Hmm, This is Interesting

Something I\’ll have to look into a little more.

A new online archive will allow people to trace whether their forebears were among the British and Irish settlers who moved to Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries in search of a better life.

The collection enables the public to search 8.9 million names of passengers and crew, three million of whom were free settlers, who arrived in New South Wales between 1826 and 1922. The Australian Free Settler Collection numbers more than 2.2 million British names. Also included are other travellers and crew who journeyed to Australia over almost a century.

I know that I am in fact descended from one such immigrant. I\’ll have to look up the details but she was one of five unmarried daughters of a blacksmith (there was also a son) who got an assisted passage in the early 1850s. She had a fairly rambunctious time of it and ended up married to a British engineer working on the railways in Peru. I\’m descended from the child of that marriage who was born in Callao (whether it was actually his is a little more debateable) and after his death and burial in the British graveyard up in the Andes she returned to the UK with said daughter.

The thing is though, that leaves a possibly huge tribe of Australian distant cousins, descended from those five siblings. And it\’s very difficult to search for such relatives: going back up your family tree from birth to marriage certificates is usually possible, but going back down it from great great uncle (etc) to their descendants is very tough indeed.

A project for a less busy time perhaps?

4 thoughts on “Hmm, This is Interesting”

  1. Tim, what was the surname of your relative in Peru? In the venerable Phoenix Club we have quite an archive of the Brits who have lived and died here over the last century or more. And are you sure you don’t mean the British Cemetery in Callao?

  2. I suppose this is why sites like Genes Reunited are so useful. Two people can map their family trees in isolation and it identifies ancestors who appear in both trees.

  3. Somewhat over a century or so ago, many Americans began to take a fair interest in tracing their European forbears, frequently in hopes of identifying distinguished, especially aristocratic descent. It just escapes me now, after so many years, but Mark Twain poked fun at the practice in one or another of his writings, leading to his perpetration of an unusual hoax.

    In a letter to a then-prominent American literary magazine, a French critic, one M. Paul Bourget, made a number of points quite critical of Twain’s writing and, indeed, of his very appreciation of just how great was the gulf between the American and the far more advanced civilization of Europe. Included was a comment to the effect that, once an American had attained a certain degree of financial security, he’d seek social distinction and could occupy quite some time in determining who might be his European ancestors.

    Twain angrily responded to the letter with his own. He argued each of M. Bourget’s points; but, in response to the ancestor-seeking jibe, he remarked that, while an American might very well spend some time searching for who his great-grandfather might be, a Frenchman could spend years just trying to find out who his father was.

    The shit hit the fan, at least in the literary world. Twain was excoriated by all the best and the brightest light s of the scene of the day. Truly a boor of stupendous insensitivity, he’d replied to the mildest of good-natured jibes with a truly venomous jab.

    Twain bagged ’em all. Nobody of the day even suspected. After they’d all had their say, he revealed that he’d been the author of the letters from “M. Paul Bourget, ” even advertising a reward of $10,000 for any proof to the contrary.

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