My DNA. Results are in.

I’d often thought about submitting my genes for analysis to establish and/or verify my ethnic origins. Genetic testing has become a very popular thing to do in the genealogical world. The impetus to act, finally came in the form of an email I received a few months ago. It was from a relative of the WINTER clan still living in Ireland—my mother’s paternal line. The relative informed me that she’d done the test and she was ‘95% Irish’. This was interesting, as it basically put to bed the theory that the WINTERs had migrated from Germany to Ireland, possibly, to escape religious persecution. It meant that the WINTERs were, in fact, ‘natives’ of Ireland.

The genetic line this relative carried had been passed down, in Ireland, for many generations. I, however, was a mixture. From what I knew of my heritage, I was 75% Irish, and 25% English. Three quarters of my great-great-grandparents, 12 out of 16 in fact, were born in Ireland: Luke COGHLAN, Ellen NEVIN, Martin QUINLAN, Ellen DUNN, Alexander CAMERON, Catherine RICE, Edward WINTER, Honoria TANCRED, Susanna FITZPATRICK, Jane BLAIR, Edward BOWES and Catherine KEEGAN. The other four were born in England: Edward LEE, Jemima WILLIAMS, George MILLETT and William SELLERS. I wondered, if I did the test, would it show this mix as I had calculated it or, would there be surprises? A Viking, perhaps?

My results arrived via email, two months after my little vial of spittle had flown over the Pacific to the AncestryDNA lab in America. The results were exciting… and surprising.

Here they are:

My AncestryDNA results

2016 My AncestryDNA results. Courtesy of

And in a little more detail:

2016 My AncestryDNA profile. Courtesy of

Yes. I am 75% Irish. Not surprising. But what about those other bits and pieces? And the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). 9%! That’s quite a chunk of my DNA. Strangely, I’ve never had the desire to dance the fandango or tease a bull with my red cape, so, what’s the story? has a lot of information about the different ethnic groups it tests for and after much reading it appears that my Iberian genes and all the other European bits and pieces I’m made up of are the result of the Celtic tribes moving across Europe. As it states on

Originating in central Europe, they [the Celts] spread to dominate most of western Europe, the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula.

Admittedly, testing autosomal DNA (AncestryDNA test), that is, the hotchpotch of DNA inherited from both parents, is going to result in ‘mixtures’ of ethnic origins unless, of course, the parents have lived in the same place and married within the same group for generations. In that case, they may be considered ‘natives’ of the area. It is a fairly crude analysis, at best. There are other DNA tests available which will give more particular information: the Y-DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the patrilineal line, that is, from father to son, and the mitochondrial DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the matrilineal line, that is, from mother to her children. The latter test is interesting in that the mitochondrial DNA inherited by a daughter from her mother is in turn passed on to her daughter, and so on. Results from this testing may provide valuable historical information about the origins of the maternal line. This information is often hard to find or sometimes impossible to find as women were not often mentioned in records or newspapers.

So far, Ancestry has ‘matched’ my test results with 37 4th cousins and another 60, or so, distant cousins. A few of them have contacted me and no doubt we’ll be swapping facts and stories in the future.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn’t score highly in the Viking stakes but I’m very happy to be a Celt…I think.

Posted in DNA | 4 Comments

A LEE Match!

About a month ago, a LEE ‘relative’ in the USA, who I’ve recently made contact with, emailed a couple of photos of a brother of her forebear, Charles LEE (1841-1929). Charles LEE being the brother of my great-grandfather Edward LEE (1840-1898).

The question….are the photos of Edward LEE?

Edward LEE sent to USA from Australia copy

?Edward LEE. Courtesy of relative in USA.

Edward LEE Stewart and Co

?Edward LEE. Courtesy of relative in USA.

One of the photos is labelled Stewart and Co., Melbourne. I found a brief history of the company on the Cambridge University Library website as part of a project The Royal Commonwealth Society Photograph Collection.

The project is a history of photographers active in the Commonwealth and the images taken.

Robert Stewart was a commercial photographer active in Australia. He had studios in: 267 Pitt Street, Sydney 1863-64; 396 George Street, Sydney 1867-68; 348 George Street, Sydney 1868-70. From 1871 Stewart also had a studio at 217 Bourke Street East, Melbourne. This studio seems to have become known as Stewart and Co.. Stewart and Co. occupied a (sic) various studios in Bourke Street, Melbourne, until circa 1900 (Davies and Stanbury 1985, p.235).
Sources: Davies, Alan and Stanbury, Peter (1985), ‘The mechanical eye in Australia: photography 1841-1900’. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

The fact that the photographers were not in business as Stewart and Co. in Melbourne until after 1871 rules out the possibility that the photo is of the other LEE brother known to have emigrated to Australia, that is, George Williams LEE, as he died in Maffra, Victoria in 1864.

I think you’d have to agree that the gentleman in the two photos above from the USA, who I suspect are of the same person, bears a striking resemblance to the gentleman in the locket owned by my grandmother, Mary Grace Jane COGHLAN (née LEE) (1881-1958), one of Edward LEE’s three daughters.

The Locket belonging to my grandmother Mary Grace Jane LEE (1881-1958), known as ‘Doll’.

In a previous blog post, The Locket, I came to the likely conclusion that the images were of my grandmother’s parents: Mary Jane LEE (née CAMERON) (c1852-1934), known as Jean, and Edward LEE (1840-1898). Now, with the likenesses from the USA of ‘Charles LEE’s brother’ matching the photo in my grandmother’s locket this raises the probability even higher that it is indeed, my great-grandfather, Edward LEE, in the locket.

I was really excited to receive the images from the USA. They are a very valuable addition to the LEE story in Australia. So many thanks LEE ‘relative’!

Posted in Cameron, Lee | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

‘Duty nobly done’: two WINTER brothers KIA in France.


My homegrown Flanders Poppies

In ‘travels with my forebears’ I came across the deaths of two WINTER brothers, killed in action, in the First World War:

Private Herbert William WINTER (c.1888-1917)

Private Bertram John WINTER (c.1891-1917)

They were the sons of John WINTER (1850-1902) and Margaret FOX (1859-1930) of Lake Rowan, a small town in northern Victoria between Benalla and Yarrawonga.

Family View Report for John Winter captureJohn WINTER, the boys’ father, was the youngest son of Edward WINTER (1812-1869), my great-great-grandfather of Diggers Rest (see previous posts) and Honoria TANCRED (1818-1856). In an easier to understand relationship, the brothers were first cousins of my maternal grandfather, William Thomas Rupert WINTER (1875-1939).

Herb, the older brother, was the first to enlist. He ‘signed up’ at Benalla on 20 July 1915 at the age of 26. Seven months later on 8 March 1916 Bert enlisted at Wangaratta, Victoria at the age of 25. They were both assigned to ‘Reinforcements’ of the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion; Herb to the 7th Reinforcement and Bert to the 13th Reinforcement. Herb eventually becoming part of the 57th battalion.

Herb and Bert were country boys; Herb a ‘farm labourer’ and Bert a ‘labourer’. Both single. Their father John, died when the boys were about 14 and 12 from tuberculosis. The boys may well have been the main breadwinners for the family before enlisting.

Their mother Mrs Margaret WINTER, ‘widow’, is listed as their next of kin on the enlistment forms.

Herb embarked from Melbourne on 26 November 1915, disembarking in Egypt. There he was admonished for playing ‘House‘ (housey-housey perhaps, a form of bingo/lotto) in the Moascar camp in June 1916.



He was transferred from Alexandria to Marseilles, France on 24 June 1916 and was killed in action on the Western Front at Beaumetz, France on 26 March 1917.



