Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Ghosts of Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island sits 110 kilometres south of Adelaide South Australia and has four lighthouses, which have been essential to safe passage of ships in and around the island for more than 160 years, Cape Willoughby (1852), Cape Borda (1858), Cape du Couedic (1906), and Cape St Albans (1908.) It is well known and well documented that the waters surrounding Kangaroo Island are notoriously treacherous and dangerous cliffs make up most of the island’s coastline.  Just one example of this is the Loch Vennachar, a three-masted iron sailing ship which sank in 1905, taking all hands with her, leaving a shower of wreckage scattered along the south coast of the island. Only the remains of one sailor was washed ashore and later buried in the dunes of the bay.

In the early days the island’s keepers and their families were completely isolated and for a long time there were no roads connecting the lighthouses to the rest of the island.  At Cape Borda and Cape du Couedic, supplies were brought in by ship and hauled up the cliff edges.

It would seem some of the long gone souls of sailors, lighthouses keepers and their families still remain on Kangaroo Island. The Cape Borda lighthouse keeper’s cottage is rented out to visitors wishing to stay on the island and reports of strange occurrences have been noted, particularly with regular visits from a little girl.

The visitor’s book at Cape du Couedic also reports strange occurrences of unexplained sounds, lights coming from within the cottages and old man visiting.  Perhaps the old man is the Lighthouse Keeper that has said to haunt Cape du Couedic? It is clear from the visitors that they are never quite alone and it is said if you are afraid of ghosts don’t read the Lighthouse visitors book!

The author of Favourite Haunts ‘A Sea of Ghosts on Kangaroo Island’ whilst visiting Cape du Couedic for a few days wrote the following:

‘I was completely restless the entire first evening of our stay. Inside the cottage, it felt as though we were constantly watched. I know it sounds terribly cliché, but this sensation was so intense that it made the hairs on the back of my neck remain permanently raised, as if something was hovering just behind me, deliberately staying out of sight. Whenever I looked up, or turned around, or walked out of one room and into another, I could not escape the feeling that at any moment I would find a stranger staring at me from within the shadows.

Then on the first night, not long after I had dozed off, I was woken suddenly by what I thought was someone whispering in my ear: "My name is John..."’ And in the early hours of that last morning, before the sun had even peaked above the horizon, I woke from my slumber, unmoving, but fully awake and alert. Outside it was perfectly still, not even the sound of a bird could be heard. And then, just as it had been reported countless times in the visitor books, there came the sound of movement from the other end of the corridor outside the bedroom: A shuffling, thumping and tapping, the distinct sounds of someone pulling on boots, followed by footsteps proceeding down the hallway to the front door, first becoming louder at their approach, before gently fading away.

The tales of the ghosts of Cape du Couedic do not reveal, nor even hazard a guess at the identity of the spirit whose footsteps are so regularly heard making their way down the hallway in the cottage. I like to think that it is one of the old assistant light-keepers making his early-morning check of the lighthouse.

Whilst it's easy to make assumptions, it's more difficult to confirm if any of the assistant Light-keeper's stationed at Cape du Couedic, and resident of the same cottage, were actually named John. It'd be a neat coincidence if there was, though.’

Cape Willoughby cottages too, it seems, has its ghosts. Reports of floorboards creaking, fingers tapping on windows, with rattling roof tiles accompanied by the powerful crashing of the surf can give one sleepless nights. However, the information booklet soothingly advises that the unusual noises one hears are only caused by the wind!

Now all that is left for us to find out is if Cape St Albans lighthouse is also haunted!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Did your British military ancestor die in the Boer War?

For all family historians seeking British ancestors who died in the Anglo-Boer War,
Brian Kaighin says: 

I have a database of all known British military personnel who died during the Boer War and anyone looking for info can contact me on  

