The advent of the Internet was one of the most significant events in my life, coming at the same time as my interest in genealogy was awakened. Early Rootsweb discussion lists (In the days before Ancestry) were rich sources of information, assistance and camaderie on a scale I had never experienced with childhood penfriends. My family trees grew and grew…
But it was more .. An Australian, I joined several international discussion lists for people with cochlear implants – at that time still a fairly innovative device – and ‘met’ Bev B., a Canadian, who invited me to make a joint presentation with her at an international conference in the USA. With the help of a Quota scholarship I travelled all over the US, attended several other conferences and met many of the people with whom I had chatted on-line. A few years later Bev planned to attend an Australian conference and asked if I knew anyone with a cochlear implant in New Zealand … yes, there was this guy on another of my lists … Bev visited him, played matchmaker and several years later there I was living in New Zealand with my wonderful new husband!
I had finished a family history book and published it with Blurb. Luckily I only ordered one copy. A cousin, proof reader par excellence, noticed a discrepancy in the Preview on Blurb and also asked if I could include a little more information which had arrived too late to be included originally. So I fixed everything, wrote a better Acknowledgement, and as a final touch decided to move the title of a painting on the back cover to the inside, to go with the description of the painting on the front cover.
On the back of the book is a painting of the Tamar River in early Tasmania, painted by my grandfather. Off to Blurb went the corrected pdf, and in due course a new edition of the book arrived. Some weeks later my cousin contacted me again. Errrr had I noticed the spelling of the river’s name? And sure enough somehow it had morphed into the “Tamara” River. …
There are many schoolteachers in my extended family but one was a real trailblazer – my Great Aunt Fanny Elizabeth Hunt 1863-1941. In 1888 Fanny became the University of Sydney’s first woman Science graduate and only the second in Australia. (Fanny was a perfectly acceptable name in those days, despite what Bradley Walsh thinks!)
She taught at a number of girls’ schools in Sydney for some years then became the inaugural headmistress of Ipswich Girls Grammar School just outside Brisbane, Queensland in 1891. Later she founded another school, Girton College in Toowoomba Queensland, in 1903.
I was to follow in her footsteps many years later, proudly wearing Fanny’s academic hood at my own graduation.
Herbert William Hunt (1913 – 1937), always known as “Wibb”, was my Grandmother Lily Hunt’s uncle (genealogically speaking my 1st cousin once removed). He was born in country Wedderburn, NSW to Bank manager Edwin Herbert Hunt and his wife Lillian Josephine Harrison, the seventh of eight children all but one of whom survived to adulthood.
All Wibb’s brothers became Accountants and/or Managers but he was musically gifted and wanted to devote his life to music. He was said to have been able to attend a concert then return home and play the music he had heard from memory. But family circumstances forced him to work in his father’s Bank, which he hated.
According to family lore he died of a broken heart – he was so miserable not being able to devote all his time to music. Officially he died of septicaemia following a throat infection and/or pheumonia.
His sole sister Mary was also musically inclined, but as a female she was ” not important and not considered Bank material (!).
Because my paternal grandfather Alexander Johnston (1868 – 1952) hated having his photo taken, I only have a single photo of him, which he permitted his adored granddaughter to take with her little camera.
The photo shows: My grandfather Alexander Johnston (1868 – 1952) My brother Barry Arthur Johnston (1944 – 2017) My father Warwick Lyle Johnston (1912 – 1998)
Taken about 1950 with my first camera, a little Baby Brownie. Made of black Bakelite, it took a roll of 12 black and white film, and the shutter was worked by a little lever at the centre bottom. The film was wound by hand.