Not long after Herb was transferred to France his brother, Bert, embarked from Melbourne on 3 July 1916. He was transferred to France from England on 12 November 1916 but a month later he ended up in hospital in Rouen with mumps on 8 December 1916. He didn’t return to his battalion until 5 February 1917. So, for about 6 weeks (5 Feb 1917 till 26 March 1917 when Herb was killed) the 2 brothers were moving, I presume separately, in an easterly direction towards the Western front.

Bert was killed in action at Bullecourt on 15 April 1917, a couple of months after returning to duty and 3 weeks after his brother was killed.

I wonder if he knew?



The Australian War Memorial website describes the movements of the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion after being joined by reinforcements:

In March 1916, the battalion embarked for France and experienced their first service on the Western Front in reserve breastwork trenches near Fleurbaix at the end of the first week of April 1916. The battalion’s first major action was at Pozieres, part of the massive British offensive on the Somme. In September/October they were moved to the Ypres sector then back to the Somme for the winter. The battalion spent most of 1917 bogged in bloody trench warfare from Bullecourt to Broodseinde in Flanders.

The family death notices in the Melbourne newspaper, The Argus, are each published a month after the deaths:

1917 Death notice for Herbert William WINTER 27 April The Argus

Death notice for Herbert William WINTER printed in the Argus on 27 April 1917.

WINTER– Killed in action in France, March 26 1917 Private Herbert William Winter, dearly loved eldest son of Margaret and the late John Winter, Lake Rowan, loved brother of Maud, Laura, and Bert (on active service); aged 28 years.

Sadly missed. Loved by all.

Duty nobly done.

1917 Death notice for Bertram John WINTER KIA 15.4.17. The Argus 15 May.

Death notice for Bertram John WINTER printed in the Argus on 15 May 1917.

WINTER-Killed in action, France, 15/4/17, Private Bertram John, beloved youngest son of Margaret and the late John Winter, Lake Rowan, also loved brother of Maud, Laura, and the late Private H. W. Winter (killed in action), aged 26 years.

Loved by all who knew him.

The brothers are honoured in two different cemeteries in France: Herb in Lebucquiere Communal Cemetery Extension Plot 1, Row B, Grave No. 4 and Bert in Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission manage the cemeteries. Certificates of commemoration as shown below can be downloaded from the website here

Herbert William WINTER commemorative certificate


Bertram John WINTER Commemorative certificate

My only sources for this blog post have been the records available through the various Departments. For further information about the brothers’ war experience the Defence service records can be accessed and downloaded from the Australian National Archives and the Red Cross reports of their deaths can be accessed and  downloaded from the Australian War Memorial website.

A very sad tale

Lest we forget

Posted in Winter | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Sunbury Festivals and my great-great-grandfather, Edward WINTER’s, farm.

Pondering the fact that Mum’s side of the family had strong links to the Sunbury area in Victoria, I wondered if the original WINTER farm as detailed in my last blog post How I ‘met’ my great-grandfather William WINTER. Part 1. was anywhere near the Sunbury pop festivals of the 1970s. I did a bit of googling and the results were surprising…

According to Wikipedia, the annual festivals (1972-1975 inclusive)—Victoria’s version of Woodstock—were held on ‘George Duncan’s farm, Diggers Rest’:

The four Sunbury Pop Festivals were held on the same 620-acre (2.5 km2) private farm along Jacksons Creek, 3.5 km south of Sunbury and 2 km north-east of Diggers Rest.[3] The property was owned by 50-year-old farmer and local identity George Duncan who offered the use of his land at no cost to the organisers. The property was known locally as “Duncan’s farm”… The entrance gates to the Sunbury Pop Festival were off Watsons Road, Diggers Rest. Promoters rejected the name of Diggers Rest ’72 in favour of Sunbury ’72 as being more suggestive of a good time and sunny destination. (Jenkins, Jeff; Meldrum, Ian (2007). “Festivals”. Molly Meldrum Presents 50 Years of Rock in Australia. Melbourne: Wilkinson Publishing. pp. 245–251).

The festival venue was closer to the smaller township of Diggers Rest, so many attendees who travelled by train alighted at Diggers Rest railway station, and not Sunbury.

‘off Watson’s Road, Diggers Rest’. This was intriguing. Watson’s Road, Diggers Rest was the southern boundary of my great great grandfather, Edward WINTER’s, farm.

I turned to Google Earth to compare the topography.

A wonderful attribute of Google Earth is that you can overlay an old Parish map onto an aerial view of the land as it is today. By lining up the main landmarks, such as water courses, you can see where the parcel of land in question is in comparison to the current features.

I made an overlay of the Parish map of Holden outlining the original survey of allotments, as accessed through the State Library catalogue, onto the aerial view of the Sunbury/Diggers Rest area as it is today .

After lining up Jackson Creek and the Calder Freeway dissecting Diggers Rest I could see how Edward WINTER’s farm lined up with the land.

This is the result:

Overlay of Parish of Holden on Google map of Sunbury and diggers Rest highlighting Edward Winter's farm

Overlay of Parish of Holden, County of Bourke (courtesy of State Library of Victoria) onto an aerial view of the current landscape around Sunbury/Diggers Rest via Google Earth.

Edward WINTER’s farm, within the black circle (Section 17 allotments C and D), is not quite down to Jackson Creek but no doubt some of the Festival  revellers would have walked or driven down Watson’s Road, the southern boundary of the farm, to get to the entrance of the festival. I don’t know exactly where George Duncan’s farm was but I suspect it was next to the WINTER farm, to the east, running along Jackson Creek, but for all I know Duncan’s farm may have incorporated the WINTER farm, or part of it.

The YouTube video Arriving at Sunbury Rock Festival 1970s gives you a feel for the general landscape-dry and rocky-as well as some amusing interviews by ‘Molly’ Meldrum with the revelers.

The farm was owned by the WINTERs from 1854 to about 1870 so we’re talking about a more than 100 year gap between the WINTER clan working the land and Billy Thorpe belting out Oop poo pa doo down the road. Not quite the singalong ’round the piano of Edward WINTER’s day.

My brother went to a couple of the Sunbury Festivals much to my mother’s horror. Little did she know, or he know, or any of my relatives know, that the festivals were so close to our forebears’ farm. An interesting little aside….

ADDIT I’ll return to Part 2 of the William WINTER story eventually…

Posted in Winter | 4 Comments

How I ‘met’ my great grandfather, William WINTER. Part 1

I didn’t ‘physically’ meet my great-grandfather, William WINTER (1845-1883), and neither did any of my mum’s generation; he died well before any of us were born. There are no photos of him and there’s no memorabilia—that I know of.  And it seems that any stories about him have been lost in time.

William became my mystery man. I had a death certificate but I couldn’t prove it was one and the same; the details didn’t ‘match up’. However, a concerted search through the digitized newspapers accessible through TROVE gave me the proof I needed.

The search enabled me to ‘meet’ William WINTER, giving me some insight into how he led his life and the challenges he faced. I’ll spread the findings out over two posts, Part 1 and Part 2.

For Part 1, I’ll focus on proof of his death.

Part 1  The search for proof of William WINTER’s death.

For those not familiar with TROVE it is a fabulous resource for historians, novelists, genealogists and anyone interested in Australian history. TROVE is managed by the National Library of Australia. It’s a searchable online database of resources available in Australia, including, books, articles, maps, movies, images, newspapers and just recently added, Government Gazettes. Besides the obvious value of the digitized newspapers I’ve found it invaluable for locating books in Australian libraries. It saves the laborious task of checking each library one by one.

