MyHeritage Family History Month freebie

Wearing my new hat (shoes?) as the Shoestring Genealogist, I’m very pleased to hear from MyHeritage that they have a special free treat for us this National Family History Month.

Australian Community Manager Emma Datny says: “In honour of National Family History Month this August, MyHeritage is giving free access to millions of Australian historical records between August 15-22. These include birth, marriage and death certificates, electoral rolls, school records, and many more.”

MyHeritage National Family History Month logo

MyHeritage celebrates #NFHM2014

Now that’s very exciting news because it will help me with my own #NFHM2014 project, which I mentioned in my last post: ‘have another look at that brick wall – construct a time line of known facts and relook at everything.’ (And thanks again to Shauna Hicks for the idea.)

I’ve decided to have another go at Rebecca Harrington, my 2x great-grandmother who emigrated from the East End of London to Sydney, New South Wales, where she met my convict James Thomas Richards.

I can’t find out when she left, and I haven’t been able to prove that her father Thomas went with her, or indeed her mother Julia (who is herself a huge great Irish brick wall).

MyHeritage is also hosting a free webinar on ‘Golden Genealogy Rules: Tips to uncover your family heritage’ with Shauna on Monday, 18 August, which I’ve signed up for. It’s on air from 9pm AEST. That’s midday here in the UK, so since I’m on holiday that week I’ll be able to watch live.

(Tip: there are lots of time zone converters on the net. I find the one at quick and easy to use.)

So that’s GeniAus’s Hangout on Air (catch up here), Shauna’s webinar, a timeline project and a week looking at Aussie records on MyHeritage. I’ll be busy this National Family History Month! Thanks to all for the great genealogy inspiration.


© A Rebel Hand 2014
Posted in Australia, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

National Family History Month

It’s August, so it’s in Australia and New Zealand. I’m looking forward to lots of great genealogy blog posts and social media snippets. (Tip: if you’re a Twitter genie like me, look for the hashtags #NFHM2014 or #NZHM14.)

AFHM 2014 events list

Yum, Aussie genealogy events!

Being on the wrong side of the puddle, I can’t take part in person, which is a shame. Have a look at the events on the NFHM home page (at the top left). There’s so much to choose from.

But wait a minute… what’s this? Online Events? Now that’s for me! Webinars, and a Hangout on Air with GeniAus, aka Jill Ball, on Monday , 4 August (will I be at work? Never mind, I’ll catch up later).

And there’s Shauna Hicks’s great idea, 31 Genealogy Activities for Researchers during National Family History Month. You can choose as many – or few – activities as you want, in whatever order you like. I’m tempted by no 19, ‘have another look at that brick wall – construct a time line of known facts and relook at everything.’ A fresh look is probably just what’s needed.

Shauna’s got suggestions for genealogy and family history societies, as well.

In fact, there’s no reason why those of us who are passionate about Australian genealogy but find ourselves on the wrong continent need to miss too much (except the events) if we use a bit of imagination.

So it’s a big hats off to the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations, who got the whole idea up and running in 2006, when it was just a week long.

And, as ever, thank you to Shauna Hicks, the co-ordinator of NFHM.

Are you going to join in #NFHM2014?


Posted in Australia, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Shoestring Genealogist: A month of newspapers for £1

I’ve been enjoying using my £1 Find My Past subscription (did you see the offer in an earlier Shoestring Genealogist post?) to search the British Newspaper Archive online. I’ve already found some great articles, and I’ll be writing more about what I’ve dug up later on.

But if you missed the FMP offer and you still have a spare £1 knocking around, you can get a month’s subscription to the British Newspaper Archive for exactly one quid.

The offer’s open until 23.59 GMT on Sunday 20 July.

You’ll have to log in, or register if it’s your first time at the site, but that’s free and obliges you to nothing.

Then go to this link and use the offer code SUMMERSALE. Click the ‘apply code’ button and choose the one month subscription, which you’ll notice changes to £1.

But wait! If you don’t want your sub renewed after a month at the usual price of £9.95,  go to ‘My account’ in the menu bar at the top, click on ‘Personal details’ (or choose ‘Edit details’ from the drop-down menu) and scroll down to make sure ‘Auto-renew my subscription’ is not ticked.

Happy reading!

Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Shoestring Genealogist: Ancestry’s Aussie freebie

Are you researching Australian genealogy? Here’s a fabby freebie for you – Ancestry is offering free access to Aussie records this weekend until 11.59pm AEST on Sunday,  13 July 2014. That’s GMT (UTC) plus 10 hours. Here’s a handy site to check time zones around the world.

To search the records, look here. And here’s a screenshot of the goodies on offer:

List of free Australian records on Ancestry this weekend

Ancestry’s free Australian records – this weekend only

Thank you,! And thank you, Judy Webster and Alona Tester, for sharing the news on Google+.

Happy ancestor hunting!

