About cassmob

I'm a Queenslander by birth and after nearly 20 years in the Northern Territory I've returned to my home state. I've been researching my Queensland ancestors for nearly 30 years and like most Aussies I'm a typical "mongrel" with English, Irish, Scottish and German ancestry.

A family ANZAC: Pte Hugh Moran Part II

After Pte Hugh Moran enlisted in 1940 he was sent first to Darwin then north Africa where he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War to Italy from 1941 to 1943. You can read about his experience in Part I.

Stalag VIIIB P10003.002

Some of the AIF POWs at Stalag VIIIB/344. http://www.awm.gov.au/collections/P100003.02

As the Italians signed the Armistice of Cassibile in September 1943, the Germans took over the prisoners of war and promptly relocated them north. There is a website, drawn on the NZ Official History of WWII, which reveals the reality of this transfer and what it means to POWs like Hugh[i]:

From those camps that were taken over by German troops in September 1943, all except the few who succeeded in hiding were marched to the nearest railway station. The Germans took what precautions they could to prevent escapes-a strong guard along the route, threats before setting out of the dire consequences that would follow any attempted breaks, even a demonstration with a flame-thrower at Campo PG 57.

Most of the trains went north via Verona, through the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck, though a few took the more easterly Tarvisio Pass to Villach…They were almost entirely made up of cattle-trucks and closed goods-wagons with a very few third-class carriages… Into these trucks the prisoners were packed, as many as fifty in each…The sliding doors were closed and bolted, and prisoners were left for the journey with at most two small openings in the sides of the truck for air and light, no provision for latrines, and only such food and water as they had been able to carry with them….There were occasional halts on the journey north, often not long enough for every truckload to be allowed out. On the longer journeys there were considerable halts at stations and sometimes meals from the German Red Cross.[ii]

POW route Moran

An as-the-crow-flies map of Hugh’s “travels” starting from near Derna where he was captured.

Those from Campo 57 were the first large party from Italy to reach Stalag XVIIIC at Markt Pongau in Austria, a transit camp …roughly 25 miles south of Salzburg, the camp was very dirty and the barracks infested with vermin… For the first time they tasted the typical German stalag fare – vegetable soup and ‘black’ bread, boiled potatoes and mint tea. After a fortnight or so most went north to Stalag VIIIA at Görlitz in Saxony.

Hugh was among those transferred to Stalag VIIIA on 24 September 1943 thence to Stalag VIIIB on 2 November 1943 and in June 1944 to Stalag 344 (my understanding is the latter two were essentially the same).  These prisons were in Lamsdorf in then-Upper Silesia, and now called Łambinowice in Poland.[iii]

This huge camp (VIIIB/Lamsdorf) which had started to show improvement since the appointment of a new German commandant, now became still larger through the sudden influx from Italy and numbered well over 30,000, 10,000 of them in the stalag itself … Those who had come from Italy, more especially those from Campo PG 57, wondered at the comparative lack of discipline in this camp and at the activities that could go on inside it unknown to the enemy… Sooner or later the newcomers, who had all been graded by German doctors according to the type of labour they were medically fit for left for coal mines or other places of work in Silesia.MORAN Hugh pic c1943

It is Hugh’s German Prisoner of War record, included with his AIF personnel file, that reveals more details about his experience. He has plainly completed the basic details, as the rest is written in German. The photograph included shows the impact of the preceding years as he is plainly gaunt and has acquired the typical McSherry baldness (inherited through his mother). It also tells us he blond (really?) and 177cms tall (70 inches), approximately the same height as me – which makes him short for a male with McSherry genes.

MORAN Hugh work record Stalag 344

This extract from Hugh’s German record seems to document his work allocation.

Brit POW Stalag 344 mid_000000

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205184697. German photograph of British POWs working in a quarry at Lambard. Free of copyright.

However, in his debriefing on return to the United Kingdom in 1944, Hugh describes the Stalag/prison rations, accommodation, bathing and hygiene as “bad” and the recreational facilities as “poor”.  While he had not been required to work while in Italy at Campo 57, Hugh states that in Germany he did hard manual labour, pick and shovel work, for 12-14 hours a day. All of which no doubt contributed to his gaunt frame in the photograph taken in Germany, or exacerbated it.

His troubles were far from over, however. As the war ground towards its conclusion, and the arrival of Russian troops became imminent, the German forces made the decision to move their prisoners west. And so started what was to become known as the Long March[iv], The Black March, The Bread March or the Lamsdorf Death March but most survivors just called it “The March”.  In the depths of winter under freezing conditions, with minimal food, the men walked hundreds of kilometres, between January and March 1945[v] with the Lamsdorf men heading north via Dresden. (You can see a map here of POW movements). It was an exhausting, hazardous and debilitating experience for the men, drawing on reserves of strength both physical and mental.

Lamsdorf death march 2 P10548.009

A photograph taken during the Lamsdorf Death March gives a glimpse of the conditions the men had to march. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10548.009

With the surrender of Germany, on 4 May 1945 RAF Bomber Command implemented Operation Exodus, and the first prisoners of war were repatriated by air in aircraft. Bomber Command flew 2,900 sorties over the next 23 days, carrying 72,500 prisoners of war.[vi]

Moran recovery to UK

Extract from Hugh Moran’s service record. NAA series B883, QX7775

Private Hugh Augustine Moran was one of the prisoners recovered by Bomber Command, and for me it’s interesting to ponder whether a friend of ours, Don Curnow, was part of this relief effort. Hugh’s personnel file records that on 19 May 1945, he was deplaned UK as recovered PW (Prisoner of War) M/I and taken on holding strength at 1AIF Transit Camp. This is presumably where his debriefing took place. In this statement, he records that he had been captured on 7 April 1941, with a portion of HQ and including Lt Col Marlan and Major Barton as well as Private L Milne (2/15Bn).

MORAN POW sment

Extract from Pte Moran’s service record at naa.gov.au

Officers missing 15th Bn

Hugh’s report aligns with the official war diary for the 15th Battalion February-April 1941, AWM52 8/3/15/12

After capture, Hugh had been held at Campo 57 from 15 May 1941 to 15 September 1943 then Stalag VIIIA from September to November 1943 before transfer to Stalag VIIIB/344 from May to November 1944. There are a number of photos of the camp on the Imperial War Museum site, but many are copyrighted. While in Germany he was given “reasonable” treatment for stomach pains and bronchitis. He states he had not received Red Cross parcels or mail during his time there.  Had his parcels or mail been blocked or did his family not know where he was?

