Farewell to 1 person but 3 sisters

1979-sep-jan-brisbaneJan Niall passed away in Darwin on Thursday 9th February, 2017 after a long battle with multiple medical conditions.  This is one of my favourite photos of Jan – taken in September 1979 in Brisbane.

I have so many favourite photos of Jan it’s hard to limit them, but I have restrained myself to just four which cover different periods of Jan’s life.

So where do the ‘3 sisters’ fit in this tribute?

  1. Sister Jan Niall IBVM [Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary] – Jan was a ‘Loreto’ nun.  I’m a Loreto Old Scholar and regularly suffered the difficult situation of getting home from school only to find Mum had already heard about anything and everything I did wrong during the day.  Sometimes it included what I did right as well!  It didn’t matter that Jan was interstate – news travelled fast in the world of Loreto.
  2. Sister to my late Mum.  There were almost 20 years between Mum and her baby sister with no-one in between.  Grandma struggled to cope with a young child at her age so Jan was quickly bundled off to boarding school in Denman, New South Wales.  All her school holidays were spent with our family.
  3. Sister to me and my brother – just 5½ years between Jan and my brother, and 7½ years between Jan and me.  She was so much closer to us in age it was understandable that she was our ‘big’ sister and when Jan went to Teacher’s College she had two ready-made guinea pigs on whom to practice!

I don’t have the words to do justice in summing up Jan’s life.  What I can say is that she touched so many people in so many roles in such positive ways throughout her 72 years.  It was wonderful to sit in the Cathedral in Darwin with others who had travelled from across Australia to pay tribute to ‘Sister’ Jan.  There were so many who looked on Jan as part of their extended family and they reminisced with the rest of us – such great memories!

And in this modern era, the tributes on the Facebook pages of Salvatores Cafe in Darwin, and Wendy Beresford-Maning demonstrate the far-reaching impact Jan had on those who met her.

Those other ‘favourite’ photos?

1948 – not quite four but definitely full of beans – I think I like this one so much because she was so mobile in this photo.  It’s hard to believe that she spent more than 50 years of her life with limited mobility.


February 1990 – Brisbane – Jan’s Silver Jubilee.  The person standing between Jan and me was a dearly loved part of our extended family – Fr Bernard Shah OCarm.  Although Bernard was born in New Zealand, we accepted him as a true blue Aussie and definitely a special part of our family.  Like Jan, Bernard also died in a nursing home.  That was in March 2010 and we all missed him so much.


And this photo is so special – it is the banner on the blog site of another special member of our extended family – Wendy Beresford-Maning.  I created this montage for Wendy and to do it justice you really need to read all about it on Wendy’s blog.  BUT I do want to point out the important ‘family’ members in this image:

  • Back left – Jan aged three as the flower girl at my Mum & Dad’s wedding.
  • Front left – Bernard [represented by a stuffed doll] sitting on the ‘waiting seat’ – I think the space on the seat was left for Jan!
  • Back centre left and right and front right in a Santa suit – Button – a much-loved member of the Darwin family.  Sadly Button lost her battle with pneumonia on 14 December 2016.  And don’t miss reading ‘Button – Hero Dog’ on Wendy’s blog!
  • Front centre – Wendy is represented by her Akubra sitting on her colourful gum boots
  • Front centre right – I am represented by my computer complete with a photo of Ocean Grove on the screen.


Jan was special and I’m lucky to have had her as my ‘sister’.

MY Turn – MY Goosebumps!

Franz Wilhelm SCHUBERTI tend to spend a lot of my time researching for others – strangers, friends and family.  Back in February this year I wrote a blog titled Why I like My Heritage Family Tree.  I can’t call this one by the same name but it could be except this is even more exceptional.  And it’s still the same branch of my paternal family – my German line(s).

Recently I received a message from My Heritage about some new matches to people on my tree.  I knew the surname but not the given names so I flagged the email for further follow-up.

I’m not one to accept what other people find but am more than happy to take a clue from those findings and follow up further.

For my German line I have had a lot of success with church records for my SCHUBART line.  That’s my ggg-grandfather (3 x great) in the photo above – Franz Wilhelm SCHUBART.  He was born on 14 June 1825 in Epfenbach, Baden, Germany.  Using Family Search films as well as the online Baden-Württemberg Archives for Epfenbach records (amongst others) which are amazing.

