52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 21: Commercials/Advertisements, social attitudes and accents.

The topic for Week 21 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series iwas: Commercials. Do you remember any commercial jingles from your childhood? Share them here. I didn’t do this topic when it was first posted as it didn’t really speak to me, but while doing the Week 34 challenge on Smells, it triggered off thoughts of the brewery and its advertising which sent me on a chase for old advertisements. As it’s the only topic I haven’t blogged about I thought I may as well complete the set.

TAA Fokker 727

The two most noticeable features of Australian advertising with the arrival of TV were the prevalence of British accents and role-specificity for women. YouTube has some great clips on ads, some I remembered and some I didn’t (but couldn’t resist including). Do click on some of them as if it’s your era, the memories will come flooding back. Oh, yes, the other thing was how many of the products advertised were bad for your health.

Bulimba Gold top beer: the Bulimba beer association was triggered by Week 34’s topic, Smells. It differs from others of its era by using an Australian accent, complete with dropped g’s off the end of participles, and the country huntin’ and ridin’ thing.

Australia had two major airlines in my youth: TAA (aka Try Another Airline) and Ansett (aka Don’t chance-it with Ansett). Here are two of their ads:

TAA fly the friendly way showing a Boeing 727: my first real flight was to PNG on a 727.

Ansett: interestingly this is quite classy/sophisticated aimed at flight fans.

Cigarettes featured prominently in those days when most people smoked and no one cared about passive smoking or the risks of cancer and lung disease.

Viscount cigarettes –why use Canberra in this ad? The association with power & influence?

Marlboro cigarette ad was a distinctive one but it looks like it done with a voice-over on American vision

Headache powder advertisements were a mainstay of the 1950s and 1960s. They were a seen as a solution to all sorts of aches and pains. They became part of common parlance eg “a Bex and a nice lie down”

Vincents powders

Bex The YouTube clip says it’s 1980s but the accent is still very British so I think that’s wrong. The ads didn’t change much.

Housecleaning and “women’s work” featured prominently inevitably showing a beautifully turned out women complete with apron/pinafore. No suggestion that men might ever do the washing or cleaning!

RInso the family’s specific role behaviours are interesting as it the little girl’s cutesy bowing etc.

Fab Despite the knight on white charger there was no evidence of men in the laundry.

Ajax: A white so white you’d be proud to hang it in the main street. Interestingly the accent was more Australian than British-unusual for the time.

Mr Sheen: Today’s the day to make the household clean: wax and polish as you dust with Mr Sheen.

Hoovermatic washing machine: My mother had one of these, as did I in Papua New Guinea. The ad is great for showing how tedious the process of washing was even in those post-copper days. It cost 133 guineas or about 140 pounds ($280)

Solvol: busy hands, clap clap clap

Mortein and the Louie the fly –  one of those ads that stays with you.

Delicious Arnott's Iced VoVo biscuits.

Food and Other

Arnott’s Iced Vo Vo biscuits are part of our Aussie heritage and for me are also associated with the smell of biscuits baking at the Arnott’s factory on Coronation Drive on the way to/from uni.

Brylcream -a little dab’ll do ya. And win the girl. Well a dab was probably a dab too much in my view!

Cadbury’s Dairy Whip –From the late 1960s with typical fashions, but why oh why, would an advertiser think a whistle would look cool on a teenager’s head???

Weetbix in wintertime with hot milk, ugh…all mushy and slushy…and that guy singing!

Kellogg’s cornflakes packets had cutouts on the back: this one is for daring disguises but I remember a lion’s head one.

Canon camera –a man’s camera a woman can use –perhaps why I’ve never bought a Canon camera?

Streets Heart icecreams This Hav-a-heart ad has great Ekka-type images and shows a boy with massed freckles and no doubt red hair – commonly seen in those days. Where HAVE all the redheads with Celtic colouring gone?

Bushells tea: Slogan: Flavour is more important than price. What struck me was they all drank black tea which I can’t remember anyone doing when I was a child..…and tea ladies: they’re no longer a feature of office life.

