Saturday, December 23, 2017

Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2017

The fabulous and amazing Jill Ball from Geniaus has invited us once again to reflect on our Geneayear.  What a great tradition.  Here are the questions with the proviso that we Accentuate the Positive and stop lashing ourselves for those things we didn't get round to or achieve:

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was

Thank goodness for death notices.  I discovered my ancestor Peter Sinclair was a librarian at the Parliamentary Library in Melbourne on this blog post here. 

2.  A great newspaper article I found was

I reckon I found a photo of my maternal grandmother and her twin sister at Randwick Destitute Asylum in The Star in 1908 as per this blog post here. 

3.  A geneajourney I took was

I had hoped to go to the NSW Family History Conference in Orange this year but we mustn't be maudlin.  By all accounts it was fantastic.  Shauna Hicks reports on it here.

4.  An important record I found was

Peter Sinclair's death certificate and will and probate.

5.  A newly found family member shared

I got to meet a fellow researcher on my husband's side of the family, Jane Wolfe, at the Footsteps in Time conference on the Gold Coast this year in May.  She kindly invited us to a mini-family reunion of the Hindes (descendants of the Duncans) at Nerang Cemetery in October to witness the unveiling of two pioneer headstones she commissioned for Rose and William Duncan.  To quote from Jane's email:

The stone used is Numinbah granite and the bronze plates commemorate their pioneering work in the timber industry, education and establishing the district. The research and work having the headstones made was done by Kerry McGrath and Joan (and Jack) Rudd.  Kerry and Joan are also direct descendants of Rose and William.

While I wasn't able to attend, my two sisters-in-law and my brother-in-law were very pleased to be able to do so.  

Photo by Jane Wolfe 2016

Jane has also reminded me that there will be a Last Post Ceremony in Canberra next year on Sunday 10 February for Private Thomas Hinde.  I wrote about Thomas and his brother Edward here.

6.  A geneasurprise I received was

Look what you find when you google things...for those of you who don't know, I just started working for the City of Gold Coast Library service.  Now I have another reason to go and have a look at the Burleigh Heads Library ASAP!

7.   My 2017 blog post that I was particularly proud of was

I hosted a Geneameme for National Family HIstory Month and found that the All the Rivers Run mini-meme was quite popular with Bloggers.  I certainly enjoyed finding and looking at all the pictures of the rivers that my ancestors would have identified with as part of their familiar "home" landscape.

8.   I made a new genimate who

see above

9.  A new piece of technology I mastered was

As a Librarian I always seem to be learning new technology but for the purposes of this exercise I am going to talk about technology I used for recording and transcribing oral history.  I attended the NLS symposium in Canberra earlier this year.  You can read all about it on my other blog here.  I learned to use an app called Wave Pad.  To assist with transcribing I used an app called Speech Notes.  It's not perfect of course but it does grab about 50% of what it hears which is better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick, as they say.

10. I joined

My father used to be a member of SAG years ago so as a Xmas present last year I joined us both up because I'd heard so much about their online seminars et al.  I also joined the Yass & District Historical Society.

11. A genealogy event from which I learnt something new was

Bill Kitson's session on Hydrographic Surveying of the Queensland coast 1860-1880 at the Footsteps in Time Conference.  My father and I have ancestors in the Navy (Conne/ors) and this was much of their work so we were fascinated by this account.  Our interest was piqued particularly when Bill started mentioning someone by the name of Edward Richard Connor who joined the Navy in 1861.  Our ancestors also used the name Edward quite frequently.  We can't find a connection yet but I haven't given up hope.  Bill will publish a book on this subject soon but in the meantime you can get a sense of the subject here on the Fraser Coast Libraries blog.

A blog post that taught me something new was

There are so many bloggers that I follow but without a doubt the one who impresses me most in terms of the sheer volume of stuff that she manages to keep on top of is the lovely Chris from That Moment in Time. 
13. A DNA discovery I made was

14. I taught a genimate how to

I taught lots of genimates how to blog!  