Granddad was a journalist, artist and violinist. Born in Launceston Tasmania, his father was a librarian who “died in harness” but Alexander had the wanderlust from an early age. He spent some years in Fremantle and also on the Coolgardie goldfields in Western Australia in the 1890s, not as a miner but as a journalist working for the “Coolgardie Miner”. He made several trips to the Orient, as shown by some wonderful paintings, mostly in a series of sketchbooks which I treasure:
He also edited an English-language newspaper in Shanghai for a time, as evidenced by this scrap I found hidden among the pages of a book:
Granddad Alex was a private man who never spoke of his childhood family or earlier life to his son Warwick, who would have been astounded to learn all I have discovered. Ann Kerr who I wrote about in Week 1 was his Great Great Grandmother.
A “do something with your genealogy instead of letting it sit in your genealogy software” challenge. Started by Amy Johnson Crow (https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/52-ancestors-in-52-weeks/): “You’ve worked hard on your genealogy. You’ve made some fantastic discoveries. But what do you actually do with it? Those discoveries don’t do much good just sitting in your file cabinet or on your computer. That’s where 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks comes in. It’s a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of”.”
So I’m going to try and do it … I have so many stories, some already published on this website and some in the three (almost four) family history books I’ve already published. And there’s some more research I want to do.
The theme for Week 1 (January 1-7) is “I’d like to meet”.
I’d like to meet my Great Great Great Great Grandmother (ie, 4xG Grandmother) Ann Kerr.
First some background, mostly from my published book about the Cochranes (https://au.blurb.com/b/11115249-cochrane-and-lyle): Ann was born on 21 April 1733, most likely in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. She was the daughter of John Ker(r) (born about 1700) and his wife Margaret. She had three brothers John, Patrick and one other boy. John left an elaborate will, very helpful in identifying the correct family!
Ann married Thomas Cochran(e) on 16 April 1756 in Paisley. When Ann married she bought a huge bible in which she gradually recorded the names of all their children.
‘Thomas’ and ‘Ann’ being such common names, the bible entries have been absolutely crucial in identifying their children (and also in trying to correct numerous incorrect entries on websites such as Ancestry and MyHeritage and Genenet). The bible is a large ornate volume with gold-stamped leather spine and richly embossed cover, not something a poor family could afford. Most likely the Kerrs were an affluent family, perhaps her father was a merchant or manufacturer. If only Ann had recorded her parents’ names and dates as well! It is possible they originally came from Campbelltown, Argyllshire where Ann’s nephew (named in John Kerr’s will) resided. In the 18th century there was a great influx of people to Paisley following the Highland Clearances.
Thomas Cochrane is thought to have been a master weaver, quite a prestigious social position in those times.
Ann and Thomas had ten children, almost all of whom reached adulthood. After their marriage in 1756 Ann and Thomas Cochran(e) most likely resided in or near Paisley. The baptismal records of some of their children show that they were living in the village of Eaglesham to the south of Paisley and Glasgow at least between 1765 and 1771. Eaglesham was noted for handloom weaving, at least until the establishment of a water-powered cotton spinning mill in 1791. (It is also famous for being the landing place of Rudolph Hess during WW2 when he mistook Eaglesham House for Dungavel House near Srathaven.)
At some time before 1785 our Cochrane family moved to Paisley. Ann (Kerr) died there in 1789. She was 56 and had borne 10 children in 19 years. That was the same year the Seven Year War with France began, when George II was the reigning monarch.
In 1785 a coach ran from Paisley to Glasgow 6 times a day. Didd Ann ever take advantage of this to visit family, particularly her daughter Margaret born 1760 who married weaver Peter Stewart Donald in 1780 in Glasgow (I share some DNA with a descendant) or her daughter Ann born 1763 who married weaver John Houston in 1787?
Two of her sons emigrated to America some time before 1798 as they are not mentioned in the will of their uncle John Kerr. John born 1758 died in Savannah Georgia in 1799 aged 41 and Thomas born 1774 died “in easy circumstances” in Patterson, New York in 1850 – both facts added to the bible by Ann’s grandson Dr. Thomas Lyle.
