Returning A Family Heirloom To Its Rightful Owners

Is it odd that my genealogical fantasies include stumbling across local, 19th Century glass negative plates at a 2nd hand market or that someone contacts me about some amazing long, lost family heirloom? Unfortunately, this hasn’t come true, but I was able to make it happen for a lucky lady in England!

Earlier this year I visited a 2nd cousin of mine who is into genealogy as much as I am and just before leaving she brought out the most amazing old book that she purchased from an antique dealer many years ago.antique heirloom book found

The large, earthy, marbled tome was a bit tattered, but it contained over 300 pages of musings, thoughts, poems and events of a woman living through the mid to latter half of the 1800’s.

The pages are all meticulously decorated with cutouts, illustrations and mementoes. On one page she fan-girls her favourite writer, Eliza Cook, known as a proponent of political and sexual freedom for women, who believed in the ideology of self-improvement through education.
Another page shows the wings of a flying fish sent from India and sadly on one page is a letter from her dying cousin Lucy, who writes;

‘My Dearest Cousin, I have had a long and dangerous illness from which I am sorry to say I don’t think I shall ever recover. The Dr gives me but very little encouragement. He has been attending me ever since my little boy was born.’

The next page’s title, ‘My cousin Lucy is dead.’

pages

The author is never named, there’s no address, not even a town given, although there are a number of illustrations from Cornwall and Devon.

As my cousin knows I’m quite handy at finding info on the internet, so she gave the book to me to try to figure out who it belonged to and to possibly find a direct descendant to forward it to. I love a good research challenge and was happy to just be able to read through such a great piece of history.

nancy

So I took it home and one evening started reading through and writing down any clues.

  • Daughter Katie, born around 1866
  • Son W.H. Rogers, died 24 Jan 1866
  • A grandfather named James Everett, died 28 Jan 1867
  • Grandmother Nancy Everett, died 19 Nov 1867
  • Grandmother Anne Rogers, died 6 June 1868
  • Cousin Jane Stanbury, died 3 August 1868
  • Cousin Lucy Marchant, died 1869
  • Son William, born 15 Aug 1870

Oddly enough, while I was flicking through the pages and reading this woman’s memories. I subconsciously started referring to her as Sarah; this is Sarah’s book, Sarah’s child that died, Sarah’s daughter born, etc. But nowhere is the name Sarah mentioned.
Weird, but I dismissed it.

rogers

Starting with W.H. Rogers, I searched death records in England and quickly found the child was William Henry Rogers, born 1851 and died 1866 in Stoke Damerel, Devon.
This led me to his birth record which notes his father as also William Henry Rogers and his mother as… Sarah. *cue creepy music*

So this WAS Sarah’s book!
But, Sarah who?

I couldn’t find a marriage for William and Sarah, so I looked at the grandparents, James and Nancy Everett, first using their death dates to ascertain their location – Bodmin, Cornwall, and then finding a tree for them. One daughter stood out, Hannah Everett, and sure enough, she married a William Ferris and they had a daughter Sarah Ferris, born 8 October 1826 in Stoke Damerel, Devon.

All the pieces suddenly fell together and I had most of Sarah’s life before me.

She married a Mr Trezise sometime in the late 1840’s, they had a child Francis Trezise, born 1849 in Torpoint, Cornwall. But the husband dies and Sarah shacks up with William Henry Rogers, they have a child, also William Henry, around November 1850, born in Torpoint. In the 1851 census, Sarah is living by herself, earning a living as a dressmaker, in Stoke Damerel, but soon marries William in early 1852, also in Stoke Damerel.

They go on to have a number of children and later take on the Richmond Walk Inn, in Devonport.

It’s not known when Sarah died, but it was after 1901, as she makes it in the 1901 census living with one of her children.

sarahferris

A photo of Sarah Rogers (nee Ferris) and one of her children

The next task was to find a direct descendant. The first trees I had found online weren’t well researched and weren’t descendants of Sarah, but I eventually found a lady’s tree who was a direct descendant of Sarah’s daughter Kate. Furthermore, the owner seemed to have a healthy interest in family history, having uploaded a number of their own photos to the tree.

