • Mairead: I know that one of my nieces is interested. But I also know she is of the digital era, so I need to make sure I have as much info scanned as possible
  • Tara: I’m the custodian (by consent) of my uncle’s archive of audio recordings, photos, letters etc Verification is a slow process but ongoing. Cousin connections (e.g. NZ) definitely expanded research! (Photo of GGGF in Africa 1890s!)
  • Sandra: I have found some wonderful 2nd cousins and we have all shared generously. All info is taken as clues. Review, verify and check again with any information that is given to me.
  • Pauleen: Cousins share stories of their branches that I may not know as well as further cousin-links. The oral histories shared have been amazing. They also spot some research things I haven’t. Others are fabulous at the people connections and link us all together.
  • Jill: So much bounty. Cousin connections have added facts, given me photos and artefacts and new friendships have developed. I cannot understand why genies do not publish their basic tree in print or online
  • Jill: I rarely take information as given but use the proffered information a a clue. I like to check more than one source. One exception would be when a mother announces the birth of one of her children
  • Mairead: An oral story was that we had a convict relative. Someone gave me documents. But it was only last year I found a suitable train of evidence to be confident he really was ours.
  • Carmel: inherited a hand drawn Galvin family tree from father-in-law, but only found it in our files after I’d done the research, luckily it confirmed my research
  • Jill: No such inheritance for me. I think earlier generations on my Mother’s side didn’t want to share details of either their convict or indigenous backgrounds. Perhaps my Irish grandmother was interested as she told lost of stories
  • Sue: I inherited photos and some stories while relatives were still alive but a few stories were a bit fanciful and since proved incorrect
  • Mairead: When I started I was given photocopies of family groups by a cousin whose Dad had scribbled it down. Helped as a starting point, and also helped me find a war death. Others had forgotten this man who is buried in Florence.
  • Moderator: There really is an emotional moment when you realise you are looking at the handwriting of your great great grandparents in a government file. And then there is the smell of old documents
  • Jennifer: I have inherited no family history research, however along the way cousins who I’ve met have shared their information with me. I verify everything before adding it to my family tree or files.
shell_ghostcage / Pixabay

Ancestors and place

  • Margaret: I love the detective part of the search. Trying to find all the different people in my family and bringing them to life. Finding cousins all over the world has been great.
  • Tara: Much of my reading is to try and understand their lives and times, it provide clues to further research. Migration, internal and external features heavily so understanding (a) is essential. FH benefits family (entertainment) & community (collaboration/help)
  • Karen: Partly as the 1 ancestor who did write up some family history was not completely accurate/truthful (aware?). My in-press article discusses this. I also wanted to know why my ancestors came to Australia. I think only 2 were convicts. Others arrived later.
  • Fran: Having migrants in my family has become more important to me after starting #familyhistory research. I find it amazing how they came to NZ in sailing boats with little chance of returning, risk of death on the way and no shelter when they arrived.
  • Daniel: It’s important to know your family history because as the saying goes – “History is doomed to repeat itself if you don’t know about it”. It’s important as well as it adds a sense of life to those who left us long before us. When it comes to immigrant ancestors, I don’t have any but however there were siblings of direct ancestors that had emigrated and it’s nice knowing what happened to them as well. I had said to myself that I wouldn’t find many connections to America, little did I know that I found many more connections than I thought. Family History benefits everyone, as it tells their story and their ancestors story. If it’s put on things like @WikiTreers or @FamilySearch. it’s free for anyone to access and see, which helps a lot.
  • Jill: I hope that my endeavours will benefit my descendants now and in the future. They are already interested in the stories I post and several have willingly taken a #DNA test. I’m more interested in the people than a label
  • Jennifer: My family history research doesn’t really benefit my family as there is nobody in my family who has ever shown an interest. But family history led me to starting my One Place Study which will benefit my community. Through family history I’ve learnt much about the countries where my ancestors originated. Researching family history gives the opportunity to learn about the world
  • Mairead: The more I learn about my Irish ancestors the more I realise how the Famine led directly to so many of them leaving. My Burkes and Flynns and related families all ended up near Perth from Co Mayo. Five of my Arbuckle sisters came to Australia- three of them on a famine ship from the Workhouse. In my grandmother’s line, 3 came to NZ. I have been in contact with a 2nd cousin who had no idea we were such close relatives. The details of those who emigrated was largely lost.
  • Shauna: I have found siblings who came out to different states and there is no indication that they ever connected up – they just seem to have lost touch
  • Soc OPS: I feel that I have become the teller of my ancestors’ lost stories, and I love that role! Expanding my research into the places where they lived is giving me an even broader insight into the lives they led, as members of their local communities.
Capri23auto / Pixabay
  • Brooke: All my ancestors were immigrants: convicts, sailors who stayed, assisted/unassisted immigrants, child migrants. Researching when they arrived in Australia & where they came from is what I target. Why? I love the stories particularly of child migrants
  • Fran: it is good that a group people are saving our history. In particular the history of many females is not seen to be important so lost. Family Historians save history. I just think learning about people widens your own experiences. Gives you more empathic skills and this helps you through life.
  • Pauleen: Absolutely! Learning our ancestors’ stories reveal how they overcame challenges in their daily lives. Exploring their lives & that of their communities at a micro level reveals the nuances of settlement that is hidden by “big picture” history. It all goes back to learning more about them as individual people. As I’ve learned more, I’ve come to appreciate their hard work and the challenges they’ve faced. Visiting their places here or overseas has been an amazing privilege.
  • Sandra C: I’ve always wanted to know where my families came from. Immigration is a large part of the story. Who they were, what they looked like, their story. World history and geography has become more interesting and I love having a mystery to research.
  • Shauna: it is a personal search to know where I have come from and what those people experienced. My writing it up and leaving copies it adds to the collective history of Australia.
  • Hilary: discovering more about who your family were and what they did helps you to see how you fit in
  • Pauleen: I have no Indigenous ancestors so, of necessity, immigration is part of my own ancestral journey. Learning about their migration journeys has been important so I could understand their experience. They were courageous to make this massive leap of faith
  • Jill: I am just plain curious. I want to know who I am and where I came from, it’s my story. I feel such a connection when I visit ancestral towns and sites. It’s spinetingling stuff.
  • Sharn: Understanding my ancestors lives within context as well as the places where they lived helps me to understand my own identity. It is a very important part of researching family history for me

Posts 

Jennifer writes her responses to these questions tonight

Sharn writes about telling your immigrant’s stories

Quotes of the night:

Regardless of all I find out about my family it is the friendships you make along the way that make researching family history a most wonderful interest. Thanks all who joined me tonight. I enjoyed your tweets and look forward to next week.

Carmel: Family history makes me: Recognise the efforts of those who came before especially my migrant ancestors; challenges me to research and find new resources; learn new ways of searching and it challenges the ageing brain.

Pauleen: Offline research gave you the opportunity to do what I call “slow genealogy” and absorb your discoveries and plot your way forward. As fun as online research is, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.

Shauna: I love the fact that so many genealogical societies have been established and led to great friendships as well as the thrill of ancestor hunting

Readers: When did you begin your journey into family history? What have you found that interested you the most?