May 23, 2016

Everyone Makes Mistakes: Why You Should Review Your Research Notes

A few days ago I decided to have another look at some census records I obtained many years ago for my Peer ancestors in Pennsylvania. When the 1830 census first became available online I had quickly found, and copied, the information for the family. I wanted to verify what I’d copied.

I headed for to search their census records. Using their wildcard feature which picks up variant spellings, I searched for Edward P*er in Pennsylvania in 1830.
An index transcription popped up. I was quite puzzled because the indexed notes did not match what I had copied a few years ago. Was it possible I had made a mistake in my entry?

Please see the rest of my article on Legacy Family Tree Everyone Makes Mistakes: Why You Should Review Your Research Notes

May 22, 2016

Nursing Sister Philips WW1 Photo Album L13

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5" by 5.25") kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One. 

The majority of the photos and items are from 1915, when she served as a nurse in France and Britain.

The album and all photographs, postcards, and other ephemera contained in the album belong to Karin Armstrong and may not be copied or republished without her written permission. The images will be published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission.

Each image has been designated an "R" for Recto or a "V" for Verso plus an album page number. Recto is the right-hand side page of a bound book while Verso is the left-hand side page.

I will be posting the entire album and my additional research on the individuals identified in Connie's album over the coming months so please check back frequently to view these historic photos. The easiest way to see what has been published is to click on the topic "Nursing Sister WW1 Photos"

May 21, 2016

Excavations to be carried out after 50 human skeletons found on Welsh beach

This story Rachael Misstear was recently posted on Wales Online 
"Almost 50 skeletons dating to the 7th and 11th centuries have already been uncovered by archaeologists at dunes in Whitesands Bay, St Davids"
The archaelogical dig at an early medieval chapel should reveal details about life in Wales a thousand years ago.

"Many [skeletons] were in ‘cist’ graves – long graves lined with stone slabs. Child graves were also found decorated with layers of quartz pebbles and limpet shells."
This is another fascinating story. It's incredible what ancient skeletons can reveal to us. 

May 20, 2016

Abandoned in Australia Part 4: the children left behind

Determined to focus on what happened to poor Sarah's sons - Ebenezer the child born at sea en route to Australia in 1867, William, Charles and Edward, I set aside the other wonderful clues in Sarah's Death Registration.

More help poured in from Australians who had read my query. The first item to arrive was the death registration index for little Ebenezer. Sending off for the certificate revealed that on 8 Oct 1867, Ebenezer Sydney STEAD, male 5 months old, born at sea, the son of William Stead and Sarah Elvery, died of consumption and was buried the next day at Haslam's Creek cemetery.

Poor William Stead and his family! In the space of 5 months he lost his wife, 31 year old Sarah Elvery, and his newborn son Ebenezer. There he was, living at his brother Edward's home in Sunny Corners (near Sydney), a widower with 4 children under the age of 7. What choices he was faced with! Stay in Australia? Return to England? He must have agonized over how he would care for all his children.

Research into Sunny Corners, where his brother Edward was living with his wife and young family, showed it to be very isolated. Presumably William knew no one other than his brother Edward. He would need a job, but who would care for his children while he worked and where would he find one? I knew he returned to England, as he remarried there one year later (November 1868). But which children besides my great grandmother Sarah did he take back with him? And who did he leave behind?

After a rather lengthy exchange of responses to my original query, and me sending off to Australia for certificates, and searching the 1881 English census (which was not online at that time) I had my answers.

Edward Stead, living in Sunny Corners, had a pregnant wife and 3 young children when his newly widowed brother William arrived with his 4 young children and a newborn infant. Edward's one year old daughter Alice had recently died and while William was living with the family, Edward's one year old son Edward Jr. also died.

