Inside History Magazine’s Top 50 Genealogy Blog Awards

I’m thrilled, humbled and surprised to find this blog, A Rebel Hand, on Inside History Magazine‘ s newly-published list of 50 top genealogy blogs.

Front cover of Inside History magazine July 2013

Inside History Magazine front cover

Thrilled, because who wouldn’t be?  It’s a huge honour, coming from the must-read magazine for anyone interested in Australian or New Zealand history and genealogy. And the list was drawn up with the help of Jill Ball, alias Geniaus, whose name and expertise is known throughout the genealogy blogosphere.

Humbled? Just have a look at the blogs and bloggers on the list. If you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly start nodding like one of those toy dogs people had in their cars. “There’s one of my favourites, and another one, and another…” Which is why I was…

Surprised to see A Rebel Hand among their number. Why? See above. These are some of the most informative, authoritative and entertaining blogs I’ve ever read (and come back to again and again). And I haven’t posted as much as I’d like to lately (sorry, blog). So I’m extremely…

Grateful to Cassie, Jill and the tweeps¹ and plussers² who put this awards list together. And to the bloggers, on and off this awards list, who make my genealogy journey rewarding – and fun.

Logo for the Inside History Magazine top 50 genealogy blog awards

50 blogs you need to read

The Top 50 Blog Awards are also published in the current (July/August 2013) issue of Inside History Magazine. And if you fancy a peek inside, here it is! You’ll probably recognise a lot of the contributors’ names.

I’ve just got one reservation – Inside History’s own blog can’t be on the top 50 list, obviously. But it’s definitely up there at the top for me.

A quick aside: the genealogy blogging world had a lively conversation over Christmas and the New Year about posting or linking to some awards which looked like link-bait to many people. So I didn’t mention a couple which generous fellow bloggers had nominated me for. But this award couldn’t be from more reputable people. So thank you all!

What are your own top genealogy blogs? Do comment (below) and have your say.

¹ People who tweet on Twitter

² Members of Google+ (or are they ‘plusers’? The interweb doesn’t seem sure)



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Blogging, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A story from Kensington Palace

I’m back – with a book.

Other writing has kept me away from this blog. I’ve been working on a collaborative project with Kensington Palace, trying my hand at a piece of historical fiction.

My short story, Educating Peter, was based on an episode in the life of Peter the ‘Wild Boy’, a well-known character in the 1720s. It was one of thirteen to be published recently in an anthology of creative writing inspired by a visit to the Palace, Stories from Kensington Palace. It’s been not so much a learning curve as a learning vertical take-off, but I’ve enjoyed it enormously.

Stories from Kensington Palace

Stories from Kensington Palace – back cover

If you’d like to find out more, I’ve written about it on the Other Projects page of this blog.

I’ll be going back to genealogy next time I post. See you then!



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Blogging, London | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moyne in the Mercury

Moyne Farm is in the news.

The farm, near Little Hartley in New South Wales, an area where many Delaneys worked and raised their families in the nineteenth century, is the subject of a recent article in the Lithgow Mercury.

Journalist Carolyn Piggott writes about Moyne Farm and the man who built it, John Grant, in an article commemorating the bicentenary of the crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813.

Photo of Moyne Farm

Moyne Farm photographed a few years ago (© Patricia Owen 2002)

Moyne, built in 1821, is generally believed to be the oldest privately-owned building west of the Nepean River which is still standing.

Some more reading:

A history of Hartley Vale

A short biography of John Grant

Disclaimer: You, my eagle-eyed reader, will probably have spotted that the picture illustrating the ‘Mercury’ article is not the one that I have used, though I’m credited with it. Or at least a mis-spelled version of me is.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The thief up the chimney: Old Bailey Online 10th anniversary post

This is a tale of larceny and pubs – and a certain amount of naivety. The combination was disastrous for James Thomas Richards, a 20-year-old Thames waterman, and lucky for me, since he’s my great-great grandfather and met my 2x great grandmother in Australia.

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

The Central Criminal Court c 1808 (via Wikipedia)

I’m writing this 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.” I do urge you to look at it even if London crime isn’t your interest, as it’s endlessly fascinating. And if you enjoyed the BBC TV series Garrow’s Law – sadly cancelled – the inspiration for the cases came from the Old Bailey’s proceedings.

It’s thanks to OBO that I found out the details of why James was transported to New South Wales in 1835 aboard the Royal Sovereign.

His trial was held on April 6th, 1835, at the Old Court, before the Recorder. It’s a slightly rambling account, with a number of pubs and streets mentioned, so I won’t reproduce it all here, but you can read the entire proceedings at OBO (including images) or in this transcription PDF.

It all started at around 4pm on Sunday, March 22nd. James Thomas Richards was in William Francis’s pub, the Star and Garter, in Thames Street, Deptford, near where he worked as a waterman. He may have been joined there by another waterman, Robert Dilliman. James asked William Francis for a shilling coin in exchange for twelve pennies. It was a reasonable request, since each penny weighed two-thirds of an ounce, or 18.8 grams, and was large, with a diameter of 34mm, an inch and a third. Those twelve coins would have weighed half a pound in all. And I expect that publicans found small change as useful then as they do now.

Old Bailey Online - the trial of James Thomas Richards, Robert Dilliman and Thomas Ogden

Old Bailey Online – the trial of James Thomas Richards, Robert Dilliman and Thomas Ogden

At about eight o’clock that evening, James was in another pub, the Duke of Sussex in New St, with “a young man”, probably Thomas Ogden. They sat in the tap room enjoying a pint of porter for a quarter of an hour, then Robert Dilliman came in and the three left “in about twenty minutes”.