But TROVE has been in trouble lately. The Government has recently announced cuts to its funding which will restrict the upload of new material onto the site. The announcement has resulted in a social media campaign #fundtrove. A petition to be sent to Malcolm Turnbull can be accessed and signed here.

Now to William WINTER…

As can be seen in the chart below William WINTER was Mum, Teresa Bernadette WINTER’s,  grandfather.

Pedigree Chart for Teresa Bernadette Winter

From previous research, I knew William was born at ‘Springs’ in 1845. ‘Springs’ was the farm his father, Edward WINTER (c1812-1869) was leasing at the time in Keilor (see the post What’s in a Name?). The Edward WINTER family eventually settled on a farm in Digger’s Rest, just south of the township of Sunbury. In 1870, at the age of 25, William married Mary Ann MILLETT, a local girl, who lived a few miles further up the road leading to the Mount Alexander goldfields (Calder Fwy), at the Gap.

It was evident from the birthplace being Sunbury as documented for the couple’s first four children that William and Mary Ann stuck around the local area (see chart below) until at least about 1880.Family View Report for William Winter

William’s father, Edward WINTER, a widower, died the year before William’s marriage. He left a detailed will. The family farm at Digger’s Rest was left to his four sons, William, Edward, Richard and John and £100 was left to each of his daughters, Honora, Susan and Lydia. Below is the approximate location of Edward’s farm in Digger’s Rest:

Satellite view Google Maps Edward Winter's farm Digger's Rest Section 17 Allotments c and d Parish of Holden County of Bourke

Today’s Google satellite view of location of Edward WINTER’s farm, Digger’s Rest, the Sunbury side. Parish of Holden, Section 17, Allotments C and D.

Family folklore told me that William WINTER had died ‘young’ and that his widow, Mary Ann, had married again to an Edward WILLIAMS. Fortunately, the marriage certificate of Mary Ann and Edward in 1885 had the death year of her late husband, William WINTER—1883.

I now had a year and I believed I could be pretty sure that the informant, Mary Ann, William’s widow, would not have got this wrong. However, the only record for the death of a William WINTER in 1883 was one in NSW with some troubling details—or lack of them—that made me doubt I had the right one.

1883 Death certificate William WINTER Armidale NSW

31 July 1883 Death certificate of William WINTER Armidale, NSW. BDM NSW Reg No. 10763/1883.

This William WINTER was the right age and was born in Victoria—correct. But what was he doing in NSW? Yes, there were WINTER relatives there and possibly relatives of Mary Ann so maybe he was there for work? I don’t know. However, the troubling details were there—the informant said William was ‘not married’ and had no children. From what I knew, this didn’t seem to fit.

As I’ve mentioned before it’s best to be wary of the information given by informants on death certificates. The informant, in this case, was the matron of Armidale Hospital, NSW. Maybe there was not enough time to get William’s family details before he died. His death may have been sudden (he had a 2 years history of ‘heart disease’). And maybe there wasn’t any family around as he’d left his young family with relatives while he travelled further afield, following job opportunities. All supposition.

For many years I sat on this death certificate, reluctant to add the details to the family tree until I had further proof. As TROVE came online with newspaper collections constantly being added I tried sporadically with various search terms: ‘WINTER’; ‘ARMIDALE’ and varying combinations, but to no avail. I knew too that if the print was not clear the search couldn’t pick up the text. (The beauty of TROVE is that users can correct the text which is helpful  for future searches).

A few months ago, I tried again. This time I used the keywords ‘WINTER’ and ‘DIGGERS REST’ and the year, 1883. To my delight the proof I’d been hoping for turned up. There was a death notice in the Victorian newspaper, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) on Thursday 2 August 1883, page 1 and an identical notice in another Victorian newspaper, Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) on Saturday 11 August 1883, page 40. The notice said William WINTER died on 31st July at Armidale, NSW, 37 years old. The details were consistent with the death certificate I had. But the detail that clinched the deal was that William was the ‘eldest son of the late Edward Winter of Digger’s Rest’.

1883 Death notice of William WINTER The Age 31 July

1883 Death notice of William WINTER, Armidale, NSW, 31st July. The Age. Courtesy of TROVE.

So, the NSW death certificate I’d kept was in fact the correct one. Thank you TROVE!

In Part 2, I’ll go into the possible reason William WINTER headed to NSW following further findings in the newspapers.

To be continued…

Posted in Millett, Winter | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

A 13 year old biographer

When I was 13 years old, our English teacher, the delightful Miss Seedsman, gave us an exercise in biography. The task was to interview someone about their childhood and write it up in three sections: family life, school life and a description of a game played at school.

I interviewed my dad.

1970 Marg and Jack COGHLAN Mc Kean St Box Hill

1970 Dad, John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN (1909-1974), and me. Author’s private collection.

Dad, John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN, was no doubt a willing participant and, I can imagine, I was a diligent interviewer. I don’t remember the actual interview but, fortunately, I have kept evidence of it in the form of my finished assignment.

On reading it now, forty six years later, it seems very formal, especially referring to Dad as the ‘collaborator’! I’m sure this would have been Miss Seedsman’s idea not mine.

The following is the finished assignment with Miss Seedsman’s comments. There are a few cheeky details that Dad sneaked in. Was I being so diligent that I didn’t even notice or did I think they were funny too and included them on purpose? Who knows. I can’t remember. Whatever the case it gives the piece his ‘voice’ which is lovely. Hope you enjoy it.

The setting for Dad’s childhood is Bullarto, near Daylesford, Victoria.

The year of interview is 1970.

First up, a description of school life…1970 An enquiry into the Past 57 years ago Page 1 of 2

John Leo Coghlan abt 1913

c.1913 John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN. Bullarto, Victoria. Author’s private collection.

1970 An enquiry into the Past 57 years ago Page 2 of 2

Naughty me. I didn’t write a conclusion!

And now, some details of Jack’s home life…1970 biography of Joahn Leo Coghlan

Not sure what happened to that sentence, ‘His mother…’. I can imagine she wouldn’t have been too impressed with snowballs dropping onto the stove while she was cooking.

1920s Jack and Nance Coghlan and Snowman Bullarto

1920s Jack COGHLAN, his sister Nance and snowman. Bullarto, Victoria. Author’s private collection.

And lastly, the description of a game played at school.

Dad picked the game, ‘Trains’…1970 Explanation of 'Trains'

Yes, I agree Miss Seedsman, it sounds very chaotic. Not a game that survived the passage of time.

It’s hard to believe that what I documented is life as it was in country Victoria now more than 100 years ago. It’s not the best biography ever written but it sets the scene of a boy who had a pretty idyllic childhood and who liked to give a bit of cheek. Unfortunately, his mother, my grandmother, died before I was born. I would loved to have quizzed her about her boy and his pranks. I’m sure she would have had some stories to tell.

This is one instance where I’m glad I’m a bit of a hoarder.

Posted in Coghlan | Tagged , | 8 Comments

A search for the final resting place of the LEEs in England

I knew my great great grandparents, Edward LEE and Jemima LEE (nee WILLIAMS), did not follow their sons, George, Edward (my great-grandfather) and Charles to Australia, so, it wasn’t too much of a jump to assume they died and were buried in England. But where?

Discerning their ‘timelines’ in England led to a burial plot in Nunhead Cemetery, London. And contact with the volunteers, the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery (FONC), gave me the Grave number and photos of their final resting place.

Here’s the trail…

AS for many family historians, information in census returns is invaluable, and, the English ones are particularly good. They were conducted every 10 years. The 1841 census is considered to be the first modern census.

