Widdups from Urana & Bracewell-Hodgson connection

I originally posted this question on another site. My interest in the Widdups from Urana arises from the fact that Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien was the sister of my original Australian ancestor, Mary O’Brien later Kunkel. They came from the townland of Ballykelly in the Parish of Kilseily in East County Clare, Ireland. This is centred on the small town of Broadford which is not that far from Limerick.

The two girls emigrated from Ireland around the mid-1850s but no shipping records have been found (despite looking at every O’Brien entry in the records). Bridget O’Brien Widdup’s death record shows that she spent a year in Queensland before moving to New South Wales where she married John Widdup. Although rumour has it that he was a Danish seaman I have found no proof of this and I believe he was probably born in the north of England.  I have put what information I had on this family at the time into my family history of the Kunkel family, which also included the O’Briens from Ballykelly. The book is called Grass Roots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family and was published in 2003.

Information from another family historian suggests that there is a connection between this Widdup family and the Hodgsons in Victoria. There does not appear to be a connection to the Widdops in Victoria though spelling can vary as we all know.

This is a somewhat convoluted saga but hopefully someone, somewhere may know more….every tiny tip helps. 

I am seeking help in finding the origins of John Widdup born circa 1828 or 1829. He came to Australia in the 1850s and settled at a small place called Urana in southern NSW, near the Victorian border. He married a woman called Bridget O’Brien from Co Clare circa 1860. In theory his Australian marriage or death certificates should give his parents’ names and place of birth. However, neither of these appear to have been registered so no joy there! He is, in summary, elusive. Oral history suggests he was a mariner with the British Navy and born in Denmark. My own view is that his roots are almost certainly in Yorks-Lancs. I did find a mariner named John Widdup born 1829 living in Hartlepool and lodging with a couple on the 1851 census. He states his place of birth of Salterforth.  It is possible this could be him I suppose. 

His Salterforth origins may tie in with a posting on the OneguyfromBarlick site & also with a letter between a John BRACEWELL and John WIDDUP (late 19th century), searching for Jesse, Johnathan and Joseph HODGSON who had settled in Eaglehawk near Bendigo in Victoria. John Widdup is said to be John Bracewell’s cousin.  

By searching the IGI and also census records I think I have found the correct family of Hodgsons in 1841. In Hayfield & Glossop district, Derbyshire, Daniel Hodgson is head of household with his wife, Amelia (later Amy) and children including Jesse, Johnathan and Joseph who emigrated, as well as other children including Wright Hodgson and also John Bracewell (relationships not being stated as we know for 1841). Amy Wright’s birthplace is stated in later census records as Keighley, Yorks. 

Daniel married Amy Bracewell nee WRIGHT at Manchester cathedral in 1825. Amy had previously been married to Henry Bracewell in 1816 at St Bartholomew’s Colne (per an LDS member submission-not an extracted entry). Hence John Bracewell, baptised St Bart’s Colne in 1818, is probably half-brother to the Hodgson children incl Johnathan, Jesse and Joseph.  

Wright Hodgson remained in England and married a Martha WIDDUP on 29 April 1860 at Manchester Cathedral, Lancs. They had a daughter, Amy Hodgson, who was born c1861 in Derbyshire. It seems that she would be the one staying with James Widdup and wife Mary Wright at Sand Hole Foulridge on the 1871 census. This would mean that it was their daughter Martha (b 1834) who married Wright Hodgson.  

At this point I wondered if Amy Wright-Bracewell-Hodgson and Mary Wright-Widdup might be sisters as both are listed as born Keighley per the census. The IGI suggests this is the case as Amy DOB (1794) and Mary’s (1801) fit closely with census info.  

If so then this provides a possible link which would fit with John Widdup being cousin to John Bracewell and the Hodgson boys. HOWEVER, the John Widdup who is son to James and Mary Widdup apparently has died in England in 1882.

Perhaps people with more familiarity with the area might see something I’m missing or there might be a rellie out there who knows more. 

The following are the names of John & Bridget’s children with a note of which don’t “fit” with O’Brien naming patterns. 

Children of John & Bridget (O’Brien) Widdup (NSW):
Amelia                          c1859  (no known family link for name re O’B)

 Louisa                          c1860  (no known family link for name) married Edward (Harry) Luckie.

John                             c1863  (probably after father, John Widdup)

Michael James              1864    (after her father Michael O’Brien; James-may be his father ??)

Walter Ireland              1867    (no known family link for name re O’B)
Alfred England                c1869  (no known family link for name re O’B)

Martha                         1870    (no known family link for name re O’B)

Bridget Ellen                 1872    (her  sister Ellen O’Brien)
Catherine Agnes           1874    (her mother Catherine O’Brien; Agnes??)  

For interest: in Australia John Widdup became a pound-keeper in charge of impounding wandering stock. Some of his sons became shearers and drovers.

I’d be grateful for anyone’s insights/comments.

