Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Poor Mr. Minton and the Drunken Mayor of Melbourne in 1865

Thomas Minton minding his own business runs into the drunken Mayor of Melbourne, Mr. Wragge in 1865.

The Mayor of Melbourne has got himself into a mess with Thomas Minton.

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately.  I have been researching the Minton family for some good friends of ours. Amongst my travels, I discovered this little gem in Trove.  I don't know if this newspaper article belongs to any members of the particular branch I am researching, but I hope so! This is just too good to pass up.

22 July 1865. 

VICTORIA. The Mayor of Melbourne has got himself into a mess. 

The Herald says:-" Shortly before the rising of the City Court on the 12th instant Mr. Thomas Sarsfield Minton, nephew of Captain Minton, an old colonist, applied to the Bench to know if a charge of vagrancy, which had been preferred against him by Mr. Wragge, Mayor of Melbourne, on the previous night, was going to be heard. Mr. Sturt replied that there was no case of that description on the charge sheet against him. Mr. Minton then asked to be allowed to state under what circumstances the charge had taken place, as he had suffered a most uncalled for indignity. The Bench, however, refused to hear him, and so far the matter dropped. 

The officers of the police, however, inquired from their subordinates, and from their statement and Mr. Minton's, it appears that he (Mr. Minton), about 20 minutes past 11 o'clock, on Tuesday night, while walking towards the Melbourne terminus, saw a man being pitched forcibly from a door of a house into the street, but he did not take any notice of the affair until the "eliminated" individual came up, and exclaimed, "Ho! Policeman," at the same time clapping him on the back. Mr. Minton replied that he was not a policeman, whereupon he was asked who he was. He declined to answer, and his questioner then said, "I am Mayor of Melbourne, and I have a right to know what every vagabond does who roams about at this hour of the night," or words to that effect. Mr. Minton replied the he did not believe him, but he was quickly undeceived by being given into the custody of Sergeant Robinson on a charge of vagrancy, and was taken to the watch-house.

On arriving at the lock-up the clerk, as usual, asked what was the charge. Robinson looked bewildered, but said he had no charge against Mr. Minton ; but the high civic functionary who had given Mr. Minton into custody would not be satisfied, and charged that gentleman with vagrancy. The watch-house clerk declined to take the charge, and stated his reasons for doing so, for the information of his officers, in the most lucid manner, in a book kept for such purposes. The reasons were, we need scarcely say, the reverse of creditable to the Mayor.

We are informed that proceedings at law have been commenced to recover damages for false imprisonment. The Age of 14th inst states: -We learn that an action has been commenced against Mr Wragge, the Mayor of Melbourne, by a Mr T. S. Minton, for false imprisonment. Damages are laid at £2000. It seems that, on Tuesday night, Mr Wragge having been elected a life member of the Victorian Poultry Society, the convivialities upon the occasion were prolonged to a rather late hour, and that upon returning home, his Worship, laboring under some extraordinary misapprehension, gave Mr. Minton into custody as a rogue and a vagabond. The watchhouse clerk, perceiving that Mr. Wragge was strangely at fault, refused to enter the charge, and nothing further was done until the following morning, when Mr. Minton put in an appearance at the police court, but was told there was nothing against him. He then gave his solicitor instructions to proceed in the manner we have indicated.

Who knew that the Victorian Poultry Society could be so rambunctious?

Historically and hysterically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

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APA citation
VICTORIA. (1865, July 22). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899), p. 7 Edition: MORNING.. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Stephen Tamo's brother, Pietro TAMO

Pietro Tamo and Alice Kendall in Daylesford, Victoria in the 1870's.

I've written a little about Stephen Tamo and his wife Ellen Tamo nee Clarke.  Ellen is the sister of my great great grandfather Patrick Clarke (1866-1902).

The reason we are so interested in Ellen Clarke is that we have no death records or burial records. She just disappears sometime between 1892 and 1895 as far as all the researchers in our family are concerned.  (Serendipitously, Patrick's wife, Louisa Salter, also has a sister called Ellen who also disappears. I spend a lot of time searching for Ellens and Nellies and Nells and Helens.)

In an effort to discover Ellen's burial under her married name Tamo, I started investigating Trove, the digitised newspaper section of the National Library of Australia.  What came up was a wealth of newspaper articles under the name Tamo, but for Stephen's brother's family.

Stephen and Pietro Tamo were born in Switzerland in the late 1830's.  After emigrating, Stephen settled in Geelong and Pietro settled in Daylesford, Victoria, and I gather (but I could be wrong) that Pietro was fairly affluent and had something to do with the mines there in 1869.  More of that to be researched.  He also married in 1869, to Alice Kendall, an Englishwoman.

They had 7 children together.  I could list all their children, but it is easier if you just read the death notice I found for Alice that summarises the children and their lives. It appeared in The Argus on 18 July, 1927 in the Family Notices section as below:

Although Alice lived to a ripe old age, unfortunately her husband Pietro did not.  He died in Daylesford in 1880, 47 years before her, at the age of 43. Although I can't find anything (so far) in the newspaper to mark Pietro's passing, I did find a photo of a memorial to him erected recently by his great grandsons. What a lovely tribute to him. We could all wish for as much.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

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Tuesday, 10 November 2015


About two weeks ago I wrote about some Clarke descendants. 

This is part of the article I wrote:  "Just to make sure it is REALLY hard to figure out my family tree, I've discovered that some cousins married the same bloke.

My great great grandfather Patrick Clarke (who married Louisa Salter) had three brothers and three sisters. One of his sister's names was Johanna Clarke, who married Edward William Kellaway.  One of their children was SARAH ELLEN KELLAWAY, called Nellie.

Another of Patrick's sisters was Ellen Clarke who married Stephen Tamo.  One of their daughters was ALICE OLIVE TAMO.

So Nellie Kellaway and Alice Tamo are first cousins........."

Then I added: "I discovered Nellie's burial in 1915 in the Williamstown Cemetery and Fred's burial there 42 years later in 1957."

Today I went to Williamstown Cemetery and found their grave.

Fred and Nellie reunited in death 42 years later.

Fred was buried with his first wife Sarah Ellen (known as Nellie), 42 years after she died.  His second wife Alice must have watched him being buried in 1957 with double feelings of grief as she also remembered the death of her cousin Nellie.

Four years later in 1961, Alice dies. She is cremated and her plaque is on the memorial wall at Altona Cemetery.

Friday, 30 October 2015

James Ward Clarke b. 1884 d. 1884

James Ward Clark b. 1884 d. 1884

I was poking through the Geelong Eastern Cemetery records recently looking for burial records of the Tamo clan. I found a grave with four people in it.  One person was Stephen Tamo's first wife Agnes, buried with their baby daughter Agnes Smail Tamo. Elizabeth, Stephen Tamo and Ellen Clarke's infant daughter makes three. And also buried in this grave was a James Ward Clarke.

Never having heard of James Ward Clarke before, I set about researching.  He was buried on 13 June 1884, at the Geelong Eastern Cemetery. I found his birth details in the index.  Year: 1884, the same year he died.  So James Ward Clarke was an infant.  Mother's name: Johanna Clarke.

Johanna Clarke is Ellen Clarke's sister.

