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Friday, March 15, 2019

Use original records



Original records usually have much more detailed information, are less likely to have errors, and are more likely to be located in the context of the times. Original cemetery headstones, certificates, probate data and property records will yield information not available elsewhere. For women ancestors such a strategy is especially important as we try to locate names and construct a fuller biography. Finding a photograph or a biography of an individual on the internet is usually only a first step in the research process. Your next step is to locate the original source/s from which the web story or images were drawn and then access these directly. The National Library of Australia, the British Library, Library of Congress, state libraries and archives will have leads to find an original source and you should continue your search here. Inter-library loans, digitised records and online library resources will help you gain access to the documents once you have located the original source. Use birth, death and marriage certificates to map out a woman’s life, and research backwards and forwards across these documents to find more information.



Mary Holland is one of 7 convicts in my family.  She was tried at Surrey in  and sentenced in 1794 with three other women Mary Mattingly, Elizabeth Evett and Elizabeth Robinson.  She was transported to Botany Bay arriving in 1796 on the French-built convict ship the Indispensable. Mary Holland began her life in Sydney in a de facto relationship with a Marine Corp soldier Lachlan Ross.  She had two children and was deserted by Ross in the early 1800s. Mary began another de facto relationship with the convict Joseph Butler and their son Sylvester's daughter married into the Rose family linking Mary Holland to my father's family history.

Writing about Mary Holland   illustrates how the stories of convicts, crime and criminality are vexed and complex things, their stories enmeshed with and mired in the strictures of social class, gender, continuing injustice and grinding poverty. Mary Holland was caught in a time of history when the seething masses of poor in England had to fight, literally, for their bread. That she stole bed clothing most likely from the beds she was then making is ironic and poignant. But that she survived to be a grandmother and perhaps see her children prosper[i] suggests there is a lasting and positive legacy to link us to her long, tough and largely forgotten life.


[i] I have yet to find the exact record of Mary Holland’s death but according to the convict musters she was still alive when aged in her 50s.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Technology is a two-edged sword for women's history


Online indexes are a boon to family historians. But keep in mind that the complex familial relationships affecting women’s lives can be obscured by the attention given to main names (mostly male), public organisations (which ignore women) and the algorithms used by online technology that tend toward that which is visible and easy to access.

And the missing names, the misspelt names, and data about individuals that is not recorded is still not there in the index and/or the digitised record and its up to you as the researcher to go that extra mile and do additional research to find it. 


I love this photograph of a very happy bride Eunice Kathleen Johnson 1950.  


Sunday, March 3, 2019

DNA from Envelopes??

DNA from envelopes?  Read this interesting article on how My Heritage has begun testing the DNA from your anestor's DNA from envelopes.  In other words now testing dead people?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Women warriors are not as visible


Women waged their wars from the back row, often quietly and can be overlooked as leaders and shapers of society in the past. Even when married and burdened with children and domestic duties a woman worked outside with her husband on the farm and in the shop. She was a volunteer at her church and in her community. She taught her children and she supported her sisters and female friends. Women may not have occupied public office making them immediately visible in records but they were occupying other roles as volunteers and workers in women’s organisations, at her local church and in the local community. Try to find these and write about them.

One of the biggest problems in writing my great grandmother's  story (Mary Kirkpatrick was a midwife) was finding out more about her.  She was a trained midwife so there were records of that, she advertised in local papers and I could track her there and I researched her childhood etc in Belfast.  But I didn’t know about her as the woman…so I turned to what I call my circle strategy.  

