Hey you! That might be my great X3 grandfather!

Bizarre story from the Sydney Light Rail project a few days ago.

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In short:

Days after human remains were discovered during digging for the light rail project between Sydney’s CBD and eastern suburbs, disturbing footage has emerged that shows a construction worker cracking jokes about the bones as he dug them up and tossed them out of the hole.

After the grisly find on Monday, a spokeswoman for the consortium of Alstom, Acciona, Transdev and Capella Capital (ALTRAC) building the light rail project told Fairfax Media that the bones – believed to be remnants from the old Devonshire Street Cemetery – were “respectfully removed by heritage experts” before further analysis confirmed them to be human….

Here is that cemetery prior to closure:

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My great-great-great grandfather Jacob Whitfield was buried there. Or so we believe. See my series of family history posts, particularly on Jacob.

There is a Wiki Tree page on Jacob too. I first accessed it last Friday. An extract:

Death date and place unknown – Jacob is found still living in 1851 according to a news article. This would make him 92 years old !

Death and Burials : Friends Burial Ground – Old Devonshire Street Sandhills Cemetery, reference : “Burial Notes missing : Jacob Whitfield” no indication of his date of death or burial….

Friends Burial Ground – Old Devonshire Street Sandhills Cemetery, reference : “Burial Notes missing : Jacob Whitfield” no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from after 1851 ..

The Devonshire Street Cemetery (also known incorrectly as the Brickfield Cemetery or Sandhills Cemetery) was located between Eddy Avenue and Elizabeth Street, and between Chalmers and Devonshire Streets, at Brickfield Hill, in Sydney, Australia. It was consecrated in 1820.[1] The Jewish section was used from 1832.[2] By 1860, the cemetery was full, and it was closed in 1867….

That Wiki Tree page has lots of information congruent with the researches of Bob Starling and other family historians, and some that isn’t. Interesting. See also my Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days which features quite a few contributions by those family historians. On the subject of Jacob’s age, for example:

Thanks to the amazing Internet I have actually been able to trace my father’s family further back to the father of convict Jacob, to a John Whitfield who was born in County Kildare, Ireland, in 1735, but there is a bit of a mystery now about Jacob’s age. The puzzle about Jacob’s real age remains, but probably he was in his forties rather than his sixties when he arrived in Australia. That story I found on the Net about Jacob’s (third, it now appears) marriage would require him to have been born around 1760, and I had always understood he was about 60 when he arrived in the colony. Stuart Daniels writes (3 June 2004): “William was born in Cootehill, Co. Cavan and came out to NSW ? and died ? as he can’t be found in the NSW records. I found the Jacob in the shipping records and that he came out here at the age of 60 years, and if he was 60 at his arrival date means that he was born in about 1762?” I thought perhaps the 1774 Jacob was a different Jacob at first, but not according to the very thorough Genealogy of the Leslie Family of Innisfail, the source too for Mary Gowrie’s dates — except the Leslies keep on working on that genealogy, it seems, wrecking the links each time they do; they work now (December 2006) but I guess I will have to check from time to time. [2011: no longer fully available to the public.] The Jacob there is definitely the right one, father of Mary, William, and three other siblings. 1774 better fits the marriage record pictured above.

Further information in a comment below from Kathryn Whitfield arrived in December 2007:

Jacob Whitfield (per Isabella I, 1822) is often said to have had six children with Mary Gowrie in Ireland. I can find no record of what happened to two of the children and to Mary herself, yet Bob and Linda are mistaken to think that only Mary and William came to Australia. Jacob requested that four children be allowed to come to Australia and the four were on the Thames (1826). You will find that 16- and 17-year-old Judith and Catherine were already married and do not, therefore, appear on the list as Whitfields. The shipping list for the Thames shows the four siblings as Catherine Aaron, 16; Judith Doyle, 17; William Whitfield, 10 (true we think he could have been aged 14); and Mary Whitfield, 18.

Bob Starling has traced Jacob back to an earlier John Whitfield, born in 1695 in County Tyrone.