Friday, October 14, 2016

Gold mining ancestors in South Africa

Off to the Barberton goldfields. Note De Kaap painted on side of wagon at right.
A motley throng in a variety of costume. The dog is going along for the ride. Because miners were nomadic, moving from one field to another, it is usually difficult to trace a mining ancestor unless he generated a public record e.g. committed a crime, put in a compensation claim etc. There was no insurance and little medical care available.
Barberton is a town in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, which has its origin in the 1880s gold rush in the region. It is situated in the De Kaap Valley and is fringed by the Makhonjwa Mountains.
In 1881 gold in the Barberton area was discovered by Tom McLachlan who found alluvial gold at Jamestown. However, due to the location (the hot lowveld region was rife with malaria) no-one wanted to go there until Auguste Roberts ("French Bob") discovered gold in Concession Creek on 20 June 1883. This discovery resulted in a gold rush to the area.
On 21 June 1884, Graham Barber wrote a letter to the State Secretary to inform him that he and his two cousins Fred and Harry discovered payable gold on state land where the Umvoti Creek entered the De Kaap valley. The State Secretary then asked the Magistrate in Lydenburg to investigate the matter and for David Wilson, the Gold Commissioner, to submit a report. Wilson investigated on 24 July 1884 and declared the township of Barberton.
The town was named after Graham Hoare Barber (1835-1888) who discovered a rich gold-bearing reef there in 1884. Barberton became a municipality in 1904.
At first it was just a simple mining camp but grew when Edwin Bray, a prospector discovered gold in the hills above Barberton in 1885 and with 14 partners started the Sheba Reef Gold Mining Company.
Large amounts of money flowed into Barberton and the first Stock Exchange to operate in the then Transvaal opened its doors. More buildings were erected, billiard saloons and music halls established. The Criterion and Royal Standard hotels were opened. In 1896, Barberton was connected by rail to the Netherlands-South African Railway Company (NZASM)'s Oosterlijn (Pretoria to Lourenço Marques) through a specifically constructed side line running from Kaapmuiden to Barberton.
Barberton flourished for only a brief period and soon the inhabitants began to move away to the newly discovered gold fields on the Reef.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ghostly Ancestors? 2 Bustard Head Lighthouse

The curse of the Bustard Head Lighthouse.

Lighthouse Keeper M J Rooksley in front of the lighthouse and the original cottages, Bustard Head Lighthouse, Queensland 1902

Bustard Head Lighthouse is located on the southeast tip of Bustard Head, a headland about 20 kilometres northwest of the town of 1770, Queensland. Built in 1868 It is still active but bears the scars of a tragic past and a disturbing history.

It had been a difficult lighthouse to build and the town now known as 1770  was out of the way and far from everything. Building materials had to be dragged across two tidal creeks to the lighthouse site. Intended as a beacon of safety on Queensland treacherous shores, the lighthouse construction was nonetheless was marred by tragedy. A workman was struck on the head and died whilst working on the remote building. His passing was followed by shipwrecks, a suicide, drownings, an abduction, a murder, and several other freak deaths.

In 1887 Kate Gibson, the wife of the Bustard Head lighthouse keeper, disappeared. Some days later her children made a gruesome discovery . Kate was lying in a pool of dried blood, with an arm folded across her chest and a horrible, gaping wound across her neck. Her husband Nils, who returned from a trip to the northwest to learn of his wife’s disappearance, realised one of his razors was missing from the family’s cottage. Days later, it was found under a tree root at the site of the body, covered in blood.

Her death was ruled a suicide and she was buried on the Bustard Head grounds. There is no lack of company for her in that graveyard. Few have lived at the lightstation, the site which includes the Lighthouse and keeper’s home, but a disturbingly high number of people have died there.

Just two years after Kate's death, tragedy struck the Gibson family and the lighthouse once more. Nils, his 20-year-old daughter Mary, assistant Lightkeeper John Wilkinson, his wife Elizabeth and a repairman named Alfred Power set off from Bustard Head on a sailboat. They didn’t make it far. As the boat powered 450m clear of the shore, it capsized, throwing everyone into the water. Alfred, Elizabeth and Mary all drowned. Nils, who managed to make it back to land, never found his daughter’s body.

In 1897, Milly Waye, born at the Lighthouse, never had a chance to leave it, a year later she was scalded with boiling water by accident. The infant suffered “excruciating pain” for nine hours before she finally died. In 1912 tragedy struck again, this time in the form of an unsolved crime. Edith the daughter of the lighthouse keeper was abducted whilst returning home and the man with her shot.Several weeks after Edith was abducted, another of the light keeper’s daughters, 21-year-old Ethel, died after suffering an epileptic fit.

Nils Gibson died from cirrhosis of the liver six years after his daughter Mary drowned and another infant, seven-month-old Henry Phillips, died from “constitutional weakness.”


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ghostly ancestors?

Photo of the Pine Islet Lighthouse before being relocated to the Mackay Marina in 1985 and restored to full working condition. 

Mackay is 971 kilometres north of Brisbane. Pine Islet is part of the remote Percy Islands Group 135 kilometres south-east of Mackay.

In 1927 the authorities decided to build a new Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage on the island and the only available flat land was a grave site. The headstone identified the grave as belonging to Dorethea McKay, who died in 1895, the wife of a Lighthouse Keeper. Dorethea’s body was exhumed and reburied some distance away and the new cottage was built on that site.

Dorethea was obviously not going to take that lying down. Soon mysterious footsteps and faint mutterings were heard. The Lightkeeper would go to the door in answer to a knock and no one would be there.

