Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Researching the Smyths

If you are interested in who came before you and where they lived, Australians have a treasure trove of newspapers available for free. This week I have been adding to a list over on Trove of my Smyth predecessors in South Australia.

Research in the newspapers of the day for my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Agnes Smyth and her parents and their family has revealed much about their lives and times.I certainly did not know that she had lost her eldest sister to typhoid at age sixteen, until I started researching her siblings. That sister's name is reported variously as Mary Christina and Mary Catherine. Two other sisters, Catherine and Margaret and brother Francis all married and lived in the local area.

By finding details about my great-grandfather Edward Smyth's brother John, I have been able to determine the family's place of origin as Kilmore near Castle Pollard, County Westmeath, Ireland. The extensive obituary for Edward's brother, the Rev. John Smyth, details the school and seminary he attended, and so provides the potential for finding more about another great-great grandfather, their father Francis Smyth. John's three brothers, Edward my great-grandfather, Thomas and James, are mentioned time and again in the tributes that flowed after the death of this prominent Catholic priest in the early years of SA's colonisation.

It is with interest I note that he attended a seminary in Navan, and several descendants of my great-great-grandfather Smyth, including my parents are now buried in a small graveyard named Navan half a world away from Ireland situated between the small country towns of Tarlee and Riverton in South Australia. The Irish heritage runs deep in that corner of the country.

Trove has a great list making function. One can have private or public lists. Here's the timeline I've established on Trove detailing some articles found about the marriages, deaths and more of the Smyth family once they had arrived in South Australia.

Comments can be added to each entry on the list so I've prefaced the comments with the year of the article and then copied and pasted the text from the articles where they are not too lengthy, into the comments field. At a glance I can then see what this source has provided for this family. The list is enhanced by sorting the items into date order and adding a description for those who come after me. I've chosen reverse date order with the most recent items first. Lists can be revisited, revised and renewed as many times as one likes.

Collateral research, examining the siblings of a direct line ancestor, is one of the topics for Week 8 of the Genealogy Do-Over which has thousands of folks around the world re-examining the processes they use and the data they have collected relating to family history research. I think my research is improving!

Francis Smyth > Edward Smyth m. Margaret Byrne > Elizabeth Smyth m. Andrew Horgan > Edward John Horgan, my father.
Sourced from newspapers of the day available on Trove listed at Smyth family. Full individual source details have been entered into my genealogy database.

This post first appeared at

Friday, 9 January 2015

50 years on: Georgina Ellen O'Dea

Georgina Ellen O'Dea (born Bennett), my mother's mother was the only grandparent I knew and today, January 9th, 2015 is the 50th anniversary of her death.

Early years

So far I have been unsuccessful in finding details of her birth, but details from her marriage and death certificates suggest 1890.

At age 17 she was living in Hamley Bridge, South Australia and working as a maid. She was the youngest daughter of George and Bridget Helen Bennett of Gawler and it was there in Ss. Peter and Paul Church that she married Patrick Joseph O'Dea on the 11th September 1907. He was 12 years her senior at 29 years old. (1)  Babies followed soon after marriage with Mary Ellen O'Dea born on the 1st June 1908 and Margaret Monica O'Dea born 4th May 1910.

A new release of Crown Land at Ngallo in County Weeah, Victoria provided the opportunity for this rapidly growing young family to take up settlement on a block of 640 acres. The eight day journey of more than 300 kilometres by horse and buggy on rudimentary roads from Hamley Bridge, must have been exhausting for the young mother and her babies.

Soon after their arrival and the construction of a very basic broom brush hut, my mother Hannah Olive O'Dea was born in the Pinnaroo Hospital on April 17, 1912.
By 1912 Patrick had also taken the position of a councillor in the local area and when he was injured after a horse fall, additional work would have fallen to Georgina.
Councillor P. J. O'Dea, of Ngallo, Victoria, was riding from his home to Murrayville to attend a political meeting, when his horse fell with him. He received a sprained ankle, and his leg was bruised and knocked about. The sufferer was able to crawl on to the horse again, and then rode home suffering much pain during the trip. He is progressing slowly. (2)
Three boys were born in the following years Patrick John O'Dea: 23 Feb 1914, Michael James O'Dea: 29 Feb 1916 and Ronald Patrick O'Dea: 19th Oct 1918.

By 1914 her husband Patrick had taken on the role of president of the Walpeup Shire Council. As well as coping with 6 children under the age of 10 life was very busy for Georgina. There was vegetable gardening to be done, hens to be cared for and eggs to be gathered, cows to tend, cooking and all the household tasks including the making and mending of clothes for the family.

