Welcome to Digging into Family History


It all started one day when I was wondering about my ancestors.  Who were they? Where did they live? What did they do for a living?  Were they important in the community?

I knew their names, the places where they had lived and traveled from to come to Australia, but that was all.  Once I started uncovering the answers to these questions, I was hooked.  It became a kind of obsession at times where I could have researched all night if possible.

I want to encourage to start the journey into your family history and just see what you can discover.  I hope that with this blog I can inspire you to learn, discover, record and share your experiences along the family history journey.


Famous Viking Women – Unn the Deep Minded

Also called Aud the Deep Minded, Unn was a daughter of Ketil Flatnose. Unn’s husband, Olaf the White, and her son, Thorstein the Red, were both kings and they both died in battles around the same time. She then marries off her daughters to Orkney nobility and heads to Iceland. Unn claimed a great amount of land in Iceland. She acted as the head of her family since the patriarchs had died.

Vikings in Iceland

She is the first great matriarch of Viking nobility in Iceland. This was uncommon for women in this time. She had a great amount of influence in Iceland, she gave away land to her kinsman, settlers, and freed slaves. This can be seen as charitable acts but the conflicts and inheritance disputes that comes from these gifts cause grief throughout her region of Iceland. Half-brothers or foster brothers clashed three times in conflict in the community. With the conflict between Kjartan and Bolli we see the disintegration of Ketil Flatnose’s line. Gudrun, the woman Bolli and Kjartan are in conflict over, is also from the line of Ketil Flatnose. Unn appears in Eirik the Red’s saga as well, which shows the great span of her and her family. It tells more detail of Olaf’s (called Oleif here) death in Ireland and the betrayal of Thorstein in Scotland. Her story is associated with the founding of not only Iceland but Greenland. Eirik the Red was exiled from Iceland for murders he had committed. The region he was removed from was a northwestern region, around the area of Unn the Deep Minded, but Eirik was born after Unn’s death. Unn the Deep Minded was wise in her actions and deserving of the name Deep Minded. She is important because of what she managed to accomplish as a woman as well as her unique bending of the gender roles in Iceland. Also, it is her descendants that give us the stories of the sagas, making her an important character and relevant to the major events in the sagas.


Famous Women in Viking Culture, accessed 29 Jun 2016, https://vikingsociety.wikispaces.com/Famous+women+in+Viking+culture

Vikings in Iceland, Icelandic Sagas , accessed 29 Jun 2016, http://epicworldhistory.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/vikings-in-iceland-icelandic-sagas.html

Friday Face of the Past – Janet Stewart ~ Lady Fleming

Janet Stewart, the Lady Fleming, was the illegitimate daughter of King James IV of Scotland born on 17 July, 1502 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Janet’s mother was Isabel Buchan, daughter of James Stewart, 1st Earl of Buchan.

Janet married Mallady_janet_stewart_large-218x300colm Fleming, 3rd Lord Fleming, even though they were related within a forbidden degree of affinity.  Lord Fleming was killed in September, 1547 at the Battle of Pinkie Cleuch.  Less than a year later Janet was appointed Governess in charge of the Royal Party taking her niece, Mary Queen of Scots to France for her education.  She was accompanying her daughters Mary Fleming, one of Mary’s Maries (Maids of Honour) and Agnes, who was a few years older.  The Lady Fleming was a great personality.  She had no difficulty in communicating her considerable charms to those on board the French galley transporting the Royal entourage, despite bouts of seasickness.

In 1548, after a liaison with King Henry II of France, their son, Henri de Valois-Angouleme was born.  Henri was known as the “chief and most highly favoured natural son of the King”.  Janet gave birth to Henri in Scotland after being sent back at the demand of French Queen, Catherine de Medici.  With permission granted by Elizabeth I, Janet later returned with her son Lord Henri de Valois to France in 1560 after the death of the Queen Dowager, Marie of Guise who had forbidden them both to travel to France.  Henri was subsequently brought up with the other royal children in the French court.

Lady Janet died on 20 February, 1562 in Richmond, London, England.  She was aged 60.  Lady Janet is also my 15th great-grandmother.

References: Stedall, R. “The Affair of Janet Stewart, the Lady Fleming with Henry II of France”, accessed: 03/06/2016. http://www.maryqueenofscots.net/affair-janet-stewart-lady-fleming-henry-ii-france/

The Mysterious Death of James III of Scotland

James III, King of Scotland from 1460 to 1488, endured a turbulent reign.  Having survived war with England and rebellions by Scotland’s nobles (including his own brothers) he was eventually killed in the battle of Sauchieburn on 11 June 1488, during another rebellion:  this one supported by his eldest son.  The manner of his death gave rise to one of the earliest recorded conspiracy theories.


By the 16th century, there were claims that James, while fleeing from the battle, had been murdered by an assassin disguised as a priest at Milltown, near Bannockburn, although another version of the story has James being thrown from a horse during the battle, either being killed by the fall or by enemy soldiers.

