A blog about the frustrations, adventures, brickwalls and ultimately rewards of someone searching for their origins. Some Irish (Shamrocks), Scottish (Shortbread) and Shenanigans (English) all mixed into one!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Some Of The Shortbread In My Tree (Scotch Finger, anyone?)

If it wasn't for the Scottish, I may have never existed....

McDonald Headstone, Kyneton Cemetery
Pretty big statement, I know, but the Scottish brought Catholicism to my mother's line, and without that, she never would have married my father!

My maternal great great grandmother was Mary McDonald. Anyone who has studied Scottish family history would know that this name is an extremely common one, so I had to retrace my line using Australian BDM certificates to ensure that I was researching the correct Mary.

Mary McDonald, then aged 15 years of age,  arrived in Hobson's Bay, Victoria, Australia, on 20 September, 1852, on the ship "Marco Polo", with her family (father Angus, mother Marjory, and siblings Ann, Flora, Sarah, Catherine, and Roderick). A brother, Ronald, who sailed with them, died on route to Australia. The Victorian shipping list notes that none of the family could write, and only two could read. Mary could do neither. They were not indentured to anyone for paying their fare - the shipping record notes under the heading "By Whom Engaged" the statement "On own account to Melbourne."
Mum (Vera Arthur) with her g-g grandparent's headstone,
 Kyneton Cemetery

The McDonalds originated from Moidart, Inverness-shire, Scotland. Their reason for migration is unknown, but my research has found that nearly 25% of the population migrated from their homeland in the mid 1800's. The Catholic Church in Australia appears to have played a large part in the mass migration of the Scottish to Australia.

I am unsure of the McDonalds' early years in Australia, but they eventually settled in Spring Creek, just outside of Kyneton, Victoria. Angus was a farmer at Spring Creek.

A McPherson Gravestone marker in Kyneton Cemetery

I found it interesting that two of the McDonald sisters, Sarah and Flora, married two McPherson brothers (Sarah married  John and Flora married Archibald).  The McPhersons, who also originated from Inverness-shire, Scotland, lived in the Kyneton District, and like Angus McDonald, were also farmers.

Mary met her husband John Burton, an Englishman, in the late 1850's (John had migrated with his brother, Richard, in December 1854) and married on 28 May, 1860. The McDonalds were Catholic; John Burton was Methodist, a successful merchant  (he owned the Hepburn Springs Hotel near Old Racecourse Road, as well as performing duties as a Daylesford councillor and Justice of the Peace). I have no idea how they would have met, but the Burton children that resulted from that marriage were raised Catholic.

Old Racecourse Road, Hepburn Springs, today.

After several unsuccessful business ventures and personal tragedies (John's brother, Richard Burton, killed himself in John's house in December, 1866), the Burtons moved to Brisbane, Queensland. They were residing in Queensland by 1870.

John and Mary's granddaughter, Flora Burton (my grandmother) met and fell in love with John Wesley Oxford, in Brisbane. As John's name indicates, he was not Catholic! Another chance for me not to exist! He did, however, agree to raise any children as Catholics, so he and Flora wed in 1919. This caused much concern amongst his siblings, who were most upset at him marrying a Catholic. John's siblings, with the exception of brother, Will, continued with the Methodist faith, and I have found several distant cousins who belong to this faith.

As for my Scottish ancestry, my mother fondly remembers her Auntie Elsie baking delicious shortbread every New Year. I must admit, however, that I do not like shortbread!

Daylesford Historical Society
I have visited the Daylesford Historical Society to research my family, as well as travelling to Hepburn Springs, Kyneton, Spring Creek, and local cemeteries to find my ancestors memorials. The Daylesford Historical Society holds hundreds of newspaper articles of  John Burton, as he was a prominent resident in the day. There are also many references to McDonalds, but I did not have enough time to research each one to be able to confirm if they related to my line. This trip was so meaningful to me and my mother, and I would love to visit Inverness-shire one day to look over the ground my ancestors lived, loved and had to leave. 

A toast to Scotland!

(You can have the shortbread)


  1. An interesting story accompanied by a nice variety of photos. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Anthony Arthur23 July 2011 at 08:05

    Excellent post. Keep teaching me my family's history. I love it

  3. Everytime you write, it inspires me to keep searching - Thanks

  4. Bernice Dey nee Brady .23 February 2012 at 01:15

    My great grandfather(James Brady) married Catherine McDonald.She was a daughter of Angus and Marjory mcDonald .Arrived on the Marco Polo in 1852 .I have a book all about their voyage and the family tree,their lives in and around Kynton,Malmsbury and Springhill .I was born 1952 ....100 years aftr their arrival .Phone 03 5967 1036 .

  5. I am the son of John Patrick Brady the son of Michael Edward Brady your great grand father's older brother????. Apart from the family of dad's twin sister Pat I never knew any of the other Brady's. My older brother Barry may have. I presume the book you refer to is Laurence Howes "They came from England,Ireland and Scotland.


    Peter Lawrence Brady