Z is for Zibiah

At last, I have reached the finish line and this is my final post in the A to Z challenge for 2020. Now, I only had one Z name in my family tree so it was always going to be Zibiah.  The name Zibiah is of Hebrew origin and has the meaning gazelle, or beautiful lady. Personally, I think this is such a beautiful meaning and for me it conjures up in my mind a girl aged around 11 or 12 who is beautiful and graceful and full of life. Being a Hebrew name, it is perhaps unsurprising that the name appears in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. Zibiah of Beersheba appears in 2 Kings 12:1 and 2 Chronicles 24:1 as the mother of King Jehoash or Joash of Judah.

The Zibiah in my family tree is Zibiah Wilson, who was my 5th great aunt, born 1808 in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England. Zibiah was baptised on 13 November 1808 at St John’s Church in Duxford. This means she was probably born sometime in mid to late October as baptisms were usually done fairly soon after a child’s birth. However, as no date of birth is recorded in the parish records, we dint know for sure when Zibiah was born. Zibiah was the eldest child born to her parents Simeon Wilson and Rebecca Wisby, who went on to have a further seven children. Duxford is a rural village in Cambridgeshire, and Zibiah’s father worked as an agricultural labourer so she definitely grew up in a rural setting. No doubt Zibiah’s life would have mirrored that of her parents, and she would have married a local lad and raised a family in the area. Sadly, she never got to marry as she died in 1827 at the tender age of 18 years old and was buried in the St. John’s church yard.


Y is for Yankee

As I’m getting close to the end of the A to Z challenge, I’ve had to be creative with the letters X and Y. Yesterday, I had X for ‘X mark’ and today my topic os Y for Yankee. When I originally sat down and planned what to write about for each letter of the alphabet, I couldn’t for the life of me think of anything for the letter Y. So, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time. I pulled out the dictionary in an attempt to think outside the box. Now, I was at my day job as a library assistant at the time so I had a nice fat dictionary in which to hunt for inspiration.  Now, even in a nice fat dictionary Y isn’t exactly the largest section in the dictionary. Finally, I lit on the word Yankee and I suddenly had my inspiration.

Outside the USA, the Yankee nickname is often used to apply to any American but within America the term is generally used by Southerners to refer to people from the Northern states. Originally, the term was specifically used to refer to those from the New England states. My 3rd great grandfather William Henry Thompson was one such Yankee; born in Boston, Massachusetts, the heart of New England.

William Henry was born c.1836 to parents William Thompson and Elizabeth Laycock. As far as I’ve been able to work out, William was the first child born to the couple or at least the first to survive to adulthood. Census records have shown that William had a minimum of four younger siblings, all of whom lived to adulthood. There may have been more children who didn’t survive childhood, but as I’m not very familiar with US records I have yet to find any evidence of this. William Henry appears on the 1850 US Census living with his parents and siblings in Ward 8, Boston, Despite much googling, I have yet to find out exactly where in Boston Ward 8 would have been. I also haven’t found much general information on the whole ward system that was obviously in place.

By 1857 William Henry had left Boston and the US behind, arriving in Sydney, Australia on 3 April.  He arrived as an unassisted immigrant, having worked as sort of the ship’s crew on his passage over. William Henry then disappears from the records until December 1872, when he marries Sarah White in Inverell, NSW. Where William Henry was between the time he arrive din Australia and when he married, I don’t know. But it is likely that he became an itinerant worker, travelling from place to place before ending up in the Inverell area. This fits with his movements after his marriage, as the family travelled vast distances from place to place. This can be tracked through the births and deaths of his children, who were born quite close together with a number of them dying in early childhood. This adds up to a move every 12-24 months, and not just to the next town either. Sometimes the places were hundreds of kilometres apart. On all official documents, William Henry is described as a Labourer and whenever a signature was needed he signed with an ‘X’ mark, indicating his illiteracy.

It seems that the longest place William Henry lived after his marriage was in Bingara, NSW where he and his family lived for at least three years. Bingara was also to be William Henry’s final resting place, as he died there on 4 December 1896 at the age of 60. His cause of death was Heart Disease, which he had suffered from for the past 6 months. He was buried in the Bingara Cemetery just one day later. He left behind a wife and seven children, one of whom was born four days after William’s death.



