Monday Memories, NFHM and Milne Bay

postcard-1242616_1280Over the years I’ve often written about battles and family members who have fought in them. Today is a little more personal. As a young bride, I went to the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea with my newly-minted husband. Nothing all that strange in that perhaps, as many young women made the same migration for love, curiosity or a sense of adventure. The difference for me was that we were going to Milne Bay, my husband’s “place” in the indigenous sense, or in Pidgin “as (=arse) ples bilong en” where he lived for 10 years….at the time his longest residence anywhere. For him it was home, familiar, and in his emotional blood.

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For me it was confronting, exciting, confusing and isolated. My family and other friends were thousands of kilometres away, not as today at the end of a phone or an email, Facetime or Skype. Our communications were mid-20th century: snail mail letters (and sometimes the snail would be faster!) and radio telephone calls when the weather didn’t interfere, over, over. Everyday conversation was scattered with a proliferation of acronyms, wonderfully clear to those in the know but bewildering to the newcomer (the ADC said to the DC that the ETA on the DC3 was 0900, for example).

Alotau 1960s house1 1968

THEN: The Cass family’s first home in Alotau, taken soon after the move from Samarai 1968.

But all this took place in the most wondrous geographical environment. We lived for a few months in the government home of my parents-in-law who were in Port Moresby for work. The house had a magnificent view over Milne Bay and was near the school where my mother-in-law taught. Mr Cassmob’s father had chosen the site as he sailed up the bay in the Education Department trawler – perhaps the only site with a better view was the District Commissioner (the head honcho for the district administration). If that all sounds rather colonial, I suppose it was, after all that was the world they were living in, as was I briefly, though the tides of change were already coming. We were, after all, a tiny minority population responsible to Australia for its governance of an emerging nation.

NFHM Blogging challengeThe local people of Milne Bay are among the nicest you could meet in PNG – open and friendly. However, only 74 years ago their world was turned on its head with the invasion of Australian troops sent to defend the then-territory of Papua against the wave of Japanese invasion. Milne Bay was to be the first place on land that the Japanese troops would be defeated, and yet it has long been overshadowed and forgotten in a similar way to the predominance of Gallipoli in our nation’s military historiography.

Plane Milne Bay fighting 026648

n.d. Milne Bay, Papua. 1942-09. Fellow pilots of 76 Squadron RAAF, lend a hand to push Squadron Leader Truscott’s plane back into the dispersal bay, as he steps out of the cockpit. Australian War Memorial image. (The plane is on marsden matting)

You have to have seen the jungles of Milne Bay (or north Queensland) to have an appreciation of how dense it can be. And you have to have lived there in a Wet Season to know how muddy and claggy the red clay could get, or how fiercely the creeks and rivers run. The clouds come down over the ranges that encircle Milne Bay and take up residence over the bay foreshortening the view and making flying hazardous today, let alone in the thick of battle. Pilot skills and aircraft readiness are challenged to the maximum and when we were there, a small aircraft was lost with all souls including people we knew. This brings home earlier realities for those at war.

Milne Bay ships war

Argus (Melbourne, Vic) & Australia. Department of Information 1943, NEW GUINEA. Milne Bay. State Library of Victoria collection.

Between Alotau (the district capital) and the airport, you could see the remains of war – marsden matting on the bridges or elsewhere, and the remains of boats half-buried. The Australians were stationed near the current-day airport (only an airstrip when we were there) and as a teenager Mr Cassmob worked on the adjacent coconut plantation, Gili Gili. One day at work he found an old street sign for Sadds Ridge Road which we’ve had on our houses at various times. It was some years before we found it came from Charters Towers and we still wonder who took it with them as a souvenir or reminder of home.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

There is something that cuts to the heart of your understanding when you live near where the Australians fought for their lives, and quite genuinely, for the safety of their own country and that of PNG. And nearby, a Queenslander, Corporal John French from Crows Nest, won his Victoria Cross.