Ann did not live to see two of her grandchildren marry each other on 31 May 1821 in Glasgow – Dr. Thomas Lyle (son of Mary born 1765) and Margaret Cochrane (daughter of James born 1771). Such cousin marriages were relatively common in those times. Three of Margaret and Dr. Lyle’s children emigrated to Tasmania, Australia in the 1850s. I am one of the descendants.
We offered to drive our now former neighbour Barbara’s eV, a Nissan Leaf similar to but a later model than ours, up to Tauranga while she drove her motorhome. With Covid restrictions now eased in New Zealand, and Tiki the dog and Georgie the cat established in their respective hotels, we set off well armed with masks, hand sanitiser and an awakened sense of adventure.
The weather approaching the four-hour ferry ‘cruise’ between the north and south islands did not look too promising … and a text message from Bluebridge Ferries warned us that our departure would be delayed.
On the way to Picton we stopped off at Ohau Point of course to admire the seals. The rough water offshore certainly didn’t seem to bother them.
The ferry departure was delayed for just over four hours. We filled in time in Picton at one of our favourite places – the Edwin Fox museum. Initially the wreck was to be restored but with costs soaring the decision was made to maintain only. There have been some changes since we were there last. The museum display has been changed, and the wreck itself is now much more accessible. The ship sailed around the world 34 times and carried troops to the Crimean War, Chinese labourers to the West Indies, convicts to Australia, Immigrants to New Zealand, Soldiers and beer to India and Tea and Wool to England.
It was a rough crossing. Many people were seasick. I watched in amazement as one woman devoured fried fish and chips and then – still looking happy – started on a banana. By then the ship was starting to lurch violently and it didn’t take long for the inevitable to happen. I bet she will never look at a banana again the same way! Dave and I were both unaffacted. The Bluebridge staff were wonderful – unobtrusively moving around, offering iced water in cups, sick bags, and later moist facecloths – without being asked and often just before actually needed.
We reached Wellington very late but still received a wonderful welcome from Barbara’s friend who runs a B&B.
Next morning we set off in convoy for Tauranga via the Desert Road. An uneventful trip – with a rather good early dinner at the Rustic Eating house in Waiouru – highly recommended. As I now require gluten-free food they were happy to alter a menu item for me. We spent the night in Barbara’s friends’ holiday house on the shores of Lake Taupo – playing a last game of “Frustration” with her before bedtime – we used to play regularly with her at home.
Next morning we drove on to Rotorua and another fun adventure with Rotorua Canopy Tours. <https://www.canopytours.co.nz/experiences/the-original-canopy-tour/ > We did the slightly longer Ultimate Canopy Tour two years ago as an early 80th birthday treat for me – very fortuitous as it turned out, just a month before NZ’s Covid Lockdown.
It was just as wild and wonderful as before – with slightly less forest trampling and stair climbing, which I appreciated. The company is very conservation-minded, maintains a large area virtually free of pests and there were lots of semi-tame robins and other birds which flew down to take worms from our hands.
The last three photos show the second-last arrival platform and the narrow bridge to the final platform where they took all the hands-off photos. Second photo: the final platform with, on the left, the usual steps to nowhere – for this last set we stepped off backwards and did a semi-somersault or two on the ride to the final stop. Third photo shows Dave the acrobat (he didn’t have time to take one of me – I went first!)
Rotorua town was very quiet, almost deserted, Covid restrictions in place, everyone masked and strict distancing observed. We had earlier booked into the nearby Rotorua Hideaway Lodge, which was happy to let us move in several hours before their usual time. Everything was contactless, not only at the Lodge but at the pizza parlour where Dave went to pick up a gluten-tree pizza that evening.
We decided to stay another night in the comfortable Lodge, and did a tiki tour around town the next day, visiting the amazing Rotorua Bath house, now Museum, which has been closed since the Kaikoura quakes.