X is for ‘X mark’

Getting on the home stretch with this challenge now. But had to get creative with the letter ‘X’, as I don’t have anyone with an X anywhere in their name or a location with X in it. So the topic for my X post is ‘X mark’.

I remember when I first came across the term his/her ‘X’ mark on a document and still being a novice family history researcher at the time I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. Growing up in the modern world, I have always prided myself on my ability to read and write proficiently but I was also aware that other people didn’t have the same opportunities as me, even as recent as my own parents. As such, I knew that school hadn’t been as important in days gone by as it is now, but I don’t think I every really understood it in a concrete way until I started seeing documents from multiple ancestors containing an ‘X’ mark in place of a signature.

So, what did school look like for my ancestors in early Australia? In the very early days of the colony, it was mainly the middle and upper classes that received a comprehensive education. As the colony grew, the demand for grammar schools such as existed in England arose and these institutions are established. But these were really just for people of a certain class, and those who could afford to pay the tuition fees. By the 1830s, the higher ups in society were coming to the realisation that a lot of crime resulted form ignorance and ignorance resulted from a lack of education. Thus, the government decided to set up schools that would educated children in the three “R’s” and how to be moral citizens in order to create an orderly and functional society.

However, school wasn’t compulsory until the 1870s and even then it was very hard to enforce. This resulted in a large amount of the population, particularly those who lived in rural areas, being completely unschooled and unable to even sign their name.

As most of my ancestors lived in rural area of Australia, and some fo them moved every year or so, this explains why they spent their entire life being functionally illiterate. This left them no choice than to make their ‘X’ mark on official documents such as birth and marriage certificates. A project I’ve been working on lately for my job has also brought this even more to the forefront of my mind lately. The project is transcribing hard copies of local historic death and marriage registers, and in this process I have seen so many ‘X’ marks.

W is for William

W is for William Starr, my fourth great grandfather. William was born 8 December 1807 in Sedlescombe, Sussex, England to Philadelphia Starr and Richard Milham. At the time of William’s birth, his mother was aged only 14 years of age and his parents were not married. As a result, William’s was registered as a ‘baseborn’ child and his father’s name doesn’t appear on his baptism record. However, we know that Richard Milham was his father as parish records exist that detail Richard’s obligations to provide monetary support to Philadelphia for the raising of William.

It’s not known exactly how William was raised, if he was raised believing his grandparents were his parents and his mother his sister or if he always knew that Philadelphia was his mother. However, by the time he was of age William well an truly knew who his biological parents were as there names are provided on the parish record for his marriage. This marriage was to Sophia Gibbs and took place 26 March 1826 in Sedlescombe, Sussex. William and Sophia settled down in Sedlescombe and had four children between 1826 and 1834. Of these four, one child died shortly after birth.

William’s life would have undoubtedly followed a humdrum course in rural England, with William working as an agricultural labourer. But they were soon to have an exciting fresh start when they emigrated to Australia as part of the Assisted Immigrants scheme. This scheme specifically looked for couples and families with skills that would benefit the young colony. William, Sophia and their three children arrived in Sydney on 4 April 1839. William and his family settled close to the harbour at Botany and added four more children to the family. William spent the rest of his life in the suburb of Botany and raise this family. He lived to see his children marry and give him grandchildren, most of whom continued to live in the same area of Sydney.

William died a month short of his 67th birthday on 8 November 1874 in Botany, where he had lived since arriving from England. A funeral notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 10 November, inviting friends and relatives to his funeral which was to leave his Botany residence (close to the Captain Cook hotel) for a graveside service at the Necropolis. For those unfamiliar with Sydney history, the Necropolis as it was known is now called the Rookwood Cemetery and is a suburb all on its own. It was literally a suburb just for deceased persons. Rookwood is the largest necropolis in the Southern Hemisphere and is the world’s largest, continuously operating Victorian era cemetery. As of 2014, there have been 915,000 burials and cremations at Rookwood.

William Starr was buried in the Church of England portion of the Necropolis on 10 November 1874. When his wife Sophia died three years later, she was interred in the same grave although she doesn’t have an inscription on the headstone, Presumably there was many to be an inscription, as blank space has been left but for whatever reason an inscription for Sophia was never added to the headstone.

V is for Veteran


I decided to combine my letter V post for the A to Z challenge with Anzac Day and dedicate my V post to Veterans. I have a few in my tree, some who are direct ancestors and some who are collateral ancestors but this post is dedicated to those in my tree who were veterans.

