Interview with Sarah and Noel McDonald
In this episode I was delighted to hear all about the Marshall family history pursuits and legends of a fellow Toastmaster Noel McDonald, and his Genealogy Detective niece, Sarah McDonald. Noel still lives in the Marshall family home in Kew – a house with a history!
Sarah is a strong advocate for the use of the DNA testing process as a successful method of connecting with cousins. The stories of the Marshall families, and their origins in Ireland, feature in this episode.
Fame in Hollywood! Yes, the Marshalls have that! One ancestor, Joan Winfield features in the book, ‘Eighty Odd Years in Hollywood‘, by John Meredyth Lucas; writer-producer-director. Actress Joan McGilicuddy (Stage Name: Joan Winfield) cousin to Noel and Sarah, was married to John Lucas.
Irish Emigrants to Australia!
Yes, the Marshalls have them! John Marshall of Knocacurrin (prenounced knock-a-corn) and Mary Connor of Kilsarcon Prenounced (Kil-saw-con) in County Kerry founded the Marshalls of Kilsarcon.
“Free tools like Trove and ship records can help you find records and paint your ancestral stories”. Says Sarah McDonald.
Disaster and Courage!
Sarah’s sleuthing has led to the discovery that Thomas Marshall, descendant of John and Mary, was sponsored by his older brother James Marshall, to the sum of 5 pounds, to travel to Australia on board the ill fated Northampton. Just as Thomas arrived on the other side of the world he was evacuated from the Northampton which was shipwrecked in Sydney bay in 1882.
Detectives and Mayhem!
Yes, the Marshalls have them. They have a Jack the Ripper connection – the sergeant on the case was William Thick(e). Sergeant William Thick, known as Johnny Upright, was married to their Aunt Hannah Ellison, making William their great uncle.
Soldiers in World War 1!
Noel was assisted by Sarah’s investigation of family members killed in WW1, in visiting the grave of their Great Uncle James Ellison – a soldier in the 17th Bn. Australian Infantry, A. I. F who was killed in action, aged 28, 9 June 1916. 544 Private James Ellison is buried at the Brewery Orchard Cemetery in Nord, Bois-Grenier, France.
Research Tips from Sarah
If finances allow for it, gift DNA kits for the oldest family members to have their DNA test and help them with the technical aspects when they want it. DNA tests are helpful in finding more distant cousins and where some cousins immigrated to, if contact has been lost.
‘Sometimes it’s the next generation that can re-establish the connection that may have been lost with busy life pace.’
Note: Cousin connections led to the discovery of a professionally colourised version of their ancestors – a treasure for their archives.
The delight in finding ‘cousins across the waves’ provided highlights for their Marshall ancestors and they now form strong bonds using Zoom to keep in touch. Sarah and Noel also relish those face to face encounters with family connections.
- “I have had the privilege of visiting some of my long lost cousins and have been warmly welcomed into their homes.”
- “I have had the privilege of meeting grandchildren of our great-great grandfathers in person and being excited when I see people who look alike!”
Says Sarah McDonald, one of the youngest enthusiastic genealogists I have yet to interview.
What would you like to know about researching your family history?
Right now I am gathering those frequently asked questions about organising your genealogy research. You are welcome to add your wish list to this Google survey and subscribe to get news of this new course and its availability: How to Organise your Genealogy Research!