Milne Bay during World War II ca. 1942

Unidentified 1942, Milne Bay during World War II, ca. 1942, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

I’ve written many times about Alotau, Milne Bay and the battle that was fought there, so I’ll just include the links and those who wish to can (re-)visit them. If you’re looking for a better understanding of jungle fighting, you can read The Last Blue Sea which gives you sense of what fighting was like in PNG. Current Australian author, Peter Watt, also writes a fictional series which includes a family who lives in Papua and fights during the war.

Those genealogists taking the Unlock the Past cruise to PNG and Milne Bay in 2017 will get a taste of the place – but beware, like family history, it can be addictive. Thanks Alex from Family Tree Frog for this prompt in National Family History Month.

Return to Milne Bay

Milne Bay: the people and old and new friends

Home again

The Battle of Milne Bay remembered in stained glass

The Anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay

Lest We Forget: The Battle of Milne Bay

The McKenna maze Part II

Let’s return to the McKenna family of immigrants: Elizabeth McKenna and her children William, Sarah, Mary, Catherine and Peter. What happened to them? Who did they marry and where did they settle?

I will leave William for a moment and address the others first.

Sarah McKenna (20 years old on arrival) was employed by John Macpherson in Melbourne for L20 pa for three months. She married William Thomson in Melbourne in 1848. I wondered if he had arrived on the Adelaide as well but it seems not. Sarah died only a few years later, age 23, in Melbourne. She had given birth to one child, William, in 1849. No parents’ names are listed on her death index.

HORGAN Mary nee McKENNA funeral

Ballarat Star 9 June 1922.

Mary McKenna, 17 on arrival, was recruited by James Simpson in Melbourne for three months at L18 pa. She married Robert (Douglas) Horgan on 8 September 1851 in the Anglican church of St James in Melbourne. Mary’s sister, Catherine, was one of the witnesses.  Mary and Robert’s children were Mary (1861-), James (1863), Matilda (1869) and William (Henry) Owen (1871 – 1957) and possibly also Robert (1853-1933). Mary died in June 1922 and is buried in the Ballarat New Cemetery.  Her parents are listed in the indexes as Owen McKenna and Unknown mother.

KELLY William Mt Alexander Mail 9 April 1894

Mount Alexander Mail 9 April 1894.

Catherine McKenna and brothers William and Peter left the ship with their mother Elizabeth to find brother James. Catherine married William Kelly in 1853. They apparently had nine children though I can only find some of them. William and Catherine lived at Strangways near Castlemaine. William died in April 1894.  Catherine died on 2 January 1919, age 83, and was buried at Newstead Cemetery at Green Gully near Ballarat. Her parents are listed as William McKenna and Elizabeth.

William McKenna has been discussed in an earlier post about his wife Bridget Gallagher aka Gollagher, a Famine Orphan from Donegal (or Galway or Limerick or…) The witnesses to the marriage in 1850 were Mary Boyle and James McKenna. This links back to my previous post about James McKenna, who was whom, and when he arrived.

When their first son, James, was baptised in Melbourne, the witnesses were Robert Horgan (previously thought to be Hogan) and Sarah McKenna. It is almost certain that this is Mary’s husband Robert. Initially I thought the female witness was William’s sister but now I wonder if it was his sister-in-law Sally McKenna, wife of James, as by 1851 his sister had become Sarah Thomson.

At the baptism of their daughter in 1853 (registered as Elvia but seemingly known as Elizabeth), the witnesses were Patrick McGrath and Mary McKenna. This is a bit odd as by then Mary had married Robert Horgan. Were the women using their maiden names?

I am confident that the correct death for William McKenna is 27 June 1910 in the Austin Hospital, Melbourne. At the time he was working as a carrier and living at Holmwood Place off Cardigan St, Carlton. His death certificate clearly states that his wife was Bridget Gallagher, though an annotation incorrectly states she is still alive. Despite this, I have eliminated all other instances of deaths for Bridget Gallagher McKenna as being incorrect based on index information or actual certificates. As Bridget died from alcoholism in 1882, it seems most likely the family had lost touch with her and had no idea she’d died. I’m a doubting Thomas so other potential deaths would need to be convincing.