  • Oscar Norman Thompson: served in WWI 1915-1919, enlisted at the age of 21 years and 2 months; completed training in the Middle East before serving in France on the Western Front. Survived after being shot in the neck and left for dead in the desert. Returned to Australia in 1919.
  • Arthur Oswald Thompson: served in WWI 1915-1919, enlisted at the age of 19 years with the permission of his father, brother to Oscar. Served in the same theatres fo war as Oscar; saved Oscar’s life when he came across him wounded in the desert (not knowing it was his brother Oscar).  Returned to Australia in 1919.
  • Edmund “Sonny” Hartley: enlisted in WWI 18 October 1918 at the age of exactly 18, after multiple previous attempts, with his father’s permission. Sonny dodged a bullet though as he never actually left Australia due to the cessation of the conflict.
  • Godfrey Victor Thompson: enlisted in WW1 in 1918 at the age of 18 years and 2 months but due to the cessation of the conflict never saw action. Also served in WWII on the Home Front.
  • Herbert Samuel Starr: served in WWII on the home front, heavily involved in the defence of the west coast of Australia and was based at the Perth barracks for the duration of the war.
  • Herbert Clive Starr: son of Herbert Samuel; served on the home front 1942-1948 in the defence of Sydney.
  • Joseph Roy Starr: son of Herbert Samuel; served in the RAAF 1945-1946 as a Leading Aircraftman.
  • Hilton Iles: served on the home front 1940-1941; was posted at the Cowra prison camp.
  • Kiffin Denis Iles: served on the home front 1940-1941. Discharged on medical grounds.
  • William Edward Thompson: Served in WWII in Papua New Guinea. Spent most of his time being absent without leave. Returned home to Australia, received a dishonourable discharge and deserted his wife and 2 year old child.
  • Neville Clyde Thompson: served on the home front 1941-1945 in depot supply. Discharged for being an essential worker.
  • Noel Jack Thompson: Served in unknown location overseas, WWII 1943-1946.  Returned to civilian life after the war.

Hilton Iles

Kiffin Iles

William Edward Thompson

Herbert Samuel Starr



Oscar Thompson

U is for Unice

U is for Eunice Iles. Technically, this name doesn’t always start with U  but it definitely has the U sound and when I first came across the name in my research it was spelt as Unice but is also spelled Eunice. Both spellings are recognised as valid variations of the same name. It’s quite a nice sounding name and one I’m not familiar with the meaning of, so of course I had to google it. Eunice is actually a latinised version of the Greek name Eunike which translates to ‘good victory’. In English usage, the name really took off after the Protestant Reformation and became popular as it is a name found in the New Testament, with the bearer famed for being without hypocrisy. But what about my Eunice?

Eunice would have been my 2nd great-aunt, as she was my great grandfather’s sister. Eunice was born in 1915 to parents Matthew Iles and Alice Maud Coxon in East Maitland, near Newcastle. She was the third of four children born to the couple, and the only girl. Unfortunately for Eunice, she contracted measles at the age of 5. As this was in the days before immunisation, Eunice didn’t survive this illness. She died on 10 September 1920, after suffering from convulsions for 4 hours secondary to having the measles for five days.


T is for Thomas

T is for Thomas William Thompson, who was my great, great grandfather. Thomas was born 5 December 1888 in Warwick, Queensland to parents William Henry Thompson and Sarah White (see my ‘S’ post for more on Sarah). The first few years of his life were lived in Queensland, where a younger sister was born and died. By 1894, Thomas was living with his family in Bingara, NSW. It was here that his father died in 1896, when Thomas was eight years old.

Thomas William Thompson and Hannah Mallet

The records don’t tell us how long the family stayed in Bingara or if Thomas stayed with them but by 1911, Thomas was living in Lismore NSW. It was here that Thomas met and married Hannah Maria Darch Mallet on 23 December 1911. Thomas and his wife settled down in the Lismore district and raised a family of nine children, all living to adulthood. Included in these nine children was his wife’s illegitimate child from before their marriage, whom Thomas raised as his own.