Posted in Australia, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shoestring Genealogist: two offers for UK research

Researching genealogy on a tight budget? Family bills leaving little cash for family history? I know the feeling. Which is why I’m starting the Shoestring Genealogist, an occasional series of posts to help those of us looking for ancestors – on a shoestring.

Empty purse © Frances Owen & A Rebel Hand 2014

Oh no! No money left for genealogy!

These posts might refer to short-term offers, like today’s, so act quickly!

I’ll continue to tweet freebie/special offer genealogy news flashes as well – come and say ‘hi’ at @ARebelHand. And if you don’t use Twitter for genealogy, I’ve written a short post about it at Worldwide Genealogy this month. Why not try it?

The Lost Cousins newsletter is well worth subscribing to (and it’s free). The latest one has an offer for four months’ subscription to the UK version of Ancestry for £20. If you’re interested, be quick – the offer ends on Sunday 22 June.

Black boot old photo © Frances Owen & A Rebel Hand 2014

Send for… The Shoestring Genealogist!

You could combine this with Find My Past UK‘s offer of one month for £1, advertised as a break from wall-to-wall World Cup. Using both could help ferret out a shy ancestor hiding in the UK records (and many of us have a few of those!).

And talking of FMP, the company announced yesterday (17.6.2014) that it has acquired This site contains ‘unusual, hard-to-find, older records’ including many for Ireland and London as well as the National Wills Index. Its founder, Ian Galbraith, says: “All of the records currently on Origins will over time be made available on FMP and we’d like to reassure you that you will still be able to enjoy researching your family history with Origins.”

Reminder: do read the small print, or you could find yourself continuing to subscribe at the normal rate. And, of course, not everything is online – or even online at these sites.

Have you got any tips for shoestring genealogists?


All content, including images, © A Rebel Hand 2014
Posted in Genealogy, Ireland, London | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Genealogy news updates

I’ve been working on something big – and very tricky. Chipping away at a big brick wall, and I’ll be back to report when I’ve got something more useful to say.

So in the meantime, here are some interesting developments in the genealogy world – specifically, to do with Irish and Australian genealogy.


If you’ve ever looked at Irish genealogy, you’ll know that it’s famous for being hard work. This is, to a large extent, because census records before 1901 were destroyed – deliberately by government order for the years 1861-91, and in the notorious fire at the Public Record Office in Dublin in 1922 for the 1821-51 records.

But some fragments of the four earliest censuses survived. And they are now available to search, free, online.

Part-demolished brick wall, via

Bashing that brick wall (CC, via

When they are described as ‘fragments’, that’s really what they are, so though they’re worth checking, the chances are that they may not solve your Irish genealogy puzzles.

I didn’t find any clues to my Nicholas Delaney or his family, or to the elusive Julia Harrington, formerly Russell, nee Cannell or Gamin (thanks, Julia, you knew how to make it easy for your 3x great-granddaughter). But you might get better results.

The online release of these records was made possible through a partnership between findmypast, the National Archives of Ireland, and Appropriately, you can now find them at the National Archives’ website and at Both free.

Good luck with your search! You can find out more about the census fragments at the Irish Times‘s Irish Ancestors census page.


I’ve recently filled in my ancestors’ details at two exciting new convict websites, the revived Claim A Convict and the new Australian Female Convict Database.

At Claim A Convict I added Nicholas Delaney, Sarah Marshall, her (common law?) husband John Simpson, and James Thomas Richards. And I also added Sarah to the Australian Female Convict Database. She’s my only woman convict, as far as I know.

If you’ve got convict ancestors, I recommend these sites very highly. Go and check whether  your convict is listed, and if they aren’t – why not add them?

Convict woman and man, Australia, 1792 by Juan Ravenet

Convict pair (via Wikimedia)

Both sites are young and developing all the time. Jonathan Auld of Claim A Convict has just announced that a new feature has been added – the opportunity to add a biography to your convict’s record.

There’s a 4,000 character limit, which is much more generous than the previous 200-character research notes allowed.

I also love the fact that both websites have extra resources to help us find out about our naughtier ancestors.

A big thank you to Jonathan and Michelle from Claim A Convict (and of course to the late Lesley Uebel, who began it all and was such an inspiration to many).

And another big thank you to Kim and Kristy of the Australian Female Convict Database. As they say: ‘Australian Female Convicts are under-represented as a group in historical collections.  The aim of this database is to provide future researchers with a simple collection of evidence, fully referenced, and collated into a consistent format for free download.’

And who wouldn’t like that?

Are there any gaps in convict research you’d like to see filled?


 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Genealogy, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An early spring clean

Do you spring clean?

And, yes, I know that my Aussie mates will be muttering “it’s autumn!” But here there are crocuses peeping out and I’m getting that hopeful feeling. Mind you, it’s not too late for a frost, and the weather’s been crazy this year…

19th century woman sweeping, a cloud of dust rising

That looks much cleaner! via Wikimedia Commons

I’d been feeling for a while that this blog’s header was looking cluttered and tired, so I’ve spruced it up. It looks much cleaner to me. What do you think?

