THE DOODSON FAMILY HISTORY SITE
Everything you wanted to know about Doodson family history
Mostly this page is about how I went about tracing Doodsons in Australia. Genealogists need to use somewhat different sources and understand the constraints that those impose. But first ...
If you're looking for family trees of Doodsons in Australia…
As you'll see from the family tree PDF file linked from this page, I was able to build a pretty good family tree for the descendants of Robert and Ann Doodson (minor updates Sept 2019), who arrived in Australia in 1841. While there are a few gaps and a couple of uncertainties, this tree is quite large and accounts for many of the Doodsons who have ever lived in Australia (I would guess approaching 75% in fact!). Sadly, although I did find records of baptisms for some of the family back in the UK (in the North West, as one would expect), neither I nor Jenny Wall have yet been able to link Robert and Ann to an existing family tree on our web site. You should be warned that because there were some pretty big families in this Australian tree the PDF is very, very wide. You will probably have to zoom in a lot, and I recommend downloading the PDF file and zooming in on your computer. Looking at this PDF on a mobile device is quite a challenge!
This site also has a mini-album of photos of grave/memorial stones for some of these Australian Doodsons (thanks to Lee for the photos).
In September 2019 Jennifer Wall wrote a splendid essay about the life of one of the people on this mail family tree (eldest son of Robert and Ann), namely Edward (known as George) Doodson (1825-84), which I’m delighted to include here in PDF format.
Other Doodson family trees linked to Doodsons in Australia
Many of the other Doodsons I found traces of in Australia are far more difficult to track back, and while I have now (after many, many happy hours!) managed to link the majority to other trees on this site, some have no obvious links to anyone else in Australia or elsewhere. Anyway, these other Doodsons down under are on a separate document (Updated May 2017 after linking the Rosannah and George tree to the Ernest Doodson goes to Cornwall tree). I guess some of these unconnected people emigrated from the UK, but because the published UK migration records (mainly passenger lists) peter out in the mid-20th century that leaves lots of gaps. There are also Doodsons in Australia in the "Kearsley and Australia" family tree linked on the main Family Trees page.
Genealogy in Australia
So, after a long time putting it off I started to investigate the various Doodsons who have travelled to and lived in Australia. This was a more tricky challenge than tracing and linking Doodsons in England, not least because the genealogical resources available for Australian residents are very different from those available in the UK. British censuses are such wonderful sources of information, even though the latest published census is 1911. After that date one can use public domain records of births, marriages and deaths (BMDs) to piece together family relationships. UK newspapers are not much use, so far, as while there are various on-line archives they date back to Victorian times and are, frankly, not very well indexed.
In Australia things are very different for genealogists, and different techniques are needed. A good general starting point for family history research is the National Archives of Australia
(http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/family-history/index.aspx) - there are quite a few useful links and suggestions about how to go about things.
The only census records that have been published are for New South Wales in 1841 and 1891. But the 1891 records don't record any people's names and the 1841 only the head of the household they are of very limited use. Even if you find someone with the surname you're after you then have to send off A$15 plus postage for a copy of the transcript. Nothing from the 1901 census is published. For more information see http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/state-archives/indexes-online/census-records
Births, Marriages and Deaths
Searchable public domain birth records are made available in most Australian states (see links at bottom of the page), but these run to earlier dates compared with the UK - NSW for example doesn't publish births after 1911, marriages after 1961 and deaths after 1981. Compare this with the English records, which are available up to 2005 for marriages and 2006 for births and deaths. This does leave some big gaps in Australia - tracing families to living people is more or less impossible. Personally I think there's far too much information available in the UK through these records (it's terribly easy to find out someone's mother's maiden name, for example), so maybe the authorities in Australia have got things right, frustrating though this is for genealogists.
There is a truly marvellous free newspaper archive, which is a fantastic resource and fully searchable. There are some errors in the transcription (which I assume has been done using Optical Character Recognition software), but for the most part if you search for "Doodson" you'll get what you are after.
Many references in the newspaper archive are to a couple of roads called Doodson something, notably Doodson Avenue in Lidcombe , which is a township to the west of Sydney. Even these references are illuminating but mysterious too - which Doodson was this road named after? The earliest reference I could find was in September 1916 - an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald for a milking cow for sale.
UPDATE April 2013 - Cynthia Coleman contacted me to point out the explanation for this naming. Previously the street was called Hanover Street, but was renamed Doodson Avenue in memory of Frederick "Curly" Doodson who lost his life at the Dardenelles in the Great War in 1915. See the newspaper article explaining this here (and further explanation on the Great War page)
Anyway, the newspaper archive has family announcements (which are obviously useful for births, marriages, deaths, engagements and so on, and often give the names of relatives, as well as where people lived), small ads, and, obviously, news items. It's surprising how many Doodsons get mentioned in news items - OK so some of these are simply reports of sports events or dance competitions, but others are more illuminating or intriguing, such as being accused of criminal activity. So while it's fascinating to know that in the first couple of decades of the 20th century there were a couple of Doodsons big in the New South Wales cycle racing world, and Iris Doodson won awards for dancing in the 1930s, reading about the tragic deaths of Doodsons in the 1914-18 war and deaths at sea brings a real human connection.
Directories and electoral rolls
Other sources include local directories such as the Sands Directories for the Sydney area between 1861 and 1933, similar directories in Western Australia and the electoral rolls from 1904 to 1980. These are all available on-line on either FindMyPast.co.uk or Ancestry.co.uk.
And of course there up to date records such as the Australian telephone directories, Facebook and LinkedIn. While there are various Australian genealogical Internet sites, and snippets on forums and in Ancestry.com (such as other people searching for particular Doodsons in Australia) I haven't found any that bring things all together or give access to existing genealogy for Australian families.
Well, I guess I could contact the Doodsons living in Australia who are on Facebook, Twitter or even listed in the Australian White Pages (phone directory) - can't be that difficult, I suppose. At May 2012 there were 15 listed in the White Pages, 9 in LinkedIn and maybe 30 or so on Facebook. Maybe a project for when I have more time on my hands…
Australian National Archives:
Births, Marriages and Deaths: