Thursday, September 24, 2020

Look Back In Bemusement

 I have been toodling around with genealogy for more than twenty years now and often I'll leave it alone for years on end. Now that I have more free time I'm finding myself becoming obsessed. I'm at it at least once a year, and often for weeks on end. It doesn't help that my oldest daughter, at least one sister and several cousins are equally interested because that only encourages me.

Which is why I haven't blogged for over a week.  

The oldest daughter tempted me to try a free month on Ancestry and I really did think that would be enough. Instead, I found myself buying an extra month so I could get stuck into all those Australian, Canadian, and American kinfolks. It has been both frustrating and fascinating.

I spent several evenings digesting 1950s newspapers centred around the Trangie area in New South Wales searching for news of Bert's Robinson kinfolk. They led not particularly exciting lives holidaying in each other's homesteads all of which were extensively reported in the local paper. Also considered newsworthy were purchases of new Ford cars or the shooting of wild boars that had been worrying sheep. They all lived between Trangie and Dubbo and a trip to Sydney was a big highlight. Bert has relatives (supposedly) in Dubbo to this day as do I although I'm not sure if they know each other. Bert's lot moved from the North Antrim hills to become farmers and my lot travelled from Belfast to make their livings any way they could. I tracked, through Facebook, a descendant of those early Robinson farmers and he'd made the news and not in a good way. Living on a property, dry as a bone, where no crops have been raised in nearly a decade and trucking in grape by-products from the wine-growing areas to feed his cattle. It seems that my relatives in keeping clear of farming have had far better outcomes in life. 

One thing I have learned is that sites like Ancestry, like so much on the internet, cannot be trusted. Take those Dubbo relatives. About thirty years ago Bert's lot got word that a couple of young folk from Dubbo were in Ireland to seek their ancestral roots. It turned out that most of their Irish relatives were very elderly and because Bert was still on the young side we were encouraged to meet up. At that time in our lives, Nellybert were very sociable and keen on partying and the brother and sister from Dubbo were invited to a social gathering at which the young lady was very well-behaved and her brother anything but.

We met a few times and the final get-together was to be in Belfast. That never happened because although we were all in the city we couldn't make it to the agreed meeting spot in the Crown Bar as the Europa Hotel, which is opposite that pub took another hit that day. 

Back to the present day and with all the internet and Ancestry at my disposal I decided to find out how those far-out Dubbo cousins were connected to Bert. I found out that their dad had died recently and conveniently, he was in possession of an unusual forename so it was easier to trace his ancestry. I was very excited for Robinson is a common surname. But, what's this! Mr Unusual Forename, married to a Miss Robinson completely by-passed Bert's ancestor Joseph Robinson who had emigrated from Carnbuck to Trangie in his eighties and instead our so-called imposter cousins from Dubbo are descended from Mr George Robinson, convict of Manchester, England. 

Or maybe Ancestry UK got it wrong again. Like I said, frustrating.


Eleanor Ferguson said...

I discovered some Canadian and American cousins using Ancestry a couple of years ago.discovering the sad story of a great-aunt who went to California with her husband. They had two daughters and then she seemed to have been placed in an asylum in Napa shortly after the birth of the second daughter. I’m guessing post-natal depression - the census records show she was able to work so she could not have been that ill. She spent the rest of her life there and her children never saw her again as they moved with their father, who was a Dempster from Co Antrim, to Vancouver where he had a brother. He’d lost a leg in an accident at work in California - I discovered this from his WW2 draft card which was on Ancestry. Anyway we tracked down her grandson and adopted granddaughter using Facebook and my sister met them when she was in Vancouver last year. Very sad tale - apparently the daughters wanted to see their mother but their father wouldn’t hear of it. My grandfather had a letter from his niece in 1940 asking about his sister which he didn’t reply to. We still have the letter. And I found another descendant of a great-aunt in Arizona and, if Covid hadn’t happened, I’d be in Ballyronan right now showing him the family homestead. I’m relieved this visit didn’t happen as I think from looking at his Facebook that his political views differ from mine. He’s keen on Mr Trump and a evangelical type. But then Aunt Minnie did marry a Scott from Drumenagh and he was Brethren - it’s on the US census. It seems her father, a Presbyterian, disapproved and disowned her. Fascinating and time-consuming but my experience with the Trump fan has made me a little wary about unearthing more distant relatives. All the best - love reading your blog and hearing about your life in NI. Missing it so much - longest time in my whole life I’ve not been for a visit. X Doris

Nelly said...

That brings to mind the old adage about choosing friends but not family. I'd be put off too by admiration for 45. When you say Vancouver are you speaking of Vancouver in Oregon rather than Canada?

Mage said...

Two years ago, I put everybody into Ancestry. This year I put photos to all the names. LOL Enough.

Nelly said...

It's a big job and even though it's an interesting enterprise I sometimes wonder what those Utah-based folks are up to?

Mage said...

LOL I just stuck a picture to each person I posted on Ancestry. I seem to be the picture repository.

Nelly said...

Somebody has to be.