So I sent a message.
I have a bit of an odd story for you, but I’m sure you’ll find it quite exciting!’

A few days later I received a reply.
Wow! A really wonderful story to hear and yes I am more than excited!
Your timing is perfect, only last week we were on holiday with my father (he’s 72 this weekend and is Sarah’s great grandson) and we were talking about this part of his family and how we would like to know more about them. He and his sister will be absolutely thrilled about this book…’

Hooray!
When reaching out to strangers, it can cross your mind that they won’t value the item, but I was so pleased to find that the family realised how important the book is.

My cousin was ecstatic and so relieved that the book she saved, finally got to go home!

Still holding out that one day something similar will happen to me!

 

If you’d like to flick through the book, it’s been digitised here.

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Colouring Old Photos

One of my favourite hobbies would have to be colouring old photos. To put some colour into the cheeks of an image over 100 years old, suddenly brings them to life and lets you see them in a whole new (colourful) light.

I use Adobe Photoshop to colour them, with each colour a separate layer. With up close portraits I use a combination of colours for the skin; the usual flesh and blush tone, but also blues, yellows and even greens!

When I first started, it was landscapes that caught my fancy, especially streetscapes of my hometowns of Perth and Fremantle.

Wellington Street, Perth, c.1906

Corner of Wellington & Barrack Street, Perth, c.1906

View image here if animation does not load.

But when I started on portraits, especially ones of my ancestors, it was truly amazing to be able to see them in a new way. Just adding colour seemed to give them a more multidimensional feel that also gave a feeling of knowing them just that little bit better.

Coloured Photo c.1945

Coloured Photo c.1945

 

Coloured Photo c.1907

Coloured Photo c.1907

 

Australian War Memorial - Unknown WWI Soldier P06003.001

Unknown WWI Soldier – Australian War Memorial, P06003.001

 

Coloured Photo, 1907

Coloured Photo, 1907

 

Coloured Photo c.1870's

Coloured Photo c.1870’s

 

Coloured Photo 1950's

Coloured Photo 1950’s

 

Coloured Photo 1907

Coloured Photo 1907

 

Coloured Photo c.1918

Coloured Photo c.1918

 

You can see more here.

FamilyTreeDNA’s New Origins Estimates

So I checked my familytreeDNA origins results again last night after hearing they’d upgraded their population sample databases and there were some big changes!
Here’s my two to compare, one from last year and now.

dnacompare

Scandinavian has really shot up. Since this seems to be centred around Norway, I would expect a bit from my 2x GGF from the Viking-raided, Outer Hebrides in Scotland, but not this much, especially since I only inherited 19% of his granddaughters DNA! If it includes Danish Vikings then I could have a bit more from the Norfolk area, but still, it seems like a lot!

Annoyed that my Eastern European has dropped off, since that’s my direct maternal line to SW Poland, though it’s possible they had Germanic origins.

British seems quite low. Except for 2x GGP’s from Austro/Italy and Prussia, all my other lines are UK, though I suspect the Western European infiltrated through my Kent and Cornish lines.
South-east Euro has jumped, on other sites I was between 2-7% Mediterranean which seemed about right for my Austro-Italian 2x GGF.

Comparing between the different companies at AncestryDNA and 23andMe shows massive differences so we’re obviously still a fair way off the technology being accurate % wise.

dna3

My paper trail estimates are 53.12% English, 34.38% Scottish, 6.25% SW Polish & 6.25% Austro-Italian, so at least the locations are reflected in all the results!

75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin, when on the 19th Feb 1942, the Japanese raided the top end, bombing all infrastructure so that the allies no longer had a close base to SE Asia.

