Australia Day Challenge – A Conditional Purchase Application

Shelley at Twigs of Yore has set herself a task for Australia Day, and a challenge for the rest of us:

Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don’t have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia.

On Wednesday 26 January 2011 post your answers to these questions:

  1. What is the document?
  2. Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?
  3. Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

What document to choose? Which ancestor? The first one in Australia, or the first one born in Australia?

I’ve decided to go with one of my first arrivals into the colony of New South Wales but ignore the very first documents, which are the assisted immigrant passenger lists. These lists are easy to find – you search the online index at the State Records NSW website, and then you look up the microfilm. There are two lists, and if you are lucky your ancestor will appear in both. I posted a story a few years ago about how I found my Richard Eason’s mother’s mother from the ‘relative in the colony’ Richard gave when he immigrated, so I won’t repeat that here.

Instead I’d like to focus on what Richard did when he got here. He eventually became a farmer, and the first document I have for him that he actually signed is his application for a Conditional Purchase.

Conditional Purchases were introduced in 1862 as a way of getting small landholders on the land. They paid an initial deposit of %10 of the value of the land, and had to pay it off. The conditions were that they had to reside on the property, and they had to improve it – build a house, fences, etc. They could select land before it was surveyed, so by the time the surveyor came around there was often some improvements already built, which the surveyor often marked on the plan.

The land is 40 acres in the Parish of Graham, County of Bathurst, which is just north of the town of Blayney.

Conditional Purchase application form

State Records NSW: NSW Lands Department, Conditional Sales Branch, Correspondence files 1877-1951, NRS8103. Letter no. 71/5977.

I am inclined to think that Richard filled out this form himself, product of the Irish Education system as he was. He said he could read and write when he arrived in the colony in 1850, as did most of the people on the Oriental with him. The handwriting looks similar throughout, except for the signatures of others.

The form was also signed by Robert Ewin. Robert was Richard’s brother-in-law, Richard having married Esther Ewin in 1862. Robert also had land in this area, and Richard bought some of it from him later on.

When the survey was done the land was found to be slightly larger than the 40 acres, and Richard agreed to pay the extra.

Richard built a house on this land and raised his family in it, even though his wife died not long afterwards. His son John raised his own family there. John’s son Richard, my grandfather, sold the land and took the materials for his own building.

The process of finding this document was made easier by the fact that the Conditional Purchase number and Richard’s name was recorded on an old parish map:

Graham Parish map 1884 detail

NSW Lands Department, Historical Parish Maps. Bathurst County, Graham Parish, 1884. Detail showing Portion 199.

Once I had the Conditional Purchase number, CP71.252, I could go to State Records NSW at Kingswood and ask to see the Conditional Purchase Register for that year. From there I could trace the correspondence through the Correspondence Registers to find the documents. It sounds easy but it is quite time consuming, and easy to make mistakes.

On the map you can see many other names of the people that Richard must have known. Robert and William Ewin were his brothers-in-law. A sister-in-law married a Thornberry. All of them came from the same couple of parishes in County Tyrone in northern Ireland.

A couple of years ago I visited this land and saw the remains of the house. I have written about this previously. I met the current owner of the property, who gave me a photo of Richard’s son John Eason, my great-grandfather, that I had never seen before.


Remains of the house at 'Fernside' near Blayney

I’ve traced many conditional purchases since then, but none have been as exciting as this first one!

Further information:
State Records NSW Archives in Brief No 93 – Background to conditional purchase of Crown land

DNA testing continued

DNA graphicI had decided to take advantage of a special deal with 23andMe and get my DNA tested. I am hoping to learn a bit about my deep ancestry from my mitochondrial DNA in this test, as well as some genetic health risks and susceptibilities.

I tried to order the kit a few days before. I eventually realised that my first order with 23andMe didn’t go through, so I ordered again. I received confirmation that it has been sent, which I hadn’t had before, so obviously I had done something wrong, or not done something, before. So far so good!

Timeline so far:

9 Dec 2010 – I ordered a kit from 23andMe

10 Dec 2010 – Kit was shipped from 23andMe

13 Dec 2010 – Kit arrived at my front door

15 Dec 2010 – I spat my sample into the test tube

16 Dec 2010 – Sample collected by courier

21 Dec 2010 – Sample arrived at the 23andMe lab, and I was reminded to register my kit on the website

The process takes 6-8 weeks, so there will be no new updates for a while.