The English censuses can provide occupations, relationships, addresses, children, ages and birthplaces. And absences can suggest deaths in the years in between. So, with the aid of other verifying documents a timeline of a person’s life can be determined. This is great for those of us who can’t zip down the road and fossick through the London records ourselves.

So what did I find out about the LEE family?

(All the following information has been transcribed from the scans of English census returns available on

1841 English census

1841 Census table LEE

H.S. = Household Servant.

Corn Meter = ‘a type of weights and measures inspector who ensured that the quantities of corn traded at market were accurately weighed’.

1850 London bermondsey Cross Map (see Evernote)

1850 Section of Cross’s New Plan of London (St Catharine’s and Bermondsey)

In 1841 the LEE family, consisting of, Edward and Jemima LEE and their children, George, Mary and Edward (my great-grandfather), are living in Horselydown Lane, Parish of St John, Borough of Southwark.

Horselydown Lane runs perpendicular to the Thames in the parish of St John Horselydown, Southwark. The Lane is still in existence today.

I’ve included the details of the next door neighbours, George WILLIAMS, Mary WILLIAMS and Elizabeth HENRY, as they prove to be significant in regards to the LEE family in the next census of 1851.

Unfortunately, the census of 1841 did not include relationships to the head of the household so I don’t know how these three people were related to each other.

1851 English census

1851 Census LEE

George Williams LEE-Occupation: ‘AKC’ = ‘Associate of King’s College’. To be explained later. What I’ve learned about George will fill up many future posts.

In 1851 the family are now living at 1 Bath Terrace, Parish of Newington, Borough of Lambeth, away from the Thames: Edward and Jemima, their children, George, Mary, Edward, Charles and Alfred.

George WILLIAMS, who was next door ten years before in 1841, is now living with the family and is described as ‘Uncle’ and ‘Widower’.

Mary WILLIAMS and Elizabeth HENRY are absent. They may have died??

(I have found a Mary HENRY who married a George WILLIAMS but I haven’t found any proof that they are one and the same. This could be significant considering an Elizabeth HENRY (Mary WILLIAMS’ sister perhaps?) was living with them in the 1841 census).

1861 census

1861 English Census table LEE

Fundholder (Jemima’s occupation) = Someone whose main income was from the interest and dividends received from investments.

By 1861 the family is markedly reduced in numbers.

Edward, now a retired Corn Meter and Jemima LEE,  a ‘Fundholder’, are living with their youngest son, Alfred (scholar) in the village of Wonersh, County Surrey.

At this stage, I know that George Williams LEE, their eldest child, has emigrated to Australia (1852).

Two of their other sons, Edward and Charles, may have been off doing apprenticeships and Mary Elizabeth is?

George WILLIAMS, Jemima’s uncle, is not listed. Has he died?

A search for his death between 1851 and 1861 reveals many George WILLIAMS but the finding of a will in 1857 narrows the search.

One of the executors of this lengthy will is Edward LEE, a Corn Meter, and one of the beneficiaries is his niece, Jemima LEE. With these details I knew I had the right George WILLIAMS.

George WILLIAMS left a great deal of money to the Baptist Missionary Society and another decent portion to his niece, Jemima LEE. This probably explains Jemima LEE’s occupation listed as ‘Fundholder’ in the 1861 census.

There is ‘talk’ in branches of the family that the children of Edward and Jemima LEE came into an ‘inheritance’, possibly assisting them with the finances for their education and enabling them to emigrate to Australia. Uncle George WILLIAMS may well have been the source.

A search in FreeBDM gave me the reference number of the death of a George WILLIAMS in 1857 and in Newington which is where he was living with the LEEs in 1851.

I used the reference number to request a copy of the death certificate from General Register Office (GRO):

20 August 1857 Death of George WILLIAMS, uncle of Jemima LEE, in NEWINGTON, Co. Surrey. Courtesy GRO.

The details in the certificate reveal the place of death as 1 Bath Terrace which is the address he was living at with the LEE family in the census for 1851. Occupation: Corn Meter which also corresponds with the 1851 census and Edward LEE was ‘present at the death’. I was pretty confident I had the right George WILLIAMS.

1871 census

1871 Census table LEE

By 1871 Edward LEE is a ‘widower’ living north of the Thames with his daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who is now married to A F TILLEY (verified by LEE relatives in USA).

So, Edward’s wife, Jemima LEE, must have died between 1861 and 1871. A search in FreeBMD reveals she died in 1863, 2nd December.

Edward and Charles have emigrated to Australia (1864). I’m unsure of Alfred’s (the youngest son) whereabouts.

1863 Death of Jemima LEE

1863 Death of Jemima LEE, in LAMBETH. Courtesy of GRO.

1881 Census

No Edward LEE. This means he most probably died between 1871 and 1881. A search in FreeBDM for a death between these years reveals the death in 1875 of an Edward LEE in Hackney-right age.

I requested the death certificate from GRO:

1875 Death of Edward LEE Hackney

1875 Death of Edward LEE, HACKNEY. Courtesy of GRO.

Right one. He died at his daughter’s residence in Upper Clapton, Hackney.

Now, knowing the death dates of Edward and Jemima LEE, I investigated possible burial sites.

Deceased Online had recently announced that the details of burials in Nunhead Cemetery, Southwark, had been uploaded to their website. The cemetery, being in the general area of the early years of the LEE family, was a possible resting place.

I checked it out…

Deceased Online

A search of deceased online revealed an Edward LEE in the Nunhead Cemetery.

With Grave Number and Credit card in hand I applied for the details of the grave:

Nunhead Cemetery LEE and WILLIAMS from Deceased on Line Sep 2015

To my delight the results revealed the details of a burial plot containing not only the remains of Edward LEE but also the remains of his wife Jemima, her uncle, George WILLIAMS, and maybe, his wife, Mary WILLIAMS.

Attached records to these interment details of the ages of each person helped to verify that I had the right ones. But I didn’t know about Walter Henry LEE. He was 5 months old at the time of death.

(I found the death of a Walter Henry LEE in 1849, son of Edward LEE but he was 5 yo)

Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead cemetery is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian cemeteries forming a ring around what were then the outskirts of London. It opened in 1840. It is one of two cemeteries south of the Thames.

As can be seen from the map of the cemetery below, Section 100 where the LEE plot is located, is part of the ‘Nature reserve’:

Nunhead cemetery map

After about 4 months, I received an email from the volunteers at Nunhead cemetery in response to a request I’d made as to whether the plot had a headstone and whether it was accessible. The volunteers had previously warned me that they had a long waiting list for requests of grave locations.

They were sorry to say that they couldn’t get access to the grave due to overgrowth but they kindly sent me two photos of the approximate area…

And a closer look below…

So, somewhere in amongst those brambles is the final resting place of my great-great-grandparents, along with a generous uncle and (I think) his wife and a baby. I gather it was too unsafe for the volunteers to pursue the exact location. Imagine scrambling through that!

It’s been an interesting exercise finding the burial plot of the LEEs, but by the look of that overgrowth, I won’t be rushing over to London any time soon to check it out.

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Sights and Sounds of Ireland Part 3

A slight change of plans….

I was going to post the results of my search for the resting place of the LEE forebears in London, but there are some copyright laws I need to work through regarding what I can and can’t post on the blog before I do that. It’s complicated…

In the meantime, I have a lovely, little, meditative video of an Irish ‘babbling brook’ you may like to ponder…It’s only about 10 seconds long—just click on the arrow in the middle:

I filmed this little brook on a walk up the road as pictured in the header photo of the blog. It’s in Ballyvourney, County Cork, near Macroom.

I’m not sure Australian brooks/creeks babble like Irish ones.

What do you think?