The children listed on William’s death certificate also match the children born to Bridget and William (a circular argument perhaps), with one exception: son Myles is shown as Giles.

Peter and Elizabeth McKenna have completely defeated me. I have been unable to find marriages or deaths which convince me they are the correct people. Several Ancestry trees attribute Peter to one who lived at Purnim near Warrnambool and who married Bridget McGinnis. However, this Peter seems to have completely different parents based on death indexes but more importantly on his marriage certificate where he states that his parents are James McKenna and Sarah Cassidy. He stated he was from Monaghan, lived at Purnim Springs Valley, Warrnambool and was 25 years old in 1855 (too old as well). So that pretty much eliminates him from consideration I think.  Given that there are a few McKennas at Purnim Springs are they related in some other way than as siblings?

I wonder if Elizabeth and Peter perhaps re-emigrated to another location? I did check New Zealand deaths without success.

What I find quite sad, is that despite Elizabeth travelling around the world with her family at age 44 (at least), her descendants seem to have completely forgotten her – her name only appears on one of her children’s deaths. This is a further reason for wondering if she moved away, because you’d think if she lived in Victoria, her grandchildren would have had a chance to know her.

Thanks for “listening” to my perambulations on the McKenna family. Putting it in writing was one way of sending the message into the ether but mainly getting my thoughts clarified and set out for future review.

Sadly for once, also, my good friend Trove did not add much to my family knowledge.

There are some research investigations that leave one completely muddled and this is one of them….feeling rather like a novice investigator. Bright ideas welcomed.

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Unravelling the McKenna family

It has long been thought in the Cass family that James McKenna, aged 17.5 yrs, arrived Marion 1848 was part of this family even though it was a leap from Melbourn, Cambridge to Newcastle where he was tried in January 1845 for stealing a hank of worsted. Then sent to Millbank & Parkhurst, thence to prison hulk before being sent to Oz as an “exile”. Sentence was 7 yrs, and pardon granted immediately on arrival.  (Various documents are available on Ancestry).

It now seems unlikely this is the case. I also suspect the Melbourn Cambridgeshire may be a mistake against the shipping records obtained by my father-in-law some 30 odd years ago. Another immigration document on Ancestry shows Catherine and Peter coming from Monaghan but immediately under someone from Melbourn and I suspect this may have muddled the picture.

McKENNY aka MCKENNA Cath and Peter 1848 per Adelaide

Catherine and Peter McKenna at the bottom of image, on the Adelaide to Melbourne in 1848.

The situation now seems to be that the family most likely stayed in Ireland the whole time before emigrating some time after Elizabeth’s husband (Owen or Bryan?) died, pre 1848.

Elizabeth’s immigration says she’s leaving on her own account and looking for her son James McKenny.[i] Other researchers suggest that James McKenna who died in 1907 was part of this family.

McKENNA Elizabeth to Jas McKenny

Disposal list of immigrants on the Adelaide 1848, extract for Elizabeth McKenna, William and Catherine.

The immigration records also show that the family comes from Arragall Monaghan. This is neither a townland or a place and we have concluded that it is actually Errigal, Monaghan. Some family trees indicate that it is in the townland of Mullanacross aka Mullinacross in the Errigal Trough Civil Parish, but I can find no source for this information, which doesn’t mean it isn’t correct.

On the immigration records obtained by Les Cass back in the late 1980s, the family is shown together under the surname McKenny. The two youngest, Catherine 13 and Peter 12, are listed as having been born in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. As per above I now believe this may have been an error. This is further reinforced by the fact that I’ve been unable to find Elizabeth, Peter or Catherine on the 1841 English census, even searching by first name and age.

So what was the family which arrived in Australia per the ship Adelaide on 22 June 1848. They had sailed from Plymouth on 1 March 1848[ii].They had been enumerated on the nominal lists as follows:

McKenna Elizabeth 44    house servant    neither

McKenna William 22       farm labourer    both read & write

McKenna Sarah 20           farm servant      both

McKenna Mary 17            housemaid         both

McKenna Catherine 13   daughter             read

McKenna Peter 12           son                         read

All were Roman Catholic and depending on which immigration documents, all state their home place as Monaghan.

