More than 190,000 migrant ship records go online


Here is an announcement from the team at TheGenealogist…


TheGenealogist have just released over 190,000 records of passengers who departed Britain on early Migrant ships to New South Wales 1828 – 1896

These new records expand TheGenealogist’s Immigration, Emigration and Naturalisation and passenger list records.

The transcripts of the latest release uniquely give a family link so you can see spouses and children setting out on their new life. They also reveal details such as which ship they had sailed on, where they were landing, the passenger’s occupation and in the case where the migrant has been assisted to travel out to a job, their employer’s name.

Some records are more detailed than others and can divulge how much the emigrant was to be paid, whether rations were included in their employment. In some cases the immigrants Native Place, or where they had come from is also disclosed. A number of these settlers may have bought their own passages, while others travelled with assistance from one of the public or private programmes that existed at the time. With the discovery of gold in 1851 mass migration to New South Wales of a wider cross section of people took place.

The NSW passenger lists will allow researchers to

  • Discover ancestors travelling to New South Wales from Britain and Ireland between 1828 and 1896 in the shipping lists of the era
  • These fully indexed records allow family historians to search by name together with country and port of embarkation, as well as country or port of destination
  • Find ancestors on “bounty scheme” voyages in which free immigrants to Australia were recruited by agents in Britain, who were paid a monetary reward for finding suitable skilled labour and tradespeople willing to sail out to the new colony
  • Locate families travelling together with a single click
  • See linked images and records on the New South Wales Government Website

These records can be found within the Immigration, Emigration and Travel collection on TheGenealogist and add significantly to the resources already available for researchers to use when looking for ancestors who left Britain. TheGenealogist’s extensive British & International Immigration and Emigration records, already include Naturalisation and Denization records, convict registers and early New Zealand settlers.

Search the records now at:


An example from the records follows below…

By selecting Immigration, Emigration and Travel on TheGenealogist’s main search page and then choosing Passenger Lists from the dropdown menu, we are able to look for William Fortune and his young wife who set out for a new life in New South Wales departing from London on the 13th February 1841 on board the ship the Jane Gifford.

The detailed records confirm the departure date, the ship’s name and much much more. For example we are able to discover that William was from Newbridge, that he was a labourer aged 28 and a Roman Catholic. We can see that he was heading for Sydney, Australia and that William had been engaged by one Captain Flint at a wage of £19 a year.

TheGenealogist NSW passenger lists

Presumably William’s prospective employer, Captain Flint, was not the template for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Piratical character of the same name, who would appear in print forty years later. As the shipping records also reveals to us that William Fortune could neither read nor write, this fictional person with the same name as his boss may well have passed him by in the years to come.

An extremely powerful feature, of searching the passenger lists on TheGenealogist’s website, is the ability to look for a family travelling together. One click on the family group icon, next to William’s results, returns potential family members. We can see that his 19 year old wife, Susan, was also travelling with him. Her occupation is noted as a House Maid and she too was a Roman Catholic from Newbridge.

Another charming nugget of family history information revealed, by the Potential Family Members search, is that on the voyage William and Susan were delivered of a baby girl. Their child, Jane Fortune, was born at sea with her native place being prosaically listed simply as “Sea” on the passenger list. Jane is recorded as being aged 2 months and has then been pedantically noted in the records as being “under age”.

New South Wales passenger lists on TheGenealogist

The passenger lists available on TheGenealogist can reveal a significant amount of information about ancestors that have emigrated to New South Wales in the 19th century. As we can see, from the example above, the unique ability to search for relatives travelling together is a compelling reason to use TheGenealogist to research for immigrants down under.

Search the records now at:

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Anglo Saxon Map shows familiar names


I love maps, it goes back to a series of lessons by an inspiring Geography and History teacher who introduced me and the rest of his class to Ordnance Survey maps.


I was fascinated by the symbols for Old Forts, quarries and also the battles marked by the crossed swords.


The lessons made me realise that historical settlements could be discovered on a modern map and so it gave me a sense of a link back to our past.

When I started looking into my family history, some years later, this rekindled my affection for maps and charts and most especially when I could see where ancestors lived on contemporary maps of their time.


This week I was drawn by a post on Facebook by Can’t Find My Past to a website that takes the mapping back even further. To Anglo Saxon times, to be precise. In 2011, with a revision in 2014, the website has uploaded some hand drawn maps showing what the area that is now London may well have looked like in Anglo Saxon times (roughly speaking, 500-1066AD).

