Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Owen Smith, Shoemaker.... and Drunkard

A brick begins to fall from my wall 

To date, Owen Smith has been my most difficult ancestor to trace in Australia. At last a clue has appeared as to the death of my elusive paternal Great, Great Grandfather, with my scant knowledge of him being that he was a shoemaker on the station “Boorolong” located near Armidale in New South Wales. I can now add that he was a drunkard!

The only clue to Owen’s existence had been his name, occupation and place of residence, which appeared on the Baptismal certificate of his son, William Smith, born on May 11, 1854





Quality or profession


Christiana SMITH



Received after requesting certificate registration number: V18541034 40/1854
Name: William Smith
From: NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages – Historical Index

However recently, I discovered a list of deaths dealt with by the NSW coroner from 11 October 1853, where an Owen Smith died in the Armidale district of “Excessive drinking”; the inquest taking place on the 30th of November 1853. No other information as to age, occupation or any other identifying clues are included, but it does fit the timeline and location. 

Owen Smith, number 95, 3rd from bottom
Although, again, there is no record of their marriage, this would have left his widowed wife, Christiana Matheson, pregnant and a single mother for three years before she remarried Jabez Smith (no relation), a worker on the same property, on February 17, 1857, giving her status as “Shoemaker’s widow”. I ask myself why though was Owen not noted as deceased on the baptismal certificate?

Portion of marriage certificate between Christiana Smith (Matheson) and Jabez Smith

Searching the death indexes of the NSW Births Deaths and Marriages Registrations for that year with for “Owen Smith” returns no results. Searching with just the surname “Smith” returns 61 results. Checking this list carefully finds that there are no Ewan’s, or anything other likely name that may indicate a misspelling.

Checking Trove (Australian Digitized newspapers) reveals only four mentions of an “Owen Smith” during 1853, none of them relevant to my search; though it is possible that the newspapers covering the New England area for period in question have yet to be added to Trove. I also checked the NSW Police Gazettes, which, as far as I can, tell only began in 1854, but perhaps that is just the digitized version.

There are only a few people named “Owen Smith” whom appear in the arrival search results. One, a child aged 15, who was allowed to come to Australia from Ireland with his family to be reunited with his convict father, Patrick Smith on the "William Jardine" in 1838, seemed the most likely candidate, however this Owen has a well documented life and family, and is definitely not my Owen. There were also at least four convicts with the same name, transported from Ireland and England during the years previous to 1853. Without tracing each of their lives and time in the colony, in would be impossible to say which, if any were my Owen. There are also no recorded births for an "Owen Smith" in NSW up to 1840.

I am unsure where to search next and would appreciate any advice as to finding a death certificate for my elusive Great, Great Grandfather, so that I can gather some information that may lead to discovering how and when he came to the colony or where and when he was born; when he was married and when he died. What is really needed is a trip to Armidale to check local records, but that is impossibility for me in my current circumstances. If there are any local researchers, I would be willing to pay for your time, so please contact me.

But there are tingles running up and down my spine, and I feel that now that a brick has come loose, it will not be long before the wall comes tumbling down


Certificates held by self
NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages; Historical indexes
State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia. Registers of Coroners’ Inquests and Magisterial Inquiries, 1834–1942 (microfilm, NRS 343, rolls 2921–2925, 2225, 2763–2769).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thomas William Tracy : a Salvation Army man

Thomas William [de] Tracey / Tracy : Salvation Army Officer.

In search of descendants

In days gone by, it seems that communication was not so different from today. While today’s communication may take the form of a quick email or text, previously, especially with the advent of the photographic post card, many were whipped up and sent off to family members both close and distant, with message that seem obscure to many, the meaning only decipherable by the recipient. My husband’s ancestors seemed to be very prolific post card writers, and I have in my possession one sent from Thomas W. de Tracey to an unknown family member. Thomas William Tracy / Tracey was only very indirectly linked to my husband’s maternal family via the sister of his mother. I would dearly like to reunite this wonderful photograph, with its accompanying message to a direct descendant, instead it of lying idle in the bottom of my unknown photos box.

The photo, taken in Ararat, Victoria or its surrounds, shows Thomas de Tracey standing, dressed in his Salvation Army uniform, along with salutation, “Yours on service, Thomas W. de Tracey” across the front of the picture. The photograph was taken by “TRG Williams, photographer and picture framer ARARAT” This photographer's mark takes the form of a blue oval ink stamp, placed on the top left corner of the post card.

The card has no postmark, so the date it was sent is unknown, but with the inclusion of the “de” in his name it would most likely been taken around 1915-1920 based on the response received from the Salvation Army archivist, which is included below.  No postal address is recorded either, just the message written on the verso which reads:

“I hope you know who this is? It isn’t Felix O’Callaghan on his last legs, but simply your humble [illegible]
Hope you like it.
Ta – ta,
Be a good boy,

I carried out some research on Officer Tracey through the Salvation Army Archives, the Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages historical online indexes, and a quick search for any reference to him on any Australian Ancestry family trees, as well as Google. Enough information was gained from these sources to clearly identify him, without going to the expense of purchasing all relevant certificates for someone, who is so distantly related, that he and his family have not been added to my family tree - though I did purchase his marriage certificate, which I thought would give the most accurate information as it was provided by the man,  (along with his wife, who was herself a Salvation Army Officer) himself.