In the meantime, I had ordered some books from Amazon. That order did go through, and all 5 of them have arrived – 3 all at once and the other 2  individually. I’ve read the first 3, the last one being Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner’s Trace Your Roots with DNA, (2001). Even though the book is nearly 10 years old it gives an excellent introduction to the basics of DNA testing. They discuss the coming developments pretty accurately – more markers, more usefulness for mtDNA, more popularity and so better chances of matching with someone else’s test results.

All this reading has inspired me to more testing! I’ve ordered a test for my maternal uncle, and one for my unsuspecting father or brother.

I’ve also changed companies. I will be using Family Tree DNA for these and probably all subsequent tests. It’s not that I think that they are a better company, or do better tests; it’s more that they do different tests.

Family Tree DNA are more concerned with pure genealogy, whereas 23andMe are more concerned with the health aspects of DNA. It will be interesting to compare the two. Family Tree DNA has, as far as I can tell, the largest number of  projects.

A project is what you join if you want to find matches with other people who may be relatives. The pricing is less expensive if you join a project. Most of the projects are for surnames. My husband, for example, is part of the Bassett project, so he can see how closely he is related to other Bassetts around the world, and where their most recent common ancestor came from. There is little point in getting your DNA tested unless you want to compare it with others’.

Other projects are for geographic areas. My uncle is one of the last of a line of Easons, the first of whom came to Australia from County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland, so he will be part of the Ulster Project. The story we were told was that Eason was originally a French Huguenot name with a d’ on the front of it. I have not found any evidence of this as yet, but then my trail runs cold in 1813 with the marriage of Sarah Irwin of Clogher, Tyrone, to Richard Eason of Armagh.

Family Tree DNA do not use couriers unless requested, so this story will unfold a little more slowly.

Image courtesy of Chris Harvey at Dreamstime.

My own mini-scanfests

When you come back home after a productive research trip to an archive or library do you often end up with a stack of photocopies?

Yes, me too.

I use my digital camera whenever I can but sometimes it just isn’t possible to take photos. Sometimes the repository doesn’t allow it, and other times the documents are folded up so well that it is just easier to get the experts to photocopy them. When I get home I tend to leave them for a while in the ‘filing’ pile, and the longer they stay there the harder it is to get around to dealing with them.

For me a major part of the post-research trip process is scanning the photocopies. A piece of paper is no good to me if it fades or gets tea spilled on it, or the laser toner sticks to something other than the paper, or it goes up in a bushfire.

To address the post-research filing issue I bought one of those multi-function printers. It prints in colour and black-and-while, it scans, it photocopies, and it faxes. It’s a marvel of modern technology. When I chose it I made sure of two things -

  1. it prints and scans both sides of the paper (duplex)
  2. it has a document feeder

The duplex requirement is fairly self-explanatory. The document feeder means I can put a stack of pages in the top, press some buttons to tell it to scan to my laptop, and away it goes. All I have to do is press the OK button on the laptop, and then I can get on with something else. If both sides of the page needs to be scanned I can select that option and the pages are scanned in the correct order.

Of course, at some stage I have to rename the files to something more meaningful than SCAN0001.jpg or whatever I’ve chosen as the default, but I can do that later, and sitting down.

My scanner is not much bigger than A4, so A3 photocopies are a problem. There are a couple of solutions – perhaps you have others?

  1. scan each half at a time, making two images that can then be joined together (or not!) in your photo software
  2. photocopy the A3 at a library or somewhere with a big photocopier, reducing it to A4, and then scan the A4 photocopy. Yes, some quality is lost, but it takes much less time and is more likely to result in a useable scan than option 1, which I rarely get around to doing.

Another important part of the process is to write the citation on the photocopy before scanning it, if I hadn’t already done it at the time of the photocopying. If I’ve requested copies at State Records NSW I pay for them before I leave and so this labelling must be done at home, preferably the same day while the file is still fresh in my mind.

Then there’s the analysing, data entry, filing into my family binders, and all of the other tasks that give meaning to whatever I’ve found, but that’s another story.

What do you do with your photocopies when you get them home?