Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remembering Wives and Mothers

The person I knew in my close family who most affected by World War 1 was my maternal grandmother, Ethel Jane Pusell but across the sea in England a mother, Sarah Jane Busby, was sharing Ethel's grief. 

I wrote the following article for a local family history society's newsletter but as that has a very limited audience and I put a lot of effort into the post I am publishing it here on Remembrance Day.

Bertie Chatfield aka John Williams
While those who served at the front had horrific physical and psychological injuries many of their kith and kin who were left behind suffered emotionally. Two women who never met were affected by the war activities of Bertie Chatfield, his mother, Sarah Jane Chatfield (nee Busby), and his wife, Ethel Jane Pusell. Sarah Jane, a widow, lived in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire while my Grandmother, Ethel Jane lived in Cobar, NSW. 

Bertie, who was born in Wellingborough in 10 December, 1888, was working as a miner in Cobar when he enlisted in May 1916. He was an interesting chap who enlisted in the Australian Army under the pseudonym, John Williams, as he had deserted the British Navy from HMS Cambrian in Sydney in 1912. He had previously worked in a colliery in England so that experience and Cobar’s distance from Sydney and the British Navy probably encouraged him to seek work there. 

Ethel Jane Pusell, the daughter of James Pusell and Mary Jane Aspinall, was born in 1899 in the small hamlet of Thompsons Creek near Burraga, New South Wales. The Pusell family moved to Cobar in the early 1900s, no doubt for Ethel’s brothers to gain employment in the newly opened mines.

Ethel married Bertie Chatfield (who was named John Bertram Chatfield on his marriage certificate), at the age of 15 and six months later gave birth to her first child, John William (Billy) Chatfield. When 25 year old miner, Bert Chatfield, set off to war as John Williams he left behind his pregnant 17 year old wife and young son, Billy. On his attestation papers Bert had named Jane Williams (ie Ethel his wife) c/o Mrs Pusell as his next of kin.

Sarah Jane had five sons in the services, Arthur was killed in action in France on 9 May 1915 so she was concerned for the welfare of her surviving sons..

Bert probably did not hear 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. 

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. He was reported as missing in action 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".

Sarah Jane reported in the local Wellingborough News that Bert was missing. She must have been heartbroken at the thought of losing another son. 

Northampton Mercury, June 15, 1917

When Bert’s death was confirmed Sarah Jane enlisted the help of The Red Cross to find details of Bert's death. Bert's file contains a number of statements from soldiers who were at the front with him. As Ethel was listed as Bertie aka John Williams' next of kin I wonder how Sarah had received news of his death.

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. 

Ethel 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. Ethel whose handwriting was nothing like that in these letters and whose composition skills were poor must have had someone in the family write these two sad letters for her. 


I have visited the memorial in Wellingborough on which Bert Chatfield’s proper name is inscribed below that of his brother, Arthur John Chatfield

Wellingborough War Memorial

I have also travelled twice to France to visit the Australian Military Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux and 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 Sarah Jane and the thousands of young men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries. 

Villers-Bretonneux Cemetery, France
Hopefully it was some consolation to Sarah Jane that three of her sons returned from the front. 

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. I presume that Ethel lived with her parents until she met her second husband, my grandfather Frank Duncan. She was blessed to have supportive parents and a strong family network to help her through these tough times.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I'm no artist but I can paint

One of my favourite DNA tools is DNA Painter which allows me to create pretty diagrams as I map my chromosomes.

I came away from the second day of SAG's Lost in DNA weekend with more ideas on how to use this nifty application. But that was not all, my notebook from Sunday's sessions is full of DNA gunnas (things I plan to do).

The day was opened by Heather Garnsey, the Society's Executive Officer. In opening the day Heather shared "Sophie's Story" which Heather said demonstrated that "Family History research was a lot easier before DNA".  Heather also did a marvellous job as MC on this second day. At the other end of the day Melissa Hulbert, SAG Vice-President, thanked all involved in the event and closed proceedings.