I had managed to get back to my 5 x great grandparents which is where I first picked up the surname SEEL.  My 5 x great grandmother was Eva Margretha SEEL.  That was as much as I had except for an estimated year of birth for both Peter EHRHARD and Eva Margretha SEEL based on the birth of my 4 x great grandmother.

Following on from the message from My Heritage I now have back to my 7 x great grandparents including the Baptism date for Johann Adam SEEL, my 7 x great grandfather – his baptism was in the Evangelical church in Epfenbach, Baden, Germany – the birthplace of Franz Wilhelm SCHUBART above.  In fact all generations in between were born, baptised or married in Epfenbach.

Oh – the excitement – as I said, MY Turn!

And the goosebumps?  They are there a-plenty!  I might have to revise my comments on how I was named – Susanne Marie – I found a bundle of these in my maternal line and did a blog on these tracing “my” name back to c.1728.  Another entry – married 1759 so potentially born 1720s-1730s – Susanna Margretha Barbara KROEGER – my 6 x great grandmother.

And if that wasn’t enough … Eva Margretha SEEL, my 5 x great grandmother, was born 8th June 1763 and baptised in Epfenbach on 10 June 1763.  Would you believe my birthday is 10 June 1763.  Absolutely heaps of goosebumps.

Sadly I have to take a break to eat lunch otherwise I may not eat for a couple of days – LOTS of leads to follow.

And the moral of this story?  Follow up those leads and in particular make more use of Family Search – it’s free and as I’ve just discovered they have indexed a heap more German films than they had indexed a year ago.  I wonder what stage they’re at with indexing films for my Italian, Swiss and French branches?  Oh the mind boggles.

Yep – MY turn AND MY goosebumps – I just love it!

Do you remember Pluto?

PlutoSometimes you start to think laterally about your family history Brick Wall – this is one of those times.

From about October 1954 until late 1956 I lived in Grafton with my family: John Joseph and Betty FUSSEN and my older brother Graham – better known as Fussy.

The problem – I don’t know where we lived!  Sadly Mum and Dad are no longer alive so I can’t ask them and I can’t find anyone who remembers.  My brother was born in 1950 and I was born in 1952 so both a little young to remember.

My Dad was transferred from Taree to Grafton to assist with the completion of the Peter’s Ice Cream factory – it was opened in October 1954.  In 1956 he was transferred to Adelaide to do the same thing there.  Grafton to Adelaide was a much bigger move than Taree to Grafton!

The photo above shows my Aunt [Mum’s baby sister by 20 years], Grandpa [Mum’s father] and our dog PLUTO – I think at our house in Taree.  I’m hoping that Pluto might be the answer to my Brick Wall.

I’ve checked telephone and other directories – haven’t located the 1956 telephone directory yet.  I’ve tried Nestle and Edgell Birdseye – who purchased Peter’s Ice Cream – and they haven’t located personnel records from that period.  I’ve checked with the Clarence Historical Society with no luck.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get to Grafton in the next decade or two so I won’t be able to check the rate books for any reference to Dad but I HAVE located the old Peter’s Ice Cream factory.

PlutoChinaWhen we had to move to Adelaide, Mum and Dad in their wisdom decided that Pluto would have to stay with friends in Grafton until we got settled in Adelaide.  To compensate, Mum bought this version of Pluto which lived in Mum’s china cabinet until her death when it moved to my china cabinet.  They had to do something because we spent several weeks in Newcastle before getting to Adelaide.  Because the Housing Trust house we were supposed to live in hadn’t been finished – or maybe even built – we spent the first few / several months in a hotel.  For anyone who knows Adelaide you’ll scratch your head in wonderment too – the Peter’s Ice Cream factory was at Windsor Gardens and we were in the Brighton Hotel – as far apart diagonally on the opposite sides of Adelaide!  Needless to say I was distraught and apparently cried myself to sleep for months – pining for Pluto.  The family story was that when we lived in Grafton and I was upset or in trouble I would always be found with Pluto in his dog house in the back yard!  I loved Pluto.

BUT, SOMEONE ELSE WOULD HAVE LOVED PLUTO – the friends or neighbours who looked after Pluto in Grafton and where I presume he lived until he died.

Now for something that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  I was searching one of Mum’s old photo albums where I remembered seeing a photo of Pluto – the one at the top of this blog.

