Friday, 26 September 2014

Saying Sorry

Aboriginal readers are warned that this blog post contains images of deceased persons.

I've really been enjoying the most recent season of Who Do You Think You Are? There's been an interesting selection of feature celebrities, and finally, at long last, there's been some content of direct relevance to my own research. The episode on Paul McDermott has been great for clarifying which SA McDermotts are from which branch. As is typical with Irish families, they all have the same names, so that's been incredibly helpful despite the lack of Irish content (I'd always hoped Paul would be selected, although didn't think it would ever happen, and I'd be able to get help with the Irish brick-wall! Sadly beyond mentioning where the family are from they didn't go there at all.)

You can see why I never expected this to happen. Who picks this guy to be the subject of a TV show aimed at baby boomers?

The episode it turned out was the most interesting was one I didn't expect: the episode featuring Adam Goodes. It's made me ponder a number of issues about my family's role in our nation's history. I've alluded before to one of my Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Thomas Skermer. Thomas was at one stage a Trooper who was employed to "quell disturbances with the blacks" in the state's mid-north. However, it's not the only time a family member had recorded* interactions with the First Australians.

In 1896, my 3x great aunt Euphemia Dorey married William Finlayson in the Bible Christian Manse at Kadina. The couple spent the early years of their marriage at Point Pearce Mission Station, where William worked as the Chaplain. Located on Narungga land, the Mission Station had become a place where Aboriginals from different People throughout central SA were herded together and put in an environment designed to strip them of their language, heritage, culture, and assimilate them into the European community. There were positives and negatives to William's involvement. He was a deeply religious man, and I've no doubt was motivated by good intentions. However, he was part of a paternalistic system which we know had devastating long-term effects on the Aboriginal people.

These two pictures were shown during the program, and I'd love to know more about them. The white girl on the right bears a distinct resemblance to another picture I have of a niece of Euphemia's.

In 1906 William made an abrupt career change. One of the areas of my research is focusing on trying to discover what motivated this. He became a wheat buyer for Wells & Co., working with his brother-in-law Walter. Based on the Yorke Peninsula, his work took him on regular trips across to the Eyre Peninsula. It was there that he died in 1910 and he is buried in the Cowell Cemetery. The cause of death was alcohol poisoning, and it was reported at the inquest that he was alcoholic, something which poses further questions. Was this the cause of a dismissal as chaplain, was it a response to losing his job, or something else? Euphemia was left to look after her seven children, aged between 14 and 1. Unusually, not only was Euphemia able to provide for the family, the children were quite well educated. Douglas became a Pharmacist for example, as was Clem, and Robina became a teacher.

Report of William's Death in The Register, focusing on his very recent work history

In 1929 the youngest daughter, Mary, married Martin Chemnitz Kriewaldt, a lawyer who had been educated in the US and in Adelaide. His father was a Lutheran minister, a man who had an interest in Aboriginal missions which may have lead to the two meeting. The couple lived in the leafy eastern suburbs, and frequently appeared in the society pages. Their lifestyles couldn't have been further apart from that of the Wanganeens, Sansburies, O'Loughlins and other families among whom Mary was born. However, this didn't bring them lasting happiness. Their marriage ended in 1947, and Kriewaldt moved to the Northern Territory. "Big Feller Judge" is described as having unusually enlightened perspectives on Aboriginal issues in records of his career such as that at the University of Queensland, and is regarded as having set a new benchmark for fairness in legal decisions affecting Aboriginal people at the time. Despite this he ended up becoming most remembered for being the judge who sentenced Albert Namatjira. Records suggest this case devastated Kriewaldt, and he died shortly afterwards, as did Namatjira (whose artwork had always adorned Kriewaldt's office). Kriewaldt was also a supporter of assimilation policies.

Mary and her daughter Rosemary in the newspaper in 1939

The story of this part of my family is extremely sad. While Thomas Skermer may have participated in literal genocide, this branch of my family were engaged in cultural genocide. They were people who wanted good outcomes, and I think it would have broken their hearts if they had realised the terrible consequences of the systems in which they participated, outcomes so clearly illustrated in the story about Adam Goodes and his family.

