Unlock the Past at Parramatta Pt 2 – Chris Paton on Researching Irish and Scottish Ancestors – February 13 2014

I’d enjoyed the chance to meet the faces behind the names of some of my fellow Australian Geneabloggers at Unlock the Past Parramatta February 13 2014, and was lucky enough to win one of the Lucky Door Prizes too. My Hicks Family blog is one of the Almost 3000 Genealogy Blogs on Geneabloggers.

Well, if I thought that I was familiar with much of the content of Thomas MacEntee’s presentations, it was quite a different story with Chris Paton’s.



Above : Geneabloggers at Unlock the Past Parramatta RSL – source Helen V Smith (@HVSresearch)

I had long thought that there were only a few Scots, McKenzie’s  from the Isle of Skye, one American, and no Irish immigrants in my family trees.  I’d actually visited Skye in August 1987 and found it rather bleak.

However, since commencing his genealogy research in 1997, my husband had uncovered that in fact I was descended from about  6 Scots and 2 Irish (including 1 convict) immigrants, to Australia.Still I tended to push the Scots Irish ancestry into a Researchers’ Black Hole…  I’d get around to looking at them one day …

And when the mystery of some of Dad’s relatives was solved, I found that it was ratcheting up to about 8 Scottish and 7 Irish (including 2 Irish convicts)  immigrants from 1788-1860. The rest were English, convicts and assisted immigrants mostly, with one American. And on my husband’s own side,  there was at least another 4 Irish (including 1 convict) immigrants, plus an American of Irish descent who was resident in South Africa – again the rest were mostly English.

Far more Scottish and Irish in there than I had realised. So attending Chris Paton’s presentations was a “no-brainer” really, although I was lucky that a relative, John McCosker, had already done a sterling job on some of our Irish – Scottish ancestors at the McCosker Family (Australia) on Tribal Pages.

so here are my notes ….

Chris Paton – Morning Session : Irish Records Online   

The promo ?

Despite the loss of Irish records, many still exist. And for those unable to make their way to Ireland to carry out research, the internet is finally coming to the rescue, as more and more material is coming online. ”

Well it did seem complicated as Chris picked his way through .. including a few complications arising from the creation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK in 1922. Then there was a difference in registration practices between Catholics and Protestants – Civil registration for non Catholics was done from 1845, but not until 1864 for Catholics.  Apparently a lot of Irish Records for the Irish census of 1901 and 1911 were lost in a fire. My Irish immigrants were mostly Catholic, and had arrived from about 1819 to 1860. The work done by John McCosker at the McCosker Family (Australia) on Tribal Pages was looking even more impressive.


And further, many Irish records may be in Gaelic, although we already knew that as we’d recently visited one of my husband’s cousins who’d married in Ireland etc etc. And she’d been most irate that her 1970’s Irish marriage certificate is not actually acceptable for passport applications in Australia !  To get an Australian passport she had to do a formal name change, because of that Irish marriage certificate issue. Lesson – if you marry in Ireland never let your Australian passport lapse, before getting a new one !

Chris gave a catalogue of useful websites, which I won’t list here, as they are found in the resources at  www.sog.org.uk wdytya handouts under Learn. There are a lot of Irish Records at Ancestry.com and FindMyPast which I will have to investigate further, with my subscriptions, as well as look into FamilySearch Irish records. However some key sites include ..

And there was agreement from the audience that http://www.Censusfinders.com  was a very worthwhile site to check – as was Griffiths Valuations, LennonWylie, National Archives of Ireland and National Library of Ireland. Not to mention the Irish News Archive, British Newspapers Archive, Dublin Gazette and Belfast Gazette Archive, and the UK National Archives – some of the Irish newspapers may be on Ancestry.com. Plus some Irish Military records are apparently on Ancestry.com.

I also decided to order a book on Irish Ancestors from Unlock the Past, as they were out of stock at Parramatta, unfortunately. Some interesting challenges ahead, but at least I now have a basic mud map to work with.



During the lunch break I was video interviewed by Helen V Smith (@HVSresearch)as an Australian Geneablogger  on my impressions of the morning presentations. While waiting for the interview,  I chanced to speak with some Novocastrian Callcott family history enthusiasts. My mother’s maiden name was Callcott, and my brother in law had in fact worked with Mary’s husband Tom at the BHP Reseach Labs in the 1980’s. Although we may not actually be related, nevetheless they seemed to have very thoroughly researched the various Australian Callcott branches, including my own Callcott line. I am descended from a convict Thomas Callcott transported in 1840, whom they dubbed Tom the Con, to distinguish him from the many other Thomas Callcotts who have lived in Australia. And they confirmed that Red Hair was a feature in many of the Callcott families in Australia. So after 20 years, finally the puzzle of my side of my daughter’s red hair completed – my husband had many Red Haired relatives, but none were known in my family in the last century.

Immediately after the lunch break there was a brief introduction to the new Biographical Database of Australia. I had only recently joined and have been mostly happy with what I have been able to find so far.  Just before lunch Rosemary Kopittke had also demonstrated the My Heritage Genealogy software, and also the Flip Pal Scanner, where she stitched together about 50 images to produce a high quality image of a detailed map. My Heritage covers 40 different languages so may be more useful for researching European ancestors compared with other software that is mostly English.


Chris Paton – Afternoon Session : Scottish Marriage Instantly Buckled for Life

The promo ?

“Suppose that young Jock and Jenny, say we two are husband and wife, the witnesses needn’t be many, they’re instantly buckled for life”. Until 1939 and 2006 there were many ways you could be legally married in Scotland that were not found elsewhere in the UK, thanks to the unique legal system north of the border based on Roman Law. If you cannot find a marriage on Scotlands People, this may help explain why. (Includes a dash of antenuptial fornication!) 

Chris’ opening words “Marriage is different in Scotland” , summed up the situation concisely … with ” it’s complicated ” an apt descriptor.

Marriage could be done by a couple making a declaration – a minister or JP was not actually needed, nor were witnesses. However it was more sensible to have witnesses who could attest to the declaration having taken place.

Chris then went on to explain the various forms of Irregular Marriage in Scotland over nearly 500 years since 1560 until 2006. A lot seemed to be associated with the various divisions within and between the churches, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Free Church, in Scotland over that period. More information at  www.sog.org.uk wdytya handouts under Learn.

Again Chris catalogued many useful websites :

Well at least a bit more of a mud map to further research my Scottish ancestors.

Chris also mentioned some of his blogs :


Throughout the day there was plenty of time to check out the various exhibitors stands, which included ….

  • Society of Australian Genealogists
  • State Library of New South Wales
  • Findmypast
  • Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner
  • Gould Genealogy & History
  • Guild of One Name Studies
  • Inside History magazine
  • MyHeritage
  • Ryerson Index
  • Unlock the Past publications
  • Unlock the Past Cruises

About Kerrie Anne Christian

Interests - Travel, Photography, Developing Websites, Social Media, Writing, Local History, Researcher, Genealogy
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