Saturday, May 26, 2012


Making money during the Gold Rush was hard work and most people failed.  John Pilgrim made money by sitting on his behind all day.  He was neither a miner or a prospector.

Was he Creative?  Cunning?  Or Clever?  I'll let you be the judge.

John Pilgrim was born in 1834 in Earls Colne, Essex, England, the eldest son of a farmer.   At age 17, he was working as a servant and errand boy for a baker.

Within two weeks of marrying, John and his new wife Naomi were onboard the ship Taymouth Castle on their way to Australia.  The three month journey was not easy with the milk and salt beef rations being very poor.  There were many deaths on board, primarily from diarrhoea.

As the ship neared Port Adelaide, South Australia in June 1855, smallpox broke out onboard.  This resulted in total upheaval for all passengers and crew.  Upon arrival, those who were infected were moved to a dismasted ship and totally isolated to avoid further infection.  A make shift quarantine station was established at Torrens Island and the "non small box" immigrants were housed in canvas tents, supervised by constables who had orders to shoot if the immigrants tried to leave.  All clothing was boiled to reduce the chances of further infection.  After 6 weeks, and when there were no further outbreaks, the immigrants were freed from quarantine and could begin their new life in Australia.

Naomi and John Pilgrim
The long overland voyage commenced as John and Naomi made their way to Cockatoo Valley and commenced farming.   Farming was not  kind to John with several poor seasons. His crops suffered from Red Rust, a fungus that destroys wheat.

Fate was about to step in and change his fortunes.

In September 1868, a local resident discovered gold nearby and with several findings within a few days, news traveled fast.

With the most direct and accessible route to the diggings being through the property John leased, he soon put up signs at the gate and charged a toll for anyone passing through his property, being 6d (sixpence) for conveyances and 3d (threepence) for horses. There was quite an uproar as many people paid the toll day after day.

The population expanded quickly as people flocked to the area hoping to strike it rich. "Horses and Traps were tied up in every direction" and there was a "busy crowd all along the creek".

Water became a desired commodity as the creek soon became mud and was unsuitable for either drinking or washing the gold.  John saw another opportunity and soon sold the water from his paddock.  A payment was levied by the bucket, even horses could not get a drink without a payment being made.

John "rapidly regained his position, with the power and desire to benefit others by his 'diggings' which have been extremely profitable".

Creative?  Cunning? Or Clever?

Click on the picture for more information  and related blogs

Friday, May 25, 2012

C is for COLLECT Now

Collect all the information you can NOW.

Visit your Grandparents, Great Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles and any other family members now before it is too late.  Once they are gone (or their minds have gone on holidays) then so much information and knowledge is lost forever.

Collect all the information that you can and copy photos.  Record discussions if possible.  Getting family members to look through old photos is a great way to get them reminiscing and telling stories about the past.  Ask lots of open questions (ie questions where the response is detailed rather than yes or no - begin with What, Where, When, Why, How) to prompt them to expand.

One of my biggest regrets is that I did not talk to my grandmother more about her family and upbringing.  I had plenty of opportunity as she lived to age 96.  Unfortunately Family History wasn't as important to me then and I always thought there would be more time.

After Gran died, it was discovered that she had albums of photos dating back to the early 1900s. She was a keen photographer.  I was so fortunate that my Aunty saved them from going to the tip.  However when I look through them now, I would love to be able to go back in time and talk to Gran about them.

I now make a point of visiting family members, working from oldest to youngest. It is also a great opportunity to travel around the country and see places I haven't been before.

The photo above, taken in 1933, is of my grandmothers first flight. It cost her 7/6 for 10 minutes. I always thought Gran was so old fashioned but looking through her photo albums I have learned a different side of her.  I would have loved to hear her tell me all about her first flight experience.

My tip:  Don't delay.  Collect as much information as you can now before it is too late.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

B is for BURIED Alive

Samuel Mottram junior was born 3rd January 1883 at the small mining and farming community of Havelock, near Maryborough, Victoria, Australia.
He was the 5th of 10 children born to Samuel Mottram and Elizabeth Sarah Gourley. Bad luck touched the Mottram family early with two of Samuel's sister dying of diptheria at a young age. Two more children would also die before their parents.

Mottram, Maryborough
Mottram Family circa 1904
Back: Mary, Samuel snr, Samuel jnr, Jack, Fred
Front: Eve, David, Henry, Elizabeth & Madeline

Samuel worked as a farmer and miner in the Havelock area.  At age 24, he married Sophia "Lillian" Walker. There was a strong link between the Mottram and Walker families.  In addition to residing in the same area, five years earlier Samuel's elder sister Mary had married Lillian's elder brother Ambrose Walker.

