S03EP05: ‘The Priest’ with Jill Ball

In episode five of Series Three of The Family Histories Podcast, Andrew meets Australian genealogist, former librarian and teacher, and IT specialist, Jill Ball. He’ll find out how she got hooked on researching family history, hear about how Jill researches her English, Irish, Scottish, and Indigenous First Nation ancestors from within Australia, her work as President of The Lake Macquarie Family History Group, and they discuss their shared love for online archive site Trove.

NOTE: This episode names and briefly discusses First Nation Indigenous Australians who have died. If you wish to avoid this part of the episode, then either skip from 6m 15s to the 7m 45s mark, or alternatively use the Episode Chapters controls of your podcast player to skip, where available.

Life Story – Michael Harrington Ryan

Jill has chosen her 3x Great Uncle, the Reverend Father Michael Harrington Ryan for her Life Story. MIchael, taking his mother’s maiden-name as his middle name, was born either in Kilbeggan or Castletown Geoghegan in County Westmeath, in the Republic of Ireland, but he certainly doesn’t stay there.

When Jill discovered that she had a ‘man of the cloth’ in her family tree, she was excited to see what she could find out about him. Was he a saint, or were there some skeletons in the cupboard?

Jill’s research takes her from Ireland, through England, to Australia in 1848, but as time goes on, he travels across the seas again with his work, complete with a tantalising missing 3 years.

Jill then proves how a quick glance in a book on the off-chance that it might contain a mention, can yield some unexpectedly wonderful results.

The Brick Wall – James Duncan

It’s a 2x Great Grandfather that is causing Jill a headache in her research.

James Duncan appears to begin life in Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, before turning up in Melbourne, Australia on 25th May 1853 when he marries Mary, whose surname spelling seems to allude most scribes – Cligan, Crieghan, Gregson and many other variants.

The couple are known to have had at least three children, and the last known living reference to James seems to be in Victoria state in 1857 when his son James Duncan is born.

He does get name checked in 1921 upon the death of his son Francis, but this is all the information that Jill has.

  • What happened to James Duncan after 1857?
  • Does the lack of further children suggest that either James or Mary died?
  • Did they leave Australia and return to the UK?

If you think you can help Jill with her research brick wall, then you can drop her a message at her blog, her twitter account @geniaus, or via the email address given in the episode, or via our contact form.

Jill is more than happy to accept Andrew’s offer of help, but will a tech upgrade make things a bit more reliable?


Episode Credits:
Series Three, Episode Five

  • Andrew Martin: Host and Producer
  • Jill Ball: Guest

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