About Me

I was born and bred in the Western District of Victoria and my family roots are firmly planted there  like those of the mighty river red gums.  From the Volcanic plains to the Grampians soaring on the horizon, this area that is so special to me must have been a special place for ancestors too.  Many made their way there on arrival in Australia and never left.  Together they grew towns, communities and families that would continue to thrive over 150 years later.




I have had an interest in the pioneering history of the Western District since I was a young child.  I lived near to the Hamilton Pastoral Museum and I would often visit on their Open Days.  Inside an old church building, I would marvel at the collection of household implements, ornaments and the like.  Outside, old steam engines and horse-drawn ploughs would captivate me.

Add to that a passion for research which started with being a bored only child reading encyclopedias and led on to a degree in Media &  Social Research.  I just love looking up stuff.  So when I started my family history research I was in my element and throw in the web, an information addicts dream come true, and I was hooked.

In 2012, I completed a Certificate of Genealogical Research with the Society of Australian Genealogists (S.A.G.). 

If you are descended from any of the families mentioned in this blog or have further information, you can email me – wdfvic@gmail.com –  I would love to hear from you.


55 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hi Merron
    I am a volunteer worker at Barwon Park. You may know that Barwon Park is a National Trust property at Winchelsea, originally owned by Thomas Austin. I am contemplating setting up a volcanic theme for the information of Barwon Park visitors. As part of this theme I would like to use the article you did on Western District volcanoes. Have you any objection?
    Did you have any relations who played for Hamilton Football Club in the late ’60s?
    Mick O’Mara

    • Hi Mick
      Thanks for contacting me. I am familiar with Barwon Park and what a great idea you have. I would be more than happy for you to use my article. Thank you.
      I do believe my dad, Stuart Riddiford, had a bit of a run with the Hamilton 2nds around that time. I was only a baby, but I know he still catches up with a couple of guys who played for Hamilton around that time. He went on to do a some boundary umpiring with the WBFL. Where you in Hamilton then?

  2. Hi Merron
    Thanks for your OK to use your article. I will give you a copy when I finish. Ask your Dad if he remembers the goal I gave him against Heywood when he didn’t deserve it.
    Mick O’Mara

  3. Hello Merron.
    My name is Chris Tait. I am the eldest grandson of John L Condon ( Lottie Condons brother ) I was close to Lottie and her husband Ted as i was growing up.

    • Hi Chris
      I am thrilled to hear from you and it’s wonderful to hear you knew Lottie, of whom I have the greatest respect. I have links to the Condons through the Harmans and the Condons have Western District links, as do the Huggins family, so we have something in common. I will contact you via email
      Thank you again

  4. HI I am a descendant of Nicholas Saunders and Elizabeth Tytherleigh considered one of the early pioneers of the district. Nicholas Saunders was a blacksmith in Portland, Branxholme and finally at Condah. I would be interested if you have any research or stories about the Saunders family in the area.
    Kind regards

  5. Hi Merron , we found some interesting information Walter Harmans daughter Eunice Walton Lucas was an author and journalist you may have followed family tradition Eunice wrote a book in 1936 Kindness 10 years later copyrighted in that year.
    Linda Thatcher

    • Hi Linda

      I had read that Eunice was a writer. I have tried to find something more on it but without any luck. I’ve searched Trove too. I wonder if she ever wrote under a pseudonym?

      Eunice wasn’t the only one writing. Her cousin Herbert Harman (son of George Hall Harman) was a journalist with the Wangaratta Chronicle for 46 years and his daughter Edna was a co-author of a book “Wangaratta: Old Tales and Tours”. She was also a researcher for the Wangaratta Historical society.


    • Hi Stafford
      It’s always good to hear from Hamilton people. Thanks for the offer. I do have a couple of Walkers and Donohues from the Hamilton area on my tree. The Donohues are related to my Hadden/Harman line and the Walkers through the McClintock family.

  6. Cranbourne cemetery Gambles I noticed while researching my own surnames.
    994 GAMBLE Archibald b1858 d1936 wife Louisa
    994 GAMBLE Louisa b1866 d1944 hus Archibald

    995 GAMBLE Margaret 15/5/1898 52 hus John A,
    995 GAMBLE John Alexander 15/11/1898 72 wife Margaret

    995 GAMBLE Alexander John 31/7/1870 12 par Mgrt & John
    995 GAMBLE Albert William 24/6/1912 50 par Mgt & John
    995 GAMBLE Jessie Victoria Ellen 2/3/1880 18m par Mgt & John
    995 GAMBLE Ada (Florence) 6/7/1901 3
    995 GAMBLE unreadable
    996 GAMBLE Daniel James 19/8/1963 98 par Margaret & John

  7. Hello Merron,

    I am researching Hamilton Vic and educational instutions, methods of teaching etc and would like to know if you could tell me the name of the Boy’s college that was in Hamilton in the 40’s-50’s-60’s and if you can advise how I might further find the names of teachers, headmasters etc etc?

