Welcome to

my Website

Irene Schaffer O.A.M.
Historian & Private Researcher.
Hobart Tasmania.

Sorry I have not added anything to my website for sometime, with the upgrading to Windows10 I have not been able to go into my site and add anything new.   


After many years of researching other peoples family history, and only having very little time to do my own. I have had a break through. Thirteen years ago I places a query on Irish Roots for my great greatmother Mary Jane Cooke, born Cloncurrish Armagh Northern Ireland in 1853. I had managed to find out a bit about her over the years, but there were still many gaps that I could not fill.

After a period of thirteen years I had almost given up. Then last month I received an email from a man in Armagh. He turned out to be a relation (we have the same g/g/grandmother)  Knowing you have Irish ties is one thing finding them after all those years was something else.

Charles has been able to fill in a few more family names and photos of where Mary Jane grew up.

This set me off researching my own family again and I have come up with some wonderful unknown things about my Irish family.

When I started to do the Cooke research back in the 1980s I found a lot of family folklore not to be the truth. From what my mother had told me and what I was unraffling was quite different.

Mary Jane left Ireland in 1876 and came to Brisband in Queensland Australia. She was only 23 years old and was travelling by herself as a free passenger (did not pay for her passage) Why she set off across the world we may never know.  What we do know now is that she appears to have been a nurse (Charles sent me a wonderful photo of a young woman and her name was on the back of the photo)in a white uniform with a thin pencil striped shirt, with a black flat top black veil.( I have not been able to find a simular style of nurses uniform) Mary Jane was recorded as being a nurse in Brisbane right up to her death in Brisbane, when she was in her sixties.

The mystery deepens as just nine months to the day she had a baby girl.  Was this the reason she came to Australia, to meet a young man names Alexander McKinstry (he was born in Belfast) that she may have know back in Ireland.

Mary Jane and Alexander went on to have another two daughters, but they never married. Their eldest daughter died and when the others were only  5 years and 5 months old Alexander was killed at work when a loaded cart ran over him.

 Mary Jane was left completely on her own, unmarried with two children.  How she managed over the next 4 years is not known, but it must have been very hard.  She lived at Kangaroo Point one of the poorest parts of Brisbane.  This is where my great grandfather Joseph Barrett come into the story, he married Mary Jane in 1885 and they were to have five children, my Grandmother Lydia Rosecleer being the first born to the marriage. 

Mary Jane was a big enough problem but finding anything about Alexander McKinstry was a lot harder.  I knew his parents name from his death certificate but that did not help at all. I could not find how he arrived in Australia or when (his death certificate in 1881 gave his birth as 1851 and said he had been in the Colony eleven years)

While I was on this roll I decided to try and find out more about him. After surfing on google for hours I came up with a site that had information that had a William McKinstry whose parents, Alexander McKinstry and Mary Aslop, on his death certificate was the same as Alexander.  William settled at Pilton on the Darling Downs and I have been able to trace him and his family up into the 1980. William arrival also cannot be verified (Immigration records for the 1860s were lost in a flood) but we know he was at Pilton from the early 1870s. ( There was an A. McKinstry was on a list as giving 2/- to the Toowoomba Hospital in 1871, could this have been Alexander?)

My luck contined, I then found a query by someone in Ireland wanting information on a McKinstry family, naming Alexander and Mary Hislop as the parents of William (born Rathfriland, Scotland) in 1844 and that he had immigrated  to Australia in the late 1860s.  My motto of 'never giving up' had paid off!

Mary Jane and Alexander's two daughters were only aged 9 and 4 years when she married Joseph Barrett and they too would have lived at Kangaroo Point.  But from following the McKinstry's on the Darling Downs it now seems possible they may have gone to Toowoomba (William and his wife Martha had a house in Toowoomba at this time)  I remember meeting the two McKinstry's sisters in Toowoomba when I was about 5 years old.  I thought they were my grandmother Lydia Rosecleer sisters, but they were her half-sisters. Even at that young age I thought how different they were to grandma, as they seems very country types. Did they go to the McKinstrys' at a later stage after Mary Jane married Joseph?  The McKinstry's were well off and might have taken them in. Both girls married from Toowoomba to two farmers from NSW, one settling in Toowoomba and the other at Crows Nest.

I still have a lot to do but it's best to write what has been found straight away and not put it away in my cupboard.




The Tralls of Nindarry

My niece Gayle Torrens has just published her first book.

The book is for children between 6-12 years, but has also proved to be popular with adults.

The Tralls of Nindarry 

Germaine is looking forward to an exciting holiday with his grandparents on Ninderry.  When he arrives there, however, he finds his grandfather gravely ill.

The despertate search for the unusual cure catapuls Germaine and his grandmother into strange parallel world full of terrible hardships and incredible dangers.

At the end of the journey, Germaine uncovers a long held family history.

Will it bring his family closer together, or will it tear them apart?

Contact me for more information.

Nature in its Wildest Form

After many years of researching and writing up James Dickinson's story, I can now announce that I have finished it  and it is ready for sale.

Based on the story of James Dickinson a convict who had been transported for receiving stolen wool.  Dickinson was not the average type of convict, he was well educated and came down from a well known family in Yorkshire.  A keen Botanist, he soon established himself in Hobart as a Florist and had his family join him from England. 

The book is not about his convict background, rather his life in Tasmania during the 1840-50's.  Dickinson became interested in the Wellington Falls on Mt. Wellington and led many excursions to that beautiful spot.  I have added his adventures as he led many walkers to this spot that until then was not known.  He discribes the views and the wild flowers found on Mt. Wellington.  I have added photos of some of these along with old and new photos of the waterfalls on the mountain.

He was also involved in the Botanical and Hortcultural Societies and was in charge of the Botancal Gardens for sometime.

