Lives on the line with Qld Rail

On Friday 31 July 2015, Queensland celebrated the 150th anniversary of the opening of its first train line from Ipswich to Bigge’s Camp on that date in 1865. For a colony that had separated from New South Wales less than six years earlier, this engineering feat was quite an achievement and more was ahead with the extension of the line to Toowoomba at the top of the Great Dividing Range.

Unidentified (1865). Official opening of the first section of the Ipswich to Grandchester railway, Ipswich, 1865. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Unidentified (1865). Official opening of the first section of the Ipswich to Grandchester railway, Ipswich, 1865. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

I’ve often wondered if several sets of my ancestors were there, in the background, when the first train puffed its way out of Ipswich that day. After all, the Kents, Kunkels, and Partridges were all living there at the time. It’s even possible that George Kunkel snr had started his association with the railway around this time, but it’s impossible to know.

Without a doubt, life on the line was vastly different to the ceremony held that day to celebrate the first train trip. Men worked hard physical labour in the heat and challenges of the bush. Their wives lived in tented camps, they birthed their children, lost some to disease, managed their households and somehow brought their children up. Catholic priest, Fr Dunne, later Archbishop of Brisbane, described the railway camps as “fly pests”. While the camps offered a variety of facilities, it was down to the contractor, the men and their families to make the best of things. They were surely physically and mentally strong.

1860). Contractor's Yard, Ballard's Camp during the construction of the Ipswich to Toowoomba Railway, 1865. Queensland State Archives

1860). Contractor’s Yard, Ballard’s Camp during the construction of the Ipswich to Toowoomba Railway, 1865. Queensland State Archives

Over the years of blogging I’ve often mentioned I have railway tracks running through my blood stream. It’s certainly true that my ancestors have been involved with the railway almost since its very beginnings in Queensland. Let me give you a summary, working back from me.

1st GENERATION

Norman Kunkel railwaymanMum: worked as a typiste in the Goods Office at Roma Street railway station and yards. Working there she knew Dad’s paternal uncle, Jim Kunkel.

Dad: started work as a junior worker at Landsborough when he was 16 then later became a lad porter and porter at Central, Maye, Tweed Heads and Roma Street. His service at Roma Street extended for over two decades and if only there had been Fitbits then we might know how many miles he clocked up in his job as a numbertaker (sometimes known as a tally clerk). From Roma Street to the Exhibition grounds multiple times each 8+ hour shift meant he was fit but the hazards of coal dust made a mess of his lungs, compounded by smoking of course. He also told us that he had seen snow falling one winter’s night-shift…a topic that was recently debated on the Lost Brisbane Facebook page.

Denis Joseph Kunkel (1880-1965). The original is held by Pauleen Cass.

Denis Joseph Kunkel (1880-1965). The original is held by Pauleen Cass.

2nd GENERATION

Paternal grandfather: Denis Kunkel

Not only did Grandad work on the railways all his life, he also served with the Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company during World War I. I wrote his story here for an Australia Day theme.

Maternal grandfather: James J McSherry

My Irish grandfather also had a life-long association with the railway, as a worker and child of a railwayman. He worked as a carpenter in the railway workshops in Townsville and Ipswich. He was a high energy man, and when normal people were retiring he moved across to work for Commonwealth Engineering. You can read some of his story in this newspaper advertisement and also in my post linked above.

News article JJ McSherry

3rd GENERATION

I believe this may be George Michael Kunkel and his wife, Julia Gavin.

I believe this may be George Michael Kunkel and his wife, Julia Gavin.

Paternal great-grandparents

George Michael Kunkel commenced working with Queensland Rail in 1878 (aged 20) though it’s possible he may have worked for a contractor prior to that. Certainly he was working as a lamber on Jondaryan Station in 1875 when he appears to have met his wife.

Julia Celia Kunkel, nee Gavin, was also employed on the railways, working as a gatekeeper.

Maternal great-grandparent

Peter McSherry/Sherry arrived in Rockhampton on 5 May 1884. Ten days later he commenced work with Queensland Rail as a ganger and remained in service with them until 1931 when he retired as a Chief Inspector. His service took him through much of central, western and northern Queensland: to Longreach, Hughenden, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton. My suspicion would be that Peter had already worked on the Irish railway at Wexford, given he was 23 on arrival and his father also worked for the railways there and in Queensland.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin.

4th GENERATIONgeorge kunkel BW

Paternal 2xgreat grandfather: George Mathias Kunkel, born Bavaria, followed the railway line west towards Toowoomba but it’s not known if he worked as a labourer or perhaps as a pork butcher and sausage maker, an occupation he’d followed on the Tooloom goldfields a few years earlier. The official records place him “on the books” from June 1875. He continued his labouring work on the line until an old man, living in a humpy near the line while also maintaining the farm at the Fifteen Mile, with the help of his wife, Mary O’Brien Kunkel, and their children.

questionMaternal 2xgreat grandfather: James McSharry/Sherry was working on the Irish railways at the time of his marriage and his children’s births. Given the path of their births it seems evident he was employed on the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford railway. James, his wife Bridget and eight of their children arrived in Rockhampton in January 1883, no doubt something of a shock. James worked for the railways in Queensland but it seems he may have been employed by a contractor. James McSharry (only Peter changed from Sherry to McSherry), is my major brick wall and my most wanted ancestor.

BREAKING THE LINK

This is a map of Queensland, showing the  places mentioned in the McSherry story.

This is a map of Queensland, showing the places mentioned in the McSherry story.

You can see why I was determined to steer clear of railwaymen when I was growing up! Of course railway employment was considered stable work. It was also often hazardous and peripatetic. Living with Dad I was all too familiar with the dangers faced by the men working in the shunting yards as he would come up shocked and quiet, then tell us of another young man who’d lost a leg, had his guts squashed, or been decapitated (the worst accident that happened).

