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Mary Christmas

You may remember this time last year, we came across Santa Claus in the 1930 U.S. Census alongside his wife Mabel and 6 children.

This year, we have found Mary Christmas. A number of them in fact.

There is Mary Christmas, aged 39, on the NSW, Assisted Immigrant Passenger List, 1828-1896 with her husband Robert and 4 children including another Mary.

Then there is Mary Christmas, aged 59, from Hawthorn in Victoria who is listed in the Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903. Her occupation is shown as ‘home duties’ and she is living with Samuel Frederick Christmas, presumably her husband.

And it’s not just in Australia. Mary Christmas from Utah is shown on the 1940 U.S. Census. Kent born Mary Christmas can be found in the England and Wales, Birth Index in 1920 and Mary Christmas from Islington is included in the London Electoral Registers, 1832-1965.

Any seasonal names in your family tree? Let us know on our Facebook Wall.

Real James Bond Uncovered

Sidney Reilly, the secret agent widely believed to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s legendary character James Bond, has been uncovered in one of our collections.

The record (shown above) was found in the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 collection, which details the medal entitlement of more than 4.8 million WWI soldiers. It reveals that Reilly’s Military Cross was issued for service in the Royal Flying Corps.

Sidney Reilly, known as the ‘Ace of Spies’, was an agent for Scotland Yard’s Special Branch who in 1918 joined Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the first director of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), as an operative for MI1 (a predecessor to MI6). His friend Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart knew Ian Fleming for many years and told him of Reilly’s espionage exploits. Later Fleming allegedly mentioned to a colleague at The Sunday Times that he had created Bond after hearing about Reilly.

In typical secret-agent fashion, much of Reilly’s life is shrouded in mystery. It is alleged that he worked undercover and stole revolutionary aircraft engine parts and weapon plans from the Germans before the First World War even began.  He was then dispatched on counter-Bolshevik operations in Germany and Russia during the conflict itself.

Reilly’s medal was awarded for his “distinguished services rendered in connection with military operations in the field”, which are said to have included parachuting behind enemy lines and disguising himself as a German officer in order to obtain undercover information.

His record is one of thousands of medal cards online, revealing the medals awarded to each First World War soldier. In addition, more than 50,000 of these cards also list details of covert operations undertaken or letters from next of kin on their reverse side, meaning thousands of people today can track down find the spy in their own family.’s researchers have also found another interesting James Bond-related fact; Daniel Craig is actually the half 19th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, his on-screen partner in crime during the acclaimed opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Brad Argent, Content Director for Australia and New Zealand, comments: “James Bond himself would have been proud of this discovery – uncovering the ‘real’ James Bond among the millions of World War I records online.  The information contained on thousands of the medal cards available at Ancestry can help anyone find the ‘Bond’ in their own family tree.”

Captain N.R. Howse

On this day, 24 July 1900, Sir Neville Reginald Howse (pictured above) became the first soldier in Australian services to be awarded a Victoria Cross medal - Britain’s highest award for valour “in the face of the enemy”.

Born in Somerset, England, in 1863, Howse studied medicine in London before migrating to Australia. He served in the Second Boer War with the NSW Army Medical Corps. 

On 24 July 1900, under heavy cross-fire he went to rescue a fallen trumpeter. When his horse was shot beneath him, he continued on foot and on reaching the casualty, dressed his wound and carried him to safety.

Howse died in September 1930, aged 66.

You can have a look at the names, gravesites and other details for the recipients of the Victoria Cross in our UK, Victoria Cross Medals, 1857 - 2007 collection.

Happy Birthday Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on this day, 21 July in 1899 in Chicago, USA, to Clarence Edmond and Grace Hall Hemingway.

After high school, Hemingway left for the Italian front, enlisting with the World War 1 ambulance drivers. In 1918, he was seriously wounded and returned home. He is shown in the 1920 US Census above, with his occupation was listed as “none”.

Hemingway went on to marry 4 times, published 7 novels and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He died in July 1961, aged 61.

Love separated by 10,000 miles and The Great Depression

David Brown, along with his mother, brothers and sisters, decided to emigrate from Dundee in Scotland to Perth, Western Australia in 1929. They had been working in Dundee within the jute industry, but the industry was on the decline, and the Australian Government was encouraging migrants to settle in Australia by paying most of their fare.

David Brown was only 19 when he left Scotland, but he was already engaged to be married to Madge MacKenzie. Madge’s father had emigrated to Perth as well, and the plan was for Madge to follow her father and fiance the next year.

However, the Great Depression hit in 1929 and the assisted immigration scheme shut down. Madge was stranded in Dundee. Her family in Australia tried to save enough money to get her out, but the depression made this difficult. It took seven years for Madge to make it to Perth where she eventually married her fiance, David, in 1838. 

The story was not such a happy one for David’s older brother Thomas who had also emigrated to Perth. He also left behind a loved one. Tom had married Jane Ogilvie, who was 4 months pregnant, just before he left for Australia. Jane stayed in Dundee to look after her sick father and, although Tom kept trying to get her over to Australia, by the time they could manage it, too many years had passed and they divorced. Their daughter grew up in Dundee, and died in 2009, having never known her father.

Thanks to, David Brown’s grandson, David, has recently contacted Tom’s grand-daughter in Scotland, and David has been sharing family memories and photos of Tom.

Look who’s in the 1940 US Census

We have recently added the 1940 US Federal Census to with the states of New York, Washington DC, Delaware, Maine and Nevada currently searchable by name.

Here are just a handful of recognizable names we’ve discovered in Washington DC and New York. 

Washington DC

Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

President Franklin Roosevelt and wife Eleanor are in the White House, just where you’d expect them.

