Monday, March 31, 2014

Mystery Monday - Donald McDonald

Life on the Gold Mines
Recently I posted a blog on the Worldwide Genealogy - A Genealogical Collaboration about the “Genealogical Culture Shock"  I was experiencing in my quest to discover more about my Great Great Grandfather Donald McDonald.  To assist in getting my head around the gaps in my knowledge of Donald's life and family, I thought I would examine the information that I do have and try and identify any leads that will assist in solving the mystery of Donald’s life before he came to Australia. 

Donald McDonald came to Australia in the late 1850's with a group of miners from the Californian Gold fields.  These miners became known as the Yankees in the mining district of Bells Creek at Araluen and newspapers of the times reported that they succeeded in etching out a reasonable living from their lease.

While working in the district Donald met and married an Irish lass, from County Clare, named Margaret
St Bede's Braidwood
Hallinan, they were married on the 11 August 1864 at St Bede's Catholic Church, Braidwood. Donald and Margaret had eight children, one girl, Annie (who was my great grandmother) and seven boys, Malcolm, Angus, John, Donald, Denis, Michael and Alexander.

With a large family to support, and a decline in the mining in the district, Donald sought employment in the rapidly expanding timber industry.  To start, he managed a Timber Mill at Reidsdale for Mr Tippet and later purchased this mill.  From here the family moved to another  and started the first Timber Mill in the village of Mogo on the South Coast of NSW in the Moruya District. 

An Article written by Donald McDonald's son Angus Joseph McDonald "Tall Timber", describes the life of the timber cutters working for Donald's Mill, and the size of the enormous trees being felled for timber.

“A reference to an applicaton by Mr Hugh McRae for assistance in repairing the road to his sawmill at Reidsdale brings memories of the troubles the teamsters endured in the long, long ago in bridging the distance from McDonald’s Mill to the main road.Some of the trees felled at that old mill, me thinks, would lose nothing in comparison the the best in any part of the State.

One forest giant in particular, was staight as a gun-barrel, was attached by Jack and and Charlie Behringer from a 14ft platform, and the first 25 ft of the trunk was left where it lay – too big for jinker or sawgate to accommodate.  Then 98f of longs were cut to the first branch, above which a 16 ft log almost 3ft in diameter was taken."

Donald retired after the death of his wife and the onset of ill health.  He moved to Braidwood to live with his daughter Annie and her husband Lynn Shepherd II.  Then in the final year of his life he moved to live with his son Angus in the Winsor district north west of Sydney.  It was here in on the 31 March 1913 he passed away.  (Wow, just realised that was 101 years ago today!!). 

Now to the mystery of his life prior to his arrival in Australia.  To assist me with moving through my "Genealogical Culture Shock" I have made a list of the clues that his obituary as provided and this will be my starting point to exploring all possibilities. From his death certificate we know that Donald was born in 1834  Williamstown, Glengarry Ontario, Canada and his father was Malcolm McDonald.
  • He was born in Williamstown, Glengarry District of Canada.
  • His family had connections with the Hudson Bay Company and possibly still did at the time of his death?
  • He experienced a lot of adventures on the gold fields of California, from here he and a group of mates (who were later referred to as the Yankees), traveled to Australia to seek their fortune in the Australian Gold fields.
  • He traveled to Australia on a brig and from the tone of the obituary, this journey was quite an adventure in itself. I wonder what stories Donald told his family about his time on the gold fields and the journey to Australia?
Somewhere in this list of details there must be an important clue that will help me unlock Donald's heritage.


  1. Very interesting outline. Donald was the son of Malcolm Mor MacDonald 1779-1852 and Ann Grant 1790-1859 of Williamstown, Ontario Canada Glengarry County. Malcolm Mor was the brother of Finnan 'The Buffalo' and Col James MacDonald. Son of Angus ban & Ellen MacDonell. Malcolm & James came from a family of about 14 children for some additional reference see the index for The MacDonalds of Loup, Lundie & Fraser Connections

  2. Thank you, Thankyou, are you connected with McDonalds from this area. I have a large collection of information of his life in Australia, if you like you can contact me on This is quite exciting!

  3. Diane, you are welcome, I have numerous MacDonald connections in Glengarry county area and I have been sorting them out for 43 years in one way or another and in that process we have published over 30,000 pages of material on that area of Ontario Canada in family histories, church BMD, gravestone inscriptions etc., Will contact you at the e mail you provided. The index mentions above at index for The MacDonalds of Loup, Lundie & Fraser Connections has just over 20,000 entries which is version 4. a total of over 2 gigs of background material all on a CD. Version 5 will contain over 30,000 entries/connections