Missing Australian Women’s Weekly mags

The current edition of the National Library’s newsletter has asked for help finding missing editions of this Australian classic so they can be digitised. The AWW was the¬† staple women’s magazine at a time when we weren’t all inundated with choices. Women are traditionally difficult to research and while we might not find our own ancestor among its pages, we will get a good sense of their lives at the time – it wasn’t all celebrity news in those days. Apart from anything else we’ll get a laugh to think of the fashions we wore.

Just imagine being able to check out the wedding pictures to find examples of different styles of wedding dresses in different decades. It might even help you identify the person in an unlabeled photo in your collection.

So if you’re a hoarder (or a family member is) see if you can help out the NLA with copies for their digital program.


High Tea at the National Trust

The year has officially started, students are back in school & the National Trust’s High Tea is on again at historic Burnett House, Myilly Point. It’s a once-a-week event much enjoyed by locals and, in the Dry, Top End tourists. Apart from being a bargain foodie outing, the food is just great. Love Anna’s fabulous lemon/lime curd tarts! The staff are all National Trust volunteers and do a great job. The environment is typically Territory: relaxing in the shade under the trees and just having a good time. It’s also a good place for a leisurely family history chat with a friend!

Hmm maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this…it will only get harder to get a table….forget I mentioned it ūüėČ

Sadds Ridge Rd, Charters Towers (Qld) and WWII in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea.

This post is really about my husband’s family and some World War II history from Papua New Guinea (then Papua). This story shows how family history intersects with local history and each can complement the other.

Let him tell the story of how this all started:

From the late-1960s my family lived at Alotau, the District Headquarters for the Milne Bay Province, for a number of years and prior to that in Samarai also in the Milne Bay District.¬† Alotau as a town only came into existence in the mid-1960s but service men and women who were in Milne Bay during World War II may have known the location as Sanderson’s Bay, on the northern side of Milne Bay and to the east of Koiabule (KB) Mission. Sanderson’s Bay is near near where Corporal John Alexander French won his VC¬† on 4 September 1942.
During a university break in 1968 I was working as a supervisor on Gili Gili Plantation, a copra plantation near Gurney Airstrip. The plantation was essentially a very large clearing in the jungle which cover the ranges of hills surrounding the Bay and extend down across the coastal plains almost to the sea. In 1968, the stands of coconut palms on the plantation were still littered with bomb craters, wrecked military vehicles and other discards of war, including quite a lot of rusted-up weapons and unexploded ordnance; they probably still are! ¬†I was overseeing a “labour line” or work gang using grass knives or “sarifs”, a sort of primitive hand-held scythe, to clean out overgrown parts of the plantation. I was nineteen at the time, the same age as many of the soldiers who had fought over the same country twenty-six years previously.
One of the workers took a chip out of the blade of his sarif on something metal which, when he uncovered it, proved to be a street sign, but not like any street sign I’d ever seen in Papua New Guinea or, indeed, in Brisbane or Melbourne. It was a blue rectangle with a white border carrying the name Sadds Ridge Road. I took the sign home and it has graced the many houses my family of origin and later my wife and I have lived in. While we often wondered where the sign came from, the occasional search of Australian street directories did not help, and we did not solve the mystery until March 2008, although my wife had previously seen an elusive reference to it among the Queensland pension indexes.

We now live in Darwin, and were driving to Cairns on holidays, calling in at cemeteries and Family History Societies along the way, as you do if you are relly-hunting. We stopped in Charters Towers because Pauleen’s great-grandfather Stephen Gillespie Melvin had well-known refreshment rooms and a chocolate factory in¬†Gill Street.¬†We saw a reference to Chinese market gardens at Sadds Ridge – and there you are! I gather the name of the Road was changed to York Street years ago, and this explains why we¬†hadn’t found it previously.
The sign was obviously souvenired and taken to Milne Bay in 1942. While it must have meant quite a bit to someone to go to that much trouble, we have no clue as to their identity – someone who lived on the Road and wanted a reminder of home, or a soldier from somewhere else who wanted a memento of their time in Charters Towers?

