Beyond the Internet Week 15: Battle, Battalion and other military histories

This is Week 15 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is Battle and Battalion histories and military reference books.  I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your thoughts on this topic, especially if you live overseas and have a different set of records to tell us about. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

Book references on Battalion and Battle histories, or more general background history, can be illuminating not just for context about your ancestor’s military life, but may also provide specific information on him personally. I’ll include my bibliography of relevant histories below but no doubt others will have favourites to add.

Battle histories

Given my interest in the Battle of Fromelles, I have two excellent books on this in my library. Both provide a wealth of detail about the circumstances of Australia’s Darkest Day[i] and the military strategy, or lack of it, that around this battle. Both books also have innumerable references to my husband’s great uncle, Lt Col Walter Edmund Hutchison Cass, including information which we did not know previously. At the 2003 Australasian Genealogy and Heraldry Congress, Roger Kershaw and his colleague from The National Archives (UK) spoke first on Anzac Day. They showed a backpack with a bullet hole in it and other documents. At the time the service records of Australia’s regular army had not been digitised and the TNA people assumed he’d been killed at Gallipoli. After the talk I managed to catch up with them, and let them know how much was in the Fromelles book that I’d bought the previous day. His military history is spread across the Australian War Memorial (AWM), The National Archives UK and the National Archives of Australia, and entirely possible in other locations as well.

These histories are very useful to learn more about the background to my grandfather’s cousin’s death at the very start of the battle.

Battalion Histories

Battalion histories are likely to provide a bird’s eye view of their battalion’s significant battles. Some will be more comprehensive than others but it’s worth searching the National Library of Australia catalogue to see what they have, remembering you can get an inter-library loan for any of the books they hold to the nearest reference library. If you don’t live near a reference library and have a specific question, perhaps a page reference, then the Ask a Librarian service may be able to help.

Official Military History

The benchmark history for World War I is Bean’s history which is now digitised on the AWM site here.

Military histories with an ethnic background

As is well known, Australians of German descent were personae non grata during World War I, with legislation governing their movements or internment. Neighbours were sometimes happy to “dob” on a German-born or German descent neighbour even with no true evidence of their disloyalty. I read a number of these long ago in the NAA in Brisbane, and there was definitely a sense of envy around some issues eg he has a new piano so he must be selling guns.

Despite this, or perhaps because, I found that the descendants of my Dorfprozelten immigrants were quite likely to join up, and to gain award and medals: perhaps they had a point to prove. The involvement of the descendants was more likely where their parents or grandparents were a German/other combination rather than German/German. This applied to the Catholic Bavarians from Dorfprozelten but really I can’t make generalisations about descendants of Germans from other areas. I chose to write about the German Anzacs in my Remembrance Day blog post last year.

The impact on the men

Last but far from least, there are many books, both fiction and non-fiction, which deal with the consequences of the war. Not only did the men suffer in all sorts of ways, so did their wives, children and families. Patsy Adam-Smith’s “Anzacs” and Bill Gammage’s “The Broken Years” are classics, but you may want to search the catalogues and bookstores to see what else you can find.

With the help of the National Library, your local reference library and bookshops with good military history selections, you will be able to find some excellent reading for your family’s military history.

Selected Bibliography from my bookshelves

Don’t forget me cobber, the Battle of Fromelles 19/20 July 1916, an Inquiry, Corfield, R S. Corfield and Co, Victoria, 2000.

Fromelles, Lindsay, P. Hardie Grant Books, Prahran Victoria 2008

The Great War, Carlyon, L. Picador, Australia, 2007

Always Faithful, the History of the 49th Battalion, Cranston, F. Boolarong Publications, Brisbane, 1983.

The 61st Battalion, 1938-1945, The Queensland Cameron Highlanders’ War, Watt, J. Australian Military History Publications, Loftus, 2001.

Anzacs and Ireland, Kildea, J. UNSW Press, Sydney, 2007

German Anzacs and the First World War, Williams, J F. UNSW Press, Sydney 2003.

Queensland and Germany, Corkhill, A. Academia Publications 1992.

Australia and The “Kaiser’s War” 1914-1918, Moses, J. Broughton Press, 1993.

The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War, Gammage, Bill. Penguin, 1975.

The Anzacs, Adams-Smith, P. Thomas Nelson Australia 1981.

The Anzacs: Gallipoli To The Western Front, Pederson, P. Penguin Australia, 2007

Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You, Hamilton, J. Pan Macmillan 2004.

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[i] Fromelles. Lindsay, P, Hardie Grant Books, Prahran Victoria 2008, cover publicity.

I investigates Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld)

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which) and today’s post explores interludes in Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld, Australia).