15. A brick wall I demolished was 

16. A great site I visited was

My father and I finally got to see the MacArthur Museum....something we had wanted to do for ages.

And while I was doing the Photo essay course I was referred to this site which I find just fascinating even though I don't have any American ancestors (to my knowledge) who would have been involved in the Civil War.  

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was

This book isn't necessarily new but it was new to me.....Men and a River: Richmond River District 1828-1895 by Louise Tiffany Daley.  I haven't finished it yet but it is very well written indeed.  And sorry, but I can't stop at one book.  Another book I thoroughly enjoyed dipping into and am fully resolved to read more is 100 Canberra Houses: A Century of Capital Architecture by Tim Reeves and Alan Roberts - beautifully produced and fascinating stuff.

18. It was exciting to finally meet

See Point 5 - Jane Wolfe !

19. I am excited for 2018 because

We have Congress in Sydney this year and I get to do a little bit more of my Diploma in Family History with UTAS.

20. Another positive I would like to share is ...

There are so many positives I can't stop at one!

I continued to study my Diploma of Family History through University of Tasmania enrolling in and completing two courses - Photo Essay and Oral History.  These courses continue to make me look more closely at my work and evaluate what I do and how I do it.

As part of National Family History Month I agreed to participate in a radio interview with fellow QFHS member and Beginners course teacher Charlotte Sale to spruik the value of joining a society like QFHS with all it has to offer.  It was great to see the new ABC Studios at Southbank, although I was somewhat stage-struck, I confess ,when confronted with a microphone.

Charlotte at the ABC Radio Studios Southbank

I contributed to the 31 Links in a Chain stories theme held by QFHS as part of National Family History Month in August.  My story is here.

Some of you may know that for the past couple of years I have been part of the teaching team at QFHS delivering a course called Finding Your Family.  We ran two courses in 2016 and two in 2017.  The greatest joy for me this year was that my sister-in-law Patricia came along to the last course and embraced family history with the kind of zeal known only to fellow geneaenthusiasts.  It is so lovely to have a partner in crime now who absolutely "gets" the complete absorption this hobby has for us  She has set up her study rather like a detective in New don't have to watch all of the clip below but I did have a bit of a giggle for the first few minutes.  I do enjoy watching all these old dogs bumbling their way about in the new world - and this episode features my favourite topic - libraries!

I hope that your year has been equally fruitful and rewarding and may I take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for the Silly Season.  

Speaking of Silly, here's something a friend shared on Facebook recently which I hadn't seen before....I do love a good Hallelujah chorus!  Particularly with lots of shaking and jumping ;)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Week #4 #NFHM2017 Blogging Challenge - Power without Glory

Well here we are!  We've made it to the last week of the blogging challenge in National Family History Month.  

Have you learned some more about  your ancestors and their lives? Have you unearthed some new sources or facts that you didn't know before?  Have you made interesting connections or found new blogs in the process? I hope the experience has been rewarding for you.  Here's the last challenge...

Frank Hardy's novel Power without Glory covers a wide range of notorious characters from criminals to Archbishops and politicians, wrestlers to gamblers and everyone else in between.  

One of the themes is conscription during WW1 but you can interpret the title as broadly as you like.  

Were your ancestors powerful in some way? Legitimately or  not.  

Did they have a stoush with the authorities or strong political beliefs? Lets hear their story.

By the way, speaking of stories, have you seen the 31 Links in a chain page on QFHS website here? It's a collection of family history stories by members in honour of #NFHM2017.  What a great idea.

Last but not least, a big thank you to you for participating in this activity for National Family History Month. It's been great to hear your stories and I look forward to seeing more !

Don't forget to link your story below with the Mr Linky Widget will you?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Week 3 #nfhm2017 Blogging Challenge - All the Rivers Run

Having possibly bored everybody (including myself) to death with the last post, you will be pleased to know I'm going to keep this one short and sweet.