The parliamentary record merely states that the king ‘happinit to be slane’ and attributed the death to the king following bad counsel.  Parliament exonerated the new king, stating that ‘oure soverane lord that now is and the trew lordis and barouns that wes withe him in the samyne feild war innocent, quhyt and fre of the saidis slauchteris feilde and all persute of the occasioune and cause of the samyne’.

I have started to uncover another version of this story among my own family history.  The story goes….Sir William Stirling (an ancestor of mine) had a prosperous family property.  James III (for some reason that I haven’t found out yet) killed Sir William by burning him at the stake, burnt his property to the ground and claimed the property as part of the king’s Estate.  As it turns out, the King’s son, James (who upon his father’s death becomes James IV of Scotland), happened to be close friends with the Late Sir William Stirling’s son, also called Sir William Stirling.

At the battle of Sauchieburn, Sir William Stirling (Junior) supported James in the uprising against his father James III.  Apparently, Sir William disguised himself as a priest and laid wait for the King in a house that was at the battlefield.  The King sought refuge in this particular house during the battle and it was heard by others nearby a man’s voice yelling inside the house, “I shrive ye!” and the King was found stabbed to death.

To shrive is to present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution, which it appears that the King, upon seeing a priest in the house presented himself for penance.  For his unfortunate decision, he paid dearly with his life.

When James IV of Scotland became King, one of the first things that he did was that he handed back Late Sir William Stirling’s property and belongings to his son Sir William (Junior) and reinstated the families standing in the community.

I have also discovered that there were several other men who claim to have been involved in the murder of James III and all claim to have done the same thing….maybe they were all involved somehow.  And the hunt continues…….

Reference: The mysterious death of James III – National Archives of Scotland, November 2009.  http://www.nas.gov.uk


Obituaries – Why do Genealogists love them?

Among my family history research papers, that have now grown to quite a sizable collection, I found my great-grandfather’s obituary.  It was printed in The Brisbane Courier (Queensland, Australia) on Monday 6 February, 1933 and reads as follows:

Mr. J.H. Stirling.

The death occurred at Ipswich on February 2 of Mr James Hunter Stirling.  The late Mr. Stirling, who was 44 years of age, was born in Scotland, and came to Australia and settled at Stanthorpe for three years.  He then went to Ipswich, where he had lived for the past eight years.  In 1925 he married Miss Alice Herron, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. T.J. Herron, of Ipswich.  While in Ipswich he was employed by the Ipswich City Council.  He was a member of the True Blue Lodge,and was a returned soldier, having enlisted at Auckland (New Zealand).  He is survived by his widow and five young children.

Searching through the local newspaper archives is a treasure trove of discovery and obituary notices hold so much interesting information about a person you are researching.  It can be a great point to start researching if there is no elderly relatives alive to speak to about a particular person you are looking for information about.

old-letters-436501_640As can be seen in my great-grandfather’s obituary, it tells the reader when he died, how old he was, where he was born, where he lived, who he married and who her parents were, who his employer was at the time, that he had served in the military and had five young children.  The eldest of the five children is my paternal grandmother, who is still alive today, having just celebrated her 91st birthday.




Australian Defence Service Records for WW1 & WW2

The National Archives in Australia holds the service records of Australians who served in World War I and World War II in the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy.

Lance Cpl Robert J Jones
Lance Corporal Robert J Jones – served in Papua New Guinea in WWII with the Australian Military Forces in 58/59th Battalion. He spent 768 days in active service (298 in Australia and 470 outside Australia). He is also my maternal grandfather.

These service records contain biographical information supplied on enlistment, such as name, address, next of kin and age, as well as service information such as movements, postings, changes in rank, and brief mention of injuries or illnesses.

The service records will only tell you in which unit or ship a person served.  More detailed information about these units can be found in unit records held by the Australian War Memorial (website: www.awm.gov.au.)

Private James Hunter Stirling – joined the Australian Armed Forces and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, 1915. He was a medic in the Field Ambulance Unit. He also served in the trenches in France and during this time he was wounded with a gunshot to the thigh and sent to Gibraltar to hospital. JH Stirling is also my paternal great grandfather.

If you are searching for the military records of an ancestor who has served in the Australian Defence Forces you can obtain a copy of a World War 1 or World War 2 service record by ordering a copy by contacting – National Archives of Australia, P O Box 7425 Canberra Business Centre ACT  2610, Tel: 1300 886 881  Fax: 1300 886 882 or Email: ref@naa.gov.au.

You can also view online a digital copy of most records of Navy service (1917-1970) and Army service records for World War 1 at RrecordSearch online database on the National Archives website – www.naa.gov.au.  You can also order online photocopies of World War 1 and World War 2 records for all Services for a fee.  When I purchased my grandfather’s service record photocopy in 2007 it cost me AUD$25.00.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org) and the Honour Rolls held by the Australian War Memorial (and on its website at www.awm.gov.au) give details of the burial place of those killed in service or of memorials to the missing.

When you request a copy of a record you must include the details of the person you are researching – their full name, service and conflict, service number, and date of birth, enlistment and discharge (if known).

Reference:  Fact Sheet 177, Defence service records for WWI and WWII, Australian Government, National Archives of Australia, June 2007.