Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Ancestors Geneameme

In this blog I am responding to Geniaus's challenge and here have posted my answers to her 40 questions.
As requested: 
Things I have already done or found will be typed in Bold.
Things I would like to do or find will be italicized in red.
Things I have not done or found will be in plain type.

1 .I can name my 16 great great grandparents
2. I can name over 50 direct ancestors
3.  I have photographs of 7 of my  8 great grandparents so would like to find a photograph of one more.
4.  I have an ancestor who was married more than three times (4)
5.  I have not found an ancestor who was a bigamist yet...
6.  I have met three of my grandparents.
7.  I have met one great grandparent and one great great grandparent
8.  I have given four children middle names after ancestors 
9.  I bear an ancestors given name as my middle name
10. I have many ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland
11.  I have no ancestor as yet from Asia
12. I have ancestors from Continental Europe
13. I have no ancestor from Africa
14. I have many ancestors who were agricultural labourers (Ag Labs)
15. I have ancestors who had  large land holdings
16. I have ancestors who were a holy men (Sexton of St Mary's Islington and Methodist Minister Lincolnshire)
17. I have not found an ancestor who was a midwife 
18. I have 2 ancestors  who were authors
19. I have an ancestor with the surname Smith
20. I have not found an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
21. I have no ancestor with a surname beginning with X
22. I have no ancestor with a forename beginning with z
23. I have more than one ancestor born on 25th December
24. I have several ancestors born on New Years Day
25. I have blue blood in my veins
26. I have no parent born in a country different to my birth country
27. I have two grandparents born in Countries other than my birth country
28. I can trace more than one direct line back to the 18th century 
29. I can trace several family lines back to the seventeenth century and earlier
30. I have seen copies of signatures of several of my great grandparents
31. I have ancestors who signed their marriage certificates with an x (the ag labs and convicts)
32. I have several great grandparents and earlier who went to university
33. I have 7 ancestors who were convicted of a criminal offence (dare I admit this?)
34. I have an ancestor who was a victim of crime
35. I have shared ancestors' stories online (in Blogs)
36. I have published a family history online (, blogs)
37. I have visited the homes of ancestors from the 19th century and earlier
38. I still have an ancestors home from the 19th century in the family (farm and original home)
39. I have a family bible from the 19th century
40. I have a family bible from the 17th century. 

Friday, August 26, 2011


Sorting out my own Identity......

After carefully collecting and storing many birth, marriage and death certificates of my ancestors, I realised recently, that I had lost my own birth and marriage certificates in a move. I needed a copy of it to apply for a new passport. A few weeks ago, whilst visiting my hometown of Brisbane in the State of Queensland, I decided to make a trip to the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages to order a copy of both my birth and marriage certificates. I allowed half an hour between meetings, to slip into the department (I had downloaded the relevant forms online and filled them in to save time) to lodge my requests. Simple... you might think. Not so!

Although I use the name Sharna-Lee (Sharn), this is not the name I was given at birth. My
mother gave me the name, Sharon-Lee, intending it to be pronounced Shaaron, however, it was never pronounced correctly. By the time I was aged 9, she was heartily tired of my name being pronounced the wrong way. I can still recall the day that my mother asked me if I would like to change my name. I was so excited. After all, it is not every day that a child is given the opportunity to name herself. Of course, being nine years old and just having watched the movie called 'The 'Shiralee'' ( a later remake starred Tatum O'Neal) I immediately announced that I would henceforth be known as Shiralee!.... I, as any adventurous nine year old would, imagined myself trouncing through the Australian outback, swag on my back, just like the real Shiralee or even Waltzing Matilda...... Thank heavens good sense prevailed on my mother's part. (If one can call changing your child's name at the age of nine, 'good' sense.) As it happened, my mother had already found a new name for me. She had obviously given the matter some prior thought and announced that she wanted my name to be Sian, ( Sian is a Welsh for Jane...Sian for my Welsh heritage... Sian for the same Welsh heritage that I have now discovered... I don't have.) Sian is pronounced, Sharn, but my mother was worried that this name would be mis-pronounced. And we had already encountered that problem. Perhaps, she should have called me Jane. No one ever mispronounces Jane. For an unknown reason, my mother didn't just call me Sharn. She made up the name Sharna-Lee to replace Sharon-Lee.

