Monthly Archives: March 2011

Australian Heritage Week 14 – 20 April 2011

In a few short weeks it will be time to celebrate Australian Heritage Week (AHW). AHW has been developed by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities to showcase Australia’s unique local heritage.

This year AHW runs from Thursday 14 April – Wednesday 20 April and includes a wide range of activites right around the country. Some of my picks include….

Open House – Old Government House, Parramatta NSW. Sunday 17th April from 10.30am – 4.30pm. A chance to visit this amazing property on National Trust Day.

Military Heritage Tour – Brisbane CBD, QLD. Sunday 17th April from 9am – 12.30pm. A guided walking tour that explores Brisbane’s fascinating military history.

Full Moon Walking Tours – Melbourne Cemetery, Parkville VIC. Sunday 17th April with several tours running from 6.20pm – 8.50pm. A guided tour including stories of the many famous identities that are buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery.

The Best of the Mornington Peninsula – Briarswood Cottage & Heronswood Estate, Mornington Peninsula, VIC. Saturday 16th April 11.30am – 3pm. A local event for me! This is a self-drive event that includes visits to these two beautiful cottages and gardens.

Missing ANZACs at Fromelles – Hambledon Cottage, Parramatta NSW. Saturday 16th April 2 – 4pm. Includes a talk by Tim Whitford, part of the team that worked on the mass burial site at Fromelles.

Afternoon at the Archives – Our Collections, Your History – Brisbane City Archives, Moorooka QLD.  Saturday 16th April 1 – 5pm. Includes talks about the collection and a behind the scenes tour.

Penitentiary Chapel Open Day – Hobart TAS. Friday 15th April 10am – 2.30pm. Tour the court rooms, tunnels, cells and gallows of this historic building.

For more information, visit

Penitentiary Chapel, Hobart TAS.


Leave a comment

Filed under Australian history, Cemeteries, Military history, New South Wales history, Pioneers, Queensland history, Tasmanian history, Victorian history, WWI

Book Review – “The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet” by Mollie Gillen

For anyone researching ancestors that arrived in Australia as part of the First Fleet, this book is an indispensable tool.

In the foreward, the book’s contents are described as…

A valuable bibliography, an introduction containing a perceptive analysis of the background of the First Fleet, notes explaining the methodology that has been followed, and appendices that cast light on different groups of First Fleeters including the ‘phantoms’ – those men and women erroneously listed in earlier publications as having come.

Thais is a very important reference book, but the word ‘reference’ fails to do justice to what is a lively, vivid, colourful piece of writing that in addition to being original and highly informative is enjotable and readable.

Brian H. Fletcher – Bicentennial Professor of Australian History, The University of Sydney

The book was published back in 1988 after some 20 years of research on Gillen’s part. The bulk of its contents includes an alphabetical listing of approx 1500 people who sailed on the 11 ships that comprised the First Fleet. There are also abstracts of biographical data and a fascinating section that includes the signatures of 160 people, many of which were taken from the marriage register of St Phillip’s Church in Sydney, the oldest Parish in Australia together with the Parish of Parramatta, the first service being held on 3 Feb 1788 and the original church being built in 1793.

On a personal level, this has been a fantastic resource for me to use to research some of my First Fleet ancestors. Two of the most fascinating were men by the names of John Randall (also known as Reynolds) and John Martin. Most interesting to me initially was the fact that both men were described as “negro” and I was unaware of any connection that I had to any black ancestors. Interestingly, through marriage, subsequent years saw such a change in the appearance of the children that any connection to black ancestors was unrecognisable. Also of note is the fact that both Johns were related through marriage, with John Randall’s daughter Mary marrying John Martin in 1812 – an age gap between them of 36 years!