In 1919 tragedy struck when Patrick died from influenza. He had left his hospital bed to attend a peace celebration in his role as Justice of the Peace for the district. Georgina was left with 6 young children. She battled on for some months while probate was settled. A long arduous journey back to Hamley Bridge followed. My mother told the story of the struggle with luggage from the train station to the relatives' house where they were temporarily housed.

In Hamley Bridge

In the years that followed Georgina is mentioned in several papers as being in charge of catering (supper) for a wide variety of events. What we do know is that she worked hard raising her six children and struggled to do the best by them and managed to send the boys to secondary school.

The O'Dea family - Hamley Bridge, SA mid 1920s
Back row: Mary Ellen, Hannah Olive, Georgina and Margaret Monica
Front row: Michael James (Mick), Ronald Patrick (Pat) and Patrick John (Jack)

In Port Lincoln

Georgina Ellen O'Dea at age 50
Photo sent to her daughter Hannah Horgan
Sometime after the marriage of her third daughter Hannah in 1937, she moved to Port Lincoln where she ran a boarding house for years. She also worked as the housekeeper for the Catholic priests of Port Lincoln for many years, she always called them "her boys."
In the 1939 and again in the 1943 electoral rolls she is listed as living at Proper Road, Port Lincoln along with her eldest daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Martin Conley.

Later Life

In later years she stayed with her sons and daughters as she did not have a house of her own. On our farm, she slept in the "sewing room." Thanks to my siblings for the recollections here. One of my sisters recalls:
Grandma had a sense of humour. I had just completed some applique in my dressmaking course when Mum asked me to mend a nightie of hers. Grandma dared me to applique a big red apple over the hole, which I did. We had a great time laughing about it. Mum was not happy at first, I felt sorry for her so unpicked all those tiny stitches!
Another sister relates:
I remember her arriving at 'Pine Creek' (our farm) very early in the morning , having travelled all night on the Birdseye bus from Port Lincoln. 
She was always prepared for any emergency and seemed to always find what was needed in her handbag. 
One night Uncle Joe and grandma were going to play euchre somewhere and it was pouring rain. Grandma grabbed a pair of Dad's rubber boots (gumboots, wellingtons) just in case... Joe laughed at her, but who arrived home in the rubber boots but Grandma ...about 15 mins later. 
On a Sunday afternoon she used to say "Come on you kids, let's look for mushrooms and let your mother have a rest." 
She was always on to Dad to get the gun and get a bunny for a cheap meal.
A family outing
Georgina Ellen O'Dea at the back, my 6 siblings, cousin John Barry and
K.Browne household helper with me the youngest on her knee

Georgina Ellen O'Dea with some of her grandchildren

My memories of her are tinged with sadness as I remember her last visit when she was suffering from advanced cancer. I see her sitting in the farmhouse kitchen near the pantry with a rug around her knees, stoically bearing the pain. She died in 1965 and was buried on Jan 11th at Murray Bridge. (3) 


1. 1907 'Family Notices.', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 24 September, p. 6, viewed 8 January, 2015,

2. 1912 'FATALITIES AND ACCIDENTS.', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 12 August, p. 10, viewed 4 January, 2015,

3.  Genealogy South Australia Death Registration Certificates Index 1842 - 1972 (Certificate transcriptions to 1967) Book/Page: 985/411

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Andrew O'Leary sails from Dublin

A family leaves Ireland

In the early years of white settlement in the newly established colony of South Australia, there was urgent need for agricultural laborers. Suitable candidates were selected from Ireland and England to fill this gap. During 1835 eleven commissioners were appointed to control land sales and any revenue. They were also in charge of regulating the flow of emigrants. From the initial nine ships that had sailed in 1836, immigration grew steadily and during 1840 nearly 3000 people reached South Australian shores. Desirable applicants were expected to be fit and preferably married with family to populate the state.

Andrew O'Leary from County Cork, Ireland fitted this bill and sought assisted passage for himself to be accompanied by wife and four children.  The  ship Mary Dugdale departed Dublin on June 2nd 1840 for a journey to Port Adelaide which lasted for four months.

Aboard with Andrew were his wife Catherine (born Burke 1818) and the children, the baby Honora was only a few months old. While the application shows that passage was sought for 4 children, the census record taken in 1841 only lists 2 boys under fourteen and one daughter under 7 as part of the household.
Is it possible that their other child died aboard the Mary Dugdale as there were 8 deaths on that voyage all of whom were recorded as children?

Life in South Australia

In 1845 Andrew is listed as being a petitioner on The Memorial by the Colonists of South Australia against the introduction of convicts. Andrew had purchased land at Salisbury and along with other colonists was making a hard earned living "to found for themselves and their children a virtuous happy and permanent home"  the moral tone of which they felt would be undermined by the introduction of felons. (1.)