The new image is a watercolour, A View of the Cove and Part of Sydney, New South Wales, taken from Dawe’s Point, by Joseph Lycett, painted in about 1818. It’s one of the images in the Wallis album, which was acquired by the State Library of New South Wales in October 2011.

I’ve also changed the header for my website, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798, which is more focused on the book my mum and I wrote about our first Australian ancestor, and for my Twitter account.

And now I’d better get on with writing my post for the Worldwide Genealogy blog. It’ll be published on February 14th. St Valentine’s Day. Hmm, I wonder what to write about this time?

Are there any other ways you think I can improve this blog? Please leave a comment below.

View of Sydney Cove from Dawes Point by Joseph Lycett. Creative Commons CC BY-SA via Wikimedia; © State Library of New South Wales. Please click the links for full accreditation.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Blogging, Website | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Australia Day Challenge 2014: C’mon Aussie

I do love the genealogy online community. People help one another, collaborate, chat and set up memes and challenges.

Here’s the latest geneachallenge  – it’s for Australia Day, from that bonza blogger Pauleen Cass of Family history across the seas. Pauleen writes:

The geneameme comes in two parts: one to test whether your family is ridgey-didge and the second to show us how Australia runs in your veins.

Well, if you’re a regular visitor here (thank you!) you’ll know the first part is a doddle, but the second is a true challenge! Why? Read on and you’ll see. And if you stick around to the end there’s a special Australia Day announcement. Here we go:


My first ancestor to arrive in Australia was: Nicholas Delaney, an Irish rebel from the Wicklow/Wexford borders, convicted for murder in the Rebellion of 1798. He arrived in Port Jackson in 1802 on the Atlas II.

I have Australian Royalty: I’ve found four convicts so far: as well as Nicholas Delaney, my 3x great grandfather, there were Sarah Marshall (Friendship) and John Simpson (Ocean II), who arrived in 1818, and James Thomas Richards, whose voyage on the Royal Sovereign ended in 1836.

I’m an Aussie mongrel, my ancestors came to Oz from: England and Ireland, as far as I know. There are a few mysteries like Elizabeth Bayly and (Thomas) Robert Sandon Wilson. Thomas’s name could be Scottish or English, and Elizabeth could have come from anywhere in these islands.

Convict ship the Lady Penrhyn. Wikimedia Commons.

Convict ship (Lady Penrhyn) Wikimedia Commons

Did any of your ancestors arrive under their own financial steam? As far as I know, most of them either got a free one-way ticket (ahem) or were assisted immigrants. The only two who might have paid their passage were Elizabeth and Thomas/Robert, my mystery ancestors. I’d love to know how they arrived.

How many ancestors came as singles? Seven: Nicholas and Elizabeth, John and Sarah, James Thomas and his wife Rebecca Harrington. The elusive Thomas/Robert is so slippery I have no idea.

How many came as couples? None.

How many came as family groups? Sarah Emma Henley, old mystery man’s wife, came with her family. John Winter, from Westmorland, and Ann Graham, from County Durham, who later married each other, did too.

Did one person lead the way and others follow? There may be a link between the Winters and the Grahams but it’s very speculative so I’ll say no.

What’s the longest journey they took to get here? That depends. In terms of distance, Nicholas’s voyage from Wicklow to Cork, then via Rio de Janeiro to Sydney Cove, is probably the greatest. But for time, it has to be Sarah Marshall’s journey on the Friendship, which took 195 days. I’ll be writing a lot more about the trip on this mis-named ship soon. Stay tuned!

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place? No, just the usual stops for food and water on the way.

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive? All New South Wales

Did they settle and remain in one state/colony? Yes, they stuck to NSW.

Blue Mountains in New South Wales

Blue Mountains, JWC Adam

Did they stay in one town or move around? The Delaney/Simpson side moved further west. My Delaneys crossed the Blue Mountains to settle near Little Hartley. The Richards and Winters stayed around Sydney.

Do you have any First Australians in your tree? No.

Were any self-employed? Many of them were.

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in? Farming, roadbuilding, running a ferry and a pub. There was a tailor, a gold inspector, servants, miners and watermen. And a heck of a lot of housework and looking after large families – well, that’s work, too.

Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation? Only the housework. But much less of it, thank goodness.

Did any of your ancestors leave Australia and go “home”? Yes, my grandparents. That’s why the next part of the challenge is going to be a bit thin…


What’s your State of Origin? Er, well, London. The UK one. It’s almost a state on its own.

Do you still live there? Yes, though I’ve lived in other places, too.

Where was your favourite Aussie holiday place as a child? I always wanted to go to Sydney. It sounded so exciting.

Any special place you like to holiday now? If only!

Photo of Moyne Farm

Moyne Farm (© Patricia Owen 2002)

Share your favourite spot in Oz: Moyne Farm, near Little Hartley, is dearest to my heart because it was the family home for a century.