John Randall / Reynolds (c1764-?) – A black American sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing a steel watch chain. He arrived on the Alexander at the age of 24, mustered under the name Reynolds. Randall / Reynolds appeared to be relatively well-educated. He could read and write, he had musical talents including the ability to play the flute and tambourine and he was also a ‘crackshot’ with a gun. He married fellow convict Esther Harwood on 21 Feb 1788 in the first marriage in the Colony. Sadly, Esther died in 1789. John subsequently married Mary Butler on 5 Sep 1790. Mary was an Irish convict who arrived in 1790. They had four childen – Lydia (1791-1793), Frances (1792-1870), Mary (1793-1857) and John (1797-?). The final fate of John Randall is unknown. It is thought he may have relocated to Tasmania, where he was murdered, but this has been unable to be verified.

John Martin (c1757-1837) – John was described as “a negro” originally from Barbados, who was sentenced to 7 years transportation in 1782 for stealing a bundle of clothing. He was held on the Ceres until eventually arriving on the Alexander at the age of 31. He married fellow convict Ann Joy in 1792 and received a grant of 50 acres at the Northern Boundary Farms. John and Ann had no children and she died in 1806. John subsequently married Mary Randall, daughter of fellow convict John Randall, in 1812. There is some confusion over the number of children he and Mary had with Gillen’s book listing 5 children – John (1807-1855), Sophia (1809-1870), Frances (1811-1888), Henry (1813-1892), Hannah (1815-1871). However, other research suggests that there was also Richard (1818-1892), Frederick (1821-1903), Mary (1822-1870), Amelia (1826-1886), Harriett (1830-1882) and Nicholas (1832-1902). John also gained employment over the years as a constable and poundkeeper as well as maintaining his 50 acres and livestock. He was pensioned as a constable in 1828 at the age of 72. He died at Field of Mars in 1837 and is buried at St John’s Parramatta.


Filed under Australian history, Convicts, New South Wales history, Pioneers, Queensland history, Research tools, Tasmanian history, Victorian history

Photographs of WWI Diggers discovered in France

I read the following story with interest on the Gould Genealogy webpage –

More than 3000 photographs of Australian WWI Diggers and other allied troops have been discovered in the attic of a dilapidated farmhouse  in Vignacourt in the Somme region of France. Previously there had been quite a gap in photographic records of this time largely due to the fact that personal cameras weren’t allowed on the Western Front as they were in Gallipoli.

The collection has become known as the Thuillier Collection after the farmhouse owner and photographer Louis Thuillier who had seen an opportunity to make some money by offering to take portraits of soldiers. Many of these photographs have been identified as being of soldiers from the 1st and 5th Divisions, taken in November and December 1916. Many would be the last photographs taken of these soldiers before they were killed in action.

The Australian War Memorial has asked for help in identifying the soldiers in these photographs. If you think you may be able to identify any of these soldiers then visit the following links:

Do you know any of these WWI Diggers?


Filed under Military history, WWI

The Mobbs Mob…

One of the most interesting discoveries I made while researching my ancestry was my connection to a man named William Mobbs, an industrious convict who was my great great great great great grandfather.

William was born in London in 1763, the son on Isaac Mobbs (1731-1794) and Mary Ireland (1740-unknown). William married Ann Grover (1761-1850) in 1790 and they proceeded to have three children while living in London – William Jnr (1791-1851), Ann (1795-1867) and George (1796-1821).

In 1796 William was committed to stand trial at Newgate on the charge of stealing salt petre, a crime he committed in conjunction with his brother-in-law William Batman (1765-1833), father of John Batman, founder of Melbourne.

William was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation and after a year in prison he left England on the Barwell, arriving in Sydney in May 1798. His wife Ann and their three children followed William as free settlers, arriving aboard the Earl Cornwallis in 1801. William and Ann then had another son John (1802-1828).

William was quite a model convict and displayed some talent for horticulture.

An early diary by Mrs Felton Matthews commented that…

” Old Mobbs was among the first convicts who arrived in the country and was for years employed in the government garden, from whence he obtained a cutting from the first orange tree brought from Rio: this tree he showed with pride as being the parent of his whole orchard, either by cuttings, layers or seedlings…He was the first possessor of peaches” (from Book of Sydney Suburbs by Pollon p51).

