I was watching Who Do You Think You Are? last week. It was the one with Craig Revel Horwood and involved him tracing his Australian gold mining heritage.
Well it got me thinking, or rather threw me a reminder about someone in my own family tree. My 4th great uncle was called Bielby Drew and his name was odd enough to throw up a couple of results quite a while back while stabbing in the dark at the online newspaper archives. I seemed to recall he’d been hit on the head while mining. For some reason I thought that he’d been an opal miner, but the name Ballarat rang a bell.
Anyway, having looked at the Library of Australia online newspaper archive I found the article that I’d come across before. It referred to the inquest into Bielby’s death. He had been hit on the head by a falling stone and died a couple of days later from compression of the brain.
A search around the internet gave me a link to Ballarat and District Genealogical Society and the large collection of resources they have there, from cemetery transcripts to lists of miner’s deaths and accidents, which he appeared on. They also offer to do further research for a small donation and I took them up on it. They got back to me a couple of times over the weekend with a flurry of information, much of it from someone called Joan Hunt who happened to be one of the historians on the telly who was helping Craig Revel Horwood and, as it happened, had done her Phd on Ballarat miners from Yorkshire. I now have the dispositions from the inquest, information on Bielby’s daughter and her mother, whom he never married, the death of his younger brother and information about his wife and children and her subsequent re-marriage and children. I have passenger lists and pointers to bits and bobs that I’ll need to check out, but all in all, there is an awful lot there for not much financial outlay.
I seem to have a lot of luck with Australian sources. Not long ago I found my grandfather (same family as Bielby oddly enough) had done a moonlight flit there in the 60s before I was born. I got his naturalisation papers, amongst a lot of other things from the National Archives of Australia. It cost me about £20 or thereabouts. There was even a photo of him.
Going further back I had an ancestor who went to Australia the hard way, and not by his own volition. I traced him from being arrested in the local newspaper to being convicted and transported, arriving in Tasmania and pretty much every bit of paper they had on him from ship’s records to his prison record to his eventual death, all courtesy of New South Wales State Archives , and all free online. I believe that this was also covered in a previous WDYTYA? episode. I think the celebrity was Anne Reid. She had traced her ancestor back to the Brown River, which is where my ancestor was sent.
So, if you have any miners or theives, or any runaway grandads, you should be able to find plenty if they ended up down under.