My recent research


A few weeks ago, I was on Wikitree when I saw in their chat feed called G2G (Genealogist to genealogist) a post about researching disasters in Australia as part of the Disaster Project worldwide.  A couple of mining disasters were mentioned relating to Tasmania – the Breisis tin mine at Derby on the north east coast and the North Mount Lyell mining disaster at Gormanston on the west coast.

I replied back that I would start researching the Mount Lyell disaster as a few of my dad’s relatives were survivors back on 12 October 1912 – the Dawson brothers Albert, Henry and Alexander (dad’s actual grandfather on his maternal line).

The person organizing the Australian disasters set up the template for the page including a brief summary of the disaster and a table already  including those who perished and known info about their family – this meant 42 new profiles to create and research. A couple of profiles had already been created by other people and they had started writing their biographies so I left them alone.

After creating the profiles, it was time to research each person and add sources onto their profile. I created the Research Notes section to add all the sources in. That meant other people could also use them to write their biographies if they wanted or were related. I already had some information about where the men might have been born, married or had children so I checked the BDMs in mainly Tasmania and Victoria where the majority of men were from. I added this information in the Research Notes area under a bold heading of Family information to be added then I started checking Trove for newspaper reports about the disaster and adding those sources to each man who was mentioned. Some newspaper articles mentioned lots of people so I added them just on the North Mount Lyell main page.

It was about this time that Wikitree was running a Connect-a-thon where we try to connect lots of new people to the worldwide tree and adding sources for the new information. Now was the time to add in the family members I had found and use the BDMs or newspaper reports as the official sources. I only got to add info for 10 of the men and their families.

The future

I can see this project will keep me going for a long time, as I also want to add in the survivors and their families (second table created by me after following the coding from the first table). The Humane Society also gave awards to those who went back in to save trapped miners and bring up the bodies of those who perished. I have created a table for that and will add to these two tables as I find more information from newspaper reports.

Doing this project gives me the chance to head back to the west coast and re-visit the museum at Queenstown which is full of information about the disaster. Maybe when the weather gets warmer!

Readers: Did you have a relative who died in a mining disaster anywhere in the world?

PS: If you are a Wikitree member and had a relative die at Mount Lyell please feel free to take over as manager for their profile page.

Alexander DAWSON Junior

Alexander Junior was the third of eleven children born to Alexander Senior and Hannah Dawson nee Sutton. He was born on 11 February 1884 at Gladstone in the Ringarooma district in Tasmania.

Alexander’s siblings were:

  • William John Alexander  1882 – 1884 – died by drowning in Gladstone
  • Albert William 1883 – 1981
  • Catherine Mary 1886 – 1973
  • Henry George 1891 – 1916 – died in WWI
  • John McKay 1892 – 1915 – died in WWI
  • Olive Maud 1894 – 1972
  • Myrtle Amy 1894 – 1975
  • George Byron Matthew 1896 – 1982
  • William Percy 1898 – 1945
  • Frederick Roy (James) 1900 – 1982
  • Half sibling Eileen Blanche CAREY 1905 –

On 27 March 1884, his Lordship Bishop Sandford visited Gladstone. One of his duties there was to administer rites of baptism to Alexander Dawson’s infant child. This was probably Alexander Junior.

The Dawson’s were a mining family first at Gladstone and then they moved to Queenstown.

At age 17, Alexander’s father passed away .

Alexander senior passed away from inflammation of the lungs due to working multiple extended shifts in succession. This was not normally permitted due to the poor quality air in underground mining known to cause lung complaints. But in this case it was overlooked because they’d lost all their belongings in a housefire associated with the nearby bushfires. Alexander was trying to rebuild his home and contents for the family. They lived in a poorer area of Queenstown known as The Pigsty, adjacent to the current football ground. [1]

His wife was left to bring up 10 children of which only one was an age to get a job at the mines. Hannah married again fairly quickly as she had five children under the age of seven when her first husband passed.

At some stage in late 1908, Alexander spent at least one evening with Irene Nellie Somers/Clark and in July 1909 his daughter, Irene was born on Bruny Island. This has been proved through DNA matches. Alexander had no knowledge of this daughter as far as I know.

Married life and children

His marriage to Sarah Jane HAWKINS occurred on 17 July 1912 in Queenstown, Tasmania.

Their first child Alexander Charles was born in September 1912 but unfortunately died three weeks later on 7 October at Preston Street, Queenstown.

Just five days later Alexander was involved in the famous North Lyell Disaster. A Royal Commission into the disaster was held in December 1912 and Alexander was called as a witness.

Alexander Dawson deposition about 1912 Mt Lyell mining disaster

Two of Alexander’s brothers were also involved in the disaster – Albert and Henry.

Alexander and Jane’s second child Ronald was born in 1913 and their first daughter Eileen in 1916 at Austin Street, Queenstown.

Alexander was still mining at Mount Lyell North in 1917 when he was brought up on charges of personal negligence in endangering the safety of two miners working in the mine.

In October 1923, their second daughter Olive was born in Queenstown.

His wife, Jane (also known as Jenny), died on 7 November 1924, from an allergy to a bee sting. [2]

Two weeks later Alexander was charged with indecent behaviour in Little Orr Street, Queenstown.

After Sarah died, Alexander continued to work to feed & clothe the family. The eldest son Ron (Adrian’s grandfather), from age 11, looked after his two sisters in his father’s absence. Alexander was known to ‘touch the bottle along’ after Jenny’s death. After Alexander’s death, Ron continued to care for his sisters until they found their own lives as adults. [3]

Ron with his sisters Eileen and Olive

Alexander died in 1933 from fatal injuries after falling at a sideshow and not regaining consciousness when taken to hospital. A fantastic obituary was written in the local paper. An inquest was held and the coroner gave the verdict of accidental death.

Both Jane and Alexander are buried in the Queenstown cemetery


  1. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  2. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  3. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021