MORAN POW camps

Extracted from Pte Moran’s Repatriation statement.

On 7 June 1945, Hugh once again had a stint AWOL…for a whole three hours. Who could blame him after being confined for four years? Apparently the Army didn’t feel the same as he was docked a total of 12 days pay…I suppose they didn’t want these men to get delusions of independence, or insubordination. It’s ironic that he told the Germans his former occupation was “timekeeper” which is pretty odd for someone who seemed to miss returning to barracks by mere hours on most occasions.

On 19 June Hugh was repatriated to Australia on the ship “J12” and on 24 August, he was taken on strength in Queensland. Apparently while in Sydney he was taken to the Camp Hospital with scabies. I imagine it was quite some time before his health returned to normal, if ever. He was discharged from the Army on 13 September 1945, leaving him to continue life as a civilian. I can’t help wondering if he wished he’d joined the railway, a reserved occupation, and one held by most of the McSherry men over some generations.

Moran retd fm active service

Hugh died on 8 February 1995, when he was 88 years old, which is amazing considering what he’d gone through. He is buried in the Martyn St Cemetery in Cairns.

It was a revelation to me to unearth this story of my first cousin once removed, Hugh Augustine McSherry[vii]. I hope this post serves as a memorial to his contribution to Australia’s military history.

LEST WE FORGET

Thanks to my cousin Bev for sending this photo of Hughie in later life at his cousin’s birthday. Isn’t it lovely to see him looking happy and healthy? If I’m not mistaken, he’s wearing his RSL pin.  Thanks Bev.

PhyllisRoy and HughMoran1988 IMG

Previous Anzac Day posts are:

2016 and 2012: Villers-Brettoneux and James Paterson

2015: A Gallipoli Everyman: Victor Joseph Sanders

2014: Postcards to the Front 1917

2013: Valiant Indigenous Anzacs

2011: Honouring the Australian-born Diggers with German ancestry

Wealth for Toil on the Railway includes the story of my grandfather’s war service.

[i] http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-GreLong-t1-body-d8.html extract from the NZ Official History

[ii] Ibid

[iii] http://www.lamsdorf.com/history.html

[iv] http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-GreLong-t1-body-d9.html

[v] http://www.lamsdorf.com/the-long-march.html. DO READ THIS IF POSSIBLE.

[vi] ibid

[vii] B503, Q2334 Prisoner of War Record and B883 QX7775. http://naa.gov.au

 

A family ANZAC: Pte Hugh Moran (Part I)

Gallipoli magnet 2015It has become a tradition among Australian and New Zealand genealogy bloggers to remember our ANZAC family members and others on Anzac Day each year. This is my contribution for 2017 – a man I knew nothing about until this week.

Hugh Augustine Moran was my mother’s first cousin, born in Ingham, Queensland on 6 April 1906[i] to James Hugh Moran and Bridget McSherry.

MORAN Hugh Augustine small

Pte Hugh Moran, QX7775 Service file naa.gov.au

On 11 June 1940, Hugh enlisted to join the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in Cairns, Far North Queensland. His age is given on enlistment as 33 years 11 months, though he had only recently celebrated his 34th birthday[ii], had brown hair, blue eyes and a scar on his forehead. Hugh had been working as a labourer in Kirrima, Cardwell and had served 7 years with the citizen military forces (CMF). He was taken on strength with 2/15th Battalion.

The importance of reading the war diaries becomes apparent when we find that the 15th served garrison duty in Darwin for three months which is not noted on his file…you need to look at the big picture of the unit to discover the overall action plan.

15th Bn DRW 1940 AWM P00092.037

Australian War Memorial Image ID P00092.037. 15th Battalion march past Colonel Marlan prior to leaving Darwin, December 1941. They were stationed at Vestey’s Beach near the current day Sailing Club.

Hugh’s file notes that he was marched out to East Command in December 1940, embarking for overseas on Boxing Day 1940. Meanwhile Hugh had treated himself to a pre-Christmas excursion without leave from Redbank on 22nd-23rd December for 28 hrs. He was duly fined, which probably didn’t bother him much if he had someone he wanted to see, or even if he wanted to have a drink or two, or more, to calm his jitters before heading overseas to battle.

AWM Queen Mary Dec 1940 P00527.003

Troops boarding the Queen Mary on 26 December 1941 en route to the Middle East.

The Australian War Memorial’s (AWM) brief history of the 2/15th tells us they sailed “aboard the Queen Mary with the 20th Brigade to Palestine via India, transhipping to the Rohna at Bombay. (OIC of the 15th, Lt Col R F Marlan was Officer Commanding Troops on the voyage).

The 20th Brigade transferred from the 7th to the 9th Division en route to the Middle East. It arrived at El Kantara in Egypt at the start of February 1941 and moved to Kilo 89 in Palestine for desert training.”[iii]

In March 1941 Hugh was attached briefly to the 2/23rd Battalion, 9th Division, for a month between 2 and 29 March when he returned to the 2/15th.

The 2/15th moved to Gabel El Gira on 27 March and then Barce. German forces had landed at Tripoli and were advancing east. It was involved in the withdrawal of British forces to Tobruk, referred to as the “Benghazi handicap”. The withdrawal cost the battalion heavily: the commanding officer (Lt Col Marlan), second in command (Major Barton), and 154 men were captured at El Gazala.

It was during this dash to take and hold Tobruk that Hugh was taken prisoner of war, between Derna and Barce in the Cyrenaica region of Libya. He was one of the 154 mentioned above. They had been caught in the aggressive attack by the great German soldier, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel aka the Desert Rat.

Rommel launched his assault on March 24, 1941, sending three mechanized columns rumbling northward and eastward. The fast-moving Germans chased the retreating British along the coast road, rolled into Benghazi, and swept on to Barce and Derna. One panzer column captured inland fuel dumps and burst out onto the coastal plain at Gazala. Another column executed a wide flanking movement to try to capture British units evacuating from Cyrenaica. The Allies were in full retreat, and it seemed as if nothing could halt Rommel’s advance[iv]. However Rommel was to later get his come-uppance at El Alamein at the hands of the British forces.

MORAN Hugh POW Italy

Extract from Hugh Moran’s service and casualty form. http://naa.gov.au Series B883 QX7775

Hugh was reported Missing in Action, presumed Prisoner of War, effective 7 April 1941, and this was confirmed on 30 June 1941. Unfortunately, the WWII personnel files don’t include notifications to next of kin, and in fact we’re fortunate that this document had already been digitised.

