Stories for another time

Things have been pretty hectic and I haven’t had much time to research the stories I wanted to tell for the last few weeks prompts for the 52 Ancestors challenge.

Week 3 “Longevity” – There’s the story of my father’s longevity in his career with the one firm since he immigrated to Australia in 1973 until his passing in 2004. Something unheard of these days. He left a detailed account of his time with the firm before he passed away. One day I’ll document it, along with my own memories of going into the office with him when I was about 4 years old.

Week 4 “Invite to Dinner” – why everyone of course! Even though there’d probably be some very awkward moments it would be good to be able to get information from everyone, on camera of course, to make this whole genealogy thing so much easier.

Week 5 “In the Census” – this is one story I will definitely follow up on as I’m still gathering information relating to my GGrandfather’s sister Elizabeth McOwat Boyd b1860. According to the UK 1881 Census she was an Ostrich Feather Dresser – someone who cleans ostrich feathers which were used in the fashion of the day. (I am waiting to purchase the book “Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce” by Sarah Abrevaya Stein. Apparently ostrich feathers were as valuable as diamonds in the late 1880’s to 1920’s.) Later in the 1891 Census she was found to have married Thomas Gilchrist who was an Ostrich Feather Merchant. Wiggly leaves on Ancestry say he died in 1901 (all to be confirmed of course which is why I’m not going into great detail here!). Now all this makes me wonder…. Ostrich feathers came primarily from South Africa. My GGrandfather Alexander Boyd went to South Africa where he married Mary Salisbury Montgomery in 1903. Did he go to South Africa to seek his fortune? Or was it some other reason? Elizabeth and Thomas lived in Scotland (as did Alexander in the early years), yet the Ostrich business seemed to flourish more in London. There may be a link to success v failure here too.

Definitely a story in there somewhere, so as they say, to be continued….


Margaret Joan Hoare – my favourite photo

I have a number of favourite photos but I’d have to say that my all time fave, creases and all, is this photo of my maternal grandmother Margaret Joan Hoare taken late 1930’s/early 1940’s. Margaret was known as Joan to most people, and Mama to the grandchildren & great grandchildren.

Margaret Joan Hoare [B01_7]
Born 12 Feb 1921
Married 04 Jul 1942
Died 05 Feb 2009

Margaret Joan Hoare [B01_7]
Margaret dressing up

Born Margaret Joan Hoare in Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia on 12 February 1921, she the was the second of three children to Maurice Strathmore Hoare [B01_14] and Grace Cecilia Barry [B01_15]. Margaret grew up in a world of boarding schools, country town balls, and appearances in the local society pages. In 1935 she came 3rd in the Taralga Juvenile Queen Competition where she raised £174/12/6.

Margaret later moved to Lewisham and married Ralph Roland Hill Presland [B01_6] on 4th July 1942, later having two daughters, the first of which is my mother. She worked in the womens shoe department in Grace Bros at Broadway, Sydney, and as a hairdresser (I wish I knew the name of the pink shampoo in a jar that she had when I was a child. I can still remember the smell).

While Mama wasn’t the type of grandmother who “played” with the grandchildren, she did look after us in other ways. I was allowed to touch the piano to practice for my lessons… and I knew where the key was hidden. She and my grandfather would take me to the orthodontist to get my braces tightened (although I don’t know if that was a good thing!). They would sometimes look after us after school. And in my senior school years I would spend Sunday nights at their house so that I could be up early for maths tutoring the next morning before school, undisturbed by my siblings. Mama would also get up to make me breakfast and secretly keep an eye on the tutor, not that there was any need to worry about that. I know she enjoyed watching each of us start our own families before she sadly passed away at 87 in Camden, New South Wales on 5th February 2009.

Margaret Joan Hoare

These photos make me happy as she is playful and, more importantly, smiling. Margaret was very self conscious of her smile which can be seen in later pictures. The lady we knew was always mindful of keeping up appearances, had her hair and nails done almost weekly, and cleaned the house before the house-cleaner arrived. I’m grateful that at least I was able to see this side of her captured on film.


Alexander McPherson Boyd

Where do you START? …with the living if you can. Unfortunately I left it too late.

This is one reason I am STARTing my research, and my #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks post with my grandfather on my father’s side. You see, Dad never spoke of his father. We only ever heard the tale about how when Dad turned 18 he was taken to the pub by his father for a ‘few’ drinks. Since then he wanted nothing to do with him.