So the mystery is: does anyone out there know of a soldier from Charters Towers (there were many) who served in Milne Bay during World War I? It would be intriguing to fill in the final part of the puzzle.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

Comments on Shauna Hicks’s talk re Online trends in Family History

As a fairly techno-competent family historian I didn’t expect to get so much from Shauna’s talk on Online Trends. I was wrong! Sure there were plenty of sites that I’ve used and love, but there were great insights into new ones and new strategies. I learnt what RSS was all about (not having bothered to find out before!) and promptly went home & linked Shauna’s webpage via RSS so I know when things change.

Even though I’m on Facebook I don’t really use it a lot nor had I felt inclined to twitter which always seemed a bit pointless. Once again I was wrong! Shauna’s tips revealed a wonderful world of up-to-the-minute bulletins of genealogical, historical and family history news. Looks like I might have acquired another obsession: -) I’m still figuring some things out about how to fully use twitter, not to mention the protocols, but it certainly is fun!

The benefits of general emails like yahoo and gmail were covered and people gasped when Shauna said she has six emails (I “only” have five). While I can see the benefits of keeping a generic email so you can change providers if you wish, my own preference is to keep a general email that I can “dump” if it gets spammed. It also meant I could screen who I could give which email to…I learnt the hard way with my old dial-up connection -far too many spam mails for obscene activities and viagra, even with a good security system. My plea is that people learn to use the Blind copy (BCC) facility on their email program when sending out bulk emails eg jokes etc. This limits where your email goes, or at least who can vacuum up your email.

I suppose many of us know the dangers of the internet but it amazes me how much personal information can be deduced from what’s on Facebook (for example) and probably also this blog.

Skype is great both in terms of cost-saving if family and friends are overseas or interstate and you don’t have a bulk package on your land-line. It also means you can use video links to see your family and grandchildren so you can see them grow and interact with them. You can even use it to have a live feed on the family’s new home by moving the laptop around the house to see the rooms.

I’m also a fan of RootsChat when you really can’t get to a records office or look at an original record. There are many kind souls who will help you out -BUT do make sure you pull your weight by doing as much as possible yourself first. It is your family history research after all.

I’m not much of a fan of Genes Reunited even thoughI’ve made some good contacts. I’m pathologically averse to people vacuuming up my information without even acknowledging my data and without responding or offering any information themselves. It’s really not courteous and definitely puts me off helping others until I test the waters. On the plus side, there are some serious researchers with whom you can work collaboratively.

Shauna’s talk was also a good reminder about how many learning resources for family history are “out there” on podcasts¬† -if one only (1) remembers to use them and (2) finds the time to get to them.¬† People with convicts might be interested in the podcast from The (UK) National Archives on Transportation to Australia http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/podcasts/. Or their podcast on Apprenticeship records for family historians. Perhaps I should heed my own advice and go and listen to some!

All this and I’ve yet to learn more about, and explore, nings.

So check out Shauna’s talk on her website at http://www.shaunahicks.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Online-Trends-in-Family-History.pdf and learn more about these exciting online trends.

Comments on Shauna Hicks’s talk on Asylum Records

On Saturday Shauna Hicks gave two very informative and enjoyable family history presentations in Darwin. Shauna apologised for her laryngitis and croaky voice but it didn’t affect the pleasure of listening to someone with such wide experience.

Shauna’s talk on asylum records highlighted how these records could help people to find missing ancestors and the diverse information one could gain from the records. She also rightly warned people that it can be distressing reading these records even if they are not for members of your own family, and more so when they are your ancestors. In the past many (if not most) people were placed in asylums for illnesses (eg post natal depression, post traumatic stress) which are much better understood today. Another reason was that there was no alternative institution in which to place them eg orphanages, old age homes. These records can be found through the online catalogue of most Australian state archives.

Shauna’s talks can be found on her web site at http://www.shaunahicks.com.au/resources/

In the past I’ve used the array of¬† Dunwich Benevolent Asylum records to learn more about family members or others I’m researching and they have been helpful in rounding out what I know about the person, confirming hunches, and¬† revealing marital and family separations. BTW Dunwich Benevolent Asylum was on Stradbroke Island off Brisbane.

I’ll give you some examples of what I’ve learned from the records.

