On 12th January 2017, the Graduate Workshop welcomed Jennifer McCoy of Federation University, Australia. Jennifer is a part time first-year PhD student who currently combines research with teaching. Her doctoral research considers the contribution made by immigrant Scots in the development of Eastern High Country Victoria in the mid to late 19th century. Family history has provided the stimulus for Jennifer’s formal academic research and, in her own words, has led to her asking “so many questions that (have gone) beyond the usual genealogical study of births, marriages, deaths and people connections”. Her presentation considered the “loose ends” which have inspired her project and the lines of enquiry which they suggest.
At the heart of Jennifer’s research lie the big questions: Where had the Scots come from? Where did they settle? Moreover, was their effort worthwhile? Existing research has tended to focus on the more well known, yet many early Scottish settlers remain strangely “invisible”. Memorialisation, gravestones in particular, have provided a useful starting point. By way of case study, Jennifer considered her own McCoy ancestors. As the 1841 census records reveal, James McCoid (sic) and his wife Charlotte Dowie hailed from Girvan in Ayrshire. In 1855, they made the perilous five month sea voyage from Liverpool to Hobart before travelling to South East Victoria. The McCoy family clearly flourished. In 1932, Mary, the daughter of Charlotte and James, left the considerable sum of £ 45,000 to her local Presbyterian Church. Her sister Elizabeth ran a successful hotel. What role then did women play in the settler society? How did the Presbyterian Church impact upon their lives? How was such wealth generated in a comparatively short time? In the long term, Jennifer anticipates broadening the scope of her research and considering the experiences of other Scottish families in the development of South East Victoria.
A lively discussion followed. The presentation provided a perfect opportunity for Jennifer to meet and exchange ideas with members of our own post graduate community. We all wish her well with her continuing research.