Some of the topics on this second day were more advanced than those given on Saturday and I noted down a few things to follow up and a few tasks to undertake:

  • I resolved to store the downloaded DNA downloads I have permission to control in a  organised manner and in a secure place.
  • I will explore "Family Projects" on FTDNA
  • I will subscribe to and explore Tier 1 utilities in Gedmatch this week
  • I have a sub with DNA Gedcom but haven't looked at Jworks - something else to explore
  • I learnt about Inferred Segments and painting them into DNAPainter 
  • I had already tried the Leeds method that was mentioned (It's not for me) but many hadn't heard of it
  • I now understand what Timber is - and it's not woody
  • Years ago before autosomal testing wasn't widely available I did a MTDNA test with FTDNA and after autosomal became available and I tested put the MTDNA results aside. After hearing Kerry Farmer's talk I am revisiting my MTDNA matches 
  • Veronica Williams showed how she used Genome Mate Pro with Evernote. One day I will bite the bullet and spend time with Genome Mate Pro. Perhaps SAG will offer a one day GMP Handson course for dummies like me.
  • It was interesting to see how Danielle Lautrec used Excel. She keeps more detail in her spreadsheets than I do, I use Google Drive ot keep track of my matches and have similar fields to Danielle but I don't store all chromosome data in my spreadsheets.
  • A highlight for me was meeting up with genimates and geneaheroes like DNA superstar Louise Coakley. Unfortunately I was so busy that I only took a few happy snaps.

Louise Coakley and GeniAus

Smiling faces


My brain was severely overworked during the two days of Lost in DNA. I hope that SAG run more sessions on DNA topics in the future.

Rootstech 2019 - Pass Giveaway

One of the perks of being a RootsTech 2019 Ambassador is that I receive a free pass for myself and one to give to one of my genimates. RootsTech 2019 will be held at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 27 to March 2, 2019.

Each year I pack my bags and make the long trek from Australia to Salt Lake City to attend Rootstech, The Greatest Geneashow on Earth, because it is the best. This competition provides me with an opportunity to give someone else a chance to experience the excitement and education Rootstech offers.

The winner of this competition will 
 receive a complimentary RootsTech 2019 Pass with access to:

  • Over 300 Classes
  • Keynote / General sessions
  • Expo Hall
  • Evening Events
This 4-Day Pass does not include airfare, hotel or the coverage of any other expenses. If the winner has already registered for RootsTech 2019, the original registration fee will be refunded.

What do you need to do to be in the draw?

Send an email to and please use the subject line Rootstech 2019 Pass Giveaway.

We all know that there is plenty to see and do in and around Salt Lake City. In the body of the email please tell me three things (apart from attending Rootstech)  a Rootstech attendee should do while in Salt Lake City. Remember to include your name and contact details.

By entering this draw you give permission for your name to reported on social media.

I will publish the winner's name on this blog by Friday 16th November. Please forward your entries to me by midnight Tuesday 13th November (GMT time).

For the time challenged

Rootstech Expo Hall

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Double Numbers

When I launched this blog 10 years ago I had no idea of the riches that would flow to me via its existence.

Through this blog I have been educated, enriched and entertained, I have made wonderful friends and forged valuable connections. I've been given opportunities to explore the genealogy world, the world of my ancestors and travel our world.  This is all because of YOU, my readers.

You have given positive reinforcement, support and encouragement in my genealogical endeavours.

Thanks to everyone who has dropped in on the GeniAus Blog over the past ten years. 

A website tells me that "As children reach the age of 10, many will start to think of themselves as being almost teenagers. But, it's not always the case. While some will start looking and acting more mature, others will remain more child-like, both physically and emotionally.

Being 10 is all about change. It is a period of transition that can offer challenges and delights as children start to embrace the approach of adolescence."

Now that this blog has reached double numbers I trust that it too can change and offer challenges and delights but I cannot guarantee that it will act more maturely!

I hope you will stay with me as the GeniAus blog enters it next ten years of development.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Not many photos

SAG President Martyn Killion opens proceedings
When I go to a geneaevent and I don't have much time for taking photos or sharing stuff on social media it means I am not bored and may actually be learning something. Today, at the Society of Australian Genealogists "Lost in DNA Weekend", was such an occasion.

