......to the First Edition (2002)
As anyone who has spent any time pouring over microfilm and microfiche
records knows, the search for our forebears can be both rewarding and
frustrating: rewarding when finally a nugget of information is found or
confirmed, frustrating when hours or days, weeks or months twist and
turn, to result in nothing but blank walls.
With a few exceptions, our family's ancestors probably rated little
better than peasants - and as a result, few records of their lives
survive. However, they at least had incentive to try to improve their
lot by a fresh start in a new country (to use a cliché!). As a result,
our family here in Australia has much to thank our forebears for - even
those who came to this new land unwillingly (courtesy of the British
Government and its strict policies in the 19th and 18th centuries
regarding relatively minor crimes).
For the family historian, a benefit of the convict system is that on the
whole, convicts were very well documented by the public servants of the
day, particularly the convicts who arrived after 1800 (paperwork
overseeing the earlier arrivals was a trifle haphazard). Unfortunately,
this luck didn't extend to most of those who were convicted in Ireland -
the great bulk of Irish convict records was destroyed by a fire in
Dublin in 1922, casting a veil over the past of at least two of our
These pages are an updated version of a fairly hastily prepared family
history printed at the end of 1997; much of the information in that
original booklet has been amended or enlarged. Please regard the
information and stories told in the following pages as a
"work-in-progress". By its very nature, family history is never ending -
there is always something more to be found and to be recorded or
The information that has been gathered is the result of much work and
cooperation by various family members, some close, some distant. I
hesitate to name individuals, for fear of carelessly omitting deserving
names, but here goes.... Among the many to offer help and advice, and
those who answered my questions and supplied documents and photographs,
have been my parents Joan and Peter Byrnes, my brothers and sisters,
family history enthusiasts such as my brother-in-law Neville Eveans,
Eileen Boyle (née Byrnes), Pat Dugger, and other relatives (both close
and more distant) including Kevin McInerney, Jim Gaffey, Cathy Noonan
(who passed on the first photograph I had ever seen of my maternal
grandmother), Elizabeth Marshall of Emu Heights, Jean McDonnell of
Ettalong, Gwen Jackson of Armidale, Earle Retschlag and his wife Frances
of Haigslea, the late Kevin Pobar, Clinton Singh, George Wilson and
Daphne Steele of Toowoomba . My husband David gave many hours of help,
not only with computer expertise, but in tramping through long-abandoned
graveyards in search of elusive gravestones.
Aside from extended family members, there was considerable help from
others such as British military researchers Ted Stuart and Robert
O'Hara, Colin Liddell (who pointed me in the right direction for New
Zealand military information), Fr. Bernie Frize of Armidale, Sr Mary
Winifred of the Sisters of Mercy, Gunnedah, Anne Harris (author of some
sterling local histories of the Gwydir area), Sean McCartan of Belfast,
Queensland genealogist Judy Webster, plus many librarians and volunteer
members of various genealogical societies who gave of their time and
knowledge to help a fellow researcher.
One (un-related) researcher, Kim Mitchell of Monto, not only came
forward with her local knowledge of the area around Rawbelle station in
Queensland, but also offered a gladly-accepted bed for the night. On the
same excursion, another local landholder in the Monto area, Peter
Pownall, gave up his time for a morning to guide me to a long-hidden
lonely grave-yard where an ancestor lay buried and forgotten. And,
what's more, he brought along his whipper-snipper to clear the grass to
enable me to take photographs of the grave (and, I suspect, chase away
the snakes!). One aging pioneer of that area painstakingly drew me a
detailed map to show the relationship between long-abandoned homesteads.
An imbalance that will be noted by many is the paucity of detail on many
of our more distant female ancestors - generally, I have regarded myself
as lucky if I have found details of their births, marriages and deaths.
Unless they were convicts, other information has rarely been recorded,
so they remain on the whole, people whose lives can only be sketched in
the barest outline.
Perhaps the main pleasure I have found from digging into the past is
coming to know my family better. For example, my grandfather, Thomas
Byrnes, came to back to life for me when I was shown clippings of
newspaper articles he wrote in the 1950s on his life as a train guard in
the first half of the 20th century. These recollections were amazing -
either he kept a very good diary for decades, or his memory for detail
was astonishing. And in the course of this research, I saw, for the
first time, photographs of both my grandmothers as beautiful young
women, a beauty unseen by me as a child.
I have repeated this warning elsewhere, but it should be remembered many
European records, particularly those pre-1837 when British Civil
Registration commenced, are derived only from the International
Genealogical Index (the IGI) or sometimes parish records, and in many
cases, cannot be confirmed absolutely as belonging to the identified
parties - and should be thought of as merely probable assumptions, in
the absence of conflicting documentation.
Obviously, human fallibility being what it is, errors will be found in
these pages (both factual and typographical). There would have been many
more, were it not for the painstaking proof reading by my father Peter
Byrnes while he was recuperating from a serious heart attack, and I am
very grateful to him for undertaking this tedious task for me. There may
well also be discrepancies between the CD, and printed page versions -
please let me know those you come across, so they may be corrected in
any further edition.
Newcastle April 2002
THE WEBSITE EDITION (2005)
The decision to convert the CD into a website came when I realised it
would be much easier to incorporate regular updates via the Internet,
instead of trying to publish another CD of family history.
However, it will be sometime before we get the site up and running
properly, so we ask users to be patient with the many glitches they are
bound to experience.
In the nearly three years since the CD was issued, there have been many
additions to the story of my parents' families. For these I am indebted
to several people, in addition to those listed above. They include:
Petar Pobar, of Croatia. Petar and I have not yet established our exact
familial relationship, but over the past 18 months, he has been diligent
in pursuing information to add to our knowledge of our Pobar ancestors.
It was sheer luck I chanced on Petar's name when I checked the Croatian
telephone directory, and picked him out to write to, on the basis that
he lived in Opatija, the town immediately adjacent to Felice Pobar's
ancestral village of Volosko. Petar doesn't read or write English, nor I
Croatian, but with the help of some of Petar's friends on one side, and
the very obliging Dr Tatjana Former in New York on the other, we have
been able to keep in contact and exchange information.
John Moroney. John has freely made available to me his extensive files
on the Williams family, and shared with me some of the puzzles arising
from having a convict ancestor called very imaginatively, William
Margaret Swift. Margaret is another tireless researcher of the Williams
family, and I have been the lucky recipient of the results of her
research, and her interviews with Williams family members. Plus, her
hospitality at her home in Taree was a welcome chance to share resources
with her and John Moroney.
Fr. John Cunningham of St. Patricks, Mayobridge, in County Down. Fr
Cunningham took the time to point me in the right direction in research
into the Gaffey family.
Sue Kenny, of Bundarra. Sue filled in some of the gaps in my Berryman
material when she willingly opened up the local history museum in
Bundarra to help a researcher passing through - plus, she took the
trouble to introduce me to a distant relative, whose existence I hadn't
known of.... Mary O'Kane and her sister Gabrielle.
Mary's interest in the Pobar family led her to contact me via an
internet search, and we found (much to our surprise) that not only were
we third cousins, but that we had all attended the same school in
Toowoomba (admittedly at different times). Mary and Gabrielle provided
further knowledge of the life of the Pobar family on the Darling Downs.
A holiday in Europe in 2002 gave me the opportunity to see close up some
of the villages our ancestors left behind, both voluntarily or as
involuntary guests of Her Majesty's government. I am endeavouring to
incorporate some of these photos into the following web pages, but
again, I stress it will take some time before the update is up and
Newcastle February 2005