Posted in Ireland, Sights and Sounds | 8 Comments

More valuable letters…this time on the LEE side

As in the last post, I ‘found’ the existence of a series of letters written by a previously unknown person who names a forebear in my ancestral line. In this case, the letters were written by a George MORTON and they refer to my great grandfather’s brother, George Williams LEE (1831-1864).

George MORTON, or George M, as I’ll call him, wrote newsy letters home to his mother and sisters in England detailing his experiences on the voyage from England to Australia, his subsequent impressions of Port Phillip and the journey to the goldfields. Included in his ‘party’ is a George LEE. Following verification of this George LEE’s age and details of his life as published in future newspaper articles confirmed my hopes that this George LEE was, in fact, George Williams LEE (GWL).


After learning of GWL’s existence in Australia— see post Tracing the LEE brothers, George, Edward and Charles in Australia as I’ve mentioned, I found him on the passenger list of the Blackwall on its voyage from England to Australia, arriving in Port Phillip on 9th December 1852.

An internet search for any reference to this voyage revealed a collection of letters held in the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, as described on the Trove website:

1852, English, Unpublished edition: [Letters of George Morton] [to his mother and sisters, 1852, during a voyage from Plymouth to Melbourne on the ship Blackwall, and after his arrival in Victoria] / by George Morton. [manuscript] : Morton, George, 1828-1867.

George M is listed 2 names below GWL on the passenger list of the voyage I’ve described. They are just two of many young Englishmen leaving England as ‘goldseekers’.

The discovery of gold was officially announced in the newspapers in September 1851 following various finds in NSW and Victoria. 1852 was the year of the Mount Alexander goldrush which brought thousands of immigrants flocking to the diggings at Forest Creek, within sight of Mount Alexander. It is often referred to as the Mount Alexander goldrush because that was the nearest landmark for those walking up from Melbourne. George M and the others were obviously quick off the mark to get passages out to Australia.

With the faint hope that GWL may be mentioned in these letters, I requested copies. It was a long shot, but it proved to be worth it.

The excerpts of the letters I include here are as they appear in the copies of the transcripts provided.

First letter. Dated 27th September 1852

On board the Blackwall as it nears the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa.

George M is writing home to his mother and sisters back in England. Unlike the picture below the ship is almost becalmed which lengthens their journey to almost 4 months rather than the usual 3 months.

Clipper Ship 'Blackwall', 1000 Tons, in a squall off New Zealand on her homeward passage Decr 16th 1857,National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, LondonPAH9334

Dec 16th 1857 Clipper Ship ‘Blackwall’, 1000 Tons, in a squall off New Zealand on her homeward passage. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London ID:PAH9334

This is the first mention of George M’s fellow passenger, ‘Lee’:

We all jog along together and agree very well the six in our cabin…Our mess is divided into three “two’s”, Rivers and self, William and George Lynch, Squires and Lee…

All the names George M mentions can be identified in the passenger list of the Blackwall below:

1852 Arrival of George LEE in Port Phillip from London 'goldseeker' on Blackwall 2 Dec 1852 Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839–1923 Ancestry cropped 2

Passenger list for Blackwall. Included in the list are George MORTON and the men who shared his cabin: George LEE, George and William LYNCH and John SQUIRES. All English, all in their 20s and all ‘goldseekers’. Plymouth to Port Phillip, arriving on 9th December 1852. Courtesy of

He continues…

The first thing every morning we go to the Bowsprit and have a bath under the pump…We then get our water which is about the colour of tea, and the taste I leave to your imagination. The sediment is black as ink, with plenty of insects.

…dinner consists of either Salt pork, Beef, Preserved Beef, Mutton, Salmon, Soup. Boiled puddings, Rice or Plum or Currant Duff.

We have nothing to complain about since we left Plymouth.

Life on board doesn’t sound too bad for George M but he’s not very complimentary of the ‘Doctor’:

The Doctor on board is not liked…if you have a cold he gives Salts, if a toothache, Salts, for everything Salts, in fact he goes by the name Salts!!

‘Crossing the line’, that is the equator or Tropic of Cancer, for those doing it for the first time is a big event involving ‘traditions’ not unlike an initiation ceremony:

The sailors are preparing their ”accoutrements” for the day. We shall cross the line, a great many of the passengers do not like the thought of it at all, the sailors have made a list of fines for those who do not wish to be shaved 20/- first class, 10/- second class, 5/- third class. I think I shall undergo the operation just for the fun of the thing. They have three qualities of razors, the first is smooth, 2nd notched, 3rd like a saw. They use flour and rough tar, and woe betide those who have offended them. After shaving they either souse you with buckets of water or turn you into the tubs.

Sounds like something to be avoided.

He goes on to talk about the beautiful weather and he infers they are generally enjoying the voyage. The letter also includes some laundry details that will no doubt stir the readers’ olfactory senses:

We find it best to wash as we wear, for it only makes the cabin unpleasant, we have enough smells without dirty clothes.

Second Letter. Dated 9th December 1852 (including 11th Dec)

A safe arrival at Port Phillip:

I thank God we have arrived safe and well and in good spirits…I had the most splendid sight I ever saw this morning on entering the Bay. We were up at 4 o’clock. We could just see the two heads of the Bay sailing along by Cape Otway and gradually getting nearer and nearer till we arrived at the Entrance. You should have seen the anxiety of the Captain as he watched our crossing the Bar, the sea was rolling tremendously but in a few hundred yards it was as calm as a mill pond.

George M then mentions the disturbing sight of wrecks in the bay and continues on with a very complimentary report of what he sees…

The scenery is magnificent, the hills rising one above the other and thickly studded with trees. This Bay I should say one of the finest in the world, there is great danger in entering it owing to the sand banks which leave only a narrow channel for ships to pass.

Dated 11th December 1852

George M talks of the lack of accommodation in Melbourne and its prohibitive cost:

We have been walking about the town all the morning in search of lodgings but cannot find any. They asked £2-0-0. and £2-10-0 for an empty room, £6-0-0 a week for two empty rooms.

They had to pitch their tent instead. Food is also expensive…

We shall be ruined if we stop in town. We must go up to the Diggings direct.

Third Letter. Dated 2nd January 1853. ‘Collingwood near Melbourne’

George M and his mates have now moved to the outskirts of Melbourne in readiness to hit the road to the goldfields:

We struck our tent last night and came to sleep here till Monday morning, then we shall be off to the “Diggins”.

After dropping anchor on the 9th. Dec. George Lynch and I went on shore and walked to Melbourne and called on Miss Rogers to get all the information we could, and then to The Post Office, but there were no letters.

George M is frustrated by the poor management of the postal service, with a mention of GWL:

They will deliver letters to anyone of the same name without enquiries. I went the other day for myself and with written orders from the rest. I received three for George Lee but neither were for him one of which contained a Post Bill from the Bank for £300 so I leave you to guess why not it is safe to send money by that means. I am very glad I brought some out in gold as they charge 20 per cent for changing Bank of England notes.

The mention of ‘George Lee’ infers they have stayed together since arriving in Port Phillip.

George M then doubles back and relays to his mother and sisters their ‘doings’ since arriving on the 9th December. They set up camp in Canvas Town, now South Melbourne:

Canvas Town between Princess Bridge and South Melbourne 1850s

1850s Canvas Town between Prince’s Bridge and South Melbourne. De Gruchy and Leigh artists. Courtesy of SLV.

…(we) pitched our tent in Canvas Town where there were between four and five thousand people, some residents, others coming and going to the diggings or to work in the town. We paid five shillings a week for ground rent and our board did not cost us more than ten shillings per week each, so that a man can live in this way and earn his five, six or seven pounds a week, as Carpenters, Builders, Bricklayers and Masons or any Mechanics. Most of our fellow passengers have been, and are now paying their 2 or three pounds a week for board and lodgings.