At the time of the name change, I was transferring from one school to another as my family was moving house so I needed my new name to be written on the school transfer. ' Awkward,' thought I. 'Not so', said my mother, who deftly took care of the problem with the school principal.... which caused me to spend the next three weeks in the school playground, red -faced and humiliated, as I was continually asked, by teachers and friends, 'Why on earth did you allow us to call you by the wrong name for three years? Why didn't you just tell us your name was Sharna-Lee and not Sharon-Lee?' Why i
indeed! Thanks Mum!

Of course, being a nine year old, I didn't, at all think through the consequences of a name change.
After about a month, the novelty of having a new name had worn off and I asked for my old name back. No amount of begging could move my mother's resolve an inch. By now I was attending a new school and was being called Sharn. No one ever mis-pronounced my name and my mother was very happy. I, on the other hand, cried every night for six months. But, being told that it was too late to undo the decision, and with my new name being apparently official, I became resigned to the change and eventually grew to like my name.

When I married and applied for a copy of my birth certificate, I was stunned to see the name Sharon-Lee still boldly typed as my name. Surely there had been a mistake. Many years ago, hadn't my own mother told me that the name
change was official? That..I could NOT have my name back? For all of those years, I was unaware that my name had remained officially Sharon-Lee.

So, I was married as Sharna-Lee a.k.a Sharon-Lee. I actually found it a little embarrassing to have the words 'ALSO KNOWN AS' on my lovely marriage certificate. (What if the Minister thought I was an impostor or, worse still, a criminal with a background I needed to hide?)
If I wanted to be married using the name I had been known by since the age of nine, there was no other course of action but to use both names in the wedding ceremony. It definitely takes something from the romance of the ceremony ... 'Do you, Sharna-Lee 'also known as' Sharon-Lee take... ' I, Sharna-Lee 'also known as' Sharon-Lee promise to..... I'm sure you get the picture.

Although I intended to change my name by deed poll, after the wedding, I never did get around to doing so. I am still, to this day, some 30 years later, an A.K.A. All of my official documents are in the name of Sharna-Lee and I never use Sharon-Lee. Applying for a passport was no trouble as I simply presented my marriage certificate bearing the large A.K.A and all was well. My passport said Sharna-Lee.

In Brisbane, the very nice girl at the department of Births Deaths and Marriages, informed
me that I would have to wait until the next day for my birth certificate as it was issued before 1989, but that she could print out my marriage certificate while I waited. I had filled the marriage certificate form using Sharna-Lee but the birth certificate form in using my original name of Sharon-Lee AND had put on it my mis-spelled surname as well. (Did I not mention that my father who registered me at birth, further complicated my life by mis-spelling my surname?) He did, at least, spell my first name correctly, unlike that of my my sister who was intended to be Janean. My father ( had my mother not learned after she sent my father to the registry office for me the first time?) could not remember the name Janean and so my sister became Janelle. My sister's surname was MacDade but somehow mine was spelled as Mcdade.... no 'a' and a small 'd'. A small, but for me, a significant difference, especially as I am the family historian.

After a long wait, at the BDM counter, the young girl finally asked me if I was sure I was born in Queensland?
'Yes. I am certain.'
'Because, madam, you don't appear to be here.'
'Try Sharna-Lee?'
'No... No one by that name.'
'Try MacDade with an all important 'a'.'
'Still not here.'
'Did you try Sharon-Lee with McDade AND Mcdade or perhaps McDade with a capital 'D'?'
'How many names do you have madam?'

And, therein lies a significant problem for me. Who am I? How will my descendants look for me? Under which name? I need to sort out my identity so I can be found somewhere down the years ahead. My name change could potentially create a huge brick wall for family historians in the future.

As for my birth certificate, the poor girl searching for it was completely confused. Two days later she was still searching. Although I had spelled my surname as Mcdade for the birth certificate application, she had been looking for MacDade which was the name on my marriage certificate. But, I am happy to say, that I do exist. On my third day in Brisbane, I finally held in my hand, a birth certificate and a marriage certificate. Unfortunately... there is now yet another problem. The name Sharna-Lee has been left off my marriage document. I am no longer an A.K.A. I should be overjoyed, but for the fact that I need a passport in the name Sharna-Lee and no longer have proof that I am Sharon-Lee A.K.A Sharna-Lee. Time to sort it out, I think.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Surname Saturday- Same Surname Coincidences

Same Name Coincidences - how easy it is to find the wrong ancestors.