When William's infant son Ebenezer died 5 months later, William makes his choices. It must have seemed very fitting for William to leave HIS one year old son Edward with his brother Edward. Edward's one year old son Edward Jr is dead, now he is being given his one year old nephew, also named Edward. But William only brings two of his four children back to England with him. He also leaves his 8 year old son William Jr with his brother Edward. Thus Edward and his wife (whose name is also Sarah, the same as William's wife) are left with two of Edward's nephews - William (called Will) age 8, and little Edward, one year old.

And so my great great grandfather William Stead returned to Kent England with my great grandmother Sarah age 5 and her older brother Charles age 7. I do not know if the families had contact over the years. Did William ever see his children left in Australia again? What is known is that little Edward left behind, married and had a family but died as a young man. The older brother Will appears to have also died as a young man, and never married.

Years later I found the descendants of little Edward, who thought that their ancestor Edward was the natural son of Edward and his wife Sarah. But they were puzzled by a photograph (a CDV taken in the mid 1860's) of a young woman which had been passed on down in the family from little Edward. On the back was written "your mother Sarah Stead nee Elvery". They knew that Edward, the undertaker living in Sunny Corners, was married to Sarah Bailey, so who was this Sarah Elvery?

For those who have been reading all Parts of Abandoned in Australia, you will recall that my grandmother also had a CDV taken mid 1860s given to my great-grandmother by her father William Stead (husband of Sarah Elvery) with the words on the back "your mother Sarah". Yes it was the identical photograph. William Stead must have given each of his children that photo of their dead mother. And so almost 130 years later two families' mysteries were solved.

The descendants of little Edward, left behind in Australia, learned that his parents were William Stephen Stead and Sarah Elvery. Edward had been left at the age of one with his uncle Edward Crunden Stead, undertaker living in Sunny Corners Australia, and his wife Sarah Bailey, and raised as their own.

And I finally found out what happened to poor Sarah Stead nee Elvery - my great great grandmother. She died at the age of 31 a few weeks after giving birth to a son on board the ship Light Brigade, just before it docked at Sydney Harbour Australia in May 1867.

I also discovered that family lore in this case turned out to be fairly accurate - great great grandpa William Stead left 2 children, Will and Edward, behind in Austrlia, to be raised by his brother Edward Crunden Stead. He returned to England with my great grandmother Sarah Stead, and her older brother Charles. Charles went on to marry and raise a family and I am now in touch with his descendants as well.

An added note to the tragic story of William Stead and his wife Sarah Elvery - after I was able to obtain census records for the family in England, I discovered that William was deaf. Years later another descendant sent copies of the family bible which stated that William, my great great grandfather, fell ill with measles at a young age and was left completely deaf. And so now his story takes on even more of a tragic overtone (if that is possible!)

A young newly widowed William in Australia in 1867 with 5 young children under the age of 7, facing difficult choices when his baby dies a few months later - and being completely deaf - what other choices did he have? Finding work would have been extremely difficult I suspect. I used to wonder how he could leave his sons behind. But now I think I have a partial understanding of his actions and believe that it must have been one of the most difficult choices he was ever faced with. I only hope he was able to see his two sons again but I've found no record of William returning to Australia or his sons sailing to England.

See all 4 parts in the series Abandoned in Australia

May 19, 2016

Abandoned in Australia Part 3: Love those Aussie Death Certificates!

My next big clue in my hunt for my great-great grandmother Sarah Stead and her abandoned sons, was a response from another helpful Australian who sent me the index entry for my Sarah's death registration in New South Wales

Instructions followed explaining how I could order a copy of Sarah's death certificate. It was an exciting day for me when it finally arrived! I had not realized that Australian death certificates provide details on all children of the deceased!

Also registered was the death of Ebenezer T. Stead, died 1867, parents William and Sarah. According to the actual death certificate, Sarah died of Typhus on 8 June 1867, aged 31. Typhus is a disease transmitted by body lice, but ship Typhus takes a different form, and is transmitted by rat fleas, which bite humans and pass the disease on to them. It has a high mortality rate and is usually found in impoverished, overcrowded conditions.

