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Saturday, June 24, 2017

A recipe to get kids interested in family history

My children have recently taken enough of an interest in our family history that they sometimes ask me questions about it.

“But children think family history is boring”, I hear you say.

“How was this incredible feat accomplished?”

Actually, it happened by accident.

A few years ago I had an ancestry chart printed out by a local office supplies store, just to try out having a chart printed. I looked at it, thought about what I would do differently next time, rolled it up and stored it at the back of a cupboard. It’s not display quality, but when I came across it again it seemed a waste to throw it away. Instead I put the 3 metre wide document up on the wall of our study.

The children noticed this new addition and asked me about it.

Child looking at ancestor chart

Now pay attention, because this is the good bit.

Instead of telling them it’s an ancestor chart – which they would hear as “Family history blah blah blah” – I told them it was a recipe. Yes, a recipe.

A recipe to make…. them!

Suddenly this mildly interesting addition to the room became all about them and (almost) fascinating. It helped that I had included their names on it. We had a good talk about where the different ingredients people came from and since then I have used it a few times to point out an ancestor I have been talking about. They like to count back the generations from themselves and are much more likely to listen to me talking about something I’ve found.

My eleven year old even thought to ask me what evidence I had for these conclusions! (proud mother here!)

Not bad for a black and white chart with only the most basic information.

Now I want to have a new chart printed with photos where I have them, perhaps country flags, occupations, “fun facts”?! I think they’ll really enjoy looking at that, and the questions will keep on coming.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trove Tuesday: The Carlton Brewery in pictures

Woodcut image of the Carlton Brewery, 1870

No title (1870, December 10). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), p. 10 (TOWN EDITION). Retrieved June 6, 2017, from

The Carlton Brewery was five years old in 1870, when the woodcut above was published. The accompanying extensive article describes a large and busy operation with a smoke stack 105 feet high (30 metres). On site were boilers, crushers, a steam engine, refrigeration, thousands of bags of malt and hops, liquor in various stages of fermentation, not to mention barrels of the finished product.

The large stables (at the back left of the woodcut image) could house 20 horses “with every convenience that a man who regardeth the life of his beast could desire”. It sounds like life was pretty good for the beasts.

I wonder what life was like for the neighbours?

This image was a particularly good find for me, because Francis McMahon and Ellen Keogh (my 2xgreat grandparents) lived next to Carlton Brewery in Ballarat street (a street which no longer exists) for at least 40 years. From my reading of maps and street directories, I think they lived in one of the houses I have shaded red, below.


A later newspaper article (1904) also found on Trove provides a glimpse into the interior of the Brewery buildings and gives some idea of the scale of the Brewery.

“The Boiler House”


“Engine Room
Hercules Refrigerator or Ice Machine, having a capacity of 40 tons per day”


“Bottling by Machinery”


More images are available in the article.

VICTORIAN INDUSTRIES. (1904, November 3). Punch (Melbourne, Vic. : 1900 - 1918; 1925), pp. 25-26. Retrieved June 6, 2017, from

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The early bird gets the conference ticket

A week ago today, registrations for the 15th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry opened. Congress is a three-yearly genealogy conference and this will be my second time attending. I’m unreasonably excited (so my non-genealogy friends, family and co-workers say) about an event that isn’t until March next year.

Last time around it was held in my home town Canberra, which was my prompt to finally attend. I got a lot out of it – both from the excellent sessions and from meeting other genealogists face-to face who I had previously only known online. There was no doubt I would sign up for the next one.

So last week when Early Bird registrations opened I bought my tickets. I’ve also booked a small terrace house near the venue in company with two other genealogists who have excitement levels about this event similar to my own!

It’s going to be fun.

Will I see you at Congress?!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Reconstituting the Allsops of Tissington–progress

I’ve been making slow but steady progress on my project to reconstitute the Allsop family/ies of Tissington, Derbyshire, England. I’ve described the general method I used previously. It makes use of the wonderful charting and querying abilities of Family Historian software. I didn’t start out with the aim of putting them all together, I was only interested in my own tree. But as it turns out, my own tree accounts for the majority of them and having gone this far there’s no turning back!

Updated method

I made one slight modification to the method described. Instead of drawing shapes to link individuals who I think may be the same person, I started colour coding the boxes instead. It worked much better as I could still see who belonged where even if the charts moved about as I merged people.


I’ve now identified two main family groups of Allsops. One group descends from a John Allsop from Kniveton who married a Tissington bride in 1833 and had some children in Tissington. This smaller tree is below. Note the use of blue and red box outlines, along with placement of trees, so that I can easily see the people who I think are the same person, but don’t yet have sufficient evidence to merge.


The other much larger group, from which I descend, had been in Tissington from at least the 1600s.


There are also quite a few coloured boxes where want to be sure they really are the same person in here.

