Monday, April 25, 2016

10971 Sapper Roy Francis Highett

Sapper R.F. Highett
Roy Francis Highett was the 2nd son of  Francis James Highett and Deborah Maria Griffiths and was my 1st cousin, three times removed. He was born on 22nd January, 1891, in Murrumbeena, which is a suburb of Melbourne. Roy was 24 years old and studying engineering at the University of Melbourne, when he decided that he should join up.  

On 15th March 1915 he applied to join the armed forces, though his service counts from 31st March. Roy was 5’ 11 ¼” , weighed 11stone 4lbs, had a fair complexion, light grey eyes (though described as blue at discharge), fair hair, and under "Distinctive Marks" it was stated that he had a "scar across back r.h. thumb, Mole R shoulder blade".

"Roy's Tent Crowd, 1915" from family photo album
Roy is second from the right
10971 Sapper Highett was assigned to the 10th Field company Engineers and embarked on HMAT Runic on 20th June 1916, more than a year after his enlistment. On the 10th August he disembarked in Plymouth, and after training in England arrived in Europe on 8th February 1917.  On the 20th of that month he was transferred to the 12th Field Company Engineers. He was sick in hospital from 22nd March to 27th April 1917, and detached for duty with 1st Anzac R.E. Workshop between 21st September and 25th September 1917 before being returned to the 12th Field Company Engineers.

Then on the 6th October 1917 he was wounded in his arm and back.  He was transferred to East Leeds War Hospital on 21st October, and not discharged from there until 14th January 1918.

The Argus, 4 May 1917

Despite what was written in the article in The Argus (above), Roy was not wounded on the 21st October. That was the date he was transferred to Leeds.  The entry in the War Diary of the 12th Field Company Engineers for the 6th October reads
No 10971 Spr R. HIGHETT wounded by H.E. while returning to camp from work on CORDUROY ROAD (J.13.a.28.)

Roy was granted 12 months leave in England to take up a soldier scholarship without pay or allowances from 23rd April 1918 to study engineering at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in Kensington, London, which was later extended.

Benalla Standard, 20 May 1917

Once again, there was an error in the newspaper reporting back home.  Roy never attended Cambridge or Oxford. He was not discharged at that stage, and his service records only indicate the one injury, which the War Diary indicates was from High Explosives.

Roy was admitted to hospital 27th September 1918 with Influenza, and discharged on 20th October, then admitted to hospital again on 9th April 1919 for treatment for a foreign body in his back.  He was discharged from that stay on the 24th April.

He was finally discharged from the AIF at London being medically unfit with effect from 29th July 1920, at the age of 29 years 6 months. Interestingly, his distinctive marks are now listed as "1 Vacc Lt arm". There is no mention of the scar on his thumb or the mole on his shoulder. And no mention of the gunshot wounds, which must have left distinctive marks.

His file contains a copy of the following letter, written in his own hand, sworn on 1 May 1920:

From 10971 Sapper Highett R.F.

12 Field Coy Engineers A.I.F.
Imperial College of Science South Kensington SW7
 To the COAdmin Hdrs  A.I.F. I, Roy Francis Highett, do solemnly and sincerely declare that my reasons for the attached application for discharge are as follows :- 1.    I wish to sit for the final B. Sc. (Eng. Ln. Univ) Examinations held during July.2.    I desire in the event of my being unsuccessful in these examination, of which the results are published in August, to sit again at the first opportunity.3.    It may be necessary that I should have to continue my studies until December before being allowed to take out this degree.4.    I also solemnly and sincerely declare that it is my intention to return to Australia on being elected an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers; in any case within 27 months of the completion of my course of studies;5.    That all my interests (parents and home) are in Australia6.    That I have no intention of permanently residing in England7.    That I shall be able to maintain myself during the course of my studies and until I return to Australia I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true by virtue of the provisions of the Statutory Declarations Act 1835
                                                            R.F. Highett

In support of his application, the Dean of Imperial College of Science and Technology wrote:
"I have much pleasure on certifying that Sapper Roy Francis Highett of the Australian Imperial Force is a student of Engineering in this College and that he has been in regular attendance here since April 1919. He has passed The London University Matriculation and the Intermediate B.Sc. in Engineering; he has also passed the College Matriculation. Highett has completed the second year course and has qualified for admission to the third year course and if he completes the remaining two terms of the Third Year he will, in June and July next, be eligible to take the final examinations for the College Diploma and for the University Degree of B.Sc in Engineering. He is a diligent and capable student and throughout his stay at the College his student conduct has been irreproachable."