  8. Hi Sarah,
    This was forwarded to me because I attended Alexandra College in the early 60s.
    Hamilton & W D College worked in partnership with the girls’ College. We shared classes, but boarded in separate places. We even had to walk back to our premises at morning and afternoon recesses, and of course, lunch times.

    A long time principal of Hamilton College then, was Harry Zachariah. He was replaced in 1961 by a short term principal whose name I have forgotten. In 1962 the schools were properly amalgamated under a husband and wife leadership. Mary Waters was principal of Alexandra College, and her husband was principal of the boys’ school.

    Some of the teachers I remember are Mr Pond ( science), Mr Pemberton (history), Mr Clark ( English Lit), Mary Radcliffe ( history), Helen Onton ( languages and geography), Mr Atkins ( English, maybe Maths), Jane Cranston ( Art) and Mrs Saunders ( music).

    Prue O’Mara

  9. Just stumbled on your blog and look forward to further reading. My family arrived in Portland on New Years Day 1853.
    H David Frost

    • Thanks David. I’ll keep an eye out for the Frosts while I’m doing my research. I also want to do some more posts about the ships that sailed to Portland, so I’ve put the “Anne Milne” on my list. Merron

  10. Merron,
    James Fry, an original pioneer of Orford & mentioned in your blog, had a stepmother maiden name Sarah Riddiford. Her father was Aaron Riddiford. Family was from Wotton Under Edge, Gloucerstershire. On the marriage certificate of James father Francis & Sarah (Bruton as she was then) in 1830 Aaron’s occupation was a farmer. Could this be a relation of yours?

    Very pleased to find your blog this week & I am sure I will spend lots of time exploring it.

    • Hi Jennie, thank you so much for contacting me and sorry it has taken so long to reply. That’s very interesting. Sarah will defiantly be one of my Riddifords. I have a Sarah Riddiford, born Gloucestershire 1793 to Aaron Riddiford and Sarah Mainstone. Aaron was born at Wooton Under Edge. But I have several other Aarons but I haven’t found a daughter Sarah, but I have more to do on them.
      Thank you for reading my blog too, I’m glad you are enjoying it

  11. Hi Merron, Am Interested in Henty folk, as my Aunts GMother was one. Do you know if Findon, relates to a house, or was it one of their properties ? Was thrilled to see the headstone for SG Henty in one of your articles, so hope to visit Hamilton when we come to SA next wk. Is there an active Henty society or group with info I could ask?

    • Hi Beryl, thank you for your comment and it is great to have a member of the Henty family visit Western District Families. “Findon” was a home in Kew, but in those days the land it was on was probably more than a house block in Kew today. Unfortunately it is no longer there and it was hard to find information on it. I did find this link of Studley Park Heritage http://home.vicnet.net.au/~studlypk/subdivisions.htm with a mention of “Findon”. Seeing as it has taken so long to reply, sorry, I was wondering if you got to the Hamilton Old Cemetery? I don’t know of any Henty group, but there should be as I’m sure there are many descendants of the family around today.
      Regards Merron


  12. Hello Prue,
    I believe the Head master or teacher was John someone (circa 1949-1957?)
    Can someone kindly advise?

  13. Hi Merron. I’ve just discovered your blog!

    My English ancestors – PONTIN and ULLITHORNE – were living in Heywood c1855 onwards. If you ever come across information regarding either family, would you please let me know?! In particular, I have been unable to find confirmation of a c1870 wedding between divorcee Frederick William Ullithorne and the much younger, Lavinia Louise Pontin.

    Thank you.

  14. WOW! Awesome! Awesome family, awesome research, very interesting. Thanks everyone.
    Robert Riddiford
    Snowflake, Arizona

  15. Hi John, I am not a descendant, but my Aunt is. I did visit Portland last November, very attractive town, and interesting museum, with helpful folk re Henty stuff. If you have a full photograph of S G HENTY’s headstone, I would like to be able to show it to Aunt. I have since learned that Findon was the name of one of the Henty homes, I was wondering if it was a suburb, or area. in the context it was used in.
    Nice of you to answer, probably all the other Henty folk knew I wasn’t a rellie !! Also, I am in NZ.
    Regards, Beryl

  16. Well, Beryl,good of you to reply also,does your Aunt live in NZ?I don’t have photo but Merron Riddiford does and gave me this link, which shows it clearly,although I think its modern replacement,his wife and two young children also share the site.click on——— htt://mywdfamlies.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/another-what.the-dickens-moment/. you will see the grey headstone at the rear behind that of family Stillwell,if I can help further,just e mail.would be interested in your Aunts contact if she is happy to give it.s g. henty was my 4 x gt.grandfather,so wonder where your Aunt fits?
    John Elliott