The map has been pieced together from many resources, showing their guess at the roads, rivers, forests and marshland that characterised the region. The main purpose was to highlight the many villages, hamlets and farmsteads whose names are still part of modern London. For example, the map shows ‘Wemba Lea’, the land belonging to a local chieftain by the name of Wemba.

“We know nothing about Mr Wemba,” the website says, “yet his name is familiar to millions, perhaps billions, through its continuation into our own times as Wembley. Similarly, Croydon is a corruption of Crog Dene, which meant something like ‘valley of the crocuses’.”

Anyone think that they may be related to the Wembas of Lea? Or perhaps one of the ancient farmers called Cena, Padda and Fulla whose names have lived on down the centuries as Kennington, Paddington and Fulham?

Take a look at the website.




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Black Friday deal on English Family History Course


UPDATE – THIS OFFER HAS EXPIRED -See newer offers at




The Family History Researcher Academy Black Friday discount!
The Family History Researcher Academy has a Black Friday offer on their family history course: Beginning English/Welsh family history. Delivered by email to your inbox, these modules lift the lid on the records and resources to use when searching for English/Welsh ancestors.

If you sign up between now and the 7th December using the special link then you can take advantage of a month’s trail for £1 and receive one module a week in the first four weeks, plus extra bonus reports aimed at finding elusive ancestors in the English/Welsh records. If you like what you see, and decide to stay on, then you’ll be able to subscribe to the rest of the course for £7.27 a month, a 27% saving on the regular subscription rate.

Sign up for this deal:



The course is packed with a year’s worth of material on the many different resources and records that family history researchers can use to tackle ancestors from England and Wales. Subscribers, however, are not locked into completing the full training and can cancel at any time.

Complied by Nick Thorne, who has experience of researching ancestors for private clients and of working on various projects for one of the leading British genealogical research websites, this course has had tremendous feedback from those who bought the training. Nick has contributed articles for publication, in various U.K. family history magazines, on genealogy websites and he also writes this blog under the pen name of The Nosey Genealogist.

The course, that  has been put together, consists of 52 weekly lessons that are delivered by email for the students to complete at their own pace. The modules explore the different resources, data sets and documents that reveal more about English or Welsh ancestry. They allow the reader to become a much more knowledgeable researcher, with the tools to break down their brick walls. The course is written from a practical point of view, with various lessons contributed by professional genealogists, online data experts and by Nick himself.

Nick Thorne said: “In 2013 I distilled much of my knowledge about the subject into the Family History Researcher Academy course and launched it on to the market. I am overjoyed by the continuing positive reaction that I’ve had from many of the students who have taken the course in that time”.

Examples of unsolicited testimonials received and reproduced with the senders permission:
“I am finding the course very useful, even though I have being doing family history for many years.” Kind regards, H. Stephens.

“I would like to thank you for the resources, which I have received weekly, they are very interesting and informative, also a big thank you for the brilliant customer service .” P. Beilby.

“Hi Nick. Thank you very much for this series. I have learnt such a lot and it has increased my knowledge considerably.” A. Vallis.

“The lessons are very good and I would recommend them to anyone” M. Lynn.

“You communicate in an understandable way! Just wanted to thank you for the 52 very interesting lessons. I have them all indexed and saved and will refer back on a regular basis. I very much enjoyed the snippets of social history around the subject, this is so important when doing your own history.” P. Martin.

Topics covered in the 12 months include:
The census collections
The Parish records
The Parish Chest
Dade Registers
County Record offices and the valuable treasures they contain
Religious records
Clandestine marriages
City and Town Directories
Census substitutes
Royal Navy
Merchant Navy
The Workhouse
Poor Law
Death records
Rural ancestors
Black sheep
Genetics and DNA
Maps and Charts
The National Archives
Other depositories
Family Search Centres
Manorial records
and more!

The Family History Researcher Academy is offering a Special Offer Trial of just £1 for the first month there after a 27% reduction on the regular monthly subscription. Receive 4 modules plus bonus content by going to:

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Difficulties when ancestors share similar names

I have to say this revelation surprised me!

Sometimes we think we know everything about an ancestor, we have their birth details and have bought the birth certificate. We trace them to their marriage and then their death, adding the proof of these vital events into our family tree. We then flesh out their story by finding some interesting facts about where they went to school, what they did in the war and so on. But sometimes we can get the story wrong when we jump to conclusions or listen to faulty accounts.