Father's name: unknown

So Johanna refused to name the baby's daddy but with such a specific name as James Ward Clarke I figured there was a strong likelihood that the daddy's name was James Ward.  Was there a James Ward in Geelong at that time?

There certainly was.

Now I must preface all this research about James Ward with the disclaimer that the only basis I have for searching him is the baby's name.  There's no real proof.  But here is what I have found out:

James Ward was born in Geelong in 1863 (Johanna was born in 1864.)  His father was Michael Ward and his mother was Ann Holt. This made James 21 years old and Johanna 20 years old when baby James Ward Clarke was born and died in 1884.

My search turned to Trove and the Geelong Advertiser, in 1884, the year the baby died.  I didn't find the baby's death notice.  What I found was that James' father Michael Ward had died in December of that year.  What a tragic year that would have been for James!  His son James Ward Clarke died in June 1884, and his father Michael Ward died six months later in December 1884.

Next I searched the death index for James Ward, and was surprised to find that he died  on 1 October 1887, just three years later.  He was only 25 years old.  I wondered why such a young man died, and in what circumstances. I went back to Trove and found James Ward's death notice in the Geelong Advertiser.

I also wondered what Johanna had been doing at that time.  I found out...Johanna had married Edward William Kellaway on 11 June 1887.  So James Ward had died only three months after her marriage to somebody else.

I go back to the Geelong Eastern Cemetery once more and find the burial of James and his father Michael and his mother Ann all in the same Roman Catholic grave.  Ann had died only two years after her son.

Next step - go to PROV and see if there was an inquest into James Ward's death.  Any other suggestions or comments from readers gratefully received.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus.

Thanks to Tania Shalders for providing the Kellaway marriage date information.
Citation for James Ward death notice:
Citation for Michael Ward death notice:

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Clarke Descendants

Just to make sure it is REALLY hard to figure out my family tree, I've discovered that some cousins married the same bloke.

My great great grandfather Patrick Clarke (who married Louisa Salter) had three brothers and three sisters. One of his sister's names was Johanna Clarke, who married Edward William Kellaway.  One of their children was SARAH ELLEN KELLAWAY, called Nellie.

Another of Patrick's sisters was Ellen Clarke who married Stephen Tamo.  One of their daughters was ALICE OLIVE TAMO.

So Nellie Kellaway and Alice Tamo are first cousins. My great grandmother (Gran) is another first cousin of theirs.

 I found the marriage of Nellie Kellaway to a FREDERICK GEORGE ANDREWS in 1909. Electoral Rolls describe Fred's occupation as being a Railway employee. Unfortunately in 1915 at the age of 27, Nellie died, leaving behind Fred and four small children. Fred describes her death as being "a patient sufferer at rest", and thanks are given to the doctor in the Williamstown Advertiser.

A year later in 1916, an "IN MEMORIUM" piece is put in the paper by her husband Fred, mother Johanna, brother, sister and cousins, one of them being ALICE TAMO.

I discovered Nellie's burial in 1915 in the Williamstown Cemetery and Fred's burial there 42 years later in 1957.

Later on in my search I found the marriage of Alice Tamo to FREDERICK GEORGE ANDREWS in 1917.   I must admit it took me a while to twig that Alice had married her cousin's widower, and I guess she must have taken on the raising of her four small cousins once removed too.  A look at the Electoral Rolls at this time seems to confirm it - this Fred Andrews is also a Railway employee.

Alice dies in 1961, and is cremated and buried in Altona.
I don't know if Fred and Alice had children as the historical birth index stops at 1914.  But I do hope they were happy, raising Nellie's children and spending the next 40 years together.

Historically yours
Valerius Copernicus

Memorial article:
Death Notices:

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Ellen Tamo nee Clarke

Firstly, let me thank all those people who have expressed their love and concern for me whilst I have been so sick with pneumonia for the last two weeks. While I've been stuck in bed, I've tried to do a little more investigating.  So here's what I found out....

My great great aunt Ellen Clarke married Stephen TAMO in 1876 and lived in Malop Street, Geelong.

A court case was reported in the Geelong Advertiser in October 1885.  The article was called "Life in Malop Street East."

Three women who also resided in Malop St. east were the defendants.  One of them was called Mrs. Jessie McDonald who was charged with being the "occupier of a house frequented by idle and disorderly persons, having no lawful visible means of support."  In 1885 terms, running a brothel.

A couple of local constables had been given the duty of observing the house, and gave evidence. Constable Croucher deposed that he had seen quite a few men get admitted to the house, and named many of the men's names.  He had visited the house sometimes in the company of Constable Overend, and even had a glass of beer there. Mr. Toohey the prosecutor mentions that " it is usual for constables when going into these kind of houses to be asked to shout."  Mr. Dwyer responds incredulously "At two shillings a bottle?"  Constable Croucher says "The woman asked me to shout beer."  Constable Croucher also mentions in his evidence that he knows the neighbours around the house (including my TAMO relatives) and a Mrs. Miller, who seems to be the main complainant.

There seems to be a lot of different accusations flying around, including that the constabulary got drunk and did some name calling.  All the men who were named were incredibly surprised to find out that the house was, in fact, a brothel.  Not one of them had gone for an improper purpose.  Some had just gone to find others and happened to be there.

One of the men named was interesting to me.  His name was Henry Martini, and one of the girls goes into the bedroom with him and calls out, referring to him as Jack. A Jack Martini was well known to our family, but I don't know if this man is the same Jack Martini. Anyway, Martini deposed that the police were lying and he didn't know that the defendant's house was a bad place.

Mr. Pardey J.P. states that he "cannot see any reason why such a large number of respectable young men should have been brought here and accused of being idle and disorderly persons.  They have been ruthlessly and unmercifully brought to the court to try and prove a case for the police."

The bench decides that the case has not been proven that the people who frequented the house were not idle and disorderly. The court then turns its attention to Mrs. McDonald.

Constable Croucher swears that he had a conversation with Jessie McDonald, telling him that she was making a good living with the other two girls.

Mrs. Miller, the main complainant, was blind and lived with her daughter near the McDonald house, and had often been woken by drunken men banging on her door asking for Jessie.  Mrs. Miller said: "Mrs. Tamo lives near me; she is a respectable person."

Stephen Tamo deposed: "that he resided close to the defendant's house for eleven years.  He had no reason to complain of the conduct of Mrs. McDonald.  He had a family, among whom were daughters.  To Mr. Toohey - He had seen a man and woman sitting in the house when he went there to complain of some fowls having been poisoned.  He had never heard any rows in the defendant's house.  He did not know if the house was a brothel.  The defendant, he believed, was the wife of Jimmy Whitely.  He knew Whitely for six or seven years.  He had frequently seen him in Geelong.  He had signed a petition stating that he did not consider the defendant's house a nuisance."

James Whitely then deposed that he was a butcher and married to Jessie, supported his wife and had a house for her.  There seems to be more to the story though. "To Mr. Toohey - I have been working at Allen's for five weeks.  I reside at Tamo's.  I was married to the defendant by Mr. Couves this morning.  In the presence of Mr. Tamo and the girl Giles [one of the other defendants]. I slept at the defendant's house last night.  I do not know what is being done in the house, but I have been supporting the defendant."