William

William Whitfield 1812-1897

# Perhaps this really is the final answer: William WHITFIELD (above) & Caroline Philadelphia WEST: William WHITFIELD Born: 16 Mar 1812 – , Parish of Drumgoon, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, Ireland. Died: 12 Oct 1897 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Buried: Rookwood, New South Wales, Australia. Father: Jacob WHITFIELD (1774- ? ) Mother: Mary GOWRIE (1781-1841) Married: 20 Jun 1836 – , St Andrews Church of Scotland, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Wife Caroline Philadelphia WEST: Born: 12 Jul 1817 – Seven Oaks, Kent, England. Died: 21 Oct 1881 – Picton, New South Wales, Australia. Buried: Redbank Cemetery, Upper Picton, New South Wales, Australia. See also Jacob WHITFIELD & Mary GOWRIE. Convict Jacob is given this birthdate: Born: May 1774 – Ballyhagen, Co. Kildare, Ireland, and Mary died in Co. Tyrone, Ireland in 1841. Mary, the wife of Daniel Sweeney, was the daughter of these two, and William (above) their son. Curious though that we don’t know when Jacob died.

We also are intrigued by the possibility Jacob was a Quaker. A Ph.D. thesis I am currently reading sheds much light on the nature of Ulster Protestantism, beyond the rather cliched picture we probably all have: Philomena Sutherland (2010 UK, Open University), The role of Evangelicalism in the formation of nineteenth-century Ulster Protestant cultural identity. While that thesis deals with  the Ulster Revival (1859), disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (1869) and the threat of home rule (1880s), for none of which were any of my ancestors still in Ireland, it does hark back to King Billy and all that, which I know from my father’s testimony still exercised the minds of his grandparents — that is, of convict Jacob’s children and grandchildren.

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Interesting by-election in Sydney

I predicted around four weeks ago on Facebook that Dr Kerryn Phelps would win the Wentworth by-election, and repeated that on the Friday before the vote. Well, despite some doubts arising on Sunday, it’s now looking most likely: “The independent has reached what looks to be an unassailable lead, sending the government into minority. “

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The booth-by-booth result is interesting to me, having lived in or near the Wentworth electorate for quite a few years to 2010.

Looks to me that Scott Morrison running the Jerusalem embassy move up the flagpole on Tuesday 16 October had little effect one way or another on the electorate in Wentworth. There are indeed quite a few Jewish voters there, but the majority of really observant Jews among then would have pre-polled, as the vote fell on the Sabbath! So if the Liberals were angling for their votes, they wasted their time last Tuesday.

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Change in my lifetime

I was taken by Jim Belshaw’s recent post A certain weariness of the spirit.

The second is just accommodating to the pace of change. I was born at the end of the war. I have been though the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and now into the 2000s. Institution after institution, belief after belief, new vision after new vision, has been discredited and replaced.

Mind you, when it comes to teaching/education I am perhaps even more frustrated by the phenomenon of the same often silly arguments recurring decade after decade — the teaching of reading being just one example. But that is not my point today.

This intrigued me: As the apartment boom peaks, these are Australia’s most densely populated suburbs. (Link fixed!) Now for context, bear in mind that Australia at large has a population density of just 3.5 per square kilometre. When it comes to cities compare Shanghai with 2,059, or Singapore with 7,909. And here are the most densely populated incorporated places in the United States. New York City has 10,431.

So look at these, from the article linked above, where they are interactive:

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The figure for Melbourne CBD is amazing! Those recent changes are just one element in the changes over my lifetime, but somehow these days I seem more sensitised to it. The Sydney of my mind these days seems more and more to be this one:

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That’s Eddy Avenue, Central Station, in 1956. I was 13 then… Remember it well. Don’t know what the population density was then, but the total for Greater Sydney was 1,902,000 and for all Australia 9,425,563. You might recall that in August/September this year we hit 25,000,000.

Now that opens up a possible discussion of population in Australia — very much a live issue at the moment too. But I will pass on that right now, except to say 1) I feel the changes, for good and ill and 2) with old age comes nostalgia. And I know that can be a deceptive feeling.

And back to Eddy Avenue. That perfectly good tram line was dug up in the 1960s. Now, way over time and way over budget, a new tramline is appearing in that right-hand lane!