Sunday 3 July 2016

Connecting Dots. Connecting Branches.

Last Wednesday was a fantastic day for me. I went to Melbourne to meet someone special - Christine Wilton. We connected through Facebook genealogy groups - I checked her profile because my Mum's maiden name is Wilton, and I quickly realised she's married to one of the very many second cousins I've never met. We just clicked, and we've had a great time researching together over chat. I confess, I have ordered takeaway for my kids on at least one occasion because I was too carried away with hunting ancestors with Christine and lost track of time.

So what do two crazy girls do in the big city with a whole empty day to do as they please and no kids or spouses around to worry about?

They hit the State Library, of course. Hard.
Christine (left) and Carol party hearty, genealogist-style.

Such a fun and fruitful way to spend the day. I want to share one of my little discoveries.

I checked the Electoral Rolls for some of my Ancestors and I found my pet obsession, my great grandmother Harlettee Louisa Groombridge. She and her final husband, William Henry Rothery, were registered at an address in Hobart East: 49 Hampden Road. The record says it's from 1903. That same year she and her husband are also both registered at an address in Victoria: 11 Hopetoun Road, Northcote. I'm familiar with this address already as I've seen it on other records. Have I identified the year she moved back to Tasmania? Or was she maintaining two addresses at this time? Something to look into.

Anyway, I always love to Google Street View the addresses I find, and try to estimate if the houses that are there now are the same ones that were there when my relatives lived there. For instance, one of the addresses Harlettee lived at in the 1890s was 20 Barry Street Carlton. This is what that street looks like today:

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's not how it looked in 1890.

In contrast, time may have largely stood still in Hampden Road, Hobart East

I would not be at all surprised if at least some of these buildings were already here when Harlettee was a resident in 1903.

Finally, I took the address and ran it through Trove, and to my big surprise (given that Harlettee was a Rothery at this point) a Groombridge record popped up:
Family Notices (1903, November 10). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), , p. 1. Retrieved July 3, 2016, from

Wow! I already had this record in my tree - this is Harlettee's nephew's son. I knew he had died as a nine month old, and I knew he had died at an aunt's house, but I did not know it was his great aunt Harlettee's house. Why there? No idea. Maybe the family were staying in the house while Harlettee and her husband were at their residence in Victoria? Maybe they came to Harlettee for help when their baby took ill? Whatever the case, this tragic little record shows that Harlettee remained in contact with her extended family, even after living in Victoria for more than 20 years.

I'm glad I was able to take those little nuggets of information and connect the dots to make a larger picture. And I'm even more glad to have finally met this lovely lady in person and spent the day with her. Connecting the dots, connecting the branches.

Thursday 30 June 2016

DNA, Yay Yay Yay

Ahem... I'm very bad at this blogging gig. I said I'd be back to post and then I just sort of wandered off...

My main gift for Christmas 2015 was an Ancestry DNA test kit, and I got that sucker into the mail just as quickly as I could. The 6-8 week processing time threatened to drag forever, but in time my results came through.

It has been amazing. I wanted to get my DNA into as many of the big databases as possible, so I downloaded my raw DNA data and uploaded it to Gedmatch and FTDNA. I opted to pay for FTNDA's features to get access as quickly as possible.

The first person I reached out to got back to me swiftly. We're connected through my mother's father. She is researching an apparent genetic illness in her branch and asked if we have any instances of it in our branch. Well, we're quite a sizeable branch so I reached out to my great aunt to see if she'd ever heard of anyone with the condition in our family, but it seems to have skipped us. In the course of the conversation, she told me the family was having a reunion that very weekend, and thanks to that fortuitous phone call, I was able to go. I loved spending the day with my Wilton cousins. They're great people.

Other DNA matches were also on Mum's side - cousins also descended from her Robertson/McGhee ancestors. It's a great feeling to check off those branches as confirmed by DNA.

Then I found some matches on my Dad's side. My pet project is my great great grandmother Harlettee Louisa Groombridge, and I connected with a cousin descended from one of her brothers. That was awesome in its own right, but then we had a mutual match, and I connected with a descendant of Harlettee's son Frederick. I was thrilled. It's a dream to be able to trace Harlettee's descendants and fill out her tree.

The last of my grandparents lines to get a match was my grandmother, Jessie Rose Hanniver, but that finally came about five months after my test was done, and a second match popped up within the same week.