He relays their plans for going up north to the Mount Alexander goldfields:

We have hired a dray which will take us up to Forest Creek for £1-0-0 per cwt. We shall walk by its side, it takes rather more than three days to walk (the distance is about 80 miles) and then we shall require day or two’s rest before we begin to work.

We have had hot winds and land storms which must be seen and felt to be believed and the weather just as change-able as in England. The flys (sic) are a perfect nuisance, they attack ones face and there’s no driving them off…

That hasn’t changed George…

There is always much affection in his letters, asking to be remembered to this one and that.

Fourth Letter. Dated 25th March 1853. ‘Collingwood near Melbourne’

1840s-1850s View of Melbourne from Collingwood. Artist: Courtesy of SLV

1840s-1850s View of Melbourne from Collingwood. Artist: J S Prout. Courtesy of SLV

At the time of this letter, the last in the collection, George M is back in Melbourne. It’s just over 2 months since they left for the goldfields. There is a different tone in this letter to the others. He sounds homesick and disillusioned:

My thoughts are always at home, how much I should like to spend this day in your society. Well we may say “There’s no place like home” for there is but little comfort here. To make money and then return to dear old England is the business of our lives.

He gives details of their trek to the goldfields, leaving Melbourne nearly a month after arriving. GWL is mentioned once again:

We made our start to the Diggings (Mt. Alexander) on the 3rd Jan. at 4pm. walked 12 miles, our dray was well loaded (1100lbs.) having two, horses in the shafts, one of which was worse than useless so we had to push as well as walk the whole journey. To begin our hardships G. Lee and I had our hammocks stolen from the dray with their contents the consequence was that for nearly a month I slept without taking off my clothes and with no other covering.

Travelling to the diggings, the Keilor Plains. Victoria. Courtesty of SLV

1853 Travelling to the diggings, the Keilor Plains. Victoria. Artist: J. A Gilfillan Courtesy of SLV

George M goes on…

The nights were bitterly cold, and the days extreemly hot. (sic) The scenery was very good but walking 20 to 25 miles, a day after being cramped up in a ship for four months prevented our enjoying it. We encamped one night at the foot of Mt. Macedon in the Black Forest. We all lay under the cart with a tarpaulin thrown over it, but I was miserably cold and was glad to make a fire and lie by it.

The newly arrived inquiring 1852 ST Gill SLV

The newly arrived inquiring 1852 Artist: ST Gill. Courtesy of SLV

We reached Pennyweight Flat, Forest Creek on Friday at 4pm.  Rested Saturday and Sunday and procured our licences and began work under the direction of Capt. Rogers and his mates.

It was not prosperous…

We all worked hard the month of January and did not get enough to pay for our food. It was quite a break to get a dry hole, we were sometimes for two or three hours pulling water up and perhaps when near the top the bucket would upset and we should be wet for the rest of the day.

Sounds miserable.

According to the next part of the letter the cabin mates from the Blackwall, George M, GWL and the ‘two Lynches’, have stuck together on the diggings:

The first part of the month G. Lee and I worked together, and the two Lynches, but our hole had water constantly coming in, so that we were obliged to give it up and then we all worked together at the same hole thirty feet deep. The bottom of it was as if it had been burnt and cemented together through some volcanic agency and I believe it has been. This month we took out about half a pound of gold from the hole which covered our expenses at the Diggings. We then sold our tent and tools and returned to Melbourne to see whether we could do better at business than the Diggings.

It sounds increasingly miserable and tough work for little reward.

On his return to Melbourne, George M stays with passengers he met on the ship and helps his landlord out with painting. There’s no other mention of GWL.

Despite George M’s disillusionment with the new colony he didn’t return to his home country, England. Instead, he married just 6 months after writing the last letter in this collection. He stayed and raised a family and spent the rest of his life in Australia.

He married Emily ROGERS, the daughter of Captain ROGERS (see the fourth letter), on the 21 September 1853 and served as the Sheriff’s clerk in Castlemaine for the next 14 years. He died on 12 Nov 1867 aged 39 years, just three years after his fellow passenger, George Williams LEE.

I don’t know if GWL stayed on at the goldfields at this time or whether he returned to Melbourne with George M. Further research informs that GWL stayed in Australia and travelled all over Victoria having a go at puddling on other goldfields, doing a bit of carpentry and generally experiencing every aspect of the new frontier. He dabbled in reporting and politics, being nominated as a candidate for the seat of North Gippsland in the election of 1861 in Victoria. He fought for the 8 hour day and was keen to break up the squatters’ land so that agriculture could move in, providing food and jobs for the growing population. More of him later…

Feb 2106 Sign post to Forest Creek Tourist Mine on Pyrenees Highway between Chewton and Castlemaine. Author’s private collection.

A week ago, I visited the Forest Creek Diggings. The public have access to a portion of the area which is cordoned off for educational purposes. The site is sign-posted on the Pyrenees Highway between Chewton and Castlemaine.

The day was hot and oppressive. Bullants scurried around my feet, diving frenetically in and out of tiny holes in the red, gravelly dirt. These ants were genetically adapted to the harsh conditions unlike the young Londoners, who would no doubt have suffered from sunburn and heat stroke as they dug down ever further into the unforgiving creek bed hoping with each strike of the pick to reveal the yellow metal.

As I scoured the surrounding battered and scarred landscape I couldn’t help thinking of the local Aboriginal people, the Jaara, or Djadjawurrung speaking people, who must have been perplexed by the invasion of thousands of frenzied, pale beings gouging out the country. The impact on the landscape was immense; for instance, the miners’ activities silted up the streams destroying the Jaara’s supply of drinking water.

Feb 2016 Forest Creek Gold Mine. Pyrenees Highway between Chewton and Castlemaine. Author’s private collection.

The London papers were incredulous that the Jaara had not known they were sitting on a fortune, a fortune that could have made them ‘the most powerful race under the sun’. But of course gold meant nothing to them; it was not their currency. It was a fine example of the ignorance of the far off English journalists.

I was soon brought back to the present by the soft, privileged voice of Justin Bieber ringing out across the gullies from a far off radio turned up to the max and by popping firecrackers heralding in the year of the monkey. Perhaps the spirits of some of the Chinese gold diggers were letting me know they were here too. In fact, there’s a faded sign on the top of the cliff in the photo above which says, translated from the Chinese, ‘Gold found here’. I suppose each looked after their own.

It was and is a harsh landscape. I can almost understand why James and Thirzah WINTER ‘took to the drink’.

The inherent value of these newsy letters written by George MORTON is that they give a wonderful insight into the goldrush and as a personal benefit they add to the migration story of George Williams LEE. Unfortunately, the joy of the discovery is dampened somewhat by the sight of the scarred landscape at Forest Creek and the consequent impact the activity of the miners had on the Jaara. Seeing the site was educational for me in more ways than one.

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Some ‘hard’ drinking in the WINTER line

James WINTER (c.1806-1882), a brother of my great-grandfather, Edward WINTER (c.1812-1869), emigrated to Australia from Ireland with his wife Tirzah (nee DELMEGE) in 1851. The couple headed for the goldfields. They found gold, made some money, spent it on drink.

How do I know this? Here’s my trail…

In my internet ramblings for WINTER clues I found a reference to a book listing the families who had emigrated from West Limerick Ireland. Knowing the WINTERs were from this part of the world, I investigated.

