Australia Day

Because of time restrictions, I’m not participating in the 2014 Australia Day Blogging Challenge.  Don’t despair, some great geneabloggers have written posts for the 2014 Australian Day Challenge, a Geneameme, C’Mon Aussie created by Pauline Cass of the Family History Across the Seas blog.

Instead, I will re-visit my 2012 and 2013 posts, Wealth for Toil – William Hadden and The Drover’s Wife

The 2012 Challenge was about occupations and the phrase “wealth for toil” from the Australian National Anthem.  “Toil” stood out for me and I chose to write about my gg grandfather, William Hadden of Cavendish, and his work of almost 70 years, at Mokanger Station.  Full Post

The following year threw up a new challenge and for 2013, the task was to write the story of my first ancestor to arrive in Australia.  I decided not to go with my ggg grandparents Thomas Gamble and Ellen Barry, both early arrivals, because I had told their stories on other occasions.  Instead I chose Sarah Hughes, another ggg grandmother, who I had suspected arrived in 1840.

Sarah married James Bishop in 1852 and after time in Mt Gambier and the goldfields of Ararat, they settled around Byaduk and later Macarthur.  Jim was a drover and my post explores life for the wives when their husbands were away for long periods on the road. I enjoyed writing this post and I have only now read again it for the first time in a year.  As I say in the post…pass the tissues please.  Full Post

WATTLE & WILDFLOWERS 1886,  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. IAN13/11/86/SUPP

WATTLE & WILDFLOWERS 1886, Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. IAN13/11/86/SUPP

Stretching My Genealogy Muscles

If you’ve read my recent Bloggers’ Geneameme response,  you would know I often work on blog posts in my head while completing mundane tasks such as cooking dinner.  It must have been the child friendly Macaroni Cheese last night that allowed me to switch my mind off the job at hand and consider in-depth, a couple of the benefits of blogging for me.

For 10 years, I used The Master Genealogist (TMG) software. The Narrative report was my favourite because I like to see my family history in story form as it gives me a better perspective of dates and events.  A perfect example of how that format works for me is the post I wrote on September 15 for the Riddiford Centenary.  I have looked at the various dates for my great grandparents and their children time and time again.  But when I put them down in narrative form for the post, there staring me in the face was the fact that my oldest great-uncle was born only 5 months after his parents married.  Further on in the post I mention the birth of the last child in the family when my great-grandmother was 43.  I then wrote there was an age span of 26 years from oldest to youngest child.  Hang on a minute…43 take away 26 is…OMG Caroline was only 17!

With the TMG Narrative report, I could alter the wording of the built-in text plus add extra narrative.  It was fun, for a while,  but it was never right for me.  I switched over to Family Tree Maker about five years ago. While I missed TMG, the user interface with Ancestry. ,my main reason for change because I’m lazy, was a big plus for me when it came to transferring vital records.  But I haven’t been able to present my data in the same way I did with the TMG Narrative report.

Also, I’ve always wanted to see the “big picture” of my ancestors’ lives, where they lived, what they did, the history of their towns and the events happening around them at the time of their lives.  That resulted in 100s of web page bookmarks about villages in England, histories of occupations and the like.  But what could I do with them?  I tried to write a history of the Harman family a couple of times trying different formats but  it didn’t feel right.  I felt it was a lot of work for little gain, in that it would sit on my hard drive and go nowhere.  I lacked motivation.

Circa 1930. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image No. H84.165/1

Circa 1930. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image No. H84.165/1

That’s where blogging comes in.  With this method I can write my family history in parts, swapping between branches to keep it interesting.  I can include the “big picture” and someone else gets to read what I write regularly, other than me.  Also, and this was the main theme behind my mind wanderings, it has stretched me.  It has forced me to dig deeper and think laterally, forced me to tidy up vital records on my software that I hadn’t followed up and be more aware of my genealogy time management.  Now, after just over two years and 245 posts,  I have collected stories about all branches of my family and posts relevant to the times and places they lived.  This would have been unachievable for me if I didn’t act and take up geneablogging.

