Friday, 20 March 2020


So I am in quarantine. My lovely NZ Cruise was ended early by the COVID-19 global pandemic and today we received notice that there were cases aboard the ship. So now instead of a preemptive quarantine, I am a close contactee. I am fortunate in that work is setting me up to work from home and for the moment I feel well (if a little paranoid), but the situation did remind me that I am certainly not the first of my family to be quarantined after a ship board outbreak.

Charles Robert Muffett, alias Robert Moffitt (c. 1811- 23/11/1890) was one of the unlucky souls aboard the Bussorah Merchant in 1828, the first ship quarantined at what would become the North Head Quarantine Station. I do not know whether he was one of those with small pox or whooping cough or if he, like me, was one of the relatively healthy ones. 

My journey was however a much more delightful one than that of my ancestor, a voluntary one that included 3 course meals and scenic tours of New Zealand. Robert's was the result of sticky fingers and taking off with a clock and 2 silver spoons

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Chasing Birds

While I have been chatting to my maternal grandfather's cousins about that side of the tree, my dad has been chasing birds. Not the feathered variety, but those of his maternal ancestry.

See our line in Australia stems from Robert Bird born c.1819 most likely in Norfolk to - if his death certificate is correct - Richard Bird and his wife Susan nee Frost. In 1837 he was caught stealing a horse with Robert Greenwood and transported out here on the Bengal Merchant in 1838.

We have a reasonably clear picture of his descendants, I don't think it is completely exhaustive but for the most part we know the lines of his 10 kids for at least a generation or two. However, speaking to Nana (who at 101 is still sharp as a tack) and her remaining sisters there are all these cousins all these other Birds who they remember fondly from their childhoods that we just cannot place as descended from Robert.

So there are a couple of possibilities.

  1. They aren't actually related by blood just share the surname
  2. They are descended from a brother or uncle of Robert.
It's the latter that Dad has been  trying to confirm. He's been working through English census records and tracing various Bird lines. He has some very extensive trees plotted out and was making some sense of things. That is he was until last time we chatted about it when he spoke the words that all family historians fear:

I think I've been tracing the wrong tree

I knew having a doctor in our ancestry was too good to be true. 

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Updated DNA mapping

So I was terrible at the 52 weeks challenge. Are we surprised? Nope.

But anyway, with the increase in it's database Ancestry's DNA estimates are being refined so I thought I'd have a look and see what these new estimates look like compared to the old.

So Me:



Given what I know of our geographic ancestry none of these changes are particularly surprising, except for that giant purple blob added to Mum's that represents the Baltic States. 

Challenge Accepted Ancestry DNA. 

Monday, 14 January 2019

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 2 - Challenge

It was a challenge to narrow down this week's subject because many of my ancestors have proved elusive in one way or another and are thus a challenge, or have themselves faced what can be considered challenging times. But today we consider Jesse Friend who

"disappeared and was probably murdered by aborigines in the St Clair region near Singleton"

Well, at least that's what the family stories say.

Jesse Friend was born in Salehurst, Sussex in 1817 to Jesse Friend and his wife Mary (nee Crittenden) and one of seven children. 

Records suggest that the family was often at the mercy of the Poor Law Union and it was thus that in 1839, Jesse the younger, his wife Mary (nee Baker) their child of 6 weeks and various other relations and in laws were shipped off to New South Wales as part of the 99 souls sent by the Salehurst Poor Law Union on the Neptune. 

The couple settled in the Maitland area of New South Wales and a second child, Sarah, was born in 1854. Somewhere between that birth and the marriage of Sarah to James Nash in 1869 we lose Jesse. 

As is, he disappears from the records. Or at least this Jesse does. The tale is muddied by the presence of other Jesse Friend's in the colony, Jesse the Elder arrives in  1855 under the sponsorship of Thomas King husband of his daughter Mary Ann (one of those relatives also on the Neptune) and there is also a Jesse Friend settled in the Monaro district who is often conflated with 'our Jesse.' The latter's extensive criminal records make him somewhat easy to rule out.