However, despite what he said in his application, Roy DID have an interest in England – a wife.  He had married Marie Gertrude Davis on 2nd August 1919 at the Paddington Register Office.  They went on to have two daughters, and Roy never did return to Australia.

Roy with his wife and first daughter, 1920


Thursday, April 7, 2016

In Search of a Marriage

Thanks to the 1939 Register I've uncovered another Black Sheep in the family!

**N.B. Names have been changed to protect the guilty

It was known that Dorcas Lynne Longley – youngest daughter of Edward William Longley and Emma Mary Penrose – appeared with the family on the 1911 census in Wealdstone, MDX.  That document stated that she was aged 4 and had been born in Harrow.  Her birth was found in the GRO Indexes in the March Quarter of 1907 in the Hendon district.

It was known from family stories that she had a daughter Elizabeth, who had been friendly with her cousin Susan Longley and who had attended Susan's 21st birthday celebrations.  Elizabeth had gone on to have two children, believed to be called Alex (a son) and Freya.

No marriage could be found for Dorcas in England or Wales – had it taken place somewhere else?

When I questioned the son of Susan Longley about the family, it suddenly came to him that Elizabeth's husband was called Ernie.  He thought the surname was Roberts.  No marriage of an Ernie Roberts to an Elizabeth could be found.

No relevant Dorcas of the right age could be found in the 1939 Register.

Searches of all indexes for any Dorcas Lynnes turned up the death in the June quarter of 1970 of Dorcas Lynne Teague in the Watford district, born 1 Jan 1906.  The Watford district looked hopeful, as Elizabeth was known to have been living in West Watford later, though the date of birth didn't match the year of the birth registration.  Nonetheless it was mentioned to Susan Longley's son, since it was in the Watford district. At that point the name Teague rang bells with him.

A search for a birth of an Elizabeth Teague found a likely candidate in the December quarter of 1941 in the Watford District (Elizabeth C Teague, mother's maiden name Longley). She would have been about 4 ½ years younger than Susan, but it was still possible that they were friendly despite the age gap. But there was no marriage of an Elizabeth Teague to anyone named Ernie or anyone with the surname Roberts.

The name of her daughter Freya looked like a way in to the mystery.  Susan's son thought that since the name Teague meant something to him, and since he had never met Ernie, perhaps Elizabeth had divorced and returned to her maiden name.  So a search was made for the birth of a Freya Teague.  The only possibility was in Cornwall which did not seem correct, and the only Alex Teagues were Alexandras, born in Cornwall.

On the basis that Elizabeth was known to live in Watford, and had been born there, a search was made for births of Freyas in the Watford district. There was a birth of Freya Caroline Richards (not Roberts), mother's maiden name Teague, in Watford in the March quarter of 1968. Not only did the mother's maiden name fit, but the age looked about right. But no Alex could be found. Suddenly it was remembered that his name was Alec, not Alex.  There was a birth of an Alec J Richards in Watford district March quarter of 1964. Next step was to find his parents' marriage.

With the new surname a marriage was found for Elizabeth C Teague and Cyril E Richards in Watford, September quarter 1963.  The middle name starting with E was probably Ernie or Ernest, and it seemed that he was known by that middle name.

Looking again for a marriage of a Teague to someone called Dorcas. The only possibility was Graham C Teague to Dorcas L Teague, Mar quarter 1967 in Watford (4b 960).  My first thought was that a widowed Dorcas had married her husband's brother or cousin.  So I looked for a Teague death in Watford that could have been Dorcas's husband. I chose to limit it to Watford since all events found had been in that registration district.

There was an William J Teague aged 76 who died in Watford March Quarter 1961. I looked for him in the 1939 register, where I found him with a wife Mary and various children.  Had he left his wife between 1939 and 1941 (when Elizabeth was born) and taken up with Dorcas who took his surname without being legally married?