Any great Aussie adventure you’ve had? Mine is all in books and online. I think that finding my ancestors, writing this blog and getting to know lots of great Aussie genealogists and historians has been a wonderful adventure.

What’s on your Australian holiday bucket list? Can I say everywhere? Oh, OK. Well, Sydney is a must. Not just because it’s Sydney – it’s got family ties for me, and all those museums and records to look at. Hartley Vale, because of Moyne, and the Blue Mountains. Anywhere my rellies are. And I’d love to meet some of my genealogy pals as well.

How do you celebrate Australia Day? Writing Australia Day challenges. They’re always a joy. Thanks again, Pauleen, for this year’s!

Here are my previous Australia Day posts:

PS: I promised you some Australia Day news. First, Ancestry is offering free access to its Australian records until Monday 27th.

The second is more bittersweet. You may have heard that Lesley Uebel, much loved and respected creator of the Claim a Convict site and administrator of the Port Jackson convicts and Hawkesbury mailing lists, died on Monday, 20 January.

Her work lives on, though. Michelle Nichols has taken on the herding-cats job of keeping the PJ listers in order, and she and Jonathan Auld have worked long and hard to refresh and relaunch Claim a Convict, which opened at its new home on Australia Day. It’s looking good.

Fitting tributes to a splendid woman. Thank you, Jonathan and Michelle, and Colin and Coralie too. And most of all, thank you, Lesley.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Blogging, Convicts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Worldwide Genealogy – a new collaboration

It’s an exciting day for me today. My first blog post on a new, collaborative blog was published.

Page from the Worldwide Genealogy blog

Worldwide Genealogy blog

Worldwide Genealogy is a fresh way of looking at genealogy, history and local history. Julie Goucher, who you may know from Anglers Rest and her many other online presences, started it “in the spirit of all things genealogical and historical [to] produce a blog, written daily by someone different everyday from across the globe”.

So far in its two-week-long life there have been posts from genealogists and family historians from England, Scotland, Wales, Australia and the United States.

There’s still room for you to sign up for a monthly post or an occasional piece – find out how to contribute here.

Or you could just pop in and comment.

It’s all about collaboration, being social, and sharing – something geneabloggers do naturally, it seems to me.

Thank you, Julie, for starting Worldwide Genealogy and for doing me the honour of asking me to post on the 14th of each month. And thanks to everyone else who helped set it up and who’s joining in.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Blogging, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Accentuate the Positive 2013 – continued

A broken wall, photographed by Mick Garratt

Broken wall by Mick Garratt,

It’s 2014! A fresh new year in which I hope to pull a few more bricks from those genealogy walls as well as finding out more about the historical background to my ancestors’ lives in Australia and the British Isles.

This is the second part of my response to Geniaus’s Accentuate the Positive 2013 geneameme. You can see the first 10 replies here.

And it’s straight into an exciting development in 2013:

11. A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was: when I went to my first Who Do You Think You Are? Live at Olympia in London. The queue to get in snaked round the building and, standing in the cold, I thought: with all these people will I ever get into the workshops I want to? Will it all be endless queueing?

And yes, it is vast, and yes, huge numbers of people go. But I did get to the sessions I’d earmarked (here are this year’s) and learned a lot, especially about Irish, London and Yorkshire research and about records before 1837 – and met some great people.

Sydney regatta

13. A journal/magazine article I had published was: Hmm, this one’s trickier, because as far as I know it hasn’t been published yet. I wrote James and the Silver Cup, the story of how my 2x great-grandfather, James Thomas Richards, won second prize in a prestigious rowing race at a Sydney regatta in 1853, for a Federation of Family History Societies competition. To my astonishment, I too won second prize.

I won’t go into the details here because I don’t want to make this post too long, but part of my prize – presented at WDYTYA? Live – was having the article published in the My Heritage newsletter. I agreed not to publish it here before then, but so far I haven’t seen it. I must chase them up.

However I did have a short story published this year and it had a historical flavour.

14. I taught a friend how to: think about engaging potential readers of his website by using social media and blogging.

As I’ve learned myself, we can’t just set up a static website and hope that people will stumble upon it. We have to let them know what we’re doing, and then when (we hope) they see something they want to talk to us about, we have to make it easy for them to do that.


And that’s one of the joys of the net these days; how interactive it can be. I love connecting with other people who share my interests. Some have become friends. And it’s a thrill when I comment on something a person I respect has said and they answer. We’re all connected – celebrate it!

Cover of Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census by Emma Jolly

Emma Jolly’s book

15. A genealogy book that taught me something new was: Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census by Emma Jolly (Pen & Sword, 2013). This comprehensive guide covers the history of censuses in the UK and Ireland, but for me the chapters on each individual census from 1841 to 1911 are genealogy gold.

I’ve only just started reading it and already I know a lot more about the 1841 census and the traps for unwary researchers. I’m hoping Emma’s book will help me untangle the many Griffith Owens I wrote about in my last post and find the thread that leads me to ‘mine’.