Confusingly, the court rules that despite it's previous decision that no disorderly conduct was proven and the people were not idle and disorderly, Mrs. Jessie McDonald is guilty of being the occupier of such a house.

The court is immediately notified that the case would be appealed.

This isn't the end of the story however, Less than two weeks later, Ellen Tamo would take proceedings against Jessie McDonald for using insulting words in a public place.  More on that in the next article.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Trove Citations
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST. (1885, October 13). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926), p. 4. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from
MLA citation
"LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST." Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926) 13 Oct 1885: 4. Web. 24 Oct 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1885 'LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926), 13 October, p. 4, viewed 24 October, 2015,
Wikipedia citation

{{cite news |url= |title=LIFE IN MALOP-STREET EAST. |newspaper=[[Geelong Advertiser |Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1926)]] |location=Vic. |date=13 October 1885 |accessdate=24 October 2015 |page=4 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

Friday, 9 October 2015

What's in a name?

If you haven't already gathered by now, my genealogical passion centres around the puzzle of one particular branch of my mother's family tree.

My great great great grandmother was born Elizabeth Armstrong in Adelaide, South Australia in 1842.  When Elizabeth was about 8, her father John Armstrong (a black African man) died. A year later, her mother Janet (a Scotswoman) married James Salter (an Englishman) and so Elizabeth's new surname was SALTER.

The new blended family moved to Chewton, Victoria shortly after the wedding, in early response to the goldrush in the Forest Creek area.

Elizabeth Salter grew up and married a miner, named Sims CUMIS.  Sims' birthplace is listed as the Cape of Good Hope, Sth. Africa, so he is also potentially dark skinned.  The couple married in 1864 in Chewton and over a period of ten years had five children; Robert, Louisa, Ellen, James and John.

All five children were given the surname of their father, (spelled either COMES or CUMMIS as per their birth certificates). The last child was born in 1875 with that name. But as the children grew, they rejected the CUMIS name and adopted different surnames, either Armstrong or Salter, their mother's maiden surnames. And despite their marriage and five children, Elizabeth was primarily known as Salter, not her married name of Cumis until the day she died.

In fact, at her death inquest in 1896 it is noted by witness Henry Matthews that:

                      I have seen the body now lying dead and identify it as that of Elizabeth Cummis otherwise known as Elizabeth Salter.  I have known her between 5 and 6 years.

Chewton policeman Constable Luke swears:

                    That at 2.21 pm today Elizibeth Comas, otherwise known as Elizibeth Salter, aged 50 years died in her hut at Chewton.

Her death is also reported in the local newspaper, the Mount Alexander Mail:

                     An old identity of Chewton, named Elizabeth Cumas, but better known as Elizabeth Salter, died suddenly at her hut on Sunday afternoon at 2.30 o'clock.

I have written previously about Elizabeth's different surnames in the article "Elizabeth gives me a headache."

Their children all reject the CUMIS name they were born with too.

Robert Armstrong Comes dismissed the Comes and became Robert Armstrong.  He married in Chewton, moved to Charlton in Victoria, and eventually moved his family to Queensland.

Louisa used the name Louisa Salter when she married in Geelong and one of her descendants is me. Her nickname was Blossom because of her dark skin.  Her married name was Louisa Clarke.

Ellen -we are still investigating and have no definite clues as to her  (see my previous blog on this search.) At this stage we theorise that she married and changed her name. Louisa's daughter was called Ellen.

James became James Salter Armstrong, moved to Kerang and served at Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War 1.  His nickname was "Snowy" in that ironical Australian way because of his dark skin. One of Robert's sons, named James after his uncle, sadly died at the Western Front.

John used the name Armstrong but his burial details in Cobram state: also known as George Saulter. Trying to find more details in Cobram.

 No-one knows what happened to Sims after the birth of his last child in 1875. We do know he also used the name William instead of Sims. We have no death certificate for him. Nothing. The puzzle is this: WHY did the wife and children of Sims Cummis reject his name?

Historically Yours,
Valerius Copernicus
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
ITEMS OF NEWS. (1896, June 2). Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), p. 2. Retrieved October 10, 2015, from
MLA citation
"ITEMS OF NEWS." Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917) 2 Jun 1896: 2. Web. 10 Oct 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1896 'ITEMS OF NEWS.', Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), 2 June, p. 2, viewed 10 October, 2015,
Wikipedia citation
{{cite news |url= |title=ITEMS OF NEWS. |newspaper=[[Mount Alexander Mail |Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917)]] |location=Vic. |date=2 June 1896 |accessdate=10 October 2015 |page=2 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Harriet Cadwallader nee Sloane 1839 - 1920

Welcome to Robert Armstrong's descendants!  

You are descendants of Elizabeth Salter's son Robert, and I am a descendant of Elizabeth Salter's daughter Louisa.

Today I thought I would write an overview of Elizabeth Salter's older half sister, Harriet. Harriet and Elizabeth shared the same mother JANET.

Harriet SLOANE was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1839, the same year her parents and (probably) her older brother John came to Australia from Scotland.  I have written about the ship, the Katherine Stewart Forbes which the family travelled out in.  It is possible that Janet was pregnant with Harriet on the voyage.  Harriet's father died and then her mother Janet married John ARMSTRONG, giving birth to Elizabeth in Adelaide in 1842.

In late 1851/early 1852, Janet moved her family to Chewton near Castlemaine in Victoria in response to the gold rush in the Forest Creek/Mount Alexander area.

In Chewton, Harriet married William CADWALLADER, the local Blacksmith in 1857.  William Cadwallader bought land in the first land sale in Chewton in April 1860. The Cadwalladers went on to have six children who were all born in Chewton.  Their names were Sarah, Janet, William Sloane, Emily, Harriet and William Robert Cadwallader.   Sadly, William Sloane Cadwallader died at the age of 11 months, and was buried in Chewton Cemetery on 13 January 1865. His Death Notice appeared in the Mount Alexander Mail:

 As the Cadwallader family grew more prosperous, William also bought land in Talbot/Amherst about 70km west of Chewton.  He eventually died and was buried there in 1885.

Harriet and Elizabeth's mother Janet died in 1887 and was buried with her 11 month old grandson in Chewton.  A decade later, Elizabeth would also be buried in this grave.

Harriet moved to Bendigo, and lived until she was 81 years old.  She died in 1920 and was buried in Bendigo Cemetery.

 Thanks to Trove for allowing the reproduction of the article on William Sloane Cadwallader's death, cited as below:
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
Family Notices. (1865, January 16). Mount Alexander Mail(Vic. : 1854 - 1917), p. 2. Retrieved October 4, 2015, from
MLA citation
"Family Notices." Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917) 16 Jan 1865: 2. Web. 4 Oct 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1865 'Family Notices.', Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), 16 January, p. 2, viewed 4 October, 2015,
Wikipedia citation
{{cite news |url= |title=Family Notices. |newspaper=[[Mount Alexander Mail |Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917)]] |location=Vic. |date=16 January 1865 |accessdate=4 October 2015 |page=2 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Crying at a computer keyboard

This afternoon I spent some minutes sitting at a computer keyboard and crying. The other members of the Genealogical Society of Victoria around me were not intrusive.  They had perhaps seen this kind of reaction before from other people who research their family history. How anyone can think the subject is dry and dull is beyond me.