I looked for further information about William.  I found an entry for him in the probate indexes, with the executor being his wife Mary. So it didn't seem likely that this man had left his wife for Dorcas.

I then looked for Graham in the 1939 register to see where he was at the time, in case he had another brother.

I found Graham C Teague, born 8 Dec 1895, married, Commercial Traveller (confectionary), head of a household, with Dorcas L Longley (crossed out and replaced with TEAGUE at some point – probably 1967), born 31 Dec 1906 (which matched the birth registration), single, Unpaid Domestic Duties, and Jane A W Teague, born 24 Nov 1867, Widowed, Old age & unpaid Domestic Duties – probably William's  mother.  They were living at in Watford.

Dorcas had not shown up because her name had been transcribed as Dorhaf.


So it appears that Dorcas took up with William Teague (who was married to someone else), took on his surname as if they were married, had a daughter Elizabeth in 1941, and finally married William in 1967 (presumably after his wife had died), getting married under her assumed surname of Teague.

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Missing" Crew List found.

I recently had a client ask me to find when her father, Charles Hawker, had come to Australia.  I have her permission to write about the fantastic discovery I made.

The story that she had grown up with was that he had jumped ship in Australia and then stayed here. But many of the things that he said – such as the place of birth he gave on his marriage certificate – proved to be incorrect, so there was always the possibility that the story she was told was not true.

She spent years searching for a ship of arrival into Australia, or for any report she could find about him being a ship's deserter, all without success. Eventually she did manage to discover that he had been orphaned at a young age and sent from Plumstead Workhouse to the Training Ship Exmouth. She had obtained a copy of his records for his time there, which stated that he was discharged on 12 September 1907 to SS Orita as a deck boy for a salary of £1 per month. She had also found proof that he was in NSW by 1911.

The only voyage the Orita made to Australia was in 1903. Normally she sailed to Valparaiso, so the question arose as to whether he ever did serve on the Orita and if so, how did he get to Australia.

An enquiry made to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich elicited the answer that they did not hold any crew lists for the Orita, but I was informed that the Maritime Archive at Newfoundland should hold a crew list for 1908 and also for some later years when he was known to already be in Australia.  However my client had already checked with them to no avail. 

I suggested that since I would be going to the National Archives at Kew soon, it might be worth looking at the Ship's Logs of the Orita. It offered only a slim chance of turning anything up, but if he had jumped ship from the Orita and then made his way to Australia on another vessel, the desertion might be recorded in the log.


Extract from BT 165/301 showing C Hawkes 
(from the National Archives, Kew)
Thus I consulted the logs for the Orita in BT 165/301 and BT/358, and I struck gold. Unexpectedly (but luckily) I found that the log, as well as containing a report of the voyage of 12 Sep 1907 to 3 Dec 1907, also contained the crew lists. These were all in the pre-printed "Official Log Book". Amongst the Deck Boys was a C Hawkes (not Hawker).

BT 165/301 (from the National Archives, Kew)
The log for the next journey, from 19 Dec 1907 to 8 March 1908, again included C Hawkes in the list of Deck Boys. The 1908 log checked at Newfoundland was evidentally for a different voyage in that year.

In both cases the log sections, which did name crew members who failed to return to the ship after stops in port, never mentioned Charles. As these logs were submitted to the Board of Trade when the ship arrived back in port in the UK, it is reasonable to say that Charles did not jump ship on either of these voyages.

The next two voyage logs for the Orita did not include Charles, so it seems he only made the two voyages.  But we can now account for Charles up to 8 March 1908, and we know he definitely did sail on the Orita. We still don't know how or when he got to Australia, only that he was here by 1911, but we have slightly narrowed down the period in which he could have arrived.

And, of course, I have discovered that at that period in time, the Ships' Logs contained Crew Lists!


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Anzac Day Commemoration: Bert and Eric Wenban

In December 1915 two brothers from Millthorpe in New South Wales walked into the recruiting office the nearby town of Orange and enlisted to fight in the war.  The eldest of them, Bertram Aubrey Wenban (known as Bert) had been down to Sydney the previous month to see off some mates from his local area who had already gone to serve their country.  Bert was 25 and 10 months old, 5 foot 3⅞ inches tall, with blue eyes and brown hair. His occupation on his attestation papers was "Engineer and Mechanic", but this vague description referred to the fact that he was the local motor mechanic and ran a motor garage back in Millthorpe.  Bert was made a Private, and assigned the number 5105.