16. A great repository/archive/library I visited was: The Guildhall Library, which I mentioned last time. If you’re interested in researching apprentices or City [of London] Livery Companies it’s the place to go.

Most of the Guildhall’s manuscript collection has been moved to the London Metropolitan Archives, but they have a wonderful library of printed books covering all aspects of life in London and hold regular exhibitions highlighting some of their collection.

Cover of Governor Macquarie by Derek Parker

Derek Parker’s book

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was: Governor Macquarie by Derek Parker (Woodslane Press, 2010). Crissouli, a lovely Aussie genealogy pal who is a must-read for Irish family history, especially Co Clare, sent it to me with the exciting news that my ancestor gets a (brief) mention on page 164.

And there it is, the extract from Lachlan Macquarie‘s journal for 13 June 1816 which mentions my 3x great-grandfather, Nicholas Delaney, the inspiration for this blog and my own book, A Rebel Hand. Nicholas, overseer of a road gang building  Mrs Macquarie’s Drive, finished the Governor’s wife’s pet project on her birthday and was well rewarded with rum for his good timing.

I’ve got a soft spot for Macquarie, a man before his time unappreciated by the British authorities and the Australian establishment, and it was a treat to find out more about this intriguing man. Thank you, Chris!

Cover of Marriage Law for Genealogists by Rebecca Probert

Rebecca Probert’s book

18. It was exciting to finally meet: Chris Paton, whose British GENES blog is a must-read for UK and Irish genealogy. We had a chat and he’s just as clever and amusing as you’d think he’d be. It was a delight to meet Anne Powers, a long-time cyber-friend and author of A Parcel of Ribbons, the Jamaican genealogy blog and book.

I also had chats with Rebecca Probert, the oracle for marriage law, and Beryl Evans of the National Library of Wales, both of whom were helpful, friendly people. I hope to meet some more bloggers and professionals this year.

19. A geneadventure I enjoyed was: Who Do You Think You Are? Live must qualify as my biggest adventure this year, though sleuthing for my 3x great-grandmother’s house in Hackney (see my last post) comes a close second.

20. Another positive I would like to share is: the huge surprise and great honour of A Rebel Hand being named one of ‘the 50 genealogy blogs you need to read’ in Inside History’s second Annual Genealogy Blog Awards. Anyone interested in Australian and New Zealand history and genealogy will know this excellent magazine and to be recognised by them alongside some of my geneablogging hero(in)es was stunning. Thank you, Cassie and Jill.

Well, looking back over 2013 it wasn’t a bad year, genealogy-wise anyway. Thanks again to GeniAus for the inspiration and for the happy memories writing this has brought back.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Genealogy, Ireland, London | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Accentuate the Positive 2013

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time when people drink too much look back on the past year and assess their achievements – and the things that didn’t quite go to plan.

And it’s too easy for many of us to remember what they meant to do but, for very good reasons, didn’t. That’s why I love Jill Ball (aka Geniaus)’s Accentuate the Positive geneameme, which she started a year ago. I took part in the first one and found it a great way to acknowledge the year’s successes and move into the new year with a warm glow that has nothing to do with a glass of something or the radiator I’m snuggled up to as I type.

Jumping for joy. Photo of three men jumping on top of Moel Hiraddug by Cat via Wikimedia Commons

Jumping for joy (by Cat from Sevilla, Spain, via Wikimedia Commons)

So here are my positive answers to Jill’s statements/questions for 2013:

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was: Well, I think I’ve found him – he’s in there somewhere. I’m hunting down a great-grandfather who is currently the brick wall in my Owen line. He was born on Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in or around 1847 and his name was Griffith Owen. The trouble is that a lot of boys born in the 1840s on that island were called… Griffith Owen or Owens.

I’ve just put together a data comparison spreadsheet with all the Griffiths on it and I’ve already eliminated some, but there’s a lot more detective work to be done. The positive thing is that I feel much nearer to pinning him down than I felt a fortnight ago. He’s given me so much trouble that it’s going to be a huge genealogy happy dance day when I find him.

Mamgu and Auntie Mary

Grandmothers and cousins

2.  A precious family photo I found was: I didn’t find this photo; my cousin Sheila gave it to me at my mother’s celebration party in July. It was such a thrill!

It shows my Mamgu  (grandmother, in Welsh) on the right and her cousin ‘Auntie’ Mary, Sheila’s Mamgu, on the left. I was delighted – it brought back many happy memories of my childhood. Cousins can be so generous. Thank you, Sheila!

3.  An ancestor’s grave I found was: None this year, though we recently chose a headstone for my mother’s.

4.  An important vital record I found was: The apprentice binding for my 2x great grandfather, James Thomas Richards (1815 – 1896), waterman of Deptford and later of Newgate, the Leviathan prison hulk, the Royal Sovereign convict ship (1835) and Sydney.