New Year in the Top End

The New Year kicked off with rain, rain and more rain as the monsoons arrived with a vengeance…the ducks and magpie geese have been enjoying the puddles. On the upside it also brought lower temperatures and strong winds which made the days more pleasant. However it’s nice to see the sunny skies again even if it’s now more humid. Yesterday on the way home I saw a family of curlews settling in for the night: two sitting in a concrete circle in the carpark looking like soldiers with their heads up over a turret, another hunkered down in the midst of the carpark and the fourth one keeping an eye on proceedings. The baby plovers (aka “mini-evil” in some circles) have not been seen for some time. The parents spent most of November on guard duty bombarding anyone who came anywhere within range: no point telling them you didn’t mean to hurt their babies. The little ones were so cute with their stick legs and indifference to danger -except when a parent chittered their warning to “hide, hide, hide!”. Presumably the family is old enough now to be able to fend for itself or they’ve taken off somewhere on their summer holidays.

LDS films & their usefulness to family history

One of my bugbears about current family history is the near-total reliance on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the internet but there’s a time and place for everything. Yes the IGI does provide a glimpse into potential ancestral families but this is a plea for people to move beyond that and look at the actual record. Don’t forget: not every parish has been indexed in the IGI so you are only seeing part of the story. Early or damaged films are probably less likely to be indexed just because they are such a challenge. 

With all the microfilmed parish records held by the LDS church, and a LDS library in most towns/cities, there’s little reason not to take advantage of these records, especially as they only cost around $A5 for a 90-day hire…one of the cheapest family history options around. As of next week, you can even order them from the comfort of your own study.  

The first records most people will want to look at will be the parish registers (some back to the 16th or 17th centuries) -either the actual original record, or if that’s not available you can try the Bishop’s Transcripts which are a transcription of the original records as sent to the Bishop. Where one of these records has been damaged over the centuries, the other may provide a more-easy-to-read option. Sometimes the date span covered by one of these records is wider than that for the other, letting you take your family back a little further. 

Another disadvantage of the IGI is that is only includes marriages/banns and baptisms. It doesn’t include burials and you need these to know when older family members die, or when a child dies in infancy. Also it is worth remembering that not every child is recorded in the registers -they may have been baptised but a clerical error might have omitted them from the records, or they may not have paid the fee so their name wasn’t entered (I have seen this situation referred to explicitly in some Scottish parish registers).

Another advantage of reading the actual film is that it may tell you a little more eg the occupation or place of residence of the family, so you can differentiate between two families with the same Christian names…or even find out there is more than one family in the mix. A burial may tell you that a child you thought was your ancestor can’t possibly be because she was buried as an infant some months after burial. A burial record may also give you a clue about where the person lived, letting you link up families and confirm which person you’re looking at, or you may find they were buried as a pauper…sending you down another research trail.

Don’t forget, too, to check both marriages and banns if both have been recorded -one may tell you more than the other.

Of course the sad reality is that the records are only as good as the person documenting the event -if the parish clerk or minister was lax in his documentation, you may learn very little more than you would from the IGI, but you won’t know until you read the film, so give it a go.

What else might you find? Some parishes will have no records, some will have many. I recommend you try them all…you’d be surprised what you’ll find. Sandon, Hertfordshire records include a couple of  manor rolls, none of them useful to my own research but without checking how would I know?

Parish chest records -the workaday records of the parish’s operations -can be a gold mine or a complete fizzer. Some are purely accounting records, though you can still learn a lot from those. Others include the election of parish officers over the centuries eg election by the vicar/parish of “surveyors of the highway”, “overseers of the poor”, churchwarden or parish constable. In the case of my Kent family from Sandon, Hertfordshire, there are records of the family’s involvement in these roles over a period of 200 years…certainly a great way of adding to my family’s story.

Transcriptions of monumental inscriptions could be very helpful if they’re available for your parish and may add more info to what is available via online services such as findmypast.

To use examples, LDS films have enabled me to:

  • confirm the marriage from another parish is that of an acestor I theorised it might be
  • find that the IGI baptism I thought was an ancestor was that of an earlier child of the same name who died in infancy
  • a signature of an ancestor -written in 1722
  • confirm the names of parents through burial records placing parents and child in the same small laneway
  • learn about the involvement of ancestors over many generations in their official parish roles
  • learn about the neighbours of my ancestors and study birth and death patterns as part of a wider migration study.

I hope that this post encourages you to give the LDS films a try and see if you can enrich your own family’s history. It won’t always solve your brick wall problems but at least you know you’ve tried.

Lightning & thunder

Lightning, thunder and heavy rain have been the theme for the start of the New Year. No amateur natural fireworks here – a full-scale crashing of  heavenly furniture being moved around with accompanying light displays. It seems odd to say that when the airconditioning is on and the sky turns dark grey with heavy Wet Season clouds prior to a pelting downpour, it feels like winter without the snow…weird I know, when it’s 37C outside.

Many people in the Top End leave town for the Xmas-New Year period and those who stay enjoy just being with friends and family who aren’t on a rellie-run down south. Yesterday in our part of town was quieter than Edinburgh on New Year’s Day! No doubt there were lots of hangovers being nursed but others were just chilling out with family history, books, or patchworking. In the evening we had the pleasure of watching the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s concert -always a great pleasure & aren’t those flowers from San Remo gorgeous?!

Let’s all hope for a wonderful, healthy and happy 2010 for each of us and our families. Enjoy the small moments.