It’s initially unclear whether Hugh was held as POW locally or taken directly to Italy. Once again he was unfortunate, because the camp to which he was sent, Campo 57 Gruppignano near Udine in north-east Italy, was under the command of former Italian Carabinieri officer,[v] Colonel Vittorio Calcaterra. He had been described by one prisoner as “a sadist and a beast and an accessory to murder”(no reference provided).

AWM Campo 57 P02793.008

AWM Image P02793.008 Campo 57 Prisoner of War huts behind two layers of barbed wire. If prisoners were found in the white-stone area,  between the trip wire and the inner fence they would be shot. In the background is the Catholic chapel which the POWs helped to build.

Thanks to Calcaterra, conditions in Campo 57 were extremely harsh. Food was poor, and housing was crowded and insanitary. The prisoners had to improvise their own medical treatment, coping with the “57 twins”, pneumonia and kidney disease…The number saved by Red Cross aid, he wrote, “is beyond computation”. Calcaterra died before he could be tried as a war criminal.

There is a wonderful sketch in this story, The Stolen Years, which graphically portrays the life of POWs at Campo 57. This article argues that soldiers may have been (somewhat) resigned to death or injury, but rarely thought about what they’d do if taken Prisoner of War and the psychological impact of that[vi]. It quotes one soldier’s experience but we have no idea whether this tallied with that of Hugh Moran:

When he finally reached his permanent camp of detention at PG 57 Gruppignano, where nearly all Australian and New Zealand other ranks had been concentrated, Ted Faulkes too, had to make a monumental change of attitude to different standards of hygiene, diet, discipline and organisation.  But at least he was among his peers, and within the camp, responsive to the discipline of his own Australian NCOs as he basically he had been in battle. To some extent his individual temperament and personality had already been moulded by the structure and esprit de corps of his AIF unit – the 2/32nd Infantry Battalion.

The initial transport of POW from the battlefield is by military truck from a holding pen to a rear transit camp, where officers are separated from other ranks[vii]….They were moved either by boat or train (or presumably both in the case of those captured in North Africa).

We have no direct evidence of Hugh’s life in Campo 57 but the above stories and images reveal some of the experience.

Read Part II to learn more about phase 2 of Hugh’s war service and what happened to him after Italy.

—————————-

[i] Military file on naa.gov.au and Queensland Birth registration C1750.

[ii] His medical inspection was on 1 June so perhaps that explains it.

[iii] https://www.awm.gov.au/unit/U56058/

[iv] http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/debacle-in-the-desert-the-siege-of-tobruk/

[v] https://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/stolenyears/ww2/italy/story2.asp

[vi] http://www.aifpow.com/part_1__missing_in_action,_believed_pow/chapter_2__being_a_pow

[vii] http://www.aifpow.com/part_1__missing_in_action,_believed_pow/chapter_4__transportation_of_pow

The Reddan and Liddy Families: Part II

We saw in my previous post that there were at least three siblings born to James Reddan and Mary Scott of Gortnaglogh, Broadford, Clare. Thanks to DNA matches, clues from descendants, and further research we have learned a little about children Winifred and James and their lives in the USA.

However, what did happen to their older sister Mary?

My theory was that if she had also emigrated to the US we’d likely find her with or near her siblings in Manchester, Connecticut. Did she marry, or did she become her parents’ carer?

I turned once again to the online Catholic parish registers for Broadford, County Clare. Sure enough, Mary Reddan of Gortnaglogh is married on 18 February 1871 to Patrick Liddy from Knockbrack townland in the Parish of Kilnoe. The witnesses once again confirm the family linkages: Pat Tuohy of Knockbrack and Margaret O’Brien from Ballykelly (sister to my 2xgreat grandmother).

REDDAN LIDDY marriage 1871

Marriage extract from the Broadford Parish Registers for 1871.

Pat and Mary Liddy had a large family (baptisms in the Parish of Kilnoe, parents living in the townland of Ballydonaghan):

  1. Patrick 11 Nov 1871 witnesses Michael Reddan and Margaret Liddy

Underneath his name is an annotation to indicate he was married in New York, but unfortunately some of it is obscured. Married to El….Connors (?) at Ascension Church, New York on Oct 9, 191x.

  1. Matthew 28 March 1873 witnesses Michael Reddan and Mary Tuohy
  2. Margaret 7 July 1875 witnesses John Fahey and Ellen Tuohy
  3. John born 1 May 1877 (civil registration)
  4. Bridget 26 February 1879 witnesses John Reddan and Anne Tuohy
  5. Michael born 2 August 1881
  6. Thomas born 30 April 1883 (civil)
Ballydonaghan Askaboutireland

Map of Ballydonaghan townland from Ask About Ireland and Valuations Office.

It seems highly likely that the Tuohy family were close relatives of the Liddy family, perhaps cousins. It’s also relevant that Pat and Mary lived close to Mary’s likely cousin (or 2nd cousin), Honora Garvey at Ballydonaghan. Honora is another sister to my 2xgreat grandmother, Mary O’Brien so this may be how the couple came to know each other.  Pat Liddy is also a witness to the baptism of John Garvey jnr in 1877.

At the time of the 1901 census the family at Ballydonohane (sp) in the DED of Boherglass included Mary 56, John 20, Bridget 18, and Thomas 15 who could all read and write, but none spoke Irish[i]. Mary was already widowed. They were living in a 2nd class dwelling of stone with a thatched roof, 3[ii] rooms and 3 front windows. Their farm included a stable, a cow house, piggery and barn[iii].

By 1911, only John 32, and Thomas 25, are residing on the farm, which had different outhouses: stable, coach house, cow house and calf house.

LIDDY Mary death 1909

Civil registration extract.

It seemed likely Mary had died between 1901 and 1911, so I turned to the civil registration records[iv] to find her death. Luckily, for this period it also included images, so I could confirm I had the right person and learn that daughter Bridget had been present at Mary’s death on 20 February 1909.  Mary was aged 71 (hmm, an interesting age jump since the 1901 census), and she was the widow of Patrick Liddy of Ballydonaghan. In the same way I found Pat’s death on 3 July 1900, aged 61, also witnessed by his daughter Bridget.