Now the story gets a little more tangled. According to police constable William Smith, James confessed to him that Dilliman “asked him to go with him to the water-gates, to lay a barge on shore, but on passing down New-street to the lower water-gates, Dilliman asked him to go and take the till” from the Star and Garter in Thames St.

How did Dilliman know about the till? Was it a spur-of-the-moment impulse? Had he been with James in the pub and got the idea there? Was James’s request for change a ruse to see where William Francis kept his till? Though he could presumably have found that out just by watching him serve customers.

Deptford from Crutchley's 1833 map, with streets coloured and notes

Deptford from Crutchley’s 1833 map
1: New St (violet)
2: Thames St (red)
3: Hughes Fields (green)
4: Flagon Row (yellow)
5: Butcher Row (blue)

As I was researching this post my head grew befuddled by all the boozers I was looking for and all the streets which now only exist on paper, so here’s a map which may help us on our pub-crawl round Deptford in 1835. New St (1) runs north-south and is highlighted in violet. Thames St (2), to the north,  is red.

It’s at this point I wish that the three accused had been questioned, because all their words are given in evidence by other people. This seems unusual to me, but perhaps if you know more about court proceedings at that time you’ll let me know if it was common practice.

According to PC Smith, James did as Dilliman asked, went into the Star and Garter and took the till. I’d like to know why – was Dilliman a frightening man, or was James just trying to shift some of the blame onto him? Why didn’t Dilliman snatch the till himself? Whatever the reason, James stole it.

Then all three of them ran down Hughes Fields (3, green) and shared the money, which came to “60 pence, and 160 halfpence”, a total of 11 shillings and eightpence. The till itself would not have been a cash register, of course, but a wooden box, probably a fairly plain one as it was valued at 2/-. There’s no mention of whether the box had a lock. If it hadn’t, it might have been more tempting; a lock would have taken extra moments to smash. The box would have been fairly heavy; the pennies alone would have weighed 1128 grams, or 40 oz (two and a half pounds). They left “some papers, some old locks, and other things” in it and threw it over the wall of the Beehive pub in Flagon Row (4, yellow).

Then they seem to have split up. James went on to yet another pub, the Blue Bell in Butcher Row (5, red), with “twelve penny-pieces, and twenty-five halfpence” in his pockets.

Cutting from the Morning Chronicle of April 15, 1835

Morning Chronicle report of James’s sentence

Of course there’s no way of knowing why he went to a pub rather than going home and stashing the money; he may have wanted an alibi, or perhaps he couldn’t resist spending some of it. Unfortunately for James, he had been recognised by two fellow watermen, one in the Star and Garter during the robbery and one in Hughes Fields who saw him “with something like a box under his arm”. So when William Francis realised his till was missing and set out to find the thieves, James was the obvious suspect.

PC Thomas Rose caught him in the Blue Bell at about half past nine and found the incriminating money on him. James was marched off, heading for the prosecutor’s, but “made his escape by the side door”.

Now we come to my favourite part of the story. James may have thought that he would not be able to escape again, or he may have been afraid of a severe punishment. He may have felt regret for the theft. Perhaps he thought an apology would be enough. Whatever the motive, on Monday morning he sent a message to William Francis, the landlord, saying “that he had done it”. Rather than disappearing, he appears to have stayed on at his parents’ house in Grove St, Deptford. Two or three days later, Francis and PC William Smith went to Grove St and the constable “found him secreted up the chimney in his father’s bed-chamber”.

According to Francis, “when we found him in the chimney, he asked me to forgive him, and said he would make it all right to me, and his mother should go and get the money”. PC Smith recalled that “he showed great contrition, and wished I would send for Dilliman and Ogden, that they might make the money up to Mr. Francis”. Rather touching naivety or a desperate last attempt to wriggle out of prosecution?

It was no good; Francis said he had to go with the constable, and on the way to the station James made a sort of confession to him. Interestingly, Francis took care to stress that “I did not tell him it would be better for him to confess, nor did the policeman.” And PC Smith was cross-examined in a similar vein: “Q. Do you mean that you screwed this confession out of him? A. Upon my oath I did not—I did not tell him it would be better for him to tell me—he told me this voluntarily.”

Photograph of Newgate Prison in 1900

Newgate, 1900 (Misterio y Sociedad de Aventuras Literarias, Creative Commons)

And that was that: he was tried on April 6th, found guilty of petty larceny and sentenced to seven years’ transportation; the Morning Chronicle of April 15th reported it briefly. Dilliman and Ogden were found not guilty. James was sent to Newgate Prison, transferred to the prison hulk Leviathan in Portsmouth on May 27th and embarked on the Royal Sovereign on July 29th, arriving in New South Wales on December 12th. 

Why do I find the capture of James up his father’s bedroom chimney so compelling? Well, of course it paints a wonderful mental picture (battered boots or bare feet dangling over last night’s ash; Ann Richards weeping and pleading or looking defiant; the triumphant constable, the gleeful publican) worthy of George Cruikshank. But what I love most is the fact that I found the trial transcript and showed it to my mother a few months before she died last year and I’m left with a memory of us both sitting at the table in fits of giggles over how ludicrous it must have been. Thank you, Old Bailey Online.

For more 10th anniversary posts, go to OBO’s blog, look at Tumblr, follow them (@OldBaileyOnline) on Twitter or check the hashtag #OBO10.

I’ll have another story to tell about James Thomas Richards soon, thanks to the Federation of Family History Societies and My Heritage.


