Thursday, April 25, 2013

25th April Australia Remembers - ANZAC Day

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

I've had tears in my eyes today as I have read others' ANZAC Day posts on various social media. I am so pleased to see my children recognising the efforts of their ancestors in various Australian conflicts.

On this ANZAC Day I particularly remember my grandfather Frank Duncan, my grandmother's first husband John Bertram Chatfield, my father Allan John Curry and his brother Thomas William Curry.

I was thrilled to discover this morning that the light-hearted nature of my holiday will be interrupted by a solemn event on my cruise ship Regent's Seven Seas Navigator tomorrow, the 25th April. I congratulate this US organisation on recognising the importance of this day to the small number of Australian and New Zealand cruisers on board. Mr Geniaus and I will be up at 6:00am tomorrow morning for the ship's Dawn Service.

Monday, April 22, 2013

ANZAC Day Blog Challenge @Kintalk

Auckland Libraries issued a challenge to bloggers on their Facebook page. They have asked bloggers "Do you have a story to share about an ANZAC? We'd like to hear about not only their sacrifice, but the way it shaped their family history. Maybe you want to blog from the perspective of those that were left behind?"

I am presently travelling and cannot spend as much time on this task as it deserves but I did not want to miss this important activity. One of the most read articles on my blog is one I wrote for a similiar challenge in 2011. I am reposting that article for the 2013 challenge.


John Bertram Chatfield - Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day blog Challenge

When 25 year old miner, John Bertram (Bert) Chatfield, set off to war he left behind his pregnant 17 year old wife and young son, Billy.

I cannot imagine how bewildered my grandmother, young Ethel, must have felt when she received news that her husband was Missing in Action and subsequently listed as Killed in the Field.   However, if one searches Australian Military Records one will find no evidence of John Chatfield's existence.

Bert Chatfield was one of five sons of William Henry Chatfield and Sarah Jane Busby of Northamptonshire in England. Presumably Bert travelled to Australia sometime before 1914 when he married my grandmother in Cobar, NSW. According to his attestation papers Bert, who was a miner in Cobar, had previously been a member of the militia in his home county of Northampton. I have no details of that service but my aunt (his daughter-in-law) says that he was a deserter from the military.

Clipping from Attestation Papers
 I had written this much of my post by Friday 22 April when I decided that I should try once again to find more info on Bert. I logged onto Ancestry and did a few searches. A search for one of Bert's brothers, George Thurman Chatfield led me to an Ancestry family tree that included Bert. I quickly sent off a message to the tree owner.

Yesterday I heard from the gentleman who owns that tree. This is part of what he said "Thankyou so much for your email,it actually gave me goose bumps as Bert has always been one of the family's mysteries! In relation to me he is my Grandmothers uncle, so in turn my Great Great Uncle. The family tale I was told was that during the First World War he joined the Royal Navy sailing on a Man o War ship, Sailed to Australia, Fell in Love with an Ausralian Girl, deserted the navy and changed his name to marry her,Then Joined the Australian army and was killed at Gallipoli."

I, too, got goosebumps when I read his message. I wonder what my aunt and cousins will say when I tell them that I have located some of their Chatfield family in England. I am still overwhelmed by this find just in time for the Challenge. I replied to that gentleman with a few details and will follow up with more after the Easter break. This man kindly sent a copy of a newspaper clipping from the Wellingborough newspaper showing photo of Bert and his four brothers who were in the service.

John Bertram Chatfield (Top left)

I now know that Bert had been in the navy and may have jumped ship in Australia. As Cobar is several hundered miles from the coast I doubt that he fell in love with my grandmother in Cobar before he deserted. On my next trip to the UK following up Bert's naval service record and a dated copy of this clipping will be a research priority.

But back to Bert's story. A digital copy of his service record can be found on The National Archives of Australia website and a summary of his service here.  He enlisted on The Australian Army at Dubbo on 20 May, 1916 naming Jane Williams c/o Mrs Pusell as his next of kin. Jane was actuallyEthel Jane Pusell, my grandmother. Bert's Unit embarked from Australia on board HMAT Ceramic on 7 October 1916. On 4 February 1917 Bert left from Folkestone, England for France. He was reported as missing in action three months later on 3 May 1917. A Court of Enquiry held in the field on 4 December 1917 found that he had been Killed in the Field.

Bert probably did not know that he had become a father of a daughter, Nellie, who was born on 4 April, 1917 and lived for just two weeks. I wonder if Nellie's birth was premature or if she died of some other cause. Ethel had always told me that she had lost twin girls; although there is no official record of two births I have a copy of a family letter that confirms this.

I do not know when Ethel heard of her husband's fate but on 24 July, 1917 she wrote the following letter to the Army

 She had received the devastating news by 19 February, 1918 when she wrote to the Army to see if any personal effects belonging to Bert had been found.

Another woman who was concerned about Bert's fate was his mother who enlisted the help of The Red Cross to find details of Bert's death. The Australian War Memorial has an index to the First World War Wounded and Missing file . Bert's file contains a number of statements from soldiers who were at the front with him.