My research on my family member James Salter Armstrong has led me in recent days to his brother Robert, who is also my great great uncle.  Robert Armstrong named his son after his brother and so James Ernest Armstrong was born in 1894.

This unfortunately made James Ernest Armstrong the perfect age to enlist in the First World War.

James enlisted in Queensland at the age of 21 years and 9 months, and was allocated to the 42nd battalion.
The Colour patch of the 42nd Battalion,
primarily men who enlisted in Queensland.

Looking at his military papers is just so personal.  You get a physical description of the person (5ft. 10 in., medium complexion, brown eyes, black hair)  and you see their signature committing themselves to their fate with the AIF. You see their nominated next of kin's name and know how hard they must have hoped that they would never need to be contacted. In James' case, he nominated his father Robert.

My inexpert reading of his military papers shows that James spent time in England training.  He caught the flu in October and got sick with Mumps in December 1916, spending two weeks in hospital on that occasion.  He eventually got to France on 23 February 1917, and was killed three days later. 

I suddenly realise that his Uncle James was in the same part of France at exactly the same time. The elder James had reduced his actual age of 43 to be admitted to the AIF
and had by this stage already survived his ship being torpedoed and Gallipoli. Eventually, he would be gassed at Ypres and repatriated to Australia.  How would he have felt when he was told his nephew and namesake had been killed?

The volunteer researchers at the GSV advise me to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and I found the younger James, buried not in Belgium as I had been told but in France near Armentiers.

James Ernest Armstrong was killed in action on 26 February 1917. He is buried at Cite Bon-Jean Military Cemetery : Armentiers. His death reported by Rev. A. J. Davidson.

On the website, amongst the photographs of the cemetery are papers about grave locations and matters of bureaucracy for the cemetery.  Dry stuff, until I see the page that shows the wording on his grave stone as chosen by his father Robert.

"But a boy who died for his country"

This is when I wept.

monument australia website:

42nd Battalion Roll of Honour is located at:
Ann Street, ANZAC Square, Shrine of Remembrance Crypt, Brisbane, 4000

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Find My Past is free until 9pm tonight (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia time)

If you enjoy family history research, then now is a good time to jump onto Find My Past.  They are holding a free weekend so you can sample what they offer. Find My Past is somewhat like Ancestry that most Australians know. 

I logged on to Find My Past yesterday to look for the wedding certificate of Janet Row and Robert Sloan from the 1820's in Scotland. And a deluge happened. That marriage certificate led back via the Find My Past hints for another four generations over three family tree branches. I suddenly had ancestors in the late 1600s!

The Find My Past hint function is fabulous for finding information quickly.  Don't make the mistake though, of thinking that's all you need to do, end of story,  No. Due diligence is required to follow through with proof that the information you obtained so easily is absolutely correct.  

So here's what I found on Find My Past, especially for Bob and Sandra. Boring to everyone else so fee free to skip over. 

These are Janet Row's parents.

Robert Row b. 1762 married 
Margaret Wands b. 1763 
on 5 Sep 1790.

It looks like this Robert Row might have married his own cousin.  Robert Row's parents were:
 Robert Row b. 1730
and Elizabeth Wands b. 1721  They married 11 Nov 1752.

Margaret Wands' parents were:
William Wands and Euphan Berrie. No hints there.

OK so now back to Janet's grandfather Robert Row born in 1730.
His mother was Janet Carrick.
His father is listed both as Andrew Rue and Robert Row.

Janet Carrick's father was John Carrick.

OK now back to Elizabeth Wands b. 1721.
Her father was Archibald Wands b. 1683.
Her mother was Anne Fergusson.  They married 10 Feb 1705.
Archibald Wands' father was John Wand (no 'S')

Anne Fergusson's parents were Donald Fergusson and Bettie Haward.

It all seems pretty right from the hints I chose but as I said, it needs to be proven meticulously. Bob and Sandra, I know you probably already have most if not all of that information. How does that sit with your research, does it agree? Let me know. 

For our branch of the Armstrong clan in Queensland via Robert, these are also your ancestors.  Now you can see where Robert's name came from. His grandmother Janet's father, grandfather, great grandfather and husband all had the name Robert.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus.

Valerius Copernicus is now on Geneabloggers!

My little blog Valerius Copernicus is gathering momentum and has been featured on the Geneabloggers website as a new Genealogy blog.   Here is the hyperlink below:

Cool, hey?

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Thursday, 17 September 2015

I'm telling the truth from a certain point of view

Why do people lie on marriage certificates?

Patrick and Louisa were my great great grandparents.  When they got married in the Geelong Registry Office in 1886, the details supplied to the Registrar were almost a complete work of fiction on the Bride's part.

First, Louisa's surname SALTER is not the name she was born with, but a name she used instead of her birth surname.  None of the family ever used their father's surname. Why this happened at all is my reason for doing genealogy...I just don't know.

Next, her age.  She declares she is 21 but by my calculations she is only 18. Louisa's whole family always puts their age up by a couple of years- why? This happens consistently with this family, it is a consistent thing that they all play fast and loose with their birth years. Do they all know they are out by two years?

 Her husband Patrick was only 20 years old (which is true) and needed written consent of "the Guardian of the Bridegroom." Unfortunately it doesn't say who that was. It may have been his elder sister Ellen and her husband who witnessed the union.

(Louisa is three months' pregnant with their daughter, whom they will call Ellen.  Both Patrick and Louisa each have a sister named Ellen and a brother named John.)

Then Louisa states her parents' names.  Her mother is put as Elizabeth Salter which is kind of true. But Louisa's father's name is a complete fabrication.  She submits the name Robert Salter.  Robert was her eldest brother's name, and he didn't use the name Salter.

What are they trying to avoid?
What was so shameful about their father that they reject him wholesale?
I will find out if it kills me.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Saturday, 12 September 2015

David Hicks: Menlough Castle

Menlough Castle is my husband Jon's ancestral home.  Jon's cousin is the current Lord Blake and Jon is next in line for the title. The lineage can be seen in Burke's Peerage or Debrett's under Blake of Menlough.

Click the link below to read David Hicks fascinating retell of  the history of Menlough Castle.  One day I will take our children there.


David Hicks: Menlough Castle: Menlough Castle  Co. Galway   Picture from the National Library of Ireland (Above) The ancient ancestral home of the Blake Fami...

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The tabloid press, 1871 style

 Francis B. Davidson's Sydney Morning Herald, dated Friday July 28, 1871.

The Sydney Morning Herald in 1871. 

I've been lucky enough to get my hands on two newspapers that were printed in 1871.  They are dated July 28 and 29, and these yellowed and slightly musty papers are treasures to me. I thought I'd tell you some of the wonderful olde worlde things that are printed in it.

For Friday, July 28, 1871, Francis B. Davidson has scrawled his name across the Sydney Morning Herald mast head in bold India ink.   Looks like Frank was sick of someone taking his newspaper and has laid claim to it.  It was his twopence that paid for it, after all.

The front page contains nearly a whole column devoted to "THE AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT", claiming it is the only ointment made in the colony that is worth being patented.  Miracles of medicinal healing occur upon the use of this stuff, healing "old wounds, chafings, sunburns, cracked lips and hands, sore heads, broken chilblains, soft corns, excoriations &c."

