Places can be portals to the past. From cemeteries and churches, gaols and asylums, to cottages and grand houses, discover where history has come alive for our readers in the latest edition of readers’ stories. Enjoy!
My visit to Goulburn’s Mortis Street Cemetery with my Mum, brought a connection to my German ancestry more than I’ve ever felt before. For there laid my 3rd Great Gandma Juliana Miller aka Müller nee Schwaiger born so long ago in 1807 in Hagenbach and who died in 1887 Tarlo near Goulburn.
The feeling I felt was one of instant love and mighty respect for the woman lying there, who arrived in Australia with her husband and 6 children in 1855. Juliana sadly lost her two-year-old daughter at sea on the journey out and her husband within a few years of their arrival.
I ask how did Julia manage with so much change and loss? Could I have done what she did? Leaving her homeland and all familiar to her then endure atrocious conditions on board where so many died, including a child of her own. Then losing her companion so early after their arrival in Australia and leaving him buried somewhere in Queensland before moving to Goulburn, NSW (a considerably long journey in those days). I am in awe of her, I admire her and thank her coming to Australia and giving her all so her future generations could have what she could only dream of.
Waverley Cemetery — my great great grandfather John Young (builder of several important buildings around Sydney) and his wife are buried there. They are near Dorothea Mackellar and have prime position overlooking the ocean.
My own Pearce family cemetery at Bella Vista in Sydney’s north-west suburbs. It is partially situated on land granted to Matthew Pearce in 1795 and 5 generations of my ancestors are buried there.
St Luke’s Cemetery in Liverpool NSW where many of the Bulls are buried. They are my grandfather’s ancestors who came in 1800 and were given a land grant known as Bulls’ Hill which encompassed most of the land which is now Cabramatta.
West Terrace, South Australia is the resting ground of many of my newly found relatives. After 34 years of research into my father’s adoption, my history came to life when I was privileged to view the graves of my Irish grandmother, great grandmother and many aunts and uncles who immigrated to South Australia in the 1880s!
The first Methodist church in Castlereagh, NSW. While researching my ancestor John Lees, who built the first Methodist Church in Australia, I decided to see if the church still exists. Sadly, it doesn’t but John Lees built a second church on his land at Castlereagh. I have visited the church, the church hall and cemetery. The cemetery contains the graves of John Lees, his wife Mary Lees and many family members. What a great find!
Ebenezer Church and Cemetery in the Hawkesbury, NSW, where 5 generations of my ancestors are buried and Andrew Johnston my 4th great grandfather designed the Church and George Hall my 4th great grandfather used his bullocks to move the sandstone from the quarry to build the church.
The Penitentiary Chapel site (old Gaol) in Hobart. Having an ancestor who was held there made it all so real. It made me realise how hard his life was. Loved it!
The Coal Mines site, Tasman Peninsula. A place where the worst of the prisoners from Port Arthur were sent as punishment.
Visiting Beechworth a few years ago and wandering around the original gaol and the grounds of the former May Day Hills Lunatic Asylum.
I was visiting small towns in Victoria where my great grandparents had lived and worked. In one place I was lucky enough to find that the president of the local history society lived in a house built by my great- grandfather. She happily gave me a tour of the cottage, which was lovingly kept in original condition. It was a very moving experience that connected me to my ancestors in many ways.
I’ve just returned from a short visit to Tasmania. It was a working holiday of sorts. An interest in family history took me to Launceston and Evandale. The latter was of particular interest. I was able to walk in the steps of my ancestors, Kennedy Murray snr and Kennedy Murray jnr, John Glover, Thomas McQueen and Sarah Murray. I saw the graves of most, and the glorious home of the Murrays, Prosperous House. Evandale retains much of its 18th-century look and charm. I browsed the same shop buildings and hotels as my forebears, and strolled down lanes and pathways as they must have. Evandale is not a big a town in Tasmania but it is a big town in my ancestry. Another visit next year is not out of the question.
Lanyon Homestead in Canberra. I have a connection to that as the property my great great uncle (who sponsored my great grandmother Mary Gallagher) came to work at from a similar groom/groundsman role in Levington Park in Mullingar, Ireland.
Thanks to all readers who shared these wonderful stories! Head over to our Facebook page and look out for our weekly book giveaways every Friday for your chance to share your own family’s story — and maybe even score a great history book in the process.