Coca Cola even though I didn’t drink it for decades.

Harris coffee & tea: no recollection of this one, but interesting for the sailing ship voyages

Current classics:

Bundaberg Rum: Drop Bears as match makers plus a range of other hilarious ones.

Qantas’ Spirit of Australia  ads: music and words by Peter Allen.

Time for a new blog look

If you’ve previously logged into my page and are bewildered today, it’s because I’ve introduced a new look to my blog. For some time I’ve been feeling that my blog is a bit “squashed” and made it harder to read. Hopefully there’s not too much open space now.. Let me know what you think…is it easier to read?

The header takes up a bit more space than in my old-style blog but nearly all the images relate to my family history as I’ve used images of ancestral sites. I’d like to be able to link specific images with specific pages but that doesn’t appear to be possible. Happy for any tips if other WordPress people can offer some.

So what images will you be seeing:

The old red-roofed shed on my O’Brien family land in Ballykelly, Broadford, Parish Kilseily, Co Clare, Ireland.

Shore in Leith, Scotland, where my Melvin ancestors lived for many decades before emigrating: they could return now and be familiar with all these buildings.

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria from across the River Main, showing the village church, boats and vineyards: home of my Kunkel ancestor.

A beach scene from Achill in County Mayo because for me it typifies life on Ireland’s coast even though none of my rellies come from here.

A view over Dorfprozelten on the River Main, Bavaria. The river is a boundary and across the river is Baden.

Snow capped hills not far from near Drimuirk on south Loch Awe, Argyll, Scotland: McCorkindale country..

A view over Loch Awe from Kilchrenan parish: my McCorkindale ancestors moved from one side of the lake to the other but the north side (Kilchrenan) is where the McCorquodales came from in the long distant past.

A typical Irish scene in County Clare:patchwork fields.

Inveraray in Argyll, Scotland, home of Clan Campbell, and a focal point for families living in the area -they were inevitably influenced by this family. It is situated on Loch Fyne and my McCorkindales also lived at Ardkinglas at the top of Loch Fyne while my Morrisons lived across the loch from Inveraray.

Hmm, not sure all the images are scrolling randomly as intended, so please bear with me on that one..but at least you’ll get some.

I do hope you enjoy the new look.

52 weeks of personal genealogy and history: week 34: smells, good and not-so-good

The topic for Week 34 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Smells. Describe any smells that take you back to childhood. These could be from meals, fragrant gardens, musty basements, or something entirely different.

It suddenly occurred to me how much we rely on other people having a similar experience to understand these smells. One of my friends has no ability to smell which must be really sad: imagine not being able to smell the roses, literally. Do you remember those kids’ books which had a “scratch and sniff” capacity? Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that with a blog?

These delicious lollies and the spearmint leaves are available from Sunshine Confectionery http://www.sunshineconfectionery.com.au/SPEARMINT-LEAVES

Hops Brewing: My strongest memory of smells actually relates to my teenage years. The smell of hops brewing in the brewery across from my high school was pervasive part of my first two years in high school. For the life of me I can’t be sure whether it still had the Bulimba Beer sign above the building or not, though I’m inclined to think it did. No amount of googling has given me a satisfactory answer.

More childhood memories are of:

Roses: Dad grew beautiful roses, and I love the smell of home grown roses.

Musk lollies: those twisted soft sticks of confectionery which had such as strong smell of, what else, musk with floral, sugary overtones.

Spearmint leaves

Spearmint lollies: Mum was very partial to these leaf-shaped green lollies.

Church incense: An accompaniment to many church ceremonies, especially in those pre-Vatican II days. I think for me it’s closely linked to funerals because as pupils of the local parish school we used to regularly sing at funerals.

Butter menthol cough drops: Their caramel-y taste was more sugar than mentol.

Friar’s Balsam and metho: Mixed together and spread on sunburnt skin to take away the sting, it has a particular indescribable smell.