  17. Hi Merron,

    I am most interested in some of your research as although I don’t come from the district my father was born & bred in the Byaduk area. On a recent trip on the Great Ocean Road I took time to call in at Byaduk & although the little township was “closed” ( I could not see a soul) I did visit the local cemetery & was amazed at the number of Harmans buried there. My fathers name was William Loud Harman (born January 1897) & he served in the 1st world war in the Middle East. His brother Rueban Edward Harman survived both Gallopoli & the western front.
    My son recently visited the war graves near Ypres in Belgium & discoved a Augustus Thomas Harman & was wondering if he is a part of the western district clan & maybe a distant relative of mine.
    Keep up the good work.
    Mike Harman

  18. Hi Merron,
    I have just stumbled upon your blog because I was wanting to have a look at historical Muntham which I saw was up for sale in The Age and up popped your blog. I am descended from Michael O’Neil and Mary Ann Nolan who I believe lived and worked on Muntham as shepherds in the 1860s after arriving from County Wicklow in Ireland. One of their sons was born on Muntham in 1864. I am also descended from William Alexander Brody and Maria Gavin who lived in Brit Brit and are buried in Coleraine Cemetery. Maria Gavin and her four sisters arrived from Kings County now Offaly County at different times in the 1800s. One of her sisters, Sarah married Francis Sharkey and they had a family of 12. Sarah died in 1936 in Koroit. William Alexander Brody is a conundrum, having claimed he was from Ireland and changed his name from Brodie to Brody half way through having a large family of eleven children. I believe he was born in Scotland, but that’s another story. Cheers Diane Jakubans.

    • Hi Diane,
      My husband is a descendant of William Alexander and Maria Gavan and I was wondering if you know the names of the 11 children as I’ve only been able to find 8.

  19. Hi Carol, The eleven children are James Ellery, Matthias (Matthew Ward), Maria one, Maria two, William Alexander, John McGuire, Catherine Gavin, Jane, Margaret, Edward Michael Riley and Henry Joseph. Contact me on Facebook Carol. Cheers Diane

  20. I have so enjoyed reading about The Western Districts. I have been trying to find information about the Harman family for my son in law. George Harman is his 2nd great grandfather. I don’t know how many children George and Hilda May Hill had but Dorothy was his Great Grandmother. I haven’t been able to find out anything about her. His Grandmother was brought up by her Grandparents. Perhaps you can help me. Many thanks Barbara

  21. Hi, I am the 2nd Great Grand Daughter of Benjamin Lear and Jenny Sage Lear (nee Crabbie). My Mum and I are coming to Portland next week (Mum hasn’t been since she was a child) to look at some of the old places our family lived in Portland, Casterton, Hamilton and Branxholme. Any assistance that can be provided on our quest, would be greatly appreciated.

  22. Hi,
    Thanks so much for the information! I’ve just started my journey of discovery and think I have found my new hobby (very addictive). John Bell is my 4th Great Grandfather. I think I might pop down one day and come look at where the Bell’s settled.

    Thanks again for all your amazing information


  23. Hi Merron,

    Your blog came up via Google in my latest attempt to track connections to Humphrey Johnstone Hearn (Symonds) of Colac.

    I am not sure whether the Western Districts covers the Colac area. If not, you may have some hints for me on who may know anything about my special interest – which is Humphrey Johnstone Hearn (Symonds) b: 1890 in Colac to Ethel Easton Johnstone. I understand the Johnstone’s from the Easton Park homestead were a pioneering family around 1860 to 1900.

    My mother is still alive and the mysterious Humphrey is her father. I am trying to find out what happened to him, and ultimately where he died and is buried. Essentislly, Humphrey was a bastard!

    In Ancestry.com the Family Tree is under Humphrey Johnstone Symonds, and in the tree he is named Humphrey Johnstone Hearn. there is a lot of detail abut Humphrey there. Its an interesting but sad read. http://trees.ancestry.com.au/tree/34322312/family

  24. Hi Merron

    My mother is one of Kit and Roly Hallam’s children who used to farm Kia-Ora in Cavendish. She has done a lot of research into our family settlers which may help you. The Hallams are sadly no longer at Kia-Ora after many generations growing up there.


  25. Hi,
    Roger Hallam was at a back to at Cavendish a few years ago that I attended. Roger and his wife now live in Hamilton and are retired. Any relation Katie?

    • Yes…he is my mother’s brother. They are actually due here in NZ next week to visit. Roger always lived in Hamilton and worked at Thompsons before becoming an MP. Graeme stayed on the farm but has since retired to Hamilton as well. :-)

  26. Hi Katie, yes, he gave me a job at Thompsons many years ago but I knocked it back! Finally came back to Hamilton 13 years ago. Cheers, Stafford

  27. Hi Merron,
    I have been reading your blog for a while now and just wanted to let you know that I a really impressed with the quality and consistency of it, particularly the detailing to referencing material. Being editor of our Family History Group newsletter here in East Gippsland I for one really appreciate it. So much so, that I used you as the example as to what one should aspire too …. Could you send me an email address and I will forward you a pdf of the article…..

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