I've been looking at a fan chart to see where my gaps are. I hope to get some matches to the Wilton line beyond Thomas Wilton/Sarah Constable to confirm those lines, and to the Patersons beyond Robert Paterson and Eleanor Dunwoodie, and to the Lowery line beyond George Edward Lowery and Isobella Johanna Park, and with that all my great grandparents will be confirmed too.

It's so exciting!

Reflections and New Discoveries on the 133rd Anniversary of my Great Great Grandparents Marriage.

My Great Great Grandparents' marriage has always seemed a little sketchy. They were William Turner and Harlettee Louisa Smith, nee Groombridge. He was 70. She was 36. They married on the 30th of June, 1883 at the office of the Registrar of Marriages for the District of Collingwood, at Hoddle Street. For years I've wondered what the deal really was. Most especially, I've questioned whether he was really the father of her child, my Great Grandfather, Sydney Turner.
Recently Ian, a known descendant of William Turner via his first marriage, did AncestryDNA testing. We do not match. This is not a slam-dunk for us being unrelated by blood as there is a chance that, through the random nature of DNA inheritance, we just didn't happen to get matching segments of William Turner's DNA. However, in this case where paternity was already questionable, it's a strong argument in the case against. More test results from more family members are in the pipeline and will hopefully tell us more.
In the meantime, I'm running with the assumption that Ian's results have answered the question "Did William Turner really father Sydney Groombridge Turner?" with a "No".
It's funny, I felt really excited by Ian's results. Not just because there's a new puzzle to work out, but really, very strongly, because it rehabilitates William Turner's reputation. He was always considered a good, moral man. He resigned his commission with the Army on humanitarian grounds, protesting over harsh punishments being meted out for minor infractions. He lived peacefully amongst the Indigenous people of the Dandenong ranges and was known to trade with them in an age of atrocities being committed against our First People. History considers him an all-round good guy.
Then along came proof that he remarried when his first wife had only been dead six months, and had a baby just two weeks after that, and it was a kind of jarring note.
But so far the DNA suggests that, while he did remarry quickly, and to a woman who was heavily pregnant, he wasn't the father.
I am sure that he knew that. I strongly suspect that either Harlettee, or her first husband William Smith worked for him at his tailor's shop, and that's how they met. I think her husband died suddenly, leaving her with small children to raise and then she was pregnant again with no husband. I feel that my great aunt is right that "he married her so she could get his Army pension", and to give her son a name. All of this fits in with what is known of his character.
William Turner made out a will the year after he married Harlettee, leaving everything to his oldest son from his first marriage. I didn't understand this when I first saw it, because his infant son, Sydney, and his wife would have received nothing while his oldest son - a man in his 40s, an established man with the ability to support himself - would get everything. Now it makes perfect sense in the context of helping Harlettee out with her "problem" - he might have given her child a name, but that doesn't mean he wanted to give her son everything he'd worked for all his life.
I wonder if that's how it came to be that he was destitute in 1891? If his remarriage caused tension with his sons, if they insisted he sign all his possessions over to them because they feared he was being taken advantage of. I wonder if he thought they were only looking out for themselves and if he didn't realise they saw him being manipulated and were trying to protect his assets from being seized by his second wife.
And then there's Clarabell and Myrtle, the two younger children born during the marriage. Who fathered them? Are they William's children? Yesterday, I found proof that Harlettee had charged William with desertion in 1889, when their youngest daughter Myrtle was just about 3 months old. What triggered that? Was the arrival of another child that he had nothing to do with the last straw?
And the next puzzle: who was the biological father of Sydney Groombridge Turner?
Every answer spawns new questions. Right now, I'm just happy and proud to be a Turner. William Turner bestowed his good name on our branch as a gift, and it is a gift that continues and keeps on giving, even 133 years later. I hope he'd be proud of the people who bear his name, and that someday history remembers us the way that William Turner is remembered: as good, kind and decent people.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Delighted by Newly Arrived DNA Results

It has been an age since my last post, and for no good reason. I just got distracted and wandered off, as is my wont. My youngest, Womble, was sick at the time but it was just one of those childhood illnesses that's over in days, and he's fine now.