Nearly two years ago, while on holiday on the Yorke Peninsula, I thought that I should travel to Point Pearce and take a good look at some of the consequences of actions carried out not only by European settlers and the systems we introduced as a whole, but by my family quite directly. This is what I saw:

The Chapel

One of the Original Buildings

Point Pearce is not a pleasant place to be. There are bars over all the windows. There is nothing growing, and a lot of evidence of vandalism. Aside from the school, which is beautifully maintained but set behind 7 foot fences, most of the buildings are quite spartan. There are no shops or offices providing employment or quality of life. I spoke to one of the residents, who said that it can be truly terrifying at night. My children and I watched children play in facilities I'd associate more with a developing country than a Yorke Peninsula coastal town, and my heart ached for them.

The Park

Although they never, ever intended this, the current situation in Point Pearce is the outcome of those policies of protectionism and assimilation pursued by members of my family. Their actions disconnected Aboriginal people from their lands and culture, leading to loss of identity and inner-brokeness which are still making their presence very much felt in Point Pearce in 2014. I am certain my family were good people. I'm certain they did what they did because they wanted the best. However, we know that's not the effect it had, and for that, I am sure they would want to apologise.

In his Refern Speech, Paul Keating very famously said that  "the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians. It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me? As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us." When I hear that speech, I know that 'we' refers not just to a culture of which I am a part, but of my very own family, and I am sorry for the actions of both.

I think those of us in the genealogy community could be perceived as focusing on only one side of the pioneering stories, celebrating their triumphs and being responsible for perpetuating an image of the 'good old days' which white-washes over Aboriginal experience of these events. However, I don't think it needs to be that way. Just as researchers have made huge progress in how they report illegitimacy, criminality, homosexuality or other formerly taboo topics in their family histories, I think we can make progress here too. In fact, I think we have a number of interests in common with Aboriginal people. We have a shared belief in the importance of connecting to heritage and culture. We know the impact this connection has on our sense of identity and community. When we travel through the city or country we connect the landscape in which we find ourselves with the stories of our ancestors, and we're most likely to be leading the charge to preserve graves, buildings and features which we see as integral to our history. I think it's fair to suggest we are well placed to have better than average insight into the importance of Aboriginal connections to the land, the Dreaming stories and sacred sites. 

Keating described the test of how seriously we believed in a fair go for everyone as a test of 'self-knowledge' and 'how well we know the land, how we know our history'. Surely there's nobody better equipped to pass that test than us genealogists.

* I say recorded, because as a person who has SA pioneers in my ancestry. I'm guessing at least some would have taken an active role in Frontier Wars.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Friday Funny

I've had a bit of a hiatus lately dealing with some living relative issues (What? We have to pay attention to them before they are dead now?) In the meantime, here's a Friday funny. Although it's not Friday.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Missing Wives Part Two

Or missing "wives", anyway...

My great-great Uncle Hubert Clive McPherson was a born in Walkerville in 1886. In 1912, he married Rachel Jane Hunt in St. John's Church in Glebe, NSW. 

Nothing eventful so far... right?

When he enlisted for the war in 1915 he gave his wife's details (New Farm, Brisbane), however, his own residential address was that of his parents in Adelaide and he set up his pay allotment as going to his mother. Seems a little rocky to me. Hubert returned from the war with a hearing impairment from the mortar bombs but otherwise OK. Hubert and Rachel were still referred to as married in 1927 (The Advertiser) but were most definitely separated at the time of a dispute over his pay in 1933 during which time Rachel was back in Sydney. 

