LIn the fifth week of Shauna Hicks’s series of blog posts about genealogical records the topic is family stories.

Before we had computer databases, family history was largely passed down by stories.  For example, my mother-in-law had a very clear idea of who her forebears were for several generations and was able to give brief outlines of their lives for ancestors back to the early nineteenth century from the top of her head. I have been able to verify the family history with records, and what she set out for me from memory was remarkably accurate.

On my side of the family, several relations have written family history books thereby preserving many family stories.

My father wrote Champions of Normandy which covers the early history of the Champion de Crespigny family to the time they migrated to England at the end of the seventeenth century.  Among other documents, it is based on a number of manuscripts held by different family members, as well as the registration of the family with the College of Arms in 1697. (de Crespigny, Rafe Champions in Normandy: being some remarks on the early history of the Champion de Crespigny family. R. de Crespigny, Canberra, 1988.)

My third cousin twice removed, Stephen de Crespigny, has gathered an enormous amount of family history. He collected information, documents and stories, but also had drawn up a comprehensive family tree in the early 1990s.

One of the three sheets of the Champion de Crespigny family tree compiled by Stephen de Crespigny


Helen Hudson née  Hughes (1915 – 2005) my first cousin twice removed, was an enthusiastic family historian.  She compiled a book, Cherry Stones,  covering her forebears (which coincide with my father’s father’s mother’s family). I have found it a useful resource and am very pleased she wrote it.  It was published in 1985 and is an amazing effort considering she too had no computer database or access to the material we now have through the internet.  Helen’s father Reginald Hawkins Hughes (1886 – 1971), brother of my great grandmother, had collected papers and paraphernalia of his ancestors and kept it in what she called a “tin trunk” which Helen inherited.  The book has much original material such as transcriptions of early letters. (Hudson, Helen Lesley Cherry stones : adventures in genealogy of Taylor, Hutcheson, Hawkins of Scotland, Plaisted, Green, Hughes of England and Wales … who immigrated to Australia between 1822 and 1850. H.L. Hudson, [Berwick] Vic, 1985.)

My great great great grandfather Philip Chauncy wrote  memoirs of his sister and his second wife.  These were republished in 1976. (Chauncy, Philip Lamothe Snell Memoirs of Mrs Poole and Mrs Chauncy. Lowden, Kilmore, Vic, 1976.) The State Library of Victoria also holds a manuscript of his journal of his trip to Australia and other family history and biographical notes he made.

My Great grand uncle James Gordon Cavenagh-Mainwaring (1865 – 1938) wrote a history of the Mainwaring family back to the entry of Whitmore estate in the Domesday Book of 1068. (Cavenagh-Mainwaring, James Gordon The Mainwarings of Whitmore and Biddulph in the County of Stafford. An account of the family, and its connections by marriage and descent; with special reference to the Manor of Whitmore. J.G. Cavenagh-Mainwaring, about 1935.) The estate of Whitmore where my cousins now live has never been sold since the entry in the Domesday book but always been transferred through inheritance, albeit sometimes through the female line.

More recently the wife of my father’s cousin, Christine Cavenagh-Mainwaring, has produced an updated  history of Whitmore and the family. (Cavenagh-Mainwaring, Christine and Britton, Heather, (editor.) Whitmore Hall : from 1066 to Waltzing Matilda. Adelaide Peacock Publications, 2013. ) I was very pleased to be given a copy of the book by Guy and Christine when I saw them in Adelaide last month.

Christine provides an update on what happened to Gerald Mainwaring (1854 – ?) though she also has not been able to trace what happened to him eventually.  My blog entry deals with him being tried for murder but he was not hanged as the jury effectively cast a ballot to decide his fate. His sentence was commuted to penal servitude. Apparently he was released on licence on May 16, 1894. The family story is that Gerald made his way to Whitmore where his brother Percy (1857 – 1927), the Rector of Whitmore, would not let him into the house, gave him a five pound note and an overcoat and sent him away.  Perhaps Gerald changed his name and returned to Canada. There seems no record of him after that time.

There are lots of other family stories in Christine’s book to follow up on and to research further.

In the 1990s James Kenneth Cudmore (1926 – 2013), my second cousin once removed, of Quirindi New South Wales, commissioned Elsie Ritchie to write the Cudmore family history. The work built on the family history efforts of many family members.  It was published in 2000.  It is a very large and comprehensive work and includes many many Cudmore family stories. (Ritchie, Elsie B. (Elsie Barbara) For the love of the land: the history of the Cudmore family. E. Ritchie, [Ermington, N.S.W.], 2000.)

A collection of family history books.


Emma Rothschild, a Professor of History at Harvard University, has studied the Johnstone family in a scholarly history of the eighteenth century in order to gain an insight into the development of the British Empire.  Barbara Johnstone (1723 – 1765) was my sixth great grandmother and it is she and her siblings who are the subject of this book. The source material included the oldest brother’s letter book which was in an Edinburgh library. (Rothschild, Emma The inner life of empires : an eighteenth-century history. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. ; Woodstock, 2011.  Book review:

Among other stories, I learned from the book that in 1759 Barbara separated from her husband Charles Kinnaird (1723 – 1767). He had succeeded to the barony in the peerage of Scotland as 6th Lord Kinnaird in 1758. Barbara awarded £130 per year and £100 pounds for furniture. She did not have access to her children. Her husband stated she had committed no crime other than ill nature.

Barbara, Baroness Kinnaird by Allan Ramsay, 1748 portrait retrieved from . Barbara Johnstone was the daughter of Sir James Johnstone, 3rd Bt. and Barbara Murray. She married Charles Kinnaird, 6th Baron Kinnaird, son of George Kinnaird and Lady Helen Gordon. She died on 21 October 1765

It is a bit intimidating when so much family history has been written to attempt one’s own study.  However, I have found plenty more family history to research while enjoying the stories published by others.