A few years ago, I telephoned my friend Anne to ask if I could borrow a CD to use in a concert. Her son Paul answered the phone, saying, 'Paul here' and I told him it was Sharn speaking. He said hello, and after a quick chat about how he was going at school, he put his mother on the line. Anne and I had a good chat about life in general and I arranged to collect the CD the next day. After hanging up the telephone, I felt uneasy. Anne's voice has sounded different. Perhaps she had a cold? I had dialed the phone number from memory, so was it possible that I had phoned the wrong number. After checking my personal telephone book I rang the number I had written down for my friend Anne, who answered immediately.

'Anne,' I said, sheepishly, 'This may sound silly, but did I just telephone you? I asked.

'No', replied my friend Anne and then added, 'Are you OK?'

' I'll get back to you.' I mumbled and leaving her undoubtedly thinking I had gone quite mad, I hung up.

I telephoned the number that I had first called. (It was only one digit different from the correct one).

'Anne here', answered the voice. ( At least I had the right number, even if I now knew I had the wrong Anne!)

'Hello,'I blurted out, 'I think I may have just phoned you by mistake.'

'Oh that's a relief,' replied the other Anne, ' I was just thinking you didn't sound like my friend Sharm.' The outcome of this situation was that we had a good laugh. This Anne had a friend named Sharm, who was also involved in a concert. So Sharn sounded like Sharm when I called. They both had a son named Paul just to add to the confusion. She also only lived one street away from my friend Anne. Confusing? Very! If this can happen in real life, imagine what confusion you might encounter when searching for ancestors.

I am unhappily swinging from the branches of several family trees on which I do not belong. The reason for my being perched on these wrong trees is a simple coincidence of the same surname and a lack of checking of the facts. It is easy to do. In fact, I have been guilty of adopting the wrong ancestor in the past myself, in the early days of my family history research. I had mistakenly adopted the wrong Joseph Williams, convict. It was difficult to give him up, I have to admit as I actually preferred the ancestor who wasn't mine. I had become quite fond of him, as he handsomely sat on my family tree, scar on his eyebrow and all. As soon as I realised my mistake, however, I lowered him begrudgingly from the branch of my tree and replaced him with my 'pock marked, swollen leg veined' own and considerably more unattractive convict ancestor. It is a fact, that no matter how fascinating someone else's ancestor may be, if he or she does not belong on your tree, they should not be there.

Finding the wrong ancestor is actually very easy. Often it is more easy than finding your own. Unless your ancestor had an unusual surname, as did my Häberlings and Nergers then unfortunately, there are a lot of McDonalds, MacDonalds, Smiths, Whites, Browns and Taylors to choose from. There are also a lot of common first names to help to further confuse you in your search for ancestors. In my family there is an over abundance of common names such as John, Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, William, Thomas and dare I say it - Anne! Imagine my glee to find an ancestor named Gotlob Sigler after searching for William and John White, John Hoyes and William Lloyd. I know I have the correct Gotlob on my family tree. It takes a great deal of patience and record checking to make certain you have the correct ancestor when they have a more common name.

When I was first married, I received a phone call one day from a woman asking to speak to David. Naturally curious, that a female was telephoning my new husband, I politely asked her who she was.

Very rudely she replied, 'I might ask you the same thing.'

'Well,' I said, surprised, but firm, 'I am David's wife!'

At hearing this, the woman burst into tears and claimed that she had no idea that the man whom she was dating had a wife, whereupon, I also began crying because I had no idea that my husband had a girlfriend. She gave a telephone number and requested that David call her, so that she could give him a piece of her mind. Not before I did though!

My husband David claimed that he did not know anyone named Sue as he attempted to calm me over the phone.

'A likely story!' I sobbed, inconsolably.

As it turned out my David was telling the truth. He didn't know a Sue (unless you count his first cousin) and this other Sue had telephoned the wrong number. She was looking for David Taylor, not David White!