In 1938 Bert took a young woman named Maude Howsen with him to Rabaul, PNG. He worked for the Australian Government in the Lands Department, and Maude worked as a dressmaker. The couple were there as the Japanese were sweeping their way to Port Moresby, and they were evacuated from PNG. Maude was evacuated on the MV Neptuna in Dec 1941, arriving in Townsville on Boxing Day. Hubert travelled shortly after aboard the MV Malaita, arriving in Cairns on 18 Feb 1942. Two weeks later, Bert's wife Rachel died of breast cancer at the Home of Peace in Marrickville. She was only 55.

Maude and Bert lived separately for a short time, Bert establishing a home in Bowen Terrace, New Farm, Brisbane, only a few streets from Rachel's war-time residence.

The home Maude and Bert lived in, New Farm

Maude joined him, and they later moved to Bundaberg. Hubert died there in 1962, and Maude 10 years later. For some reason Hubert was cremated in Brisbane, but Maude is buried in Bundaberg. Hubert's death certificate says they married in 1942, the year of Rachel's death, but I can't find any record of a marriage between the two. The couple never had any children.

The family legends about Maude were very unhelpful. My grandmother told me her she was a Vaudeville dancer, for example, which she wasn't. It's obvious the McPhersons didn't approve of Bert's domestic situation.

So, the big mystery was, who was Maude Howsen? She had just appeared on the boat to Rabaul. Where had she come from? Maude Howsen or informants indicated she was born in 1888 in Kiama (Cemetery Index, Bundaberg) to Peter Howsen and Fanny Chester, and it was searching for that, and Ancestry's terrific matching capabilities, which lead me to the family of Elizabeth Maude Ettingshausen, of Kiama, and Maude's ancestry was discovered. It also helped me fill in a little of her life before Bert. The Sydney Morning Herald and electoral rolls indicate that between 1923 and 1933 Maude was a music teacher. She lived in Bankstown, then Victoria Road in Punchbowl. No doubt he met her in Sydney, just as he had his first wife. I've recently been in touch with members of the Ettingshausen family, and look forward to finding out more about Maude.

Hubert and an unknown woman, possibly Maude

Thanks to the good folks at Gasworks Hotel for spotting the error in the first line!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Missing Wives Part One

The past few months I've been continuing the enormous task of digital filing of my records... putting all those pesky Trove articles into FTM and linking them to the right people. Of course, if you're like me and suffer terribly from Genea-ADD, this takes a looooong time, because it's a case of file, file, email some cousins with updates, file, chase up a missing birth record, file, file, discover a whole new branch, file, file, blog, file. It's the level of self-discipline which has seen me have a FindMyPast subscription since August and still hardly touch it. That and their ridonkulously crap search engine. *sigh*

One of the tangential paths I've been taking has been trying new strategies for tracking down elusive people - ancestors who just up and disappeared, but who I keep on looking for. Amazingly, I've had a little success on that front lately. The first of these is Mildred Cranston.

Mildred Cranston was born to W and L Cranston, later of Wertago Station, in about 1920. In 1941, amid much local media fanfare, she married Harold Gregory Keith Taylor at St. Peter's Church in Broken Hill. However, in 07 Dec 1951, Harold married again: this time to Elva Cain nee Moysey, a divorcee who lived up the road from him.

The Barrier Miner, 29 Dec 1941

I'd known this for quite some time, but had no luck tracking down what happened to Mildred. I'd suspected divorce, but was having trouble finding the records. All I'd found was this:

The Barrier Miner, 02 Mar 1950

It seemed too close to my couple to ignore, but I didn't have any evidence it was them. However, recently Trove added "The Barrier Daily Truth", and whaddya know:

Barrier Daily Truth, 03 Mar 1950

So, I'd established Mildred and Harold had divorced after she left him for Samuel John Alfred Thomas. Naturally I started searching for him, and for items relating to Mildred Thomas, which was when I found this:

Barrier Miner, 25 Oct 1950

Buuuut.... it's the Barrier Daily Miner, so of course the names were wrong!

Barrier Daily Truth, 26 Oct 1950... no doubt use the extra day to get the names right!!