My other family lines mostly stayed away from work on the railways though the sons of my Gavin line were also railway employees.

I think it’s not too bold a claim to say my families earned their small place in Queensland’s railway history.

Back in 2009 my friend joined me on the Q150 steam train trip from Brisbane to Toowoomba.

Back in 2009 my friend joined me on the Q150 steam train trip from Brisbane to Toowoomba.

P1050659

Reviewing the Irish registers

The days have ticked along and I imagine many of us have crossed eyes from staring at the digitised Irish Catholic parish registers…I know I have!

Hasn’t the National Library of Ireland done us all proud? What a great program they have that even with all the Irish at home and abroad, the system didn’t crash, nor was it especially slow at the peak periods.

I’ve seen lots of Facebook comments on Irish county pages, celebrating discoveries and I’ve made a few of mine own…and still pondering some of the “missing”. But that’s the content for another post.

Meanwhile I thought I’d share some comments on using the program and then searching the registers themselves, even though the program is very intuitive and easy to follow. I recognise I may well be preaching to the converted here.

  • Try to restrain the urge to only search around a particular date: your ancestor may have “fibbed” about their age but more importantly you’ll get a feel for how that particular priest records events and a better sense of the parish. Were there lots of baptisms/marriages? Did they drop off after the Famine? Were there more marriages with consanguinity relationships? How common was your surname?
  • Check the sponsors as well to see whose events your family witnessed.
  • Some registers are only recorded in English, and some in a mix of Latin and English. You might find this dictionary handy to look up the English name for the Latin, or vice versa. eg William = Gulielmus; Dionysius + Dennis
  • Don’t assume the priest could spell accurately, or consistently! It’s common to see variations of the same Christian or surnames even in the same baptism/marriage entry. Sometimes it’s recorded in their formal name and others in their day-to-day nickname.
  • Try to get a better sense of the townland names for your parish. Use the Griffith Valuation page at AskAboutIreland to search for it. Sometimes to be tricky, the priest may even use a local name for the place…just be grateful that he’s narrowed their residence down more. In this case you may need to try a Google search: you may even find someone doing a One Place Study. This great site was recommended to me by one of my geminate, but I’ve forgotten which one …sorry!
  • Check there are not marriage entries interspersed with the baptisms: I’ve found several where marriages are on one page while baptisms are on the facing page.
  • Don’t forget that marriages usually occurred in the bride’s parish and sometimes the first child’s baptisms. You may need to search in adjacent parishes to find them, but also use the home-place of witnesses for clues. (Tip: Use the map of your county in the NLI program to see which ones are closest).
  • Burial is not a sacrament in the Catholic church (Extreme Unction is). Hence why you will not typically find your ancestors’ deaths in the registers…just give thanks when you do. If the Church of Ireland records exist it is worth checking them for burials.
  • All is not lost if the registers haven’t been digitised. Some may still be in the parish but you can also try these sources:
    • RootsIreland – make sure you go to the county and look at the registers which have been filmed (eg Broadford parish is missing in Clare). Just because the county is green on the map doesn’t mean they’re all there. This is a pay-to-view site after searching, but it’s also given me some events I haven’t found elsewhere.
    • Irish Times
    • FamilySearch: you might want to try this for clues on when your ancestor’s event may have been, remembering that after 1864 Irish civil registration applied to all (in theory at least). You could also check what microfilms are held in the Family History Library just to be sure they’re included in the NLI ones.
    • Consider that sometimes the priest annotated the baptism with the person’s marriage details when they occurred in another parish or overseas. It may be worth searching for this alone, or it may confirm you have the right person. A long shot, but worth a try.

So there you are my tips from sleuthing through some of the registers. I have so many more to follow up. Despite writing this a week or so ago, it’s only just going online now so I hope it’s of some use to people.

Are you going green?

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

Today is THE BIG DAY for Irish researchers as we’re all hoping our brick walls will tumble.

The calendar has turned to 8 July Down Under but it seems we’re going to be waiting until 9 July at midnight for the Big Event. What Big Event? The release of the National Library of Ireland’s digitised images of all the Catholic parish registers they hold!

The NLI has indicated that it is closed until 3:30pm Irish time, so I guess that’s when the site goes live. Which means that here in the Top End I’ll have to burn the midnight oil or wait until the morning. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

The really important thing to realise is the registers won’t be indexed (unless others decide to do it), and you won’t be able to just search for a name. Knowing the approximate location of your ancestors will be critical, and preferably the townland and/or parish.

If you’re an Aussie with Irish ancestors, have you looked at the name distributions via Griffith’s Valuations? Or do you have the details from the Australian Board Immigration Lists, parish registers, certificates or gravestones? I’m constantly amazed by how people have seeming brick walls when purchasing a certificate, or following up the event in the Australian parish, would answer the question.

Thanks to the microfilms from Family Search and LDS, I’ve already researched my O’Briens from Broadford and some of the Tullamore records for Sherry and Furlong. Both microfilms are pretty shocking I have to say….looked like they’ve been stored in a leaky barn with the chooks. Decades ago during a visit to Ireland, the priest let me work my way through the Gorey Wexford parish registers looking for my grandfather’s baptism and other Sherry family events.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ireland_map.gif

Image from Wikimedia.

So what are my priorities going to be with this new release?