The Pub History site was invaluable in identifying pubs and publicans mentioned in the trial

Old Deptford History, a wonderful site, provided useful maps and information about the disappearance of this whole area a few years after these events

I would still be wandering the watering-holes of Deptford without maps such as those at Ideal Homes: a history of south-east London suburbs (Crutchley, 1833) and Motco’s online version of Greenwood’s 1830 London map.

For more Deptford links see this post.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Australia, Convicts, London, Trial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Welsh Newspapers Online – read all about it

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus! Happy St David’s Day!

March 1st is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and what better day to write about an important new development in Welsh genealogical and historical research?

I’m just catching up with all my notes and papers from this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live event, which took place in Olympia on the 22nd – 24th of February. It was the first time I’d gone, and although it was a fascinating and exhausting time I’m not going to go into all my thoughts here or this post would be boringly long. Lots of people have blogged and tweeted about it, though.

National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales.

National Library of Wales (via Wikipedia)

One of the highlights for me was the news that the National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru) is launching the first one million pages of its online historic newspaper and journal collection, Welsh Newspapers Online, on Wednesday, March 13.

This is exciting news for people like me who have Welsh ancestors. Until now, we’d have had to go to the National Library in Aberystwyth to look at them (and, of course, that’s still worth doing).

But now the first part of its online collection, local and national, in Welsh and in English, will be available to anyone, and it’s free to use!

Beryl Evans of the NLW, who spoke about the launch on Saturday, gave us some background information about the project, which began in 2009. The site is in beta at the moment, so there may be changes, but you will be able to search or browse using various categories. You’ll also have a search history for future reference or research.

Images of the original pages will be high-resolution, greyscale 400 PPI (pixels per inch), de-skewed uncompressed tiffs. This will not just make them attractive to look at; it means that the optical character recognition (OCR) process, which ‘transcribes’ the original type, is likely to be fairly accurate.

Some leaflets from the National Library of Wales

National Library of Wales leaflets

OCR technology allows users to search, cut and paste, analyse data and highlight different parts of the page to show advertisements, lists or images, for example. And of course it gives you electronically translated text, which can be easier to read than the original.

Now this may sound familiar to you if you use Trove, the National Library of Australia’s wonderful (free!) treasury of digitised newspapers, journals, books and much more. So I asked Beryl if she knew Trove, and she said that it had been one of the models the NLW had looked at. That’s a good start for the new site! And when I asked her if readers would be able to correct text, just like Trove users can, she said that they were considering it.

I’m very much looking forward to climbing around the Welsh part of my family tree using Welsh Newspapers Online.

Some useful facts:

  • The first printing press in Wales was set up in 1718 (surprisingly late for a country which loves learning)
  • The Cambrian (1804 – 1930) was the first English language newspaper, printed in Swansea and covering South Wales. Its index is already searchable online
  • In 1808 the North Wales Gazette (later the North Wales Chronicle) was published in Bangor
  • Seren Gomer was the first Welsh language paper. Covering the whole nation, it lasted for 85 issues
  • The first daily national was the Cambria Daily Leader in 1861
  • In 1855 the hated ‘Tax on Knowledge’ or newspaper tax, was abolished. The number of papers increased
  • Eventually there will be 2 million pages online (by the end of 2013, it’s hoped). There’s a list of all newspapers to be included here


It’s up and running – a day early! Here’s the link.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

My first Australian ancestor (Australia Day Challenge 2013)

This year’s challenge comes from Helen at From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard. She writes:

“Your challenge… is to tell the story of your first Australian ancestor.”

Now that does make it a challenge! Because the first-ever Australian in my family tree is Nicholas Delaney, and I’ve written a lot about him. I don’t want to recycle stuff and risk boring you, so I’m going to choose his wife, Elizabeth Bayly (Bayley, Bailey). And she’s a tricky one.

This image is a digital reproduction of a pain...

Sydney Cove in 1808 by J.W. Lewin (via Wikipedia)

Elizabeth was only 15 or so when she arrived in Sydney Cove and, as far as we can tell, alone. At that time (she came on the Brothers, which embarked on October 17, 1806 and dropped anchor on April 4, 1807) it was very rare for a young woman to travel by herself unless she had family waiting for her.

And because she ‘came free’, she turns up much less in the records than my convict ancestors do. They were monitored and recorded from arrival to freedom – or death.

So far, Elizabeth’s kept her secrets. Years of leafing through manuscripts and peering at screens in Australia and the UK have turned up… nothing. It’s possible that she was a relative of Nicholas Bayly, a New South Wales Corps soldier who, after a stormy career, became a wealthy settler. But we just don’t know.

And what did she do when she arrived? Another mystery. Family myth has her working as a maid at Government House in Sydney where she met Nicholas Delaney, her future husband. But I don’t think Nicholas was there.

However they got together, they married in St Phillip’s (Anglican) Church on October 17th, 1808. And there’s another question: why would a young free settler marry a convict up to 20 years older than she was? She was already two months pregnant, so that may have been the reason. Or maybe not.

English: Portrait of Samuel Marsden, 1764 - 1838

Samuel Marsden (Wikipedia)

The ‘petulant ox’-faced parson, Samuel Marsden, was away from the colony so they were married by Major Edward Abbott of the Rum Corps. When the ‘flogging parson’ returned, he refused to allow the legality of the 17 marriages that Abbott had carried out. The Delaneys didn’t seem to mind; they considered themselves married and never went through another ceremony. Perhaps, as Catholics, they didn’t feel that a second Anglican marriage would make much difference.

Elizabeth bore 12 children; of these nine lived to marry and six reached old age. Her second, the first to survive infancy, was John Delaney, who married Mary Anne, the daughter of John Grant, the ‘Father of Hartley’. Thomas, my 3x great grandfather, was her third child.