Sadly, Hannah died in 1929 at the age of 36 after 17 years of marriage. Thomas was left to finish raising his children alone. As was the customer, the eldest girl of the household was left to run the house and look after the children. This fell to his daughter Jean, who was aged only 12 years old at the time. Thomas was a kind man though, with Jean recalling him coming home one day to find her in tears and unable to cope with the situation. Thomas promptly hired a housekeeper. This housekeeper stayed on for some years, with Thomas later marrying her. Further evidence of his kindness can be seen in his raising of his grandson, whom his daughter Jean had given birth to at 15. Most children in this situation would have been adopted out, but Jean’s child was raised by his family.

Thomas remained in the Lismore area for the rest of his life, passing away in 1956  at the age of 68 years.

S is for Sarah

Sarah White was my third great grandmother and I actually have a fair amount of information on her, despite the fact that it took me years of research to find anything beyond the bare basics.

Sarah was born around 1855, either in or around Sofala in Central West NSW. Today, Sofala is a tiny village that mainly caters to the tourist trade but in the 1850s it was a booming town thanks to the Gold Rush. According to her death certificate, Sarah’s parents were Thomas White and Bridget O’Neil. As I’ve never managed to find a birth certificate this is the best I’ve managed to find. I also don’t know how long Sarah and her parents remained in the Sofala area, but by 1868 Sarah had been admitted to the Newcastle Industrial School for Girls. Entrance records record that this was court ordered admission, with Sarah having been arrested by Coonabarabran Police, bit the crime that Sarah committed is not recorded.

The Newcastle Industrial School (in centre) c.1870. [Courtesy of the Cultural Collections University of Newcastle (Australia)]

At the time of her admission, Sarah was aged 13 years old. In the Entrance Book, Sarah’s mother is listed as Bridget White but her father’s name is not recorded with it simply stating him as ‘Dead’. Sarah is described as being a Roman Catholic and being able to read the second book and write on a slate. I can only assume based on other entries that a variety of book of different levels are provided to the girls to test their reading level on entry to the industrial school, and their ability to read up to a certain number book indicated their level of reading proficiency. Sarah was in the Newcastle Industrial School until May 1871, when she was transferred to the Biloela school which was located on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. It was here that Sarah was deemed to be fit for domestic service but she was never assigned as she was released from the school on 9 January 1872 into the custody of her mother, Bridget, and her stepfather William Leather at Warialda, NSW. This release had been specifically requested by Sarah’s mother and stepfather.

Exterior view of the Biloela Industrial School

The dormitory at Biloela, where the girls often sleep without any bedding








So, at the age of 17 Sarah was once more a part of the wider world. But she was not to remain with her parents for long, as she married William Henry Thompson in December 1872 at Inverell. Both parties list their residence as Yallaroi, which is located close to Warialda. It is interesting to note that no parent or age details appear on the marriage certificate, as Sarah would have legally required parental permission to marry as she was under the age of 21. We can assume that Sarah put her age up for the marriage, and was believed, because the marriage takes place. It’s also interesting that previous records confirm Sarah as being Roman Catholic yet she marries in the Presbyterian Church. Her husband was more than twice her age, being 36 at the time of their marriage.

Sarah and her husband went on to have at least nine children, but inconsistencies on her children’s birth records seem to indicate that there may have been more children who simply weren’t registered. Sarah and William moved around both NSW and Queensland, living variously in Yallaroi; Molong; Wattle Flat; Coonamble; Wallumbilla, Qld; Warwick, Qld; and Bingara NSW. It must have been hard for Sarah to move around so much, especially with children, but some descendants have indicated that quite a few of her children were left to other families to look after. This is based on oral histories that have been passed down within the families of other descendants. Bingara seems to be the place Sarah lived the longest during her married life, as she lived there for at least three years. Bingara was where her last two children were born and also where her husband William died at the age of 60 years old.

Sarah Thompson nee White

I’m not really sure what exactly happened to Sarah after the death of her husband, as there is no paper trail for this time. I can trace her children and the marriage and lives of those who survived into adulthood, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate Sarah’s location. For may years I could find no trace of Sarah after 1896, but in researching her children and their families I did eventually find a record of her on the 1930 Electoral Rolls for NSW which shows her living in Kankool with her daughter Lily’s family. However, on the 1936 Electoral Roll (which was the next one to follow the 1930 Roll) I could find no trace of her. I assumed that Sarah had probably died sometime in this time period so now that I had a time frame I could search for a death certificate.