SORE EYES are cured instantaneously.
STIFFNESS OF JOINTS is got rid of by one application.
BUNIONS are soon removed.
INTERNAL PILES - only try it.

Bunions and piles are soon gone with this wonder ointment.
Horse breeders and dairy producers are exhorted to use it on their animals.  "In fact, no householder, squatter, mechanic, large establishment of any description should be without this AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT. as its virtues are so useful and varied that it requires a trial to be BELIEVED."

We have some idea of what this amazing cure-all looks like too.  "THE AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT IS OF A PURE GREEN COLOUR" - the natural extract of the "wild plants indigenous to the colony" and it is "guaranteed from all poisonous qualities." Lucky it's free of all poisonous qualities.

The ointment is not genuine unless its label is stamped with a star in blue ink. "This ointment is not a mere catchpenny to gull the public" either. 

Eight testimonials follow; letters from satisfied customers, including one from John Williams, from the Metropolitan Hotel, cnr. King and Castlereagh Streets, Sydney (now part of the Sydney CBD - look it up - some of the buildings are still there.) You can read it below.

The Metropolitan Hotel testimonial- I wonder if it cures hangovers?

After nearly a full page length column devoted to the wondrous AUSTRALIAN OINTMENT, there is a small space left at the bottom of the page, in which the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald has, in his wisdom, chosen to fill with
advertisements for "HENRY'S COLONIAL OINTMENT" and "STEEDMAN'S SOOTHING POWDERS".  I kid you not.
The editor of the Sydney Morning Herald
should be fired for this one.
Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Friday, 28 August 2015

Ancestors in the Newspaper - digitised newspaper search in Trove

Ancestors in the newspaper

It is amazing to me how often our ancestors appear in the newspaper.  A simple search can give you so many little gems of information.

The greatest trouble with the search for me though is sifting through all the false positives for my ancestor's name.

For example, my ancestor's surname is SALTER.  When you search through Trove's digitised newspaper collection using the word Salter, you get all sorts of hits.  These are the examples I have found for Salter:

  • Other families with the name Salter
  • Salt cellars being listed as wedding gifts
  • Gold mining claims being "salted"
  • A member of the local constabulary named "Salt"
  • Salt mining
  • Government officials misspellings eg. "Sault"
  • The digitisation process misreading words due to the age and deterioration of the newspaper being scanned. 
For the name ARMSTRONG,  there are other issues:
  • The sheer quantity of people whose name is Armstrong
  • Different unrelated groups of families called Armstrong living in the same area.
  • Local Armstrong families using the same first names for their children of similar ages
  • Judges, MP's, JP's, Police and defendants all with the name Armstrong 
Each surname that you search has its own set of challenges.  If you are lucky enough to have a surname that is unusual, you need to be lucky that people have spelled the name correctly in their documentation, and the newspaper is a clear copy so the digitisation process works well, as it mostly does.  If your surname is common, you will need to use filters to narrow your search from the tens of thousands the name search will find for you.  The filters in the digitised newspaper section include:
  • the State the newspaper was printed in
  • the decade and year it was printed in
  • the name of the newspaper
  • the Category of newspaper item you are looking for broken into subheadings:
    • Advertising
    • Articles
    • Detailed Lists, Results and Guides
    • Family Notices
  • whether the item is Illustrated
  • Word count
Using the filters will narrow the search surprisingly quickly down to a manageable size.  Once you have those results, you  can use the Sort function drop down box to sort the results by relevance (the articles considered to be most relevant to your search), or date (earliest to latest or vice versa.)

You can also utilise the Lists and Tags functions to find if other people have collated items for that name already.  Look for the tabs at the top of the Digitised Newspapers section.

As always, the more you know, the better your results. But it's always worth taking a punt.
Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Eureka Stockade and my family

Historical context of the Eureka Stockade

My family moved from South Australia to Victoria in the period 1851 to 1855.  We know they had definitely arrived and settled in Chewton, Victoria by August 1855.  They seem to have definitely left Adelaide by 1853.  This happens to cover the period of the Eureka Stockade.

Now in case your schoolgirl/schoolboy history is as forgotten as mine, the Eureka Stockade was in Ballarat, Victoria on 3 December 1854.  You will probably remember from Primary school the descriptive visuals of the Eureka flag, burning Gold Licenses and the early morning raid on a disorganised  and comparatively defenceless group of miners. Gold Mining Licences in Victoria were incredibly expensive, and paid on a monthly basis. The local miners were subjected to "Digger Hunts" by the Police which virtually amounted to harassment.  The State government powers that be struggled with the administration of the licences which were too much, too often and implacably administered.  At the Eureka Rebellion, 27 men were killed, mostly rebels.

The other night I couldn't sleep and fluked onto a late night television program showing an historical recreation of the Eureka trials.  It was fascinating.  Basically 13 of the Eureka rebels were brought to trial for high treason. Eventually all cases were dismissed. The Eureka Stockade was Australia's first and only civil rebellion. It was a protest about the rights of miners and mining fees, not any grand political statement against the government.  My family, including two generations of miners, living in another mining town a short distance from where the incident happened, had to be impacted directly.  

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

For an interesting refresher, see Wikipedia:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Elizabeth gives me a headache

The Trouble with Elizabeth Cumis nee Armstrong

Elizabeth's stays at Castlemaine Hospital for the years 1891 to 1896
highlighted in pink. The circle on 31 May 1896 shows when she died.
My ancestor Elizabeth gives me a headache.

She has so many spellings to her names, I've had to write a list so I remember them all. 

Elizabeth was born in Adelaide in 1842 with the surname ARMSTRONG.  That's all fine. Not many people spell Armstrong wrong.
Then her mother remarried in 1851 so she adopted her step-father's surname SALTER. That's fine as well, but I have found the name spelled SAULTER.

Then in 1864 she got married to Sims CUMIS, an african man. They were both illiterate, so we find as many spellings of their surname as there are bureaucrats that filled out their paperwork.

Since joining the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV),  I had searched CUMIS and CUMMIS in their Library.  I had found a couple of entries of Elizabeth being hospitalised at Castlemaine Mt. Alexander Hospital in the early 1890's. 

Yesterday I searched the name "Elizabeth" in conjunction with the place "Chewton", and Bingo! Eight new hospital records popped up under another spelling, COMAS.  I took a punt at another spelling, COMMAS.  Bingo! again another five hospital records. It was great.

So now we know our poor Elizabeth was in hospital for a total of 18 times over a period of six years. The names she was registered under were Elizabeth, Lizzie, Lizzy and Eliza.  Her surnames were the ones I've mentioned plus one under the name Salter.  Not to mention the couple of entries where there has been a transcription error and she is CUMINS and CUMMINS.

These are the trials of every family historian.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Unclaimed letters in Adelaide, South Australia in 1853

Adelaide newspaper article in 1853

Janet Salter's name in a list for Unclaimed Letters
 in Adelaide in 1853.

Just for a change, I searched Trove for an ancestor, this time Janet Salter.