Nearby was a rather unusual statue of Queen Victoria, guarded by a fierce Maori warrior:
Also nearby was an arresting sculpture – the description board said: “This bronze sculpture was unveiled in June 2001 to mark the new millennium …. “Waitukei” was created by Rotorua artist and master carver Lyonel Grant. His inspiration … was the people of this area and the rich melding of Maori and European cultures…”
We also paid a brief visit the giant Redwood Forest but did not bother to go on the tree walk – $35 each for just a walk – not after the excitement of ziplining!
Next day, back to Tauranga/Mt. Maunganui and two nights with Dave’s nephew and his wife in their beautiful home, with a lunch on the waterfront and a walk on the beach at the Mount. Next day we returned her car to Barbara and she drove us to the airport. It was not much fun wearing a mask the whole flight but we appreciated the precautions taken. Home at last, too late to collect the animals – but we were on the Country Paws’ doorstep at nine next morning and then to the cattery where Georgie had been fussed over as usual.
‘Cochrane and Lyle – Scotland to Tasmania’ has now been published via Blurb. It covers my paternal grandfather’s line descended from Thomas Cochrane and Ann Kerr of Paisley, Scotland, who married on 16 April 1756. Several of their descendants settled in Tasmania.
The main family surnames are Johnston, Huxtable, Curtis and Baker. The early Johnstons will be getting their own family history book in due course.
Some sections of the Cochrane-Lyle book have already been published on this website – eg John Lyle of the 91st, the Tasmanian Pioneers, Sailor Boy and the Five Margarets.
Here is the introduction to the Cochrane-Lyle book:
When I started doing family history in about 1997, I knew very little about my Scottish antecedents, not even where they came from in Scotland. I thought the Johnstons would be a nice easy family to start work with, there didn’t seem to be many of them (!). I knew that my paternal grandfather had been born in Tasmania, so I started with the Tasmanian Archives and immediately struck trouble – I was fairly certain that granddad had a sister named Margaret and a brother named Charles, but the Tasmanian archives showed he had a brother named George, of whom I had never heard, and they did not have a record of a Charles! At first I thought George must have been renamed Charles …. but as this history will show, there was a Charles born in Scotland, and a George born soon after the family arrived in Tasmania; his tragic story must have been hushed up in the Edwardian manner as I’m reasonably certain my father never knew about his Uncle George. From my childhood I’d been intrigued by my father’s middle name of Lyle. I knew granddad had a few very old books with the signature ‘T. Lyle’ but who was he? As the story gradually unfolded I began to regret more and more that my father had died before I could tell him of all my discoveries. How he would have loved them. He said more than once that his father had been a very private man and never talked about himself. Thanks to the wonders of the internet I was eventually able to track down the family of Charles Johnston in Australia and to my great joy discovered they had a huge treasure box full of Thomas Lyle’s books, the Cochrane bible, and various other treasures including a series of letters which George Johnston wrote home from all over the world. The internet also meant that one day out of the blue I received an email from Tina C. asking if my great grandma was her great grandma’s sister. Until that moment I had not considered that any other Lyles had emigrated to Tasmania. The family suddenly expanded! Since then I have “met” Tina’s sister Pippa on-line and we have exchanged much information. Even better, one of the Curtis relations had inherited two priceless miniatures of “a Glasgow surgeon and his wife” – surely Thomas and Margaret! I’ve also met a number of Huxtable descendants, both in person and on-line, who have helped fill in some of the Johnston story. Other descendants of our early Scottish Cochranes and Lyles have proved more elusive. A few such as the Hillhouses have been found by DNA matching. No relatives have been found in the USA so far. As with many other families, early spelling of the surname varied. Relatively few people knew how to read and write and spelling was at the whim – and the ear – of the clerk or minister recording the details. Even Dr. Thomas Lyle used both Cochran and Cochrane. I have stayed with the generic Cochrane apart from the earliest entries.
I have not posted any blogs for some time but am keeping this going in the hope that we will once again be able to do some travelling when the Covid situation has sort of settled down (insofar as it ever will).
In the meantime I’ve been concentrating on family history. I’ve published another book…. on my Grandmother’s Irish line, the Wentworth Wades of Dublin.