Chloroform: Now this is one I try to avoid remembering. When I had my tonsils out as a young child, they still dripped chloroform on a face mask –a negative memory of smells..Ugh!

Baking: the smell of cakes and biscuits baking each weekend.

Camphor squares:These were always stored with the winter woollens so next season the smell remained.

This image of the tannery was taken in 1890 - a bit before my time. State Library of Queensland, copyright expired, Former digital ID: picqld-citrix09--2004-10-19-08-20

Lux flakes: there’s a soap smell associated with this that’s quite different from ordinary washing powder.

The tannery: A tannery was not far enough away from us, and when the wind was in the wrong direction we’d get a very unpleasant reminder of that. With the waste going into the adjacent creek, it wasn’t much good for the environment either. I don’t remember the NARM factory giving off quite the same level of odoriferous smells, but perhaps memory deceives.

Australian bush:the smell of the bush on a bushwalk –eucalyptus, decaying plants, dust, animal smells.

Gum Tree Christmas and bride doll.

Christmas trees: My childhood Christmas trees were always small gum (eucalyptus) trees or branches,collected from the creek bank,  something we don’t use these days so very definitely linked to childhood.

At the beach: The salty smell of the surf, low tide on the reef and molluscs decaying in their shells after being collected (not environmentally responsible but ignorance was bliss).

52 weeks of personal genealogy & history: Week 33: Nicknames

A 1940s Toohey's ad promoting their stout with "ee": did my friend know of this? This poster is available for sale from http://www.davidsonauctions.com.au/shop/item/485-jardine-walter

The topic for Week 33 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Nicknames. What was your childhood nickname, and what was the meaning behind it? You can also discuss the nicknames of other family members, both past and present.

Well this has to be the easiest topic in the 52 weeks series for me. Our family didn’t really “do” nicknames so there’s not much to say about this.  Even in the extended family nicknames just weren’t used. At school I had a nickname based on my initials but as I really didn’t like it, don’t think I plan on putting it out there again all these years later 😉

As a teenager one friend used to call me Tooheys (a New South Wales beer) due to the unusual spelling of my name with an “een” ending not the usual “ine” ending (I like to say it’s the Irish spelling but of course it’s not). As a fair dinkum Queenslander this nickname could have been offensive but as it was meant in jest and affection it had no sting in the tail.

My husband had a distant cousin who discovered when they called the roll in school that his real name was Peter, not Tim, as he’d been called all his life. Or the school mate called “Purple”, because they already had a “Blue” and a “Red”: Australian vernacular for a red-head. Apparently boys’ boarding schools are a source of rampant nicknames. Plainly I lived a boring childhood.

52 weeks of personal genealogy & history: Week 32: Dinner Time

The topic for Week 32 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Dinner Time. On a typical childhood evening, who was around the dinner table? Was the meal served by one person, or was it a free-for-all? What is dinner time like in your family today?

Of course there’s a hidden question in this topic…what was dinner? Was it the evening meal, the hot meal, the main meal event of the day? In our family, dinner was usually taken to mean the main (hot) meal of the day, usually eaten in the evening. Did your family call it dinner or was it supper or tea or did it go by another name?

Dinner time in my childhood was typical in some respects but not in others. As my father worked shiftwork he would not be home for the evening meal two weeks in three (well he’d be home for one of those, but asleep for night shift). Mum would make him his own hot meal at lunchtime (midday-ish) to suit his shifts. It would be rare for us to have anyone other than the family around the table.

We always sat at the round kitchen table, with a tablecloth and the places properly set. Dinner was served up on the plates by my mother. It was most definitely not a free-for-all. The meal was always preceded by saying grace for the meal, and usually also after the meal.