Now let’s look at which James McKenna might have been the son who Elizabeth was looking for. We’ve discounted (at least for now), the convict from the Marion.

And in an oops moment I missed this notation on the bottom of the disposal lists.

McKENNA Elizabeth see re children 1848

Ancestry trees suggest that James McKenna arrived ahead of the rest of the family (which fits with the annotation mentioned). There are two possibilities then:  the George Fyfe on 23 July 1841 or the Frankfield also in July 1841.  James McKenna on the George Fyfe is aged 21, a labourer and a Catholic, who can neither read nor write. He is travelling with a Sally McKenna also aged 21, a dairymaid who could read and is also Catholic. At 21 he would be the eldest of Elizabeth’s children that we know about.

The James McKenna on the Frankfield is 19 and is Presbyterian. Given the religion of the rest of the family, it suggests to me that he is likely not the right one.

The James McKenna on the George Fyfe is 21 and is accompanied by his wife, Sally (not his sister as some seem to think[iii]) also 21, both Catholic and both from Monaghan[iv].  Sally is a nickname for Sarah so I went searching for (1) children and (2) her death. I was also puzzled (still am, really) about the listing of marriage details and children for James McKenna and Mary Tyrell. Is this the same James McKenna or a different one?

MCKENNA Sarah and Mary per Adelaide 1848

James and Sally McKenna on the George Fyfe, 1841

 

But first let’s look at Sarah McKenna. I found her death, aged 77, in Purnim shire, Warrnambool, Victoria on 20 October 1894. Her parents were Arthur McElmeal, farmer and Margaret Hacket. The informant is her grandson whose name is illegible due to fading. She is stated to have married in Donagh, Co Monaghan, Ireland at age 22 years to James McKenna[v].

James McKENNA & McELEEL Sarah Donagh parish Monaghan

I then looked at the Ancestry Catholic marriage records for Donagh (from the National Library of Ireland registers). I found the marriage by banns of James McKenna and Sarah McElmeel of Donagh on 17 February 1841 in the Catholic parish[vi].  It’s unclear to me whether it’s James or Sarah who comes from Donagh. The marriage had taken place just under a month from when the couple would sail on 15 March ex Plymouth.

Victorian indexes and Sarah’s death certificate provide the names of children to this couple: James 1841, Sarah (later McDonald) c1844, Mary Ann 1846, Susan (later McGrath) 1848, John 1849-1864, Peter c1852, Eugene c1855 and Margaret c1857. To confound things further, Sarah is stated to have spent three years in Tasmania and 50 years in Victoria – the initial year of arrival fits but not the stint in Tasmania for which I can find no records. I also can’t find the death of Sarah’s husband James in Warrnambool or buried in the cemetery.

Returning to the second option for James McKenna. There is a marriage for James McKenna in Victoria in 1846 to Mary Tyrell (various spellings in indexes). From the death certificate and the Victorian indexes their children are: William 1845, Elizabeth 1846, Sarah 1846, Thomas 1850, Owen c1852 , Peter c1852, Catherine c1860, Mary c1864, and James 1848 deceased. James died, aged 85, in 1907 at Penshurt, Victoria and was buried in the Boram Boram Cemetery by Rev Fr Walsh. James had been born in Monaghan and spent 66 years in Victoria (making his arrival c1841).  His father is stated as Owen and his mother as unknown.

It would suggest that there are two different James McKennas from Monaghan yet they don’t match up with the immigration records. I remain befuddled. There is nothing on either certificate to indicate whether Sarah was a widow or James a widower.

So which James McKenna is which, and does either belong to the family of Elizabeth McKenna?

Does it even matter, given that Mr Cassmob’s ancestry is through William McKenna from the Adelaide?  A further subject for analysis.

Thanks for listening. I’ll be back with Part 2 of my ruminations.