Martyn Killion, SAG President and MC extraordinaire, opened the event and reminded us that "The family history world has expanded and exploded with DNA." The parade of presenters was excellent and kept us awake all day.

There were a few highlights to my day, Listed in no particular order.

  • Meeting in person Louise Coakley, founder of the Using DNA for Genealogy - Australia & NZ Facebook Group.
  • Discovering that Mr GeniAus and my daughter have DNA matches to a SAG VIP.
  • Catching up with so many genimates, no names mentioned lest I miss someone.
  • A feeling of pride as a SAG Education Committee Member on such an excellent event.
  • Learning a few things eg How did I not know about the MedBetter Chrome Extension ? (Now installed).
  • Realising that I am not the only person who lives and breathes spreadsheets.
  • Understanding that I know a lot more about DNA than I thought I did.
  • Getting some fellow members of the Virtual Genealogy Association to join the Australia - NSW Chapter on Facebook.
  • Learning about the WATO tool that  I had previously ignored.
  • Hearing about an Australian Geneablog not in my RSS feed (it is now).
  • Listening to the Irish brogue and humour of Maurice Gleeson who presented in absentia via the wonders of technology.
  • The venue was comfortable and easy for an old girl to access. The airconditioning was a boon on a warm Sydney day and the morning tea was yummy.
  • Dinner at a pub under the Harbour Bridge with 20 something genies rounded off a spectacular day.
I wonder what they have in store for us tomorrow?

The lovely Louise Coakley up front, ready to open the event

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Day at the Microfilm Reader

I was delighted earlier this year when I  found an online index listing the daily contents of the Haddingtonshire Courier (now the East Lothian Courier) from October 1859 up to December 1902. The newspaper collection on microfilm  is housed in the Local History area of the John Gray Centre in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland.

Now it just so happens that Mr GeniAus has Gowans and Sibbald ancestors who were in the Haddington area during that period so I checked the index and found more than 30 reference to family members. I saved these on a spreadsheet. As we were planning a trip to the UK I added Haddington to our itinerary. Once I had a date I emailed the John Gray Centre and booked a microfilm reader for the day.

I was most impressed when Mr GeniAus dropped me off at the Centre and went to find a parking spot. When we visited a number of years ago the local studies collection was stored in an inadequate area in a loft. The new  John Gray Centre houses the local library and archives in a lovely light filled environment.

When I marched up to the reception I was given a right, royal welcome. Bill Wilson, Local History Officer,  and his staff settled me at a microfilm reader and organised  retrieval of the films I needed. Robert joined me and we bunkered down for a morning of research.

GeniAus at work

Local studies collection
 While I played with the microfilms and downloaded the newspaper articles onto a thumb drive  Mr GeniAus browsed the book collection looking for references to his ancestors.  Bill offered us a behind the scenes tour of the archives but I declined as I wanted to complete my task. Mr GeniAus accepted Bill's offer and found the tour very interesting.

Behind the scenes in the John Gray Centre 

An innovative display highlighting local identities
 When I announced on Facebook that I was headed to Edinburgh and Haddington my fellow geneablogger, John Laws, who lives in the neighbourhood suggested we meet up. Knowing that we would need a lunch break we made a date to meet John at a local cafe, The Loft

It was lovely to meet John in the flesh, through blogging and genealogy we had been online friends for several years.  John is kept busy with a surname study for the Laws (and variants) name. He blogs about it here at The Laws Family Register.

Meeting up with genimate, John Laws
 After our break we returned to the John Gray Centre so I could complete my task. My head was swimming after spending several hours at the microfilm reader so I was pleased to set off towards our next stop at Galashiels.

I was not so pleased when, that evening, I discovered that I had left my thumb drive containing all my saved images in the microfilm reader. Mr GeniAus displayed great restraint the next morning when we had to trace our steps to  collect my thumb drive.

I cannot thank enough Bill Wilson and the staff at John Gray Centre  who made us so welcome. I owe a debt of gratitude to the team of volunteers who have created such a valuable resource in the newspaper index.


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