English: City of London: Guildhall

The Guildhall, City of London (via Wikipedia)

I went to the Guildhall Library in the City of London, where the Watermen and Lightermen’s Company records are held. The very friendly and helpful staff told me that I could only see the apprentice binding books 1688-1908 (Ms 6289) on microfilm because so many people wanted to look up their watermen ancestors that the originals had to be kept back to preserve them. I was slightly disappointed – but thrilled to see the film of the almost 200-year-old record of James being bound apprentice to his father.

Then I got the film of the apprentice affidavit books 1759-1897 (Ms 6291) and wound… and wound… and finally found him lurking on a faded, blotchy page, half in the gutter (possibly appropriate, as you’ll see). Now I had confirmation of the date and place of his baptism and the day his apprenticeship began.

I’ll be going back to see what else I can find out about him at the Guildhall. It’s a small but fascinating library next to a beautiful old building, a London jewel.

5.  A newly found family member: A re-discovered family member this year – Shae Honess, who’d been very helpful to my mother and me when we were writing our book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798.

We were both taking part in one of Inside History Magazine‘s Q and A sessions on Facebook and realised we knew each other. It was a wonderful surprise! If you haven’t visited their Facebook page do drop in. You’re bound to find something interesting and there’s a great bunch of genealogy people there. Thanks, Cassie and Ben!

6.  A geneasurprise I received was: Finding the house in Hackney where my 2x great grandmother Rebecca Harrington (c 1841 – 1884) lived with her parents when the 1851 census was taken. I’m hoping to write more about this soon, so I won’t go into details now, but amazingly enough it’s still standing.

"The Old Bailey, Known Also as the Centra...

The Old Bailey or Central Criminal Court (via Wikipedia)

7.   My 2013 blog post that I was particularly proud of was: The thief up the chimney. I wrote it as part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of Old Bailey Online, the “fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.” It’s a very impressive resource.

In this post I used OBO’s transcription of James Thomas Richards’ (yes, him again) slightly confusing trial for larceny, held on April 6th, 1835 at the Central Criminal Court. This post involved several Deptford pubs, some old maps, the online equivalent of highlighter pens and, eventually, a chimney. I enjoyed researching it immensely and it was a departure for me to write in response to a non-genealogy online event.

8.   My 2013 blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was: Welsh Newspapers Online – read all about it. I was lucky enough to visit the National Library of Wales stall at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in February 2013 and attended a seminar about their work in setting up Welsh Newspapers Online, an important resource for genealogists, historians and many more. The fact that it was my most-viewed post of 2013 shows that plenty of other people have been fired up by Welsh Newspapers Online, too.

Android logo

Android logo

9.  A new piece of software I mastered was: If an operating system counts as software, it’s Android on my new Nexus 7 tablet. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, in fact it’s shown me who’s the boss many times, but I’m getting there.

I’ve also learned to use PagePlus, the desktop publishing software. My first publication was put together in a rush, and I found that having used QuarkXPress and Photoshop/GIMP was a lifesaver. I’ve since gone on a course and found much easier ways to do things than the ones I ‘invented’ on the hoof…

10. A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was: Twitter. I’ve been on it much more than Facebook or Google+ in 2014. This is partly because I use it as a news feed for genealogy, history and family history (and increasingly writing) information and exchanging ideas. It’s also less time-consuming than scrolling down a long timeline on G+ or Facebook.

I’ve just started watching Jill Ball aka Geniaus‘ Google+ Hangouts on Air. Maybe one day I’ll actually be one of the ‘panel’ of contributors instead of an observer/commenter.

Well, this is already a long post and I’ve still got 10 more positives to go so, like last year, I’ll stop here and come back with answers 11-20 next time. Until then –

English: Bratislava; New Year 2005; FireWorks

Happy 2014 to you!

Happy New Year!



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Blogging, Nicholas Delaney, Website | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Christmas memories

Christmas is a time for memories – making new ones as well as revisiting the past.

Walking along the street today and looking at the decorated trees in people’s windows, I found remembered images of Christmas Eve and the day itself washing over me.

Old family Christmas decorations

Old family Christmas decorations

My family dressed the tree on the 24th, with the old glass decorations that seemed to have been around for ever. First the lights had to be draped around, which meant checking every bulb because if one wasn’t working, none of them would light. Then carefully we’d hang up the fragile ornaments. Finally, the old tradition of picking the pine needles out of our clothes and hair…

Late next morning we’d gather round the lit tree for a glass of champagne while we opened our presents. Then it was all hands ready to lay the table and finish getting Christmas dinner ready. One of my jobs was making the gravy, stirring flour into the turkey juices and adding water and perhaps a dash of wine. It had to be done at the last minute but I couldn’t rush it or there would be lumps and then the gravy would need to be strained.

Chocolate (Bangor) Brownies

Chocolate brownies – yum! (via Wikipedia)

These memories are warm and happy and also sad, because this will be my second Christmas without my mother and the first without my partner, who died in the spring. I’m breaking with tradition completely and not having a roast dinner. Instead I’ve got some treats – smoked salmon, watercress, double chocolate brownies and not a sprout in sight. I’ve got a whole week off and I intend to relax. Oh, and catch up with my genealogy research, including (I hope) this poor neglected blog.

