When trying to trace your ancestors, you come up against many obstacles,
but if you devote enough time and money to the problem, you may get a breakthrough.
Without too much effort, I have been able to trace most of my ancestral lines out of
Australia to their country of origin. However with the McGinn family, I came to a stop
around 1846 in Tasmania.
Through the study of birth, marriage and death certificates of
related people, I have determined that Thomas McGINN was born around 1846 in Launceston
Tasmania. It was with certificates for Thomas himself that I was having no luck at all.
His death certificate in 1921 was incorrectly filled out, but it did record his Tasmanian
birth around 1845, his 67 years in Victoria, his marriage to Ellen Wathen at Ararat in
1870, and the names of their children.
I applied for his Tasmanian birth certificate, but no record exists. I searched through
Tasmanian early church records at the Genealogical Society of Victoria and came up with 2
Thomas McGinns who were born to female convicts in 1847. Good, I thought, I may have a
convict ancestor. I checked the index of McGinn convicts sent to NSW. There were 2,
Charles and James. But those christian names did not re-appear in Thomas's 13 children,
and they were sent to NSW, not Tasmania. I contacted the Descendants of Convict Group, but
they won't have their list of Tasmanian convicts available till late 1989. A fellow
researcher found no record of McGinn convicts being sent to Tasmania.
I applied for Thomas McGINN's marriage certificate and was informed that no record
existed. On a visit to Ararat, a year later, I called in at the Catholic church and was
told that the church records for that period were destroyed in a fire in the mid 1870's. I
also looked through indexes for Tasmanian marriages but could find no record of a McGinn
marriage which may be Thomas's parents. Most certificates stated that Thomas was a miner
or labourer. However the marriage certificate of his daughter Ellen, indicated that in
1892 her father was a stoker. On the off chance that he was a stoker with the Railways, I
wrote a letter to them, but they only had records of an Andrew McGinn.
Thomas's death certificate indicated he had been in Victoria for 67 years. So Thomas
probably sailed from Launceston in 1854 and as he would have been only about 8 years old,
he was also likely to be with his family. To chase up this possibility, I spent one and a
half days at the Public Record Office at Laverton, poring through shipping records of
passengers sailing from Launceston to Victoria from 1853 to 1856. The only McGinn I found
was a Barney McGinn aged 60, who together with his wife and 3 young children, sailed from
Launceston aboard the Black Swan and arrived in Melbourne in January 1854. The children's
names were not mentioned and Barney was not a family name. I didn't fancy going through
the many boxes of passengers sailing from Hobart, so I let this line of research lapse.
I put advertisements in the Genealogy magazine Ancestor, but only had replies from
other people who had come across the same brick wall. I rang all the the McGinns in the
Melbourne phone book. The good news was there were only 12, the bad news was no one could
help with a Tasmanian line. So I had a problem and a challenge, to find his parents by
I already had the birth certificate of Thomas's daughter Ellen, but decided birth
certificates for his other children may give extra information. Most of the certificates
just confirmed his Tasmanian birth. However the certificate for the birth of Elizabeth
Bridget, stated that Thomas was born at Sale in Gippsland Victoria. Perhaps was he trying
to hide his convict ancestry. No, I don't think so, as there is no record of his birth in
Victoria, or in NSW for that matter.
Not having much luck with birth certificates, I moved onto death certificates.
According to the index, there were 10 McGinn deaths in Victorian between 1854 & 1890,
some of which could be worth chasing up. You have to get lucky some time, and it turns out
that the Bernard aged 29 who hanged himself in 1869 was a brother to Thomas. Young Bernard
was born on Flinders Island around 1840. Not only that, but it listed his parents as
Bernard McGINN and Ellen nee NOONAN. A quick check of the death index found a Bernard
McGINN who died in 1854 aged 47, therefore born around 1807. So I ordered the death
certificate, hoping that this would be the one I was after.
Bernard's death certificate revealed that he died, aged 47 on the 30th of December 1854
at Penny Weight Flat, Forest Creek (near Castlemaine) from dysentery. His parent's, (or
Thomas's grandparents) were John McGINN a boot and shoe maker, and Bridget, maiden name
unknown. Also according to the death certificate, Bernard was born in Ireland around 1807
and was married when aged 28 to Ellen NUNHAN (yes different spelling) at Buttevant in the
county of Cork.
So it turned out that the Barney McGinn who sailed from Launceston to Melbourne in
1854, was most likely MY Bernard. As you can see, more answers give more questions. -
Thomas's father was Bernard McGINN, but what was his mother's correct name and where
and when was Ellen born? I could find no record of the death of Ellen McGinn nee Noonan
(or Nunhan) in Victoria. I also had no luck using the I.G.I. in finding a record of the
marriage to Bernard at the Catholic Church in Buttevant in Ireland around 1835. The
marriage record would give their ages, the exact wedding date, Ellen's correct surname and
both their parents names.
Bernard and Ellen were married in Ireland around 1835 and according to Bernard's death
certificate, he was in Tasmania around 1836. Therefore he must have sailed from Ireland to
Tasmania between those times. Does anyone have the shipping record please? I would also be
interested to know more about Bernard and Ellen's parents. Where and when were John and
Bridget - born, married, and buried? Perhaps a reader of this book (web page) will find
the answers and let me know please.
This chapter to be completed by YOU.