OCallaghans estate evictions

Extract of list of tenants on the O’Callaghan estate per Clarelibrary.ie

Although Mary was only 63 at the time of her death, based on baptism dates, she had experienced enormous tragedies. She was born in the depths of the Great Irish Famine yet survived. What impact did it have on her long-term health I wonder? Her son Matthew (17yo) died on 5 February 1891 from “probable meningitis” followed on 18 May 1895 by the death of their youngest son, Michael, aged 13, from pneumonia.  Only five years later her husband Pat died. She must have felt buffeted by some fierce winds of life.

However, this is “only” some of the challenges of her life. She and Pat had also experienced the drama and near-tragedy of being evicted from O’Callaghan’s estate in Bodyke. These evictions are infamous as one of the key factors in the Land Wars. The Liddy family appears on the list of tenants of the estate, and another Liddy/Lyddy family from the townland of Clonmoher was among the two families evicted on the first day[v]. The O’Callaghan estate files are held in the National Library of Ireland’s reference library and may contain some additional information on this family, as they do for the Garvey family.

Given the notation of son Patrick’s baptism, it seems likely he had emigrated to the United States either before Pat snr’s death, or between that of both parents, however I have been unsuccessful in tracing his immigration or naturalisation. It is unknown what happened to their daughters Margaret (pre-1901) or Bridget[vi] (after 1901): did she die, emigrate or marry in the USA or Ireland? John Liddy married Margaret Ryan in Ogonnoloe on 13 February 1912[vii] and presumably remained on the family farm.  Younger brother, Thomas, emigrated on 6 June 1913 on the Mauretania[viii]. The passenger record shows his former residence is with his brother John at Ballydonehan, Bodyke and he was planning to stay with his brother Pat at 1804, 3rd Avenue New York. Thomas states himself as a 22 year old labourer.

Mauretania Tyne and Wear Museum

Mauretania on her maiden voyage in 1907, leaving Tyneside. Image from Tyne and Wear Museum.

Meanwhile, what became of the Reddan property at Gortnaglogh? The Valuation Revisions indicate that ultimately the farms of James and Pat Reddan were combined and inherited by Michael Reddan by at least the early 20th century. As yet, it’s not known what kinship exists between Pat Reddan’s family and that of James Reddan but is seems likely they were cousins of some degree. Pat Reddan died in 1892, aged 97, on 7 February, and his widow, Winifred, aged 92 died on 10 February. Both deaths were witnessed by son Michael. Of course, like so much in genealogy, one discovery arrives with more questions. Where did this Winifred come from? I can not find their marriage, and the mother of Winifred, James and Mary was stated as Mary Scott….did she perhaps have a two first names, based on the naming patterns?  The Michael Reddan who resides at Gortnaglogh in 1901 is the correct age for the one born to Pat Reddan and Mary Daniher…so who is Winifred? What am I missing here?

REDDAN Patrick and Winifred deaths 1892

Image extracted from ID 3709465 on irishgenealogy.ie Civil Registrations.

The bonus of DNA is that it has established a kinship connection between James and Mary Reddan’s children, Winifred, James and Mary.

I wonder if a Liddy match will come up at some stage?

I’d be very interested in hearing from any descendants of these families, either in Ireland or in the USA or elsewhere.

I’m also curious how many east Clare descendants have had their DNA tested…feel free to contact me if you wish.

—————————-

[i] Householder’s return (Form A)

[ii] House and Building return. (Form B1)

[iii] Out offices and farm steadings return (Form B2)

[iv] https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/civil-search.jsp

[v] My assumption re this family is based on the fact that the other eviction that day was of the widow Margaret McNamara who also lived at Clonmoher.

[vi] I can not find her marriage or death in the Irish records, nor an obvious immigration record. She is not the Bridget Lyddy who emigrates on the Celtic in 1910 as her former residence is with her father, John at Bodyke and it seems likely this is John Lyddy from Clonmoher townland.

[vii] Civil registration 1971946

[viii] Donated material on the Clare Library website from Ellis Island information.

The Reddans from Gortnaglogh: Part I

I’ve been very fortunate that a few of my close cousins have agreed to be DNA tested, helping to expand our family knowledge. One of those tests came through from Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) last week, and as the genetic blender would have it, produced a cousin match which doesn’t genetically match in common with me, or other family members on that branch. This is not unexpected since each layer of genetic inheritance mixes more or less randomly – even siblings don’t have identical DNA.

The most exciting aspect of this match is that it linked to a family I’ve long hypothesised as being closely related to my O’Brien-Reddan family from Ballykelly townland near Broadford, Clare. I knew that members of my family had often witnessed church events for the Reddan families from the nearby townland of Gortnaglogh, and vice versa. In fact, one of the last things our Mary O’Brien (later Kunkel), did before she left Ireland was to act as sponsor to the baptism, on 19 September 1852, of James Reddan, son of James Reddan and Mary Scott from Gortnaglogh.

REDDAN James Baptism

Extract from Broadford (Kilseily) parish registers.

How did I find which cousin was relevant among the matches?

In this instance, I searched the matches for known family names (sometimes I search by place). This produced three people who had Reddan ancestors: me, Nora (my 3C1R) and Robert. This tied in with an Ancestry match with my own DNA: a woman whose ancestry also included Reddan, and whose tree rang lots of bells for me. Her tree included the Reddans from Gortnaglogh. At least two of the children, James (above) and Winifred, had emigrated to the United States, apparently sometime in the mid/late 1860s. Previously I wasn’t sure this match was IDB as it was quite weak at 7.3cMs, and without being able to look at the chromosomes it was tricky. The second match through FTDNA confirmed to me it wasn’t coincidence.

With these DNA matches in hand, I went back to my East Clare database[i] and also used the Irish Catholic parish registers for Kilseily/Broadford, available on National Library of Ireland, Ancestry and Findmypast.

I found two Reddan families having children in Gortnaglogh around the time the parish registers commence in 1844. (Note – the priests did not indicate the townlands until some years after the registers commence).

Gortnaglogh original GV map edit

Gortnaglogh townland from Griffith’s Valuation – original map from The Irish Valuation Office on Findmypast.com. The plots leased by the Reddans are coloured.