I’ve kept up one tradition, though; coffee on Christmas Eve with a close friend. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to support each other through a tough year. So here’s to friends, near and far, in a coffee bar on in cyberspace –

Merry Christmas!



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Australia’s oldest bridge revisited

Sometimes a friendly email brings unexpected genealogy bonuses. My Delaney (and Simpson) cousins are generous with their information about our ancestors, and one of the people who helped my mother and me with researching our book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798, got in touch recently about a visit he’d made to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

Back in December 2011 I asked a question: Did Nicholas build the oldest bridge in Australia? Evidence suggests that the Macquarie Culvert, in the Botanic Gardens, is indeed the oldest surviving bridge. True, it’s a small bridge, part of Mrs Macquarie’s Drive, the road Nicholas and his gang of labourers built around the Government Domain in 1816. But it’s still there, nearly 200 years later, and regarded as ‘significant’.

Macquarie Culvert in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens,, built by Nicholas Delaney's gang

The bridge – Macquarie Culvert (Jeff Farrar, 2013)

The trouble was, I couldn’t get hold of any pictures to show the bridge after its recent restoration. Then an email arrived from my Delaney cousin Jeff Farrar with some photos of his visit to the Botanic Gardens. “I thought you might enjoy this,” he wrote. Enjoy? I nearly jumped out of my chair with happiness. Jeff kindly gave me permission to post his pictures, so… here are some of them! It goes without saying they are all copyright to him. And wonderfully atmospheric.

Thank you, Jeff!

Macquarie Culvert in Sydney's Botanic Gardens,, second view

Macquarie Culvert, further away (Jeff Farrar, 2013)

For information about the Macquarie Culvert’s historical context see Wong, Anna, Colonial Sanitation, Urban Planning and Social Reform in Sydney in Australasian Historical Archaeology, 17, 1999, pp 66-7 (pp 9-10 of PDF)
Another view of Macquarie Culvert  in Sydney's Botanic Gardens, built by Nicholas Delaney and his gang

Another view of Macquarie Culvert (Jeff Farrar, 2013)


I was stunned, honoured and thrilled to find my name (my real one, Frances Owen) on the list of nominations for Genealogy Rockstars 2013, hosted by the excellent John Reid. Thank you! If you’d like to see the true megastars I’m privileged to be listed with, and/or vote, Anglo-Celtic Connections tells you how. But be quick! Polls close on Sunday. Update: John’s publishing the results daily. Several of my top faves are mentioned:

Worldwide gold medallists

Silver and bronze medallists

Votes from Australia/New Zealand

Votes from the UK and Ireland

Congratulations to all!

View of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney (Jeff Farrar, 2013)



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Nicholas Delaney, Roadbuilder | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Bloggers’ Geneameme – my answers

It’s the end of Australia’s National Family History Month. I started it with a post and I’ll end it with one, too – my answers to Jill Ball’s Bloggers’ Geneameme from her well-known and well-respected blog, Geniaus. I haven’t answered all Jill’s questions because that would make this post far too long, but I hope you enjoy it.

What are the titles and URLs of your genealogy blog/s? A Rebel Hand is my only genealogy blog; the url is

Sarah Simpson's grave. Photo by Michael Wood

Sarah Simpson’s grave (Michael Wood)

Do you have a wonderful “Cousin Bait” blog story? A link to a previous blog post might answer this question. Confession time. This blog was partly started as cousin bait and it’s working slowly but well. I get emails or messages through my Contact Me page from cousins and their partners and it’s always a thrill to ‘meet’ another Delaney or Simpson descendant. Sometimes we start a long email exchange and I learn a lot from them. Generous cousins have sent me photos and documents which have helped me greatly in my research. It’s a brilliant way of sharing information and I love it. Thanks, cousins!

Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging? I was newish to the social media world (except for talking to my group of non-genealogy friends on Facebook) when I started blogging but I wanted to make my website, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798 more visible. I also wanted to write about much wider subjects than my Delaney ancestors and to add research that I’d come across after my mother and I finished our book, also called A Rebel Hand. I found inspiration from the Australian and Irish genealogy and history blogs that I enjoyed reading. They were friendly and informative and gave me the spark that said: “I can do that, too!”

Father Murphy centre, Boolavogue

Father Murphy centre, Boolavogue

How did you decide on your blog/s title/s? As you’ll have guessed, it was named, with stunning originality, after the website, which was named after the book. But why ‘A Rebel Hand’ anyway? It’s a phrase from the Irish song Boolavogue, and I’ve talked about why I chose it in a couple of earlier posts. Warning: if you like Irish music don’t click on any of the links there. You could lose a good hour and get left with an earworm.