I still haven't found any marriage record between the two, given how recently this took place, but at least I was quite sure I should keep looking for Mildred Thomas. And... (another whaddya know), found her dying in Terowie on 24 Aug 1995. The reason that's a whaddya know, is because her son is buried in Terowie even though he died in Adelaide, and I'd never understood exactly how it was he came to be there! Two mysteries solved at once!

I'll blog about the more complex break-through, Maude Howsen, next time.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Which ancestor are you going out for a drink/latte with?

Things have been a little hectic on the home front of late, but there's something genealogical which I have continued to ponder during this time: which ancestors you would just love to sit down and have a chat to. Not for information gathering purposes, but because you would really love to have them share the wisdom gathered over their lifetime.

I have a number of ancestors I think it would be particularly fun or interesting to have met, but there's one person above all others who I would most like to go out for a coffee or a champers with, to have a chat to her about her life and what she learned from it. That's my 2x great grandmother, Eliza Jane Duffield.

Eliza was born in 1838 in Kennett, Cambridge, to a family of labourers (not landed gentry as the family legend often tells!) At the age of about 17 she came to Australia. At this point she had either met and married or was about to meet and marry Edwin Francis Gough, believed to be a native of County Meath in Ireland.

The couple moved about a variety of places because of Edwin's work. Initially they were in Burra where he worked as the turnkey for Redruth Gaol, but he lost his job after an allegation was made that he had assaulted a prisoner. Edwin took his appeals against this all the way to State Parliament, but to no avail. For a while he was a clerk/overseer and then ran a store in Moonta, but then the couple came to Adelaide where Edwin later ran a boarding house. According to her death certificate and burial order, Elizabeth had 7 sons and 6 daughters, and only two of the boys and four of the girls were living when she died. We have so far only traced 9 of the children, so suspect a number of still births, particularly as 7 predeceased her.

There appears to have been some serious friction in the Gough household. At least two of the daughters married using assumed names, despite being of legal age etc. and with no obvious impediments (aside from their Catholic faith when marrying Protestants) to marriage. Most descendants are only aware of some parts of the family, and very few are recorded in the family Bible. At least one of Eliza's sons was regularly before the courts, in one instance for failing to pay his widowed mother her support payments. At least one of the daughters had a messy divorce and an affair with a man who was convicted of sexually assaulting women in the Parklands (plus ca change!) Another daughter got divorced after deserting her alcoholic husband, and then totally disappears from the record books. Something had obviously gone very wrong.

Eliza's final residence, No 6 Jerningham Street, North Adelaide

Eliza must have been a strong woman, She survived so much in her lifetime. If I could, she's the ancestor I would most like to sit down with on a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon, to talk to her about her life and hear what she made of it all. I bet she'd be a granny with some amazing advice.

In Memoriam Notices

Monday, 10 March 2014

Enlisted on the Other Front

So, sensational news during the week. Yours truly is being sent by work to the French battlefields for the Villers-Bretonneux dawn service, ANZAC Day '15. Naturally this is terribly exciting for all sorts of reasons, but part of the excitement is definitely because of the genealogy potential. Before I go I will be checking the locations of service for all my relatives who served in WW1, especially those who never returned.

It will be almost 100 years since, in September 1915, my great-grandfather Francis enlisted for the war. He left his wife, toddler and four month old baby and travelled to France, no doubt spending time in Paris as I will, before heading to the Front where he was a Driver in the Field Ambulance. Francis was shot in the jaw in August 1917. It was a near thing for him, but Francis and his brothers (all three of whom served) were lucky: they all came home at the war's conclusion. His son would not be so lucky when the next war rolled around.

Like most, I have my share of family World War 1 stories that didn't end very well at all, like William Matthew Colbert who entered the war underage using an assumed name, confessing on his death bed to his real details so his mother would be told what had happened. He was 17. However, the person I'm going to write about today had quite a different situation:

In 1915, Victorian Blacksmith James Arthur Pearson White enlisted to serve in the Australian Imperial Force. The Darby book tells us that Jim enlisted in the 27th Battalian of the AIF. He was been sent home to recuperate from a knee injury, but he re-embarked and joined the 43rd Battalian. He was killed only eleven days after arriving back at the front, on 10 Oct 1917. Family legend has it that Walter (Jim's brother who was also at the Front)  had spoken to Jim late in 1917 and they had arranged to meet the day he was killed. It also says he married while away and that his wife and daughter came out to Australia after the war.