The book is called West Limerick Families Abroad by Kate Press and Valerie Thompson Published in 2001 by Kate Press, Malvern Australia. I was able to access it at the State Library of Victoria (SLV).

The families were listed in alphabetical order. There was a solitary entry for WINTER under W:

James Winter b. Dromcolliher, Co Lim., d. Vic Aus 1882, m. 1836 Thirza Delmege, b. Killeheen d. After 1882…

Knowing the documented birthplace of another sibling of Edward’s was ‘Dromcolliher’, County Limerick, I suspected James was a relative. The entry continued:

…Letters written home by James WINTER (see P. J. O’Connor All Worlds Possible) show that James and his wife emigrated to Melbourne, Australia before April 1856 (page 216)

The mention of this other book, All Worlds Possible, and the couple’s immigration details turned out to be wonderful leads to further research.

Unfortunately, the only place in Australia I could access All Worlds Possible was in Canberra at the National Library of Australia. But as it happened, not long after discovering the book in 2013, I visited Canberra for the Australian Palliative Care Conference. At the end of the conference, I dragged my friends along to the library. Finding the book was a very exciting moment…

All Worlds Possible: The Domain of the Millers of Coolybrown

By Patrick J. O’Connor. Published 1993 by Coolanoran, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick

The author was a relative of the Miller family of Coolybrown, County Limerick. He published the letters his forebears wrote home to family and friends in Ireland from their ‘new’ countries. FamilySearch summarized the book as:

A history of the Millers (originally Müller), who came to Co. Limerick, Ireland, in 1709. Christopher Miller settled in Coolybrown, Kilscannell Parish about 1825. He and his wife, Barbara Delmege were parents of nine children. Tobias emigrated to North America, Christopher to South Africa, Edward to Australia, Richard to India. Robert remained at Coolybrown and inherited his father’s land. Each of these sons is followed.

Many German Protestants relocated to the area around Coolybrown, County Limerick Ireland in the early 1700s. The Millers, or Müllers, were no doubt descendants of these refugees. They left Germany to avoid further persecution from the French and also in response to a desire by the English landlords to increase the Protestant population in Ireland. They were known as the Irish Palatines. If interested, you can read more about them here

It’s a possibility that the WINTERs were also Irish Palatines but I have no evidence to support this….as yet.

The book reveals that Edward Miller was the nephew of James WINTER’s wife, Tirzah WINTER (née Delmege) and Tirzah was the sister of Edward’s mother, Barbara MILLER (née Delmege).

A search of the passenger lists from the UK to Port Phillip reveal the arrival details of James and Tirzah WINTER:

They arrived in Melbourne on 2 May 1851 on the ship, James T Foord.

1851 James and Tirzah WINTER on passenger list of ship James T Foord. Religion given as Episcopalian. Courtesy of Ancestry

1851 On arrival of the ship James T Foord at Port Phillip. James and Tirzah leave the depot ‘on own account’. Courtesy of Ancestry.

Interestingly, on the same ship are two teenage WINTER boys, namely, John WINTER, 14 years old and William WINTER, 16 years old.

1851 John and William WINTER on same ship, James T Foord. They may be sons of John WINTER, eldest brother of James and Edward. Courtesy of Ancestry

1851 John and William WINTER JAmes T Foord. Go to friends in Market Square Melbourne highlighted

1851 On arrival in Port Phillip John and William WINTER go ‘to a friend Michl Yallen Market Squ Melbourne’. Courtesy of Ancestry.

On leaving the ship the boys were to meet a friend at Market Square Melbourne no doubt previously arranged and James and Tirza ‘left the depot on their own account’.

Who were these boys?

I knew they weren’t the children of James and Tirza as James’ death certificate records ‘no issue’ under children.

1851 James' Winter's death certificate

6th June 1882 Death certificate of James WINTER. BDM Victoria Reg No. 6407

The death certificate confirmed that James was indeed my Edward’s brother as the parents were the same, that is, William WINTER and Lydia WINTER (née HOVENDON).

Research done by others infers that James and his brother Edward WINTER were from a family of at least nine children. Many of these children and their progeny migrated to Australia and many of them were named William, John or James. This makes it difficult to distinguish them from each other; brothers, uncles and/or cousins, but from what I know of the WINTER line I suspect the boys on the ship were sons of John WINTER, the eldest brother of the James in the letters and my Edward.

On arrival, James WINTER is recorded as a 36-year-old thereby making his birth year 1815. But according to his death certificate he was 76 at the time of his death in 1882. This makes his birth year 1806 and his age on arrival as 45. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, details on a death certificate may not be accurate and the same goes for details on passenger lists, especially ages. It’s more than likely he put his age down on the passenger list—by nearly 10 years in this case—in order to qualify for emigration. There may well have been a cut off age for immigrants purporting to be labourers.

Back to the book…

The author of All Worlds Possible has recorded some of the contents of twenty-five surviving letters written over the period circa 1855-1893 between the relatives in Ireland and Australia.

Of the 25 ‘three are from the pen of James WINTER, the brother-in-law of Barbara Miller of Coolybrown, while the remaining twenty-two come from her son Edward’:

…the earliest letters from Australia to Coolybrown come from the pen of James Winter…(page 68)

NB The excerpts of the letters as presented here are as transcribed by the author in the book.

The first letter

….was from James to his brother John WINTER in Ireland:

Not dated. The address is Springs Melbourne.

I can presume that Springs is the farm Edward WINTER was renting in Tullamarine, Victoria that I researched in an earlier post, What’s in a Name? 

The letter (pages 68-69) concerns sending money home for his brother John to come out to Australia:

Dear brother, I am in good health. I expected to hear from the boys, as they promised to send me some money for to send you along, with whatever I could spare myself. But they never wrote to me since they went up the country…

I suspect the boys James refers to are William and John who came out on the ship with James and Tirza. As I say, they are possibly the sons of the letter’s recipient, John WINTER. The letter continues on, giving a glowing report of how much money can be made from gold:

…I spent only eleven weeks in a stranger’s employment since I came out. I took one tour to the diggings last October and stopped out, between travelling and working for ten weeks. I made £111-2-4 of what got picked up. The people have made fortunes now by gold digging. This country is full of gold. In some places they pick it up as fast as you might pick pebbles on the square at Dromcoloher…

On my family history trip to Ireland in August 2014 I went to the village of Dromcolliher, County Limerick. It’s a very confusing place name as it’s spelt a variety of ways. Here’s just a few: Dromcolliher, Dromcollogher, Drumcolloher, Drumcollogher etc.

Coolybrown, the home of the Millers, is just north of Newcastle West, County Limerick.

2014 Village square in Dromcolliher, County Limerick. Author’s private collection.

It was in Henry’s cafe, Dromcolliher, just off the square, that I met two local gentlemen who graciously interrupted their morning tea to help me find WINTERs in the area. More of that in a later post.

The square today is basically a car park for the village but I’d say it was once a pretty sight as alluded to in a folk song penned by the Irish songwriter Percy French (1854-1920). The chorus:

“I suppose you’ve not been to Drumcolliher?
Ye haven’t? Well now I declare,
You must wait till you’ve been to Drumcolliher
And see the fine place we have there.
There’s only one street in Drumcolliher,
But then ’tis a glory to see:
Ye may talk till You’re dumb, but give me old Drum,
For Drum is the place for me.”

There is actually more than one street in Dromcolliher but maybe Percy had trouble with the lyrics.

Returning to James’ letter….

…They dig from one foot to 30 or 40 feet deep. When I worked I knew a party of men in 2 months to get 197 lbs weight of gold. A man pick’d out of a sod a wedge of gold worth £180. A man may earn £3 per day. The fact is wherever you turn your face is a goldfield…

You could say James WINTER had a good dose of ‘gold fever’. It must have been quite a sight after the ‘misery of Ireland’ —a quote by Monsignor Dooley, another generous stranger who helped me out with the family history.