James Reddan and Mary Scott married in Kilseily parish on 4 February 1845 (in the early days of the Great Irish Famine). The witnesses were James Barry and Judy Carroll. They had the following children I’ve identified from the registers:

  1.  Mary bapt 4 Aug 1846 witnesses James Moloney and Catherine Reddan
  2. Winifred bapt June 1848 witnesses Michael Moloney and Judy Moloney
  3. James bapt 17 Oct 1852 witnesses Michael Bently and Mary Brien (Ballykelly – latter is my 2x great grandmother)

Patrick Reddan and Mary Daniher (aka Dannaher etc):

  1. Bridget baptised 24 Feb 1845 witnesses Michael and Daniel Danaher
  2. Catherine bapt  May 1847 Thomas Campbell and Mary Daniher
  3. Michael bapt 26 Jan 1851 wit Ellen Kinerk and James Kinnane
  4. Anne bapt 5 Nov 1856 wit Thomas Kinnane and Mary Anne Reddan (both Gortnaglogh)
  5. John bapt 7 Nov 1858 wit John O’Brien and Kate O’Brien (both Ballykelly – my relations)

We’ll come back to this family in another post.

What is the likely relationship of the family of James Reddan and Mary Scott to my O’Brien-Reddan family?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, though the DNA strength (49cMs on 12 segments, with longest being 20.95) suggests it should be in the range of a2C2R or 3C1R (third, once removed) cousin connection. However, the paper trail makes this not possible as the closest it can be is 4C2R. What I suspect is happening is that there is some level of endogamy far enough back to “concentrate” the linkage. My hypothesis is that, at best, James Reddan (b~1816) is possibly a sibling of my Mary O’Brien’s mother, Catherine O’Brien nee Reddan (b~1802), and if not, a nephew. For the time being, I’ve added James Reddan snr to my Ancestry tree as Catherine O’Brien’s brother with the thought in my head that I may be one generation out of line.

Where to from here?

Since I was primarily interested in the family of the DNA matches, I focused on tracing the children of James Reddan and Mary Scott. In this I was assisted by various online clues and trees of other researchers. From these I had seen that Winifred and James had been in Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut – a pivotal point in tracing them.

1870 census REDDAN and ROACHREDDAN Winifred and James 1870 census

Year: 1870; Census Place: Manchester, Hartford, Connecticut; Roll: M593_103; Page: 18B; Image: 347924; Family History Library Film: 545602

I managed to find Winifred in the 1870 US Census at Manchester town, Hartford, Connecticut, living with brother James as boarders in the house of Laurence Roach, his wife, children and other relatives. James’s occupation is showing as “farm labourer” but Winifred doesn’t yet have a listed occupation. Her age is listed as 20.

PostcardManchesterCTCheneyBrothersMills1920

Published by Morris Berman, New Haven, Conn. Made in USA. Public domain on wikipedia.

By 1880, Winnie was married and living with her husband, Thomas (aka John Thomas) Curry in Machester town, Hartford, Connecticut. James is a worker in the silk mill and Winifred is “keeping house”. Manchester played a large role in the silk manufacturing industry until the 1920s.

By the time of the 1900 census, Winifred was on her own with three children, Mary (b abt 1882), John James (b 1886) and Frank (b 1890). It is, as yet, unknown what happened to Winifred’s husband Thomas Curry. Over the years the family remained involved with the mills working in various capacities. Winifred reached a very old age, dying in 1943. She is buried in the St Bridget’s cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut.

ADDENDUM: Thanks to a tip from Randy at GeneaMusings I found the death of another of Thomas and Winifred’s children, Leo in 1893. I also found a still birth which now eludes me (lazy recording, late night research). There is also a death for James Curry on 17 Nov 1884, aged 2 days which may be theirs, but no parents are noted.

CURRY Leo death part 1Connecticut Marriages, 1640-1939″, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QLMW-1DXH : 11 April 2017), Leo Curry, 1893CURRY Leo death part 2

What became of Winnie’s brother, James Reddan?

It is through a family annotation on Find-a-Grave that I learnt James lived in Brooklyn, New York for many years and from that I tracked his census locations over the decades. In 1880 he was still in Hartford, and working as a barber, but by the 1900 census James had relocated to Brooklyn, correctly stating his month and year of birth and indicating he’d arrived in the USA in 1865 and was naturalised. If he arrived in 1865, then he would have been only 12 or 13 so presumably he came to the US with Winifred, or perhaps another relative. It may be his naturalisation registered in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1874 but it’s difficult to be sure. I have been unsuccessful in locating Winifred and James’s arrival details.

REDDAN James naturalisation 1874National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Index to New England Naturalization Petitions, 1791-1906 (M1299); Microfilm Serial: M1299; Microfilm Roll: 31

By the time of the 1940 census, James was about 88, and was living in the Chapin Home for the Aged and Infirm, New York. He was also buried in St Bridget’s Cemetery, Hartford. As far as is known, James did not marry or have any children.

But what happened to James and Winifred’s older sister, Mary?

Well, that’s a story for another day.

What do you think of my conclusions? Can you offer further suggestions re the DNA linkages?

[i] originally indexed from the Kilseily microfilm held by Family Search.

Ready for RootsTech?

jet-1357973_1280The geneaglobe is hopping as many people prepare to jet off to Salt Lake City to attend the RootsTech conference which is a huge event, in size, speaker power, exhibitors and learning content.

This year I’m combining it with a trip even further north to Canada, about which I’m really excited. Mr Cassmob is also coming with me so I suspect his eyes will be popping at the scale of RT. Meanwhile family members will enjoy a beach holiday at our place while we are freezing in sub-zero temps. It’s a lot colder this year than when I attended RootsTech two years ago, so careful planning is required.

So what is on my planning list? This is all a bit nitty-gritty but it seems to me we often overlook the semi-obvious. With thanks to all those who’ve gone before me, and provided advice, wisdom and mateship.

TRAVEL

checklist-1919292_1920Flights booked and confirmed, and ESTA permit done.

DFAT registration – to be done

Hotel booked in Salt Lake.

Travel Insurance

Register travel with DFAT– still to be done. (This is for the Aussies)

Advise bank that we will be away so they don’t bounce our cards.

Itinerary printed, copied to offline Evernote and on email. Ditto documents.

Check out how you’ll get from the airport to the city: TRAX, hotel bus, or shuttle bus (there are others, but I used this one last time. Tip – tell them you’re there before you pick up your luggage as otherwise you may have to wait until the next bus, even if you’ve booked)

Sleep bank stored – hah! I have trouble sleeping before big trips as my mind keeps thinking up lists.

TECH STUFF

SIM cards for smart phone & a wireless dongle. (I’ve used Go Sim a few times, and it works)

Charger packs to keep the tech going all day.

iPad – I’m not taking the laptop. In part because of the extended trip, but I can manage most things on the iPad and will take other data on USBs.

USBs for the Family History Library and to share info with Canadian cousins we’re meeting up with.