The ghost’s visits continued until the 1980s when the lighthouse was automated and the last time anyone heard from Dorethea was just before the last Lighthouse Keeper departed. There was no knock on the door this time, just footsteps through the cottage and into the lounge, stopping above her original grave.

The Lighthouse Keepers hoped that Dorethea was satisfied she would be left in peace and had found her way back to her original resting place.

Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson

Pine Islet lighthouse relocated to Mackay Marina

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Natal First public auction of Sugar 1855

From IIIustrated London News 23 June 1855
The auctioneer was Robert Acutt.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Family Tree Researcher


I met a friend the other day for weeks I had not seen,
I said I have not seen you much, wherever have you been?
He said Ive been away from here back to my own birthplace,
Ive been back there because my family tree I wish to trace.
He then went on to tell me things about his kith and kin,
And how he was related to the present sovereign.
He had a well known ancestor who was a famous writer.
Another was a general and a celebrated fighter.
His family were connected with the poet Percy Shelley
Who was distantly related to his great great Aunty Nellie.
Explorers, sailors, scientists and bishops of renown.
His famous predecessors were well known throughout the town.
I thought if he could do these things then maybe so could I,
So I went down to the town hall to give the scheme a try.
I soon found that a great great uncle Arthur had been lynched,
Because of some small article they said that he had pinched.
Another of my ancestors spent several months in jail
For wearing womens clothing when in fact he was a male.
One aunt had fixed her husband with a bullet in the brain,
And another man cut up his wife and poured her down a drain.
My great great uncle Henry was made to serve some time,
For doing what the papers called an anti-social crime.
I thought This interesting hobby really is no good for me,
Were such a lot of crooks and rogues its getting plain to see.
I packed up my researches then and threw away my notes
And took up writing poems and verse like this one I just wrote!

Frank Thorn

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Family group four generations

Mrs. Bell (Catherine nee Ross R,  my great great grandmother) Mrs. Gibson  (my great grandmother Anne nee Bell L) Mrs. Dalzell (Mary Hamilton, 'Aunt Polly' back) and her baby son Jim Dalzell, taken at Hawthorn Cottage, Caledonian Road Stevenston, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Catherine Thomson Ross b 
November 18,1834 Stevenston,
d May 26, 1913
She married Samuel Bell of Chetwynd, Shropshire, England,
b March 11,1833, d September 27,1874

Anne nee Bell married May 20, 1881 Finlay Gibson at Stevenston.
Annie b February 14, 1859 at West, Hamilton, Wentworth, Ontario, Canada  
and d September 27, 1926, Winnipeg, Canada (buried Elmwood Cemetery, Winnipeg)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: family group 1890s

Costume details: narrow lapels on male jackets, worn with stiff turn-down collar, no front crease on the trousers, short cropped hair, Norfolk suits for the boys, mother wears leg o' mutton sleeves and a jacket over her blouse - she hasn't gone for the bouffant hairstyle of the day.

Eira Makepeace

Monday, September 26, 2016

South African Ancestry Research 4 certificates

Q  How do I obtain SA BMD certificates?

A  In the UK, acquiring relevant certificates is standard practice. In the SA
context, this isn’t the recommended first line of attack. BMD registers and indexes are held by the Department of Home Affairs. The only way to obtain an official certificate is through the Department or, if you live overseas, through the South African embassy or consulate.

The Department of Home Affairs won’t consider applications for certificates unless you provide full details i.e. names, precise date and location of the event. Generally these are what the family historian is trying to find out. If you know all the facts, is it really worth going through the frustrating ordering process? It could take six months to acquire a certificate; there’s no guarantee of a result. If the only information you have is a vague idea that the ancestor was born or married ‘in the Cape’, don’t waste time applying for a certificate.

If your forebear was born prior to the start of civil registration, a birth certificate will not be available.

Compulsory official registration of BMD commenced in SA as below:
Cape: marriages 1700; births and deaths 1895
Natal: marriages 1845; births 1868; deaths 1888
Transvaal: marriages 1870; births and deaths 1901
Orange Free State: marriages 1848; births and deaths 1903

Marriage certificates are uninformative: no parents’ names appear on the document. If the happy couple later divorced, a copy of the marriage certificate is likely to be among the documents generated by the court proceedings; this is one good reason to access a divorce file. In early civil marriages, where the bride was under age, her parents’ signatures would appear on the entry, indicating their consent to the marriage. On FamilySearch you can find Natal Civil Marriages  1845-1955 at

 There are other possible avenues for finding SA birth and marriage records but the discussion here relates to obtaining official certificates for such events.