I've decided to list all the rivers that might have a connection to my ancestors (oh and me too - why not?)

And here is a suitable literary quote...

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” 
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Here they are in alphabetical order with pictures wherever possible and the surname/s of the family/ies I am researching afterwards:

Afon Seiont, North Caernarvon, Wales- JONES (Afon  means river in Welsh)

Welsh Countryside by Nelo Hotsuma from Flickr - some rights reserved

Aray River, Inverary, Scotland - SINCLAIR

Inverary Castle and River Aray by David Jones on Flickr - some rights reserved

Brisbane River, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia - DAW, CONNER

Grey Street Bridge and Mt Cooth-ha , Brisbane from pellethepoet on Flickr - some rights reserved

Carrick Roads, Falmouth, Cornwall, England - ADNAMS

Image from page 78 of "The rivers of Great Britain, descriptive, historical, pictorical; rivers of the south and west coasts" (1897) Falmouth Harbour into which the River Fal empties through Carrick Roads - no known copyright restrictions from Flickr

Cook's River, Sydney, Australia - CONNER, CARRETT, STORES, PARKES

My father's beloved older brother Ted with one of the boats he used to make on Cooks River.  The Conners lived at Riverview Road Undercliffe.

Ebble River, Bishopstone, Wiltshire - CASE, MUSSEL, PERCY

Clapper bridge, Bishopstone cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Maigheach-gheal -

Forth River, Stirling, Scotland - FORFAR

Image taken from page 45 of 'British Battles on Land and Sea' by James Grant of the 62nd Regiment 1873 - The British Library - no know copyright restrictions 

Halfway River, Hudson's Hope, British Columbia, Canada - FORFAR

From the Prince George Citizen 25 January 1940 about my great-great-uncle Ernest Albert Forfar: 

Forfar came to the Fort St James district from the Peace River Block where he was one of the first settlers to pre-empt land on Halfway River.  He later joined the B.C. police force and was stationed at Hudson's Hope for several years.  He was transferred to Fort Fraser and acted as policeman and game warden there previous to embarking in the hotel and big game guide business at Fort St James in 1927. 
Peace River Storm - This is at the mouth of the Halfway River as it runs into the Peace River halfway between Taylor and Hudson's Hope by Gerry on Flickr - Some Rights Reserved

Hawkesbury River, Windsor, NSW, Australia - HOBBS/NOBBS

Sunset over the Hawkesbury River near Windsor from Sacha Fernandez on Flickr - some rights reserved

Irwell River, Manchester, England - SOUTHERN

The river Irwell at the Adelphi, 1924 - Lowry  - some rights reserved

Liffey River, Dublin, Ireland - HESLIN

SS Adolphine - National Library of Ireland date c. 1880 - no known copyright restrictions

Murrumbidgee River, near Yass, NSW -  TAYLOR

Burrinjuck at the Taemas Bridge from Brian Yap on Flickr - some rights reserved

Thames River, London, England - CONNER, FOYNE

River Thames, London by Dimitri Anikin on Flickr - some rights reserved

Yass River, Gundaroo, NSW - CASE

On the Yass River, NSW c. 1880 - John Henry Harvey - out of copyright, courtesy of State Library Victoria
How are you going with your blogging?  I've learned so much doing this post.  Geography was never really my thing so I've learned about which ancestors lived near rivers and which didn't.  And now I know the names of lots more rivers than I did before.  How about you? Have you been to any of these rivers?  Do your ancestors share the same rivers as mine?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week 2 #NFHM2017 Blogging Challenge - Careful He Might Hear You

This is my contribution to Week 2 of the #NFHM2017 Blogging Challenge - Careful He Might Hear You.  I've been inspired by Pauleen Cass' post about the orphans in her family.

While technically not orphans, my maternal grandmother and her twin sister were placed in the Randwick Destitute Asylum at the age of 3.  Their mother - Kate Amelia Forfar (nee Ellis) died on 31st December 1905 at Denison Street Arncliffe. 