It was looking like Sarah had a son (Ebenezer), but died shortly after, and that her son Ebenezer died also. What a tragedy! 31 year old Sarah, pregnant with her 5th child, embarking on a new life in a new country with her husband and 4 children under the age of 7, bitten by rat fleas and dead 2 weeks after arriving in Sydney.

Sarah's Death Certificate gave this information:

8 June 1867. Sarah Stead, female 31 years old. Died of Typhus of 1 week duration. Father unknown Elvy [should be Elvery], labourer. Mother unknown. Informant: Edward Crunden Stead, brother-in-law, Ensmore. Registered 8 June 1867 St. George. Buried 9 June 1867 Haslam Creek Cemetery by Edward C. Stead, acting undertaker. Baptist minister officating. Born Kent England, in Australia 14 days. Married in Ramsgate at age 19 years to William Stead. Children listed: Edward (dead); William 7 and 1/2 years old; Charles 6; Sarah J. 4; Edward S. 2 and 1/2 years; Sydney 3 weeks.

Her brother-in-law Edward Crunden Stead was the official undertaker where Sarah was buried at Haslem's Creek Cemetery, now Rookwood Cemetery.

I now had so much new information that I hardly knew what path to follow next in my genealogy research! I had all Sarah's children - their names and approximate years of birth. I had a clue to finding Sarah's marriage to William Stead. I had much more than I set out asking for! My original intent was simply to find out what happened to poor Sarah and her two abandoned sons.

Forcing myself to not become distracted, I tried to focus on Sarah and her sons William, Charles and Edward. Who went back to England with my great-grandmother Sarah and her father, and who was left behind in Australia? That was my burning question now.

The answers to my questions did not take long.  See all 4 parts in the series Abandoned in Australia

May 18, 2016

Abandoned in Australia Part 2: Those Helpful Australians!

After several disappointing tries at writing a query asking for help with my Stead family mystery which I sent to an Australian newsgroup (all of which had zero responses) I re-sent my query with what I hoped was an attention-grabbing title ABANDONED IN AUSTRALIA!

Over a dozen Australians wrote in response, offering to help.

This is part of the query I sent to the list on 13 July 1995:

Hello! This is my first time on this conference, and I have high hopes that someone out there can help me with my mystery. It concerns two children left behind in Australia by my g-g-grandpa William STEAD in 1867. Since most of this is family lore, I have very little sourced information. Here is the story as it has passed down through the years:

William Stephen STEAD b. 6 July 1834 England, md. Sarah ELVERY. They had 4 children: three boys supposedly named William, Edward, and Charles and a daughter Sarah Jane. In 1867 the family sailed to Australia and 4 days after arriving, Sarah ELVERY died. Some time later (days? months? a year?) William Sr. sailed back to England with Charles and Sarah Jane, leaving William and Edward behind. I know that William Sr. was back in England by 24 Nov. 1868 because on that date he remarried to Mary Lydia GORE.

A letter written by my grandmother's sister in 1970 states that there were two cousins in Australia and that Will, the son of William Sr., died. It is very little to go on, but I would really like to find any evidence of these two boys.... William STEAD and Edward STEAD, left in Australia after their mother died. Who were they left with? What happened to them?

I realize Australia is a B I G country, but I'm hoping someone recognizes the STEAD surname, or can advise me where I might begin a search. Sarah Jane STEAD, the daughter brought back to England, was my g-grandmother, and she married David George SIMPSON in England.

Within a few weeks I had the following information, including photocopies of all documents and a map of the general area in Australia where events occurred.