  1. Parishes around Courtown, Wexford (especially Riverchapel) to look for Callaghan family events. After all I also have a good DNA match from adjoining parishes.
  2. Arklow, Wicklow for details of the baptisms of Sherry children as their father worked down the Dublin to Wexford railway line.
  3. Dunlavin Parish, for Murphy and possibly Gavin.
  4. Ballymore Eustace, Kildare for Gavins – when I visited the parish I had no joy getting answers.
  5. St Nicholas of Myra, Dublin for Gavin (even though I have some from the Irish Genealogy website).
  6. St Catherine’s Parish, Dublin for Gavin (ditto above)
  7. Ferbane, Offaly in the hunt for the Furlong family prior to turning up in Tullamore
  8. Another look at the Tullamore, Offaly

Having completed all these (which will only take about five minutes…not!), I’ll have to start looking through the parishes where the Griffith’s Valuations show dense populations of Sherry families. After all, they are really my biggest brick wall, since James Sherry unobligingly disappeared after arrival in Australia. My bet is that his father’s name was Peter or Patrick since the sons’ names seem to follow traditional naming patterns.

So what is your priority list going to be?

Oh for a leprechaun to tell you where your Irish ancestors originated.

Will you be wearing green today?

If you find you’re having difficulties reading the registers you might want to read this post by Irisheyes Jennifer and this background information. Also don’t just look for specific births or marriages (there will be few instances of burials), make sure you have a look at the wider context of the parish. Not only will you get a better feel for how the priest recorded events, and come to understand his writing, you may also find your family as witnesses to other events, possibly indicating kin connections.

If your families were Church of Ireland, you might find this other site relevant.

Above all, let’s have fun with this fantastic release!

DNA Mysteries and Mazes

By Forluvoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Forluvoft (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite my blog drought and house obsession, I have spent some time on my DNA results which I only recently uploaded to Gedmatch. I had been ambivalent in the past but it is actually very useful, especially for Ancestry results which don’t come with as much info, and for which I have fewer matches (which may change with the spread of Ancestry testing).

Why is it that those with whom you have the best matches don’t reply to your emails?

I’ve resisted putting my family tree online anywhere but have slowly been adding one to Family Tree DNA. (hmm another “bitty” job) Instead I’ve been sending out a horizontal family tree, inspired by a post I read a little while ago. This lets me add my families’ places of origin as well as names.

Which raises another question: why do so few people think place is irrelevant? After all it provides a good clue on where families may originate and overlap especially when the match segment is too great to be explained by endogamous populations.

My best decision in terms of testing DNA has been to get some older generations tested. To my surprise my mother quickly agreed to be tested which helps me know which side of the family my matches occur on. Nora, my 3rd cousin once removed (on Dad’s side) in Sydney also agreed to be tested.

Both of these samples have turned up matches which don’t match me, which is very helpful.

Mum’s sample produced a good cousin match with a lady in Canada, her brothers and an Irish cousin. We’ve narrowed down our likely connection through my Callaghan family in Wexford. Like so many others we’re hanging out for the release of the Irish parish registers on 8 July…only a few days days to go!! (I think some people are in for a shock at just how challenging these images can be to read)

What is bewildering is this particular family’s matches is there’s also some overlap with Mr Cassmob’s DNA – even though his ancestors are not known to come from Wexford or other identified geographic overlaps.

And then there’s the matches with Nora’s DNA. One seems to link to the McNamara family from Broadford Co Clare. I know that my O’Briens were connected to this family in some way, because when one daughter married, the registers show she and her McNamara husband were third cousins.

And the match with Nora to someone with Co Kerry ancestry. Much will depend on where her Kerry family lived. If they were in the north it may not be such a stretch.

Image from wikipedia.

Image from wikipedia.

So DNA testing tends to bring even more questions than you had already it often seems. When you get an obvious match it’s all too easy but the very ones you want to know about are the ones that keep you scratching your head in confusion.

DNA can lead you on a merry trail through a maze to identify your distant kith and kin links.

A blogging “drought”

sad-151795_640I’ve been AWOL lately leaving my blog crying for attention. Unfortunately my mind is completely focused on getting our Darwin house sold and thinking about our proposed move interstate. The same level of obsessiveness I bring to family history has been brought to bear on housing matters.

Having to have everything squeaky clean and spic and span, for our open houses and random inspections, means the study has been cleared of most of my references books, the laptop frequently in its carry bag, and never has my computer desk looked so tidy for more than five minutes! It’s all a deterrent to the usual spread of papers, scribble pads etc that surround me as I research and write. I’ve never aimed to be a Domestic Goddess but that seems to be my current role…who knows I may get used to the decluttered, downsized, super-clean look…or not.

It’s not as if I don’t have lots of “bitty” jobs that I could do to get myself up to date before I tackle bigger tasks later in the year. These include:

  • Scanning more of my note books
  • Tagging and labelling all my photos and checking their in appropriate folders
  • Reviewing my computer folders overall
  • Reviewing long texts I’ve written on some of my families and annotating them with “to follow up” notes
  • Scanning more documents from my hard-copy folders of purchased archive documents or certificates
  • Follow up blog comments and leads
  • Searching new releases of newspapers from Find My Past and Trove
  • Writing shorter posts for my Irish blog

So really there’s no shortage of jobs I could do, is there? I just need to switch focus and get the laptop out of the bag as soon as each inspection is over. Maybe having this checklist here will help motivate me.

motivation 08-07-55-479_640

Preserved in Pandora

I’m thrilled to share the news with my readers that this blog, and two of my others, have been accepted for archiving on the National Library of Australia’s Pandora website.

pandora_logo

It is very special indeed to have my blog posts preserved for posterity in this way. My fanciful mind imagines a great-grandchild discovering my meanderings. Wouldn’t that be fun?

I’m also delighted to be in the company of other blogging mates who’ve been Pandora’d for a while.