Meals were typical Aussie fare of the day: meat and three veg with fish/seafood on Friday which was then compulsory for Catholics.  We would have a variety of: sausages, braised steak and onion, lamb chops, lamb roast, casseroles in winter, salmon patties, curried prawns (with Keens curried powder which is how everyone made them), and my pet hate: smoked cod…yuk! Mercifully my mother loathed offal of any sort so we never had lambs’ brains, liver, kidney, tripe, sweetmeats etc.

Vegetables certainly didn’t have the variety then that we have in Australia today, largely thanks to our multi-cultural community. Vegies were potatoes usually with pumpkin or carrots and beans or peas. Nothing was frozen or pre-prepared. The beans were topped and tailed for the meal and the peas shelled from the pods, sometimes one of my chores if study didn’t claim my time. I’d never seen broccoli before I was a teenager and certainly not mushrooms either.  Around my late teens many Australian households started experimenting with different cuisines, something that’s taken for granted today.

Unlike many Australian families we didn’t drink tea with our evening meal and water was the usual fare. Bread and butter were usually provided with the main meal.

Most nights there’d be a dessert of some sort: fruit and custard or junket, jelly, lemon delicious or a steamed pudding. My mother was an excellent dessert cook so this was a special part of the meal.

What do we do today? Well it depends…when it’s just the empty-nesters we tend to serve up the plates and eat casually…despite good intentions to the contrary. If it’s a family BBQ it’s all very casual too. When we’re all together as a family for a more special meal, or with a group of friends, the separate elements of the meal are served up in dishes on the table and everyone helps themselves according to their tastes and needs….but it’s still not a free-for-all! And there’s not always dessert either….but there’s always wine (and coffee afterwards)  🙂

Street demographics – more on electoral rolls

Ballymore House c1878: State Library of Qld Negative number: 153648 (no longer in copyright). This heritage house no longer exists and the land was subdivided.

Buiding on yesterday’s post about using electoral rolls to determine your street’s population, I decided to enter the name and other data into a spreadsheet which could be sorted in different ways.

Somewhat to my surprise I found that there is really only one family living in the street with continuous residence from World War I to the 21st century, and that is my own family. I suspect my grandfather bought the land in the 1912 subdivision of the estate and may have lived intermittently in the street before 1917. Another family has earlier roots in the street but subsequently moved post-1959 into the street parallel.  From my own personal knowledge, another half-dozen or so families lived in the street for fifty or so years before moving to other areas, so the population has actually been more stable than the old electoral data suggests.

While I can link some properties from earlier records with the numbered street addresses, this has not always been possible: oh for my father’s knowledge of the street.

There are some complications with the data as the 1912 subdivision muddies the water given the introduction of new street names and the ambiguity over the use of the property name vs street name vs estate name. This is why the data only commences with the 1913 rolls although I can locate some people who worked for “Ballymore House” on earlier rolls, including my grandmother’s half-sister.

Another very distinctive feature of the demographic is that for the vast majority of couples, the woman’s occupation was “domestic duties” or “home duties” suggesting the general income levels were such that the families could manage without a second wage. There are only a couple of examples where the woman has an outside occupation and they are living in the rented accommodation, suggesting perhaps they were saving for a home?

And what of the residents’ occupational classifications? Well I found the street was more diverse than I anticipated. Given the gentrification in the area in recent decades due to its proximity to the city, death of older residents and relocation to other suburbs, the occupational analysis now would be very different from this one, based on the older electoral rolls. If you are interested in learning more about the street or neighbourhood where you grew up you might find this an interesting exercise to try out. Of course if you come from a long street or a road it might not be so much fun!










bank officer





cabinet maker
















dental surgeon


domestic duties Ballymore House


domestic/home duties









federal servant










iron moulder




lab assistant


lab attendant









ledger clerk
















none stated (male)












process worker


public servant





railway driver


(railway) engine driver


(railway) locomotive fireman



railway employee










sales/shop assistant



shift operator










The key to learning who lived in your street: Electoral rolls on FMP and WVR

Findmypast Australia’s blurb tells the researcher that electoral rolls are the nearest record Australians have to census listings and hence are extremely important to local, social and family historians…. Compulsory enrolment was introduced for all federal rolls from 1911 so the 1959 should reflect the adult population (over 21 years) excluding the foreign and indigenous population. Voting in Federal elections was compulsory from 1925.