The younger son, Alpheus Eric Wenban (known, not surprisingly, as Eric - or Dick by his friends and family) was just 19 years and 9 months old. He was taller than his brother at 5 feet 7¼ inches tall and also had blue eyes but his hair was described as dark brown, not just brown.  Eric had spent 4 years in Cadets while at school.   Since then he had been working as a postal assistant and received high honours in the Postal and Telegraphic examination.  He was initially stationed in Millthorpe Post Office, but in Jun 1914 was transferred to Delungra in the Inverell district where he worked as a telegraph operator. As he was under 21 the consent of his parents was needed for him to enlist, and he was assigned the number 5106 – the one following that assigned to Bert.

Eric (left) and Bert (right) Wenban

The brothers were assigned to the 17th Battalion, 13th Reinforcements and sent to Lithgow (along with some other local boys) for training from 30 December 1915 until 18 January the following year. They were then transferred to Bathurst until 9 March 1916. Eric was made Acting Corporal (probably owing to his Cadet experience) while at Bathurst and Acting Lance Corporal the day after they left Bathurst. They were given final leave to visit their families in April 1916 and were each presented a "wristlet watch" (wrist watches were a new phenomenon at this time) by the local patriotic committee, (along with 3 other privates from the area).  Bert and Eric embarked on the HMAT Kyarra in Sydney on 3 June 1916 and set off two days later to do their bit.

Once in England they were sent to Salisbury Plain for further training, arriving there on 4 August.  The only incident where either of the brothers seemed to get into trouble took place during this period. Eric was Absent Without Leave from 2400 on the 11 September 1916 til 2400 of the following day and had to forfeit eight days pay.

On 30 September the brothers were transferred to the 33rd Battalion and less than two months later, on 21 November, they found themselves boarding a ship in Southampton for the voyage across the channel to France. This was in the middle of the winter that was notoriously the coldest one in a hundred years, when the pools of water froze, as did the men's wet boots, and the icicles hung from the roofs of buildings and dugouts alike.

For months the Germans had occupied a ridge south of Ypres which afforded them a good vantage point to pick off the Allied soldiers.  On 7 June 1917 the battle that became to be known as the Battle of Messines commenced with the detonation of 19 mines underneath Hill 60.

Bert was attached to a Lewis Machine Gun crew (he had been a noted marksman before the war and a crack shot in the Millthorpe Rifle Club) and he and three others were sent out that day to take up a position. The Germans located that position and dropped shells round them, the last one landing on top of them. Two of them were buried, and when dug out found to be unharmed, but Bert had had all bar two fingers blown off his left hand, an injury to his right arm, and a piece of shrapnel lodged in his head, just below the scalp. The right arm later had to be amputated, leaving only a stump two inches long.  The shrapnel was successfully removed.

After some time being treated and convalescing in England, Bert was sent home. He sailed on 15 February 1918 onboard the HT Llanstephen Castle. In the meantime, Eric had been formally made a Lance Corporal on 7 Aug 1917. He was granted two weeks leave in England in January 1918, during which time he visited his brother.
 
Sadly, while Bert was on his way home to Australia, his family received a cable saying that Eric had been killed. So the town, which otherwise would have put on a celebration for Bert's arrival back in Millthorpe on 19 April, was rather subdued in their welcome for him.

Leader (Orange, NSW), 22 Apr 1918

On 27 March 1918 the Germans attacked the ruined village of H├ębuterne, where Australian Forces had relieved the British the day before.  Fighting continued until 5 April in what became known as the Battle of H├ębuterne.

In the late afternoon of 30 March, during a counter-attack, Eric was near a Bosche trench in Hangard Wood when he was shot by a machine gun bullet. Some reports say the bullet hit him in the head, and others in the heart, but all say that he died instantly.  Pte M McLeod of the same division reported to the Red Cross that he was buried at the foot of hill between Villers-Bretonneux and Cachy, but if that is so then either his body has not been recovered or not identified, for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission state that he has no known grave.  He is commemorated at the National Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. Eric was just 22 years old.