We never knew him, saw him, or spoke to him.

In fact I hadn’t seen any photo’s of him until a few years ago, long after Dad passed away.

Introducing my grandfather:

Alexander McPherson Boyd [B01_4]
Born 02 May 1907
Married 02 Mar 1938
Died 30 Mar 1978

Photo Alexander McPerson Boyd Canada

Alexander McPherson Boyd was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow, Scotland at 0 hrs and 5 mins on 2nd May 1907. His death record states his birthday was on the 3rd which may be due to the time he was born. His father was Alexander Boyd [B01_8], a bricklayer, and his mother was Mary Salisbury Montgomery [B01_9]. Although they were both born in Scotland, they had married in Cape Town, South Africa.


Alex was the youngest of two boys. We were led to believe that it was tradition in our family to name the first son after the father. We were also told that my father, another Alexander (aka Alec with a ‘c’) [B01_2] was the 13th generation of Alexander’s. I was soon to learn that this was not the case. My grandfather had an older brother, James Montgomery Boyd [B01_8.1] born in Cape Town, South Africa, which debunks the whole first son naming tradition. On top of that, my great great grandfather’s name was also James Boyd [B02_1].

Alexander McP Boyd with parents

Alexander McPerson Boyd with his parents Alexander and Mary

Alex’s father probably immigrated from Scotland to Winnipeg, Canada about 1908 before sending for his wife Mary, James and Alex in about 1910 according to the 1911 census. They lived in a number of houses around Winnipeg over the years. Some are still standing (Thanks Google Maps!).

Location 654 Agnes St Winnipeg
Where Alexander lived in Winnipeg


Bright Shiny Object Alert!*

Tragedy struck on 29th Apr 1923, when Alexander was just 16 years old. He and his brother James (18) were by Red River at Saint John’s Park when an unknown man threw a dog into the river. James “a dog fancier himself” dove into the river to rescue it but quickly ran into trouble in the icy cold current. Alexander followed in after him to try to help however he was caught in barbed wire and had to be saved by onlookers. James was carried downstream and last spotted that day in West Kildonan. It wasn’t until almost a month later on 19th May 1923 that his body was discovered near Keenora Park, which is now known as Hyland Provincial Park. That is a long journey down river (see below), and I can only imagine the toll it took on Alex and his family. Mary was in Scotland visiting family at the time of the accident, according to the Manitoba Free Press.

And what became of the dog? He swam to the other side of Red River and was rescued.

Red River

Ten years later, in Sep 1933, Alex and his mother Mary travel back to the UK on the Duchess of Atholl. The passenger list states they were bound for Scotland via Liverpool England. Did they ever make it to Scotland or did he stay in England where he later married my grandmother? Did Mary stay in the UK too or was it only another visit and she later returned to her husband? (Mary did die in England in 1957, and her husband died in Canada in 1950)

Photo Alexander McP. Boyd B01_4_IT1
Alexander seated front

Alex met my grandmother Ida Maureen Green [B01_5] and they married on 2nd Mar 1938 in the Register Office Leeds, Yorkshire, England. They had one daughter and two sons.

Alex was a Customs Broker when he left Canada, then worked in the British Postal Service as a Night Telephonist and Call Office Attendant when he moved back to England. This training probably prepared him for WWII where he was a Signalman in the Royal Corps of Signals, according to Dad’s birth certificate.

In the late 1960’s/early 1970’s Alexander and Ida probably divorced, as Ida later re-married. He was in a nursing home or hospitalised from at least 1971 until he passed away at Harrogate District Hospital on 30 March 1978. When Ida passed away in 2009, Mum found out that Alexander was buried in an unmarked grave as a pauper somewhere in Yorkshire, possibly in one of the cemeteries in Ripon.

There is still so much more to discover on Alexander McPherson Boyd. He is becoming more than just a name with each snippet of information found. I have an ever growing research log and more questions than answers but this is a most rewarding START.

I may also have to START saving to travel to Canada and the UK!


*Bright Shiny Object (BSO) when something interesting or a new record distracts you from your research and takes you down another path. Also known as “Squirrel”.


Welcome to Researching the Family.

I’ve created this site to help jot down my findings and stories beyond the dates. I also hope this will encourage collaboration and sharing of information with family members.

The families I’ll be focussing on are Boyd, Presland and Hoare. I know there will be many interesting side branches along the way.

Let’s see where this takes us…