Recently for a Uni course we were asked to write a short historical fiction story about a family member and I chose my Pop and his time during the air raid. Many details from the story were taken from interviews I recorded with him in 2008.
You can read more about his time in Darwin with the Army in this post.

georgeww2The Darwin Air Raid

Heat radiated off the metal oil tanks that his earth-anchored Lewis gun protected, forcing him to wipe the sweat from his brow every few minutes. George had been in Darwin just 6 weeks as part of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Battery, sent there from Perth after rumours abounded that the Japs were going to invade Australia. But so far it had all been training exercises, croc hunting and the pilfering of tinned lobster from the Yanks to supplement their meagre rations.

George turned his gun northward to give his bare back relief from the morning sun. Sitting high up on the hill, the sea breeze was a relief from the tropical humidity.
The view was incredible. Battleships gleamed in the turquoise harbour, a vivid reminder that he was indeed in the middle of a war. Black dots hovered on the horizon. Must be the Yanks returning from Singapore, he thought.

“Mate, wanna swap?” his good friend Ron panted behind him, struggling up the path. “I need some fresh air.”
George agreed, quickly heading down to the gun at Stokes House. The tanks were a prime target and he was glad to be off them.

The palms by the Harbour Master’s house provided cool shade and George propped up his feet on the giant gun, hoping to get some shut-eye.
Suddenly, the boys from the Quarantine battery started firing. George jumped two feet in the air. Those black dots weren’t the Americans. This was it.
The Japs were coming.

An air-raid siren sounded, but they were already aware of the enemy’s advance.
As soon as the planes came within range, George started firing. The large gun rocked violently in his hands, reverberating through his body. But the bullets seemed to have no effect, the planes were flying too high. Glistening specks fell from the planes like confetti. Bombs!
Large columns of water exploded in the harbour. Workmen on the jetty ran back to the shore but a bomb hit their path sending bodies into the water.

gunner

George turned his attention back to the sky, directing his gun at anything in the air. He was soon out of bullets. Jumping out of the shallow trench he legged it across the foreshore, explosions echoing in his ears. A plane came in low firing its gun at his heels. He switched directions, trying to avoid the gunman’s crosshairs. Looking back, the plane was so close he swore he could make out the Jap’s face in the cockpit.

Reaching the safety of the scrub, he hid under the spiky leafed canopy of a pandanus palm. George tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, ensuring he couldn’t be seen from above. He wrapped his bronzed arms around his knees attempting to quell his shaking legs.
What if the Japs landed? The place could soon be swarming with them and his rifle was back with the gun at Stokes House. He’d be a goner. George grabbed a large rock from the base of the tree and held it close.

The ground shook and an almighty sound filled his ears. George threw his hands over his head as his heart pounded against his chest. Moments passed and summoning all his courage, he crawled through the brush towards the harbour. Planes continued to fly overhead and the smell of burning fuel lingered in the air. Peering through the dried leaves of a dead branch, he could see the source of the explosion. The oil tanks had been hit. A giant, black cloud swelled skyward, flames reaching after it.

darwin7

In the distance, George spotted Ron and the other boys running down the hill, their tattered clothes singed. A wall of fire prevented their escape and they were forced to jump off the cliffs into the sea. Scrambling in the harbour they trod water until a Navy boat could pick them up, one of the fortunate few that had escaped the bombing.

Sooty smoke billowed from what looked like a hundred chimneys in the harbour. Large splinters of timber littered the water near the jetty.
Still attached to its mooring, the cargo ship Neptuna, had sustained serious damage and was already lurching at an unnatural angle. Minutes later, as crew jumped from the bow, fire from the bombing reached the depth charges in the ship’s cargo hold and exploded, showering the harbour with debris.

Thoughts wandered to his mates and a sense of dread filled him. Who had survived, or worse, who hadn’t?

George opened his eyes, wet with emotion. He looked down to see his scrawny hand etched with age, enveloped in the young hand of his granddaughter. His wife and daughter looked on in awe at the man they had never, ever seen shed a tear.