'Did you not check who she was looking for?' asked my husband. A lesson learned well (and with a very red face), in real life and one which I have taken with me into my ancestral search.

So, I don't blame those people who have mistakenly placed me on their trees. I understand how name coincidences happen. Speaking of the surname Taylor happens to remind me of an instance where I have been planted on the wrong tree. One of my ancestors, John Taylor, had the same name as another family historian's ancestor did. Both John Taylors married a Mary Ann. A thorough check of the facts show that my Mary Ann was born in Nottinghamshire and the other Mary Ann, in Bermondsey, Surrey. But still my John Taylor of Nottinghamshire, remains on the other tree married like a bigamist to a Surrey girl. On another family tree, I have an Elizabeth Jane Turner who married a William Shelver. An unusual name, I hear you say! Ah yes, but would you believe that by coincidence, two Elizabeth Turners each married a William Shelver in the same week, in the same year, and in the exact same county of Suffolk in the UK? Unfortunately, on someone else's tree, my Elizabeth Jane is married incorrectly to the wrong William. A simple mistake but one that pops three generations of my family onto a tree where they sit out of place, like apples on an orange tree.

The moral of this story is to always check and verify facts. If you don't you might end up with the wrong ancestor or worse like my friend did, the wrong bed......

.....Ah now that I have begun the story, I should no doubt tell you what happened.

My friend's surname is McDonald. He ordered a new bed from a department store which he arranged to be delivered to Unit 10, 53 Hannah * Street. When the bed did not arrive, my friend telephoned the delivery company who claimed that they had indeed delivered the bed. And they had. To Unit 10, 58, Hannah Street, where lived a couple, also with the surname of McDonald. When the delivery men had struggled up three floors to unit 10, and announced a delivery for McDonald, the lady who opened the door was overwhelmed by surprise. She decided at once that her husband must have bought the new bed to surprise her for their wedding anniversary which was that very day. When her unsuspecting husband returned home from his office to find his wife deliriously happy and jumping on the bed for joy, he did not have the heart to tell her that he had not purchased the bed. The mistake was corrected and my McDonald friend received a brand new bed. Now, if I could just get my Elizabeth Jane Turner out of bed with the wrong William Shelver....

* Hannah is not the real name of the street.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Anzac Day Ancestors

'Oh! we don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go

For your King and your Country both need you so.'

Paul Alfred Rubens 1875-1970 ( 'Your King and Country Want You'. Song)

William Leonard White ( my husband's grandfather),was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1889. He and his sister Edith lost their mother at a young age and when their father remarried they were both sent into foster care. William left New Zealand as a young man to make a new life for himself in Sydney, Australia.

It was only whilst reading William's enlistment papers, for the Australian Imperial Force that I discovered that this was not his first experience in a defence force. The document, below right, shows that he had spent five years in the New Zealand Infantry. This was news to the family and something we will be following up in the near future.

William White enlisted in the 45th Battalion on the 21st of February, 1916, in Sydney. His service number was 2248. His profession was given as a french polisher and his next of kin, was his father, William White Snr in Canterbury, New Zealand.

Left is the colour patch on the uniform of members of the 45th Battalion.

'The 45th Battalion was formed in Egypt on March 2, 1916, as part of the doubling of the AIF.' [1] About half of this new Battalion were made up of members of the 13th Battalion who had seen action at Gallipoli and the other half, which included William White, were new recruits sent from Australia.

William White arrived in France with the 45th battalion (as part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Division) on June 8th, 1916. William White was quickly to find himself in action in the trenches on the Western Front.

The small town of Pozieres in the Somme Valley, in German hands, was first attacked on July 23rd by the 1st Division in the battle of Pozieres Ridge on the Albert-Bauhaume road.William White arrived in Pozieres on August 8th, 1916 to join the fierce battle for Pozieres. The 45th battalion suffered many casualties and fatalities.

After the battle of Pozieres, the 45th battalion was sent to Ypres in Belgium where they were engaged in active duty in the trenches alternating with rest and training until March in 1917. William and his battalion spent time in the Somme Valley before becoming a reserve for the 4th Division at Bullencourt and the battle of Messines in Junes 1917. During this battle the 45th suffered many casualties.