Pre-internet researchers are familiar with plying the paper or microfilm records of state and federal electoral rolls but current-day researchers are accustomed to simply searching one of Ancestry, Findmypast (Australia) or World Vital Records (WVR).

Online searching allows for plug-and-play solutions which make life so much easier, usually quickly identifying the person you’re searching for and where they’re living. But they can also do much more than that and provide additional information, beyond a simple name search, that’s not readily available via a traditional paper-based search.

A cropped view of the street extracted from Google Maps Street View.

Yesterday I decided to have a play and see if I could reconstitute the residents of my home street in Brisbane and it was certainly an interesting exercise.  I personally found Ancestry relatively useless for a non-person-specific street search, however the story was quite different with Findmypast Australia. I plugged the address into the Keyword search, with no personal name specified. This provided me with results for different electoral roll years which reflected the sub-division of an old property and the development of the suburb. I also tried the same thing with World Vital Records (WVR) and the results are shown here:

Year Findmypast Australia (FMP) World Vital Records (WVR)
1913 7 6
1915 11 8
1922 14 14
1934 28 28
1949 50 50
1959 45 n/a

As can be seen there are slight differences between FMP and WVR but FMP also offers another very useful record, the 1959 electoral roll.  I used FMP first and found it initially excellent. It should be noted though that if people don’t update their electoral information it will not be correct eg my parents are listed at the same address in 1959 as they were in 1949 even though shortly after the latter date they’d moved into their own house next door. Similarly the name of my grandparents’ house is mis-spelled on a couple of the records. I also subsequently found another elector who’d given the street an additional vowel. The records for 1915 were also somewhat unreliable – some names appear more than once due to late registration etc and in other cases one spouse would be in the listing but the other was not, although found when the page is reviewed. It’s possible that there may be people missing altogether I suppose. Be aware of these problems but it will still provide you with lots of information.

What else did I learn?

  1. It gave me the opportunity to look at the development of the street over time.
  2. It provided insights into the socio-economic category of the area: as anticipated, largely working class with a minor scattering of middle class occupations.
  3. The majority of the women were homemakers.
  4. Some families lived in the area for at least 40 years based on this electoral data, though through personal knowledge many lived there for much longer.
  5. The 1959 roll can be very useful as the change in ethnic names reflects some of the post-war migration, less so for this street.
  6. The 1959 roll also provides the street number where earlier records only provide the street name and sometimes the house, but knowing the house name is interesting too.
  7. It reminded me that there were a couple of houses which provided rental accommodation for mainly single people, apart from one which continues to this day.
  8. The convenient proximity to the hospital is already clear quite early with a smattering of nurses renting in the street
  9. Knowing certain families were definitely living nearby meant I could go looking for their names, highlighting some anomalies in indexing.
  10. My memory is really bad about which house some people lived in: using Google Maps (with street numbers) and Google maps street view enabled me to jog my memory about the house number combined with the image of the house: mostly they’ve remained similar with some additional houses on easements.
  11. I could confirm the names and locations of people I remembered from the neighbourhood.
  12. I can’t yet confirm the details put forward in the local history, some of which I now know to be incorrect (mainly through Trove searches) and some I’d like to learn more about.
  13. I’m still not confident when my grandfather bought the land, moved to the street and built his house: part of my future research plan.
  14. Why was there almost always a cabinet maker/carpenter living in the street?

Buoyed by my discoveries with FMP regarding the street where I grew up, I tried the street immediately behind us where my childhood friends lived. Well, at that point my bubble burst. FMP let me down with a vengeance: I could find some people with one (older) spelling of the street name and some with the newer spelling of the street. But nowhere could I find the parents of my childhood friends, no matter how I searched: name/street etc. I eventually came to the conclusion they simply aren’t there: misindexed or whatever, they’ve fallen off the research log.