William was emancipated in 1803 and concentrated on the acquisition of land. His first formal grant was 30 acres in the Field of Mars in 1802 although documents suggest he owned land in present day Carlingford from 1798. 26 acres were cleared with 11.5 under wheat & maize. He also had 44 sheep, 19 horned cattle, 12 goats and 2 pigs.

In 1820 he applied for more land & received another 300 acres which he used for cattle grazing. By 1823 he had another 80 acres for the propogation of fruit trees. By 1825 the Sydney Gazette declared that William Mobbs of Pennant Hills “has one of the finest crops of wheat ever beheld in the colony”. The 1828 muster credits him with 907 acres and he was widely known for the best apples & oranges in the colony.

William Mobbs died in 1839 and was buried in St Johns Cemetery in Parramatta.

His widow Ann “of Orange Orchard” remarried but was buried next to her first husband following her death in 1850.

In the main, their children followed their father’s rural interests. Son William Jnr was identified in the 1828 Muster Books as a farmer with 300 acres, while brother Isaac had 200 acres. John was a gardener & fruiterer who died young at age 26. Ann married three times and died in 1867 at age 74.

The Mobbs land together with other orchards in the area including those owned by Cox, Spurway & Neil, were effected in the 1860s  by an insect attack with diseased trees having to be destroyed. A second environmental disaster soon followed and exacerbated the farmers. Severe drought set in & it was another 7 yrs before the orchards operated effectively. However, the orchards & larger land holdings were subdivided for residential development, notably after the first subdivision in 1883 & the Carlingford railway extension in 1902.

William Mobbs Jnr & wife Maria Mobbs (nee Grono)


Filed under Australian history, Convicts, New South Wales history, Pioneers

Military Resources

Walter Mervyn Dorman

I have found that a fantastic way of tracing many of my family members has been through using military records. We are very fortunate here in Australia to have relatively straightforward access to the records of those that have served in the Defence Forces.

Some of my favourite places to begin searching include:

Australian War Memorial – Users can search an extensive database of nominal rolls, rolls of honour and commemorative rolls. There is also access to photographs, private papers and diaries.

World War II Nominal Roll – Includes the details of approximately 1 million men and women who served in Australia’s Defence Forces and Merchant Navy during WWII.

The AIF Project – Created by ADFA, this web page includes a searchable database of approximately 330,000 men and women who served overseas in the First Australian Imperial Force from 1914 – 1918.

Leave a comment

Filed under Military history, Research tools, WWI, WWII


I have been busy adding bookmarks to my Delicious page which will be linked to my blog. You can find the link at the bottom of the right sidebar. Either click on the heading to be taken to the full list on my Delicious page or click on any link that takes your fancy to be directed straight to that webpage.

For new users, Delicious is an online social bookmarking service that allows users to save bookmarks and share them with others. I guess the key here is the ability to share those webpages you have bookmarked and also browse those of other users. This is obviously something that is difficult to do if you simply bookmark webpages in your browser on your own computer.

Delicious also has some nifty tagging tools and is worth a browse.

Leave a comment

Filed under Research tools

Some background to begin…

So the best place to begin with my family history blog is to introduce my family tree and the primary tool I use to research and publish my tree.

My interest in family history comes from my mother, who began researching our family back in the early 2000’s. Following her death in 2005, I inherited her research and so began my hobby. For various reasons, I chose to publish the information I had online in 2006 using The Goddard / Timmins Family Tree now contains over 8000 people and has now incorporated my husband’s family. While full access to the website and its many resources comes at a cost, it is difficult to rival for ease of use, access to records and the online community it incorporates.

It is simply a matter of entering what you know and going from there. Ancestry will provide you with ‘hints’ from its record databases and it will undoubtedly not be long before you will find other members researching similar interests. This is a good beginning for those you are unsure where to begin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Research tools