  1. Stephen Gavin #1, with his wife Honora, applied to be admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum on 2 February 1889 when he became too frail to work and Honora was suffering from blindness. They had been living in western Queensland with a daughter and son-in-law who were no longer able to look after them. The couple died on Dunwich and were buried in an unmarked grave. Some 100 years laters a descendant and friend of mine, Carmel, erected gravestones in their memory. Stephen and Honora had survived the Great Potato Famine in Ireland and the drowning of their son early in their Queensland life.
  2. The Dunwich records helped me to confirm that an illegitimate child, registered as Stephen Telford, was indeed the son of Stephen Gavin junior (#2 and son of Mark Gavin) . The admission record also confirmed the children of Stephen Gavin and his wife/de facto Johanna even though their marriage is not registered in the civil indexes and provided information on their residences.
  3. It helped to confirm that Stephen’s (#2) father, Mark, was known as both Mark and Matthew -presumably to¬†disguise Mark’s convict past.

Early hospital records in Queensland can also provide biographical data as well as providing clues to the early lives of pioneers in the colony eg I found a record for Carl Diflo, an immigrant from Bavaria during the time of his tenured service in Moreton Bay. Other records can be more frank than the death notice eg alcoholism may be more truthfully documented in the hospital records. All of these sources are worth a try if you can find a family name among them.

Judy Webster’s site on Queensland genealogical records can be¬†a fantastic tool to locating people in these records as she has indexed a diverse array of sources. http://www.judywebster.gil.com.au/index.html

Judy’s publication: Tips for Queensland Research (2008 edition) is also a fabulous resource for family historians with Queensland heritage. She is also available to undertake paid research for people who are unable to get to the archives themselves. (No this is not a sponsored advertisement -just a genuine recommendation).

So if you get the chance take Shauna’s advice and follow up asylum records in your state of origin.

Wildlife at work

In the carpark at work this morning I saw a tiny baby plover with its parents -it was only a few inches high…so cute! Also an old frilly lizard on the run. Where was the camera? – at home!
This afternoon the same chick, freaked out by humans in the vicinity, hid under its mother’s skirts. Tomorrow the camera!

Shauna Hicks to visit Darwin

Shauna Hicks, a very experienced researcher and family historian, is giving two talks in Darwin on 6th February, hosted by the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory. Anyone who has heard Shauna speak will know a treat is in store for them. Her talks will be: Online Trends In Family History & Asylum Records: A Place To Look For Missing Ancestors!

Where: St Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 14 Trower Rd, Milner
When: Saturday 6th February 9.30am to 12noon.

Irish Ancestry and County Clare research

It’s popularly believed that Irish research is nigh on impossible and that all the records were “lost” in the Troubles.

Not so, there are a range of records which can be used but it does require a little lateral thinking. Of course it is critical to know where your ancestor came from, and in particular their nearest town or preferably their townland. Without this all the O’Briens, Byrnes, Hogans etc meld into one undifferentiated mass. So if you strike this problem, don’t focus only on your own immediate ancestry. The Irish are famous for migrating as families -either in one migration or in sequences (known as stage migration). Australians are very fortunate to have at least the possibility of¬† a wealth of information on their birth, marriage and death records. However if you find you’re unobliging ancestor repeatedly says they’re born in Ireland or just “Co Clare” try to follow up whether other siblings came. You may be more fortunate if you obtain the certificate for their sibling. eg my ancestor Mary O’Brien Kunkel (or her husband) was very fond of the easy “Co Clare” option, however her sister Bridget O’Brien Widdup’s death certificate stated clearly that she had been born in Broadford, Co Clare. All of a sudden the oral history that she came from somewhere like “Longford, Co Clare” made some sense and the records could be verified to establish the link. Also the presence of other siblings lets you triangulate the children’s names and their connection, verifying that you have got the right family.

If you’re lucky enough to have ancestry from County Clare I can highly recommend the County Clare Library website.: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/

Check out the tabs for history and genealogy for a wealth of information, both general and family-specific, on Clare, its residents and its history. The site is not only fantastic but also reliable because information is cross-checked before publication.

While so many counties in Ireland are determined to extract maximum dollars from enthusiastic family historians, Clare is a beacon which shows its belief in the importance of its history and people. The Clare Local Studies Project or CLASP have published several fantastic books on Co Clare history.

Check them out, they’re great!!

This is my absolute favourite Irish site, probably because I have Clare ancestry but even so it offers so much information. The team at CLASP and the library in Ennis, and the powers-that-be who continue to fund the projects, can’t be commended highly enough! Well done County Clare!