Amongst his possessions supposed to be returned to Australia were a testament and a prayer book and a pipe.  They were on board the cargo ship Barunga on their way to Australian when she was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean.

After the war Bert ran a garage in Millthorpe, and later drove a taxi (despite the missing arm and fingers).  On Anzac Day 1925 Bert married Frances Emily Woodlawn Oldham at St Matthew's Church, Grahamstown. They had three children: Eric Henry Wenban (b1926), Dorothy Elizabeth Wenban (b1937) and Bertram Keith Wenban (b1940). By 1954 he was retired and living in Guildford, NSW, and by 1963 had moved to a home in Eastwood, where he died on 30 September 1967. His funeral service was held back in Millthorpe where he had grown up and spent so much of his life.


These two young men who gave so much were my second cousins, three times removed.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

AFFHO Keynotes Days 3 and 4

Day three of the AFFHO conference started with Michael McKernan talking about the impact of the First World War on those at home in Australia.  To do this he focused on the experiences of the families of a couple of individuals, such as the family of Jack Fothergill of the 6th Battalion, who died on the first day of the landings at Gallipoli.  His parents put an In Memorium notice in the newspaper every year (except one) from the first anniversary of his death in 1916 until his mother died in 1948.  Each one contained a unique poem written in memory of their son Jack.  He also talked about the Whitelaw family, who had six sons who enlisted, of whom four died. One of those sons, Angus McSween Whitelaw, was only 16 when he enlisted, though said he was 18.  His mother found out and tracked him to his training camp and told him that if he didn't tell the authorities what his correct age was, then she would.  He told her that if she did that she would never see him again.  Torn between these two options, she said nothing and eighteen months later he was dead.

Michael McKernan
His talk was interesting, but considering he describes himself as a WWI historian and has led battlefield tours, I was very surprised when a question from the audience showed that he didn't know that the commemorative medallions given to the families of the deceased were known as a "Dead Man's Penny", and that he said they were not given to the families of Australian casualties, which is the not the case, and I have seen some examples of them.

The first Keynote of Day 4 was David Holman, whose talk was entitled Fascinating facts and figures from five centuries.  This is an amusing "after-dinner" type talk, with some interesting statistics about names and some very funny examples of marriages (e.g. William Axe marrying Mary Killer).  He had also given this as a Keynote talk in Adelaide at the previous congress, but it's amusing and a bit of light relief after three days of intensive learning.

David Holman

The final keynote of the conference was the only talk I attended that was given by Cora Num this time around.  She gave all her talks via video link, as she had injured her neck not long before the conference and was unable to travel.  This talk was Front page to back page – using online newspapers.  For most of us in Australia, using online newspapers is second nature. Trove has spoilt us, and we go out looking for additional "hits" of our favourite "drug", so most of us are familiar with the Gale offerings, the British Newspaper Archive, and New Zealand's "Papers Past".  Useful as this talk was as a compendium of the offerings available (and therefore even more useful in its full form in the Congress Proceedings), I'm not sure that this was what I'd have chosen as a conference keynote. 

Cora Num giving her keynote via video link

Sunday, April 5, 2015

AFFHO Day 2 Keynotes

The first Keynote speaker for day 2 of the AFFHO conference was Josh Taylor, talking about Connecting Across Past, Present and Future.  He was introduced by Jan Gow from New Zealand who quoted a Chinese proverb that I thought was very powerful 

"When the winds of change blow some people build walls. Others build windmills."

Josh told us how his grandmother got him interested in family history when he was ten years old.  As a child his holidays were spent accompanying his grandmother to cemeteries and family history societies, and he loved the experience.

Josh Taylor

These are the things he said he learnt from his Grandmother:
  • There is always another way to break down your brick walls
  • Cite your sources
  • Family history societies are an incredible resource (his grandma joined him up in every FHS they stopped at and renewed the memberships until he went to college)
  • You will never find everything (its ok if you can’t fill in every date and place)
  • Grandmothers are the best (his gave him $20 per month as photocopy money)
  • The past is full of adventure

He also showed us a graphic displaying the hierarchy of interest in family history:
  • not interested
  • curious
  • casual explorers
  • frequent explorers
  • addicted


Next were a few insights into his work on the Rob Lowe episode of Who Do You Think You Are? He spent an entire day looking through tax records for Philadelphia and it ended up as a 3 minute segment.  Similarly on the Genealogy Road Show he might spend 6 months researching a subject only to have it cut down to a 2 minute segment.