Notice of Elizabeth Delaney's donation, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser

Elizabeth’s donation

I don’t know much more about Elizabeth (yet). She is listed in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser of March 13, 1823, as subscribing to the Roman Catholic Chapel in Hyde Park (where St Mary’s Cathedral now stands). It was her second donation, and she gave one pound – a generous £83.22 in today’s money. John, aged 13, also gave a pound.

Perhaps she could afford to be generous. The only mention I have found of her in the Colonial Secretary’s Papers is on May 24th, 1821, when she was paid £79/18/9 for 3,837 lb of ‘fresh meat’. If I’ve read the figures right, that’s a lot of money for a lot of meat. Nicholas’s cattle farming was doing well.

When Nicholas became unable to work, in 1829, John took over as the ‘man of the house’ and main provider. I can only wonder how they all coped with that. John was 19 now, an adult, but as he was single I expect Elizabeth still had the running of the house.

John did marry in 1833, to Ellen Gilligan, and perhaps Elizabeth found that having a daughter-in-law in the house was less comfortable. At any rate, after Nicholas’s death in September 1834, it seems she had no taste for staying in John’s house in Penrith as a widow.

St Phillip's from Joseph Fowles' 'Sydney in 1848'

St Phillip’s from Joseph Fowles’ ‘Sydney in 1848’

She married again, to Michael Mulcahy, in 1835. That’s interesting, because he was a witness at the trial of John Kennedy for murdering Nicholas. Were they friends who decided to live together for convenience? Did he comfort her, and they then fell in love? Was something already going on between them? I’ll never know.

After Michael died she had two more husbands: William Fitch in 1848 and Laurence Nicholls in 1852. Quite the Wife of Bath, our Elizabeth. The best guess for her birth year is 1792, so she was 60 the last time she became a bride.

I haven’t been able to find out anything about her three other husbands, so if you know about them, please get in touch. I haven’t found any more children, either, but since she was about 43 when she married Michael, perhaps it’s not surprising.

So that’s Elizabeth Bayly: courageous, strong, a survivor and perhaps a bit gorgeous, too. But still most of all – a mystery.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in Convicts, Genealogy, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Irish Family History Day

Have you got Irish ancestors?

Today (January 24th) is the first-ever Irish Family History Day. It seems to be part of The Gathering, a year-long celebration of Ireland present and past. Their official website says:

Wenzel Hollar's historical map of Ireland

Wenceslaus Hollar’s map of Ireland (via Wikipedia)

”Communities throughout Ireland are showcasing and sharing the very best of Irish culture, tradition, business, sport, fighting spirit and the uniquely Irish sense of fun.

“Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry. The Gathering Ireland 2013 provides the perfect excuse to reach out to those who have moved away, their relatives, friends and descendants, and invite them home.”

Findmypast Ireland is marking the occasion in two very positive ways. They’ve added “21m birth, marriage and death certificates to its records, bringing the total number to more than 60m”. These new records cover the mid-1800s to the late 1950s.

And there’s a special offer of 50 free credits at their website, valid until January 31st.

The excellent Irish Genealogy News website, which I can’t recommend too highly, discusses the new records and points out that they were already available to people who have a subscription that covers the Republic of Ireland.

Update: And British GENES has found out that you can get 50 more credits with FMP US (I can’t sign in, but that’s probably a glitch I can wiggle round).

Sadly, since Nicholas Delaney left Ireland in 1802, the new records won’t show him (I’ve searched) but they may help me find out about his family. I hope!

Happy researching.

There’s more about free credits here. NB some of them may have expired by now.



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

On the twelfth day of Christmas

So the decorations are down and the cards are ready to be recycled. It’s a flat sort of day. Especially since the next day is a Monday this year, and Real Life starts up in earnest for everyone.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, though, Twelfth Day in Britain was a celebration (and also the Feast of the Epiphany). In those days, the ones I mostly write about, Christmas went on after December 25th, instead of peaking on the day. And our Christmas cake developed out of the old Twelfth Cake, with its bean and other tokens and its turning upside down of the usual rules.

In Ireland, the rules were kicked over too. January 6th was known as Little Christmas (Nollaig Bheag), or Women’s Christmas (Nollaig na mBan). On this day, the men took over all the housework and the women got a well-earned rest, or the chance to enjoy themselves with sisters, daughters or friends.

I’m not planning any misrule today, but I’m going to celebrate Twelfth Day with a few photos of my first Christmas. So here we are, me and my parents…

Family photo of mother, father and baby

Slightly bored baby, handsome but serious parents…

Mother, father and baby

Perking up a bit now Mum’s stroking me

Mother, father and baby

That’s better!

My mother used to have a party on January 6th, so today’s poignant for me, but with happy memories.

Here’s a very rich recipe for Twelfth Cake, if you’re into baking. Have you got any Twelfth Day/Night traditions?



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

More positivity in 2012 (Accentuate the Positive part 2)

Are you too hard on yourself about your genealogy or family history work in 2012? Do you think more about what you didn’t achieve, or that ancestor who is still hiding,  or whose records seem all to have been destroyed? It’s easy to think like that, isn’t it…

I’m constantly frustrated my being unable to pin down Rebecca Harrington, a 2x great grandmother. She’s a very slippery character. Still, I won’t give up.

A very good year for geneabloggers

So I was delighted to read Geniaus‘s inspiring geneameme, Accentuate the Positive, in which she invites us to share the good news about our activities in 2012. Thank you, Jill!

