In recent years I have been researching my family history and enjoying finding out about my ancestors and the times they lived in. I have also been in touch with other people researching my family tree.

A few months  ago I found a photograph of my Mother and her twin brother as babies on another branch of my tree. I emailed the owner and said I thought we might be related. I was expecting him to reply and tell me about all the ancestors we had in common. His response was even more exciting.  Not only did we have ancestors in common he also had a huge family still living to whom I was related.

It so happened that there was to be a family reunion the next week-end and I was invited, it was also the day of my birthday. At the reunion I met a host of cousins, and people who knew my mother and her family.

Now I have another family, a living branch, all of whom have accepted me as another member of the family. It was so lovely meeting people who talked about my mum and other family members from the past that I have known and loved.

Oh and they had made me a birthday cake, sang happy birthday and presented me with a bunch of flowers. It was a lovely day, knowing other people share some of the same memories as I have.

#family, #genealogy #family research #journalling #western australia


When  I began this Journal I simply  picked up my pen and began typing.  As I have gone along I realize the benefit of planning.  Not that I’m intending on writing a best seller, but perhaps one day I can have my family history made up in a manuscript to pass on to younger members of the family.

There are several ways of writing up our family history.  It can be done under chapter headings, which can be organised chronologically, by setting or by subject, or by themes.  I began writing by subject, that is, an ancestor.


I think it is important to think and write about the times the person lived in, for example, housing, education, (My Great Grandfather when signing his marriage certificate at 19 years of age appears to have used an X as his mark).  Other themes are modes of transport, (my great grandfather came here from UK and began a phaeton and carriage business.  When his children took over the business they began making engines for the Bus Company in Western Australia.  I remember as a child sitting on the buses and reading the signs, ‘built by Bolton’s Bodybuilders)

There are many sources on the Internet which provide insights into past times and culture

Other themes surrounding the times my ancestors were alive include food, (I have yet to search for recipes in the 1800’s, but I shall do).  Old remedies and medicines, (what did our forbears use to prevent or cure illness).  We know that throughout the centuries fashion and clothing has changed immensely.  This can be added into the story of your ancestors and their lives.

There are a variety of different trades that my ancestors held.  Now I need to trace them.


Emma Furlong

Emma Furlong was born in 1837 in Ireland, a daughter of a judge who presided over the Four Courts of Ireland.
She met Richard Donohue when she was eighteen years old. He instantly fell in love with this lovely young woman, with her dark green eyes and long wavy auburn hair.
Emma who had lived a sheltered and protected life had never met anyone as interesting as Richard with his engaging smile, brown twinkling eyes and quick wit.
The fact that he was a poor Irishman, a Private in the British Army and subsisting on a shilling a day concerned her not at all.
When Richard proposed to her she knew that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this earnest and passionate young man.
Unfortunately her father didn’t agree with her choice of husband and Emma and Richard were forced to run away and elope, thus causing her family to disown her.
A few months later Richard’s regiment was posted to India. Emma then had to learn to live in a foreign country far different to her beloved Ireland. Just as she was beginning to cope with all the changes in her young life, Emma became pregnant snd within two years she had another daughter.  Her second child Minnie was just three months old when the country erupted in war.  Minnie and her  sister Margaret were taken by their Ayah and hidden until it was safe to bring them  home again.
A devastated Emma,  new bride and mother was now living in a country at war, far from home and disowned by the family she would never see again. Not knowing if she and her husband and children including the baby she was unable to hold in her arms would even survive.
Finally the war was over and Richard was posted to England where he and Emma lived with their growing family.

Emma was a brave and courageous woman who chose to leave her privileged life in Ireland and follow her husband to far away countries.
She was my great, great, grandmother and little did she know that her descendants would one day populate many parts of the world. Since she and her husband formed the gene pool that produced me I would like to think I have some of their sense of adventure and courage.   Her daughter Minnie certainly did, as she also left her home and travelled far away, entering a marriage with a man she hardly knew.  Yet her strength and stamina has helped make her descendants become what they are today.

James Ball was 12 years old when he made the decision to escape his hard working class life and run away to sea.  For a moment he stopped and heard Bow Bells ring out for the last time and then headed to the harbour where his ship was waiting.  James had been hired as a cabin boy.  His ship sailed many miles until it reach South America.  One evening sitting in a bar in Brazil with another sailor the two met up with some Brazilians.  They were very friendly and plyed James and his mate with alcohol.  Many hours later James realized why they had been so friendly.  He and his friend had been press ganged and while drunk were forced on to a  Navy ship.  They were now in the Brazilian Navy.