Physical training at P. T. & R. School (ca 1942) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,Argus newspaper collection of war photographs. World War II. Image No. H98.105/4467

Physical training at P. T. & R. School (ca 1942) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,Argus newspaper collection of war photographs. World War II. Image No. H98.105/4467

As my mind wandered further,  I thought of something that has stretched me, or at least my genealogy muscles, more than blogging and that is the Diploma of Historical Research I’m currently undertaking.  It includes writing  a 20,000 word family history.  My stretching regime has had some changes and I am finding muscles I had forgotten about or didn’t know I had:

  • I am now forced to record my sources more accurately (I can’t link through to a website to prove my sources as I do here).
  • Now I have to get the more difficult to access records (for me anyway) that won’t tell me anything new, but will support my evidence.  My aforementioned laziness has not been the issue here but rather the barriers of work, child rearing and distance.  Now there are no excuses,  I have to stretch myself beyond those barriers.
  • Organization is now key and for me, that is a real stretch.
  • I have realised that even after researching the Harmans (the subjects of my thesis) as long I have, there is still so much more to find, so many gaps to fill.
  • There is a strict deadline.  While I have loose deadlines for my blog posts, I can move them a little.  I can’t do that with the Diploma and I keep having visions of my Uni days, pumping out assignments with only days to spare before the due date, simply because I had left it to the last minute.  A lot more work on that muscle is required.

One of the benefits of this extreme stretching will be that I will have written that Harman family history I have not been motivated enough to write before.  The extra exertion will be worth it for that reason alone.

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Photographer William Henry Freeman (1946) Image No. 126994

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Photographer William Henry Freeman (1946) Image No. 126994

So, if you want to start stretching your genealogy muscles start a blog.  Geneablogging was exactly what I was looking for but if you really want to stretch those muscles, complete a course or maybe  write a book.   Whatever your choice, get stretching, it feels good.

Loads of Links

Have you checked the Links page lately?  There are loads more links.

You will find links for historical, family history and genealogical societies from across Western Victoria.  There are Cemetery links and of course all the Western District newspapers that are now online at Trove.  That list is growing rapidly.  I have also labelled recently added links with New”.

I have recently added Facebook pages to the links page because there are several societies that have started pages that are proving very popular.  Check out the Mortlake & District Historical Society or the Port Fairy Historical Society pages for some great photos and biographies.  It would be good to see more of the societies taking their lead of taking history to the people.

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It’s not only the “Links page” where you will find links at Western District Families.  Throughout my posts you will notice underlined text. Click on the link and you will find more information about the subject.  It may be another post about the subject, sites such as the Australian Biographical Dictionary and Victorian Heritage Database or maybe an article at Trove.

When writing Passing of the Pioneer posts, I do a Google search on most subjects or the property they resided at, just to see if there is more information about them.  So, if you find one of your ancestors listed in Passing of the Pioneers, you may find something else that I have dug up about them, maybe even something you didn’t know…

Checking my site stats for “link clicks”, I found the most clicked newspaper article to date has been that an Obituary page from The Horsham Times of January 22, 1904.  The article was an obituary bonanza with obituaries for William Gardiner, Mrs Jean Miller, Joseph Jelbart and Mrs Rachel Hedditch and they each appeared in the January 2012 Passing of the Pioneers.  Close behind was an article from the Cairns Post of February 1, 1935 about the clipper, Marco Polo.

The most popular newspaper title clicked was the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (1842-1876) followed by the Portland Guardian (1876-1953).  The top two sites were Ian Marr’s Cemetery of SW,  and Daryl Povey’s Glenelg & Wannon Settlers & Settlement.

If you know any great Western District sites or Facebook pages, let me know and I will be happy to add them to the list.  Also let me know if you notice any of my links are broken.

Get Clicking!

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria, Argus newspaper collection of War photos WW2.  Image No. H99.201/919

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria, Argus newspaper collection of War photos WW2. Image No. H99.201/919

The Bloggers’ Geneameme

I really should have been writing the August Passing of the Pioneers post when I clicked on my RSS feed for the Geniaus blog.  Jill Ball’s latest post, “The Blogger’s Geneameme” sounded like a bit of fun and it was a chance to have a break from the obits.   To see the full set of questions, go to Jill’s blog – Geniaus

1. What are the titles and URLs of your genealogy blog/s?

Western District Families

2. Do you have a wonderful “Cousin Bait” blog story? A link to a previous blog post might answer this question.

Last year I started writing a post about the people I had come in contact with, related and otherwise,thanks to Western District Families. The post was getter longer and longer and needed fine tuning, so I put it away for a while, well,  quite awhile.  Finding cousins was never my intention but the number of connections I have made is amazing.  I will mention a couple here, but I will  get on with my “Finding Cousins” post to celebrate my new found cousins.

