Bell Ancestors, Going to America-Postscript

In recent times I get telephone calls and receive emails from people all over Australia asking what website they need to access to download their ‘family history’.

When I inquire a little deeper they tell me they have an important family birthday celebration coming up and the ‘family history’ would make a great gift.

Then I ask, why they thought it was on the Internet and so easily accessible? Yes, they were avid fans of ‘Who Do You Think You Are? And,yes, they had seen the advertisements on the television. They had tried the suggested site,but couldn’t find what they were looking for, so thought it must be on another website, and I would surely know which one.

Family historians who have been ‘doing their family history’ for some time know that it is not all about the collection of names and dates and entering them into a data base to reveal their ‘family tree’.

I believe it is a life time journey, where the solving of little family puzzles, finding that elusive document, sharing ideas and stories with not only with like minded people, but if you are very blessed, people, who are actually connected to the same family.

Just as it takes time, work and dedication for a seed to grow into a mighty tree, it takes time, work and dedication of many people to ‘grow’ your ‘ family tree’.

Unfortunately with the ‘fast and furious’ digital age people ‘want everything now’ with instant gratification. I know many get so disappointed, and some even angry that I can not give them the instant answers they were expecting. Sometimes I will suggest I meet them in the local library and we have a look on the Internet to see what we can find, and perhaps, even someone, who is researching the same family. If they are not even interested in doing that much, I have to tell them I cannot help.

I am very aware of how the information gets onto the Internet. It is the work of many, many thousands of people,who over time, have collected, indexed, scanned and data-entered massive amounts of information. Sometimes it is actually part of employment and people get paid to do it, but mostly it is usually many thousands of volunteers and family historians, who are ‘giving back’ to their family and community. The Internet is not some super software program, which has collected the information out of the ether and sorted it into files we can miraculously access, and download with our computers and smart phones.

I am always hopeful that the large ‘free’ as well as subscription websites might make that fact a little clearer to their subscribers and users.

Computers and the Digital Age make wonderful ‘slaves’ for researching our family history, but we always need to take care they do not become the ‘masters’. It is not all on the Internet.

I believe the most important part of family history is that everyone in the family should be encouraged to take part no matter how large or small their contribution, but everyone should also be acknowledged in some way for that contribution.

For example,take my last blog- Bell Ancestors, Going to America.

If I hadn’t made time on my busy trip to England to meet with Joan and Ivy,(as they are not on the same family line as myself);

If Ivy hadn’t been encouraged to bring out all those dozens of photographs;

If she hadn’t told us the story of those reputed uncles;

If I hadn’t followed up on the story, when I returned home;

If Glenda and Jim hadn’t been prepared to spend many hours on a difficult and a rather thankless task of combing through many, many records, (and by the way it wasn’t their branch of the family either);

If they hadn’t passed the information back to me;

If I hadn’t done anything with it, or wasn’t prepared to spend the time collating and fitting it with other records I had collected over the years;

If I hadn’t contacted Joan and Ivy with the results,and if they hadn’t then contacted these cousins in USA;

Then so much family history would have been lost again. What a terrible tragedy.

I have always been very grateful for the friendship, love and dedication to service not only with my own family research, but the ‘family history’ community at large. This is what I’m trying to pass onto the next generations. One way I have found is encouraging them all to take part at our family gatherings, as well at other appropriate activities.

Blogging also gives me the opportunity to acknowledge so many in the past, and also the present too.


Educating Nola – A new beginning.

Today, I’m going back to the classroom. I’m taking the Blogging 101 on-line course over the next few weeks to really get into ‘blogging’ the proper way, or my version of it perhaps. I’m going to be continuing to share my experience, ideas and other stuff on family and local history, and hopefully in an informative but enjoyable way. In other words not too boring and self absorbing.

I’ve been ‘into’ family and local history most of my life. My husband not so much, but he is a ‘saint’ and very tolerant of it all.

Our children have grown up with it, and were not aware for years that other people had Dining and Lounge rooms in their homes, that were actually used for that purpose, and were not stacked high with books, folders and papers everywhere.