Backup Drive (maybe)

USBs with fancy connections so I can copy info from the iPad and also the Android phone

US adaptors and charging cords for each bit of tech – takes more weight than toiletries!

Cash Travel cards (issued by your bank).

A stash of US dollars to pay for transit expenses, snacks, tips.

New fancy RFID wallet and handbag – thanks Santa!

ID protector pockets for passport and credit cards if you don’t have above.

In-flight reading, books and podcasts on iPad…oh yes, I’m supposed to sleep. I think I already have enough to lap the world a few times.

SOCIAL MEDIA and SCHEDULING

social-networks-1863613RootsTech App downloaded and profile updated and add friends as they come online: there are still gaps.

Work out which sessions to attend: lots of competing entries always.

Book and pay for lunches and computer labs if required/desired.

Check out the exhibitors and decide which stands you most want to visit.

Book for any of the social events available that you wish to attend and link up with genimates from near and far.

Fill out the feedback content on the app as each presentation finishes.

Keep your notes in Evernote or in the app. (I prefer the former)

Remember not to photograph speaker’s slides without prior permission.

Sign up for the Geneabloggers at RootsTech Facebook group (You do need to be a geneablogger). It’s a great way to connect with people in advance.

Sign up with Geneabloggers’ Thomas MacEntee for your blogging beads. (Thanks to DearMYRTLE and Russ Worthington for sponsoring the beads once again).

Download the Salt Lake City Visitors’ Guide to iBooks or equivalent.

RESEARCH

old-1130743_1920Save relevant documents to Evernote and sync if you have a full subscription, along with travel documents.

Prepare a list of things to search in the Family History Library: I’m focusing mostly on books rather than microfilms which I can order in here and which take a lot of time to review thoroughly.

I use the keyword option when searching the Family Search Catalogue looking for counties and places relevant to my families. I’ve printed a swag of pages to take with me, and will prioritise them. They’ll go in the bin when I’ve checked them off. With lots of time I’d put it all in a spreadsheet but….

On this visit we’ll have time after RootsTech to research in the library, so that will mean we won’t bother during RT.

Make sure your camera is fully charged and ready to go.

Have your family tree online, on paper or on your smart phone for ready reference.

BITS & BOBS

conference-ribbons√Aussie souvenirs.

√Business cards for my blog with family names on reverse.

√Badge with my blog name on it.

√Conference ribbons to promote your business/blog or a cause like Genealogists for Families. If anyone has ancestors from East Clare, or is part of the Kiva GFF group, please see me for a ribbon.

√Any special gifts for genimates?

√Bubble wrap and zip lock bags, as usual.

√Carry bag featuring my blog name (from Vistaprint).

Make dinner reservations if needed. The Blue Lemon, PF Changs and the Olive Garden were all reasonable places to eat which I visited.

√Booked tickets for a game of basketball featuring the Salt Lake Jazz.

Strong muscles for all the stuff I take and collect (hah!)

If you want to buy some food to have in your hotel room, Harmons City Creek is not too far a walk unless it’s snowy and super-cold.

CLOTHES

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Boring but necessary. I’ll be going from 25-35C (or 85-95F) to anything down to -20 so there’s quite a change. I’m telling myself we’ve often travelled in winter so it will be fine.

Lots of layers, a pashmina or two, leggings/stockings, thermals, coat, scarves, gloves, walking boots and hat: that should cover the extras.. a challenge for someone who lives in shorts and tank tops!

Make sure your boots/shoes are comfortable as you’ll be notching up some distance in the Salt Palace.

And for those who can’t make it to RootsTech, you don’t have to miss out. Follow your favourite bloggers’ posts, tweets @RootsTechConf or watch the live screen broadcasts here (these will later be available online as videos.)

What have I forgotten? Any thoughts?

Disclosure: I have not received any financial remuneration for recommending the places/sources mentioned. They are offered as a helpful clue to possibilities.

Australia Day and My Immigrant Ancestors

58 green and gold flowers

On Australia Day 2017 we reflect on our pride in our country and also, for many of us, our status as descendants of immigrants. Some will have First Australians, others will have early convicts. Some will be part of the early settlers in the colony of New South Wales or Van Dieman’s Land. For me, being Australian is not about flying a flag or wearing one draped round my shoulders, it’s about the country, its open land and horizons, the skies with the Southern Cross among the stars.

Last year I was acknowledged by Queensland Family History Society as having Pre-Separation ancestors. In this context it meant submitting my genealogical data (certificates of all sorts), to the society to prove my various ancestors were living in the colony before Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859. The proclamation of Separation was read by Governor Bowen on 10 December 1859. I was very surprised to discover I had eleven pre-Separation ancestors, eight of whom were immigrants, and three were first-generation Australian-born. The rest of my immigrant ancestors were “Johnny come lately” types.

immigrant-ancestors-countryI thought it would be interesting to see how my immigrant ancestors broke down in terms of generations and also country of origin. While I think of myself as mostly Irish-Scottish descent, I was suprised how dominant my English ancestry was at the immigrant level, especially pre-Separation (4). One branch of my Irish (5) came in the early 1880s and my Scottish in the 1870s (1) and 1910 (2).

With the current focus on genetic genealogy all this becomes pertinent, because these are the ancestors, and their ancestors, who I need to focus on to make kin-connections. Place is, I think, almost as important as names – after all if your ancestral families never left Argyll in Scotland, you’re unlikely to match someone with that name who never left Ayrshire, or Nottinghamshire. However, never say never, people did migrate internally as well as internationally, but even so my starting point is usually place of origin.

immigrant-ancestors-generationsA number of my immigrant ancestors came as family groups, some even as three generations eg my 1880s Irish and my 1850s English.I looked at this a few years back – you can read about it here.

I’m including some graphs to show visually the distribution across the generations and also country of origin. In my Ancestry family tree, I have the immigrants shown with two flags -one with their country of origin and one for Australia.

On Australia Day let’s consider our First Australians, and the impact of the arrival of all those convict and immigrant ships on their lives, survival and culture. Let’s also recognise the impact each generation of our immigrant ancestors has had on the development of Australia….one of the reasons I’m so proud of my early pre-Separation Pioneers: George Mathias Kunkel (Bavaria); George’s wife-to-be Mary O’Brien (Ireland); Richard and Mary Kent and daughter Hannah (England); Hannah’s husband-to-be, William Partridge (England); Denis and Ellen Gavin (Ireland).

who-s-going-green-question-mark-md

And if anyone ever finds my James Sherry aka McSharry (not the railway contractor), I’d love to know where he got to within a few years of his arrival in 1883. That’s one brick wall that refuses to topple.