Janet was a Scottish woman who came to Adelaide with her husband, arriving in 1839. South Australia was a fledgling state at that point, and I've read stories of how people had to wade through swampland with their possessions on their backs once they reached Adelaide.  Colonial times sure were a hoot.  Anyway, Janet buried two husbands in Adelaide poor thing, and married a third, called James Salter, in August 1851.  Hope springs eternal.

Around this same time, gold was discovered in the Forest Creek area of Victoria (that is around Castlemaine).  James and Janet Salter must have decided to try their luck in that area, and were settled in Chewton by 1855.  They must have travelled overland as there are no records I can find of them sailing. The journey wouldn't have been much shorter anyway from any Victorian port out to the goldfields.  To sail would have been expensive and I seriously doubt whether they could have afforded to sail. I shudder to think what travelling from Adelaide to Chewton overland would have been like with children in tow. I imagine wooden wagons and bullocks, not many possessions and lots of walking, but I don't know for sure.

So the two definite dates we have for James and Janet are:  August 1851 in Adelaide when they married AND August 1855 in Chewton.  So they travelled some time during that four year period.

Trawling through Trove yesterday, I discovered an unclaimed letter for Mrs. Janet Salter, published in two different South Australian newspapers for a total of 5 times.  Although there are Salters in Adelaide at this time, there are no other Janet Salters, so I know it is her letter. The notices appeared in these newspapers:

  • 7 May 1853 - Adelaide Observer
  • same day - South Australian Register
  • 14 January 1854 - Adelaide Observer
  • 16 January 1854 - South Australian Register
  • 20  February 1854 - South Australian Register

So, with these dates in mind, if Janet did not collect her letter in May 1853, she had likely already left Adelaide by that date.

We have narrowed the date of their leaving Adelaide down to less than 2 years now, between August 1851 when they married in Adelaide and May 1853. Of course, nothing is set in stone with genealogy.

The next question is, who wrote to her and how did they know she was by then Mrs. Salter?

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

If anyone out there knows of a book or any further information as to how people travelled from Adelaide to Victoria in the early 1850s,  please let me know.

Trove Citation:

23 UNCLAIMED LETTERS.—APRIL 30, 1853. South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) 3 1853 7 May 1853 Adelaide, SA 22 August 2015 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Welcome to Bendigo.  I visited
 the Bendigo Library, part of the
 Goldfields Libraries Group.
Part Two - Bendigo Library and Bendigo Family History Group AIGS

On Wednesday last, I travelled to Bendigo to research my great great Uncle James Armstrong. I had a terrific day, spending the morning in the BRAC, which you have already read about in a previous blog post.  In the afternoon, I stayed in the same building but spent time with the local family history group.

The Bendigo Library is one of the Goldfields Library Group, and is a real community centre in my opinion. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the design of the building. It has wonderful spaces for meetings of community groups.  Some spaces were like an open sunken auditorium, some were glassed off rooms with a large round meeting table and some were glass partitioned on three sides.  They also had food and drink available downstairs.  It all seemed very spacious and functional and user friendly to me, and I enjoyed being in their space.

I believe the people helping me were members of  the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies or AIGS, Bendigo chapter.  They were wonderful, and really asked questions to understand exactly what I wanted.  They also offered local knowledge, which answered questions for me that would only have occurred to me much later on, thus saving me time and research.

They accessed local funeral director's records for me which are not available on-line.  They quickly found out specific things about my ancestor, which was heartening after a morning of fruitless searching in BRAC.

For example, I found out that my ancestor James had his funeral paid by an Insurance firm and a Repatriation fund.  The notes from the undertaker say "Polished coffin, Hearse, 2 Limousines, cemetery fee and press notices."  For his wife Lily, who died two months previous to him and is buried in the same plot: "Polished coffin, Glass Hearse, 1 Limo, Cemetery Fee." From these small details I imagine James consumed with grief as we know he was, following Lily's Glass Hearse to Kangaroo Flat Cemetery, where he would shortly follow.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

AIGS Bendigo volunteers are available at the Bendigo Library to assist researchers on Wednesdays 10am to 4pm and Saturdays 10am to 1 pm.

Research Officer
AIGS Inc. Bendigo Branch
PO Box 145
Bendigo 3552.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Searching in Bendigo - a visit to the Bendigo Regional Archives Centre

The photo I took yesterday morning of
Bendigo Magistrates' Court,
 a short walk away from the
 Bendigo Library in Hargreaves Street.

Yesterday was full of the highs and lows that make up the life of a passionate genealogist.

Off I went to Bendigo, only a couple of hours drive from Melbourne.  I had booked into a course at the Bendigo Regional Archives Centre (BRAC) for a brief run down of their resources.

 BRAC is located on the first floor of the Bendigo Library, located in Hargreaves Street.  It is a regional branch of the Public Records Office, (PROV) which is located in North Melbourne.  If you are a family historian in Victoria,  Australia, you will, or probably already have, visited PROV in North Melbourne.  I went there a few months ago and got some copies of inquests for my family. I was super impressed with PROV's professionalism and wondered how BRAC would compare.

Very well as it happens.  The course was interesting and informative, and we were presented with information packs that would assist us later,  As each available record was described, we got shown an example of that record, which was passed around the table. Some of the volumes were enormous and some of us were unable to lift them at all.

It was so exciting to see these documents, often leather-bound with colourful marbled endpapers.  Some of the handwriting was so fine and meticulous, I don't think I have ever seen its equal.  Books varied in size depending on age and what it contained.  As I said before, the Land Title volumes were so large that they were easily the length of my arm, and three inches thick including the heavy leather bindings.  Some of the Bendigo City Council pay books I went through were only 20cm square, but they contained each employee's signature, information about their occupation, even sometimes the area they worked in during that pay period. Gold for someone with that ancestor! Other pay books contained stamp duty stamps attached to the page and cancelled out.  Others contained handwritten notes such as "Please pay Mrs. X my wages as I am too sick with influenza. Kind and oblige, Mr. X."  Another note gave me pause: "Please pay Mrs. X my wages until such and such a date. (Months in advance).  I imagined the man owed back rent to his landlady.  Or something like that. Just think, I handled those books and papers and they were at least 80 years old.

Others were even older and some were in downright bad condition.  One particular volume from 1877 had very thick linen covered cardboard covers, with two perfect shoe shapes cut out of them.  The shoe lining thief stole them a long long time ago, perhaps during the depression. The front page has dark patches in perfect shoe shapes where the cover is missing.

The BRAC volunteers work hard and are friendly too.  I gleaned lots of local knowledge without which I would have been truly stuck.  Local knowledge is gold, and highly undervalued in this day of "everything's on computer" because that's not true.

You should go to BRAC if your ancestor lived in the area. If you, like me, are from out of town and plan to visit the Bendigo Library and BRAC for longer than an hour, park in the multi-storey carpark directly across the road.  It only costs $7 for the whole day, and saves moving your car periodically. The Bendigo Library also has food and drink available downstairs. More about Bendigo Library tomorrow.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Perches, metres and feet - James Salter's land in Chewton in 1860

I love TROVE so much!

Today I got emailed by them telling me a certain article I was interested in was available.

The article appeared in the Mount Alexander Mail on Friday 3 August 1860. The heading is 'Title Deeds' and  tells a list of people for whom Title Deeds await at the Receipt and Pay Office at Castlemaine.

