Aussie WDYTYA Season 5

You can buy earlier series of the Aussie WDYTYA online.

You can buy earlier series of the Aussie WDYTYA online.

Are you enjoying this season’s Australian Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA)?

I certainly am – I even think this may be their best yet.  The background researchers have done a great job and the individuals we’re following seem to really care about what happened to their families in the past.

James Tanner from Genealogy’s Star was recently bemoaning (rightly!) discussing his experience with helping a friend get started with their genealogy. There does seem to be a tendency for new genealogists to want to wander an orchard full of genealogical data, plucking off whichever fruit appeals to them, or looking for a specific tree called “the Smith Family”.

Certainly the downside of programs like WDYTYA or Ancestry’s advertising, is that they make it appear as if information drops from the skies or is just there for plucking from the trees like ripe fruit. No wonder we’re seeing a proliferation of incorrect and ill-considered trees on public web sites.

Of course, there were probably always some trees full of errors (some of the old patron submissions on the IGI, for example), but they used to be hidden in someone’s cupboard rather than out there for the next quick-fix “researcher” to incorporate into their own tree. I guess there’ll always be those who want to be rigorous with their research, “doubting Thomases” who want the proof and nothing but the proof (me, for example), and those who are happy to rely on “but my family always said…..”.

WDYTYA does make it look easier than it is, and deceptive in how you can research: when was the last time you were taken into the compactus (plural? compactii?) of an archival repository to collect your documents? Yes, right, never!

And yes, newspaper articles are plucked as if from that same magic research tree without reference to Trove, which all Aussie researchers have come to almost take for granted. I have to remind myself that once we were finding at least some of the same information by laborious scrolling of microfilms for pertinent dates or events, or by taking advantage of indexes equally laboriously compiled by volunteers from various family history societies.

What I don’t find myself doing (at least not too much!) is talking to the screen during WDYTYA as I do through “Who’s been sleeping in my house” saying “use Trove”,” look up the BDM indexes”, “check the electoral rolls”.

But returning to last night’s show on Michael Caton (of The Castle and “tell him he’s dreaming” fame), the show made me think about two things pertinent to my own family history:

  1. My Denis Gavin may have left off his work as a carrier after he ceased employment at Binbian Downs, not having the funds to set up his own “rig” but equally he may have been impacted by the encroaching impact of Cobb & Co. This is a thought I’ll be pursuing in future research.
  2. Michael’s ancestor had links to the (in)famous bushranger Thunderbolt both early in his career but also near Tenterfield in the early 1860s because of the gold rush. They didn’t mention this was at Tooloom, only that it was near the Queensland border. However I have evidence that my George Kunkel was working as a pork butcher on the same goldfields. I wonder if he ever sold meat to Thunderbolt? Just one of those irrelevant and silly thoughts –but the fact remains he was working in the same area at the same time so would have been very familiar with the stories of Thunderbolt’s activities.

The other amusing diversion was that during Caton’s visit to Cunnamulla, there was a background sign about the Cunnamulla Fella, the eponymous country song, and apparently also the name of a local festival!

 Have any of the recent WDYTYA shows made you re-think any aspect of your family history?

St Saviours, Moorgate: the link between Monty Don and Cass ancestors

Yesterday for a bit of light relief we decided to watch the Who Do You Think You Are episode from a few months ago (here in Oz) featuring Monty Don, famous for the TV series Around the World in 80 Gardens, which I loved. Some comments on the episode were less than enthusiastic but I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and found him to be keen to learn, intelligently reflective, and genuinely enthusiastic about the discoveries to provide more balance into his family tree. What endeared me most was his emphasis on the fact that his female ancestry was an equal part of his tree.

The rather lovely organ at St Saviours. To its right is the edge of Monty Don's 2 x great grandfather's memorial. Unfortunately none of my husband's ancestors were baptised in this christening font.

However none of this is why I decided to post. There we were, happily relaxing, when the focus shifted to Monty Don’s 2 x great grandfather who was an Anglican vicar/minister/priest. Lo and behold he had been the vicar at St Saviours Church, then in Clarborough Parish at Moorgate near Retford, Nottinghamshire in the 1840s. “So what” you might say…well this is the church where Mr Cassmob’s 3 x great-grandmother worshipped. Not only that, but she would have been a parishioner (hopefully not one of the absentee ones) when he read a clerical riot act to his potential client base dividing them into church goers, chapel goers and nowhere goers. He really didn’t sound at all the pastoral type and I can agree with Monty saying he didn’t warm to the man.

Mr Cassmob with the graves of his 4xgreat grandmother, his 3xgreat grandmother and her sisters, Charlotte and Martha.

We were especially pleased when the camera panned around part of the churchyard, not quite reaching the gravestones we found for Mr Cassmob’s 3 x great grandmother and her sisters as well as his 4 x great grandmother. What a red letter family history day that was in 2006 as the snow-flakes started to fall.. We had no idea the family was there until, starting in West Drayton nearby, one trail led to another and we ended up at St Saviours.

Elizabeth Walker (d 1835) is buried with or near her daughters, Charlotte Linton (d1863), Susannah Cass (d 1868) and Martha Walker (d 1876). Susannah and Martha had run a school for young women in Grove St Retford for many years prior to their deaths.

Front view St Saviours Church, Moorgate Retford, Nottinghamshire March 2006

The next morning being a Sunday, we thought we’d take ourselves off to the church close to the time of the service so we could see the inside. St Saviours’ web page says “the most important thing about any church is the people. The members of St Saviour’s Church come in many different shapes and sizes, and range in age from 0 to 99. We put a strong emphasis on welcoming all people”. Now in many cases one might find this to be simply a nice mission statement (pardon the pun). Not so at St Saviours where the welcome was immediate, we were introduced around, taken to after-service morning tea and chatted to by everyone. Truly one of the highlights of our family history searches overseas in a number of countries.

So Monty Don’s own personal genealogy took him along the same path to the church linking his ancestor to my husband’s in such a strange but interesting way. And the nice touch was that while the Rev Charles Hodge was known to be a preacher but not a pastor, the 21st century ambience is completely different and welcoming. Not surprisingly this episode with such evocative memories of Moorgate and Retford and St Saviours is destined for a place in our TV archives.

Grove St, Retord where Susannah Cass and Martha Walker ran a school for young ladies for many years. Specific address is not known.