The only problem was that I had no idea of Sarah’s parents names at this stage, and there was a total nine Sarah Thompson’s to die in NSW between 1930 and 1936. With no easy way to determine which record was for my Sarah, I had each entry checked and verified by a transcription agent to see if certain details matched those of my Sarah. Lucky for my patience, and my wallet, I found my Sarah was the fifth entry on the list. This confirmed Sarah had died 7 May 1934 at Glen Innes Hospital. It also confirmed Sarah’s birth place as Sofala, NSW and provided me with her parents names of Thomas White and Bridget O’Neil. The informant was her son-in-law, whose house she had previously been residing in, so obviously she had remained with the family.




R is for Robert

R is for Robert George Nichols, my 2nd great grandfather. Unlike some other ancestors of mine, Robert had a life in quite a few different places, moving around from place to place throughout his life.

Robert was born 13 December 1871 in Towrang, near Goulburn, to parents Agenor Robert Nichols and Adeline Milne. Robert was the first child born to the couple, and was born just one month after they married. Robert spent his early years in the Towrang area where four of his siblings were born but by the time he was 11 years old the family had moved to Cootamundra in NSW. I’m not sure what prompted the move from Towrang to Cootamundra, but the family only lived there a few years before moving on to the Berrima area. Specifically, they relocated to the Joadja Creek shale oil mining site. Now a ghost town, Joadja Creek township was set up in 1870 and had a large population of Scottish miners.

It was in Joadja that Robert met and married his wife May Henderson and their first three children were born there. The Joadja facility officially closed in 1911, but Robert and his family had moved on before then. Robert’s fourth child and first son was born in 1901, at Jumbunna in Victoria. Jumbunna was yet another mining town and this trend was to continue, with Robert’s next move being to Charlestown.

Robert (centre) with some fellow miners



Robert (front row, second from right)




Charlestown is located near Lake Macquarie and like Joadja and Jumbunna, Charlestown was a mining town. Robert and his family lived in Charlestown for nearly a decade before moving to the Temi Mountain Mine Site, near Murrurundi in northern NSW. Robert’s final move was to New Lambton, which is a suburb of Newcastle. New Lambton was also where Robert died in 1929, and he was laid to rest at Sandgate Cemetery in Newcastle.

Overall, in his travels Robert saw a whole chunk of Australia along the way as he travelled some pretty large distances to get from place to place and covered hundreds if not thousands of kilometres throughout his life.

Q is for Queen City of the South

My post for Q in the A to Z challenge has the theme of Queen City of the South. But where is that? It’s location is Goulburn, NSW. I first came across the term when doing some research lately on the history of Goulburn, as some ancestors of mine settled in the Goulburn area back in the 1800s. My google search turned up a lovely old publication entitled ‘Goulburn, Queen City of the South’ which was published in 1946. The publication is filled with some interesting photos and tidbits about the town of Goulburn, and it intrigued me as to where the Queen City of the South part came from.


One reason for this name could be the way in which Goulburn officially became a city. Goulburn was declared a city on 14 March 1863 by Royal Letters Patent issued by Queen Victoria, which gave Goulburn the distinction of being the first inland city. So I can see how having your city ‘officially’ proclaimed by the Queen could lead to your town being known as the Queen City of the South.

Thomas and Ellen Dawson (centre) outside their ‘Royal Palace’

But this was not Goulburn’s only link to royalty. Further internet digging turns up articles about a local Goulburn woman name Ellen Dawson who was a local to Goulburn in the mid-1800s. What is interesting about Ellen is that she was the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of the South’. Her husband Thomas Dawson was likewise known as the ‘King of the South’ and the couple lived in a hut which they had christened their ‘Royal Palace’ complete with a Union Jack flag. By all accounts, Ellen was an eccentric woman who took her self-proclaimed queenship seriously. Accounts describe her as being regal in her bearing and dress. Ellen and Thomas were even involved in a few ‘royal scandals’ just like real royalty!

Even though the Dawsons aren’t relatives of mine, they lived in Goulburn in the same period as my ancestors so it adds some local colour to the stories of my ancestors. Even though Goulburn was large enough to warrant it being declared a city, even in modern regional cities the unique individuals stand out and I can’t help but believe that my ancestors may have encountered Ellen and her husband or at least have known of them.