James Arthur Pearson White, from The Darby Book

Most of you will have realised I'm not one to take things at face value, so of course I revisited everything to see what I could find out about James myself.  In his war record, there is a conflict alluded to between my great-great-grandmother, Lydia White nee Pearson, and James' English wife, Elsie, over whether Lydia or Elsie's daughter Diana (also referred to as Dinnia) were entitled to James' war medals etc. There is a date of marriage given (Registrar's Office, Cardiff Street Oxford, on 12 May 1917), and an address for Diana, 5 Bath Place, Holywell, which is turns out is a tiny lane off a road which passes through Oxford University, now the site of a hotel.

Bath Place off Holywell Street, Oxford

After extensive digging, I have been unable to locate any marriage between the two. Elsewhere in Jim's war record Elsie is referred to as his "unmarried wife", so I have formed the view they were never actually legally married but only said they were to meet some army administrative requirement. I did, however, find an Elsie at 5 Bath Place, Holywell, in the 1911 census: Elsie Walklett, daughter of John and Mary. While there are two other Elsie Walkletts who married in the 1920s, the only marriage I could find in Oxford, or during WW1, for an Elsie Walklett was to Albert E Drewett in 1915. I also found a birth entry for Diana Drewett in Oxford in the first quarter 1917. Naturally the correlation of names meant that I wanted to find out more about the Drewetts to see if there was a connection. 

The BBC's Remembrance Page says that Albert E Drewett enlisted in the 1/4 Bn, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, previously residing in Oxford, Oxfordshire. The author of this post also wrote on Genforum that Albert married Elsie Walklett. He died on active service on 21 May 1917 and was laid to rest at Hermes British Cemetery in Pas de Calais. He was 24. 
Unfortunately, in a rather unusual case of the opposite of genealogical serendipity, the only person I can find researching the Drewetts was a niece of Elsie's who died only a few months before I made it that far into my research. However, I suspect were we to compare notes, we would find that Elsie and Albert married when she was expecting Ivy, her first child. Albert then enlisted, and Elsie met a young Australian soldier who became her lover. When she fell pregnant, she and the soldier deemed it expedient to claim they had married.

The whole story is tragic. Jim's mother (my 2x great grandmother) had separated from her husband and was reliant on her sons for income. In addition to her grief, his death had serious financial implications for her. She was very shocked about his relationship and the probability he had fathered a child. Meanwhile, Elsie suffered the loss of her husband and her lover, and was left to raise a baby and toddler alone. The daughters were left without their father, and who knows what the Drewetts thought about the whole situation!

Letter from Elsie Walklett to the Red Cross

I have not been able to discover exactly what happened to Elsie and Diana after the war. There is a Diana Drewett who married a Mr. Nutt in the 30s in Oxford, who may be our Diana, but with three different surnames and two different countries to look in it has proved quite difficult. I wonder what Elsie and Diana's relations know about Diana's paternity, given the documents relating to it are probably only in Australian records which they may never have thought to look at (and why would you?)

Most blog entries about War service very rightly focus on the lives and deaths of those men who enlisted for active duty, but whenever I become aware of a story like this I am reminded of the truth of Milton's words, that truly "They also serve who only stand and wait".