In  July 1846 we find Andrew in the magistrates court seeking £3 wages owing to him from 1843 at the rate of 6 shillings per day. The defendant is ordered to pay £2 8s at 10s per week. (2.)
This money would now have been essential for survival as by then at least another three children, including David Joseph (1843) had been born. We can garner more of those early days from David's recollections on his 90th birthday in 1933.

Here we see that Andrew and Catherine arrived with three children perhaps adding weight to the theory that a child died aboard the ship in 1840.

By 1849 Andrew had 26 head of cattle on the property purchased at Salisbury.
As years passed the newspapers of the day mention some of the sons being involved in ploughing matches in districts nearby. Here are the rules for a typical ploughing match; a tough day's work indeed.

" Each competitor to plough half an acre in one ridge and two half ridges, with an equal number of furrows on each side of the ridge,  independent of the mould furrow.
The depth to be five inches, and not more than nine inches wide. Time allowed six hours." (3.)

These competitive days drew large crowds sometimes up to 600 people. They were popular with the ladies too. After the hard work of supplying the food, these days were also a social gathering.

Perhaps it was here at one of these ploughing matches that my great grandfather John Horgan met and wooed Andrew and Catherine's daughter, Honora O'Leary.

Andrew (great-great-grandfather) died on June 6th, 1882 at Salisbury at the age of 88 he had been in the colony for 42 years. His wife Catherine (great-great grandmother) had predeceased him in September of 1871 at the age of 53.

1. 1845 'MEMORIAL BY THE COLONISTS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA AGAINST THE INTRODUCTION OF CONVICTS.', South Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1844 - 1851), 14 February, p. 2, viewed 4 December, 2014, 
2. 1846 'RESIDENT MAGISTRATE'S COURT.', Adelaide Observer(SA : 1843 - 1904), 1 August, p. 7, viewed 4 December, 2014,
3. 1860 'VII—AGRICULTURAL PROCEEDINGS.', The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889), 25 August, p. 4, viewed 4 December, 2014,
Further newspaper articles relating to this O'Leary family

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A significant date

My mother's birthday

Hannah O'Dea (est. mid 1930s)
On April 17th, 1912 my mother Hannah Olive O'Dea was born in Pinnaroo, South Australia to Patrick John O'Dea and Georgina Ellen O'Dea (born Bennett).

Today is the first anniversary of her birthday since her death at the age of 101 on June 27th, 2013. I am sure my six siblings, some of their children and maybe some of the cousins will be remembering her fondly today by whatever name they called her - Mum, Nana, Nana Hannah, Aunty Nan.

She married Edward John Horgan in 1937 and her focus in life was always her family and her faith. She left behind 7 children and their spouses, 27 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren.

Birthdays were always an opportunity to gather all the family together, catch up on news and events in children's lives and of course celebrate with a cake big enough to share.
Mum was incredibly good at remembering all the birthdays and always made sure she had a suitable card to send. Many shopping expeditions included the purchase of birthday cards for others. From her box of cards she could retrieve an appropriate greeting for most people and most occasions and with her small birthday book always nearby, she recorded births as well as deaths.

She saved the cards received and over the years they kept many a child entertained as we cut and re-purposed them into tags, decorative boxes or simply used them to decorate pages of school or craft work. Discarded envelopes and the backs of cards were used for shopping lists with stamps being saved "for the Missions."

There will be no cards today, but we have many fond memories of birthdays past. Happy Birthday, Mum.

Cutting the cake at 70 in 1982
Cutting the cake at 80 in 1992

2004 with great grandson - 7th generation Horgan in South Australia
Hannah Horgan (seated)
2012 Celebrating 100 years with friends Marie N, Vera H, Avis P. and Carmel Mc.
Riverton Hospital, South Australia

Monday, 24 March 2014

Exploring the Horgan data

Time for some reflections on my research. I've been looking at the data gathered so far and adding citations where previously missed. In order to look at missing fields and determine where I need further data I've been analysing one family at a time.
Here's some facts for those of you with the Horgan surname.
There are 97 people in my database who were born Horgan.
  • earliest confirmed birth -  1828 Ballymacdonnell, Ireland
  • most recent birth  - 2004 South Australia
  • males - 47
  • females - 50
  • most common male names - Thomas x 9, John x 9
  • most common female names - Mary x 8, Catherine x 5
  • marriages - 46 known marriages 22/47 males, 24/50 females
  • religious orders - 2 males and 5 females joined religious orders
  • birth places - Ireland 5, South Australia 89, Victoria 3
  • living people - 32
  • deceased - 65 most recent 2011
So now it's time to head back to the research to fill some holes in the data.