[i] Series: VPRS 14; Series Title: Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kingdom (refer to microform copy, VPRS 3502) on Ancestry

[ii] 1848 ‘Shipping Intelligence.’, The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser (Vic. : 1845 – 1848), 20 June, p. 2. , viewed 23 Aug 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226354034

[iii] James and Sally are among the couples and families, the unmarried males and females are listed separately and neither name appears there.

[iv] Series: VPRS 14; Series Title: Register of Assisted Immigrants from the United Kindom (refer to microform copy, VPRS 3502) Original data from Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports). Microfiche VPRS 7666, copy of VRPS 947. Public Record Office Victoria, North Melbourne, Victoria.

[v] Victorian death certificate 116/1894 #14731.

[vi] Through Ancestry or Findmypast from registers held at National Library of Ireland and digitised at registers.nli.gov.ie Catholic Parish Registers, The National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 05574 / 09

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My Top 10 Genealogy Gateways

My Top 10Some days ago esteemed genealogist James Tanner wrote about his top 10 programs for his family history work. Although I use different programs from James, I agree that even programs which are not designed exclusively for genealogy can be an important part of our research toolkit.

For example, I use the Office suite of programs extensively and couldn’t manage without them (or something similar like Google Docs etc). I have my contacts, my Kunkel database, and my East Clare Irish research in Access. Innumerable Excel spreadsheets of information help to make sense of discoveries that I’ve transcribed from various sources eg Family Search microfilms. Since I much prefer to document my family stories in narrative format, I also routinely use Word.

Observant readers over time will notice I’m not a big fan of genealogical programs per se. Nor do I greatly like having my tree online, though I’ve recently succumbed. I’ve been using the wonderful Australian-designed Relatively Yours for decades but sadly it’s no longer being maintained in any shape. When I get a stretch of time I plan to learn either Family Historian or Roots Magic.

Randy Seaver’s Top 10 list reminded me how different our genealogical gateways can be, depending on our family heritage and how recently our ancestors arrived in their new country.  So here is my list – I wonder how many Aussies will use similar sites?

  1. *** TROVE. *** Trove just has to be #1 because it’s a world-leader and gives us insights into our families that are unavailable elsewhere, or so serendipitous as to be un-findable otherwise. Not only does it offer digitised newspapers from around Australia, it has digital images, links to relevant books, journals etc. You’d be surprised how often family from other countries are mentioned.
  2. State and County Archives & Civil Registration: which ones I’m using will depend on which bit of my research I’m tackling at the time, but most typically I’ll use the Queensland (Archives/ BDM) or New South Wales options with diversions to other states or UK counties/shires.
  3. Scotland’s People. I love this site almost as much as Trove and I’ve been using it “forever”. It lets me see digitised versions of original records so I know they’re spot on. I don’t get the concern over cost, because used in conjunction with other programs to narrow the options, it is cheaper than a cup of coffee.
  4. Irish Parish Registers (National Library of Ireland) and Irish Genealogy (indexed for some counties including Dublin..YAY!)
  5. National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial for military records and war diaries.
  6. Clare Library Genealogy & Family History site. This has long been an innovative leader in Irish research – you know how good it is when you need to find ancestors in other counties. Another I’ve been using “forever”.
  7. Ask about Ireland for Griffith’s Valuation maps and listings (Can be temperamental at times, but is invaluable for Irish research). Use this in conjunction with the surviving Irish census records for 1901 and 1911 from the National Archives of Ireland.
  8. Find My Past (world) for its excellent and diverse records from Ireland, great migration records and UK and Irish newspapers.
  9. Ancestry (world) – I often use my subscription to “work the system” and narrow down other options to search elsewhere. I find it more useful than FMP for searching the Irish parish registers because of the option to search by place only. I also use it for DNA.
  10. Family Tree DNA & GEDmatch for researching my DNA links – not always successfully.

Thanks to both James & Randy for getting me to reflect on which gateways work best for my research on a regular basis. I found it interesting how much our needs vary depending on our ancestry and how recent the immigration.

I wonder which gateways my readers find most useful in their research.