Finally he showed some fictional family trees - Donald Duck’s family, the people from the Harry Potter books, Star Wars characters & James Bond.

All in all an amusing Keynote speech.

The afternoon keynote speech was given by Richard Reid, whose talk was entitled If you ever go across the sea to Ireland: Realities of 19th century Ireland. It started off with Patrick Corr (I hope I have spelt his name correctly) who sang an acapella version of the Bing Crosby song Galway Bay. Richard then took to the stage.

Richard Reid and Patrick Corr
He stated that a lot of the information in his talk comes from his book Farewell my Children, so if anyone is interested in learning more about this you can consult a copy of that book.

He stated that although many people believe that assisted immigrants often lied about their age or occupation in order to qualify for the assisted passage, his finding contradict this.  He points out that the application form submitted to the Land and Emigration Commissioners had to be sworn in front of a clergyman – a disincentive to lie – and that his study of one Irish parish showed that 98% of the applications were correct.

He also provided some statistics on the type of Irish immigrants to NSW.  Of those travelling between 1848-1870 there were 12,0001 families, 1920 couples, 1068 married people with a spouse in the colony, 19,357 (which is 44%) were travelling alone, 2,451 (6%) were widows or widowers, and 7,391 (17%) had relatives in the colonies.

He also gave some advice on sources that might help find a person's place of origin in Ireland.  Headstones may have place of birth and death certificates (for place of birth & marriage).  Once you have found the townland of origin you should find out what is was like to live there.  Has anyone written about it?  All this will help you understand the motives for your ancestors' decision to emigrate. 

One source of information is the Irish Censuses.  Although the returns for early censuses were destroyed in 1922, the statistics compiled from those censuses were published in the British Parliamentary Papers.

Irish newspapers can also have lists of people evicted by landlords.


His take-away message was "look at everything - open the box and search out your ancestor."

Friday, March 27, 2015

AFFHO Day 1 - Some of the talks

Here are a few thoughts about the talks I attended on the first day of the AFFHO congress in Canberra.

The first talk I attended (after the morning's keynote) was by Simon Fowler, whose talk was entitled Shovelling out Paupers: Researching assisted emigration in English archives.  I was most remiss and didn't take a photo of Simon, as I was too busy taking notes based on the talk.

Simon's talk was predominantly about some of the non-official schemes that assisted or paid for emigration from the UK. Sadly, some recurring themes were that it was "difficult" and there "weren't many records", so people who were looking for a list of online sites to check were disappointed.

Nonetheless, I found it very interesting and also useful, in that it mentioned many charitable and other non-official schemes to assist people to emigrate from the UK.  The other value to me was that he mentioned lots of schemes that went to places other than Australia and New Zealand, reminding me that there were other places where assisted emigrants were sent.

Another talk I attended was Paul Milner's Buried Treasure: what's in the English Parish Chest.  This didn't really cover any ground that was new to me, but I enjoyed seeing the examples he showed.  His talk was restricted to the records found in the parish of Leeds in Kent (not the one in Yorkshire), which was a good way to approach the subject.

Paul Milner

The final talk I attended was Helen Smith's In the Workhouse: Caring for the Poor.  Helen started with an overview of the background to the provision of poor relief since the Dissolution of the monasteries and the introduction of the New Poor Law Act of 1834.  She then focused on the outcomes of that act, such as the establishment of the Poor Law Unions and the construction of the workhouses.

Helen Smith

She then went on to describe the workhouse system, what life was like in the workhouses and then how to identify and find people who had (or may have) been in a workhouse. Finally she talked about where to find any records that may survive relating to a workhouse.


In contrast to the of the day by Roger Kershaw (see here), Helen did not read out her talk, but spoke to the slides.  Her slides effectively illustrated what she was talking about, and she was animated and interesting - all in all a talk that was well worth attending.