Thursday, September 29, 2016

Legacy of Andrew Goodwin & Lydia Munro

Books about Australia’s earliest days of European settlement are becoming thick on the shelves, so it’s rewarding to find one containing a new angle on the accepted version of events.

The Legacy of Andrew Goodwin & Lydia Munro by Patricia Kennedy corrected my understanding of the supposed foundation 'orgy story' of 6 February 1788 and, after meeting the author at an event in Melbourne in May 2016, I wrote a blog post about it. On pages 22-25 of Patricia’s book, the conventional views about Lydia Munro and her rape charge against William Boggis in September 1788 are also challenged, if briefly.

Writing family history is perhaps the most difficult genre for any writer to tackle. In part this is because its story line usually does not begin with a coherent overview but emerges in bits and pieces, as research progresses. Then comes the challenge of deciding on a meaningful structure. Patricia has settled on the structure I used in 2008 when writing about my Dennis forebears from Cornwall, this being to start with the founding couple, move to a chapter on all of their children and then select the child of personal interest to the author and repeat this process down through the generations.  This approach somewhat limits the eventual ‘market’ for the book, but works if the opening chapters appeal to all descendants of the founding couple.

This book should please all Goodwin descendants, as a lengthy chapter covers the Goodwins’ nine children, the first born in Sydney in 1789 and the others born on Norfolk Island. With only two sons and seven daughters, the Goodwin surname, with any number of spelling variations, struggles to survive in subsequent generations. Patricia, researching her husband John’s family, chose to follow the Goodwins’ second child Sarah, born on Norfolk Island in 1791, and then the line Sarah and her husband Benjamin Briscoe created through their son William Briscoe.

The book interested me because my own forebear Robert Forrester came with Andrew Goodwin on the First Fleet vessel Scarborough, and also went to Norfolk Island, but returned to Sydney after 18 months. This meant that my knowledge of the settlers’ enforced move after 1807, from Norfolk Island to the newly-established settlement around Hobart in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania), was rather sketchy.  It was helpful for me to read Patricia’s summary of Collins’ attempt to settle Port Phillip Bay at Sorrento in 1803 and the change of plans dictated by the lack of its supply of fresh water, with Collins moving south to ‘create’ Hobart.

The Goodwin family’s adventures in Tasmania then become a series of ‘Days of Our Lives’ cameos, with multiple marriages, name changes, some divorces, children born to different or unknown fathers, most of whom were fresh convicts arriving from England, activities on the wrong side of the law, drinking problems and stories of gritty, often long-lived women making their choices and enduring everything that life could throw at them. Tracking all of these events through the various name changes was clearly challenging and quite an undertaking.

Should there ever be a Second Edition, some of the detail in the Family Charts, so valuable to readers in following any family history, needs to be slightly amended. While the correct names are there, dates and places do not always match the written text.

Patricia describes her genealogical credentials on the inside back cover of her book, which fulfils all of the requirements for the Alexander Henderson Award offered by the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies. It contains a ‘pre-Australia’ chapter on Andrew’s and Lydia’s lives in England, a clear table of contents, family charts, some interesting illustrations,  eight pages of appendices, a five page bibliography, twelve pages of endnotes and a seven page index. 

The research effort involved, its cost and the time expended is not for everyone, and descendants of Andrew Goodwin & Lydia Munro should be very grateful for Patricia’s hard work and the clear presentation in her book, available here.

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