I is for Ireland

As soon as I arrived in Dublin in the late 1980s there was a sense of recognition, a realisation of how much like the Irish we Australians are in so many ways…the sense of irony, mickey-taking, disregard for authority. At the same time it seemed unfamiliar because I’d expected the inflexibility and conformity learned from my life in an Australian Catholic school and church with Irish nuns and priests, and a stern Irish-born grandfather. It was a delight to discover that Ireland was full of joie de vivre and craic (good fun) as well as the darker, more morose side with which I was familiar.

Allihies, West Cork on the Beara Peninsula

Without the urge to learn more of my family history I may never have visited Ireland, and so would have missed out on far more than adding leaves to my family tree. Ireland fulfils so many stereotypes that you’ve heard about: the green patchwork fields, the distant blue hills, old stone cottages, the soft rain, and the quirky sayings and greetings that seem quintessential yet somehow difficult to remember when you leave. Coming from Australia with its wide open spaces and vast distances, it’s easy for a tourist to think “ah I’ll get there in no time” but everywhere there are those signposts that can all point to the same place, via twisty Irish roads that only change how much time it takes you to get to your destination. Despite the number of times I’ve visited I still make the mistake of not allowing enough time!

Beautiful Achill Island, Co Mayo. © P Cass 2006.

Over the years we’ve visited 20 counties and each has its own beauty. Despite my Clare ancestry I have to say my favourites are the rugged, more isolated areas: Achill Island (Mayo), Beara Peninsula (Cork), the wide-open spaces in south-west Donegal, tragic site of many evictions, and the steep cliffs near Dun Choin by Dingle (Kerry).

Over the decades as the Celtic Tiger stirred, and then roared, the social atmosphere has changed. There was cash to splash and everyone was busy, busy. There was a brashness to life, in Dublin especially, that I didn’t really like…it had turned into a typical big city (or perhaps I’d got used to living in a smaller city). In the rural areas people remained both friendly and reserved, much as always. The standard of living had improved which made life more comfortable for people…the decades and centuries of disadvantage were slowly being turned around. It’s sad to think that the Irish people are now going through such difficult times.

Wherever you go, there is that essential kindness and welcome that the Irish share with the visitor. It’s a grand place to visit and if you have the opportunity it’s well worth going. Even if the trip doesn’t uncover specific family history, you’ll get a much better sense of the place and its people, and, intuitively, the loss your ancestors experienced when they left it all behind.

I is for Inishail (Scotland)

Inishail is part of the combined parish of Glenorchy and Inishail in Argyll, Scotland. Inishail lies over the hills from Inveraray and borders the starkly beautiful Loch Awe. The MacArthurs and Campbells are powerful in this area, and history abounds. I’m not planning to talk about that here but if you want to investigate further you might find this linka helpful starting point.

Highland cattle near Cladich, Argyll. © P Cass 2006

My interest in Inishail parish arises because my 2xgreat grandparents, Duncan McCorquodale (various spellings) and his wife, Ann Campbell lived there for about 50 years, apparently having moved across the Loch from Kilchrenan parish. They both appear in the 1841 census, and Duncan in the 1851 census, living in Drimuirk. It took some work locating this little hamlet as it’s rarely indexed on maps. My starting point has been the village of Cladich which in its day, was on the drove road for cattle to Inveraray and points south and west. The long haired Highland cattle are still a feature of the area, and of a local estate. In the colder months, when we tend to visit, the clouds hang low, and the mist filters through trees draped in moss and lichen…dimly among the trees appears a woolly Highland cow. It can be kind of spooky.

Drimuirk by Cladich, Parish of Inishail, Argyll. © P Cass 2010

On previous trips I’d estimated from maps where Drimuirk was located, and taken photos, but this time I was given a great privilege…the opportunity to “walk the land” where my ancestors lived. At ground level, and with local help, I could see that what had seemed random rocks were actually the remains of the rude cottages of the long-ago residents of Drimuirk. Of course I have no idea which of the small handful of house foundations was theirs, but I like to imagine it was the one with the view over the loch and where the travellers could be seen coming over the hills. Afterwards I read the Kirk Session records for the parish, and found a reference to the “small house” of Duncan McCorquodale. The reiteration of “small house” suggests that even by the standards of the day it must have been tiny, yet there’d have been half a dozen people living there at times. You can read my post about it here. I’m forever grateful to have been given this chance to see what remains of this little settlement.

Dorothy Wordsworth passed through the area in 1803, around the time my family came to the area to live. She describes the children of the Macfarlane family thus: The children, after having collected fuel for our fire, began to play on the green hill where we stood, as heedless as if we had been trees or stones, and amused us exceedingly with their activity: they wrestled, rolled down the hill, pushing one another over and over again, laughing, screaming, and chattering Erse (Gaelic)…[i]Reading this it’s so easy to imagine my own great-grandfather playing with his siblings in this way.