After sailing for 12 months the Navy Ship was shipwrecked and the sailors aboard had to abandon their vessel.  James escaped and was able to find another ship which took him on board. 

He worked his way up and  finally  became a Captain and was able to sail his own ship.  After another shipwreck James sailed to New Zealand.  Here he experienced his third and final shipwreck on a passage from Auckland to Wellington.

Weather conditions had been favourable the evening they sailed but shortly afterwards the sailors felt a violent shock which was immeadiately followed by the alarm.

‘All hands on deck, the ship is sinking!’

Fortunately there was no loss of life and the ship was beached close to shore. As soon as his ship was repaired, Captain James Ball sailed for Adelaide, South Australia.  After he had docked in Adelaide, James purchased a coal barge which took coal out to ships anchored outside the harbour. His sailing life began when he was still in his formative years but the sea became his life, perhaps even his one true love for the rest of his days.

He was twenty eight when he met my Great Grandmother Minnie Donohue, he fell in love with her at first sight.  The first thing he noticed were her smiling green eyes and long curly auburn hair, her Irish heritage.  After only a 3 week courtship they were married.

Recently I wrote about my Great Grandmother Minnie Donohue who was born in India and hidden by her Ayah during the Civil War.  When Minnie was 12 years old she left India for England where she lived with her family until she was aged 21.

After an unhappy engagement which was finally terminated she immigrated to Australia.  Minnie travelled alone on a ship called The Rodney.  The trip took three months from London until it docked in  Port Adelaide, South Australia.  While working as a housemaid in Adelaide Minnie met her future husband, James Ball.  They were married 3 weeks after they met.

Minnie bore 13 children, 6 of whom died in childhood and one was drowned at sea.  The family then moved to Fremantle, Western Australia where her husband started his own business in shipping.

Minnie was a quiet dignified lady  living a hard life in a harsh land.  Her husband was also a hard man whose word was law and appears to have treated his  wife more as a chattel than a loving companion.

Minnie is remembered by her grandchildren as a warm loving woman.  Her red hair tied up in a bun until the day she died.  She always had a kind word and words of wisdom for her children and grandchildren.

 That she had courage can be seen by her coming alone to a new and young country, leaving behind her family of origin whom she would never see again.  She survived into her 90’s and by that time had started a family dynasty.


Now that I have begun my family history album  I want to have a written record that explains the story behind the photographs.  Journalling will provide these facts and also I hope to bring out some of the personalities of people in the photographs.  I have also been able to incorporate the handwriting of my great grandmother and grandmother, to add  beside their photographs.  I can use the computer for some of the text but I prefer to use my own handwriting as well.  This seems to give it a more personal touch and becomes more meaningful.

Some journalling tips are:  Who is in the picture?  What was the event?  When did it happen?  Always try to at least find an approximate date.   To date your pictures try to describe fashions, furniture, homes and schools from that era. Where did it happen?  Try to include as much detail as possible such as buildings, landmarks, or signs. 

Sometimes there may not be a photograph recording a certain event.  However, it can still be described through journalling or by using other memorabilia.  I think its important to journal as much as possible.  This might include difficult periods of an ancestor’s life.  My Aunt found out that one of her ancestors had been in gaol for killing her husband and has recorded this in her family history.  One hundred years ago life was hard and its important that we are able to emphasize the mixture of events and the emotions of the participants as they went about their day to day lives.

Preserving the Past

Several years ago I came home and found my mother  throwing away an old photograph album.  Her explanation was ‘its old and most of the people in it are dead now’.  I managed to salvage 23 photos and shudder to think of the lost family history information in those photograps.

To preserve the past and the few photos saved from a burning furnance I am starting to create a heritage photo album.  

Unfortunately I have only one  older relative who is able to give me limited insight into the photos.  So I have written down as much information about the people and places as I can.  The dates places and events will be useful when I’m compiling the journalling.

When sorting through my photos there were a few  that required restoration.  A photo conservator is the most professional and also the most expensive.  I have also used the Kodak Image Maker which is available in most chain stores.

Fortunately, I have a friend who has restored most of my photos on her home computer, using a scanner and  photography software.  This means that my heritage photos now have a prolonged life for future generations.