My maternal great-grandmother Kate Amelia Forfar (nee Ellis)
My maternal great-grandmother Kate (Kitty) Amelia Forfar (nee Ellis) 

Kate had four children at that time - the eldest was Ernest Henry aged 6,  then Dorothy Emily aged 4, then the twins aged 3 - Grace Isabella (Belle) and Helen Kate (Kit) - my grandmother. There was a younger child Walter William but he died earlier in the year from asphyxia.  

The four children were admitted to Randwick Asylum on Saturday 24 February 1906 by their father Walter William Forfar of Denison Street Arncliffe.  They were discharged seven years later back to his care on 20th December 1913 and taken to their new home in Beauman Street Petersham. Ernest was then 13, Dorothy 12 and the twins 11 years old.

What would their life have been like in those intervening seven, nearly eight years?  What are your earliest memories? Could the children remember family life before the Asylum? I suspect that Dorothy and Ernest could.  Would those memories have faded quickly?

There are many places I can look to find information - newspaper articles on Trove, journal articles, books and family memories.

Family Memories

I never knew my maternal grandmother Kit Forfar, the younger of the twins.  She died before I was born.  I only met her twin sister Belle a couple of times and when I was very young.  I rely on the memories my mother shared with me which are very few and she too is dead now so these memories are over 20 years old.  She told me that the twins were very grateful to their step-mother, Alice Bourke, who upon hearing that Walter had placed the children in the Asylum, insisted that he bring them home.  Alice and Walter only married on 15 November 1913 and the children came home on 20 December.  That's a quick increase in the size of a family for a newly-wed! My mother also told me that the twins were glad never to smell carbolic soap again.

The twins' older brother Ernest also died before I was born and our family seemed to have lost contact with their old sister Dorothy's family over the years.  This photo shows most of the siblings together in about 1953 or 1954 we think.  We're not sure what the occasion was. The twins would have turned 50 at the end of 1952. My mother would have been 17 or 18 years old. Tom and Kit would have celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in August 1954.  Who knows?

L to R Tom McLoughlin, Barbara McLoughlin, Kit McLoughlin (nee Forfar), Belle Wingfield (nee Forfar)  Joyce Jeffrey (nee Wingfield) , Dorothy  Peterson (nee Forfar) and Reg Peterson.

The back of the photo says in Belle's handwriting "Reg was feeling happy here doesn't he look a bird.  Tom looks like a retired publican"

After my mother died, Dorothy's grand-daughter Kath made contact with me but her grandmother had not talked about the Asylum days with her family. They were unaware of that part of her life.  


My mother purchased a copy of Frank Doyle and Joy Storey's publication from the Randwick & District Historical Society Inc. Destitute Children's Asylum Randwick 1852-1916. It was published in 1991 and is a slim volume of 36 pages. It has a Table of Contents (weirdly called an Index) and about 14 illustrations and a map of what is now the Prince of Wales Hospital showing the location of the Asylum which was in Avoca Street Randwick.

Much of the booklet deals with the earlier days of the asylum and you have probably figured out by now that my grandmother and her siblings lived there towards the end of its days i.e. from 1906-1913.  But the last paragraph of the book struck a chord with me.  It is a quote from "an elderly man who had lived there as a boy - told to Mrs Nell Pillars, Founder of the Randwick Historical Society."  (The Society was founded in 1957)

"It was always tough for the kids, and we were always hungry. Bathtime was no fun. The boys were put in a long trough (made from lead) many at a time, and always with 'Lysol' (a strong disinfectant) which stung like hell! At 14 years of age I started my first job."

Asylum for Destitute Children Randwick by Samuel Thomas Gill

Journal articles

Several articles have helped me put the Asylum in context of care available at the time for children in a similar situation. 