After my initial enquiry with Salvation Army Archivist, located in Melbourne, the answer I received states that:

“I have found that we had a Thomas De Tracey who was a Salvation Army officer. At times the 'de' was omitted and he was Thomas Tracey. It seems he became an officer in 1904, was married by 1915 and in 1922 was no longer an officer, but attended the Sunshine or Footscray Corps. It was in 1922 that an infant was dedicated. In 1904 he was appointed to Devonport, 1906 he was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain. In 1907 he seemed to be a member of the Biorama Company, 1907 he was appointed to Beaconsfield, 1909 he was appointed to Rochester [Vic.], 1917 he was appointed to Preston [Vic.] We do not have any photos of him, so are not able to confirm him with the photo you sent. However, the initials T.W. in our database would seem to be the same person. It seems that after his marriage the 'de' was used.
Please do not hesitate to contact us again if we can help further.
Dorothy Hill, Mrs.
Research Officer”

I fully understand the implications for the compounding of errors on many family trees that are found online, however having been in contact with some of the owners of the trees in which Thomas was found in trying to locate direct descendants, I believe that the majority of the information to be well sourced and correct.

The information I gained from ancestry.com.au indicates that Thomas William Tracy, the son of Thomas Henry TRACY (1857-1921) and  Alice Jane CUTTING (1862-1949) who married in 1883, was born in St. Arnaud, Victoria, during 1884, dying in Fairfield, Victoria, on the 19th June 1964. He was the eldest of nine children. His 8 siblings, all born in St. Arnaud, Victoria were named:

1.    Edward Ernest Tracy (1887-1963)
2.    Alfred Frank Tracy (1888-1889)
3.    George James Tracy (1893-1959)
4.    Ellen Martha Tracy (1895-1963)
5.    John Clifford Tracy (1897-1897)
6.    Alice Florence Tracy (1898-1898)
7.    Arthur Patrick Albert Tracy (1900- ?)

Thomas De Tracy married Eleanor Gertrude Barnett (born 1883 in Hamilton, Victoria, her parents being George William BARNETT and Elizabeth Ann ALDRIGE) at the Salvation Army Hall in St. Arnaud, Victoria, on the 22nd December 1914. Their children are unrecorded in any of the online trees, though as stated in the response from the Salvation Army, it seems they did have at least one child. The restrictions placed on searching births recorded in Victoria only prior to 1913, means that it is impossible to check how many children were born to this couple.

I find the decision to change his surname fascinating. The fact that his surname and that of his father and siblings were all spelt TRACY is obvious from the birth records. That he decided to not only add the “de” in front of his surname seems odd, but to also change the spelling to TRACEY seems even stranger.  This change of spelling is noted in his marriage and death certificate and indexes, as well as on numerous Australian Electoral Rolls after 1915 while previous Electoral Rolls for 1907 and 1909 have his name recorded as TRACY. I am sure this is the same man, as his occupation in each case is given as Salvation Army Officer.

If anyone with direct links to this upstanding young man would like to have this original photographic post card, I would be happy to pass it along to home were it can be truly valued. If a home among descendants cannot be found, I may donate it to the Salvation Army for their records, if they are willing to give it a good home.           

·      Ancestry Australia public family trees
·      Australian Electoral Rolls sourced on Ancestry Australia online
·      Photograph held by self
·      Salvation Army Archives, Bourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria
·      Victorian Birth Deaths and Marriages Index
·      Victorian Marriage certificate purchased by self

Lost in time

It has been over twelve months since my last post, and I feel lost without the snippets of time that I used to have to research and write of things that popped up during my family history wanderings. However the demands of my husband's illness and his fairly dramatic and rapid decline, made the smallest effort impossible. With much physio and medical attention, he is now gradually improving or at least stabilising, as he will never actually get any better. During the absence from my computer, I was not even aware of the demise of Google Reader, and have subsequently lost the thread of what has been happening in the Genealogy community.  Very slowly but surely I am re-subscribing  to my favourite blogs, as I come across them. 

I would like to go back and continue with the challenge set by Gould Genealogy last year of "Family History through the Alphabet", but that may be too much effort for this tired mind at present. During the past month, I have written one post, that to me does not read very well, but I may just publish it and be done... Jump in regardless and join the throng so to speak.

This post is just to reintroduce myself, dip my toe into the water, and say "Hi" to all the genie bloggers out there.

It was finding this photo below of my home suburb of Malabar, previously known as Long Bay, an eastern suburb of Sydney, which when this picture was taken was no more than a seaside picnic spot, with few permanent residents, many whom were my ancestors. Was the woman crossing the street to the beach in her long skirt a great great aunt? Though dulled from lack of use, my mind remains enquiring and eager to explore the past, less any more knowledge that I presently have or may acquire be lost to time