Monday, June 13, 2016

Genealogical Collaboration from Down Under

When you hang out online with social media you can learn about new genealogy resources every day. I’ve been doing genealogy research since the 1970s, but from my friends online I learn every day about new books, places to visit, websites and more.   I belong to many genealogy groups on Facebook that cover New England and the entire globe.

One morning I read that Australian genealogy blogger, Caitlin Gow, was successful at newspaper research on an Australian website called Trove. Being from the US I was not familiar with Trove. But, I was intrigued because I have one member of my family tree who lived for a long time in Australia in the 1800s.  Was he mentioned in a newspaper in Australia? Caitlin gave me the link and I tried it out.  And I was successful, too!  I found several newspaper mentions of my great great Uncle Edward Manning Bill, who was a school teacher in Diamond Creek, Victoria. 

 One of the first newspaper notices I found was Uncle Edward’s marriage to a woman named Charlotte Grace on 6 June 1857 in the Wesleyan Methodist Parsonage in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.  Caitlin found a copy of the wedding certificate online at the Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages Index at this link:  

Butcher, age 25, Ballarat, Ingram Bill, clergyman
                                                 Isabella Lyons
"             age 25, Ballarat,  Joseph Grace, Butcher
                                                Mary Jeffrey
Edward Manning Bill          In the presence of              Charles Lane
Charlotte Grace                                                              Fanny Bickford

                                        James Bickford (officiating Minister)

I shared with Caitlin a photo of Edward and Grace standing in front of the schoolhouse in Diamond Creek in about 1870.  We wondered if the school house was still standing, and Caitlin said “Now I wish I lived in Victoria and could go look!”.  I used Google and found that there was still a Diamond Creek Primary School, and their website said “Diamond Creek Primary School is situated in the heart of Diamond Creek. The school has occupied the site since 1870 and boasts a rich history of education within the area. The school’s original building has been refurbished as a Library and Music Centre, making it a metaphoric embodiment of the school’s motto, ‘where tradition meets the future’."

That's Uncle Edward Bill holding the parrot, and probably his wife next to him.

I decided to email the school and I sent a copy of the photo. Overnight I received a prompt message from the school that surprised me. 

I have attached a piece that mentions E M Bill and some details about the first years of our school.  This information was in a book produced for our 125th year in 1995.  We are approaching 150 years soon!!
The building you talk about is still in use today, has been renovated, restumped and reroofed over time.  Last year we installed new carpet and it has a bright coat of paint internally.   The exterior needs painting as it is some 20 years since the last one but unfortunately money doesn't grow on trees!  It has only been our persistence that sees the building still standing as it was in quite a bad state a few years ago and the Education department would quite happily have knocked it down.
Currently the building houses our grade 1 and 2 students and is a beautiful space for them to work in.
We have 213 children here and it is a fabulous place to work.  I have worked here for 20 years and my own children attended here, with my two eldest having started their school time in this very building.
Hope this is helpful,
Jennie Mitchell
Business Manager

The attachment was from a history book of the school, and on pages 2 it mentions “In 1869, the head teacher Mr. Bill reported that there were 73 [pupils] on the roll of who 28 were Primitive Methodist and the total fees for the six months were £22.10.6 of which the Primitive Methodists paid £14.16.0…”   Further on page 2 it also mentions “On the 1st July 1870 the Nullumbik School No. 1003 was opened as a Common School with Mr. Edward M. Bill (previously at No. 752) as head teacher.  His wife was appointed Work Mistress in February 1871… Mr. Bill received a salary of £37.10.0 plus a bonus of £50.11.2 for his results making his total wage for the six months £88.1.2.   Mrs. Bill received £15 for the same period.” 

It was wonderful that Caitlin was so very helpful to me.  After receiving the wonderful email from the school and sharing it with Caitlin, I realized that this was second time someone from Australia had assisted me in researching Great great Uncle Edward M. Bill.  The first time was when a woman in Australia had contacted me about him, because she was a relative of their adopted child.  This Australian assisted me with much information about Uncle Edward’s wife and child, and it was she who had sent me the photo of the school. 

Those Australian genealogists are wonderful!  Every single one I have met in person or online has been helpful, gracious and generous helping me to research Uncle Edward.  He went from being a mystery to a person with a very interesting life story.  As I told, Caitlin, I wish I had more Australian relatives!

Thank you Caitlin, and thank you Helen Swaine, who contacted me back in 2008 with the photo of the Diamond Creek School.

More about “Great great Uncle Edward”:

Edward Manning Bill, the son of the Reverend Ingraham Ebenezer Bill and his wife, Isabella Lyons, was born 27 March 1831 in Nictaux, Nova Scotia, Canada, and died 18 December 1904.  He married Charlotte Grace, the daughter of Joseph Grace and Mary Jeffrey, on 6 June 1857 at the Wesleyan Methodist parsonage in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.  They had no children, but “adopted” Harriet Young Cox, the daughter of Matthew Dillon Thomas Cox and Mary Katharine Bathhurst. 

Harriet, known as “Etta”, was born 27 October 1878 in Australia, and died 23 September 1947 in Santa Cruz, California.  Etta was a successful singer in Australia, England and the United States.  She married Charles Anson, a real estate agent, and had one son, Carl Ansell Anson on 28 October 1909 in Seattle, Washington.  Carl married Margaret Lillian Spink of England.

My previous blog post about Great Great Uncle Edward Manning Bill in Australia, with the photo of the Diamond Creek School:

Diamond Creek Primary School website – 

Caitlin Gow’s blog “Genealogically Speaking” from Brisbane, Australia


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Genealogical Collaboration from Down Under", Nutfield Genealogy, posted June 13, 2016, ( accessed [access date]). 

1 comment:

  1. Heather, this is fantastic! Caitlin is a genealogy angel, IMHO. Congrats on learning more about Uncle Edward and sharing that with the kind folks Down Under.