Brother and sister - Sam & Mary Mottram - they married siblings Lillian & Ambrose Walker
Sam was a "well known and popular miner" who was very "careful and capable".  He also showed "courage and skill", which was evidenced when he volunteered to be lowered into an abandoned 250ft mine shaft to assist recover the body of a suicide victim during difficult circumstances.

At midnight on 26th Feburary 1818, Samuel and his mate Joseph Tinker started work in 21 shoot at the Duke and Main Leads Consols mine at Betley, where Samuel had been working for about 18 months.  All was going well until about 3.30am when they heard a cracking noise, followed by a slight fall of earth.  Concerned for their safety, they ran for a safety cut in the drive.  Joseph was in the lead and as he arrived in the cut, he heard a second fall of earth and an immediate call for help from Samuel.  He tried to help his mate but it was impossible due to the sand and gravel so he immediately went for assistance.

Five men, including Joseph, worked solidly for over 3 hours trying to find Samuel, who was not responding to any calls. Eventually Samuel was located at nearly 7am.  He had been covered with 3-4 foot of sand, gravel and rocks but unfortunately he was past saving.  Although he had a few abrasions which occurred after death, the cause of his demise was ruled as asphyxia.

The Argus - Thursday 28th February 1918

In an unfortunate twist of fate, it was found that although 10-12 tonnes of sand and gravel had fallen, the area where the men were originally working remained clear.  If Samuel and Joseph had remained at the back of the drive they would both have been safe.


Two Bs or not two Bs.  That is the question I have been procrastinating on.

I couldn't make up my mind between Backup or Bookmarks.  Although it is very important to backup all your data and hold a copy offsite, it makes researching easier if you have all your favourite websites Bookmarked and sorted.

When I started researching, I would often come across a good website but then be unable to find it again later.  Once I started bookmarking my favourite websites, I ended up with a list a mile long and still had trouble finding the one that I wanted.

It has made it so much easier to find things now that I have sorted them into folders based on topics and labelled them so they are easy to find. I also sort them into alphabetical order. In the picture below, you will see that within my Family Tree bookmark, I have folders for various topics (eg Aust research, BDMs, Cemetery & Graves, Defence, Immigration and specific family names).  This makes it so much easier for me to find the relevant website.  Some websites (such as the Public Records Office) are listed in more than one folder.

So how do you organise your bookmarks and folders?  It is different for the various browsers but they follow a similar theme. I have provided instructions below for Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.

In Google Chrome;
Step One:  Go into the spanner (tools) on the top right of screen - bookmarks - bookmark manager
The Short Cut is to press Control+Shift+O

This will bring up the bookmark manager
Step Two:  Select (click on) the folder that you want to organise in bookmark manager.  Then click on the "organize" button.

Step 3:  "Add folder"
Add your folders and then click and drag your bookmarks into it.

Internet Explorer is very similar
Step 1:  Go into Favorites in the top Toolbar
Step 2: Select Organize Favorites
Step 3: Create Folders
Step 4: Drag or "Move" your existing favourite websites into the correct folder.

My tip:  Bookmark your favourite internet sites and organise with folders sorted in alphabetical order.  Also don't forget to Backup your research regularly and hold a copy offsite.

Friday, May 11, 2012


It is so important to ensure that information obtained is correct.  Authenticate all information.

When I first started researching I happily copied information from Ancestry and other sources only to find out later that a large portion of it was incorrect.  Mistakes get copied from tree to tree.

I have even found several headstones where dates have differed from the death certificates.

Alot of information included in family history books and handed down through the family has been incorrect also.   For example, my great great grandparents wedding date had been brought forward two years in all family records and family tree books.  On ordering certificates to authenticate information, I found that my great grandmother was an "instant baby" born two months after the wedding of her parents. My grandmother would be absolutely disgusted if she was still alive.  My grandmothers family were very proper and religious.  When I moved in with my boyfriend (who is now my husband) my grandmother said to me "Sharon, I did not think that you would get involved in this barn yard caper".

It takes longer to correct mistakes than it does to ensure the information is correct in the first instance.

When I started researching I was trying to do it on the cheap but have learnt that if you are serious about researching your family then it is very important to order certificates to authenticate information.  It is amazing how much additional information (and the leads) you can receive from certificates.

My Tip:  Don't believe anything (treat it as a lead) until you have verified or Authenticated information.  Also keep your sources and notes on how you obtained information for future reference.

My Top 2 Websites:

Family History Through the Alphabet

Gould Genealogy recently suggested a "Family History through the Alphabet" challenge and I thought it would be a fun way to start a blog and share some of the knowledge and mistakes that I have come across over the years.