Thanks to the Pandora team at the National Library!!

thanks

Kiva Genealogists for Families – helping others to help themselves

kiva_logoIf no man is an island, then caring what happens in poorer places and countries is important. It’s easy sometimes to feel there’s little you can do to help “solve” world problems. However, there is one strategy that we can all contribute to, according to our means, and that is Kiva. I’ve talked about this scheme often here and especially our team within Kiva, Genealogists for Families, which was started in September 2011 by Judy Webster, a highly respected, long-term Queensland professional genealogist.

We are now up to 301 members and have made 5,484 loans totalling $144,425.

Kiva loans are just that – loans – not hand outs or donations. They help people to achieve their goals through micro-finance lending. As they pay their money back, you the lender can choose whether to re-lend or withdraw your cash. You decide where you wish to lend and for what purpose. Kiva GFF portfolio

In our family we made a conscious decision when we joined GFF that we’d build up our loans so when retirement came along we’d have a portfolio in which the loans repayments would keep on funding new projects. We’ve focused our loans predominantly on African or Asian countries. You might choose quite different countries.

Kiva pie chart

In this small way the Genealogists for Families team feels we’re making a difference to people less fortunate than ourselves.

If you’d like to join us, why not leave a comment and I can send you a link to join.  In the meantime, you can learn more here: the little video about Pedro explains the difference it can make to other families however far away they live from you.

Anzac Centenary 2015: A Gallipoli “Everyman” Victor Joseph Sanders

The man I am writing about in this year’s Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day blog Challenge (commemoration?) is not a relative. Initially I looked for someone who lived close to my One Place Study, Murphy’s Creek, and chose a man about whom I’d write. At midnight last night, something niggled me to look up men from Toowoomba and my decision was made.

9th battalion colour patch

9th battalion colour patch

Victor Charles Sanders was a member of Queensland’s 9th Battalion, one of those men who arrived in wooden boats just before dawn on that first Anzac Day 100 years ago. Before the morning was out, perhaps even before the sun rose fully over the Gallipoli Peninsula he was dead, his life sacrificed in the Empire’s cause.

Vic Sanders, as he appears to have been known, was not a fresh-faced young man, just looking for adventure. He had been born in the Queensland country town of Warwick 33 years and 11 months previously. Although Warwick-born his family had lived in Toowoomba for a while because he’d been educated at North Toowoomba State School[i]. By the time he enlisted, Vic had also travelled beyond Australia’s borders. His Roll of Honour Circular states that immediately before signing up he had been the “manager of (a) plantation in New Hebrides” and his attestation file lists his occupation as an “overseer”.

Victor Charles Sanders stood 5ft 9½ inches tall and weighed 10 stone 11½ lbs: in current measurements, that’s 176cm and 78 kg. He had a dark complexion, possibly from his time in the tropics, and brown eyes and hair. He enlisted on 26 August 1914, and was given the regimental number of 502 and allocated to the 9th Battalion, a Queensland unit. His parents were Thomas Harrison Sanders and Elizabeth Keith Sanders[ii]. At the time of enlistment, Victor listed his mother as next-of-kin, living with her daughter, Emily Elizabeth and son-in-law Charles Fortescue, a jeweller in Toowoomba.

Meanwhile Victor’s nephew[iii], 21 year old Charles Fortescue[iv] had already applied for a commission on 17 August and was also attached, as a Lieutenant, to the 9th Battalion[v]. Later notes in Vic’s file indicates that he was attached to D Company, the same as his uncle and this is confirmed by the Embarkation Rolls at the Australian War Memorial (AWM).

The Transport Ship, Omrah, leaves Pinkenba whart, Brisbane with the 9th Battalion.

The Transport Ship, Omrah, leaves Pinkenba whart, Brisbane with the 9th Battalion. Did Victor’s mother and his sister and husband come to see their sons set sail?

After training Victor and his military colleagues sailed from the Pinkenba wharf in Brisbane on the transport ship Omrah on 24 September 1914, no doubt hastened by the belief the war would be over before Christmas.

While on board they undertook classes and training and when they arrived in Albany, WA, they apparently undertook a training march though I’ve found no reference to that in Trove and haven’t explored the brigade or battalion diaries.

Members of the 9th Battalion on a tender going ashore from the HMT Omrah (A5), for a route march at Albany. AWM Image CO2493

Members of the 9th Battalion on a tender going ashore from the HMT Omrah (A5), for a route march at Albany. AWM Image CO2493

I haven’t pursued what happened to the battalion in Egypt until they embarked on the ship Ionian, firstly to Mudros Harbour.

HMAT Ionian loading to take the troops to Gallipoli. AWM Image A02143

HMAT Ionian loading to take the troops to Gallipoli. AWM Image A02143

The 3rd Brigade diaries tell of the training the men did in preparation for the Gallipoli landing but the men weren’t too impressed and prophetic of what was to happen:

It was a laughable affair (on 19 April). Sergeant Polley was leading us all over the country, looking for the rest of the platoon. We would have been shot, over and over again. After several attempts, the exercise was given up as a bad job so we returned to our boats about midnight.[vi]

C

AWM Image CO2496. Lt Fortescue is 2nd from right in front row, on board Omrah.

The actual landing would have echoes of this but without the opportunity to backtrack to the boats. However the die had been cast, and the men were to go ahead. They were by turns nervous, excited, frightened…all perfectly normal and reasonable responses. However before they were launched off into the depths of their first battle the men were given hot food before embarkation, fed a decent meal rather than the usual army fare of sandwiches and hard biscuits[vii], thanks to Colonel Brudenell White’s detailed planning.

The Troops on the battleships were woken at 1 am, given a hot meal and a drink while the tows were being got ready, and by 1.30 am were ready for mustering into companies. This operation was carried out with impressive efficiency: no one spoke; orders were given in whispers. The only sounds were shuffling boots and muttered curses as men slipped on the ladders leading down to the boats. But for many, the tension of that still night magnified the sounds.[viii]

A tranquil day at Anzac in June 2014.