I’ve already posted the first half of my contribution, so here we go with the second:

Fleet marriage (from Robert Chambers 'Book of Days')

18th century Fleet marriage (detail)

11. A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was… I haven’t been to any in 2012, but I have attended talks at the National Archives in Kew. One of these was Rebecca Probert’s fascinating and illuminating Tracing marriages; legal requirements and actual practice, 1700-1836. Click on the link to hear a podcast.

It’s full of useful information about those elusive marriages and debunks a few myths, as well. Broomstick weddings – true or false? And what about Fleet marriages?

I do plan to go to Who Do You Think You Are Live in London this February. Maybe I’ll see you there?

12. I am proud of the presentation I gave at/to… I haven’t given one, but I’m pleased with a question I asked at another National Archives talk, by Hamish Maxwell-Stuart, on Morbidity and mortality on convict voyages to 19th century Australia. I asked about transported convicts being deprived of water (which happened to Sarah Marshall on the Friendship), and this led to an interesting email exchange. I’m grateful to him for taking the time to contact me.

'Irish Lives Remembered' article about Nicholas Delaney

‘Irish Lives Remembered’ article

13. A journal/magazine article I had published was in the new free online Irish genealogy magazine, Irish Lives Remembered. I was thrilled and honoured when Eileen asked me to write about my 3x great grandfather, Nicholas Delaney, and how my mother and I came to write A Rebel Hand, our book about him.

I’m an avid reader of the magazine, and an added bonus is that it features a lot of Australian information as well.

So you can imagine what a joy it was to write the article, and to remember the extraordinary days when we were researching our book. It was hard work, but very rewarding and exciting, too. And it started me on my genie journey.

14. I taught a friend how to find and order a birth certificate online. It wasn’t difficult, but it was useful for them, and so it was worth it for both of us.

15. A genealogy book that taught me something new was The John Simpson and Sarah Saga, compiled by Sylvia Taylor. This is the record of her research into the lives of John and his (?clandestine) wife, Sarah Marshall, and a list of their descendants, along with family stories. They’re my 3x great grandparents, both convicts, who arrived in New South Wales within days of each other in January 1818 and got together soon after. Their daughter Lucy, my ancestor, was born ten months later…

I’m grateful to my cousin, Wayne Morris, for letting me see his copy of the book. I couldn’t track down a copy anywhere, online or in real life, until then. Sometimes it’s frustrating trying to do Australian research while I’m in the UK. I can just see my Aussie genealogy pals smiling wryly – many of them may have the same problem, but in reverse.

My next step is to follow up every fact in Sylvia’s book. Not that I doubt her for a moment, and I’m very thankful for all her hard work, it’s just that if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s check your sources. And check again.

English: Photograph of the The National Archiv...

The National Archives by Nick Cooper (via Wikipedia)

16. A great repository/archive/library I visited was The National Archives in London. I planned to go to more archives and libraries in 2012 and signed up for introductory tours of the London Metropolitan Archives, the Guildhall Library (where I took the chance to see a fascinating exhibition about London’s guilds) and the Society of Genealogists. They were all Aladdin’s caves, but I have to say that TNA was the most impressive – not surprisingly, given its size and reach.

I also went along to my local library’s refurbished Local Studies centre and will be going back often now it’s open again. Our libraries are under threat and need our support.

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was… (cough) I’m going to cheat bend the rules a little now. Here in the UK, there seems to be an endless fascination (obsession?) with the Tudors. And a slew of books about the period, too. I’m up for history of any era, but I’ve been feeling Tudored out recently.

But I’d been impressed (and puzzled!) by Hilary Mantel‘s Wolf Hall, her novel about Thomas Cromwell, and was looking forward to reading Bring Up the Bodies in about five years when it would be available at my library. Popular books tend to be borrowed back-to-back for a long time. So one day as I was browsing the shelves I was surprised and delighted to see it sitting there, available and grabbed it. Bring Up the Bodies isn’t a book for reading on the beach. You have to work hard, but I learned a lot of historical background (while remembering it was fiction). And, yes, I really enjoyed it.

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, New South Wales

Blue Mountains by JJ Harrison (via Wikipedia)

19. A geneadventure I enjoyed was… I had no big adventures in 2012. There were small voyages of discovery, though, like getting to know those excellent libraries I’ve mentioned. Writing the Irish Lives Remembered article was a new departure as well.

And really, family history and genealogy is all an adventure. We set out with a map which is missing huge chunks, we take wrong paths, we get lost, we get help from others, and sometimes we find what we are looking for – or even something we aren’t, but which is also worth the journey.

If I had a fairy godmother, I’d ask her to magic me to the Blue Mountains in 2013. It’s the 200th anniversary of the first crossing, made by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth in 1813 (though the story can be questioned). It was on the other side, near Little Hartley, that my Delaney ancestors made their home. So I’d love to be there for the bicentenary celebrations, but it won’t be possible. I’ll travel in my dreams and on the net instead.

20. Another positive I would like to share is something you’re probably familiar with – the genealogy community online. Bloggers, tweeters, on Facebook and Google+, writers and readers, you’re wonderful. Supportive, funny, full of information. Thank you for your comments,  advice, suggestions and encouragement.

If you’d like to see all the other responses to this geneameme, Jill’s listed them here. You’ll find stories of hard work, triumph, humour and above all, a record of a positive 2012.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Blogging, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy New Year! Accentuate the positive

Balloons reading 2012

Thanks to Geniaus for this image

It’s 2013 at last! I can’t deny that (except on the genealogy front) 2012 was a rubbish year. So I was delighted to see Geniaus suggesting a new geneameme: Accentuate the Positive 2012. What better way to start the new year?