I've been very excited today because the results of my Ancestry DNA test are in! The ethnicity estimates offers few surprises, which is its own kind of exciting because it means my research hasn't been too far off the mark. It estimates a combined total of 75% English/Irish/Scottish ancestry, and 10% West European with the remaining 15% divided between six other regions (Scandinavia, Iberian Peninsula, Europe East, Finland/Northwest Russia, Italy/Greece, European Jewish). However, I've left it a bit late to write this post this evening so I think I'll close here and follow up another day :)

Tuesday 3 June 2014

A Sick Little Womble

I haven't been able to get a new post up for a few days because my 3 year old, The Womble, hasn't been well. Long nights without much sleep have been eating into my genealogy and blogging time. Hopefully he'll be back to his regular self in short order and life will resume. :)

Thursday 29 May 2014

Myrtle Elsie Adelaide Turner 1889-1963

Myrtle Elsie Adelaide Turner was born in 1889. The youngest of the three children of Harlettee Louisa Groombridge and William Turner, she was only 4 when her father passed away.

Undated photo of Myrtle
Though she was born in Victoria, as an adult she lived in Tasmania. She married Francis Henry Rush and they had three children - Harlettee (Margo), Ivy and Francis William.

Letters from her mother in the early 1920s mention she had unspecified health problems, and in 1932 The Mercury (Hobart) reported on an apparent suicide attempt following "a serious operation".
Mrs. Myrtle Rush, 42 years, of 175 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, was admitted to the Hobart Public Hospital about 11.30 last night, suffering from the effects of an irritant poison. She is alleged to have taken a quantity of disinfectant.  
It is stated that Mrs. Rush underwent a serious operation about four months ago. An emetic was administered, and her condition was afterwards satisfac-tory.

Her only son, Francis, was killed in the Second World War, and in 1950 she travelled to his final resting place, in Stompetoren, Holland. Shipping manifests reveal her travelling companion was I. C. Kendall - Ivy?

Myrtle's daughter Margo married a Mr Denehey and had five daughters and a son. When her marriage failed she took her son with her and moved to Alice Springs. Myrtle joined her there. Margo changed her surname and that of her son Alfred to Turner, her mother's maiden name.
Undated photo of Myrtle with her half sister, Linda

Undated photo of Linda, Myrtle and their friend Bill Nash, NSW.

Undated photo of Linda (standing) and Myrtle

Undated photo of Linda, Myrtle and Ivy

Undated photo of Ivy

Undated photo of Ivy

Myrtle in later years with friends
A letter to Linda telling her of Myrtle's failing health. 3rd of July 1963

Myrtle's grave, Alice Springs. 1963

An undated photo of some of Myrtle's descendants - Tommy, Daryl, Alf, Tracy
Many years ago I tracked down Tracey Grey, daughter of Alf. She was living in the Northern Territory. Her brother, Michael Turner, was a licenced crocodile hunter in Darwin and traded under the name The Crocodile Man. Tracey was due to visit Victoria later in the year and we made promised to catch up with each other, but we never did. Then there was a big disruption in my life and it took a back burner while I sorted everything out. Now I don't know how to reach her or where to find her. I post these photos in the hope that someone she (or someone who knows her) will stumble across my blog. I would love to rekindle contact with the NT branch of our family.

Also, Margo's daughters who remained in Tasmania must have descendants, and I would dearly love to catch up with them. I look at these photos of Linda and Myrtle together, and I know that Linda lived across the road from her brother, my great grandfather Syd, and I feel like there must have been a closeness in the family once upon a time that was lost through time and moving and divorce and death. How wonderful it would be if we could find each other again, and know each other, and share what we remember and know of those that came before us before those memories are lost forever. Tracey Grey, Michael Turner, Alf Turner, and of the Denehey girls... if you're ever reading this, please please please reach out and contact me :)

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Three Postcards

Tonight I want to talk about the Three Postcards. They came in the box of treasure from Linda Grumont that I've mentioned previously, and two of them are perfectly charming pieces of family history. The third is (EDIT: No longer) a head-scratching mystery.

The earliest of the three postcards is from 1921, and was sent from Hobart, Tasmania. Harlettee Louisa Groombridge signed the back of it, wishing her granddaughter Lottie a Happy New Year. Harlettee wouldn't actually see in the New Year, passing away in Kingston Tasmania on the 1st of October, 1921. Perhaps that is why this particular postcard was not thrown away - Lottie may not have even received it until after her Grandmother's death.

To my dear Grand Daughter Lottie wishing you and yours a happy new year from Grannie Rothery. Tasmania, 1921.

There are other letters in the box of treasure from around the same time, and they suggest there was ongoing correspondence between Harlettee and Lottie. Lottie was born Harlettee Margo Rush, daughter of Myrtle Turner and Francis Rush. She married a Mr Denehey. I believe at some point she took her son Alfred, changed their surnames to Turner, and moved to Alice Springs. I would love to hear from Alfred's descendants, or those of Lottie's 5 daughters who remained in Tasmania. Hopefully one day they may stumble across this blog.

