12 Sep 2012

A letter to Australian Swinfields

Since my last blog in early May 2012, Andrew Swinfield of Sydney, New South Wales, has volunteered to send out a letter to all those Swinfields who are listed in Australian White Pages. It was hoped that its content, composed as a joint effort between Andrew and myself, would encourage a positive response and elicit many replies, offering new information about the ancestry of and the relationships between those who share our surname in the Antipodes.

The problem with research in NSW is that only indexes to births to 1906 can be searched online. This means that there is a large gap, of more than a century, between the last available birth registration records which can be accessed from England, all of whom would now be dead, and those who would be alive today. Who are the parents and grandparents of today’s residents in NSW and those who have migrated to other states of Australia? Of the 43 Swinfields, for whom there are telephone listings, 33 still live in NSW. The other ten are spilt between South Australia (4), Queensland (3), Western Australia (2) and just 1 resident of Victoria.

After the letter went out in very late May, we waited expectantly for a great response and continued to wait! Disappointingly, only three people chose to reply. I am still waiting for one, Greg Swinfield, to provide greater detail of their part of the family after he has collected data from his close relatives. Meanwhile, he has sent me a great photograph of his family (taken in the 1930s?). I hope to learn more from him soon. Others may still reply but I am not holding my breath!

By far the most informative reply to date was from Leslie Ernest Swinfield and his daughter, Cheryl Cooper. They had received in 1989, a copy of a Swinfield genealogy which had been compiled by Barbara May Glass nee Swinfield. She had collected information about “Family 3A” by contacting living members at that time. This adds greatly to our knowledge of this major branch of the Australian family in the 20th century. Cheryl and Les have updated their own line for me, bringing it right up-to-date. 

Barbara included an intriguing statement in her narrative: "The Swinfields were very talented people but their liking for alcohol prevented many from reaching their potential in life. They were also very tall, one known to have reached 7' in height." How many of us fit that description?   

The circular letter proved very worthwhile for just this one new contact and all the information which it has produced.

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