A blog about the frustrations, adventures, brickwalls and ultimately rewards of someone searching for their origins. Some Irish (Shamrocks), Scottish (Shortbread) and Shenanigans (English) all mixed into one!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Anzac Pride

My memories of Anzac Day as a child were nothing of note. I was told that my brother used to join my grandfather in Brisbane town for the Anzac Day march. Granddad had been in both World Wars, but never spoke of them and never, ever marched. So what was the big deal, I thought?

As I've delved into my family history, I've found that Anzac pride is a HUGE deal. The more I research, the prouder I become of my ancestors and their contributions to this great country, Australia. I have many ancestors on both my paternal and maternal side, but I will focus on one, my grandfather.


William's WW2 Photo
William was my paternal grandfather. He had a very hard life, losing his father in 1901 when he was just 6 years old, and had very little education, yet he successfully married and raised five children. Born in June, 1896, he was not yet of age when he enlisted for WW1. I have not been able to find any record of his WW1 enlistment, as he admitted later in life that he altered his age and name in order to be accepted. His reason for enlistment was typical of Australian men of the day - many of them saw it as an opportunity to see the world, a world they couldn't possibly experience in their lifetime with their limited education and income. Later in life, my grandfather made one comment about this war - that he remembered it "raining bullets for days and days" in the trenches.

I have searched for years for his WW1 record, sadly to no avail. Methods I have used include:

* Reversing his name (using Arthur William /Williams)
* Searching under his older brothers' names of John and James, neither of whom served
* Reversing his brothers'names (Arthur John/Johns and Arthur James)
* Using his mother's maiden name of Gibbons
* Using his married sister's surname of Gough
* Using his married sister's child's name, which was also his only nephew (William Thomas Gough)
* Using his grandmother's maiden name of Torpey, and variants
* Using the name 'Sebastian'. For some unknown reason, William gave his middle name of Sebastian when he married in 1923. However, neither he nor his siblings had middle names (he used to joke to my father that his family was so poor that they couldn't afford middle names!)

None of these methods have been fruitful, unfortunately.

William's Christmas greeting to his wife
William was considered too old when he enlisted for WW2, so once again he adjusted his age, shaving 10 years off his year of birth (if only it was that easy!) Fortunately, his records are held in the National Archives of Australia. He enlisted in Brisbane as a Private, and joined the No.3 Rly C. Coy 2nd AIF on 3 April, 1940. His wife was then pregnant with their fifth child, so it must have been difficult for him to leave for an uncertain future.

He had his share of larrikinism, being fined 10/- for drunkedness while training as a Sapper in Perth! From what I remember of him, I was surprised that this was the only time he was caught!

William was deployed to Gaza Ridge, but underwent an appendectomy only months after his arrival. By March, 1941, he was discharged as medically unfit for duty, and returned to Australia on the Queen Mary. This luxury ship had been refitted for use in the war, and it shipped thousands of servicemen during WW2.

My grandmother always said that William was a Rat of Tobruk. I have researched this, and found that the Rats' seige began in April, 1941, by which time my grandfather was returning to Australia. His unit, however, did play a major role in assisting the Rats during and after the seige. Knowing my grandmother's love of a good story, it did not surprise me that our grandfather was not directly involved in the Rats' experience!

William demobbed at the Exhibition Grounds in Brisbane and was discharged on 3 July 1941. On his return, he met his newborn son, my Uncle Vincent, for the first time. They were featured in a Brisbane newspaper, William in uniform, with baby Vince on his knee. A clipping of this article hung in my grandparent's house for years but was subsequently lost, and I have not been able to find it on microfilm at the Qld State Library. This facility has all Brisbane newspapers of the time, including the several issues of newspapers published on the same day, but I haven't been able to locate it.

For the rest of his life, William quietly acknowledged Anzac Day by attending the Brisbane march and having a drink with mates (he loved his rum!) at the Gaythorne RSL. His name is engraved on a plaque outside the RSL, with all other diggers from that area. Although he did acknowledge the day, he always refused to march, saying that he wasn't interested in being the focus of attention. He did, however, enjoy attending the march and honouring those who fought and died.

My father wearing William's slouch hat, 1941

William died in 1972, and is buried in a military grave at Nudgee Cemetery in Brisbane. I visit him from time to time, sitting with him and my grandmother and thinking of when I was younger and spent time with them. I was only 8 years of age when he died, and I feel like I know him more now than I ever could. He has gone from memories of being a jolly old man to a man of great guts and determination, one who lied to enable enrolment in WW1 so he could see the world, and lied again in WW2 and left his family in order to earn a secure income for them.

He was no war hero, but he was MY war hero.

God Bless you, granddad.

Lest We Forget.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Using the Local Library

So, I had been bitten by the Genie bug, thanks to my friend Lyn and the LDS volunteers.

Where to go from there, though?

I now had some idea of what I was doing, but still had no real idea of how to get there. I had birth and some death dates of my grandparents, but due to time constraints (and the feeling that my head was exploding with questions) I had left it at that when I left the LDS centre.

Lyn suggested that my next step should be the local library. I wasn't sure why - I had visited the library many times (I'm a bookworm) but had not seen much by way of genealogy books.

I discovered on my next visit that there had been a whole ROOM in the library dedicated to local family history, yet I had never even noticed it! It's interesting that when you see the same old surrounding with fresh eyes, resources jump out at you and slap you in the face. Since that time, I have found that most libraries have what I'd call a "base set" of resources (ie, resources that you will probably find in most libraries wherever you go), and then, depending on the size of the library, may also have a much larger collection of records.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Where To Start Looking

As Maria said in The Sound Of Music, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start"...

My very first brush with genealogy came by way of my work colleague Lyn (now retired). She was going to visit the local LDS (Latter Day Saints) Family History Centre to continue her own research, of which she had spent many years. Did I want to tag along? Well, why would I? She wasn't in the LDS Church - why was she going to visit them and use their resources? Was I going to be pressured by the Centre to join the Church if I went along? Would they even admit me to the Centre if they found out I wasn't LDS?

I Dream of (Being A) Genie

You don't have to be mad to get into family history, but it helps!

Hello, and welcome to my first family history blog. I have begun this in order to share my experiences researching the origins of my main family lines, namely Arthur, Oxford, McNally, Doherty, Burton, McDonald, and Manson, and their migration to Australia in the 1800's.

What made me get into this hobby for the insane? For years, I had heard tales of my grandfather's involvement in 2 World Wars; how my great-grandfather was a sea Captain, who was murdered in the South Pacific; how I was "just like Aunt Nelly"; how my mother was terrified of dying of the same condition as her mother; how we came from Irish wealth and were disinherited, and so the stories continued. 

After hearing these stories over the years, my curiosity grew until I decided to do something about it. Seven years ago, I made the decision to find out who I really was. Many hundreds, if not thousands of hours later, I have a much greater understanding of my family's journey, whilst some areas are just as murky as they were when I began.

I chose the title of my blog due to my three main areas of research, namely all of Ireland, Scotland, and several counties in England.

I intend to write about my family, how I discovered information through various sources, and what is still continuing to baffle me. 

I hope that you enjoy reading of my experiences, and I truely welcome your suggestions and comments.

My next blog will focus on how I began my family tree.

Till next time!