A Genealogy Holiday
by Paul Bech

When you live and breathe genealogy you take unusual holidays. I have just returned from a solo driving trip which took me around south eastern Australia. I was out to catalogue cemeteries. That is, I spent several hours walking around a cemetery taking photos of all the gravestones (for later transcriptions). Many of the cemeteries I had no personal family history with, but I just love the history I find. They are full of interesting stories. Let me tell you about some.

Bombala in southern NSW in Australia is high up on the Great Dividing range. These days it is a timber town, logging trucks regularly roll through the town. It used to have a railway, a pioneer type of basic construction with rails mostly laid on sleepers with no ballast, to save construction costs.

The railway is no more but there are still many remnants lying around. Apparently it takes an Act of Parliament to rip it up, so railways are often left just to erode away.

Bombala is also a fairly old cemetery (at least by Australian standards). These often have ornate sandstone headstones (sandstone is found along most of the Great Dividing Range). There are many poetic inscriptions to the loved ones buried below. Like this one for Mary Elizabeth Barrow, daughter of a doctor, who died at age 3 in 1871:

 “Nay weep not o’er the loved ones tomb

Nor mourn thy infants early doom.

The little floweret sweet and fair’

To heaven is gone to blossum there.

Farewll my child

The blessed thought is mine in good or ill

That thou art now a spirit undefiled.

And I thy Mother still.”

Not far up the road there is a smaller town called Nimmitabel. Before the current cemetery, there was a smaller Pioneer cemetery. The place was then called Nimitybelle. Not a lot remains here in the form of headstones, but what is there is quite fascinating. I came across the gravestone of Gikas Voulgaris, who became known as Jigger Bulgary. He was one of a pair of the first Greek immigrants to Australia. Actually they were convicts, arrested in the Mediterranean sea as pirates, tried, convicted and transported to Australia. He became a free in 1836 and raised a family in the area.

I continued driving north to Michelago. Here I found a plaque dedicated to the first person buried in this cemetery. “an unnamed Irish Miner aged about 30 who died from a broken neck, cause unknown. 1860”. I can’t help but stop and ponder for a moment. Who was he? Did his family, probably half a world away, ever know of his demise? There was also the kindness of the people who buried him to leave some record of his existence.

Eventually I arrived at the outskirts of SouthWestern Sydney, in Appin. Appin was an early outpost of the new colony of New South Wales. Expeditions were launched from here to explore overland routes between Sydney and the first settlement in Victoria. The explorers Hume and Hovell passed this way. Appin also has personal interest for me as some of my first Australian ancestors were resident here, like William Mahony, a convict transported from Cork in Ireland for forgery. There is a swimming hole on local creek named Mahoneys Hole which is beside his one time landholdings he was granted after receiving his ticket of leave. My great grandmother Eleanor Maria Hayes is also buried here, but there is no trace of her grave. Still, I take the time to photograph the graves that remain (and the newer ones). Perhaps my work will preserve what remains. And it is perhaps just as well. I notice a fair amount of vandalism here, something that is missing from the cemeteries I have visited in most rural towns.

Now I turn westward crossing the Blue Mountains, an early barrier to the expansion of the colony. It is an area of deep ravines and dense scrub. The first primitive road was constructed in 1815. My 4rd great grandfather, William Oxley, who came as a free settler to Australia in 1839, crossed this road less than 30 years later when it was still a lonely place. We are lucky to have letters he wrote of this journey:

“...it took me four days journey, 26 miles over the Blue Mountains is a very barren part such mountain gulleys and deep ravines I never before saw, neither can I describe to you my feelings being alone on a mountain track not a house or a human being near as I passed on the tops of some of the ridges.”

I stayed a night in the Blue Mountains at Katoomba before travelling on to photograph two cemeteries in the Central West region of NSW, Carcoar and Lyndhurst, before returning home.

Now I am adding these to the Australian Cemeteries Project on WikiTree. I am transcribing the gravestone details and adding them as profiles to WikiTree, along with details from newspapers of the day adding background to their lives. I even make some family history discoveries along the way, if not for me, for someone I know with ancestors buried in one of these cemeteries.

If you have any interest in a Cemetery Project please contact me. If you are curious about history and like to know what life was like for your ancestors it is a great way to find out, and you are helping to preserve history. Whatever part of the world you are in!

 

 

Genealogy on the Cheap
by Paul Bech

There are plenty of sites on the Internet that will offer to supply you lots of information for a fee. Those fees can add up to quite a bit, however, over time. If your budget can’t stretch to such luxuries you don’t have to give up your dream of finding out where you came from. There are plenty of resources on the Internet for the savvy searcher. Really, you don’t have to spend a heap of money searching out your ancestors.

