Saturday, 30 January 2016

A Chance Encounter

My paternal Grandmother was from the small town of Bowraville in New South Wales. There has become a saying about Bowraville (which I am sure is probably true of other small country towns) – everyone is connected in one way or another! This has made researching my family history exciting, interesting, yet also very confusing at times. Because of this, I am often double checking who someone marries, and who their spouse’s parents were in case of a family connection.

Last night was one of those discoveries. First, you need to know what instigated it. The other week my Aunt visited my Grandmother’s sister at her nursing home on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. While she was there, one of the chef’s came around delivering the residents their afternoon tea. The chef started chatting with my Aunt and said, in reference to my Great Aunt, “I hear she’s from Bowraville.” This prompted my Aunt to ask the chef if he was from Bowraville. Indeed he is! My Aunt asked him what his family name was (I won’t mention it for privacy reasons) and she recognized it immediately. My Grandmother often talked about a lady named Joyce from Bowraville with the same surname. My Aunt asked the chef if he had known Joyce. Bingo! Joyce was his mother! Small world. The family is delighted that someone from Bowraville is working at the nursing home my Great Aunt is at.

As my Aunt was telling me all this last night, I checked the family tree to see if I had Joyce already listed. I sure did. My Aunt could not figure out how Joyce was related, so I explained it to her.

Joyce’s parents were Frank Ernest Grace (1890 – 1972) and Violet Bridgen (1888 – 1972). Frank was the brother of Richard (1872 – 1955) and William George Alexander Grace (1874 – 1966) who married two of my Grandmother’s father’s sisters – Alice (1882 – 1952) and Elizabeth Dyer (1873 – 1949). Joyce and I are not cousins, but we have mutual cousins courtesy of her uncles marrying my great great aunts.

Diagram showing the connection between Joyce Grace (1919 - 1996) and myself.

The story does not end there though.

When I explained to my Aunt how Joyce (1919 – 1996) was connected, she remembered that Frank and Violet had a son, Sydney Grace (1921 – 2002), whom my Aunt had known when she was little. She also remembered that Sydney was married to Mavis Laird (1912 – 1968). Mavis actually saved my Aunt from drowning when she was little. And Mavis is what brings me to the second half of last night’s discovery.

It turns out that Sydney was Mavis’ second marriage. Her first marriage? Francis Arthur Stephen Ward (1912 – 1982). When I went to add him into the tree I realized he was already in it, and I already had him as being married to Mavis. I suppose at the time I did not check to see if either of them had had further marriages. I noticed that I did have Francis’ parents listed in the tree too. Francis’ parents were Francis Herbert Ward (1861 – 1943) and Ellen Maude Wiley (1871 – 1939).

Wiley. Remember that name. 

Now, let’s go back for a minute to my Grandmother’s sister who is in the nursing home. My Great Aunt was married to my Uncle Charlie Jones (1916 – 1992). Charlie’s mother was Catherine Wiley (1881 – 1962). Wiley! I told you to remember that name. Uncle Charlie and Francis Jr were first cousins! Charlie’s mother Catherine and Francis’ mother Ellen were sisters. 

Diagram showing the connection between Mavis Laird (1912 - 1968) and Uncle Charlie Jones (1916 - 1992)

Is that the end? Not quite. But I shall give you a moment to breathe. I sure need one after all that information. 

Mavis’ parents were John Laird (1866 – 1913) and Sarah Usher (1884 – 1960). John died in 1913 when Mavis was a year old. In 1915, Sarah remarried a bloke by the name of George Thomas Ballard (1861 – 1930). I have a few distant cousins who were Ballard’s, so naturally I double checked the tree. George Ballard is part of a family I have not done much research into yet. He is my 1st Cousin 4x Removed though! George’s mother was Sarah Ann Walker (1838 – 1902), the sister of my Great Great Great Grandmother, Jane Gilliban Walker (1834 – 1911). While Mavis’ mother Sarah was married to George, Mavis and my Great Grandmother Eva Florence Mackay (1888 – 1976) (My Grandmother’s mother) were step 2nd cousins.  

Diagram showing connection between Sarah Usher (1884 - 1960), her 2nd husband, George Ballard (1861 - 1930), and my Grandmother.

And that my dear readers, is what I discovered last night after my Aunt told me about her chance meeting with a chef at my Great Aunt’s nursing home.

Do you have any interesting small world stories, or strange connections between ancestors?


  1. Small world, interesting post, and great diagrams! ~ Cathy

  2. My head is spinning! Lol! It is truly a small world!

  3. Brilliant. Love the way you explained it all and that many folk were already in your tree. Dancing with you from Salt Lake City!

  4. I love how you explained all the relationships Caitlin and made it fun to read too.

  5. Genealogy serendipity at work again! Like you, I often create diagrams (drop-line charts) to summarise my information. Computers are fine for some things, but I need these visual aids to make things sink into my brain. :-)

  6. Love Small World stories! I'm sure your aunt enjoyed that visit snd all the reminiscing!