“There were five of them, burnt head to toe. Ron was my best mate. They all survived… but he was scarred for life.” George tried to keep talking, but the Parkinson’s had taken all of his words for the day.
“The newspapers called them The Burns Boys,” his voice rasped. “I… I went to visit… next day… I.”

His daughter Diane handed a box of tissues around. “I’ve never heard that story before,” she said, putting her arm around him.

George managed a smile. He had always felt that the soldiers in Darwin never really got the recognition they deserved. The memories brought up a lot of emotion he’d long kept at the back of his mind. But George wanted his story known and was glad someone wanted to hear it.

Making a Descendants Facebook Group

Depending on how immersed you are in family history research, a descendants group on Facebook might be something you could create if you yourself have already researched the family in depth or, if a group already exists, something that could help you immensely if you’re just starting out in your genealogy journey.

Usually the main point of creating one is to gather all your family contacts in the one place to easily share research and photos, discover new contacts and uncover previously unknown information about the family.

Facebook is also a great tool for tracking down distant family members who may have previously unknown info or photos and having a group makes it easier for that new family member to quickly legitimise your request and hopefully create enough intrigue for them to go research and unearth their own info on their family line.
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The History of Photography in Perth

To tell the history of Perth photography involves a little history about the art of photography itself. The thought of capturing an image had been around for a few hundred years, with even a fictional tale detailing an accurate developing process in the late 1700’s. But the 1820’s was the pivitol point when photography as we know it came into crude existence through Frenchman, Nicéphore Niépce. It was his associate Louis Daguerre who later used a polished silver plate covered with silver iodide and exposed it to light through a camera lens to invent the Daguerreotype process, that was the first to be commercially introduced in 1839.

1853ssevansIt took 7 years for the first known ‘Daguerreotype Artist’ to visit Western Australia, when Robert Hall visited Perth, staying for a few days at Mrs Leeder’s Hotel. He charged 1 Guinea for a photo with a frame or £1/ 5s for a photo in a pressed tin, ‘Morocco’ casket, thus restricting his patronage to only the most wealthy colonialists. Unfortunately none of his captures have survived.

Being a remote outpost on the other side of a busier east coast hindered the amount of photographers who visited Perth and it wasn’t until the 1850’s that permanent studios started to pop up. New Yorker, Samuel Scrivener Evans appears to be the first in 1853 when he opened a Daguerreotype Gallery at the Castle Hotel in Fremantle before later moving to Perth. None of Evans’ photos appear to have survived either.
Evans was followed in November 1857 by the Duryea Brothers of Adelaide, working from St George’s Terrace and later Hay Street, charging 10s/6d per sitting and Frederick Herbert who set up shop in Howick Street, Perth.
They were quickly followed in August 1858 by a Mr Curtis setting up business from his home at Bazaar Terrace, Perth. Continue reading

The Basics of DNA Genealogy Explained

This post doesn’t encapsulate everything about DNA Genealogy but serves to cover some of the basics for people interested in taking a test.

So this is my attempt at explaining DNA Genealogy. These days it all makes sense to me but I remember it was a massive learning curve as I got my head around Haplogroups, Segments, Centimorgans, Genomes etc. I’m still learning new things about it even now and there are definitely a lot more people out there who really delve deep into it, but I will try and explain the basics to help you understand how it works and what you can expect.

There are currently 3 main DNA testing companies out there at the moment, that deal with the genealogy aspect of it. There are more but these 3 are the most well known. Ancestry.com (autosomal test only) 23andme.com (autosomal test only) and FamilytreeDNA.com (autosomal, yDNA (direct paternal) & mtDNA (direct maternal)).
There is a 4th company MyHeritage who have just started  DNA testing, but at this point in time I wouldn’t recommend them until they iron out some kinks and get a larger database.
All have their pro’s, con’s and various price differences.

A lot of people also upload their results from these 3 companies to Gedmatch.com which is a free site that allows people to compare tests against others from different companies and also has some pretty good tools to use.

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