Here’s my contribution:

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was Griffith Owen or Owens, my great-grandfather. The family story was that his son, my grandfather, was from Anglesey, but it was Griffith who was born there. I finally tracked him down, via several howlingly bad census transcriptions (1901 and 1911), to Llanfaethlu, a dot on the map of that island. (See no 4)

My mother, with me at one week old

One week old

2.  A precious family photo I found was… Since my mother’s death I’ve had a look through some of the family photos she kept. The most precious to me is the ones my dad took of mum and me just after I was born and the ones from our first Christmas as a family. I’m planning to post some more of these in the next few days.

3.  An ancestor’s grave I found was Lucy Simpson’s. I didn’t see it myself, because it’s in the old family graveyard at Moyne Farm, but my generous cousin Wayne Morris sent me a recent photo of what remains of it. The headstone appears to have broken in two in the past few years.

Lucy was the first child of my 3x great grandparents, Sarah Marshall and John Simpson, both convicts. Thank you, Wayne!

Close-up of 1901 census

No, it’s not ‘Llanfentlily’

4.  An important vital record I found was the 1891 census record of my grandfather Richard aged 9, which gave me the names of his parents. It also showed that he was not born on Anglesey after all. It was his father Griffith who came from that beautiful island. Now where on earth, or Anglesey, was ‘Llanfentlily’ (1901 census) or ‘Llanfenthty’ (1911)? Time for a spot of palaeography and a map. (See no 1)

5.  A newly found family member who shared… who to choose from? The joy of social media is that cousins and their family members have been getting in touch this year and it’s always a joy to make contact and read about their stories if they want to share them. Thank you to Marty, Michael, Karen, Betty, Jim, Trina, Sharron, Gary, Dan, Therese, Wayne, Sandra, Michelle, Ken, Julie and Lee. And anyone I’ve missed because I didn’t know you were a rellie.

Nicholas Delaney's murder - Sydney Monitor, part 1

Murder trial reported

6.  A geneasurprise I received was finding out that my 3x great-grandfather, Nicholas Delaney, had probably been murdered. Since he was the one who started me on my addiction to interest in genealogy, it was a sad moment.

But being positive, it was a big discovery, and I was able to share it with my mum. And I blogged about it, adding to the information already out there in our book about Nicholas, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798. Yay for geneablogging! And thanks to Amy from Branches Leaves & Pollen, who started the Trove Tuesday meme.

7.   My 2012 blog post that I was particularly proud of was Back to Blog – death and renewal, because that was the post which got me back to blogging after my mother’s death. It’s positive because I got back in touch with my genea-pals after some weeks of silence and you were so kind and sent me such lovely messages. Thank you. The genealogy community can be wonderful.

Mary Maude Wilson, my great-grandmother, doing the wash

Mary on wash day

8.   My 2012 blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was What did Mary do on Monday? Women’s work, inspired by Cassmob’s Family History Across the Seas Women’s History Month post in March. The idea was to honour a woman from our family tree by starting with a photograph and telling its story.

I chose Mary Maude Delaney, nee Wilson, my kindly great-grandmother, in an unusual, informal, photo of her, smiling while hanging out the washing. I wrote about washday in the times when everything was done by hand, a hated job. I learned a lot about the back-breaking business of doing the laundry while researching that post.

9.  A new piece of software I mastered was Evernote. I can’t pretend I’ve really mastered it, but I’m learning, and I use it all the time. I don’t know how I did without it (well, I do, I used lots of different files, folders, clipping programs…). I think it was Geniaus who alerted me to it, and I was hooked from the start.

10. A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was Twitter. Now 2012 was the year of Google+, and it is excellent for genealogy, but I confess I have more fun on Twitter. It’s also a great news feed, and alerts me to posts I might otherwise have missed.

The original geneameme has 20 positive points and so far I’ve written about the first 10. Because this is already a long post I’ll come back to the rest of them next time. Watch this space for more positivity…

And here it is!



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014
Posted in A Rebel Hand, Blogging, Genealogy, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Time to branch out?

It’s Start Your Family Tree Week again. How’s yours?

Mine has grown a little, it’s less lop-sided than last year’s. But I’m going to be doing a bit of tree surgery and root-nourishing over the festive season.

Family tree template

Is yours too bare? (Tomasz Steifer via Wikimedia Commons)

If you’d like to join me in a spot of genea-gardening, here’s a good place to start – FindMyPast Ireland has a week of tips and a competition on social media (you do use Facebook, Twitter or G+, don’t you?)

And to help there’s still time to take up the offer of 50 free credits, worth over £5, or up to 10 free views of original documents, at FindMyPast UK, along with useful tips.

You can also get 50 more FMP credits via the Lost Cousins newsletter, making a fantastic total of 100. If you subscribe, you’ll get regular tips and news of offers. And until the end of the year you can use the site for free. There’s also a free downloadable PDF ancestor chart with Ahnentafel numbers.

Another place for helpful SYFTW tips is Genes Reunited, which also has downloadable charts and family question sheets. They’ll be running competitions, too, as British GENES points out. (Thanks, Chris, for explaining the FMP credits so clearly here.)

I still can’t find one great-grandfather in the 1881 census. I know he was alive then, but as a mariner he might have been at sea on census day. Maybe I’ll track him down this week?

If I find any other special Start Your Family Tree Week tips this week I’ll post them here. And please let me know if you spot any.

Happy tree-growing!

Stop press: More (40) free FMP credits, this time in association with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. And 50 more via FMP UK’s Facebook page. Thanks to Tamara McCloskey for the tip.

And another 40 (that’s a possible 230 in all, phew!) with the details here on British & Irish Genealogy. Thanks, Mick Southwick.