How do you let others know when you have published a new post? I have a ‘subscribe’ button on my blog so some readers know as soon as I hit the ‘publish’ button. I find that different genealogy pals often prefer different social media, so I also post on Facebook and Google+ and tweet. But I don’t leave messages in the Facebook groups I belong to; that would feel like overkill and I don’t find it appropriate for the way I use these groups, which are less newsy and more about helping each other with research.

How long have you been blogging? I’m in my terrible twos as a blogger; I published my first post on 10th November 2010.

What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog? There are two important things I look for (apart from the content) when I visit a blog: information and communication. I like to see a search facility, preferably, or at least a list of categories or tags. I want to know some more about the person or people behind the blog, so I look for an ‘about’ page. A list of families being researched is helpful. As for communication, a subscribe button  means I never miss a post, and G+, Facebook or Twitter buttons let me follow the writer if I like their blog. When I read an inspiring (or funny) post I like to be able to comment. It’s frustrating that I don’t seem to be able to comment on blogger/blogspot – I don’t know why. So I’ll just take the chance to say hi to the geneabloggers who use this platform – it’s not that I don’t like your posts, it’s just that I can’t tell you. And I love getting comments!

Mary Maude Wilson (Delaney) hanging out the washing at Moyne Farm

Mary Maude Wilson (Delaney) hanging out the washing at Moyne Farm

What is the purpose of your blog/s? Who is your intended audience? I started out writing about the Delaney family and Irish and Australian historical background, because that was what I knew most about. As my research expanded into other convict ancestors I posted about them, too. I’m hoping to connect with and interest people who want to read about Australian history of the convict era and the background to some of those convicts’ lives in Ireland and what is now London. I also hope to reach others with a more general interest in genealogy, though that’s not my unique selling point.

Which of your posts are you particularly proud of? I’m proudest of the ones where I had to make sense of a large number of sources and condense what I’ve read into a short (well, not too long) blog post. So ferreting out the details of Nicholas Delaney’s death and the trial of his suspected murderer gave me a lot of satisfaction, as did making sense of the trial of another convict ancestor, James Thomas Richards. The emotionally-charged issue of convict courtship was another post which got my brain cells fizzing. And in this age of washer-dryers and instant hot water I enjoyed the challenge of understanding what washday was like for my great-great grandmother, Mary Maude Delaney (nee Wilson).

Which of your posts has been the most popular with readers? Ghost stories and murders are always popular. But I had no idea when I posted about the stories (urban myths?) connected with the grave of my 3x great grandmother, Sarah Marshall (aka Simpson) that it would become the most popular thing I’d written. I have a feeling that some ghost-hunters will be disappointed when they land on a genealogy blog, though.

Front cover of 'Stories from Kensington Palace'

Front cover of the short story book

Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related? If you wish please share their titles and URLs. I started another one, Writer’s Blog, after having a short story published, but I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve neglected it recently. Though I think it’ll get a lot of input when I begin a writing course in September…

Have you listed your blog/s at Geneabloggers? Definitely! If you’ve got a genealogy blog and you haven’t, go and do it now!

What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger? You don’t need to be Hilary Mantel or Steven King to write a blog well. Post what you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. And if you don’t know a huge lot yet, write about your journey of discovery. Oh, and spellcheck. Read other blogs, get to know the people behind them and you’ll find yourself part of a generous, informative and lively community. I’ve written more about starting geneablogging here. PS: give up any idea of ‘free time’.

The last word: an unexpected outcome of blogging When my mother died last year I was so busy and so full of grief that I stopped blogging for two months. Then I posted about her legacy to me – a love of family history. I knew that genealogy bloggers were great people (see my last answer) but I was deeply touched by the kindness of people who responded to that post. They helped me get back on my researching and blogging feet and broke down some of the loneliness we feel after a loss. Thank you, everyone.

Read all the responses to the Bloggers’ Geneameme here. I’m looking forward to them. Great meme, Jill!



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Nicholas Delaney | 4 Comments

Requiem for Seamus Heaney

Today I heard the news that Seamus Heaney, the great and beloved Irish poet, has died.

English: Picture of the Irish poet and Nobel P...

Seamus Heaney (by Sean O’Connor, via Wikimedia Commons)

A great sadness caught at me and I wondered why. I’d never met him, though I admired him. And then I realised that his words had moved and delighted me so often that the loss of the wordsmith would inevitably touch me. He had opened much of himself to us, his readers, and we had taken him into ourselves.

So as a tribute to him, here’s one of Seamus Heaney’s poems, Requiem for the Croppies, written about the Irish Rebellion of 1798 from the point of view of a croppy, or rebel, like Nicholas Delaney and his comrades.

Requiem for the Croppies

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley –
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp –
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching –  on the hike –
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until, on Vinegar Hill, the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August the barley grew up out of our grave.

Here’s Seamus talking to Kirsty Wark about the poem and the background to it

And here’s a version set to backing music which you might recognise; it’s Boolavogue

This one is simple and the words speak for themselves


Finally, something Heaney said in 2004: “I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.”


Thank you, Seamus. Rest in peace.

Posted in 1798, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments