It started with poor Kitty

We constantly sing the praises of Trove, the free Australian digitised information that leads us to stories of our ancestors. I don’t know about you, but I tag and I add stories to my 67 lists most of which are public. It’s really only research projects in transit that I keep private. Sometimes I even add a reason to my list addition as to why I’ve included that story. What I don’t always do, is write up what I find and include it on my blog or my tree or whatever. I tend to think “well, it will be there when I need it”. Today’s story started with a news article I tagged and listed some time ago, and then found extra information – we know family history is never quite finished.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 4. (1866, August 9). Dalby Herald and Western Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1866 – 1879), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215449120

I confess I haven’t written as much about my Gavin ancestors as I might have other than Irish discoveries or the death of my great-grandmother Julia Kunkel nee Gavin. However, today’s story starts when Julia was still a little girl of about six. Her father had finished his early contract on the Condamine, and the family had moved to Dalby where Julia was born and baptised.

DG is confirmed as the brand for Denis Gavin via the brands index.

Why should I be surprised that the dramas started with a cow, given how passionate the Irish are about their land and assets, and the financial value thereof. However, unlike Famine times, it wasn’t the Irish who were responsible for the “theft of a cow”. Rather it started with the theft of poor Kitty, the family’s milking cow who was in calf. It seems that the men employed by Ross and Gordon, local butchers, decided to take possession of poor Kitty, the cow.

Somehow Julia’s mother, Ellen Gavin, heard on the gossip vine that Kitty had been taken to the slaughter yards where she saw the head and hide of her former pet and milking cow. She was so distressed that she couldn’t even remember the person who showed them to her. Kitty had been fed by Julia’s older sister who came on the Fortune with her parents in 1855. Kitty was a family pet, and was in calf, as well as being needed, no doubt for the family’s milk supply.

Given all this it seems strange that Julia’s mother, Ellen Gavin, couldn’t remember when she’d last seen the cow. After all, dairy cows are milked twice a day to the best of this urban person’s knowledge.However, it is touching that she was “crying and (in) passion, was unable to recognise the man who showed her the hide and head. It’s also interesting that Ellen has responsibility for buying and selling when her husband, Denis is away.

Denis Gavin was away when the case was brought to court but by the Tuesday 7 August 1866, he had returned to Dalby from Toowoomba and was questioned in court. Ross and Gordon were committed for trial at the District Court in September 1866 and remanded in custody until then, bail being denied.

All was not well in the Gavin household, though, and it seems Denis disagreed that his wife should have reported the theft of the cow to the police magistrate.

DALBY POLICE COURT. (1866, August 23). Dalby Herald and Western Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1866 – 1879), p. 2. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215452937

Only two weeks later it was her husband that Ellen reported to the Police magistrate saying she’d been assaulted by her husband “in consequence of having given information about the cattle stealers and she was afraid of her life being taken in consequence of his violence“. I had to smile, ironically, at Denis saying there was no point trying to find the sureties required as “he felt quite certain he should try to break the peace within an hour of his liberation”. Unsurprisingly, the Bench decided he needed some time to cool down. Was this a typical event for the family? I don’t know, not having found (as yet) other similar events? For all that the popular belief was that Irish people were much put upon, there’s no shortage of evidence in Ireland, that defaulting to violence was not uncommon. However, I was sad to think of my great great grandmother being assaulted by her husband, and that he would descend to that level. Somehow I’ve had the impression of him being a “hail fellow well met” sort of person.

What all this means is that there’s the potential for some primary records to be found in the archives when I can find my way there.

Advertising (1867, January 26). Dalby Herald and Western Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1866 – 1879), p. 3. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215450711

The finale to this story of poor Kitty is in two parts. When Ross and Gordon were brought before the court for trial, the evidence was dismissed but there’s no indication why. All I can think is that because they weren’t actively involved they may have been shown leniency. I know that Chief Justice Lutwyche’s record books are at Queensland State Archives, so perhaps I’ll be lucky.

THE UNEMPLOYED. (1866, September 12). The Toowoomba Chronicle and Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1875), p. 2. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article212787324

Meanwhile it might be said that Denis Gavin had the last laugh, as Ross and Gordon filed for insolvency and he applied for two amounts of L26/7/-/

NOTES AND NEWS. (1867, February 9). Dalby Herald and Western Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1866 – 1879), p. 2. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215452699

Denis wasn’t about to be caught a second time by theft of his property and stock.

Advertising (1867, January 26). Dalby Herald and Western Queensland Advertiser (Qld. : 1866 – 1879), p. 3. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215450711

So the abduction and theft of poor Kitty meant the loss of an asset, a pet, and a food source. It resulted in the insolvency of a Dalby business, contributed to a family domestic, and greater caution from the Gavin family. What a tale/tail!

The original story was reported in both the Dalby Herald and the Darling Downs Gazette, but the former was much clearer.

Beyond the Internet: Week 38 Burial Registers

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 38 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is Burial Registers. This forms part of the cheerily named “Death” theme in the series and next week’s post on funeral directors’ registers will be the finale of this section.

Cemeteries offer more opportunities for research than just their gravestones and monumental inscriptions. Each cemetery should have (or would once have had!) some form of burial register documenting who has been interred in the cemetery. Of course the further back in time we go the greater the risk that the registers may not have survived. It’s always worth checking when the extant records commence.

Burial registers MAY provide you with information on cause of death, place of birth and death and next of kin – much depends on the particular cemetery. However it’s vitally important to cross-check sources and weigh up their relative accuracy.

WHERE DID THEY DIE? WERE THEY BURIED HERE?

Registers can also reveal unexpected events such as the reinterment of someone who died elsewhere and was initially buried closer to that place before being transported back to a “home” cemetery.

One instance in my Gavin family was the death of Mary Gavin in a car accident near Cooktown in August 1930. Initially interred in North Queensland, her body was repatriated to Toowoomba nine months later. Her MI records Mary’s death in 1930 (correct) while the burial register lists her death in 1931 just days before her reinterment (incorrect). The MI also lists her husband as well as son James who was killed at Fromelles: one buried with her, the other lying at rest in the Rue Petillon cemetery near Fleurbaix.

Another even more improbable anomaly came to light through a story told to me by an elderly relative. She remembered attending a “cousin’s” funeral when it was unseasonally hot. It took some sleuthing but eventually I figured out that the funeral was for Jack Bishop. So what’s odd about that you might well say? Only the fact that Jack died in England, and was actually buried in the Toowoomba cemetery in rural Queensland! Jack Bishop was a pioneer dirt-bike racer and had fallen ill while racing overseas. His mates in Australia had collected the money to pay for his ashes to be brought back to Australia. Who would expect something like that in the 1930s? There’s quite a story in this to which I’ll return another day.

FINDING REGISTERS

Online (yes sometimes we do hark back to the internet)

Increasingly some cemeteries are putting their registers online to search: an absolute blessing for all of us far-away genies. I’ve been very lucky that the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery were at the forefront of this trend and living so far away this has been amazingly helpful. They’ve now taken it one step further and included images of the gravestone as well as a map of the grave location. You can see an example here with Jack (Frederick John) Bishop’s entry here. Well done Toowoomba!

Visiting/Contacting the cemetery

If your cemetery-of-interest isn’t online then it will be worth your while to get in touch to see what additional information they may have on the burial and death. It’s always worth checking who is buried in the same plot as it may turn up unexpected relationships. The other possibility is that what you’ve come across is essentially a pauper’s grave, often indicated by a strange assortment of burials in the one plot: the sexton is likely to know so ask him if the names mean nothing at all to you.

If the cemetery is one which doesn’t have a sexton, you can try the local council office, the local heritage library or the local family history society to find out if they are the repository of the burial records. (I’ve found registers in all these places). These may be the originals (always best), microfilms of the originals, or indexed copies. All are worth exploring even though indexes will obviously need following up. Of course in the pre-internet era when death indexes were restricted and there were no other options the services provided by family history indexes were invaluable.

A critical point to remember is that while the official death registrations may be limited beyond a certain date, the burial record may open the door for further investigation of death notices and relatives, especially women whose names have changed with marriage.

Thrifty tip: the death information obtained from the burial registers may mean you don’t need to obtain certificates for peripheral relations (some of whose certificates you may not be able to purchase for privacy reasons, or the fact that the death wasn’t all that long ago).

FamilySearch Microfilms

Old and new technology: image from wikipedia commons.

Over the decades I’ve used the LDS microfilms of burials to great advantage in my family history searches. They’ve enabled me to confirm otherwise tentative links, unravel which person is which, and generally learn more about my ancestors.

Tip: Not all registers have been added to the family search site or the old IGI. You should compare what’s been indexed online with what’s available on the film. Either way, you’ll get far more information from the films. They let you place your ancestors within the events and context of their parish as well as providing you with clarifying details.

Tip: search the catalogue by place and parish to find the record you’re looking for.  If you haven’t used these microfilms before I encourage you to see if they’re available for your parish of interest and order one in for the thrifty amount of $AU7.75. This is the link you need to order in your film to the nearest LDS or approved family history library.

Request: it would be so nice if FamilySearch made the link to the microfilm ordering just a tad more obvious (or am I the only one who has to google to find it?)

Other blogs

James Tanner from the Genealogy’s Star blog has written several posts about cemeteries in the US over the past months. If you haven’t seen why not visit James’s site and have a look.  There are a couple of examples here and here.

What’s your experience been with burial registers? Have you made any exciting or unusual discoveries through using them?

Next week: Funeral directors’ records

First sighting of my elusive Gavin family in Dublin, Ireland…alleluia!

For years I’ve been trying to locate something, anything about one of my families while they were still in Ireland. Despite evidence on their shipping records, their death certificates, obituaries etc, the Irish lives of Denis Gavin and his wife Ellen nee Murphy have remained elusive. The daughter who arrived with them on the Fortune in December 1855, was Mary, aged 2, born in Dublin. The parents were said to have married in Dublin, and Denis was supposedly born in Ballymore, Co Kildare and Ellen in Davidstown, Co Wicklow. Research into these has so far been unproductive despite visiting both places.

In October 2011 the Irish Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht released new Dublin church records on its wonderful site, Irish Genealogy. Ever optimistic I gave the new records a chance with my Gavin-Murphy search. It’s a little fiddly compared with many of the sites we typically use, but well worth persevering….and it’s FREE!

Imagine my astonishment and delight to find a baptism of a daughter, Mary, to this couple at St Catherine’s Church in Dublin on 5 December 1851. This is the first sighting of this family in Ireland so a cause for great celebration. It’s clear this child cannot be the one who arrived with them in 1855 despite having the same name as it would be difficult to claim a four year old as a two year old. So it’s likely this child was one of their children who died young.

Extract from the St Catherine's registers which show Mary Gavin's baptism from the IrishGenealogy site.

Research indicates that the church in which Mary was baptised is the Roman Catholic church of St Catherine of Alexandria in Meath St, Dublin. This blogtalks a little about its architecture and provides some images. This Irish Ancestors link also provides some information on the parish in general.

This may be a small step in my search to trace the Gavin-Murphy family back to their Irish roots but as we all know, each little chink in the armour leads us on. The progressive digitisation of records is invaluable in the search for missing ancestors in a city as large as Dublin.