A search engine such as Google should be a first stop. You never know what you might find! You could just type in a name, but that would probably give you too many results to search through effectively. Using quotation marks around your search term will keep the words together as a phrase rather than searching for those 3 words anywhere on a page. So,

Phillip John Boardman

will give very different results from

“Phillip John Boardman”

Quotation marks can be used in this way to search many online resources. You might be searching for a very common name, like John Smith. In cases like this it might help to add a location, or some notable detail to your search. Also try variations in a name. Many notices (birth, death and Marriage) have the last name listed first, so you might try searching for:

“Boardman, Phillip John”

Also, try common mis-spellings, or initials plus the surname. So in the example I gave above, I might try any of the following combinations to try and find what I am looking for:

“Phillip J Boardman”

“Phillip Boardman”

“Boardman, Phillip”

“P J Boardman”

and I might also add a town he lived in

“Phillip John Boardman” Cowra NSW

Newspapers are also an excellent source of information, and there are many free resources. It is not just birth, death and marriage announcements, but all sorts of other events that you can harvest information from. There are many free online newspaper sites. Many are listed in the WikiTree Genealogy help section:

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Newspaper_and_Media_Archives

If you know of any others, please let us know.

Cemetery inscriptions can also provide much more than just a date of death. Many inscriptions provide dates of birth, or at least an age to calculate the birth date from. Often relatives are listed as well. There are many online cemetery sites like Billion Graves and Find-a-Grave. You can also find a listing of many other cemeteries in the WikiTree Genealogy Help section at:

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Cemetery_and_Burial_Records

If you have an interest in helping to catalog cemeteries, then contact me, Paul Bech, and join a WikiTree Cemetery Project.

Many countries have free, searchable indexes of people who served in the military. WikiTreer, Terry Wright, has assembled a comprehensive list of Miltary resources at:

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Worldwide_Military_Resource_Page

including some WikiTree pages such as the Roll Of Honor, which is a Project to remember those soldiers who paid the ultimate price, or who were awarded an honor. If you have a profile that suits this project please submit for inclusion.

You might also like to browse:

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Category:Genealogy_Help

for other types on information resources that you might be able to use in your search.

And don’t forget G2G. Ask a question and you never know who might be able to help. Of course, supply everything you know when you ask. Dates, even if approximate, places, and full names. Remember that WikiTree is worldwide.

Long before becoming a WikiTree team member, Paul Bech was one of our earliest active volunteers. He helped pioneer the usage of free-space profiles and categories, created the Genealogy Help section, leads the Australian Convicts and First Settlers project, and took it upon himself to create this video introduction to using WikiTree.  If you’re dealing with an Unresponsive Profile Manager or a 200-year-old profile that isn’t being openly shared, Paul is the man to contact. Paul has been tracing his genealogy for over 40 years. He focuses on his Oxley and Standen lines (both from Kent, England; came to Australia in 1839 and 1841), and his Hayes, Wall, and Bech families (from Korsor, Denmark). His wide range of other interests include photography, astronomy, “bushwalking” (that’s Aussie-speak for hiking), cycling, bowling, and science fiction.

 

An Effective Research Plan - Your Genealogy Compass

[Editor’s Note: Elyse Doerflinger of WikiTree explains how to find family history success by creating and using a research plan.]

How many times have you started a search with the goal of finding the birthdate of an ancestor on your maternal side, only to end up on a random census record for someone on your paternal side?  It happens to all of us, especially in the early morning hours.  While it may seem fun to search this way, it isn’t a very effective research strategy.

In order to fill in the blanks on your pedigree chart, you have to create a research plan.  A research plan identifies the exact question you are trying to answer, the information you’ve already gathered, and the places you plan to look.  A research plan is like a roadmap; it helps you identify all the places you’ve been, the destination you’re heading to, and all of the stops in between.

What Do You Want to Know?

The first step to creating a research plan is to pick an ancestor and one specific goal to accomplish.  This goal could be to answer a specific question or a hypothesis you want to test.

What Do You Already Have?

The next step is to carefully re-examine all of the documents you’ve gathered for that ancestor.  This is the time to carefully analyze every piece of evidence you have to be sure you’ve drawn out all the details you can.  Often as time has gone by and your genealogy education has expanded, you will notice something in the document that you may have missed.

List each fact in a format that is easy to read and follow.  Many researchers use a timeline, list, or chart format.  Don’t forget to write the source citation and any comments about the source or document that you feel are relevant.

Where Will You Look?

Next, list all of the resources to be checked for evidence to prove or disprove your hypothesis.  Don’t be afraid to try new sources or new research strategies.  Spend some time reading FamilySearch’s Research Wiki to learn more about specific resources available in a given geographic area and time period.

Time to Research!

Now the fun part… start searching for your ancestor!  Don’t forget to record all searches, including those with positive and negative results.  Recording all of your searches will prevent you from repeating a search.  And don’t forget that negative results can also serve as a form of evidence.

Your Research Plan is a Living Document

As you perform  more searches and gather more documents, you will want to update your research plan.  You can add to your research plan, create hypotheses, and refine your research strategies at any time.

Do you create research plans?  Do you find that research plans make you a more effective researcher? Let us know how you use research plans for genealogy and your tips and tricks for tracking research.

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