Rod Blackmore reminds us in his article "State Intervention with Children- Two Centuries of History" that:

"Fathers...had no recourse to support if they were left alone to care for a young child" 
It is often said that men of that generation did not know how to boil an egg.  This could not be said of Walter William Forfar as he was a pastry cook by trade but the sheer logistics of working whilst caring for four young children would have been very challenging.  

Blackmore also reminds us that "there were fewer families with close relatives".  Walter Forfar certainly had no siblings in the country. His older brother George was living in England and his other brother Ernest was living in Canada.  

I suspect that they were estranged from his wife Kate's family at the time.  They did place a heartfelt death notice in the paper but four children would have been a big ask for anyone to take on.

Death Notice Kate Amelia Forfar SMH 4 January 1906
Death notice for Kate Amelia Forfar courtesy of National Library of Australia, Family Notices (1906, January 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

Legislation at the time favoured boarding out or fostering neglected children to families rather than housing them in barrack-style accommodation.  The Asylum and similar institutions came in for much criticism in the 1870s after an outbreak of whooping cough killed 77 children in 1867.  

The Find and Connect website gives valuable insight into why Walter Forfar may have chosen the Asylum for his children.  

The difference between the Asylum and the boarding out system was that families could use the Asylum for temporary care, and, so long as they paid maintenance, retain influence over their children and keep their visiting rights. The State Children's Relief Board made children wards of the state and considered boarding out to be a permanent arrangement. It generally prevented boarded out children from seeing their families.

Newspaper Articles 

Searching Trove for newspaper articles has proved very fruitful.  Using the search term "Randwick Asylum" produces a good deal of results rather than the full term "Destitute Childrens Asylum Randwick".  There are 718 articles for the period 1910-1919 and 633 articles for the period 1900-1909.  Of course it is worthwhile looking at advertisements as well. 

Most of the articles describe the annual picnic excursion, Christmas festivities and annual reports of the Society.

Joseph Coulter was the Superintendent of the Asylum from 1886 - 1916 - a total of 30 years. There was a school on site established in 1877 and staffed by government teachers. Parents could visit the children once a month. 

Three days after the children were admitted to the Asylum it is imagined that they joined the other children at the annual picnic described in the article below.

DESTITUTE CHILDREN. (1906, March 1). The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 - 1909), p. 8. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

Does anyone have any idea what the special electric cars might have been?  Are we talking trams do you think? Or perhaps buses?

Empire Day was celebrated at the local school in May and who knew we used to celebrate Trafalgar Day for goodness sake??

THE BRITISH ENSIGN (1906, October 21). The Sunday Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1903 - 1910), p. 5. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

All stops were out for Christmas Day at the Asylum.

RANDWICK ASYLUM (1906, December 26). The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 - 1909), p. 6 (LATE SPORTS). Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

There is not much discernable difference in the accounts of these occasions over the seven years that the children lived there.  

My mother often looked at this photo which Randwick Library has kindly given me permission to use (for a fee) and wonder if the twins and or their siblings were featured in it.

Children in the quadrangle of the main building [n.d. but probably 1909]

The quality of the photos from The Star in an article in 1908 leaves a lot to be desired but my wishful thinking wonders if this is the twins being taught to peel potatoes.  They would have been aged five years old at the time.

The caption reads "Meals are a big feature here in such an institution.  We see here an elder girl teaching younger ones how to prepare vegetables for dinner"

Dorothy would have been just seven at this time, perhaps that is her standing to the right. We'll never know.

However I did find mention in this article of twin sisters as follows:

"Two great pets, small twin sisters, were then brought out to sing for us, for, as explained before, as well as being the hospital quarters, this is the nursery for the very wee mites." (this would have been the Catherine Hayes Hospital building)

The article mentions that there were 165 children resident at the time - 111 boys and 54 girls.  The matron was Mrs Jennings. The article describes garden beds and the boys being responsible for growing vegetables.  They are pictured at the wood heap where they no doubt learned to chop wood.  The girls did the laundry and made clothes.  At the age of 14 children were apprenticed out to agricultural or domestic work.