A tranquil day at Anzac in June 2014.

The night was still and clear, the sea as smooth as glass, much as it was today on the 100th anniversary of the landing. Unfortunately the moon silhouetted the ships, alerting the Turkish front line, who while they were unsure whether they were war ships or transports, the limited Turkish shore platoons and reserve units were now on standby until the relief contingents could be brought forward[ix].

On the boats, the men were silent awaiting their baptism of battle. To Victor’s nephew, Lieutenant Charles Fortescue, it seemed “the noise of the pinnaces being filled, in the stillness of the night, was enough to make the whole world vibrate”[x].

Major Fortescue, spoke of a solid mass of Turkish bullets and a cacophany of bugle calls. ..However official historian Charles Bean disagreed. He concluded “was the beach the inferno of bursting shells and barbed-wire entanglements and falling men that has sometimes been described or painted?” Turkish artillery, in particular, didn’t start to fire shrapnel until 5.10am (some reports said 4.45 am), or about an hour after the first Australians landed[xi].” Bean’s theory fits with what is known from the Turkish archives: they were hanging on at all costs until they could be supported by relief troops.

Meanwhile the Battalion’s succinct diary reports that “It was apparent that the naval people has missed their direction it was discovered afterwards that we were two miles north of the position intended. The landing was effected under rifle fire and the troops pressed forward. The enemy gave way and the advance continued. Turkish reinforcements saved the rush and our troops were driven back and hastily entrenched on a commanding position. Turks attacked again about midnight but were repulsed. The Australians displayed great bravery and held on tenaciously[xii]. It would be interesting to read a diary by Peter Stewart (378, 9th Battalion) to get a sense of the ordinary soldier’s take on the chaos of the day.[xiii]

The first roll call of the 9th Battalion at Gallipoli a few days after the landing. The lack of numbers makes it more understandable how Vic Sanders' fate could have been unclear. AWM Image JO6121.

The first roll call of the 9th Battalion at Gallipoli a few days after the landing. The lack of numbers makes it more understandable how Vic Sanders’ fate could have been unclear. AWM Image JO6121.

In the midst of this confusion of that first battle by the ANZACs, Victor Joseph Sanders was killed or died. Perhaps he was among those shot before landing, perhaps he was among those who drowned due to the depth of water, or perhaps he died later in the morning as the 9th Battalion made its assault towards Plugge’s Plateau and was lost among the crevices and gullies of those ridges rising up from Hell’s Spit at Anzac Cove.

What is certain is that Victor Sanders was missing in action (MIA) from that first Anzac morning and was never seen again and his poor family was left in a limbo of confusion as to what had happened to him. Initial reports suggested he was MIA (missing in action). Later his cousin, William Sanders (#2430) had written to his father that Vic was in hospital in Lemnos which presumably he believed since no one could be cruel enough to raise such hopes in his family. The fact that Victor was in his nephew’s company and Charles Fortescue didn’t know what happened to him speaks volumes for the ambiguity and confusion of that first Anzac Day.

From Vic Sanders' Attestion File.

From Vic Sanders’ Attestation File.

In August 1915, Vic Sanders’ brother-in-law, Charles Fortescue snr, wrote to his local Parliamentary member, Mr Bloom, for assistance saying “As you can imagine, the women folk are exceedingly worried. From what the wife told me it will evidently be a considerable time before the Department get any information in the ordinary way”. He offers to pay for telegrams to the hospital at Lemnos but the responses remains negative.

Eventually, in January 1918, Victor’s mother received a parcel of his belongings despatched per the Marathon. Included were 4 belts, housewife, photos, 2 knives, pouch, comb, corkscrew, “house” game, 2 notebooks and letters. What a treasure they must have been for his mother and siblings. For them to have survived it seems likely that either his pack was found though his body was not, or more likely, that he left them on the ship in case his number was up.

As the months, and years, passed the questions remained. It’s hard to imagine two families living under the same roof, one proud of their son Charles Fortescue who was awarded his Military Medal and one worrying about the truth of whether their son and brother was missing, in hospital or killed in action or long since deceased.

For me, it was Vic’s nephew, Major Charles Fortescue’s, report on July 11th  1921 that clinches his death “he landed on Gallipoli with the 9th Bn about 4:30am on the morning of 25th April 1915 with the company to which I belonged. No information has ever been received as to what happened to him from shortly after he landed”.

And yet, on 29 July 1921, a letter from the OIC Base Records says “The Imperial War Graves Commission has sanctioned a continuance of the search, and in the event of a more favourable report forthcoming, next-of-kin will be at once advised.[xiv] By then it is too late for his mother, Elizabeth, who died on 25 July 1920 – perhaps she had given up hope of her son returning.

Despite the lack of pleading letters in Victor’s military file (so common among records for deceased servicemen) the loss and confusion is clear. No doubt his mother’s grief remained until her death in 1920.

To my mind Victor Joseph Sanders serves as “Everyman” of the Gallipoli campaign. One of the earliest who landed on Gallipoli’s shores at Anzac Cove, his fate remains shrouded in mystery. He is not mourned in annual In Memoriam notices for continued periods – perhaps his family felt that would jinx his survival.  That the details of his death are unknown even to close relatives highlights the continued ambiguity and confusion of that first day of battle. The length of time until his death was declared by a Military tribunal in France in June 1916 evokes the trauma and tension of his family’s wait.

I’d have liked to find a photo of Victor among the Queenslander’s WWI images, but unfortunately it’s likely he’s among those whose details are obscured in the Queenslander newspaper editions of 3 and 10 October 1914. When I get a chance I’ll check the indexes at John Oxley Library.

Despite the grief his family bore, it perhaps made it easier that he was not married and did not leave behind a widow or child.

Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. P Cass, June 2014.

Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. P Cass, June 2014.

Victor Joseph Sanders is remembered on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, just one of many whose bodies were never found and never laid to rest. He is also remembered on the grave of his mother and sister in the Anglican section of the Drayton Cemetery Toowoomba (though with anomalies in fate and age). It was his eldest brother, JW Sanders, who inherited the memorial scroll and plaque, King’s Message, 1914-1915 Star (#2169), Victory Medal (488) and British War Medal (513). Hopefully they are being lovingly cared for and treasured by Victor’s family to this day.

Victor Sanders E600

Lest We Forget.

The words of modern Turkey’s founder, and a Gallipoli military leader, show respect and consolation for the families.

DSC_0305

[i] Australian War Memorial Honour Roll circular http://static.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RCDIG1068892–878-.pdf

[ii] Ironically Vic’s mother had connections with the Qld railway line and so was probably familiar with Murphy’s Creek, one of my One Place Studies. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25320723. Parents details from attestation files and Qld BDM online indexes.

[iii] The relationship is stated in the Roll of Honour circular.

[iv] Son of Charles Fortescue, a Toowoomba jeweller, and Emily Elizabeth Sanders. Awarded a Military Cross for his actions on April 25th-29th during operations near Gaba Tepe “For gallant conduct. He twice led charges against the enemy and rendered good service in collecting reinforcements and organising stragglers”[iv]. (Charles Fortescue, Lt, requested commission 17 Aug 1914, aged 21y 3 mos, jeweller.

[v] Having only just returned from Canberra, it’s frustrating to discover Major Fortescue has private papers held by the Australian War Memorial, including details of the landing at Gallipoli. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/2DRL/0497/

[vi] 36 Days. Dolan, H, Macmillan Digital Australia, Sydney, 2010. (ebook location 4156)

[vii] ibid. (ebook location 4717)

[viii] http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/1landing/bgrnd.html

[ix] Defending Gallipoli: the Turkish Story. Broadbent, H, Melbourne University Press, 2015.  (ebook location 411)

[x] http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/1landing/bgrnd.html

[xi] Bean, however, didn’t go along with men like Major Fortescue, who spoke of a solid mass of Turkish bullets and a cacophany of bugle calls. “Neither then nor at any time later,” Bean concluded, “was the beach the inferno of bursting shells and barbed-wire entanglements and falling men that has sometimes been described or painted.” Turkish artillery, in particular, didn’t start to fire shrapnel until 5.10am (some reports said 4.45 am), or about an hour after the first Australians landed.

[xii] 9th Battalion War Diary, April 1915. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/awm4/23/26/ Series AWM 4 Item 23/26/5

[xiii] http://hdl.handle.net/10462/eadarc/2071

[xiv] Attestation file, Victor Joseph Sanders.

“When I was young” geneameme

Alona from LoneTester blog has offered us this fun “When I was young” geneameme and it’s been a pleasure reflecting on the answers.

  1. Pauleen baby book131

    Already there’s a cat :)

    Do you (or your parents) have any memorabilia from when you were a baby? (ie. baby book, lock of hair, first shoes etc.) Yes, I am lucky to have a baby book, baby photos, bracelet and other odds and ends.

  2. Do you know if you were named after anyone? Quite the opposite – I was named so none of my name included any of my paternal grandmother’s…hence the “een” ending. Ironically Catherine is a name I now know to be threaded through generations of my Irish, German and Scots ancestry.
  3. And do you know of any other names your parents might have named you? Paul,  because I was supposed to be a boy.
  4. What is your earliest memory? Hard to say, I have vague memories of my maternal grandmother who died before I was four and used to bring biscuits when she visited. No specific memory other than that.
  5. HeidiDid your parent/s (or older siblings) read, sing or tell stories to you? Do you remember any of these? Yes both read to me. Mum liked fairy tales and Dad would buy me religious comics when I was sick (odd because Mum was the religious one). Mum used to sing around the house and at night would sing “turaluralura”, an Irish lullaby.
  6. When you were young, do you remember what it was that you wanted to grow up to be? I wanted to be a marine biologist until 2nd year uni…just as well it didn’t work out as I get claustrophobic with snorkel masks, let alone scuba diving gear.
  7. Did you have a favourite teacher at school? Sr Gemma in Grade 8 and Sr Mary Benedict for Years 11-12. Both made an enormous difference to my eduction.
  8. How did you get to school? Primary School: Walking – it wasn’t far and we didn’t own a car. Secondary school: bus to Fortitude Valley. University: Bus and tram.
  9. What games did playtime involve? Skipping, tiggy, elastics….??? At home, dolls and dress-ups or guns and cowboys.
  10. Did you have a cubby house? Not a fancy one, but a special play space under the house (remember Qld houses are on stilts), and I’d sometimes build one with old sheets etc under the steps etc.
  11. Cousin Jimmy, me Aunty Mary, Mum and Dad in Cairns.

    Cousin Jimmy, me Aunty Mary, Mum and Dad in Cairns.

    What was something you remember from an early family holiday? The 2.5 day train ride on the Sunlander from Brisbane to Townsville for holidays on Magnetic Island. Throwing newspapers to the railway gangers in their tents by the line. Buying fish, chips and (potato) scallops in Rockhampton. Meeting up with Mum’s childhood friend and her family, and a couple of aunts.

  12. What is a memory from one of your childhood birthdays or Christmas? The smell of the small gum tree that dad would cut from down the creek bank. I remember that my friends were often away for my birthday as it was school holidays…poor me, boo hoo.

    Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

    Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

  13. What childhood injuries do you remember? I was lucky to have no broken bones etc (touch wood!) so one stands out….I cut my left calf on a sticky-out bit on a bike pedal. The family friend in the next street carried me home with it bleeding everywhere then we went to the hospital – strangely I don’t remember how, given we didn’t have a car. I still have the faded scar as a memento.
  14. What was your first pet? Cats, cats and more cats.
  15. Did your grandparents, or older relatives tell you stories of “when I was young ..?” Not really. My paternal grandparents lived next door but they didn’t tell those sorts of stories. Instead my grandmother introduced me to Scottish music, bagpipes and dancing.

    Pauleen baby book 136

    Some things don’t change!

  16. The record-playing part of the gramophoneWhat was entertainment when you were young? The radio I guess, though I don’t remember listening to it a lot until I was a teenager. My grandmother had a gramophone which I’ve inherited (currently being minded by my friend in Brisbane) and I loved checking the needle, winding it up, and playing those heavy old records. Sometimes if you visited a home where they had a piano there might be singalongs but my family didn’t do this much, perhaps because of Dad’s shift work. Otherwise entertainment was books, hence my addiction, one I shared with Dad. Sometimes we’d go to the neighbourhood picture theatre for the movies. I remember seeing Fantasia in the city with Mum and Aunty Emily and being scared silly by all those marauding brooms.
  17. Do you remember what it was it like when your family got a new fangled invention? (ie. telephone, TV, VCR, microwave, computer?) Heck, I even remember when we first got some colour camera film when a “rich” relation brought some back from the USA for us. Until we got a telephone when I was in my mid-late teens I used to have to sit nearby while Mum rang her friend from a public phone box…man they could talk! We bought a Commodore computer for our own family in the late 1980s and a VCR in the mid-1980s.

    One of our first colour photos - Dad among his roses.

    One of our first colour photos – Dad among his roses.

  18. Did your family have a TV? Was it b&w or colour? And how many channels did you get? I remember the neighbours down the next street getting a black and white TV – maybe because they had several children? We got a B&W one when I was in my teens – probably a good thing because we didn’t have any in PNG after we were married. Channels – no idea.Two or three I think.
  19. Did your family move house when you were young? Do you remember it? No, I lived in the same house until I married and Dad lived on the same block his whole life.
  20. Was your family involved in any natural disasters happening during your childhood (ie.fire, flood, cyclone, earthquake etc) I remember an early trip to Magnetic Island when there was a cyclone and the palm trees seemed to touch their toes. Despite this Dad took me up the back to go to the toilet….probably I was scared….it’s a wonder he didn’t say to use a bucket! We got taken off the island by army duck then a couple of days later we took the ferry to Green Island and as Mum always says “were green on the way over, and green on the way back”. I still remember the boat dipping from side to side, just touching the water. Dad was one of the few who didn’t get sick, but put him on a mill-pond and he’d be violently ill.

    One of my favourite photos - Dad, me and the kittens.

    One of my favourite photos – Dad, me and the kittens at the holiday flat at Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island, where we stayed during the cyclone.

  21. Is there any particular music that when you hear it, sparks a childhood memory? Tura lura lura, Bing Crosby, Oh Tannenbaum, certain hymns. My daughter still sings turalura to her children. I wonder who Mum learnt it from – perhaps her Irish father.
  22. What is something that an older family member taught you to do? Mum taught me to sew, and must have taught me some crocheting too I think.Dad’s mother had been a dressmaker but as she was already in her late 70s when I was a child, she never bothered sewing any more, though I did enjoy playing with the buttons she had in a jar.
  23. What are brands that you remember from when you were a kid? TAA, Ansett (thanks Alona!), Waltons, McWhirter, TC Beirne’s, those heart-shaped lollies with writing on them (and yes, fags lollies), Persil washing powder, Reckitt’s blue bags, Lux flakes. I’m sure there are many I’ve forgotten.
  24. Some of the lovely shells I still have in my collection.

    Some of the lovely shells I still have in my collection.

    Did you used to collect anything? (ie. rocks, shells, stickers … etc.) Shells and books. (see above) Now I feel very guilty about the environmental impact of shell collecting. Like Dad I still have a partiality for collecting the odd stone that takes my fancy.

  25. Share your favourite childhood memory. Hmm,
    A gift from Aunty Emily.

    An Easter gift from Aunty Emily.

    this is a tough one. We’d sometimes go to a highpoint nearby and admire the city lights or the stars….one of Mum’s much-loved things to do.  Or, at Easter, getting to eat all the lollies one had given up for Lent but kept stored in a jar….time for a pig-out. Getting special treats like tiny cups and saucers from my maternal great-aunt. Visiting New Farm Park with her and Mum and seeing the beautiful roses there. Helping Mum with the cake and biscuit baking on Saturdays….and licking the bowl. School fetes etc etc.

  26. Sport: I was pretty rubbish at sport though I enjoyed informal sprints down the streets with the neighbourhood kids. I also learned to play tennis which I can’t say that I loved…or was very good at. Ditto swimming classes and swimming club at the Valley Pool….ugh.
  27. Music: I learned to play the piano for a while with the nuns at my primary school. I remember playing chopsticks or Elvis Presley’s Wooden Heart on our neighbour’s piano with my friend. We would race to complete it in the shortest time possible -it’s a wonder her parents didn’t throw us out.
  28. Games: Who remembers this game…it seems to be having a resurgence as we saw some in Sydney. http://youtu.be/X1DArckNWdM And then there was the introduction of hula hoops and yo-yos. And what about board games like snakes and ladders or Chinese chequers?

.Thanks Alona for this trip down memory lane. And thanks Mum for all the photos I have and my own love of photography.

Congress 2015: Panel Session re Societies

Panel slide CongressThe final session of Congress 2015 was a Panel discussion entitled Family History Research: why leave home to do it. The panel members were Josh Taylor (FGS and FMP, USA), Carole Riley (SAG) and David Holman (FFHO, UK) and it was moderated by Congress 2015 Official Blogger Jill Ball aka GeniAus.