 It appears that Bert or Jack as he was known to fellow soldiers sustained a severe injury to his legs and was left in a shell hole by his mates, they retreated and when they returned he was nowhere to be seen.

I have travelled to France to visit the Australian Military Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux to see the panel on which John Williams name is inscribed. Standing there on a winter's day when the biting wind was howling across the plains I shed a tear for Bert and Ethel and the thousands of other young men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries.

Villers-Bretonneux Cemetery, France
  Ethel was married at 15 and had lost two children and a husband by the time she was 18.  The effect of these events on her must have been enormous.  After the war The Chatfields asked Ethel and Billy to come and live with them in England but she declined.  She was blessed to have supportive parents and a strong family network to help her through these tough times and my Nana was resilient.

When young Bill was seven Ethel married Frank Duncan and went on to produce five daughters, one of whom is my mother. Billy was a loved older brother of his five young sisters. Ethel had a tough but happy life raising Bill and the Duncan girls.

Had Bert not met his fate on the Battlefield at Bullecourt Ethel's life would have been different. My Mother and I would not have been born and I would not be writing Bert's story today.

This post was prepared for the Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day blog Challenge

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I have just one more video from Rootstech to share. I waited until I boarded my cruise ship (with free included internet access) to upload and blog about this interview which is quite different from all of the others I have shared.

I have been thwarted. It seems as though access to Youtube s blocked on the ship so my attempts to share the video have failed. I will just have to wait for three more weeks until I debark (that's American for disembark) to upload it.

In the interim you may see my other Rootstech video interviews by searching for Jill Ball or Rootstech n Youtube.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Virginia Genes

Excited that Mr Geniaus' maternal first cousin in Virginia, the last of my mother-in-law's female line, has agreed to take a DNA test. We have ordered an MtDNA kit form FTDNA for her.

Having read the information we gave her she is going to get her brother (the last of their male line - not related to us) to take a test as well.

Surrogate's Court

A couple of months before setting off on our holiday I sent an email to the Surrogate's Court in New York, the body responsible for maintaining probate files, as their website advised that old files may take up to three weeks to provide. We were anxious to follow up on the probate for Mr Geniaus' Great-great-aunt, Anna Regina Gowans (nee Bouton/Bouten) in the hope it would give us clues to find living relatives.

When we didn't hear from the Court after a few weeks we wrote again; this message also went unanswered. Ten days out from our proposed visit we went back to the website and decided to try emailing another address. What a contrast! We received an almost immediate reply from Ms Suzan Tell explaining that, due to time constraints, we would not be able to see the probate file on our visit but that we would be able to consult the Liber (a book used for keeping a record of specific documents or events having legal effect) for the record).

NY Surrogates Court
When we arrived in New York City our first destination was 31 Chambers Street, the site of the Court. We  found our way to the Records Department where Ms Tell was on the desk. She remembered our email, apologised profusely for her colleagues' lack of attention to our query and procured the Liber for us to peruse. She helped us with photocopying and the application to view the probate file. She promised to scan and email the file to us once it was available.  While we were in the building we also took the opportunity to visit the New York Municipal Archives in the same building in the hope to find some clues on our elusive ancestor, Maria Gowans. Unfortunately we had no luck there.

Ms Tell was as good as her word. A couple of days ago the probate file arrived in the form of several attachments to an email. We are so grateful to Ms Tell for her kind, considerate and prompt attention to our issue. 

The Surrogate's Court is housed in a magnificent old building

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cousins in New York

We did something crazy last week - we collected a rental car in the middle of Manhattan in New York and had to negotiate our way out of the city. People in search of ancestors do silly things.

After negotiating our way down a busy 7th Avenue from Times Square we found 261 West 20th Street, the home of Mr Geniaus' 2xGreat-Uncle, John Gowans between about 1872 and 1882. John's wife and daughter lived at this address up until 1902.
Gowans home - 261 West 20th Street, New York
Our next stop was in Brooklyn and was the reason why we got a rental car to travel south rather than taking a train or 'plane. We wanted to visit John's grave in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Through the Brooklyn tunnel we went, down a couple of freeways, around a block or two and we found ourselves at Green-Wood. The first entrance we tried was closed for repairs.

First try at accessing Green-Wood Cemetery
After negotiating a few one-way streets we found ourselves at the imposing main entrance to this cemetery which is a National Historic Monument that is the final resting place for over half a million former New Yorkers. The gateman who welcomed us was incredibly helpful, he gave us maps, guidance and answered our questions with a smile. What a wonderful ambassador he was for the institution; how welcome we felt. He directed us to a computer where we entered the names of the deceased we were seeking; after doing this we were rewarded with printed maps with an x making the exact location of each grave we were seeking.

Inside the impressive main entrance of Green-Wood

A drive around the perimeter of this beautifully maintained cemetery brought us near the location of the Gowans grave. With our map in hand we located the Gowans grave within a few minutes. Of course we got a surprise. The monument was rather grand (although much smaller than some of the others at Green-Wood); as expected we found that John, his wife Anna Regina Bouton and their son James Gowans were interred in  the plot. We discovered that Anna's parents were also interred n the grave but  that Ida Rust (Anna's sister) who was also buried there was not mentioned on the monument.