The research room at my local library is a place I frequent at times, but it wasn’t until I wrote about my Mortimer family that I found out the research librarian, Edie, is my fourth cousin 1 x removed.  We also have a link through the Hadden family through marriage.  To think I have been there researching the Mortimers and another Mortimer descendant was only metres away!

Fellow blogger Kerryn Taylor from AncestorChasing is related through the marriage of her gg grandfather George Adams and my ggg aunt Sarah Harman (both second marriages).  This is a special link beyond our blogging connection.

Finally I must mention my 1st cousin 1 x removed, Warren Gamble who I have only connected with since I been blogging.  Warren is an enthusiastic researcher of the Gamble family tree and connected families and is a great supporter of mine, often leaving comments of encouragement.  Thanks Warren.  We will catch up in person soon.

3.  Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging?

Over the years I had gathered stories and facts about my various families and I was looking for a way to share or organise everything.  Blogging was the answer.

4. How did you decide on your blog/s title/s?

I was going to call my blog My Western District Families but I changed it to Western District Families because it gave me room to move with the content.

5. Do you ever blog from mobile devices? What are they?


6. How do you let others know when you have published a new post?

I post on Twitter and the Western District Families Facebook page.  I also post on Google+ .  If the post is specific to the Western District, I will post it on the Western District Families Google+ page or if it is a general genealogy post, I will post it on my personal Google+ page. I also use StumbleUpon for most posts  and Pinterest for visual posts.

There are now 92 followers of the Western District Families blog and they either receive an email with each new post or if they are WordPress subscribers, they view each new post on the WordPress Reader.

7. How long have you been blogging?

Just over two years.

8. What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog?

I think a search box is important, especially with so many family names. I also use a category list, tags and an archive list, just so it easy to find posts.  I use all these features myself to get around the blog.  The RSS feed and the subscribe widgets are important to get posts out there.

I did have a Trove search box. The graphic didn’t install properly but the search function worked.  It had been on the side bar for months when I just had to fiddle.  I removed it with the aim of re-installing it, hopefully with the graphic.  Bad move.  Now the box doesn’t  work at all.  I have a person to contact at Trove to discuss it, but time hasn’t permitted .

9. What is the purpose of your blog/s? Who is your intended audience?

The essential purpose of Western District Families is to share the stories of my Western District Families with snippets of social history, with the intended audience those with the same family interests.

The audience has evolved and is now multi-layered – Those with the same family interests, those with Western District families, local history enthusiasts and those with a general interest in history.  Passing of the Pioneer posts and the Trove Tuesday posts have broadened the audience, as have horse racing posts and the Adam Lindsay Gordon post.

I enjoy when visitors to the blog are those that would not normally visit a history blog.  I have found there is an interest in history out there,  but for some the topic needs to be something they can relate to and “hometown history” does provoke interest.  I have posted links to Hamilton history blog posts to my Facebook group, “I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria” and they’ve been met with interest.

People do like to recall how things were and rekindle memories of their childhood or youth.  You only have to look at a new Facebook page Have You Seen Old Ballaarat Town?  In just over four weeks it  has attracted over 5000 “likes”.  It was surprising to see that some of my friends that prefer the offerings of popular culture had “liked” the page before me.  A similar page Stawell’s Views by Old Time Photos is pushing 1000 “likes” after a couple of months.  Keeping the content light, fresh and identifiable are some of the keys to taking history to the masses.

One of my biggest blogging thrills to date was hearing from Samantha.  After visiting Shelly Beach near Portland and reading my post The Sultan of Shelly Beach, Samantha’s primary school age daughter wrote about Shelly Beach, the Sultan and the camels for an “interesting facts about Australia” school project.  As a child I read a lot of Australian history and it was stories like those of Sultan Aziz and my many Trove Tuesday animal posts that attracted me.  I got hooked and if just one child gets hooked on history because of Western District Families, I’ll be delighted .

10. Which of your posts are you particularly proud of?

The posts that involve the most research such as Everybody Happy? about Rupert Hazell, Alice Hawthorne – The Western MareOn the ALG Trail and Ship Mates.

11. How do you keep up with your blog reading?

Finding time to read other blogs has been difficult of late, but the WordPress Reader is convenient to keep track of  WordPress blogs I follow.  I also have RSS feeds at the top of my browser for the blog posts I don’t like to miss including Geniaus and the Gould Genealogy & History News.  Those blogs often lead to me to other blogs of interest.