Work to be done

I still have a number of extra individuals to sort out. I’ve shifted them so they all sit on one part of the chart sheet. I’ve also added bars with years written on them, so that I can arrange them down the page placed roughly at their estimated birth years.


I’ve been doing more targeted searches for information about these people and have slowly been linking them in to the two main trees where I can. The source that is helping me the most for those born after 1837 is the GRO birth indexes, which now include mother’s maiden names.

I’m also planning to request some documents from the Derbyshire Record Office. There is one document in particular from their catalogue which looks like it will confirm the link I have pencilled in from the earlier to the later generations.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

(Up to) Five Faves Geneameme

Jill Ball at Geniaus has kicked off another geneameme – Five Faves.

To participate, just share a blog post “sharing details of five books written by others that you have found most useful in your geneactivities” and let Jill know about it.

The types of books that I find useful are the ones that give me ideas or provide essential reference material.

I found the first two easy to pick:

Family History Nuts and Bolts:
Problem-Solving through Family Reconstitution Techniques
by Andrew Todd, third edition

This little book was an instant favourite on my first reading. Don’t be put off if you think the title sounds advanced, or the subject matter dry. I would recommend it to genealogists with any level of experience.

The book is readable and provides practical methods for both tracking down elusive family members, and making sure you have it right. It’s helpful for projects as ambitious as a one-name or one-place study, or as simple as learning who your ancestor’s siblings were.

Writing Interesting Family Histories
by Carol Baxter

I’ve read a few how-to-write-your-genealogy books, and this is my favourite. Family history narratives (no matter how well structured and researched) can be dull. If you’re not one for a fictionalised account (for the record, I’m not), what can you do?

Carol’s book is choc full of ideas to enliven a family history narrative while keeping it factual.

Then it gets harder to choose. This post had several alternate endings until eventually I decided that I had spent enough time on it and simply wasn’t going to be able to make up my mind!

I will be reading other lists submitted with interest. I think my growing genealogy book shelf is about to expand even more.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Take a squiz at what I’m researching

Have you ever had the experience of being totally focused on a research task for one part of your tree – when suddenly another part of your tree robs your attention?!

Here I was, working away diligently at the task of cleaning up narrative sentences for my Bennett family. I was focused, I was determined. I was going to get the job done!


A cousin shared a book she had found with my Allsop descendants group on Facebook: Khaki Crims and Desperadoes.

It turns out that my 1st cousin three times removed, Charles Edward Allsop, was pals with the notorious gangster, Squizzy Taylor.

If Trove has noticed an increase in hits over the last day or two, it’s probably due to us Allsop descendants!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trove Tuesday: Letters to “Aunt Connie”

The Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954) ran a regular column of letters from children called “They Young Folks” by “Aunt Connie”. These letters from my grandfather’s sister, Bessie Ada French, describing her life at Avoca Lead were among them.



FOR THE COT. (1906, September 15). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), p. 43.
Retrieved January 14, 2017, from

Avoca Lead, 26th August.— Dear Aunt Con-
nie, — This is the first time I have written to
you, and I hope you will accept me as a
niece. I have six brothers and three sisters.
My eldest sister is married, and she has two
little girls. I have to walk two and a half
miles to school. I like going to school very
much. My three brothers have been working
on a cyanide plant. They are carting wood
to the Avoca Lead dredge now. There are a
lot of dredges about here. It makes the place
very lively. I always read the "Young Folks' "
page, and I think the letters are very nice, es-
pecially Hilda Russel's, We have a few fowls
and a pig, two horses, and seven lovely snow-
white ducks. The golden wattle is out in
bloom now. I love to go out in the bush and
gather bunches of the blossom. We are mak-
ing a garden at our school. There are about
200 children going to the Avoca school. I
am sending 3d for the Cot. With love to Uncle
Ben, Cousins Connie and Florrie, not forget-
ting yours, I remain, your loving niece,
BESSIE FRENCH, age 10 years. Please,
Aunt Connie, may I write again?
(I am pleased to have you for a niece,
Bessie. You may write again.— Aunt Connie.)



TOO STONY FOR FLOWERS. (1907, January 26). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), p. 35.
Retrieved January 14, 2017, from

Avoca, 16th January. — Dear Aunt Connie, —
This is the second letter I have written to
you. I have been staying at my sister's for
the last three weeks. Mr brother is working
at Donkey Hill on a cyanide plant. He only
comes home once a week, as it is ten miles
from home. We begin school again on Mon-
day. I am in the third class at school. We
have a flower garden at our school, but the
flowers do not grow very well, as it is situ-
ated on a stony hill. I will be eleven years
old on the 1st of February, and my little
niece will be four on the 4th, so we are go-
ing to keep both birthdays up on the same
day, and have a tea party. We are having
some warm weather now. With love to Cou-
sins Connie and Florrie, Uncle Ben. and your-
self,— I remain, your loving niece, BESSIE