Geneagala Day

Our Geneagala Day on August 10 with guest speaker Emily Hanna from NSW State Records was an outstanding success. Thanks to our volunteers and members and Sue and Karen from Hornsby Library for all their efforts prior to and on the day.

Here are a few snaps from the Geneagala

Geneagala Day

Limited places available. If you intend joining us please book NOW.

FREE SEMINAR 10 AUG: “The Colonial Secretary – the family historian’s friend” @ Hornsby Shire Family History Group Geneagala Day. We are presenting 2 talks on how the Colonial Secretary’s papers can be used to trace your family history.


Scottish Research

One of Australia’s leading professional genealogists, Kerry Farmer, is returning to Hornsby Shire Family History Group next week to talk to us about Scottish Research.   Kerry has previously visited Hornsby to speak about DNA and Immigration.


Kerry Farmer (R) with Jill Ball at Hornsby Shire FHG in 2016

Kerry, who has been teaching family history classes since 1997, chairs the Education Committee of the Society of Australian Genealogists, and presents seminars and classes there as well as at other organisations in Australia and overseas.. She currently teaches online courses in “Australian and New Zealand Genealogy” through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. Kerry will be representing Australia as a presenter at Rootstech London in 2019.

You are invited to join us at Hornsby Central Library next Wednesday, July 17 at 2:00pm to hear Kerry’s presentation. Entry is by Gold coin donation.

From the Gold Rush to Federation

At our meeting yesterday our member Jan Brady, Historian and Publisher, gave our attendees a history lesson with her presentation ” A brief history of Australia 1850-1901 – Gold rush to Federation – the third in a series of talks about the 18th and 19th century history of Australia for Family Historians.” It was a lively talk injected with humour as Jan, who was once a teacher, involved the audience in her presentation. Everyone was kept on their toes as Jan regularly stopped her presentation to seek opinions from audience members, Jan challenged us to think about the times in which our ancestors lived and how these impacted on their lives.

Jan generously shared her notes and Powerpoint presentation which are available as .pdf files from the links below. Please remember that Jan owns the copyright on these items, they are shared here for your reference and personal use.

Jan Brady – Powerpoint:a brief-history-of-australia-1850-to-federationDownload

A New Year for HSFHG

Our members gathered at our home, Hornsby Central Library, to celebrate a successful year of  learning, research and friendship at their end of year function in December 2018. After chatting and partaking of the Christmas fare several members (see picture below) lead the group in a “12 Days of Christmas Singalong”.


Now we are turning our minds to a New Year of geneadiscoveries. Since they surveyed our members on their preferences Jan Cole and her Education Committee have been planning our program for 2019 which is now available on our Events Page.

Our year kicks off with an informal meeting on January 23rd in the Main Meeting Room at Hornsby Library so there is plenty of space for you to come along and share your questions and stories.

Please take a look and mark your diaries with the dates of  presentations that may interest you. If you have any further suggestions of speakers or topics please contact Jan by email or in person.

Trove Tuesday – Married in 1918


1918 ‘WEDDING.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 20 November, p. 8. , viewed 16 Oct 2018,


1918 ‘WEDDING.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 15 October, p. 4. , viewed 16 Oct 2018,


“WEDDINGS” Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930) 10 November 1918: 13. Web. 16 Oct 2018 .



1918 ‘SOCIAL.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 12 January, p. 7. , viewed 16 Oct 2018,

Trove Tuesday – Frederick John Thornton

Found recently on Trove is the death notice of  Frederick John Thornton of Burdett Street Hornsby who passed away 70 years ago today.

It appears that there is a new property at 1 Burdett Street but perhaps there are still some members of the Thornton family living in our Shire.


1946 ‘Family Notices’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 12 September, p. 16. , viewed 11 Sep 2018,

1946 ‘Family Notices’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 12 September, p. 16. , viewed 11 Sep 2018, is coming to Hornsby

We 20180310_094814c2are thrilled that Jason Reeve, Australian and New Zealand Content Acquisition Manager for, will be the guest speaker at Hornsby Shire Family History Group’s meeting next week at 2:00pm on Wednesday 19th September at Hornsby Central Library. Visitors are always welcome at our meetings.

Jason who is is a passionate advocate for all things history,  joined Ancestry in August 2016. He works closely with a range of archives, registries, historical & genealogical societies to uncover new record collections and share them with the Ancestry community.