Timeline of Events:
Jan 1915 Albert and Elsie marry
Jun 1915 (quarter) Their daughter Ivy is born
August 1915 Jim enlists for the war
Mar 1916 Jim is in France
Mar 1916 Jim injures his knee, three days after arriving at the Front
May 1916 He is sent to the UK to recuperate
Diana is conceived
Jun 1916 Jim is sent back to Australia for three months
Jan – Mar 1917 Diana is born
Feb 1917 Jim arrives back in the UK
May 1917 Jim allegedly marries Elsie
Albert dies
Sep 1917 Jim is sent back to France
Oct 1917 Jim is killed, only a couple of weeks after arriving back at the Front

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Murder Most Horrid - A Follow Up

I blogged recently about the very tragic death of my ancestor's cousin, Ellen "Nellie" Cunningham, found dead in the Bridgewater Creek in 1890. I still have to fully develop my response, but here's the basic follow up:

Despite Dr. Henderson's later assertions about possible heart disease, I believe Ellen was murdered. Her body was found in a place which had already been searched. There was no initial claims about illnesses from either Dr. Henderson or Jane Sr. Too many people were obviously lying about what they knew. That begs many questions:

- Why was the knife deemed so significant, and what was Ellen doing with it?

- Were the wild flowers just growing along the river, or had they been placed there?

- Whose was the carpet bag, and what was in it? Where was it in relation to Ellen's body?

- What happened to Ellen's clothes? Were they ever found?

- Was Evan Jenkins the same Evan Jenkins who killed himself in 1923, and if so was there a connection between the events? There are two Evan Jenkinses with brothers named William in SA, one of whom has Hills connections (his father died in Crafers and he married in Glen Osmond). That would be the one who shot himself on Glenelg beach 33 years later. His wife had died shortly before, which no doubt was the primary cause, but you have to wonder all the same.

- Why was the coroner so focused on when Hart threatened Jane, and the colour of the dress having been reported incorrectly, rather than issues like the inconsistencies in the 'last sightings' and Jane Sr's weirdness about Evan lodging at the Cunningham residence (face it, the family had precious little reputation to ruin)?

- Why were Hart and Jane fighting? Was it really about the cows, and if so, why did she do that to begin with?

Some of these could have been answered by more thorough reporting. While the existing reports are often verbatim, they lack the contextual details needed to make sense of the lines of questioning. My theory is that either there was some manner of love triangle operating between Ellen, Jane Jr and Evan, or Jane Jr and Evan were involved and Ellen found out. Either way, it sounds like the news reporters felt there was something fishy going on and it lead to her violent and untimely death, and without having any further facts I am inclined to agree.

So, what happened next?

Jane Sr. died age 66 in 1912. The newspapers indicate she is buried at Stirling, but she has no gravestone and there aren't any other records of her burial.

After the trial, two of the sisters moved to Western Australia - Agnes (Mrs. Bartsch) and Margaret, who married in Boulder in 1898. Possibly they were trying to avoid further scandal, or it may just have been job opportunities coming up with the mining industry's development. I believe my great-grandmother Margaret was sent to stay with them at one point (why, I'm not sure) and met my great-grandfather there.

Jane Jr. sadly did not live much longer, dying age 17 in 1892. I am curious to order her death certificate to see how she died, although I'm sure it will be a common, garden variety illness. I hope.

Annie, the sister after Margaret, does not appear to have been mentioned at her sister's trial, nor does she appear in any other records I can find aside from her birth. I assume she died young and her death was not registered, as the family often skipped registrations.

Marion remained unmarried and died in 1957. Elizabeth, the youngest, married William Dalton and remained living in the Aldgate area. Of all the family, she was the only one still there when Jane Sr. died.

Ellen has no known memorial. I assume she was probably buried with her grandfather, Archibald, who died during the course of the inquest. I've never been able to find either Archibald or his wife, Euphemia, in any local cemetery and neither has a local researcher who holds all the burial registers for the Mount Barker district. Ellen is entirely forgotten, apart from here on this blog, and by me, especially whenever I read Tracey Chevalier's "Falling Angels". The novel contains a fatal (and probably sexual) attack on Ivy May, the introverted younger sister of one of the main characters. Ivy May's only line in the novel (which is told from a variety of perspectives) is this:

Over his shoulder I saw a star fall. It was me.

Rest in peace, Ellen.