Mr Geniaus at the Gowans grave

The information etched on the monument has given me extra clues as I continue the hunt to find Gowans cousins in the US.

My next stop was to find the grave of a Gowans niece, Agnes Korwan, who was mentioned in Anna Bouton's probate record that I had found earlier in the week at the New York Surrogate's Court. This grave was more modest than the Gowans one but it gave me approximate dates of birth and death to follow up.

Korwan grave

At our next stop we were looking for the grave of a Gowans Great-niece, Edna Germer, who was also mentioned in the probate document. Unfortunately we could not locate this grave as I imagine there was no headstone.  We then went back to the cemetery office to seek more information about the graves, their inhabitants and to see if we could find any clues to assist us. We did find another Germer grave near the site of Edna's resting spot; I need to find out if these people are relations.
Not the Germer grave I was seeking
The woman who dealt with us in the cemetery office was the complete opposite of the man in the gatehouse. She was as cold, uninterested and unhelpful. After our interaction with this woman we left the cemetery office  feeling rather flat. We had travelled half way around the world to seek information and all she would give us was the email address of a researcher which was not what we needed; we needed advice on how to access the information in the cemetery records and were quite prepared to pay for this help and information. This woman who did not listen to us and did not try to ascertain what we wanted also gave us the 'phone number of the Municipal Archives that we had already visited; I doubt that these archives would give us answers to the questions we had. This woman was an exceptionally poor representative of a most impressive site.

We were most impressed by the standard of maintenance that was evident throughout Green-Wood Cemetery, the gardens and monuments were in good order. The management are to be congratulated on their attention to this historic site.

One of the lakes at Green-Wood

View of Lady Liberty from Green-Wood

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Dear Mate- DearMyrtle

It was more of a gigglefest than an interview.

When there was a quiet time in the video studio on the Friday at Rootstech Rob Goates, Familysearch guy and video studio gatekeeper, asked if I had someone to interview. Across the media hub I spotted my mate, Pat Richley-Ericson, aka DearMyrtle, a potential interviewee. Gracious lady that she is Myrt immediately agreed to an impromptu interview.

After seeing this interview those readers who have not met one of my favourite geneabloggers, Myrt, in person will appreciate what a sweet and generous lady she is.

Friday, April 5, 2013

I got to meet Simon Orde at Rootstech

Last year I changed genealogy software packages. After using one program for a dozen years I moved over to the Family Historian package because there were so many things I liked about the program and people whom I respect were users of the product.   When I was perusing the list of vendors who were to be exhibiting at Rootstech I got very excited when I saw that Simon Orde, developer of the Family Historian package was crossing the Atlantic to have a booth in the Expo Hall at Rootstech. I think that any genealogy vendor who is serious about their product should make an effort to come to Rootstech and Simon did just that.

I really wanted to meet the man behind my software package so I emailed Simon and asked him for an interview. I am so pleased that he took some time away from his booth at Rootstech to have a chat. I'm sure that other users of Family Historian (including the people in my user group at Wyong, NSW) would love to have an opportunity to meet the man behind Family Historian  Being an Official Blogger at Rootstech gave me an opportunity to let you see via video my meeting with Simon.

You may also be interested in seeing the interview I recorded with Darrin Lythgoe in 2012. Darrin is the developer of TNG, The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding, that I use to publish my family tree on the web.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Queenslander at Rootstech

My mate Margaret Doherty from the Sunshine State, Queensland, and her husband Geoff travelled to Salt Lake City for the Rootstech Conference last month.

I had not made a time to interview Margaret but she happened to swing by the Media Hub to say G'day when there was a 5 minute spot in the video studio available for an interview. Now Margaret, President of the Genealogical Society of Queensland is a good sport, so she agreed to a short interview with me.

We had great fun in this informal chat. Please take a look to find out why Margaret travelled to Salt Lake City and to hear about the Society she leads.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Generous Genies

I just filled out two surveys about the Rootstech Conference, one was a presenter survey and one was the general survey.

To the question that asked on both surveys what was the best thing abo "The opportunity to meet and network with like-minded people." This especially goes for geneabloggers. The Rootstech conference gives one a chance to finally meet those friends one has made online. This year Mr Geniaus and I met my social media mate, Heather Wilkinson Rojo and her husband Vincent for the first time. As soon as they knew we would be visiting Boston after Rootstech  they offered to drive down from their home in New Hampshire and show us some of the sights outside of Boston.

We had an amazing time with our hosts, Heather and Vincent, who both have a deep knowledge of local history. Our knowledge of 18th Century US history has grown enormously through the efforts of this lovely couple who took us on a wonderful tour of historic sites.

Geniaus with Vincent and Heather at Minuteman National Historic Park
The icing on the cake is that Heather has written a recount of our day on her blog so that I have a beautifully written record of our fabulous day together. You can read about our adventures here.

Thank you to two Generous Genies.

Jyl Pattee

When I was offered a chance to interview Jyl Pattee from Mom it Forward at Rootstech I had to admit that I had slept in and missed Jyl's keynote on Friday morning. My arm didn't have to be twisted too far to take up the opportunity to interview Jyl.

Following is that interview.


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