From the Public Record Office (Melbourne): The N S W index to vessels Arriving.
Vessel "Light Brigade"
Owner "Black Ball Line"Year of voyage 1867
Reference 2140-2485

The passenger list of "Light Brigade" showing arrivals on 21 May 1867 included my family:

* William, age 32, gardener, from Ramsgate Kent. Church of England, able to read and write
* Sarah age 30, wife, from Sandwich Kent. Church of England, able to read and write
* William S. age 7, child from Ramsgate
* Charles age 5 child from Ramsgate
* Sarah age 3 child from Ramsgate <== My Great-Grandma who married Simpson
* Edward age 1 child from Ramsgate
* male "infant" born at sea

The list of "Particulars" showed two deaths on the voyage and three births. Date of departure from Plymouth was 13 Feb. 1867; date of arrival in Syndey was 21 May 1867 where they were quarantined. The total number of days on voyage was 97. Price per adult was 12 pounds 17 shillings

I was pretty excited - there were the 3 boys as named in the letter (Will, Edward and Charles) and my great grandma Sarah Jane. The male infant born at sea must refer to the "dying in childbirth" that Grandma's sister Lily said happened to poor Sarah the mother.

But what should I do next? I didn't have long to think about that, or to wait, as more responses and information poured in from those who read my query.

See all 4 parts in the series Abandoned in Australia

May 17, 2016

Abandoned in Australia

I am revisiting this blog post I wrote in 2009. It's a great story and I think it bears repeating. It's in 4 parts. This is part 1 (with photos added)

Abandoned in Australia Part 1: The mystery

Many years ago I decided to try to find evidence of a rather poignant and mysterious family story, one told to me by my Grandmother. The story was about my Grandmother's mother's family.

Family lore told the tale of how my great-great grandfather William Stephen Stead's wife, Sarah, (no surname known) died in childbirth on her way from England to Australia, and how William then turned around and came back to England with 2 of his 4 children, leaving two behind in Australia. The time period was given as around 1868.

Over time the family in England lost touch with the family in Australia. Grandma always said that it was two little boys left behind, and that one died while the other lived, married and raised a family in Australia.

I wanted to know more. But how would I research this?
Sarah Elvery Stead 1836-1867

My Grandmother had a CDV (Carte de Visite) taken circa mid 1860s of a young woman. Grandma said her mother had given it to her and told her it was the only picture she had of her mother who died in Australia. On the back was written "Your mother Sarah Stead"

The only other item that Grandma had was a letter written by her sister Lily which gave some details. This letter from Lillian Simpson, granddaughter of William Stephen Stead, written in 1964, stated

"Since then they found out that Grandfather had married twice - would I let them know of any children of that marriage. I told them there were two sons and one daughter, all deceased, and I never knew the second wife. Grandma [Sarah Elvery] died four days after they arrived in Australia. When my mother [Sarah Jane Stead] was only four years old, Grandfather came back to England, leaving Uncles William and Edward out there, and brought back mother and Uncle Charles with him."

Grandma had one other item of interest - a letter from her niece, the step-daughter of her sister Lillian. Pansy, the step-daughter said in her letter:

"Great-grandma's name, was, I think, Stead. I don't know if you know that in 1867 Great-Grandfather Stead [William Stephen] sailed to Australia. His wife died soon after. He left two sons out there - Edward was one. I don't know the other one's name. He brought Grandma Simpson [Sarah Jane Stead] and Uncle Charlie Stead back. Daisy and Ethel were from the two sons left in Australia so I know they were cousins, and they visited mum in Enfield."

And so I began my hunt for poor Sarah. Remember this was many years ago - back in 1995 before Internet Genealogy was in full swing, long before ships passenger lists or vital records or other genealogy databases were online.

So I began my search with a posting to an Australian newsgroup, titled "Stead in Australia". No responses. I tried again, this time calling my post "Looking for Stead" Still zero replies.

It was then I decided that I needed to grab readers' attention with my post title. I re-sent the original post but this time I called it "Abandoned in Australia". This brought a tremendous response. Over a dozen helpful Australians writing to say they would go on a hunt for my missing great-great-grandmother Sarah Stead and her children.

  See all 4 parts in the series Abandoned in Australia

May 16, 2016

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update

Announcement from Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

As of today, 2786,285 of 640,000 files are available online via our Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project. Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686.

Latest box digitized: Box 4810 and Jellyman.