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My story and why I am addicted to family history

My fascination with my Family History began with my father when I was still in high school – many years ago. He decided for some reason to see who belonged to him and how many famous people there were in our tree.

I spent hours looking at records he got through the Mormons for Scotland.  He claimed everyone who was interesting – if they had his name – then they must be connected! Needless to say – this is not the best way to do a family tree.

A few years later, I had moved to Sydney and he was in Brisbane. He got a bit stuck so a visit to the history rooms of the Lane Cove library was made. This was before computers really had come into their own and much time was spent looking at microfiche and microfilm. To my surprise I found my family arriving into Sydney from Scotland on the Parthia 1886. There was Jane HOWIE and her children, Richard, David, Mary Ann and Elizabeth. I was hooked from that moment on. My first query was “why is her husband William not with them?” That question was only finally solved in 2015.

Dirt Water Dynasty was on the TV. This was MY ancestor’s story! Scottish miners coming to the Land of Milk and Honey. From an historical point of view, the clothes, the language, the voyage and the arrival into the heat of the new land showed me what my family had most likely gone through on their journey for a better life. My dad & I spoke another language to each other from then on…..no one else in the family was interested but these ancestors became real for us and looking back it was our main point of contact. I am so thankful to him for leading me into this ‘hobby’. Dad became obsessed and began corresponding by letters and then by email with a man in England who was compiling all he could on the name of CALVERT (my maiden name). He gave Dad the title of the 2nd most knowledgeable person in regards to research on the Calvert name in the world. Dad was very proud to own that title. Sadly the website containing all of that information went off the web when the man running it in England passed away.

I began to follow my maternal line from some names my grandfather had obtained through the NSW State Library. His lineage is quite complicated and is the bane of my research.

My maternal name on my tree is MINTON. It is known as being a brand of very fine china from England and every Minton person seems to want to claim the connection. But we discovered that our MINTON was Irish and a convict at that {everyone wants a convict now, which is Australian royalty} BUT there were 2 from Ireland named Michael Minton. They arrived into the colony 20 years apart. We had the second one in our sights as it all fitted to what we had worked out BUT then we found that there was a family tree published in the NSW Pioneers Register so that MUST BE the TRUE story. This was very different to what we thought.

Consequently, all thoughts changed direction to the first convict Michael Minton who arrived in 1802. The colony was very young then and my interest in the origins of Australia was tweaked.

Many years later I decided to find out if there were any relatives in Australia on the Minton side and wrote to every Minton in the white pages—all 100 of them. It cost $45 in stamps at the time. The number of replies was overwhelming, and many different branches of families were connected through this letter.  Then one night my heart stopped as I opened an email from Barry in Victoria. He was my second cousin and remembered many things and was happy to share information. Barry got caught up in the story and wrote away for the probate of the Michael we thought was ours. He and his immediate family were over the moon about this connection as this Michael was very famous. He had huge amounts of newspaper time for many years after he died in 1824. His first wife {in Australia} was a convict and she was killed by other convicts, then he married a 24 year old woman and he was 60. They had two little ones including a boy named Michael. Michael the father was murdered in 1824on the way home from selling pigs to the government stores. His wife was charged as being an accessory! She was left with two little ones, including little Michael, our direct relative—or so we thought.   Barry uncovered that this could not possibly be our line as the children died with no children! As well as this, another wife and family popped up in Ireland. A dead end and worse of all – not our great story!

So much for other peoples published work! This became my first lesson in research.

Don’t follow other peoples information…..do it yourself.

The wrong Michael Minton still needs to have his story told even though it isn’t mine. The novel has been started and will be finished one day.

Back to the other Michael (my GGGGrandfather} – the correct one this time. Barry lost some interest as the real story wasn’t as good. However, our Michael was a stone mason and lived in Market Street in the heart of Sydney town around 1843. The beautiful buildings built then are still standing. Perhaps he worked on some of them. Some years ago I visited the area and walked in the places he would have been in. To know he was part of the place at the same time as the buildings were being built touches my soul. It connects me to the land of Australia.

The belief is that one of his sons was John Joseph and he became a struggling butcher. He married an Irish girl, Margaret Agnes Duffy, in Bowral and they had 11children that were registered. I felt the sadness of the death of 6 of these children in infancy. This reminded me that not all families are happy families and this then leads to troubled people who have troubled lives.

One of their surviving boys was my direct line. He was called “a rotter” by his sister-in-law in her story. He was an alcoholic and probably a harsh man. He married a young girl, Ruby, who was just 17. They had two sons in Sydney.

Life must have been hard as Ruby came from a complicated family too. I have not yet found her birth registration but she was supposed to have been born in Goulburn NSW. She had a full sister and a half-sister {who was not liked by the other two girls}. Ruby’s father was a builder, born in Queensland in about 1873 but we don’t know anything about him or Mary Burton, his wife. No marriage is recorded for Ruby’s parents and her trail haunts me as I am unable to uncover it, even after 30 years of searching. Ruby made the brave decision to leave her husband and take the two boys to her sisters’ place in Victoria. The boys or at least the youngest one was told that his father had died. The father sadly died a homeless alcoholic and was found under the Pyrmont Bridge in 1942, many years after his supposed death. We will never know what events caused him to be as he was. What was his upbringing like? What were his demons that shaped his unfortunate life?

When Ruby remarried Robert Clow in later years, she listed herself as a widow. She wasn’t and so was actually a bigamist. Yet another lesson – people tell tales on certificates, often to protect their reputation and that of their children.

The family splintered more and I realise why my grandfather was so closed to people. He grew up without a father and for most of his life, without a mother as she went to Ocean Island with her new husband. He chose to sever contact with the small family he had.

He enlisted in WWII to see the world. His Battalion went to England. He married after meeting my grandmother at a dance. In those extreme times of war, life was an unknown and so they did what many young people did at the time, married and began the next generation.

This created an English War Bride who travelled to the other side of the world, away from her family and friends forever to a strange country. She sadly never seemed happy in her new country and suffered a life of regrets. One of her daughters fell for the extensive charms of a Newcastle lad, most likely at a dance, and as he ‘never let a chance go by’, they married and next generation was begun.

This created a marriage between two people who came together for their child. And I thank God all of this happened as my father was the Newcastle lad.

My sister followed a few years later when we were in PNG and some years later, our parents went their separate ways. This showed the strengths of our mother and she instilled a sense of empowerment in both of her girls for which we are thankful.

I am here because all of these people came together through the years, facing all of their trials and tribulations.

This is my story, warts and all and it is told with the humblest of gratitude for my parents and grandparents, cousins and everyone else in my physical family. I love them all and am so glad that they love me too. I am also grateful for my ancestors for creating the sparks through the generations.

So come Follow YOUR Family with me.

Dianne Woodstock

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Follow Your Family
Di Woodstock
Phone: 0419 224 628

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