Jill had a list of questions which were decided by a number nomination from someone in the audience. The number determined which slide came in which order. A tricky way of keeping things lively.

Since there’s no proceedings paper with a focus on societies I thought it might be helpful to present the summary as I typed it up throughout…feel free to correct me if I got something wrong. I may not be able to resist having my threepence worth on a couple of the items too.

Thanks Jill for the change of pace and generating interesting discussions. Thanks also for the use of your slides to check the question titles.

 Curt witcher panel quoteCurt Witcher said at Rootstech that 80-92% of people who “do genealogy” do not belong to a society. How are you going to reverse this trend in your societies?

Josh:  Your society needs to know what’s going on…need to be on FB, Twitter or you don’t know what’s going on. FGS (US equivalent of AFFHO) is going to other groups as well.

Stalk the dead, stalk the living

Younger demographic may not like “society” because the term is old-fashioned. Use different term? Try different approach?

David: someone with local knowledge; get with the program of newer strategies, about doing things not just putting out data.

Carole: education – source of how to do it properly

Audience:

  • There are thousands of members on Australian Genealogy FB page but can only comment as an individual not as a page owner eg on behalf of SAG

My thought since coming home: is the term “genealogy” too dated? Would family history capture people’s imaginations more?

The quality of online advice from well-meaning (and inexpert) people on message boards and Facebook groups is sometimes dubious. What can society members do to combat this?

When there is inexpert advice on Facebook (FB)…put your head above parapet and clarify.

 DSC_3325In Australia societies are not taking advantage of nationwide promotional activities eg National Family History Month. Do they exist overseas?

David: No (too many other national days); month too long

Josh: NFHM (USA) is October; some societies are really good, some have seminars. Suggests researching which politician is relevant in terms of funding and get them to promote it by researching their family.

Carole: just another job to do

Jill: Shauna said all you have to is relabel your August activities as NFHM and let it be known widely.

How do traditional genies embrace those who want to do it all from home?

Carole: both can learn from each other

David: can’t do it all from home…great to get out

Josh: great that you can do it at home, but there are also extra documents offline (in another talk Josh mentioned only 15% are online).

HAGSOC librarian: collaborate with other society libraries.

Jill: can make society libraries online via Trove

stop-is-it-yours-ask-acknowledgeOnline genies may be unaware of copyright regulations and the niceties of sharing. How can we educate them in ethical behaviour? 

David: legislation varies across nations; may even need legal advice; there are some unethical,people, however some don’t know/understand the basics. Up to FH society to educate them.

Carole: Australian Copyright Council has booklets, talks etc. Buy and share them in our FH libraries.

Josh: great article in FGS mag- getting it wrong by mistake; use examples; dot points of key items

Jill: if you don’t ask, don’t do it; check out Creative Commons

 Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness: RAOGKs can make it unnecessary to travel to a repository or visit a society. Online genies can barter with others to make visits, do lookups, take photos etc. What impact do these activities have on societies?

David: society members who live in area will do photos for £5 of grave

Josh: great reason to bring together

Carole: no effect

 Do family history shows on TV help or hurt the concept that everything can be done at home?

Josh: have an “elevator pitch” to tell people how to do the research without the quick and easy TV way

David: ordinary people want to see famous brought to their level – not usually famous in previous generation; perhaps get a plug for the society

Carole: shows people it’s not all online as they have to go to different places

 How can we promote the joy of holding original documents in our hands with those who do all their research online?

Carole: go to repository to hold/see it; emotions on faces

Josh: hard to convey – impact of dust in archive; video and emotion to see it.

David: archives don’t want you holding original docs.

Jill: Perry McIntyre has inspired her to go to Ireland and see original documents

tRANSCRIPTION ERROR_edited-1Many resources found online are transcriptions. What is the danger in relying on these?

Carole: you are going to make mistakes – the more transcriptions, the more errors likely and might be more than in the transcript

David: doesn’t have to be online transcriptions eg Bishops Transcripts have errors ; ditto transcription of certificates and church records

Josh: you miss other records, nuances in original, notations, context of papers, order of data (Couldn’t agree more Josh)

Audience: a contracted person transcribing vs those with local knowledge and understanding of names (local transcriptions by societies may be more accurate)

 Is social media friend or foe to Family History Societies?

Josh: Can be biggest foe – If you’re not on social media you don’t exist; life is 2hrs on social media – MUST reply promptly or is it a foe

Carole: can’t/won’t survive without social media; didn’t even know one society organisation: be prepared, where the people are, have memb forms, keep members informed but let others know you’re there

David: FFHO – employed someone to change social media from being foe to friend.

Audience:

  • friends within society, enjoy each other’s successes, don’t do social media., “what’s the membership”
  • schedule FB posts to reduce time…needs to be dialogue

 What can you get from a society that you cannot get ‘online‘? Are societies providing and promoting whatever this is?

Carole: indexes, transcriptions, experienced members and knowledge, gravestone images/transcriptions from before they were faded through time and weathering.

David: people – here we have Purple people – can’t get those online

Josh: people

My question: does the society have any form of online information to tell potential members what unique indexes etc they hold for their region and others.

aPP IMAGEHow do researchers find out what local databases, indexes and files are held by genealogy societies? How should societies promote these?

Josh: Working on a smartphone app that will beep if you are close to a different society in a new location.

Carole: social media

David: App might overtake social media

It was good to see a session which focused on online-offline research and the role of societies in today’s genealogy. Thanks to Jill, the panel and the audience for your contributions.

This is my final post on Congress and so the end of my role as an official blogger. It was a successful conference with lots of food for thought. Time to collect my thoughts, have a breather and focus on hearth and home for a while.