The 45th Battalion was then moved to Ypres, once again, where they were involved in a major battle near Passchendale on October,12 1917. During 1917 and 1918, the duties of the 45th battalion alternated between the front line and rest. On August 8, 1918, the Allies attacked the Germans in what is known as the Battle of Amiens. On the very first day of this battle, the 45th Battalion captured 400 German prisoners, as well as German artillery and machine guns. The 45th battalion played a crucial part in the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. The 45th Battalion was involved in its last major action in September 1918 at Le Verguier.

During his active service with the 45th Battalion, William White was injured and lost two fingers on his right hand. This injury meant the end of his career as a french polisher when the war ended. William White married Mary Jane McDonald a little over a month after the end of the war, on December 21, 1918.

Amongst William's possessions were found a number of photographs which are believed to have been taken by him. These images are a confronting and sombre record of the William White and the 45th Battalion's contribution to World War 1.



1.Australian War Memorial

2.'The Chronicle of the 45th Battalion'

(Joseph E Lee)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Friday Blog: Five Generations

Five Generations in a Family - a search of Trove to find them.

I am not certain how often five generations of living family occurs, however, it is a family history topic dear to my heart as I am the baby pictured in the photograph above, which was featured in the Brisbane Courier Mail in October, 1955. The occasion for the gathering of five generations of mothers and daughters in my family was the 88th birthday of my great great grandmother, Barbara Lena Nargar (nee Häberling).

Barbara Lena Häberling arrived in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia aged 4 years, on March 9th, 1871 on board the ship Reichstag with her parents Jacob and Anna (Bosshardt) and sisters, Rosina (1856), Amalie Dorothy (1861), Bertha Martha (1867) and Herminnie Adelle (1868). Sadly, three children, Fritz, Jakob and Rosetta had died in Zurich. My great great great grandfather Jacob Häberling was a bootmaker born in 1785 in Affoltern, Bern, Switzerland. With the help of the Maryborough District Family History Society, I have traced my Häberling family (spelled Heberling in Australia) back to the 1400's in Switzerland.

Feeling somewhat privileged to have this special five generation photograph in my family, prompted me to wonder how often five generations in one family occurs. I decided to conduct a search Australian newspapers on the Trove website, to find other Australian 'five generation' families. I was interested in several aspects of five generation families. Firstly, I was curious to see the age spans between the eldest and youngest generations. I was also interested to see if there was a pattern to the occurrence of these multiple generation families in different decades of Australian history. Given that the average year span for one generation is accepted as being around 20 years, I did not expect to find five generations of family alive in Australia until around the 1880's or 1890's.

[My research was undertaken purely for my own genealogical interest. There is no empirical evidence to support my findings. I am merely reporting information found in digitalised newspapers and I admit that I found this excercise to be fascinating as a member of a five generation family.] Trove is an amazing source of information for the family historian.

My first discovery was a surprise as I discovered the first evidence of five generations of one family living at one time in Australia, as early as 1856.

Pictured right is a news item which appeared in the Hobart Courier in March 1856, on the birth date of a Mr Hoskisson's great great grandson William. Mr Hoskisson was living in Windsor at the time and was 100 years of age. (Born 1756)

Following are the numbers of five generation families, that I found reported in Australian newspapers between the years 1880 and 1954. (In a search of 20 pages of newspaper items).

1880-1899 - 2

1890-1899 - 2

1900-1909 - 11

1910-1919 - 18

1920-1929 - 19

1930-1939 - 55

1940-1949 - 27

1950-1954 - 17

The average year span for each generation between these years ranged from 17 to 20 years.

The record, above left, describes a five generation family in 1899, in a story which appeared in The Queenslander. The article featured a Mrs Ransley, reportedly one of the colony's oldest residents, who was 85 years of age and described five living generations of her family including her great great grandson.

Below are just a few of the wonderful photographs of five generations of Australian families which I found in various Australian newspapers on the Trove website which were published between the years 1915 and 1953.

The two photographs above are among my favourites as they picture five generations of mothers and daughters as does my own five generation photograph.

Perhaps my most exciting find, was the picture and story below, from the Australian Womens Weekly, which is of an amazing 6 generations of one family photographed together in 1982. The ages iin this family of six generations spanned 98 years to 7 weeks.

Source: Trove

I would love to hear from other people who have multiple generation photographs or stories.