The Post Office directories on FMP, where available, were helpful to indicate which side of the street a family lived on, but they did require a bit of fiddling to get to the street directory section.

I turned my attention to World Vital Records (WVR) which also let me search by place. A bit more clunky but nonetheless it eventually gave me results and it gave me the family (plus others) which had been omitted from FMP without any problems whatsoever.  As you can see from the table above, there are some names missing from WVR compared to FMP in one street, but plainly for the next street WVR is the leader. It proves the point that as researchers we should never put all our eggs in one basket and it kind of justifies my usual practice of “testing” a record by searching for something I know should be there. If it’s not, there’s a problem, either with my search terms or the records. Unfortunately WVR doesn’t provide the 1959 roll so on the second street I was left in limbo.

Not much liking having two quite different outcomes, I tried FMP again with a different street and got a satisfactory outcome. So part of the problem appears to have been the various ways this problematic street’s name could be searched.

Going back to FMP’s original blurb: can the electoral roll be a substitute for the census in Australia? Well it surely won’t give you the names of all family members irrespective of age, or their relationships, but thanks to our early women’s suffrage and compulsory registration, it will usually give you the adults living in the area. It will also go a long way to tell you more about the social demographic of a particular area and its changes over time: something I routinely use the census for, and one of the benefits of the FreeCen search where it’s available for the UK.

I had great fun with this search process, now all that remains is to put it all into a spreadsheet for future reference.

Online searching is heaven-sent for this purpose and I could have only done this type of search the traditional way with some tedious page-turning. However if you’re looking for family members and the actual image hasn’t been digitised it can still be worthwhile looking at the “original” paper or microfilm versions. Once an address is known and the electorate is identified, original records can tell you when someone leaves the electorate (or dies) and to which electorate they move. Queensland State Archives microfilm copies of electoral rolls give you these extra snippets. Commonwealth rolls can also give you slightly different information re occupations, house names etc, and have the added benefit of being easier to search because there are fewer of them.

52 weeks of personal genealogy and history: Week 31: Grandparents’ House: More charming than George Clooney?

The topic for Week 31 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Grandparents’ House. Describe your grandparents’ house. Was it big or small? How long did they live there? If you do not know this information, feel free to describe the house of another family member you remember from your childhood.

My grandparents' house in the 1920s.

The recent sales promotion for my grandparents’ house classed it as “more charming than George Clooney”! Cute as this caption is, for me the old home – not the gentrified, renovated one- is better than George Clooney any day. It still lives for me and so many of my childhood memories are linked to it that I’ve already posted on it under the 52 weeks topics of Neighbours, Sound and Home so today I’m going to be a bit less emotional and more factual.

More charming than George Clooney in 2011

It was a reasonably large high-set worker’s cottage with three bedrooms, dining room, breakfast room, pantry, kitchen and bathroom. I’m pretty confident that the toilet was an addition following the Council’s introduction of town sewerage in 1939. I have a recollection of a back-yard “dunny” but it must have been just the structure as I have no memory of it being used. My family tells a funny story of my grandmother’s family’s arrival in Brisbane in1910. Coming from Glasgow they were unfamiliar with the arrival of the nightsoil carter (aka dunny collector) and when the brothers heard loud noises they came out, guns raised, thinking they were being robbed…but it was of something they’d hardly have wanted to keep!

The verandahs maintain their original shape though the floors are now highly polished and the walls rather more bright.

The style of my grandparents’ house is known as a Queenslander built of weatherboard. As I’ve mentioned before it had verandahs on two sides, one aspect of the house that’s survived largely intact. The sunroom looked out through large sliding green and white windows to the garden beyond and the mango tree planted when my father was born (it is still alive nearly 90 years later). The sash windows were a lovely walk-through feature. Nowadays the outside of the house looks similar enough to its original style (apart from colour!), though the ground-floor area has now been enclosed for bedrooms and living. In the “old days” it was a traditional Queensland house with tar-painted battens enclosing the downstairs with room for the old car, washing area and “workshop” area. Under the verandahs there were tubs of lush maiden-hair fern, blue hydrangeas and staghorns (not the animal variety).