Pride, prejudice and genealogy

As they say “pride comes before a fall” and that applies in genealogy research as well. Over the years you’ve heard me say that I vastly prefer narrative documentation to conventional genealogy in trees, pedigree charts and ahnentafel numbers.

My earliest genimates, in the late 1980s, both belonged to the narrative tribe and they were both super-smart women. Perhaps that influenced my documentation but more likely it was also a personal predisposition. One was a little inclined to over-romanticise the story within the facts, which didn’t suit my direct style.

qld-muster-rollI suppose somewhere in the distant past I must have started with some pedigree charts and family group sheets – in fact it comes to me that this is what went into my contribution to the Genealogical Society of Queensland Bicentennial Muster Rolls (somewhere on my shelves). My preferred genealogy program has always been the now-defunct Relatively Yours and this is where I kept my basic data of BDMs. Writing my Kunkel book required me to have a full chart for the family in there. However, overall the program contained the bare data while the rest went into narrative from my notebooks.

Now that DNA has arrived on the scene this level of pride, and prejudice, has come back to haunt me. Now I need to know exactly where everyone fits on a family tree. Now I need to know the degree of relationships and who is a third cousin twice removed. How the genealogy gods (our ancestors?) must be laughing! On the positive side I’ve always been a fan of FANs (friends, associates and neighbours) or FFANS and I’ve used my research of collateral lines to solve mysteries and knock down the odd brick wall.

our_community_place_sandbox

Playing nicely in the sandpit. Wikimedia commons.

My documentation has been expensively and laterally obtained from original sources in archives and libraries in Australia and around the world. I was more than a little precious about it and reluctant to share especially where it was a one-way street. A few cases of slurping up my data with no thanks or reciprocity had made me cynical….no more playing nicely in the sandpit for me. Then there were a few cases where the fanciful family story was stacked against the facts and came out ahead…in came that pride and prejudice again. Let the facts speak and if you want to tell the inherited story, tell it as exactly that.

Another source of pride has been my blithe, and close to total, disregard of Ancestry trees. Funnily enough I do think you need to know what you’re looking for, by working steadily back from yourself, the old-fashioned way.

There was the day that one tree gave me a dose of conniptions when I saw a tree with umpteen more children than my particular family. Back to the drawing board and it took only a short time to realise they had mixed up two totally separate families (albeit with the same parents’ names): one lot was in New South Wales (Aussie royalty) and the other was my Queensland mob.  The children from each had been interleaved on the one tree. Whew! Prejudice confirmed.

naryshkin_family_tree

Naryshkin family tree: Wikimedia Commons

Over the time I’ve also been too prideful to much attention to online trees because I’d been careful and was confident my research was a rigorous as I could make it. What I missed was that those trees  were being grown by likely cousins….how astonishing! I may shake my head at seeing un-cited images from my book but I’ve come to the conclusion that at least people are enthusiastic about their family trees and sharing information. I’ve even bitten the bullet and put up a tree of my own and made it public….believe me that’s been a huge leap of faith. Get back pride, take a seat prejudice.

So my task at present is to work through those shaky leaves on family trees and pin down where they fit in: are they cousins or do they simply have some remote peripheral family link? It’s going to take time and it can only help build up my knowledge of family and should help with my DNA matches, and maybe encourage some to test as well. There’s certainly no shortage of kin out there.

Accentuate the Positive 2016

My good friend and genimate GeniAus reminds us each year to be positive about what we’ve achieved. Initially I felt like I’d achieved little in 2016, perhaps mainly because my blog languished for much of the year, and even my 7th anniversary went past unacknowledged but not forgotten. It seems that retirement and relocation require adjustment which somehow is yet to reach a balance…being the family travel agent has also taken a lot of time. However, Jill is quite right and once I focused on remembering the positives, they outweighed the dearth of blog posts, so here is my list. Thanks Jill for giving me a boot to:

Remember to Accentuate the Positive 

1.  An elusive ancestor I (haven’t) found was…still on the trail of James Sherry who continues to elude me. Did he die, do a runner from his family, emigrate back to Ireland, or perhaps New Zealand…or outer Mongolia. He was the primary reason for my DNA testing.

20160910_152921-patrick-callaghan

Patrick Callaghan (left) who was drowned off Dublin.

2.  A precious family photo I found was a serendipitous discovery of my great-grandmother’s brother. Patting random cats in genealogical areas can lead to all sorts of genearosity, companionable conversation and sharing of photos and stories.

3.  An ancestor’s grave was elusive. We visited the Offaly graveyard where my Martin Furlong is buried but could not find his grave among the many others…perhaps we were just too tired.

4.  An important vital record I found was the Irish civil registration which confirmed that my 2xgreat grandmother was born Anne Callaghan as well as being married to a Callaghan (pronounced Callahan in Ireland). Now…where did she come from?

5.  A newly found family member came from DNA matches which confirmed paper trails. I also discovered that a long-term local history colleague is a cousin…very exciting.

6.  A geneasurprise I received was being greeted by the librarian at the Clare Local Studies Library in Ennis like a Rockstar, and his supportive comments on my Kunkel family history book. I had forgotten about this until my friend Fran, the TravelGenee, reminded me the other day.

462-church-and-graveyard7. My 2016 blog post that I was particularly proud of was My Gratitudes because in 2017 I want to focus more on the positives and be less critical of myself and others. I started a meme called Monday Memories (so long since I’ve done one, I’d forgotten) – good posts were Milne Bay and Old Time Courtesies. My A to Z theme this year was “how to pursue an interest in genealogy/family history”…this was my third year, so I’m not sure if I’ll go round again.

And in December 2016, my blog had its seventh Blogiversary…I’d been thinking it was only six.

8. I made a new genimate who was courageous in making her first public presentation on Irish valuation records in company with some well-known Irish experts. Lots of good info in her talk. Congratulations Bobbie Ede!

9. A new piece of software I mastered was…learning more each day about genetic genealogy using Gedmatch. It will be a long time before I feel I can say I’ve “mastered” genetic genealogy though, hence why DNA talks feature heavily in my Rootstech 2017 schedule.

10. A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was Facebook. Every day I connect with and learn more about genimates around the world. I love how it builds our community!

11. A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was Judy Russell’s sessions in Brisbane – thanks to Unlock the Past; and the GSQ seminar featuring Irish history gurus Drs Perry McIntyre and Jennifer Harrison.