In the process I found some photos of me and Fussy “in Grafton” and I presume in the back and/or front yard of our house.  I know Mum took these photos – they’re blurry!  In later years Mum was a neck-to-knee photographer – chopped off the heads and legs of everyone.  Still by then she had a really good excuse because she was legally blind.

I scanned the photos of Pluto and the ones of me and my brother so I could zoom in and inspect the house – I’m pretty sure the back verandah was higher off the group BUT I started looking at the background – and there’s a BIG building there.  Then I dug out the photos I had found of Peter’s Ice Cream in Grafton and …

Do you think they’re the same building and that we lived next door or across the road from the factory?

1955cGrahamandSueatGraftonGraftonThere’s a slightly different building in another photo which could be one of the other buildings in the factory complex but they’re even blurrier than this one!

I’ve got an aerial photo somewhere – now I have to find it and see what is around the factory!  The crazy thing is I remember the old iron gates on the factory as I remember Mum used to drive Dad to work and Fussy and I used to fight over jumping out of the car and opening and closing that gate!  Was it a way of entertaining the kids – driving Dad all the way to work which was just “next door”?  Parents have been known to do stranger things than this!

I don’t remember the railway line between “home” and the factory.  The building above is the centre of the large one at 373 Fry Street visible on Google Maps.  I’m so close I can touch and feel it but …

What do you think?  Anyone know Grafton and the area of the factory?

More importantly, does anyone remember Pluto?

A true Irishman on St Patrick’s Day

Wicklow HotelJohn MURRAY was my gg-grandfather – a Probationary Convict born about 1826, Bumlin, Roscommon, Ireland.

He had an interesting life but this morning, thanks to TROVE, I spotted a special reference to him – just over two years before his death.  At the time he was the publican of the Harp of Erin Hotel in Armidale – previously called the Royal Hotel [when it was run by his father-in-law] and later called the Wicklow Hotel.

And a timely find it was – Freeman’s Journal, Saturday 10 April 1876, p.7 :

St Patrick’s Day.— I should have drawn attention, too, in my last, to the fact that this day was almost totally unobserved in Armidale.  Why I cannot tell. One would think that in a district containing so many Irishmen and their descendants— Irishmen, too, worthy of the name – that the great national feast-day should not pass unnoticed, I might suggest that the annual picnic to the children of the Roman Catholic school might be given on this day, or perhaps the rare old custom which formerly prevailed here of having a banquet might be revived. As it was, were it not for Mr. John Murray of the Harp of Erin Hotel, who hoisted the National Flag, the day might have passed without the least notice.

Yep – I’m proud of my gg-grandfather!


Why I like My Heritage Family Tree

Franz Wilhelm SCHUBERTLike many family historians I use more than one genealogy program and web site – of course I have my “main” program but dabble with others depending on the need.  I have two different family trees on my own web site:

  • From Legacy Family Tree – what I call my vanilla version – works fine in MS Internet Explorer, Firefox & Chrome.
  • From RootsMagic – works fine in Firefox & Chrome but not in my version MS Internet Explorer.

Then I have a limited number of entries from my main program – Legacy Family Tree – in Heritage Family Tree Builder on my desktop but also on My Heritage web site.  I had been to a MyHeritage presentation some years ago and was quite impressed – especially at the number of Aussies on the web site!  I decided to update records in one branch of my family, concentrate on getting them accurate and properly sourced, and upload to MyHeritage web site.

I confess to not checking the Smart Matches for a while – concentrating on my Library Diploma last year – but I got back to it late last week.  In the past I have contacted other tree owners showing my family but nothing to write home about – either they had just copied heaps of people who were extremely distantly related, or they didn’t reply.

Last week I focused on one tree that seemed to have definitive information on my German SCHUBART branch [the photo above is of my ggg-grandfather Franz Wilhelm SCHUBART].  I had successfully found a couple of generations in Germany complete with copies of original church records and documents so I was a little excited to find more than what I had found in the past.

I contacted the owner of the tree and I am VERY excited:

  • First – they replied very quickly
  • Second – the wife of the tree’s owner is a DIRECT descendant of my German SCHUBART’s!

Not only have I had one reply – we’re now up to a couple and I’m confident of more to come.

Franz Wilhelm SCHUBART, known as Wilhelm, is one of my “ancestors’ arrivals” having arrived in New South Wales from Hamburg in 1852.