12. What platform do you use for publishing your blog/s?

13. What new features would you like to see in your blogging software?

It’s not really something I’ve considered.

14. Which of your posts has been the most popular with readers?

The Fastest Ship in the World

15, Are you a sole blogger or do you contribute to a shared blog?

Sole blogger

16. How do you compose your blog posts?

I plan a little more than I used to, so I start off the month by coming up with a working title for each post I plan to write during the month ahead.  That’s become easier with Trove Tuesday each week and a monthly Passing of the Pioneer post always scheduled for late in the month (very late this month).  Then I only have to come up with another three or four other post ideas.  Most times I have drafts carried over from earlier months.

My draft list has ideas that go back 18 months but when I’m short of ideas I can return to them.  As soon as an idea comes to me I start a draft with at least a title, just so I remember.  Sometimes an unexpected post may come up (such as this one) and I need to reschedule, but I look at on the bright side, I will still have something to write about in following months.

Some posts can take a few weeks, depending on the amount of research involved.  The posts I have listed under Question 10.  are an example of those.  I work on posts concurrently but each post maybe at different points of preparation.  I usually begin with the photos or newspaper clippings I have gathered and then put the words around them.  The Fashion and Christmas posts have been most time consuming in this respect due to the number of images.  Often I find myself composing posts in my head when I’m away from a computer (…very sad) such as cooking dinner, at work, trying to sleep… some ofs my better opening and closing paragraphs have come that way.

17. Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related? If you wish please share their titles and URLs.


18. Have you listed your blog/s at Geneabloggers?

Yes, one of the first things I did.

19. Which resources have helped you with your blogging?

To help with the Western District Families content, obviously Trove and the Victorian Heritage Database have been very important.  To improve the blog overall, I keep up with articles I find through Twitter and Facebook about both geneablogging and blogging in general.  One of the sources I use for links is the Blog Chicks Facebook page.

20. What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger?

Just go for it.  Don’t take it too seriously and most importantly, have fun.  I do!

If you would like to read what other geneabloggers have written, see Jill’s post – Feeling the Love – Responses to The Bloggers’ Geneameme.

Now back to those obituaries…



Inside History’s Top 50 Genealogy Blogs 2013

What a thrill it was to open the current issue of Inside History Magazine and see Western District Families listed in the Top Genealogy Blogs for 2013.

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Inside History is a beautifully produced magazine blending history and genealogy in a seamless way.  The covers are always special and the July-August edition (above) is no exception and rates among one of my favourites.   So to be included in a list of blogs compiled by the Inside History team and Jill Ball, my unsuspecting blogging mentor, is an honour.  And not just any list.  The company I keep in the personal blogger category  include some of the best Australian and International genealogy blogs.  Never did I think Western District Families would be shortlisted with Dear Myrtle!  You can find all the Top 50 blogs by following this link     Congratulations to all the bloggers in the Top 50.

Thank you to Jill and Inside History for including Western District Families.  After a difficult year it has been a lovely surprise as  I doubted I could repeat last year’s efforts of  being included in the 2012  Top 50 Genealogy Blogs .  Escapism from daily life by way of travelling back to the time of my pioneering Western District Families has proven worthy on many levels.

Thank you also to all the followers of Western District Families for your encouragement for me to keep sharing stories from the past.


I was casually searching at Trove last night, as you do, and a “coming soon” result came up for the Koroit Sentinel & Tower Hill Advocate (1914-1918).  Very surprising as the paper is not on the 2012-13 list of titles coming.  Could this be one of the new titles for 2013-14?  If only the Hamilton Spectator would come up in a search result.   I did another search and there it was, almost glowing on the screen     ***”The Hamilton Spectator” (1914-1918)***.   Happy dance time.

Maybe I could find some more.  I searched “Byaduk” and checked the list of newspapers in the sidebar.  I found the Coleraine Albion & Western Advertiser (1914-1918) and the Penshurst Free Press (1914-1918).  More dancing.

Recently I read in The Warrnambool Standard (a modern day edition) that the Hamilton History Centre had received a Local History grant to digitise the Hamilton Spectator (1860-1878).  That was exciting but I didn’t expect to be reading articles from the Hamilton Spectator on the Trove site in the coming months.