Their usual greeting when arriving home from school was- “Find any new dead-bodies today Mum?”- Much to the horror of any ‘visitors’ who might be having a cup of tea, and chat at our kitchen table. Of course what they meant was, had I found any long deceased person named in records that belonged to our family tree.

As the years went by and I was still going strong, our children then labelled my feverish activity -Mum’s ‘Magnificent Obsession’ . (Does anyone remember the old movie of that name?).

No doubt it’s true, as I am still very passionate about helping and encouraging everyone to investigate their own ancestors and heritage. I just love making contact with anyone remotely connected to my ‘family tree’ or anyone just as passionate about researching and writing history as I am.

I started a blog a couple of years ago, but then got cold feet for a while. We have recently returned home from a trip to Europe and Britain. I started blogging again as I got tired of telling the same stories and answering the same questions, over and over again, from family and friends. Now I just invite them to read my blog.

I have been very surprised with the response, and have decided I needed to find out how to do it all ‘properly’.

Now, I’m worried about if I’m doing it right. The family are already shaking their heads.

Catch you all somewhere in cyberspace tomorrow.

Back on Track with Family History Blogging.

As I opened my emails this morning I was reminded it was National Friendship Week. This is nothing unusual, as every day in the week seems to be labelled ‘special’ these days, for some good cause or another. However this struck a chord with me as it included one of my favourite sayings and inspirational verses

“What goes around comes around.” I often say this to myself when I see people acting unkindly or saying nasty things to, or about someone else. Of course it works the other way too, so when you express kindness to others the rewards are returned ten fold. I have often found this to be so in my life.

It was my mother’s favourite saying too, probably for the same reasons. My mother was the kindest person and never spoke ill of anyone, but I smile to myself now, when I recall some of my siblings, as well as my own escapades as children. In her frustration, Mum must have wished the same for us.

I enjoy collections of inspirational verse too. As our family trees are mostly made up of Irish ancestors, I have a few versions of the Irish Blessing. Today’s was:-

“ May there always be work for your hands to do;

May your purse always hold a coin or two;

May the sun always shine on your window pane;

May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;

May the hand of a friend always be near you;

May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

  • and the inevitable last line is always the same-May you be in heaven a half hour, before the devil knows you’re dead.” 

    Another favourite saying of mine is “ Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make it a great one.”


    This got me thinking about all the Irish family research I have done in the last year, and it is time I started blogging again and sharing it with my friends and families.

Planning the Work and Working the Plan

Over the last few weeks I have continued to refine my system and consistently sorted and filed the information I have on each of our ancestors, and their immediate families. I then entered this information into my computer family history program.

While tracing these ancestors from the present generation back generation by generation I have collected most of the pertinent birth, marriage and death certificates, from the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the various states in Australia, for each individual, who is a direct ancestor, However, having one reference or document, of an event, is not the whole story, nor can we consider it ‘proof’ of a correct ancestor.

I then embarked on the quest for other documents concerning the events of births, deaths and marriages to add further details of our ancestors. I first sort the baptism, marriage and burial entries in the church registers of our parents and grandparents. The marriage certificates of my paternal family stated that the services had been conducted by the Anglican Church in Murwillumbah, in northern New South Wales. There were no on-line indexes to search because the events were too recent, but I was able to find the relevant name, address and phone number to approach the Diocesan Church Archives, which confirmed they held the records for Murwillumbah. The records are not open to the public, but the archivist will carry out a search on an enquirer’s behalf. The fee schedule is available on request.
I must admit there were a few surprises for me on my family.
A search for my own baptism revealed that I wasn’t baptised soon after birth, but was four years old and was part of a ‘job lot’, where a younger sister and a cousin were also baptised on the same day.
A Confirmation Card amongst the family memorabilia shows that I was also confirmed in the same church.

My mother was also four years old when she was baptised with her younger sister, on a week day soon after the birth of the sister. Another surprise was the birth date on my mother’s baptism entry was not the same date as on her birth certificate, but it was the date we remember my mother always celebrated as her birthday. Which one do I entry into my family history? My mother’s older siblings were also baptised in the same church shortly after birth.