A big thank you to all the above – they’ve already helped me find out more about my more elusive family members.

Two great places to go for the latest in UK and Ireland genealogy news, including offers like these, are British GENES and British & Irish Genealogy.

Some of these offers have now expired, but Julie from Anglers Rest has pointed out another, expiring on February 2nd, here. It’s for 40 credits. Thanks, FMP!

FMP Ireland has another 50 credits to celebrate Irish Family History Day. You could use them to look up some of the ‘twenty-one million Birth, Marriage and Death records’ they’ve added. Expires on January 31. And you can use the same code to get 50 more on FMP’s US site.

… and there’s more! To celebrate Australia Day (January 26 – watch this space for a special post), is opening up its convict and criminal records for free, unlimited access. But be quick – this only lasts till Monday 28th January.


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

Merry Christmas!

A century or two ago – the time I’m blogging about – Christmas celebrations  began on the 24th or 25th of December. The feast went on until Twelfth Night (January 6th).

Old family Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations from my childhood

So I’ll be blogging more about Christmas past over the next few days. I just haven’t felt like it recently because it’s the first without my beloved mother, who held all the family traditions.

So in the meantime, here are some tree decorations which are almost as old as I am – perhaps older. They seem to have been on her tree forever.

And it will be a good Christmas – just different.

So I wish you a wonderful day, with family or friends, and many happy memories to keep for ever.

Merry Christmas!



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

Calling all Delaney cousins!

I’ve got a question for you.

Would you like an online forum for descendants of Nicholas Delaney where we can meet and share research, ask questions, swap stories, post photos or just get to know each other?

I’ve just had an interesting email from a guide at the excellent National 1798 Rebellion Centre and Enniscorthy Castle in Co Wexford (hi, Rory!) in which he says:

I am emailing you in relation to the many tourists we get each year who are descended from Nicholas Delaney.

These visitors are familiar with varying amounts of information about Nicholas and some are aware of the book, A Rebel Hand : Nicholas Delaney of 1798: from Ireland to Australia.

Is there any family forum… where descendants of Nicholas meet one another so we could pass this information on to our visitors?

Well, I don’t know of any, so if you do, please let me know and I’ll pass it on. But if there isn’t a forum, and people want one, now would be a good time to set it up.

Women typing on laptop. Photo: Ed Yourdon via Creative Commons

Photo: Ed Yourdon via Creative Commons

So I’d like your help, please.

What’s the best way to do this? It should be easy to use and access. So far I’ve thought of a Facebook group, a Google+ Community or a Rootschat.

I’ve only ever regularly used FB groups and, recently, two G+ Communities (they’re a new development).

All ideas, recommendations, tips and even warnings will be very welcome. And please pass the word on to your relatives. Thank you!

Of course, meeting in person is the best, but there are so many of us and so spread about that it’s not practical on anything but a small scale…


PS: I’ve had to disable comments on this page because of spamming. What a nuisance, eh?



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

Two today!

Birthday cake with 2 in smarties

Image from Wikimedia Commons

I nearly missed it. This blog’s second birthday, today, November 10th.

In fact it was the wonderful Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers who reminded me in his Blogging Beat. Thanks, Thomas – here’s a virtual birthday cake for you and the lovely people on Twitter, Facebook etc who’ve wished me a happy 2nd blogiversary.

A lot has happened since my first anniversary.

I’d just started looking beyond Nicholas Delaney, my Irish rebel and convict ancestor who got me started on genealogy. I was enjoying scrambling up and down other branches of the family tree, and to my surprise my first post about Sarah Marshall (Sarah Simpson) is now the most-viewed one. That’s probably not because it’s brilliant, but because of the great interest in her supposedly haunted grave. Still, the other posts about Sarah are viewed a lot, too.

My mother, possibly as an ABC announcer

Old photo of my mother

Another branch that beckoned me away from Nicholas was the story of James Thomas Richards, a Thames waterman who was transported for stealing a till. I’m glad I followed him up, because I pieced together a story which pleased and surprised my mother, who’d started on his trail along with our cousin Geoff a while ago. It feels good to have been able to share it with her before she died.

Something else I showed her not long before her death was the surprising news that Nicholas Delaney had possibly been murdered. Like me, she thought it a sad end for such a vigorous and enterprising man.

After she died I stopped blogging for a while, but eventually I was able to come back and post a tribute to the woman who started me on my genealogy journey.

Toddler sitting in front of laptop © Tammra McCauley

Image © Tammra McCauley via Flickr

So now I’m not a baby blogger any more, but a two-year-old toddler blogger (togger?), what direction should I go in next?

I’ll keep on doing the new things I’ve done this year. Like going to the National Archives at Kew, London Metropolitan Archives and the Guildhall Library, not just for records but for their fascinating talks.

I’ll look at Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Richards more. I don’t know if  I’ll blog about the more respectable other side of my family as it might be too much of a diversion, but I’ll keep hunting them.

And I plan to take part in Amy Houston’s Trove Tuesday meme, and do Trove transcriptions, more. As well as other genealogy blogging prompts.

But the most important thing I’m looking forward to is finding out what you would like to see on this blog. More about New South Wales? Or Ireland? Or London? Or convicts? Historical background as well as genealogy? I’d love to know what you want to read about.

If you’d like to start genealogy blogging there’s a lot of help and advice around. Here are some tips for new geneabloggers.



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

Nicholas’s murder – the editor, the judge and the doctor (Trove Tuesday post, part 3)

In my last post about Nicholas Delaney’s murder on September 3, 1834, I asked a few questions. Why would the editor of the Sydney Monitor add a note to the end of the report of John Kennedy’s trial in which he questioned the verdict? And what about Dr Black and Justice Burton, whose opinions may have swayed the jury?