This week I was checking a fact about a person in my own family tree, a man who had been born in 1886 and married his first wife in Richmond, Surrey in 1909. I have vivid memories of him from my childhood as my to me he was known as “Grandpa”. In reality he was my step-grand father, having married my grandmother after WWII when they had both lost their respective spouses.

It was while I was trying to find out some more about his time as an architect, in pre and post-war Singapore, that I came across a conundrum. It was a newspaper cutting announcing his wedding to a Monica Mary Evans in 1921 at the Presbyterian church in the British colony. My childhood recollections were that he had divorced his first wife and then, having had a change of heart, remarried her. I never registered that in between this he had been married to another and so the faulty account that I was listening to was my own, internal, telling of his family story!


By the time of the Second World War Grandpa was married to his first wife again. In the escape from Singapore I knew that he had managed a perilous journey as a 56 year old civilian, his ship having been sunk by the Japanese. Somehow he got ashore in Sumatra and from there he escaped to India.

Japanese March in Singapore

Mary Ellen Brewer, his wife, however, was not so lucky.

On being ordered to leave Singapore, before the fall, she had joined a ship containing women and children which was sadly sunk. She too made it ashore and with others set out on yet another ship only to be sunk by the Japanese enemy on the night of the 17 February 1942 and so lost her life. If I think really hard, as to what I overheard as a small boy, I do recall him mentioning a Monica in small talk with other adults. The conversation being none of my concern, I just thought that Monica was his first wife’s nickname. My recent research, however, has disproved my previous belief.

Frank Brewer’s first wife had the Christian names of Mary Ellen while my grandmother’s were Mary Helena. I was therefore confused by this marriage to Monica Mary.

At first I wondered if Monica was a pet name, as he always called my grandmother “Nell” and so it would not have surprised me if “Monica” had been a familiar nickname as well. But now I was being presented with the full name of Monica Mary Evans and from my earlier research I knew that he had married Mary Ellen Cousins, not Evans, in England back in 1909. Thus this was not the remarriage I had heard mention of.

Despite some research to try to find the second time round marriage announcement in the Straits Times, I have not yet come up with the date for his remarriage. But now I have found some explanation in a report that I found on the internet about the sinking of the S.S.Tandjong Pinang this was the ship in which his first/third wife Mary Ellen was on board when she lost her life.

The document makes it all more clear when it states in the list of passengers who were lost was one “Mrs. Mary Ellen “Nell” Brewer who married Frank Brewer [born 1886] in London in the early 1900s [ he then appears to have married a Monica Mary Evans in Singapore in 1921 but she died in 1925 – source ‘Straits Times’ – and by 1929 passenger lists show him again married to Mary Ellen, they had a daughter Eileen who married in Singapore in 1933, after the War Frank married again to a Mary Helena according to 1960 passenger lists – source JM]”

I then had an a-ha moment. Mary Ellen was also known as “Nell”. So when I had seen reports of Nell Brewer in Singapore these referred to the first Nell and not the second. Likewise I had thought that some confusion had crept into newspaper reports with the similarities between the names Mary Ellen and Mary Helena, but it was my wrong assumptions!

The first lesson that I have learnt is never assume that a family story is a hundred percent correct, as my own jumbled recollection of my grandfather’s story shows.

Secondly, just because you see one person appearing in reports with the nickname  you expect do not assume that this is the person you think it is as it is perfectly possible for two wives to share the same pet name and even the same, if very slightly different, first names!



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Family History Tip: Focus on one thing

Stoneywell typewriter

“Give me a tip on how to break down my brick wall!” said the old fashioned letter I received in my post box.

“Just try to focus your attention on one bit of information that you want to find out about and stop chasing all the other results about your ancestor!” I replied in my note back, “at least until you find the answer to your burning question.”

What I meant by this, and explained further in my reply, is that so often we set out to find something about an ancestor but get distracted. When we enter the person’s name, into the search box on the data site, all the other records that are presented to us can be a distraction. Like the proverbial kid in the sweet shop we go off dipping into this one and the next and soon we have strayed from what we went onto the site in the first place for.

So if my correspondent’s brick wall was where their ancestor lived in a certain time period, then that is what they should zoom in on while leaving all the other records to one side and pursue this goal.

I remember seeing this advice given recently on the Family History Daily website and it makes so much sense.

The writer of the tips article does advise you to save any other interesting information that you have turned up to go back to and look at later, but they strongly advise against getting sidetracked.

Keep working on the one piece of information only and if the records you are looking through turn up nothing, tweak your search again and again until you are satisfied that you have explored every angle.