12. I am proud of the presentation I gave at the Clare Roots Conference on the Diaspora of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ennis in September. I was able to present the findings from my East Clare Emigrants research to an Irish and wider audience. Thanks to those from the Clare Facebook Group who shared their photos of their East Clare ancestors for me to include in my presentation.

I was so chuffed that Broadford local history guru and cousin, Pat O’Brien, commented so positively on what we are all doing writing and researching about our Irish ancestors – returning them to their Irish homes and their community’s history.It was such a pleasure that my cousins Mary and Eileen came along to hear my talk – thank you ladies and while I missed subsequent talks the special time we spent together was simply “gold”.I was also thrilled to meet Tulla researcher, Jane, who manages the Tulla Reaching Out Facebook page and another researcher who has interests in Broadford.

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I also had a new experience which I thought went well… my first-ever radio interview on Clare FM about my talk and the conference. If this works, you can hear it here…be warned it’s a large file. .

13. A journal/magazine article I had published was…nada, nil, zip….

14. I taught a friend how to…don’t know that I did, but I helped a friend of a friend who knew nothing about her parents’ background.

15. Complementary genealogy books that taught me something new were Blaine Bettinger’s well set out Family Tree Guide to DNA testing and Genetic Genealogy and Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine Bettinger and Debbie Park Wayne. If you want to unravel the mysteries of DNA testing these are the tools you need.

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The joys of archives succinctly stated at Donegal Archives.

16. A great repository/archive/library I visited was The Donegal County Archives in Lifford where Mr Cassmob explored the Board of Guardian minutes in the hope of tracing his Famine Orphan, Biddy Gallagher.

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was Damian Shiels’ The Forgotten Irish in the Civil War. This is a superb book and I highly recommend it to anyone with ancestors who fought in the US Civil War and/or have Irish ancestry – it shows just what can be done with what might seem like dense government records. You can read my GoodReads review here.

18. It was exciting to finally meet genimate Judy Russell aka the Legal Genealogist on my home turf along with my local genimates. We had a great time introducing her to the joys of the local area with its amazing seafood and just getting to know each of them better.

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The shrine at Bedlam, Donegal near Gortahork.

19. A geneadventure I enjoyed was a three week jaunt to Ireland in September with Mr Cassmob, visiting libraries and archives, walking the ground, exploring home places and visiting the place where my grandson’s other line comes from in Donegal. Thanks to my genimate Angela aka The Silver Voice for her help and tips along the way.

20. Another positive I would like to share is …having Queensland Family History Society recognise my eleven Pre-Separation Queesland ancestors. You can obtain forms here if your ancestors arrived in what is now Queensland before Separation in 1859.

What a wonderful community we have among genealogists around the world – some blog, others Facebook, some work at local libraries: whenever and wherever we meet we share something truly precious – a little of ourselves, a lot about genealogy and the passion for this obsession of ours. I have made great friends through this network of genimates and treasure you all.

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I love Donegal’s wide open spaces and wild scenery. In some strange way it reminds me of Australia, but don’t be lulled into thinking it’s always sunny.

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My Gratitudes

Much of the year we rush from pillar to post, taking a lot of the good things in life for granted. I’ve recently attended a gratitude class with local Toni Powell (an amusing and engaging speaker), who presents the many benefits to our health and well-being in having gratitude for so much in our lives – and extending it to others. The North American holiday of Thanksgiving fits so well within this model and I’m very grateful to my friend Alona from LoneTester blog for inspiring me with gratitude-heartthis blog post.

Much as I admire the Thanksgiving holiday I think it would be a disaster to implement at this time of the year in Australia when we’re already dealing with end of the academic year, graduations, school formals, annual holidays, hot weather and Christmas. It seems to me that it fits much better with the reflective nature of autumn.

I’d like to share my own list of gratitudes with you.

  • I’m grateful for the abundance of good people and aspects of my life.
  • I’m grateful always for having a wonderful, caring, funny and supportive other half in Mr Cassmob. He is my rock.
  • I’m grateful always for our three intelligent and caring daughters, their other halves, and our four fabulous grandchildren who we love so much.
  • I’m grateful that our daughters have each others backs through thick and thin, lifting each other up and providing encouragement. They’ll be fine when we’ve left the planet.
  • I’m grateful for the pleasure our furry person gives us daily with his company, graciously bestowed with cuddles, and to all the cats who’ve been in our lives.
  • I’m grateful for the skills of the medical teams and the innovative equipment developers who have had such a positive influence in our lives this year.
  • I’m grateful to be healthy and able to enjoy our retirement, thanks to the hard work of those who came before us and fought for our workplace rights.
  • I’m grateful to live in a free, democratic country where everyone has an equal right to vote, we have social support for those in need, and access to health is not likely to bankrupt us.
  • I’m grateful for the beautiful scenery and nature that surrounds us, that we can enjoy every day.
  • I’m grateful (and sometimes amazed) when my garden grows and new plants flourish. I delight in the flowers and the birds that visit.
  • I’m grateful to my parents for so much but especially giving me the enormous gift of education, at a time when educating girls was considered less important.
  • I’m grateful to educators of all varieties, artists, musicians and craftspeople who share their talents, knowledge, and creativity with us, bringing pleasure to our lives.
  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend time with friends every week, to be closer to some of my friends than I was previously, and that I still get to visit with my Darwin friends when I travel there or vice versa.
  • I’m grateful for my many friends who live here and around the world and with whom I can stay in touch through social media, email, texts, phone or Skype.
  • I’m grateful for a wonderful variety of fresh, health food from diverse cuisines.
  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel locally or far away, to see new sights, meet new people and experience other cultures.
  • I’m grateful for the skill of pilots, and the engineering excellence, which lets me fly many miles a year, near and far, with the ease of getting on the bus (but if they could offer even more leg room on the bus I’d be even more grateful).
  • I’m grateful for the technology that lets me take a library of books and music with me in a tiny package when I travel.
  • I’m grateful to those who gave me welcome and assistance in conferences, hotels and venues around the world this year and in previous years.
  • I’m grateful for the community of genealogists who I’ve met, the knowledge and friendship they share, and for the joy that 30 years of family history has given me.
  • I’m grateful for the wonderful online resources that are available to me, the joy of archives and libraries, and the sudden digitisation of a wealth of free Irish records.
  • I’m grateful for the beach, sunshine, cool breezes and uncrowded spaces.
  • I’m grateful for my life.

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