The time period 1914-1918 is of particular interest to me as both James and Susan Harman died in 1916 and I’ve been holding out for a decent obituary for James.  The Spec was my last hope.  I had a false alarm when the Port Fairy Gazette came online, so I have my fingers crossed.  As I will be researching the Harmans more extensively in the next 12 months for my Diploma thesis, this may save some time at the Hamilton History Centre looking through microfilm for his obituary.

Of course I’ve already done a search and had results for each of my family names and I’ve sent requests to my Electronic Friend to email me when the articles are available.  I’m off now to check the other three papers. Think of all the obituaries I can find for Passing of the Pioneers.

If you would like to have a preliminary search too, click on the newspapers above and you will go to the full list of articles already digitised.  You can search from there and if successful,  request a notification when the articles are available.  Happy searching.

What Was “Lost” is Now Found

The subject of my 2013 Anzac Day post was great-grandfather Les Combridge.  I wanted to include a photo of Les and I couldn’t get one of Grandmas’ photos in time, but I knew I had a large envelope with information Grandma’s sister Jean had sent me.  There were photos in the envelope but I couldn’t remember if there was one of Les.  Well, I searched everywhere for that envelope and I couldn’t find it.   That’s right, I’m not an organised genealogist and to qualify that, I recently joined a Facebook group The Organized Genealogist.  I doubt it will help me.

Over the past weekend I stumbled across the envelope.  It wasn’t lost.  I always knew it was somewhere.  I just had to find that somewhere.

The envelope has a treasure trove of information about the Combridge family and should have demanded my immediate attention when Auntie Jean first sent it to me.  But you know how easy it is to get sidetracked.  There were no photos of Les.  Instead there was one of his father Herbert John Combridge.

Herbert was born in Geelong in 1873, the youngest of 12 children of John Combridge and Martha Baker.  John and Martha had arrived in Geelong in 1855 from England.  Herbert married Jane Wyatt in 1895 at Kyneton. The minister was Herbert’s brother John Robert Combridge, Church of Christ minister at Kyneton at the time .  Herbert and Jane went back to the Geelong district and my great-grandfather Leslie Herbert Combridge was born in 1897 at Steglitz, west of Geelong.  By 1900, Herbert, Jane and Les had moved to Grantville in Gippsland where the remaining three children to the couple were born.

Herbert Combridge2


On the back of the next photo someone had written”Les and Claude”.  Claude was the younger brother of Les.  However Auntie Jean had written underneath “not Les and Claude”.


She seemed fairly emphatic about that and I do agree with her.  The photo is too early for Les and Claude and there was a 10 year age difference between the two.  Given the photos came from the same source, a cousin of Auntie Jean, and there was also information about the Geelong Combridge’s, Auntie Jean was probably given the photo for a reason.  I suspect this is another photo of Herbert Combridge.

The first step was to follow-up on the  photographer, “Wilmot of Malop Street, Geelong” to establish a time frame.  The Geelong District Local and Family History site includes a useful Geelong and District Photographers Database.  “Wilmot” was George Wilmot, in business in Geelong from 1865-1923.  He started off with William Keys in 1865-1886, then went out on his own in 1886, first in Fyans Street, then from 1891 to 1923 in Malop Street.

From Trove photographs, I knew that when in business with Keys, the business name at the bottom of the photo was “Wilmot and Keys”.  The logo on the border changed a lot over the years and I only found one other with a coat of arms, that being from around 1907.  The photo was likely taken after 1891 when George moved his business from Fyans Street to Malop street.  Herbert was 18 in 1891.

The boy on the right looks younger and I suspect they are brothers.  If  it is Herbert, he’d be on the right as he was the youngest child in the family.  Benjamin was the next eldest by two years.    Benjamin would have been 20 in 1891.  If Herbert, the photo would be from before his marriage in 1897 when Herbert was aged 24.  The time frame would then be 1891-1897.  What do you think?

I know that while I have learnt a lot about Ladies fashion writing seasonal posts that have proved useful when trying to date photos, I don’t know a lot about men’s clothing, so that’s penciled in for a future post.

Of course this may not be Herbert at all.

You may remember from the Anzac Day post that Herbert’s wife Jane died in 1909 as a result of childbirth.  In Auntie Jean’s envelope were two cemetery receipts, a sad reminder of that year.  The first receipt, from July 27, is for the interment of a stillborn baby.  The charge 17/6.  Then from December 14, a receipt for the burial of Jane.  The charge £1.


Now, you’ll be pleased to know,  all the gems in Auntie Jean’s envelope are scanned and the originals in a safe place.  I suppose that’s one step toward being more organised.