When you hit a genealogical brickwall try birdwatching

When I first retired and joined U3A (University of the Third Age) I had particularly wanted to trace our family histories. Naturally I joined the U3A Genealogical class that was held at the local Family History Library and was instantly hooked, became a library member and commenced delving the dusty past.

My husband’s family was a bit of a mystery as he and his brothers had no knowledge of their ancestors beyond their paternal grandfather. I was on cloud nine the day that a marriage certificate revealed that Woody’s ancestors were early South Australian colonists and much of their daily lives could be viewed through the now digitised newspaper pages of Trove on the internet.

However, there were two families of the same name on that tiny sailing ship when she berthed in Port Adelaide in 1839 and they couldn’t have been more different. As far as I’ve found they were the first of that name to arrive in this country and both families were from Cornwall.  Our Francis was a miner and a horseshoe maker and he went on to build a solid business ferrying passengers and goods on spring carts, coaches and later horse drawn omnibuses between Adelaide and the copper mining town of Kapunda. His brother Nicholas arrived a few years later and he too drove mail coaches out of Burra while his wife ran the now closed but heritage listed Smelter’s Home Hotel. It’s good to know that there’s a hotel in the family and almost as good as having a convict ancestor.

But what of that other couple on the ship? Well Edward was a very different chap to Francis and to my mind must have been unrelated as he was a painter. Not a tradesman but an artist and a painter of theatrical backdrops. An unusual craft as Adelaide in 1839 was just evolving from a canvas village.

Thus, I wrongfully assumed that this family weren’t related and that their arrival on the same ship was pure coincidence.

Last year having spent a month visiting Adelaide, Kapunda and Burra (and of course the hotel) I chose to shelve my research for a while and clear my head. Intrigued by a Bird Watching class at U3A I was keen to do something a little different. To my great surprise there was another couple of the same name in the class. Recently arrived from South Australia Campbell and his wife Christine and you’ve guessed it, Campbell is a descendant of the other family on that ship and more so Edward and Francis were cousins thus making Woody and Campbell fifth cousins!

Adelaide, North Terrace, 1839 (Source Wikipedia)

12 thoughts on “When you hit a genealogical brickwall try birdwatching

  1. Family history is fascinating stuff, and it must be so exciting to find out when your ancestors made it over the ocean …. and why. Great stuff, meeting those relatives!


    1. After many years of genealogical digging I’m convinced that every family has more than one incredible story and it is fascinating. I’ve found myself bawling my eyes out over the computer some nights as I’ve unearthed their hardships.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is humbling to find our how our ancestors lived. If ever think that we know hardship…
        I would love to dig into my family’s past. Even the recent past is full of interest – a Stand Up Comedian, A Professional Singer, A Controversial Nightclub Owner, an aunt who was an avid skier and World Traveller in an era when world travelling was not a thing…


      2. Sometimes those rather staid family portraits tell us very little of the lives they led. There’ll be no surprises about the lives of folks in the Facebook era every meal, every champagne too many, has been recorded, shared and regurgitated annually. 😮

        Liked by 1 person

  2. How brilliant to discover and actually meet some brand new relatives. Researching family trees is so interesting and you can get seriously immersed in it all can’t you? Often don’t quite know when to stop. Great story.


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