Rough floor plan of my grandparents' house as it was.

The electoral rolls show my grandfather residing in the street before he went off to World War I in 1917. The story goes that he lived in the street prior to that, renting a room with a woman who I believe may have also been paid to look after his young brother (they were orphaned when my grandfather was 21 but the youngest only 2) – oral history tells me her house was next to the block my grandfather bought. I can find this woman on the Post Office directories though she doesn’t appear in the Electoral Rolls in this area[i]. Grandad travelled with the railway and lived in different places, but I understood that this street was his home base. An old property, Ballymore, had been sold and subdivided in 1912 so presumably he took advantage and bought the block when this occurred. This post has made me realise I need to research the land titles documents when I’m next in Brisbane so I can track the timelines.

I assume Grandad had the house built when he returned from the war and prior to marrying my grandmother. My grandparents named their house after the street my grandmother where my grandmother lived as a girl in Glasgow.Funnily enough her step-sister’s family[ii] had also lived in the street soon after arriving in Australia, and it’s said the husband worked as an ironmoulder on the iron lacework of Ballymore House (fact or fiction?).[iii]  Give or take a few years, my family has lived on this street for close to 100 years and while many of the names have changed, there is a core of families who have long been part of the area’s history.

[i] By 1913 and 1914 Mrs Susan Easey is living at Ivy St, Toowong.

[ii] Daniel & Annie McVey.

[iii] Post Office Directories do show him in this street. Ballymore House is sometimes shown as Ballimore House.

The Irish population haemorrhage: mapping 160 years of data

Alerted by tweets from @IrishWattle @CaroleRiley and @QueenslandFHS, I investigated the link they’d provided for 160 years of Irish population data. The National Centre for Geocomputation’s (NCG) Online Atlas Portal is an absolute goldmine for family historians with ancestry in Ireland. There are two options: mapping and data relating to 2002 together with a timeline chart for population changes across the decades, and the other relating specifically to the impact of the Famine comparing census data from 1841 to 1851. Both are invaluable tools for your background research.

Kilseily parish % population loss 1841 to 1851 from NCG website listed. Kilseily is in orange and the bar on the bottom right indicates it had a severe loss of people.

The population loss from Kilseily parish 1841-1851 from the NCG website listed.

Over the years I’ve read widely on the Famine, and crunched raw census numbers for my parishes of interest, primarily Kilseily and Killokennedy in East Clare. In my paper at Shamrock in the Bush 2009 I referred to the haemorrhaging of the people, a description which seems melodramatic but which is reaffirmed by the census data. Despite knowing the my ancestor’s townland suffered a massive 47.24% loss of population between 1841 and 1851, seeing the long-term impact on the 2002 graphs  is still heart-wrenching. In 2002, Kilseily had only just (by 14 people) regained the population it had in 1926, with a very long way to go to reach earlier population numbers.

When you’re reviewing the maps etc, don’t forget to use the “select indicator” button near the top left of the page as this lets you change the parameters which are being mapped to review such things as 1841 and 1851 population as well as the changes, acreage under potatoes and housing. For example it reveals that in 1841 Kilseily had 475 inhabited houses and 9 uninhabited. By 1851 there were only 258 inhabited houses and 13 uninhabited: the parish had lost 44% of its housing, presumably “thrown down” with the departure and death of the inhabitants.