It would appear my father was not baptised. A search over twenty years revealed no entries for his family except two sisters, who were baptised as adults shortly before their marriages.

I then searched for relevant entries in newspapers for details of the births, marriage and deaths. I first searched on-line in the historical newspapers available through the National Library of Australia, where I found a brief obituary concerning my paternal grandfather. This had been extracted from a small provincial newspaper in the area my grandparents lived. That newspaper was not on-line, but I was able to access it on microfilm at the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library. I contacted the library and made an appointment and then spent several hours searching these newspapers. Not only did I locate the above mentioned obituary, but a funeral notice including a reference to a Protestant Lodge membership, which led me to believe the Lodge probably paid for his funeral. Confirmation may be among surviving archives concerning the relevant ‘Lodge’. Another item to put on my ‘to-do’ list.
Using dates from the ‘certificates’ I held, I was also able to locate a short report of the wedding of my grandparents in 1910, as well as a very full report of my parents wedding in 1946. These were great finds, as details not on the wedding certificates were found in the newspaper articles.. They were well worth the effort in seeking them out. More recent reports of deaths, inquests, funeral notices and obituaries in the newspapers have filled in further details of many family members.

Other records I sort concerning the death and burials of family members were Wills, Undertakers records, Municipal Cemeteries and Crematoriums, headstones and Memorial cards .Success concerning these has been very patchy.

This will be an ongoing process as I gather the story of each of our ancestors in Australia before I start researching overseas in the country of origin. In the majority of cases this means researching in Ireland.

My Family History New Year Resolutions

I have been tracing  ancestors and the history of various branches of my husband, Vern’s, and my own family lines for over forty years. I now have many boxes and filing cabinets full of notes and documents. My New Year resolutions for my family history were:

1) to sort, file and document my research into a simple system so, I can find the document and information immediately.

2) to put the information and documents into a family history programme on my computer.

3) to ‘blog’ my family research to keep me motivated and to make contact with other relatives interested in the same families.

It is now three months into the year and you may be wondering how my family history resolutions are going. The sorting and filing is progressing well. I have successfully designed a simple system to sort and file my documents and already have over forty labeled folders sitting in book cases and the overflowing boxes and overstuffed filing cabinets are slowly disappearing. The most important thing is that it works for me and I will continue to use it!

I have also entered all the information into a family history program on my computer. Again it is a simple program that I understand and can use, so as I progress with the research new material can be immediately entered and referenced..

Today I begin my journey of ‘blogging’ my research to share with our distant relatives, and can now claim I have kept to my New Year Family History Resolutions.

One might ask what is the point of these resolutions?

Out of Vern’s sixteen great-great grandparents, fourteen come from the southern counties of Ireland. The other two come from Staffordshire in England. On my family lines, ten are from the northern counties of Ireland and the other six are from London, Kent and Sussex in England.

Although very challenging, I have been quite successful in tracing all these lines over the years. Now I have carried out my Family History Resolutions I can assess all the information and documents I have on our ancestors, and  know what information I am missing. I can now make a research plan to find the missing documents I need to fill in the next piece of the story. In other words, I can see where my ‘brickwalls’ are and can make plans to try and solve the mysteries.

The journey has begun. May we all travel well together as we search our ancestral trails.

As I ‘plan the work and work the plan’ in researching our families I will share with you the highs and low of solving these family mysteries. In no particular order,  these are the families I will be researching in Ireland and England.

GROWCOCK and ANDERSON in Co Meath, Ireland

MCMAHON in Co Fermanagh, Ireland

MCCREA in Co Donegal, Ireland

GOODWIN in Co Monaghan

KANE and MCDONNELL in Co Armagh

KENNEDY in Co Tyrone, Ireland

MACKEY and STAPLETON in Co Tipperary

FINLAY in Co Dublin

SHERWOOD in Co Kildare


BAXTER and MATHER in London, England

BELL and VIDLER in Co Kent, England

PACKHAM, SARGENT and JARRETT in Co Sussex, England

HODGETTS in Staffordshire, England