Genie tip: when searching for Inishail, also try spelling it as Innishail, especially in archive searching, which will add to your results.

I is for Ipswich (Queensland, Australia)

View over Ipswich, March 2012, with St Mary's Catholic church prominent. © P Cass 2012

Ipswich is the place where my Melvin, Partridge, Kent and Kunkel families first settled in Australia. New immigrants would sign work contracts and then travel by boat up the river system to Ipswich from where they  would be dispersed to the most distant reaches of the Moreton Bay settlement, as happened with my Gavin family and most of the Dorfprozelten immigrants who came to Moreton Bay. No doubt the employers were keen to keep them on the move before the immigrants had any idea of just what they were taking on, and how very isolated many of them would be.

Those who came to Ipswich to live and work arrived in a small but bustling town with minimal, but developing, infrastructure. They quickly became part of the social fabric of the community and could, if they wished, make their mark there. William Partridge worked as a carpenter, George Kunkel ran a boarding house in Union Street with his wife Mary and also a pork butcher’s establishment, before they moved west with the railway construction. Richard Kent was an older man when he arrived and remained a labourer as far as I can tell, though he’d run a public house in England. Stephen Melvin arrived later, in the 1870s, and before long was establishing himself with a well-regarded confectionery shop(s) and factory.

My families were on opposite sides of the religious divide with the Kunkels attending St Mary’s, the Catholic church, and the others associated with the Anglican or Methodist churches at different times. Despite this it would have been difficult for the Kents, Partridges and Kunkels not to be aware of each other in such a small community through the 1850s and 1860s.

A well preserved Ipswich home.

One of the interesting things about doing family history from those early days of Moreton Bay/Queensland, is how often you come across someone whose ancestry lies in the same places as yours…not all that difficult when the European population was so small. I wonder from time to time, whether these distant links are part of why we instantly “click” with some people and others, without doing a thing, get our backs up. It intrigues me that much the same thing can happen with people whose names I find bobbing up in the overseas parish registers of my families…kind of weird really.

Ipswich for a long time was a coal mining town and continued to be a place where new immigrants could afford to settle. Ipswich suffered in the 2011 floods, a history which has repeated itself over the centuries. These days it’s throwing off its former social disadvantage and promoting its history, of which there’s a wealth. If you ever want to see fantastic examples of vernacular Queensland architecture, Ipswich is the place to go. Perhaps precisely because it was economically depressed for quite a while, there are wonderful examples of old Queensland homes with deep verandahs, mostly set on stilts to keep them above the flood waters.

I’m looking forward to having more time in the future to re-explore Ipswich and its historical treasures: the churches, the railway workshops, the architecture and the cemetery.

I ships for East Clare immigrants

Irene (1852) [7] + 7 from Ennis; Ironside (1863) [9] and Ida (1864) [9]

A to Z 2012 Challenge

My nod for today is Catherine Noble’s blog about writing. I especially liked “D for Dedication”.


[i] http://www.ourscotland.co.uk/ebooks/recollectionsweek3.htm. Recollections of a tour made in Scotland AD 1803 by Dorothy Wordsworth. August 31st, 1803.

JSTOR @ NLA: finding the historical context for family history

It’s likely that most Australian family historians are familiar with the National Library of Australia’s Trove site as a source for family research.  It’s also been well promoted that anyone in Australia can apply for a library card with NLA which then lets you access their eResources remotely. The Times Digital Archives and 19th Century British newspapers have been popular with family historians.

But did you know there’s another invaluable resource you can use for your research? JSTOR is typically used by academics and tertiary students to locate relevant journal articles published in their area of interest. The promo states: With more than a thousand academic journals and over 1 million images, letters, and other primary sources, JSTOR is one of the world’s most trusted sources for academic content.

Sounds a bit heavy-duty? Well some articles may be but there are plenty that will provide you with that valuable framework for your family’s local history, living and social conditions. Silly me, I knew JSTOR was available but somehow it had dropped off my mental radar in recent months.

This morning I had a fun couple of hours looking for information about Irish family life and inheritance patterns. Some of my readings included:

 Marriage and fertility in post-Famine Ireland

The Changing Irish Family

The Potato Famine and the transformation of Irish peasant society.

Whatever the family-history topic you want to know more about, I suggest you’ll find it here with careful searching.

HOW TO FIND IT:

Go to the NLA site

Assuming you’ve already got your library card

Click on the eResources tab at the top right hand side of the web page

Key in your card number and surname

Select “J” from the menu and pick JSTOR

Read and accept their terms and conditions

Start searching using a few keywords eg Scottish illegitimacy, Irish migration etc

Remember you can download the articles

Remember you must cite the article if you use it

Happy hunting!