It is easy to regard all this as simply mind-boggling numbers, but imagine for a minute you are in a large meeting hall with some 3000 odd people, many of whom are kin or close neighbours, people well known to you. Then in a magic-wand moment, every second person leaves the room, never to be seen again. Bewildered, you leave the meeting hall, only to discover that virtually every other building had also disappeared and the built landscape is changed forever. Your mind and emotions would be reeling I imagine. How the Irish who remained, and those who fled the country in desperation, ever coped with this sense of grievous loss is a mystery. My father had a saying which he repeated regularly over the years: “they left their country for their country’s good”. I confess I would mentally eye-roll and think it was not only melodramatic but irrelevant. It was only last night that it occurred to me that this sentiment may have been passed down as an historical “memory” of the need to leave Ireland because of the post-Famine impact on families: three of his great-grandparents left Ireland for Australia in the early 1850s.[i] In my mother’s Irish ancestry, less can be found on their pre-Famine origins but these great-grandparents of hers also survived the Famine though they did not emigrate until the 1880s.

In my JSTOR reading yesterday I came across a journal article by Sharon O’Brien called “Remembering Skibbereen”, based on her memoir “ The Family Silver”.  Her belief is that these silenced memories of Famine deprivation, hunger, family loss, and the precariousness of housing and land, remain sub-consciously with descendants to this day, sometimes manifesting in depression or bewildering family behaviour patterns.  If there is any validity to this hypothesis imagine the impact of this experience on Biddy Gollagher, Irish Famine Orphan, about whom I recently posted a story.

"Mapping the Great Irish Famine" is an excellent reference book.

I’ve rather diverted from abstract data into the human impact but it does highlight that these are not mere numbers we’re looking at. If you are interested there is another brilliant source of information and mapping on the Famine which includes more wide-ranging data taken from the census. It is a book called “Mapping the Great Irish Famine[ii] and is well worth buying or borrowing if you have an interest in these topics.  This online article provides some background on it.

The census information for Ireland is also available online through the University of Southampton. It’s a little more convoluted to get there than I remember it from previously as you need to search their library catalogue for, say, EPPI Ireland 1851 census and you will then select whichever county you’re interested in. However as yet I’ve been unable to locate the raw data online that I had previously been able to download. Lucky I’ve saved Clare data already!

[i] Although his maternal line were Scottish, they didn’t fare a great deal better in the difficult 1840s and 1850s though theirs was a fairly typical Scottish story of displacement from their home place to an urban environment prior to emigration. His German ancestry was more well-off but perhaps pushed out by the revolutions in Europe in the late 1840s as well as compulsory military service.

[ii] Authors: Liam Kennedy, Paul S Ell, E M Crawford and L A Clarkson. Published by Four Courts Press, Dublin in 1999.

JSTOR @ NLA: finding the historical context for family history

It’s likely that most Australian family historians are familiar with the National Library of Australia’s Trove site as a source for family research.  It’s also been well promoted that anyone in Australia can apply for a library card with NLA which then lets you access their eResources remotely. The Times Digital Archives and 19th Century British newspapers have been popular with family historians.

But did you know there’s another invaluable resource you can use for your research? JSTOR is typically used by academics and tertiary students to locate relevant journal articles published in their area of interest. The promo states: With more than a thousand academic journals and over 1 million images, letters, and other primary sources, JSTOR is one of the world’s most trusted sources for academic content.

Sounds a bit heavy-duty? Well some articles may be but there are plenty that will provide you with that valuable framework for your family’s local history, living and social conditions. Silly me, I knew JSTOR was available but somehow it had dropped off my mental radar in recent months.

This morning I had a fun couple of hours looking for information about Irish family life and inheritance patterns. Some of my readings included:

 Marriage and fertility in post-Famine Ireland

The Changing Irish Family

The Potato Famine and the transformation of Irish peasant society.

Whatever the family-history topic you want to know more about, I suggest you’ll find it here with careful searching.


Go to the NLA site

Assuming you’ve already got your library card

Click on the eResources tab at the top right hand side of the web page

Key in your card number and surname

Select “J” from the menu and pick JSTOR

Read and accept their terms and conditions

Start searching using a few keywords eg Scottish illegitimacy, Irish migration etc

Remember you can download the articles

Remember you must cite the article if you use it

Happy hunting!