Included in the list is James Salter, my 4x great grandmother's third husband.  Beside his name is listed where he bought the land, Chewton, and numbers and letters.  In James' case it is 35p.  For half a second I thought it was the price, but then 35 pence was too cheap for land even in those days.  Besides I knew he paid 15 pounds for his land.

So what does 35p mean? Looking at other names on the list, I saw others had numbers with the letter 'r' or a combination of 'r' and 'p'.  Finally I realised it stood for rods and perches, old fashioned units of measurement.

So James' block of land in Chewton is 35 perches. Apparently that is the equivalent of 885 square metres or 9500 square feet. I hope that means something to you because it means nothing to me.  I was born without a measurement gene apparently; never have been able to judge distance or size of things. My husband tells me it's about twice the size of our house, but that won't help you. we went to Chewton earlier this year, we visited James and Janet's block briefly driving past it.  It is close to the town centre, not far from the Post Office. I could easily see the back fence quite close to the road, so it is not a huge block.  They built a bark hut on the property and Janet lived in that hut from 1860 when they bought the land until 1887 when she died.

 I imagine that James promised Janet that she and her children would never have to move again, and they would all put down roots in Chewton.  And he did that for her.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

 Janet Salter and the Ladies' Committee of Chewton

Yesterday I wrote of Mrs. Janet Salter who was a witness to two births in the gold-mining town of Chewton, Victoria, Australia in 1865.  She is my 4x great grandmother.

Today I went onto Trove and stumbled upon some interesting articles about her.

We know that Janet and her husband James moved to Chewton from Adelaide between 1851 and 1854.  In 1860, they bought a small property in the township, just behind the Post Office. valued at 15 pounds.  On it, they built a bark hut.

In 1868, James was admitted to the Castlemaine Benevolent Asylum, and stayed there (with a handful of brief visits home) until he died in May 1887, a period of nearly 20 years.  It was explained to me by the Castlemaine Historical Society that the Asylum meant in those days the traditional meaning of the word, as in shelter or a haven.  People were put in asylums for all sorts of reasons;  for example Alzheimers and Dementia, nervous breakdowns, physical incapacity or just because their loved ones couldn't take care of them for whatever reason.

I always wondered how Janet survived during those years, and today, Trove told me.

I found three articles printed in the Mount Alexander Mail, recording meetings of the Chewton Borough Council.

The first article dated 16 November 1877, notes that Janet applied to the Council to be recommended to the Ladies' Committee for financial relief.  She had been receiving some benefit from them, but it had been stopped.  The Town Clerk was to write to the Ladies' Committee to ask why.

The next article dated 30 November 1877, notes that the Ladies' Committee had answered.  In response to one of James' brief visits home, the ladies had withdrawn the relief. The Town Clerk was told to inform Janet. James was 67 at the time and obviously suffering some incapacity. He had been an inmate of the asylum for nearly ten years.

The next article is dated 26 July 1878, six months later, and again she is asking the Council to recommend her to the Ladies' Committee for weekly support. She was 75 years old.  Cr. O'Donohoe remarks he would like to know why these kinds of requests are being sent to Council instead of direct to the Ladies' Committee.  I bet we can guess why.

Janet herself died ten years later in March 1887, at the age of 85 and James died 8 weeks after her.
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
CHEWTON BOROUGH COUNCIL. (1877, November 30).Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), p. 2. Retrieved August 17, 2015, from
MLA citation
"CHEWTON BOROUGH COUNCIL." Mount Alexander Mail(Vic. : 1854 - 1917) 30 Nov 1877: 2. Web. 17 Aug 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1877 'CHEWTON BOROUGH COUNCIL.', Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917), 30 November, p. 2, viewed 17 August, 2015,
Wikipedia citation
{{cite news |url= |title=CHEWTON BOROUGH COUNCIL. |newspaper=[[Mount Alexander Mail |Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 - 1917)]] |location=Vic. |date=30 November 1877 |accessdate=17 August 2015 |page=2 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}


Saturday, 15 August 2015

An insight into the gold-mining town of Chewton, Victoria, Australia in 1865

Robert Armstrong Comes

Recently I obtained the birth certificate for Robert Armstrong Comes aka Robert CUMMIS, aka Robert ARMSTRONG.

As usual, Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria sent the whole page from the Chewton records at the time.  So I get five birth registrations for the price of one.

Robert was born on 3 July 1865 at Wattle Flat in Chewton, and was present at the time of his registration in September.  His father was listed as Simes Comes (who our family usually refer to as Sims Cummis) and he was a miner aged 28.  For some reason his birth place is listed as South America but our family knows he was from South Africa.  His birth in South Africa is confirmed as per his own statement on his wedding certificate, as being born at the Cape of Good Hope.

Robert's mother (and my 3x great grandmother) is listed as Elizabeth Comes, formerly Elizabeth Armstrong, born Adelaide, South Australia, aged 23.  Robert's birth registration also states that  Elizabeth and Sims married in 1864 in Chewton, and we can confirm this from their wedding certificate that they married on 10 October 1864.

The informant was Elizabeth herself, and she dutifully made her mark on the register (see the photo), as she had also done at her wedding.  It is interesting that Elizabeth and Sims were both illiterate, and yet one of their later sons became what amounted to an unofficial journalist, commenting in the newspapers about his experiences at Gallipoli and the Western Front during the First World War.

In the Witnesses column, it states there was 'No Medical attendant', however 'Other Witnesses' names Mrs. Salter.  

Now we know who that witness is.  Mrs. Salter is Elizabeth's mother and my 4x great grandmother, Janet Row who was born in Scotland.  She travelled to Adelaide, South Australia in 1839 with her Scottish husband, who died that same year.  Janet married again, this time to Elizabeth's father, an African man called John Armstrong.  After John Armstrong died, Janet married yet again in Adelaide, South Australia to an Englishman called James Salter.  James brought the whole family to Chewton in Victoria shortly after gold was discovered, a distance of 650 km (over 400 miles).

What is interesting on this birth registration page is that Mrs. Salter is named as witness to two births.
Janet also helped deliver another boy born four days after her grandson Robert. That boy's name was William John Archer, and his father was a 32 year old baker from Liverpool, England. His mother was 22 year old Agnes Longstaff, from Brooklyn, Long Island in America.

Four out of the five births listed on the page state 'no medical attendant'. Two of the other informants have definitely signed in their own hand.  The other two listed as informants seem to be consistent with the handwriting of Registrar Hardy. So Elizabeth was the only one who 'made her mark' on the page.

I like to think Elizabeth's mother Janet helped others as a midwife in their community. Janet lived in Chewton until she died in 1896. If I'd travelled from Scotland to Australia, from Adelaide to Chewton, I would refuse to move any more too.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Ellen Cummis aka Ellen Armstrong

Hello everyone,

Today I have been researching Ellen Cummis, the sister of Louisa Cummis, my great great grandmother. As we all know, for some unknown reason, the entire Cummis family adopted either their mother's birth name, Armstrong, or their mother's stepfather's name, Salter.  My great great grandmother used the name Louisa Salter until she married.

Now about her sister Ellen.  We know Ellen was born on 24 August 1870 in Chewton, Victoria.  That is all I have ever known about Ellen since I started researching. Yet another puzzle with this mysterious family.