There are some rather engaging images of the children going on a motoring excursion in 1907.

and the boys having a snack before they get in the cars...

RANDWICK ASYLUM, SYDNEY. (1907, December 21). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 29. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

Of course newspaper articles would have been putting the Asylum's best face forward but they have given me an insight into my ancestor's lives for which I am very grateful.

Subscription Websites

Although we originally obtained the Admission and Discharge records for the Randwick Asylum from the State Archives of NSW, those records are now available through Ancestry. 

Also available through Ancestry are Police Gazette Records and it was through these that I discovered that poor Ernest (recorded as Henry Forfar) seems to have made his way back into state care shortly after being discharged from the Randwick Asylum.  In 1915 he is recorded as having escaped the Gosford Farm Home for Boys on 27th November.  He was described as 15 years of age, 5 foot high, slight build, sallow complexion, dark hair and grey eyes.  He was dressed in blue dungaree suit with a black cap.

Questions for me to follow up

The twins were just eleven years old when they were discharged from the Asylum in December 1913.  Would they have gone to school the following year? According to Carole Riley's blog post here  the Public Instruction Act of 1880 required them to be at school until the age of 15.  Would they have gone to Petersham School as my mother did?  Would they have gone to a local Catholic school given that Alice their step-mother was a Catholic?

References (2010) NSW Australia Police Gazettes 1854, Operations Incl, Provo UT, USA

RANDWICK ASYLUM, SYDNEY. (1907, December 21). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 29. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from 

DESTITUTE CHILDREN. (1906, March 1). The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 - 1909), p. 8. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

RANDWICK ASYLUM (1906, December 26). The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 - 1909), p. 6 (LATE SPORTS). Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

RANDWICK ASYLUM (1908, June 19). The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 - 1909), p. 1 (FIRST EDITION). Retrieved August 22, 2017, from

Blackmore, Rod (1998) State Intervention with Children - Two Centuries of History, Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences 30:1, 5-17

Doyle, Frank and Storey, Joy, (1991), Destitute Children's Asylum Randwick 1852-1916Historical Monograph No. 5, Randwick & District Historical Society Inc.

THE CITY WAIF. (1904, September 2). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 7. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

Gill, Samuel Thomas & Gill, Samuel Thomas & Allan & Wigley. (1856). Asylum for Destitute Children, Randwick Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

Hughes, Lesley (1998) Catholics and the care of destitute children in late Nineteenth Century New South Wales, Australian Social Work, 51:1, 17-25 

Quinn, Peter (2005) That Other State Aid Question: Assistance to Charitable Homes for Children, Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, v.26, 2005 Annual, p.29(14)

State Archives NSW; Registers for the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children, 1852 - 1915, Series: NRS 13362; Item: 7/3799; Roll: 1868

THE BRITISH ENSIGN (1906, October 21). The Sunday Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1903 - 1910), p. 5. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#NFHM2017 Blogging Challenge - Week 3 - All the Rivers Run

It's Week 3 of the #NFHM2017 Blogging Challenge. How are we all going?  I suspect we are all very busy because there is so much on at the moment.  I know I am finding it difficult to find the time to write on my blog.  Working full time, participating in my local family history society events, studying another unit in the great UTAS Family History course, organizing a 40th school reunion for next year, celebrating birthdays for various family members...there's always so much to do.  And yet, every blog post I write, I learn something new or add a bit more to the family tree.

This week our meme comes from Nancy Cato's saga All the Rivers Run.  It spanned eight decades and four generations.  Your blog post doesn't have to do that but was there a matriarch in your family that inspires you?  Or maybe you want to focus on a particular river that played a part in your ancestors' lives.  Where will your imagination run to?

We can't wait to find out.  Remember - you don't have to be an Aussie to participate.  We welcome all nationalities/citizens of the world - even Aussie politicians....that's an insider joke if you haven't been following Australian politics lately.  

Don't forget to link your particular post using the Mr Linky widget below so we can find all the stories in one place.