Where does one start with this topic? There are so many family stories I could share starting with those my nanna told me when I was a very young girl. Space was at a premium so I slept in her double bed with her and she kept me up most of the night telling me stories and laughing. How I wish they had been recorded because I'm sure I have forgotten more than I can remember!
However, the story I wish to share is one that came from one sentence in a letter written to me by my grandfather's first cousin.
My great, great grandfather Dr William Lee Dawson died in Franklin, Tasmania in 1871. Shortly after his wife, Emma and their four children, Catherine, Harry, Louisa and Robert moved to Melbourne where several of Emma's siblings lived. Many years later the four children lived in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. As a consequence the cousins didn't live near each other and most didn't meet each other.
Many years ago, well before the internet, I discovered a man called Franklin Heathcote Dawson on a Victorian electoral roll. I wondered if he was my grandfather's cousin. My reason was that Robert Dawson had been born in Franklin in Tasmania and Helen Spinks the women he married was born in Heathcote in Victoria. Could they have named a son after the towns in which they were born?
I wrote to this man and sure enough he was who I had hoped he was. Even though he was getting on in years we began corresponding. He loved to write and we corresponded for many years. He wrote his life story for me and I was privileged to read it. His writing was so difficult to interpret that I had to copy the letters out as I worked out what it said. Now is not the time to share what he wrote for me except for one sentence and one small story.
"There is something about a family connection with Ned Kelly."
|Ned Kelly - c1854-1880|
No copyright restrictions apply. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/167605738
My first thought of course, was disbelief. Many Victorian families probably claimed some connection with Ned. What to do about this?
I raced off to the history section of Dixson Library at the University of New England and took all the Ned Kelly books off the shelf. One branch of the family, the Baumgartens (Catherine Dawson had married a Gustav Baumgarten) lived at Barnawatha. A quick browse of the indexes indicated that Gustav and his brother William were mentioned in several books.
Gustav and William had purchased horses from Ned that had been stolen. Recent commentary varies about whether they were guilty or not. However, William was found guilty at the Assizes in January 1878 and spent four years in jail. Gustave was acquitted. On the same day Ned's mother was Ellen was also in court.
The most exciting find however, was when I discovered the Baumgarten brothers were mentioned in the Jerilderie Letter.
And along with all this sort of work, Farrell the Policeman stole a horse from George King and had him in Whitty and Farrell's Paddock until he left the force and all this was the cause of me and my stepfather George King taking their horses and selling them to Baumgarten and Kennedy the pick of them was taken to a good market and the culls were kept in Peterson's Paddock and their brands altered by me two was sold to Kennedy and the rest to Baumgaren who were strangers to me and I believe honest men They paid me full value for the horses and could not have known they were stolen, no person had anything to do with the stealing and selling of the horses but me and George King.
Kelly later says The Queen of England was as guilty as Baumgarten and Kennedy, Williamson and Skillion of what they were convicted for, when the horses where found on the Murray River.
Who will ever know the truth? Were they guilty or innocent?
This is what I love about family history. You can place specific members of your extended family at significant events in history. You might not know a lot about them but you can say they were there. They saw what happened.
What other significant events were members of our families involved in or witnesses of? There are many. Sharing the story of a family member who was on the Hindenberg when it crashed is however, for another time.