Researching British ancestors from Australia can be difficult, but the internet increasingly makes for greater success. A case in point is my maternal great great grandfather, John William Baker.
I have long known that he arrived in Australia with his wife Margaret as unassisted passengers on board The Boomerang in 1855. I have photos of him, letters to him written by his siblings in England and examples of his printing expertise; a trade he learned in Yorkshire. From the certificate recording his death in Victoria in 1901 I learned that he was born in about 1822 to William Baker, a grocer, and Sarah Ellis.
It would seem a simple matter to then find John William's birth or baptism in Yorkshire, but for years, despite multiple attempts, I met with not the slightest degree of success.
Then, when I was tracing a different family line on thegenealogist.co.uk, I did a chance search in the non-conformist records for John William Baker, as I believed the family were Methodists.
Success! There he was, but in the Quaker records rather than the Methodist ones:
Only other researchers will understand my excitement at this discovery, which did not stop there. The family, unknown to their Australian descendants, had been Quakers for generations. I spent the next few days working through the non-conformist records, quickly filling a binder with the fantastic information I was so effortlessly accumulating. The nature of the Quaker records is such that they frequently contain the names of family members, addresses and occupations. In parallel to my record searches I discovered a great deal of information about the Yorkshire Quakers of the time. I even found online books and other records that made mention of my ancestors. The Bakers, and the families they married - names such as Richardson , Ellis and Pilmoor - included many notable Yorkshire Quakers. Thomas, the earliest Baker I found, had been imprisoned in York Castle in 1682 for non-payment of tithes.
John William Baker's mother, Sarah Ellis, also came from a long line of Quakers. Her father John was a noted schoolmaster and many of the Quaker records relating to that side of the family are written in his exquisite script.
Thanks to the information I found I have been able to make contact with other family members who have added further to my knowledge of the individuals in my family tree.
At the end of 2009 my husband and I visited Britain and made the journey to the Yorkshire moors, where we were able to visit many of the addresses I had discovered in relation to the Baker family and other Quaker branches. For many reasons it was the best holiday I've ever taken and all down to an initial casual search of the non-conformist records on TheGenealogist.co.uk.