Self published:

Printed in A4 colour 84 pages - price $45.00 plus postage.

My address is 2/5a Mary's Hope Road Rosetta 7010 phone 03 62 722124, mobile 0402 220 648


Having always enjoyed Geographical magazines since I first saw a copy of Walkerabout in the 1950s.  A few days ago I found a most interesting magazine on line, not always liking to read a book or anything on line, I however found this media a wonderful way to read  wonderful stories, see beautiful views of Tasmania and listen to folk music as well.

The magazine is the Tasmanian Geography, a free on line. http://www.TasmanianGeographic.com

Stories are published of natural history, terrestrial and marine explorations, human habitation, past and future, curious phenomena, geological oddities and experiance, and delight in maps and photography that spark a sense of wonder.

A great way to spend a few hours.

Send it to your friends on the mainland and overseas, its free!


I have set up my website to share with others what I have discovered over the years while researching early Tasmanian and Norfolk Island history.

I have also published a number of books and small leaflets, but there are other interesting subjects sitting in my files that I would like to share with you. Some of these short stories and  leaflets I will place on this website, some I have updated, others I have copied as they were first printed. 

I have found having my own website a wondereful media to make contact with those whose interests are simular to mine.

Now that I am not so active as I used to be and not having a car, I find I spend even more time at my computer. (what a wonderful thing to have found all those years ago) With my website I need not lose touch with my fellow researches and friends.

I now sell all my books from this website and find it saves me a lot of time and shoe leather.

I have changed the size of some of my books from A4 to A5, making them much easier to display and carry.  Especially looking forward to having my excursions books done in this manner, even though they were written for the thirteen Excursions I did all those years ago they still continue to be asked for. With the smaller size they will be easier to carry in a purse or bag. Visit my book section on this site.

   Please feel free to contact me at anytime, I am always willing to help.



Colebrook Excursion January 2014

From 1991 to 1996 I conducted my VDL & NI Group on day historical trips in the area that the Norfolk Islanders had settled from 1807 to 1813. These bus  excursions were enjoyed by us all and it was sad when I discontinued them in 1996 to go on the Lady Nelson. For each trip I  prepared a book covering the route and the places that were visited. Even though it is over 20 years since I started, the books have continued to be sought after and I have kept copies of them at home for sale.  In October last year I was contacted by a lady from Victoria who was planning on bringing 50 relations to Hobart to see where their ancestors had lived all those years ago, she was not sure what she wanted to do and asked for my help in advising her where she could take them in a bus.  After many emails and talking it all came about last Saturday.  Those who came were descendants of Andrew Goodwin and Lydia Munro, both First Fleeters.

After a few small showers the sun came out and although it was windy it turned out to be a perfect day.  I knew lots of things could go wrong planning it so far away, but I was pleasantly surprised it went like clockwork, not a hitch, all went to plan and we had a wonderful day.

The bus collected everyone at St Davids after they had looked at the headstone of Andrew and Lydia and the Van Diement - Norfolk Island monument.   I had planned to take them to Colebrook where most of the Goodwin family first settled and started by going to Old Beach and then on to the Richmond Road and up to Colebrook where everyone had time to go exploring and visiting the cemetery where many of the family is buried.  Back on the bus we travelled through farm and hilly countryside until we arrived at Richmond where we alighted to have lunch at the Hotel.  It was a lively hour and a half, lots of getting to know each other for those who had not met before and others catching up again with distant cousins. After a lovely lunch Ted the driver showed us around Richmond, by way of the Church and the famous Richmond Bridge.  Soon it was time to return to Hobart by way of Old Beach to drop off my friend Carol Brill who I had asked to come with us for the day. Not only is she an expert on the countryside but also a descendant of Andrew and Lydia. 

Carol keep everyone on the bus enthralled by her stories of members of the family, most of them had not been heard before, some brought  shock laughter from the back of the bus.

I came home feeling like one of the family, but then I have always claimed the all Norfolk Islanders as being mine.

My thanks to all the Goodwin family for helping make it a wonderful day. It was all so great I feel I could take up the challange and do more.   




Excursion Books

Tasmania Historical places.

Each of these book represent an excursion the VDL & NI Group conducted between 1991 and 1996.  Even though they were written all that time ago they are still useful to anyone considering going on a family pilgrimage to the places their ancestors settled between 1805 & 1813. The last two are excursions I did on the Lady Nelson from Sandy Bay to Cornelian Bay & the other from there to the Bowen Bridge, showing historical places from the River Derwent.


Hambley, Kidner,



Able, Blay, Robert Brown, Heywood, Hoddy, Scattergood, Triffitt, Hannah Williams, Isaac Williams.




John Cox, Jordan,

Theatre Royal/Court House  Hobart:

Pontville/ Richmond:

Flexmore, Petchey, Goodwin.

Bridges/ Early Buildings Hobart to Broadmarsh:

Coventry, Francis Cox, William Davis, O'Brien.

Forcett/Tas. Peninsula:

Sandy Bay/ Geeveston:

Thomas Brown.


Belbin, Mark Carter, Chaffey, Cham, Chipman, Fowles,  Free, Goodwin, Harris, Kimberley, McCloud, McCoy, McGinness, Morgan, Morrisby, Nash, Phillimore, George Smith, Daniel Stanfield, Elizabeth Thomas.

Jericho/ Ross:

Devine, Mortimer,


Bruny  Island:

(work in progress)

Now printed in A5 for easier handling.




Books for sale:

I am going through my book shelves and have decided to sell some of my favourite much loved books. Most of them collector's items.  They were books I found very helpful while doing my research work, but it is time I started clearing out some of my books, its either that or move my bed outside.

Under Books & CD in books to sell.