The second ever-so-understandable postcard is a lovely thing to have. It is from Myrtle Rush (nee Turner), and she mailed it from Stompertoren, Holland, in 1950. My previous post, A Fortuitous Discovery, has the shipping record that shows her departing London on 6 September 1950 on her way home from that voyage. She had gone to see the final resting place of her only son, Francis William Rush, who was killed during the war. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record his burial at the Oterleek (Stompertoren) Churchyard cemetery. I came across this wonderful site that gives an account of Francis's final mission and has pictures of his headstone, and of the memorial plaque installed in 1994.
The card says (in grey pencil)
Dear Linda & Hughie
Holland is lovely with all its lovely windmills & waterways.
(in black pen)
Went to Amsterdam yesterday & it was lovely. We are leaving here tomorrow hope we have a good trip across & hope that you & Hughie is much better love Myrtle xxx
I wonder who she was travelling with?

The third card is another of those crazy mysteries that this family love to keep throwing at me. It is a photo of a beautiful and new looking house The postcard has been cut along the left edge, but only a small sliver seems to be missing - less than a centimetre, I'd guess.

The inscription seems to be in Harlettee's handwriting, if you compare it to the first card, and it says
To Linda from her mother.
and then in larger writing
Our new home. 
Linda Grumont has added the words "Harlette" and "Nana's mother's home in Canada".

The address is filled out in Harlettee's handwriting
Mrs Captain Collister
British Columbia 
Linda Grumont insisted that Harlettee had lived in Canada for a time with her husband, Captain Collister. That would have been a sixth husband hitherto unknown. It's possible that she married someone else overseas after William Rothery died in 1912, but she was still using the Rothery surname right up until her death in 1921.  Besides, this card looks like it was addressed to Mrs Captain Collister, Craigflower, Victoria, British Columbia - not from. As it is also addressed to "Dear Linda" from "her mother"; that would make Linda the addressee. Linda Collister? Also, is that an "s" next to Collister? Mrs Captain Collister's _what_?

Given that this postcard is in my possession, it either was never mailed to Canada, or it travelled back to Australia with its owner. Unlike the other cards, it hasn't been dated - I can only say that it must be from no later than the 1st of October, 1921, because that's when Harlettee died. Perhaps someday, someone will recognise the house, or will stumble across this entry while researching the Collisters of Craigflower, Victoria, BC, and we'll be able to compare notes to solve this little puzzle once and for all.

UPDATE! (already! it has only been 20 minutes!)
Google turned up this:
    02/08/37 Collister, Rich, m, head, m, 12 Dec 1838, 63, ENG, to Can: 1876, Meth, Steam boat inspector.
    ……Rems: HOW3, p.827: In shipbuilding in Liverpool, ENG & Brisbane, AUS, to Victoria 1875, d.Victoria, 1908.
    02/08/38 Collister, Elizabeth, f, wife, m, 12 Aug 1831, 60, ENG, to Can: 1877, CE.
    ……Rems: Age & yr. born as entered. RBCR: Collister, Elizabeth, 89 y, 26 Jan 1923 at Victoria, b.ENG. DN, Times, 27 Jan 1923, p.9: Mrs Elizabeth Collister, wid of Capt. R. Collister, former inspector of hulls, b.LAN, ENG, 12 Aug 1833, d. at res. Craigflower Rd, leaves sons: John R. Collister (d.A1, p.18, l.41), Victoria & Wm. H.R. Collister (d.17, p.6, l.44), Vancouver; daus: Mrs John Barnsley (d.18, p.10, l.11), Vancouver; Mrs N.G. Douner, Victoria & Mrs H.O. (Harry Oxenborough) Miles, Long Beach, CA, USA.
On a hunch I searched for "collister" and "rothery", and lo and behold, I found this:
Rothery was the surname of Harlettee's fifth and final husband. Judging by these dates, this could well be his sister. It even says that she died at her home on Craigflower Rd (I guess "Rd" was what was written in that missing centimetre of card). Perhaps Linda Grumont was right about Harlettee going to Canada - but rather than living there, perhaps she just visited her sister in law?

This all makes sense now! Mrs Captain Collister, nee Rothery, the sister in law of Harlettee Rothery, nee Groombridge must have sent the photo of her new house to Harlettee, who then forwarded it on to her daughter Linda and wrote Mrs Collister's address on it. This must be the house in Craigflower Road, Victoria, British Columbia that Mrs Collister lived in until her death in 1923. Case: Closed!