Today I’d like to have a look at some of the background to this story.

The Monitor‘s editor, Edward Smith Hall (1786-1860), was a remarkable man. A committed Christian and a contrarian, he was never afraid to speak his mind when he disagreed with what was going on in New South Wales. I won’t give you his life story as that would take too long, but here’s one biography.

Edward Smith Hall's comment in the Monitor on the trial of John Kennedy for murdering Nicholas Delaney

Hall’s comment on Kennedy’s trial in the Monitor

Hall arrived in Sydney on October 10, 1811, with letters of recommendation from William Wilberforce, among others. Farming his grant of land didn’t turn out to be successful, and he threw his energies into social and religious work. In 1813 he co-founded the New South Wales Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Benevolence, which became the Benevolent Society in 1818. He was appointed cashier and secretary of the Bank of New South Wales in Macquarie Place (one of Nicholas Delaney’s projects) in 1817 and became a coroner in 1820 – experience which would qualify him to comment on John Kennedy’s trial.

In 1826 he and Arthur Hill published a new paper, the Monitor, with the motto  ‘nothing extenuate nor set down aught in malice’. Hill resigned the next year, and Edward Smith Hall carried on as editor, opposing what he saw as injustices and helping to bring down Governor Ralph Darling. He held the position until 1840, an unprecedented length of time in those days.

Another comment from Edward Smith Hall in the Monitor - report after the one about Nicholas Delaney's death

The ‘Monitor’ report of the following case

Hall didn’t always add his views to the end of a report (after all, as editor, he had the whole paper to epress his opinions) but it’s interesting to see that the report on Justice Burton next trial after Kennedy’s that day has a longer comment.

I like his politely sarcastic tone: “We cannot see the grounds upon which the learned Judge intends to make this application…” and his questioning of what he sees as doubtful judgements.

And yes, I am biased!

So what about William Westbrooke Burton? Again, I won’t go into his life story , including his judgements about the rights of Aboriginal people, here, but the relevant facts are that he was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1832 and soon expressed his opinion that “an overwhelming defect of religious principle” was the cause of the many crimes in the colony, may of which led to the death penalty.

Report in the Sydney Monitor of Judge William Burton's first trial, February 1833

Judge Burton’s first trial, 1833 (Monitor)

He had a low opinion of convicts, emancipists and Catholics. You might think that this could have biased him against Nicholas, but John Kennedy may well have been Catholic himself, and although I haven’t found any evidence of his being a convict, I’ve seen none that shows he came free, either.

Judge Burton served two terms in New South Wales, resigning in 1861 after a conflict over land legislation. He is credited with contributing towards the ending of convict transportation to New South Wales through his influence on the report of the select committee on transportation (the Molesworth Committee) in 1837.

John Dight appointed coroner, Sydney Monitor, June 7 1828

John Dight appointed, Monitor, June 7 1828

Since my last post I’ve found the record of the inquest into Nicholas’s death. John Dight had been the coroner at Evan since 1828. The Registers of Coroners’ Inquests, 1796-1942 (thank you, Ancestry!) shows that he carried out the inquest himself on September 27 and found a verdict of “manslaughter ag[ains]t Jno Kennedy”.

The Monitor report says that Dr Black’s opinion was different. “It was his… opinion, that [Nicholas’s head wounds] were caused by falls” and not by being hit with a stick or rock. I haven’t found out much about the doctor except that he practised in the Penrith area and was called as a witness in court several times.

Not surprisingly, John Kennedy is hard to track down. I don’t know where he came from before he turned up as a labourer in Penrith. There are various convicts with the same name, but it’s not an unusual one. Peter Mayberry’s Irish Convicts to New South Wales shows 20 arriving before 1834, six of whom were labourers.

John Kennedy sentenced. Report in The Sydney Herald, November 1834

Report of John Kennedy’s sentence

As for what happened to him after the trial, the Supreme Court document notes that on November 15, 1834, he was “found Guilty of Larceny from the person and Not Guilty of putting in fear”. Three days later it adds: “Transported for Life”. The Sydney Herald was one of four papers to report the verdict.

It states that he was sent to a penal colony – perhaps Norfolk Island or Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).  Better than being hung, you might think. But while I was trawling Trove for any clues about Kennedy after 1834 (and found nothing I could pin down),  I did see a story about a man given the same sentence, who commented that he would rather hang than be transported.

There’s one last mystery to look at. Attorney General John Kinchela‘s document lists these men as witnesses: Abram Samuel, John McPetre, Thomas Carty, John Delany [sic] and Michael Mulcahy. The second last on the list has the same name as Nicholas and Elizabeth‘s eldest son. Since John had his parents living with him, it’s safe to guess that the John Delany on the witness list is the same man.

Michael Mulcahy is interesting, too. That’s the name of the man Elizabeth married in 1835, the following year. Was he a family friend? I’ve still got to track him down.

Since my last post, Aussie genealogy blogger cassmob has asked: “Was the judge simply stating the legal situation? … Did the jury think it wasn’t beyond reasonable doubt and hence their conclusion?” Fair comment. I’ll probably never know, since the Monitor is the only place Kennedy’s trial seems to have been recorded. Sometimes we just have to let go. But maybe you know something more about the background to this story? 

Further reading and sources:

Review of Edward Smith Hall and the Sydney Monitor by Erin Ihde in The Resident Judge of Port Phillip

Edward Smith Hall in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Wikipedia and 

Judge (later Sir) William Westbrooke Burton in the ADB and on the Parliament of New South Wales website

… and, of course, Trove



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