I’ve only been researching since 1965 but concentrating on my German branch in the last few years.  I’ve made some great progress and with my newfound cousins – however distant – it looks like there will be more.


When it’s cold and wet …

Harry Thomas NIALLThere is only one thing to do when it is really cold and wet – stay inside and work on your family history!

Rather than researching Ancestors I wanted to do some work on my more immediate family.  And that’s exactly what I’ve done:

In a way they’re all connected.  Why do the tears flow in between the smiles when I’m doing things like this?

Can you help – replacement software for book?

Family Register ExampleMANY years ago – in fact back in 2005 – I produced a book from my Legacy Family Tree database.  I extracted from Legacy and imported it into RY3 [Relatively Yours 3].  The image at the right shows an example page [one entry removed as the person is still alive].

It wasn’t something I put on the web but could produce copies for my family.  I know everyone has a “favourite” layout that no longer exists but I’m hoping someone can help with suggestions for an alternative.

The important ideal features:

  • Run on Windows 7, 64-bit or higher [version I have is XP and no longer supported]
  • Includes ALL people in database or tagged group regardless of any relationships.  It was ideal for a “one-place” study too.
  • Does not rely on Ancestor or Descendant selections – ALL as per above
  • Includes photos – currently in Legacy database
  • Two column layout as per example – can be something that can be imported into MS Word for this sort of formatting.
  • Does not duplicate or triplicate people with multiple names, whether AKA or married / maiden names.  RY3 used the main name and all others had a note “see given name SURNAME”
  • Sorts all in Surname and given name order – options should be flexible

I’d really appreciate suggestions – you can use my Contact page if you like.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Help with Italian translation: 1877 birth register

I have located my g-grandfather’s birth registration in Italy – Salvatore Pasquale Philippe GIARDINA was born in 1877 in Cefalu, Palermo, Sicily, Italy, the son of Rosario and Concettina GIARDINA.

I have transcribed parts of this document but when you combine handwriting [scribble?] with a foreign language it becomes a tad more difficult.

I’d really appreciate input from anyone who can help.  If you click on the thumbnail image you can view an enlargement.

My transcription / translation so far using Following the paper trail: a multilingual translation guide, Google translate and an Italian dictionary …

Birth certificates
Number 392
Giardina Salvatore Pasquale Philippo

In the year eighteen seventy seven on the  … day of December at nine a.m. at the Town Hall.

Before me Guiseppe … … …  … … the registrar of vital statistics of the town of Cefalu.

Appeared before me Rosario Giardina aged 30, mariner residing in Cefalu, who declared to me that at the hour of 10 a.m. on the fifth day of the current month, in the house situated on the via …, to Concetta Giardina … … … … … … was born a baby of the male sex, she presented to me and to which she gave the name of Salvatore Pasquale Phillipo.

To the above and to this document the following were present as witnesses: Salvatore ….., aged thirty, farmer, and … … aged forty, … [occupation] both living in this town.  … … … … … … … … … … [to end].

As I said, any assistance with filling in the gaps would be much appreciated, as would any “local” knowledge of Cefaul.  I was interested to note on a map a “street” along the waterfront called “Lungomare Guiseppe Giardina” [Promenade Joseph Giardina]  Occupations listed in various documents for Salvatore and Rosario GIARDINA include mariner, fisherman, seaman – is there a family connection?

The more you find … the more questions you have!

New web / blog: my ancestors’ arrivals in Australia

I’ve been planning to create a new web / blog site for yonks but only managed to get around to it while I had a short break at Christmas.

Normally I spend my time doing work on the Geelong & District web site or the Geelong & District database or the Geelong & District blog or just doing research for others.  Just for a change I have done something for myself although it also had a dual purpose … at our next quarterly Geelong & District Historical Association meeting in February the main item on our agenda is creating web sites for local & family history societies.

WordPress is an ideal tool for these societies … although predominantly used for blog sites I wanted to show how it could be used as a full web site but also with the option to handle blogs.  And more importantly it is easy to set up and maintain at no or minimal cost depending on the options you select.

For ME the focus was my ancestors who were born overseas and settled in Australia.  The hardest thing was deciding on my blog address – I settled on ancestorarrivals.com and was pleased to find it available.  The purpose was to help me focus on gaps or brick walls in my research – and in setting out the list of these ancestors with the basic facts I’ve certainly identified plenty of holes that need plugging!  My blogs will be about those holes!