Sunday, February 5, 2012

Life Experiences: 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?
George Birrell - Sea Town 
My first blog was called Luvvies Musings...and I have been musing long and hard about this question much so that I'm now late...terribly late and need to get on with it! The ancestor that I will posit for discussion today is not really a brick wall but she's a good example.

My ancestor's name is Isabella Sinclair (nee Birrell).  She was my 3rd great-grandmother and came out to Melbourne, Australia with her husband Peter Sinclair in 1857 on the "Horizon" with their six children: Isabella, Margaret, Ann, James, Ellen (Helen) and Emma.  Somebody sent me a message on Ancestry this week asking me a bit more about the family and so that motivated me to have a play with ScotlandsPeople which I haven't used before.  Tick!  Another new experience ticked off the list for the New Year.

Isabella and Peter and two of their children are listed on the 1841 Census as living in Main Street Relief, Inverary, Scotland.  This is what it looks like.....

Inveraray, South Main Street East, Relief Land by David Dorren
My new buddy Mary on Ancestry was trying to find out how these Sinclairs might fit in with her Sinclairs from Inverary.  Mary is doing what we call a "One Name Study".  To find out more about what a One Name Study is go here....Mary wanted to know who Peter's parents were and whether death certificates were online in Australia.  I mentioned that I had a note somewhere about Isabella's parents names but wasn't sure from whence they came - certainly no supporting documentation.  I had no information on Peter's parents though, of course, I could try and guess using Scottish naming conventions.

I tried to find Isabella's and Peter's deaths but when I searched the indexes (NSW and VIC - NB the latter cost to search, so beware), I wasn't having much joy in terms of narrowing down possibilities.  Friend Mary tried an alternative spelling and bingo!  We had success.  Isabella died in 1891 in Fitzroy.  Her parents were listed as James Burell and ? Menzies.  I think I had tried one "R" and one "L" and a "U" instead of an "I" but with two "Rs" and two "Ls".  Searching is an art and I need to get better at it; particularly if you have to pay to search!  You might want to try out some freeware that helps think up variants for you if you have reached a brick wall in your research.  One that we use at work is Surname Suggestion List by the wonderful Matt Combs.

So what's my point?  Well it's the one you've probably heard before which is don't expect the name you are researching to be spelled the same all the time.  Just think about your own name....Personally I had to wear the maiden name of Conner for many years which gets variously spelled as Connor, Connors, O'Connor etc.  You can imagine what I get for Daw...Door, Dore, Dawe, Daws.  But the best of all variants was Dax in a rejection letter for a job last year...."Dear Mrs Dax" began.  It was the first time I've ever laughed at a rejection letter.

Dax is particularly catchy when combined with a nickname my friend called Loani (pronounced Low-Ah-knee) invented for me years ago.  When we first met, I found her name a bit of a challenge but I quickly learned how to say it when she threatened to call me Olix everytime I called her Leonie ! ;)

Over and out...Olix Dax.

PS Wouldn't it be great if I could claim some connection to the marvellous artist George Birrell?  I just discovered him today when I idly searched Birrell images....don't you love serendipity?  And great art?


Ann O'Dyne said...

No lawnmowing in Inverary then, but the building certainly looks just like the Birrell painting. Maybe there IS a connection.
My brick wall married Eliza Hannah Lambert in 1850 Manchester, and I wish I could connect her to the famous painter George Lambert.
I also wish I could figure out how to purchase an 1850 Manchester marriage certificate online.

Alex Daw said...

You are a very funny woman Ann O'Dyne but you probably knew that already. Wish I could help you with the online Manchester marriage certificate but a Manchesterian will have to help you with that one or are they called something else? A Mancheswegian??

Ann O'Dyne said...

Mancunians I think. I have plonked around all the obvious UK websites, but they do not have anything like our Victorian system of instantly receiving the certificate ONLINE.
Genealogy is rivetting, our own or other peoples. Last weekend I was on duty at our local Historical Society for inquiries and everyone had great stories they had uncovered. loved hearing them.

As for surnames guessing, I have sympathy for anyone researching
Mary Ann MURRIN 1894#8549 as the very costly Vic BMD database has her as MUZZLER MURBIN.