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52 Ancestors in 2018


This year I am going to take part in a fun genealogy meme called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, promoted by Amy Johnson Crow. The idea is to get everyone getting the stories about our ancestors out there, and involves writing a blog, Facebook post, tweet, email – whatever gets the information out to our relatives.

I’m going to be putting my weekly ancestor on Twitter, as I figured that I should be able to manage 140 characters. Amy has weekly themes which my posts might or might not match. Generally, over the next year I’ll be posting about 16 of my 2x great grandparents, 16 of my husband’s 2x great grandparents, and the same for each of our 8 great granparents. The remaining 4 posts will be made up of our grandparent couples (grandfather and grandmother together).


John Willis (1869-1926)


John Willis was born in Bowden, a suburb of Adelaide, in 1869. I have written previously about applying for John’s birth certificate.

John married Emmeline Dulcinea Ann Grenfell in Broken Hill, New South Wales.

This was about the time of the Western Australian gold discoveries at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. Sometime after the birth of my grandmother Olive Ann Willis in 1896, the family moved across to the other side of Australia.

John worked as a fitter at the Ivanhoe Gold Mine in Boulder, Western Australia. Sadly, he was killed by an earth fall in that mine in 1926. (https://www.wavmm.com/listing/willis/)

John Willis in his garden at 91 Hopkins Street Boulder

John Willis in his garden at 91 Hopkins Street, Boulder

91 Hopkins Street - home of John Willis

91 Hopkins Street – home of John Willis

Ellen Urry (abt 1854-1944)


I’m sure I have the 1871 location of Ellen Urry correct, but I can’t explain why she is so far from her home in Stow, Lincolnshire. She is listed as a servant in the household of Jane Simpson and her husband, Stephen, a gold thread manufacturer in Preston, Lancashire. Then 10 years later she is in Titley, Herefordshire with her husband, William Farr, and their young family.

Ellen Urry census locations

Ellen Urry census locations – annotated map from www.google.com.au/maps

When you consider where she was after another 10 years, that first move to Preston wasn’t so far after all. By 1891, the Farr family were living in Queensland, Australia.

Isabella Purcell (1875-1936)


Isabella had a lot of things in common with her husband, James Bennett. They each had an Irish father. Their fathers died when James and Isabella were less than six years old, and their mothers later remarried. This meant that the two of them grew up in families with half-siblings. And sadly, they both experienced the death of siblings at a young age.

James was a miner, and he and Isabella lived in the mining town of Sebastopol, Victoria.

Isabella and James themselves had the heartache of having to bury two of their children. Their first-born, Charles, died after his clothes caught fire.

Death of Charles Bennett 1895

Death of Charles Bennett 1895

Eighteen months later, in 1896, their second child was killed when he was kicked by a horse.

Death of Ernest Bennett 1896

Death of Ernest Bennett 1896

Within a few years James and Isabella left Victoria with their third son, Walter. The deep gold reefs of Boulder, Western Australia, had been discovered.

William Farr (1844-1907)


William Farr worked as a Great Northern Railway signalman, initially in his home county of Hertfordshire and later in Titley, Herefordshire. In 1882 he emigrated to Australia with his wife, Ellen, and their four young sons. They disembarked from the Almora in Townsville, Queensland on 15 January, 1883.

SS Almora

SS Almora

Farr - shipping list Almora 1882-83 page 21

Farr – shipping list Almora 1882-83 page 21

William and Ellen lived in the Ingham area north of Townsville for many years. They had a store at Gairloch. Later, they moved to Townsville where William died in 1907.

Burial place of William Farr 1907 - Belgian Gardens Cemetery Townsville

Burial place of William Farr 1907 – Belgian Gardens Cemetery Townsville

Closeup of headstone for William Farr 1907

Closeup of headstone for William Farr 1907

James Bennett (1872-1914)


James Bennett is the first of the great grandparents that I’ll be writing about this year. He is the son of Francis Bennett and Ann Pattinson.

James was born in Sebastopol, a working class town south of Ballarat, Victoria. Most of the men in the district were miners, working at the many, rich gold mines in the area. The population was six and a half thousand when James was born.

By the time my grandfather was born in 1896, mining in Sebastopol was declining rapidly. The little family (James, his wife, Isabella, and their son, Walter Henry) went to Western Australia to try their luck at the new goldfields around Kalgoorlie, 1700 miles away.

James died there in 1914 and is buried in the Boulder Cemetery. My brother visited the grave recently.

Gravesite of James Bennett, Boulder Cemetery, Western AustraliaGravesite of James Bennett, Boulder Cemetery, Western Australia

Hannah Shannon


Hannah Shannon is the last of the 2x great (great, great) grandparents I’ll be writing about this year. After this, comes all the great grandparents.

Hannah has been the trickiest one to write about as I have the least amount of information for her. She was the mother of James Watters. In my research on Hannah’s husband, Samuel Watters, I came up with the possibility that they came from the Carnteel parish.

My notes for the Watters family mention the ‘Stewart settlers’ (from family lore) who left County Tyrone in Ireland for New Zealand in the 19th century. The area in Tyrone they came from is in the same region as the Watters that I found in Carnteel Parish. I can see that more research is needed.


Carisbrooke Castle - Papers Past 1875.

Carisbrooke Castle – Papers Past 1875

Mary Simmes (1838-1913)


Mary Simmes must have been one tough lady. She married Henry Russell Jones in Mackay, Queensland in 1866. Mary was about 23 years old, from Ireland. Over the next twenty or so years, she followed her husband to some of the most desolate places in Queensland, giving birth to four children along the way (and burying one).

With her husband, Mary ran Jones’ Public House (later to be called the Telegraph Hotel) and butchers shop near their property, Boralga. This was on the dray road from Cooktown to the Palmer River goldfields, near Laura on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.

Boralga area showing Jones Public House and Boralga Police Camp

Boralga area showing Jones Public House and Boralga Police Camp

Mary moved to Cairns some time after her husband’s death on Koolburra Station. She first appears in records there in 1895 when the liquor licence for the Club House Hotel in Cairns was transferred to her son-in-law, James Watters.

Mary Jones nee Simmes Funeral Notice 1913

Mary Jones nee Simmes Funeral Notice 1913