Marvin Gaye  

The census taker arrived at the Gay family residence on Marvin’s first birthday April 2, where Marvin was enumerated along with his father Marvin Sr., who was a preacher, his mother, Alberta, and one brother and one sister. 

J. Edgar Hoover 

Living alone at 413 Seward Square in Washington, D.C., Hoover, the FBI director, had been leading the bureau (formerly the Bureau of Investigation) since he was appointed director in 1924 by Calvin Coolidge, and he would continue in that role until his death in 1972.

New York

Katherine Hepburn  

“The Great Kate” was in New York acting in the stage version of The Philadelphia Story, which had closed its year-long run at the Shubert Theater just a few days before the census was taken. She wouldn’t be in New York for long though, as she needed to be back in Hollywood where the movie version of The Philadelphia Story began filming in July of that year. 

John D. Rockefeller Jr.

The philanthropist and iconic businessman had driven “The Last Rivet” in the final original building in Rockefeller Center the previous year and was basking in the success of his now-thriving “city within a city.” 

Billie [Elnora] Holiday 

Born Eleanora Harris, Billie lists her occupation as a singer in a night club, and is living with her mother, Sadie, and friend and fellow musician, Irene Wilson. 

The 1940 US Census is free to search on Let us know on Facebook if you make any discoveries!

Jane Tipping

My GGG grandmother, Jane Tipping appears to have been a poor but enterprising widow with five children to support. She lived in the area of Moy and Dungannon, County Tyrone and was convicted of “uttering base coin” on March 12 1839.

The local Church Minister organised Memorials for her which pleaded for clemency because of her children and her health. The final response to the Memorials revealed that the recorded conviction did not give the full story. It turned out that she had been previously convicted of imprisoned for manufacturing and circulating base money. The judgement stated that on this occasion she had “in her possession certain preparations for colouring and masking base coin to make them resemble shillings and half pennies”.  The judgement also suggested that she had used her children to circulate the coins. The verdict stated “The Law Must Take Its Course” but as clemency Jane was allowed to take her children with her to NSW on the convict ship “Isabella” in 1840.

There were 25 Irish children on the ship, many of whom were used as guinea pigs for an injection to stop sea sickness - unfortunately it had turned rancid and many of the children suffered badly, although Jane’s children were not listed as getting sick.

The Ship’s Surgeon described the journey as “long and tedious” but on arrival in Sydney he reported that the Governor passed flattering comments about the “Irish Gems” even though they had no petticoats (as none had been put on board). The children, however, arrived in “a ragged state” as no clothes had been put on board for them.

Jane was initially in the Female Factory before working for Mrs Jones and gaining her Ticket of Leave and then Certificate of Freedom, living in Castlereagh Street. She died in 1849 and was buried in Devonshire Street Cemetery before being reinterred in Gore Hill Cemetery in 1901 when Devonshire St was redeveloped for Central Station.

Her children settled in Sydney, the Victorian goldfields, Melbourne and possibly Queensland. Through Ancestry I have discovered descendants of three of the children: William George, Mary Jane and Emily (my GG grandmother), but have found none yet for Elizabeth or Thomas yet.

I look forward to hearing from other descendants of Jane.

The £10 Pom

My grandfather Cecil (shown in the photo above) made no secret that he was a “10 Pound Pom” and that he came here in the 1920’s. He only went back for a couple of visits in the late 70’s and early 80’s at the insistence of my grandmother. He never spoke about England, his childhood, his parents or anyone else for that matter. The only thing he ever said was”Oh yes, we are related to the Redgraves. The actors are part of our family”. The Redgraves were a famous family - we didn’t believe him!

Pop died in 1990 and the stories died with him, but after watching an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? I decided to start my journey into my roots.

Where do I start? I have traced my family back to 1774 and hope to still go further. My family were all Londoners. I managed to confirm Pops’ statement - I am indeed a Redgrave, Cornelius Redgrave was my 3x great grandfather! My family lived and worked at The Royal Theatre Drury Lane.

Pop never talked about his father (shown in the photo below) because he was a bit of a scoundrel. At 18 he married a 65 year old woman, was tried for manslaughter of a child, but found not guilty, as well as a couple of other indiscretions. I’m sure my Pop knew nothing of these as they were before he met Pops’ mother.

Pop had 9 brothers and sisters, before his father abandoned the family and had two children with another woman. I would love to know how much Pop knew or didn’t know. I have made contact with family in the UK, Canada and recently have written to new found family in the U.S.

I have found all of this through How people did this before computers is beyond me. I started this three years ago, my tree has grown to over 1000 people and still I find new mysteries and new connections every day. I am now a member of a genealogy website where we chat with people from all over the world and have written a book about my family history.

I am now also researching my wife’s tree as well as helping a cousin with his. I have been dubbed “The Family Archive”, and get all sorts of family heirlooms sent to me for safe keeping. I have a filing cabinet full of certificates and documents. I am well and truly hooked and don’t look like stopping soon.

Duane Broughton

Charles Dickens’ Will
Tomorrow, 7 February 2012, marks the 200th birthday of English novelist Charles Dickens. Generally considered as one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian period, Dickens died in June 1870.
Details of his Will can be found in the England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861 – 1941. You can see from the record above that Charles Dickens left effects under £80,000 – a substantial amount of money in 1870 and a lot compared to the listing above - one Issac Dicken who left effects under £200!

Charles Dickens’ Will

Tomorrow, 7 February 2012, marks the 200th birthday of English novelist Charles Dickens. Generally considered as one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian period, Dickens died in June 1870.

Details of his Will can be found in the England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861 – 1941. You can see from the record above that Charles Dickens left effects under £80,000 – a substantial amount of money in 1870 and a lot compared to the listing above - one Issac Dicken who left effects under £200!