Jason’s talk will cover the latest news from and the and a discussion of  Ancestry’s DNA testing.


Changes to the Geneagala Day

Unfortunately guest speaker, Dr Noeline Kyle, is unable to join us for our event. We are pleased to announce a new program. Following are details for the day.

Interested in researching your family history? As part of National Family History Month, Hornsby Shire Family History Group and Hornsby Library invite you to our annual Geneagala Day.

 Drop in throughout the day for:

  • Help for beginners
  • Assistance with online resources and other Hornsby Library family history resources
  • Help with brickwalls and research problems

Guest speaker, Christine Yeats, RAHS President, archivist, historical researcher and PHA member, will be giving two, one hour informative talks (bookings essential).

Morning session 10.30am

Advanced Trove Searches

Learn how to search the Gazettes, Journals, Diaries, Letters and Maps on Trove with Christine Yeats.

Middle session 11.45am

Family History Writing Workshop

HSFHG member Coral Shand will present a writing workshop based on notes provided by Dr Noeline Kyle, Honorary Professor Sydney University.

Afternoon session 1.30pm

Chasing the ubiquitous “Mrs” in family history

Learn about researching wives, mothers, sisters and aunts in nineteenth and early twentieth century NSW with Christine Yeats.

When:        Saturday 4 August, 10am-3pm

Where:       Hornsby Library,  28-44 George Street, Hornsby

Bookings:   Bookings essential for Christine Yeats sessions only. Book online at or at and Hornsby Shire Library on 9847 6614.


Jack Nastyface: Memoirs of an English Seaman

Guest post from member Sue Catterall.

jacknastyMy GGG Grandfather William Robinson wrote the book Jack Nastyface: Memoirs of an English Seaman and it became a famous classical novel.  You can find an article on him on a web page called Jack Nastyface – Memoirs of an English seaman.

In London, recruiting posters began appearing appealing to the patriotic to take up arms, and it seems certain that William would have paused before one of these.

With feelings of patriotism running through his veins and keen to escape the tedious work of shoe-making, William left his father’s workshop and walked to the recruiting centre on Tower Hill to offer his services to His Majesty as a landman (volunteer).  The recruiting officer, on seeing his leather apron, immediately thought he was a runaway apprentice, but William quickly assured him that that was not so.  He was sent to the receiving ship lying in the Thames and ordered into the hold with other volunteers and impressed men.  The gratings were battened down and a guard of marines, with fully loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, was placed round the hatchways as though the wretched occupants were capital convicts.  Completely ramped and unable to sit or stand separately, the ship sailed down the Thames and arrived at the Nore.  With lack of ventilation and the air turning foul from seasick men, they were a pitiable sight indeed and William began to regret the rash step he had taken.

William Robinson was at the Battle of Trafalgar against Nelson on the ship HMS Revenge.  Many of those serving on the various ships were thrown on there by Press Gangs that use to roam the area of London plucking anyone up they came across.  They had no experience in what they were about to do.

William wrote this book to encourage reforms for sailors, briefly, in 1805 conditions for Englishmen serving in their navy were worse than slavery.  As he wisely learned on entering the Navy, a sailor “must confine his thoughts to the hold of his mind and never suffer them to escape the hatchway of utterance.” 

When spoken to by an officer, even if it was a bullying 12 year old midshipman, the ordinary seaman was only allowed to say, “Aye, aye, sir” while touching the rim of is cap.  Were he to say more, he could be flogged for insolence.  In one instance, after two marines threw an officer overboard, they were seized and hanged for the yardarm.

Conditions were appalling, discipline was by sheer terror, not by reason or persuasion.  Yet, when pennants were hoisted stating, “England expects each man will do his duty” these sailors responded with pride and courage that made England master of the seas for centuries.

Its marvelous glimpse at the brutality that was all too common and the pride and the class distinctions of England, and why the Industrial Revolution spawned the appalling conditions that made Karl Marx inevitable.

Reading this book and understanding the everyday conditions of those times, explains why so many Englishmen and Europeans were willing to risk so much to get to America – truly a paradise.

The navy in the USA use William Robinson’s book as a guide in training their naval cadets.  William hated the way the common sailor was treated by the hierarchy of the navy. 

Thanks Sue for sharing this story – we now have a new title for our reading lists.