Today I searched the family trees on Ancestry for clues and found a tree that I believe is being researched by a distant family member.  In that tree they have the details Ellen Elizabeth Armstrong and a death certificate number, but that is all.

From the Births, Deaths and Marriages website, I got these details for that death certificate.

Ellen Elizabeth Armstrong
Parents names : unknown
No Spouse details filled in.
Age: 84
Birth Place: Victoria
Death Place: Sunbury
Registration Year: 1959

So ok, follow my logic here.

Ellen is the correct name.
Elizabeth was her mother's name.
Armstrong was her mother's maiden name.

If she was 84 when she died in 1959, that means this Ellen was born in 1875 in Victoria.  We know our Ellen was born in 1870, so it doesn't seem a match.  And yet, in all our family's research, we find over and over again that the ages of the Cummis children are out by at least a couple of years, always saying they are younger than they actually are.   So I don't find this five year gap in birth years as much of a deal breaker as I normally would.  This fudging of their birth years is consistent for this family.  And so I continue researching, bearing this in mind.

I went to the Genealogical Society of Victoria website and searched Ellen Armstrong and came up with a match to the one born in 1875.

This record shows an Ellen Armstrong was admitted to the Ballarat Base Hospital in 1898 at 23 years of age. (Again if she is our Ellen, she was actually 28 years old.) She was a dress maker and lived in Victoria Street, Ballarat and was single. Ballarat is pretty close to Chewton where she was born and her mother lived. Not a deal breaker.

There is one more thought I have.  Her death in Sunbury.  I googled Sunbury with 1959 and up came Sunbury Lunatic Asylum on Wikipedia.  That tells me so helpfully that patients were transferred from the Ballarat Asylum to the Sunbury Asylum.  So no proof yet, just some massive leaping to conclusions.

 Next step, I need to go into the GSV on Monday and look up the microfische hospital records to see what else we can find out about this Ellen Armstrong.

And I'd love to know WHY  they all changed their names.

Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Bounty immigrants; not the other kind of Bounty

I don't know about you but when I hear the word "Bounty" my mind leaps to "Mutiny on the".  The brain then skirts around with Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian, and finally lands in a 1970's ad for a chocolate bar with a coconut centre and waving palm trees in the background.

That's NOT the kind of Bounty I discovered today.

Today I discovered that my 4x great grandfather and grandmother and their four children were Bounty immigrants.  My understanding of a Bounty immigrant is that a company pays for their passage to Australia, who then work for the company.  The price of the passage determines the length of time the immigrants are obliged to work for the company.

This is a rough understanding only.  I guess my definition of a Bounty immigrant will get more precise as I learn more.

The ancestors I am referring to are the Tainton family, from Gloucestershire in England.  On 19 April 1841, Phillip and Jane Tainton and their four children, Richard, Hannah, Eliza and William boarded the ludicrously named barque Burhampooter at Plymouth in England.

They arrived in Sydney on 7 August 1841.  The "Bounty" for Phillip and Jane was 19 pounds each, for the 16 year old Richard it was 15 pounds, for 10 year old Hannah, ten pounds, and for Eliza aged 6 and William aged 2, they were 5 pounds each.  The grand total of their Bounty as recorded on the ship's log is 73 pounds.  I make the presumption that the bounty is based upon age for this reason, and might be why Phillip fudged his age by a few years, to save a few pounds.

Of course type of behaviour by your ancestors can cause havoc with your research if you don't keep to a high standard of evidence. Phillip said he was 39 on the voyage when he was actually about 44 according to his death notice.

Lots of other information is recorded on that document too.  The company that imported them was called William Walker & Co. I will have to research more to find out what business the business did.

The occupation for Phillip is listed as "Shepherd", and for Jane as "Factory Woman", so they had working mothers in 1841 too.  Their religion was also listed as Protestant.

A quick look at Trove has gained all sorts of insights into the Taintons.  For one thing, they moved to Geelong in Victoria, which is where I was raised. Electoral rolls say they lived in a place called Ashby in Geelong, which I have never heard of .

A Mr. Tainton who was a milkman from Ashby was robbed while out on his rounds.  It was an inside job - some money was hidden in a cup in a cupboard, and some more was inside a locked chest.  Six or seven pounds was stolen; in 1849, a fortune.  What a blow to them that would have been.

Phillip's death notice published in the Geelong Advertiser in 1875 claimed he was "highly esteemed by all who knew him." His daughter Hannah marries one James Lucas and eventually I am born.  Cue the "Circle of Life" music...
Article identifier
Page identifier
APA citation
Family Notices. (1875, September 15). Geelong Advertiser(Vic. : 1859 - 1924), p. 2. Retrieved June 11, 2015, from
MLA citation
"Family Notices." Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1924) 15 Sep 1875: 2. Web. 11 Jun 2015 <>.
Harvard/Australian citation
1875 'Family Notices.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1924), 15 September, p. 2, viewed 11 June, 2015,
Wikipedia citation
{{cite news |url= |title=Family Notices. |newspaper=[[Geelong Advertiser |Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1924)]] |location=Vic. |date=15 September 1875 |accessdate=11 June 2015 |page=2 |publisher=National Library of Australia}}


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

I've got my WW1 ancestor's records - what do I do now?

Hi everyone!

Hopefully everybody has found their WW1 ancestor's records by going to the National Archives of Australia.  You can see my previous blog about how to research NAA to get those records.  Now that you have them, what now?

For me, researching the military records was difficult because I don't have a military background.  There are an awful lot of abbreviations and whatnot in those papers that you will become familiar with and your understanding will grow if you continue to research.

I would say the most helpful thing a person can do once they have the records, is research the context of those records.

For example, if you know your ancestor was in the 59th Battalion AIF, then your first step could be to simply Wikipedia the 59th Battalion, and see what comes up.  Wikipedia will probably have the official history of the Battalion, and will include important battles and things of major import that happened to that Battalion.  Their references are useful too, as you can see major books and websites used to gather the information and they may help you later.

Next I would check out the Australian War Memorial.  The search bar there will look for all sorts of things, including your specific ancestor, their battalion, and photographs.  You can narrow your search as long as you have a clear idea of which part of the forces your ancestor was in (which you do because you already have their military records!) If you have used Trove it is quite like that website.

Trove is great too, to see if your ancestor was mentioned perhaps in a nominal roll of volunteers.  You can see my previous blog about how to use Trove.  It is a fantastic resource for all sorts of research

There is also a Victorian Government website called, which has a wonderful list of hyperlinks to relevant external websites to help your search.

On the National Archives of Australia is the "Discovering ANZACs" section, worth a look.

Then there is always good old google images search.  I find I can scan a heap more websites with google images rather than reading each website individually with a regular google search.  If you see an image which you think suits your purpose, hover your arrow on it and it will show the website the image comes from. You can then choose or not to visit the page, and that saves time and pointless downloading and waiting.

After that there are specific websites, according to the experience your ancestor had.
For example, the 59th Battalion fought at Fromelles, so from there you can Wikipedia etc Fromelles and the Western Front.  Go through your list of resources again!

Good luck with your search.
Historically yours
Valerius Copernicus