Draw a number of circles around your female ancestor and write in these:  family, friends, work, neighbours, local community.  And  begin asking questions:

 Look at the her sisters and brothers, she may be a witness to a marriage, she may be a witness to a birth, which will give you an impression of the close relationships in that family. Was she the youngest, the eldest? What kind of social behaviour would have been expected of her? If she did marry other questions come into play around family. What age was she when she married?  Was this the norm at the time? Do you think she used birth control? Why?  Why not? Who delivered her babies?  Was it a neighbour, a midwife, a friend? How do you think she dealt with death, disease, the loss of young children? The loss of family members, friends, a husband?
How did she  travel with small children?
Did she have favourite recipes, are there cookbooks, was she religious…Women like men went through many changes in their lifetime.  They were children, young women, mature adults, married women, had children, grew older and then aged…Many lived to a long old age, map this as fully as you can.
We know even from a common sense point of view that women always had women friends, also she might have sisters, cousins, neighbours, old school friends.  And always one or two close friends  that were very important to her. I know my great grandmother Nurse Mary Kirkpatrick had many friends , many of the women she birthed became lifelong friends, and other midwives in the towns were her friends as well, and she was a long time resident and became well known, my mother told me Mary K  had a lot of friends, and it was certainly true.  And by researching these women I found out so much more about my great grandmother;  about her friendships, work colleagues, partnerships in private hospitals, and participation in community events. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Basic Principles for researching and writing about your women ancestors

Over the next few days and weeks I aim to post some of the basic ideas I have gathered over my many years of researching and writing about women.

To begin don't forget to learn from the success of others.  Many researchers and writers have gone before you and a search of the local library and online sources will get your started.


Learn from the success of others

Study how other researchers go about their searches. A golden rule for researching your women ancestors is to search everywhere, ask everyone and look in every possible repository, directory, search engine, website or networking site – think laterally, use wildcard terms for your searches and approach your data from every possible viewpoint.

Here is a list of books and websites to get you started.  Women and Family History
My website www.writingfamilyhistory.com.au has several lists on women including re convicts, work, crime, immigrant and education.  You are welcome to visit and download these.

This is a photograph of my maternal  great great grandmother Mary Ann Partridge (nee Everson) with her daughters and grandchildren.

Finding Florence, Maude, Matilda, Rose: Researching and writing women into family history

We should’ve have listened to Grandma as she knew much more about the family history than anyone else. It is Grandma who kept the photos and letters and who watched and worked to ensure her children and grandchildren were fed, clothed, cared for and loved. Women were pivotal to family and we need to ensure they are included in our family stories. 

This exciting and practical book provides, for the first time, a set of easy to follow and very relevant ideas, strategies, tips and tricks to add into your family histories the women of your family history. Written by Noeline Kyle an experienced and expert historian of women and family this book has everything for the family and social historian aiming to write the rich stories our female ancestors deserve. 

It is timely to think again about women ancestors who lived and worked and struggled as mothers, daughters, grandmothers, great grandmothers within the family, at work and in public life and also about those darker places such as in prisons, on convict transports and in the courts. Women were the perpetrators of crimes as well as victims and researching and writing their lives should include the complexity and contradiction of human endeavour in all its guises.


Noeline Kyle's book Finding Florence, Maude, Matilda Rose is now available on Amazon, 

Friday, December 14, 2018

amazon.com/author/noelinekyle

I have new kindle ebooks at:  amazon.com/author/noelinekyle

I have a series of four ebooks on writing family history with a fifth to arrive soon:

Writing Family History - Book 1: Formatting the lives of your unique family (Writing family stories)
  • Kindle Edition
  • Current Sales Rank: #342,315 in Kindle Store
  • Average Review: There are no reviews yet
Writing Family History - Book 2: The who, why & how of writing, finding favourite characters & writing roadmaps
  • Kindle Edition
  • Current Sales Rank: #239,468 in Kindle Store
  • Average Review: There are no reviews yet
Writing Family History - Book 3: Historical context, creative characters, asking questions & blazing sunsets
  • Kindle Edition
  • Current Sales Rank: #1,380,232 in Kindle Store
  • Average Review: There are no reviews yet
Writing Family History - Book 4: Constructing your family history book: creative chronology, setting limits and finding a hook to hang your story on
  • Kindle Edition
  • Current Sales Rank: #392,661 in Kindle Store


This has been a first try at uploading ebooks. I would be glad of feedback.  Let me know if you have books on Amazon so that I can promote them here.