1853 Travelling to the diggings, the Keilor Plains. Victoria. Artist J. A Gilfillan (John Alexander), 1793-1864. SLV

The letter continues, confirming the couple were staying with James’ brother Edward WINTER at Springs:

…I send you a draft for £10. It is only a present. I hope you wont think it too small. Dear John, there is nothing to trouble me but home, when I think of my poor countrymen working hard for Indian meal∗ and to see the bullock heads left in the field to the dogs. You will tell my poor mother if she still lives she may have plenty of money between the boys and me. I do not wish to drain myself out, as I have no home yet. It is living with Edward I am and I intend to fix a living when I will be my own landlord. But not a word about Tirzah or any of the family.

I gather this means that none of Tirzah’s family have written to the couple. The rest of the letter is missing. As with many other immigrants they yearned to own their own land.

•cornmeal (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

The second letter

…from James to his sister-in-law, Barbara Miller (née Delmege), Tirza’s sister. Not dated and no address. The letter (pages 70-71) speaks of some troubles between the two prior to emigration and that Barbara may have accused James of writing Tirzah’s letter to her:

My Dr. Sister Barbara,…I first read your former letter and though far away I am, I read with tears. [I] was obliged to withdraw and when I came in to my tent, I requested of one of my mates to write for me. Now after an hour’s composure I take the liberty of trespassing on your time. Hoping that you entertain the same opinion of me as you did on our first acquaintance, and be convinced my Dr. Barbara that I never for one moment lost my least esteem for you, although I did not go to see you. I think you will be the more ready to admit this when you recollect the untoward circumstances I was placed in for some time before I left home. But the Lord be praised for his mercies…

James goes on as though he needs to prove to Barbara that he’s not a lay about, but a hard worker and that they are doing well and he’s looking after his wife, her sister :

…Either me nor my wife never knew want since we came to this country. We have the best preserves [of] all kinds that England can produce [and] Irish bacon and butter, as well as our colonial produce. Dr. B, your sister never had reason to buy a stone of sugar or flour, nor a pound of tea, as the first supply of tea I put in the tent where I now sit to write this rigmarole was 140lbs…Besides we have about 20 laying hens and when Tirzah can spare a dozen fresh eggs she can get from 9s. (45p.) to 12s. (60p.) per dozen for them…Besides this, I have fenced a piece of ground and cultivated it in such a manner as that I had radishes, turnips, onions, shillotts in abundance for the whole season and I am sure if I counted what cabbage and lettuce together with a little of the aforesaid that it would exceed £50. And my Dr. Barbara, Believe me I done all this besides working with my mates at gold digging, that is to say by over hours and sometimes by moonlight. I leave you now to guess whether I work hard or not. I have two mates who board with me and one of which wrote Thirzah’s letter. He is Captain FitzHerbert, late of the Horse Guards…

It certainly seems that James needs to improve his image in the eyes of his sister-in-law. The letter also mentions that he will write to Rebecca, another of Tirzah’s sisters. Rebecca died in 1856 so this dates the letter as pre 1856.

They obviously haven’t got a permanent residence yet as they’re living out of a tent.

He signs off…

…Believe to me to be your most affectionate brother till death.

The third letter

…from James WINTER to his nephew, Edward MILLER, Coolybrown, Ireland (pages 71-73). Dated 10 April 1877. Address: Wedderburn (Victoria, Australia). Many of the WINTERs appear to have put down roots in this area.

  Wedderburn, 214 km north of Melbourne, began as a mining township, founded on a goldfield. Gold was first discovered there in 1852.

My Dr. Nephew…You want my advice as to whether this or America would be the likeliest place for a young man to get a living. With regard to this country, gold digging is not a payable pursuit for many years past, but as you say you have capital. You can go and travel the country as far as you please and select any area not exceeding 320 acres of land, which is the highest one person can get….

After giving further details on how to acquire land, he makes reference to his own nephews settling in the area:

…There are six [of] my nephews [who] have selected within 7 miles of this place and each holding the largest area allowed. And I thank my God they are all located on one square block adjoining each other. As the Lord placed the children of Israel in the land of Canaan, so he has place my friends in this good land…

James is obviously pretty pleased he emigrated to Australia.

In 1877, Edward MILLER chooses to emigrate to Australia. He writes home to Ireland about his trip out, his impressions of Melbourne and the demon drink:

…The colonial ail is certainly the curse of the colony. I, for my part, I made up my mind with God’s help never to drink any of it….the drinking in Melbourne is something fearful..(page 75)

It’s a well recorded fact that many immigrants to the Australian goldfields drank heavily; a coping mechanism of sorts. He writes home to his brother Robert in the year of his arrival in the colony giving an uneasy picture of his Aunt and Uncle (page 77):

I must give you a description of Wedderburn where James Winter and Aunt Tirza [live]. They could be as happy as the days are long but for the curse of the colony, the colonial ail. They both drink very hard. I have been told…they were worth £1000 at a time…

And something you’d rather not read about your kin:

…He treated her very bad and that was the cause she drank. They care for nothing in fact but drink. They have a fine garding [garden?]. It is well kept, but what good is that. As fast as they make a shilling they drink it….While I was there I felt wretched and they did not care so far what became of me provided I gave them drink. Let none of the friends see this…

Bush scene, three women panning for gold SLV cropped

Mid to late 1800s ‘Bush scene, three women panning for gold’. Courtesy SLV

James and Tirza had slipped into the scourge of the colony it seems.

Edward Miller continues in the same vein in a letter to his mother (page 77):

Dear Mother, Aunt is very strong but very much addicted to drink. In fact [she] cares for nothing else, but she has enough as far as the goods of this world are concerned. She recollects scarcely anything about home, but I did not catch her in her right senses yet…I need not tell you to say anything about Aunt Tirza or James Winter. I believe what is to be will be, but all parties drink hard our here or nearly all.

James and his wife had obviously become an embarrassment to the family—not to be mentioned ‘at home’.

Life on the goldfields was rough and tough and James and Tirza like many others revelled in the early gold but when it became harder to get, life turned sour.

In another letter home, Edward Miller describes the landscape—’it is rightly named the bush or wilderness’— and adds:

..when the gold was plenty and land easy got they, that is parties, who got the gold did not keep it [but] drank and gambled it as fast as they got it. The fact was this, that they thought the gold would hold always (page 78).

Edward is now disinclined to stay with his Auntie Tirzah and wants his mail directed to him c/o John Winter at Wedderburn, ‘be sure not to James WINTER!’

…I staid with John Winter for a good bit. His wife is Cunningham from above Newcastle…no mother could do more for me. She was a Roman Catholic but parties out here make no distinctions like old Bigoted Ireland (pages 82-83).

This is John Kelly WINTER, another nephew of James and Edward WINTER. He’s the son of another of their brothers, William WINTER, who stayed in Ireland.

The rest of the book relays many excerpts of Edward Miller’s letters back home but there is no further mention of James and Thirza WINTER. In later letters, Edward becomes frustrated with his Irish kin and the lack of reciprocity of his letters but it doesn’t stop him writing to them. He remains determined throughout his time in Australia to earn money and return to Ireland which he does after years of droving, shearing and all manner of farm work.

The book All Worlds Possible was a very valuable find. It gave me some wonderful personal insights into a branch of the WINTER emigrants to Australia, the good and the bad. I hope to eventually find the death certificate of Tirza to see how and where the poor woman finally ended her days.

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