I do love the data websites that allow you to Search All Records, as sometimes it is exciting and useful to use this option; but when we have a brick wall to smash down our best option is often to restrict our search to a particular database and then try various spellings and other variations to see if we can tease out the information we require. There are other techniques that you can also use as well, but this is a really good place to start.

I hope this idea helps someone this week get past a logjam in their research.



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Listening to Family History on Remembrance Sunday


Royal British Legion poppy appealI have spent a very unusual Remembrance Sunday reading through some pages that my father has written about his war time experience in the Merchant Navy and meant for his extended family.

As his eyesight is not so good these days he had asked me to edit his “yarns”, as he refers to them and then email them back to him.

I found it a fascinating and moving way to learn more about his time at sea, when every voyage could have been ended by a mine going off, a torpedo from a U-boat, or the bomb dropped by a Nazi bomber.

His ship was a lucky one, surviving the war; but he could so easily have been posted to one of those that did not.

Dad turned 90 this year, but back in 1942 he was a 17 year old serving on board the Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship, The Dominion Monarch as she sailed the high seas in convoy moving troops to Europe and transporting cargo such as New Zealand and Australian Butter back to Britain and Gold bars from New York to Liverpool!

JBT Merchant Seaman ID
John Thone’s Merchant Seaman ID

Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship (DEMS) meant that this former liner had been given Anti-aircraft guns, a 5″ gun on the stern, plus some other smaller guns. She boasted a rocket device that was supposed to fire wires to entangle any Junkers dive bomber that tried to drop a bomb on the ship. She had paravanes, designed to be towed on either side of the bow when approaching a mine field and a de-gauzing cable all round the perimeter of the ship, the purpose of which was to counter the Germans magnetic mines which sat on the bottom waiting to be triggered by the magnetic field of the ship passing over.

QSMV Dominion Monarch in peace time livery

As a civilian Merchant Navy ship the Dominion Monarch was given a contingent of 20 Royal Navy sailors to man the stern gun and some of the smaller armaments, while there was another 20 personnel from the army on board for the Ack Ack guns.

The use of most of these devices my father is very sceptical about in his writings. I can not imagine the danger that his generation lived with during this time. It is for those who did pay the ultimate price that I am wearing my poppy with pride. Click here to go to the Royal British Legion website and donate


I have to say that I have learnt more about my father’s war time experience this Sunday than I have ever known before.

The lesson for family historians is to listen to your family’s stories and collect as much as you can from your senior generations while you are able to as these “yarns” add colour to our family history, more than just a dry set of names and dates do.


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Would you live as a Victorian?


There is a part of England that I regularly visit and most times that I do I see a lady dressed in smart period costume in one of the towns there.

The first time that I saw her I made the assumption that she was perhaps a member of staff from a living history museum who had just popped out on her break. But then I begun to notice that each time I am in this town I may well catch a glance of her bustling down the road in her long Victorian dress and that it was not just one costume that she had but many of different colours. It slowly dawned on me that this was her everyday dress and that she had elected to wear Victorian apparel rather than contemporary clothing.


This week I came across two different websites that made me think of this lady. The first is an American site that features a couple that have decided to live like Victorians, dressing like their ancestors and furnishing their house in the manner of that era.


The second website belonged to none other than Wall to Wall Media, makers of the hit genealogy series Who Do you Think You Are? This production company are looking for people to take part in an experiment on TV to live like a Victorian East Ender to tell the story of what life was really like for the Victorian poor and how their plight changed our nation for the better. I am pretty sure that the lady I referred to first in this post would not fit in to this programme as her dresses mark her out as aspiring to be a more middle-class Victorian.

Wall to Wall say on their website that they have begun a search for families and individuals to set up home in 1870s East London.  The people chosen would aim to live, work and make ends meet exactly as the Victorian poor would have done.  They’ll be expected to find work, master old trades and sell their wares in order to put food on the table and to make the weekly rent.

The type of person the company are looking for are strong, determined contributors who think they could survive life on the Victorian bread line. The series is due to be filmed over three weeks in Easter 2016 and the new Victorians will relocate for the duration of the filming to East London.

If you are interested take a look at the link below.



Tracing Your East End Ancestors


For anyone wanting to do some research on tracing their East End Ancestors then Jane Cox has written this guide for family historians published by Pen & Sword Books.

Paperback       £14.99

Kindle edition  £  4.99

ePub edition    £  4.99


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