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Monday, October 24, 2011

Edmund Harrison - A Brickwall Broken

One of my biggest brick walls in my family history research has been tracing my elusive great great grandfather Edmund Harrison. He didn't leave an easy trail to follow and finding information about him has taken me the last 16 years and the searching of a wide variety of records.

I had to start from hearsay from the family so all I had to start with was that Edmund Harrison was my great grandmothers father and Ellen Lonergan was her mother. Edmund was a journalist who worked on papers in Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong and that there was some connection to James Harrison of Geelong. He had the Geelong Advertiser and was an early inventor of refrigeration. A couple of tales mentioned he died young, while another was said that he went back to England on family business never to return. I also knew my great grandmother had at least a brother, Louis and two sisters Ellen May and Jessie and in my search I found another brother, Edmund. Edmund jnr was the one who had died young.

Below is a documented list of some of the places I searched over the years in my search for Edmund and his family.

  1.  Searched BDM’s for Marriage, births and deaths of Edmund his children etc.  No marriage could be found and no register of births of children.  No death for Edmund.
  2. Purchased Marriage and death certificate of Minna Gertrude McCaffrey nee Harrison. Marriage of Louis Harrison, Jessie Harrison.  Deaths of Ellen Harrison nee Lonergan and Edmund Harrison Jnr.  Didn’t buy Ellen Mays marriage or other deaths as didn’t think it would provide any further clues.
  3. Contacted the Geelong Advertiser as knew he was a journalist and there was family talk of a connection to James Harrison there who had that paper.  They have no records but put me onto his grandson James who I wrote to.  He sent me a lot of his family history and there seems to be no connection there as yet.  The Geelong Genealogical Society found no evidence of him being in Geelong.
  4. Wrote to BendigoGenealogical Society.  They checked and found the following: Bendigo Directories listed 1865-66. Bendigo rate records 65-66.  He is mentioned in the History of Bendigo by G Mackay 1899 and Bendigo and Vicinity published about 1900.  No mention in Advertiser personals or St Paul’s and All Saints records for a marriage.
  5. Wrote to Bendigo Advertiser and they could come with no more then already found there records are slim for that time as there was a fire in the building.
  6. Wrote to Genealogical Society of Victoria they checked Melbourne cemetery where Ellen is buried without a headstone, nos sign of Edmund snr.  Was not on Vic and NSW assisted shipping index?  Not on Victoria Wills and probate index.
  7. Wrote to Herald and Weekly Times to see if they had anything re him working on the paper in the 1850’s, they had nothing.
  8. Checked the Electoral roll for 1851 in Victoria no one who fits his description. Checked 1856 Electoral Roll, 1899 Victorian Referendum roll, no Edmund.
  9. Had contact with a Patricia Lennox from Bundoora who is a descendant of Ellen’s sister Margaret, she only knew their was a sister by the name Mrs Harrison, but gave me names of the other sister’s which led me to finding more info on the Lonergan sisters of Tipperary.
  10. Checked the Victoria Police Gazette for mention of him found two instances and sent away to Police Historical unit for these and any other mention of him.  They sent copies of these to me one of these led me to search the Ballarat area.
  11. Wrote to St Kilian’s Church, Bendigo to see if any record of his marriage.  No luck with that.
  12. Went to State Library of Victoria and looked through microfilm of old newspapers in Ballarat for mention of Edmund.  He was Editor of the Tribune found nothing else.  Also checked for deaths in papers in Melbourne at the time of Ellen and Edmund Jnr’s death and copied these from the Age.
  13. Checked the Melbourne directories from 1870 through to 1905.  Found mention of Edmund Harrison in the early ones.
  14. Wrote to the Ballarat Genealogical Society.  They checked directories, hospital admissions no sign of him.  He is mentioned in The History of Ballarat by W.B Withers who worked on papers there.  They checked the Ballarat PRO Court records etc no mention of him 2/7/1861 to 5/3/1863 or prior to that, the next unit was not available to the public due to water damage.
  15. Checked Immigration to Victoria from British ports 1852-59 index.  Found an Edmund Harrison age 23 arrived May 1853 on the Eagle also a George listed same age.  Went to PRO and looked this up. It left Liverpool and he is listed as English and a merchant. Seems about the right age, but wrong profession. So may or may not be him.
  16. Went to Melbourne General Cemetery and purchased Burial records etc. No Edmund but found other family members
  17. Checked through defunct businesses at the PRO to see if he had a registered business.
  18. Checked Bendigo Goldfields Petition 1853, List of citizens 1877/78 and Vic Prisoner Index 1850-1900.
  19. Checked 1891 and 1901 Census records found an Edmund Harrison about right age and occupation with 2 daughters, one born NZ the other Victoria, Australia. Looks possibly like I am on the right track.
  20. Checked and found death of an Edmund Harrison right age and profession same person as above, dying Croydon, England.
  21. Questions that I now wanted answered.  Do any photos exist of any of the family Edmund, Ellen and their children when they were young?   What was he doing at the time he was living in Fitzroy? Is there any way of checking baptism records, school records etc? Did he leave the family and go interstate or overseas, can we check outgoing shipping? Find his birth record? Need to find more on Violet and Constance Harrison.
  22. Found references to the family above in many pages of The London Times which is digitized online. This can be accessed through the National Library of Australia in their e-Resources.
  23. Found him in the East Ballaarat Petty Sessions Register. 31st July, 1861. Need to next look at newspapers around that date to see if anything mentioned.
  24. In Argus Newspaper 2nd Jan 1871, 25 Jan 1871, 16 Feb 1871, 20 Apr 1877, 14 Nov. 1878. Mentions him being a member of the Yorick Club and standing as a member for the Legislative Assembly.
  25. Need to research information on Yorick Club. There are a couple of books on its history. The Yorick Club: Its Origin and Development: May, 1868, to Dec 1910, Melbourne 1911 and A History of the Yorick Club 1868–1966  by J Johnson.
  26. Need to research any information through his connection with the Legislative Assembly. He was standing for the Liberal Party.
  27. Found him on the Argus newspaper online index and have copies of those references. He was a candidate for the Liberal Party in the Legislative Assembly.
  28. There are also references to him on the index to Port Phillip Herald will need to check them at State Library. This period may cover to early a time frame for my Edmund.
  29. Researched and found him on 1851 census in London with his family. Then found that family on 1841 census. Edmund and father George were not in England at the time. This gave me his parents so was able to use FamilySearch to find christenings and marriages etc. Parents George Berkeley Harrison and Anna Dunant. George was a Wine Merchant so that ties up with the Passenger records of him as a Merchant.
This is Part 1 of my search of Edmund Harrison and his family. Stay tuned for Part 2. Coming soon!


  1. Persistence will pay off.

    Thanks for documenting your research journey - it demonstrates how one can think through the process and will surely highlight resources that others will find useful.

  2. This is a great explanation of the research process. Well done!

  3. A very methodical and coherent approach.