Now if 'our Jesse' he was 'murdered by aborigines' as the story suggests, wouldn't I be able to find some sad tale narrated in a newspaper of the time? I have a rather sneaking suspicion that the true tale may have something to do with goldfields and abandonment but that too I can find no record of. So Jesse Friend is my challenge because I'd rather like to know what happened to him. 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 1 - Firsts

There are many firsts that I could pull out of my research to discuss in this topic, our 'first convict' the 'first person I researched', instead we will go with a different and notable first:

 "The first white boy born in this colony was born of black parents." - Sir. J. H. Fisher 

I have blogged about this little nugget before, and it is of course much disputed as these things are, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss who exactly this white boy of black parents was.

William Josiah Black was born on the 2nd of February 1837 'not far from the old gum tree' to William Edwin Black and his wife Mary Ann (nee Bird). The couple had married a few years earlier in 1833 in a recently completed St Dunstan-in-the-West. In September 1836 the couple embarked on the Coromandel bound for Adelaide, South Australia with their 22 month old daughter and William's brothers James and Thomas and their families. The ship arrived in Holdfast Bay on the 17th of January 1837 and William Josiah was born less than a month later.

I have seen argued that this makes him the first white male born after Proclamation and not the first first white male born in South Australia, but whatever the case William Josiah was not destined to have a long and fruitful life. On the 21st of November 1846 young William Josiah was killed at Currency Creek while employed by William Metcalf.

"COURT OF INSOLVENCY." South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900) 28 November 1846: 3. Web. 6 Jan 2019 <>

9 years seems to us to be a very young age to be employed outside the home but it was common in the 19th Century for vocational training to start from around 10 to 11 years (and sometimes as early as 7) and for apprenticeships to be entered into not much later. 

William Josiah's mother had died in August 1844 (a younger sibling John Frederick died in the April of the year at less than a year old) and William Edwin had remarried in the November. Caroline Elizabeth (nee Warren) would give William Edwin a further three children. Edwin in 1845, Louisa in 1847 and Edward Warren in 1848.

William Edwin Black was proud of his son's claim to be the first white boy of the colony and it is this distinction that is noted within Notable South Australians, or, Colonists - past and present  and The founders of Australia and their descendants and within obituary's and again whenever the subject arose and always a matter of debate.

"THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ELECTION." The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 - 1922) 29 February 1884: 2 (HALF-PAST ONE O'CLOCK EDITION.). Web. 6 Jan 2019

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Nancy Bird Question.

Nana's 100th birthday was on the 7th of October and at a party of 130 odd people, the question most often directed at me was

"Are we related to Nancy Bird?"

My answer - "Well Nana says so but I am not sure how" was met with little satisfaction on the part of the questioners, so for those who wished for further elucidation on the topic, here is a more extended answer.

Rita Muffett (nee Bird and her brother Neville
Is this Nancy Bird's place in the background?
For those of you who may not know, Nancy-Bird Walton was a pioneering Australian Aviator who operated an Air Ambulance service in Outback NSW, founded the Australian Women Pilots' Association, was patron of numerous charities and was one of those people considered to be national treasures.

Basically she is the the kind of person that if you find in your tree you tell everyone. So yes I have done some digging, and Nancy Bird's tree - as near as I can figure -looks like this.

Nancy Delow Bird b 1915 d 2009
daughter of 
William Raymond Bird b 1888 d 1969
son of
Frederick John M Bird b 1851 d 1902
son of 
James Bird b c1821 d 1883

So really the question is not "Are we related to Nancy Bird" it is "Are we related to James Bird?"

Is it possible to find a link between this James Bird and our earliest certainty in this line Robert Bird b c1819 d 1882. They were certainly in the same vicinity in the 1850s and 1860s but so was another James Bird and a William Bird and a Thomas Bird and a - well you get the idea. Proximity does not equate to consanguinity, and as Robert Bird and the correct James Bird are both proving somewhat elusive - um -

"Well Nana says so but I am not sure how"

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Year, Same resolution.

Every New Year I make the same resolution - I resolve to be more organised. To actually start writing things down, to stop relying on my often scattered memory (thanks thyroid) and to be a better correspondent  (ie actually reply to people, instead of just thinking I have). 

I can't guarantee that this resolution will stick this time because I really am rather terrible at it but I have started yet another Notebook to substitute for my brain and 3 days in to 2017 am still remembering to write down ALL THE THINGS, so chances are if you contact me within the next week you may actually get a response. Hey I may even manage more than 4 blog posts a year if I actually get organised in my research (and stop being a post work zombie)!